Saturday, December 31, 2011

Is it accidental?

Adults and children from the most deprived areas of Scotland are twice as likely to die from an accidental injury than those from the most affluent postcodes, new figures show.

Some 1,364 deaths were recorded in 2010 in an Office of National Statistics as due to “unintentional injuries” , “Unintentional injury” is the NHS classification used where the victim has not deliberately inflicted injury on him or herself, but is admitted to hospital or dies as a result, such as road accidents, poisoning, and violent crimes like stabbings and shootings. However, the vast majority were from falls. Of these deaths, the bottom fifth of the population in terms of deprivation was listed as having a Standard Mortality Ratio for children of 119.3, compared with just 54.7 in the top fifth. Figures for adults were similar with an SMR of 125.2 for the bottom 20 per cent and 65.1 for the top 20 per cent.

It is thought that sub-standard housing, poor health and more crime in deprived areas (as well as greater "middle class" awareness about child safety) were relevant. The highest recorded number of accidents was in the west of Scotland – Glasgow City local authority is home to 31 per cent of the most deprived areas in Scotland.

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager at the Royal Scoiety for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Scotland, said:“Those who are more income-deprived suffer poorer health and we know this is a major factor in falls which is one of the biggest causes of death and injury – especially in older people.”

Friday, December 30, 2011

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 43- China will b uy it

There is no unclaimed land available in the Arctic, because Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States carved up the region centuries ago. But this fact doesn't discourage a resource-hungry China, which knows it can buy the access it needs. China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts. China is fully aware of the enormous potential for offshore oil and natural gas development in the Arctic, which holds at least 20 per cent of the world's undiscovered reserves.

Chinese state-owned companies have already invested tens of billions of dollars in Canada's northern tar sands. Three years ago, the Chinese government lent a Russian company $25bn so that it could build an oil pipeline from Siberia to China, which now carries 300,000 barrels per day. Russian oil, natural gas and minerals are also moving eastwards to China via the Northern Sea Route along Siberia's increasingly ice-free Arctic coastline. And soon, natural gas will be shipped to China from two new liquefaction terminals on Canada's northwest coast.

Most of China's oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia. In Beijing, this strategic weakness is referred to as the "Malacca dilemma". In addition, some ships loop around Africa to avoid the pirate-infested approaches to the Suez Canal, while others loop around the bottom of South America because they cannot fit into the Panama Canal. Either way, the extra distance adds additional costs - in fuel, salaries and foregone business. In late summer, the Northern Sea Route already enables a 10,000-km shortcut to Europe, while the Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic islands offers a 7,000-km shortcut to the Atlantic seaboard of the US. With time, a third route may well become available "over the top" across the central Arctic Ocean. These developments are celebrated in China, where the media refer to the Northern Sea Route as the "Arctic Golden Waterway". Professor Bin Yang of Shanghai Maritime University estimates that the Northern Sea Route alone could save China a staggering $60bn to $120bn annually. China already has the world's largest non-nuclear powered icebreaker and is now building a second, smaller vessel. Chinese companies are also building or commissioning dozens of ice-strengthened cargo ships and tankers, some of them with dual-directional technology that enables them to sail normally on open seas, then turn round and use their propellers to chew their way through sea-ice.

Under the law of the sea, the Arctic countries have jurisdiction over that oil and gas because coastal countries have exclusive rights to any natural resource within 200 nautical miles of their coasts. They may also have jurisdiction over seabed resources even further out - if they can demonstrate scientifically that the shape and geology of the ocean floor constitute a "natural prolongation" of the continental shelf. China does not contest these rights, because it relies on the exact same rules to support its extensive claims in the South and East China Seas. Nor is there any need for China to challenge the claims of the Arctic countries. Offshore oil and gas is expensive to find, extract and transport - especially in an extremely remote and often inhospitable region. To access these riches, Arctic countries will need strong markets and vast amounts of capital, both of which China is well positioned to provide.

