Thursday, July 31, 2008

Investors first and foremost

On Wednesday, British Gas raised gas bills by 35% with immediate effect, to restore "reasonable profitability".
Profits were £992m in the first six months of 2008 , £5m-per-day profits .
"This is a business that has got a million shareholders - a lot of pension funds and people have got their savings invested in British Gas shares and we have to look after them". Centrica's chief executive said.

One-in-three pensioners are likely to be in fuel poverty this winter Age Concern's head of public affairs said.


1974 Vintage
"Hand crafted in 1974 this noble spirit of rare breeding has been cosseted and nurtured during its long maturation in the beachside warehouses. Undaunted, warmed and comforted by the finest sherry wood, the result is a spectrum of delight with flavours of chewy caramel, crushed hazelnuts, chocolate and warm hints of liquorice, cinnamon and orange peel.
At last this great masterpiece has been awakened for you to enjoy. Sip and savour the very heart of Jura and feel every beat of Island life…

Vintage 1974 / 648 bottles produced / 70cl / 44.5% ABV / £500.00" RD


"Washington - More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says. According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as men who are not veterans. ...The VA (Veterans Affairs) estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year." (Yahoo News, 28 July)RD


"A Nigerian migrant's account of how his two children were thrown overboard after dying of thirst on their voyage to Italy has added fuel to a debate on whether illegal immigration is out of control. The father and 74 other migrants were rescued on Saturday after setting sail from Libya a week ago. They were picked up by the Italian coastguard a day after the government declared a state of emergency for illegal immigration. "The night we left Libya, the youngest one ... died in my arms and we were forced to throw him in the sea," the 30-year- old Nigerian said in comments carried in newspapers on Sunday, though an Ansa news agency report later said police had noted contradictions over some details of his story. A day later, his three-year-old daughter also died, he said. "She wanted water and something to eat. She suffered a lot, resisted a bit longer but didn't make it in the end," he said. Thousands of illegal African migrants arrive in Italy in flimsy boats each summer." (Yahoo News, 27 July) RD

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


"Francis McConnell is a field supervisor for the Philadelphia Water Department, but lately he is acting more like an undercover police officer. Several hours a day, five days a week, he stakes out junkyards. Pretending to read a newspaper, Mr. McConnell sits near the entrances and writes down descriptions of passing pickup trucks and shirtless men pushing shopping carts. His mission is to figure out who is stealing the city’s manhole covers and its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past year, up from an annual average of about 100. Thieves have so thoroughly stripped some neighbourhoods on the city’s north and southwest sides that some blocks look like slalom courses, dotted with orange cones to warn drivers and pedestrians of gaping holes, some nearly 30 feet deep." (New York Times, 23 July) RD


"A Ugandan official has suggested to MPs that funerals should be limited to Saturday afternoons to stop people taking time off work to attend them. Speciosa Kazibwe, a former vice-president who now heads a state development agency, noted that Uganda's death rate was very high. (BBC News, 25 July)
Socialists used to say that the capitalist's idea of the perfect worker was one who left school at 15, worked 50 weeks a year for 50 years and dropped down dead the first day he went to collect his pension at the post office. We will have to amend this ideal blueprint in view of the Ugandan official's view. Ideally he would die on the Thursday so that his family could attend his Saturday funeral without missing out on a day producing surplus value for the owning class. RD


Northern Rock unveils job losses
Northern Rock has announced that it expects to make about 1,300 staff redundant as part of its plan to restructure the troubled bank.
It hopes to limit the number of compulsory redundancies to 800, while 500 staff will leave voluntarily.
Northern Rock was effectively nationalised at the beginning of this year after it was hit by a shortage of funds as a result of the credit crunch.


Comfort eating helps fuel Cadbury's profits

People treating themselves to chocolate and sweets as the economy worsens has helped fuel a 28pc jump in profits at Cadbury, according to its chief executive.
The London-based confectionery company, who makes Dairy Milk chocolate and Trident gum, reported pre-tax profits for the first half of £143m on revenues up 14pc to £2,653m.
However, the results were boosted by strong currencies, which increased the total profits growth from 12pc to 28pc. Cadbury's shares rose 1pc to 631.5p, as the company said it was on target to meet analysts' forecasts for full-year sales growth.
"No matter how bleak things look, people will always go for those small, affordable treats," Mr Stitzer said. "We see confectionery as a particularly robust category."


"A woman accidentally stabbed herself in the foot with a 3-foot-long sword while performing a Wiccan good luck ritual at a central Indiana cemetery. Katherine Gunther, 36, of Lebanon, pierced her left foot with the sword while performing the rite at Oak Hill Cemetery, police said. Gunther said she was performing the ceremony to give thanks for a recent run of good luck. The ceremony involves the use of candles, incense and driving swords into the ground during the full moon. Gunther said she was aiming to put the sword in the ground, but hit her foot instead." (Yahoo News, 22 July) RD


"Cleaners, waiters and other low-paid workers from some of London's poshest hotels will launch a campaign for a `living wage` and better working conditions tomorrow. A coalition of trades unionists, students, faith healers and locals will join workers at a rally outside the Hyatt Andaz hotel in Liverpool Street tomorrow. Rooms at the hotel cost up to £640 a night - but many of its staff are struggling to scrape by on the national minimum wage of £5.52 per hour."
(Observer, 27 July) RD


"Gavis Snook is the billion-pound Rok construction boss who believes that home ownership is a `con` perpetrated by financial institutions, which are the only winners in Britain's property-owning democracy. ...And if that's not enough, the son of a scaffolder is not afraid to say on the record that the reason fatalities among construction workers are stubbornly high is because of the casualised work-force encouraged by the industry's biggest players. ... This year there were 72 deaths, compared with 60 two years ago. `Part of the reason why this industry killed more people is that it can't cope with the demand, so corners are cut`, Snook reckons."
(Observer, 27 July) RD

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Picking Sides for Another Go?

