Saturday, 31 July 2010

Chavez: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by Colombia threats

By Federico Fuentes
Green Left Weekly

Alarm bells should be ringing as the threat of war looms on the horizon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned in his July 18 weekly column.

The warning came after tensions again flared with neighbouring Colombia, and the Central American nation of Costa Rica agreed to 6000 US troops being deployed on its soil.

Chavez placed Venezuela on high alert and broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after a July 22 meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

The Colombian administration of President Alvaro Uribe alleged at the meeting that the Chavez government was harbouring camps of armed groups waging a guerrilla struggle in Colombia.

Colombia called for “international intervention” in Venezuela.

Shooting the messenger

By Mark Steel

Why are the British and US governments saying the leak of military documents about Afghanistan has “put our soldiers at risk?”

It’s us who’s been kept hidden from this information, not the Taliban. For example, many of the revelations are previously hidden details of civilian casualties, but Afghans in those areas probably already knew about those deaths.

I don’t suppose local insurgents have said “Well well, I’ve read the leaked documents, and you know that family whose house was bombed to rubble by an American plane, and the rest of the village arrived and wailed for three days and swore revenge and then there was a funeral that we all went to. Well it turns out they’re dead.”

Afghanistan: Thousands rally against occupation

Protest in Mazar-i-Sharif, July 10. 

Citizens rallied in two Afghan cities on July 10 and 11, chanting slogans against the occupying powers and the unpopular regime of President Hamid Karzai for failing to protect civilians.

On July 10, hundreds took to the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif to demand that all occupation forces leave.

The protest was organised after an artillery barrage from occupying NATO forces killed six civilians in Paktia province on July 8 and US troops killed two civilians in a pre-dawn raid in the city on July 7.

Protesters chanted slogans against occupation forces and Karzai.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Maritime Union urges workers to support the Tax Justice campaign

The following article appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of The Maritimes, magazine of the Maritime Union of New Zealand:

Get GST off food

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has endorsed a new campaign remove GST from food and tax financial speculation.

The Maritimes magazine is urging all workers to support the Tax Justice campaign.

Organizers say GST hits workers on low to middle incomes hard and that is why they want GST taken off food.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the campaign is “an important cause for the working class to get behind.”

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union is the first union to endorse the campaign and would be promoting it to the rest of the Union movement in New Zealand.

The petition kicked off with a national day of action on Saturday 22 May, with nearly 900 signatures collected at the seven petition stalls organised around the country.

Since that time hundreds more signatures have been collected.

The tax justice campaign was launched shortly after the budget was announced in May 2010.

Campaign spokesperson (and Maritimes’ magazine editor) Victor Billot says National’s game plan is to increase GST and give tax breaks to the rich, while attacking government spending on public services.

Mr Billot says rising food prices is hurting people suffering stagnant incomes and job losses.

“Removing GST from food would provide an immediate and lasting benefit.”

Mr Billot says that taking GST off food was affordable if the government was to tax financial speculation.

A modest financial transactions tax that targets large financial institutions is gaining support around the world following the global financial crisis.

He says the Robin Hood Tax‚ campaign in the UK, which is calling for a financial transactions tax to be implemented, is gaining mass support.

The tax justice campaign is a joint campaign by the Alliance Party and Socialist Worker.

More information on the campaign is at the website

How can you help?

Over the next few weeks and months what’s going to matter most is numbers of signatures, says campaign spokesperson Victor Billot.

“The more signatures we collect the more support we’ll attract from individuals and groups. And if we start to record really good numbers of signatures, we’ll be more likely to get local and national media attention, essential for growing the campaign.”

Everyone can help by collecting signatures from friends, family and workmates. Every little effort will count.
You can download copies of the tax petition from the respective websites of the Alliance Party and Socialist Worker.

Or if you want to be sent print copies of the petition directly, contact Victor Billot at email or mobile/txt 021 482 219.

If you would like to help out at tax petition stalls in any centre where we have organisers, get in touch with us.

If we don’t have a local organiser in your centre, you can become the organiser. We can give you some advice and other assistance.

Contact campaign coordinator Vaughan Gunson email or ph/txt 021 0415 082.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Guardian: Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

Nick Davies and David Leigh,

The war logs reveal civilian killings by coalition forces, secret efforts to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, and discuss the involvement of Iran and Pakistan in supporting insurgents. Photograph: Max Whittaker/Corbis

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama's "surge" strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Staunch, but relaxed, Tax Justice campaigner on K-Road

Pat O'Dea collecting signatures for the Tax Justice petition on Karangahape Rd, Auckland, on Saturday 24 July 2010.

