THE LUNACY OF MITCH HARRIS

We're talking about a revolution and there's one happening right now, of course, in Egypt. The Egyptian people are about to overthrow the hated regime of Hosri Mubarak.

It's all about people power. When the working class of any country decides that 'enough is enough' then rulers will be toppled.

Former Radio Live General Manager Mitch Harris has a contrary view and one that he recently expounded on the station.

According to Mitch, the Egyptian people have none other than George W. Bush to thank for their liberation! According to Harris, Bush showed the Egyptian people the road to freedom by unilaterally invading Iraq!

I would of thought recent events in Tunisia might have inspired the Egyptian people but not according to good old Mitch.

He also conveniently chose to ignore the fact that, for the past thirty years, the Mubarak regime has been backed by the United States. Those tear gas cans the police are carrying have 'Made in the USA' stamped on them.

But Mitch always distorts the facts to suit his own right wing jingoistic views. He has previously denied that the CIA had anything to do with the overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile and he justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

When it became abundantly clear that no such weapons existed, Mitch simply switched tacks and said that Hussein had to go anyway and that his hero George . was ushering in a new era of capitalist freedom and the Iraqi people would soon be enjoying Big Macs and Fox News.

After six years of failing to lift Radio Live's dismal ratings, Mitch is no longer the station's General Manager and now he fills in for other hosts.

Mitch says he 'just wanted a change of pace' Whatever you say, Mitch. We believe you. We really do.


Meanwhile, Petra Bagust and Corin Dann are covering all the big issues on TVNZ's Breakfast. TVNZ says its a 'news and entertainment show'. Here's some of that recent 'news and entertainment'...

TIME TO SWITCH OFF THE SOE MODEL

Like probably most other electricity consumers, I've been with a number of power companies over the years. I have done as both Labour and National Government's have advised and 'shopped around' for the best price. I've been a regular visitor to the Powerswitch website to check that I'm getting the best price I can get.

But. all the while, the power bills have continued to climb.

It's not that I'm even a high user of power. Right now I'm sitting at one computer and there's a desk light on beside me. There's one light on in the living room and, of course, the water heating is trucking away.

The problem is that power prices have risen to such a level that 'shopping around' for the best price and keeping the lights off in rooms not occupied, is barely putting a dent into the power bills.

Now people are keeping the heating off even in the depths of winter. People are keeping the water heating permanently off.

In the last five years of the Clark Government power prices rose by a massive 48 percent and rose some 72 percent over the nine years of that government. Prices have continued to rise under National despite the Minister of Energy Gerry Brownlee claiming he was going to do something about it.

As I'm writing this a news report has come over the radio outlining another price increase for Genesis Energy users.

'No government can promise to lower power prices.' Brownlee said last year. But that's only true because the country is still in the grip of neoliberalism.

What is especially galling is that these power prices have been imposed on us by companies supposedly owned by...us.

So its a bit rich for Phil Goff to warn that partial privatisation of the power companies will result in higher power prices when the last Labour Government did nothing about the escalating prices.

The real villain has been corporatisation which is the point Bryce Edwards makes on his blog:

Corporatisation ... .. was the method that the Fourth Labour Government used to make sure that its nationalised companies were running purely along the lines of the private sector . Instead of playing any socialistic role at all, the process of corporatisation meant that the State Owned Enterprises that Labour created would have no social function – only a profit orientation. Hence massive job layoffs occurred, post offices closed down, and all sorts of other negative social effects came about.

In 2007 I got incensed about the price gouging of the power companies and I had a less than convivial conversation with the Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay.

The conversation took a nose dive when Seay flatly denied that Meridian Energy had a social role to play in providing affordable power.

'We are a business'' said Dr Seay and although I was appalled by his comments, he was actually correct.

Under the SOE model power companies like Meridian have no social dimension.

As Bryce Edwards points out none of the present parliamentary parties oppose the corporatisation model. Certainly none are providing an alternative and this isn't surprisingly given that the parliamentary parties are united by their adherence to the failed neoliberal model.

So one must view the comments of Green co-leader Russel Norman with a certain degree of scepticism.

Said Norman yesterday: "Selling state assets to foreign corporations, which will inevitably happen under this plan, will drive up the current account deficit, send profits overseas and drive up costs for Kiwis."

But are Norman and the Green Party advocating the removal of the SOE model? No they are not because they are as much supporters of neoliberalism as the Act Party. The arguments are about emphasis and not substance.

We should demand measures that help ordinary people and oppose measures intended to prop up a failing economic system.

It's time to recover and nationalise natural resources and basic services, which previously belonged to the state.

