Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reading Notes

A recently published book, “Discoveries that Changed the World”, byRodney Castleden, published by Futura yielded a couple of gems. In the chapter on Malaria, Castleden writes,



“At the present time there is no malaria vaccine; there are only preventative drugs which have to be taken continuously to reduce the risk of infection. These are very effective for visitors from the more economically developed countries, but too expensive for most people who live in the affected regions.”

In other words, if you can’t afford it you may die, and this is a disease that infects 55 million people a year with between one and three million deaths, mostly young children.



Concerning radium, he writes, “ Radium is a million times more radioactive than uranium. The luminosity of radium led to its one time use in luminous paints for watches, clocks, aircraft switches and instrument dials. At least a hundred watch dial painters, who used their lips to shape their paintbrushes died as a result of the radiation.Radium was still used in this way until the late 1950s even though twenty years earlier it had been found that workers thus exposed to radium suffered serious health hazards such as sores,anemia, and bone cancer. Marie Curie’s (discoverer of radium) notes are still strongly radioactive one hundred years after she last handled them.

Capitalism only looks atthe profit potential of every new discovery.


In “A Brief History of Globalization”, Alex MacGillivray writes, re Third World debt,

“By 2005, African countries had already repaid $550 billion against original loans of $540 billion.But because of high interest rates, $245 billion was still outstanding.” (page 223) At this rateprofit would easily top 100%. That’s the kind of helping hand we can do without. On page 249 he quotes 19th.century American senator, John M. Thurston on the benefits of war,

“ War with Spain would increase the business and earnings of every American railroad, it would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate every branch ofIndustry and domestic commerce.” Obviously, a good deal for the profiteering class. Not so good for those who are expected to fight for this bonanza but derive no benefit from it. John Ayers

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

THE JOYS OF RELIGION

"The Taliban have ordered the closure of all girl's schools in the war-ravaged Swat district (Islamabad, Pakistan) and warned parents and teachers of dire consequences if the ban is flouted. In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered." (Times, 26 December) RD

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

"The economic downturn is causing a homelessness crisis in New York, where job losses and repossessions are forcing record numbers of families on to the streets - and British charities are warning that London should also expect a sharp rise in rough-sleepers as recession bites. In the US, the Coalition for the Homeless, a nationwide advocacy group, has revealed that some 9,720 families stayed in New York City's homeless shelters last month, the highest number since records began in 1983. The report also showed that the number of homeless families in New York has risen by a record13% since the beginning of May, when the full effects of the financial crisis began to hit home." (Observer, 28 December) RD

Food for Thought

Top US army officials said, “ A $160 billion future combat systems modernization program managed by Boeing Co. and SAIC Inc. was on budget and on track.” (Socialist Standard, Nov. 2008).Yet $30 billion A year would eliminate world hunger. So much for capitalism’s priorities. John Ayers

Monday, December 29, 2008

A DEADLY TRADE

"Soldiers beheaded as drug cartels step up terror to protect $15bn-a-year trade. The discovery of a dozen decapitated bodies scattered across a city in Mexico has become the latest symbol of the terrifying price this country is paying for drug consumption in America. Nine of the corpses were found on a busy street in Chilpancingo, an hour's drive from the tourist resort of Acapulco, yards from where the Govenor of Guerrero state was later to participate in a religious procession." (Times, 23 December) RD

THATS HOW IT WORKS

Capitalism is a cruel society - millions of children die from lack of food, clean water or basic medical treatment while millionaires live lives of luxury and privilege. The recent economic crisis has got supporters of capitalism even using language similar to socialists. "James Rowlands, the policy officer of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said: "We would like to see VAT cut across the board to 5 per cent. Thousands of homes should not be allowed to stand empty while people are homeless or suffering from poor living conditions." (Times, 22 December)
Of course Mr Rowlands still supports the system as his reference to tax cuts shows, but for such a supporter to say of capitalism "Thousands of homes should not be allowed to stand empty while people are homeless ..." illustrates the craziness of capitalism. He might use words like "should not be allowed" but that contradiction of “Ownership” and “Social Need” is the very basis of capitalism. RD

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Environment again

Global Warming – no problem! Would you believe The Toronto Star reported (15 Nov 2008) that, “ A rock that is plentiful in Oman can be harnessed to soak up the most prominent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide at a rate that could slow global warming…” This rock, Peridotite, converts carbon dioxide into solid minerals such as calcite. This may be a reason for celebration, but it has to be excavated, processed, advertised and sold, and, if it can’t be sold at a profit, it won’t be done.Recycling is in trouble because the world commodity prices for metal, glass, plastics etc. has fallen well below the cost of recovery. Local municipalities are having to pay large sums to store their recycling until the price recovers. A great insight to the ‘invisible hand of the Market’. John Ayers

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY?

"I’m referring to the latest over-the-top innovation, the recent introduction of two showers for use by first-class passengers on Emirates A380 super jumbo jets. The showers are obviously not an environmental step forward, given the additional fuel needed to carry enough water to let all 14 first-class passengers have two showers, if they want. In fact, said Andrew J. Parker, an Emirates senior vice president whose duties include the carrier’s environmental affairs, first-class passengers have not been using the showers to the extent Emirates originally anticipated when it allotted 500 kilos (slightly more than half a ton) of weight for the additional water. ...Meanwhile, it isn’t clear whether the first-class A380 passengers have cut back on showers because of environmental concerns, or merely because they don’t want to take themselves out of their private compartments and away from the free Champagne. Nor is it clear whether they might object to showering in the future with recycled water on that long flight to the other side of the world. But hey, everybody has to sacrifice." (New York Times, 22 December) RD

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A JOB WITH PROSPECTS

" Scott Hines is a bloodhound who tracks down delinquent debtors. He enforces High Court judgments against defaulters and his caseload is rising as the economy slows. If your business owes money and Mr Hines knocks on your door, you are in for a lousy day. He rarely leaves empty-handed. ...But Mr Hines, 36, is having a lousy day of his own. He was out at 6am on this cold, bright London morning. But by 10.30am he has collected a big, fat zero. One metaphorical and literal cul-de-sac is just off Charlotte Street. The offices of a fashion wholesaler that owes £3,000 are shuttered and empty. “That happens a lot,” Mr Hines says, “By the time the courts have processed the case, the debtors have disappeared.”... An East End boy made good in a sharp suit and raincoat. Mr Hines is evasive on the question of his performance-related pay. Remuneration consultants say a High Court enforcement officer can earn more than £60,000 a year. For the hard-boiled Mr Hines the occupational hazards include being chased out of kebab shops with carving knives. Debt collectors can expect a prosperous new year as banks and suppliers seek repayment from retailers that traded poorly over Christmas. Claire Sandbrook, Mr Hines’s boss, is unapologetic that her debt collection business, Shergroup, is thriving as the downturn deepens. “That is the nature of the beast,” she says, “We deal in people’s misfortune. And the best way through that is to do the job professionally.’’ Shergroup deploys 25 enforcement officers to cover the whole of England and Wales."
(Financial Times, 17 December) RD

Food for Thought

A November 20th. article in the Toronto Star by David Hulchanski, Quotes,
“ It wasn’t too long ago that our language did not include terms like good jobs or bad jobs or the working poor. How could you work and be poor?"
Times have certainly changed. In the early 1970s about two- thirds of the city of Toronto’s neighbourhoods were middle income – within 20% of the average individual income. By 2006 that percentage had declined to just one third. The point is that in the 1970s most people thought that prosperity was here to stay, the fact being, within capitalism prosperity and security are all too fleeting. John Ayers

NO WAR EQUALS NO CAUSALITIES




Flanked by tanks and under the cover of a smoke screen, Scottish guards charge
into action on the Egyptian front at El Alamein during the second world war.
Were the brightest at the front?




