Saturday, June 30, 2007

Terror at Glasgow Airport

No matter how much Socialist Courier condemns such indiscriminate attacks as the attack at Glasgow airport , we cannot simply resort to the hypocrisy of the tabloid and broadsheets and condemn without endeavouring to understand the motivation of why members of our own class are prepared to slaughter their fellow workers .

This month's Socialist Standard just happens to carry an article called Suicide Bombers - Heroes or Villains .

We can only paraphrase its conclusion :-

That those behind the terror , have their sights on political power and are intent upon replacing the existing elite , encourage and facilitate others to carry out acts of murder which they themselves are unwilling to undertake.
In effect they are attempting to emerge as a new ruling class by clambering through the blood and over the bodies of our class.

Stagecoach Returns

Brian Souter of Stagecoach pocketed another £100m recently following the company's decision to return cash to investors is on his way to making another £1m. Souter was yesterday granted deferred bonuses worth nearly £800,000 at last night's closing share price of 182.75p. Souter had been granted 141,526 deferred shares under the 2005 executive participation plan with a paper value of £260,000. He also got 294,129 "incentive units" under the firm's long-term incentive plan.

Another beneficiary of awards granted yesterday was Martin Griffiths, the finance director. He got 70,677 deferred shares under the EPP, notionally worth more than £129,000, plus a 199,170 LTIP units worth nearly £365,000. These awards also vest in 2010. Four other executives, including rail chief Ian Dobbs and Les Warneford, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus, were granted deferred shares under the EPP plan. Dobbs got 42,710 and Warneford 39,501.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Education and class division


Dr Elliot Major said: "This analysis shows that the school you attend at age 11 has a huge impact on your life chances, and particularly how likely you are to reach the top of your chosen profession. We are still to a large extent a society divided by wealth, with future elites groomed at particular schools and universities, while the educational opportunities available to those from non-privileged backgrounds make it much more difficult for them to reach the top."


Lee Elliot Major of the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, compared the school and university background of 500 people currently at the top of their fields with 500 similarly successful people 20 years ago.

Tesco - greedy , miserly and indifferent

Tesco at its AGM today had Ben Birnberg, company secretary for the anti-poverty charity War on Want, put forward a resolution calling for Tesco's supplier factories to undergo independent auditing to ensure decent pay and conditions for developing world workers.

Birnberg, however, said Tesco's opposition to the resolution reflected badly on the top retailer.'There's nothing that lowers a company in the estimation of right thinking people than a public display of executive greed in the affluent world going hand-in-hand with a public display of corporate miserliness and indifference to those at the bottom in an impoverished world, who contribute so magnificently to corporate wealth,'

Garment workers in Bangladesh, the majority of them women, were being paid just 5 pence an hour and regularly worked 80 hours a week to make cheap clothes for Britain's largest retailer, Birnberg said. His resolution called on Tesco to take appropriate measures, independently audited, to ensure workers in the developing world are guaranteed decent working conditions, a living wage, job security, freedom of association and collective bargaining including the right to join a trade union.

'The irony of the board recommending shareholders vote against our resolution to increase the meagre pay of its outsourced workers while recommending they vote for an incentive plans which will augment the already absurdly generous re-numeration packages of its top executives -- boosting the chief executive's take-home pay by up to £11.5 million on top of last year's £4.62 million-- may be lost on the board..." said Susan Seymour of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Thursday, June 28, 2007

THE WEALTHY GET WEALTHIER

"The 2007 World Wealth Report, from Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini, indicated that the number of ultra high net worth individuals - with $30 million or more to invest - in Britain rose by 10 per cent last year to about 3,750. About one in six of Europe's 23,460 super-rich now hails from the UK. ... Globally nearly 10,000 more individuals joined the ranks of the super-rich, taking the total to about 95,000." (Times, 28 June) So much for the Labour Party's promises about a more equitable society! RD

Money worth more as scrap value

Millions of Indian coins are being smuggled into neighbouring Bangladesh and melted down and turned into razor blades according to a BBC report .

"Our one rupee coin is in fact worth 35 rupees, because we make five to seven [razor-] blades out of them,"

In Calcutta alone, India's central bank - the Reserve Bank of India - has distributed coins worth nearly six million rupees ($150,000) to overcome the shortage in the last two weeks . Long queues form outside the bank's regional office in the city centre every time this happens.
Unscrupulous touts set up makeshift shops and collect as many of the coins as they can, only to sell them later at a premium. The coin shortage is most acute in the north-eastern frontier town of Agartala, right on the border with Bangladesh and believed to be a major centre for contraband trade with Bangladesh. In Guwahati, Assam's capital and the business hub of India's northeast, small coins like 50 paisa have completely dropped out of circulation.

We can only say , ...Oh , for that day when all the world's coinage is turned into something as socially useful as razor-blades .

Scotland's Weather Forecast for Tomorrow ?

While doing the previous blog posting Socialist Courier came across research describing the possible local effects of climate change upon Scotland , a report by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency .

The weather will become more erratic and therefore less predictable, with a greater likelihood of extreme events.

More frequent and severe river flooding, affecting 77,000 properties
Increased likelihood of summer droughts leading to river water quality problems and disruption of water supply
Periods of reduced river flow providing less dilution for discharges with increased sewage treatment costs
Increased treatment costs to provide water supplies
Increased run-off impacting on bathing water quality
Enhanced plant/algal growth due to increased temperature
Increase run-off increasing nutrient loading in water
Changes in abundance and distribution of species and length of growing season
Higher temperatures less favourable for native species
High intensity rainfall causing destruction to river habitat
Increased erosion and siltation with consequences for fish spawning
Disruption to food chain with potential catastrophic loss of species (e.g. island breeding sea bird populations)
More frequent and coastal flooding affecting 93,000 properties
Higher sea level, increased wave height leading to coastal erosion and loss of habitat
Loss of traditional commercial fishery
Drying out of soils combined with higher intensity storm events causing landslides, with potential disruption of transport links
Accelerated decomposition of peaty soils resulting in increased emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, fuelling further climate change
Increased soil loss through water and wind erosion
Changes to agricultural practice and crops
Increased flood-related stress, illness and economic costs
Increased respiratory illness and heat-related distress
Local and regional ozone air quality goals probably more difficult to achieve in the future
An increase in summertime photochemical smog, linked to increasing temperatures and small reductions in cloud cover

The future indeed looks bleak . Left unchecked, climate change will accelerate with significant consequences for Scotland’s environment and society. It is time for a real change of the political climate . Scotland and the world needs Socialism .

Its going to get hotter

Global warming may reduce the number of people who will die from the cold each winter , In the UK for instance, there are 20,000 cold-related deaths but researchers in America claim that this will be off - set by an increase of deaths resulting fro heat-waves ( at present, about 1000 deaths a year are related to heat in the UK ).

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the deaths of more than 6.5 million people in 50 US cities between 1989 and 2000. They found that during two-day cold snaps there was a 1.59% increase in deaths because of the extreme temperatures, but during similar periods of extremely hot weather death rates rose by 5.74%.

The 2003 European-wide heat wave and its associated fatalities ( nearly 15,000 deaths in France ) , can be expected to repeat itself .

Not just deaths but economic effects such as reduced crop harvests , too , Wheat had an overall short-fall of 10% .

Professor Bill Keatinge of Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London said about the report :-

"In the long term we may have to make some lifestyle changes - working at different times for instance, but nothing that is not manageable."

Socialist Courier believes that the change which is necessary is one of social systems , a change from Capitalism to Socialism , not simply a switch to siestas in the mid-day sun .

