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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quotes about and by Umpires

Ed Vargo, umpire: "We're supposed to be perfect our first day on the job and show constant improvement."

Time Magazine, 8/25/61: "Ideally, the umpire should combine the integrity of a Supreme Court judge, the physical agility of an acrobat, the endurance of Job and the imperturbability of Buddha."

Ron Bolton: "Officials are the only guys who can rob you and then get a police escort out of the stadium."

Bill Klem, umpire: "It ain't nuthin' until I call it.

Al Forman, umpire: "I occasionally get birthday cards from fans. But it's often the same message: They hope it's my last."

Bill Klem, umpire: "Your job is to umpire for the ball and not the player."

Neville Cardus: "The umpire ... is like the geyser in the bathroom; we cannot do without it, yet we notice it only when it is out of order."

Tom Canterbury: "The trouble with referees is that they just don't care which side wins."

Joe Brinkman, umpire:"They can holler at the uniform all they want, but when they holler at the man wearing the uniform, they're in trouble."

Bob Uecker: "Let's face it. Umpiring is not an easy or happy way to make a living. In the abuse they suffer, and the pay they get for it, you see an imbalance that can only be explained by their need to stay close to a game they can't resist."

Jay Leno: "I wanted to have a career in sports when I was young, but I had to give it up. I'm only six feet tall, so I couldn't play basketball. I'm only 190 pounds, so I couldn't play football. And I have 20-20 vision, so I couldn't be a referee."

Jonathan Davies: "I think you enjoy the game more if you don't know the rules. Anyway you're on the same wavelength as the referees."

Wendy Toms, the first female soccer referee to officiate in a professional game. "If the players want to make it hard for me, I am happy to make it twice as hard for them."

John Joseph 'Johnny" Evers: "My favorite umpire is a dead one."

Christy Mathewson:"Many fans look upon the umpire as sort of a necessary evil to the luxury of baseball, like the odor that follows an automobile."

Ring Lardner, on umpires: "Some of ours is so crooked that they can lay in a berth only when the train's making a curve."

Harry "Steamboat" Johnson, umpire: "Somethin' like four thousand bottles have been thrown at me in my day but only about twenty ever hit me. That does not speak very well for the accuracy of the fans' throwing."

Amos Otis, to an umpire at a night game: "Listen, ump. How can you sleep with the lights on?"

Gene Mauch, Montreal Manager, when his players rushed to dispute a call: "The first guy who lays a finger on this blind old man is fined fifty bucks!"

Dizzy Dean, on umpire William McKinley: "Why, they shot the wrong McKinley!" [McKinley was an assassinated US president.]

Unknown, from a Chicago Times editorial: "The average umpire is a worthless loafer."

Leo Durocher: "In the olden days, the umpire didn't have to take any courses in mind reading. The pitcher told you he was going to throw at you."

Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle reporter, referring to baseball umpires: "...You know what happens to an umpire whose judgment is deemed badly flawed and wildly arbitrary. He gets shipped to the NBA."

Bill Shankly: "The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game."

Bobby Higginson, Detroit Tigers outfielder, after being ejected from a game: "Sometimes, these guys look for ways to bait guys and throw them out of the game. I always say that umpires are probably frustrated athletes who are looking for a way to get involved in the game.

Leo Durocher: "I never questioned the integrity of an umpire. Their eyesight, yes."

Leo Durocher: "There are only five things you can do in baseball - run, throw, catch, hit, and hit with power."

Leo Durocher: "You argue with the umpire because there is nothing else you can do about it."

'I'm not prepared to pay these fines' -- WA construction worker

John Pes has become the public face of the 107 Western Australian construction workers who have been threatened with fines of up to $28,600 after taking strike action on the Leighton Kumagai-run Perth to Mandurah rail construction project in February.

No longer in the construction industry, Pes, like his former workmates, is now feeling the full impact of the Howard government’s draconian anti-worker legislation.

The WA press has been relentless in its campaign of demonising construction workers and their union, the CFMEU. Talking with Pes, I got the distinct impression I was talking to a hard working blue-collar worker, doing his best to earn a living to raise a young family.

I asked him why he had given interviews to Murdoch’s Australian newspaper and the ABC TV’s 7.30 Report and not the West Australian. “I haven’t spoken to the West Australian because they haven’t even tried to negotiate with me for an interview”, he answered. “And I can tell you right now, if they do I’ll tell them to go away. It doesn’t matter what union it is, they just write stuff to make us look bad, all the time!”

Pes described the actual conditions he and his fellow workers had worked under on the Leighton Kumagai-run project. The workers faced a standard work week of 56 hours. He said many of the workers had to work well in excess of these hours, damaging their home lives and family relationships.

He said his own experience in the construction industry had been fine up until he began work on the Leighton Kumagai tunnel project. He said that because the previous attention paid to the CFMEU by the federal Building Industry Task Force — the predecessor organisation to the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) — had been ineffectual for the Howard government and the construction bosses, he believed the huge cost overruns incurred by Leighton Kumagai on the tunnel section of the rail project had been used to trigger the cur

A line in the sand/An open letter to all unionists from Tim Gooden

The situation in Western Australia, where at least 107 construction workers have been served writs with the possibility of $28,000 fines, represents a fundamental attack on our rights as workers and trade unionists.

Regardless of the outcome of this case in the federal court, and regardless of whether or not the workers are fined, the union movement must actively oppose this latest attack by the federal government and its hit men in the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The laws under which the ABCC operates remove our control over our own labour — our right to determine when and who we sell it to. In essence, the laws make striking criminal behaviour.

This is not just a Western Australian problem, or a CFMEU problem. It is a problem for the union movement as a whole. It therefore requires a national response.

The best response would be for as many unions as possible, in as many states as possible, to take at least one or two days’ nationally coordinated strike action. This would challenge the government to “fine one, fine all”. The big business bosses, if faced with widening industrial disputes and declining production, would turn on Howard in order to protect their profits.

Secondly, Howard must be confronted every time he appears in public. Like happened at the Blacktown Workers Club last week and every time he has come to Geelong, he should be met with a sea of union flags and megaphones.

Third, whenever a worker is hauled before the federal court, charged for taking industrial action, all workers should be called upon to converge on the federal court building in their city at lunchtime, acts of solidarity that cannot be ignored by the media.

This issue must be made as public as possible, and real action taken, starting now, to build up the momentum for a national strike.

There will be no “next time” if we let this dispute go through the wicket-keeper. If there is no national response from the union movement and the government gets away with fining the WA construction workers, no workers in Australia will have the confidence to go on strike to defend their own interests or their union.

Last week, ABCC boss John Lloyd was asked by Melbourne ABC radio talk-back host Jon Faine if he was planning to also charge the hundreds of thousands of workers who took “unlawful” industrial action on June 28 to participate in the ACTU national protest against Work Choices. His response was, not surprisingly, “no”, but when asked why, he could not explain. We need to exploit this weakness in their strategy; they cannot get away with charging us all.

We can and will raise the money for the legal fight and any fines imposed on the WA workers. We will look after our brothers and sisters and ensure that no-one goes without.

But this is a line-in-the-sand dispute that we must not duck. Offering only statements of solidarity and money to the WA unionists will not solve the longer-term problems faced by these workers, or the rest of the workers’ movement. We need to take collective action that will stop Howard in his tracks, and overturn his anti-worker laws.

Tim Gooden
Geelong Trades Hall secretary

From Green Left Weekly, July 19, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

'Electing the ALP is not enough' - Craig Johnston

Craig Johnston, a former Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Victorian secretary and now a Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union site delegate, addressed the Maritime Union of Australia’s Western Australian branch conference, held on July 26-28, on the topic, “How to defeat the Howard government”. Below is his speech.

After 10 years of a right-wing government and extreme anti-worker laws we are at an important juncture in history. The question for all of us is, which way forward?