"Being dumb has its benefits. Scottish soldiers who survived the second world war were less intelligent than men who gave their lives defeating the Third Reich, a new study of British government records concludes. The 491 Scots who died and had taken IQ tests at age 11 achieved an average IQ score of 100.8. Several thousand survivors who had taken the same test - which was administered to all Scottish children born in 1921 – averaged 97.4. The unprecedented demands of the second world war – fought more with brains than with brawn compared with previous wars - might account for the skew, says Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. Dozens of other studies have shown that smart people normally live longer than their less intelligent peers. "We wonder whether more skilled men were required at the front line, as warfare became more technical," Dear says." (New Scientist, 20 December)

As they ponder such questions we wonder if the learned psychologists ever considered the case of all the members of the Socialist Party who managed to survive two world wars because we figured they were wars that were not fought in the interest of the working class. They survived these bloodbaths because they knew that wars were fought for markets and trade routes not ideologies. Does that make them dumber or more intelligent? RD

Friday, December 26, 2008

UPPER CLASS ARROGANCE



"Zimbabwe's farms are ruined, its economy has evaporated, and its people have begun to starve and die of cholera. What better time to call a feast? According to reports in Zimbabwe's domestic press on Thursday, President Robert Mugabe and delegates to the annual conference of his ruling Zanu-PF Party will chomp their way through 124 cattle, 81 goats and 18 pigs over the course of their deliberations in the central town of Bindura. "Even if no more beasts are donated," said Geoffrey Nyarota, managing editor of thezimbabwetimes.com, referring to the practice of delegates donating animals to the leadership, "124 head of cattle is an inordinately large quantity of beef." With 5,000 delegates expected to attend, he added, it worked out to "40 delegates per bovine over four days - that is not to mention the pork, the goat, the maize-meal, the rice, among other basic foodstuffs currently in acute shortage throughout Zimbabwe." (Yahoo News, 19 December) RD

C. OF E. SLUMP

"In one of the most holy weeks in the Christian calendar, a report says that in just over a generation the number of people attending Church of England Sunday services will fall to less than a tenth of what they are now. Christian Research, the statistical arm of the Bible Society, claimed that 2050 Sunday attendances will fall below 88,000. Compared with just under a million now." (Observer, 21 December) RD

Thursday, December 25, 2008

POLITICAL REALTY

Bianca Jagger participating in a demonstration during the United Nations climate
change conference in Poznan, Poland



"The politicians just don't seem to get the seriousness of the global warming crisis. Scientists attending the recent UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, complained that the gap between political rhetoric and scientific reality on climate change is growing."It doesn't matter what the politicians promise," said French climate scientist Phillipe Ciasis. "Even if we stop emissions growing today, the world will still warm by 2 °C - a lot more in some places. It is too late to prevent that." Ciais was at Poznan to present the latest findings of the Global Carbon Project, a network of scientists that monitors how humans are influencing the natural carbon cycle. While politicians boast of their progress in cutting CO2 emissions, in the real world the gas is actually accumulating at an accelerating rate. Emissions have risen 28% already this decade, compared with 9% for the whole of the 1990s, said Ciais." (New Scientist, 20 December)
This is another example of politicians making sympathetic noises about the environment but in practice to cut emmissions may put them at a disadvantage against their international competitors. If they put themselves at a disadvantage in the quest for profits you can be sure the environment will not be a factor they will consider. RD

POVERTY AND ABUNDANCE

"Nearly half of the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo may not live to 40 years of age, the UN Development Programme said in a report. It said that 75% lived below the poverty level - less than a dollar a day. More than half (57 per cent) had no access to drinking water or to basic health care (54 per cent) while three out of ten children were poorly nourished. The report highlighted the paradox of a country so rich in mineral resources suffering such poverty. Human rights groups say the battle in the east for control of mineral riches such as tin ore, gold and coltan is part of the problem." (Times, 18 December) RD

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ANOTHER EXPERT BITES THE DUST

"Among the most astonishing statements to be made by any policymaker in recent years was Alan Greenspan's admission this autumn that the regime of deregulation he oversaw as chairman of the Federal Reserve was based on a “flaw”: he had overestimated the ability of a free market to self-correct and had missed the self-destructive power of deregulated mortgage lending. The “whole intellectual edifice,” he said, “collapsed in the summer of last year.”
(New York Times, 14 December) RD

PROFITS VERSUS HEALTH

"With America's obesity problem among kids reaching crisis proportions, even junk food makers have started to claim they want to steer children toward more healthful choices. In a study released earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 32 percent of children were overweight but not obese, 16 percent were obese, and 11 percent were extremely obese. Food giant Pepsi Co. for example, points out on its website that "we can play an important role in helping kids lead healthier lives by offering healthy product choices in schools." The company highlights what it considers its healthier products within various food categories through a "Smart Spot" marketing campaign ... But are wellness initiatives like Smart Spot just marketing ploys? Such moves by the food industry may seem to be a step in the right direction, but ultimately makers of popular junk foods have an obligation to stockholders to encourage kids to eat more--not less--of the foods that fuel their profits, says David Ludwig, a pediatrician and co-author of a commentary published in October in the Journal of the American Medical Association that raises questions about whether big food companies can be trusted to help combat obesity." (newsday.com, 16 December) RD

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Abolishing the wages-system


Socialist organising tenet.Needs will be 'self assessed' in a socialist society, in contrast with the rationed access in the capitalist wage-slavery system, where needs can never be met..

"From Each According to their Ability.. To Each According to their Needs"
K.Marx

And so say all of us.