Elsewhere on the BBC website we read a study was produced by more than 200 experts from 25 countries predict tens of millions of people could be driven from their homes by encroaching deserts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia ( this supports earlier research ) . 50 million people could be displaced within the next 10 years. Desertification is an environmental crisis of global proportions, and one third of the Earth's population are potential victims of its effect. Over-exploitation of land and unsustainable irrigation practices are making matters worse. Climate change was also a major factor degrading the soil.

Zafar Adeel, the lead author of the report, said: "...we need to provide alternative livelihoods - not the traditional cropping based on irrigation, cattle farming, etcetera - but rather introduce more innovative livelihoods which don't put pressure on the natural resources. Things like ecotourism or using solar energy to create other activities."

In a sane , rational , logical society indeed that is what would probably happen , but we live in a market -dominated , profit-motivated world where such decisions are made by partisan politicians at the beck and call of businessmen and accountants and not by sober-minded scientists and other experts .

The Tragedy of the Irish Travelling Folk

Life expectancy of Irish Travellers still at 1940s levels . Back in the 1940s, the life expectancy of Irish Travellers was the same as that of the settled population. Now, it is 65 for men as against 75 for settled men, and 65 as against 78 for settled women. There has been no improvement in life expectancy for travellers in 20 years.

Findings show that seven in 10 travellers die before reaching the age of 59. Half die before the age of 39. In the total population, 2.6% of all deaths are for people aged under 25 years yet the figure for the Travelling community is 32%.
Such statistics put the estimated 30,000 Travelling community well outside the health norms of Irish society.

Infant mortality is 10 times higher among Travellers. 10% of children die before reaching the age of two - compared to just 1% in the general population.

Suicides are also more common than among the general population.

It follows decades of campaigns for Travellers' rights. The only possible conclusion is that these campaigns have failed. Prejudice and exclusion remain sharp, and living conditions have actually worsened. The report points to Traveller reluctance to use the State services, including hospitals. That will not end while what it calls the "begrudging" attitude of government departments continues.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Advising or pulling the strings ?

Gordon Brown is creating a special council of business leaders to advise him directly as Prime Minister. It will meet two or three times a year and will advise Mr Brown on whether government policy is helping or damaging Britain's competitiveness. Members will be available to Mr Brown to give him advice as and when needed.

BUSINESS COUNCIL MEMBERS
Damon Buffini, Permira
Stuart Rose, Marks & Spencer
Tony Heywood, BP
Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco
Arun Sarin, Vodafone
Stephen Green, HSBC
Sir John Rose, Rolls-Royce
Mervyn Davies, Std. Chartered
J-P Garnier, GlaxoSmithKline

Gordon Brown - muppet and puppet

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 2

Further to this earlier blog on the newly discovered economic and strategic potential of a warmer Arctic region , Russian geologists now say they have data that would support a claim to about 1.2m sq km (463,000 sq miles) of energy-rich territory in the Arctic .
The Russian team, from the Oceanology Research Institute in St Petersburg, estimates that the Lomonosov ridge area in the Arctic contains oil and gas reserves of up to 10 billion tonnes. The geologists spent 45 days studying the Lomonosov underwater ridge.

The Law of the Sea Convention allows states an economic zone of 200 nautical miles, which can sometimes be expanded. To extend the zone, a state has to prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.

Needless to say , when it comes to a scramble for the natural wealth and riches of the world there are rarely no competitors and in this case Denmark are laying their claim to sovereignty to parts of the region also . Science Minister Helge Sander said that success would give Denmark access to "new resources such as oil and natural gas".

"First, we have to make the scientific claim. After that, there will be a political process with the other countries," science ministry official Thorkild Meedom said.

In the past , such political process between capitalist nations over raw materials has included war and invasion . It is not beyond the bounds of reason to expect a militarisation of the Arctic Circle and possible armed conflict as competing nations vie for control .

Crime Pays for Some


A junior barrister was handed more than £1 million in legal aid last year, it was revealed yesterday. Balbir Singh, head of Birmingham’s Equity Chambers, was paid £1,116,000 in 2005/06.


The second-highest paid was Nigel Lithman, QC, who received £978,000 in legal aid, followed by John C. Rees, QC, with £947,000.


Four of the 10 top-earning criminal barristers were from the same chambers: 2 Bedford Row in London. Mr Lithman, William Clegg, QC, Jim Sturman, QC and Howard Godfrey, QC had a combined pay-out of £3.3 million.


Tuckers Solicitors was the highest paid criminal firm, receiving £8.5 million in the year from the legal aid purse. They were followed by Irwin Mitchell (£5.3 million) and Burton Copeland (£5 million).


In a separate list of community legal service firms - carrying out non-criminal work - the highest paid was Duncan Lewis Solicitors with just under £7 million, followed by Irwin Mitchell with £5.2 million.


The law is an instrument of the owning class, that pretends to be for everyone, but is only for the rich. It's an instrument of class domination.


Shakespeare's Henry VI — “First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” - Perhaps , on reflection that maybe a sanction a little bit too severe .

Aghanistan - Opium for the people

Despite the presence of more than 30,000 international troops , the World Drug Report says more than 90% of illegal opium (compared to 70% in 2000 and 52% a decade earlier,), comes from Afghanistan. Helmand province alone cultivates almost half the world's illegal opium.

Thomas Pietschmann, the report's author, says production in Helmand has now outstripped that of entire countries.

"The province of Helmand itself is around 70,000 hectares under cultivation, which is three times the total area under cultivation in Myanmar (Burma). So only one province, three times as important as the whole of Myanmar, the second-largest opium-producing country," Mr Pietschmann says.

Harvests have been rising significantly since the US/British overthrow of the Taliban regime five years ago and last year's rise in Afghanistan pushed global production up by a massive 43% compared to 2005 .

Meanwhile the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports U.S. and/or NATO forces are killing Afghan civilians at a faster rate than militant insurgents .

Why are we there , again ? To bring law and order and stability , was it ?

Monday, June 25, 2007

POVERTY IN DUNDEE

Every week in the Dundee-produced Sunday Post kids can enjoy the cartoon adventures of Oor Wullie, but the reality is much harder for children in that city as a recent report from a local paper shows. "A new study by a children’s charity has reinforced a recent raft of statistics ramming home the shameful message that many thousands of Scots children—many of whom are in Dundee and Tayside—are living in poverty. Save the Children has demanded that the new Scottish Executive takes immediate action on its disclosures that nearly 100,000 children are in families struggling to get by on unacceptably low incomes.... In January, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicated that while Glasgow continued to set the benchmark for children living below the breadline, Dundee had four council wards where the percentage of children dependent on state handouts was twice the national average. Last month, Barnardo’s put the number of children living in poverty at a quarter of a million, with one in three children in Dundee caught in the trap." (Courier, 24 June) RD

Social Mobility Stands Still




A charity's study has found that children born in the 1950s had a better chance of escaping poverty than those born in the 1970s. The research was carried out on behalf of the Sutton Trust by the London School of Economics .
Professor Steve Machin, from LSE, said: "We had a very big expansion of the higher education system in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but contrary to many people's expectations this actually reinforced social immobility." People at the bottom of the "income distribution" were ill-equipped to take advantage of the greater opportunities.


The founder of education policy group, the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl says Britain has "the lowest social mobility of any country you can measure".
He went on to say that inequality between the rich and poor in Britain was a root cause of the problem.


