Friday, January 30, 2009

DYING FOR CAPITALISM



"Suicides among U.S. soldiers rose last year to the highest level in decades, the Army announced Thursday. At least 128 soldiers killed themselves in 2008. But the final count is likely to be considerably higher because 15 more suspicious deaths are still being investigated and could also turn out to be self-inflicted, the Army said. A new training and prevention effort will start next week. And Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general, made a plea for more U.S. mental health professionals to sign on to work for the military. "We are hiring and we need your help," she said. The new suicide figure compares with 115 in 2007 and 102 in 2006 and is the highest since record keeping began in 1980."

(Associated Press, 29 January) RD

MORE MARKET NONSENSE


Office workers chat in front of a decoration for the upcoming Year of the Ox
"Stock investors reeling from last year's market mayhem may take some solace from practitioners of the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, who predict a calmer, if subdued, performance in the coming Chinese Year of the Ox. "This year of the Ox is an 'earth' year, when people will take a breather and reflect on what they should do after a turbulent 2008," said Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo. Practitioners of feng shui maintain the universe is made up of five elements -- earth, water, fire, wood and metal -- that define the collective mood in our environment. Earth is the calmest of the elements and this year is a "yin earth" year as well as an Ox year, symbolizing a more feminine energy, says Lo. The Year of the Ox, which starts on January 26, will be the most peaceful year globally since 2000, he says, but stock investors don't need to rush into the market yet. "2009 will be a 'pure earth' year, which means fire will be missing so there will not be a lot of drive to push up the stock market," said Lo. The economic climate will still be tough and though stock markets might rise in the first half of this year, gains could peter out in the second half, Lo said." (Yahoo News, 20 January) RD

EXPORTERS VERSUS IMPORTERS

"A coalition of leading American exporters, including Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric, is trying to stop a “Buy America” clause being included in President Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package. The American Steel First Act would ensure that only US-made steel was used in $64 billion of federally funded infrastructure projects. The money, earmarked for roads, bridges and waterways, is aimed at kick-starting the economy, but the initiative by steelmakers, which secured support last week in the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, is opposed by American exporters, who fear retaliation by foreign governments. Their concern is given credence by the European Commission and by Eurofer, the association of European steelmakers, which said that it would urge the European Union to challenge the “Buy America” clause at the World Trade Organisation." (Independent, 26 January) RD

Thursday, January 29, 2009

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

Socialists always point out how inefficient capitalism is and how inside a socialist society everyone would work to the best of their ability and take according to their needs. Contrast that with what is happening today. Men and women of the working class throughout the world are being debarred from producing wealth. They are being thrown onto the industrial and commercial scrapheap of capitalism because of the profit motive.
"Up to 51 million jobs worldwide could disappear by the end of this year as a result of the economic slowdown that has turned into a global employment crisis, a United Nations agency said on Wednesday. The International Labour Organization (ILO) said that under its most optimistic scenario, this year would finish with 18 million more unemployed people than at the end of 2007, with a global unemployment rate of 6.1. More realistically, it said 30 million more people could lose their jobs if financial turmoil persists through 2009, pushing up the world's unemployment to 6.5 percent, compared to 6.0 percent in 2008 and 5.7 percent in 2007. In the worst-case economic scenario, the Global Employment Trends report said 51 million more jobs could be lost by the end of this year, creating a 7.1 percent global unemployment rate."
(Reuters, 28 January) RD

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MORTGAGE MISERY

"One house was repossessed every ten minutes in the third quarter of last year as the rate of seizures almost doubled, the Financial Services Authority said yesterday. The City regulator said that 13,616 homes were repossessed in the three months to September last year, a 92 per cent rise on the third quarter of 2007. There was also a rise in the number of homeowners in arrears, indicating that hundreds of thousands of borrowers could lose their homes. The FSA said that 340,000 borrowers were behind on mortgage repayments, a 10 per cent rise compared with the previous quarter of last year and a 24 per cent rise on the same period in 2007."
(Times, 23 January) RD

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fatten them up for the colonies or war

Following on from a previous post, on Free work versus forced employment, some older readers may remember this exercise in social control.

