Friday, July 31, 2009

MORE CONSPICIOUS CONSUMPTION

"New York – A giant gem will hit the auction block in New York this autumn with the sale of the 32-carat emerald-cut Annenberg diamond, which is expected to fetch as much at $5 million, Christie's said on Wednesday. The flawless ring-mounted diamond, owned by philanthropist Lee Annenberg, widow of publishing magnate Walter Annenberg, leads the auction house's magnificent jewels sale on October." (Yahoo News, 22 July) RD

THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR?

"Service with a smile is no longer just a catchy slogan, Japanese railway staff are now required to check their chirpiness every morning. Keihin Electric Railway has introduced a "Smile Scan" system at 14 of its railway stations, and staff are being asked to double check their grins at the door. They sit down in front of a computer with nothing more than a web cam, log in, and the system then judges just how well they make or fake a smile. The system also gives feedback such as "Your smile is getting better" or even just "Smile like you're happy!"
(Yahoo News, 23 July) RD

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"OUR BETTERS" IN ACTION

"Three city majors, two state politicians and five rabbis were among 44 people arrested across New Jersey yesterday when federal agents cracked an alleged Soprano-style crime ring accused of bribery, money laundering and trafficking body parts and counterfeit handbags. In a sweep that shocked even residents hardened to the state's endemic corruption, officer from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided synagogues, government offices and a Jewish school early yesterday before bussing suspects to the FBI headquarters in Newark." (Time, 24 July) RD

2 FOR 1 CHURCH OFFER

"The Church of England has developed a two-in-one wedding and baptism service as it seeks to make peace with families "living in sin". The "batch and hatch" liturgy allow wedding couples to baptise their children after the ceremony. Parent can even get baptised themselves. The intention is to encourage cohabiting parents to marry, but critics said that the service appeared to sanction having children outside of marriage. One of the Church's own bishop described the move as "nutty". (Times, 23 July) RD

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LAND OF THE FREE?

"This summer, on a remote stretch of desert in central Utah, the National Security Agency will begin work on a massive, 1 million-square-foot data warehouse. Costing more than $1.5 billion, the highly secret facility is designed to house upward of trillions of intercepted phone calls, e-mail messages, Internet searches and other communications intercepted by the agency as part of its expansive eavesdropping operations. The NSA is also completing work on another data warehouse, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome. The need for such extraordinary data storage capacity stems in part from the Bush administration's decision to open the NSA's surveillance floodgates following the 9/11 attacks. According to a recently released Inspectors General report, some of the NSA's operations -- such as spying on American citizens without warrants -- were so questionable, if not illegal, that they nearly caused the resignations of the most senior officials of both the FBI and the Justice Department. Last July, many of those surveillance techniques were codified into law as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA)" (Salon.com, 22 July). RD

When the killing stops?

An article in the Metro (28th July) a colonel Stuart Tootal said “I was extremely fortunate not to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” “Suicide has accounted for more Falklands vets than the conflict did and it was a fairly conventional war”
Reminds me of a statistic I read about the Vietnam war where 58 thousand US soldiers died and over 122 thousand committed suicide after the war ended.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME


35 chefs working out of a tent in a field, serving hot food for 700
celebrities
As celebrities and models sit down for lobster salad and beef with Cartier's wealthy customers, there is no mention of economic woes.
"Recession? What recession?" quips a 20-something model as she lights a cigarette after the meal. "In my world there is no recession."
An invite to Cartier's own marquee, where Mr Mosimann plies his trade, is the hottest ticket.
This year marks the jeweller and watchmaker's 25th year as main sponsor, and the company remains committed to the exclusive event. ( BBC NEWS 28th July)
"I don't want to spend money just to spend money," says Arnaud Bamberger, managing director of Cartier UK, wary of recessionary pressures. "But I do feel that when you have built up something over a number of years and it has legitimacy then I don't want to lose the momentum."

