Wednesday, April 30, 2008

FREESCALE CLAYMORE HOVERS STILL

In an article published on this site
We reported that plans of the possible stopping of production at the former Motorola semiconductor plant at in East Kilbride under the codename Operation Claymore. Various assurances were made about demanding answers etc, however, it seems everyone is still in the dark
in an article named, Are we next?, ask Freescale workers. EKMail, Wednesday the 30th April reports, Freescale bosses have moved to deny rumours they have brought in temporary HR staff to oversee mass redundancies at the troubled plant. In a week when another major employer JVC announced it was to shut up shop at the end of July after months of speculation, these rumours point to a new low in the morale of the 900 workers at the Kelvin industrial estate factory.
The former Motorola semiconductor plant at in East Kilbride was taken over by the new Texan owners, Freescale, last year, it was reported that they were putting the giant plant up for sale.
The plant was opened up in 1969, it is thought that Freescale will only keep their research and development arm which would save about 300 jobs at most. However, 900 workers are set to lose employment.
At that time Local MP Adam Ingram says he has been told nothing officially by Freescale and would be demanding answers tomorrow. It seems he never got any answers because workers say they have been growing increasingly frustrated with bosses who they accuse of keeping them in the dark over the plant’s future. A worker at the plant reports
“The latest rumour is that they have started some HR people on six month contracts. It’s only rumoured, but we reckon that it’s to make up the redundancy packages. But nobody upstairs is saying anything. Not a word.”The worker believes there are worrying parallels to be drawn between the fate of JVC in College Milton and the Kelvin technology manufacturer.He said: “The feeling here is that the closing of JVC was inevitable. “The writing has been on the wall for some time there, as it has been here for a while. There are certain similarities between JVC and Freescale. They weren’t told what was happening there either and it is the same here. It just seems to be the way things are now.“It’s the old mushroom syndromekeep them in the dark and feed them a load of crap.”
The profit motive will always prevail in a capitalist society, lets go for a society that gets rid of the profit motive, Socialism.

GLOBAL BONDAGE

"Some of the world's leading computer makers don't want you to know about Local Technic Industry. It's a typical Malaysian company, one of many small makers of the cast-aluminum bodies for hard-disk drives used in just about every name-brand machine on the market. But that's precisely the problem: it's a typical Malaysian company. About 60 percent of Local Technic's 160 employees are from outside Malaysia—and a company executive says he pities those guest workers. "They have been fooled hook, line and sinker," he says, asking not to be named because others in the business wouldn't like his talking to the press. "They have been taken for a ride." It's not Local Technic's fault, he insists: sleazy labor brokers outside the country tricked the workers into paying huge placement fees for jobs that yield a net income close to zero. ...So why don't those foreign employees just quit? Because they can't, even after they find out they've been cheated. Malaysian law requires guest workers to sign multiple-year contracts and surrender their passports to their employers. Those who run away but stay in Malaysia are automatically classed as illegal aliens, subject to arrest, imprisonment and sometimes caning before being expelled from the country." (Newsweek, 21 April) RD

Heart-breaking

It is reported that the number of people in Scotland's poorest areas dying from heart disease has dropped , however, despite the drive to reduce the difference in life expectancy between the rich and poor, experts said there was little evidence the decline in heart disease deaths was any greater in deprived communities than elsewhere.
Those living in areas of deprivation are still at higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease . GPs in deprived areas have 30% more coronary heart disease patients and are likely to have less time for all of them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

33,000 MORE HOMELESS

"Homeowners face the threat of soaring repossessions this year, with a 25 per cent increase in the number of properties expected to be seized by the banks and building societies as mortgage costs remain stubbornly high. According to a report today from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), more than 33,000 borrowers will lose their homes once their fixed-mortgages, agreed prior to the credit crunch, come to an end and interest costs rise." (Observer, 27 April) RD

DOES CAPITALISM WORK?

"In Cameroon, 24 people have been killed in food riots since February, while in Haiti, protesters chanting, "We're hungry" forced the prime minister to resign this month. In the past month, there have been food riots in Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Madagascar. The World Bank now believes that some 33 countries are in danger of being destabilized by food price inflation, while Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, said that higher food prices risked wiping out progress towards reducing poverty and could harm global growth and security." (Daily Telegraph, 22 April) RD

Monday, April 28, 2008

BUSINESS AS USUAL

"An electronics factory in East Kilbride is to close with the loss of 300 jobs, a union has told BBC Scotland. JVC will shut in July and work will be moved to Poland, a Unite official said. Jimmy Farrelly said employees at the College Milton plant, which makes television sets, had been "stunned" by the announcement." (BBC News, 26 April)
A TU official may well be "stunned", but socialists are not. That is how capitalism operates. Inside capitalism you must.on pain of extinction, cut your costs to survive. Three hundred workers on the dole? Who cares, this is capitalism. RD