But beyond the extensive rights of the coastal states, near the centre of the Arctic Ocean, lies an area where the deep seabed constitutes the "common heritage of mankind" and the water column constitutes "high seas". If the central Arctic Ocean becomes the site of economic activity, China will most certainly be a player. At some point, China might wish to explore the deep Arctic Ocean for magnesium nodules or frozen gas hydrates. China is also the world's largest fishing nation, and the Arctic Ocean is closer than some of the places currently frequented by its distant-waters fleet. Coastal states can regulate fishing within 200 nautical miles of their shores, but beyond that distance, regulation only takes place through regional fisheries organisations.

The Chinese government has so far chosen not to take sides in legal disputes between the US on the one hand, and Russia and Canada on the other, over the status of the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage. The US claims they are "international straits", Russia and Canada claim they are "internal waters", and China, it seems, just wants to make money.

In 2009, China applied for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, a regional organisation composed of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US but then, in 2011, the Arctic Council adopted new criteria for permanent observers, including the condition that they recognise "the Arctic States' right to administer the Arctic Ocean under the Convention of the Law of the Sea". China will likely never accept this condition, which as currently worded, implies that Arctic states have the right to administer the entire Arctic Ocean. In actual fact, China and other non-Arctic countries are fully entitled to navigate freely beyond 12 miles from shore, to fish beyond 200 miles from shore, and to exploit seabed resources that lie beyond the continental shelf.

China is an integral part of the globalised economy and that now includes the North Pole

Thursday, December 29, 2011

VICTIMS OF THE DOWNTURN

Much is made of the hardships suffered by bankers and investors in the recent economic downturn, but the real sufferers are of course the working class. "But the real victims of the financial collapse in the US state of Alabama's most populous county are its poorest residents - forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets after being cut off from the mains supply. And there is widespread anger in Jefferson County that swingeing sewerage rate hikes could have been avoided but for the greed, corruption and incompetence of local politicians." (BBC News, 14 December) Some investors may have had to cut back on their consumption of champagne but they still have plenty of water to drink and can still go to the john! RD

No housing crisis for some

Dick Place in the Grange area of Edinburgh is Scotland's most expensive residential street, according to data.

The average price of a property was estimated at just over £1.5m. A total of 13 of the 20 most expensive streets named were located in Edinburgh. Some of the other most expensive addresses in the capital were Ann Street, with an average property price of £1,188,000, and Kinellan Road (£992,000).

The next most expensive streets were in the west of Aberdeen - Rubislaw Den South (£1,430,000) and Rubislaw Den North (£1,190,000).

The Glasgow area's most expensive streets were Burnside Road (£974,000) in the Whitecraigs area of East Renfrewshire and Bowmore Crescent (£908,000) in Thorntonhall, South Lanarkshire.

Outside Scotland's three major cities, the most expensive homes were on Queens Crescent in Auchterarder, Perthshire, with an average sale price of nearly £1.2m.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

We are now at that time of the year when many workers are hunting through glossy holiday brochures for an escape for a couple of weeks in the sun. No such search is necessary for members of the owning class as a recent court case shows. "An armed gang stole the Dubai Royal Family's £2 million holiday spending money as it was being loaded into a car boot, a court heard. The money, in £50 bundles in two suitcases which each contained £1 million, was being placed into the boot outside the Emirates Bank in Knightsbridge, West London, when the armed robbers struck on June 24, jurors were told." (Daily Mail, 13 December) It looks as though the accused will be having a far from pleasant holiday at her majesty's pleasure unlike the Dubai Royals with their £2 million spending money. Like all members of the owning class their lives are one long holiday. RD

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

dirty air

People living and working in Scotland’s major cities are being exposed to “dangerous” levels of air pollution, figures have revealed.

Analysis of Scottish Air Quality data from 2011 showed levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in parts of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth were in breach of European Union targets of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air designed to protect health. The average life expectancy in the most polluted cities in Europe is reduced by more than two years, EU chiefs have estimated.

