Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's a sad society

According to the Depression ­Alliance Scotland, 16% of Scots will be diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.Around one in 10 Scots is believed to be taking antidepressants at any one time, but the figures show some areas are more likely to dispense them than others.

People in Glasgow are 50% more likely than those in Edinburgh to be prescribed antidepressants. The NHS handed out mood-enhancing medicines 1,145,381 times in Greater Glasgow and Clyde last year, compared to 521,944 in Lothian.

Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and Arran were the next biggest users relative to population.

Monday, June 28, 2010

WHAT RECESSION?

As the British government announces massive cuts to deal with the economic recession it is interesting to note that recession or not the owning class still manage to spare a few coppers for their art collections. "Last week was one of the biggest ever in the world of of London's art auctions, with the recession failing to stop records being broken at the Impressionist/Modern evening sales at both Sotheby's (22 June)and Christie's (23 June)" (Observer, 27 June) A Picasso went for over £34 million, a Manet for over £22 million and a Klimt for just under £19 million. It is nice to see that our betters are not letting an economic downturn affect their appreciation of artistic merit. RD

Sunday, June 27, 2010

HERE TODAY, TOMORROW?

Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver are seen arriving for his swearing in of 38th Govenor of California in Sacramento, on November 17, 2003, six years later, he has few friends left in California's Republican Party.

TERMINATORS AND TERMINATIONS!

The socialists' point of view is, "capitalism can't be run in everyone's interests, no matter how popular the elected candidate may be", only the terminating of the capitalist system can solve the economic problems the working class endure, is again demonstrated with this article.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — When Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the Dream Team of the California GOP, joined hands at a rally celebrating their primary victories this month, there was one broad-shouldered Republican conspicuously missing from the scene: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Organizers said the actor-turned-politician declined an invitation to the event. The truth is, he would not have been welcome. After nearly six years in office, Schwarzenegger has few friends left in either party. The state budget deficit hovers around $20 billion; his approval rating has sunk below 25 percent.

"We thought he was going to be a great governor, but he has been a great disappointment," said Geneviève M. Clavreul, a Republican activist.

As candidates in races across the country try to position themselves as the politician with the least political experience, Schwarzenegger's troubles in California illustrate some of the possible downsides of outsiderdom. Like Whitman, the GOP's candidate for governor, and Fiorina, the party's Senate nominee, Schwarzenegger came to office as a non-politician who would solve problems with unconventional ideas.

CARING CAPITALISM

"A man fighting cancer has been evicted from his home, KVVU-TV in Las Vegas reported. When Jeff Martinez was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer he knew he was in for the fight of his life. Not only was he facing grueling treatments, but he knew he would have to continue working 40 hours a week to have a shot at staying in his home. He did everything he could, but last week, Martinez, a man in his 30s, his wife and two children were evicted. He said his house was mortgaged though Citibank, and while he tried to explain his situation to the mortgage handlers, he got nowhere." (Fox 5 News, 17 June) RD

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A LOST TRIBE INDEED

"Northern Ireland's born-again Christian culture minister has called on the Ulster Museum to put on exhibits reflecting the view that the world was made by God only several thousand years ago. Nelson McCausland, who believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, has written to the museum's board of trustees urging them to reflect creationist and intelligent design theories of the universe's origins. The Democratic Unionist minister said the inclusion of anti-Darwinian theories in the museum was "a human rights issue". McCausland defended a letter he wrote to the trustees calling for anti-evolution exhibitions at the museum. He claimed that around one third of Northern Ireland's population believed either in intelligent design or the creationist view that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago." (Guardian, 26 May) RD

Friday, June 25, 2010

LAND OF THE FREE (FOR ALL?)

Texas oilmen used to talk about their wealth in terms of "units," as in $100 million. When it comes to land, maybe the operative term should be "Rhode Islands."

Billionaire Ted Turner owns just shy of three Rhode Islands, including the spectacular Vermejo Park Ranch straddling the border of New Mexico and Colorado, which at 590,823 acres, or 920 square miles, would cover a substantial portion of the 668,753-acre Ocean State. Turner's other U.S. holdings include ranchland in Montana, South Dakota.Nebraska and Kansas, as well as a 30,000-acre hunting preserve in Florida he calls home, totaling 2 million acres.