NO MARXISTS ALLOWED

On the KiwiPolitico blog 'Pablo' asks the question 'who are the next generation of NZ left wing thinkers?' On the surface it appears to be a legitimately unbiased question but you begin to smell something fishy when you look at some of the people 'Pablo' informs us were members of the previous generation of left wing intellectuals.

They include Chris Trotter, Matt McCarten and Laila Harre. Not one of them is a Marxist. Call me old fashioned but, in my book, being a 'left wing intellectual' also means being a socialist of some kind.

I sense that someone is trying to set a political agenda that 'certain' people are not welcome to contribute to. People like me for instance.

Apparently being 'left wing' also means not being a Marxist. Which means I won't be getting an invite to 'Pablo's' party. The danger is I could be 'too left wing' and upset his guests.

Is Chris Trotter a Marxist? Of course he isn't and he doesn't claim to be one either. Anyone who has read any of the criticisms he has sent my way in the past would know that.

He isn't even anti-capitalist. I doubt that he would still be appearing on television and be writing newspaper columns if he started spouting such revolutionary views. I can imagine The Press getting a little uncomfortable if Trotter started advocating revolutionary socialism as opposed to his present mild mannered Labourism.

Similarly Matt McCarten is an old school social democrat who has remained true to his principles - and I respect him for that. Which is something I can't say about Laila Harre who has moving been rightwards for some time now.

So 'Pablo' is looking for the kind of left wing intellectual you have when you're not having a left wing intellectual. He wants the kind of left wing intellectual who removes all the messy revolutionary politics from Gramsci and waffles on about 'hegemonies' and 'Frankfurt Schools' while at the same time declaring that the 'old left is so Eurocentric'.

Having decided that Marxists can't be 'left wing intellectuals', its not surprising that his appraisal of the new and upcoming 'left wing intellectuals' are all non-Marxist.

The one exception is Bryce Edwards who lectures in political science at the University of Otago. I've known Bryce for some years and I don't think he would disagree that he comes out as the same political tradition as myself.

Certainly his politics would be closer to mine than to 'Pablo's'

'Pablo' though admits that he is not familiar with Bryce’s 'scholarly writing' so maybe Bryce too will find himself ejected from 'Pablo's' party and be forever ignored.

'Pablo' actually has little time for Marxist politics but not wanting to sound as if he is ant-Marxist he writes: 'I do not think that Stalinist or Trotskyites represent the future of NZ Left praxis, much less thought.'

So 'Pablo' lumps in the Trotskyites with the Stalinists, as if we all shared common views. Is 'Pablo' just ignorant or is he deliberately trying to smear the Trotskyist left in this country with the crimes of Stalinism? Is he deliberately trying to smear the Trotskyist left with the betrayals of Stalinists like former CTU boss Ken Douglas?

To dismiss all the intellectual work that has been done by Marxist writers and activists in this country is political prejudice masquerading as legitimate comment.

Trotskyism is essentially classical Marxism. It is the Trotskyist movement that kept the socialist flame alight when the Stalinist darkness swept over much of Europe. And Trotskyists were hunted down and killed because of it.

'Pablo ' wants the Marxist left to just go away because it is a challenge to his limp liberal politics. He seems to be yet another confused and bewildered social democrat looking for a home that was long demolished by the forces of neoliberalism. Perhaps he wants to still play in the rubble along with Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury.

'Pablo' rambles on about neomarxism and postmarxism but it all amounts to the same thing - he rejects the Marxism of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Gramsci.

How exactly will this benefit the 'NZ Left praxis'?

'Pablo' is Dr Paul Buchanan. He describes himself as an International relations and security analyst.

ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR

Is anyone surprised, other than the neoliberal zealots, that more and more New Zealanders are expressing anger and disillusionment at the growing levels of economic inequality and poverty in this country?

The latest evidence of this rising anger comes in a Sunday-Star Times - Horizon Research online poll of some 2000 New Zealanders.

The newspaper reports:

...many respondents recognised the growing income gap.

"I hope that the gap I see growing between two distinct classes of people closes somewhat. We used to be a pretty level society, but these days we have a distinct middle and very much lower class, and I regret that," wrote one person. Others said:

"...the inequality between high-income earners and low-income earners is resulting in poverty for the latter and major social problems.'


"Address the growing gap between the income of the haves and have-nots by removing the tax breaks for the rich so that the wealthy pay their fair share."


Similarly the Government's blatant attempts to blame beneficiaries for the country's economic woes are falling into disfavour. While there will always be a rump of rednecks who will always want to bash beneficiaries, more and more New Zealanders don't want a bar of it. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the economic crisis has extended well into the normally insulated middle class.

