Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE RETREAT OF RELIGION

In primitive times people worshipped volcanoes, river gods and thunder gods; but with the advance in human knowledge of the elements the old witch doctors were discredited. Now religion having failed with the weather retreated to birth and death as the great unknowable for business. With Christian churches emptying they now have to look for a new dodge. Here is what one bright spark has come up with. "Information Age Prayer is a site that charges you a monthly fee to say prayers for you. A typical charge is $4.95 per month to say three prayers specified by you each day. "We use state of the art text to speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying," the company states. "Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen." Prices, however, are dictated by the length of the prayer. As noted in the Information Age Prayer FAQ, "A discounted prayer will cost less than other prayers of similar length." (Yahoo News, 26 March)
The writer of that article stated, "I'm fascinated by the intersection between religion and technology, as are some well-known science fiction writers. For example, if a machine can say a prayer for you, why not have a fully robotic pope and clergy?" The choir boys would certainly be safer! RD

Monday, March 30, 2009

THE MUSIC JUNGLE

Everything inside capitalist society is secondary to the profit motive. So it comes as no great surprise to hear that the popular-music industry is a victim of the rapacious demands of the commodity-producing society. Here is the highly successful pop song-writer and singer, formerly of the Eurithymics, Annie Lennox on the dog-eat-dog nature of the business.
"The music industry is a bloody nightmare. The egos, the slightly criminal elements, the betrayers, the ones who want to screw you." (Observer, 29 March) RD

A DEPRESSING SOCIETY

"Up until last year, for most bankers in the City and on Wall Street, the word "depression" had a specific, economic meaning. But since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, it has come to have a much more personal and devastating resonance for an increasing number of financiers. Rehabilitation clinics on both sides of the Atlantic are experiencing a boom in the number of financial sector workers seeking help for anxiety, depression, stress and addicted-related issues amid colossal redundancy programmes on Wall Street and in the City and severe losses across world capital markets." (Times, 25 March) RD

Sunday, March 29, 2009

COCAINE AND CAPITALISM

"More than 10,000 people have died since President Calderon of Mexico committed troops to tackle the six main cartels in December 2006. Beheadings have become a common way of enforcing discipline within the cartels. Earlier this year Santiago Meza, Aka "the Stew Maker", confessed to having dissolved more than 300 gangland execution victims in acid."
(Times, 25 March) RD

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Recession - it is a death sentence

The World Bank is issuing even bleaker warnings about rising poverty and hunger in the developing world. Initially, it estimated that 46 million people in developing countries could be pushed into poverty. Now, that level is up another 7 million.
“We estimate that about 130 million people were pushed into poverty from the food crisis and if you add the financial crisis on top of that we are estimating that about 53 million more people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the financial crisis,” World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said

The World Bank estimated that the current financial downturn may add between 200,000 and 400,000 additional infant deaths per year on average in the 2009 to 2015 period. That means a total of 1.4 million to 2.8 million more infant deaths, if the financial strain continues.

"...When you talk about the financial crisis becoming an unemployment crisis in the developed world, in the developing world for many poor people it’s not an issue of unemployment, it’s an issue of life and death.

KINSHIP AND CAPITALISM

Capitalism perverts every human relationship it touches, but this is surely one of the most awful examples of the cash nexus inside this dreadful society.
"A couple from Detroit pleaded guilty to killing their two-year-old son and trying to cremate him on a barbecue grill so that they could collect his welfare benefit. Sentences are due to be passed next month." (Times, 25 March) RD

SCRAPING BY ON $43 MILLION

"HARTFORD, Conn. – Former United Technologies Corp. chief executive George David and his wife are doing battle in Hartford in a divorce trial that shines light on the couple's extravagant lifestyle. David and Swedish countess Marie Douglas-David married in 2002. They signed a post-nuptial agreement in 2005 that would give the 36-year-old Douglas-David $43 million when the couple divorces. The 67-year-old businessman wants the court to uphold the agreement. His wife says the money isn't enough to maintain her $53,000-per-week living expenses. Their divorce trial started Wednesday because they were unable to reach an out-of-court settlement. David stepped down as chief executive of United Technologies last year, but remains chairman of the board. He has an estimated net worth of $329 million."
(Yahoo News, 18 March) RD

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who owns the North Pole - Part 14

And you thought that the continuing saga for political and economical and military domination of the mineral-rich arctic regions had been forgotten about but we now read of further developments .

Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic. In a document published on its national security council's website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020.
The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia's main source of oil and gas within the next decade. In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops "capable of ensuring military security" in the region.

With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia's strategy is likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.

COMIC BOOK CAPITALISM





This news item sums up the madness that is capitalism, occurring as it does in a world where millions are forced to eke out a pitiful existence on less than $1 a day.
"New York – A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold for $317,200 in an Internet auction. The previous owner had bought it for less than a buck. It's one of the highest prices ever paid for a comic book, a likely testament to the volume's rarity and its excellent condition, said Stephen Fishler, co-owner of the auction site ComicConnect.com and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles." (Yahoo News, 14 March) RD

forgotten victims

Charities estimate that more than 8,000 buy-to-let properties could be repossessed in the coming year, with at least 10,000 people being made unexpectedly homeless. In some cases families are given no warning at all, sometimes returning home to find locks had been changed and their possessions out on the street.In one instance a family had to spend the night sleeping in their car, before being moved into emergency hostel accommodation.

Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson said "Tenants who have kept their side of the bargain by paying their rent are being thrown out on to the street because their landlords have defaulted on the mortgage."
Leslie Morphy, of Crisis, said "We risk forgetting that tenants of private landlords are extremely vulnerable to the recession,"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

THE RECOVERY MYTH

Politicians love to pretend that they can control capitalism so it comes as no great surprise to hear the US President talking about an economic recovery.
"Barack Obama has told Americans he sees signs of economic recovery, but urged them to be patient and look beyond their "short-term interests" The US president said his draft budget would build a stronger economy which would mean America did not face a repeat crisis in 10 or 20 years." (BBC News, 25 March)
This of course contradicts another "expert" on the economic scene."The world economy is set to shrink by between 0.5% and 1.0% in 2009, the first global contraction in 60 years. In its gloomiest forecast yet, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that developed countries will suffer a "deep recession". The global economic body says "the prolonged financial crisis has battered global economic activity beyond what was previously anticipated". (BBC News, 19 March)
To illustrate than none of the experts have a clue this is the same IMF that was predicting just two months earlier that world output would increase by 0.5%! In fact capitalism is an economic system that is based on slumps and booms and no amount of political "spin" can govern its unpredictability. RD

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

THE SIMPLE LIFE


Lev Leviev London, England Net Worth: $1.5 billionRank: 468
The growing economic crisis with its mounting unemployment and re-possessions poses dreadful conditions on the world's working class, but none of this matter to the capitalist class who continue to live in ease and luxury on the exploitation of these workers
"Computer mogul Michael Dell claims to live simply yet built a 33,000-square-foot manse in Austin, Texas, in 1997. Called "the castle" by locals for its high walls and tight security, the home sits on a 20-acre spread a mere stone's throw from Dell headquarters. It's not so simple for other members of the billionaires club. Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison, a hard-core Japanophile, blew an estimated $100 million building a 23-acre, 10-building, Japanese-inspired imperial villa in Woodside, Calif. But it doesn't stop there. In recent years, he has spent an estimated $200 million snapping up a dozen commercial and residential properties in the ritzy beachside enclave of Malibu, Calif. In January 2008, Russian-Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev bought the Palladio, an extravagant 17,000-square-foot manor outside London, for $65 million. (That works out to $3,823 per square foot, roughly twice the average in Greater London.) The home includes a bullet-proof front door, gold-plated pool, indoor cinema and hair salon. (Yahoo News, 13 March) RD

one rule for them , another rule for us 2

We read
Scottish Water's chief executive, Richard Ackroyd earns a basic salary of £263,000 plus a 40 per cent bonus.
Junior employees at Scottish Water have bonuses limited to around 5 per cent of their salary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recession? Wot Recession?

According to The Independent , the billionaire founder of Phones 4U, John Cauldwell, hired Leona Lewis to perform at his daughter Libby's 21st birthday party last week. The cost? £1,000,000.
Lewis winner of The X Factor in 2006, is meant to be concentrating on producing her second album, but took time out to perform seven songs – astonishingly, her longest-ever concert. And, at £140,000 a track, her most lucrative.

Meanwhile, the South African entrepreneur Sol Kerzner shelled out for his (fourth) wife Heather's 40th birthday celebrations at the Dorchester last week – serenading the fourth Mrs K were Donna Summer and Natalie Cole.

If anyone interested , Rod Stewart can be hired for £750,000.

Monday, March 23, 2009

THE INFALLIBLE FAILS AGAIN

"The Holy See is struggling to contain international anger over the Pope's claim on his first official visit to Africa that Aids "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems". The Pope's remarks about condoms, and a recent furore over his lifting of the 20-year excommunication of a British bishop who has questioned the Holocaust, has left him looking isolated and out of touch, prompting calls for a radical shake-up of the way the Holy See delivers its message." (Daily Telegraph, 19 March)
Having recently forgiven Galileo for his view that the Sun and not the Earth was the centre of the solar system (it took over 350 years) we imagine it might take the infallible one a few years before changing his position about condoms aggravating the spread of Aids. Infallibility is a difficult position to defend, as the millions of Roman Catholics who practice birth control by the use of condoms might one day convince the infallible one. RD

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homelessness and hopelessness

Sixty children become homeless in Scotland every day, according to housing campaigners Shelter. A study by the charity suggested 22,000 young people a year were affected by homelessness and poor housing - enough to fill every secondary school in Fife. The number of homeless families with children rose by 18% over five years. The report also found a 27% increase in the number of families with children in temporary accommodation over three years.

Shelter Scotland's director Graeme Brown said: "A decent, warm, safe home is crucial to all aspects of children's well being. Yet the facts show thousands of Scotland's children have to wake up every day in cold, damp, overcrowded homes, uncertain about their future."

In a separate study, researchers from Glasgow University suggested homeless people were four times more likely to die prematurely. More than 6,000 homeless adults in Glasgow were tracked over a five-year period and their mortality compared with 13,500 non-homeless residents. By the end of the study, 7% of the homeless group had died compared to 2% of the non-homeless group. The most common causes of death among the homeless subjects were drugs, alcohol, circulatory diseases and suicide.
Dr David Morrison, from the research group, said: "This study has shown we have a large population of young, vulnerable homeless people who are in terrible health."