Turner tops the list of the nation's largest private landowners, compiled by Forbes with the help of The Land Report, a publication that tracks large landowners and land sales.

 

BLESSED ARE THE POOR?

"Under the diocese's proposed cost-cutting program, a number of facilities would be shut down, including Catholic adult education offices, the Catholic Academy of Trier and Catholic student societies in Trier and the nearby cities of Saarbrucken and Koblenz. Those who would be affected by the cuts are outraged. In Cologne, one of the world's wealthiest dioceses, there is also a wide gap between appearance and reality. Grassroots Catholics there have had to struggle to stay afloat financially. Churches have been closed while a shrinking number of priests have had to minister to bigger and bigger congregations in line with strict requirements outlined in austerity programs. ... Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Cologne has a large budget of 863 million Euros, and the assets of the archbishop's see are estimated at several billion Euros." (Der Spiegel, 14 June) RD

THE SILENT SPILLAGE

As US President Barack Obama extracts his pound of flesh from BP in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill, a little acknowledged but equally catastrophic oil disaster continues to plague Nigeria. A series of spills, some of them the responsibility of the American multinational ExxonMobil, have been polluting the Niger delta for five decades. One estimate says the amount spilled in the region over nearly 50 years totals 10.5 million barrels. That is more than five times the worst estimate of the spillage so far from the Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf. Yet despite the pollution, illness and poverty caused by the ongoing leaks in Nigeria, they rarely make the international headlines. And there has been no high-profile effort to correct the situation." (First Post, 17 June) RD

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RELIGION AND CHRISTIANITY

"More than 100 members of a Christian religious sect have barricaded themselves in an abandoned building in southern Malawi over their refusal to give their children the measles vaccine, a regional health official said Wednesday. Members of Seventh Day Apostolic Church say their doctrine forbids them from taking medication when they fall sick, as they believe prayer will bring divine healing. The weeklong standoff in the district of Mulanje follows an outbreak of the highly contagious disease which has killed 48 people in the southern African country this year. Another 9,600 cases have been registered, the government said." (Associated Press, 16 June) RD

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

sleepless nights


Three out of four workers are losing sleep worrying about job security, performance at work and finances, with civil servants, bankers and factory workers the worst affected.

Leigh McCarron, sleep director at Travelodge, said: “It is no surprise that those industries facing spending cuts and potential job losses came top. Job security and money worries are key drivers of stress.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

"SAVINGS" FOR THE TAXPAYERS

"Almost £18,000 has been spent topping up the government's wine cellar since the general election - leading to calls that the entire collection should be sold off to raise money. Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham said that Government Hospitality, which manages the cellar, had spent £17,698 since 6 May - bringing its value to £864,000. He insisted that buying wines young saved money for the taxpayer." (Observer, 20 June) RD

POLITICAL HYPOCRISY

"It was an embarrassment that President Sarkozy could have done without: on the day that he told France to work longer before retirement, one of his ministers was caught spending 12,000 Euros a year (£10,000) on cigars paid for by the taxpayer. .. Rama Yade, the junior sports minister, was found paying 700 Euros a night for a hotel suite in South Africa - after she had criticised Le Bleus for spending 500 Euros a night for the rooms of its World Cup players." (Times, 19 June) RD

Sunday, June 20, 2010

THE PRICE OF PET FOOD

"A diamond-bedecked, wig-wearing Chihuahua is at the centre of a multimillion-dollar battle being waged over the estate of the property heiress Gail Posner. Ms Posner doted on Conchita, lavishing the hound with manicures, pedicures, cashmere pajamas and other luxuries at a cost of $15,000 (£10,00) a month. Ms Posner, who died in March aged 67, of cancer, changed her will in 2008 to bequeath the Chihuahua, and two other dogs, April Maria and Lucia, a $3 million trust fund and the right to live in her $8.3 million Miami Beach mansion." (Times, 18 June) RD

THE PRICE OF COAL

"More than 70 miners were feared dead last night after an explosion in a Colombian mine trapped them 6,5000 ft (2,000metres) underground. Emergency workers pulled 16 bodies from the San Fernando coalmine in Antioquia province, in the northwest of the country, but poor conditions prevented further rescue attempts. Five miners died in a flood in the same mine two years ago." (Times, 18 June) RD