Reports the Sunday Star Times:

Those who want the government to lay off the benefit bashing' say beneficiaries and low income earners felt "third class", were "stigmatised" and struggled to make headway. Many blamed the hike in GST – from 12.5% to 15% in October last year – as well as unequal tax cuts.

"Give beneficiaries a break, we are getting more in debt due to the tax cuts, which were total lies, unable to feed family decent food, life is just not worth bringing kids into this society, more money for food and bills."


Unfortunately what is also not surprisingly is that this growing level of anger has not been reflected or acted upon by organisations that claim to speak for ordinary people.

The Labour Party, despite all its huffin' and puffin' , is not offering anything more than a bit of tinkering with the neoliberal 'orthodoxy' that has wreaked such damage among working class communities.

When he should be offering a radically new economic vision for New Zealand Goff has nothing to offer but his 'promise' that Labour can 'manage' the 'free market' better than National. Oh, and he'll throw in a bag of GST=free carrots as well.

It's just not good enough.

Similarly Labour's mates in the union bureaucracy have not only completely failed to oppose the neoliberal policies of the past three decades they have actively cooperated with their implementation. Instead of fighting job losses the likes of CTU President Helen Kelly and the EPMU's Andrew Little have simply escorted workers to the door marked 'Exit'. Thanks for coming..

And the cabal of media commentators and bloggers who circulate around these organisations like flies might swirl around a pile of dog poo, deserve our opprobrium as well.

As I speak, they are wheeling behind the Labour Party in its bid to win the general election. What a disgrace. But, then again, none of them are short of a few bob. If they were then they might not be so eager to be apologists for the bankrupt policies of Labour.

'All that is solid melts into air.' was Karl Marx's description of the dislocation and alienation induced by the first industrial revolution. He could well of been talking about the New Zealand that has been created by thirty years of neoliberalism. It is one that bears very little resemblance to the fictitious happy country that TVNZ's well paid 'celebrities' are currently celebrating in the state broadcaster's current crop of abysmal promos.

THE GHOST CITIES OF CHINA


Above is a photo of the Chinese city of Ordos Shi under construction. The city has been completed and is almost entirely empty. The streets, the housing estates, the shops, the municipal facilities are all empty. The locals prefer the old town of nearby Ordos and says that was no need 'for Beijing' to build an entirely new city.

Imagine Auckland devoid of people and you will get some idea of just how surreal Ordos Shi is.

It took five years to build this ghost city with funds created by a $585 billion stimulus package meant to boost China’s economy.

Ordos Shi is not the only 'ghost city' in China - see the satellite photos below for more examples.

According to the Daily Mail, some twenty new and unnecessary cities are being built each year.

The world's biggest shopping mall is located in Guangzhou. It is virtually empty.

This then is the 'Chinese economic miracle' that we have heard so much about. This is the reality of a Chinese economy that New Zealand politicians having been praising all these years.

This is the country that the Labour Government of Helen Clark was so keen to sign a free trade agreement with.

It is the economy that capitalist politicians hope will kick start the crisis-ridden global economy.

In August last year it was reported that official data had supposedly revealed that China's economy had overtaken Japan's, making it the second-biggest economy in the world. The problem is that the official data bears little resemblance to what is actually happening in China.

The ghost cities have exposed that China's 'miraculous' economic growth over the past decade has been the product of the Chinese regime's lunatic economic projects. China’s demand is not real but has been artificially manufactured by the Beijing bureaucrats.

According to research carried out by Time magazine, fixed-asset investment in the Asian country accounted for more than 90 per cent of its overall growth - with residential and commercial real estate investment making up nearly a quarter of that.

The Chinese Stalinists have constructed a property-driven economic bubble that is now threatening to blow up.

And the alarm bells have become to sound in the finance houses of western capitalism.

Said one British hedge fund manager last week: 'We think we’ve experienced credit bubbles over the past few years, but China is the biggest. And yet the global economy is looking to China as not just a crutch but a springboard out of the recession. It’s crazy.

Mark Hart of Corriente Advisors, an American hedge fund manager who made millions of dollars predicting both the subprime crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis, has now started a fund based on the belief that rather than being the 'key engine for global growth', China is an 'enormous tail-risk'.

He says that 'the Chinese economic miracle as the sickest joke yet played on investors.'

He says that he expects 'the economic fallout from a slowdown of China’s unsustainable levels of credit and growth to be as extraordinary as China’s economic outperformance over the past decade.'