On the one hand there’s the proposition that we just campaign to elect a federal Labor government, and that will supposedly change the industrial relations laws. The other proposition is that we need a multi-faceted campaign that includes industrial action to force back the Howard government’s agenda.

While it is vitally important that the Australian people throw out Howard and elect a Labor government, to do this in a vacuum is an abrogation of our responsibilities, as unionists, to the people we represent.

The line in the sand has been drawn by Howard and his lackeys in the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) with the prosecution of 107 Western Australian construction workers for the “crime” of going on strike.

This must be fought by a political, media and, above all, an industrial campaign. We need a campaign within unions and state trades and labour councils to force the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to call a 24-hour national strike. This should be the first step in a civil disobedience campaign to have the charges against the 107 workers withdrawn.

We must run a media campaign to expose the draconian and anti-democratic nature of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act because this is not very well known in the broader trade union movement.

We need more rallies and more national stoppages to make these laws unworkable. Finally, comrades, we must find some rank-and-file unionists who, if necessary, are prepared to be jailed for defying the laws.

The ACTU campaign, as far as it goes, has been quite effective. However, now is the time to ramp it up with an industrial focus. With this multi-faceted campaign we will both defeat these unjust anti-worker laws and elect a federal Labor government. A Labor government is more likely to deliver pro-worker IR legislation, not because of its promises, but because the political climate we create through this campaign will force any incoming government into action.

The views as outlined here may be seen by some as too radical. But I would contend the following: the three days of national union action in June and November last year, and in June this year, have drawn the biggest crowds in Australian history. Rank-and-file unionists are ready, willing and able to take up the fight.

Secondly, if you look back in history, every successful campaign waged by unions in Australia has involved some form of industrial action. We would do well to learn from the lessons of past successes. Now is the time to strike.

We, the unionists of today, have the chance to defeat these laws and create working-class history. The rank and file are keen to act. The leadership must now lead.
From Green Left Weekly, August 23, 2006.

For a nuclear-free future and real solutions to climate change-Socialist Alliance

[Opposing the then ALP federal goverment's Three Mine Uranium Policy in 1991 , my daughter Rachael on my back.]

Led by Prime Minister John Howard, a growing chorus of Coalition and Labor Party politicians are urging a turn to nuclear power as the “solution” to greenhouse-gas driven climate change. They are attempting to force open the door to more uranium mining and nuclear power production in Australia.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to the survival of humanity and the planet, but the nuclear “cure” would be as bad as the disease.

Myth: Nuclear power is “greenhouse free”.

Fact: Huge amounts of energy are needed to construct nuclear power plants and produce nuclear fuel, generating substantial greenhouse gases.

Myth: Nuclear power would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact 1: To replace fossil-fuel generated electricity with nuclear power would require a five-fold increase in the number of nuclear reactors, but would reduce global greenhouse emissions by only 5-10% — nowhere near the 60% reduction required to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, the extra 1760 reactors required would produce 2.6 million tonnes of high-level nuclear waste over a 50-year lifespan.

Fact 2: While emissions per unit of energy from nuclear power are about one-third of those from large gas-fired electricity plants, this comparative benefit of nuclear power is negated as higher-grade uranium ores are depleted and lower-grade ores are mined. All higher-grade ore will be depleted in 50 years at the current rate of usage.

Fact 3: There are many viable alternatives - geo-thermal, wind, solar and tidal power - that generate considerably less greenhouse emissions per unit energy than nuclear power. Renewable energy, mostly hydroelectricity, already supplies 19% of world electricity, compared to nuclear at 16%.

Myth: Nuclear power is safe.

Fact 1: An expansion of nuclear power would inevitably lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The “peaceful” nuclear power and research sectors have produced enough fissile material to build more than 110,000 nuclear weapons. Of the 60 countries that have built nuclear power or research reactors, around 25 are known to have used their “peaceful” nuclear facilities for covert weapons research and/or production. Claims that the international safeguards system prevents misuse of “peaceful” nuclear facilities and materials are grossly overstated.

Fact 2: With nuclear reactors comes the constant danger of catastrophic accidents, due to mechanical failures and human error. The 1986 Chernobyl accident caused an additional 200,000 deaths in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus between 1990-2004. Since then, industry deregulation and privatisation have allowed corporations to cut corners on safety regulations and adequate staffing, increasing the chance of accidents.

Myth: Nuclear waste can now be safely stored.

Fact 1: There is still no safe storage system for nuclear waste. Not a single repository exists for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste, which is produced at an annual rate of about 10,000 tonnes worldwide. Technologies exist to encapsulate or immobilise radionuclides, but encapsulated radioactive waste remains a public health and environmental threat that will last for millennia.

Fact 2: Reprocessing spent reactor fuel is polluting, and most of the uranium and plutonium arising from reprocessing is simply stockpiled with no plans for its use.

Given the massive human and environmental risks, why is nuclear power even being considered?

The renewed push for nuclear power is being driven by greed – by the huge mining corporations’ search for ever-greater profits.

Australia has 30% of the world’s proven uranium ore reserves. With the global demand for uranium increasing, the market price for uranium has tripled in the last two years.

Between 1981-96, Australia exported an average of 3400 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrates annually. In 2004-05, exports increased to 11,215 tonnes per year. This earned the mining companies $475 million.

The number of mining companies prospecting for uranium reserves in Australia has increased from five in 2003 to more than 70 today.

The ALP must oppose the nuclear push.

The ALP’s current policy recognises that uranium mining presents “unprecedented hazards and risks” and advocates “no new uranium mines”. This prevents the development of some of the biggest uranium deposits in states with Labor governments.

But the pressure is building on Labor to change its policy at its 2007 national conference, and a growing number of ALP leaders are indicating that they are happy to do the mining corporations’ bidding. Martin Ferguson, shadow minister for primary industry, and South Australian Premier Mike Rann are leading the charge.

Uranium mining and nuclear power can be stopped – we’ve done it before. The only serious proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Australia — at Jervis Bay in NSW in the late 1960s — was defeated by public and political opposition. In the late 1990s, the proposed development of Jabiluka mine in the Northern Territory was halted by a concerted national and international campaign.

We call on all members of the ALP to ensure that their party does not capitulate to the mining corporations greed, and to demand that Labor close the door forever on uranium mining and nuclear power in Australia.

The Socialist Alliance joins with all those campaigning for a nuclear-free future and real solutions to climate change. We call for:

• No nuclear power plants.

• No new nuclear reactors and the immediate closure of the HIFAR reactor.

• Closure of the Ranger, Roxby Downs and Beverley uranium mines, and no new mines.

• No dumping of nuclear waste: waste producers must manage their own waste in secure, monitored facilities at their own expense.

• No new coal-fired power stations.

• More investment in clean, safe technologies and renewable energy infrastructure.

• Establishment of an industry-funded 10% renewable energy target by 2010.

• Full public ownership of all energy/electricity industries.

Bruce Lee Quotes

Circumstances hell! I make circumstances!

Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth.

To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one's potential.

I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine.

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you
must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

British Football Quotes

Ian Wright: "The referee was booking everyone. I thought he was filling in his lottery numbers."

Chris Turner: "I've told the players we need to win so that I can have the cash to buy some new ones."

George Best: "I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

Bryan Robson: "If we played like that every week we wouldn't be so inconsistent."

Brian Moore: "Newcastle, of course, unbeaten in their last five wins."

David Acfield: "Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer."

Bill Shankly: "'If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing."

Gerry Francis: "What I said to them at half time would be unprintable on the radio."

Ian Rush: "I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in a foreign country."

Mick Lyons: "If there weren't such a thing as football, we'd all be frustrated footballers."

Bobby Charlton: "It was a fair decision, the penalty, even though it was debatable whether it was inside or outside the box."

Mike Channon: "Believe it or not, goals can change a game."

Tony Gubba: "So often the pendulum continues to swing with the side that has just pulled themselves out of the hole."