The study indicated Glasgow residents living in the most deprived areas were three times more likely to die than their affluent counterparts. Being homeless increased the risk of death another threefold.

One rule for you , another rule for us

Got a lot of commuter travelling time between home and work ? Don't worry , House of Parliament will pick up the bill . Or they do for the Labour Party Minister of Employment , Tony McNulty , who has been claiming second-home expenses on a London house where just as it happens his parents live.

The MP lived in the house in Harrow with his parents before then moved into her home about eight miles away in Hammersmith, west London. Under parliamentary rules Mr McNulty can claim an allowance for a second home in his constituency even though it is only 11 miles from Westminster. The MPs' Additional Costs Allowance of up to £24,000 a year goes to MPs from outside inner London to cover the cost of staying away from their main home when carrying out parliamentary duties.

McNulty and his wife, Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector, have a combined annual income of more than £300,000 and between them own two London homes worth £1.2m.

he compared the defence of his actions to the excuses given by Nazi war criminals, who said they were “only obeying orders”.
“It is not against the rules – though I suppose you might say that is the Nuremberg defence,” he is reported to have said. He said he had decided to stop claiming the second-home allowance in January after he had “reflected” on the issue.

Another Labour Party mnister , Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, is under investigation for claiming £20,000 a year in expenses, arguing that a home she shares with her sister in London was her “principal residence”.

And what the hell , lets keep it all in the family . One third of government ministers employ a member of their family at taxpayers' expense, an official document revealed today. Jacqui Smith employs her husband Richard Timney as a Commons researcher based in her Redditch constituency.

The Labour Party - the party where all the members have their sticky fingers in the pie .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Organic Capitalism at Work

The profit motive is the dominating influence in a capitalist society; if you believe organic food is most important for your family’s well being then you will pay the extra money, however, if your wages are reduced by rising prices or you lose employment, you may be forced to buy food you really don’t want for your family, that is what a number of working class families are doing as this recent BBC report shows, of course rising prices won’t affect the family’s of the capitalist class, they can always provide whatever food they believe is best for them.

Call to relax standards to help farmers
Sales of organic food have dropped by ten percent in the last three months, according to figures from the consumer researchers TNS. In response, the two main bodies which certify organic food have asked the government for farmers to be allowed a break from the usual strict standards. The idea is to help them survive the downturn.

THE BBC MYTH

One of the pieces of nonsense that exists inside this buying and selling society is that the BBC remains aloof from crass commercialism, popularism and salesmenship. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Want to test it? Use your computer or your old man's computer. Get in to the BBC News and you will see matters of social importance, but if you are alarmed or interested in what you see you had better be swift. In 15 seconds time you will see this sort of bullocks appearing on your screen
"Liverpool draw Chelsea in Europe again. Gerrad assault charge is dropped. Man City faces Hamburg in Uefa cup." (BBC News, 20 March)
Please wait more than 15 seconds and go back to items about children dying and millionaires. We need you. Please test my 15 seconds experience; it may vary from town to town. RD

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A DEFENDER OF CAPITALISM

It is well known that journalists defending capitalism often make a fool of themselves. It is even better known that Daily Mail journalists are particularly foolish in that regard. Here is one - Andrew Alexander proving that point.
"We are witnessing the death of capitalism, according to various excitable commentators, some alarmed and some drooling at the prospect. Neither need get worked up Capitalism will survive. And it will do so because it is natural - not, as some claim, an alien system imposed on gullible people." (Daily Mail, 11 March)
Mr Alexander then goes on to use the hoary, old fairy tale about a shipwrecked crew on a tropical island exchanging coconuts for fish and claims this would lead to the invention of money. It is a view that completely ignores the real history of humankind. The first period of human history had no concept of private property and the invention of money is a very late development in that history. There is plenty of evidence that society has developed through various stages of primitive communism, chattel slavery, feudalism and then capitalism. Far from being "natural" capitalism is just another stage in private property society. Mr Alexander is correct in one respect though. People who imagine that the latest slump in capitalism means its termination are completely wrong. Capitalism by its very nature has slumps and booms. Its abolition will only come about with the conscious political action of the working class. RD

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THE "GREEDY MAN" MYTH

Another opposition to a socialist society that is often aired is that is impossible because of the existence of the "greedy man". Again we would point out that we could only get socialism when a majority were prepared to make it work. Even inside the cut-throat system that is capitalism there are many examples of people behaving in a co-operative fashion. Inside families many parents sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their children, many people volunteer to do unpaid work to help the needy and the sick. Perhaps one of the best examples of selfless endeavour on behalf of others is that of lifeboat volunteers who risk their lives to help other without pay. If the working class were really greedy they would dump a society that today leaves them in poverty while rewarding the capitalist class with immense wealth. RD

THE "LAZY MAN" MYTH

One of the opposition that socialist get when advocating a new society of common ownership and production solely for use, is that it would be impossible because of the "lazy man" who wouldn't work. These opponents overlook the fact that socialism could only come about when a majority were in favour of working to the best of their ability and taking according to their needs. Far from the working class being innately lazy, even inside capitalism they are desperate to work as recent figures illustrate.
"Startling new figures have revealed that on average there are 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in the UK. In one area of the south-east, 60 workers are available for each job. This week, as unemployment is expected to burst through the 2 million barriers, The Observer can reveal that the spectre of mass unemployment is forcing the government to reinforce job centres, with civil servants diverted from child maintenance and disability claims."
(Observer, 15 March) RD

Monday, March 16, 2009

GREEDY BASTARDS

The Sunday Mail front page headline read ‘ GREEDY PIGS’ . This along with a continuous barrage of other adjectives of a similar nature re. the Banks, Bonuses, and the appeals of Red Nosed People for the rest of us to be charitable, reminds me of a more circumspect article by one of the comrades in the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard, it’s longer than our usual postings but well worth the reading.