US INTEREST IN AFRICAN OIL

"In any event, America's attitude has changed sharply since a Pentagon report in 1995 said that Africa was of “very little traditional strategic interest”. The administration has so far spent $127m on AFRICOM and has asked for another $389m for 2009. America's key interests in Africa remain terrorism and oil. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda attacked the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people. America gets more than 15% of its oil from Africa, and the figure is rising. It also worries about China's growing influence there." (Economist, 10 April) RD

BIG BROTHER IS LISTENING

"Hundreds of benefit fraudsters have been caught out by lie-detector technology. More than 370 people were identified fiddling their benefits in Lambeth, South London. As part of the pilot project, Lambeth Council staff phoned 2,000 residents and used Voice Risk Analysis, which picks up tiny changes in the voice that show a person is lying. Benefit staff then made further checks to see if claims needed investigation. A total of 638 people were investigated and 377 were caught lying and had their benefits stopped or decreased." (Times, 21 April) RD

Our betters

Tax-exile , Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay, Scotland's fourth-richest man , flew prostitutes from Britain to a £6000-a-night hotel suite in Monte Carlo, where they drank champagne, before indulging in lesbian and bondage sex acts , reports the Herald .

The peer is said to have more or less single-handedly bankrolled the Scottish Conservatives and has loaned or donated Tory HQ around £6m. He is also one of the key benefactors to Boris Johnson's bid for the London mayoralty, having handed over £25,000 to the Henley MP's campaign to oust Ken Livingstone.

The peer has a love of fast boats, fast cars and helicopters. As well as his £3m home in Monte Carlo, he has a £4m vineyard on the French Riviera, a £10m estate near Capetown, a £2m home in London's Eaton Square, a mansion in Scotland and a £14m home in Hampshire.

Same paper , different article , the more frequently men use prostitutes, the more likely they are to be sexually aggressive towards other women, according to new research.

Many of the men believed that the money paid cancels out the harm caused. Jan Macleod, development officer with the Women's Support Project, said:
"[of these men] Somehow they kid themselves that these women are there out of choice and that they are earning lots of money and that it means they are doing nothing wrong."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grangemouth Strike


Unions in dispute are often depicted as selfish workers striking out of self interest. These workers are striking to prevent their company’s pension scheme being undermined for future workers joining the scheme. They are standing up to protect the pensions of future generations of workers in their industry. Isn't that altruism ? Isn't that self-sacrifice ?

Jim Ratcliffe, 55, owner of the strike-torn Grangemouth refinery , reported to be 25th in this years Times Rich List with wealth of £2.3 billion will have no doubt secured the future of his future generations and progeny .

Ratcliffe has grown Ineos rapidly by making ever-bigger acquisitions funded mostly with debt, says Breakingviews.com. “How come, one might ask? Surely even in today’s markets where liquidity is sloshing around, one needs to fund at least 20% of a deal with equity?” Ratcliffe gets round that requirement by using Ineos as the equity – focusing single-mindedly on growing cash flow to increase the company’s debt capacity. “That way, Ineos is ready to be used as collateral for the next deal”, ensuring that “every few years, he can triple or quadruple in size”.

Nor is Ratcliffe averse to blackmailing .


Having acquired ICI’s Runcorn chlorine plant in 2000, “after one of the longest due diligence exercises in recent history”, Ineos decided it had been “sold a pup” and began petitioning the taxpayer to bail it out. Ratcliffe went for broke, asking the Government for £300m: the alternative, he said, was the closure of the plant with the loss of some 133,000 associated jobs.
The press consensus was that “Ratcliffe of Runcorn should be sent packing”, but he nevertheless still managed to extract £50 million.

BP and Shell will together make record profits of more than $68 billion this year if the oil price stays at current levels, according to City forecasters.

the rich list

Credit crunch ...food inflation ...property price crash ...Yet the UK's super-rich have never been richer reports the BBC . The richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth quadruple under Labour, according to The Sunday Times Rich List published today.
The top 1,000 richest people in the country now have more than £400 billion between them, it estimates - up almost £53 billion in the last year. A fortune of £80m is needed to be one of Britain's richest 1,000 people - up from £70m in 2007.

Philip Beresford, who has compiled the list since it was first published in 1989, said: "Until now, the 11 years of Labour government have proved a boon for the super-rich, rarely seen before in modern British history..."

“The 11 years of Labour have been absolutely fantastic for the super-rich,” said Philip Beresford, “Having a friendly Labour government has almost been better than having a Tory one..."