New Zealand's politicians view increasing trade with China as 'vitally important (John Key) to pulling New Zealand out of recession. But what if the Chinese economy blows up as well? What if the Chinese bubble bursts as it did in the west?

What if the Chinese 'economic miracle' has been nothing more than a gigantic and monstrous fiction manufactured by the Beijing regime?


The empty city of Bayannaoer in inner Mongolia. The World Bank paid for a large water reclamation building that has never been used.


Half of Erenhot is empty. The other half is unfinished and has been abandoned.


A work in progress: This city has yet to be given a name.

A SLOW NEWS DAY - LET'S BASH BENEFICIARIES


Despite resolutely failing to address the pressing issue that neoliberalism and the 'free market' have failed to deliver the economic prosperity that the free market 'gurus' have long claimed it would deliver, the media feel no such tardiness about going after the victims of neoliberalism , namely beneficiaries.

Under the headline ' Benefit cheats get away with $16 million', the New Zealand Herald yesterday reported that fraud detected by the Ministry of Social Development has almost doubled from $8.1 million five years ago.

This story gives the false impression that thousands of beneficiaries are living the high life on a level of benefit they are not entitled to.

It is more fiction than fact, a media contribution to the Government's heightened harassment of people pushed to the edge by policies that favour the few at the expense of the many.

in 2009 the number of alleged benefit frauds actually went down to just under 15,000.

These were cases that were just investigated for possible fraud. In the majority of cases Work and Income simply went on fishing expeditions in the hope of finding something,

Of the approximately 15,0000 case investigated in 2009, only 735 ended up in court. Many of these cases ended up collapsing because no reliable evidence was provided to back up the Ministry of Social Development's allegations.

A similar number again ended up in court last year, despite the Ministry has boosted its number of fraud investigators from 79 to 95. The ministry checked 29 million records, up from 12 million two years ago.

What this reveals, is that there is actually very little significant fraud. It's all just a media beat-up. While the media loves highlighting stories about the beneficiary cheat with a house in Remuera and four cars sitting in the driveway, these kind of cases are the exception rather than the rule.

To put the level of 'benefit fraud' into perspective we should remember that the Ministry of Social Development had a budget of some $14 billion in 2010.

It's also worth noting that the crooks and charlatans of the finance sector lost over $4 billion of other people's money when the sector collapsed. Other than the most high profile figures, most of those snake oil merchants have escaped the kind of media bashing that beneficiaries regularly receive.

Some of the $16 million defrauded was actually pocketed by Work and Income staff themselves.

In the past five years 21 staff have been dismissed for fraud and nineteen of them were prosecuted.

What is so hypocritical about the media's beneficiary witchhunt is that over 260,000 people remain jobless - not the mention the growing underemployed - yet the corporate media continue to defend the neoliberal polices that have provided nothing but growing social inequality and poverty.

BOB HIRES A SPIN DOCTOR


Mayor Sideshow Bob is wasting more Christchurch ratepayers money on himself.

Despite claiming that everyone must tighten their belts in these tough economic times , it doesn't apply to Sideshow Bob - and his council cohorts.

This time Sideshow Bob has gone and hired himself a spin doctor. Apparently Bob interviewed some eighty people for the job.

The spin doctor in question is one Sarah Owen, who used to do a similar job for the Governor General. According to one website her job was to provide 'policy advice and executive support to the Head of State, the Governor-General of New Zealand'

According to the job description, Owen will help Bob 'in all aspects of his official life that relates to council'. This includes giving initial advice on papers, letters and questions directed to Parker, attending meetings with him and accompanying him to official functions.

In other words, her job will be sanitise Bob's dodgy mayoralty and try to prevent him putting his foot in the proverbial which he has a habit of doing. I suppose she'll be right now trying to set up a 'fraternal relationship' with The Press.

When he was danger of being booted out of office - before the earthquake intervened - Bob promised to be more 'open and transparent'.

So how does hiring a spin doctor contribute to more openness and transparency? Well, it doesn't. Owen's job will be to attempt to influence and manipulate public perceptions about Sideshow Bob.

Owen's appointment is about less openness and less transparency.

Bob has thrown up another barrier between himself and the good people of Christchurch and he will be even less accountable.

WHEN WILL WE SAY 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH'?


Westpac economist Brendan 'O'Donovan , you may recall, was predicting a remarkable economic recovery in December.

He told the New Zealand Herald on 30 December: 'Personally I think New Zealand could have a ripsnorter of a year and I think we could be on the cusp of a golden decade in terms of economic prosperity.'

As I said in a recent post o'Donovan has made these kind of glowing predictions before and has been proved wrong . He will be wrong this time round as well.