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE ARROGANCE OF THE CAPITALIST CLASS

In a society wherein children are trying to survive on a dollar a day the obscene wealth of the owning class and their flaunting of their riches has recently found a particularly obnoxious example. "A bidder has agreed to pay $2.63 million for a steak lunch with the billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a charity auction held on eBay Inc's website. The highest bid in the 11th annual auction topped the previous record $2.11 million paid in 2008 by Zhao Danyang, a Hong Kong investor. Wealth manager Salida Capital Corp of Toronto won with a $1.68 million bid in 2009." (Reuters, 11 June) Millions of dollars spent on lunching with a billionaire while millions of children starve, do you need any other reason to get rid of capitalism? RD

Same ol' story

First we had the Scottish Socialist Party , then there was Sheridan's Solidarity , and now we have the Socialist Party Scotland. The SPS are part of the Committee for a Workers International - the Socialist Party of England and Wales.

As Trotskyists its not surprising that they have a hotspotch of reforms that they demand:-
Minimum wage to £8 an hour as an immediate step towards £10 an hour.
35-hour week without loss of pay.
An immediate 50% increase in the state retirement pension.
Tax the super rich.
Re-nationalise all privatised utilities and services.
Nationalise the top 150 companies and banks and run them under workers control.

etc etc etc...ad nauseum

Sounds all so very familiar , doesn't it?

We in the Socialist Party - the original and genuine one - oppose organisations like Socialist Party Scotland that promise to deliver a platform of reforms on behalf of the working class, simply in order to gain a position of power. Such groups on the Left have aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. Socialist Party Scotland put before the working class simplistic demands of what they think will be understood by the workers and then , of course , they are going to try to acquire the leadership of the struggles for the reforms so to achieve political advantage for their party. These Leftist parties also try to muscle in on any struggle by workers started off by themselves. And it is all very cynical because they know that reformism ultimately leads no-where (as they readily admit in their rarely read theoretical journals but never explain in their populist, propaganda papers). Members of the SPGB occasionally come across individual Trotskyists who hold the belief that the reforms they advocate can indeed be successfully achieved under capitalism (as a few actually can be without tumbling down the whole edifice of capitalism.) Thus, many members of political groups such as Socialist Party Scotland are often the victims of their own tactics.

A list of reform demands is the bait for a Trotskyist party to get workers to struggle to try and get them, on the theory that the workers would learn in the course of the struggle that these demands cannot be achieved within capitalism and they would then start to struggle (under the leadership and guidance of the vanguard party, naturally)to abolish capitalism. The purpose in telling workers to demand reforms is is to teach them a lesson the hard way. The expectation is that when, these struggles for reforms fail, the workers will then turn against capitalism.

It is the stale old argument, advanced by Trotsky, that socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism, when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will turn to the "cadres" of the Fourth International for leadership. In fact, it never happens so all that's achieved is to encourage reformist illusions amongst workers and disillusionment with the possibility of real radical change.

It can be summed up in the following:
1 ) The working class has a reformist consciousness.
2 ) It is the duty of the Revolutionary Party to be where the masses are.
3 ) Therefore, to be with the mass of the working class, we must advocate reforms.
Further:
4 ) The working class is only reformist minded.
5 ) Winning reformist battles will give the working class confidence.
6 ) So that, therefore, they will go on to have a socialist revolution.
Thus:
7 ) The working class will learn from its struggles, and will eventually come to realise that assuming power is the only way to meet its ends.
8 ) That the working class will realise, through the failure of reforms to meet its needs, the futility of reformism and capitalism, and will overthrow it.
9 ) That the working class will come to trust the Party that leads them to victory, and come a social crisis they will follow it to revolution.

It all relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself - Although, it hasn't.
Its also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated the reforms, should they too become socialists and not turn against the idea, instead ? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution if made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their dubious point about needing to "be" where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason put forwrd why a supposedly revolutionary party should be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness.The fact remains, though, that the “revolutionaries” of the Socialist Party Scotland are incapable of taking these reform campaigns or the trade unions further than the bulk of the membership are willing to tolerate .

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SAVING TIME AND EXPENSES?