CAPITALISM IS INTERNATIONAL

Workers on a production line at the Kangnai shoe factory

In the early days of capitalism it was said that "Britain was the workshop of the world", but in modern times it was overtaken by the USA and now it seems that workshop is moving again."Wenzhou, the cradle of Chinese capitalism, produced one billion shoes last year, 40 per cent of the world's total. There's a one in three chance your sunglasses were made in this manufacturing city. And that padlock on your bicycle most likely hailed from here, perhaps even the bike itself. And that's not to mention nearly all the cigarette lighters in the world. Ye Jianqi, general manager of the Wenzhou Zhenqing Optical Company, is walking through the workrooms of her factory, where 10 million pairs of sunglasses were made in 2007, pointing out how much time the company has spent coming up with new designs. ..."This year because of the global financial crisis, we've gone from 200 orders last year to 18 orders. The export market has collapsed," she said, passing boxes of frames and lenses lying beside the assembly lines. "We used to have 300 employees, now we have just over 100. And compared to the other optical companies around here, that's better than average." (Independent on Sunday, 14 December) China is now experiencing the realities of modern capitalism, there used to be 300,000 companies in Wenzou, but 8,000 have closed this year. As world capitalism experiences a downturn China is affected like the rest of the system. RD

THE CARING NHS

"Elderly people who suffer broken hips are forced to wait a dangerously long time for operations, according to leading surgeons. Delays in treatment means some older patients fail to regain full mobility, lose their independence and end up in in a nursing home, senior doctors claim. In extreme cases patients suffer an early death. A survey by the British Orthopaedic Association, which represents most of the UK's 2,000 surgeons who repair joints, reveals that senior citizens have to wait too long for the surgery they need to give them the best chance of recovery." (Observer, 21 December) RD

Food for Thought 4

“British companies, have moved faster than Canadians to jettison pension obligations. Only 15% will guarantee new staff an income for life after they retire.” (Toronto Star 15 Nov 2008).
It just goes to confirm that under capitalism there is no security.
From the same source,
Turmoil in Japan”. Japan has been held up as a shining example of how capitalism can work, but it is still affected by the global economy, “Japan has the second largest economy in the world, the second largest foreign exchange reserves, and the second largest stock exchange, but these are turbulent times fraught with uncertainty. On the Docks at Longbeach, California…offloaded cars are piling up as car makers look for lots to park them. The market has suddenly stalled…
Poverty – The Ontario Association of Food Banks (yes, in Canada) released a report showing poverty’s total costs to the Ontario economy amount to $38 billion, “The simple truth is that the poor are a drag on the economy, and by giving them crumbs instead of lifting them out of poverty, we ensure they will continue to live miserable, yet expensive lives.” Just how they are going to be lifted out of poverty is never Stated.
Once again, Captain McGuinty rides to the rescue of the poor. His Government has raised welfare rates, for example, a single person would receive $572 per month, up from $560. This increase brings them up to the recommended level, FOR 1988! As the average rental in Toronto is around $1 000, you can see the difficulties. This is from a government committed to fighting poverty! Increasing numbers are lining up at food banks and debt-burdened post secondary students figure prominently. A report on poverty by the Ontario Association of Food Banks suggests the obvious – that poverty affects more than the homeless and for the ten thousandth time states that investing in childhood development, early education programs, literacy, job training etc would be a good investment. The plain fact is that governments have been trying to eradicate poverty for decades without success. Socialists know that capitalism itself is the problem and investment is needed to establish socialism to solve the problem. John Ayers

Monday, December 22, 2008

CAPITALISM KILLS KIDS

"A damning indictment of childcare services has been made by the NSPCC, accusing both the government and local authorities of abandoning vulnerable children in "extremely dangerous situations". In a submission to Lord Laming's Review of Child Protection, commissioned by the government after the case of baby P, the charity paints a devastating picture of childcare in the UK. Its report reveals a lack of high-level political leadership and calls for substantial changes to the law." (Observer, 21 December) RD

RELIGIOUS BIGOTS STRIKE AGAIN

Traditional dancing has been part of Pakistan's culture since the Mughal empire



"The dancing girls of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, are on strike in protest against the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire. The strike, which is supported by the theatres where they perform, was sparked by the decision of Lahore High Court last month to ban the Mujra, the graceful and elaborate dance first developed in the Mughal courts 400 years ago, on the grounds that it is too sexually explicit." (Independent on Sunday, 14 December) RD

A GRIM 2009

"Mortgage lenders predict the recession will lead to a huge rise in arrears among their borrowers in 2009. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said the number of households more than three months behind with their repayments would reach 500,000. That will be more than double this year's expected figure of 210,000. The CML said 2009 would be "very tough" because the recession would drive up unemployment and lead to 75,000 repossessions among borrowers. "The economic recession means unemployment is rising sharply, and this will inevitably impact on the number of households facing mortgage arrears," it said."
(BBC News, 18 December) RD

homes for the homeless

Action is needed to free up empty houses for homeless people, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The Royal Institution said there were about 762,635 properties in England not being used.
England has nearly 1.7 million people on social housing waiting lists, the Local Government Association says. About 72,000 are either homeless or in temporary accommodation.

Policy officer James Rowlands of RICS said:
"Thousands of homes should not be allowed to stand empty while people are homeless or suffering from poor living conditions."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

ANOTHER US HEADBANGER

"Riots in the United States will begin before Christmas as a result of Barack Obama winning the presidential election. The old, hard-line Soviet guard will jump on the opportunity and nuke us, killing 100 million people or more. So goes the prophecy of Leland Freeborn of Parowan, Utah, known by a small group of followers as the Parowan Prophet. Los Angeles Times reporter Peter H. King traveled to Freeborn's home to get details. Freeborn, a survivalist who keeps iodine handy in order to ward off the effects of radiation, admits to issuing inaccurate doomsday prophecies before. It's not an exact science, he allows." (Yahoo News, 15 December) RD

A WASTEFUL SOCIETY

"U.S. military operations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, have cost $904 billion since 2001 and could top $1.7 trillion by 2018, even with big cuts in overseas troop deployments, a report said on Monday. A new study released by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, or CSBA, said the Iraq conflict's $687 billion price tag alone now exceeds the cost of every past U.S. war except for World War II, when expenditures are adjusted for inflation. With another $184 billion in spending for Afghanistan included, the two conflicts surpass the cost of the Vietnam War by about 50 percent, the report said."
(Yahoo News, 15 December) RD

Food for Thought 3

What causes war and conflict?
All socialists know. Occasionally it comes out in the press. The Toronto Star (16 Nov 2008) reporting on the Congo crisis, quotes Michael Kavanagh of the Pulitzer Centre,
“ This is not a Hutu-Tutsi conflict per se. This is a political and economic conflict in group identity, manipulated by opportunistic politicians and military leaders for political/military/economic ends.”.
It goes on to say, “Lust for resources has caused misery on a breathtaking scale since King Leopoldof Belgium enslaved the Congo Free State in the late 19th. Century, bringing about the deaths of some ten million people.”
John Ayers

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Food for Thought 2

In the European Common Market, Spain, a rising economic star is most affected by the downturn with some 6 214 workers registering for unemployment per day and 2.8 million out of work to date.How Capitalism Works –
Finally, the Orwellian named act of the Harris government, The Farmworkers’ Protection andSafety Act, that took away workers’ rights to associate, unionize, and bargain collectively, (and therefore to put safe practices in place) has been struck down. (radio)
Pharmaceutical giant, Glaxo-Smith Kline reacted as expected when a doctor noticed its diabetes drug was linked to increased risk of cardio- vascular problems. It listened, then wrote a letter to the doctor’s employer to get him muzzled. Turns out other doctors who were saying the same thing got the same treatment.
Meanwhilean estimated 40 000 people died from the effects of the drug. John Ayers