The planet we live on has been arbitrarily divided into some two hundred nation states. In all of these states, the very richest and the poorest, there are people who die from the effects of poverty and, conversely, there are those who are immensely rich.
In the UK there is some disagreement about the number of people who die prematurely because they are poor, though the figure of an average of some four thousand per annum for hypothermia is generally accepted. For example, the death certificate may say `pneumonia' in the case of an elderly person who in fact dies of hypothermia because their income does not allow them a sufficiency of food and heat to keep them alive. Again, there are thousands denied the necessary medication to keep them alive while life-long poverty itself has an incalculable effect on human longevity.
The singer, Elvis Presley, sang:
"If Living was a thing that money could buy,
Then the rich would live and the poor would die."

In actual fact, the rich do live on average longer and, certainly, better lives, and in millions of cases every year throughout the entire world of capitalism the poor do die, not because the food, medicine or shelter they need is not available but because they are poor; because they do not represent a market that promises profits for capitalism.
Same economic regime
Admittedly, the numbers who die of poverty diseases in most of the developed countries are minuscule by comparison with the tens of thousands who die every single day in those very `poor' countries that are normally referred to as `undeveloped' or `developing'. Still, someone dying from the effects of poverty or medical neglect in this country or, say, the USA, is a victim of the same economic regime that causes that horrible phenomenon that the media refer to as the `Third World'.
In a grotesque way, it is comforting to think of the `Third World' as a number of far-away geographic locations. It gives people in the developed world a sense of misplaced gratitude to think that, however bad things might be where they are, they are worse in other places. As we have noted, the numbers vary dramatically between the `poor' nations and the `rich' ones but the basic problem, the reality of riches and poverty, demonstrates that `Third World' syndrome is a general economic consequence of capitalism rather than specific parts of the earth.
According to one United Nations Human Development Report, four men between them own more wealth than forty-seven of the poorest nations on earth. The same report claims that a mere four percent of the aggregated wealth of three of these men could provide food, clean water, medication and basic education for all those currently denied these necessities.
The problem, then, seems to be a simple one: there are a number of greedy bastards holding the very lives of millions of people in their hands. The UN Report mentions only four of these but there are hundreds of billionaires - people who have ownership of wealth in excess of one thousand million dollars - in the world.
So a chastising lecture on charity to these `greedy' people and a whip round with plastic buckets, and the problem of world hunger could be resolved in a flash. That is what the myriad competing charities imply when they seek alms - except that most of their donations come from the poor. At another level, that is what reformist political parties traditionally aimed to do by taxation and the argument seems justified when we consider what could be done with a mere four percent of the wealth of three of the billionaires. There are thousands of fabulously rich people who, however extravagantly they live and whether or not they engage in any useful activity, are likely to continue to get richer for the rest of their lives.
But the problem does not reside with greedy bastards; nor can it be resolved either by charitable donations or by the action of reforming governments. The problem is caused by the economic system which gives rise to the rich, the millionaires and billionaires, and as a consequence, also gives rise to those who endure mere want or deadly, killing poverty.
Charity is a popular, and we have to say, a cynical pastime for the rich. Lady Layabout's charity ball is an important item on the social calendar, like croquet on the lawn. Sometimes it may take the form of a fashion show where the well-heeled can see the sort of clothes only they can afford. The residual funds from these expensively organised, posh affairs may be donated to the deserving poor where it will no doubt offer momentary, ephemeral relief to some facet of poverty. Nowadays the charity industry - itself a big employer of labour - has proliferated and diversified but so, too, have the problems.
Not so dumb
Of course it is easy to think of a person with billions or even millions of pounds, euros or dollars as a greedy bastard. That person lives on the same planet as the rest of us; he or she knows about world hunger, about the extremes of lifestyles between themselves and the overwhelming majority around them. They can't be so dumb as to believe they could have earned their fabulous wealth by doing what the rest of us have to do, selling our mental or physical labour power for a wage or salary, and they know that however idly and extravagantly they live, their wealth is likely to continue increasing.
But they do not face a moral dilemma, nor should they. In a way, indeed, they are like the millions of poor people who dream about winning the lottery, except that in the case of the rich capitalists they have their own moral apologia and the power through their wealth to enforce that apologia on the rest of society.
Investment with a view to profit and capital accumulation is the powerhouse of capitalist society; without investment, production and distribution would stall, workers would have no jobs. This is the reality of capitalism from which springs the justifications that capitalists advance for their system.
Acceptance of those justifications is general and almost unchallenged throughout capitalist society. Media, churches, politicians, et al sing the praises of the `job creators'; nobody but the socialist questions motive or points out that capital invests in job creation purely for the purpose of generating profit through the exploitation of workers and that capital disinvests and relocates if it can find a place where it can intensify that exploitation. That is the nub of the question, not whether or not the millionaires and billionaires are moved by the miseries they create to give sums large or small to charity or whether they are forced by taxation to effect some amelioration of those miseries.
Riches and poverty are two sides of the same relationship and can only be ended when that relationship is ended; when society takes over the ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution and institutes a system of social organisation in which production and distribution are democratically administered in the interests of the needs of society as a whole.
As far as blaming `greedy bastards' is concerned we workers should remember that capitalists are not in a position to effect real change even if they wanted to - which, of course, they don't. Only the majority, the working class, can do that.
RICHARD MONTAGUE

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Ghoulish Business

As a precious metals refiner, Leon Toffel is used to dealing with fine dust. But some years ago, when he received globules of molten metal in the post, he realised there was a new market to be mined. Toffel's new client was a retiring crematorium worker.