NEW ORLEANS - BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive oil spill in a well that an engineer ominously described as a "nightmare" just six days before the blow-out, according to documents released Monday that provide new insight into the causes of the disaster.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deep-sea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion that set in motion the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The committee has been investigating the explosion and its aftermath.

"Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blow-out to save the company time or expense. If this is what happened, BP's carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants, and the workers on the rig," said Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak.

WORKERS WAKING UP

"ZHONGSHAN, China - Striking workers at a auto parts plant here are demanding the right to form their own labor union, something officially forbidden in China, and held a protest march Friday morning. Meanwhile, other scattered strikes have begun to ripple into Chinese provinces previously untouched by the labor unrest. A near doubling of wages is the primary goal of the approximately 1,700 Honda workers on strike here in this southeastern China city, at the third Honda auto parts factory to face a work stoppage in the last two weeks." (New York Times, 10 June) RD

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

"For guests used to staying in the best rooms at luxury hotels, the top suite at the Four Seasons Hotel New York may offer the ultimate in bragging rights: To sleep in it, you have to stomach its $35,000 a night price tag. The Ty Warner Penthouse, named for the Beanie Baby mogul and the hotel's owner, is the most expensive hotel room in the country outside of Las Vegas, an important distinction in the industry since rooms in the gambling capital are often comped for high rollers. The suite has sweeping views of Manhattan in every direction, bathroom sinks made of solid blocks of rock crystal and a personal butler on-call 24 hours a day. Guests have the use of a Maybach or Rolls-Royce with driver, of course. Room service from the hotel's restaurants, including one run by celebrity chef , is included in the price and nearly unlimited (though one guest was charged for a $1,000 order of caviar)." (Wall Street Journal, 9 June) RD

One Country - Two Nations

In a study Scotland’s wealthiest suburb has a life expectancy of 87.7 years, while a boy born in the poorest area of Glasgow can expect to die at 54.
A child born in Calton, in the East End of Glasgow, is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's more prosperous western suburbs.
A boy born in Bearsden, Milngavie, Lenzie, Clarkston or Kilmacolm can expect to live to over 80, according to data for 1998-2002. But a journey to the eastern side of Glasgow finds life expectancy plunging by two decades. Male life expectancy in Dalmarnock, Calton, Kinning Park and Townhead is below 60: Britain, as a country, passed this mark during the Second World War.

The NHS data can separate the counntry into two : "Prime Scotland", which comprises the best 100 neighbourhoods, and "Third Scotland", where life expectancy is closer to the third world.
If Prime Scotland were a country, it world have the longest life expectancy in the world. The top international spot is occupied by Iceland (79.0 years). Third Scotland, by contrast, has an average male life expectancy of only 64.4 years - meaning an eighth of the men in the country can expect to die before the official pension age. This life expectancy is lower than in Bosnia, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Iran or North Korea.

ONE in four of Scotland’s pensioners is now living in abject poverty and the position is expected to get much worse
Elinor McKenzie, chairwoman of the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum said “Why should pensioners on less than £100 a week be asked to pay for the economic mess we are in? They see some people, the very rich, becoming even richer – how are we all in this together?she asked.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CLASS DIVIDE IN CHINA

The awful gap between the rich and the poor in modern China was illustrated by two recent news items. A series of industrial disputes leading to strikes has broken out in China. "They began at Honda's car plant in the south near Hong Kong. Since then, disputes, demonstrations and picketing have broken out at electronic firms, vehicle parts makers and other factories as far away as Shanghai. Even the 8,000 workers who make the balls used in the Fifa world cup in South Africa are reported to have gone on strike after discovering that one football is sold for the equivalent of a fortnight's salary." (Sunday Times, 13 June) According to the chief executive of Rolls Royce Motor Cars "China is now our second largest market, with about 20 per cent of sales, and is doing very, very well." .... "The Phantom model starts at £235,000 and the Ghost, the new baby Rolls launched this year, at £165,000. The Phantom is about presence, about making a statement. That is why it is so popular in China." (Times, 7 June) This immense conspicuous consumption is only possible out of the sweated labour of the Chinese working class toiling for a fortnight for the pittance of the price of a football.RD

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saudis clear Israel to bomb Iran?

LONDON - Saudi Arabia will allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran's nuclear facilities, the London Times reported on Saturday.