Food for Thought

An article on disappearing auto jobs (Toronto Star, 14 Nov 2008) revealed that the average assembly worker in that industry produces $300 000 worth of value per year and receives $65 000 in pay. That means on an eight-hour shift starting at, say, 7:00am, the worker has earned his wages by 8:45am.
Hope they all figure this out and come to our conclusion! John Ayers

PRODUCTION FOR USE

We are all used to "letters to the editor" in the national press that deal in crass trivialities, so it was a great pleasure when we came across this exceptionally perceptive letter.
"Music as product placement is certainly a dismal vision (The sullying of our songs, 16 December). But the old business model for music inside capitalism is nothing to feel nostalgic about. John Harris suggests that downloading makes music worthless. No, just priceless! If everything (not just downloads) was free it all might actually be valued that bit better. I suggest we should embrace the concept of production for use, by raising our horizons beyond just the digital world to - in the words of John Lennon - imagine no possessions. "
Brian Gardner Glasgow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Promise

Toxic chemicals are still found in nail polish, soap bars, plastic colourants, and industrial inks (Pigment Red 3), in household paints, pesticides, floor care products, window washer fluids, skin creams, cleansers, hairspray, and perfumes (DEGME ), in drycleaning, glues (2-MEA), in nail polish enamel and remover, hair conditioners and sprays, false eye lash adhesives and removal solvents, and pesticides(2-methoxypropanol). These chemicals are a particular threat of reproductive and developmental damage in humans, particularly children and should be banned by the government according to the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
Won’t happen anytime soon. John Ayers

MADOFF MADE OFF WITH $50B

"For sheer toe-curling embarrassment, it may be a while before Wall Street does better than the Bernard Madoff scandal. Here was a rogue who practically telegraphed his unreliability by hiring a tiny, no-name audit firm, by reporting monthly investment results that never fluctuated and by claiming a trading strategy that could not possibly have been implemented given the billions of dollars he managed. And yet, despite these warnings, the rich, the famous and the supposedly sophisticated entrusted their money to Madoff, who defrauded them with the most laughably crude of methods -- an old-fashioned Ponzi scam." (Washington Post, 18 December) RD

HALLELUAH IT'S A SLUMP

Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches



"The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, N.Y. — a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers — forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight. In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled — almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs. Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore: Bad times are good for evangelical churches."
(New York Times, 14 December) RD

Thursday, December 18, 2008

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Izuza, Mazda, and Honda, as well as Toyota, all announced they’ll terminate 6 000 contract jobs in the coming months. Workers are finding out that they only work at the whim and pleasure of capital.But Wait!
Ontario Premier, Mcguinty, has found the answer to our Economic woes. On Friday he said, “ But, if we are not careful, if we don’t Christmas shop for example, we can actually, unwittinglycontribute to our economic challenges. If you don’t buy that car, even though you can actually afford it, if you don’t buy that fridge, if you don’t shop at Christmastime, it can actually put us in a bit of a downward spiral.”
(Yes he actually said that!) On the same day, Black Friday, in the US a Walmart Employee was trampled to death by a crazed bunch of shoppers looking for bargains. Now that’s the type of shopper McGuinty is talking about! John Ayers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Food for Thought

- Economics – According to a Toronto Star article (1 Nov. 2008), two incomes are needed to look after the average Canadian family, two thirds of whom have both parents working to make ends meet. John Ayers

COME FLY WITH ME

On November 19th. the leaders of the US auto industry left Washington without any bail out money for their companies, but traveled in their private jets. Each flight cost about $20 000. As one observer commented, “there is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington with tin cups in their hands saying they are going to be trimming down and streamlining their business.” Kinda like seeing someone show up at a soup kitchen in a top hat and tux. With GM and Chrysler close to collapse, some 2 to 3 million workers will become unemployed, probably none of whom will pick up their dole money (if they qualify) in a private jet. John Ayers

CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?

The American government’s potential bail out package is now at $7 trillion and rising. It will be the most expensive single expenditure in American history, more expensive than WWII ($3.6 trillion in today’s dollars, and greater than the Marshall plan, the Louisiana purchase, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, and the entire budget of NASA to date (including the moon landing) together, all in today’s dollars(globalnetnews-summary@lists.riseup.net). You have to wonder how a government that can’t solve poverty, homelessness, and health care for its citizens can access theses prodigious sums. Just like 1939 when a decade of deprivation for the working class was followed by massive amounts of money that magically materialized for the war. The more things change…
John Ayers

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

HOME OF THE BRAVE?


Marian Schamp takes a break from moving her possessions as a tent city for the
homeless is consolidated
"Homelessness and hunger increased in an overwhelming majority of 25 US cities in the past year, driven by the foreclosure crisis and rising unemployment, a survey showed Friday. Out of 25 cities across the United States surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors, 83 percent said homelessness in general had increased over the past year while 16 cities, or nearly two-thirds of those polled, cited a rise in the number of families who had been forced out of their homes. In Louisville, Kentucky, the number of homeless families increased 58 percent in 2008 to 931 families from 591 people in 2007, with the rise blamed on soaring food, health care, transportation and energy prices. Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island blamed the rise in family homelessness on evictions by landlords whose rental properties were foreclosed." (Yahoo News, 11 December) RD

NAZI STILL ACTIVE IN USA


William A. "Bill" White, the self-proclaimed Commander of the neo-Nazi group
"A well-known white supremacist was indicted Thursday on charges of making threats against a varied group including a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, a group of black people involved in a housing discrimination lawsuit and a Citibank employee. William A. White, the founder of the American National Socialist Party, is accused of making late-night phone calls in which he identified himself as a leader of a white supremacist group and sending letters and e-mails full of threats and racial epithets." (Washington Times, 12 December) RD

CONNED BY CAPITALISM

One of the defences of capitalism that socialists often encounter is that capitalism is an extremely complex system and workers need clever capitalists to run this sophisticated system. "Some of the world's biggest banks have revealed they are victims of an alleged fraud which has lost $50bn (£33bn). Bernard Madoff has been charged with fraud in what is being described as one of the biggest-ever such cases. Among the banks which have been hit are Britain's HSBC and RBS, Spain's Santander and France's BNP Paribas. One of the City's best-known fund managers has criticised US financial regulators for failing to detect the alleged fraud. Nicola Horlick, boss of Bramdean investments, told the BBC: "I think now it is very difficult for people to invest in things that are meant to be regulated in America, because they have fallen down on the job." "This is the biggest financial scandal, probably in the history of the markets - $50bn is a huge amount of money," she said. " (BBC News, 15 December) RD
So all those wise capitalists who know all about markets and investments haven't a clue about capitalism after all. Maybe socialists have a point then?

we don't need no edookashun

The report confirmed what official statistics already indicate: that children from deprived backgrounds tend to do worse at school .