O'Donovan though thinks you can talk the economy up and believes that the nebulous 'business confidence ' factor will spark an economic recovery.

O'Donovan has been speculating about the economy again although he appears to have sobered up since his feverish December pronouncement. Perhaps he just had too much to drink at the office Xmas party.

Now he says that a 'rise' in business confidence implies 'a modest pace of expansion'. No mention of 'ripsnorters and 'golden eras' you will notice.

O'Donovan was quoting from The Institute of Economic Research's December Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion.

But that survey shows that just 8 per cent of companies surveyed expect the economy will improve over the next six months - up from 6 per cent in the third quarter.

On this less than impressive figure lies O'Donovan's claim of 'a modest pace of expansion'. But it's all just hopeless anyway because 'business confidence' does not lead to 'economic growth'. In fact, it's the other way round - an improvement in economic conditions leads to a rise in 'confidence'.

'Business confidence' surveys, frankly, aren't worth the money they are printed on.

Only 4 per cent of 814 companies surveyed last month said trading improved in the three months ended December 31.

The economy apparently grew by '0.6 percent'. Given the seriousness of New Zealand's economic crisis this figure is risible.

At least Shamubeel Eaqub, principal economist at the institute of Economic Research, was a bit more rational when he observed that 'at least' the New Zealand economy 'didn't appear to be going backwards'.

But this observation is blinkered by a failure to look out at the train wreck that has occurred out on the street.

Ordinary people are suffering staggeringly high unemployment and underemployment. The government's only 'solution' is to make more spending cuts, give tax cuts to the rich while at the same time bashing beneficiaries for not getting jobs - jobs that don't exist in anywhere near sufficient numbers.

People who do find jobs are, more often than not, faced with lower salaries. Many laid-off workers who have found new jobs are taking pay cuts or settling for part-time work when they get new ones, sometimes taking jobs far below their skill levels.

Food banks are reporting increasing demands for their services and more people are falling off the edge.

This is happening against the backdrop against a global economy that threatens to fall over again.

Just a week ago The Financial Times - hardly a radical publication - pointed to the likelihood that the European financial crisis will spread in the next few months: “Last year brought the eurozone debt crisis. Greece and Ireland had to be bailed out and big question marks still hang over Portugal and Spain. But the focus is now likely to widen. The question for 2011 is how much of the western world will be caught up,”

Pointing to the deepening divisions in the world economy, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz is now warning of another great economic collapse.

So we limp on and in New Zealand we wait for something that will break the failed neoliberal consensus that exists among the business establishment, the political parties and the corporate media. How long before we say 'enough is enough'?

OUT WITH THE OLD POLITICS


Two years after the meltdown of the global economy, the New Zealand economy remains mired in a quagmire of mass unemployment, growing poverty and social distress and no economic growth. But the very same theories and ideas that contributed to the economic crisis in the first place, continue to dominate public policymaking. It's time they were finally laid to rest.


They should be dead, but they still walk among us. They are the zombie theories of neoliberalism.

Some two years after the financial collapse that has plunged the world into a massive and deepening economic crisis, all of New Zealand's parliamentary parties, incredibly , still subscribe to the very ideas that contributed to the crisis in the first place.

While National's loyalty to neoliberalism is obvious, Labour's Phil Goff is on record as saying that there is no alternative to the free market. According to the Labour leader : 'a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy'.

You kind of wonder if Goff has been living on another planet for the past two years or so - but his view is dominant within the Labour Party itself. And no one in his caucus is opposing it.

Despite the best efforts of people like Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury to falsely portray Labour as a party that has broken with neoliberalism, the reality is that all Phil Goff has to offer ordinary people is his assertion that Labour can run the free market 'better' than National.

And if you're thinking that perhaps the Green Party have something different to offer, then think again. Co-leader Russel Norman has pushed the party well to the right. Norman and the Green's believe in the nonsense that is eco-capitalism. Norman and the Greens don't want to overthrow the free market - they just want to, in Norman's words, 'transform it to make it sustainable'.

So the zombie ideas of neoliberalism continue to hold sway over public policymaking and the general election result will not change that - no matter who becomes the government.

Of course when we speak of the failure of neoliberalism we need to bear in mind that neoliberalism was - and is -all about clawing back the real economic gains that the working class made in the post war era and reasserting the power and dominance of capital.

New Zealand has been no different. The reaction against 'Muldoonism' was the precursor to a much wider assault on the advances the working class made within the Keynesian-inspired 'Fortress New Zealand'.