Monday, July 27, 2009

THREAT AND COUNTER-THREAT



Jafari said Israel was entirely within the reach of Iran.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has repeatedly described Iran's nuclear program as a threat to its existence. Iran refuses to recognize Israel.
Jafari said Israel was entirely within the reach of Iran.
"Our missile capability puts all of the Zionist regime (Israel) within Iran's reach to attack," Jafari said. "The Zionist regime is too small to threaten Iran."(msnbc 25th July)

DOLE MONEY CHAOS

Kenneth Kottwitz, a laid-off cabinet maker in Phoenix, waited three months for his benefits to arrive. He exhausted his savings, lost his apartment and moved to a homeless shelter.
Luis Coronel, a janitor at a San Francisco hotel, got $6,000 in back benefits after winning an appeal. But in the six months he spent waiting, there were times when he and his pregnant wife could not afford to eat.
“I was terrified my wife and daughter would have to live on the street,” Mr. Coronel said.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said: “Obviously, some of our states were in a pickle. The system wasn’t prepared to deal with the enormity of the calls coming in.”
The program’s problems, though well known, were brushed aside when unemployment was low. “The unemployment insurance system before the recession was as vulnerable as New Orleans was before Katrina,” said Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who is chairman of a House panel with authority over the program. ( msnbcnews 24th July)

Friday, July 24, 2009

FROM SPY TO TYCOON

"Alexander Lebedev is telling the story of how he met his girlfriend, Elena Perminova, who is 22 and heavily pregnant. We are sitting in the dining room of Lebedev's house in the ultra-exclusive enclave of Rublyovka, just west of Moscow, early this year. The house includes an underground pool with a cherub-laden fresco on the ceiling, Italian marble floors and a huge ovoid window onto a grand staircase that, Lebedev says, is typical of classical Italian architecture. Outside, there are four or five guards milling around in the driveway. Former President Boris Yeltsin once lived beyond the trees on the other side of a nearby tennis court, now covered in snow. A black BMW with tinted windows, its engine running, sits next to a wall that wraps around the compound. Lebedev, 49, dressed in jeans and a white button-down shirt and black vest, is sporting his signature glasses with rectangular lenses. He has tousled grey hair and a mostly English accent that sounds carefully studied, because that's exactly what it is - in the 1980s, Lebedev spied for the KGB while posing as an economic attachÉ at the Soviet embassy in London." (Yahoo News, 17 July) RD

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BAD NEWS FOR OTHERS

"The FTSE 100 registered its sixth consecutive gain on Monday, its longest rally of the year so far. But Smith & Nephew lagged behind the trend after its house broker voiced swine flu fears. The orthopaedic device maker fell 2.4 per cent to 440¾p after Cazenove said the pandemic could lead hospitals to cancel elective procedures." (Financial Times, 20 July) RD

GOOD NEWS FOR SOME

"Some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are reaping billions of dollars in extra revenue amid global concern about the spread of swine flu. Analysts expect to see a boost in sales from GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Sanofi-Aventis when the companies report first-half earnings lifted by government contracts for flu vaccines and antiviral medicines. The fresh sales – on top of strong results from Novartis of Switzerland and Baxter of the US, which both also produce vaccines – come as the latest tallies show that more than 740 people have died from the H1N1 virus, and millions have been affected around the world. ... A report last week from JPMorgan, the investment bank, estimated that governments had ordered nearly 600m doses of pandemic vaccine and adjuvant – a chemical that boosts its efficacy – worth $4.3bn (€3bn, £2.6bn) in sales, and there was potential for 342m more doses worth $2.6bn."
(Financial Times, 20 July) RD

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A GRAVE BUSINESS


Willie Esper, a gravedigger who helped expose an alleged scheme to dig up
graves and resell plots at Burr Oak Cemetery in suburban Chicago, says another
worker warned him to keep his mouth shut or risk losing his job.
Loose bones kept turning up as he practiced digging holes with a backhoe in a supposedly unused section of Burr Oak Cemetery, a historic black graveyard near Chicago. Esper refused to keep his mouth shut about the grisly things he saw, leading to the arrest of four cemetery workers accused of digging up and dumping hundreds of bodies and reselling their plots.
(msnbc 21st July 09)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD


Describing themselves as 'good squatters', the men said they had plastered the
ceilings, linked up the electricity and had running water in the three storey
eight bedroom house in which they live rent free




"Squatters have moved into a £3 million property on one of the richest streets in Britain, only a few doors down from royalty, financiers and an industrialist billionaire. The three men, from Romania and France, have been living at the run-down house on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, north London, for the last two months. Not far away lies Lakshmi Mittal's £40 million gated home, Summer Palace, while members of the Saudi Arabian and Brunei royal families own large properties further along the road." (Daily Telegraph, 15 July) RD