Derek Johnstone: "He's one of those footballers whose brains are in his head."

Ron Atkinson: "Well, Clive, it's all about the two M's - movement and positioning."

Berti Vogts: "If I walked on water, my accusers would say it is because I can't swim."

Richard Moller Nielsen: "Love is good for footballers, as long as it is not at half-time."

Mike Gray: "Well Kerry, you're 19 and you're a lot older than a lot of people younger than yourself."

Dean Holdsworth: "The only way we will be going to Europe is if the club splash out and take us all to EuroDisney."

Jim Sherwin: "It was a good match, which could have gone either way and very nearly did."

Sara Thomas: "Am I really trying or am I just that damn good?

Martin Tyler: "Oh, he had an eternity to play that ball, but he took too long over it."

Danny Blanchflower: "Everything in our favor was against us."

Radio 5 Live: "The score is Sunderland nil, Leicester nil, the temperature is nil and the entertainment value is not much above nil."

Javier Clemente: "This is an unusual Scotland side because they have good players."

Brian Moore: "And now we have the formalities over, we'll have the National Anthems."

Peter Jones: "Ian Rush, deadly ten times out of ten, but that wasn't one of them."

Jimmy Greaves: "He hit the post, and after the game people will say, well, he hit the post."

Sara Thomas: "You had a chance until I stepped on the field."

Bill Shankly: "Football's not a matter of life and death ... it's more important than that."

Jimmy Armfield: "I think you and the referee were in a minority of one, Billy."

Howard Wilkinson: "I am a firm believer that if you score one goal the other team have to score two to win."

The Guardian Newspaper, London, England; describing a meeting of English soccer superstar David Beckham and Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa, as an encounter between: "an icon of his generation, adored by millions across the globe, who has brought hope to his nation where there was once despair...and Nelson Mandela."

Sara Thomas: "In soccer there are no time outs, helmets, shoulder pads, commercial breaks, half time extravaganzas so, if that's what you need...go play football you big wuss!

Bill Shankly: We absolutely annihilated England. It was a massacre. We beat them 5-4."

Paolo Diogo, Portuguese soccer player who lost a finger when he caught his wedding ring on a fence while celebrating a goal for his team: "When I jumped down from the fence, I didn't feel anything at all. The first time that I noticed that something was missing from my hand was when it started to hurt. And it hurt tremendously." Note: Team officials were able to find the missing finger but surgeons were unable to reattach it. To make matters worse, the referee cited Diogo for excessive celebration.

David Beckham, talking about his son Brooklyn: "I definitely want him to be christened, But I don't know into what religion yet."

American Boxing Quotes

Tony Galento, when asked about Shakespeare: "I ain't never heard of him. I suppose he's one of them foreign heavyweights. They're all lousy. Sure as hell I'll moider de bum."

Don King, on boxing's rating system: "When we started, it was based on lies. It's changing now. There are no secrets in the business. You've got to come with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's becoming very confusing."

Bob Arum, replying to a reporters question. "Yesterday I was lying, today I am telling the truth."

Muhammad Ali: "If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you."

Buddy McGirt, when he was asked by Gil Clancy who would win the up-coming fight between Maurice Blocker and Glenwood Brown he replied: "The black guy."

Harry Carpenter: "This boxer is doing what is expected of him, bleeding from his nose."

Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts: "To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography and the dancers hit each other."

Muhammed Ali, after failing an Army intelligence test, "I said I was the greatest, not the smartest."

Brian London, answering if he would fight Ali again: "Sure, as long as he ties a 56 lb. weight to each leg."

Willie Pep: "I've got it made. I've got a wife and a TV set -- and they're both working."

Here is a conversation between George Foreman and Bob Arum in 1995, Foreman: "Bob, I can't chase these guys anymore." Arum's reply: "George, I can’t put it in the contracts that they can't run."

Randall "Tex" Cobb: "If you screw things up in tennis, it's 15-love. If you screw up in boxing, it's your ass."

Bob Hope: "I was called "Rembrandt" Hope in my boxing days, because I spent so much time on the canvas."

Bob Arum, after his fighter, Iran Barkley, beat Darrian Van Horn: "If you think Barkley was mad before the fight, wait until he sees how many people are taking part of his purse."

Marlene Bugner, wife of Joe Bugner: "I don't know what impressive is, but Joe was impressive tonight."

Muhammad Ali, on heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston: "He's too ugly to be the champ!"

Jim Watt, former WBC lightweight champion, when asked about his "white complexion" by a reporter said: "I'm like a bottle of milk with gloves."

Tony Sibson, on being beaten in a match: "I figured I'd find him sooner or later but I never did. I asked myself "Where did he go?" I knew he was there because he kept hitting me."

Muhammad Ali: "It's hard to be humble, when you're as great as I am."

Mike Tyson, on fighting Lennox Lewis: "My main objective is to be professional, but to kill him."

Harry Carpenter: "He looks up through blood smeared lips."

Joe Frazier, talking to Ken Norton at a social gathering. Frazier: "Hey man, what you been doing?"; Norton: "My wife just had a baby."; Frazier: "Congratulations! Whose baby is it?"

Muhammad Ali, on an upcoming fight with Floyd Patterson: "I'll beat him so bad he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on."

Willie Pep, talking to an old opponent years after each retired. "Do you recognize me?" the old opponent asked. Willie looked hard and considered before finally replying "Lie down so I can recognize you."

Mark Kaylor: "I'm concentrating so much I don't know what I'm doing half the time."

Muhammad Ali: "At home I am a nice guy—but I don't want the world to know. Humble people, I've found, don't get very far."

Willie Pastrano, when asked by the ring doctor if he knew where he was: "You're damn right I do. I'm in Madison Square Garden getting the shit knocked out of me."

Henry Cooper, replying to boxing abolitionist, Baroness Edith Summerskill, about the brutalities of his sport. Baroness: "Mr. Cooper, have you looked in the mirror lately and seen the state of your nose?"
Cooper: "Well madam, have you looked in the mirror and seen the state of your nose? Boxing is my excuse. What's yours?"

Muhammad Ali: "It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."

Eddie Shaw, referring to Herol "Bomber" Graham : "He has turned defensive boxing into a poetic art. Trouble is, nobody ever knocked anybody out with a poem."

Alan Minter: "Sure there have been injuries and deaths in boxing - but none of them serious."

Harry Carpenter: "It's not one of Bruno's fastest wins... but it's one of them."

Mark Kaylor: "I've only ever seen Errol Christie fight once before and that was the best I've ever seen him fight."

Lou Duva, Veteran boxing trainer, on the spartan training regimen of heavyweight Andrew Golota: "He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is."

Randall "Tex" Cobb: "When I got up I stuck to my plan -- stumbling forward and getting hit in the face."

Muhammad Ali: "I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong."

Blackie Sherrod, talking about a heavyweight contender: "He has everything a boxer needs except speed, stamina, a punch, and ability to take punishment. In other words, he owns a pair of shorts."

Max Barr, on Joe Louis: "He hit me 18 times while I was in the act of falling."

Harry Kabakoff, on Chango Cruz: "The bum was up and down so many times I thought he was an Otis elevator."

Terry Lawless: "He's standing there making a sitting target of himself."

Muhammad Ali: "I'm so mean I make medicine sick."

Mike Tyson, to the Nevada State Athletic Commission: "I'm not Mother Teresa. But I'm also not Charles Manson."

Nick Wilshire: "I can only see it going one way, that's my way. How it's actually going to go I can't really say."

Muhammad Ali: "Howard Cosell was gonna be a boxer when he was a kid—only they couldn't find a mouthpiece big enough."

Tommy Farr: "Every time I hear the name Joe Louis my nose starts to bleed."

Muhammad Ali, when asked about his golf game: "I'm the best. I just haven't played yet."

Dan Duva, on Mike Tyson hooking up again with promoter Don King: " Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."

