Monday, May 31, 2010

IT'S AN ILL WIND FOR SOME


As an additive to Pawning, here in East Kilbride Town, the E.K. Mail ran an article on the climbing "Personal debt crisis", despite claims the recession is over.
"Statistics show that those in debt in East Kilbride owe around £1,000 more than the average of £15,036 "
It's noticeable that, in "Prince's Mall" we now have two pawn shops facing each other with a glittering array of jewellery, both only having arrived within the last three years.
Lots of shops are closing, there was recently even an everything for a pound shop having a close down sale of everything at 50% off.
David Cameron says we all will feel the pinch, not much left for some after the pinching.

ON LINE BROKER WOOS CASH STRAPPED HIGH FLIERS

An article in the Sunday Herald on  May 2010-05-31 by Catriona Stewart says  "Pawning is reborn"

It's hardly the typical pawn­broker.

Instead of wedding rings, it's looking for private jets; it would rather accept a rare work of art than a much-loved guitar; and a Rolex is preferable to a clapped out hi-fi.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Borro.com – the world's first online pawnbroker, which caters for the likes of down-on-their-luck hedge-fund managers, bankers and even premiership footballers who have run into a spot of cash-flow bother.

Among Borro's main clientele are wealthy ­British-based EU ­nationals who have fallen on hard times due to economic instability in their home countries, and are now turning to high-end money-lenders trading in fine art, heirlooms and luxury cars to raise loans of up to £200,000.

But on the streets of Glasgow it's a different story …

There aren't many pawnbroker customers in Glasgow looking for a loan against their Banksy sketch or private Learjet. Not many stockbrokers or footballers are in the queues, either, hoping for a few hundred quid to keep their head above water until the next pay-day.

Instead, customers at one outlet in the city's west end are cashing in small items such as cheap jewellery and mass-produced electrical goods.

On the high street, the cash-strapped and desperate take away an average of between £100 and £150.

Rob, a postal worker, regularly uses the pawnbroker as a high-risk bank, taking out loans to tide him over between pay cheques.

"I flit between pawnbrokers as I don't want to become a familiar face," he says. "I'm a bit ashamed of not being able to manage my money well enough to stay away from the shop and I'd hate for anyone I knew to see me coming out."

Across the city, in one of Glasgow's more deprived areas, Marianne, 36, is trading in a gold ring to raise money for her daughter's birthday present. She has never visited a pawnbroker before, she says – but friends frequently do,

so she thought she'd give it a try.

"Times are tight," she says. "I am mortified I haven't put enough away for my wee girl's birthday but bills have to come first."

 

Friday, May 28, 2010

"PEACE-LOVING" BRITAIN

"Britain signaled a new openness on nuclear weapons yesterday, revealing that its stockpile will not exceed 225 warheads, including up to 160 that are ready for action. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said: "We believe that the time is now right to be more open about the weapons we hold." (Times, 27 May) RD

The Scheme - Poverty Porn ?

The Scheme , a 4--part series ( the final two episodes of the series have been postponed indefinitely because a 17-year-old male resident featured in the shows had been charged with assault) is a fly-on-the-wall documentary of life in half a dozen households in Onthank, a housing estate in Kilmarnock. Condemned by some as little more than "poverty porn", it has provoked debate.
In its depiction of six families in the Ayrshire community, a myriad range of social problems have been shown on screen, from poverty and unemployment through to addiction and anti-social behaviour. In the north-west pocket of Kilmarnock where Onthank lies, the statistics make for even more alarming reading. There, compared with other parts of East Ayrshire, four times as many children live in households where no adults work; almost three times as many adults are unable to work due to disability or illness; and nearly twice as many adults die as a result of heart disease.

Douglas Hamilton, head of Save The Children in Scotland explains "The face of child poverty in Scotland has been brutally exposed in The Scheme. For many viewers, I am sure that this programme has been an eye-opener to the experience of some of the poorest children growing up in Scotland..." he added "It is shameful that 95,000 children in Scotland live in families surviving on less than £33 per day."