RICH LIST TOP 10
Lakshmi Mittal, steel (£27.7bn)
Roman Abramovich, oil and industry (£11.7bn)
The Duke of Westminster, property (£7bn)
Sri and Gopi Hinduja, Industry and finance (£6.2bn)
Alisher Usmanov, Steel and mines (£5.7bn)
Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, pharmaceuticals (£5.6bn)
Hans Rausing and family, packaging (£5.4bn)
John Fredriksen, shipping (£4.6bn)
Sir Philip and Lady Green, retailing (£4.3bn)
David and Simon Reuben, property (£4.3bn

Saturday, April 26, 2008

THE NAME IS BOND - CAPITALIST BOND

Capitalism pervades everything in modern society. If you buy a football shirt it will advertise a beer or a soft drink. Formula 1 car racing would be impossible if advertising logos didn't cover every space on the cars and the drivers. It is in the entertainment business though that this pervasive influence is growing at an astonishing speed. "The name is Bond, James Bond. And he likes his Martinis shaken, not stirred. That is, as long as they are Smirnoff. Product placement is playing an increasingly important role in Hollywood blockbusters. The last Bond film bore a string of high-end sponsors, such as Omega, Sony, Ford and Sony Ericsson. Television shows have also lured advertisers, often preferring product placement or sponsorship over traditional advertising. .. The expectation is that television advertising will become more about the 30-minute sponsored advertisement than the 30-second shot." (Times, 21 March) RD

Friday, April 25, 2008

health of the workers

Yet another finding that being poor increases the chances of an early death .

A clear link between wealth and health has been highlighted in a study of middle-aged Americans. Being better-off was associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke between the ages of 50 and 64. Other findings linked a lack of wealth with higher blood pressure, excessive weight, diabetes and heart disease.

Scientists analysed data from 19,445 men and women involved in in the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study which surveys people aged 50 and over every two years. Over an average period of eight-and-a-half years, a total of 1542 of the participants suffered a stroke.
The researchers divided the participants' wealth levels into six categories. They found that the 10% at the bottom of the wealth ladder had three times more stroke risk between the ages of 50 and 64 than those at the top, excluding the "ultra-rich".

Dr Mauricio Avendando, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who co-led the research, said:
"Lack of material resources themselves, and particularly wealth, appear to strongly influence people's chances to have a first stroke."

There should be a health warning placed upon every worker - wage slavery can lead to premature death .

Thursday, April 24, 2008

NOT TOO TOUGH

"A handful of the City's top hedge fund managers shared an extraordinary payout of more than $2 billion last year as star dealers profited from the meltdown in America's sub-prime mortgage markets. Top of the UK list of mega-earners for the year were Noam Gottesman and Pierre LaGrange, the two co-founders of GLG Partners, the $24 billion London based hedge fund. Mr Gottesman and Mr LaGrange were paid a staggering $350 million each, according to Alpha, a specialist hedge fund magazine that yesterday published a list of the top 50 best-paid managers worldwide for 2007." (Times, 16 April) RD

TOUGH AT THE TOP?

"At £70,000 for only 50 minutes' effort, it works out at a rate of £80k an hour. Amazingly, canny Paris Hilton got paid that incredible sum just for turning up at trendy Mayfair nightclub Mahiki on Monday night. But does the It Girl appreciate her good fortune? Hardly. We can reveal the heiress turned up two hours late for her appearance at Prince Harry's favourite watering hole. (Daily Mirror, 16 April) RD

NO OLD BANGERS HERE

"A Bentley Arnage, the marque's top-of-the-range vehicle, costs between £170,000 and £230,000 for the Brooklands coupe version. The Continental, a sporty and cheaper model, starts at £125,000." (Times, 27 April) RD

LEST WE FORGET

Amongst the most awful diseases that may strike us, surely one of the worst must be Alzheimer’s, the one that hits us when we are old and ruins our memory. The capitalist class can look after their elderly but workers are forced to rely on the NHS.
"Nearly 100,000 patients with Alzheimer's a year will be refused drugs that could delay the onset of the disease, the Court of Appeal has heard. ...NICE guidance in 2001 recommended the drugs - which can make it easier to carry out everyday tasks - should be used as standard. But advice published in November 2006, stated that the drugs should only be prescribed to people with moderate-stage disease. NICE said the drugs, which cost about £2.50 a day, did not make enough of a difference to recommend them for all patients and were not good value for money." (BBC News, 15 April)
Needless to say the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) do not instruct the capitalist class not to waste £2.50 a day on their parents or grandparents. Only workers are told it is not "good value for money". RD

Poor little rich Guy

Guy Ritchie has complained that British people are being priced out of the property market by "big money" foreigners who are buying all the desirable properties in central London. The film-maker and husband of Madonna railed against the rising price of property saying it was almost impossible to buy a house in central London "unless you've got 10 million quid".