Alan Massengale, after Don Zimmer got knocked down by Pedro Martinez in the playoffs and Evander Holyfield lost to James Toney.: "I felt sorry for Zimmer this weekend. Next time, if he wants to rumble, maybe he should pick on someone a little closer to his age. Evander Holyfield might be available."

Harry Carpenter: "Marvelous oriental pace he's got, just like a Buddhist statue."

Tex Cobb, responding to a reporter who said Cobb was a fat, cocaine snorting , drunk. Cobb replied: "I'm not fat.

Dan Duva, referring to whether or not he thought Mike Tyson would learn anything in prison: "He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."

Max Baer, when asked for his definition of fear: "Standing across the ring from Joe Louis and knowing he wants to go home early."

Muhammed Ali: "There's nothing wrong with getting knocked down, as long as you get right back up."

George Foreman: "The referee is the most important man in the ring besides the two fighters."

Union leader: Guest-worker exploitation must stop by Sue Bolton, Melbourne.

Dismissed Printing Worker Jack Zhang

Two cases of ruthless exploitation of Chinese guest workers have recently come to light in the printing industry, throwing the spotlight on the plight of the growing number of guest workers.

Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s (AMWU) print division Jim Reid told Green Left Weekly that Melbourne company Aprint was the first printing company the union became aware of that had sacked an employee on a section 457 guest-worker visa (s457 visa).

There are four Chinese guest workers at Aprint. They paid $10,000 to an agent in Shanghai to find them a job in Australia. After they arrived, however, the Aprint boss claimed it had cost him $10,000 to bring each of the workers to this country, so he deducted “reimbursement” of $200 per week out of each worker’s wage.

When one of the workers, Jack Zhang, had worked for Aprint for a year and the company had deducted all of the $10,000 from his wages he was told that the company wasn’t happy with his work and he was sacked. “That’s when Jack came to us”, Reid said.

Zhang had outlaid more than $20,000 for the “privilege” of working in Australia — $10,000 upfront and $200 per week to his boss. After he was sacked, he was immediately replaced by another worker brought from China.

“When Jack contacted the union, he wasn’t sure what a union was”, Reid said. “Once we became aware of what happened, we organised a press release, and spoke to the immigration department, the Victorian Workplace Rights Advocate and the Office of Workplace Services. I understand that the OWS is now prosecuting Aprint for underpayment and the company faces substantial fines.”

Reid said Zhang had worked 60 hours per week at Aprint for $752, just over $12 per hour. “Jack is a qualified tradesperson. He’s worked in the printing industry nearly all his adult life. He was working beside Australian tradespeople who were earning $28 an hour. He was paid below the award and he wasn’t paid any penalty rates, even when he worked on the weekend.”

When Zhang was sacked he faced deportation for being unemployed. The AMWU found Zhang a job at another printing company, which took over sponsorship. “Jack’s now working in a fully unionised shop so he’s very happy. The AMWU also organised and paid for accommodation for Jack until he was able to get a wage at his new job”, Reid explained.

Reid told GLW that the other Chinese guest workers at Aprint are being paid way below the trade rate. “I’ve met each of them. They’re all really nice blokes who’ve come to Australia, like most migrants, looking for a better life for themselves and their families, and they’ve been ruthlessly exploited by disgusting employers.”

Reid explained that “the big issue is why would an employer employ Australian workers at the going rate of $28 an hour if he can employ imported skilled labour for $12-$15 an hour. In the case of Aprint, this was nothing to do with a lack of skilled employees available locally. We are aware that at Aprint, Australian workers lost their jobs to make way for the Chinese migrants.

“No-one has any concerns with migrants coming into the country, particularly skilled migrants, but we do have an issue if they’re coming in to displace Australian workers and are being ruthlessly exploited and paid under the going rates.”

Reid said the AMWU became aware of the second case a couple of days after Zhang’s story appeared in the Age newspaper. A Chinese man who spoke English rang the union about Zhihong Fu, who had been really badly treated by the company Lakeside Packaging.

Zhihong spoke no English, so Reid spoke to him through an interpreter. “Fu came to Australia after paying $27,000 for his visa”, Reid said. “He sold his house in China and borrowed money from family and friends to pay the $27,000.

“Fu was told that he would be working as a maintenance supervisor, but when he arrived here he was given the most menial of jobs. Lakeside Packaging was using him as a labourer and a cleaner.

“One of Fu’s jobs was laying electrical cabling. Fu has no English at all and here he was working with materials that require a licence to use.

“Fu was working on a ladder and it fell away. He fell five metres to the ground, bumped his head, broke two teeth and broke his right forearm. Fu’s boss told him that he didn’t need to worry about going to hospital but fortunately his workmates had more sense and took him to hospital.

“Fu’s boss then pressured him to return to work. After a couple of days, Fu returned to work with his right hand — his dominant hand — in plaster. While using an electric drill with his left hand, because his right hand was in plaster, the drill kicked and broke his left arm.

“So now Fu had two arms in plaster but again the boss was pressuring him to come back to work. Fu was contacted by the agency in Shanghai, which told him he should get back to work and apologise to the boss for causing trouble.

Reid said that when Fu explained that the doctor had given him six weeks off work, the boss wrote to him telling him he would be sacked and deported back to China.

“So Fu was in Australia for less than a year, he’s spent $27,000 on a visa, he’s been worked like a dog for all of that time, he’s broken two wrists and now he’s being deported!”, Reid said. “We contacted the media and the union’s lawyers are making applications to the Equal Opportunity Commission and WorkCover, and an unlawful dismissal application in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. We’ve also found an employer who has offered Fu a job as soon as he is able to work again.”

“But for the union, both Fu and Jack would have been left high and dry”, Reid told GLW. “I can only imagine what these guys must have been going through, coming all the way from China with no local support base, no family, no friends and very little English. It must have been hellish.”

In both cases, the companies made the workers sign Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) that forbade them from joining a union or participating in political activity. The clause in Fu’s contract stated: “Under no circumstances shall the employee participate in riots, strikes, political, union or radical religious activities.”

Reid said that migrant workers, whether in Australia legally or illegally, “should not be treated poorly. If people haven’t gone through the normal [migration] process, there’s usually a reason. People may be fleeing oppressive regimes. They may be in fear of their lives or face political persecution. They may not be able to practice a particular religion. Some of them may be purely economic refugees and I find it very difficult to condemn someone who is looking for a better life for themselves and their family.

“The union is concerned about the s457 visas. They are meant to fill labour shortages, but that’s not what is happening. People at Aprint were displaced from their jobs to make way for migrants on s457 visas, and companies in the printing industry are not finding it difficult to get tradespeople.

“If it was only about a skills shortage, why would employers be paying these workers less than half the Australian tradesperson’s rate? Quite clearly, it is more about reducing wages and conditions. In the last 10 years, the number of s457 visas approved has gone from 24,000 to 70,000.

“Anyone coming to Australia, and especially if they’re coming through a government scheme, should be treated exactly the same as other workers in Australia, not as cheap labour. If the government was fair dinkum, it would oversee the conditions under which these workers are employed after they arrive. Instead, the government takes a hands-off approach and these workers are left completely at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.”

The AMWU argues that if there is a skills shortage, we should be training Australian kids, in the first instance, Reid explained. “We don’t want a situation where anytime there is a skills shortage we simply import labour … We know that the real unemployment rate in Australia is much higher than the official statistics. If it means training older workers whose jobs have been displaced by technological change then that should be done.

“After doing that, if there’s still a skills shortage, we should bring in skilled migrants, provided they are paid the same rates and being treated exactly the same as people who are already employed in Australia.”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Howard's Quadrant 50th Anniversary Speech by Shane Elson

On the 3rd October, John Howard delivered a speech at the 50th anniversary of Quadrant magazine. In the company of such ‘balanced and objective’ luminaries as Paddy McGuinness who masquerades as a “commentator”, Howard launched into a tirade that built on the themes developed earlier in the week by his Minister for Education. He declared that Australian history was in danger of being highjacked by a left leaning, communist sympathising “intelligentsia”. This “black armband” brigade who are teaching our kids are possessed, if we believe Howard, by anti-Australian, anti-American, anti-traditional values and probably hold pro-terrorist sympathies.