The Tax Justice petition calls on parliament to: 1. Remove GST from food; and 2. Tax financial speculation. Over 5,000 signatures have been collected since the campaign launch on 22 May.

Fancy spending a relaxing time talking to people about a popular campaign and collecting signatures for the petition?

If so, contact Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator, email or ph/txt 021-0415 082.

Anything you can do in your city or region will greatly help build momentum for the campaign in its early stages.
1,600+ people like our 'No GST on Food' Facebook page. To promote the campaign on Facebook go to!/pages/No-GST-on-food/119541161411953?ref=ts

Workers rights: what will it take to win?

By David

What will it take to defeat the government? Big, big protests for one thing. So the Fairness at Work protests called by the CTU for Augsut 21 are good next step. The 40,000-strong anti-mining march has shown that a big mobilisation can force National to back down.

However, there is more at stake for the government and the employers on this issue, so it is likely they will be more willing to endure protests. Their side knows that the long-term gains from beating the unions will out way short-term damage to National’s popularity. So it’s going to take more than one big rally.

We need a campaign of escalating mass protests until these plans are dropped. The starting point has to be educating and then mobilising the existing union membership, some 350,000 people. But the campaign must look to go beyond them and reach out and win over the unorganised majority.

If the ruling class fear this campaign is drawing in, politicising and organising previously unorganised workers, they will back down.

I’ve heard (and read) various people on the Marxist and anarchist left talk about the likely inadequacy of the response from the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and big unions, and the need for the socialist / anti-capitalist left to offer some sort of alternative. As Wellington unionist and Workers Party activist Don Franks put it in a comment here on my previous post on this issue, “Workers who really want this legislation stopped in its tracks will have to go beyond the politics of the CTU.”

I don’t see any point in counter-posing the two. Even if we all pull together, the socialist left is in no position to organise the mass mobilisation of union members that must be at the heart of this campaign. So we have to work with the CTU-led campaign, even as we seek to go beyond it.

What can the radical left achieve?

The question is what can we do to make this campaign more successful, to increase the chances, not only of beating the government, but of building a workers’ movement that is politically and organisationally stronger?

One way is for socialists who are union members or organisers to work together to push for a stronger response from their union.

Another is to work to involve those outside the union movement. Officials, necessarily, will be focussed on their own members, but I don’t believe we will win this campaign if it’s seen simply as a struggle between unions and the government. We need to convince the majority of the working class that this is a battle for their rights (and for their pay and conditions) against a government and an employing class that profits from grinding them down.

If currently non-unionised workers see the union movement successfully defending their rights, it could open the doors for a surge of union recruitment. So the more forward-looking union leaders should support this strategic approach.

What can socialists do to involve more non-union workers and to provide a more radical political and organisational lead for union and non-union members alike?

Here in Christchurch the Workers Rights Campaign was established as a coalition of radical left activists when the first Fire at Will law was passed last year. Now an enlarged group of leftists is organising against the new attacks. Following from the first protest the Sunday before last, a second protest has been called for August 8.

It sounds like similar radical coalitions are forming in other parts of the country.

Many within this group share the general desire to link this struggle with an anti-capitalist analysis of why these attacks are happening and what workers can do about it.

So a joint leaflet (and or posters and billboards) is one possibility. Let’s say we agreed on a leaflet combining an a notice about the upcoming actions with arguments against the attacks and an anti-capitalist analysis. We’d need to distribute a fair number to have any real impact on the political consciousness of the Christchurch working class. How many could we afford to print? How many could we distribute? Could we do 30,000? 30 people letter-boxing 1000 each? What would that cost $1000?

It seems to me that’s the sort of scale (on the upper limits of what’s possible) that we need to be looking at, if we’re serious both about reaching out to the working class and pushing the political boundaries of this campaign.

Monday, 26 July 2010

CTU calls Fairness at Work Rallies for 21st August

Please note that the CTU is holding Fairness at Work Rallies in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin on Saturday 21st August from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Exact venues for the march and rallies are to be confirmed.
These rallies are aimed at:
(a)   Demonstrating our concern about employment law changes proposed by the Government.
(b)   Reaching out to the wider community to get support for Fairness at Work.
At a planning meeting today, we have discussed advertising for the rallies, a leaflet aimed at the general public to be distributed prior to the rallies, placards, flags and banners for the rallies, on-the-ground organisation for each rally including marshals, speakers, sound system, and so forth.

