Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FOOTBALL "FIX"TURES

"An epidemic of match-fixing scandals is blighting football. In China a World Cup referee could face the death penalty; in Turkey 46 people have been called in by police and a former international player is remanded in custody; in Ukraine a referee has been banned for life; in Ireland three players have been accused of betting on matches; in Switzerland questions have been asked after a hard-up player turned up for training in a new Porche; in Italy there is yet another investigation into "fixing" in Series A; in Macedonia they believe a recent international was mishandled to ensure a high-scoring game; and in Zimbabwe a club side "impersonated" the national team for fixtures in Asia." (Observer, 28 March) RD

THE PRICE OF COAL

"Rescuers were today trying frantically to reach 123 miners trapped underground when water flooded a coalmine in northern China. Officials said 261 miners were working on construction of the Wangjialing coalmine in Shanxi province, when underground water suddenly gushed through the tunnels at about 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon. They said 138 of the men managed to escape. ....China's work safety administration said 2,631 people died in coal accidents in 2009, down by 584 from the previous year. Many accidents are blamed on poor safety methods and limited training as mining companies scramble to feed the voracious demand for coal from the country's industrial juggernaut. One of China's deadliest mine disasters in recent years occurred when a flood through coal shafts in eastern Shandong province killed 181 miners in September 2007. " (Sunday Times, 28 March) RD

Monday, March 29, 2010

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

Defenders of capitalism laud it as a dynamic social system that may produce some problems, but claim that in the long run it is the only possible way to run society. "One of Britain's richest bankers has landed a record pay package of £63.3million. The extraordinary deal for Barclays president Bob Diamond sparked a major new row over payouts to banking fat cats. The sheer size of his salary perks and shares package flies in the face of assurances that Barclays and other banks have adopted a culture of restraint." (Daily Mail, 20 March) We can understand why the Bob Diamonds of this world would support capitalism but what about the predicament of the kids reported in the latest Water Aid charity leaflet? "Every 20 seconds a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases. In around the time it takes you to read the next paragraph, a child somewhere will die. Every day, people in the world's poorest countries face the dilemma of having to trust their health and that of their children to the consequences of drinking water that could kill them. It's a gamble that often carries a high price - seeing children, needlessly dying is simply heartbreaking." A dynamic system for bankers maybe but a death sentence for these children. RD

DOWN TO £10 MILLION

"The multi-millionaire founder of the Kwik Save supermarket chain has handed over his whole business empire- worth nearly half a billion pounds to charity, fulfilling a deal with God that he made as a penniless young man. Albert Gubay, 82, a devout Roman Catholic, made a pledge that he would give half his fortune to the church if he became wealthy. Now, he has gone one better and handed over virtually all his £480m wealth to a new foundation, leaving himself less than £10m." (Sunday Times, 21 March) RD

scots blues

Sixty children are forced out of their homes in Scotland every day. The Sunday Herald can reveal that 22,000 young people each year have the roof pulled from over their heads by a state that simply cannot cope with the scale of our homelessness problem. Young families are disproportionately affected by homelessness, and nearly half of all homeless children are aged five or under.

While many might be tempted to dismiss homelessness as a problem for drug addicts and alcoholics. Shelter said that it is in fact far more wide-ranging than the public realises.“It’s hidden, and people don’t know the true scale,” said Jessie Crawford, author of the new report. “This is tens of thousands of children waking up every day in cold, damp, overcrowded homes, or with the uncertainty of being homeless, and not knowing whether they’re going to get somewhere to live."

One in every ten children – 128,000 in total – is living in fuel poverty, the report said, with their families struggling to heat their homes through winter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION?

According to the media, the US and Russian leaders have scored a wonderful step forward for world peace. "US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have agreed a new nuclear arms reduction treaty after months of negotiations. The treaty limits both sides to 1,550 warheads, about 30% less than currently allowed, the White House said. The deal replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. .... President Obama hailed the treaty as the most comprehensive weapons control agreement in nearly two decades. "With this agreement, the United States and Russia - the two largest nuclear powers in the world - also send a clear signal that we intend to lead," he said at the White House." (BBC News, 26 March)
Before we crack open the champagne and engage in dancing in the street it would be worthwhile reflecting on what this really means. 1,550 nuclear warheads is sufficient to destroy the whole world! A more sober analysis of the US/Russia agreement would be an attempt to limit arms expenditure and to discourage non-US/Russia opponents from entering the nuclear arms race. Our champagne remains uncorked. RD

WHAT A BARGAIN!