This was how workers were treated and how some of the capitalist bosses would still like to treat them, if you will let them get away with it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7842517.stm

We don't find any sons and daughters of the ruling class in these schemes ,of course.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

"Miriam Gorman wanted to retire more than a year ago, but steep financial losses in her retirement savings mean the 71-year-old bookkeeper now plans to work on indefinitely.
"I would have preferred to retire at the end of 2007, and then I was thinking at the end of this year, and now maybe it's next year. I really don't know," said Gorman, who's been with an advertising company in Bethesda, Maryland, for 15 years. Across America, older workers are postponing retirement plans, dismayed by huge losses in the value of the investments they had depended on to fund their retirement. The U.S. recession has compounded the problem, with home values too low to provide the nest egg many seniors need and interest rates on safer assets close to zero." (Yahoo News, 17 January) RD

Friday, January 23, 2009

CAPITALISM THE POLLUTER


A female orangutan named Beki eats bananas at Tanjung Puting National Park on
Borneo island, Indonesia
"Hoping to unravel the mysteries of human origin, anthropologist Louis Leakey sent three young women to Africa and Asia to study our closest relatives: It was chimpanzees for Jane Goodall, mountain gorillas for Dian Fossey and the elusive, solitary orangutans for Birute Mary Galdikas. Nearly four decades later, 62-year-old Galdikas, the least famous of his "angels," is the only one still at it. And the red apes she studies in Indonesia are on the verge of extinction because forests are being clear-cut and burned to make way for lucrative palm oil plantations. ..."I try not to get depressed, I try not to get burned out," says the Canadian scientist, pulling a wide-rimmed jungle hat over her shoulder-length gray hair in Tanjung Puting National Park. She gently leans over to pick up a tiny orangutan, orphaned when his mother was caught raiding crops. "But when you get up in the air you start gasping in horror; there's nothing but palm oil in an area that used to be plush rain forest. Elsewhere, there's burned-out land, which now extends even within the borders of the park." The demand for palm oil is rising in the U.S. and Europe because it is touted as a "clean" alternative to fuel. Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, and prices have jumped by almost 70 percent in the last year.But palm oil plantations devastate the forest and create a monoculture on the land, in which orangutans cannot survive. ... Most live in small, scattered populations that cannot take the onslaught on the forests much longer. Trees are being cut at a rate of 300 football fields every hour. And massive land-clearing fires have turned the country into one of the top emitters of carbon." (Yahoo News, 18 January) RD

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thought For Today

• "Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. He has not come – he never will come. I would not lead you out if l could, for if you could be led out – you could be led back again. Make up your minds, there is nothing you cannot do for yourselves."(Eugene Debbs)

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND


Lindsey Nelson gets ready to head out for the day after sleeping in an area that
falls within the city's inaugural security perimeter
"From the steam grates of Pennsylvania Avenue to the porticoes of the city's grand buildings, homeless Washingtonians who live inside the nation's tightest security zone are being encouraged to decamp during the inauguration for shelters in the city's outer neighbourhoods. The security sweeps will probably begin Monday. Buses will make one-way trips to two of the District's largest shelters, which will remain open round-the-clock, said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6)."Everyone has to be out of the perimeter by then," Wells said." (Washington Post, 15 January) RD

Free work versus forced employment

Why do you go to work? Is it because you enjoy what you do? Did you choose to work at what you do in the way you do? Would you do your job were it not for the money?

A few lucky people can do what they like. These include a certain class of people who have the economic privilege of not needing to work. They can live by exploiting the work of others. This exploitation enables them to live by appropriating rent, interest and profit.

They can do what they like with their lives. They can sleep all day.They can travel. They can spend their time shooting animals for fun or shooting drugs into their bodies. If they wish, they can be philanthropists and "do good" for the poor—who are poor only because the rich are rich.

While the capitalist minority who own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth are free not to have to work, the majority of us are unfree. We are dependent upon working in order to obtain a wage or salary. We sell our mental and physical abilities in a relationship called employment.

Work and employment are not the same. Humans need to work because work is the expenditure of energy and unless we use some of it we rot away.
Even the most parasitical aristocratic layabout occasionally does the odd stroke of work. Looking after a garden or painting pictures or cooking fine food are all work activities, but if you do them freely they are not employment.

To be employed is to work for someone else: to be at their beck and call; to be given money by them in return for producing values for them. Capitalists will only employ workers if there is a prospect of them making a profit out of us. They make their profit by receiving from us more value than the value of our wages or salaries.