Quoting unnamed U.S. defense sources, the newspaper said Riyadh conducted tests to be sure its own jets would not be scrambled and missile defenses not be activated so Israeli bombers could pass by without problems.

The path would shorten Israel's bomb run, The Times said.

Once the Israelis go through, the kingdom's air defenses would return to full alert, the newspaper said.  

"The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way," said a U.S. defense source in the Persian Gulf area told the Times. "They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren't scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department."

Permission 'common knowledge'
Sources in Saudi Arabia said it is common knowledge within kingdom defense circles that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid, the Times said. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing," a Saudi source told the Times.

The newspaper pinpointed four main targets: The uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the Russian-built lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete, the Times said.

The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles from Israel, the paper said, noting that distance is the outer limits of the Jewish state's bombers' range even with aerial refueling. An open corridor across northern Saudi Arabia would significantly shorten the distance. An airstrike would involve multiple waves of bombers, possibly crossing Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Aircraft attacking Bushehr, on the Gulf coast, could swing beneath Kuwait to strike from the southwest, the newspaper said.

Plan needs U.S. consent
Passing over Iraq would require Washington's consent. The Obama administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Times said.

The Times' revelation comes in the same week the U.N. Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran. Israel and the West accuse Iran of building nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. Iran vowed to continue enriching uranium after the vote.

Israeli officials refused to comment on details for a raid on Iran, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to rule out, the Times said.

Aharaon Zeevi Farkash, who headed military intelligence until 2006 and has been involved in war games simulating a strike on Iran, told the Times: "I know that Saudi Arabia is even more afraid than Israel of an Iranian nuclear capacity."

Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, is believed to have held secret meetings with high-ranking Saudi officials over Iran, said Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

HOMECOMING HEROES

Veterans of war have been known to suffer from high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), depression and traumatic brain injury in addition to any physical wounds. And a new study of thousands of U.S. Army soldiers returning from combat duty in Iraq found up to 31 percent reported symptoms of PTSD or depression as long as a year after returning from the battlefield. Between 2004 and 2007, 18,305 soldiers returning from Active Component and National Guard infantry brigade combat teams completed surveys that screened for PTSD, depression and other trends, such as alcohol abuse, aggression and general difficulties getting along in civilian life, three months and a year after the soldiers returned from deployment in Iraq. Based on general definitions of the disorders the researchers found that 20.7 to 30.5 percent of soldiers met the criteria for PTSD, and 11.5 to 16 percent met the criteria for depression. And "using the strictest definitions with high symptom rates and serious functional impairment," the authors found up to 11.3 percent of soldiers had PTSD and up to 8.5 percent suffered from depression. Between 8.5 and 14 percent of soldiers reported "serious functional impairment" due to their symptoms, the authors noted in their study, which was led by Jeffrey Thomas, of the Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and published online June 7 in Archives of General Psychiatry. (Scientific American, 7 June) RD

Sugaring the pill ?

The vice-president of a diabetes charity has been called on to sever ties with the group because he also acts as a lobbyist for a drugs giant. Sir Michael Hirst is both a figurehead for Diabetes UK and an adviser to Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, a firm that is planning to withdraw a vital form of insulin from the UK.Novo Nordisk plans to remove Mixtard 30 as a treatment, which some diabetics have used for more than 10 years. Doctors believe the move could cause problems for sufferers and the NHS.

Hirst, a one-time Tory MP, is a former chair of Diabetes UK and now acts as the charity's vice-president. At the same time, he is chair of Edinburgh-based Pagoda PR, which represents Novo Nordisk.Hirst is “retained to act for a number of health-related clients, including Roche Diagnostics and Novo Nordisk”. Services include public affairs advice and parliamentary lobbying.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson, a writer and type-1 diabetic, said: “The withdrawal of this form of insulin highlights the problem of having only two companies worldwide that produce insulin. With only two firms controlling the patent, you really need a patients’ rights group that is 100% on the diabetics’ side."