"A gull-winged 200mph super car dubbed 'an F1 car for the road' was launched yesterday by UK racing specialists McLaren. The cars will be made in a new £40million factory designed by Sir Norman Foster and will create 300 jobs. The £150,000 McLaren MP4-12C is Britain's answer to Italy's legendary Ferrari and is the long-held dream of boss Ron Dennis to produce an 'affordable' super car with the greenest credentials. Using a one-piece carbon-fibre chassis, McLaren plan to offer the car for around half the £300,000 price tag that would normally be expected of a car of this calibre." (Daily Mail, 20 March) RD

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A REAL HORROR SHOW

Werewolves, Dracula and Frankenstein monsters; over the years Hollywood has produced spine-chilling movies to frighten its audiences. In real life capitalism produces sciences that dwarf any special effects that Hollywood may dream up. "Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Inside this city's earthquake-cracked psychiatric hospital, a schizophrenic man lay naked on a concrete floor, caked in dust. Other patients, padlocked in tiny concrete cells, clutched the bars and howled for attention. Faeces clotted the gutter outside a ward where urine pooled under metal cots without mattresses. Walking through the dilapidated public hospital, Dr. Franklin Normil, the acting director, who has worked there for five months without pay, shook his head in despair. "I want you to bear witness," he told a reporter. "Clearly, mental health has never been a priority in this country. We have the desire and the ability, but they do not give us the means to be professional and humane. Haiti's earthquake has exposed the extreme inadequacies of its mental health services just at the moment when they are most needed." (New York Times, 19 March) RD
Capitalist society spends billions of dollars in weapons of mass destruction yet cannot deal with the sufferings of these poor wretches. Truly, capitalism is a Frankenstein society. RD

Friday, March 26, 2010

CRISIS! WHAT CRISIS?

"One of Britain's richest bankers has landed a record pay package of £63.3million. The extraordinary deal for Barclays president Bob Diamond sparked a major new row over payouts to banking fat cats. The sheer size of his salary perks and shares package flies in the face of assurances that Barclays and other banks have adopted a culture of restraint."

(Daily Mail, 20 March) RD

SPOOKS, SPIES AND SURVEILLANCE

"UK has 5,700 secret agents. Britain employs more than 2,200 spies to protect the country against terrorism and the threat from foreign enemies, it has been disclosed. It is the first time that the number of foreign intelligence gathering officers employed by MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service, has been published. The figure was disclosed yesterday in the annual report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. The ISC had previously disclosed the number of domestic security service officers who work for MI5, known as "spooks" - now around 3,500 - but had never done so for spies. MI6 has launched a new recruitment drive aimed, in part, at former City bankers, with experience of foreign countries and language skills. According to the ISC's report, there are now 2,252 MI6 officers and it aims to increase that to 2,527 this year." (Daily Telegraph, 18 March) RD

Health is Wealth

Men in the poorest parts of Scotland have a life expectancy more than 13 years shorter than males in the most affluent communities, according to the Register General Scotland report that highlighted the differences in life expectancy between different parts of the country.

It showed that men living in the poorest communities can expect to live 67.3 years - 13.5years less than those living in the richest areas, who can expect to reach the age of 80.8.

Similarly, with women, those living in the most well-off communities live longer than those in the most deprived, though in the case of females the gap is not so large.Females in the poorest communities can expect to live to the age of 75.1 while life expectancy for women in the most affluent areas is nine years higher at 84.1 years.

Men living in East Dunbartonshire have a life expectancy of 78, compared to 69.4 years in north Glasgow.For females, the difference in life expectancy between the two areas was six-and-a-half years, with life expectancy for women in East Dunbartonshire 82.5 years and 76 years in north Glasgow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NOT SO GOLDEN FUTURE

"In the past 18 years alone, miners have extracted 36m ounces of the yellow metal from Ghana's seams, generating about 40 per cent of export earnings. Fewer Ghanaians live in poverty now. But a third of them cannot read, and a quarter will not see their 40th birthday. Tax breaks and other incentives mean that of mining revenues totaling $2.1 bn last year, only $146m - or 7 per cent was paid to the state in royalties, taxes and dividends, according to the Chamber of Mining." (Financial Times, 23 March) RD

WHO OWNS THE PRESS?

"British Airways has suggested that media organisations should attach more weight to its press releases than the Unite trade union's account of the strike. In an email sent to hundreds of journalists, BA complained that equal credence was being given to the union's estimate of the number of staff working, flights operating and how many passengers were on board." (Daily Telegraph, 22 March) RD

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who Owns the North Pole -Part 20

Some may wonder why Socialist Courier continues to report on the situation in the Arctic Circle . In fact , it is a good example of how a once pristine undeveloped region has grown in strategic and military importance when raw materials and natural resources become accessible to capitalist nation states. The capitalist rivalries are high-lighted in an unambiguous way .

