Video: Is it any wonder that North Korea feels it needs to defend itself?

Video by Rachel
By a contributor

North Korea’s missile tests continue to grab attention, mainly because of American objection and the resulting regional and world tension.

Governments of the United states, European Union and countries like Australia, repeatedly point the finger at the North Koreans and suggest that its leader is a megalomaniac, out to destroy the world.

The advantage of such a simplistic and wrong take on events,  is that it needs no explanation or concern for any real reasons that might be motivating the north to carry on with a nuclear program and missile development and why there is such obvious and massive support for the leadership coming from the population.

History has a lot to do with it.

The Koreans, and this means north and south of the present border, had fought a bitter battle against an extremely brutal Japanese occupation.  Those of us in more comfortable parts of the world can hardly imagine what they must have gone through.

After the defeat of Japan, the question of Korean independence loomed large.

Back in 1866, France had taken Korea a colony by force. The period of French control was troubled and met with constant rebellions. Korea was then annexed by Japan in 1910, bringing in a period, characterised by a new level of brutality.

In 1946, After World War Two, a provisional government was set up. A new election was to be held. But within months the acting prime minister was assassinated and the United States set up a military government, below the 38th parallel that still divides the two parts of Korea.

The dividing line had been created to facilitate Japanese withdrawal and not to create two separate countries. The Soviets were stationed in the north and the Americans in the south. According to the existing agreement, both were to withdraw within 5 years and the Koreans elect their own government as an independent nation. However, the military government openly violated the agreement and put and end to the future plan. A permanent separation between the two parts of Korea was the result.

Before the War, the United States had supported the Japanese occupation and  had consistently been against Korean independence. Therefore, the intervention after the war was widely seen as a new colonisation and resisted.

For the West, this had become a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union, on the eve of the emergence of the Cold War. The wishes of the local population were secondary.

The ensuing Korean War was devastating. The American led alliance targeted civilian centres and bombing raids blew up dams, economic  and other infrastructure in the north.

More bombs were dropped on Korea during this time than for the whole of World War Two. This has not been forgotten in north Korea and the memory is being kept alive by the ongoing military standoff.

Fear of a new invasion is real. North Korea feels under threat and that what happened to them in 1945 could happen again and many  Koreans are angry, with the perception that their country remains under occupation and divided.

If tensions are going to be diffused, the whole of Korea needs to be demilitarized and the threat of war pushed back. But this will not occur unless there is an agreement for both sides to disarm together and guarantee that the final choice for the future of Koreas must be in the hands of the Koreans.






What is really going on in Venezuela?

By Joe Montero

Venezuela has just gone through an election for a new Constituent Assembly. This is a new body, designed to lift discussion about the country’s future and bring about the peace, put forward by government led by Nicolás Maduro.

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the claim, at the very least, it should be acknowledged that the voters were asked and encouraged to cast their verdict.

A sticking point is that the Constituent Assembly would have the power not to change the constitution. The truth is that it will only have the power to make recommendation that will then have to be  put a referendum. A clear guideline has been set, based on what has been called the “nine lines of work, which are

  1. Achieve peace, isolate the violent, reaffirm the values of justice and accountability.
  2. Perfect and broaden the Venezuelan economic system, to design or install a new post-petroleum economic system
  3. Include within the Constitution all of the Missions and Grand Missions established by Comandante Chávez and the Revolution, among them those focused on housing, education, health, and culture.
  4. Strengthen the functioning of the justice, security, and citizen protection system.
  5. Promote new forms of participation.
  6. Advance the defense of national sovereignty.
  7. Promote cultural identity and the country’s new spirituality.
  8. Guarantee youth a future.
  9. Show concern for the survival of life on the planet.

Despite the ‘official opposition’ boycott, 6,100 candidates stood for 456 positions, representing Venezuela’s different social sectors. Not all were government Maduro supporters.

Forty-three international observers and electoral experts oversaw the vote and have declared the result legitimate. The have also appealed for the will of the people of Venezuela to be respected.

In a statement the observers said,

“the Venezuelan people have made their case for peace despite threats and interventionist actions from the United States as well as their associates and allies.”

They also said that Venezuelans “have concurred in a civic and peaceful manner to exercise their right to vote in a free, universal, direct, and secret election as expressed in Article 63 of the Bolivarian Constitution.”

Much of the media coverage outside Venezuela has chosen to ignore all this and only put out the story provided by statements coming from the opposition. The line here is that this is about a dictator, working to consolidate his absolute power.

The vote for Constituent Assembly is for representatives of social sectors, in addition to representing electorates. This means that workers, peasants women, youth and students will have their own representatives.  Provision has been made to also include representatives for indigenous people, Afro-Venezuelans and the disabled. The opposition also objects to social sector representation.

