Monday, May 30, 2011

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

Members of the working class suffer all sorts of indignities in their working life but it is when they grow old and infirm that capitalism really rubs their nose in it. "Failures in nursing care for elderly patients have reached the point at which doctors are prescribing water to make sure it is provided, the health regulators say. Inspections at 12 hospitals by the Care Quality Commission found that three failed to meet basic standards of dignity and nutrition, and that three more raised concerns. This, according to Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of the CQC, was "fairly representative" of the NHS, with only half of hospitals meeting essential standards of dignity and nutrition for older people." (Sunday Times, 29 May) After a lifetime of producing surplus value for the owning class many workers are condemned to eke out an existence in sub-standard nutrition and toilet conditions.RD

Sunday, May 29, 2011

THE MIDDLE CLASS MYTH

In reviewing Owen Jones's book "Cavs: The Demonization of the Working Class", the journalist Carol Midgely makes some valid points. "When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 more than seven million people earned a living in manufacturing. Now that figure is about 2.83 million. Much easier to blame the unemployed than the forces that caused the unemployment. The Thatcher experiment, Jones says, repositioned working class not as something to be proud of but something to escape from. Being middle class was the holy grail. The Dockers, miners, skilled factory workers and car workers of Britain have watched powerless as their jobs disappeared or were sent abroad." (Times, 28 May) Here we have Jones and Midgely making the usual mistake about class. All men and women who because of their lack of property are forced to seek work for a wage or a salary are members of the working class. Whether you work in a factory or an office whether you push a barrow or a pen if you have to seek a wage or a salary in order to live you are a member of the working class.RD

rich list 2011

The 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, published this weekend, reveals that the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country are now worth a combined £395.8 billion, equivalent to more than a third of the national debt.

The number of billionaires has risen from 53 to 73, while nine people have seen their fortunes rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months alone.

Britain’s 10 Largest Fortunes (in billions of pounds)

1. Lakshmi Mittal and Family Steel 17.5
2. Alisher Usmanov Steel, Mines 12.4
3. Roman Abramovich Oil 10.3
4. The Duke of Westminster Property 7
5. Ernesto and Kitty Bertarelli Pharmaceuticals 6.9
6. Leonard Blavatnik Industry 6.2
7. John Fredriksen and family Shipping 6.2
8. David and Simon Reuben Property 6.2
9. Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja Industry 6
10. Galen and George Weston Retail 6

Saturday, May 28, 2011

AUSTERITY - FOR SOME

We live in austere times, there is a budget deficit and the government has been forced to make all sorts of unpopular public spending cuts. We have recently seen drastic cuts in local amenities like libraries, transport and social amenities. The government draw the line at some cuts though as seen from this announcement. "David Cameron has spent more than £680,000 of public money renovating Downing Street in the year that his government inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector." (Guardian, 27 May) Times might be tough but one has got to have decent living accommodation, old chap.RD

NEVER STEAL ANYTHING....

Working class school children throughout the world are taught the mantra "never steal anything". So what are we to make of the following news item? "A former managing director of Nasdaq has been charged with insider trading by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Donald Johnson stole client information, making $755,000 in illegal trades, it said. He admitted securities fraud in criminal charges brought by the Justice Department." (Times, 27 May) $755,000 is quite a haul so perhaps children of the capitalist class are taught not to get caught and just as important "never steal anything - small." RD

all at sea

How the other half live and more accurately how the 0.00002 per cent live. CRN Spa, builders of mega-yachts, estimates that there are just 1,500 people in the world wealthy enough to consider buying a boat from them. ( there is also, of course, the "ultra-mega yachts" of the type recently purchased by the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the world's biggest, featuring two helipads and a submersible escape submarine.)

"I know the names of all our clients," says the boatyard's chairman, "They're not famous people. You won't have heard of them." But, chances are, in one way or another, money that was once in your bank account is now in theirs'.

A few years ago an American client arrived and had signed a contract to buy a 43-metre yacht within two hours, with a price tag of €25m (£21.6m). He had never owned a boat before. "He told us: 'The interiors, the colours, the finishes, I don't care. The only thing I care about is the safety of my dog, as the boat is a present for her.'" On boats you have big holes, big gaps, big open spaces where a dog might fall. In the end he spent over a million euros having the holes closed over with glass and netting.

One wife of an Eastern European gentlemen, apparently, spent €3.5m on Swarovski crystals, which were attached to everything. In the finished vessel, the great chandelier in the main dining room matched the flip-flops worn by guests. She also requested a real wood fire, right next to a silk and cashmere carpet that cost €750 per square metre.
One of CRN's yach
ts, Maraya, has been chartered several times by P Diddy (with an estimated wealth of only $475m, or £288m, he doesn't quite make the 1,500), at a cost of €400,000 a week.