However , many community leaders have called for The Scheme to be taken off air.
Social commentator and Herald columnist Pat Kane described it as 'poverty porn' and 'middle-class BBC television'. He told Newsnight Scotland: "I thought it was cartoonish. I thought it picked people who social work would clearly have to embrace over a long period of time and concentrated on them" .
Local MSP Willie Coffey condemned the series saying it lacked balance. He said: "The danger with programmes like this is that they give a misleading impression of an entire community..."

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that nearly two-thirds of the British public think poverty is either an inevitable part of life or related to an individual's own laziness but the organisation also predicts that, in any 10-year period, half the population will live in government-defined poverty for at least 12 months.

Similar deprivation and destitution can be experienced by other people on other housing estates in other cities and towns.
Many people will readily condemn those who live off Social Security and the benefits system when they could be working, but yet will vigorously defend the rights of those people who live in luxury yet never work because they own capital.
We need a revolution because the reformers, social workers, charitable individuals, priests and other well-meaning folk have all failed.
They are like medics on a battlefield, all they do is to keep wrapping on the bandages as the bloody slaughter continues around them.

The death of capitalism will be the beginning of a truly human society where we can relate to each other as members of a real community.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"MODERN" BRITAIN

There is a notion about that because in Britain we have a new political situation of political sharing that something has changed about the class division of society. It is just not true. "At St. James's club in London, a new toast is overheard: "To the Nineteen." This refers, as you no doubt spotted at once, to the 19 Old Etonians who have become prime ministers. Jolly good." (Sunday Times, 16 May) "Almost four-fifths of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times. As the government prepares to wield the axe on public spending, research reveals that 18 of the 23 full-time cabinet members have seven-figure fortunes, collectively worth about £50 million." (Sunday Times, 23 May) So modern Britain looks a lot like old Britain. The people who produce wealth - the working class are exploited by the owning class. Wake up workers we need a new society! RD

Monday, May 24, 2010

THIS IS DEMOCRACY?

"Almost four-fifths of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times. As the government prepares to wield the axe on public spending, research reveals that 18 of the 23 full-time cabinet members have seven-figure fortunes, collectively worth about £50 million." (Sunday Times, 23 May) RD

Thursday, May 20, 2010

scottish child poverty

The number of children living in poverty has risen for the first time in more than a decade, figures have revealed.

Official statistics showed there were 210,000 youngsters in Scotland who were classed as being in relative poverty in 2008-09.

That is a rise of 10,000 on the previous year and means 21% of children are now affected by the problem.

Another success for the reformers !!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reading Notes

"In 1844, four years before Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto appeared, The Awl (Journal of the Shoemakers federation) wrote, " The division of society into the producing and non-producing classes, and the fact of the unequal distribution of value between the two, introduces us at once to another distinction – that of capital and labour…labour now becomes a commodity…Antagonism and opposition of interest is introduced into the community; capital and labour stand opposed." We hold that the state government functions as the legislative arm of the capitalist class, passing laws that legitimize and maintain theft and
exploitation by the capitalists. Zinn writes – " As soon as Jackson was elected president, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi began to pass laws to extend the states' rule over the Indians in their territory. These laws did away with the tribe as a legal unit, outlawed tribal meetings, took away the chiefs' powers, made the Indians subject to militia duty and state taxes, but denied them the right to vote, to bring suits, or to testify in court. Indian territory was divided up, to be distributed by state lottery. Whites were encouraged to settle on Indian land." A taste of things to come! John Ayers