Fresh tensions between Canada and Russia emerged Wednesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a session of his Security Council that his country must be prepared to defend its claims to Arctic mineral riches. Medvedev predicted climate change will spark further conflicts as ice melts, exposing new areas for exploration."Other polar nations already have taken active steps to expand their scientific research as well as economic and even military presence in the Arctic," he told a session of the presidential Security Council.

"Regrettably, we have seen attempts to limit Russia's access to the exploration and development of the Arctic mineral resources," he said. "That's absolutely inadmissible from the legal viewpoint and unfair given our nation's geographical location and history."

In a direct response, Canada said it would reassert its sovereignty over the Far North.

"Canada's sovereignty over lands, islands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established and based on historical title," Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, told The Canadian Press.
"This government is dedicated to fulfilling the North's true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. We take our responsibility for the future of the region seriously."

Loubier noted that Canada has committed to building a "world-class" High Arctic research station, will continue to map "our northern resources and waters," and is taking action to reduce pollution and increase marine safety. The government has also announced a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships, a deep water port, and is expanding and re-equipping the Canadian Rangers.

Interest in the Arctic region has intensified in recent years as global warming thaws waterways once choked with ice almost year-round and makes hydrocarbon deposits under the Arctic Ocean increasingly accessible. Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway all scramble to lay claim to parts of the underwater territory in the region, which is estimated to hold more than a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.Scott Borgerson from the US Council for Foreign Relations is quoted as saying the north coast of Alaska may soon "resemble the coast of Louisiana, lit by the lights of ships and oil rigs." Borgerson predicts that some Alaskan ports may become a new Singapore.a single Chinese container ship using the Northwest Passage instead of the Panama Canal could save $2 million each way between Shanghai and New York. "Up to 25% of the Earth's shipping may, in our lifetime, be sailing the polar route," according to Politics Daily.

A leading Inuit group protested not being invited to an Arctic foreign ministers meeting just outside of Ottawa on March 29. Duane Smith, head of the Canadian branch of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which lobbies for the interests of northern peoples, said his group asked to join the talks, but was rebuffed .
"Anything and everything they're going to discuss . . . is going to affect the Inuit in one way or another. We're the ones who are living right in that area, so that's why we think we should be involved as well," Smith said.

THE "COMPASSIONATE" SOCIETY

"Thousands of seriously ill and disabled people who are unable to work are being wrongly denied benefits, a report by Citizens Advice has claimed. The bureau says the system of assessing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants is failing, with 68% of those assessed told they are fit for work. It says "crude" tests fail to allow for the complexities of many illnesses. The government says it plans to exempt cancer suffers from testing and show "more sensitivity" for some illnesses. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which reviews the system annually, says it will look again at conditions such as autism, learning disabilities and Multiple Sclerosis. But the bureau, backed by 18 other bodies, says people are "effectively being written off".  (BBC News, 22 March) RD

BUSINESS AS USUAL

"Four executives of mining giant Rio Tinto have admitted to a court in the Chinese city of Shanghai that they took bribes, officials have said. Lawyers for the men - Australian Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues - said they admitted accepting some money but are disputing the amounts. The group, arrested in July, also face charges of commercial espionage." (BBC News, 22 March) RD

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FOOTBALL FORTUNES

Every day in the newspapers and on television we are told of the fabulous incomes of some of the footballers in the Premier League. Some are reported to be earning £140,000 a week. To most workers this appears a fortune and yet it is chicken-feed compared to the immense wealth of people like the Russian multi-millionaire who at present owns the Chelsea football club. Of course the majority of professional footballers have to struggle by on more ordinary incomes like most workers. At the other end of the scale from the well-heeled Premier footballers and the millionaire owners we have the poor makers of the footballs. "The city of Sialkot in Pakistan produces as many as 60 million hand-stitched footballs in a World Cup year. The firms here are running out of new workers since child labour was abolished. Western buyers may have a clear conscience, but the children of Sialkot now toil in the local brickworks instead. ...Shaukat is a strong, 20-year-old man. He has been working for this independent stitching factory, Danayal, for eight years. Danayal produces handmade footballs for professional leagues. ...At the entrance to the factory there's a notice board showing the current rates of pay. Depending on the model, his employer pays between 55 and 63 Pakistan rupees per ball ($0.65 to $0.75). "On a good day I manage six balls," says Shaukat. That's eight hours work. "That's not a lot of money," he says as he pushes a needle through the thick synthetic leather and stitches together two patches. His boss is standing close by so he quickly adds: "But it's not little either." He gets paid every Saturday and has to feed a family of six with his wages.". (Spiegel on line, 16 March) That is how capitalism operates - immense wealth for the millionaire owners and penury for the working class. RD