Without this surplus value they would not employ us - which is why millions of able-bodied and skilled people who want to find jobs are unemployed; there is no prospect of a profit in making them work. There is no point in asking the capitalists to give everyone employment regardless of profit. That would not be in their interests and we should not expect them to invest in us unless they can exploit us.

So, the majority works not by choice but in an unfree relationship of employment. We are wage or salary slaves. We are employed not for the good of our health but so that capitalists can live in luxury without working. Employment is a form of institutionalised exploitation - or legalised robbery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dreaming of a super cycle

On 19 November 2007 the Times published a special supplement on “Minerals and Mining”. One optimistic article “Boom time for world-wide mining” raised the prospect that world mining was entering a “super cycle” and that “we are now in the early stage of a prolonged upward shift in prices, fuelled by the industrialisation of China and India”.

Industrialisation involves not just the building of new factories but also the uprooting of people from the countryside and their move to urban industrial centres to work. One expert spoke of “the movement of anything from around 10 million to 20 million people per year into an urban setting” in China, so increasing the demand for new houses, roads, administrative buildings and the other features of an urban infrastructure.

Copper is used extensively in the construction industry, for electric wiring and the like. Recent years have seen a boom in the price of copper and the other base metals, zinc (used for galvanising steel and batteries) and nickel (also used in steelmaking), attributed largely to the increased pace of industrialisation in China since 2003. The optimists believe that their “super cycle” will be the third in the last 150 years, “the previous two occurring around the end of the 19th century as the US became a major economic power and the second being the post war expansion of the Japanese and European economies after 1945”.

Three days later, the headlines of the Times business section read: “Fears of recession in US spook commodity markets” and “The wheels are coming off the supercycle”:

A metals analyst, Nick Moore gave his opinion:

“’The supercycle has a flat tyre,’ Mr Moore said, referring to a theory promoted by some analysts and mining groups which suggested that extraordinary demand from China and India would sustain continued long-term growth and prevent the traditional boom and bust cycle of the mining industry. ‘China is not the tooth fairy that can absorb all the ore’”.

Of course since, as on all markets, speculators operate on the commodities market, too much store should not be set on short-term changes there. But the state of the US economy is relevant since China is not industrializing on its own: the motor is exports. If, due to a recession in the US, these fall off so will China’s demand for copper and zinc and the mining industry will suffer from “overcapacity”. Hence the comment of the Times Business Editor, James Harding, that “in the longer term, there is concern that the industry has retained its tendency towards oversupply, adding production capacity and removing the squeeze that props up prices”.

In other words, the classic scenario under capitalism. When the market for some product is expanding, all the firms supplying it assume that this will continue and invest in new productive capacity; when all this comes on stream it is found that supply exceeds demand and boom turns to bust and slump. The mining industry has traditionally been prone to this because of the longer time needed to explore for, find and extract minerals than to build a factory. The last time the world mining industry went through a slump was in the 1990s:

“At that time, with lower demand and lower prices, and in the midst of technological change, metals were, as TulpulĂ© [chief economist at Rio Tinto] puts it ‘passĂ©’. This of course led to a lack of investment in plant, a fall off in exploration, and a declining growth on the supply side” (Times, 19 November 2007).

As long as capitalism lasts, this zigzagging between boom and slump will always be the course of economic activity.

Socialist Standard Rock and Roll ?

A comrade in the USA has come across this:

http://www.causeur.fr/swinging-gauchistes,1691

Here's a translation:
"The Socialist Standard is the oldest extreme-left journal in
England -- and no doubt on the planet: it has been published without
interruption since 1904.
As can be seen its latest edition is particularly devoted to the new
occupant of the White House and predicts, rightly, that there's not
much new to be expected from Barack Obama. Up to there, nothing
amazing, but it's the words to say it (Meet the New Boss, Same as
the Old Boss) which have enchanted the rockolgues of Causeur, who
all instantly jumped for joy in recognising the words of the
fabulous "Won't Get Fooled Again" of The Who,of which Basile de Koch
has already said all the good that should be thought of it. It will
thus be deduced that like their popular and reference newspapers,
the English are better equipped than us in anti-capitalist
papers. For example this week the front page of Rouge says "Halt to
the Massacre of the Palestinian People". Politically you think of it
what you want, but one thing is certain: as a title it's not very
rock and roll."