1. 'Eclipse' 557ft Roman Abramovich Features a missile-detection system and a laser shield to hinder the paparazzi's cameras. It also holds the distinction of being the world's largest.
2. 'Dubai' 532ft Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum This floating palace has seven decks, with jacuzzis and a mosaic swimming pool. It can also support a nine-tonne helicopter.
3. 'Al Said' 508ft Qaboos bin Said al Said The Sultan of Oman's yacht has a heli-pad, a cinema and a concert hall which can accommodate a 50-strong orchestra.
4. 'Prince Abdulaziz' 482ft Saudi Royal Family The world's largest and most expensive yacht when it was built in 1984. Its luxurious lobby was inspired by that of the doomed Titanic ocean liner
.

Friday, May 27, 2011

BEHIND THE TV FANTASY

Every evening on the TV you can see programmes where some dastardly criminal is brought to justice by some ingenious detective. Every crime committed in these dramas is solved. It is all very satisfying, but of course it is a complete fantasy. "Just one criminal jailed for every 93 crimes. Just one criminal is jailed for every 93 offences committed, figures showed. A total of 101,500 offenders who were convicted last year were handed an immediate custodial sentence representing less than eight per cent of all those sentenced, according to the Ministry of Justice. But separate figures from the British Crime Survey show a total 9.5 million crimes were committed in England and Wales during the last 12 months." (Daily Telegraph, 26 May) As long as we have a property based society we will have crime, and despite the efforts of Inspector Morse, Taggart and Miss Marples the vast majority of them will go unsolved. RD

Thursday, May 26, 2011

WHERE THE GREEN MOVEMENT FAILS

On the face of it the Green Movement has a lot of things in its favour. It would be difficult to find fault in their concerns about how the planet is being abused. Global warming, deforestation and pollution are real areas of concern for anyone who examines how modern society is developing. Where socialists would differ from green activists is in two major areas. Firstly in their analysis of what causes the problems and secondly what is the solution to the problems.
Quite often green activists make the assumption that the problems are caused by social ignorance and that secondly the solution can come about by a series of legal enactments that would save the planet from its present dangers. Socialists would repudiate such a simplistic analysis. Let us look at one of the major concerns of Greens and socialists alike - the deforestation of the Amazon area. "Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased almost six-fold since last year despite government promises to reduce the destruction according to data released yesterday. Satellite images obtained by the National Institute for Special Research reveal 595 sq km (230 sq miles) of deforestation in March and April of this year. Figures from the Brazilian government show a 27 per cent increase in deforestation of the world's largest rain forest from August to April." (Times, 20 May)
This deforestation is not caused by social ignorance. All major governments are aware of the problem, but they are also aware that in order to keep capitalist profits on the rise they must have timber from the Amazon and the clearing of the forest for the growth of crops and the rearing of cattle. "In 30 or so years, we have gone from zero to 400,000 heads of cattle," boasted Onofre, president of the local ranchers association. Nowadays everybody says we have to preserve the forest. But when we arrived nobody knew we had to protect anything we had to deforest. We chopped the trees down so we could feed our animals, our cattle." .... Back on his ranch, Onofre reflected on his hopes that Brazil's congress would approve a controversial bill altering the forest code and reducing the amount of rainforest Amazon landowners had to protect." (Observer, 22 May)
The local farmers and cattle raisers can heave a sigh of relief at the latest piece of news from their government. "Brazil's Chamber of Deputies has voted to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest. The amendment also grants amnesties for previous deforestation." (BBC News, 25 May)
The drive for more and more profits make it essential that the Amazon landowners continue their policy of forest clearance. The importers of timber, cattle and agriculture products also cry out for more deforestation. While the profit motive remains all attempts by the Green Movement to restrict the development of capitalism in the Amazon area is futile. Only the establishment of world socialism can stop this insidious destruction of our planet. RD

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DIVINE NONSENSE

Inside capitalism politics and religion throw up some crazy ideas, but this piece of Russian nonsense takes a bit of beating. "A new Russian religious sect worships Vladimir Putin as the reincarnation of Paul the Apostle whose career follows in the footsteps of the early Christian missionary, a news report said Wednesday. The sect is based near the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod and led by Mother Fotina -- a former convict who once worked on the local rail road, the Sobesednik weekly said on its website. "According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first," the sect's founder told the weekly. "In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the holy spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock," she said." (Yahoo News,11 May) If a virgin can give birth, a carpenter make the blind see and the dead walk why can't a member of the ruthless KGB become a saint incarnate? RD

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 30

The Danish government is planning to officially announce that it is to lay claim to the North Pole, according to a draft Danish-Faroese-Greenland strategy. The draft says that “The Kingdom is expected to lay claim to the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself”.