World trade talks

reportedly fail

Marathon talks in Geneva aimed at liberalising global trade are reported to have ended without agreement.

The trade talks collapsed after China,

India and the US failed to agree on import rules.

This politely called "Failure to Agree",is indicative

of the aggressive, competitive nature, of the

capitalist system .When talks turn to trade war

and ultimately real war.


"Childhood is the happiest, most carefree of times. That is, unless your country has been torn apart by war. The United Nations estimates that children in 50 countries are currently growing up in the midst of war or its ugly aftermath. In the past decades, 2 million children have been killed and 6 million injured in war-torn places. And 23 million children have been forced from their homes." (Yahoo News, 18 July) RD


UCATT reacted angrily to a speech by Business Secretary John Hutton in which he ruled out further employment rights legislation. The Government minister said new rights would undermine "Labour market flexibility" and the Government should only set "minimum standards" in the workplace.
UCATT General Secretary Alan Richie said: "It is exactly this kind of subservience to business which is causing Labour to haemorrage grassroots support"


Funeral collection for 20 year old scaffolder
£508 was raised in a bucket for the family of a young building worker killed at work who have been left to pay the funeral bill because he was supposedly "self-employed".
Apprentice scaffolder Sunny Holland, aged 20 died on 25 April, the day after he lost his footing and fell 20 feet while working on a site just a few hundred yards from the Houses of Parliament in London.
General Secretary Alan Richie (at the UCATT Delegates Conference)appealed to delegates to make donations. Holland, he explained, had disgracefully been classified as "self-employed" even though he was an apprentice, so he was not covered by funeral insurance.
The family, from St Mary Cray, Kent, could not afford a proper funeral without help, Richie explained.
It was another shocking case of bogus self-employment and the industry's callous neglect of its workers.

Monday, July 28, 2008


The pay packets of Britain's top company bosses has doubled in the past five years. When pensions, share options and other benefits are included, the cheif executives of Britain's top construction firms earn more on average in one week what many craft workers take home in a whole year.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The crazy logic of capitalist economics

The Sunday Times has found that home-grown products are being transported thousands of miles overseas for processing before being put on sale back in Britain. Socialist Courier reported this market madness back here .

Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain.

Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.

“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”

Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to the River Clyde in Scotland and breaded for sale in Britain.

The company said it was forced to make the move by commercial pressures. “This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don’t stack up any other way,” said Andrew Stapley, a director. “We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it’s cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive.”

Haddock is one of the fish most commonly caught by British trawlers, but Tesco sends its Atlantic haddock for processing to Poland where labour costs are lower. It is then driven more than 850 miles to Tesco’s depot in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Traidcraft coffee, sold at Sainsbury’s, is made from beans grown in Bukoba, Tanzania.

Once the coffee is cultivated, it is driven 656 miles to Dar-es-Salaam and then shipped 3,250 miles to Vijayawada in India where it is packed. The coffee is loaded back on the ships and transported another 5,000 miles to Southampton. It is then driven 330 miles to Gateshead and is finally driven to Leeds for distribution to Sainsbury’s stores.

Sainsbury’s organic fair trade rice, produced in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, is shipped to Lille, France, rather than Britain, to be packed. It then makes a second journey to end up on Sainsbury’s shelves.It is not just fair trade coffee that is sent from country to country. Instead of directly importing coffee beans from Costa Rica for their instant coffee, Sainsbury’s and Tesco first send them to Germany. The final product then undergoes another 500-mile lorry journey to get to Britain.Similarly, French-grown walnuts sold in Waitrose are sent to Naples to be packed. The retailer’s Brazil nuts from South America are also transported to Italy before being sent to Britain.

The industrialisation of the food chain means even small firms are being forced to ship their produce abroad for processing. Pilchard fillets, produced by the Pilchard Works in Cornwall, are sent on the overnight ferry to France because there is no suitable processing plant in England. The pilchards are canned in Douarnenez in Brittany, then returned to Cornwall. Similarly, Welsh cockles – produced by Van Smirren Seafoods – are driven across Britain to Dover and then transported to Yerseke in Holland. They are pickled and put in jars before being sent back to Britain.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MEP, said: “Ultimately, the price is paid by all of us in the shape of higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, and food that is both less tasty and less healthy.”

Friday, July 25, 2008


"I'd like people to be more aware of the use of fossil fuels. Hopefully [Barack] Obama will bring in some change, but really he is just a puppet. Any person that runs as president is a servant of the big corporations." Says Chaka Khan, singer. (Independent, 12 July) RD


"Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb." (New York Times, 18 July) RD


"We've come across a company who was actually using the swipe card system for staff to access the toilets, and then deducting the time spent from their wages," says Ian Tasker of the TUC, "We would argue that it is not so much the right of staff to take breaks, but the rights of any worker not only to a reasonable amount of privacy, but a reasonable amount of dignity at work." (Times, 23 July) RD

ethical exploitation

The "ethical" fish restaurant group, Loch Fyne, pays staff salaries below the minimum wage . Loch Fyne champions marine conservation, and proclaims a corporate philosophy of "an enterprise with respect for animals, people and ecology." according to the BBC
It relies on customer tips to boost total pay to a lawful level . Staff at Loch Fyne Restaurants say they are on a salary of £5.05 an hour, compared with the legal minimum wage of £5.52. The Unite union called the company's behaviour "appalling", and said all restaurant staff should be on a minimum wage salary, as well as getting a fair share of tips. Restaurants are legally allowed to include tips in the calculation of employees earnings, but the practice has been criticised as unethical.
The BBC also revealed that salaries at the Hard Rock Cafe in London were less than half the minimum wage, with waiters on £2.06 an hour

who owns the North Pole - part 11

The Socialist Copurier has been following the scramble for the Arctic and its resources for a while now.
The lasted development has been the research by the US Geological Survey revealing that the Arctic is estimated to hold 90 billion barrels of untapped oil and has three times as much untapped natural gas as oil.
The figures from the USGS are said to be the first estimate of the energy available north of the Arctic circle. According to the survey, the Arctic holds about 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, 30% of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20% of the undiscovered natural gas liquids. Exploration companies believe the recent rapid ice melt in the Arctic may make it easier to get reserves out of the region.
Hence the importance placed on the competition for territorial rights and sovereignty in the Arctic region .