Still a bit 1960 and 1970ish I suppose.

Adam

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

GOD'S WILL?


A general view of the Reborn in Christ church, center, after its roof collapsed
Sunday evening.
"Police and rescuers picked through a latticework of bent steel Monday after the roof at one of Brazil's largest evangelical churches collapsed between services, killing at least nine people. Nearly 100 people were injured, but the toll could have been much worse because the roof caved in less than an hour after a Sunday service at the Reborn in Christ church attracted thousands of young worshippers — and minutes before another service for adults."
(Yahoo News, 19 January) RD

Monday, January 19, 2009

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

" ...Limerick, Ireland's third city where on the Raheen Industrial Estate in the southern suburbs, the computer giant Dell has a large manufacturing plant employing 3,000 people. On Thursday 8 January, those employees discovered that 1,900 of them would be made redundant over the next twelve months. Dell is switching manufacture from Limerick to Poland, where wages are about two-thirds lower than in Ireland. According to the Irish Times, local business leaders estimate that the knock-on effects on companies that rely on Dell for work could see `in the region of 7,000 to 10,000` further jobs at risk, threatening to send the local economy `into meltdown`"
(Observer, 18 January) RD

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A WASTEFUL SOCIETY

Capitalism is a very wasteful society that spends millions of potentially useful labour time and ingenuity in protecting private property. All over the world men and women spent their time in organisations like armies and police forces. Here is a small example of the stupidity of a private property society, in this case the border between Mexico and the USA. "18,000 - the number of Border Patrol agents assigned to it in 2008 (up from 4,000 in 1993) 705,000 - the number of people caught trying to cross it illegally in 2007/2008, down from 1.6 million in 2000. That's the equivalent to 2,000 people a day. 1,954 - the number of people who died crossing it between 1998 and 2004, mainly of exposure, drowning or car crashes." (Times, 16 January) RD

A STRANGE CENSORSHIP

"A Christian bus driver in Southampton has refused to take to the road in a vehicle emblazoned with an advertisement for a new campaign promoting atheism. Ron Heather, 62, told managers at First Bus that his beliefs would not permit him to drive a bus carrying the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." (Guardian, 16 January)
It is good to see bus drivers with principles but we wonder how his previous colleagues drove a bus that said "Guinness is good for you" or even earlier "Craven A for your throats sake" and of course more recently "It is a man's life in the army". Is it OK to advertise a well known cause of disease of the liver or one that induces cancer of the lungs and even one that instructs you how to kill people, but never to doubt Christian fairy tales? A really strange sort of censorship. RD

Saturday, January 17, 2009

RECYCLING FAILED IDEAS


"President-elect Obama proposes an unparalleled test of Keynes' decades-old idea: that deficit spending on a grand-enough scale can inspire the confidence to right a sinking economy. Reporting from Washington -- In a measure of how quickly its options are shrinking, the United States is about to embrace an economic theory that was widely thought for most of the last generation to have been discredited: the idea that great bursts of deficit-funded government expenditure can jolt an economy back to growth."
(Los Angeles Times, 11 January) RD

US ILLITERACY

"About 14 percent of U.S. adults won't be reading this article. Well, okay, most people won't read it, given all the words that are published these days to help us understand and navigate the increasingly complex world. But about 1 in 7 can't read it. They're illiterate. Statistics released by the U.S. Education Department this week show that some 32 million U.S. adults lack basic prose literacy skill. That means they can't read a newspaper or the instruction on a bottle of pills." (livescience.com, 10 January) RD

Friday, January 16, 2009

ETERNALLY STINGY

In every large town in the USA you will find a monument to the war dead of the various struggles for markets and sources of raw materials. It seems that the owning class are truly grateful to the working class dead - but not too grateful.
"An "eternal" flame at Bullhead City's new veterans memorial park that only lasted until city officials received a $961 gas bill has been re-lit following complaints by veterans groups. The Medal of Honor Memorial at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park alongside the Colorado River was lit on Veterans Day in November. When the bill arrived in late December, city officials were stunned. "It caught us by surprise," City Manager Tim Ernster said Thursday. "What we decided to do for the time being is to turn the flame on ... for special events, for Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day — those types of activities." The flame was extinguished on Monday. The Mohave Valley Daily News published a story Friday quoting city officials and disgruntled veterans who had worked to pay for and build the memorial before turning it over to the city. The flame was back on by midmorning Friday following a meeting of city officials. "What happened was really a miscommunication," city spokesman Steve Johnson said. "The issue came up one day and it was never intended to be shut off." Johnson said the flame is impressive, but city parks officials are looking at ways to put a smaller burner in place and only use the larger one at special events. "We're looking at alternatives, because $1,000 a month in these economic times is certainly a consideration," Johnson said." (Yahoo News, 10 January) RD