Several ministers have previously suggested that Denmark could lay claim to the North Pole, but if the draft is adopted, it will be the first time that Denmark’s official policy is to claim the Pole and puts Denmark on a collision course with other Arctic claimants. Territorial claims over vast stretches of the energy-rich Arctic are serious business.

Conservationists aren’t pleased with the territorial ambitions, however, saying countries bordering the Arctic Ocean should focus on the region’s fragile environment and not its demarcation and development.“This is a land grab which is about getting access to resources,” said Mads Christensen, executive director for Greenpeace Nordic. “No one is advocating for a pathway where we look at it as a global good.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

That we live in a society that has world hunger, unemployment and homelessness is hardly a matter of dispute, but that is only a series of problems that confront the useful members of society, for others there are no social problems."Paris Hilton has been spotted house hunting in Malibu. The heiress and reality TV star seemed to have taken a particular shine to a luxury pink stucco mansion with a hefty price tag. The rental property is reportedly costing $80,000 to rent per month. With four bedrooms and four bathrooms, the beachside mansion would make the perfect summer hangout for the LA socialite and her many friends. Paris also checked out other luxury villas, all close to the beach with gorgeous sea views. "Just got home. Saw some beautiful properties, so it's going to be a hard choice to make, she tweeted later that day." (Yahoo News, 12 May) Could someone please tweet her that she is a useless parasitic exploiter? RD

Monday, May 23, 2011

LAND OF THE FREE?

In schoolrooms throughout the USA children are taught to be patriotic and learn to sing with pride the verses about "Home of the Brave, Land of the Free", but the reality is somewhat different according to recent statistics. "Today, 2.3 million Americans are behind bars; the United States has the world's highest rate of incarceration. Convictions for non-violent crimes and relatively minor drug offenses - mostly possession, not sale - have accounted for the bulk of the increase in the prison population since the mid-1980s. African-Americans are far more likely to get prison sentences for drug offenses than white offenders, even though studies have consistently shown that they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites." (New York Times, 14 May) RD

The Russians are coming !!

Thanks to big-spending wealthy Russians visitors Scotland's tourism industry is withstanding the economic downturn.

Hotel bills of around £20,000 for a 10-day stay for two are said to be commonplace while some small family groups are reported to have spent £100,000.

The Scotsman has learned of guests hiring a castle for £7,000 a night and shopping sprees lasting just half an hour have notched up the same bill. Two Russian guests were said to have hired out the Royal Yacht Britannia, in Leith.

Moscow is home to the world's second-largest concentration of billionaires after New York.

Denise Hill, head of international marketing of VisitScotland, said:"We are getting a lot of oligarchs visiting, for whom money is no object, as well as growing numbers on incentive trips through their businesses. Some groups will spend £20,000 on whiskies in a hotel without even thinking about it."

David Tobin, founder of Dream Escape, which provides tailor-made luxury holiday packages in Scotland, said many Russian clients arrived in their own private jets and travelled around Scotland by helicopter. "Many of them will own property in London and come up to Scotland on holiday when they are in the UK," he said. "They are used to spending several thousand pounds on hotel suites around the world, so they think nothing of spending the same on a private hire of a castle...I know of four guests popping into the House of Bruar in Perthshire for half an hour and spending around £7,000."

Dorothy Welsh, director of sales and marketing at Gleneagles, said: "A stay of 10 nights in one of our best suites is certainly not unusual and some guests will spend as much as £20,000 here."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A MOCKERY OF DEMOCRACY

The capitalist media is fond of depicting the democratic political systems that exist in Britain and the USA as perfect examples of fairness and well- balanced pieces of legislation where everyone is equal as far as the law is concerned, but this is shown to be a complete charade when we consider the following example. David and Charles Koch are billionaires, in fact each is reckoned to be worth $22 billion. "Both have a 42% stake, (in Koch Industries) which makes chief executive Charles (now 75) and vice-president David (71) the joint 18th richest people in the world. Charles is co-founder of the libertarian think-tank the Cato Institute, while David founded the conservative non-profit group America for Prosperity and has spent $45m bankrolling rightwing politicians." (Observer, 15 May) The brothers fund such organisations as the America for prosperity which is linked to the Tea Party and have spent $20m in 2008 and $20.5m from 2009 to 2010 lobbying against legislation on global warming and other right wing targets. Yes, like you they have only one vote each but unlike you they can spend millions lobbying for legislation. A strange sort of democracy. RD

An Amazon drug for the poor

There’s often a fine line between using drugs for enjoyment and using drugs to escape the pressures of society. While the drugs "problem" is not a make or break issue for socialists, it does illustrate how capitalism tends to operate in defiance of any logic, even its own. Even if you accept capitalism's own profit-oriented logic, its attitude to illegal recreational drugs still fails to make any kind of sense. From Al Capone to Afghanistan, the history of drug prohibition by capitalism continues to represent one of the most bizarrely stupid aspects of a social system never notable for its good judgment. Most of the arguments against illicit drugs are bogus, unscientific and politically oriented. Whether it’s a pint in a pub, a joint at home, or ecstasy in a nightclub, many of us use drugs to unwind or enhance our experiences. However, heroin and alcohol addiction are causing countless damaged lives. Now there is a new one.