This study re-confirms an earlier LSE report on social mobility and Peter Lampl echoes the view of Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who grew up in a single-parent family on a council estate, who said it would be harder today for someone from a similar background to get ahead in society than it was a generation ago.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

MUSLIM HYPOCRISY

All religions are full of hypocrisy, but in view of recent declarations of Muslim holy men decrying decadent Western culture, this report must be up there with Christian hypocrisy in the all-time hypocrisy stakes. "It's Monday night in a dingy club on the outskirts of the Syrian capital. Two dozen girls are moving half-heartedly on the dance floor, lit up by flashing disco lights. They are dressed in tight jeans, low-cut tops and knee-high boots, but the girls' make-up can't disguise the fact that most are in their mid-teens. It's a strange sight in a conservative Muslim country, but this is the sex business, and it's booming as a result of the war in Iraq. Backstage, the manager sits in his leather chair, doing business. A Saudi client is quoted $500 for one of the girls. Eventually he beats it down to $300. Next door, in a dimly lit room, the next shift of girls arrives, taking off the black all-covering abayas they wear outside and putting on lipstick and mascara." (Independent, 24 June) RD

RISING PROFITS

If real wages are falling in relation to the wealth produced, the opposite is happening on the profits front. A good example of the fabulous wealth of the capitalist class can be seen from the frenzied bidding going on at London art sales. A painting by Francis Bacon fetched £21.58 million, a Lucian Freud went for £7.86 million and a Damein Hirst medicine chest sold for £9.65 million. "The frenzy of art buying offered more evidence of the widening gulf between London' super-rich and the rest of the country. This week it was revealed that only a fraction of the 400 people earning £10 million or more in Britain pay income tax, while the number of individuals earning £500,000 has swelled by nearly 60 per cent in the past four years." (Times, 23 June) RD

FALLING WAGES (2)

Another example of how worker' wages have been falling appeared recently. "Consumers' disposable income has fallen by a sixth over the past four years, according to a report that highlights the squeeze on homeowners from the increase in mortgage costs, fuel bills and other essential payments. Just 22 per cent of a typical household’s monthly income is left over after taxes and essential bills have been paid, down from 28 per cent in 2003-2004, according to a study by report from Ernst & Young, the accountants. ... Adjusted for inflation, that means that an average family has seen their disposable income - "The pound in their pocket" - drop by 12.5 per cent." (Times, 22 June) RD

The Poor - Poor Health Report

Socialist Courier has reported previously on the link between poverty and health and we make no apologies of continuing to highlight the problem that the poorer we are , the more we are at risk health-wise and that the establishment political parties have failed to resolve this state of affairs no matter how many reforms or campaigns . The politicians pay lip-service to change but nothing really changes .

The Sunday Herald reports that the gap in standards of health between people in the richest and most deprived areas of Scotland has grown rather than diminished in the past two decades. A new study has revealed how disparities in wellbeing among different sectors of society have improved little since the 1980s.

Although male life expectancy increased overall during the 20-year period, the gap between the richest and poorest widened from five years to seven and a half years during that time.

In addition, there was a doubling of the gap in heart disease hospitalisation rates between the most and least deprived areas.

In the early 1980s, the percentage of low-birthweight babies being born to mothers in poor areas was 6.7%, which was 2.9% more than those in the least deprived category. But by the late 1990s, the difference had grown to a 3.4% gap.

Professor Phil Hanlon, public health expert at Glasgow University, pointed out that differences in the health of the rich and the poor had existed for hundreds of years. But he added it was disappointing that government efforts in the past 15 years in Scotland had not succeeded in closing the gap.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance said "These poorer health outcomes are not solely the responsibility of individual action and behaviours, but are the outcome of larger social processes,"

What an Arsonist

Remember Lord Watson ? The disgraced former Glasgow Cathcart MSP and Labour culture minister who set fire to a hotel room and served a prison sentence for arson .

According to the Sunday Herald , he has claimed almost £32,000 in House of Lords' expenses since his release - £11,918 for "overnight subsistence" - shorthand in the Lords for hotel bills , £7014 in office costs , £7394 in "day subsistence", an allowance peers can claim for showing face in the chamber , £5606 in travel costs .

And his contribution to British democracy to justify such rich pickings ?

A half an hour's worth of speeches over the 10-month period - A short contribution on the future of BBC Scotland. This was followed by a 12-minute speech on renewable energy, a seven-minute contribution on International Women's Day and nine minutes on child poverty. His House of Lords' activity works out at around £8000 per speech.

Watson does not sit on any parliamentary committees, and no record exists of him tabling any written questions .

Not too bad for an ex-felon .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

LAND OF THE FREE?

One of the great Hollywood fantasies is that dirty foreigners are up to no good, but that decent US citizens always behave beautifully, but according to recent US government disclosures this is indeed a Hollywood fantasy. "The US Central Intelligence is to declassify hundreds of documents detailing some of the the agency's worst illegal abuses from the 1950s to 1970s The papers, to be released next week, will detail assassination plots, domestic spying and wiretapping, kidnapping and human experiments. Among the incidents that were said to "present legal questions" were: ..assassination plots of foreign leaders, including Cuba's Fidel Castro .. wiretapping and surveillance of journalists ...surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971." (BBC News, 22 June) RD

Food for Thought

From the Independent , the newspaper thats rapidly acquiring the reputation for doom and gloom , another story of impending catastrophe . The era of cheap food is coming to an end .

In the UK food prices are now rising at 6 per cent a year, twice as quickly as the general cost of living . In India the overall food price index is 10 per cent higher than last year. In China, prices are up 20 per cent for some staples. A similar inflationary trend can be seen in America.

Earlier this month, wheat prices reached their highest level in 10 years. Maize prices have doubled over the past year. Rice prices are rising too. Rice prices are climbing worldwide. Butter prices in Europe have spiked by 40 per cent in the past year. Global soybean prices have risen by a half. The food price index in India was up by 11 per cent year on year. In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60 per cent rise in the cost of tortillas. The price of cereals in this country has jumped by 12 per cent in the past year. And the cost of milk on the global market has leapt by nearly 60 per cent.

This is being passed on to the price of other foodstuffs such as meat and eggs, as much of these commodities are used for animal feed. Pork prices in China are up 20 per cent on last year . Butter prices in Europe have risen by 40 per cent in the past year.Rising global prices will hit poor countries hardest.

One reason for the price surge is the wholesale diversion of grain crops into the production of ethanol. Thirty per cent of next year's grain harvest in the US will go straight to an ethanol distillery. As the US supplies more than two-thirds of the world's grain imports (The US ships more grain than Canada, Australia and Argentina combined. ) this unprecedented move will affect food prices everywhere. In Europe farmers are switching en masse to fuel crops to meet the EU requirement that bio-fuels account for 20 per cent of the energy mix. Jean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, accused the US and EU of "total hypocrisy" for promoting ethanol production in order to reduce their dependence on imported oil. He said producing ethanol instead of food would condemn hundreds of thousands of people to death from hunger.
"Recently there's been a huge increase in the demand for industrial corn for the production of ethanol which inevitably pushes up the price of food stuffs," says Dawn McLaren, a research economist at the W P Carey School of Business in Phoenix, Arizona. "But if we get a particularly bad harvest or if a weather system like El NiƱo strikes we could be really stuck." Mrs McLaren says that as the West looks to replace its oil, poor people will pay the price. "It doesn't strike me as a very good idea to start using yet another vital and limited resource to wean ourselves off oil,"

Other reasons for rising food prices have been several bad harvests and adverse weather. Or it could be the spike in farmers' fuel prices as a result of instability in the Middle East. Perhaps likely is a substantial global demand shift is beginning to affect prices. There is a higher demand for cereals from China and India. India has become a net importer of wheat for the first time since 1975. China is expected to become a net importer of maize by 2008.

The solutions being offered ? Greater trade liberalisation to bring prices down .
New technology - to bioengineer crops specifically to be used for fuel to minimise the effect on the food market.