Monday, July 20, 2009

A MAD, MAD WORLD

"A French court will examine whether the elderly heiress to the L'Oreal fortune, Europe's richest woman, was in her right mind when she lavished gifts worth close to $1.4 billion on a younger male friend. Prosecutor Philippe Courroye, who has been probing for over a year the gifts made by Liliane Bettencourt to photographer and socialite Francois-Marie Banier, told Reuters on Wednesday the case would come to trial in September. Banier, 62, a fixture in fashionable Paris circles for four decades, has received artwork, checks, cash, life insurance and other gifts from Bettencourt since 2002. Judicial sources estimate the total value of the gifts at about 1 billion euros. "What I have given to Francois-Marie Banier, though it's a lot, is not that much when you put it in perspective," Bettencourt told the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche in December, in her only interview on the matter. Bettencourt, 86, is the biggest shareholder in cosmetics giant L'Oreal, the company her father founded. Her fortune was estimated at $13.4 billion by Forbes this year, placing her in 21st position on the magazine's list of billionaires." (Yahoo News, 15 July) RD

A CARING SOCIETY?

"A bleak picture of a mental health service that tolerates bullying and houses children alongside adults in breach of guidelines is revealed in a damning report from a government monitoring body. The Mental Health Act Commission claims many more patient deaths will occur through inadequate staffing and lack of training. The 248-page study, the last by the commission before it is replaced by the new Care Quality Commission, highlights how patients put on suicide watch are often poorly observed, leading to tragedies half-concealed by "falsification" of nursing records." (Observer, 19 July) RD

Friday, July 17, 2009

A BOOM DURING THE SLUMP

"The greed and self-centredness of the bankers that helped to cause the credit crunch is costing taxpayers around the world billions of pounds - but has brought a counter-cyclical boom to one business off the Essex coast. The Causeway Retreat, on a private island in the Blackwater estuary, has had a flood of stressed and substance-abusing financiers. ...Bankers account for about 60% of clients at the retreat, which occupies all of 400-acre Osea Island. ... A week's stay in the luxurious manor house costs £10,000; more mundane cottage accommodation is £5,000 per week." (Observer, 12 July) RD

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

"What does a Danish shipping magnate give himself for a birthday? Well if you're Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, who turned 96 on Monday, you get yourself an 82-foot sailing yacht, according to the daily Berlingske Tidende said. The $11 million boat is a Finnish-built Swan and is Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller's eighth yacht, the paper said. Like his earlier boats, it will be christened "Klem," which means "hug" in Danish and is formed by the first initials of the names of his daughters Kirsten and Leise and his late wife Emma Maersk, the newspaper said. Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller's billions comes from the A.P. Moller-Maersk's Group, which is the world's biggest container shipping company." (Yahoo News, 13 July) RD

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GREEN SHOOTS OF RECOVERY?

"UK unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May, the Office for National Statistics has said. The jobless rate increased to 7.6%, the highest in more than 10 years. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit increased by 23,800 in June to 1.56 million, which was less than analysts had forecast. Unemployment among young people has been especially acute, as firms cut jobs to reduce costs in the downturn."
(BBC News, 15 July) RD

WARLORDS AND WASHINGTON

"The Bush administration repeatedly sought to block investigations into alleged killings of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners by a US-backed Afghan warlord in 2001, The New York Times reported Friday. Top US officials discouraged separate probes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State Department and the Pentagon into the mass killings because it was conducted by the forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostam, a warlord then on the Central Intelligence Agency's payroll, the Times said on its website. Dostam's militia had worked closely with US Special Forces during the US-led invasion and was part of the Northern Alliance, which helped the United States topple the Taliban." (Yahoo News, 10 July) RD

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CHICKEN FEED FOR SOME

"London Mayor Boris Johnson dismissed the £250,000-a-year he earns from a second job as "chicken feed". Mr Johnson also insisted it was "wholly reasonable" for him to write newspaper columns on the side because he did them "very fast". The comments risk infuriating millions of Londoners struggling to make ends meet amid the economic downturn. And they are unlikely to please David Cameron, who has ordered his shadow cabinet to give up extra work in the run-up to the general election to show their "commitment". Mr Johnson, who is paid nearly £140,000 for his day job, was quizzed over his lucrative contract with the Daily Telegraph during an interview for the BBC's HARDTalk programme. He responded: "It's chicken feed." (Independent, 14 July) RD

THIS IS DEMOCRACY?