Officials in the Amazon region of Brazil first started hearing drug users refer to Oxi in about 2005 but had probably been used as early as the late 1980s, likely being mistaken for crack cocaine. It first appeared in the tiny northwestern Brazilian state of Acre. With a population of only 732,000, Acre borders both Bolivia and Peru - two of the largest producers that import freebase cocaine paste into Brazil. Oxi is not a particularly unique drug. It is a derivative of cocaine paste, the clay-like foundation product used to make crack and refined powder cocaine. To make Oxi, chunks of freebase cocaine are soaked in gasoline. When gasoline is not available, kerosene is sometimes used. It is then mixed with limestone powder, a product used in construction. Easily attainable household solvents, like cleaning chemicals, are also sometimes added to the toxic mixture. In the final process, the rocks are dried, often simply under the sun, and then sold on the streets for consumption. According to police, with cocaine paste as the main ingredient, Oxi can be made very easily and cheaply without the need for a background in chemistry - unlike refined powder cocaine, which needs the infrastructure of a laboratory to produce, and is much more time-consuming and complicated.Because it is cheap, Oxi was initially used primarily by people from lower economic classes, the drug is often called "an Amazon drug for the poor". The average price for one rock being five Brazilian reals, which is the equivalent of about three American dollars. Sometimes, a rock of Oxi can sell for as cheap as one American dollar. The difference between Oxi and crack is that crack usually has about 40 or 50 per cent purity, but based on studies of what has been confiscated, Oxi is being made from freebase cocaine that has 80 to 90 per cent purity. It's stronger and the effects of addiction faster, and consequently it is considered a better drug by the users. The immediate effect after smoking it lasts only three to five minutes, so most users say they are always looking to get their next hit. A user can normally get five inhales on one rock, extending the total buzz from one rock to roughly 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how experienced the user is and how long the smoke is kept in their lungs. Regardless of the prowess of the user, the effects do not last long, and leave the victim searching for another hit soon after they finish. Oxi ravages internal organs, causes severe weight loss and critical brain damage. But it is highly addicting; most users who try it get hooked in the first try.
Alvaro Mendes, a researcher who helped conduct the first study of Oxi back in 2005, told Al Jazeera "In the 15 years I have been working with chemical dependency, I have never seen a drug with such a potential of destruction as Oxi.When a person starts using Oxi, on average they die within one year"

Substance abuse will last as long as capitalism itself does as people feel the stress of coping with life under the profit system. People are becoming isolated from each other with drug abuse on the increase. Will drugs be as big a menace in socialism? The problem of illegal drugs might not be so easy to solve. One prime factor, however, would immediately disappear in a socialist system – the monetary incentive to produce such drugs. We believe that socialism would fill up the gaps in people's lives making it less likely (if not completely unlikely) that they would turn to drugs to fill an empty life or escape from an intolerable one. In a socialist society, many of the causes of the drug problem will not exist and have been eradicated—the chronic alienation, isolation and loneliness created by capitalist conditions of life, plus social deprivation, poverty and dissatisfaction . Once these factors are removed, the symptoms they produce will disappear along with them. One thing is for sure that there is no solution within capitalism.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Against independence

Nationalists believe we, the workers, should hold allegiance to "the Nation". Socialists do not. Socialists look forward to and struggle for a new world of common ownership and democratic control of society's resources, and uncluttered with the frontiers and class divisions which go hand, in-hand with "the Nation". As socialists, we say that nationalism is a dangerous poison. Nationalism is anathema to socialists. Wage and salary workers have no country. The outlook of “us and them” is a strong notion in the lives of many people and the idea that the world is naturally divided into nations is widespread. But the world of nationalism is full of contradictions, odd ideas and illogical beliefs. It comes almost as a reflex action for people born and brought up in Scotland to use “we” and to regard themselves as part of a Scottish “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the English at Bannockburn” or “we got five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games”. Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means they have succeeded in getting their subjects to identify with them and their interests. Wage slaves, instead of seeing “we” as their class, have come to see it as “the Nation”.

