C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Monday, 19 January 2009

News in Brief

As we saw in the previous post, the wages of low-paid workers have often not kept up with inflation.

Adding insult to injury is a report that found that 41& of employers surveyed had cheated workers out of their wages. Most of the workers in question were young and low-paid.

Back to the Gaza Strip - Crikey has a decent wrap for a change. Note in particular the story about the doctor.

Finally, those well-known neo-Nazis at the Jerusalem Post have suggested that the Israeli Government should make the most of recent bloodshed, and grab a '$4 billion opportunity' by seizing control of gas reserves off the coast of Gaza. The ostensible reason for the proposed gas grab is to prevent any royalties being given to Hamas, apparently becuase in 'June 2007...Hamas violently ousted Fatah from power in the Gaza Strip, claiming ownership of the gas fields off the coast and the proceeds from the sale of the gas.'!

Ousted, voted in, who can tell these days?

Wading Through Economic Filth

On the political Ozblogosphere, Queensland seems to throw up some fairly degenerate characters. From illiterate stalkers, to ex-Nazis obsessed with 'race theory', the Sunshine state appears to be struggling to produce non-idiotic 'conservative' opinion.

The latest such case is Leon Bretard, who claims to have 'pwned' me. Unfortunately for Leon, he's shot his pwning wad a little prematurely, and now has something of a mess on his hands.

Economic Filth
The crux of Leon's claim revolved around an economic argument, or, more precisely, two economic propositions.

The first proposition concerns what Leon calls the 'pseudo-economic left wing union theories about higher wages helping the economy'. Bear in mind that this article was pilfered from economist Harry Clarke, and Leon appears to have completely misunderstood it. In response to claims that higher wages can help an economy in recession, I said:

His [Harry Clark's] argument is that with reduced demand for labour, increased wages will contribute to unemployment. Fair enough. The other side of the coin is that reducing wages contributes to a decline in aggregate demand. Note that Harry himself does not reject this assumption. Consequently, wage cuts/freezes are no magic bullet to solving the economic crisis, particularly since, being in a global economy, no amount of wage cuts will bring labour costs in line with SE Asian levels, for instance.

This is one of the problems with capitalism. Whilst higher wages might, in theory, produce a higher aggregate demand, the potential for unemployment would offset this. I agree with Harry on this point, and nothng I've said points to the contrary.

However, it doesn't follow from this first proposition that a second proposition, (namely, cutting wages will help an economy is recession), is true. This is equivalent to saying that putting a leg of lamb in the fridge will give you a better slow roast. The myth that cutting wages will fix recession is comprehensively debunked here:

Reducing real wages–and thus reducing the capacity of workers to purchase output–may boost profits in real terms by skewing the distribution of real income further in favour of capital. But it will undoubtedly impact on some capitalists badly–not makers of sports cars perhaps, but certainly those who run supermarket chains–and the aggregate effect is a toss-up.

That is to say, cutting, or freezing wages (which during periods of inflation amounts to the same thing) leads to less spending, which in turn can create deflationary pressures. Furthermore, it is by no means guaranteed that cheaper labour costs will automatically result in an increase demand in labour, since the hiring of staff generally hinges on a range of differrent factors. For every worker or family who falls into poverty as a result of lost wages, additional burden is placed for supports onto either the Government (i.e. taxpayers) or NGOs (who are funded by a combination or private fundraising and taxpayers).

Issues of social justice aside, it is perfectly clear that you cannot 'fix' a recession by the wholsesale cutting of wages. Leon calls this argument 'stupidity', but is apparently unable to provide a single counter-argument in response. Evidently, even he doesn't believe his own bullshit.

The Myth of Prosperity

Imbecility is added upon imbecility when Leon claims that the Howard years in Australia were a period of unbridled prosperity, that all workers are better off, etc. This is nonsense. I've written before that the data suggests that many Australians have actually become worse off during the 'boom', through increased casualisation, additional working hours, increased 'mortgage stress', higher rates of poverty, etc.