Leon Toffel estimates that five per cent of his business comes from sources in crematoria. "We processed it like any other scrap," he said "When people retire, that's a classic time when they pass on stuff . To a certain extent, it's like a little pension pay-out."

In just two years, six workers at a crematorium in Nuremberg earned more than £100,000 by selling gold teeth to a local jeweller. Under German law, they could not be charged with theft because the gold was not said to belong to anyone after the process of cremation. For some, the story raised painful associations with The Holocaust.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Food for Thought 5

- Meanwhile the madness of capitalism continues. Two nuclear subs, one from Britain and one from France, collided in the Atlantic Ocean recently, both carrying nuclear weapons. How they managed this with the whole of the ocean to play in is a mystery, but imagine the stupidity and waste of this going on while people live in tents or need health care.

- Buying flowers seems like an innocent thing to do. In Canada, they may arrive from Columbia where women and children as young as ten work like slaves, long hours for low pay, no rights, and health problems that include infertility and lung disease.

- Capitalist development is coming to Cambodia. In Phnom Penh, ramshackle neighbourhoods are being bulldozed for commercial development without the inhabitants’ permission. It’s no good protesting as the machines arrive with military police, the riot squad and one hundred hired thugs with crowbars, i.e. supported by the government. As international aid floods into Cambodia, the rich elite are growing ever more powerful, while the poor are being pushed aside. Welcome to capitalism.
John Ayers

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Food for Thought 4

Carol Goar of The Toronto Star thinks this is a time to ‘trim bloated pay Cheques’. She asks, ‘Is running a major corporation worth 400 times the average wage?’ and, ‘Is it really a sacrifice when a bank president trims his pay packet from $8.75 million to $3.8 million?’ Of course the answer is no and no, but it wouldn’t make any difference anyway, if the same system remains intact.

- It seems the economy is biting everywhere. Recently an evangelical Church charity lost its status when it was audited and it was found that donations were being used for trips to Hawaii, high fashion products, and personal expenses – caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

- Is the current economic crisis affecting poverty reduction? While the increases in the minimum wage are going ahead (up to $9.50/hour by March 31st.) the Toronto Star showed that the present Ontario government is long on promises, pledges, indications, but action on their 25 in 5 plan (25%poverty reduction in five years) is sorely lacking or waiting for a willing federal partner. The attitudes of the poverty bashing Harris years persist. Recently, Human resources Minister, Diane Finley rejected demand to pay unemployment insurance to all those who pay the premiums, saying,
“we do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it.”
John Ayers

AMERICA IN RECESSION

"American businesses were forced to shed more than 23,000 jobs every day last month as recession tightened its grip on the economy, pushing the unemployment rate to a 25-year high. The rate jumped from 7.6 per cent to 8.1 per cent, the highest level since the downturn of the early 1980s. The US economy has lost 4.4 million jobs since the beginning of the slowdown, with more than half of these positions disappearing in the past four months alone." (Times, 7 March) RD

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A NIGHTMARE FUTURE (2)

Socialists cannot foretell the future, but we are aware that society as presently constituted is powerless to save the planet for human existence. The short-term thinking that motivates a commodity producing society makes next quarter's balance sheet more important than long-term planning about the environment. Here is another example of capitalism endangering human existence.
"Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are acidifying the oceans and threaten a mass extinction of sea life, a top ocean scientist warns. Dr Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory says it is impossible to know how marine life will cope, but she fears many species will not survive. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions have already turned the sea about 30% more acidic, say researchers. It is more acidic now than it has been for at least 500,000 years, they add. The problem is set to worsen as emissions of the greenhouse gas increase through the 21st Century. "I am very worried for ocean ecosystems which are currently productive and diverse," Carol Turely told BBC News. "I believe we may be heading for a mass extinction, as the rate of change in the oceans hasn't been seen since the dinosaurs. "It may have a major impact on food security. It really is imperative that we cut emissions of CO2." (BBC News, 11 March)
Inside a socialist society where production is solely for use not profit, human beings can plan rationally for our children's future without destroying the eco-system. RD

A NIGHTMARE FUTURE

In their relentless quest for profit capitalists must compete with each other to produce cheaper and cheaper commodities. Inevitably this means that they are turning the oceans into garbage heaps, polluting the air we breathe and melting the world's icecaps.
"Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated. Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding, while in Britain, large areas of the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary are likely to disappear by 2100. In addition cities including London, Hull and Portsmouth will need new flood defences." (Observer, 8 March)
What kind of a nightmare world is capitalism bequeathing to our children? RD

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is there a food shortage in the world?