Madonna and Guy's homes

* A £7m family townhouse in Marylebone
* A £6m, 10-bedroom property next door
* Two mews cottages close to the Marylebone house, one bought for £900,000
* Two properties used by the Kabbalah religious sect: a £3.6m building in the West End used as its headquarters and a £1.6m five-storey townhouse in Regent's Park
* A 1,200-acre estate in Wiltshire, bought for £9m
* An £8m house in Beverly Hills
* An apartment in New York

another failed reform target

Ministers have been accused of doing too little to cut the bills of 4.5 million people suffering fuel poverty despite promising extra help for the most needy households. Campaigners said almost one in five householders were living in fuel poverty and that ministers faced missing targets for eliminating fuel poverty by 2016.

Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said many of his members were forced to choose between food and heating last winter.

Campaigners, union leaders and opposition MPs dismissed as inadequate a package of measures announced to cut the number of people forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the shopping price hike


High food costs have added £15 to a weekly supermarket shop for a family of four in the UK, new research suggests.
Comparison website MySupermarket says a basket of 24 staple items including tea bags, milk and eggs costs 15% more than it did 12 months ago. The findings are based on its price comparisons of certain everyday items at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.
The increases mean that families spending an average of £100 a week on food will be spending £780 a year more at a time when customers are under increasing pressure from higher mortgage, petrol and energy costs.

Johnny Stern, managing director of MySupermarket said: "The conclusion is that supermarkets are passing on a sizeable amount of the increased costs."

The price of wheat, rice and maize have nearly doubled in the past year . Analysts have warned that the higher prices are threatening to drive an extra 100 million people worldwide into poverty.

White loaf at Sainsbury's and Tesco: 65p - up 20%
Butter: 94p - up 62%
English mild cheddar: £1.52 - up 26%
Garden peas at Tesco: £1.79 - up 63%
Basmati white rice: £1.45 - up 61%

CAPITALISM STARVES

"Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures. Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.” (New York Times, 18 April) RD

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The police and the class war

Scotland's rank and file police are to call for the right to strike, currently denied them by law.
Members of the Scottish Police Federation , representing ranks up to chief constable, will debate the issue at their annual conference.

Police are prohibited by law from striking. The nearest they came to industrial action was a demonstration last year when 22,000 off-duty officers south of the Border protested over the pay deal they had been given. Many officers believe not being able to strike means they enter pay negotiations at a disadvantage and there is an increasing feeling within the federation that pay levels have been slipping.

Scotland and the food shortages

Britain is only 70% self-sufficient in cereal grains, down from 90% in the 1980s. Scotland is even worse, at only 40%. Most of that goes into the whisky industry and to animal feed. Scotland is thus almost totally dependent on others for this most basic of commodities for human consumption, which raises the question of whether Scotland could, if need be, feed itself.

The answer is yes, but only after significant change in land use and a rather drastic adjustment of the national diet.

Professor Peter Gregory, CEO of the Scottish Crop Research Institute says: "Technically, this is not a crisis for Scotland. There is enough arable land to provide for every person in Scotland. Our cereal yields are around twice the global average."

It would be possible to start making bread for five million people living in Scotland if we switched rape fields for wheat fields.

Monday, April 21, 2008

AN EXPENSIVE TIPPLE

"While the global credit crunch has forced many consumers to rein in spending, one Beijing-based billionaire has splashed out a record $500,000 on 27 bottles of red wine, London-based Antique Wine Company said on Saturday. The anonymous Chinese entrepreneur bought a mix of vintages of Romanee Conti, a Burgundy wine and considered to be among the world's most exclusive with only 450 cases produced each year. The client bought 12 bottles of Romanee Conti 1978, two bottles of the 1961, 1966, 1996 and 2003 and single bottles of the 1981, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2002. "It is the highest price that has ever been achieved for a single lot," Managing Director Stephen Williams of the London- based Antique Wine Company told Reuters on Saturday. "I don't think he has bought this as an investment -- he has bought it to drink," he added. "The fine wine industry is completely immune from the global credit crunch." (Yahoo News, 19 April) RD

AN ILL DIVIDED WORLD

"Almost 30 per cent of Nepal’s 27m people live in absolute poverty or on less than $1 a day." (Financial Times, 21 April) RD

Self-interest and self -praise

Another of our ill-gotten gains series

Equitable Life has enlarged the pay package of its chief executive, Charles Thomson. Thomson's total rewards rose by 22% to top £1million. Thomson's package included salary of £453,973, a salary-related bonus of £199,305, and a discretionary bonus of half his salary - the maximum permitted under an "annual retention bonus scheme for senior staff"

Thomson has been reprimanded by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries for misconduct, after being found guilty of bringing the profession into disrepute over the revelation during the court action that he had faked his job reference for Equitable in 2001. He was guilty of "failure to comply with the standards of behaviour and integrity which the public and the profession might reasonably expect of a member".

Thomson had admitted in court in April 2005 that he himself was the author of the glowing reference to his "exceptional record of success" at Scottish Widows, where he was the deputy chief executive from 1995 to 2000.The reference concluded: "We will miss his intellect, integrity, and energy and feel sure he will bring great value to other organisations at the highest levels."