“As a result of a complacent approach, thousands of people are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution in Scotland’s major cities..." Dr Dan Barlow, WWF Scotland head of policy said

Monday, December 26, 2011

FAMILY PROBLEMS

Many working class families face problems today with youth unemployment at its highest for years, but even the mega-rich have their problems. "Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone has accused his daughters of squandering the money he set aside to provide for his future grandchildren. The Formula 1 boss said he had put £3 billion in a trust fund for his glamorous daughters Tamara, 27, and Petra, 22, to invest in property . But he has now expressed his exasperation that the money has instead been used to fund Petra's lavish £12 million wedding earlier this year, and to renovate both girls' luxury mansions to cater to their whimsical, indulgent tastes." (Daily Mail, 12 December) RD

There are bankers and then there are bank staff

While investment bankers collect hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in salary and bonuses, front-line branch staff are more modestly paid, with starting salaries typically around £14,000 a year.

One Lloyds insider said: “It’s always the people on the ground who suffer. You could earn more working in Asda..."

Cashiers at the high street lender earn commission by referring clients to sales staff, who talk them through the options for mortgages, savings accounts and other products. But the bank has not only cut the commission from £2 to 60 pence as part of a clampdown on costs, and it has increased the target for each cashier from 72 referrals every three months to 77.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrating Christ Mass

According to the New American Stndard Bible Jesus says in Matthew 10 Verse 34

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

Merry Marxmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

KARL'S QUOTES

On surplus-value coming free to the capitalist,

"The circulation mechanism, however, has shown if the capitalist class casts money into circulation to be spent as revenue, it withdraws this same money again from circulation, and so the same process can always begin anew; considered as a capitalist class, therefore, it remains now as before in possession of this sum of money needed for the realization of its surplus-value. If the capitalist not only withdraws surplus-value from the commodity market in the form of commodities for his consumption fund, but at the same time the money with which he buys these commodities flows back to him, he has evidently withdrawn the commodities from circulation without an equivalent. They cost him nothing, even though he pays for them with money. If I buy commodities for one pound sterling, and the seller of these commodities gives me back my one pound in exchange for a surplus product that costs me nothing, then I have obviously received the commodities for nothing. The constant repetition of this operation, in no way alters the fact that I constantly withdraw commodities and constantly remain in possession of the one pound, even though I part with it temporarily in order to obtain these commodities. The capitalist constantly receives this money back as the realization of surplus-value that cost him nothing."

(Capital, Volume II, pp550/551, Penguin Classics edition).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CALIFORNIAN NIGHTMARE

"With the prospect of 305,400 Californians losing unemployment insurance on Dec. 31, local labor unions and unemployed workers held a candlelight vigil Thursday to urge Congress to extend their benefits. Federal unemployment insurance, which currently adds up to 73 weeks of benefits once state coverage runs out, is set to expire for more than two million Americans at the end of the year. "Without it, it almost puts me in the street," said unemployed iron worker Doug Von Mauw." (San Diego 6 News, 8 December) RD

ALLEY CAT MORALITY

There are many reasons to be a socialist and one of the most powerful is the insanity and cruelty of capitalism. It is doubtful if you could find a better example of social madness than this. "A black cat in Italy has lived up to its reputation for good luck after inheriting 10 million euros (£8.5 million) from his adoptive owner, a widowed heiress. Four-year-old Tommaso, who was saved from a hardscrabble existence on the mean streets of Rome, as a kitten, is now the proud owner of cash, shares and a property empire which includes flats and houses in Rome and Milan and land in Calabria." (Daily Telegraph, 10 December) While millions strive to survive on $1.25 a day we have millionaire pussycats. Capitalism has a strange set of moral standards. RD

Housing Shortage?

Bank of Scotland research suggested about 105,000 homes in Scotland were not being used. This meant about one in 25 houses was empty.

Kristen Hubert, from Shelter Scotland, said: "The 100,000 figure used by the Bank of Scotland includes property that is only empty for a brief period, between tenants or owners. What is really important is those which are empty for longer, and that problem is really in the private sector."

Shelter Scotland claimed there were 23,000 privately-owned empty homes.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LAND OF THE FREE?