Let's take a look at the claim the 'real wage growth' was increased for all Australians. Firstly, recent wage growth has been vastly higher in particular states and particular industries. It should be no surprise that wage increases are almost double in the mining state of WA compared to states such as Victoria and NSW. Miners were clearly the group with the highest wage increases, whilst industries such as communication, hospitality, accommodation, retail, health and community services were either 'very weak' or smallish in terms of wage increases.

One conclusion that we can draw from this is that overall figures for wage growth must be interpreted in view of the fact that wage growth varies widely across industries. A figure showing wage growth overall can mask the fact that negligible wage growth in some sectors is masked by periods of boom in others.

Secondly, to discuss 'real' wage growth, we need to look at the figures for inflation, to be found here. Remember that these figures also conceal some important details, as inflation is calculated by excluding 'volatile' elements, such as the increase in petrol prices during the boom years, and the multiple increases in interest rates under Howard's watch. These figures for inflation minimise the extent to which prices have increased.

Now, if we look at the figures above, we see that the inflation for the year 2008 was consistently well above 4%. In particular, inflation increased by almost 1.5% for the quarter between late 2007 and early 2008. (Inflation continued to rise for the rest of the year, getting as high as 4.9%). During this same period, according to the ANZ data, only the mining and education sectors had wage increases above or around this level, which is to say that the workers of every other industry lost wages in real terms, as any pay increases they received did not keep up with the rate of inflation.

Whilst the RBA attempts to keep inflation with the rang of 2-3%, it has often been outside this range during the Howard years, peaking at 6% during 2000 and 2001. Since 2000, there have been 4 years when the annual rate of inflation was above the RBA's 3% boundary. Leon the Lamentable seems to ignore the fact that anyone whose wages did not increase above and beyond this rate of inflation did not experience real wage growth. Whilst this clearly wasn't the case in a small number of highly prosperous industry sectors (such as mining), growth was hardly universal across the board.

The Case for Wage Claims

Some unions in Australia have argued for wage increases for their members. In this, such unions are only acting in accordance with their member's wishes. We should remember that it was only very recently that workers were asked for 'wage restraint' for fear of alleged inflationary pressures. (NB: Whilst inflation has decreased in Australia as a result of the GFC, it hasn't disappeared altogether).

This is particularly pertinent as '1.2 million workers reliant on award wages have experienced a decline in the real value of their wages in the three years since the introduction of the Howard Government’s new minimum wage setting arrangements.' (i.e. since 2005). 96% of low paid workers actually experienced a loss of real wages in 2007, contrary to the claims of the Orwellian-named 'Fair Pay Commission'.

The thesis that Australia's lowest-paid workers have lost wages in real terms is supported by data from Catholic Social Services, who say that at best, wages for low-paid workers have merely kept up with inflation, and in many (if not most) cases, they have failed to achieve even that.

Once again, we have further evidence of Bretard's economic illiteracy. Not only do low-paid workers have, at the very least, an argument for wage increases, but many other industries have not kept pace with inflation. The Victorian public service, for instance, has not had wage increases higher than 3% at any time over the past few years, meaning that in high inflation years, real wages were actually lost. Calls for workers in these industries to cut wages is therefore a clear example of class warfare, and there is no evidence that any such cuts would miracously lift Australia out of impending recession in any case.

And the rest

Leon makes a variety of other nonsense claims against, most of which are so peurile and inaccurate as to be not even worth acknowledging. He asked why 'the Left' have staged demonstrations in response to Israel's demolition of Gaza. I indicated that this was, among other reasons, to influence Australian Government policy. In turn, he says:

What a lame excuse! Does anyone believe that far-left protests make any difference to Israel's actions? Many people think Israel must be doing something right when extreme lefties are foaming in the mouth over its actions.