Nothing like a bit of self-praise and now being richly awarded above inflation remuneration .

Sunday, April 20, 2008

hunger: it’s a market thing

From Ian Bell of the Sunday Herald

Lots of food, lots of hunger: it’s a market thing.

Last week the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development was published...Its main findings were simple enough, however. There is enough food for everyone. It is cheaper and, broadly, more nutritious than it has been in decades, but 800 million go hungry...

...there are no food shortages. Instead, according to one of those complicated theories they teach at Oxford and the like, there are money shortages. Or rather - and this is apparently so complicated it never gets discussed - some people are very short of money and some are anything but...

...The relationships between land, food security, politics and bread at £1.13 a loaf are not abstract. The laws of economics should not be mistaken for acts of God...

As Bell writes , the law of economics is not abstract but neither is it complicated . Simply put , in capitalism , if you cannot pay , you cannot have , no matter your dire need . The Socialist Party understand this , as too does the working class , even if they so far have not understood or sought the solution - socialism - and it is not more abstract analysis from philosophers and politicians that is required , instead the point now is to change the way the world is organised for the benefit of the few against the interests of the many to a system where we all enjoy the fruits of our labour . That takes political action and a political movement to organise around and that requires members and commitment.

Friday, April 18, 2008

HEATHROW HOMELESS

"Each night, scores of London's homeless men and women take advantage of modern travel delays by posing as stranded passengers in order to sleep in a warm, safe place. ... Those contacted included a man sleeping under his coat, another conspicuously hiding behind an open newspaper, and a woman clutching a duty free bag, who insisted she was waiting for a flight, only to whisper when police were out of earshot, "I can't afford electricity. It's warm here. Please let me stay." (Time, 21 April) RD

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NEW SOURCE OF CONFLICT?

"Equatorial Guinea sits at the heart of a deepwater corner of the Atlantic Ocean that is of growing interest to governments from Washington to Beijing. For the US, the Gulf of Guinea is the linchpin of growing sub-Saharan African oil production. Not only is it a bulwark against the troubles in the Middle East, it is also forecast to provide a quarter of US crude oil imports by 2010. China and other emerging economic powers also see an opportunity to muscle in, attracted by promises of big infrastructure projects and a relationship that is free of the colonial baggage carried by westerners in Africa. US multinationals such as ExxonMobil, Amerada Hess and Marathon Oil have, for some time, had Equatorial Guinea handily locked down, pumping more than 350,000 barrels a day."
(New Statesman, 10 April) RD

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DYING FOR A JOB (2)

"Union leaders have expressed concern about the effectiveness of new laws on corporate homicide in Scotland. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 24 workers were killed and 2,702 people were seriously injured at their workplace in the year 2006/7.(BBC News, 6 April) RD

DYING FOR A JOB

"Fifty-four Myanmar migrants have suffocated to death in a cold storage container while being smuggled to Thailand to escape desperate conditions at home, Thai police said Thursday. The incident was the deadliest in a wave of recent tragedies as people flee economic collapse in military-ruled Myanmar and search for work in Thailand, where they often end up abused and exploited. Police said that 121 people had been crammed inside an airtight frozen seafood container measuring six metres (20 feet) long and 2.2 metres wide. Colonel Kraithong Chanthongbai, local police commander in southern Ranong province on Myanmar's border where the bodies were found late Wednesday, said the men and women were trying to get to Phuket island to work as day labourers. (Yahoo News, 10 April) RD

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

CAPITALIST PROGRESS?

"These are everyday stories in Ethiopia, which has the highest per capita rate of car fatalities in the world, with 190 deaths per 10,000 vehicles. Across sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS is the only killer more devastating than traffic for people ages 15 to 44. For children, traffic is the No. 1 killer. An African is 100 times more likely than an American to die in a car. According to the World Health Organization, Africa has 4 percent of the world's cars—but accounts for more than 11 percent of the world's traffic casualties and that is probably conservative. The WHO figures that road casualties in Africa are underreported by as much as twelvefold, and it predicts the death toll will rise an additional 80 percent by 2020, as the population grows and becomes more motorized." (Newsweek, 14 April) RD

HUNGER AMIDST PLENTY

"Food prices in Haiti are reported to have increased by 50 to 100 per cent in the last year. The population are particularly vulnerable because almost four-fifths live on less than $2 a day." (Times, 14 April) RD

Monday, April 14, 2008

AN UPPER CLASS TWIT

Boris Johnson speaks
" I can hardly condemn UKIP as a bunch of boss-eyed, foam-flected euro hysterics, when I have been sometimes not far short of boss-eyed, foam-flected hysteria myself (2004)."I can't remember what my line on drugs is. What's my line on drugs? (2005) "What ever James Oliver says, McDonald's are incredibly nutritious and, as far as I can tell, crammed full of vital nutrients and rigid with goodness. (2005) The awful truth is that people do take me seriously ...you must consider the possibility that underneath it all there may really lurk a genuine buffoon." (2007) (Observer Magazine, 13 April). RD