Climate Action Now! Australian Socialists Adopt Climate Charter

July 20, 2010

“Change the system, not the climate: A safe climate is not possible unless an informed and mobilised community fights for it.”

2010 Climate Charter adopted by Australia’s Socialist Alliance and supported by SA candidates in the country’s current General Election.

For years, climate scientists have warned us that we need to act on climate change. Now, science is saying that climate change is taking place more rapidly than everyone previously thought.

The warning signs are obvious. April and May were the world’s hottest months since records began. This year’s Arctic ice sheet melt is taking place at a pace never seen before.

Scientists say carbon pollution has made the world’s oceans more acidic than they have been for at least 20 million years.

There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere. The warming already in the system risks the crossing of various natural “tipping points” that would raise temperatures further and faster.

If these points are crossed, it would bring average temperatures to levels that have not existed for millions of years, and to which today’s nature is simply not adapted.

In a warmer world, most existing species would die out. Large-scale agriculture would be difficult or impossible.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

John Minto: Back to the future for National

By John Minto
from Frontline

The changes to employment law outlined by Prime Minister John Key yesterday are the most significant attack on workers’ rights since National’s last big assault via the 1991 Employment Contracts Act.

From a softly-softly approach to industrial relations John Key has taken off the gloves to deliver a barrage of bare-knuckled blows against workers on the job and their rights to organise together.

Friday, 23 July 2010

CTU leaflet: ‘Demand fairness at work’ 20,000 leaflets to be printed

So this is what the CTU’s come up with so far…
This is the text from a leaflet. They will be printing 20,000 copies. Comment from the EPMU delegate who forwarded it to me: “Not what I was looking for, but worth a look.”


Your rights are under attack

The National Party promised change – but change should be for the better
They have attacked workers’ rights from the start and it’s serious

Contact your union
for more info


We didn’t ask for:

X the 90 Day Fire-at-Will Law
The Government is going to remove everyone’s right to appeal against unfair dismissal in the first 90 days of a new job, not just those in small companies

John Key government spins untruth about GST

Tax Justice media release
23 July 2010

Peter Dunne, Revenue Minister in the National-led government has said “it’s not New Zealand's policy to have a non-universal GST.”

“This is not true,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator. “GST is not applied universally today. The major exemption is for financial services.”

Inland Revenue lists the following financial services as exempted from GST: dealings with money; certain dealings with securities; provision of credit and loans; provision of life insurance; provision of non-deliverable futures contracts and financial options; the payment and collection of interest, principal and dividends; and issuing securities such as stocks and shares.

“The main users of these financial services are rich investors, speculators, banks and other wealthy corporates,” says Gunson.

“Why is it okay for them to get off paying GST, when grassroots people struggling to make ends meet have to pay tax on food?” asks Gunson. “John Key needs to fess up to the people of New Zealand and admit that our tax system has a rotten core.”

Workers rights: Christchurch protest, Sunday August 8

12 noon
corner Colombo and High Streets

This area is home to McDonalds, KFC and Burger King, where the staff are some of the most at risk from the newly announced bills. We hope to bring a lot of colour and enthusiasm to the event!

Next planning meeting
Monday 26th July, 7pm
Canterbury WEA, 59 Gloucester St

Workers rights: Auckland university meeting July 28

Time: July 28, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Lecture Theatre B28, Library Basement, University of Auckland

The National Party government has announced major attacks on workers rights and on Unions ability to represent them.

This coming Wednesday, there will be a major rally in Auckland University to launch a campaign of resistance against these attacks. Matt McCarten, General Secretary of Unite, will be joined by Sue Bradford, fighter for the rights of the unemployed, Karl Andersen, Assistant General Secretary of the NDU, and Chris Trotter, political commentator and author of No Left Turn.

The rally will bring together union delegates and members, Left wing activists and students, and will plan a series of direct action responses to the bosses and the Government.

This is the Employment Contracts Act of our Generation.
We won't be defeated.

hosted by Unite on Campus (Auckland)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

National refuses support on GST food exemption bill

From Radio New Zealand
Updated at 6:10pm on 21 July 2010

National won't support a Maori Party member's bill to remove GST from healthy foods, saying it doesn't want the law changed.

Rahui Katene's bill would scrap GST from foods, including fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk products and lean meats.