"Does America joyously lead the world in something? Yes, but 'tis not a joy, but the sad fact that the United States of America is a leader in incarceration. There are about 2.3 million people behind bars - one of every 100 citizens. The prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years. America has several times the number in jails of other countries: four times Israel, six times Canada or China, eight times Germany, and 13 times more than Japan. America, with a bit more than 4% of the world's population, accounts for one-fourth of the world's prisons and has more inmates than the leading 35 European countries combined." (Oklahoma Observer, 7 December) RD

A MAD, MAD WORLD

We are often told that the wages and prices society is the only possible way to run the world and that the incentive of money is the most logical solution to all social problems. Try telling that to this family. "A Tennessee couple helplessly watched their home burn to the ground, along with all of their possessions, because they did not pay a $75 annual fee to the local fire department. Vicky Bell told the NBC affiliate WPSD-TV that she called 911 when her mobile home in ObionCounty caught fire. Firefighters arrived on the scene but as the fire raged, they simply stood by and did nothing. ...South Fulton Mayor David Crocker defended the fire department, saying that if firefighters responded to non-subscribers, no one would have an incentive to pay the fee." (Yahoo News, 6 December) RD

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MIND THE GAP

Supporters of capitalism often claim that while capitalism is not perfect at least it is improving and its worst inequalities are lessening. How do they explain this report then we wonder. "The pay gap between the highest and lowest earners in the UK has grown more quickly than in any other high-income country since 1975, a report has said. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found the sharp increase in income inequality, which began in 2005, leaves Britain well above the group's average. ....Data showed the money earned by the country's top 1% of earners doubled from 7.1% of the total UK income in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005." (Huffington Post, 5 December) In 35 years the top "earners" have doubled their loot. RD

PROFIT AT ANY COST

There is no limit to the efforts capitalist firms will go to in order to capture a bigger slice of the market. Here is a particularly nasty example of this competition. "Unhealthy food is being "shamelessly" promoted to children online to get around bans on television adverts, campaigners have claimed. The British Heart Foundation cited websites by Cadbury's and Nestle as examples of "cynical marketing". Sites used childish language, games and free gifts to appeal to children, according to the report." (BBC News, 18 December) RD

Monday, December 19, 2011

A WONDERFUL TOWN?

At a time when many New Yorkers are facing the prospect of unemployment and re-possession of their homes it is worth noting that not all New Yorkers are facing homelessness. "Step through the weathered front door of a 19th-century building on Lafayette Street in SoHo and you face a window of blue water - a view into the depths of a 39-foot-long swimming pool. It is an unusually edgy entrance - crafted by a filmmaker who is a master of the horror movie -to what is currently the most expensive residential home for rent in Manhattan. The huge loft-like, 13,000-square-foot townhouse went on the market Wednesday for $100,000 a month furnished, or $50,000 a week, or $20,000 a night for short stays." (Wall Street Journal, 5 December) RD

CLUELESS ABOUT THE JOBLESS

One of the recurring problems of capitalism is the problem of unemployment, and one of the constant claims of governments is that they can solve the problem. "The number of people out of work in Britain hit its highest level for 17 years, fuelling worries that the economy is heading back towards recession. In the three months to October, the jobless total rose to 2.64m, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics - 8.3% of the economically active population are now unemployed. Joblessness among 16 to 24-year-olds reached 1.003m, its highest level since records began in 1992." (Sunday Times, 18 December) Like all previous governments the present one cannot deal with the booms and slumps of the capitalist market place that lead inevitably to unemployment. RD

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A HEARTLESS SOCIETY

In its relentless drive for profits capitalism will go to any lengths, even if that means exploiting the naivety of the mentally disabled. "People with dementia are being cheated out of at least £100 million a year by banks, cold callers, door-to-door salesmen and even their carers according to research. A report from the Alzheimer's Society found that more than 100,000 people with dementia have been victims of fraud or abuse and calls on companies renowned for hard-sell tactics to change their ways." (Times, 14 December) This report's appeal to hard-headed business people for some sort of compassion is in itself a glaring example of naivety. RD