But the simpler solution , to create a society where peoples needs take priority over the capitalist market is once again over-looked .
The re-organisation of resources without the requirement to provide the capitalist class with profits would address and remove many of the worlds problems of food shortages .
The answer lies in Socialism .

Friday, June 22, 2007

We are getting poorer

Disposable income has fallen to a five-year low, according to a study by Ernst & Young.

Big rises in household costs continue to outstrip wage increases .


Average monthly mortgage repayments, typically a household's largest monthly outgoing, have soared 65% in the last four years, and are up 12% in the last year alone.


Also seeing above inflation rises on a host of fixed costs such as council tax bills ( Up 20% since 2003/04 for a band D property) , water rates, pension contributions and petrol (11.7% higher than last year)


Household bills have risen by 31% since 2003/04, and now account for more than 50% of a typical household's gross income, up 5% in the same period.


Loans, credit cards and overdrafts have soared more than 30% in the last four years, with the average unsecured debt now standing at £8,028 - compared to £6,568.


The average British household now has £837.53 disposable cash to spend each month after total fixed outgoings.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gap between rich and poor 'could cause riots'

One of Britain’s richest men has given warning that the gap between rich and poor could eventually lead to violence and rioting on the streets.
Sir Ronald Cohen, founder of Apax Partners, the private equity firm, and a close ally of Gordon Brown, said in an interview that if people are “left behind” in the race to accumulate riches, Britain could see a repeat of the Paris riots two years ago.

Sir Ronald Cohen , a big Labour donor who has an estimated £260 million fortune, highlighted his concerns about the future for Britain’s haves and have-nots, saying that the widening gap was "something to be concerned about".
He said: “Entrepreneurial economies which have high rates of growth and high rates of job creation do lead to great divergences in wealth.When economic situations get bad, it takes a spark to ignite a violent reaction.”
His spokesman told the newspaper later: “He was referring to how when people get left behind, when young men get left behind, for economic or welfare reasons, it can lead to violence, such as during the riots in Paris.”

As reported in the Daily Telegraph , of the 400 hundred people thought to be paid more than £10 million a year in dividends, interest, rents and profits , only 65 face income tax bills, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
We in the Socialist Party fully understand the frustrations of the working class when we all witness the inequalities of society , but we would counsel our fellow workers to use their political power to do away with Capitalism , rather than futilely take to the streets .

A Princely Sum for Some

PRINCE William turns 25 today and becomes entitled to part of the inheritance left to him by his mother Diana . He gains access to the income accrued on the £6.5 million he was left in the Princess's will. Following investment, this is estimated to have grown to around £9 million .

But unlike you or me who would need the money to pay bills and acquire a few luxuries to make life easier for ourselves , inside sources said that the future king will, for now, not touch the money - estimated by financial experts to be between £250,000 and £300,000 a year.

FALLING WAGES

"Globalisation has reduced the bargaining power of unskilled workers and pushed up inequality in many western countries, the OECD said yesterday, urging governments to improve their social safety nets. The Paris-based rich nations club said in its annual Employment Outlook that the prospect of off shoring was likely to have increased the vulnerability of jobs and wages in developed countries. ...The report pointed to a "remarkable" fall in the share of wages of national income in OECD member countries in the past couple of decades. Japanese wages have fallen by around a quarter as a share of GDP in the past 30 years, while they have dropped 13% in the 15 wealthier European Union countries and 7% in the United States, the report showed. US wages as a share of GDP remain ahead of those in the EU." (Guardian, 20 June) Another example of how the development of capitalism only benefits the owning class.RD

It rambles on

Further to an earlier post Lord Smith of Finsbury, the president of the Ramblers Association, has attacked the court decision to limit access to the countryside near Ann Gloag's home has indeed hit the nail on the head .

"Much of the land Mrs Gloag wants to fence off can't even be seen from the castle itself. This is more about privilege than it is about privacy...Even more disturbing is the reason Sheriff Fletcher gave for his decision. He said that it was because Mrs Gloag was wealthy and had a high profile that she was entitled to a higher degree of protection. This sounds to me very like one law for the rich and another for the poor..."

Mrs Gloag, who along with her brother Brian founded the Stagecoach bus company, is worth an estimated £395m .

Why should Lord Smith be so surprised . The law has always favoured the wealthy and the powerful . We at Socialist Courier don't expect that to change .

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU

"Britain is already the most tightly surveilled country in the world, according to civil liberty groups and security experts, with an estimated 4 million closed-circuit television cameras spying on roads, buildings, stations and shops. Not only does that equate to one camera for every 14 people, it also means that in a major city like London -- where CCTV is ubiquitous -- people run the possibility of appearing on camera up to 300 times a day as they move around. ...That came against the backdrop of government plans to introduce new digital identity cards and expand its DNA database -- both plans that provoked commentators to declare the onset of an Orwellian "Big Brother" society. In recent weeks there was even more cause for concern with the introduction of "talking" CCTV cameras in some towns, a system where unseen controllers admonish misbehaving passers-by through a loudspeaker. Mini, remote-controlled helicopters rigged with cameras have also been introduced in the north of Britain, allowing police to hover the aircraft over crime-ridden inner-city streets and monitor events." (Yahoo News, 17 June) Capitalism is becoming more and more a nightmarish distopia, undreamt of even by Orwell at his most pessimistic. RD

LET THEM SUFFER

"Sick children who have been taking part in trials for a drug that has transformed their lives now face the prospect of being denied the treatment because of NHS cost-cutting. Doctors have condemned the NHS for inflicting misery on children who have the painful rare blood disorder sickle cell anaemia. Some children have gone from the agonising routine of having their parents insert a needle into their stomach for eight to 12 hours a night at least five nights a week, to taking two Exjade tablets daily. The drug cleanses their blood of life-threatening excess iron - a side effect of the frequent blood transfusions needed to treat the disease." (Observer, 3 June) 10,000 people in the UK suffer from this condition, so why the delay in supplying this drug? It costs £10,000-£15,000 for a year's supply for a sufferer. Need any other explanation? RD

THE OPEN SOCIETY?

Politicians are always boasting about what an open society capitalism is in this country, not like some Middle East or African countries. In fact when they have something to hide, they hide it. "The Ministry of Defence has banned the media from attending a conference in which the head of the Army and other senior officers are to reveal their vision of future land warfare. General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, who caused alarm bells at the Ministry of Defence last year after revealing his concern about the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq, is to be the main speaker." (Times, 2 June) No mystery then, why this won't have press coverage! RD

THE FILTHY RICH

"Somewhere in the world, 100-foot yachts are derided as "dinghies," ... and "true wealth" starts at a hefty $10 million. That's "Richistan" The term, which journalist Robert Frank defines as a "parallel country of the rich," is also the title of his new book about its inhabitants, whom he calls Richistanis. The book got its start in 2003, when Frank, who reports for The Wall Street Journal, picked up a fresh, full-time beat: the new rich. "I immersed myself in their world, hanging around yacht marinas, slipping into charity balls, loitering in Ferrari dealerships and scoping out the Sotheby's and Christie's auctions," he writes. ... From 1995 to 2003, the number of millionaires in America doubled. During the same period, the number of households worth $5 million, $10 million and $25 million, respectively, all doubled. In 2005 alone, America minted 227,000 new millionaires." (USA Today, 17 June) As you are reading this in the Socialist Courier and not the Wall Street Journal it is unlikely you belong to Richitan, you are more likely to be a subject of Poveritan! RD

NOT SO NICE

There can be few more inappropriate acronyms than the government's creation NICE. "Thousands of people face sight loss after treatment was deemed too expensive. Two drugs proven to be effective in treating eyesight conditions were rejected by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence." (Times, 19 June) RD

Food Aid Fails

From Time magazine , how the feel good factor in charity does very little to ameliorate famine .