By analysing a long-term study of 14,000 young people in England, it found that youngsters in certain neighbourhoods were less likely to stay on in full time education after the age of 16.
The areas with the lowest educational aspirations, termed "low horizons" by the researchers, were characterised as deprived, close-knit cohesive communities with high levels of social housing and a history of economic decline.
The areas pinpointed by researchers were mainly those formerly dominated by heavy industry, often in the north of England. However there were also clusters of neighbourhoods in isolated rural areas of East Anglia and the west country.

An analysis of the 2008 GCSE results showed that only one in six white boys who are entitled to free school meals obtained the government's benchmark of five good GCSEs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

LET THEM EAT CHEESE


A woman begs for money near a kiosk selling lottery tickets, in Rome
"Let them eat cheese. With data showing a growing underclass and food lines now in most major cities, the Italian government has come up with a way to help the needy while propping up one of its iconic industries. Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia has committed to buying 100,000 66-pound (30-kilogram) wheels each of Parmigiano Reggiano and the very similar Grana Padano cheese to donate to the needy." (Yahoo News, 11 December) RD

CAPITALISM EYES THE MOON


Star gazers look at the crescent moon below Jupiter
"Nearly 40 years after the U.S. flag was planted on the moon, a global rush to the final frontier has some pondering property rights out there. India, Japan and China are now circling the moon with their respective spacecraft – to be joined next year by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Then there's the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel some 1,640 feet (500 meters) and transmit video, images and data back to Earth. The legal profession sees a brief in the making."
(Yahoo News, 10 December) RD

HAPPY NEW YEAR?


"U.S. foreclosure filings climbed 28 percent in November from a year earlier and a brewing “storm” of new defaults and job losses may force 1 million homeowners from their properties next year, RealtyTrac Inc. said. A total of 259,085 properties got a default notice, were warned of a pending auction or were foreclosed on last month, the seller of default data said in a report today. That’s the fewest since June. Filings fell 7 percent from October as state laws and lender programs designed to delay the foreclosure process allowed delinquent borrowers to stay in their homes. “We’re going to see a pretty significant storm next year,” Rick Sharga, executive vice president of marketing for Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in an interview. “There are two or three clouds that suggest a pretty heavy downpour.”
(Bloomberg.com, 11 December) RD

Sunday, December 14, 2008

CAPITALISM IN ACTION


A malnourished boy at a feeding center in southern Ethiopia.
"The goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015 is becoming ever more elusive, with 40 million more people plunged into chronic hunger this year, the UN food agency's chief said on Tuesday. "For many countries, the world goal of reducing hunger by half is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve," Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General Jacques Diouf told a news conference, referring to one of the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000. "This sad reality should not be acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century," the FAO chief said, adding: "Even the objective of cutting by half the number of hungry by 2015 is morally unacceptable." The global food crisis has added 40 million more people to the ranks of the hungry this year, taking the estimated number to 963 million, he said, unveiling the Rome-based agency's annual report on world food insecurity." (Yahoo News, 9 December) RD

THIS IS SPORT?

"Zaheer Khan took two wickets including Kevin Pietersen for four and Paul Collingwood received an awful decision. A massive security presence and a muted, sparse crowd looked on. Emotions remain raw in India following the 26 November terror attacks in Mumbai, but the ability of administrators to salvage this Test series has been one of the major positives in the subcontinent since then. That being the case, it was disappointing to see the spectators outnumbered by the ranks of Black Cat army commandos and policemen employed to ensure both teams' security. Nothing was left to chance, with snipers in position and special netting stretched across the front of the players' balcony." (BBC News, 11 December) RD

THIS IS DEMOCRACY?

"The Govenor of Illinois was arrested yesterday for allegedly trying to sell Barrack Obama's vacated US Senate seat to the highest bidder. The arrest of Rod Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff, cast a light on the home state of the President-elect, which has a history of endemic corruption. ... Mr Blagojevish is the fifth Illinois govenor to be indicted for white-collar crime since 1960. Three of his predecessors were convicted." (Times, 10 December) RD

BEGGING FOR WORK


Paul Nawracki, jobless since February, stands on New York corners with a sign
announcing his job search.
"Paul Nawrocki says he's beyond the point where he cares about humiliation. That's why he weekly takes a 90-minute train ride to New York, where he walks the streets wearing a sandwich board that advertises his plight: The former toy-industry executive needs a job. "Almost homeless," reads the sign. "Looking for employment. Very experienced operations and administration manager." Wearing a suit and tie under the sign, Nawrocki -- who was in the toy industry 36 years before being laid off in February -- stands on Manhattan corners for hours, hoping to pass resumes to interested passers-by." (CNN.com, 6 December) RD

US "LIBERATORS" IN IRAQ

"Manslaughter charges have been laid against five Blackwater security guards alleged to have used machine guns and grenade launchers against unarmed Iraqi citizens, including children, last year. The carnage in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, on September 16, 2007, left 17 people dead and prompted global outrage against the role of American security contractors operating beyond the reach of the law in Iraq." (Times, 9 December) RD

Saturday, December 13, 2008

This is what Marx wrote about the credit system, all those years ago...


The credit system reproduces a new financial aristocracy, a new kind of parasite in the guise of company promoters,
speculators and merely nominal directors; an entire system of swindling and cheating with respect to the promotion of
companies, issues of shares and share dealings.

The credit system...accelerates the material development of the productive forces and the creation of the world
market, which it is the historical task of the capitalist mode of production to bring to a certain level of development, as
material foundations for the new form of production. At the same time, credit accelerates the violent outbreaks of this
contradiction, crises, and with these the elements of dissolution of the old mode of production.

The credit system has a dual character immanent in it: on the one hand it develops the motive of capitalist production,
enrichment by the exploitation of other’s labour, into the purest and most colossal form of gambling and swindling, and
restricts ever more the already small number of exploiters of social wealth; on the other hand however it constitutes
the form of transition towards a new mode of production.

Capital Volume III - Chapter 27 - The Role of Credit in Capitalist Production

CAPITALISM IN INDIA


A woman tried to sell incense to a passenger on Saturday in Mumbai, where the
wealthy have a new sense of their vulnerability
"In India’s city of gold, the distinction between public and private can be bewildering. For members of the working class, who often cannot afford housing, public sidewalks become living rooms. In the morning, commuters from gated communities in the suburbs pass children brushing their teeth at the edge of the street. Women are forced to relieve themselves on the railway tracks, usually in the dark, for the sake of modesty. The poor sometimes sleep on highway medians, and it is not unheard of for drunken drivers to mow them down. Mumbai has been roiled by government neglect for years. Its commuter trains are so overcrowded that 4,000 riders die every year on average, some pushed from trains in the fierce competition to get on and off." (New York Times, 6 December) RD

CAPITALISM IN ACTION


On the Ivory Coast, one of the world's largest producers of palm oil, a man
empties a bag of palm grains on a palm oil plantation
"History may be repeating itself. Until the mid-20th century, many European countries grew rich on the resources of their colonies. Now, countries including China, Kuwait and Sweden are snapping up vast tracts of agricultural land in poorer nations, especially in Africa, to grow bio fuels and food for themselves. The land grabs have sparked accusations of neo-colonialism and fears that the practice could worsen poverty." (New Scientist, 4 December) RD