What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations. This is certainly true of Scotland. The nationalist idea of a once united Scotland is just a myth. Every nation-state is by its very nature anti-working class. The “nation” is a myth as there can be no community of interests between two classes in antagonism with one another, the non-owners in society and the owners (the workers and the capitalists). Workers have more in common with people like ourselves in other countries than with the privileged owning class of the country where we happen to live and work. The world-wide working class has a common interest, to end its exploitation and solve its problems, to join together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the planet will have become the heritage of all, so that there can be production to meet needs and not for profit. One World - One People, where cultural differences will still be celebrated, but where we’ll all be citizens of the world.

The illusions of nationality are yet another tool of the ruling class, intended to trick workers into thinking that this really is some kind of collective society, and to misplace their passions that could otherwise be directed into the class struggle. The presence of political nationalist ideas is an indication that some groups in society feel its real material interests are being frustrated by forces outside (or even inside the nation.) Of course the desire to achieve their aims is never expressed in terms of their own needs only. In order to enlist the necessary working class support such arguments as “justice”, “freedom”, and “the nation” are used to justify the real bone of contention and to give it an aura of sanctity. The current ruling class have cultivated such ideas as nationalism, propagating the illusion that we live in a society with a collective social interest. The more enlightened among them probably saw the effects of separating and alienating people from each other and their labour, and so stepped up the spreading of beliefs like nationalism in order to try and convince people that they were not so exploited as they really were, and that everyone had a common interest. The state ultimately exists only to defend the property interests of the owning class at any given point in history – which is why modern states across the world send the police and army in to break strikes and otherwise seek to protect the interests of the capitalists and business at every turn. As workers you have no real community of interests to gain from Scottish independence. In what way is the life of a Scottish wage slave basically different from that of an English , an American , or a Russian wage slave? There is no basic difference in the way of life of the world’s working class because we all suffer from the same problems. Jonathan Swift wrote “the first principle of patriotism is to resent foreigners.” This method, of setting one section of population against another, has been used ultra-successfully all around the world – so successfully that great swathes of people can now rouse themselves, with no apparent external cue, against the newest threat, the most recent immigrant group, anyone who looks or sounds like they may be from a group that’s not their own. Enemies are required by the state elites. Enemies within and without.

Should self-government eventually be established workers will discover that they cannot will or legislate away the problems of capitalism. No country in the world, no matter how independent or rich in resources, has yet succeeded in eliminating poverty, unemployment, insecurity, etc. An independent Scotland would still have to operate within the constraints of the world capitalist system. It would still have to ensure that goods produced in Scotland were competitive on world markets and that capitalists investing in Scotland were allowed to make the same level of profits as they could in other countries.The workers are wasting their time when they struggle to make some aspect of capitalism better, to make capitalism more acceptable. Capitalism is not a system that can be humanised or reformed or transformed into something better. It is a profit system subject to economic laws which can only work in one way: as a system of profit-making and accumulation of capital in the interest of a tiny minority of profit-takers.

In Scotland today it’s true that there is a struggle - as there is in England, Wales, Ireland, or rest of the world for that matter. But the struggle in Scotland is not, as the nationalists would have us believe, the struggle for home rule or self-government. The struggle in Scotland, as in the rest of the world, is a class struggle: the struggle between the working class and the capitalist owning class. The interest of the working class in all countries is to reject all nationalism, to reject in fact the very idea of “foreigner”, and to recognise that they have a common interest with people in other countries in the same economic situation of being obliged to sell their mental and physical energies in order to get a living.

Neither London nor Edinburgh, but World Socialism.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doom and gloom

Despite record low interest rates, falling by more than one-fifth since in 2008 the cost of owning and running a home in the UK has risen over the last year.

Bank of Scotland research found that soaring gas, electricity and main-tenance costs were the main causes of the rise. It showed that the average annual cost associated with owning and running a home rose by 1.4%, or £116, from £8525 in March 2010 to £8641 in March 2011. Utility costs were up by £102 on average and maintenance costs by £33.

Bank of Scotland housing economist Suren Thiru said: “Household finances remain under pressure with the significant drop in mortgage payments since 2008 mostly offset by increases in other household bills. Rising utility bills have been a clear driver behind this, along with increases in maintenance costs. The current strain on household finances is particularly concerning at a time when earnings growth remains weak.”

Another study revealed over-50s are suffering a drop in their quality of life as their incomes are squeezed by low interest rates and high inflation. Research by Saga found that around 56% of older people cite the rising cost of living as their biggest concern, more than double the 27% who are most worried about their health.

Monday, May 16, 2011

funemployment

The Guardian columnist describes what is called "funemployment"

Workshy, embracing unemployment as a lifestyle choice, sometimes one inherited from the parents, and spending money scrounged off others on booze and drugs. No, not the feckless "chav" caricatures who regularly feature in tabloid horror stories, used to justify further attacks on Britain's besieged welfare state. It's a new generation of young, wealthy freeloaders - the "funemployed".