Food aid feels good. Last year United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) coordinated emergency food aid for 73 million people worldwide, with the U.S. contributing 60% of that total.

"There's no question that food aid saves millions of lives,"

YET

"...we're concerned that it's being asked to do too much, too inefficiently, and that by over-relying on food aid we ignore other solutions that could be more effective."

A January report by the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) put the question bluntly: Can food aid do more harm than good?


One-third of food-aid budgets never reaches the intended recipients and is instead swallowed up by costs in donor countries, according to the OECD. Only 15% of donated food is sourced locally . When food finally arrives — often too late to feed those most vulnerable — the influx of foreign products wreak havoc on the local market, depressing prices just when farmers need income to feed themselves.
Almost all U.S. food aid, by law, must be grown and processed at home. U.S. agribusiness, which receives subsidies for growing such crops, and the U.S. shipping industry profit from the arrangement. In April, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a scathing report on how America underachieves in its attempts to feed the world, noting that the amount of U.S. food aid actually reaching beneficiaries has declined by 43% over the last five years because of escalating transport and administrative costs.

Even though plentiful grains may be harvested just over the mountain from famine-stricken areas the first instinct of most governments is still to send bags of grain rather than pursuing longer-term solutions like building roads linking local farming communities with drought-suffering regions. Ethiopia, for example, is one of the largest corn growers in Africa, but poor transportation networks prevent most farmers from selling their crops outside their villages.

"It's all well and good for the American public to feel good about their corn feeding starving people," says Edward Clay, senior research associate with the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. "But do American taxpayers realize that their money is being used to fund a hugely inefficient enterprise?"

Save the Chidren Poverty Report

Yet again Socialist Courier posts a reminder that Capitalism fails to provide for all members of society for no more reason than that they are born into the wrong class .

Much to the chagrin of the government Save the Children said on Tuesday that one in ten children in Britain are living in "severe poverty" in families surviving on an average income of £7,000 a year .


Using a new measure that combines household incomes with adult and child deprivation, the charity calculated that 10.2 % of children -- or 1.3 million -- were living in what it called "severe poverty."


In the report, Save the Children said conditions were worst in London where severe poverty affected one in six families, living on incomes well below the national average of £19,000 a year.
It said 84% of families in severe poverty could not make regular savings of £10 or more a month. Three-quarters cannot afford to replace worn out furniture.


"It is an outrage that in such a wealthy country, parents are struggling to get by on such low incomes and children are missing out on basic things like living in a warm house, having a proper diet or going on a school trip," the charity said.

Monday, June 18, 2007

CAPITALISM DISTORTS SCIENCE

Two separate items from the same day's newspaper illustrate the harshness of capitalism. "Several men were arrested in an organ-smuggling inquiry in Jordan for allegedly luring poor people to sell their kidneys. More than 80 cases have been uncovered in recent months. Each kidney can sell for up to $2,000 (£1,000)." (Times, 5 June)
"Clinical trials that compare two similar drugs are significantly more likely to favour the one made by the company that pays for the work, according to a study that sheds new light on bias in medical research. ...The work, by a team led by Lisa Bero, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, raises fresh concern about the influence of pharmaceutical companies over research." (Times, 5 June) RD

Freedom Is Jail

Just to reinforce the previous blog's comment that capitalism distorts all relationships a report comes out of Europe that finds many women in Scotland are choosing to go into prison - and stay there longer - because their lives on the outside are so chaotic .
In some cases, the problems faced by women on the outside were so enormous they considered prison as a refuge.

"There is evidence that some of these women are choosing to go to prison," said Dr Shewan of Glasgow Caledonian University .


It indicates some women choose to go to prison to escape abusive partners; others to try to stabilise spiralling debts and drug addiction. Also reveals that women had committed crimes (including fire-raising) within prison so as to actually avoid release .


Scotland has one of the fastest-growing female prisoner populations in Europe, despite repeated promises from ministers to reduce the problem. In the past decade, it has more than doubled. Last year, it peaked, with 365 women behind bars. On the same day in 2002, there were 273 women in jail.


The study suggests that sentencers sometimes send women to prison to receive help not available in the community.

Community services are so unable to meet the basic needs of women offenders with drug problems, and so many other problems, that incarceration becomes an easier option, according to the report.

"Could this be one of the underlying reasons why the female prison population in Scotland has been (increasing), and continues to increase?"
In his latest report on Cornton Vale, Scotland's only women's prison, Dr Andrew McClellan, the chief inspector of prisons, concluded that, of the inmates, 98% had drug addiction problems, 80% had mental health problems and 75% had a history of abuse and very poor physical health.
Mental health and addiction problems characterise these women, and many experts claim the experience of prison is likely to increase their drug-taking and offending. Many of them are still being imprisoned for minor offences. Seven out of 10 prison sentences passed on women are for six months or less. In 2004-5, more than 400 women were sent to prison for failing to pay a fine.
"We are locking up increasing numbers of increasingly damaged women," Dr McLellan said "It is desperately sad. You see it not just in their eyes but on their arms, which are deeply scarred from a long history of self-harming."


Sunday, June 17, 2007

HAPPY FAMILIES?

Capitalism distorts every human relationship. Even the tightly knit family unit, which you would imagine to be a bulwark against the ravages of capitalism, is not immune. A two year study conducted by the National Centre for Social Research and King's College, London has come up with some horrendous statistics. "Elderly people must have the same legal safeguards as children, experts said yesterday after research found that 350,000 pensioners were abused in their own homes by carers last year. ...However there was also widespread evidence of theft, fraud and misuse of power of attorney by other family members." (Times, 15 June) RD

The Dumbing Down of Doctors

In a previous post Socialist Courier high-lighted how the Romanian health service was reducing costs by dispensing with cancer specialists . Couldn't possibly happen here many readers may have said .

But we now read a government plan to cut senior staff in paediatric wards and neonatal units and replace them with trainee doctors will put infants at risk, doctors and patient groups have warned.

At the moment most paediatric wards have up to seven specialist paediatric senior house officers (SHOs) - doctors with up to four years' experience. Most could be replaced under Modernising Medical Careers. In future, trainee doctors with one or two years' experience will spend four months in paediatrics before moving on to another specialism, and would not necessarily have any interest in that area of medicine.
45,000 babies are born prematurely each year. Babies born at 23 weeks have a 17 per cent chance of survival and require expert medical support, while half of all babies born before 30 weeks suffer from apnea, which causes them to stop breathing.

Senior medical staff warned yesterday that inexperienced trainees are unsuited to difficult procedures such as putting an intravenous drip line into a baby's arm or treating vulnerable premature babies.

A senior London doctor said the impact on the care of vulnerable young children and premature babies could be disastrous. "Paediatrics is a specialism and, to be safe, people must be trained," the doctor said. "If things go wrong during pregnancy, you would call to the delivery an Senior House Officer who would deal with any complications. There is a big difference in a critical situation between an SHO and a trainee. These changes could result in the death of a baby or brain damage... "

Remedy UK , a 13,000-strong doctors' campaign group , accused the Department of Health of "dumbing down" doctors with MMC. "It used to take 21,000 hours of training to become a consultant but this has been reduced to 6,000. There is a move towards dumbing down the system rather than aiming for excellence," said a spokesman.

And here we read what it now feels like to be a doctor .
"...professionalism is being reduced to being a bit like just being on a production line."

First , capitalism made medicine and health into a business , run by accountants , now capitalism turns it all into a factory .