Video from TeleSur


The reality is that the opposition’s support base is concentrated and does not spread across all sectors, especially working class and poor communities. This put it at a disadvantage and has a lot to do with the decision for a boycott.

Trawling through the reporting, shows wholesale unverified reporting, relying on uncritical repetition of media releases from this opposition. There is a lack of proper investigation. Only one story gets out and anything getting in its way is effectively censored by the major media outlets.

For instance, the unrealistic claim that 70 percent of the electorate supported their boycott and stayed away from the polls has been peddled widely. On this basis, the election process was labeled a fraud by the White House and sanctions on the South American country are being stepped up.

What is not mentioned is that the figure comes from a survey of intention conducted by the opposition, before the election. Any fair-minded person would accept that this is not the actual voting figure and needs to be verified against other evidence in any case.

Official figures of the count show that over 41 percent of the population voted. It may be short of a full turnout. But it was the highest turnout at any election for the past 18 years. Higher than when the collective opposition won a majority in the Congress in 2015.

Given the context in which the election occurred, this was a respectable turnout.

Video from TeleSur


For months, the opposition had been waging an openly violent and armed campaign in the streets to prevent the ballot from taking place. Perceived opponents have been hunted down by gangs. Continue reading What is really going on in Venezuela?

Privatisation has damaged the economy says ACCC chief

Patrick Hutch (The Sydney Morning Herald 27 July 2017) reports that Rod Sims, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), stating that the sale of public assets has harmed the Australian economy. Many voices have been saying the same for years. When someone in Rod Sim’s position says it, can there remain any room for doubt?

Selling public assets has created unregulated monopolies that hurt productivity and damage the economy, according to Australia’s consumer and competition tsar, who says he is on the verge of becoming a privatisation opponent.

In a blistering attack on decades of common government practice, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the sale of ports and electricity infrastructure and the opening of vocational education to private companies had caused him and the public to lose faith in privatisation and deregulation.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says privatisation is hurting productivity.  Photo: Vince Caligiuri

“I’ve been a very strong advocate of privatisation for probably 30 years; I believe it enhances economic efficiency,” Mr Sims told the Melbourne Economic Forum on Tuesday.

“I’m now almost at the point of opposing privatisation because it’s been done to boost proceeds, it’s been done to boost asset sales and I think it’s severely damaging our economy.”

Deregulating the electricity market and selling poles and wires in Queensland and NSW, meanwhile, had seen power prices almost double there over five years. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Mr Sims said privatising ports, including Port Botany and Port Kembla in NSW, which were privatised together, and the Port of Melbourne, which came with conditions restricting competition from other ports, were examples where monopolies had been created without suitable regulation to control how much they could then charge users.

“Of course you get these lovely headlines in the Financial Review saying ‘Gosh, what a successful sale, look at the multiple they achieved’,” Mr Sims said.

“Well of course they bloody well did: the owners factored in very large price rises because there’s no regulation on how they set the price of a monopoly. How dopey is that?”

Mr Sims, who recently launched legal action against Medibank Private alleging it concealed changes to health insurance policies to boost profits ahead of its privatisation, said billions of dollars had been wasted in the scandal-plagued vocational education sector since it was opened up to the private sector.

A deal to privatise the Port of Melbourne was struck in March with conditions that restricted competition from other ports.

Deregulating the electricity market and selling poles and wires in Queensland and NSW, meanwhile, had seen power prices almost double there over five years, he said.

“When you meet people in the street and they say ‘I don’t want privatisation because it boosts prices’ and you dismiss them … recent examples suggest they’re right,” he told the room of influential economic and policy experts.

“The excessive spend on electric poles and wires has damaged our productivity. The higher energy price we’re getting from some poor gas and electricity policies are damaging some of our productive sectors.”

Mr Sims said he was growing “exasperated” as governments including the Commonwealth became more explicit in trying to maximise proceeds from asset sales.

“I think a sharp uppercut is necessary and that’s why I’m saying: stop the privatisation,” he said.

Mr Sims also used the forum to continue a public stoush with opponents of a proposed “effects test”, saying they were relying on “bogus” arguments against the Harper review proposal to give the ACCC powers to block action that had the purpose or effect of substantially lessening competition.

The Productivity Commission last week joined the Business Council of Australia, the federal Labor opposition and the supermarket giants in opposing the so-called “effects test”, which is a pet policy of National Party MPs including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.


Continue reading Privatisation has damaged the economy says ACCC chief

Official site of the May Day Committee (Malbourne)

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