It might seem perverse to associate fun with the trauma of unemployment. Around 2.5 million Britons are officially without work; youth unemployment is currently running at over 20%. But in a society where Jobseekers Allowance is just £67.50 – among the lowest of comparable western European nations – it's a right that only a small elite can meaningfully exercise. While most Britons are suffering the biggest squeeze on living standards for nearly a century, there is plenty of money around for the uber-wealthy to splash out on their kids. The wealth of the top 1,000 people went up by nearly a fifth in the last year.

Public, an exclusive Chelsea nightclub set up by Prince William's best friend Guy Pelly, has only been open for five months, but more than a hundred residents and businesses have called for it to be closed because of the disorderly behaviour of its privileged clientele: noisiness, vomiting and used condoms left littering the streets.

unemployment

Areas such as West Dunbartonshire and East Ayrshire have overtaken inner London boroughs as the hardest places in the country to find work, with more than 40 candidates chasing each job, TUC analysis has revealed.

"Dozens of towns and cities have more than 10 dole claimants chasing every vacancy and areas on their doorstep are not faring much better. It's not good enough for ministers to brand those out of work as feckless and claim that there are plenty of jobs out there. The reality is very different." TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said

It doesn't matter where you live, deprivation is a world problem.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who owns the North Pole - Part 29

Greenland is an autonomous territory belonging to Denmark. But the U.S. believes Greenland is headed for independence, presenting “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to make money.

With Arctic ice receding due to global warming, American officials have been cozying up to Greenland, where future oil and mineral deposits may become available to exploration. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the U.S. and other industrial nations are jockeying to “carve up” Arctic resources in the coming years. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Greenland territory may sit atop oil reserves as large as those in the North Sea. The Arctic Circle could contain 90 billion barrels of oil, about 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. In addition to oil and natural gas, mining companies also have their eyes on aluminum, iron ore, gold and rubies.

One diplomatic dispatch states: “Our intensified outreach to the Greenlanders will encourage them to resist any false choice between the United States and Europe. It will also strengthen our relationship with Greenland vis-a-vis the Chinese, who have shown increasing interest in Greenland's natural resource.”

Tensions within NATO are also exposed, as Canadian leaders privately express disquiet over the alliance’s mooted plans to project military force in the Arctic in the face of perceived Russian aggression. Recently re-elected Canadian PM Stephen Harper is quoted by diplomats as saying that a NATO presence in the region would give non-Arctic members of the Western alliance too much influence in an area where “they don’t belong”.
Another cable quotes Danish foreign minister Moeller’s opinion that “new shipping routes and natural resource discoveries would eventually place the region at the center of world politics.” The head of the Russian navy is quoted as saying “one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.” A 2010 cable quotes Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin saying: "The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight ... NATO has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North."

Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe reacting to the release of the new cables, said “These latest Wikileaks revelations expose something profoundly concerning. Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it. They’re preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Ayliffe of Greenpeace continued: “As so often before, this new military build-up is all about oil."

FINE WORDS AND HARSH REALITY

Politicians are wonderful at coining words at election times but a little less wonderful on delivering on electoral promises. Mr. Cameron has promised us all a wonderful future in his "Big Society", but we should be aware of the outcome of Mrs. Thatcher's promised "Property-owning democracy". "The number of homes repossessed in Britain increased by 15 per cent in the first quarter of the year as unemployment and the cost of living continued to rise. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that 9,000 homes were repossessed in the first three months of this year compared with 7,000 in the final quarter of last year." (Times, 13 May) Rising unemployment and homelessness - a strange sort of property-owning democracy. RD

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Food for thought

A rally of several thousand turned out to oppose the new hard right mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who came to power with the usual 'reduce taxes, no cuts in services' platform. He started with the Toronto Transit Commission with an attempt to get the Provincial government to declare the workers as 'essential' and therefore unable to strike. Privatising garbage collection is next, and so on, a la Wisconsin. Only supporting and getting socialism will put the boots to these capitalist puppets.
More government waste and incompetence. No, not the $30 billion, and counting, short  range fighter planes in the second biggest country in the world. I'm talking about the 1998 purchase of four British submarines that were fitted to fire, guess what? British torpedoes. They are still incapable of firing our own MK-48 torpedoes, and that's just fine by me!

John Ayers

losing homes

Repossession numbers began to rise again during the early part of 2011, jumping by 15%. A total of 9,100 properties were taken over by lenders during the three months to the end of March, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

The group has predicted that a total of 40,000 people will lose their homes this year, up from 36,300 in 2010, due to the squeeze on household incomes as a result of the combination of rising taxes and living costs and slow wage growth. Around 166,900 people were in arrears of at least 2.5% of their outstanding loan at the end of March.