THIS SPORTING LIFE

"Indian migrant labourers rushing to finish buildings for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October are living and working in "rock-bottom" conditions that violate Indian laws, according to a panel set up by an Indian court. The committee has filed a report accusing government-appointed companies of denying minimum wages, adequate accommodation, basic equipment and medical care to many of the 17,000 workers on the Games sites." (Times, 19 March) RD

Monday, March 22, 2010

PIMPS, PROSTITUTES AND POLITICIANS

It is the sort of story that those pimps of Fleet Street love. The French to bring back officially-sanctioned brothels! "More than 60 years after Paris shut its famed maisons closes, or brothels, an MP from President Sarkozy's UMP party is campaigning to legalise them again. Chantal Brunel, who was appointed last month to head the national watchdog on sexual equality, is arguing that crime would be cut and sex workers would benefit from "sexual services centres" similar to those run by most of France's neighbours." (Times, 19 March)  In advocating a change in French law this MP expressed a long-held but completely fallacious notion. "Ms Brunel, MP for the western Paris suburbs, says that France should follow the example of nearly all its neighbours and allow modern bordellos."It is true that few women prostitute themselves willingly", she told Le Parisien. "But we should not be blind. Prostitution has always existed and will always do so." Prostitution can only exist in a property based society. For thousands of years before the advent of private property prostitution did not exist, but what is more important in the society based on common ownership of the future affronts to human dignity such as prostitution will be completely impossible. RD

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ARMAMENTS BOOM

"The Stockholm-based SIPRI (Stockholm International Research Institute)also warned of arms races in volatile regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, South America as well as South and Southeast Asia. Arms transfers to South America have risen by 150 percent over the last five years, in comparison to the years 2000-2004, the report found. In Southeast Asia the wave of weaponry could "destabilize the region, jeopardizing decades of peace," the institute warned. The researchers found that the worldwide trade of rockets, fighter jets, weapons and munitions was up by 22 percent over the last five years. Expensive fighter jets have proven particularly attractive, with their sale making up 27 percent of total arms sold." (Spiegel on line, 15 March) RD

NO HOUSING PROBLEM HERE

"Russian-Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev owns the Palladio, an extravagant 17,000-square-foot manor outside London, which he bought for $65 million in January 2008. (That works out to $3,824 per square foot.) The home has a bulletproof front door, a gold-plated pool, an indoor cinema and a hair salon for good measure. Nifty amenities like these drive up a home's price, something steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal knows all about. In 2004 he shelled out $124 million to buy his 12-bedroom spread in London's posh Kensington neighbourhood, replete with extravagant Turkish baths and garage space for 20 cars." (Forbes, 14 March) RD

Saturday, March 20, 2010

PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION

"Although the Peruvian government reported that it had suspended the exploration activities of the Afrodita mining company in the country's northern Amazon jungle region to avoid further protests by local indigenous people, officials took no actual steps to bring the firm's work to a halt." (IPS News, 9 March) RD

STAMP COLLECTORS

"More than 2.5 million Floridians are on food stamps, up from three years ago where 1.2 million residents received assistance. That's according to records kept by the Department of Children and Families, which administers the program. DCF Secretary George Sheldon told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Tuesday that Florida's food stamp rolls grew the fastest in the nation since 2007. Florida's food stamp numbers hit a low in April 2007, when the state paid out $109.9 million to 1.2 million residents. Back then, 6.4 percent of the state population was on food stamps. To qualify, Floridians must make 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less. For a family of four, that's just under $29,000 a year. Maximum monthly benefits are $200 for one person and $668 for a four-member family." (Associated Press, 10 March) RD

Friday, March 19, 2010

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

"The current global financial and economic crisis once again confirms the fact that during economic upheavals the rich get richer and the poor become even more destitute. On Thursday, Forbes Magazine carried an updated list of the world's wealthiest people. As of late 2009, the number of billionaires soared from 793 to 1,011 and their total fortunes from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. The number of Russian billionaires almost doubled, from 32 to 62." (RIA Novosti, 12 March) RD

THE ADVANCE OF CAPITALISM

"Rights activists and residents have accused the Canadian owners of Guatemala's largest gold mine of exploiting local communities. Most worrying, they say, is the use of highly toxic cyanide to separate gold particles from the rock. Some residents claim that dangerous waste from the mine is making their children sick." (Aljazeera.net) RD