Thanks to Alan for the following from the WSM_Forum This is question which we are asked often,sometimes as a genuine question, at other times to suggest that capitalism, if not the best of systems, is one of the least worse.Our reply that capitalism had to be developed into a form which we could then use to satisfy human needs worldwide.

So what we now have is a system, which is capable of producing on a massive scale everything we need and require to live a useful and healthy life, but the nature of capitalist distribution ,it is restriced to produce only when it is profitable to do so,means that access is rationed to those who can buy the goods and services produced.If demand, expressed in paying customers,falls,then production is choked off.

Only Socialism, as the next stage of historical development, as its organising tenet describes, "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs", can then satisfy needs adequately, as production would not be switched off. or over. until "needs",the socialist "demand" is met.

A society without restrictions upon access to wealth produced, is then placed to harmonise production and distribution, into a steady state economy, with no winners and losers, such as we have today in capitalism or their state capitalist equivelent.

- Is there a food shortage in the world?
There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life
http://www.wfp.org/hunger/faqs


The American Association for the Advancement of Science has noted that 78 per cent of the world’s malnourished children live in countries with food surpluses... There is enough food to go around now and for at least the next half-century. The world is not going to run out of food for all.
http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2001/issue3/0103p24.html

Ending hunger and food insecurity is not simply a matter of growing more food. Recent studies have shown that four out of five malnourished children in the developing world live in countries that boast food surpluses.... The key elements of a strategy for building a hunger-free world exist. What has been lacking until now is the political will to put them into practice.
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2000/20001009.sgsm7581.doc.html

Scientific and technical advances in agriculture have yielded an era in which harvests are now outpacing population growth, resulting in unprecedented food abundance.... Inefficient distribution of food and inequities in income leave many without enough to eat. But today hunger is less the result of absolute food shortages than of political situations and policy decisions.
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9A0DE2D8113DF93AA3575AC0A960948260


Myanmar, once known as the rice bowl of Asia, still boasts a surplus of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rice and maize. Yet a tenth of the population is going hungry,
http://www.wfp.org/content/one-tenth-burmese-go-hungry-despite-food-surplus

That is from a 10 min google search , you could have done the same and answered your question yourself . But do you see what the common thread is in all those links ...its not the technical side of food production , we can produce enough ...it's the distribution ...thats the real problem and thats the problem that free access socialism is equipped to address .

Monday, March 09, 2009

words

Guernsey's chief minister Lyndon Trott has been both in Washington and London trying to convince politicians Guernsey is not a tax haven but, as he puts it, "a place of low tax jurisdiction".

DRUG DEALERS EXPOSED


Harvard Medical School students like Kirsten Austad, left; Lekshmi Santhosh, Kim
Sue and David Tian, members of the American Medical Student Association, object
to the influence of drug companies in the school’s educational curriculum
.
The capitalist society in its insatiable quest for profits corrupts everything it touches. Even in the supposedly benevolent field of health treatment this profit based society injures the very people it is supposed to benefit. If profits can be made human suffering comes a bad also-ran to company’s profit and loss considerations. Here is a particularly nasty example of this capitalist trait.
"In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects. Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments. “I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.” Mr. Zerden’s minor stir four years ago has lately grown into a full-blown movement by more than 200 Harvard Medical School students and sympathetic faculty, intent on exposing and curtailing the industry influence in their classrooms and laboratories, as well as in Harvard’s 17 affiliated teaching hospitals and institutes." (New York Times, 3 March) RD

Sunday, March 08, 2009

THE FUTILITY OF REFORMS

- Another aspect of the economic downturn is the downward pressure on wages and benefits. General Motors now says it can’t afford pension and medical plans and a recent deal with the union, UAW, limits overtime, cuts cash bonuses and gets rid of cost-of-living pay raises. This is only a beginning. Concessions by the union are a condition of the $17.4 billion in government loans that the automakers have made so far. CAW Canada president, Ken Lewenza said,
“Labour costs clearly did not cause this worldwide crisis in the auto industry, and labour concessions cannot possibly solve that crisis but we can’t ignore the precarious financial state of these companies, the extraordinary government offers of aid and our need to remain fully competitive for future investment”.
In otherwords, we go with the system without much of a fight. It’s like we say, wages tend to rise in boom times, and fall in times of recession. Now we’ll spend the next twenty years trying to regain what we have lost. The futility of reform, the solution is revolution.
John Ayers

recession is bad for your mental health

First discussed here , we now read that the UK government are now going to finance similar therapy services in England to help identify those who might be suffering from depression due to the downturn. Support workers will help those who have lost their jobs and suffer from depression and anxiety .
The BBC's Mark Sanders said the announcement was, in effect, an acknowledgement by the government that mental health problems could be caused by the recession.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Food for Thought 3

- The world recession continues to bite. Japan’s economy contracted at its fastest pace in 35 years when it shrank 3.3% in the last quarter. In China, an estimated 20 million migrant workers who had gravitated to the cities for industrial jobs are returning to their rural areas, their dreams of more wealth shattered. Welcome to capitalism!
- Canada continues to bleed jobs. A Toronto Star report (21/Feb/09) showed a loss of 322 000 manufacturing jobs between 2004 and 2008 and a loss of a staggering 129 000 total jobs in January, the largest decline in 30 years. There are now 1 310 100 officially unemployed in Canada, although we know that this is a highly manipulated number and is really much higher.
John Ayers