Leon can add 'English' to his list of illiteracies, since I never made the claim that protests in Melbourne or elsewhere would directly influence IDF policy. Grassroots politics has many forms, and many functions. One is to influence the positions of one's own government; another is to draw attention to alleged injustice. Bretard must have mistaken blogging for activism if he thinks that such grassroots activism makes no difference. Workchoices was, in large part, overturned by activism, since parliamentary measures were utterly ineffective (given the Coalition's Senate majority). The widespread unpopularity for Australia's invasion of Iraq did not actually prevent the war, but it may well have influenced the use to which Australian troops were put, and the manner in which war policy was handled (i.e. troops were used in training rather than combat roles, conscription for the war was virtually unthinkable, etc).

Leon claimed that leftist criticism of IDF policy is 'undoubtedly' a consequence of anti-Semitism. I asked him for evidence of this claim, and he provided only links to his other posts, all of which are equally lacking in evidence. He must live in a room full of mirrors.

I mentioned, mockingly, in view of Bretard's supposed legal credentials, that maybe 'the Left' had been defamed by Leon tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. With his characteristic lack of irony, Leon responds:

THR, there's no such thing as defamation inside a court. Duh!

Another self-pwning. You are having a really bad year, 'comrade'.

If you feel you have a case against me in defamation, you are more than welcome to sue me.

The stupidity here is breathtaking, as if I (or anybody else) would seriously be proposing that 'teh Left' would initiate a class action against blogger, whose only tools are smear, and whose only sources are right-wing talking points. He probably thinks Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' and Neil Young's 'Rocking in the Free World' are pro-US anthems.

Anyway, I've wasted enough time and space on this cretin. When he can mount an honest and intelligent argument grounded in evidence, I'll be happy to engage with him further. Until then, he is merely a troll, and his cartoonish 'arguments' have been refuted again, for the umpteenth time.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The world's laziest reading group...

...is back in action, here.

A few thoughts on Israel and Palestine

I've been wanting to write something about this earlier, but I'm a little lost as to what to say. Again, Israel are committing atrocities against the Palestinians, and again, their apologists use every bit of sophistry at their disposal to justify it.

Let us be clear - it is Israel that broke the truce. On November 4, 2008, Israel entered Gaze and killed 6 members of Hamas.

Yes, Israel has a right to self-defence. The concept of 'self-defence' has clearly been stretched by Israel to the point of meaningless. Context is important. For an occupied people, battling blockade, ethnic cleansing, and colonial expansion to resist by way of rocket fire is not the same as say, Iran attacking Israel. The only way to make Israel look legitimate in this conflict is to airbrush away its history of brutality.

Israel may very well fail, both militarily and politically. Hamas rockets are still firing, and Israel has largely failed to draw Hamas into open areas of conflict thus far. Should the IDF enter built-up urban zones, both they and the Palestinians will likely suffer massive casualties.

Should Israel fail in its latest military adventure, it is likely that the rightists will take over at the next election. In addition, Hamas will probably see a rise in domestic support, and Iran may well vote in the conservatives. The only possible political victory that may emerge from this conflict is if the people of Egypt use it as a catalyst to oust the US-proxy neoliberal dictatorship in Egypt.

Israel have clearly been targeting civilians and civilian areas, as they did in Lebanon in 2006. Naturally, IDF spokespeople justify the carnage by alleging that every dead civilian is a terrorist.

Israel could have negotiated with Hamas, and have done so before. The alleged failure of Hamas to 'recognise' the state of Israel is purely symbolic. There is no recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Israeli government, so any lack of reciprocal recognition by Hamas is a moot point.

When I have debated these issues on rightist sites, I have very quickly been accused of 'anti-Semitism', as if Arabs were not also Semites. This smear is fairly common on the right. The recent Melbourne demonstration can be viewed on You Tube, for instance. I saw no evidence of anti-Semitism at this demo, yet the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs pieced together a slideshow of alleged anti-Semitism at the event.