Howard was effusive in his praise for Quadrant, which he says had a role “in the defining global struggle of the 20th century”. He singles out Paddy McGuinness for special praise, noting “the way he has carried on the Quadrant tradition of fine scholarship with a sceptical, questioning eye for cant, hypocrisy and moral vanity”. He said that Quadrant would need to continue its fight because something he calls “the soft left still holds sway, even dominance, especially in Australian universities, by virtue of its long march through the institutions”. The use of this turn of phrase is a particular code for many in the audience that night.

Howard finds himself on a roll. Unable to break from his speechwriter’s script he plods on spewing out his hateful bile against anyone who would question the dominance or power of the ultraconservative, fundamentalist far right. Seemingly stuck in the 1950’s Cold War time warp he pines for, Howard rants and rails against those who question the US-Australian alliance and anyone who has asked us to stop and pause and reflect on what has happening in far away nations in wars that were never ours. Closer to home he derides those who challenge the colonialist “terra nullius” view of our continent, something Howard says is “… close to my heart”. He then pauses for breath and repeats the words of his scriptwriter. However, he fails to note the flaw in his speechwriter’s logic.

The writer of this address had been briefed, no doubt, to make sure this speech contained a raft of derogatory references to those who had concerns about the current political climate and who are referred to in the speech as “the enemies [of] liberal democracy”. The speechwriter, no doubt trying to impress his or her audience via Howard, decides that a quote from George Orwell taken from “Notes on Nationalism” written in 1945, will suffice to make their point.
Howard told his audience that anyone who opposes such things as the illegal wars in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, free and unbridled capital flows and excesses, ultraconservative Cold War values and the policies of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, belong to “the intelligentsia”. This group, Howard infers, probably also believe in Santa Claus and the fairies. Quoting Orwell, Howard remarks, “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool”. In short, anyone who does not hold the same worldview and opinions, on all matters, as he and the Quadrant coterie do, is more than a fool. However, Howard shows his ignorance when it comes to history and in particular, the history and context in which Orwell wrote and as usual, allows the twist of logic to suit his own ends.

Orwell was a staunch and unrepentant anti-communist. He declared himself a patriot but in “Notes on Nationalism” he sets about to argue that the “intelligentsia” had lost touch with the real world. While his patriotism was about “My country - right or left”, the leftist intelligentsia he described was “… inseparable from the desire for power.”

Orwell argued that the “left” and in particular the educated, upper class left, had lost touch with reality. He argued that while they were prepared to criticise inhumane acts by their own nation they were unprepared to criticise but perhaps even willing to support, acts committed by the communist and fascist regimes that, at the time, England was at war with.
However, what Orwell, and therefore Howard, was unwilling admit, was that the support of the Nazi and fascist regimes given by the upper classes – regardless of left or right - was, in fact, a practical matter of never letting a wealth creating opportunity pass by. Their acceptance of the Nazi and fascist atrocities were never related to moral, ethical or even, for that matter, political reasons but were about the practicalities of capital accumulation. For this reason, some of the so-called “intelligentsia” were unwilling to criticise that which kept them fed. For others it was, as Orwell points out but which Howard forgot to mention, a case of timely forgetfulness. Or to use another Orwell term, sending those inconvenient facts down the “memory hole”.

Orwell wrote in his essay “probably the truth is discoverable, but facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion”. He goes on to note that the intelligentsia are “often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world”. He writes that for those who are more concerned with endless arguments and debate and taking the “high moral ground”, there is no defeat – even when it smacks them between the eyes. Think here of the denial of Aboriginal massacres, the debacle in Iraq, the false claims about asylum seekers and the so-called “anti-terrorism” laws that might have made Mussolini and Hitler blush with jealousy.

Orwell, consumed by his distain for that which he felt had abandoned him – those who he saw as unfaithful to his country - changed his stripes in the later part of his life. He felt abandoned by them because, as he writes, they, like Howard’s ilk, have an “indifference to reality”. He notes “actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians - which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

John Howard, our Prime Minister, has the temerity to stand up in front of an audience made up of rabid right wing ideologues and devotees and accuse the “left” of being the “intelligentsia”. While I am not a regular Quadrant reader, I have read some of the material it has published over the years. What I have found is that the fundamentalist cheerleading that masquerades, as Howard put it, “a great literary journal” is exactly what Orwell described and decried in his essay.

Howard and his cheer squad like nothing more than to put down and dismiss those that see through their lies, hair splitting arguments and propaganda. They would do themselves well to own up to their own dystopian view of the world and realise that in the real world of “ordinary men” outside their, for now, safe and secure, barricaded, silver lined enclaves, life is far from rosy and utopian. Unfortunately, as Orwell wrote some 60 years ago, John Howard and the Quadrant cheer squad, “more probably feel their own version was what happened in the sight of God and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly” (italics in original).

Howard's Latest Colonial Adventure In The Solomon Islands by Shane Elson

In the latest colonial adventure by our Government, it would seem they have forgotten that old adage about those who fail to learn from history being bound to make the same mistakes. When it comes to Australia’s increasing interventions in the Pacific Nations and in particular, the Solomon Islands, we need to ask, “just whose interests are being protected?”

The history of the Solomon Islands is, like so many of our Pacific neighbours, little understood and largely ignored in our school history curriculums. Also, without needing to look too closely we find that there is a palpable colonial attitude within Australia that implies that if an island is smaller than our mainland, and if somewhere in its past it was grouped together with others and called “a nation”, then that grouping of people must have been transformed into an homogenous, culturally similar and unified state. Moreover, if there is violent conflict between the different groups within that “nation” then it is due to “separatists” or “militants” which is ruling class code for ‘savages’.

Of course what this attitude covers up it also reveals. That is, that these island communities are not homogenous, culturally unified populations, but are, in fact, ethnically diverse (the Solomon Islands are home to about 60 different cultural groups) and see each of their individual home islands as sacred, national entities.

Beginning in 1568 when the Spanish first occupied what they named 'Guadalcanal' there were sown the seeds of ongoing division and conflict. It was not always this way as the Malaitian population traded with the Isatabu (as Guadalcanal residents were known) and there were also intermarriages between the various island tribes. This is not to say there was not conflict, but it does indicate that peace was the norm, not the exception. In 1569 the King of Spain received a letter that said that one of most profitable benefits from exploring the islands would be the slave trade that could be established from there.

Over the next two hundred years the Solomons endured Spanish and then British reign and the export of slaves to, eventually, such places as Pauline Hanson's home state of Queensland. About 9,000 Malatians were press ganged into the Queensland sugar slave trade.

By the end of the 1800s the Spanish had retreated from most parts of the Pacific and the British took over the Solomons in 1896. Their first act was to declare all land “terra nullius” and they began to divide it up among the capitalist exploiters, settlers, the Crown and favoured chiefs. The Levers Soap Company was the first major concession holder and was granted access to about 200,000 acres of the most fertile land and the coconut plantations thereon.

By the end of World War II the indigenous population realised they had been not only dudded by their colonial masters, but that their land, fisheries and cultures were being pillaged and changed forever. Unless! Unless they fought back.

The Maasina Ruru movement formed the basis of the first land reclamation movements and in the 1950s the Moro movement became the most vociferous advocates of a return to self rule and independence following a 1957 near death vision by its founder, Chief Moro.