Thursday, March 18, 2010

THE EFFLUENT SOCIETY

"The World Health Organisation has estimated that around the globe up to 2.6 billion people – or a third of the world's population – do not have access to proper toilet facilities. More than half live in China and India. The UN's target for providing proper facilities for all people is 2015. Up to half a million people in India are engaged in what is termed "manual scavenging": cleaning toilets that have no sewage system and carrying away waste or "night soil" on their heads or in carts. The practice has been officially outlawed but persists because in many places there are no alternatives." (Independent, 6 March) RD

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MERCHANTS OF DEATH

"India and Russia are negotiating a new contract on the delivery of 42 Su-30MKI to the Indian Air Force, an Indian newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing military sources. According to the Daily News and Analysis newspaper, the new deal, which is reportedly worth more than $3 billion, has been in the works for several months The new air-superiority fighters will come on top of the 230 already contracted from Russia in three deals worth a total of $8.5 billion. " (RIA Novosti, 2 March) RD

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A "CARING" CHURCH

"The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland resisted calls for his resignation yesterday, despite admitting that he took part in meetings where the victims of a paedophile priest were forced to take a vow of silence. Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, has confirmed he was present at a closed canonical tribunal in 1975 when two child victims of Father Brendan Smyth were ordered to sign agreements under oath that they would not discuss what happened to them with anybody other than an approved priest." (Times, 15 March) RD

Monday, March 15, 2010

PROUD TO TORTURE

PROUD TO TORTURE

"The man known for much of his career as "Bush's brain" has caused a storm of protest by saying that he is proud of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on prisoners by the US and internationally condemned as torture. Karl Rove said that the Administration "broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information". (Times, 13 March) RD

THIS IS EDUCATION?

"With more than a thousand school districts serving 4.5 million pupils, the Texas Education Agency is the second largest body of its kind in America, after its Californian counterpart and by far the biggest to be overseen by elected conservatives. Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas Board of Education, is a creationist who believes that the world was created 10,000 years ago and claims that history has vindicated Senator Joseph McCarthy, the instigator of the anti-Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s." (Times, 12 March) RD

Sunday, March 14, 2010

DEMONIC DRIVEL

In order to keep those collection plates full religious groups have to appear modern and "with it". The Roman Catholic Church is no exception to this rule and compared with some American fundamentalist Protestant churches with their opposition to evolution they may appear almost scientific. It is doubtful though if even those bastions of superstitious nonsense could outdo the Vatican's chief exorcist. "The growing clerical sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that the Devil is at work inside the Vatican according to the Holy See's chief exorcist. Father Gabriele Amorth said that the Pope "fully believes in liberation from evil, because the Devil lodges in the Vatican." (Times, 11 March) In case you imagine that this is just some crazy old priest who has been indulging in too much communion wine it should be pointed out that he has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years. One of his claims is that he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession! Like all supporters of private property society the religious zealots will go to any lengths to support the status quo even calling up demonic myths to explain social problems. RD

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

"The Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim Helu has been named the world's richest man, with a net worth of $53.5 billion (£36 billion), the first time since 1994 that the top spot has been held by a non-American. The annual billionaires list published by Forbes magazine shows that the number of billionaires increased from 793 to 1,011." (Times, 11 March) RD

RELIGIOUS BLISS?

"Christians streamed out of villages in central Nigeria yesterday after threats of new attacks from Muslims responsible for a weekend massacre in which at least 500 people were killed. As burials of the victims of the attacks - believed to be revenge for Christian killings of Muslims in January - took place near the city of Jos, residents in nearby villages said that they had received new threats from the mainly Muslin Fulani group which was driven out in January." (Times, 10 March) RD

Friday, March 12, 2010

THE INCOME GULF

"The President of Azerbaijan suffered embarrassment yesterday when it was reported that nine luxury mansions in Dubai worth millions of pounds had been bought in the name of his 11-year-old son. ... The Washington Post newspaper reported that they were bought in a two-week shopping spree last year for about $44 million (£29 million) -10,000 times the average annual salary in Azerbaijan." (Times, 6 March) RD

£23 MILLION AND A £1 A DAY

We live in society full of inequalities. We see people starving and kids dying from lack of clean water, but surely the most hardhearted of us must scream at this news item when we realise that many members of the human race must survive on less than a £1 a day. "This is a bauble that even a banker with an intact bonus would struggle to buy - the 507.5 carat, flawless white-coloured Cullinan Heritage Diamond which was sold to a Chinese buyer yesterday for $35.3 million (£23 million)... The sale to Chow Tai Fok Jewellery in Hong Kong highlights the growing importance of China in the global diamond market." (Times, 27 February) It also highlights the madness of a society that allows some useless bastard in China to consume the equivalent in wealth of millions of kids staying alive. Capitalism sucks! RD