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hypocrisy


BAE Systems will pay Lord Woolf, the former Chief Justice, up to £468,000 over the next nine months to chair an inquiry into the defence company's business ethics . Lord Woolf said he would be paid £6,000 a day for his work on the inquiry, which is likely to consume two days a week for the next six to nine months.

Well , the Socialist Courier will save BAE time and money .

Ethically , the arms industry are no better than glorified gun-running murderers . A corrupt , immoral business and a bane on civilisation , that is out to get a quick and extremely lucrative profit from war and the fear of war .

Lord Woolf's role is to place a cloak of respectabilty around a killing industry .


BAE has no ethics .

Friday, June 15, 2007

For the scrap heap , hopefully

There is money in scrap , particularly for the directors .

The Aberdeen based scrap metal reprocessor and steel trading firm and one time rag-and -bone company John Lawrie Group announced that they paid an un-named director £2.1 million in 2006, plus a further £300,000 in contributions to his pension scheme. This compares with a combined figure of £1.6 million in 2005.
The increase helped swell total directors' remuneration to £3.9m from £2.6m.

This individual is assumed to be Brian Meldrum the chairman who staged a management buy-out of the company in 1981 which saw him climb the league table of top corporate earners in Scotland.

Another one for the scrap-heap when the revolution comes .

And Moir Lockhead, chief executive of ScotRail operator FirstGroup, saw his remuneration fall just short of the magic £1 million mark in the last financial year. Lockhead received a basic salary of £461,000, a cash bonus of £254,000 and benefits-in-kind of £30,000 in the year to March 31. This totalled £745,000, up from £723,000 in 2006. Lockhead was also awarded a bonus worth £254,000 in deferred shares . His total bonus for 2006-07 is therefore £508,000, or the maximum 110% of salary for the second year running. The deferred bonus, assuming it vests, will take Lockhead's total remuneration for 2006-07 to £999,000. In addition he also received perk benefits comprising of £24,000 in respect of a company car, £5000 for private fuel, and £1000 of medical insurance for Lockhead and his spouse.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

The journalist Mary Riddell paints a dire picture of what it is like to be old when you are poor. "Some of the 31,000 pensioners who died of cold-related illnesses in the last five winters would still be alive, but for enforced frugality. ... In its Spotlight survey out this week Help the Aged will present a disturbing picture of worsening old age. According to its findings, 144,000 people never leave their homes, 21 per cent live in poverty and more than one in 10 is chronically lonely, a figure up significantly in the past year; 73 per cent of adults say older people face routine discrimination." (Observer, 10 June) After a lifetime of work and exploitation this is the fate of many workers inside capitalism. RD

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Electric shocks

It is good to see that your electric bill went to good cause .

Scottish & Southern Energy , the Perth-based parent company of Scottish Hydro-Electric , has handed its top executives inflation-busting salary increases after a review of boardroom remuneration concluded that they were underpaid .
SSE's four executive directors saw their basic salaries rise by between 9% and 17%.

Chief executive Ian Marchant is now on a basic of £720,000 - an increase of around £100,000 in the past two years. Also proposed to the annual meeting was that the maximum bonus "cap" for executive directors under the company's new performance share plan be increased from 100% to 150% of salary.

Marchant's salary, annual bonus, and benefits jumped by more than 16% to £1.21 million in 2006-07, up from £1.04 million in the prior financial year. As well as his basic salary of £675,000, bonus of £518,000 and benefits of £17,000, Marchant was awarded 46,081 shares under the deferred bonus plan.These shares had a value of nearly £670,000 at last night's closing price . In all , taking his total remuneration for the year to nearly £1.9 million . Marchant also made a notional gain on the exercise of share options of £408,876.

Colin Hood, who joined the board of SSE in January 2001 as power systems director and became chief operating officer in October 2002, was paid salary, bonus and benefits totalling £894,000 in 2006-07, up from £772,000 last time. Hood was awarded 33,446 shares under the deferred bonus plan worth nearly £500,000 at yesterday's closing price

Finance director Gregor Alexander received £656,000 in 2006-07, up from £531,000 last time, including a basic salary of £360,000 and bonus of £282,000.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, the energy supply director, took home £659,000, up from £531,000.

Chairman Sir Robert Smith, meanwhile, saw his pay rise from £218,000 in 2005-06 to £266,000.

Next time you are told you are over-paid , remember what Scottish Hydro consider as under-paid.

meanwhile also reported by The Herald , the new Scottish Media Group chief executive Rob Woodward is set to be handed free shares in the troubled media group potentially worth £2.5million . A revamped long-term incentive plan (LTIP), which will be put to a shareholder vote at an extraordinary meeting on Friday, will see a clutch of executives share 2007 awards with a potential value of £6.8 million. Finance director George Watt, sole survivor of the much-criticised "ancien regime" at SMG, could pocket more than £900,000 when the 2007 LTIPs vest in three years' time.
Rewards not to compensate for being underpaid , but to "incentivise and motivational and retentative " purposes .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This Land is my Land! can you afford the death dues?

Scotland on Sunday June 10th 07, printed an article by Richard Ellas titled TOO POOR TO REST IN PEACE:
Exhumation, when it happens, is news on the television and press in this part of the world. It causes a lot of anguish for families concerned and usually a lot of legal work has taken place before an exhumation takes place. This article which is supported by pictures of council workers transporting corpses in wheel-barrows and rubbish trucks puts another meaning to being thrown on the scrapheap at the end of your working life. One thing for sure, it will not be members of the capitalist class who have to put up with this obscenity.
I quote
“Even in death the poor of Guatemala cannot be certain their bodies will attain eternal rest.
After six years in a tomb relatives have to pay a £12 fee to allow the remains to stay in place for four more years.
If, as is often the case in the poverty- stricken Central American country, relatives cannot afford the fee, council workers dig the body up and dump it down a deep shaft which doubles up as a communal grave.
The main cemetery In Guatemala City, like many others, is so crowded that the authorities have had to impose the tax in order to make room for new bodies.
This year alone, more than 2000 corpses have already been exhumed and deposited down the hole.
Even if the tax has been paid, the death dues are up for renewal four years later.”

For Capitalists it is indeed private property

One of Scotland's richest women has won a landmark legal ruling to ban ramblers from entering the grounds of her Perthshire estate . Ann Gloag is the first private individual in Scotland to exempt her land from right-to-roam legislation.
In his judgment, Sheriff Fletcher said that the "nature of the building and its prominence" meant a larger section of surrounding land was required by Mrs Gloag to ensure her family's privacy and enjoyment of the house.

Stagecoach tycoon, Ann Gloag, who is worth an estimated £395 million , had already angered walkers by erecting a fence around Kinfauns Castle estate. Mrs Gloag was granted retrospective planning permission after erecting a fence around part of her estate.

"This gives a green light to landowners to go around the countryside erecting fences without planning permission." - Dave Morris , Ramblers Association Scotland

Not so good down in the Valleys

A study has found that a higher proportion of family poverty exists in Wales than anywhere else in the UK.
The survey by the University of London found 30% of families in Wales were living below the poverty line. This compared with 25% in England and 21% in Scotland.

"We have studied people throughout their lives before and the imprint of having lived in poverty in childhood can be traced through school and into adult life, so finding such a lot of disadvantage amongst a big minority of today's children is very disturbing," said Professor Heather Joshi, director of London University's Centre of Longitudinal Studies

It confirms an earlier report on Welsh children . The charity Barnardo's has warned that nearly one in three of Welsh children are living in poverty. One worker for the charity said children in Wales occasionally go without food or heating.

