WILL BIG BROTHER BE COMING AFTER YOU?

From September i the Government will be trying to curtail our internet freedoms on behalf of money-grabbing corporate interests.

On April 15, deliberately abusing the urgency provisions that were in place to speed up Christchurch's earthquake recovery program, the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 was passed.

This act had nothing to do with the Christchurch earthquake but everything to do with avoiding public scrutiny of a bill that tramples over freedom of access to the Internet.

The bill is ostensibly about preventing people from downloading copyright material, whether it be books, music, games, films or TV shows. If you are a regular user of file sharing sites, 'Big Brother' may come after you.

Owners of copyright material can record the IP address that has downloaded copyright material and go after them. The service provider, under the new law, is required to send its customer a notice that they - or someone at that IP address - has been downloading pop music or old episodes of Star Trek.

As the New Zealand Internet Freedom collective says: 'The bill is based on the system of ‘guilty till proven innocent’. This means that someone uses your IP, your computer, your home internet (flatmates) or hacks your internet (which can be done in about 10 minutes) then it is up to you to prove that you are innocent. How will you do that? ‘Wasn’t me’ defence won’t hold up unfortunately.'

The punishments can be severe . You will lose your internet connection for 6 months. Also, you will be fined up to $15,000 - depending on whether the copyright owner wants to play hardball or not.

As the BoingBoing website observed about this law earlier this year: 'When it comes into effect, it means that the livelihoods, civic engagement, education, social mobility, political engagement, and other online activities will be subject to suspension without trial or evidence for anyone accused of copyright infringement.'

It's clear that the US lobbyists pressured the New Zealand government to introduce this authoritarian law.

Cables released by Wiklileaks have revealed the US attack dogs actively lobbied several cabinet members while New Zealand was working through its copyright reform in 2008.

This is the same United States whose Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said in 2010:

'We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.'

But the Obama administration, acting on behalf of corporate interests, wants us to think the world economy will collapse if we don't stop teenagers downloading music and games on to their computers.

According to Vice President Joe Biden: 'Piracy hurts, it hurts our economy.'

However a US Government Accountability Office study released to U.S. Congress in April last year, concluded that there is virtually no evidence for the claimed million dollar losses by the entertainment industry. That study suggested that piracy could even benefit the American economy.

It seems though that New Zealand politicians have swallowed the shonky corporate arguments - hook, line and sinker.

This clumsy law won't work because there are many ways around it. The genie is out of the bottle but our politicians, many who appear to be 'internet illiterate' don't seem to comprehend this. But the Internet Freedom Collective fears that this is the first stage in a process to 'impose individual monitored internet accounts for every man, woman and child.'

This unworkable and undemocratic legislation comes in to force on September 1.

MORBID SYMPTONS

What's the connection between Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and Labour MP Clare Curran?

We are now in the midst of the greatest capitalist meltdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

While the Great Depression was the catalyst for the rise of Nazism and the decline of what can loosely be defined as liberal capitalism, today the ideology of neoliberalism remains in the ascendancy. Despite its obvious failure there is largely an absence of a left alternative that can intervene significantly both on the local and international level. The exception is the significant developments in Latin American countries like Venezuela and Bolivia.

Here in New Zealand, despite the failure of neoliberalism, all of the major parliamentary remain committed to it. Any differences are one of emphasis but not of substance. Green co=leader Russel Norman, like John Key and Phil Goff, believes in the supremacy of 'the market'.

In Labour's case Phil Goff, an enthusiastic supporter of Rogernomics, is on record as saying that there is no alternative to the 'free market'.

Goff, of course, is simply reflecting the dominant thinking within the Labour Party. Time and time again it has demonstrated a distinct hostility to challenges to the neoliberal orthodoxy.

The result is a tired and flabby political party that offers no coherent political alternative to the National-led government. Tubthumping about taking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables and introducing a capital gains tax is not a new vision of how society should be organised - they are merely policy differences . Goff and Labour are simply claiming that they can run the neoliberal economy better than National.

Labour's appalling poll results suggest that the electorate are not tempted by Goff's tepid offering.

Such is the lack of common sense within Labour circles it has completely failed to recognise that it cannot continue to live within a political and economic framework established by Roger Douglas and co (and subsequently maintained and protected by successive governments) - if it wants to survive as a credible political party.