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CONSPICIOUS CONSUMPTION

"One of the many stresses of being a billionaire is the difficulty in choosing between purchasing a yacht or an island. Happily, designers this week unveiled plans for a "moving island" that renders the conundrum redundant. Designs for WHY 58x38 were unveiled at the Abu Dhabi yacht show this week. ... The motor yacht is", as the name suggests, 58 metres long and 38 metres wide, providing a total guest area of 3,4oo sqare metres, and weighs in at 2,400 tonnes. It boasts a maximum speed of 14 knots, and a price tag, when built, of $160 million." (Guardian, 3 March) RD

DOUBLE EXPLOITATION

"More workers are taking on a second job to make ends meet. A survey for the law firm Peninsula suggested that the proportion having two jobs had risen from 26 to 28 per cent in the past year." (Times, 1 March) RD

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

THE PRICE OF GARMENTS

"Several hundred people protested in Dhaka and Gazipur yesterday after locked gates were blamed for the death of 21 people in a fire at a Bangladeshi factory that made sweaters for H and M. Most of the victims of the blaze were women who suffocated on the top floor of the seven-storey Garib and Garib factory. The nephew of one of the victims said that the gates had been locked, trapping them. The National Garment Workers' Federation said: "These workers were killed by the factory's blatant disregard for worker safety." (Times, 27 February) RD

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

WHILE MILLIONS STARVE

"Two comic books sold for more than a million dollars this week, shattering world records. Rare comics are now posed to join Old Master paintings as favourite purchases for the super-rich looking for safe investments, experts predict. On Monday, a copy of the first comic book to feature Superman, Action Comics No1 from 1938, sold for $1 million (£657,000) in private sale arranged by the New York auction site ComicConnect.com. On Thursday the first appearance of "The Batman", in Detective Comics No27 from 1939, sold at auction in Dallas for a little under a million dollars, but with buyer's premium, the price reached $1075,500 ($703,000)" (Times, 27, February) RD

Monday, March 08, 2010

Driven to Suicide

Three immigrants facing deportation died after jumping from the 15th floor of a high-rise flat. Two men and a woman tied themselves together before making the 150ft suicide leap. Locals said they may have been Kosovans who faced being kicked out the country.

Socialist Courier can only regret the price they felt they had to pay for being victims of capitalism .“Illegal” remains a class-based description that politicians, through their two-faced cant and deceit, will continue to attach to asylum seekers entering the UK for “economic reasons” rather than “genuinely fleeing persecution”.

We are all asylum seekers.

THE SAME OLD BNP

The British National Party has found it necessary for legal reasons to soft pedal its racist basis, but recent event have shown that this is only window-dressing and it remains the same old BNP. Their leader Nick Griffin recently illustrated this dilemma. "While Mr Griffin once called for a defense of white rights with "well-directed boots and fists", the party began changing course in 1998. He told the BNP, "We must at all times present (the public) with an image of reasonableness." (Times, 16 February) The forcible ejection of Dominic Kennedy, the Times journalist from a BNP meeting and their defense of such strong-arm tactics shows the reality behind the fine words. "The BNP chairman told members: "Millions of viewers ... will have seen the report of us ejecting a lying Times journalist from the press conference. That's not the action of a sniveling PC party, but of an organisation that has had enough of being lied about." Same old Griffin, same old BNP! RD

Reading Notes

Although containing many oxymoronic statements, as far as socialists are
concerned, the Spanish Republic (1931) prepared a draft constitution that
is interesting, at least, "Spain is a democratic republic of workers of
all classes, organized in a regime of liberty and justice. Government
emanated from the people and all citizens were equal. The country would
renounce war as an instrument of policy. No titles of nobility would be
recognized. Both sexes would vote at twenty-three. All education was to be
inspired 'by ideals of human solidarity'. Religious education was to
end…divorce was to be granted as a result of mutual disagreement between
the parties…Civil marriages were to be the only legal ones." (The Spanish
Civil War by Hugh Thomas, p72.) John Ayers