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Food for thought

In South Africa, two blacks were arrested for the murder of a white employer who had a reputation for beating and mistreating his employees and was even jailed for beating one farm worker so badly he was permanently brain-damaged. The black South Africans fear a white backlash – seems the more things change, the more they remain the same. Power structures seem to have continued much as before in that country.
For those who think we should start socialism within the capitalist system, a lesson is to be learned from the use of organic foods. After years of healthy growth, the appetite for these foods is shrinking because they cost more and when workers are being squeezed by the economy, something has to go. Organic food prices cannot compete with factory farming techniques. That's the system!
 If the Goldman Sachs fiasco weren't so tragic, it would be funny. Jay Leno commented," Just four days after Goldman Sachs cost investors $12 billion by failing to tell them that they were being investigated for fraud, they gave out another $5.4 billion in bonuses. Huh? Even Somali pirates are going, "Come on!" A Washington Post cartoon shows a policeman approaching two fat cat bankers under a Goldman sign. One whispers to the other," Tell him we're innocent, and we'll hedge that by betting against our acquittal." John Ayers

Monday, May 17, 2010

"MODERN" BRITAIN

"At St. James's club in London, a new toast is overheard: "To the Nineteen." This refers, as you no doubt spotted at once, to the 19 Old Etonians who have become prime ministers. Jolly good." (Sunday Times, 16 May) RD

THIS IS FRUGAL?

In an article praising the former Queen Mother for her parsimonious life style we learn that she even rented rather than bought a TV set for her Castle of Mey in Caithness. So how come she managed to run up an overdraft of £4 million with Coutts? We are told that she had threadbare carpets and wore the same Burberry raincoats for years and years. Before we sob gently into our tear-soaken handkerchiefs at such penury it is worth noting the last paragraph in this nonsensical article. "The Queen Mother received £643,000 annually from the civil list but still had to be bailed out by the Queen with a million or two a year." (Sunday Times, 16 May) RD

Sunday, May 16, 2010

MONDAY MORNING BLUES

"The recession is raising stress levels so high that a quarter of workers are finding their weekends ruined by the Sunday blues - a dread of going back to he office the next day - according to a report. In a study to be launched tomorrow by the mental health charity Mind, employees were questioned about their levels of anxiety and more than 26% said they felt dread and apprehension the day before they were due to go back to work after a day or a weekend off. ...Other findings include effects on people's sleep patterns, high rates of illness and reports of extensive low morale. High rates of unpaid overtime were recorded, and almost all the people questioned were unhappy with their work-life balance." (Observer, 16 May) RD

city of discovery

In an article ex-Labour MP , John McAllion , describes his home-town of Dundee that provides some interesting statistics.

In the 19th century, the High Court Judge Lord Cockburn described Dundee as a "sink of atrocity which no moral flushing seems capable of cleansing". James Cameron, who began a career in journalism in the city in the 1930s, described the east coast town as a "symbol of a society that had gone sour".

A national study, "A Divided Britain", identified residents in many of the city's working class neighbourhoods as suffering from the "worst financial hardship in Britain". This was backed up by a contemporary Scottish Executive report showing that 46 per cent of resident households in the city had a net income of less than £10,000 a year while 55 per cent of the same households contained no-one who was working. A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report branded Dundee as a city of poverty, teenage mothers and poor mental health.Dundee GPs were issuing more prescriptions for mental health problems than anywhere else in Scotland. After Glasgow, Dundee had Scotland's next highest concentration of poverty, overcrowding and drug abuse. The city retained its title as the teenage pregnancy capital of Scotland.

At the beginning of 2009 an English-based research group published a report "Cities Outlook 2009" warning of the impact of the recession on 64 cities across Britain. It ranked Dundee 54th of the 64 cities, claiming that it lacked economic prosperity, suffered from a shrinking population and was scarred by stubbornly high levels of social deprivation and benefit. Only Liverpool had a higher level of benefit claimants as a proportion of its working age population.

Annual business statistics issued at the end of 2008, revealed Dundee losing 60 manufacturing firms and 3000 manufacturing jobs in the eight years following 1998. By 2006, the city had become a service sector economy with four times as many workers working in services as in manufacturing. The average annual salary in the service sector was £8,900 a year less than in manufacturing.