This has been vividly highlighted in the last day or so by Labour MP Clare Curran. On Labour's Red Alert website she has bizarrely and arrogantly claimed that Labour somehow has the 'right' to support that has been carved off by the Green Party. Her comments betray a failure on her part to reflect on the obvious failures of the Labour Party. It's easier just to blame someone else for her party's demise.

These remarks may be a product of Clare Curran wondering if she'll still have her highly paid job after the election but I think they are also a product of a deeper malaise within Labour.

As John Moore notes: 'It is telling that Curran’s recent posts do not reference any policy or grand ideas that could actually act to alleviate the suffering of her constituents and Labour’s supposed base.'

The Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci wrote:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

I think Curran's comments are 'morbid symptoms' of an old order that is dying.

There is now a political vacuum for the 'new' to be born. Although I have yet to be convinced myself (especially since some of its supporters keep flirting with Labour) , the Mana Party may be the embryo of the new.

DAMN IT OR FEAR IT

The hidden truth is an insurrection in Britain, writes John Pilger.












On a warm spring day, strolling in south London, I heard demanding voices behind me. A police van disgorged a posse of six or more, who waved me aside.

They surrounded a young black man who, like me, was ambling along. They appropriated him; they rifled his pockets, looked in his shoes, inspected his teeth. Their thuggery affirmed, they let him go with the barked warning there would be a next time.

For the young at the bottom of the pyramid of wealth and patronage and poverty that is modern Britain, mostly the black, the marginalised and resentful, the envious and hopeless, there is never surprise.

Their relationship with authority is integral to their obsolescence as young adults. Half of all black British youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed, the result of deliberate policies since Margaret Thatcher oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in British history. Forget plasma TVs, this was panoramic looting.

Such is the truth of David Cameron’s “sick society”, notably its sickest, most criminal, most feral “pocket”: the square mile of the City of London where, with political approval, the banks and super-rich have trashed the British economy and the lives of millions.

This is fast becoming unmentionable as we succumb to propaganda once described by the American black leader Malcolm X: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the oppressed and loving the people doing the oppressing.”

As they lined up to bay their class bigotry and hypocrisy in parliament, barely a handful of MPs spoke this truth.

Heirs to Edmund Burke’s 18th century rants against the “mob rule” of a “swinish multitude”, not one referred to previous rebellions in Brixton, Tottenham and Liverpool in the 1980s when Lord Scarman reported that “complex political, social and economic factors” had caused a “disposition towards violent protest” and recommended urgent remedial action.

Instead, Labour and Liberal bravehearts called for water cannon and everything draconian: among them the Labour MP Hazel Blears. Remember her notorious expenses?

None made the obvious connection between the greatest inequality since records were kept, a police force that routinely abuses a section of the population and kills with impunity and a permanent state of colonial warfare with an arms trade to match: the apogee of violence.

It hardly seemed coincidental that on the day before Cameron raged against “phony human rights”, NATO aircraft — which include British bombers sent by him — killed a reported 85 civilians in a peaceful Libyan town.

These were people in their homes, children in their schools. Watch the BBC’s man on the spot trying his best to dispute the evidence before his eyes, just as the political and media class sought to discredit the evidence of a civilian bloodbath in Iraq as epic as the Rwanda genocide. Who are the criminals?

This is not in any way to excuse the violence of the rioters, many of whom were opportunistic, mean, cruel, nihilistic and often vicious in their glee: an authentic reflection of a system of greed and self-interest to which scores of parasitic money-movers, “entrepreneurs”, Murdochites, corrupt MPs and bent coppers have devoted themselves.

On August 4, the BBC’s Fiona Armstrong — aka Lady MacGregor of MacGregor — interviewed the writer Darcus Howe, who dared use the forbidden word, “insurrection”.

Armstrong: “Mr Howe, you say you are not shocked [by the riots]? Does this mean you condone what happened?”

Howe: “Of course not … what I am concerned about is a young man Mark Duggan … the police blew his head off.”

Armstrong: “Mr Howe, we have to wait for the official enquiry to say things like that. We don’t know what happened to Mr Duggan. We have to wait for the police report.”

On August 8, the Independent Police Complaints Commission acknowledged there was “no evidence” that Duggan had fired a shot at police. Duggan was shot in the face on August 4 by a police officer with a Heckler and Koch MP5 sub-machine gun — the same weapon supplied by Britain to dictatorships that use them against their own people.

I saw the result in East Timor where Indonesian troops also blew the heads off people with these state-of-the-art weapons supplied by both Tory and Labour governments.