Obviously, the charge of anti-Semitism is baseless, particularly when plenty of Israelis, and Jews worldwide, oppose the current slaughter.

For what it is worth, the IDF's latest actions are to be condemned as yet further collective punishment against one of the world's most oppressed peoples. When Israel's relationship to the Palestinians is one of oppressor-oppressed, claims of 'self-defence' are utterly disingenuous. On one point, at least, the rightists are correct - there can be no moral equivalence in this war, given that one side is starving, bombing, shooting, colonising and blockading the other.

Universal moral principles seemingly do not apply when commentators discuss the Palestinians. As per a previous post, it is as if the rightist defenders of Zionism have appropriated postmodern discourses on identity politics to justify Israel's moral exceptionalism. I have wondered aloud elsewhere whether these apologists would be so quick to defend the actions of, for example, a homosexual or Roma state.

None of this should be interpreted as 'support' for Hamas, though Hamas, like everybody else, has the right to defend itself. Religion can be incidental to liberation politics, but I see no reason to believe that religion alone, in the absence of a liberation agenda, can free the Palestinians in a political sense.

There is a wealth of information available on the internet, and the links are coming too quickly for me to list all of them. I personally recommend that all interested readers take a look at the writings of Richard Seymour and the much-maligned Robert Fisk.

On a positive note, the level of protest around the world has been heartening. The first goal must be an immediate ceasefire, preferably not on Israel's terms. Secondly, there must be negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, at least insofar as this latter group are still the elected representatives of Gazans. Finally, a universalist one-state solution is the terminus ad quem to which efforts should be directed. I realise that this is a long way off, but, short of purging the Middle East of Palestinians, Israel will have to contemplate this solution as some stage.

May there be peace and freedom for Palestinians soon, and may all honest men and women from all sides of political discourse express their solidarity with an oppressed and brutalised peoples.

UPDATE: Serial stalker and Australia's dumbest blogger Iain Hall has attempted to critique the above post. Moreover, his purpose in writing seems to be to label me 'anti-Semitic'. His post is full of lies and inaccuracies, and not worth much space here, other than to make a couple of points.

He says:

I don’t know about anyone else but I read his paragraph as saying that Israel does not have a right to respond to the many thousands of rockets fired out of Gaza.

The guff about ethnic cleansing and occupation are just your typical Marxist nonsense. I can only conclude that in Haps eyes the people of Israel are in some sense lesser human beings if they are not entitled to fight back when so constantly attacked and he thinks that they are lesser people because they are Jewish.

In fact, I explicitly said that Israel, like everybody else, has the right to self-defence. I added that this right didn't extend to colonisation, occupation, etc. Pretty straightforward, except to an illiterate like Hall.


1300 dead are claimed but there is some suggestion that this number has been grossly inflated
There is in fact one suggestion of that, appearing in an Italian daily. The Israeli press has consistently reported the higher figure, and one assumes that they have no reason to lie.

Hall then splurts this garbled mess onto the screen:
firstly there is nothing to be gained by Israel targeting those who are actual civilians , the propaganda negatives alone are evident enough from the reactions when the IDF accidentally kills Palestinian civilians . Secondly if the IDF really wanted to massacre the Palestinian people it has more than enough capability to do just that and the death toll from military actions would be in the hundreds of thousands, not somewhere between 5 and 13 hundred.Finally if the IDF were “targeting civilians” the why do we here the reports about the IDF dropping leaflets and the sending of sms Messages warning of impending attacks on Hamas targets. There can only be one reason that Hap runs this line and that is to blacken the Jewish side of this conflict.

Well, it's already been documented that the IDF left vast numbers of cluster bombs in civilian areas in Lebanon, 2006. Various aid organisations have alleged abuses against civilians in the most recent conflict, and the IDF is itself investigating claims, such as the 'inappropriate' (i.e. murderous) use of white phosphorous. Again, all of these claims can be verified by a quick look at the Israeli dailies, such as Ha'aretz.