In 1978 the British formally pulled out and left behind them inadequate support for the emerging nation they abandoned and the Island's leaders attempted reintegrate traditional and customary practices into the helpful aspects of ‘modern’ governmental and social structures. However, having endured generations of forced migration and integration programs under their colonial rulers, the underlying cultural tensions erupted. In short, the conflict in the Solomon Islands, the latest version of which began in 1998, can be traced back to the colonial destruction of customary practices and the failure of imperial powers to adequately support the fledgling nations they abandoned.

The current conflict is also related to the way the latest neo-colonial exploiters, the huge Malaysian timber and agricultural businesses, run the Island's economies. After the hurricanes of 1998 the focus of the multinationals was to get their export businesses back up and running. This left few resources from the aid that flowed in available for the restoration of civil and social infrastructures. Our army was involved in the reconstruction but that role has now changed to active policing for political purposes.

With a history of displacement and, to put not a too fine an edge on it, terrorism by firstly the imperial colonialists and then the pillaging of their lands by Malaysian multinationals, the conflict in the Solomons and, more interestingly, our Government’s decision to intervene, raises the question of why now? Here are my thoughts on that.

Firstly, the vast wealth to be exploited from palm oil. The oil drilling industry consumes tonnes of the stuff in the “drilling mud” it uses to lubricate, cool and assist in the drilling process. Refined palm oil is also an effective diesel fuel replacement, not to mention its nutritional characteristics. Malaysia is the world's largest producer of palm oil closely followed by Indonesia. A Malaysian company has the rights to supply the world’s largest distributor of palm oil used in oil drilling wells. However, the best palm plantations are those that grow within forests using the large trees to shelter the growing palms. Given the Solomon’s regular devastation by hurricanes, one wonders if the palm oil proposals are a ploy to divert attention away from the main issue.

The main issue is that the logging concessions on the Solomons are very rapidly running out of the raw material - logs. With local labour paid less than a dollar an hour, the returns to the Malaysian logging companies is unparalleled. Add to that the tax and excise holidays they have bribed out of the Island's administrators (with Australian officials looking over their shoulders) and we begin to see why the Solomon Islands is one of the world's poorest nations and why our government is so ready to intervene.

Furthermore, the civil unrest has almost stopped the flow of export logs and for the last few years the companies have been losing money hand over fist as they attempt to bribe local chiefs into allowing them free reign. However, this practice has only increased tensions as the clans attempt to “stand over” each other in order to gain better handouts. In short, the break down in law in order is a direct result of the capitalist imperative.

Finally, I believe Howard's little neo-colonial adventure is his (or should I say our government’s) way of paying back the loyalty of the Malaysian government and their capitalist friends during our little sojourn in Iraq. With a large, potentially militant Islamic population, Malaysia could be seen as a “threat” to us. In cutting deals with Indonesia I would argue that in return for their passivity, Howard agreed to remain blind to the claims of our other neighbours in trouble in Ache, Ambon and West Papua. The most pressing reason to subdue those calling for sovereignty in the Solomons is that there is the potential for the populations of the other colonised territories to rebel leading to the end of access to the raw materials needed for capitalist enterprise.

In other words, in return for Australia doing the dirty work in the Solomons and ensuring the continued rape and pillage of that land and the continued use of its people as slave labour, Malaysia would not oppose our involvement in Iraq and, in return for us turning a blind eye to the continued Indonesian atrocities to our North, we also gained a wink and a nudge from them.

As has been said before, only fools disregard history and over the last few years our leaders have been allowed to make fools of all of us. If we don't act now, we will remain nothing more than mute pawns whose only use is to justify, at the polling booth, support for ruling class imperialist ambitions and their consequences.

Defiance leads the 107 campaign by Graham Matthews

Bernadette Peters is a part-time cleaner and a full-time activist. She is also the partner of Mal Peters, one of the “Leighton Kumagai 107", who were fined $22,000 by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for a strike in February in defence of a sacked health and safety delegate.

Bernadette and Mal Peters have spoken at public meetings and work sites up and down the country, raising awareness and campaigning for the rights of the 107 workers. Bernadette spoke to Green Left Weekly about the campaign and how Work Choices is affecting working families, like hers.

“These fines started with John Howard’s IR laws”, she said. “The pressure that [the fines] are putting on these families is unfair. A lot of the 107 are only young; they’ve got young families. What working-class person has that sort of money to hand over?”

Mal Peters, like many of the 107, was served with the writ at his home. According to Bernadette, families of the workers were harassed by the ABCC process servers. They “were showing-up on people’s doorsteps at no matter what time of the day or night. My husband had just pulled up in the driveway — it must have been 9pm — and somebody hiding behind the bushes went up to the car and asked: ‘Are you Mal Peters?’ He didn’t know what was going on. He said ‘Yes’, and they handed him the writ.”

Successful prosecutions would be devastating for the 107 and their families. “We don’t know what the outcome will be and that is what is upsetting the families. Nobody’s got that amount of money, but if they don’t pay, they go to jail or they’re talking about taking our homes.” But they remain defiant. “If we have to go to jail, we’ll go to jail. And it’s the same for the rest of the men.”

Bernadette has some idea how tough life can get. Her father was a coalminer for 30 years in Scotland until coming to Australia with his 11 children.

“He was a staunch union and Labor man all his life. He would turn in his grave if he knew that this was happening. My father and his father before him fought for many of the working rights we have today. And now John Howard wants to take all that away.”

Bernadette and Mal have toured the eastern states, with the support of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), to help get a fighting fund set up. “But it’s not just for these workers”, Bernadette explained. “It’s for anyone who faces the same, and it could easily happen if John Howard gets his way.”

On returning from their first trip in August, Mal, who had taken two weeks’ annual leave, was sacked by Leighton Kumagai. “They said they no longer needed him”, Bernadette said, adding, “that’s another court case we’ve got underway”. “They sacked him because he spoke up. They didn’t say that was the reason, obviously. But there was no other reason.”

Bernadette praised the solidarity shown to the 107 and their families. “It’s been brilliant, and not just from Australia, but from overseas as well. It means that we don’t stand alone.” Among the many messages of support featured on the 107 website are messages from LaborStart in the US, Unison in Britain and the Scottish Socialist Party.

[Bernadette and Mal Peters will be speaking in Sydney on October 31 and November 1. For details, see the Activist Calendar on page 23. To support the 107 campaign, visit .]

Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto by Zoe Kenny

Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth has helped focus attention on the threat posed by fossil-fuel driven climate change. Gore’s film was met with a predictable barrage of criticism by right-wing pundits. For example Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in a September 13 article that the “former US vice-president’s ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods”.

However Bolt and his ilk are increasingly isolated. Over the last decade, the framework of the debate on climate change has shifted, with so-called “greenhouse sceptics” increasingly rare.

A GlobeScan opinion poll of people in 30 countries conducted between October 2005 and January 2006 found that a large majority believe that global warming is a serious problem. A Lowy Institute poll released on October 4 found that climate change is seen as one of the top three threats to Australia’s vital interests in the next 10 years.

In 1997, PM John Howard said, “There is … quite a bit of debate about the science, so far as greenhouse effects are concerned, and it’s not all one way. It is not all — how should one put it — the apocalyptic view of the world and of life.” But on the October 15 60 Minutes Howard talked about living in “an age where we’re worried about global warming” (of course he was arguing that climate change is a case for Australia developing nuclear power “because it’s clean and it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases”).

Although it’s good news that the terrain of the “debate” has decisively shifted from whether global warming is happening and is a problem to the question of solutions (even if in Howard’s case it’s a non-solution like nuclear power), the bad news is that in the meantime more evidence has emerged that paints a terrifying picture of the scope, speed and impact of climate change.

Of major concern to climate scientists are findings that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than expected. According to a September 26 Bulletin article by Tim Flannery, although the Arctic ice cap has been melting at a rate of 8% per decade since the 1970s, resulting in thinning of the sheet and a loss of one quarter of its surface, during the summer of 2005 the melting accelerated, resulting in the loss of 300,000 square kilometres of ice.