Thursday, January 15, 2009

RECRUITING THE YOUNG


Ashley Albert sits in the Apache helicopter flight simulator at the U.S. Army
Experience center
"The U.S. Army, struggling to ensure it has enough manpower as it fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is wooing young Americans with video games, Google maps and simulated attacks on enemy positions from an Apache helicopter. Departing from the recruiting environment of metal tables and uniformed soldiers in a drab military building, the Army has invested $12 million in a facility that looks like a cross between a hotel lobby and a video arcade. The U.S. Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills shopping mall in northeast Philadelphia has 60 personal computers loaded with military video games, 19 Xbox 360 video game controllers and a series of interactive screens describing military bases and career options in great detail. Potential recruits can hang out on couches and listen to rock music that fills the space. ... Defence officials say the recession and rising unemployment were likely to boost recruiting."
(Yahoo News, 9 January) RD

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RETREAT FROM THE RETREAT

"Monasteries and convents are advertising "try being a monk/nun" weekends as a way of encouraging men and women into religious orders. The number of monks and nuns is falling so quickly than within a generation there could be none left. In 2000, there was about 710 nuns and 230 monks in Anglican religious orders in Britain and Ireland. Eight years later, numbers are down more than a third - to 470 nuns and 135 monks. It is no better for Roman Catholic orders. The Vatican revealed last year the numbers worldwide fell 10% in 2005 - 06 alone." (Observer, 11 January) RD

HARD TIMES

"Fears that the world is sliding into the worst global recession since the Great Depression multiplied yesterday as figures showed the steepest jump in American unemployment since the Second World War and a slump in manufacturing across Europe. Economists on both sides of the Atlantic were startled by the severity of the latest indications of global economic slump, which further stoked pressure for radical action to stave off economic calamity. A further surge in US joblessness led the litany of bleak developments yesterday. Official figures confirmed that more Americans lost their jobs last year than in any year since 1945, and that unemployment is soaring at the fastest pace seen since then. A total of 524,000 Americans were made redundant by US employers last month alone, the latest official payroll figures showed."
(Times, 10 January) RD

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CAPITALISM IN ACTION


The factory of U.S. computer maker DELL, in Limerick, on Thursday,
Jan. 8th
Ireland, , 2009.
"U.S. computer maker Dell Inc. announced Thursday it will slash its Irish work force and shift its European manufacturing operations to Poland in a move certain to undermine Ireland's recession-hit economy. Dell is Ireland's second-largest corporate employer, its biggest exporter and in recent years has contributed about 5 percent to the national gross domestic product. Economists warn that each Dell job underpins another four to five jobs in Ireland. Managers told its approximately 4,300 Irish employees that 1,900 of them — overwhelmingly assembly-line workers — would lose their jobs between April 2009 and January 2010. By then, the company said, it plans to have transferred the entire Irish production of laptops and desktop computers to a new Dell plant in Poland's third-largest city, Lodz — where labor costs are at least two-thirds lower than Dell's rates in Ireland — and to subcontractors chiefly in Asia." (Yahoo News, 8 January) RD

OLD, COLD AND SKINT

"A spokesman for Help the Aged said: "As the temperature drops, the death rate goes up but it's not just the sudden cold snaps, it's the whole winter. We've been hearing about a lot of people only heating one room and trying to spend as much time as possible in it, and also a lot of people will go out and kill time in heated places like libraries to try to keep their own bills down. "The huge increases in fuel costs have really hit pensioners. It now costs about £1,400 a year to heat the average British home and if you're on a pension of just £8,000 a year you can see that that's a sizeable chunk. Older people are really finding themselves in that awful 'heat or eat' scenario." (Observer, 11 January) RD