An eyewitness to Duggan’s killing told the Evening Standard: “About three or four police officers had [him] pinned on the ground at gunpoint. They were really big guns and then I heard four loud shots. The police shot him on the floor.”

This is how the Metropolitan Police shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes on the floor of a London Underground train.

And there was Robert Stanley and Ian Tomlinson, and many more.

The police lied about Duggan’s killing as they have lied about the others. Since 1998, more than 330 people have died in police custody and not one officer has been convicted.

Where is the political and media outrage about this “culture of fear”?

“Funny, too,” noted the journalist Melanie MacFadyean, “that the police did nothing while some serious looting went on — surely not because they wanted everyone to see that cutting the police force meant more crime?”

Still, the brooms have arrived. In an age of public relations as news, the clean-up campaign, however well-meant by many people, can also serve the government’s and media goal of sweeping inequality and hopelessness under gentrified carpets, with cheery volunteers armed with their brand new brooms and pointedly described as “Londoners” as if the rest are aliens.

The otherwise absent Boris Johnson waved his new broom. Another Etonian, the former PR man to an asset stripper and current prime minister up to his neck in Hackgate, would surely approve.

This article was first published in the New Statesman.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The Christchurch Civic Offices are due to open again in November - but we still don't know if the building complies to modern earthquake standards. Apparently the engineering reports are still being prepared.

We're being told that the Christchurch Civic Offices will open again in November. The official line is that this architectural monstrosity will be open to the public on November 13 and the first council meeting will be held on November 24.

But - remember - this is a $140 million plus turkey of a building that Sideshow Bob has previously claimed was only superficially damaged when it was hit by the September quake and has claimed since that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the building. Just like there was nothing wrong with bailing out bankrupted property developer Dave Henderson to the tune of $17 million.

So we can't take anything for granted.

As I wrote in an earlier post it appears that no structural strengthening was done to a building constructed in the 1970s and that it failed to comply to modern earthquake standards.

Indeed, shortly after the September quake hit last year, Sideshow Bob admitted to the The Press that 'the council had considered upgrading the new civic building to Civil Defence standards, but instead it was built to office building standards.'

The fundamental question now is what structural strengthening has been done to the building to ensure that it is not a quake risk? Does it now comply to modern earthquake standards?

Worryingly, no one is saying anything. There is a suspicion that all information on the state of the Christchurch Civic offices has been whisked off to that shadowy place where 'Bob and Tony' hatch their secret plans.

Councillor Yani Johanson has tried to obtain engineering reports on the building but has amazingly been told that none exist - but are being prepared and will be 'peer reviewed'. When? And by who?

This situation is less than satisfactory. Some very expensive repairs and alterations have been undertaken - without engineering reports being prepared first! What is going on here? Are safety standards, once again, being sidestepped in the mad rush to get this building functioning again?

We also don't have any information on the state of the land that the building occupies.

And how many more millions have been thrown at a building that should never been given the green light in the first place?

Like the decision to upgrade AMI Stadium , the process that led to the decision to buy the old Post Office building and turn it into the city's administrative centre was both politically motivated, woefully misguided and disgracefully rushed.

As I wrote in a previous post on the Christchurch Civic offices:

'As with the AMI Stadium the architects of this massive debacle - Sideshow Bob, Tony Marryatt, Garry Moore, Sue Wells, Barry Corbett, to name just several - are not being held accountable. They remain in their highly-paid jobs. The rest of us get to pay for their incompetence and cronyism.'

CAPITALISM IS OVER!


A pertinent billboard above the rather cool Waffle Shop in Pittsburgh, USA. This is culture jamming - the subversion of consumerism and capitalism - at work.

DAVID CAMERON - THE COMMON PEOPLE



Great work from UK Uncensored...

BIG DADDY

John Key has a new 'plan', but its the same plan as all his other plans - bash beneficiaries.

Do you think all the people who banged on about Labour's 'nanny state' during its nine years in government will be hogging the talkback lines in the next few days angrily denouncing the 'daddy statism' of John Key? Can we expect to hear Michael Laws, Leighton Smith, John Tamihere, Mike Hosking and the other usual suspects demand that Big Daddy stay out of people's lives? Will they declare war against Big Daddy?

After all, Key has announced that he is inviting himself into the lives of some of our more youthful beneficiaries and proceed to boss them around. He is going to give them food stamps and some pocket money and supposedly put them into 'training' for jobs that don't exist.