When Novo Nordisk withdrew another insulin treatment, Actrapid in 2005 Hirst said: “...product rationalisation is a common fact of life.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

BEHIND THE FINE WORDS

In every military conflict we have spokesmen for the owning class disguising the crass commercial reasons for the mayhem with honeyed words. We have had "the rights of small nations", "a war for democracy" and the "fight against dictatorship". One of their spokesmen however shocked the world recently by telling the truth. Horst Kohler, President of Germany in an absent-minded mood declared about the conflict in Afghanistan: "A country of our size, with its focus on exports ... must be aware that military deployments are necessary." (Newsweek, 14 June) Needless to say he had to resign his presidency before he was sacked. A politician telling the truth! Next thing you know they will be telling the working class that they are exploited by the owning class. Get rid of these dangerous truth-telling merchants immediately is the response of the capitalist class! RD

Thursday, June 10, 2010

LAZY WORKERS?

"One in four people is risking ill health by working through the day without a break, according to a new survey. Heavy workloads meant that a third also said they took no lunch, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy found." (Daily Telegraph, 10 June) RD

NICE SUICIDES

"Steve Jobs has said the Chinese iPhone factory where 10 workers have killed themselves this year is actually "pretty nice". Speaking at the All Things Digital conference in California, the Apple CEO also brushed aside questions about his relationship with Google ... Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn makes Dell, Nokia and Apple products at its factory in Shenzhen, China. As reported by The First Post, the latest suicide came last week, when a 23-year-old worker jumped to his death from a building roof. Jobs denied Foxconn ran a sweatshop and told the conference that Apple was working with the company to get to the bottom of why so many people were killing themselves. "You go in this place and it's a factory but, my gosh, they've got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it's pretty nice," said Jobs." (First Post, 2 June) What millionaire Mr Jobs does not mention is that the workforce stand for a 12 hour work day under constant camera surveillance for the princely sum of £90 per month and live in factory-owned dormitories. The factory is considering improving conditions by introducing "soothing" music, dancing instructors and a suicide hotline! The mindless repetitious factory 12 hour slog may seem "pretty nice" to Mr Jobs as he counts the millions of dollars extracted from the exploitation of these Chinese workers, but at least one worker last week decided to end his "pretty nice" servitude. RD

Its always the poor who pay

The poorest people in Scotland are being penalised by unfair overdraft charges, according to a report by Citizens Advice Scotland.

It said the banks' poorest customers were subsidising the richest by paying a higher part of their income in fees. Despite talk about being more responsible, banks were still imposing heavy charges on vulnerable people.

Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Susan McPhee said "...the people who are worst hit by these charges are those who can least afford to pay them.Indeed these charges mean that the poor are actually subsidising the rich, like a reverse Robin Hood effect."

One pensioner was charged £66 for going overdrawn by 60p.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

WORLD CUP REALITY

"No nation in the world has a gulf between rich and poor as great as South Africa's. Despite billions of euros in investments related to the 2010 World Cup, last year more than a million South Africans lost their jobs. During the first three months of this year, 171,000 entered the unemployment rolls. The official unemployment rate is over 25 percent, the highest level seen in the past five years. Unofficially, it is estimated to be closer to 40 percent. A recent study completed by the University of South Africa concluded that 75.4 percent of South Africans fall below the poverty level -- and almost all those poor are black. "Persistent poverty, rising levels of unemployment and violent crime, together with the crisis in the public health sector," writes Amnesty International in its annual report, have contributed at least as much as corruption and nepotism to the often violent protests that have recently shaken South Africa." (Spiegel On Line, 3 June) RD

MUSEUM ATTRACTION!

LONDON — A racy black gown worn by Lady Diana Spencer on one of her first official engagements has been snapped up by a Chilean fashion museum for nearly 200,000 pounds (more than $275,000) — several times the original estimate.

The strapless silk taffeta dress's revealing cut and striking black color caused a minor scandal when Diana was pictured stepping out of a limousine in the outfit in at a London charity event in 1981. But while some thought the dress was too daring for the 19-year-old royal bride-to-be, it helped turn Diana into an overnight fashion icon.

"I think Diana didn't really have a particular sense of style, I mean, she dressed as a typical 'Sloane Ranger' of that time, you know, with the skirts, cardigan, little sweater, pearls, it was kind of a uniform for girls of that age," said Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed the black dress with her then-husband David.Emanuel said the couple didn't anticipate the reaction the dress would draw.