Monday, January 12, 2009

THE FALLACY OF LEADERSHIP

One of the oppositions to world socialism that we often meet is that we need wise leaders and that ordinary workers cannot be trusted with the complexities of modern society. The Socialist Party is opposed to the concept of leadership. In our view only the working class can establish socialism. Here is one of the so-called leaders George Bush speaking, make up your own mind.
"There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead." Washington DC, 11 May, 2001
"I want to thank my friend, Senator Bill Frist, for joining us today. He married a Texas girl, I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me." Nashville, Tennessee, 27 May, 2004
"For a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times." Tokyo, 18 February, 2002
"The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorise himself." Grand Rapids, Michigan, 29 January, 2003
"I think war is a dangerous place." Washington DC, 7 May, 2003
"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the - the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." Washington DC, 27 October, 2003 " (BBC News, 8 January)
Nuff said? RD

A SUICIDAL SOCIETY

Workers are often told how lucky they are to be workers instead of capitalists, but capitalists themselves don't believe that piece of nonsense. With the downturn in the capitalist market place many capitalists face the prospect of losing their privileged class position and finding themselves in the ranks of the working class. The prospect is so awful that some of them can't face it and commit suicide.
"Kirk Stephenson, the 47-year-old New Zealand-born chief operating officer at the private equity firm Olivant, died instantly when he was hit by a train at Taplow station in Buckinghamshire, on September 25 last year. A jury returned a verdict of suicide. ...Rene-Thierry Magon de la, 65, a French financier, locked the door of his New York office last month, swallowed sleeping pills and slashed his wrists with a craft knife. ... Paulo Sergio Silva, 36, a trader for the brookerage arm of the Brazilian banking giant Itau, shot himself in the chest during the afternoon trading session in San Paulo's commodities and futures exchange in an apparent suicide attempt in November. ... One of Europe's most influential industry magnates has thrown himself in front of a train after his business empire began to crumble. Adolf Merckle, the 74-year-old head of a conglomerate that employs thousands in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, killed himself on Monday." (Times, 7 January) RD

Sunday, January 11, 2009

WHAT CREDIT CRUNCH?

A Japanese bluefin tuna that fetched nearly 10 million yen at the year-opening
auction is shown at Tokyo's


"Two sushi bar owners paid more than $100,000 for a Japanese bluefin tuna at a Tokyo fish auction Monday, several times the average price and the highest in nearly a decade, market officials said. The 282-pound (128-kilogram) premium tuna caught off the northern coast of Oma fetched 9.63 million yen ($104,700), the highest since 2001, when another Japanese bluefin tuna brought an all-time record of 20 million yen, market official Takashi Yoshida said. Yoshida said the extravagant purchase — about $370 per pound ($817 per kilogram) — went to a Hong Kong sushi bar owner and his Japanese competitor who reached a peaceful settlement to share the big fish." (Yahoo News, 5 January):

AN ORWELLIAN FUTURE

"Police have been given the power to hack into personal computers without a court warrant. The Home Office is facing anger and the threat of a legal challenge after granting permission. Ministers are also drawing up plans to allow police across the EU to collect information from computers in Britain. The moves will fuel claims that the Government is presiding over a steady extension of the "surveillance society" threatening personal privacy. Hacking – known as "remote searching" – has been quietly adopted by police across Britain following the development of technology to access computers' contents at a distance. Police say it is vital for tracking cyber-criminals and paedophiles and is used sparingly but civil liberties groups fear it is about to be vastly expanded." (Independent, 5 January) RD

Friday, January 09, 2009

Debate Debate Debate


Public Debate
(from above image)

Saturday 24 January, 3pm to 5pm.

Did Trotsky Point
The Way To
Socialism?

Yes: Hillel Ticktin, editor of Critique.
No: Adam Buick, Socialist Party.

Hillhead Public Library, Byres Road. (next to Hillhead subway) Map

Banks Boom and Bust - Glasgow Discussion



What came first, the recession or the credit-crunch? There appears to be some confusion about this but the fact is that the credit-crunch is happening because of the recession. The recession has produced a big increase in redundancies, not least among people with low credit rating, especially in America, who bought sub-prime mortgages and are now defaulting on them, and this ac­counts for the huge number of repossessions.

What are these sub-prime mortgages?