The bill is due to be debated by Parliament, but won't get past its first reading.

Prime Minister John Key says it is difficult to demarcate between different food groups and the loss of revenue - estimated by the Government at $360 million a year - would be high.

Mr Key says the GST system is simple and exempting some items would start a trend.
But Ms Katene says financial transactions are already excluded from GST.

She also says Australia's tax office has a computerised model for GST on food and beverages, which would made it an easy matter to manage.
Copyright © 2010 Radio New Zealand

Meeting: GAZA Can we break the prison walls?


Keynote speaker:
Grant Morgan
Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza

7.30pm on Thursday 29 July
Socialist Centre, 86 Princes St, Onehunga, Auckland

Your host:
Eco-Socialist Discussion Group

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

CTU: Unions do have evidence over 90 Day trial

Council of Trade Unions media release
19 July 2010

Unions do have evidence of workers being dismissed unfairly under the 90 day provisions that operate for small firms.

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that the public has been made aware for instance of the worker at Dunbar Sloane auctioneers and also the worker sacked from Take Note Stationery in Waikanae detailed in Saturday’s press who was fired five minutes before the end of her 90th day.

Pakistan: Losing lives to form trade unions

by Farooq Tariq
from Viewpoint

On 6th July while Mustansar was listening to a worker who had not been paid his wages by a textile boss, an unknown person with a Kalashnikov entered the front room and fired. Mustansar tried to save his life by running to the next room but 10 people were determined to finish him off.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

“It’s New Zealand’s tax system that’s unhealthy” says Tax Justice campaign

Tax Justice media release
18 July 2010

The debate around Rahui Katene’s private members bill to remove GST from healthy food needs to be broadened. That’s the message from Tax Justice campaigners.

“We need to address the core injustices in New Zealand’s tax system,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator. “Grassroots people are forced to stomach GST on food, while something as destructive to the economy as financial speculation goes untaxed,” says Gunson.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Protest greets attack on workers rights, but what comes next?

by David

Prime Minister John Key announced a new attack on workers’ rights at the National Party conference in Auckland on Sunday July 18. (Could there be a more appropriate place for the Nat’s get together?)

Of greatest concern are plans to extend the 90-day fire at will law to all workers and restrictions on the rights of trade union officials to visit their members or access a sight to recruit members. These attacks on workers rights are designed to cower New Zealand’s already timid, disorganised and poorly paid workforce even further.

Step out of line in the first three months, perhaps by complaining about poor health and safety or joining a union, and you could be out the door, no questions asked, no reason given.

In response, 500 trade union members protested outside the National’s conference. Here’s a report from one protester:

Despite a heavy police presence, a group of about 40 managed to push through lines of police and Sky City security guards, to enter the lobby of the conference building.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly addressed the protest and commented on the large size of the crowd considering the short notice. She announced an emergency meeting of all trade union leaders on Thursday to discuss a campaign against the proposed law changes.

The head of the Dairy Workers Union speaking to the crowd, made a statement that the DWU have decided that if any new worker in the Dairy industry is dismissed under the 90 day law, that the union would immediately call a stopwork meeting, “Where we will then decide what we would do.”

“If you remove due process you can expect that we will take direct action.” he said.

This militant declaration, from a union not noted for its militancy was met with loud cheers and applause. Of course such action would be illegal under the current Employment Relations Act.

All in all this protest was a tremendous success and a great first start to this campaign.

A protest in Christchurch, called on Friday night, brought together 40 unionists and called an organising meeting for Monday. A Wellington protest is also due to take place on Monday.

The fire at will law was first introduced early last year, but can only be used by bosses with less than 20 employees. Unions made a token protest at that time, but at lot less than they had a few years earlier, when the idea was first raised in a private members bill by National MP Wayne Mapp. One apparent reason for this was that some unions were, at the time trying to cooperate with National around the so-called Job Summit. That spirit of partnership got them about as far as John Key’s cycle way.

Sunday’s spirited protest was a good first response. But what comes next? Will this be the start of a sustained fight to defend workers rights? Or do we just wait for the next election and campaign for a Labour-led government?

Chris Trotter is optimistic union leaders will follow through with their bold words at Sunday’s protest and take to the streets.

Sue Bradford has warned that both the unions and the Labour Party leadership will need to do a better job than they did in response to the benefit cuts and Employment Contracts Act back in 1991.