"In 2000, Jon Corzine spent tens of millions of his personal fortune to vault himself from political obscurity to the United States Senate. In 2005, he spent millions more to jump from Washington to Trenton and become New Jersey's governor. This year he's opening his wallet again as he looks to overcome a steep deficit in the polls to win re-election, in what could be the ultimate test of whether money trumps all in politics today. Throughout American history, personal wealth has often played a significant role in winning political office. But as campaigns are increasingly decided by 30-second TV ads and sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts, the two major parties are increasingly looking to recruit individuals with personal fortunes that can help bankroll campaign costs that now more often than not run into the tens of millions of dollars."
(Yahoo News, 9 July) RD

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SUPERMARKET EXPLOITATION


"Foreign fruit pickers are taking home as little as £45 a week at a company which provides some of Britain's largest supermarkets with thousands of tonnes of fruit, an investigation by The Independent has found. S&A Produce, which supplies both Tesco and Sainsbury's, employs thousands of eastern Europeans who are given a specific work visa allowing them to work for the company. They are attracted by the prospect of earning up to £200 a week by picking fruit on its farms in Herefordshire and Kent. The workers are officially paid the minimum wage of £5.74, a comparatively high sum for foreign nationals who often have an average annual income of less than £3,000 in their own countries. But employee pay slips obtained by The Independent show that the real hourly rate for the company's fruit pickers often amounts to less than half the minimum wage once a series of obligatory charges has been deducted." (Independent, 10 July) RD

Monday, July 13, 2009

A WASTEFUL SOCIETY

"... If this weren't bad enough, new research has identified and quantified a whole new layer of waste that has been obscured until now. A new book, Waste: Uncovering The Global Food Waste Scandal, based on three years' research by author Tristram Stuart, suggests that at least 25 per cent of fresh fruit and vegetables produced in Britain is wasted before it even reaches the shops. Piles of imperfect potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and other produce are left in the ground to rot, sent to landfill, or to anaerobic digestion, which generates power from the foul gases that arise." (Independent, 9 July) RD

EVEN THE DAILY MAIL!

"Official statistics show that the gap between rich and poor has widened under Labour, with the poorest 10 per cent forced to survive on an income of just £87-aweek compared to £96 in 1997. Health inequalities have also increased, growing 4 per cent for men and 11 per cent for women." (Daily Mail, 10 July) RD

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A CLUELESS POPE

At first glance it might appear that His Holiness is getting bang up to date and having a go at the capitalist system, but on closer examination it is no such thing. "Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday condemned the “grave deviations and failures” of capitalism exposed by the financial crisis and issued a strong call for a “true world political authority” to oversee a return to ethics in the global economy. The pontiff’s call for stronger government regulation was made in his third and eagerly awaited encyclical, Charity in Truth, which the Vatican chose to issue on the eve of the G8 summit of rich nations being held in Italy." (Financial Times, 7 July)
What kind of fairy tale society does he live in when he talks about "a return to ethics in the global economy"? Capitalism is a society based on class ownership, exploitation and the profit motive. To talk of ethics in such a society is nonsensical and "government regulation" is powerless to deal with the slump and boom cycle of capitalism. The Holy Father should abandon his foray into political economy and stick to what he does best - scaring the shit out of believers and passing the collection plate. RD

HARD TIMES, HARD CHEESE

"Tesco are to put security tags on cheese.The metal strips, usually put on alcohol, razor blades and CDs, has been added to everyday items such as Cathedral City cheddar cheese and steak. If the strips are not deactivated at the checkout tills then an alarm is set off. The store in Brockworth, Gloucester, has acted because of a spike in thefts following the economic downturn." (Daily Telegraph, 7 July) RD

THE REALITIES OF CAPITALISM

Every Sunday the pulpits will thunder with the usual Christian nonsense. "Thirst not after the material things of life" ..."Blessed are the poor" and so on ad nauseum. Away from the fairy stories of the bible however the church like every other organisation has to deal with the realities of the capitalist system. "The Church of England is to debate several money-saving measures to cope with the recession, falling investment returns and a £352m pension deficit. At this weekend's General Synod, the governing body for the Church of England, clergy and laity will look at proposals such as trimming the number of bishops and other senior clergy and encouraging churchgoers to donate up to 10% of their earnings. A paper prepared by the diocese of Bradford noted that despite a "large decline" in church membership and full-time paid clergy, there had been no serious consideration given to the need to reduce the number of senior posts and the structures around them." (Guardian, 11 July)
The Church of England is finding that in a recession businesses have to cut their overheads - and that applies to the soul-saving business too. RD