Thursday, July 24, 2008


“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”
Karl Marx


Hundreds of religious leaders marched through London to demand action on global poverty, in an event hailed by Gordon Brown as one of the greatest public demonstrations of faith the city had ever seen.
Mr Brown was presented with a letter by the archbishop which echoed his fears that the goals to tackle poverty would not be met.
Dr Williams wrote: "Because our faith challenges us to eradicate poverty, and not merely to reduce it, we should all be more alarmed that with the halfway mark to 2015 passed, it is clear that most of these achievable targets will not be met. The cause is not a lack of resources but a lack of global political will." (Telegraph 24th July.)
Capitalism creates poverty, Socialism will eradicate poverty.


Lots of people live in flats or towers, so connecting up to wind turbines is out of the question in spite of the cost, (an obvious disadvantage for most people) it is possible.
Diana Hofman is a woman with the money but so far unable to erect a turbine because
The city does not have a law allowing turbine construction.
The BBC programme “Burn Up” about the Oil Moguls, was excited about the market opportunities available now that the price of oil is making wind power a profitable possibility. This gives them the chance of appearing to care, but, as workers the only way we can get electricity remains as always, no money, no electricity.
The turbine can generate a minimum of 400 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, enough to run Hofman's entire home, she said. Hofman spends about $200 a month on electricity.
After a $4,500 rebate, Hofman will spend about $8,000 on the turbine. She said a number of neighbours and residents have called her to ask about installing their own turbines.


“Atheism is a non-prophet organisation”
George Carlin


It is not yours, it is God's, and you are not going to get it.” said Kenneth Copeland, the television evangelist, when asked to submit his ministry's private financial records to Washington. Mr Copeland is one of at least six American “televangelists” facing the scrutiny of a senate investigation for alleged financial wrongdoing." (Times 7 July)
As Mr Copeland has acquired a mansion reputed to be "as big as an hotel", an aeroplane and even an airport; we imagine that his so-called all powerful god will have to submit to the scrutiny of the US taxman. RD


"As we face $4.50 a gallon gas, we also know that alternative energy sources — coal, oil shale, ethanol, wind and ground-based solar — are either of limited potential, very expensive, require huge energy storage systems or harm the environment. There is, however, one potential future energy source that is environmentally friendly, has essentially unlimited potential and can be cost competitive with any renewable source: space solar power. Science fiction? Actually, no — the technology already exists. A space solar power system would involve building large solar energy collectors in orbit around the Earth. These panels would collect far more energy than land-based units, which are hampered by weather, low angles of the sun in northern climes and, of course, the darkness of night. Once collected, the solar energy would be safely beamed to Earth via wireless radio transmission, where it would be received by antennas near cities and other places where large amounts of power are used. The received energy would then be converted to electric power for distribution over the existing grid." (New York Times, 23 July) RD

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


“We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in.
Some of us just go one god further”
Richard Dawkins


Democratic Unionist MP Iris Robinson, wife of First Minister Peter Robinson, criticised pro-choice campaigners who have demanded a relaxation of the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.
“I think it was a mistake,” Mr McGuinness said of the remarks. “In the society that we live in now with many newcomers to our shores, and in many democracies throughout the world, we have a situation where many people within society believe in different things and believe in different gods.
So what god are we talking about?“Is it the Free Presbyterian god, is it the Church of Ireland god, is it the god that Catholics adhere to, is it the Mormon god, is it the Jehovah’s, the Islamic?”

Monday, July 21, 2008


"Lockheed Martin Corp's F-22 "Raptor" fighter jet, widely considered the world's most advanced, streaked through a milestone performance on Monday for a warplane that money cannot buy. ... Unlike most fighter aircraft, no weapons are carried externally on the Raptor, to make it harder to detect on radar screens. ...Japan, Israel and Australia have shown interest in buying the F-22 if the U.S. Congress were to change a law that makes it unavailable for export because it is deemed too good at what it does. The ban was enacted 10 years ago, partly to prevent the spread of U.S. technological know-how and partly to avoid regional arms races....U.S. Air Force officials have said they need 381 Raptors to meet their requirements. But the Pentagon's fiscal 2009 budget request, unveiled February 4, made no provision for any beyond 183 jets already approved. ....F-22s go for $142 million apiece not including development costs, according to the Air Force."
(Yahoo News, 14 July) RD

The Socialist Party Summer School

awaiting the rest of the visitors to arrive

The Socialist Party Summer School

Gwynn and Mike preparing for the meeting

Report on the Socialist Party Summer School

The first thing I must say is credit for the organising of the summer schools at Fircroft College over the years was rightly accredited to the recently deceased comrade Ron Cook of Birmingham branch, however, he has left the branch members determined to keep their efforts to his high standards, so I can say the social activities were pleasant and relaxing.