Sunday, March 07, 2010

US LABOUR PAINS

Barrack Obama's election to the US presidency was supported by many American trade unionists, but as unemployment rises much of that support is evaporating.  "Richard Trumka does not mince his words. The former miner now leads America's largest union body, the AFL -CIO, describes George Bush's language as: "stolen elections, ruinous tax cuts for the rich, dishonest wars, financial scandal, government sponsored torture, floodedalism has periodic slumps and booms and governments cities and finally economic collapse." Barrack Obama is a huge improvement, of course, but unemployment is close to 10% and the government must do something, reckons Mr Trumka." (TIME, 13 February) Mr Trumka like many supporters of capitalism thinks by government intervention of $400 billion of what he calls "immediate job-creating investment" the problem of rising unemployment can be solved. He is living in cloud cuckoo land. Capitalism has periodic slumps and booms and governments know that getting the capitalist class to invest during a slump is near impossible. RD

THE TERMINATOR TERMINATED?

In the big budget movies of some years ago Arnold Schwazenegger often played the all-action hero. Today he is the governor of California and is finding that in an economic downturn capitalism isn't so easy to manage. One of the causes of that state's economic  deficit is the growing number of prisoners and the consequent growth of economic deficit in the  state's budget.  "The fact that 9.5% of spending now goes to prisoners while only 5.7% goes to universities - 25 years ago, prisons got 4% and universities 11% - is indeed a harsh indication of California's fall from grace." (TIME, 13 February) Schwazenegger has proposed three different ideas lately to deal with the problem. One is to pay Mexico to build prisons and have US prisoners in them, another is to spend more of the state's budget on prisons and finally he proposes to privatise prisons as a cheaper way of running things. Twist and turn as they may capitalism's politicians are finding that capitalism throws up problems that are incapable of easy Hollywood solutions. RD

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Food for thought

On the environmental front, the Canadian government, like the US, has
announced that carbon emissions will be reduced 17% over the next ten
years. Unfortunately, as environmentalists were quick to point out, this
will increase emissions by 2.5% over the 2006 targets already announced.
It's like the pas de deux, two steps forward, two steps back, two steps
forward, three steps back, and round and round we go. This bunch of lying
sycophants, managing the capitalist system in the interest of the
capitalists, had the gall to state, " Throughout the Copenhagen
negotiations, we maintained that our clear policy was to support the
outcome of Copenhagen…" (Toronto Star, Jan 31 2010).

What outcome are they talking about, I wonder?

Talking of liars, Tony Blair, testifying at the Iraq enquiry in London,
said, "When you are the prime minister and the Joint Intelligence
Committee is giving you this information (weapons of mass destruction),
you have got to rely on the people doing it, with the experience and with
the commitment and integrity as they do…Of course now, with the benefit of
hindsight, we look back on the situation differently." (Toronto Star, Jan
30 2010). Strange how he was able to dismiss the evidence of the UN
weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq, then.

Are the Olympics worth it, asks the Toronto Star? The Vancouver games
have an 'operating budget' of $1.76 billion but,  cleverly, does not
include the construction of venues, $580 million. The Montreal games cost
$1.5 billion and took until 2006 to pay off; Sydney cost $6 billion and
has facilities that are too far out to be used efficiently; Athens cost
$14 billion and most of the facilities are not getting the use envisioned
for them; Beijing's spectacular facilities cost $15 billion and are laying
empty. Any idea how many houses, hospitals, schools we could have built,
how many lives we could have saved by providing free food, etc? Crazy
system! John Ayers.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Food for thought

A recent wildcat and violent strike by Chinese workers producing mobile
phone panels was over exposure to hethane, a toxic chemical that
hospitalized 47 workers last year. The appalling thing about the article
(Toronto Star, Jan 30, 2010) was the revelation that, in 2008, 91 000
Chinese workers died in work-related accidents. Workers do have rights in
China, "but in reality, enforcement tends to be lax and it's almost always
up to the workers themselves to take matters into their own hands." If
that last part were true, there would be a minimal number of accidents.
It's the pressure from authority that prevents worker control. With these
lax laws and low wages, China, of course, is a veritable toyshop for
capitalist production and its investors. John Ayers

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Food for thought

Regarding the current recession, we are not out of the woods yet by any measure. The European Union is staggering as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland are in danger of defaulting on their debts.

President Obama's recently tabled budget would raise American debt to $28 trillion (twice the size of the US economy) by the end of the decade. Seems we are awash in debt, mostly unsustainable.

The squabble over arctic rights (there's money under that thar' ice!) is simply capitalism operating as normal. All the arctic countries are scrambling to assemble data to grab as big a share as possible.

Canada has launched a six-metre torpedo-like device to map the ocean floor to support its claim and the competition is on.

Spying, rhetoric, lies, reprisals, and bullying, if not outright war, will be the order of the day for some time to come.