Much of Big Daddy's 'compassionate conservatism' will be done by organisations that are fronted by friends of Big Daddy, like John Tamihere for example. This is privatisation by stealth and the 'service providers' are lining up for their share of the cash.

It doesn't matter that over 170,000 people are out of work and many additional thousands are under-employed. It doesn't matter that Big Daddy has no idea where the new jobs are coming from. He was optimistically banking on a revival of the global economy but since the global economy is going to hell in a handcart, he now tells us that the rebuild of Christchurch and the Rugby World Cup will produce the jobs. Fat chance.

But this doesn't seem to matter to Big Daddy and his supporters on talkback radio, this is all about making moralistic judgements about how young beneficiaries should be treated. According to Big Daddy young beneficiaries are out there smoking their Benson and Hedges and drinking their alcopops at the taxpayers expense and the party is over.

The implication, again, is that the welfare state is somehow responsible for the jobs and economic crisis. But the responsibility for the crisis lies squarely with a political system that has wrecked the economy by implementing failed policies of cuts and austerity.

Big Daddy has nothing to offer in terms of policies to stimulate growth and create jobs so instead is blaming young people for the unemployment crisis. It has always been a favourite tactic of the political right to blame unemployed people for the lack of jobs. These morallistic judgements are then used to lay the foundation for launching savage attacks on our welfare system.

Once again we are witnessing a government that is very good at attacking the unemployed, the young, the sick, the weak and the vulnerable while protecting New Zealand's wealthy and powerful elites.

Coming to a capitalist crisis near you - youth rates.

LOOTING PUBLIC FUNDS

British MP's have done their fair share of looting in the past...

I watched some of the House of Commons debate on the British riots last night. It wasn't so much a debate though but a chance for the representatives of the British establishment to go 'Garumph!' while blowing smoke out of their ears.

The response of the capitalist state has been thoroughly predictable - there will be wider and tougher police powers available. including the use of water cannon.

It also includes a possible huge violation of democratic rights with the Tory Government planning to block and curtail use of various social network sites including Twitter and Facebook. It's been claimed, without any real evidence being produced, that the rioters used the social networking sites to keep one step ahead of the police.

Said Cameron: 'So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality. I have also asked the police if they need any other new powers.'

Cameron wants to have it both ways: the rioters were a disorganised mob of criminals and a organised army of criminals.

Across the Middle East, brutal, authoritarian regimes took similar action against communications in the face of unprecedented unrest, blocking Facebook, Twitter, and in many cases cutting off Internet and mobile phone access altogether, but all this did was make the regimes’ problems even worse - until they eventually collapsed.

The crackdown, of course, will fail. It will fail because the Tory Government - and the Labour Party - will not accept that the riots nave erupted out of many years of poverty and social distress. The austerity policies introduced last year have been the spark that lit the bonfire of pent-up anger and frustration.

West Indian broadcaster and journalist Darcus Howe told the BBC that the politicians didn't know what was going on and Cameron amply confirmed Howe's observation in Parliament.

With both eyes firmly focused on the polls, he tubthumped that the riots were the result of bad parenting, no discipline, no respect for authority, a 'indulgent' welfare system, blah blah blah. We've all heard this kind of moralistic claptrap before from the likes of John Key, Paula Bennett, Michael Laws and John Tamihere.

According to Cameron, the problems are not rooted in the dismal economic conditions. Joe decided to nick that pair of Nike trainers not because he hasn't had a job in years and because the Minister of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith has further cut his benefit. No, its because he's just a rotten kid with even worse parents - and he will be appearing on the Jeremy Kyle Show next week.

Labour had a chance to attack this bigotry but it didn't. Remember - we're talking a Labour Party that agrees with the austerity cuts. It just thinks they should be introduced more slowly.

So Labour's only 'complaint' was that police numbers were being cut. Nothing was said about the savage cuts in welfare, education or health. In many ways, Labour leader Ed Miliband's dismal performance annoyed me more than Cameron's. To think that his father was a proud revolutionary socialist.

But what inflamed me more late on a Thursday night was the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

There was David Cameron and his Parliamentary Gang setting themselves up as the arbiters of all that is good and decent.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove could be seen cheering on Cameron. This is the same Michael Gove who couldn't quite work out which of his two houses he lived in and helped himself to £7000 from the public coffers - money he was not entitled to.

On the BBC this week he said: 'There are people in tough circumstances who would never think of stealing.'

Gove, despite being exceedingly wealthy , didn't hesitate to nick more money from the public purse.