They are mortgages aimed at people who have low incomes and/or low credit rating, many of them were led to believe that they were buying a mortgage at an affordable rate of interest but they weren't told that the rate would rise after a year to a level they couldn't afford.

Sub-prime mortgages are a product of the need for banks to pay dividends to their shareholders, pay interest to their depositors and on borrowings from the wholesale money markets. To do all this banks must find new ways of making money and that's why they've come up with Junk Bonds, Derivatives, Hedge Funds and now the risky sub-prime mortgages.

Sub-prime mortgages have been around since the 1960s and were very profitable until now and this is why banks and other lenders have bought them by the million, hence the enormous losses.

So what is the credit-crunch? Because of the recession banks are reluctant to lend to would-be house buyers (may lose their jobs), to businesses (may go bust) and even other banks which could turn out to be insolvent, and that's what has produced the credit-crunch.

Vic Vanni will be expanding on all these issues at our first meeting of the year.

Community Central Hall,
Maryhill Road, Glasgow. 8.30 pm



A GRIM FUTURE


An Australian army truck is unloaded from a landing craft in Dili, in 2006


"Australia's military has warned that global warming could create failed states across the Pacific as sea levels rise and heighten the risk of conflict over resources, according to a report. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) analysis found the military could be called on to undertake more security, disaster relief and reconstruction missions as a result of climate change, the Sydney Morning Herald said. "Environmental stress, caused by both climate change and a range of other factors, will act as a threat multiplier in fragile states around the world, increasing the chances of state failure," the analysis said. "This is likely to increase demands for the ADF to be deployed on additional stabilisation, post-conflict reconstruction and disaster relief operations in the future." (Yahoo News, 6 January) RD

AFRICAN MISERY

"How bad was it for Africa in 2008? The highlight of the year for most of the continent just might have been the election of a half-Kenyan to lead a nation thousands of miles away. President-elect Barack Obama's triumph in the US raised Africa's hopes – no small feat in a year that saw rigged elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe, virtually no progress toward ending the mass suffering in Darfur, political and social upheaval in South Africa, and – just when you thought some places had hit bottom – even more chaos and bloodshed in Congo and Somalia. Throughout Africa, 2008 was a year to forget. For all the hope embodied in the arrival of a new year, and of Mr. Obama himself, however, 2009 brings no obvious solutions for any of Africa's most intractable problems." (Yahoo News, 2 January) RD

Thursday, January 08, 2009

POVERTY INHERINTANCE

"Children from poor families are more likely than their peers to be depressed as teenagers, with effects that can ultimately make it harder to climb out from poverty, a new study suggests. The study, which followed nearly 500 Iowa families for a decade, found that children in poorer families were at greater risk of depression symptoms by adolescence. These teenagers, in turn, were more likely to "grow up" faster -- including having sex, leaving home or getting married at an earlier-than-average age. This cycle, the study found, eventually put kids at risk of substantial obstacles in young adulthood, such as low education levels, unemployment and a lack of stable relationships in their lives. "The main finding shows the continuity of family adversity over generations -- from family-of-origin to a young adult's family," lead researcher K.A.S. Wickrama, a professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University in Ames, said in a written statement. "In other words," he said, "it's the transmission of poverty." The findings, which appear in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, suggest that early-life stress and depression symptoms feed each other, ultimately making the transition to adulthood a tough one, according to Wickrama's team." (Yahoo News, 7 January) RD

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A DEPRESSIVE SOCIETY

"One in ten young people in Scotland believe life is not really worth living and one in four is depressed, according to a disturbing new survey. The Prince's Trust YouGov Youth Index, the first large-scale index of its kind, reveals a significant element of unhappiness amongst 16 to 25-year-olds. Almost one in ten claimed that life was not really worth living and almost a quarter admitted that they were "often" or "always" down or depressed. More than one in four said that they were less happy now than they were as a child and 18 per cent felt like crying "often" or "always"." (Times, 5 January) RD