Industry commentators have also warned that Government initiatives to help keep people in their homes may simply be delaying a spike in repossession numbers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Food for thought

"The World's Poor Grow Hungrier" stated The Toronto Star, quoting from a World Bank Report. More than 935 million around the world do not have enough food to eat, and the number is growing every year. Rising food prices have exacerbated the problem mostly driven by diverting corn, cassava, canola, and sugar to the production of ethanol fuel. For example, global maize prices rose 73% in the six months after June, 2010. But wait, isn't this about the same number we have been quoting for years? If there was no ethanol production, would that eliminate the hungry? Of course not, it's the system, stupid!
How government works in the people's interests – the Tory government has spent millions in the courts trying to shut down Vancouver's much-lauded safe injection site for drug addicts, Insite. Our tax dollars have been hard at work in the BC Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals rather than funding something worthwhile for $500 000 a year. Of course, with the Tories new multi-billion dollar 'get tough on crime' program, they are going to need as many inmates for their new prisons as they can find. The poor, the alcoholics, the indigenous peoples, and the mentally ill don't quite cut the mustard! John Ayers


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A grouse

A group of landowners is calling on the Scottish government to allow them to kill birds of prey to protect stocks of grouse and other game birds.

Every year birds of prey are found trapped, poisoned and shot on the country's hills, despite being protected by law and specialist wildlife crime officers. Landowners say the number of illegal killings is relatively small. The official figures are between 25 and 30 each year. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes many other cases of raptor persecution go undiscovered and unreported.

Why would anyone want to kill a bird of prey?

The RSPB believes it's all about money. Shooting, especially grouse shooting is worth £240m a year.

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

Socialists often highlight the wastefulness of capitalist society. The waste of human lives with the premature deaths of millions of people from the lack of clean water. The waste of human usefulness with millions forced into unemployment. The waste of the world's natural resources in the mad scramble for profits. The plight of millions of homeless and the inadequately housed should be contrasted with this piece of wastefulness by a member of the useless capitalist class. The property dealer Vincent Tchenguiz has recently put his £25m villa in St Tropez up for sale, and according to one friend . "Vincent bought the villa five years ago but he's spent only one night there". Really, one night? "Really, he always stays on his yacht." So, why have a seven-bedroom pad with extensive staff quarters? "It's for overflow guests. There's not always enough room on the boat so they stay at the house." Of course." (Sunday Times, 8 May) RD

'A Society in Crisis' - Glasgow and Edinburgh Branches' Day School (Glasgow)

Saturday 14 May 2011 1pm to 5pm

















Has Capitalism a Future?: John Cumming (Glasgow Branch)
Most supporters of capitalism, including, most critics, claim that capitalism is the only society which can exist, despite their abhorrence of certain aspects of capitalism, often demand reforms of capitalism as a way of solving social problems.
The Socialist Party has always denied that capitalism could or would collapse spontaneously or that reforms of capitalism are a solution to social problems.
What is the solution then? The Socialist Party is organised for nothing less than the overthrow of capitalism: a complete revolution. Do you agree? If so, join us! If not, tell us why not!

The Rise of Chinese Capitalism:Paul Bennett (Manchester Branch)
China recently overtook Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Like other capitalist countries it has been taking steps to ensure supplies of raw materials and secure export markets as seen by the increasing activities of Chinese companies in Africa. This talk will look at the background to the growth of capitalism in China, the efforts of workers to fight back and the likely impact on the global capitalist system.

The Middle East Powder Keg: Gwynn Thomas (South London Branch)
For over one hundred years the Middle East has been a region of instability, wars and super power rivalries. Modernisation and population growth since the end of Ottoman rule has brought new social and political problems not least of which has been the massive popular uprisings of the Twitter Revolution. Where do the calls for change go from here?

1pm-5pm

All welcome.
Free admission. Free discussion. Free light refreshments provided.



Monday, May 09, 2011

The Scottish Rich

Scotland's richest have increased their fortunes. The Sunday Times Rich List found Highland Spring and Park Hotels owner Mahdi al-Tajir is still the wealthiest Scot, with a fortune of £1,550 million, up £50m in a year. Sir Ian Wood and his family remain at number two, with an increase of £157m from their oil services and fishing business.

With a combined fortune of £18.257 billion, many of Scotland's richest 100 men and women have seen their fortunes increase in the past year. The top multi-millionaires added a combined £60.2bn to their £395.8bn wealth.

The Daily Record provided lesson on capitalist economics - the rich get richer while the poor get poorer .

This is how it comes about. On a simple level, if you have money, you're earning interest. If you have loans, you're paying interest. The result is that the rich are always moving forwards while the poor are always going backwards - and bear in mind that there are different speeds involved. If the rich are earning five per cent interest on their money, the poor are probably paying around 25 per cent on their loans.