Another Tory MP, Hazel Blears, has also been busy denouncing the rioters. In 2004 she sold her flat in Kensington for a £45,000 profit. She designated the flat as her second home, allowing her to claim thousands of pounds in mortgage interest and running costs.

But the MP, who isn't related to Bill English, did not pay any capital gains tax on the profit because she told the taxman it was her main home.

On being asked about why she designated the flat as a second home for expenses but as her main residence for the taxman.she said “I understand entirely why the public hates this.'

She also spent time in one London’s most fashionable hotels paid for from public funds.

And Labour MP Gerald Kaufman has done his fair share of looting as well.

In 2009 Sir Gerald charged the taxpayer £1,851 for a rug he imported from a New York antiques centre and tried to claim £8,865 for a television.

He also charged to the taxpayer £28,834 for work on the kitchen and bathroom at his London flat. He told the media that the work was necessary because 'he was living in a slum', though his second home, off Regent’s Park, is in one of the most fashionable areas of London and is worth in the region of £3 million.

Also in 2009 he blamed his ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ for claiming £220 on expenses for a pair of Waterford crystal bowls.

Explaining why he needed two Waterford bowls, Sir Gerald said: 'As part of my OCD, I have the same breakfast when I'm at home both in London and Manchester every day.'

Totttenham Labour MP David Lammy claimed £173,922 in expenses last year, more than any other MP.

In 2004, he claimed £12,041 in expenses for a second home in South London, despite the fact that his main home was only a thirty minute tube journey from Parliament.

He has called on Blackberry to shut down its mobile messaging service.

The list of British MP's who have looted the taxpayer of money is a long and inglorious one. Time to turn the water cannons on them, you reckon?


TOUGHING IT OUT IN TUSCANY

'The couple laughed as they shared a private joke while soaking up the sun alongside other tourists in the historic Tuscan town of Montevarchi.

They are spending a fortnight in the stunning Tuscan hills, staying at a rustic 18th century villa with two other families they have known for many years.

Downing Street aides have been keen to stress the Camerons will be paying the market rate for their share of the accommodation fee, believed to be £5,800.

Mr Cameron’s holiday villa is understood to be a favourite retreat of TV chef Jamie Oliver, who has been a regular visitor to the Petrolo estate.' Daily Express, August 1

VIDEO OF THE WEEK



Darcus Howe, a West Indian writer and broadcaster, speaking about the riots in London and other British cities. It sure beats the reactionary bullshit being dished up by both TVNZ and TV3.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Paula Bennett, the Minister of 'Social Development', has been 'inspired ' by the brutal welfare 'reforms' of Tory Minister Iain Duncan Smith - 'reforms' that have helped to provoke large scale riots in several major British cities.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that riots have erupted in some of the poorest areas of metropolitan Britain. The suburb of Tottenham, for example, where the young black man Mark Duggan was shot twice by police and killed, has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain - and a large youth population.

They are young people being denied a future by corrupt and venal politicians, both Tory and Labour, who have had plenty of money to give to Britain's wealthy, but claim to have nothing left for ordinary people - nothing but cuts and misery that is.

The £81 billion of cuts ordered by the Tory Government translates into hundreds of thousands of job losses, wrecked communities and social services destroyed. While pathetic Labour politicians and hopeless trade union leaders may have resigned themselves to the cuts - or even support them - it is clear that the people on the streets aren't prepared to be sacrificed on the altar of capitalism. They can't 'retire' to their weekend homes in the countryside like David Cameron and Ed Miliband can - their only option is to fight.

The British riots has seen a mobilisation and expression of rage from youth who have decided to 'up the stakes' as one protester tweeted. They have nothing to lose and they don't fear the police.

Yes, there has been widespread looting and arson but that does not mean that there isn't a certain political dimension to these riots, albeit a confused and uneven one.

The bailing out of the bankers and the finance houses has engendered a real sense of social betrayal up and down Britain.

The British ruling class, while they bang on about 'criminality' and 'mob rule', know this and that is why they have been quick to close ranks. Tory home secretary Theresa May may have denounced the actions as “sheer criminality” but the recalling of Parliament is supposed to demonstrate that the British capitalist state is still in control and will assert its power if necessary. Some politicians have already called for the use of the military.

Many people on the streets of the metropolitan cities will simply see this as a charade carried out by the Parliament of their class enemies.

The firebombing and looting is ugly but is it any uglier than the looting of the public purse by the rogues of casino capitalism? It is also understandable when people are deprived of a decent future by the likes of the odious Minister of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.