UNITYblog welcomes readers ideas on how workers and their unions should respond to the government’s attacks.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Kiwi Aid to Gaza - Update

17 July 2010


The mission of Kia Ora Gaza is clear: to send Kiwi aid and volunteers to join the international humanitarian convoys leaving for Gaza on 18th September.

Three land convoys will leave from London, North Africa and Doha. The truck columns will rendezvous at Egypt's Rafah crossing into Gaza on the same day as a large sea flotilla heads for Gaza's shoreline.

These convoys of peace will be staffed by many hundreds of volunteers from around the world. Among these heros of social justice will be our very own Kiwi team.


To fund our Kiwi team, Kia Ora Gaza's target is to raise $100,000. We have only ten weeks to do so. Our success depends on the generosity of spirit of humanitarians like yourself.

To support our Kiwi team, go to our website for details about our bank account, PayPal facility and Automatic Payments.

Kia Ora Gaza is a not-for-profit coalition whose entire funds go to the sole benefit of the people of Gaza. All our accounts are subject to audit by a professional auditor (donating his services free) who is independent of our Board of Trustees.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Protest this Sunday – stop National’s attacks on workers

from Facebook page

Date: Sunday, July 18, 2010
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: Sky City Hotel, Auckland CBD

The National Party will announce drastic attacks on workers rights, seeking to curtail Unions rights to Bargain, access greenfield sites, access existing sites, slash education and training leave, and cut back on Holidays.

Unions will vigourously resist these attacks from the outset. If National are declaring war on workers, they should prepare for Resistance.

The Battle starts this Sunday. 10am. Sky City Hotel.

The National Party Conference is happening there this weekend.

The official announcement on the attacks will be made at 11am.

We aim to disrupt this session.

Stand up for Workers Rights.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stuff: Bill removing GST from healthy food drawn

from Stuff website

A Maori Party bill that would remove GST from healthy food could come up for debate in Parliament in the next few weeks.

MP Rahui Katene drafted the member's bill, which has been drawn from the ballot that is used to decide which ones reach the debating chamber. Two or three bills are usually drawn every second Wednesday Parliament sits.

It is likely to go on Parliament's agenda for a first reading debate when Parliament returns from recess next Tuesday.

The Government is expected to oppose the bill, which means it won't pass its first reading, but Ms Katene is gathering as much support as she can from other parties and hopes National will change its mind.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said today her proposal wasn't viable because if some items were exempted from GST there would be demands for others to be given the same treatment.

He said removing GST from the food specificed in the bill would mean the loss of millions of tax dollars which would have to be found somewhere else.

Ms Katene is appealing for the bill to be at least put through its first reading so it can go to a select committee for public submissions.

Her Goods and Services Tax (Exemption of Healthy Food) Amendment Bill says food prices have risen more than 20 percent in the last three years while real incomes have risen only very slightly.

"While all consumers will benefit from the removal of goods and services tax from healthy food, those on lower incomes spend a greater proportion of their income on food and will receive a significant benefit as a result," it says.

"Research conducted both in New Zealand and overseas shows that the lowering of the price of healthy food ... leads to a significant increase in purchases of healthy food."

The bill defines healthy food as fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and milk products excluding ice cream, cream products, condensed and flavoured milk, and lean meat, poultry, seafood ,eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Video: David Harvey – ‘The animated crisis of capitalism’

On April 26, 2010, Marxist geographer professor David Harvey spoke to the the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) to explain how capitalism came to dominate the world and why it resulted in the current financial crisis. He asks: is it time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order? Above is the animated version of the longer speech he gave. You can view the original speech HERE

Taking a long view of the current crisis, Harvey exposes the follies of the international financial system, looking closely at the nature of capitalism, how it works and why sometimes it doesn’t.

Hattip LINKS

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

US trapped in depression

The US workforce shrank by 652,000 in June, one of the sharpest contractions ever. The rate of hourly earnings fell 0.1pc. Wages are flirting with deflation. 

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
From The Telegraph UK
July 04, 2010

“The economy is still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession,” said Robert Reich, former US labour secretary. “All the booster rockets for getting us beyond it are failing.”

“Home sales are down. Retail sales are down. Factory orders in May suffered their biggest tumble since March of last year. So what are we doing about it? Less than nothing,” he said.

California is tightening faster than Greece. State workers have seen a 14pc fall in earnings this year due to forced furloughs. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is cutting pay for 200,000 state workers to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to cover his $19bn (£15bn) deficit.