ANOTHER LABOUR FAILURE

"Social deprivation, child poverty and long-term reliance on benefits in parts of Britain are not alleviated or are increasing a decade after Labour pledged reforms to tackle them, a report shows. Many of the poorest households are not being reached by government initiatives to tackle deprivation, with most key measures now making no progress. Of the 56 poverty indicators tracked by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, including the number of children in low-income families, young adults unemployed and children excluded from school, three quarters have stalled or are getting worse." (Times,8 December). RD

more pay cuts loom

About 3% of the UK's workforce have seen basic pay fall in the past year and those in the construction sector have been hardest hit, it said, with 10% in that industry seeing pay fall according to this report .Thousands of workers have negotiated lower pay packets hoping to avoid redundancy.
"We're predicting next year that we're going to see more organisations making more and more redundancies." said the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Friday, December 12, 2008

MORE PRESS TRIVIA

We live in a society where millions starve for lack of food, millions die for lack of clean water and millions face poverty and the threat of war. So in this crisis torn society what does the great British Press and a so-called "think-tank" report on? "More than a third of British adults believe the virgin birth is historical fact, according to the results of a survey published today. In a telephone poll of 1,005 adults, commissioned by the thinktank Theos, 34% of those interviewed agreed that the statement "Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary" was historically accurate, while 32% considered it fictional." (Guardian, 8 December)
That only comes to 66%, so hopefully the other 34% told Theos to piss off! RD

DESPERATE TIMES

With the US automobile industry in recession many desperate ideas are being considered - the Keynesian notion of government intervention - the increase of pensions and welfare payments to stimulate demand, but here is the most extraordinary "solution" of all - prayer! "Pentecostal Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who shared the sanctuary’s wide altar with three gleaming sport utility vehicles, closed his sermon by leading the choir and congregants in a boisterous rendition of the gospel singer Myrna Summers’s “We’re Gonna Make It” as hundreds of worshipers who work in the automotive industry — union assemblers, executives, car salesmen — gathered six deep around the altar to have their foreheads anointed with consecrated oil. While Congress debated aid to the foundering Detroit automakers Sunday, many here whose future hinges on the decision turned to prayer. Outside the Corpus Christi Catholic Church, a sign beckoned passers-by inside to hear about “God’s bailout plan". (New York Times, 7 December)

The sad truth is that despite the desperate prayers of Detroit workers capitalism is a system based on slumps and booms and no amount of hymn singing is going to save their jobs. RD

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the true xmas spirit

From the BBC
Excessive spending at Christmas can result in people experiencing a miserable time afterwards when debts have to be repaid .There is a feeling of uncomfortable tension derived from experiencing conflicting thoughts - "Can I really afford this?" - and the need to satisfy one's generosity - "It will really make someone happier at Christmas if I buy it".

This feeling of uncomfortable tension as a result of conflicting thoughts and actions has been explained as "cognitive dissonance" by psychologists.
This is particularly relevant in festive shopping when personal finances are being stretched.
At Christmas, people are challenged with what can be considered to be a moral form of cognitive dissonance, when people are torn between balancing their finances and the wish to make others and themselves happier - which is the societal expectation of what Christmas is really all about.
Knowing they may well not be able to afford what they are buying, people enter into transactions encouraged by heavy marketing influences. And they will try to reduce their internal psychological conflict in order to justify their actions.
They will explain that their happiness and that of others is more important than their debt, that others cannot do without when people around them are receiving and being happy and that, above all, Christmas is a time for giving and sharing and the spirit of Christmas should be encouraged in a time of nationwide gloom. Such actions are typical responses when people are experiencing dissonance. Dissonance is often strong when we believe something about ourselves and then do something against that belief. If I believe I am good - managing my finances to reduce debt - but do something bad - spend freely at Christmas - then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance. The resultant effect can be extremely negative in the long term when the reality of the dissonance is exposed.

Those people who enter into a festive spending spree knowing they really are stretched financially display an inability to rationalise and explain away the conflict. In some ways they go into denial and may wish to ignore the issue until a later date, but pay heavy personal consequences.
It's a Christmas bubble - and bubbles burst.
If people do lose control of their spending and shop in denial there can be a massive loss of confidence and self-esteem. People can even slip into a mild or chronic depression due to the negative financial consequences and loss of self respect. Once people wake up from their denial, especially if they don't have a support network and feel isolated, they can become very low psychologically and emotionally. People can end up with problems in other areas of their lives, like relationships and work. And in January or February when the bills come in, those people who wanted to know them when they were being generous at Christmas won't be around any more, and they will be left to sort things out on their own

Not legal eagles but legal vultures

Two solicitors who took millions of pounds from compensation payouts given to sick miners have been struck off.
The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard the men acted "unacceptably" by charging clients even though the government was paying their fees.
Beresford, 58, said last year to be Britain's highest-earning solicitor, and Smith, 52, made millions of pounds from personal injury claims for miners under the government's coal health compensation scheme. Tribunal chairman David Leverton said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."
The lawyers were also accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients' best interests.The tribunal heard that up to 30% of a miner's damages could be deducted by Beresfords. In one case, the firm deducted a "success fee" from the widow of a miner, leaving her with a total payout of just £217.73, the tribunal heard.
Beresford and Smith's joint earnings went from more than £182,000 in 2000 to £23,273,256 in 2006.
Perhaps , Socialist Courier wouldn't go as far as Shakespeare's "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" but we are sorely tempted .

A MURDEROUS SYSTEM

"As dawn broke over the desert, the body was still hanging beneath the overpass, having been suspended from it - decapitated and dangling by a rope tied around the armpits - at 4.30am. The sun rose ... and it was still there three hours later, swaying, headless, in the cold early morning wind which kicks up dust and cuts like a scalpel through the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, the most dangerous city in the Americas, and probably in the world. This macabre murder takes the number of executions in the city of 2m people to about 1,300 this year, and the toll across Mexico - with most of the killing concentrated along the border with the US to about 4,300. The body count is the result of feral slaughter among Mexican narco cartels fighting for the plazas, or corridors, of narcotics flowing into the US."
(Observer Magazine, 7 December) RD

CRISIS IN THE USA

"November was the worst month in US labour market since the oil crisis of 1974, as more than 500,000 US workers were laid off, according to official figures released on Friday. But Graham Turner, of consultancy GFC Economics, says the rising cost of corporate debt is now flashing a red warning signal that far worse is to come over the next few months and job losses are heading for levels last seen in the 1930s Great Depression." (Observer, 7 December) RD

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

INDIAN CLASS DIVISION

"India might have more billionaires on the Forbes 400 than ever before, but 80% of its population still lives on less than $2 a day. Public schools are ineffective: 40% of enrolled 8- to 11-year-olds cannot read a page. More than 440 million Indians, 40% of the population, are under 18, and it is not clear how India will generate enough jobs over the next two decades to employ them."
(Time, 4 December) RD