Duncan Smith's welfare 'reforms', introduced in November last year, are directed at forcing the unemployed into low paid and unpaid work - at a time of mass unemployment. He introduced no plans to create jobs - just plans to bash the poor.

He was, of course, recently in New Zealand urging the Government to introduce tougher conditions for the dole and other benefits here.

His views have been received favourably by the Minister of 'Social Development', the equally odious Paula Bennett.

This week she has been crowing about how 7400 people have 'dropped off' the unemployment benefit since the Government introduced a policy in September last year forcing them to reapply every twelve months. But she provided no evidence that these people have actually found jobs.

She has driven more people into poverty and probably crime and she is doing exactly what Iain Duncan Smith is doing in Britain.

Perhaps she should take a good look at what is happening is Britain right now. Riots in the streets of London today - riots in the streets of South Auckland tomorrow?

THE FREEDOM TO THINK DIFFERENTLY

In the face of another capitalist meltdown, we need to start thinking differently about how the world is organised. We need new political alternatives.


We're going to get through this,' said President Obama a couple of days ago, as if the entire United States was buckling down to fight a declining economy, a stock market collapse and the economic conflagration now threatening to overwhelm Europe.

But this is not a case of 'everyone making sacrifices' and 'all hands to the pump'. As Lenin once remarked. 'capitalism can survive anything so long as the working class pay for it'.

But Obama's gift for oratory won't get him out of this crisis. The President who liberals foolishly hailed as a force for 'progressive change' has proven to be nothing of the sort. The socialist left wasn't taken in by the rhetoric but for liberals he offered a last hope of reviving a post war social democratic project that was well past resuscitation.

Barack Obama, 'the people's champion', bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $16 trillion and handed the bill to the American working class.

Now he has agreed to even deeper cuts in social spending and, again. the corporates and the wealthy get to walk away from the economic wreckage that they have caused. In Obama's America we now have the situation where billionaire hedge fund managers and Wall Street traders pay less in taxes than their secretaries.

But even these new cuts aren't enough for Big Money. Standard and Poor's have downgraded the United States' top-level credit rating for the first time in its history. And this may not be the end of it - the rating agency has put the United States on a 'watching brief'. This implies more downgrades will happen if the economic situation continues to deteriorate and the Obama administration doesn't implement the 'appropriate measures' that Wall Street expects.

The decision by Standard and Poor's to cut America's credit rating would of come as a shock to US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner. who told the Fox Business Network in April that there was 'no risk of that, no risk.' of a credit rating downgrade.

Christina Romer, former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, when asked of the downgrade's potential consequences, commented: 'the US is pretty dam f**ked'.

Well, its certainly not happy days for the American working class. It will face more cuts to social spending, more job losses, more homes being seized by the banks. More lives destroyed.

The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the deal to raise the United Staes debt limit will end up costing the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012.

Talk of a 'economic recovery' was always madness, promulgated by free market cheerleaders in the media, the economists (employed by banks and finance houses), by 'business friendly' opinion writers and television 'business journalists'.

There is no economic growth and no job growth in America. As one commentator cynically commented this week, 'the only people who are hiring are McDonald's.'

In some American states the official unemployment rate is well over 11 percent. The Government's own figures show that more than 25 million people (16.1 percent of the labour force in July) are either unemployed or underemployed.

This is happening in a country where the richest 10% of the US population control about 73% of the nation’s wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for almost 35%.

In terms of income inequality, the US now ranks about the same as Ivory Coast, Uganda and Cameroon - countries not noted for their economic prosperity.

Are we headed for Meltdown 2? It remains a very distinct possibility but what is certain is that there was never a time when real political alternatives were needed. Capitalism has been driven to an impasse and we need new ways of overcoming that impasse. We need new political alternatives.

We don't need rehashed reformism. We don't need rebooted neoliberalism. We don't need market friendly enviromentalism. We need real alternatives that put ordinary people first.

Rosa Luxemburg wrote that "Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently".

We need to rediscover that freedom and begin thinking differently abut how our society and our world is organised. We still have a world to win.

FIVE REALITIES OF PATRIARCHY HE WANTS YOU TO IGNORE

According to Fox News, 'no matter how independent women get, there will always be that part of them that wants to be treated like an old-fashioned lady.' Patriarchy and sexism are still up and swinging, writes Trish Kahle

I came across an older article this week on Fox's Men's Health site called "Five Feminist Demands She Wants You To Ignore." It concluded that "no matter how independent women get, there will always be that part of them that wants to be treated like an old-fashioned lady."