The results of the monitoring of winter ice are no more heartening. According to Gretchen-Cook Anderson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Arctic winter ice has been retreating at a rate of 1.5% per decade since 1979. However, over the last two years the ice has retreated by 6% each winter — 40 times faster than in previous years. Flannery speculated that this could be as a result of the Arctic Ocean passing “an important thermal point and … retaining the warmth it gains from the 24-hour summer sun”, which could trigger the collapse of the Arctic food chain and destabilise the Earth’s heat balance.

Possibly the gravest warning so far about global warming’s speed was given by NASA scientist James Hansen at the Climate Change Research Conference in California on September 13. Hansen said that the world has “at the most” a decade in which to stem climate change, warning that a “business as usual” approach would raise global temperatures by 2-3°C, producing a “different planet”.

Melting icecaps will raise sea levels by between 10 and 25 metres forcing millions to seek refuge, increasingly violent weather patterns will cause major destruction and as the land dries up bushfires will be more frequent.

A 2°C rise in temperature will raise sea levels, inundating low-lying countries in the Asia Pacific region and create up to 150 million refugees by 2070, a CSIRO report released in October predicted.

But the challenge posed by global warming has been met primarily with criminal inaction from the governments of the two highest per capita greenhouse gas polluters — Australia and the US. Both countries have refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, citing as “unfair” the fact that Third World nations are not bound to reduce greenhouse emissions and possible economic damage caused by the agreement.

Instead of promoting green technologies like solar, wind and hydro power, the Howard government is pushing “clean coal” — an attempt to rehabilitate a polluting industry on the basis of unproven technology — and nuclear power — low in greenhouse efficiency and high in environmental and human impact (though with wonderful profit margins thanks to the massive government subsidies needed to make it viable) — as solutions to climate change.

Forcing climate renegades like the Howard and Bush governments to sign on to Kyoto has been a natural and useful focus of these movements. However the severity of the threat posed by climate change means that on its own Kyoto isn’t enough.

According to New Scientist, the treaty’s range of loopholes and scams will mean that even if the industrialised countries achieve Kyoto’s reduction of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012 on paper, the real-world reduction will be more likely to be 1.5%.

A September 21 British Guardian article by George Monbiot argued that atmospheric carbon concentrations need to be stabilised at the current level in order to avoid a 2°C temperature rise that will send the Earth’s climate spiralling out of control. This would mean that the industrialised nations would need to cut emissions by 90% by 2030.

Not only does Kyoto not go anywhere near mandating the kind of greenhouse emission cutbacks that are needed, it also relies upon carbon-trading schemes that have proven ineffective in curbing emissions.

One of the first major tests of Kyoto’s carbon trading has been the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which has been an almost total failure. The ETS is a carbon-trading market that includes all 25 EU member-states. Earlier this year the ETS market crashed as a result of member EU governments setting lax national emission targets, meaning that high-polluting industries could continue with business as usual and had no need to buy carbon credits.

By May 2006 the market price of permits had dropped to 10 euros per tonne, down 20 euros from April. In another indication of the ease with which corporate interests undermine “market mechanisms”, on June 28 Germany announced that it would exempt its coal industry from any Kyoto requirements.

Some of the harshest criticisms of Kyoto are of its “Clean Development Mechanism”. CDM allows First World countries to avoid reducing their emissions by investing in projects in the Third World that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The amount of GHGs that are theoretically reduced by the projects are transferred into credits that First World countries can buy to allow their companies to continue a pollution-as-usual approach.

Participants at the first anti-carbon-trading conference, held in South Africa in October 2004, issued a statement declaring: “As representatives of people’s movements and independent organisations, we reject the claim that carbon trading will halt the climate crisis. This crisis has been caused more than anything else by the mining of fossil fuels and the release of their carbon to the oceans, air, soil and living things. This excessive burning of fossil fuels is now jeopardising Earth’s ability to maintain a liveable climate …

“Carbon trading will not contribute to achieving this protection of the Earth’s climate. It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities … ’giving carbon a price’ will not prove to be any more effective, democratic, or conducive to human welfare, than giving genes, forests, biodiversity or clean rivers a price. We reaffirm that drastic reductions in emissions from fossil fuel use are a pre-requisite if we are to avert the climate crisis.”

However the kind of “drastic reductions” in fossil-fuel emissions that are required have barely even registered on the policy agendas of governments like Australia’s.

The degree to which the Howard government and the Bush regime in the US have shifted rhetoric on climate change reflects the cracks in the political and corporate elite over climate change. Those who now see global warming as a threat to the stability of capitalist economies, and, therefore, a threat to corporate profit, reflect an increasing body of elite opinion (as, indeed, is reflected by Gore).

But the kind of changes that are urgently needed — severe restrictions on greenhouse emissions, massive investment in public transport and renewable energy sources, access to clean technology for poor nations, and the eradication of the First World/Third World divide — will mean cutting into the “right” of corporations to profit at the expense of the environment. Governments that rule on behalf of the corporate rich, like Howard’s, will only take these steps — which are needed now — under pressure from a strong, grassroots environment movements.

However the global warming crisis also raises questions about the sustainability of the capitalist economic system. The economic competition that is so fundamental to capitalism drives corporations to maximise their profits no matter what damage is done to the environment or face ruination at the hands of competitors, and the anarchy of the so-called “free market” renders impossible a rational allocation of resources on the basis of social need.

Renowned socialist environmentalist John Bellamy Foster explained in the October 2005 Monthly Review: “The main response of the ruling capitalist class when confronted with the growing environmental challenge is to ‘fiddle while Rome burns.’ To the extent that it has a strategy, it is to rely on revolutionizing the forces of production, i.e., on technical change, while keeping the existing system of social relations intact …

“In stark contrast, many environmentalists now believe that technological revolution alone will be insufficient to solve the problem and that a more far-reaching social revolution aimed at transforming the present mode of production is required.”

Foster argued that environmental sustainability was achievable only through radical social change: “The creation of an ecological civilization requires a social revolution … It must put the provision of basic human needs — clean air, unpolluted water, safe food, adequate sanitation, social transport, and universal health care and education, all of which require a sustainable relation to the earth — ahead of all other needs and wants.”

“Such a revolutionary turn in human affairs may seem improbable But the continuation of the present capitalist system for any length of time will prove impossible — if human civilization and the web of life as we know it are to be sustained.”

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #688 25 October 2006.

Justice for Mulrunji & Indigenous communities! by Dave Riley

The report handed down by Queensland deputy coroner Christine Clements on September 27 found that Palm Islander Mulrunji not only died in police custody on November 19, 2004, but died at the hands of the arresting police officer.

  • Watch slideshow of Brisbane Oct 10 protest against Black death in custody

  • The coroner’s report is unequivocal on this point: Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley caused Mulrunji’s death. But in Queensland, under the Peter Beattie Labor government, there is one rule for coppers and another for the rest of the population — especially Murris (Queensland Aborigines).

    Straight after Mulrunji’s death on Palm Island Hurley was promoted and transferred to a plum posting on the Gold Coast, and for the past two years has continued to work as a police officer.

    Clements’ report not only accuses Hurley of killing Mulrunji,it reveals that members of the Queensland police force conspired to cover up Hurley’s role. The report also found that at the Palm Island watch-house there was no attempt to comply with the protocols recommended by the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

    Queensland Murris expect justice, and Mulrunji’s family some closure. But Hurley was not relieved of his policing duties at any time since Mulrunji’s death. It was only as a result of the massive outcry, some of which came from within the Beattie government, that Hurley’s lawyers asked that their client be stood down, on full pay. This happened two days before the October 10 march on state parliament to demand justice.

    The coroner’s report has now gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who can recommend any charges that may flow from its findings. But the position of Queensland’s Murri community is unequivocal: Hurley must be sacked and charged. Any other police officer who played any role in Mulrunji’s death must also be suspended and charged. The state government must implement all of the 40 recommendations handed down by the state coroner.