 

dying young in Glasgow

Men in Glasgow have the lowest life expectancy in the UK. And neighbouring North Lanarkshire has the second-lowest UK male life expectancy, according to the Office for National Statistics. The average man in parts of London can expect to live almost 10 years longer.

The ONS figures, from 2005 to 2007, show that the average man in Glasgow will live for 70.7 years and the average man in North Lanarkshire will live for 73.1 years, the two lowest averages in the UK.Men in the Kensington and Chelsea districts of London can expect to live to 87.7 years old, the highest UK average.

In 2008 death rates among over-55s were higher in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.

More Food for thought

At least we now know what the Greek problem really is. Right wing pundit, Angelo Perischilli (Toronto Star) assigns the blame to unscrupulous politicians who buy votes by allowing greedy unions to think they are entitled to whatever they want (Toronto Star, 9/May/2010). No mention of the capitalists who have millions, live like kings, and do none
of the work at all.
Back to the future as we close in on 1984. Britain has been experimenting with chips on garbage cans to monitor several aspects of waste such as weight so they can, presumably, charge more. Nothing so underhanded here – in Northumberland County, Ontario, on top of high house taxes, we have to attach a $3 sticker to every bag to ensure pick-up. Not surprisingly, there is an increase in roadside garbage bags. The squeeze to save the capitalist class some money continues in every corner of our lives.
John Ayers

Food for thought

BP Oil is coming under some heavy scrutiny. David Olive (Toronto Star, 9/May/2010) tells us that the Company, third largest energy company on the planet with 2009 revenues of $246 billion, rebranded itself in a $200 million ad campaign complete with a green, yellow, and white sunflower, as a green, concerned outfit. Of course, its record of safety and stewardship of the environment is completely the opposite. It was BP's failure to activate a blow-out preventer that ruptured the Gulf well and cost eleven lives.

John Ayers

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Food for thought

The chairman of Magna Corp., Frank Stronach, an auto parts giant, of whom I have often mentioned his 'salary' of some $50 million per year, has stepped back somewhat to let someone else have a go. In the process he has restructured the share system so that the family trust benefits to the tune of some $863 million. The greed of capitalists knows no limits.

On the other side of the coin, A Toronto Star article (09/May/201) details the plight of pregnant women in Senegal. They face a one in twenty-one chance of dying in childbirth compared to one in 11 000 in Canada. For $1 a woman can get all the contraceptive counseling and pre and post-natal care necessary to avoid these ugly statistics of
capitalism. Hey! Couldn't Stronach ensure the safety of 863 million women? But then, there's no profit in that, is there?

Foreign Workers are coming in increasing numbers and filling the lower skilled jobs such as assembly line work, food serving, and meat packing. Their numbers rose 148% between 2002 and 2008 to a high of over 250,000.They are there to answer the capitalist call for cheap labour and swell the reserve army to keep a downward pressure on wages. John Ayers

Friday, June 04, 2010

CHEAPENING WORLD ANNIHILATION

In order to make greater and greater profits it is necessary for the owning class and their political pimps to cheapen production, even in the production of mass destruction. "The Pentagon has now told the public, for the first time, precisely how many nuclear weapons the United States has in its arsenal. That is exactly 4,802 more than we need. Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate to advocate approval of the so-called New Start treaty, signed by President Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia last month. The treaty's ceiling of 1,550 warheads deployed on 700 missiles and bombers will leave us with fewer warheads than at any time since John F. Kennedy was president. Yet the United States could further reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons without sacrificing security. Indeed, we have calculated that the country could address its conceivable national defense and military concerns with only 311 strategic nuclear weapons." (New York Times, 21 May) Great news for the world's working class the owning class can now destroy the whole planet at a cheaper rate. Isn't capitalism wonderful? RD

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Robert Owen money


MSPs will debate a motion by Labour MSP Bill Butler calling for Robert Owen to feature on Scottish bank-notes in time for the United Nations Year of Co-operatives in 2012.