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that hundreds of thousands of people will face starvation if food prices keep rising. Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that social unrest from continuing food price inflation could cause conflict. There have been food riots recently in a number of countries, including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt." (BBC News, 13 April) RD

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A GRIM FUTURE

Recent droughts in places like Australia and Africa combined with the explosive competition inside modern capitalism has led to many experts forecasting future disasters. "In recent months the commodity prices of rice, wheat and corn has jumped 50 percent or more, pushing retail prices to levels unseen in a generation and prompting grain-exporting countries to curtail trade to suppress domestic inflation. On March 20, the World Food Program issued an emergency appeal for more funding to keep aid moving to the world's poorest countries. Last week World Bank president Robert Zoellick called for urgent global action on the part of rich nations "or many more people will suffer or starve." (Newsweek, 14 April) RD

Saturday, April 12, 2008

THE GAP WIDENS

Much is made of the progressive nature of capitalism by journalists eager to prove that it is a society that is gradually making us all better off. A dissident view has recently been aired by the journalist Phillip Blond.
"The New Economics Foundation has shown that global growth has not aided the poor. In the 1980s, for every $100 of world growth, the poorest 20 per cent received $2.20; by 2001, they received only 60 cents. Clearly neo-liberal growth disproportionately benefits the rich and further impoverishes the poor. Real wage increases in the top 13 countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been below the rate of inflation since about 1970 – a situation compounded in Britain as the measure of inflation massively underestimates the real cost of living. Thus wage earners – rather than asset owners – have faced a 35-year downward pressure on their standard of living." (Independent, 23 March) RD

Friday, April 11, 2008

A FREE SOCIETY?

"The State secret police may have died with communism but its surveillance methods are still alive at Lidl, the German supermarket chain. George Orwell's Big Brother, it seems, stalks the aisles between the cornflakes and the canned dog food, Detectives hired by Lidl - which has more than 7,000 stores worldwide, including 450 in Britain - have been monitoring romance at the cash till, visits to the lavatory and the money problems of shelf-stackers. Several hundred pages of surveillance have been passed on to Stern magazine, causing outrage among unions and data protection officials." (Times, 27 March) RD

Thursday, April 10, 2008

THIS IS PROGRESS?

Apologists for capitalism like to paint a picture of a system that is gradually improving the lot of the world's poor, but recent developments show that this is a fallacy. The development of the markets in China and India and the process of arable land being used to produce bio-fuels instead of less profitable foodstuff have led to chaos throughout the world. "Rising food prices could spread social unrest across Africa after triggering riots in Niger, Senegal, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, African ministers and senior agriculture diplomats have warned. Kanayo Nwanze, the vice-president of the United Nations’ International Fund for Agriculture, told a conference in Ethiopia that food riots could become a common feature, particularly after the price of rice has doubled in three months." (Financial Times, 4 April) RD

Capitalism's Waste


Waste & Resources Action Programme reports that a third of the food we buy, amounting to 6.7 million tonnes, gets discarded from UK households annually. Fruit and vegetables are a major component at around 40% of this. The top five fruit & vegetables which get binned without even being touched are apples (4.4 million or 179,000 tonnes pa), potatoes(5.1m or 177,000 tonnes pa), bananas (1.6m or 77,000 tonnes pa), tomatoes (2.8m or 46,000 tonnes pa) and oranges (1.2m or 45,000 tonnes). Producing, storing and getting the food to UK homes consumes much energy through transport, packaging etc. If we could stop the wastage of all this food, it would save the equivalent of at least 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would be equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads, according to WRAP.


The amount of discarded food-stuff is boosted by supermarket marketing promotions such as "two-for-one" deals with the result millions of Britons buy more than they need and then fail to eat much of what they bought before it goes off.


The study findings show essentially that much is discarded because it simply goes off, and storage conditions at home bear much blame. Simply storing most fresh fruit and vegetables inside the fridge keeps these foods stay fresh for up to 2 weeks longer.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

DOUBLE STANDARDS

"Too much public money is spent on prolonging the lives of the elderly when it could be diverted to helping young offenders, according to a senior Church of Scotland minister. The Reverend Maxwell Craig, who is now retired but retains the honorary position of Extra Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland made the comments yesterday in a newspaper column.(Times, 27 March)
We are fairly certain that the reverend gentleman is complaining about the expense of keeping old workers healthy and not the Royal Family whom he serves and who have a fairly good record of longevity. RD

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

British Inequality

According to this BBC report , after 30 years of unprecedented economic growth, the British are richer, healthier - but no happier than in 1973. The main reason for the rise in wealth has been the increase in house prices. But the growing wealth has not led to greater happiness.