Sandy Easton opened up on Friday evening with “The Real Meaning of Religion”. Does religion represent some sinister plot by the ruling class to keep us down, or does it express an earnest attempt by men and women to answer serious and meaningful questions? Will religion uniquely continue to answer a fundamental human need, or is it high time we transcended this psychological baggage of or past? Was all this missing the point anyway, and what is the real meaning of religion?

Mike Foster on the Saturday morning introduced “End Times Beliefs”. Perhaps the most extraordinary book in the Bible is its final one –­ The Revelation of St. John the Devine. Here, we are given vivid prophecies about the end of life as we know it. And it’s not pleasant. While downplayed by most mainstream Christians in Britain, the events predicted in Revelation have been central to the belief systems of many smaller religious movements. However, this does not mean that End Times beliefs only exist on the fringes of Christianity. The scenario described in Revelation has seeped into our consciousness in many unexpectedly way. And while they may tell us nothing of the future, End Times beliefs tell us plenty about peoples hopes and fears.

Howard Moss, on Saturday afternoon discussed the question of “Is Socialism a Faith?” Is Socialism a replacement religion in the sense that it’s a belief in some kind of absolute? Why is it that people of a religious disposition are not infrequently attracted to socialist ideas, at least until they are told the two are incompatible? Does socialism have a ‘spiritual’ dimension, and will it be able to satisfy spiritual needs?

Gwynn Thomas introduced Saturday’s evening study “Islam, Politics and Revolution”. One in five of the world’s population claim adherence to Islam. What they claim this entails and what this might mean for non-believers. Some politicians and commentators have identified Islamism as one of the most serious challenges facing the world. They point to the threatened and actual use of deadly violence by some Muslim groups. How real is this threat? What motivates the protagonists? Is their dispute with the rest of world theological? Or is it political? A distinction was drawn between Islam as a religion and Islam as an ideology.

The concluding session on Sunday morning introduced by Adam Buick “Evolution and the God Hypothesis” considered the questions, did God create plants on the third day, fishes and birds on the fifth, and land animals and humans on the sixth- more or less in their present forms? Or did all existing (and extinct) life forms evolve through the process of natural selection? The mainstream Christian churches, even including the Catholics, have long accepted evolution through natural selection (for them, God only has the minor role of introducing a ‘soul’ into one species). It is only amongst fundamentalist sects that ‘creation’ survives. In America, to get round the constitutional separation between religion and state, the fundamentalists have invented a pseudo- science they call ‘intelligent design’. But it is only a pseudo-science.

I think we can agree the subject was well explored.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Working for less

The average family is £9 a week worse off than a year ago as steep rises in the cost of living wipe out pay increases, according to Sky News .

Despite average earnings rising by £22 a week during the past 12 months, the typical family had 6.5% less disposable income in June after meeting all their essential outgoings than they had a year earlier.Households had a monthly income of around £538 per week after paying tax during the month, 3.2% more than they had coming in during June last year.But the rise in pay was more than wiped out by a 6.8% jump in the cost of essential goods, such as food, clothes, utility bills, housing and transport, with households spending around £407 on these items a week.

As a result, people had just £131 of disposable income left after meeting all their bills, £9 less than in June 2007.

The research found that the rise in spending on essentials was driven by a 9.5% jump in food prices, while transport costs have soared by 7.3% during the past year.The typical family now also spends around 7% more on utility bills than they did in June last year.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing poverty

The number of people living in poverty in the world's 50 least developed countries is rising despite their economies growing at the fastest pace in 30 years, a UN report said

In its annual Least Developed Countries Report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said that overall growth rates of 7% in the countries between 2005 and 2006 should have provided an opportunity for "substantial improvements" in living conditions. But three-quarters of their people continue to survive on less than $2 (£1) a day and 277 million people live on less than $1 a day, compared with 265 million in 2000 and 245 million in 1995.

Low progress in reducing poverty means the countries will not be able to achieve the first of the UN millennium development goals, halving the proportion of those living on less than $1 a day between 1990 and 2015. To achieve this, they would need to cut their absolute poverty rate to 20% by 2015. Unctad said that if current trends continued, they would only achieve 33% of the target by that date.

Unctad believes the global food crisis will worsen the situation. Sharp rises in international food prices in 2007 and early 2008 have led to domestic food costs soaring. In some countries the prices of staples such as maize, wheat and rice have doubled in the past 18 months.Two-thirds of the countries import more food than they export.

Capitalism fails to deliver , just as socialists predicted .

Thursday, July 17, 2008

health and wealth

We here at Socialist Courier have frequently posted stories that reveal the class link concerning health -- the wealthier you are , the better health you possess and the longer you live . Another report once again confirms this view .

The importance of money was illustrated by an ethnic breakdown of outcomes in the US. White Americans, who are on the whole wealthier and therefore more able to afford the insurance which underpins the US system, were up to 14% more likely than others to survive cancer.

Meanwhile the report states that the UK had 69.7% survival for breast cancer, just above 40% for colon and rectal cancer for both men and women and 51.1% for prostate cancer.

And "...there were also large regional variations within the UK, which were linked to differences in access to care and ability of patients to navigate the local health services. Both are directly linked to deprivation..."