Socialist Courier is reminded of one of Robert Owen’s claim to fame. Labour vouchers (or labour cheques, labour certificates, labour-time vouchers) are a device suggested to govern demand for goods in “socialism”, much as money does today under capitalism. Originally proposed by Robert Owen in 1820, they were later taken up by Marx in 1875, to deal with the immediate and temporary shortages remaining from capitalism, if socialism had been established at that time.
Robert Owen attempted to rectify "unequal exchange" by establishing a number of producer and consumer co-operatives around the country, linked by labour exchanges. The guiding principle of these labour exchanges was that goods were exchanged according to their value as measured by labour time, with non-circulating labour notes used to facilitate the exchange of goods. In this way, it was believed, there would be equal exchange and no exploitation. However, these co-operatives were short-lived and had difficulty in providing even basic provisions for exchange against labour notes. The problems of valuing goods in terms of labour time meant that errors were made and, inevitably, there were goods undervalued in relation to their market equivalents that were quickly purchased, while there were others that were overvalued and just as rapidly accumulated in the exchanges. Only where the labour exchanges replicated the market valuation were there no such problems. In effect, therefore, market price rapidly exerted its hegemony over labour values.

Owen was first and foremost a capitalist. The factory master was in much the same position as the landed squire. Owen had joined a group of doctors, scientists and writers who were concerned about the conditions of factory (especially child) labour, their concern was to ameliorate such conditions, not to abolish them. As Owen wrote in his autobiography, his chief object at New Lanark was "To discover the means by which the condition of the poor and the working classes could he ameliorated, and with benefit to their employers."

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

THE CHASM OF CLASS

At a time in the USA when many members of the working class find themselves unemployed and their homes re-possessed it is worthwhile looking at how the American capitalist class are dealing with the economic downturn. Time-share mogul David Siegel and his former beauty queen wife Jacqueline have had to sell their Florida mansion for a mere $50 million. The 30 bedroom house and estate, named and modeled on the palace of Versailles in France, includes a boat house, a ballroom, an Olympic-size pool, a theatre and a baseball field. "The 23-bathroom house may appeal to a buyer so wealthy they do not even move in, said local estate agent Kelly Price. "Versailles will probably be a house that will appeal to the uber-wealthy who don't even think about the issue of money," she added. "It might be a second or third home. For all we know, it could be a seventh or eighth home." (Metro,27 May) Useful productive members of the working class are homeless while the useless parasite class have multiple mansions - that is capitalism for you. RD

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT?

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended his decision to accept a peerage, saying he never ruled out sitting in the House of Lords.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said he took the peerage because he wanted to influence environmental policy.

And he made clear his decision did not come after pressure from his wife.

"I make my own decisions," said Mr Prescott, who stood down at the general election after 37 years as an MP.

 

 

Mr Prescott, who was Tony Blair's deputy for 10 years, said: "Of course I'll be influenced by my wife [Pauline], but I'm not doing it for that.

"It provides me an opportunity on environment," he added.

Mr Prescott once indicated he would not follow in the footsteps of other former Labour figures who have left the Commons and joined the Lords - like Lords Kinnock and Hattersley - reportedly saying: "I don't want to be a member of the House of Lords. I will not accept it."

John Prescott was made a peer in the Dissolution Honours on Friday. The list is made at the end of every Parliament to allow outgoing prime ministers to reward colleagues.

He and the others named in the list will only officially become peers once they have been sworn in.

The 71-year-old responded to his appointment on his Labour blog, saying: "I welcome the opportunity to continue to campaign in Parliament for jobs, social justice and the environment as well as to hold this Con-Lib government to account."

It's like reading a book, start on the left and move to the right.

Food for thought

The G8 and G20 meetings are to be held in Toronto at the end of June.
Preparations are costing almost $1 billion (according to the officials),most of which is for security. (Our local, new, state-of-the-art hospital is in the middle of cut backs dropping nurses and the physiotherapy program, we could use a few million!) How come popularly elected leaders need so much security, hide away in the bush and talk in secret? And don't we already have a G200 called the UN that should include all countries in a global economy? What arrogance these managers of capitalism show!
Is capitalism on shaky ground? On Thursday, May 6th. the stock market went haywire as stocks plummeted in unprecedented fashion, e.g. Shares Russell 1000 Value Index Fund, worth $95 billion, saw their shares drop from $59 to 8 cents and the Dow Jones Industrial average lost about ten per cent. The reason? A fat fingered trader in Chicago pressed the wrong key and made a sale of several million stocks into billions and all hell broke loose. Great, secure system, eh? The Toronto Star writer headlined his piece 'At least it wasn't a weapons system'.

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