In 1973, 86% of people said they were satisfied with their standard of living, while in 2006 85% were satisfied. And one in six UK adults reported that they suffered from a variety of mental health problems in the latest survey, of which the largest category was "mild anxiety and depression."

The amount of goods and services purchased by UK households has risen by two and half times in thirty years.

But that increase in spending was not evenly distributed among the whole population, with the income of those in the top 10% of the income distribution going up much faster than that of households of the bottom 10%. In 1979, the real disposable income of the top 10% was three times greater than the real income of those in the bottom 10%, but by 2006 that had grown to four times greater.

And social mobility also appears to have declined, according to studies cited in the report. Children born in 1958 to poor parents coming to adulthood in the 1970s, were more likely to have moved to a higher part of the income distribution than those born in 1970, who came of age in the new millennium.

And child poverty has remained stubbornly high, with 22% of children living in relative poverty in 2005/6, compared to 27% in 1990/91.

Monday, April 07, 2008

election address

What’s the alternative to the profit system?

That's the issue in this election, says THE SOCIALIST PARTY candidate in Lambeth and Southwark Danny Lambert.

On 1 May, you will have your occasional ration of democracy with the opportunity to vote for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly.

It's all very well having a vote but are you normally given any real choice? Let's face it, if it wasn't mentioned on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which?

It's tempting – in the absence of any real alternative – to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today. Whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Greens or the others, they all spout empty promises. And it all amounts to the same thing – vote, vote for us and we’ll do this, this or this for you. As if they could.

None of them offer any alternative to the present way of running society. That’s why they always fail to deliver. The profit system requires them to put profits before people, to put saving money above meeting people’s needs.

Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live?

And do politicians actually have much real power anyway?

Can they control world market and financial forces or do they have to adjust and trim their policies to fit in with these?

Reality Check
Do any of the political parties address any of the real issues:
 Why can money always been found to fight a war while hospitals, schools and local services are always strapped for cash?
 Why do some people get stressed working long hours while others get stressed from the boredom of unemployment?
 Why are there homeless people in the streets and empty houses with "for sale" signs?
 Why is there still child poverty even in Britain?
 Why is there no world agreement to limit carbon emissions when scientists say this must be done to avert the threat of global warming?
 Why is there world hunger in a world that can grow enough for all?

So what's the alternative?

This time, in this constituency, you have a real choice. We in THE SOCIALIST PARTY are standing to put forward an alternative to capitalism and the madness of the market – a society of common ownership and democratic control. We call it socialism.

But real socialism. Not the elite-run dictatorships that collapsed some years ago in Russia and East Europe. And not the various schemes for state control put forward by the old Labour Party. For us socialism means something better than that. We're talking about:
A world community without any frontiers where the Earth’s resources would be the common heritage of all.
 Wealth being produced to meet people's needs and not for sale on a market or for profit
 Everyone having access to what they require to satisfy their needs, without the rationing system that is money.
 A society where people freely contribute their skills and experience to produce what is needed, without the compulsion of a wage or salary.

If you agree If you don't like present-day society ... if you are fed up with the way you are forced to live ... if you think the root cause of most social problems is the profit system, then your ideas echo closely with ours.

We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if you join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves. Nobody can do it for you.

If you agree with what we say, you can show this by voting for THE SOCIALIST PARTY candidate, DANNY LAMBERT.And if you want to know more about us, call in at our election office at 52 Clapham High Street, SW4 or return the reply coupon on the last page (no stamp required). You can also.phone or email us or visit our website at www.worldsocialism.org/spgb.

AMERICAN ILLUSIONS

During the primary elections in the US much has been made of Hilary Clinton's care for the under-privileged against the super-rich, but what is the reality? "Democrat Hilary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have made $109 million since leaving the White House, including $51 million in speech income for Bill Clinton, according to eight years of tax records released on Friday." (Yahoo News, 4 April)
We don't take sides in this political "beauty contest". but we can recognise that all of the candidates are hypocritical self-serving people who wish to administrate the awful system of capitalism. We hate their system and we detest every one of them who try to con us. RD

Sunday, April 06, 2008

CAPITALISM KILLS KIDS

"Every 17 seconds, a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases. In around the time it takes you to read this paragraph, someone, somewhere, will die. Everyday, people in the world's poorest countries face the dilemma of having to trust their health and that of their children to the consequences of drinking water that could kill them. It's a gamble that often carries a high price - seeing a child needlessly dying is simply heartbreaking. Having access to safe, clean water and adequate sanitation are the most basic of human needs. It's something we can often take for granted. For those living in impoverished areas of the developing world the lack of access to water can be a traumatic, life or death experience they have to face every day." (Water Aid leaflet, April) RD

Child soldiers

Plans for pupils in comprehensive schools to sign up for military drills and weapons training are being backed by Gordon Brown in an attempt to improve the relationship between the public and the armed forces. A major review of the military's role in British society says that encouraging more state secondary school pupils to join the cadet corps would improve discipline among teenagers while helping to improve the public perception of the army, navy and air force.