Now and then a wonderful product comes along that the owning class just love. This may be one of them. "The maker of a new product that combines a treadmill and computer workstation is banking on the notion that companies will invest in products like the "Walkstation" as a way of keeping health care costs down and improving overall fitness levels. The device allows people to work on their computers while walking on a treadmill at a slow speed of up to three kilometers (two miles) per hour, enabling small amounts of movement that supporters say has the potential to reap big health benefits." (Yahoo News, 13 July)
Now all we need is a "Feedstation" that shovels food into your mouth while you work. Oh, Charlie Chaplin already envisaged that in Modern Times didn't he? RD


"European and US defence companies will this week kick off talks on a joint code of ethics to cover arms sales. Representatives from the industry’s leading trade bodies will meet at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK on Tuesday. European companies have recently developed an anti-corruption code in a bid to improve the industry’s reputation, which has suffered in the wake of allegations of bribery and corruption in connection with some of its biggest players." (Financial Times, 13 July)
As these guardians of morality meet to discuss whether it is more ethical to kill a child with poisonous gas, napalm bombs or good old fashioned high explosives we ask ourselves what do sellers of death know of ethics. They are money grubbing killers. RD


"Doing business in China is beginning to cost real money. Not that Chinese workers are buying second homes or anything like that: Their average wage is still a little short of a dollar an hour. But so many Chinese have now left their villages for the factories that the once bottomless pool of new young workers is beginning to run dry, and the wages of assembly-line employees are rising 10 percent a year." (Yahoo News, 15 July)
We should echo the sentiments of an old song, probably banned in China now. They occur in The Red Flag - "Arise like starvelings from your slumber" Lets hope so! RD

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


"Stampedes during a recruitment drive by the Nigerian immigration service killed at least 30 job seekers and injured scores more as unemployed youths rushed at locked gates, officials said yesterday. Recruitment by state agencies attracts thousands of university and college graduates in Nigeria, many of whom have been unemployed for years and see a government job as the only sure way to guarantee their future." (Times, 15 July) RD

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Food for Thought 2

The Canadian auto union recently agreed to a 3-year contract with no increases in return for keeping the Oshawa, Ontario, truck plant running. Two weeks later, plunging sales brought news that the plant would close anyway. The protest and picket line that ensued was quickly dismantled by court order. Profitability overrules workers’ livelihoods, as usual. The madness is that reality has finally caught up to the gas guzzling SUVs that North American car manufacturers have been producing for years and on which they have been making huge profits. For example, the original Hummer weighed in at 10 300 lbs. and got 11 mpg, while the Ford Excursion weighs 9 200 lbs. and gets 10 mpg. Any excursion in that monster would have to be very short these days! Our neo-con government is continually driving home the point that we need to continue the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, keep increasing military spending, that we are making real progress, and that the 85 Canadian deaths so far are worth it. Last week, the Taliban broke into a prison in the heart of Canadian-held territory and freed over 1 000 prisoners. Some progress for 85 lives and 1 in 7 soldiers returning with mental health problems! - The recent hike in gas and staple food prices is hitting the poor hard. In Ontario, food bank numbers have increased 15% and 45 000 are expected to lose jobs in the coming year. So much for making poverty history! - A new paper in the journal Science by Samuel Bowles, director of Behavioural sciences at Santa Fe Institute, Texas, says that altruism is as much, or more, a factor in motivating people to do their best. Merely putting a price on a desired action can make it less spontaneous and attractive, e.g. fines at an Israeli day care centre for late pick-ups of their children resulted in increased tardiness as parents saw it as something they could purchase, and another study showed that women donated less blood when they were paid for it. Even in capitalism! - Let’s give the last word to George Carlin – “In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.” And “ By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.” And “Capitalism tries for a delicate balance. It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and taking other people’s stuff.” And (on Sports) “If it requires a uniform it’s a worthless endeavour.”
John Ayers

Food For Thought

In whose interests the government works –
1. The US Supreme Court Recently struck down a Washington, D.C. ban on handguns despite the fact that 30 000 Americans are shot to death each year including over 3 000 children. Any thoughts on the involvement of the gun industry in this decision?
2. The Supreme Court gives the go-ahead to proceed at full speed with the construction of the US/Mexico security fence despite the harmful affects on the environment and the animals. Free movement for capital, but not for workers.
3. The new IBM supercomputer is the first to operate at “petaflop” speed – one thousand trillion calculations per second. This great advance will be used by the US department of energy to…keep track of the country’s nuclear stockpile!
4. In Canada, new iPod rules for downloading and sharing songs etc. will bring fines of up to $20 000. An attempt to prevent free access that is guaranteed to fail.
John Ayers

Monday, July 14, 2008


From old Frank Sinatra songs to Hollywood movies about Rio beaches, with beautiful young men and women the image is projected about the wonders of Brazil. The reality is less gorgeous. "A study by the government's Institute for Applied Economic Research showed that the richest 10 percent of Brazilians hold 75.4 percent of the wealth. Thanks to a regressive tax system, they only lose 22.7 percent of their incomes to tax, compared with 32.8 percent for the poorest 10 percent of Brazilians. In Rio, only a handful of slums out of more than 600 in the city are in line for improvements under the federal program, leaving many feeling left out." (Yahoo News, 8 July) RD


"A Japanese labour bureau has ruled that one of Toyota's top car engineers died from working too many hours, the latest in a string of such findings in a nation where extraordinarily long hours for some employees has long been the norm. The man who died was aged 45 and had been under severe pressure as the lead engineer in developing a hybrid version of Toyota's blockbuster Camry line, said Mikio Mizuno, the lawyer representing his wife. The man's identity is being withheld at the request of his family, who continue to live in Toyota City where the company is based. In the two months up to his death, the man averaged more than 80 hours of overtime per month, according to Mizuno. He regularly worked nights and weekends, was frequently sent abroad and was grappling with shipping a model for the pivotal North American International Auto Show in Detroit when he died of ischemic heart disease in January 2006." (Yahoo News, 9 July) RD

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Capitalism causes the death of many people every day, another example, result of removing cleaners from direct employment (to save money, not lives evidently) by the Health Service in the name of more efficiency is this article in today’s Sunday Mail.
Eighteen people have died from the C.difficile bug at overcrowded Vale of Leven Hospital in six months. The shameful conditions included:
Wards with no working wash basins.
Dirty linen stored next to clean linen.
Filthy toilets and commodes soiled with excrement.
Corridors flooded because of faulty showers.
Holes in flooring and walls.
"The staff try their hardest but the place clearly needs a lot of money spent on it to bring it up to a decent standard."
Michelle Stewart, whose mother-in-law Sarah McGinty died at the hospital in February, said: "We all feel very angry because this was left to go on so long. The response was totally unprofessional and the fact is it risked lives and cost lives.
"People died in Vale of Leven who could have been saved”.
Save money or get rid of the money system?, I know what socialists would rather you do.