Says economist David Harvey:

'Does this crisis signal the end of neoliberalism? My answer is that it depends what you mean by neoliberalism. My interpretation is that it's a class project, now masked by a lot of rhetoric about individual freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, privatisation and the free market. That rhetoric was a means towards the restoration and consolidation of class power, and that neoliberal project has been fairly successful.'

But how are we to slay the zombies of neoliberalism?

Well, its up to us.

David Harvey again;

'Whether we can get out of this crisis in a different way depends very much upon the balance of class forces. It depends upon the degree to which the entire population says 'enough is enough, let's change this system'. Right now, when you look at what's been happening to workers over the last 50 years, they have got almost nothing out of this system. But they haven't risen up in revolt. In the US over the last seven or eight years, the condition of the working classes in general has deteriorated, but there has been no mass movement against this. Finance capitalism could survive the crisis, but whether it does depends entirely upon the degree to which there is going to be popular revolt against what is happening, and a real push to try to reconfigure how the economy works.'

In New Zealand we should be opposing and demonstrating against the austerity policies of the Key Government but, equally, we should be rejecting the empty promises of the Labour Party and its backers within the trade union bureaucracy. That road also leads to further defeats for working people.

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher said that 'there is no alternative' to the free market and some thirty years later Phil Goff is saying exactly the same thing. But he isn't alone. So are all the other leaders of the political parties that presently occupy Parliament and claim to be 'our representatives'.

We need to break and destroy the neoliberal consensus that has dominated for too long and which threatens to dominate into the future.

We need a new politics that breaks with the discredited parties that still pretend that they represent us.

Out with the old politics.

SELECTIVE REPORTING FROM FOX NEWS



The Fox News coverage of the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six other people by a lone gunman, has been notable for what the right wing news channel has not reported.

While it has played up the Democrat congressowoman's support for present US gun laws and her tough stance on immigration, it has failed to mention that her office was vandalised last week as a consequence of her support for Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.

It has also failed to report the words of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik who, while not naming Fox News directly, was clearly taking a swipe at organisations like it, when he said at a press conference:

"I’d just like to say that when you look unbalanced people-how they are-how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government—the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capitol. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Meanwhile we learn that Gabrielle Giffords was on Sarah Palin's Facebook and Twitter 'hitlist' for the 2010 elections.That's something else that has yet be to mentioned on Fox News..

IT'S BUSINESS AS USUAL...ON CRACK


Taxing the rich and ending America's military adventures abroad would go a long way to solving America's funding shortages for education, health care, housing, job training and a wide range of other services.

But Congresses's big new plan is to fund new initiatives by taking the money from somewhere else. While raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting the ballooning military budget are not on the political agenda, taking the axe to social security is. Austerity has arrived in America, writes Trish Kahle.


On the very day the new members have been inaugurated, the 112th Congress has already made it painfully clear how it's going to tackle the biggest economic, cultural, and political crisis in decades.

It's not just business as usual. To borrow a phrase from historian Marilyn Young, it's business as usual...on crack.

One of the many changes the new Congress has initialized is a "cut-as-you-go" plan, which replaces the "pay-as-you-go" plan and is going to be the new battle axe of austerity. For every new piece of legislation passed that requires funding, the necessary money must be taken from somewhere else (though presumably not the Department of Defense--that would simply be un-American) and no taxes can be raised even though 61% of Americans said in a recent poll that they favoured taxing the rich as a means of reducing the deficit. In spite of the military propaganda that flows from almost every media outlet, another 20% said to slash Pentagon funding.

Indeed, taxing the rich and ending the wars and occupations would certainly go a long way to solving funding shortages for education, health care, housing, job training, and a multitude of other services that people here need and are demanding right now.

In 2010, the military budget topped off at a staggering $663.8 billion (that we know about). Obama has proposed increasing DoD spending to a whopping $721.3 billion. Add in the estimated costs of Homeland Security, FBI "Counter-Terrorism," and other "mandatory" military spending, and the insane spending is already topping off at well over $1.4 trillion, with less than $100 billion going to pay for veterans' healthcare, benefits, and pensions. On top of the outrageous weapons spending, the Democrats "compromised" (read: bent all the way over) with the Republicans, extending the Bush tax cuts: a cost of $5 trillion.

But House Republicans--and some Democrats--are happy to let the burden rest on the working class, the poor and disenfranchised. This, even though 1 in 6 Americans now live in poverty (and among the elderly, poverty rises to nearly 50% because of out-of-pocket healthcare costs). Congress is happy to give $5 trillion dollars to the richest Americans, and incalculable tax breaks and incentives to corporations that exploit workers around the world, but forces the disgustingly underfunded public schools to "compete" for resources in an effort to push through for-profit education models like those imposed in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Unemployment remains at almost 10%, with real unemployment much higher, and underemployment high as well. Yet, in all likelihood, money from the already tenuously funded social sectors will come under fire as Obama seeks to continue aggressive US imperialist policies around the world.