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Food for Thought 2

- Ontario continues to be the leader in job losses in this recession with 234 000 jobs lost since October 2008 (60 000 in May). Most are in the highly unionized manufacturing sector.
- Many workers who try to escape uncertainty and giving up most of the value they create to someone else by setting up in business for themselves learn security doesn't apply to capitalism. The Toronto Star recently reported on the case of an Iranian immigrant who paid $160 000 for a shoe repair shop in a Toronto mall only to find his lease was cancelled after three years when the mall "restructured". Now he'll be back to working for someone else, if he is lucky.
- Socialists are fond of calling economists of today the cheerleaders of capitalism, as Marx called those of his day `vulgar economists'. Thomas Walkom, political economist for The Toronto Star wrote, "(Adam) Smith argued that only labour (by which he meant entrepreneurial businessmen) created value and that government and its hangers-on added nothing." Say what! Where does the worker come in here? If this is the drivel economists are taught, no wonder the public never gets the truth.
- Some people are doing alright though. On May 30th. George Bush and Bill Clinton arrived in town to discuss the state of the world and answer questions for those dumb enough to ante up a few hundred dollars for a seat. The luminaries reportedly made $150 000 each for a couple of hours `work'.
- Speaking of pigs at the trough, more details emerged in the Ehealth scandal in Ontario. Consultants were paid $2 700 per day and then had the nerve to bill for coffee and doughnuts on top. One commented "I, unfortunately, happen to like muffins and chocolate chip cookies". So there! The CEO received a $114 000 bonus after just 5 months on the job.Meanwhile, at communications giant, Nortel, where the management staff declared bankruptcy, paid no severance to fired workers, and reduced their pensions to 69%, (while paying themselves $45 million in bonuses) an executive pleaded to the House of Commons Finance Committee, that the reason was he applied for bailout money and was turned down. Strange, an independent financial analyst who studied the case said that she believed that the company went into bankruptcy protection to avoid paying the severance bill, even though it had $2.5 billion (US) on hand. (Toronto Star 19/June/09). Somebody is not telling the truth. Guess who!
- While we are thinking of pigs, spare a thought for the plight of the world's millionaires. In this recession, their ranks have been reduced by 15% to just 8.6 million, and their total asset values plunged 20% to only $32.8 trillion (US)! That averages out to just over $37 million each, so we don't need to open food banks for them just yet. (Toronto Star (26/June/09).
John Ayers

Friday, July 10, 2009

Food for Thought

- How does government work for you? For Peru's Indians, not very well at all. While protesting oil and gas exploration on their lands, they were attacked by government forces protecting the rights of big capital, killing at least 30 protestors.
- The phony war on drugs waged by governments around the world continues apace. No country is free of drugs and in Mexico 40 000 troops, aided by the $1.6 billion US aid package, wage a war that has resulted in 10 700 deaths in the last three years but no decrease in drug trafficking.
- Then we can blame the government for the crap that goes on in its Schools. Recently, a grade 6 teacher in our Catholic school system had his students tie a letter to god to a helium balloon and let it go. Guess what? Somebody found one, replied to the student concerned, and this is proof that god exists, "I think a hundred years have passed since the famous,"Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus' letter. Perhaps this will have the same kind of snowball effect like – Yes, Bailey, there is a god" (Toronto Star) I'm happy that god is paired with Santa Claus because it puts in the correct context, but what drivel passes for education!
-How else does government spend money and resources? Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are brought back to Toronto along the `Highway of Heroes' and given an autopsy. That's not to determine the cause of death because if you have bullets in your body or your head is blown off, the cause is pretty obvious. No, their findings are sent to military analysts to help generate better armour, equipment, and battlefield medical practices. Seems like the more bodies that come in, the more important information is gathered and the better the armour. Now if they put the same thought and energy into stopping war….is there no end to stupidity in capitalism?- Apparently, what government is not doing, among many things, is provide affordable housing for those in need. Toronto has 68 000 people on the waiting list and there are 130 000 in Ontario. They have been told to expect to wait ten years even though the Ontario government promised (in)action in 2007 John Ayers

OUR BETTERS IN ACTION

In the nature of capitalism it is necessary to have wise and learned people in control. Thus the need for politicians, diplomats, senior civil servants, financiers, political economists, bankers and lawyers. The list goes on and on of people who produce no wealth whatsoever but must be looked up to as "our betters" because they understand and can operate the system. So what are we underlings to make One of the defences of present day society and its class divisions is that because of the complex of this piece of farce?
"It would appear that the bank branded "Germany's Dumbest Bank" by Bild newspaper after an error handed $426 million to Lehan Brothers as it collapsed, can't get anything right. An executive at KfW Bankengruppe fired for the error has won a court case and two year's salary and bonuses." (Times, 3 July)
The whole thing beggars belief - far from them controlling capitalism, it controls them. Let’s get rid of this crazy system! RD

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A BNP SUBMARINE?