Labour's success??

Something to remember at the coming by-election in Glasgow East constituency as reported here and here
Male life expectancy is 63, which is 14 years below the UK average. Life expectancy is lower than for Palestinian males living in the Gaza Strip according to Channel 4.
Unemployment runs at 25 per cent and about 40 per cent of the constituents live on benefits. About 40 per cent of the children live in workless households.
The teenage pregnancy rate is 40 per cent above the national average.
The east end of Glasgow had Scotland's highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions. An average of 860 people per 100,000 were admitted between 2004 and 2006 in Scotland. But in the east end of Glasgow that rose to 1,505.
In 2002, a United Nations rating system taking account of life expectancy, unemployment, incomes and rates of illiteracy put the Shettleston area as the most deprived in Britain. Nearby Baillieston, also in Glasgow East, was placed seventh.

Nor will changing the MP have any real lasting effect on this poverty regardless of the promises made by the parliamentary contestants .

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Upstairs Downstairs

"Thirty countries have already seen food riots this year. The ever higher cost of food could push tens of millions of people into abject poverty and starvation. To a large degree, this crisis is man-made — the result of misguided energy and farm policies. When President Bush and other heads of state of the Group of 8 leading industrial nations meet in Japan this week, they must accept their full share of responsibility and lay out clearly what they will do to address this crisis. To start, they must live up to their 2005 commitment to vastly increase aid to the poorest countries. And they must push other wealthy countries, like those in the Middle East, to help too. That will not be enough. They must also commit to reduce, or even better, do away with their most egregious agricultural and energy subsidies which contribute to the spread of hunger throughout the world."
(New York Times editorial, 6 July) RD


"A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has hit out at what he terms the "moral corruption" of the medical industry. Britain's Sir John Sulston says that profits are taking precedence over the needs of patients, particularly in the developing world. He was speaking at the launch of a new research institute into science, ethics and innovation. Sir John shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for medicine for his work on the genetics controlling cell division. ...He says there is now great concern among researchers about private companies patenting genes and genetic tests. He is also concerned about the misuse of information, and what he terms "disease mongering". ...Sir John believes that our current systems place the needs of shareholders ahead of the needs of patients." (BBC News, 4 July) RD


"As Britain's rich see their wealth grow are we risking a dislocation in society that would surprise our Tudor forefathers, asks historian Lisa Jardine. The extremely rich are getting even richer. So we are told in the World Wealth Report, widely discussed in the newspapers over the past few weeks. The number of super-rich increased by almost 9% last year. Last Monday it was announced that the annual income of the Prince of Wales had risen by £1m, an increase of 7%, very much in line with the general trend." (BBC News, 4 July) RD

Friday, July 11, 2008


We are constantly amazed at the current ignorance about how capitalism operates. Chancellors that claim they can get rid of slumps and booms, prime ministers who believe that a series of reforms will solve social problems, but this piece of nonsense takes a bit of beating. "Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Mortgage lenders have made billions from first time home buyers and Shelter believes it's now the turn of those lenders to help them." (Metro, 10 July) What Mr Sampson does not seem to realise is that capitalists makes their fortunes from rent, interest and profit not from some benign urge to "help" borrowers! Perhaps its "now the turn" of Mr Sampson to learn a litle bit about the basics of capitalist society. RD


"The American colonel, troubled by what he was hearing, tried to stall at first. But the declassified record shows he finally told his South Korean counterpart it "would be permitted" to machine-gun 3,500 political prisoners, to keep them from joining approaching enemy forces. In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950. Extensive archival research by The Associated Press has found no indication Far East commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur took action to stem the summary mass killing, knowledge of which reached top levels of the Pentagon and State Department in Washington, where it was classified "secret" and filed away." (Yahoo News, 6 July) RD


"As the credit crisis lightens middle-class wallets, the super-rich are continuing to buy the finest art, antiques and wine, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Bordeaux Index, the wine merchants, says that Russian, Latin American and Asian buyers are helping to prop up the high-end art and antique market. Roman Abramovich, the Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, is believed to have spent £17.2 million on Lucian Freud's painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping - a record price for a living artist."
(Times, 8 July) RD

Thursday, July 10, 2008


"One evening not too long ago, India's top fashion designers, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, invited 35 members of the country's moneyed class over for dinner at their home in a posh suburb of Mumbai. The affair was elegant and understated: The guests sipped a 1999 Dom Perignon as they were served home-cooked Goan fish curry and rice. "We are the present-day maharajahs -- in thought, at least -- so we reconnected with friends from all walks of life over a luxurious meal," says Khosla." (Yahoo News, 7 July) RD


"Talk about a luxurious soak in the tub. The Amaltea bathtub, designed by Baldi of Florence, Italy, is made entirely of the precious gem amethyst, and adorned with 24-karat gold-plated legs. Matching lotion dispenser, soap dish and tumbler are also available. Now there's no reason for a bather ever to get out. 95,000 euros." (Newsweek, 7 July) RD


"David Cameron declared yesterday that some people who are poor, fat or addicted to alcohol or drugs have only themselves to blame. ... "Of course, circumstance - where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school and the choices your parents make - have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequences of the choices people make." (Times, 8 July) RD