The Dundee story has been about low pay, persistent poverty, joblessness and benefit dependency in a city where the hard lives of thousands of its working class citizens have been erased from the official record.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A PAPAL VIEW OF SOCIETY

There are many ways to look at society. What are the most important aspects of present day society? Socialists might say the fact that a third of the world is starving, or that we live in a society that could be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust or even that in the drive for profits we risk the delicate balance of the global environment. None of these considerations entered into the reasoning of the Pope when he recently visited Portugal. "The Pope yesterday condemned gay marriage and abortion as "among the most insidious and dangerous challenges" to society, as Portugal prepared to legalise same-sex partnerships next week. Benedict also criticised Catholics "ashamed" of their faith and too willing to "lend a hand to secularism". Ninety per cent of Portuguese define themselves as Catholic, but Portugal's society is increasingly secular, with far fewer than a third saying they attend Mass regularly." (Times, 14 May) Starvation, worldwide slaughter or global warming? Not as important as abortion or same-sex relationships according to His Holiness - no wonder the pews are emptying! RD

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS?

"A diamond auction in Switzerland has seen a new record price per carat, with a blue, cushion-shaped 7.64 carat stone fetching 8.93m Swiss francs. The diamond, set in a yellow gold and platinum ring, went for twice its estimated price. A white emerald-cut 52.82 carat diamond fetched 8.8m Swiss francs, while an Alexandre Reza ring mounted with a 5.02 carat blue diamond sold for just over 7m Swiss francs. (BBC News, 13 May) RD

Friday, May 14, 2010

BEHIND THE ADVERTS

In order to protect its markets and possessions abroad the British capitalist class have got to have a trained band of killers on tap. This British army has got to be recruited afresh all the time - they grow old, they are maimed, they die. We have all seem those TV adverts that depict a military career as exciting and adventurous. One of the old adverts used to be "Its a man's life in the army" It would probably be more accurate today to be "Its an alcoholics life in the army". "Soldiers, sailors and airmen returning from the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq have been hitting the bottle in a dangerous fashion but have not suffered the tidal wave of mental problems that was predicted, researchers report today. The British military appears to have avoided the heavy toll that the conflicts have exacted on their American counterparts, where rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in returning troops have soared. One in seven UK military personnel deployed to the two countries were drinking heavily "at harmful levels" after returning, at rates 22 per cent higher than among those who remained at home." (Independent, 13 May) RD

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"LAZY" WORKERS AGAIN

"A study of 6,000 British civil servants found that those who regularly worked 10 or 11-hour days were up to 60 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease or die younger than those who worked shorter hours. The research, published online in the European Heart Journal, found that people who worked three or more hours longer than a seven-hour day put their health at risk, possibly as a result of being more stressed and having less time to unwind." (Times, 12 May) RD

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Food for thought

Toronto council members 'tasted welfare for a week' (Toronto Star, 07/04/10). The daughter of one wondered what her friends would think when they came to lunch of tinned salmon, chick peas, and peanut butter. Another councillor worries he won't get enough calories to sustain his running regime, while a third noted his ration was 'heavy on starch and processed foods high in salt'. Maybe we should give them credit for the effort but will it make any difference in the long run?
Carol Goar (Toronto Star) cites a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities showing that poverty stalks our big cities but is not far behind in the smaller ones either. Poverty rates in the big cities was at 13.5% 19 years ago and today are at 21% for Toronto, 20% for Vancouver, and 15% for Montreal. Every level of government has been trying to down load the problem to those below them, "The federal government has capped its contributions to welfare and walked away from public housing and child care. The provinces have shifted part of their responsibility for social services to the municipalities " (who do not have the resources). On and on the problem goes, -the futility of reform. John Ayers

Poor and fat

Studies about the predictors of obesity in the UK have shown that the poorest are most likely to be obese. For example, one University of Glasgow study found that residents of an impoverished Glasgow neighbourhood were more than twice as likely to be obese compared with residents of an affluent neighbourhood only miles away. This pattern holds among children, teenagers and adults; men and women; and across ethnic groups.