The success of the British National Party at the recent European elections surprised many. Their success was put down by some as due to their new more "moderate" policies. How "moderate" they have become can be gauged by the following."Boats carrying illegal migrants to Europe should be sunk Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party, said yesterday. In a provocative intervention, Griffin, elected to the European parliament last month, called on the EU to introduce "very tough" measures to prevent illegal migrants entering Europe from Africa. "If there's measures to set up some kind of force or to help, say the Italians, set up a force which actually blocks the Mediterranean then we'd support that," Griffin told BBC Parliament's The Record Europe. "But the only measure, sooner or later, which is going to stop immigration and stop large numbers of sub-Saharan Africans dying on the way to get over here is to get very tough with those coming over. Frankly, they need to sink several of those boats."
(Guardian, 9 July) Nick Griffin as a U-Boat commander is the sort of fantasy that must appeal to the crazed nationalism of some of the BNP membership. RD

AN UNCARING SOCIETY

"The body of an 85-year-old woman has been found inside her flat in central Edinburgh, five years after she was last seen by neighbours. The remains of Isabella Purvis were discovered only after water from her flat dripped into the property below. ... Last year, the body of an elderly woman, who had relatives living nearby, was recovered from a property in Stirling, 12 months after her death. An old man in Highland region who had died at home remained undiscovered for some time, despite the fact that he was a cancer out-patient and had missed medical appointments." (Times, 4 July) RD

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Capital Accumulation Discussion Meeting


An aspect of Marxian economics :
Capital Accumulation




COMMUNITY CENTRAL HALLS,

304 MARYHILL ROAD, GLASGOW

(5 MINUTES FROM ST. GEORGE’S CROSS
UNDERGROUND STATION)

Wednesday the 15th July 2009
8.30pm

P. Hendrie will open the discussion on this subject.


Out Dated Marxism ?


We are all aware of the critics of Karl Marx who say that he may have had something to say about early capitalism, but his criticisms are old-fashioned and out of date. Away back in 1867 Marx wrote about the "so-called primi-tive accumulation of capital" wherein he showed how the capitalist class in England had obtained its great wealth by such acts as the enclosure acts to throw peasants off their land.

Today a similar process is taking place in Peru. "President Alan Garcia laboured Saturday to contain Peru's worst political violence in years, as nine more police officers were killed in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians fighting his efforts to exploit oil and gas on their native lands. The new deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed — seven with spears — since security forces moved early Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters. Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm only nine civilian deaths, but cabinet chief Yehude Simon told re-porters that 155 people had been injured, about a third of them with bullet wounds."
(Associated Press, 6 June)

Far from being outdated Marx's view on the development of capitalist ownership is being re-enacted in today’s newspaper headlines.




What is Marxian economics?


At the moment output is falling, unemployment is growing, prices are rising in essential goods -all things that no one wants to happen, but which nevertheless do.
What this means is that the human social activity of producing and dis-tributing wealth is not under the conscious control of human beings. They do not control the condi-tions under which they produce and distribute wealth but, on the con-trary, are subject to laws which, while not themselves laws of nature, operate as if they were, as an external force governing human activities.

Economics is precisely the study of "the laws" which govern human activity in the field of wealth production and distribution.

An important point must be made straight away: economic laws only come into operation under certain social circumstances-when, in fact, the production and distribution of wealth is not under conscious social control. When, as today, the means of production are monopolised by a section only of society and are used to produce wealth to be sold on a market with a view to profit. In other words, economic laws are the laws of capitalist production and they will not operate when capitalism has been abolished through the establishment of socialism (when production will be for the direct use of the whole community). This is why we said that these laws are not natural laws.

To say that they are, would be to assume that capitalism was the natural form of human society. Which is the mistake made by the early theorists of economics or "political economy" as it was then called, such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo who Marx criticised for doing so. Indeed this is what
Marx's Critique of Political Economy (the title of a book he published in 1859 as well as the sub-title of Capital) basically amounts to. Nevertheless, as long as capitalism exists, these laws exist and operate just like natural laws; they govern human activity in the field of wealth production and distribution and act as external constraints on what humans can do.