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Food for Thought 2

- Is crime related to the economy? Socialists have always argued that it is, and that most crime would therefore be eliminated with the end of money and the establishment of free access. In “Agencies Brace for Crime Wave” (Toronto Star, 27/Dec/2008), Robyn Doolittle (wonder if she works for the government?) reports that Toronto was hit by a one day high of 26 robberies just before Christmas and more is expected in 2009 as the economy deteriorates, unemployment rises and people get desperate for food (a natural expectation, I would think).
To confirm the socialist theory, gas thefts at the pump and from the driveways has eased as the price has fallen dramatically.
- On the environmental front, the European Union quickly put together a $332 billion stimulus package to help shore up falling production levels but had their work cut out to reach a ‘save the climate’ deal. Eventually, they reached an agreement that seems to meet the Triple 20 threshhold – 20% cuts to Greenhouse gases by 2020 while shifting 20% of energy needs to renewable sources. An examination of the fine print reveals, however, that caveats and concessions allow coal-powered Poland and heavily industrialized Germany to maintain business as usual. John Ayers

Monday, January 05, 2009

Food for Thought

- The War on Poverty – The Ontario government’s latest poverty reduction plan has the target of reducing child poverty by 25% in five years, lifting 90 000 children out of dire straights. Remember when the promise was always 50%! We’ll see what really happens.
- Meanwhile, the government has raised the dental program age for poor children from 14 to 18 years, but we’re still waiting for the promised $45 million for low income adults and children to receive dental care, even though it’s estimated that a dollar spent on prevention saves up to $50 on fixing later problems.
- Carol Goar of The Toronto Star reports that The National Welfare Council criticizes welfare rates, slow progress, and the fact that welfare strips recipients of their pride, privacy, savings, and adequate diet. The Council has been a burr under Ottawa’s saddle since 1969, reports Goar – some burr!
- Still, we have to look at poverty reduction in a historical context. The Toronto Star article (5/Dec/2008), “Social Justice” told us that Governor John Graves Simcoe excluded the Poor Law when he set up our first government, ‘freeing the colony from responsibility of the poor’. But by 1836, the race to eliminate poverty was on with The Charity Aid Act, accepting public responsibility for the poor. Not long now, it’s coming!
- Meanwhile, The UN’s Food Agency stated that the number of under- -nourished people in the world is rising and is about to reach one billion for the first time in human history. Three cheers for capitalism? John Ayers

Sunday, January 04, 2009

KARL'S QUOTE'S

- Capitalist propaganda is quick to tell us that the machines they have introduced (not invented or made, note ) have lightened the load of the workers. On page 492 (Penguin Edition) of “Capital”, Marx writes,
“John Stuart Mill says in his Principles of Political Economy, ’It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened theday’s toil of any human being.’ That is, however, by no means the aim of the application of machinery under capitalism. Like every other instrument for increasing the productivity of labour, machinery is intended to cheapen commodities and, by shortening the part of the working day in which the worker works for himself, to lengthen the other part, the part he gives to the capitalist for nothing. The machine is a means for producing surplus-value.”
The kicker is the footnote by Marx, “Mill should have said, ‘of any human being not fed by other people’s labour’, for there is no doubt that machinery has greatly increased the number of distinguished idlers.”
How True! John Ayers

Saturday, January 03, 2009

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

People work at an installation at the Zubair Moshrif oil field, 600 kilometers (372 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, in this Thursday, July 3, 2008 file photo. Iraq launched an unprecedented public campaign Friday Dec. 5, 2008 to attract investment from international oil companies, rolling out a red carpet — literally — for executives from as far away as Russia and Japan.

Friday, January 02, 2009

THIS IS PROGRESS?

"Dublin, Ireland – New restrictions on begging are being instituted here for the first time since the potato famine of the 1840s. Although merchants say changes are needed to deal with an increasingly aggressive and organized cadre of panhandlers, critics call the measure an unnecessary criminalization of society's most vulnerable members. ...The impetus for the law came after Ireland's High Court ruled last year that the existing Vagrancy Act of 1847 – an anti-begging law introduced by Britain during the Irish Potato Famine – was outdated and interfered with an individual's right to freedom of expression. "Authorities had no legal powers to prosecute cases of begging," says a spokesperson from the Department of Justice. "The minister [of Justice Dermot Ahern] decided that this was an unacceptable situation." ...No matter the rationale, the change comes during tougher times. Not long ago, Ireland was known as the Celtic Tiger for its booming economy. This year, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund, the economy here will contract by 1.8 percent. Unemployment is also expected to hit 10 percent in 2009." (Yahoo News, 24 December) RD

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