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

MAKING AN ARSE OF LITERATURE

Shakespeare, Dickens and Doestevesky had great difficulties trying to get a publisher but of course they lacked two essential attributes beloved by capitalism. "The younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has been the subject of a fierce bidding war by some of Britain's largest publishers for her first book. It is understood that publisher Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin books, last week signed her up to a publishing deal worth £400,000." ( Daily Telegraph, 23 November) You see what William, Charles and Fydor lacked was they had not got the "bottom of the year" according to the tabloid press and were not related to the next queen of England. One wonders at their success after such disadvantages. RD

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just a Thought

Watching a European soccer game recently, I noticed the Italian team wore the sponsor, Arab Emirates, on their sweaters. The Spanish team did likewise with its sponsor, Bahrain Union. Do the capitalist enterprises put away their differences if money is offered? Just wondering. John Ayers

Food for thought

The Toronto Star has been running a series on the BRIC countries (those emerging countries that have attracted the avaricious eyes of the countries in the northern hemisphere and who have invested heavily to make big profits, i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, Brazil etc.). Economic indicators are shooting up and a little is trickling down to a few workers but mainly it's business as usual for the average Joe. For example, the Star reports, one in two Indian children are malnourished, 74% under three years are anaemic, and 400 million Indians live in poverty -- i.e. $1.25 a day! In South Africa, large investment in Mining has pushed up the GDP and unemployment has improved from 37% (2001) to 23% today. However, amid the new wealth, 67% of Africans, 41% of coloured, 14% of Asian/Indian, and just 4% of whites are considered below the poverty line. Life expectancy for the nation is 49.3 years. As always, wealth goes back to the investors and the rest share a few crumbs.
In Canada, we have failed to live up to the 1980s promise to eliminate poverty by 2000, just as the provincial governments much trumpeted 25% reduction in poverty in 5 years has failed. The recession was cited as an excuse, of course. Now, 10% of children live in poverty and they make up 40% of the nearly one million food bank clients, Canada's main growth industry.
Canadian business likes to point out that, although not recession proof, we are better positioned to cope and our banks are better regulated .Last month, though, Canada lost 54 000 jobs, most in manufacturing and construction, the unionized and better paying jobs. Socialists know that no one can escape the world economy.
Meanwhile, mobile infrastructure company Nokia Siemens has announced that it will be cutting 17 000 jobs over the next few years. In a burst of loyalty to his employees, the CEO said, "As we look toward the prospect of an independent future, we need to take action now to improve our profitability and cash generation."
The futility of reform -- the auto industry agreed to a two-tier wage system with new hires paid as low as $14 per hour. Chrysler chairman, Sergio Marchionne disagrees with the two tier system and wants every worker on the same scale -- the lower one!
Recession does not to hit some very hard though. The Globe and Mail Reported (Nov 2, 2011) that Prince Charles had to scrape by with just 133 staff to look after him and Camilla, more than 60 of them domestics such as chefs, cooks, footmen, housemaids, gardeners, chauffeurs, cleaners, and his three personal valets, who look after his wardrobe plus the important task of ironing the laces when Charles takes off his shoes. John Ayers

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Food for thought

The Arab Spring continues as the Egyptians once again take to the streets because they see that the old rulers, the army, will become the new rulers. The brutal crackdown by the military seems to confirm their worst fears.
Meanwhile, Tunisians interviewed by The Toronto Star (Tunisia: The  Jobless Revolution, 26/Nov/2011) are mainly saying that nothing has changed for them. Unemployment remains high, life remains a struggle, and they have put their trust in new untried and largely unknown
leaders. The future looks very uncertain. Taking a page from the Occupy Movement (see below) would be a large step forward.
The Toronto Occupy Movement has now been evicted by court order and by the actions of the police and the city, but, as we like to say, you can't evict a conversation or an idea. So I expect the movement to carry on in some yet to be determined form. Some of the more important aspects are tenets such as anyone affected by decisions should be at the table  making them, no one gets left behind, and the organization of the camp, i.e. no leaders, everyone speaks and listens, democratic decisions, volunteer labour. Hopefully this will be carried on in the future. Also remarkable was the speed and cohesion of the movement in setting up camp and the rapid spread throughout the world. If this movement can shed its reformism and adopt the socialist case, it could be a major step forward. The press mainly continues its establishment stance -- The Washington Post wrote, "For those of us who don't live near one of the protest sites, Occupy Wall Street supplied some comic relief, but they were never meant to survive the onset of inclement weather. Good riddance." However, David Olive of The Toronto Star points out that it was mainly the courts, the city, and the police that did the evicting.
He also notes that 1.3 million Canadians and 26 million Americans are unemployed or have given up looking for a job. Also, since 1959, wages, as a percentage of the GDP have fallen from 51% to 44%, worth one trillion dollars that have been diverted into profit. The Star editorial also comments that the occupation is a 40 day wake-up call to put right the ills that afflict our system. Let's hope the movement comes back to bite the establishment! John Ayers