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Away back on the 7th April 1775 when Samuel Johnson wrote "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel", he couldn't have imagined how much modern capitalism would use patriotism to enslave the working class. "On the field before the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball plans to assemble the largest gathering of Hall of Fame players in baseball history. And as fans salute their heroes, the former players will join the crowd in saluting the American flag — one that is roughly 75 feet by 150 feet, as long as a 15-story building is tall, spread horizontally over the Yankee Stadium turf. That is a relatively small flag by big-event standards in American sports these days. But it will signal the latest can’t-miss blend of sports and patriotism, a combination increasingly presenting itself through gigantic American flags, unfurled by dozens or hundreds of people in an attempt to elicit a sense of awe and nationalism in the surrounding crowd."
(New York Times, 4 July) RD


He is reputed to be the richest man in the world so the recent down turn on the world's stock exchanges has led to speculation that Warren Buffett may be ready to plunge into an increasingly bearish market. "During the great bear market of 1974, Warren Buffett was asked by a rather staid fellow how he felt. "Like an over-sexed guy in a whorehouse", he replied. "Now is the time to invest and get rich." (Observer, 6 July) Whether he in fact invests or not the richest man in the world, said to be worth $35 billion, certainly has a rich use of the vernacular. As Bob Dylan once sang "Money doesn't talk - It swears!" RD

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


"The sad truth facing the victims of the natural disasters in China and Burma is that they will soon disappear forever from the headlines and awareness of the international media, inevitably crowded out by more current and pressing stories. The same thing happened to the survivors of Bhopal, where, in December 1984, 40 tons of mostly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas - one of the deadliest chemicals invented by man - escaped from a Union Carbide factory, immediately killing some 8,000 people, and eventually being linked to 12,000 subsequent deaths. The biggest industrial disaster ever, many times deadlier than the Chernobyl nuclear accident, made headlines around the world, but soon receded into the remote corners of public memory. ...Two decades on, a criminal case charging Union Carbide and its officials with culpable homicide is still dragging on in a local court in Bhopal, because none of the accused have been available to the court. In 1985, the Indian government had filed a $3.3 billion claim in a U.S. court against Union Carbide, but eventually settled out of court for $470 million - which amounted to less than $500 for each of the 500,000 people harmed by the accident. In addition, Union Carbide never cleaned up the accident site, which continues to leech highly toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater of the surrounding area, affecting even people born decades after the gas leak. In 2001, Dow Chemicals acquired Union Carbide, but has refused to accept any liability for Bhopal." (Yahoo News, 29 June) RD


Every child that is born has to be taught about the crazy system of ownership and poverty that is capitalism in order to survive in this dog eat dog society, but even supporters of this system with its insatiable greed for profits would surely draw the line at the following piece of "shrewd" business strategy. “Thousands of children as young as 11 have been sent debit cards by Lloyds TSB without their parents' consent. One 15-year-old reportedly used the card to buy cheap cigarettes, Viagra and fake adult identification on the internet."
(Times, 5 July) RD

Monday, July 07, 2008


"Consumers buckling under the strain of higher living costs are returning to the Victorian age in a bid to get their hands on some cash – they are hot-footing it down to their local pawnbroker. And it is not just those on low incomes who are pawning bits of jewellery and small family heirlooms. Some brokers report City whiz kids and professional footballers offering cars or Rolex watches worth tens of thousands of pounds in return for a loan. Business is booming thanks to the clampdown by high street lenders on giving people credit. The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) estimates that there has been an increase of up to 30 per cent in business across the UK in the past six months. It says the stigma attached to pawn broking is disappearing because we live in a credit society and this is just another way of borrowing."
(Daily Telegraph, 28 June) RD

Sunday, July 06, 2008


"Nigeria. Rwanda. Uganda. Ethiopia. Gabon. Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe has plenty of competitors for the title of "least democratic in Africa." But while he has been singled out for condemnation by the West, leaders of other autocratic states in Africa have largely been able to avoid sanctions and isolation. Many have friends in Western capitals. Or play a strategic role in the war against terrorist groups. Or sit on oil. ...Today, only 21 states, including Botswana and South Africa, hold relatively free elections. Many of the remaining 31 are ruled by despots, including many offering the illusion of democracy with elections like those Mugabe held. Rights activists put much of the blame on the West. "It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the 'victor' is a strategic or commercial ally," Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a recent report. Among countries he singled out as sham democracies are oil-rich Chad and Nigeria; Uganda, whose President Yoweri Museveni's friendship with President Bush has shielded him from criticism; and Ethiopia, a major U.S. ally against Islamic militants. Other oil producers that have managed to avoid international condemnation include Angola, which hasn't held a presidential election since 1992, and Gabon, where President Omar Bongo seized power in a 1967 coup and now reigns as Africa's longest-serving leader." (Yahoo News, 4 July) RD


"Mihai Sanda and his family, 37 of them, live in half-a-dozen self-built, mud-floored huts. In his two-room dwelling, seven people share one bedroom; chickens cluck in the other room. The dirt and smell, the lack of mains water, electricity, sewerage and telephone are all redolent of the poorest countries in the world. So is the illiteracy. Ionela Calin, a 34-year-old member of Mr Sanda's extended family, married at 15 without ever going to school. Of her eight children, four are unschooled. Two, Leonard, aged four and Narcissa, aged two, do not even have birth certificates; Ionela believes (wrongly, in fact) that she cannot register their birth because her own identity document has expired. For the millions of Europeans—estimates range between 4m and 12m—loosely labelled as Roma or Gypsies, that is life: corralled into settlements that put them physically and psychologically at the edge of mainstream existence, with the gap between them and modernity growing rather than shrinking. The statistics are shocking: a Unicef report released in 2005 said that 84% of Roma in Bulgaria, 88% in Romania and 91% in Hungary lived below the poverty line. (Economist, 19 June) RD