If you are poor, you have lost control. If you're rich, you have it and you use it to spread your money around. If you are poor, you have lost control. If you're rich, you have it and you use it to spread your money around.

This is the first rule of wealth creation - diversify. Sell shares if you think the stock market looks ropey and buy something else - gold or shares in an Indian computer company. People with little money tend to have most of it invested in UK shares and their wealth rises or falls with the market. Not the rich. They spread their money between a wide range of investments to make sure that if one is falling, another is rising.

Our economy may have been feeble for a few years, but there have been plenty of countries that have been powering ahead. If you switched your money from here to Brazil in 2008, you'd be patting yourself on the back. If we in the UK are suffering because of high oil prices, why not buy oil futures that give you a profit as the price goes up? The simple fact is that while one market is weak, another is strong. If you have wealth, you can keep your fingers in as many financial pies as possible. The rich do this with their personal money and businesses. Very few top people have stayed in one small area of the business world. They recognise they have to make money in recessions as well as boom times and diversify accordingly. It's all about swings and roundabouts.

The second way the rich make money in a recession is by switching from buying to selling. Professional investors can make money on falling markets just as they can on rising markets. Buying shares is simply a bet they will go up in price. Professionals can make similar bets that pay out if the market falls.

And they can also insure themselves. If they have a couple of million invested in the stock market, they can pay a premium and if the market does fall, the policy pays out. Heads they win, tails you lose.

There are quite a few bankers in the Rich List, but they've set themselves up so that they can make money no matter what. As long as markets move, there's money to be made. Commodity traders are also there in abundance. The Chinese economy has handed them huge profits as it consumed the world's commodity reserves.

Many have "inheritance" as an explanation for their wealth. The Duke of Westminster has got £7billion and a lot of it from property.

Food for thought

In the Middle East the people continue to demonstrate despite cruel repression by the forces of their own government. The leaders haven't hesitated to open fire on their own people. In Egypt, the taste of victory has soured as new demonstrations were put down by the interim military government, killing two people. Same old… Bahrain, Syria, and other places continue to shoot to kill. On CNN this morning it was reported that a small army of 3 000 well armed Syrian soldiers had closed the border with Jordan and then attacked a city that held anti-government rallies, going door to door and shooting the inhabitants. The dislocation between workers and the ruling owners has never been starker than in this region right now. Let's hope something worthwhile comes out of the death and bravery that we see every night. A chance to elect socialist representatives at least.
The Toronto Star published a piece about the Pope. "For the first time in History, Pope Benedict XVI has answered questions submitted by ordinary people." Obviously, not to be missed! A seven-year-old Japanese girl asked why she had to be afraid and sad. "I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me." The Pope-who-speaks-with-god replied, "I also have the same questions; why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side." Oh dear! Let's hope this is the first and last time that 'he who speaks with God', supposedly having the wisdom of the world at his finger tips, gives advice and comfort to a seven-year-old.

John Ayers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Food for thought

In an article in the Toronto Star newspaper, economist David Olive looks at the economic train wreck of Ireland. Fueled by low corporate taxes and a fake real estate boom, this Celtic Tiger and darling of neocon supporters, collapsed in five years as companies, despite the low taxes, fled to low wage Poland, and the real estate bubble burst. Olive quotes Irish historian, R.F.Foster,
"It appeared like a miraculous beast materializing in a forest clearing, and economists are still not sure why."
So much for the brilliance of vulgar economists. At the time of the Irish boom, our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, was quoted,
"It (Canada) will look more like Ireland. More dynamic, more attractive to investors, brighter, and more positive, outward-looking."
The budget that failed and led to the present federal election contained large corporate tax cuts. Ireland is now on the hook for $369 billion with a GDP of just $164 billion. Guess whose paying the price for such stupidity! John Ayers

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

One of the illusions much favoured by politicians is that inequalities are gradually disappearing thanks to their wonderful efforts, but the reality is somewhat different. "After a jarring leap upwards during the industrial collapse of the 1980s. the gap between rich and poor has, with brief interruptions, been trending higher. By the tail-end of Labour's time in office, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was at its highest since comparable figures began in 1961. ... Britain still ranks just after the United States among the leading Western economies in terms of the gulf between rich and poor." (Times, 2 May) RD

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

recession news

The typical household will see its disposable income fall by 2 per cent this year, the equivalent of £780, an economist warned today. Roger Bootle, a former government adviser who now works with Deloitte, the accountancy firm, predicted that 2011 would be the worst year for household finances since 1977 – and added that if interest rates were to rise, British families would not have seen conditions deteriorate so badly since 1952.

Said Mr Bootle. "I think this year will see falling real earnings, falling real house prices and rising unemployment."

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