Friday, December 09, 2011

FIGURES DON'T LIE

Politicians like to claim that under their benign guidance we are all better off but what do their own statisticians find? "New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that average salaries in the UK have fallen by 3.5% in real terms as pay rises fail to keep pace with inflation. An average full-time employee earned £26,200 in the year to April, up 1.4% on the previous 12 months. However, with inflation running at 5%, that amounts to a pay cut." |The Week, 23 November) It is true that statistics don't lie - unlike politicians. RD

Thursday, December 08, 2011

RICH ARROGANCE

One of the nastiest aspects of capitalism is the arrogance of the owning class who live of the unpaid labour of the working class. Here is an example from an Irish multi-millionaire. "Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has called for the scrapping of children's allowance payments, describing them as a subsidy for people to have sex. He said that child benefit was "ridiculous" and neither he nor his wife needed it." (Independent, 22 November) The fact that millions of working class families rely on the allowance to get by would never occur to the arrogant Mr O'Leary. RD

A TOXIC SOCIETY

In its drive for more and more profits capitalist society cares little for the health of its workers. Many small scale methods for extracting gold use mercury, which is both poisonous and a potential neurotoxin. "Toxic pollution affects the health of more than 100 million people, shortening their productive life spans by an astonishing 12.7 years on average. .... Unlike diseases, toxins and pollutants like lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides were created by humans and are often improperly disposed of in a classic example of fouling our own nests. ....At least 100 million people are affected based on assessments of 2,000 toxic sites in 47 countries." (Inter Press Service, 2 December) RD

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

DISTORTED VALUES

Socialists always claim that capitalism is a society with distorted values wherein human lives are less important than profit margins, but it is doubtful if we could find a worse example of this distortion than the following, "They are the hands that have been admired in adverts from America to Australia - and insured for £5 million. Gemma Howorth's flawless hands, with their smooth, blemish-free skin, long, elegant, straight fingers and deep nail beds, have doubled for those of supermodels like Kate Moss and Lily Cole in photoshoots. Her hands are so crucial to Miss Howorth's fortune that she has had them insured at Lloyds of London for £5 million. They can earn her £200 for two hours, £800 for an average day's work and £2,500 a day for the most lucrative assignments." (Daily Telegraph, 20 November) This is occuring at the same time as millions of workers are trying to exist on the equivalent of $1.25 a day!
RD

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A FEARFUL FUTURE?

With the Scottish Nationalist Party in power and pressing for total national independence it is worthwhile noting some of their "achievements". "Patient care is being jeopardised by cuts to NHS staffing in Scotland, it was claimed last night, with the workforce shrinking by 4,000, including 2,000 fewer nurses and midwives than last year. Scottish government figures put the number of nurses at a five year low ..." (Times, 30 November) Is this the future for an independent Scotland?
RD

A FAMILY MAN?

The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is fond of the role of "the family man" and is often reported as praising "family values", but the realities of capitalism show just how hollow such claims are. "British families are suffering the worst squeeze in living standards for more than half a century, and will be no better off in 2016 than they were in 2002. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed yesterday that the average family on middle income will have £2,496 less to spend next year than three years ago." (Times, 1 December)
RD

one law for the poor , another for the rich

Ten years after legislation banned the blood-sport forever, fox-hunting still goes on.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was passed – in the teeth of furious opposition led by the Scottish Countryside Alliance – on 13 February, 2002. The legislation outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, but made some exceptions. It is legal to use dogs to flush a fox from cover in order for it to then be shot, so long as this is done as a form of pest-control. The act further states that no offence is committed if the dog kills the fox during the course of this activity, in other words if it was not the intention of the huntsman that the dogs should do so.