The government-commissioned review of civil and military relations, led by Quentin Davies wants secondary school pupils to receive basic military training as a means of developing greater affiliation with the armed forces. Davies, who was a Tory MP before defecting to Labour last year, said his proposals to expand the cadet structure throughout the comprehensive system were firmly backed by the Prime Minister, the Children's Secretary Ed Balls and defence ministers. Under the new government proposals, state schools who do not set up a cadet system will encourage pupils to attend a community cadet force instead. One of the core elements of the cadets' training is mastering shooting skills and military drill.

An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children are serving as soldiers in current armed conflicts. These young combatants participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK-47s and M-16s on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions, carry supplies, and act as spies, messengers or lookouts. In 2000, the United Nations adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The protocol prohibits the forced recruitment of children under the age of 18 or their use in hostilities. To date, it has been ratified by more than 110 countries.
The ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor prohibits the forced or compulsory recruitment of children under the age of 18 for use in armed conflict. It has been ratified by over 150 countries.

Kiddie cannon fodder by the back door is now what New Labour have lowered themselves to .

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Democracy or Feudalism

Lib Dem deputy leader , Vince Cable "It was reported this week that Her Majesty the Queen had cancelled her diamond wedding celebrations because it was judged to be inappropriate to engage in extravagance at a time of economic gloom and recession. Do you share my view that this demonstrates Her Majesty's unerring instincts for the public mood, or does the Government think she was overreacting?"

Michael Martin, The Speaker of the House of Commons "Order! You shouldn't discuss Her Majesty the Queen. The honourable member must not discuss her majesty the Queen in the house. "

According to Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary practice, "the irregular use of the Queen's name to influence a decision of the House is unconstitutional in principle and inconsistent with the independence of Parliament". It adds: "Any attempt to use her name in debate to influence the judgement of Parliament is immediately checked and censured." It says MPs have been reprimanded "or even sent to the Tower" for treasonable or seditious language "or disrespectful use of Her Majesty's name".

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said Parliament "is fast becoming a museum piece - a 19th-century home for our 21st-century political elite".

CAPITALISM HATES WOMEN

"Most women prisoners have mental health problems, and nine of out 10 were convicted of non-violent offences. Now a new study shows an alarming rise in suicides and self-harm - and behind the statistics lie ruined lives and shattered relatives." (Observer, 30 March) RD

WORDS OF WISDOM

Donald Sutherland, film actor, on religious belief. "Did you know that 54 per cent of all Americans believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago? That's 1,000 years after the Sumerians invented glue." (Observer, 30 March) RD

THE REALITY OF POVERTY

Many words can be said about the awfulness of capitalism and the poverty it breeds, but here is an ill-educated women telling it like it is "Estella Lemus, 27, cries as she describes the hunger, danger and injuries of her illegal border crossing and says she won't do it again. The seamstress, who earns up to $5 a day in her poor neighborhood north of San Salvador, worries about how she'll repay the $3,000 her family borrowed for her trip." (USA Today, 23 March) It is only one story but there are thousands. Capitalism sucks.RD

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

CLASS IN PAKISTAN

When socialists proclaim that we live in a class dominated society we are rebuked for not taking into account the dreadful poverty of some parts of Asia, but as recent reports indicate capitalism dominates Asia just as much as it does in Europe.
"Gold-trimmed SUVs idle outside parliament. Among new female lawmakers, black Muslim veils are out and Gucci bags are in. Civilian rule has returned to Pakistan, and its politicians have come back with bling. Last month's elections ushered into parliament a new crop of business leaders and wealthy elites opposed to U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf's one-man rule. ...Parliament's parking lot was crowded Wednesday with new Mercedes and Toyota sports utility vehicles festooned with flashy tire rims and hood ornaments. ...Economic hardships persist for most Pakistanis. Millions live in poverty despite the recent growth. The country has yet to fully overcome a severe shortage of wheat flour — a staple here — and fuel prices have spiked sharply in recent weeks." (Yahoo News, 19 March) RD

yet another reform failure

The gender pay gap is still growing despite more than 30 years of equal pay and sex discrimination legislation, a Scottish Government report has found.

Men in full-time employment are now paid 15% more than their female equivalents and 34% more than women in part-time work according to the annual report into the Gender Equality Scheme.The report also found wide variations between the gender pay gap in different sectors. The gap ranges from 2% in sales and customer service occupations to as high as 28.1% for managers and senior officials.

Chris Benson, a solicitor who works with the UK-wide Support Equal Pay campaign group, said of the findings: "It is really disappointing that, despite government efforts, the pay gap is still growing..."

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