CAPITALISM SUCKS

In the most developed capitalist society on earth we learn of this horror story.
"The US jobless rate jumped in February to 8.1%, according to official figures from the Labour Department. The number of people out of work rose by 651,000 during the month. Both figures were bigger than expected. ...President Obama said that the number of jobs lost so far in the recession was "astounding". Speaking in Ohio, he added: "I don't need to tell the people of this state what statistics like this mean," saying that he had signed his economic stimulus package in order to save jobs. The extra 161,000 jobs added to December and January's figures mean that almost two million jobs have been lost in the past three months." (BBC News, 6 March)

Think what this means, two million workers are being debarred from producing things that are necessary for human existence. Why? Because it isn't profitable enough. Two million workers and their kids are being impoverished not because of some failing on their part but because of this awful society we all live in. Don't you think it is time that those 2 million workers in the US thought of an alternative society? Shouldn't you? RD

Friday, March 06, 2009

Food for Thought 2

- The bailouts for capitalism continue – Chrysler needs another $5 billion and promises to cut 3 000 jobs, while GM is looking for another $30 billion while implementing a survival plan that includes cutting 47 000 jobs and closing 5 more plants. So we rescue them in order to ensure our jobs disappear. Sounds like a good deal for somebody.- CNN reported that since the bailouts began in late 2007, the total has reached $10.8 trillion, exactly equal to the US national debt.-

An Oprah show focused on home foreclosures, showing how those who lost their houses, had to leave everything behind and wander the streets, living in tent cities. The banks hire crews to clear the houses entirely, throwing everything into a dumpster, most of which is in good condition. So we have thousands of homeless people in tents and thousands of empty homes waiting for tenants. Could anything be crazier!
John Ayers

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Food for Thought

- In capitalism, everything becomes a commodity, something produced with a view to making a profit. Recycling material is no exception. The value of plastic bottles, aluminum, steel, glass, and paper has dropped more than 50% since last Fall. In addition, the low cost of oil makes new plastic cheaper than recycled plastic. Thus we get stockpiles which, if not sold, go into the landfill which recycling is supposed to avoid. And we rely on the brains of this system to save us from global environmental catastrophe!- For example, the recent visit of president Obama to Ottawa produced a decision to ‘look into’ carbon capture technology. This, according to a Toronto Star columnist, represents Obama coming around to Harper’s conservative approach to the environment, in this case, relying on new technology to keep our tar sands and America’s coal fields operating.
John Ayers

IT'S A MAD, MAD WORLD

"Supertankers that once raced around the world to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for oil are now parked offshore, fully loaded, anchors down, their crews killing time. In the United States, vast storage farms for oil are almost out of room. As demand for crude has plummeted, the world suddenly finds itself awash in oil that has nowhere to go. It's been less than a year since oil prices hit record highs. But now producers and traders are struggling with the new reality: The world wants less oil, not more. And turning off the spigot is about as easy as turning around one of those tankers. Oil companies and investors are stashing crude, waiting for demand to rise and the bear market to end, so they can turn a profit later. Meanwhile, oil-producing countries such as Iran have pumped millions of barrels of their own crude into idle tankers, effectively taking crude off the market to halt declining prices that are devastating their economies." (International Herald Tribune, 3 March)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

KARL'S QUOTE'S

- On wages determining prices, Marx says,” I might appeal to practical observation to bear witness against this antiquated and exploded fallacy. I might tell you that the English factory operatives, miners, shipbuilders, and so forth, whose labour is relatively high priced, undersell by the cheapness of their produce all other nations; while the English agricultural labourer, for example, whose labour is relatively low priced, is undersold by almost every other nation because of the dearness of his produce…The dogma that wages determine the price of commodities, expressed in its most abstract terms, comes to this, that ‘value is determined by value’, and this tautology means that, in fact, we know nothing at all about value. Accepting this premise, all reasoning about the general laws of political economy turns into mere twaddle. It was, therefore, the great merit of Ricardo that in his work, ‘On the Principles of Political Economy’, published in 1817, he fundamentally destroyed the old, popular, and worn-out fallacy that ‘wages determine prices’, a fallacy which Adam Smith and his French predecessors had spurned in the really scientific parts of their researches, but which, nevertheless, they reproduced in their more exoterical and vulgar chapters.” Value, Price, and Profit pp26-29.

A BLEAK FUTURE

"About 140,000 jobs will be lost in British manufacturing this year, according to the EEF industry group, which has raised its forecast by more than half. The warning comes as evidence grows of a dramatic collapse in business confidence across the economy, with more job losses and business failures due to be announced this week. The EEF manufacturers' organisation raised its prediction on job losses after the worst figures on record from a survey of members and their business confidence." (Times, 2 March) RD

PREPARING FOR WAR?