Hap wants to pretend that none of the dead are Hamas fighters because then it is easier to portray the IDF as “evil” which is consistent with his views about the Jews in general.
Hall is engaged in his usual conjecture and speculation. In any case, hundreds of the dead Gazans were clearly not Hamas fighters. Naturally, Hall doesn't demonstrate how my views on the IDF are 'consistent' with those about the Jews 'in general'. He doesn't do this because he cannot, as it isn't true. Evidence counts, El Stalko, not mindless assertion.


How so is [the Hamas charter] it “purely symbolic”? because Hamas ’s Charter not only fails to recognise the existence of Israel but calls for its destruction…

1. Because all charters are by definition symbolic.

2. Because recognition is itself symbolic, particularly given that the Palestinian terroritories do not have State status as of yet.

3. Because the lack of recognition is reciprocated by the Israeli Government.

4. Because not all of Hamas endorse the Charter, let alone all Palestinians.

Hall then mentions a clearly anti-Semitic poster at a recent Melbourne rally. He claims this shows I was 'one eyed' about the demo I reporter above. Again, Hall demonstrates his room temperature IQ, as the rally I discussed above (also discussed on LGF) was not the same as the one reported by Nilk on AWH. But don't let the facts get in the way...


There is NO balance at all in his commentary here not one concession that the Palestinians in general or Hamas in particular have acted in an unacceptable manner in they way that they have prosecuted their “struggle”.
So unless one condemns all and sundry human rights abuses before criticising the IDF, one is anti-Semitic? Logic FAIL.

The rest is more of the same. It's classic, illiterate gibberish from Hall at his most petty. In defence of his claims that I am anti-Semitic, he fails to produce a single piece of evidence. He makes the following claims:

In short Hap is an anti Semite because:

(in no particular order)

He refuses to acknowledge that Jews in Israel should not be subject to attack from Hamas rockets. In fact he supports such attacks.

No, I explicitly said that Israelis had a right to self-defence.

He calls for the destruction of the state of Israel which would mean that the Jews there would either be killed or “driven into the sea”.

Hall gives no evidence of this. Calling for Israeli to become democratic and secular, as I have done, is the opposition of calling for its 'destruction'.

He hides behind semantics of the term “Semite”

I noted, correctly, that Arabs are also Semites. Since Hall cannot produce a single instance of anti-Jewish bigotry on my part, you'd think he'd welcome the broadest definition possible. In any case, Hall seems to misunderstand the notion of 'semantics', and the fact that it has no relation to anti-Semitism, real, alleged, or otherwise.

He unquestionably accepts the worst case examples in all sources when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. he does not even have the semblance of a balanced consideration of the issues.

No, I accept substantiated examples. In any case, not being 'balanced' does not demonstrate racism or bigotry.

He creates the ridiculous straw man argument that an ‘anti- Semite” has to “deny the holocaust” just so the definition excludes him.

There's no definition of anti-Semite that includes me, and Hall knows this well. He's expended many words on the matter without providing a single bit of evidence to the contrary.

Finally given the fact that Hap hacked my email and blogging accounts last year for the most malicious reasons it is the hight of hypocrisy for him to seek to justify his rancour on the basis of my internet behaviour when his own is nothing short of despicable.

Forgive him comrades, because he is but a poor deluded Marxist who believes that the ends justifies the means.

Again, Hall makes assertions that he cannot substantiate. Don't expect a retraction any time soon, folks. Just expect more attack blogs to pop up, like this one:

Finally, whilst Iain; Hall claims to be a 'moral' blogger, we should note that he has considerable form when it comes to hurling false allegations of anti-Semitism. It's a tactic he's used with bloggers before, having attempted to discredit opponents by way of identity theft. This site has plenty more information about Hall's long history of similar behaviour. Some morality.