An understanding of these laws is very important; it is in fact a basic part of our case since it leads to the conclusion that capitalism just cannot be reformed so as to serve the common interest and therefore must be abolished if today's social problems are to be solved. Our interest in economics is simply to understand how capitalism works, and not at all to recommend policies for governments to pursue. This is an important point since "economics" and "economists" today are regarded, and regard themselves, as policy advisers.


Don't recycle Capitalism, BIN IT



Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party

CANCER AND THE PROFIT MOTIVE

"Supplies of vital medicines, including those used in the fight against cancer, are running short because UK pharmacies and drug wholesalers are selling them abroad to maximise profits. ... The shortage is being caused by the falling value of sterling which has meant that UK pharmacies and drug wholesalers can earn greater returns by selling medicines to the continent. ... Last night leading cancer charities expressed alarm at the situation. "Cancer Research UK urges the Department of Health to ensure that no patient experiences any delay in getting prescription drugs," said Hilary Jackson, the organisation's policy manager. "We are concerned to hear of cases where patients have been delayed access to prescribed medication or have to find an alternative supplier. This causes extra distress at an already difficult time."
(Observer, 5 July) RD

Monday, July 06, 2009

CAPITALISM POLLUTES

"The pollution caused by half a century of oil extraction in Nigeria is one of the world's most disturbing examples of the curse of natural resources, a global rights lobby group said Tuesday. Amnesty International said environmental pollution in Nigeria's southern oil region, the Niger Delta, had deprived tens of millions of people of their basic rights to safe food, clean water and good health. In a damning report released Tuesday, Amnesty described the situation in the Niger Delta, home to 31 million people, as a "human rights tragedy" which had fuelled anger and conflict. "People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with, and wash in polluted water; they eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins -- if they are lucky enough to still be able to find fish," said the report. Farmland in the region, one of the most important wetlands on earth, is being destroyed by oil spills." (Yahoo News, 30 June) RD

THIS SPORTING LIFE

"Sport, of course, is all about the glory of winning and (if you are British) the nobility of defeat. Oh no it's not. It's all about the money. Which is why, Max Duthie, of Bird & Bird, says: "In almost every major sport today there are tensions between the regulatory bodies on the one side and the players or the teams on the other - and normally the argument is over money." Certainly in the three sports stories that are dominating this week - the Formula One punch-up, the Wimbleton showdown and the Sentana knock-out - the lawyers have all been poised, on the bench, waiting to make their entrance when required. Patrick Wheeler, of Collyer Bristow, says that there are four key areas of law that come into play in a sports dispute: intellectual property, contract, competition and regulation. All four are pertinent in the Formula One controversy." (Times, 25 June) RD

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A SENSE OF VALUE?

"A rare antique whisky miniature has fetched £1,500 at auction – the equivalent of £750 per nip. The 90-year-old single malt, from the iconic Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown, Argyll, contains only two measures worth of whisky. But the 5cl bottle attracted interest from around the world at Bonhams' whisky auction in Edinburgh. Bonhams' whisky consultant Martin Green said: "Springbank is very highly rated in the single malt world, and this is a 1919 – the very earliest vintage put on the open market. "It is iconic, highly collectable, exclusive and also highly drinkable. You'd get two or maybe three good measures out of it." (Scotsman, 20 June) RD

MIND THAT GAP

"India needs to curb a concentration of wealth greater than that seen in Brazil and Russia or risk becoming hostage to a corporate oligarchy that will depress its rapid economic growth. A study funded by the Asian Development Bank found that, by early last year, India had 50 billionaires who together controlled wealth equivalent to 20 per cent of gross domestic product and, reportedly, 80 per cent of stock market capitalisation. “This concentration of wealth and influence could be a hidden time bomb under India’s social fabric,” warned the report. It was prepared by economists for the US-based Emerging Markets Forum."
(Financial Times, 24 June) RD

PENURY AT THE PALACE

"The Queen is seeking the first increase in the annual civil list for nearly 20 years to plug a looming £5m-a-year funding gap for the royal household. Palace officials have told the Treasury they need the dramatic rise to the £7.9m grant because they are exhausting their cash reserves and cannot make further cuts in spending. ...The £7.9m annual grant covers the cost of the official royal households, from banquets and furnishings to housemaids and footmen. Accounts to be published tomorrow reveal the monarchy costs more than £40m a year in public funds, excluding security costs, which are thought to be about £50m per year."
(Sunday Times, 28 June) RD