The Republicans have made it clear that they are willing (and planning) to cut so-called "entitlement" programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The Democrats have made it clear, not just through their jovial "bipartisan" language, but through their past voting records, that they intend to "compromise" as necessary to "get things done." After all, attacking the working class and subjugating people around the world? It's a hard day's work. And that lobbyist money only buys so much champagne.

Interestingly, even though the Speaker of the House John Boehner and his cronies are all about "Constitutionalism," there isn't actually anything in it about "always increasing military spending." They are always jacking off about the "founder's" concept of liberty, but they are doing everything in their power to make sure "liberty" is not exercised by the American people, but coerced to support the will of a vicious empire. (Otherwise it's material support for terrorism.)

We cannot deny it. Austerity is here. It is biting like a rabid dog.

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But that's not all the new Congress has in store.

There are lots of other new rules.

Some are sickeningly ludicrous, like a full reading of the Constitution on the first day of the new session, and a requirement for each new piece of legislation to cite its "Constitutional validity." I have a feeling, though, that the much needed trans-inclusive ENDA would not pass with full bipartisan support, even though it is clearly provided for 14th Amendment. In addition, such an approach to legislation is incredibly reactionary. Instead of approaching the making of laws from the perspective of "how do we expand the circles of citizenship to full and inclusive for all?" this way of legislating can be used to strip all of the rights and freedoms we have fought for, for which so many people have given their lives, because that's how the Constitution (or at least the parts the Washington Elite like to read) is written.

Let's face it. The "founding fathers" were racist, sexist, rich bastards if there were any.

-----

On the very first day of their new session too, the new Congress undermined democracy even further.

Yes, apparently, it was still possible.

They removed the rights of the people of American "protectorate" territories--like Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam. These rights were already seriously undermined by limiting their delegates' participation in voting activities. Now the delegates will get no votes. The people of these American colonies, rather than being given the rights they deserve--which would include, perhaps most importantly, the right to self-determination--are being further subjugated to the will of an empire in which they have no say.

-----

Boehner claims he wants a government that is "more accountable," but the Congress are certainly not acting as though there will be consequences for their aristocratic behaviour. Think how things might be different if we had the power of immediate recall--something that should be one of the most basic tenets of any democratic society.

But our society is not a democratic one. It is a society of class autocracy.

We may not have government channels. Fortunately, we have the streets.


This column was first published on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit.

MORE EMPTY WORDS FROM GOFF


Phil Goff's Labour Party are offering no alternative to the National-led Government's austerity policies.

Of course we've known this for some time but his limp interview with the New Zealand Herald yesterday , once again, has highlighted that Phil Goff and his dismal Labour Party have nothing to offer ordinary people.

Against the backdrop of a deepening economic crisis, Phil Goff and his dismal Labour Party continue to posture as the party that somehow 'represents' working people.

But its all rubbish. It's a cheap puppet show and its big business that is pulling the strings.

Only 'Marty G' and his fellow Labour Party flunkies on The Standard are prepared to peddle Goff'a nonsense - because they work for the Labour Party anyway. If they lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin's reign, they'd be writing columns headlined 'Our Great Leader'.

Phil Goff can't even admit that capitalism and the 'free market' are responsible for the economic crisis because that would mean rejecting everything he has believed and promoted for over thirty years - ever since he was going around the country defending the policies of Roger Douglas.

When the country desperately needs real political and economic change, all Goff is offering is some half-baked nonsense that he can 'manage' the economy 'better' than National. I guess he would manage the economy 'better' in the same way that Michael Cullen refused to put benefit levels up and Lianne Dalziell did nothing while the finance sector collapsed and $4 billion went down the toilet.

In fact Goff is offering very little. It's all smoke and mirrors.

If Labour was a left wing party it would be talking about taxing the rich, creating large public job creation schemes. increasing benefit levels and nationalising the banking and finance sector.

But that would upset the people who rule this country so all Goff has to offer is some empty talk about 'skill development', 'better savings and investment and track records' and 'being a clean, green, clever economy' It's just drivel.

It's the kind of meaningless twaddle that is designed not to frighten big business, the banking and financing sectors and the rich.

So I imagine they'll all be contributing financially to Labour's election campaign again this year safe in the knowledge that Phil Goff, if by some miracle he becomes Prime Minister, can be counted on to do the right thing...