That's news to me, who, as an independent woman, really has no desire to be forced into a corset, "protected" by coverture policies, stripped of my legal and political rights, denied access to birth control and other reproductive services, and...you probably get the idea.

However, according to AskMen.com (because surely we couldn't ask women what they want, since women apparently have no innate desires), I, as a part of what seems to be a frighteningly homogeneous group of about 3 billion people, just want a man who can make some decisions for me. As a woman, I am a liar if I claim I do not want to be objectified, and I can also not tell the difference between being told that I am attractive and being designated to the role of masturbatory sex object. And, whatever fuss I might put up now, I will eventually "crave the ultimate commitment." (That being marriage, apparently? I thought it was pinky swears--guess not.)

The article's stunningly vomit-worthy conclusion is "Women are a complete contradiction in terms and that’s one thing they’re likely never to evolve out of — like men and leaving the toilet seat up. We all have our crosses to bear."

This is how to "decode" this patriarchy speak (decoding is something the article suggests must be done to women, since we seem to lack the ability to communicate with humans):

"I do not understand why my girlfriend didn't like this article I wrote. I just can't understand women. Also, she's like 30, so she'll be wanting babies soon. Tick, tick and all. Aren't you glad men have evolved past the whole pregnant, barefoot thing? Me too. This Armani suit is great! Don't get me wrong, men have flaws too. Women are substandard human beings, sometimes my left incisor doesn't sparkle quite enough--apples and apples. Both my girlfriend and I have crosses to bear, but her ass looks hotter when she stands up straight, so I'll carry them both!"

This is all just more clear evidence that patriarchy and sexism are still up and swinging. But if they had their way, we would never even know they were still here. So here's my response Women's Health column...Five Realities of Patriarchy He Wants You To Ignore."

1. Voting women in isn't all it's cracked up to be. See exhibit 1: Hillary Clinton. Just as legal equality doesn't necessarily translate into real equality, representation in patriarchal systems does little to end women's oppression. Even with three women on the Supreme Court (though to be fair, they are not democratically elected), women were denied recognition as a class in suit against Walmart. Elected women officials create, enforce, and defend policies that are destructive to women around the world. Even with equal political representation, the situations faced by women worldwide would not change significantly.

2. Good luck with getting that abortion. Despite the right-wing portrayal of reproductive health services as being equivalent to a bunch of promiscuous women getting abortions en mass and then forcing all other women to get them, free abortion on demand--which is a basic right and requirement for the liberation of women--seems further away today than it has in a long time. Increasingly, we women seem to have less rights than the fetus lawmakers would have us carry to term regardless of how it was conceived, regardless of our personal situation, choice, or desires. They not only make direct attacks on the right to an abortion, but they use sneaky backdoor methods to curtail our rights. North Carolina legislators this week said that a new waiting period would "help women make a truly informed choice," completely ignoring the reality that women are perfectly capable of making our own choices in any time frame we see fit.

3. Rape is just a four letter word. It might seem strange that society, which is so eager to take away our responsibility for making our own life choices would then expect us to take the responsibility for rapes committed against us. In addition, the rise of raunch culture tries to tell us that some rape is "not really rape" and maybe even "enjoyable." The thought process here is that if you have a body, men have the right to enjoy it. This is the kind of bullshit that gets sold to us as "sexy" and "desirable." Also, 11 year old girls who are gang raped can "ask for it," according to this rape culture. Welcome to the 21st century. Does this start to sound like The Handmaid's Tale to anyone else?

4. You don't need men to protect you, but they're going to do it anyway. And by protect, I of course mean "deny you access." Women are still "protected" by men in sports, the workplace, and just about anywhere else you can think of going. Men claim to recognize that women are strong, intelligent, and capable, but then conveniently ignore it unless they think it's a good line that might get them laid. In every aspect of life, where the competence of men is assumed, it falls to women to prove their competence. And when they deny you a job, or the right to play with the men, rest assured (and hungry, if you didn't get a paycheck for another week in row) that they were doing it with your "best interests" at heart. Except, of course, that what they call our best interests are really their best interests and are of no benefit to us at all.