BEHIND THE STATISTICS

"One NHS hospital patient in eight still waits more than a year for treatment, figures released by the Department of Health suggest. Data from 208,000 people admitted to hospital in March showed that 48 per cent of patients needing a hospital stay were treated within 18 weeks. But 30 per cent waited more than 30 weeks, and 12.4 per cent more than a year." (Times, 12 June) Behind these dry statistics lies the real human misery of being poor and ill inside capitalism. RD

A King's Ransom


It is indeed the never -ending story . While you struggle to make ends meet and pay those bills and perhaps , just perhaps , indulge in a small luxury or two , the capitalist class goes on awarding themselves inflation breaking pay rises and shameless special share-issue perks .




Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury, is in line to earn up to £13.6 million in cash and shares in the year ahead after a pay rise and bonus increase . The supermarket’s annual report, published yesterday, revealed that Mr King was paid £1.92 million in the year to March . He has received a 17.2 per cent rise in basic salary to £850,000 and a 41 per cent increase in pension payments to £255,000.


In the year to March 2007, Sainsbury’s set aside shares equivalent to 180 per cent of his salary for Mr King under a long-term incentive plan. In the year to March 2008, the company intends to set aside shares equivalent to 250 per cent of Mr King’s salary. Mr King is already on course for a payout of 1.66 million shares, worth £9.1 million at yesterday’s share price, in May next year.


Darren Shapland, the finance director, is receiving a rise in his basic salary to £500,000 from £450,000 and a share award worth 50% of his salary, up from 35% the year before.


Class and the class-room

By the age of three, children from disadvantaged homes are up to a year behind in their learning than those from more privileged backgrounds.

The Millennium Cohort Study also found large differences between children living in families above and below the poverty line.
The poorest children were 10 months behind their wealthier peers in tests of their grasp of shapes, numbers, letters and colours known as "school readiness" tests. And they were five months behind their wealthier peers in vocabulary tests.

One of the researchers, Professor Heather Joshi, said: "The advantaged children tended to be way ahead of the average and the disadvantaged children were lagging behind. If you look at the front-runners and the runner ups - there's almost a year's worth of differences."

These results will not be a surprise to education experts or government policy advisers [ Nor a surprise to the members of the Socialist Party either ] who have long known that parents' educational achievement and family income are indicators of a child's educational success.

An earlier BBC report describes that little progress has been made to close the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils . Children from poorer homes (eligible for free school meals ) are almost half as likely to get good GCSE results as pupils from richer homes .

Monday, June 11, 2007

The New King of Wall St.


It is never ending , isn't it ? The ostentatious wealth of the capitalist class .




Stephen Schwarzman, enjoyed personal earnings of $398 million last year. When Blackstone goes public, he will receive a windfall of at least $449 million and he will retain a stake in the business worth $7.7 billion.


Schwarzman, founded Blackstone in 1985 with an investment banking colleague, Peter Peterson, who served as US commerce secretary in the Nixon administration.


Mr Peterson, took home $212 million last year and will get $1.88 billion by selling shares at Blackstone's flotation.


A third senior executive, Hamilton James, enjoyed annual income of a $97 million and stands to receive $147 million .


Vice chairman Tomlinson Hill got $45 million last year


Chief financial officer Michael Puglisi received $17 million


Seven more executives will have shares worth a combined $380 million on flotation.


A 60th birthday party hosted by Mr Schwarzman featured private performances by Rod Stewart and Pattie LaBelle, an all male capella group serenading him with "happy birthday" and a troupe of elite cadets from New York's Knickerbocker Greys to lead guests to their seats. The guest list included Donald Trump, mayor Michael Bloomberg and the perfume heir Leonard Lauder.

AN EYE OPENER

"An ex-serviceman is being left to go blind in one eye before the National Health Service will consider treating him for a condition affecting 250,000 people in the UK. Leslie Howard, 76, noticed problems with his right eye in November and was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration two months ago. His sight could be saved by a course of treatment involving new drugs which could cost more than £6,000 a year. .. Mr Howard, who retired 17 years ago, said: "I can't believe I'm being left to go blind in one eye. I've spent most of my working life devoted to public service, I was in the Army, police and prison service and I've never failed to pay my dues." (Daily Telegraph, 25 April) Capitalism has a strange sense of values, it is reluctant to pay £6,000 to save a worker's sight yet spends £40,000 a year keeping murderers like Michael Sams in prison! RD

PRISONERS OF WANT

"Murderer and kidnapper Michael Sams has said he is better off in prison than he would be living as a free pensioner. Sams, 66, was jailed for life in 1993 ... Sams, from Nottinghamshire, wrote to prisoners' magazine Inside Time to oppose a call for convicts' pensions. He said he had better living conditions inside Whitemoor jail, Cambridgeshire, than many people on the basic pension. In his letter, Sams wrote: .. "Materially, we OAPs in prison are far better off than those in the community. .. "Most struggle to keep warm in winter, afraid to put the heating on, barely eating, let alone getting three square, ready-made, meals per day." (BBC News, 18 April) What a society capitalism is! It treats murderers better than old workers. RD

DOWN AND OUT DOWN UNDER

"Health standards among Australia's Aborigines are as poor as those among the white population before the advent of penicillin nearly a century ago, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). A WHO report found that Aborigines still suffered from leprosy, tuberculosis and rheumatic heart disease, all of which were eradicated decades ago in other developed nations. In some parts of New South Wales the average life expectancy for Aboriginal men was 33." (Independent, 2 May) Whenever capitalism invades the territory of indigenous people living in a pre-capitalist society the consequences are disastrous. The plains Indians of USA, the forest-dwellers of the Amazon and the Australian aborigines all of them slaughtered and impoverished by the advance of capitalism. RD

Sunday, June 10, 2007

CANADIAN CAPERS

Here is another example of how the development of capitalism ruins human lives. "Canada is to investigate claims that tens of thousands of native Indian and Inuit (First Nation) children died of tuberculosis at church-run residential schools in the early 20th century, and that their deaths were hushed up. Campaigners allege that school officials did nothing to halt the march of TB despite warnings, and charge that their inaction was tantamount to genocide. Christian churches ran up to 88 boarding schools for aboriginal children across Canada between 1874 and 1985. Their stated aim was assimilation; children were forbidden to speak their native languages. Some 200,000 children passed through the schools, attendance was mandatory and the Mounted Police rounded up truants. Their experiences were often brutal, and Canada is finalising a C$1.9 billion ($1.7 million) class-action settlement for 80,000 surviving former inmates, with extra payments for those who suffered physical and sexual abuse." (New Scientist, 5 May) RD

Friday, June 08, 2007

Marks and Sparks


Once again continuing our exposure of the capitalist fat cats we read that Marks and Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose received £3.6 million in salary and bonuses last year, up 68% on a year ago . Socialist Courier very much doubt whether staff will be receiving a 68% pay rise this year


Rose saw his salary rise from £975,000 to £1.05 million - and was given a £2.6 million cash and shares bonus.
Under a long-term pay plan, he also stands to get the firm's maximum bonus of four times his salary - worth £4.2 million .


M and S's annual report revealed that Mr Rose was in line for a further £8 million in cash and shares if the firm continued to grow profits at 10% or more.


The company also paid bonuses of £1.3 million each to finance director Ian Dyson and head of marketing Steven Sharp on top of their £525,000 salaries .
Paul Myners, the former chairman who stepped down in July 2006, is being provided with a car and driver for two years, even though he is no longer employed by M and S. From August last year to March this year, it has cost £56,245 to ferry Mr Myners around.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rich Pickings


Socialist Courier once more exposes the exhorbitant awards that members of the capitalist class award themselves .