OUT WITH THE OLD POLITICS


There has been an interesting debate going on within the British left which I have been following over the past three weeks or so.

It was a debate that columnist Laurie Penny sparked with a column she wrote for The Guardian in late December.

Writing about the recent massive student protests, Penny commented that '... the new wave of activists has no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left. '

Penny's argument is that organising methods and strategies of the 'old left' - but not the organisations themselves - are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the new protest movements emerging in Britain and Europe.

Although she claimed she wasn't having a go at the organisations of the socialist left she took a few swipes at the Socialist Workers Party - which also has its followers here in New Zealand.

Penny's column provoked a response from Alex Callinicos of the SWP. Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at Kings College, London and he is on the central committee of the SWP. It would be fair to say that he is the SWP's leading theoretician.

In his reply, also published in The Guardian, Callinicos argued that Penny had 'articulated one of the characteristic illusions of any new movement, namely that it has rendered all existing theory and past experience obsolete.'

Penny has since responded to Callinicos and other columnist and bloggers have added their opinions to the lively and interesting debate

While I have been mulling over my own opinions on this debate its not my intention to go into the mechanics of it here . So those of you who break out in a cold sweat when the word 'theory' gets mentioned can safely continue reading.

What is interesting is that this exchange of views has occurred against the backdrop of the large protest movements that have emerged in Britain and Europe dedicated to fighting the austerity policies that government's are attempting to impose on ordinary people.

And the movement is now taking on board an anti-capitalist dimension, with real and urgent questions being asked about the structures of western capitalism

It seems that a 'by-product' of these new movements has been the growing interest in socialism. . While I don't want to exaggerate this development, debates and discussions that would of once been confined to the periphery of political life have taken on a new centrality.

The exchange between Penny and Callinicos is evidence of this. A debate like this, I suggest, would have once been confined to small circulation socialist journals and newspapers . Now they are occurring in the British national media and across the blogosphere generally.

It is also significant that such discussions owe little to either the British Labour Party or its ally, the trade union bureaucracy. Indeed they have largely been identified as part of the problem.

These developments though have barely touched New Zealand politics.

We seem to be locked in some kind of political backwater where the usual suspects parade their anti-socialist prejudices on almost a daily basis.

Most of this year will be spent banging on about the general election. as if the result will radically change our lives. We will again be asked to believe that there really is a difference between Labour and National. And all the while ordinary people will continue to be dumped on.

Despite the Government's determination to make the working class pay for this massive economic crisis, the lack of real opposition and real protest has just been appalling.

There were hopes from some that the CTU would lead some kind of fightback but that this inevitably came to nought. After decades of collaborating with the governments of neoliberalism the CTU has simply lost the will to fight.

In 2011 it has again raised the white flag of surrender and will be spending a lot of rank and file money trying to get another right wing Labour Government elected. This is not only no solution it is a betrayal of ordinary people and shame on everyone who participates in this travesty.

Not uncoincidentally the lack of any real protest movement has been mirrored by a level of debate that barely rises above the level of stupidity and crassness.

While I expect little or nothing from the mainstream media much of the so-called 'alternative media' is equally culpable for a level of debate that isn't so much a debate but a whole load of aimless commentary, political sloganeering and, at the centre of it, a hostility to even contemplating that the Labour Party, as a progressive force, gave up the ghost a long time ago.

Instead of having real discussion about organisation and tactics, about ways of overcoming the obstacles that are the Labour Party and the union bureaucracy and about what socialism can mean in a New Zealand context - to name just few topics off the top of my head - the level of debate in much of the 'left wing' blogosphere hasn't risen above the inane level of 'Isn't John Key terrible - let's all vote Labour'

On Citizen A (Stratos TV) the other night columnist and blogger Chris Trotter managed to, yet again, claim that Labour was no longer the right wing party that it once was. The host of the show, blogger Martyn Bradbury, nodded his head in agreement.

Is it little wonder that the left struggles to make any progress when the likes of Bradbury and Trotter peddle this sort of nonsense? How the hell is to the left going to advance its cause when the likes of Bradbury and Trotter continue to fuel delusions about the Labour Party?

This sort of rubbish simply makes life more difficult for people and groups who are trying to move the debate beyond Labour.

When are we are going to get our act together? When are we going to tackle the real issues and begin to have the kind of debates they are having in Britain and Europe right now? When we going to stop behaving as if Labour wasn't at the heart of the last thirty years of neoliberalism and that its all just 'water under the bridge'?

What we need is a new movement that would sweep aside all the charlatans that purport to speak for the working class but, in reality, are its enemies.

What we need is a new debate that talks about socialism as if it mattered.

Out with the old politics.

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