5. Think for yourself...and enjoy the psych ward. Women who disagree with male perspectives have always been labeled as crazy. These days, the psychiatric profession has reserved whole diagnoses for "difficult" women, like borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis almost exclusively applied to women have "erratic" and "manipulative" behavior and relationship patterns. Slightly lower on the scale of severity, but in the same mode of thought, is the tactic many sexists use of dismissing anything you say that they disagree with as being "emotion-driven" or "irrational." Men, apparently, control rationality, making anything that goes against it irrational. Oh, and anything else will be blamed on your period. Good times.

This article was first published on I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit.

KEOWN FACES HIGH COURT ACTION

Councillor Aaron Keown will be appearing in the Christchurch High Court later this month. His opponents decided to ignore his advice to 'f**k off'...

I suspect that Aaron Keown thought his opponents were just bluffing when they threatened to take legal action against him to have him removed from the appointment process to choose a new CEO for the Christchurch City Council.

But little Aaron's bluff has been called and he'll be in the High Court on August 30 where he will be arguing that he should still be able to take part in the appointment process. It won't exactly be Rumpole of the Bailey or even Boston Legal, but it might be fun. I might even pop along myself to watch Aaron's antics.

The bad and unacceptable thing about all this though is that the good people of Christchurch are having to pay various legal bills just because Keown refuses to face up to political reality.

Christchurch investment adviser and businessman Tim Howe has brought the action against Keown because little Aaron, following Sideshow Bob's shining example, stupidly came out in support of the present CEO Tony Marryatt. He is quoted as saying, among other things, that Christchurch should feel 'privileged' that 'Tony' wants to keep his job for the next five years.

The reason that 'Tony' wants to keep his job is, thanks to the generosity of his good mate Sideshow Bob, he is being paid in the region of $480,000 a year plus expenses.

Keown is still protesting that he hasn't done anything wrong and he is now claiming that 'someone' on the council is waging a campaign against him and is leaking information to the local media.

'There's a councillor that is trying to undermine the process,' said Keown this week. Golly. Who could it be? I want to thank them..

THE AD AGENCIES WILL SAVE US!

More marketing madness from do-nothing union bureaucrats! This time its the PSA. It has been wasting money on another pointless campaign designed to help the struggling Labour Party.

Having sat on its collective hands for the past three years while the Government has diligently slashed jobs in the state sector, the Public Service Association top brass have unveiled their 'election campaign'. That silence you are hearing is the sound of no one paying any attention.

The campaign plaintively asks 'What can we do about plans to cut public services'? I would of thought the answer was obvious - go on strike, organise protests, make life difficult for John Key generally. Clearly the PSA hasn't been watching what has been going on in countries like Greece, France and Spain. It's called class struggle.

But that, dear reader, is 'old fashioned thinking'. You need to get with the plan and embrace the 'modern unionism' of the CTU's Helen Kelly.

In a time of economic crisis and with workers exposed to the vicious austerity drive of John Key and co, what we really need is an advertising campaign.

According to Jenny Michie we don't need class power to defeat this government - we just need to hire an advertising agency!

Says Michie: 'We’ve hired a great ad agency to help us – the ones who’re doing the Power Shop ads ‘same power, different attitude’.

Gosh. Impressed? I know I'm not. According to the PSA, 'championing' the rights of workers is now on a par with promoting electricity power companies.

Jenny Michie is a PSA Policy Adviser and used to be the Communications Manager for the Labour Party,

I'm intrigued that Michie says that 'we' hired a great ad agency. Since the PSA membership weren't canvassed for their opinion about this campaign, I'm guessing that the PSA leadership made a unilateral decision to waste more money on a advertising campaign that will achieve exactly nothing. How much money was spent exactly?

Underpinning this stupid campaign, of course, is the message that we should all vote Labour.

All this campaign actually does is, once again, leave ordinary people without a strong militant union voice with the bureaucrats in the PSA and the CTU cynically calculating their moves within the disastrous strategy of trying to get another right wing Labour Party back into power.

This is the same Labour Party whose finance spokesperson, David Cunliffe, has already said that Labour would not 'shirk' from its 'responsibilities' to make cuts.

Earlier this year the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union launched its 'Things just got Tougher' campaign supposedly designed to oppose the Government’s new workplace law changes.

It was Labour Party election candidate Andrew Little who announced this campaign of 'radio and newspaper advertising, and online social media information pages.'

It was another campaign that replaced real political action with marketing and achieved nothing.

Since the CTU posted its 'Things Just Got Tougher' video on YoutTube in March this year, a mere 734 people have bothered to look at it - and some of them were under the impression it was a promo for the next Vin Diesel movie.

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