These loopholes have allowed fox hunting to continue in Scotland. Hunts now present themselves as pest-control operations offering a service to farmers. The packs of hounds, followed by riders, chase the fox towards waiting gunmen who attempt to shoot it. If the fox is killed by the hounds before it runs towards the guns then that is regarded as an accident and therefore within the law. Hounds are also used to kill foxes that have been wounded by the gunmen or are otherwise seriously injured or diseased.

Trevor Adams, huntsman with the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt for the last 23 years, suggests that of all the foxes killed by his hunt, one third are dispatched by hounds. However, as a result of the introduction of guns, many more are now killed than before the change in law; in the case of the Buccleuch, it is thought that up to three times as many foxes now die in a season. This means that roughly the same number of foxes are being killed by hounds as before the ‘ban’, and there is no reason to believe that the Buccleuch is unrepresentative. Indeed, the protocol on how to hunt foxes within the new law was developed by the Buccleuch and endorsed by the Master of Fox Hounds Association, the governing body for fox hunting in the UK. The new approach was then tested in court when – in 2004 – Trevor Adams became the first person to be prosecuted and the first to be acquitted under the new law.

The Duke of Buccleuch’s hunt is the largest in Scotland, covering a huge area from west of Hawick to east of Kelso, from the foothills of the Cheviots to the bottom of the Lammermuirs. The hunt essentially belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, the UK’s biggest landowner, and it is no surprise to see the Duchess of Roxburgh go trotting by on a white horse, or to notice one of the foot followers tip his cap to her. The Buccleuch Hunt has a membership of around 150, the majority of whom are mounted; the remainder follow the hunt on foot. Riders pay subscriptions ranging from £300 to £1,000 per season, depending on how many days they intend to hunt. One might pay £5,000 for a horse, £150 each week for stabling, plus additional costs for equipment, clothes, transport, and for the farrier. It isn’t cheap.

Although fox hunting is presented as a form of pest control, few if any of the riders with the Buccleuch – or, surely, with the other hunts – pay their annual subscriptions because they want to help farmers protect their hens. Trevor Adams is quite open about it. “We are very definitely in the entertainment business,” he says.

The landed rich cannot conceive that their will cannot run untrammelled. The attempts of the rich and the powerful to maintain their power over making the rules and laws of society is an affront that serves to illustrate how shallow democracy under capitalism really is.

http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/features/hunter_and_hounds_the_buccleuch_hunt_1_1991026

health and safety??

Hospital chiefs are discouraging “whistleblowing” nurses from reporting their concerns about patient safety and staffing levels, nursing leaders have warned. More than one-third of nurses in Scotland (37%) said they had been discouraged, or told directly, not to report their concerns to their NHS health board or employer.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) revealed more than 80% of nurses in Scotland said they had highlighted problems. But, in more than half of cases, no action was ever taken. The overwhelming majority (84%) of nurses in Scotland fear they will be victimised if they speak out about the problems.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland director, said: “It is extremely worrying that nurses are being explicitly told not to raise concerns, particularly after all we have learned about the consequences of ignoring issues around patient safety. The survey clearly shows nurses are committed to improving care for patients, but more than half, 55%, say no action was ever taken when they raised their concerns...We are very concerned that nurses are not being listened to particularly as we know more than 2000 nurses have been cut from the NHS workforce in Scotland since September 2009, and staff are feeling over-stretched and under pressure. In these circumstances it is more important than ever they are listened to when they raise their concerns about patient safety and about staffing levels.”


http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/health/third-of-nurses-told-they-should-not-whistleblow-1.1138132

Monday, December 05, 2011

Food for thought

Top international climate scientists, meeting in Africa had some sharp warnings for the world's governments -- "Get ready for unprecedented extreme weather.' They point out that since the 1970s, 95% of fatalities from storms have been in developing countries. Making preparations, they say, will save lives and money. Perhaps the latter might have some effect on the worlds' governments!
Meanwhile, scientists say that the Arctic sea ice has declined more in the last half century than it has in the last 1 450 years. However, The New York Times points out that the environment is no where to be seen in the US and has disappeared from the political
agenda, " ...now that nearly every other nation accepts climate change as a pressing problem, America has turned agnostic on the issue." John Ayers

Nation or class?