Cable and Wireless announced a bonus scheme for its part-time chairman Richard Lapthorne that it is worth nearly £11 million . The telecoms company plans to offer Mr Lapthorne a three-year, performance-related incentive scheme that could result in him receiving 5.5 million C and W shares in 2010. At today's market price, the shares would be worth about £10.9 million to Mr Lapthorne, who typically puts in two to three days work a week at the company.


It comes just 12 months after the company launched a long-term incentive plan worth up to £220 million to 60 senior managers.Last year's plan is potentially worth about £18 million each to John Pluthero and Harris Jones, the group managing directors who respectively control C and W's UK and international businesses.


The Communication Workers Union stated:- "Is there no limit to Mr Lapthorne's cheek and to shareholders' gullibility ? Last year, they agreed to a huge reward system for top executives to deliver a programme they had failed to deliver the previous year. Now they've got to pay Mr Lapthorne an additional £10m to do his job enthusiastically."


Last week , Tesco , the supermarket group , said it would award Sir Terry Leahy, its chief executive, shares worth more than £11 million if his plans for expansion in the US proved successful.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's Sick , isn't it ?

Around 10,000 people in the UK, mainly of black, Asian and Mediterranean origin, have sickle cell anaemia. Another 800 have the most dangerous form of thalassaemia, a similar disease. Sufferers of the two conditions must undergo regular blood transfusions.

Part of the treatment can either be 2 pills a day that cleanses their blood of life-threatening excess iron - a side effect of the frequent blood transfusions needed to treat the disease -- or alternatively , insert a needle into their stomach for eight to 12 hours a night at least five nights a week .

While the drug is available in Scotland, most patients in England are not able to get it because local NHS organisations are refusing to pay for a drug that costs £10,000-£15,000 for a year's supply for a young person. So now it's back to these injections which many families find highly stressful and do only infrequently, thus endangering the child's life.

Dr Farrukh Shah, a consultant haematologist at the Whittington Hospital in London, said: 'All patients who would benefit from Exjade should get it without arguments about who's going to fund it. They are being made victims of NHS internal politics. It's all down to people passing the buck financially between hospitals and Primary Care Trusts.... It's distressing for patients and their parents. Patients are struggling to maintain the needle treatment and desperately want to get Exjade, but many can't. When I tell them that their PCT has refused to pay for something that would make their life a whole lot easier in many ways, many end up crying.'


Vanessa Bourne of the Patients' Association said :"..you can't expect a parent to put a needle in their child's stomach every night because that treatment is so horrible to administer. Would PCT bosses, as parents, wish to do this to their child every night?..."

And while we are constantly admonished to care for our young , Capitalism simply counts up the pounds and the pence .

Monday, June 04, 2007

COUNCIL TAX OR FREE ACCESS?

The recent Local government election has resulted in a victory for the SNP,363 seats compared with the Labour Party’s 348, will it make a lot of difference to members of the working class in Scotland?
The SNP through Alex Salmond want to replace the Council Tax, not all at once, first no raising of tax for two years and then, to quote,
“The SNP will abolish the unfair Council Tax and replace it with a local income tax system based on the ability to pay. The local tax will be set at a rate of 3p on income excluding savings income. The reform will represent a major progressive change to taxation in Scotland and the biggest tax cut for Scots in a generation.”
Pensioners have protested bitterly that the council tax has more than doubled over the last ten years and not having the industrial muscle they may have had, are not able to increase their income through industrial action. They of course have a voting strength and the South Lanarkshire Council decided to recognise the depreciation in their income by returning £50 to all pensioner households. This decision was taken and payments made before the election took place, some were saying "it's a bribe", evidently if it was a bribe, it failed. So what is the socialist solution, below is an article published in the May 2004 Socialist Standard, give it some thought.

COUNCIL TAX OR FREE ACCESS
Pleased with your latest council tax bill? This tax on property was introduced in 1994 by John Major as a replacement for Thatcher's poll tax,which was removed (along with Maggie) after it caused widespread public resentment and riots. Council tax has risen by up to 60 percent since 1997. It leapt 12 percent on average last year, and after the latest increases it's also now causing considerable upset and anger.
This government like previous ones wants to stay in power, so while it likes to be seen attempting to improve services delivered by local authorities, like education and policing, it doesn't want to be seen raising taxes to pay for them. Whitehall and local governments both understand and play the resulting game: get what you can from each, but blame one another - and blame other parties - if and when the public complain. Councils blame central government for not providing enough money, and the government accuses councils of inefficiency, mismanagement and proclaim that they will cap unacceptable increases.
While the government is worried about a popular revolt against council tax - something Gordon Brown tried to diminish in his March 17 budget with a £ 100 reduction-cum-sop for pensioners over 70 - it seems likely Labour will keep this property tax but reduce future increases by allowing councils to raise additional money by charging for more local services.
The council tax is a property tax but it is only a pinprick for those who own the most property. In fact, the more property you own the less painful it is. While the Duke of Westminster, worth £4.6 billion and owner of some 190,000 acres in Britain is able to live a luxurious life in the grandest of mansions, his council tax bill will be no more than a few thousand pounds. Rich aristocratic and agro-industrialists who represent just one percent of the population but who own 70 percent of the land in Britain, are actually paid property subsidies and grants of tens of thousands each year.
Those on high incomes can also shrug it off. Tony Blair and Cherie's council tax can be paid off with just a half-day's worth of their earnings, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy's with a mere couple of days worth of theirs. This reflects the inequalities of ownership and income that are at the basis of present-day society.
Despite appearances, in the end it does not matter to most people what form or level taxes take. To enable us to remain fit to work, our wage, salary or benefit has to cover all the normal costs of living, including any taxes. Abolishing or reducing taxes wouldn't leave us any better off since it only allows them to pay us less. National and local finance is not really our problem. Whatever the system's politicians decide, our after-tax income is never going to be much more than enough to keep ourselves fit to work.
Free access
We in the Socialist Party say people should have full access to services like public toilets, education, properly maintained roads, refuse collection, libraries etc, but we ask you to reject taxation or direct charges as ways of providing them. Instead, we ask you to support free access to these vital services as well as to all other needs, like food, housing, public transport, domestic appliances, furniture, gas, electricity, clothing etc.
A society of free access to whatever people need is readily achievable by replacing today's capitalism with a new system where we all collectively and directly own and democratically control the means of production and distribution (i.e., farmland, factories, raw materials, power stations, water supply, roads network, railways etc).
If we all directly own and control these assets - rather than them being owned by private individuals and, or, the state - then we will also collectively own all that they provide, resulting in free access to all goods and services. People don't have to buy what's jointly theirs already.
Nothing will have a monetary cost with real socialism. In fact, money, having no function at all, will be redundant. People will still work, but the purpose will then be for meeting society's needs - not making profits for, and rewarding, a tiny minority class who have taken possession of the vital resources and machinery that make life possible.
Do you want to stick with council tax, local income tax, national income tax, value added tax, stealth taxes, National Insurance - a tax by another name - or get rid of the lot of them, along with the time-wasting, bureaucracy, confusion, stress and worry they cause, by choosing to have classless moneyless leaderless free access from democratic real socialism instead?

Mental well-being and Capitalism

The BBC reports a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found an increasing amount of sickness leave is due to depression or stress. Analysis of the records of 30,000 people found only muscle-related problems such as bad backs were cited as a greater cause of sick days .

Staff with depression were said to take an average 30 days off annually.

Those with stress were reported to be away for 21 days.

This confirms an earlier finding by a survey of 250 doctors . The poll of GPs reveals most believe firms do not do enough to prevent workers falling ill, and blame companies for failing those who are ill, and not doing enough to help them back to work.

94% of the doctors quizzed blamed employers for failing to take responsibility for their workers' health and well-being.

Capitalism is actually literally a depressing system to work under.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...