"China is aggressively accelerating the pace of its manned space program by developing a 17,000 lb. man-tended military space laboratory planned for launch by late 2010. The mission will coincide with a halt in U.S. manned flight with phase-out of the shuttle. The project is being led by the General Armaments Department of the People's Liberation Army, and gives the Chinese two separate station development programs. Shenzhou 8, the first mission to the outpost in early 2011 will be flown unmanned to test robotic docking systems. Subsequent missions will be manned to utilize the new pressurized module capabilities of the Tiangong outpost. Importantly, China is openly acknowledging that the new Tiangong outpost will involve military space operations and technology development. (Spaceflight News, 2 March) RD

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

REST IN POVERTY

"BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. – A funeral director accused of leaving a woman's body to decay in a parked hearse after her relatives failed to pay the bill was arrested on a felony charge of abusing a corpse, police said Wednesday. Watson and Sons Funeral Home embalmed the remains of Edna Kathleen Woods, 52, after she died of natural causes in November 2007, said Gadsden police Sgt. Jeff Wright. Relatives wanted the body cremated but failed to sign the necessary paperwork or pay owner Harold Watson Sr., he said. After storing the corpse at his funeral home for more than a year, Wright said, the 76-year-old Watson decided to move it because he couldn't reach the woman's family. Someone complained about a foul smell near downtown Gadsden, about 60 miles northeast of Birmingham, and officers on Tuesday found the woman's remains in a cardboard box that was inside a locked hearse parked on a piece of property that Watson owns." (Yahoo News, 25 February) RD

A FREE SOCIETY?

"A jobless Taiwan man released from prison two years ago asked police to send him back so he could eat, police and local media said Tuesday, a grim sign of hard economic times on the island. When police found the 45-year-old convicted arsonist lying on a street in a popular Taipei shopping district, he requested a return to life behind bars, nostalgic for the 10 years he had already served, the China Post newspaper reported. Wang had also contacted police separately with his request, a spokesman said. Officers who found him bought him a boxed lunch but declined to send him back to prison, the police spokesman said. "We advised him to keep looking for work," he said. "I don't know why he can't find a job. Maybe employers think he's not suitable or that he's too old." Taiwan is in recession, with a slump in exports leading a record economic contraction in the fourth quarter of last year." (Yahoo News, 24 February) RD

Monday, March 02, 2009

Words of Wisdom

I did not want September 11, nor did I want the explosion in Bali.

I search for a reason, and find a wild defence; a defence against a capitalism which plunders lives and resources to generate the goods it sells in the markets it invades, if necessary by its own use of terrorism. And so the response; a violent attack on profit; destroying confidence, destroying the market by random acts of great violence, involving the deaths of innocent civilians far away; just as the machinations of capitalism involve the deaths of innocent civilians far away. For Manhattan, read Chile; for Bali, read East Timor. For what other response is available? What fear does greed know, other than the fear of lost profit?

I do not want a harsh world of religious fundamentalism and intolerance. Nor do I wish to see a global strip mall, a world in which warplanes are purchased in order to safeguard the jobs of the workers who make them, a world in which greed is the control mechanism.

You put your question: would I trust a nation that has invaded two neighbouring states, that has chemical and biological weapons and may be developing nuclear weapons, which it may one day use?

Let me ask the other questions.

Would you trust a nation that has weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological - and has already used all three against other nations? Would you trust a nation that has given arms to both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussain?

Would you trust a nation that has sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua and El Salvador, that has overthrown the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile in favour of the murderous regime of Augusto Pinochet, that has overthrown the democratically elected regime in Guatemala for the benefit of the United Fruit Company of Boston, Massachusetts? Would you trust a nation that gave training in terrorism in Honduras and at the School of the Americas that gave training in chemical warfare at Fort McClennan?

Would you trust a nation that gave support to the Khmer Rouge, that dropped half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia and two million tons on Laos while it was at war with neither, that gave support to both Papa Doc & Baby Doc in Haiti, and to Marcos in the Philippines? And which gave support to Israel, a land made by terrorism and maintained by terrorism that wears a uniform?

Would you trust a nation that refused to sign a global treaty banning landmines, on the grounds that it infringed freedom of trade, a nation whose landmines are sown indiscriminately across south East Asia and are still killing and maiming?

Would you trust a nation that refused to sign a UN protocol on torture on the grounds that it limited states' rights? Would you trust a nation that (understandably) refuses to accept an international court of justice?I did not want September 11, nor the explosion in Bali. Nor did I want Sabra, Shatila, My Lai, Santiago, the killing fields.........

I want freedom. I want equality. And I want honesty. Here, and in all the faraway places. Thus far, the ballot paper has offered none of these things. When it does, perhaps we will have peace. Here, and in all the faraway places.

Les Barker - 2003

Sunday, March 01, 2009

PROFITS KILL


Rescuers removed the body of a victim from the Tunlan Coal Mine in China’s
Shanxi Province, where an explosion killed dozens of miners
.


"At least 74 people died early Sunday after a mine explosion in northern China, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Dozens were still trapped in the mine on Sunday evening in the deadliest coal-mining accident in the country in more than a year. The miners were working in the Tunlan Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, the coal mining heartland of China, when the blast occurred at 2:17 a.m., Xinhua reported. The mine is in city of Gujiao and is run by the Shanxi Coking Coal Group, one of China’s largest producers of coking coal, which is used in steel production. ...The death toll on Sunday was the highest in a coal mine accident since December 2007, when an explosion in the city of Linfen in Shanxi Province — often called the most polluted city in China because of the relentless haze from coal production — killed 105 miners, The Associated Press reported, citing the State Administration of Work Safety. That explosion was set off by an accumulation of gas in an unventilated tunnel. The mining industry in China has a poor safety record. The government, which has been trying to improve safety standards by closing illegal mines, reported last month that about 3,200 people died in mining accidents last year, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year. ...But mining is lucrative for those at the top. The owners of large mining companies are among China’s wealthiest people." (New York Times, 23 February) RD

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