The Scotsman reports that nearly a third of Scots support independence.

Nationalism has served to divide workers into different nation states not only literally but ideologically. It is probably fair to say that a majority of workers—to some degree or another—align themselves to their domestic ruling class. The ideology of nationalism means that workers and capitalists living in a particular geographical area must have a common interest. However, socialists argue that society can he broken into two classes, capitalists and workers.

Despite differences of language or cultural barriers this does not alter the fact that those of us who are working class are all part of one globalised exploited mass with more in common with each other than with our "native" bosses. Capitalists and workers do not share a common identity nor do they share any interests in common. Scotland, like every other country or state in the world, is class-divided: a minority of rich owners and the rest of us. We have no interests in common with them and anything which encourages the illusion that all the people of Scotland form a community with a common interest can only serve their interests. They need us to believe this because their rule and privileges depend on our acceptance.

Socialism groups men, poor against rich, class against class, without taking into account the differences of race and language, and over and above the artificial frontiers traced by history. The appeal to workers to a fake “cultural” identity and fake "national" unity are utterly poisonous to the real interests of the working class. The bonds which bind worker with worker, irrespective of nationality, are those of class solidarity. For as long as workers are deceived into viewing the world from a "national" perspective, they will fail to understand their condition in capitalism. The working class is deluded by nationalism. Such beliefs actively encourage people to co-operate with their "national" exploiters operating within borders determined purely by historical accident. Nationalism conceals the real nature of capitalism, turns worker against worker and serves to impede working-class solidarity.

The problem of nationalism cannot be wished away. To do away with it will mean to eliminate the present the system that fosters it. This system ensures that a minority owns and controls the means with which wealth is produced and distributed whilst the vast majority who actually does the production owns nothing. The resources and wealth of the world must be owned and controlled by all humanity.Under such an arrangement, no-one will care who goes where or who belongs where. We will recognise ourselves, not as Scottish British, French, or any of the other labels our rulers impose on us, but as members of the human race, citizens of the world, Earth-people. Then nationalism will have been well and truly buried.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

BIGHEAD BLOWS IT

Up to two million workers went on strike on 30 November and on the BBC programme The One Show Jeremy Clarkson the BBC motoring correspondent had this to say about the strikers. "Frankly, I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?" (BBC News, 1 December) Let us just hope for Jeremy's sake he doesn't have a road accident on one of those overpriced super-charged motor cars of his and has to rely on the attention of an ambulance driver or a nurse who can remember that particular piece of arrogant bombast.
RD

Who owns the North Pole- Part 42 - Scotland stakes its claim

The Arctic with its possibilities for mineral extraction, shipping and fisheries will become an important issue for an independent Scotland. Angus Robertson, a MP in the British Parliament and a leading member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, has issued a call for Scotland to embrace its long-latent "Nordic" identity and to join with neighboring Norway and nearby Iceland — as well as Canada and all other Arctic nations — to "properly engage with our wider geographic region”

Arctic sea traffic and a more northward military focus would absolutely be a priority for an independent Scotland, Robertson says. Citing opportunities such as oil-and-gas development, mineral extraction, shipping and the emergence of new fisheries, Robertson said SNP leaders are thinking about the challenges ahead of the independence referendum and predicted the massive changes impacting on the High North and Arctic will become a significant feature of the years and decades ahead in Scottish politics

dying early in Scotland

More men and women die before retirement age in Scotland than in any other part of the UK.,

The premature death rate – where people die before 65 – is 50 per cent higher north of the Border than in the east and south-east of England, where it is lowest, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported.

Experts warn the high numbers of early deaths are driven by violence, drug and alcohol problems, and unhealthy lifestyles, particularly in deprived areas. The report the UK government was failing to tackle poverty and warned cuts to social security could see inequalities rise rather than fall in future.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...