SIGN ON OR STARVE

"Sgt. Ryan Nyhus spent 14 months patrolling the deadly streets of Baghdad, where five members of his platoon were shot and one died. As bad as that was, he would rather go back there than take his chances in this brutal job market. Nyhus re-enlisted last Wednesday, and in so doing joined the growing ranks of those choosing to stay in the U.S. military because of the bleak economy. "In the Army, you're always guaranteed a steady paycheck and a job," said the 21-year-old Nyhus. "Deploying's something that's going to happen. That's a fact of life in the Army — a fact of life in the infantry." In 2008, as the stock market cratered and the housing market collapsed, more young members of the Army, Air Force and Navy decided to re-up." (Yahoo News, 2 December) RD

HIGH STREET BARGAINS

Beautifully coloured magazines with gorgeously gowned young women photographed in exotic locations will be used to advertise the wares of multi-millionaire chain stores, but behind this glossy facade lurks the realities of modern capitalism. "Workers producing clothes in Bangladesh for some of the UK's biggest retailers are being forced to work up to 80 hours a week for as little as 7p an hour, according to a report published today. The study from War on Want claims that conditions in six factories supplying Primark, Tesco and Asda are worse than they were two years ago when the charity carried out its first investigation. Based on interviews with 115 workers in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, today's report claims many were struggling to survive on meagre wages and some were subjected to physical and verbal abuse."
(Guardian, 5 December) RD

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Socialist Standard December 2008

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
October 2008 click for full page
editorial: contents:
Also available as HTML (image lite) and PDF
Pages: 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Indymedia was down so..

More on this here.







More on this here.
---------------------------
M.C.

HEALTH CARE IN CAPITALISM


"WASHINGTON – Doctors-in-training are still too exhausted, says a new report that calls on hospitals to let them have a nap. Regulations that capped the working hours of bleary-eyed young doctors came just five years ago, limiting them to about 80 hours a week. Tuesday, the prestigious Institute of Medicine recommended easing the workload a bit more: Anyone working the maximum 30-hour shift should get an uninterrupted five-hour break for sleep after 16 hours."
(Yahoo News, 2 December) RD

IS HIS GOD DEAF?

"Brazil's president asked God to halt the devastating rains that have killed at least 116 people in a southern state and offered new plans on Monday to help tens of thousands of people rebuild ruined homes and businesses. Continuing rains have hindered rescuers' attempts to find bodies of more victims claimed by the mudslides and floods in Santa Catarina state while making it tough for survivors to return home, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on his weekly radio show. "We're only asking God to stop the rains soon so that we can start to rebuild the state of Santa Catarina," he said. Thirty-one people are still missing, and some officials have estimated the death count could rise to as much as 150. About 80,000 people were forced from their homes by storms that dumped more water on the region during the weekend of Nov. 22-23 than it normally gets in months. Another 8,000 people were displaced in neighbouring Rio de Janeiro state." (Yahoo News, 1 December) RD

Monday, December 08, 2008

Platitudes and Twaddle

A campaign to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland has been launched by Independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

The Lothian MSP, who has Parkinson's Disease, hopes to bring legislation before the parliament next year.

She is sending out a consultation paper and needs the support of at least 18 MSPs to bring forward a Holyrood bill.

Mrs MacDonald, 65, said people should have the right to choose the time and place of their death and she called for a debate on the issue.

Unfortunately for 40 thousand kids a day who die, in the so- called third world this is not the case as they don't reach their first birthday as a consequence of capitalist induced poverty..

Malaria claims the lives of three children every minute. In Africa, it accounts for a quarter of infant mortality.

Anti-malarial drugs like chloroquine and larium, which were once 95% effective, are now almost useless in parts of the Third World.

Because of global warming, the disease is returning to areas where it had been successfully eradicated.


In the Calton ward of Glasgow East, male life expectancy stands at 53.9 years. Iraqi life expectancy is 69 years.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said it was not up to us to decide when we die.

He said: "Life is a gift from Almighty God, given us through Almighty God through the cooperation of our parents.

"If God gives us that gift, He can take that from us but we're not taking it from Him and as it were saying, 'well God, I'm finished with life because I can't cope with cancer or Parkinson's or whatever it has to be'. We just wait on God calling us to himself.

Did you ever read such miserable,superstitious, sanctimonious ,nonsense from a grown man ?

BLING, BLING - ITS THE PHONE


Vertu's Frank Nuovo holds his latest baby, the Boucheron 150, which has been
sculpted from a single slab of gold to resemble a jewel
"Nuovo prefers to avoid too much tawdry talk of price tags, but if the unique 150 isn't his most expensive creation to date, then that would be the Vertu Signature Cobra, which comes coiled in a bejewelled snake (two diamonds, two emeralds, 439 rubies), courtesy of Boucheron. It's attractive, if you like that sort of thing, and worth somewhere in the region of £170,000. If your pockets aren't quite deep enough to purchase the Cobra, then the Vertu Ascent, which chief engineer Hutch Hutchison describes as the company's "entry level" model, retails at a modest £2,900. It may not have much of the bling expected by the average mobile-phone user (no camera, no Bluetooth wireless), but it boasts rather more timeless touches of quality: made from ceramic, stainless steel and a durable alloy called Liquidmetal, the Ascent is finished with hand-sewn leather and a scratch-proof sapphire crystal screen." (Independent, 26 November) RD

COME CLEAN, QUEENIE

"Voice-recognition lie detectors are to be used by two Welsh councils in an attempt to crack down on benefit fraud. People in Flintshire and the Vale of Glamorgan on housing and council tax support will have their speech patterns analysed when claims are reviewed. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is piloting the 12-month scheme in 18 local authorities across Wales and England. However, some critics claim it could deter genuine claimants. Benefits cheats cost the UK taxpayer an estimated £400m a year. A pilot scheme was initially introduced among seven English councils, but has been extended and includes Wales for the first time. Details were announced as part of the Welfare Reform Bill during the Queen's Speech on Wednesday."
(BBC News, 4 December)
This will be hailed by all supporters of capitalism as an excellent wheeze to foil impoverished claimants, but what will happen when the Queen phones up for an increase on her benefits in the civil list? Presumably the lie detector will be switched off for non-impoverished claimants. RD

WORLD HUNGER GROWS

"It is the new face of hunger. A perfect storm of food scarcity, global warming, rocketing oil prices and the world population explosion is plunging humanity into the biggest crisis of the 21st century by pushing up food prices and spreading hunger and poverty from rural areas into cities. Millions more of the world's most vulnerable people are facing starvation as food shortages loom and crop prices spiral ever upwards. And for the first time in history, say experts, the impact is spreading from the developing to the developed world. More than 73 million people in 78 countries that depend on food handouts from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are facing reduced rations this year. The increasing scarcity of food is the biggest crisis looming for the world'', according to WFP officials." (Sunday Herald, 30 November) RD

Sunday, December 07, 2008

ISLAMIC BROTHERS?