In places such as Ethiopia (a low-income country that has had several serious famines in recent decades), the cheapest foods are the least calorie-dense; therefore, the poor systematically lack access to energy-rich foods, and have a higher likelihood of suffering from undernutrition and starvation. By contrast, in a city such as Glasgow, the cheapest foods are the most calorie-dense – kebabs, chips, crisps, pies and puddings, fizzy drinks etc – so the poor there are more at risk from obesity.

Deprived areas in cities , termed "food deserts" in the academic literature about obesity, fundamentally limit the food choices that poor people can make, thereby promoting unhealthy lifestyles, and ultimately, obesity.A basket of healthy food would cost more in a poor part of east London, for example, than it would in somewhere like Fulham.

Another issue is what is termed "food insecurity", or lack of regular, dependable access to food. This can also promote obesity. Imagine that you didn't know where your next meal would come from, and you had a large meal in front of you at the time: what would you do? I would eat the whole thing (probably more than my fill), so that if, in fact, I didn't get a meal later, I would have eaten enough for the day. Now, what if the next meal did come (again, in the same setting of insecurity about where the next meal would come from)? A cycle of insecurity-based overconsumption can set in, ultimately leading to obesity.

A study in the International Journal of Obesity upon following over 11,000 Britons for 33 years, showed that low parental social class at age seven was a significant predictor of obesity at age 33. If a factor as intractable as parental social class can influence obesity risk 26 years later, it is hardly helpful to blame every obese individual for his or her condition.

Lazy greedy workers ??

Teachers are working an extra 10 weeks a year without pay, according to new research by a major teaching union.A workload survey carried out by the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association has revealed that nearly 54% of teachers work 400 extra hours for their employers each year. The union uncovered that one in 10 teachers works more than 55 hours a week.Two out of every five secondary teachers said they were stressed during the working week.

Collected during December, February and March, the workload survey revealed that more than a quarter of teachers worked between 45 and 50 hours a week, 16% worked between 50 and 55 hours, and 10% regularly worked in excess of 55 hours.

The union also overwhelmingly voted to oppose the establishment of trust schools, which would see schools run by communities at arms-length from local authorities.The SSTA said trust schools are “about saving money, not about improving education”.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

FIFTY YEARS OF FUTILITY

One of the oppositions to world socialism is that rather than have a complete transformation of society we could have piece by piece gradual change. Well let us look at how that has worked out in relation to the environment. "Sir David Attenborough has warned that Britain's wildlife is being destroyed thanks to man's impact on the environment. The naturalist made his comments in the foreword to a new book, Silent Summer, in which 40 prominent British ecologists explain how humankind is wiping out many species. It comes fifty years after the publication of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson's acclaimed book on pollution of wildlife that helped the growth of the environmental movement worldwide and led to a ban of some pesticides in Britain." (Sunday Telegraph, 25 April) So fifty years after the alarm was sounded the position is even worse. That is gradualism for you! The drive for bigger and bigger profits means that the environment is of little importance. RD

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food for thought

On solving poverty, the Toronto Star editorial (27/03/10) noted that the recent provincial budget virtually ignored poverty even though they have repeatedly promised a reduction (25% over five years) since taking office (four years ago). They also, as previously reported cut the special diet allowance for those with medical problems but did increase welfare rates - by 1% (i.e. $5.85/month for a single person on $585/month – their generosity abounds!). The Star comments, "The primary goal, however, is clearly not to create a better programme but a cheaper one."In the same issue, an article by Mary Wells asks if a minimum wage is a  good idea. It has recently risen to $10.25/hr from $9.50 ($9.60 from $8.90 for under 18s working less than 28 hours/week and $8.90from $8.25 for those serving liquor. Presumably their wages will be made up with tips, or not.) The fear is that employment will fall as wages rise. Much better to have to struggle even harder and have a job. Great system! John Ayers