Can Illinois be far behind? The state has a deficit of $12bn and is $5bn in arrears to schools, nursing homes, child care centres, and prisons. “It is getting worse every single day,” said state comptroller Daniel Hynes. “We are not paying bills for absolutely essential services. That is obscene.”

Roughly a million Americans have dropped out of the jobs market altogether over the past two months. That is the only reason why the headline unemployment rate is not exploding to a post-war high.

Let us be honest. The US is still trapped in depression a full 18 months into zero interest rates, quantitative easing (QE), and fiscal stimulus that has pushed the budget deficit above 10pc of GDP.

The share of the US working-age population with jobs in June actually fell from 58.7pc to 58.5pc. This is the real stress indicator. The ratio was 63pc three years ago. Eight million jobs have been lost.

The average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks. Nothing like this has been seen before in the post-war era. Jeff Weninger, of Harris Private Bank, said this compares with a peak of 21.2 weeks in the Volcker recession of the early 1980s.

“Legions of individuals have been left with stale skills, and little prospect of finding meaningful work, and benefits that are being exhausted. By our math the crop of people who are unemployed but not receiving a check amounts to 9.2m.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill are filibustering a bill to extend the dole for up to 1.2m jobless facing an imminent cut-off. Dean Heller from Vermont called them “hobos”. This really is starting to feel like 1932.

Washington’s fiscal stimulus is draining away. It peaked in the first quarter, yet even then the economy eked out a growth rate of just 2.7pc. This compares with 5.1pc, 9.3pc, 8.1pc and 8.5pc in the four quarters coming off recession in the early 1980s.

The housing market is already crumbling as government props are pulled away. The expiry of homebuyers’ tax credit led to a 30pc fall in the number of buyers signing contracts in May. “It is cataclysmic,” said David Bloom from HSBC.

Federal tax rises are automatically baked into the pie. The Congressional Budget Office said fiscal policy will swing from
a net +2pc of GDP to -2pc by late 2011. The states and counties may have to cut as much as $180bn.

Investors are starting to chew over the awful possibility that America’s recovery will stall just as Asia hits the buffers. China’s manufacturing index has been falling since January, with a downward lurch in June to 50.4, just above the break-even line of 50. Momentum seems to be flagging everywhere, whether in Australian building permits, Turkish exports, or Japanese industrial output.

On Friday, Jacques Cailloux from RBS put out a “double-dip alert” for Europe. “The risk is rising fast. Absent an effective policy intervention to tackle the debt crisis on the periphery over coming months, the European economy will double dip in 2011,” he said.

It is obvious what that policy should be for Europe, America, and Japan. If budgets are to shrink in an orderly fashion over several years – as they must, to avoid sovereign debt spirals – then central banks will have to cushion the blow keeping monetary policy ultra-loose for as long it takes.

The Fed is already eyeing the printing press again. “It’s appropriate to think about what we would do under a deflationary scenario,” said Dennis Lockhart for the Atlanta Fed. His colleague Kevin Warsh said the pros and cons of purchasing more bonds should be subject to “strict scrutiny”, a comment I took as confirmation that the Fed Board is arguing internally about QE2.

Perhaps naively, I still think central banks have the tools to head off disaster. The question is whether they will do so fast enough, or even whether they wish to resist the chorus of 1930s liquidation taking charge of the debate. Last week the Bank for International Settlements called for combined fiscal and monetary tightening, lending its great authority to the forces of debt-deflation and mass unemployment. If even the BIS has lost the plot, God help us.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Pakistan: Thousands rally for land rights

by Maqsood Mujahid
Labour Party Pakistan

A three months notice have been given to Punjab government to decide the fate of the 68000 of agriculture land owned by Punjab government and cultivated by tenants for over 100 years. The tenants have been demanding land ownership rights and despite promises to do so by Benazhir Bhutto [former leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party] and Mian Nawaz Sharif of PMLN [Pakistan Muslim League], the land in question has not been allotted to the tenants.
The three month notice was given at the end of a massive peasants rally on 29 June at Okara. The rally was organized by Anjaman Mozreen Punjab (Punjab Tenants Association) on the eve of the 10 years of tenants struggle for land ownership rights. Over 5000 peasants from different agriculture farms waving red flags chanted slogans against the regime and blamed that they are poor because the General Head Quarter of Army (GHQ) is looting the resources meant for peasants. The army owns over 25000 acres of land in Okara and Pakpattan districts of Punjab.