    Premier Beattie has hidden behind a mantra of “due process” in this case, yet the state has stood by its man in blue, ignoring for two years the demand that the officer be stood down. This same racist approach has informed the Beattie government’s recent decision to dismantle the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and its refusal to agree to further negotiations about stolen wages.

    As we approach the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that removed the constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people — the highest “yes” vote ever in a federal referendum, with 90.77% voting for the change — the Queensland government’s response to this latest miscarriage of justice is even more shameful.

    The Socialist Alliance supports the Queensland Murris’ call for a national campaign to address the huge problems facing Indigenous communities — such as those on Palm Island — focused on employment, housing, health care and education.

    There also needs to be a national campaign around the 40 recommendations handed down by the coroner in Mulrunji’s case. Programs such as Brisbane’s MurriWatch — a visitor program covering all city watch-houses and run by the Indigenous community — need to be generalised nationally.

    The alternative is a continuation of the terrorising by racist cops of Indigenous communities, which will lead to more Aborigines dying in police custody.

    Socialist Alliance is urging national support for protest actions on November 19, the second anniversary of Mulrunji’s death.

    [Dave Riley is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.]

    From Green Left Weekly, October 18, 2006.

    Noam Chomsky: US threats to Venezuela

    At an October 6 public meeting in Boston, US dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky gave the following remarks on the threat posed to the radical governments of Venezuela and Bolivia by Washington in response to an audience member’s question.

    We know that the US did support a military coup, which briefly overthrew [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez [in 2002] and the US had to back down when he was restored quickly, and also had to back down in the face of a very angry reaction in Latin America. In almost all of Latin America, there was a very angry reaction. They take democracy there more seriously then we do here.

    Right after trying to overthrow the government by force, the US immediately turned to subversion, supporting anti-Chavez groups. That’s described in the press, the way it’s described is, the US is supporting pro-democracy groups, which are opposed to President Chavez.

    Notice it’s true by definition that if you oppose the president, you are pro-democracy. It’s completely irrelevant that according to the best polls (Latin America has very good polling agencies which take regular polls on these issues around the continent) support for democracy has been declining — not for democracy but for the democratic governments — has been declining through Latin America, for a pretty good reason: the governments have been associated with neoliberal programs which undermine democracy — IMF [International Monetary Fund], treasury department programs … There are exceptions, and the major exception by far is Venezuela.

    Since 1998, when Chavez was elected, support for the elected government has been rising very fast. It’s now by far the highest in Latin America. He has won several elections that have been recognised to be free and fair, he has won numerous referendums, but he is a “dictator”, a tin-pot dictator, which is proven by the fact that our Dear Leader said so. And, since we are voluntary North Koreans, when the Dear Leader says it, it’s true. So therefore, he’s a dictator, and if you carry out subversion to overthrow him, that’s pro-democracy by definition …

    We might ask ourselves how we would react if Iran, say, had just supported a military coup that overthrew the government in the United States and when they have to back off from that, immediately turned to supporting pro-democracy groups in the United States that are opposed to the government. Would we give them ice cream and candy?

    Well in dictatorial Venezuela, they let them keep functioning. In fact, [they] even let the newspapers [that supported] the coup keep functioning …

    [T]he US has had two major weapons for controlling Latin America for a long time. One of them is economic controls, the other is military force. They have both been used continually. Both of them are weakening and it’s a very serious problem for US planners.

    The economic — for the first time in its history since the Spanish colonisation — Latin America is beginning to get its act together. It’s moving towards some degree of independence, even some degree of integration.

    The Latin American countries have been very separate from one another through their histories, they have a huge gap between the very rich and the huge massive poor, so when we are talking about the countries, we are talking about the rich elites. The rich elites have been oriented towards Europe and North America, not their own citizens, not each other. So that capital flight goes to Zurich, or London, or New York — the second home is in the Riviera, the children study in Cambridge or something like that. That’s the way it’s been, with very little interaction, and it’s changing.

    First of all there are major popular movements, like in Bolivia. They had a democratic election of the kind we can’t even dream of. I mean if there was any honest newspaper coverage in this country, we would be ashamed at the comparison between their election and ours.

    I won’t go through it, but with a little thought you can quickly figure it out, because there is mass popular participation, and the people know what they are voting for, and they pick somebody from their own ranks and their major issues and so on. It’s unimaginable here, where elections are about at the level of marketing toothpaste on television, literally.

    There are mass popular movements all over and they have begun to integrate to some extent for the first time.

    The military weapon has been weakened. The last effort of the US had to back off very quickly, in 2002 in Venezuela. The kinds of governments the US is now supporting [in other Latin American countries] — forced to support — are the kinds it would have been trying to overthrow not very long ago, because of this shift.

    The economic weapon is weakening enormously. They are throwing out the IMF. The IMF means the US Treasury Department. Argentina, it was the poster boy of the IMF, you know, following all the rules and so on. It went into a hideous economic crash. They managed to get out of it, but only by radically violating IMF rules, and they are now, as the president put it, “ridding themselves of the IMF” and paying off their debt with the help of Venezuela. Venezuela bought up a lot of their debt. The same is happening in Brazil. The same is going to happen in Bolivia.

    In general, the economic measures are weakening, the military measures are no longer what they were. The US is deeply concerned about it, undoubtedly. We shouldn’t think that the US has abandoned the military effort. On the contrary, the number of US personnel — military personnel — in Latin America is probably as high as it’s ever been.

    The number of the Latin American officers being trained by the US is going up very sharply. By now, for the first time (it never happened during the Cold War) US military aid is higher than the sum of economic and social aid from key federal agencies — that’s a shift. There are more air bases all over the place.

    Keep your eyes on Ecuador, there’s an election coming up in about a week, the likely winner, [Rafael] Correa, is an interesting person. He was recently asked what he would do with the big Manta US airbase in Ecuador and his answer was, well he’d allow it to stay if the United States agreed to have an Ecuadorian airbase in Miami.

    But these are the things that are going on. There’s a call for an Indian Nation for the first time. The indigenous — in some states like Bolivia — majority is actually entering the political arena for the first time in 500 years, electing its own candidates. These are major changes, but the US is certainly not giving up on it.

    The military training has been shifted. Its official focus now is on what’s called radical populism and street gangs. Well, you know what radical populism means, like the priests organising peasants or anyone who gets out of line. So yeah, it’s serious. What will they do?

    Governments have what are called security interests; they have to protect the national security. If any of you have ever spent any time reading declassified documents, you know what that means. I’ve spent a lot of time reading them and it’s true, there is defence of the government against its enemy, that prime enemy.

    Its prime enemy is the domestic population. That’s true of every government I know. So if you read the declassified documents, you find that most of them are protecting the government from its own population. Not much has to do with anything you might call security interests … So we don’t know what they are planning because we have to be protected from knowing what the government is planning. So we have to speculate.

    If you want my speculation, based on no information except what I would be doing if I was sitting in the Pentagon planning office and told to figure out a way to overthrow the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Iran, in fact. The idea that immediately comes to mind, so I assume they are working on it, is to support secessionist movements, which is conceivable if you look at the geography and the places where the oil is …

    In Venezuela, the oil is in Zulia province, which is where the opposition candidate [in the presidential election] is coming from, right on the border of Colombia (one of the only states [in Latin America] where the US has a firm military presence). It’s a rich province, pretty anti-Chavez, and it happens to be where most of the oil is, and in fact there is rumour of a Zulia independence movement, which, if they can carry it off, the US could then intervene to protect against the “dictator”. That’s Venezuela.

    In Bolivia, the major gas resources are in the lowlands, the eastern lowlands, which is a mostly European, not indigenous, opposed to the government, rich area, near Paraguay (one of the other countries where the US has military bases), so you can imagine the same project going on …

    [Abridged from Transcribed by Michael Fox.]