"Dawoud Ameen, a former Iraqi soldier, lay in bed, his shattered legs splayed before him, worrying about the rent for his family of five. Mr. Ameen’s legs were shredded by shrapnel from a roadside bomb in September 2006 and now, like many wounded members of the Iraqi security forces, he is deeply in debt and struggling to survive. For now, he gets by on $125 a month brought to him by members of his old army unit, charity and whatever his wife, Jinan, can beg from her relatives. But he worries that he could lose even that meager monthly stipend." (New York Times, 1 July) RD

Saturday, July 05, 2008


"A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say. The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism. In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said." (New York Times, 30 June) RD


"Gay and lesbian asylum-seekers can be safely deported to Iran as long as they live their lives "discreetly", the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has claimed. In a letter to a Liberal Democrat peer, seen by The Independent, Ms Smith said there was no "real risk" of gay men and lesbians being discovered by the Iranian authorities or "adverse action" being taken against those who were "discreet" about their behaviour. (Independent, 23 June) RD

Worse to come 2

And further to the previous story, another report describes how pensioners have seen the cost of the goods and services they use soar by more than a third during the past 10 years, research has showed.The rate at which the cost of living for pensioners is rising outstrips increases in Retail Price Inflation, which has risen by 32% during the past decade compared with a 36% jump in inflation experienced by pensioners.

Martin Ellis, chief economist at Clerical Medical, said:

"The average cost of living facing pensioners has risen by more than one third over the past decade.The cost of living for pensioners has increased by more than that for all households during the period, particularly in the last five years."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Worse to come

While MPs vote to retain their 2nd home additional expenses allowance of 24,000 pounds , it was revealed that the spiralling cost of living has left Britons 15 per cent worse off than they were five years ago, according to research published. Households were now left with an average of £772.79 to spend each month after paying their fixed monthly outgoings – down from £909.84 in 2003. The report found fixed monthly household costs had soared by nearly 45 per cent during the past five years, to take up 53 per cent of people's total pay. Homeowners were shelling out 78 per cent more in mortgage repayments than in 2003-4 at an average of £735 a month, due to a combination of higher interest rates and people taking out bigger mortgages.Monthly energy bills have leapt by 110 per cent during the period to an average of £95.80, while petrol costs for the typical family are 29 per cent higher at £193.61.

"Many UK consumer segments are feeling the pinch as big rises in household costs outstrip relatively modest wage inflation.Consumers are painfully aware of hikes in petrol and utility bills, but we've also seen some hefty price increases in pension contributions and debt repayments. If we factor in food price inflation, which official figures have placed at 8.7 per cent in the past year, it's clear household budgets are under enormous strain. Add the impact of falling house prices and the consumer economy is undoubtedly on a knife edge."

Worst could still be to come, with utility prices expected to rise by up to 40 per cent this year.


"The multibillion fortune of New York’s “Queen of Mean” could be going to the dogs. A newly disclosed document shows that the hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley left instructions before her death last year at the age of 87 that almost all of her huge estate should go to the care of dogs. The bequest could provide a windfall of up to $8 billion (£4 billion) for animal care charities." (Times, 3 July) RD


"Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday he did not believe Israel was in a position to attack his country over its nuclear programme, while an Iranian general announced plans to prepare 320,000 graves for enemy soldiers. The comments were the latest in an escalating war of words between the arch-foes that have helped fuel speculation of a possible Israeli attack on Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, helping push oil prices to record highs. Speculation has risen since a U.S. newspaper reported this month that Israel had practiced a strike against the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities, which the West suspects form part of a covert weapons programme." (Yahoo News, 29 June) RD

Thursday, July 03, 2008


"American supermarkets are epics of excess: it often seems like every item in the store comes in a "Jumbo" size or has "Bonus!" splashed across the label. But is it possible that the amount of food Americans are buying is, in fact... shrinking? Well, yes. Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don't) manufacturers are choosing the latter. This month, Kellogg's started shipping Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks containing an average of 2.4 fewer ounces per box."
(Yahoo News, 30 June) RD

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Affluent Society ?

A single person living in Britain needs to earn at least £13,400 a year before tax to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living, research claimed

The "minimum income" is enough to cover needs like food and warmth, as well as the occasional film ticket and simple meal out.

The study found that a single person without children needed to spend £158 a week, while a couple with two children needed £370 a week, excluding rent or mortgage.To afford this budget on top of rent on a modest council home, a single person would need to earn £13,400 a year before tax and the couple with two children £26,800.

The report said families without a working adult received about two thirds of the minimum budget in state benefits.Single people without work received less than half of the minimum budget in benefits. The basic state pension gives a retired couple about three quarters of the minimum income, but claiming the means-tested Pension Credit could top their income up to just above the minimum standard, the report said.

Jonathan Bradshaw, professor of social policy at the University of York, said: "Based on these public assessments, almost everyone defined as living below the official poverty line falls short of what people judge to be adequate for their fellow citizens – sometimes by quite a long way."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


We often hear of the plight of workers in various parts of the world who try to survive on less than $1 a day but it is hardly of any consequence to the following group of rich parasites.
"The combined wealth of the globe's millionaires grew to nearly $41 trillion last year, an increase of 9 percent from a year before, Merrill Lynch & Co. and consulting firm Capgemini Group said Tuesday. That means their average wealth was more than $4 million, the highest it's ever been. Home values were not included in asset totals." (Yahoo News, 24 June) RD

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