John Ayers

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Slums and Migrants

Govanhill sits between the Gorbals and Queens Park on the south side of Glasgow. It is a place of traditional tenements and has been home to various migrants for generations. The latest come from Eastern Europe's Roma community. It is estimated that about 2,000 to 3,000 have moved to this part of Glasgow.The BBC reports

A report by Oxfam into the Govanhill migrants found:

"On arrival, Roma without exception find themselves either without employment, or with a temporary 'position', and sharing small flats in conditions of extreme overcrowding and squalor. Having paid weekly 'fees' to 'gangmasters', Roma find they are unable to change their situation. Indeed, to break away from this exploitation puts them at extreme risk, not only of unemployment, but also homelessness and destitution in the absence of benefit entitlement."

EU migrants like the Roma are not entitled to housing benefits. They are also unlikely to satisfy the credit checks expected by most landlords.This means they group together in order to afford rents and accept properties in conditions that others wouldn't. Oxfam concluded that in Govanhill:

"There appears to be high availability of poor quality, private rented accommodation provided by landlords prepared to turn a blind eye to overcrowding providing the price is right. Issuing no formal tenancy agreements means tenants have limited notional rights and therefore cannot easily protect themselves against unregulated landlords."

Mike Dailly, from the Govan law centre said: "People are coming from Eastern Europe and they are coming to work. They arrive in Glasgow with the promise of work having paid £450. They then discover there is no job for them and they have been ripped off.So what we've got is gangmaster agencies working abroad, working hand in hand with landlords in Govanhill and ripping people off."

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 19

Further to our continuing Arctic saga we now read that China has decided it too cannot be side-lined.

China has no Arctic coast and therefore no sovereign rights to underwater continental shelves, and is not a member of the Arctic Council which determines Arctic policies.Officially, the country's research remains largely focused on the environmental challenges of a melting Arctic.

"However, in recent years Chinese officials and researchers have started to also assess the commercial, political and security implications for China of a seasonally ice-free Arctic region," Linda Jakobson , a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute researcher, said."The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the Chinese government to allocate more resources to Arctic research,"

Last year Beijing approved the building of a new high-tech polar expedition research icebreaker, to set sail in 2013. China already owns the world's largest non-nuclear icebreaker.

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are already at odds over how to divvy up the Arctic riches, claiming overlapping parts of the region -- estimated to hold 90 billion untapped barrels of oil -- and wrangling over who should control the still frozen shipping routes.
"Despite its seemingly weak position, China can be expected to seek a role in determining the political framework and legal foundation for future Arctic activities" Jakobson said.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Food for thought

The costs of the recession are becoming due. Whose paying, the capitalists or the workers? In Canada, our 'prorogued (suspended) parliament is getting set to return with a monster budget of punishment for the workers to balance the budget put heavily into deficit by the billions given to corporations as bail-out money. "Tories target Civil Service Pensions" is the headline in the Toronto Star (Feb 20 2010). The pensions are described as 'gold plated' mainly because workers in other sectors have none.

Thus we have a deliberate attempt to get one section of the working class to see public servants as the villains. Those 'gold plated pensions" actually amount to an average of $23442/year and for recent retirees, $33519. Neither amount would enable one to buy anything gold plated!

Joel Harden, the Canadian Labour Congress' pension specialist commented," We can't solve this problem by beginning a race to the bottom. We will solve this problem by emulating the pensions of the public sector, not destroying them."

The public servants also point out that those who want to reduce their pensions, the members of parliament, (for the benefit of the capitalist class) do quite well, e.g. former PM Martin (already a wealthy shipping magnate) qualifies for $167 051/year and NDP MP, Bill Blaikie, who never held any ministerial position, will get $122 224.

John Ayers

Monday, March 01, 2010

Socialist Standard March 2010 ,Vol.106 Issue No.1267.

Socialist Standard March 2010  Vol.106 Issue No.1267.

Socialist Standard Special edition  March 2010
Contents
Editorial
Letters
Available also
as PDF
Features
Tony Blair and the Chilcot inquiry
Does it matter whether the Iraq War was legal or illegal? Read >

Tilting at windmills with a banjo
Pete Seeger is now in his 90th year. His songs have always been
better than his politics.Read >

What is Real Democracy and How Do We Get It?
In a month or so the people of Britain will be asked once again to decide which representatives of the ruling class will rule over them for the next four or five years.Read  >

Capitalism breeds inequality
A recent report shows that the reformist actions of the Labour
government have not been able to reverse the inequalities that capitalism generates.Read >

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