"The Iraqi army has unearthed 30 decomposed bodies in shallow graves in the country's northern Diyala province. The bodies were found in the predominantly Shi'te village of Albu-Toma, where Sunni Islamis al-Qaeda militants carried out mass sectarian killings against Shi'ites." (Observer, 30 November) RD

RELIGION IN ACTION

"Hundreds of people were killed in the central Nigerian city of Jos when Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election, witnesses said Saturday. "I was at the central mosque this afternoon and I counted 378 dead bodies but just as I was about to leave, 3 more bodies were brought, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale in Jos, Aminu Manu, told AFP. "Hundreds of people have been killed in the last two days since the riots started. Remains of burnt bodies litter some parts of the town; it is so terrible," Christian clergyman Yakumu Pam said." (Yahoo News, 29 November) RD

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Poverty makes you thick

A Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience study was described as a "wake-up call" about the impact of social deprivation.
Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving. The brains of children from low-income families process information differently to those of their wealthier counterparts.
Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that "stressful environments" created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.
Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: "The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well - they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex."
Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less - on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four.
Professor Robert Knight, added: "This is a wake-up call - it's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status."

The Savile Row Richard James garments store


"A leading Savile Row tailor, Richard James, sold "Made in England" suits produced by cheap labour in Africa, The Independent can disclose today. For two years workers on the island of Mauritius – paid a fraction of the wage of a British craftsman – cut the fabric and stitched the suits which sold for between £500 and £2,000. When the suits arrived in the UK, workers in Norwich "finished" the garments by sewing on sleeves and buttons and pressing them. The suits then carried labels stating "Made in England" even though, according to Mr James's company, no more than 25 per cent of the work was done in the UK." (Independent, 29 November) RD

SCREW THE ENVIRONMENT

"The Bush administration finalized rules yesterday that will make it easier for mountaintop mining companies to dump their waste near rivers and streams, overhauling a 25-year-old prohibition that has sparked legal and regulatory battles for years. The regulation got signoffs from the Office of Management and Budget and the Environmental Protection Agency this week and will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The change is intended to resolve a nearly five-year-old fight over how companies can dispose of the vast amounts of rubble and sludge created when they blow the tops off mountains to get to the coal buried below, although the incoming Obama administration could revisit the issue."
(Washington Post, 3 December) RD

Hypocrisy by the banks

I read that David Lloyd, 62, was told he had terminal lung cancer in January 2006, his wife, Annette Edwards, contacted their bank, the Halifax, to let them know of his predicament and that he would no longer be able to work. They applied for a payout on an insurance policy, and for state benefits, but while they waited for the money to arrive they went overdrawn.
The bank and its agents telephoned the couple 762 times over seven months in what they say is aggressive pursuit of the debt . Their daughter, Stefanie Moore, 29, received 60 to 100 phone calls and two text messages .

The couple feel dehumanised .

Yes that what capitalism does to people . Socialist Courier wonders if the banks now in debt , begging for government bail-outs will ever be treated in such a shameles and heartless manner to demand repayment

Friday, December 05, 2008

capitalist wages

A Government-owned business set up to help alleviate poverty in the developing world paid its chief executive almost £1 million last year, a report has revealed. CDC Group's Richard Laing received £970,000 , more than double a threshold set by its owner, the Department for International Development (DFID). CDC is a fund management company which invests in private businesses in emerging markets, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asian , in support of DFID's goal of nurturing the growth of the private sector economy in developing countries.
The National Audit Office found that there was "no systematic evidence on the extent to which CDC investment adds to overall investment in poor countries". DFID was "not well-equipped to consider the benefits of its investment" compared to other aid approaches. It also noted that CDC this year had £1.4 billion deposited in cash in the UK, compared to £1.2 billion invested in businesses overseas.
The chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Edward Leigh, said: "It is ridiculous that the chief executive of a Government-owned body aimed at reducing poverty can earn £970,000 in a single year."

poverty wages

Ever wondered why buying new often worked out cheaper than buying at charity shops ?

Foreign workers making clothes for high street fashion chain Primark are existing on as little as 7p an hour . The report also claims workers making clothes for Asda and Tesco are paid similar amounts. The anti-poverty charity War on Want also said Primark was ignoring the rise in basic living costs in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, leaving workers worse off than they were two years ago.

Workers claimed they needed the equivalent of £44.82 a month to feed their families and pay for clean water, shelter, clothes, education , health care and transport. War on Want said the average worker earned £19.16 a month, with the majority living in small, crowded shacks, many lacking plumbing and adequate washing facilities.

War on Want campaigns and policy director Ruth Tanner said: "Primark, Asda and Tesco promise a living wage for their garment makers. But workers are actually worse off than when we exposed their exploitation two years ago."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

FEELING PECKISH?

"Defying the economic downturn, an Italian white truffle weighing just over 1 kg (2.2 lb) sold at an international auction Saturday for $200,000 (130,000 pounds). The prized tuber went for the second year running to Hong Kong-born casino mogul Stanley Ho after an auction held simultaneously in Rome, London, Abu Dhabi and Macau, auction organisers said. Last December, Ho bought a 1.5-kg specimen -- one of the biggest truffles unearthed in half a century -- for a record $330,000." (Yahoo News, 29 November)RD

PROMISES, PROMISES

Politicians all over the world are renowned for making electoral promises which they later have to renege on, but usually this is sometime after they have been in office. Barrack Obama must have created some sort of speed record in the withdrawal of electoral promises annals - he hasn't even taken office and has reneged! "President-elect Barack Obama has quietly shelved a proposal to slap oil and natural gas companies with a new windfall profits tax. An aide for the transition team acknowledged the policy shift Tuesday, after a small-business group discovered the proposal — touted throughout much of the campaign — had been dropped from the incoming administration’s Web site. “President-elect Obama announced the policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel,” the aide said. “They are below that now and expected to stay below that.” (Houston Chronicle, 2 December). RD

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

THE INSANE SOCIETY

Inside capitalism it is commonplace to learn of workers trying to survive on an income of less than £1 a day, so think of our repugnance on reading how much one parasite gets in a fortnight. "Sir Phillip Green sold his 28 per cent stake in Moss Bros, the gentlemen's outfitter, yesterday, locking in a profit of £1 million in just over a fortnight. The news came the day after the BHS, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins tycoon said that he had decided not to bid for the company." (Times, 29 November)
A man or a woman struggle all their live to raise a family on a pittance of a wage but a millionaire can get £1 million just by making two telephone calls. Capitalism is truly an insane society RD

Monday, December 01, 2008

LONELY IN THE CITY


Edinburgh's Holyrood district is among the loneliest places to live, the study
says.
Community life in Britain has weakened substantially over the past 30 years, according to research commissioned by the BBC.
The study ranks places using a formula based on the proportion of people in an area who are single, those who live alone, the numbers in private rented accommodation and those who have lived there for less than a year.
The higher the proportion of people in those categories, the less rooted the community, according to social scientists. They refer to it as the level of "anomie" or the "feeling of not belonging".

Summer School

Summer School 2017

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