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A WORLD WITHOUT LEADERS

"For about 94,000 of the 100,000 years of human history, people lived and organised themselves as hunter-gatherers without a centralized leadership apparatus. Hunter-gatherers began the transition to early chiefdoms and embryonic states between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. Only in the previous 100-500 years have there been state-level polities. The earliest human societies were acephalous: they existed without formal rulers or leaders. For this reason, they were also probably without heroes, a pattern which is starkly at odds with what has been claimed of human history generally and which also contrasts with the contemporary leadership field." Taken from the inaugural lecture by the Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge "Leadership: Its genealogy, configuration and trajectory."
(Independent, 17 June) RD

A CANCEROUS SOCIETY

"Washington – Millions of people living in nearly 600 neighbourhoods across the country are breathing concentrations of toxic air pollutants that put them at a much greater risk of contracting cancer, according to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency. The levels of 80 cancer-causing substances released by automobiles, factories and other sources in these areas exceed a 100 in 1 million cancer risk. That means that if 1 million people breathed air with similar concentrations over their lifetime, about 100 additional people would be expected to develop cancer because of their exposure to the pollution. (Associated Press, 24 June) RD

Friday, July 03, 2009

SCRAPING BY ON £342,500 A YEAR


Sir Fred Goodwin has accepted a reduction in his pension payout, but some claim
his charity is a PR exercise
"Sir Fred Goodwin, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive who led the company to the brink of collapse and whose £16m pension provoked national outrage, has agreed to a £200,000 reduction in his annual payout. The 50-year-old, who was in charge of RBS when it recorded the worst losses ever seen by a British company, has volunteered to have his pension reduced from £555,000 a year to £342,500 – a cut of 38 per cent." (Independent, 19 June) RD

A $40MILLION BARGAIN

"Hedge fund supremo Louis Bacon, the founder of London-based Moore Capital, recently bought a house in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island. I say "house" but the 17,900 sq ft, 10-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 15-fireplace, Normandy -style pile could safely be described as a mansion. That's not all. Located on the 60-acre estate, just past the tables, is an indoor tennis court. Yup, indoor tennis. ... Northwood has been on the market for almost three years, with a price tag of up to $40m (£24m)." (Sunday Times, 28 June) RD

Thursday, July 02, 2009

CHRIST AND CAPITALISM

"Any reasonable reading of the Gospels will tell you that Christ was not automatically hostile to people who are in wealthy occupations." Stephen Green, HSBC chairman and Anglican priest. (Observer, 28 June) RD

LOADED BUT LOONY

"Shari Arison, Israel's richest woman and the controlling shareholder of the country's second-largest bank, said on Sunday she has visions and receives messages "from above," but they do not influence the management of her companies. Arison set off an uproar in Israel after she revealed that information in an interview with Channel Two broadcast late on Saturday. "I get a picture, I can feel it. If it's fire, I feel like I'm burning. If people are dying I feel pain," she confirmed in an interview with Reuters. The Israeli-American Arison along with her brother inherited billions of dollars from her late father Ted Arison, who founded Carnival Corp, the world's biggest cruise ship operator. She is the controlling shareholder in Bank Hapoalim and controls Housing and Construction, Israel's biggest construction company. She said these visions are meant to help lead the world elsewhere. To this end, she is releasing her first book this week, entitled "Birth - When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together," which details her journey both spiritually and in business." (Yahoo News, 22 June) RD

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

DOWN AND OUT DOWN UNDER


The OECD report says retirees should take out annuities which offer a guaranteed
retirement benefit


"An OECD report on pensions has found Australia has one of the highest rates of poverty for people aged over 65. The report says more than one in four Australian seniors live in poverty by international measures, which is the fourth highest old-age poverty rate in OECD countries, after Ireland, Korea and Mexico." (ABC News, 24 June) RD

THE PRICE OF COAL

"Ten-year old Yilong is already a statistic. Born at the center of China's coal industry, the boy is mentally handicapped and is unable to speak. He is one of many such children in Shanxi province, where coal has brought riches to a few, jobs for many, and environmental pollution that experts say has led to a high number of babies born with birth defects. Experts say coal mining and processing has given Shanxi a rate of birth defects six times higher than China's national average, which is already high by global standards. "They looked normal when they were born. But they were still unable to talk or walk over a year later," said farmer Hu Yongliang, 38, whose two older children are mentally handicapped. "They learnt to walk at the age of six or seven. They are very weak. Nobody knows what the problem is."
(Yahoo News, 23 June) RD

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