Sunday, May 09, 2010

LOADED

"The world's richest man is the Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, worth $53.5 billion. Second and third are Bill Gates ($53 billion) and Warren Buffett ($47 billion). Christy Walton, the widow of the Wal-Mart magnate John Walton, is the richest woman." (Times, 7 May) RD

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"A New York buyer has paid a record £12,350 for a 50-year-old bottle of Macallan Whisky at the world's biggest whisky sale in Glasgow. It was one of more than 700 lots in McTear's rare and collectable whisky auction, in which a 50-year-old Glenfiddich sold for £10,600." (Times, 6 May) RD

Friday, May 07, 2010

EXPLOITATION ON THE CHEAP

"One person in four is working longer than ever but few are paid extra for putting in overtime. A survey of 2,000 workers, carried out for Santander, found that the average employee in the UK is working a 41-hour week for an annual wage of £27,150. One in seven of those polled is doing at least 11 hours of overtime every week, but only two in five are paid extra." (Times, 4 May) RD

TAGGED FOR LIFE

Instead of building a border fence to help stem illegal immigration, the U.S. government should implant microchips into immigrants before deportation, much like what is done with pets, Pat Bertroche, an Urbandale physician and one of seven Republicans running in the 3rd District Congressional primary, said Monday.While speaking at a Tama County Republican forum, Bertroche made it clear that he wasn't joking when he suggested treating undocumented immigrants like pets. (Iowa Independent, 27 April) RD

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Poverty breeds violence

Scots in poor areas are more than 30 times more likely to be killed in an assault than those in affluent parts of the country, a study has revealed. A woman in the most deprived area is 35 times more likely to die in an assault than one in the most affluent area with men 31.9 times likely to die - a rate similar to deaths from stroke.

The authors said: "Reducing mortality and inequalities depends on addressing the problems of deprivation as well as targeting known contributors, such as alcohol use, the carrying of knives and gang culture."

Violence against the person can be attributed to the everyday stresses and alienations that are part and parcel of our existence in capitalist society. We are conditioned into seeing our fellow workers, with whom, economically, we have everything in common, as rivals; as competitors for jobs and houses. The victims will all too frequently be fellow members of the working class. Where those fellow workers also happen to possess characteristics that proclaim the greater diversity of our species, be it skin pigmentation, accent, age, gender, sexual proclivity, disability; whatever then they are all the more readily identifiable as potential targets for abuse or violence.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Edinburgh and Glasgow Branches Joint Day School

Date:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow Map


CAPITALISM ISN'T WORKING FOR YOU - IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?


1pm The Basic Cause of Present Day Problems Speaker Vic Vanni (Glasgow)


Left wingers have blamed the greed of bankers. Right wingers have blamed everything from an act of God to the misjudgements of the Labour Party. In the USA some have blamed the "socialism" of Obama. We analyse the basic economic cause of the boom and bust nature of capitalism.

2.15pm The Failure of Reformist Solutions Speaker John Cumming (Glasgow)


Over the last hundred years we have heard the claims from Conservative, Liberal, Labour and Communist politicians that they could solve the problems thrown up by capitalism but all have failed miserably. We review this failure and show its cause.

3.35pm The Socialist Alternative Speaker Paul Bennett (Manchester)



The failure of capitalism to meet the needs of the majority has led many to look for alternatives. We look at two strains of thought on the subject of alternatives. Firstly, the various anarchist movements who see the problem being that of government and so seek an alternative without government. Secondly, the Zeitgeist Movement who see money as the problem and seek a society without money.

All are welcome to this meeting which is free of charge. During the afternoon free light refreshments will be available.

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