Saturday, March 31, 2012

PORCHES AND POVERTY

African countries are often portrayed in the media as desperately poor but some of its citizens are extremely rich. Nigeria's super rich are no strangers to conspicuous consumption, and there's no better way to flaunt your wealth than by buying a brand new European sports car. "German car maker Porsche officially opened a new car dealership on Friday in the heart of Lagos' wealthiest district, Victoria Island, a place with one of the world's highest concentrations of millionaires. .... The oil wealth of Africa's biggest producer has made multi-millionaires of its elite in the past few decades, even while absolute poverty has increased to 60 per cent of the population." (Reuters, 21 March) RD

PROMISES AND PROFITS

The manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. "The shift comes after a far-ranging inspection by the Fair Labor Association, a monitoring group, found widespread problems including at least 43 violations of Chinese laws and regulations, and numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row. .... The monitoring group, which surveyed more than 35,000 Foxconn employees and inspected three large facilities where Apple products are manufactured, also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation does not meet their basic needs." (New York Times, 29 March) Promises from the capitalist class mean nothing, they will only invest their capital where it gets the biggest return. RD

Weir the people

The board of Weir Group has rewarded chief executive Keith Cochrane with a near-£1 million bonus and double-digit pay rise.

Cochrane received a £625,000 salary and £975,000 bonus as part of a £1.62m package, up from £1.26m the previous year.

Finance director Jon Stanton will receive a 5 per cent rise to £420,000 from next month. For last year Stanton received a £392,500 salary and £400,000 bonus as part of an £806,957 package, up from £732,573.

Legal and commercial director Alan Mitchelson, who is standing down at the forthcoming AGM, received a £344,127 salary and £350,000 bonus as part of a £708,584 package, up from £665,887.

Friday, March 30, 2012

GOOD AND BAD NEWS

Global warming may be bad news for Greenland's polar bears, wolves, musk ox and whales, but it could mean new economic opportunities for the capitalist class. Satellite images taken over the past several decades show the dramatic disappearance of ice. A study just published by scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows that this ice could lose a fifth of its mass in the future. The weakening ice is making the island's rich stores of raw materials accessible. Along with uranium, zinc, iron ore, copper and gold, Greenland's ancient rocks also harbour large quantities of those minerals known as "rare earth". "Rare earth minerals are used in the manufacture of mobile phones, laptop computers, flat screens, fuel cells, LED lights, motors for electric cars and in laser technology. They provide the basis for entire high tech industries." (Die Welt, 21 March) Global warming may lead to disaster for millions of workers but it it is just another "economic opportunity" for the owning class. RD

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Football democracy

One of Scottish football’s leading administrators has called for the game to accept that supporters matter more than television companies, and to rethink the balance between the demands of broadcasters and the interests of supporters.

Hibernian managing director Fife Hyland said the demands of broadcasters had been too easily allowed to outweigh the interests of supporters, particularly when it came to deciding kick-off times. “We know TV is important to Scottish football but it’s not the be all and end all,” he said.

For many of the Scottish football clubs , match-day receipts remain several times greater than income from broadcasting. For example, in their last published accounts, for the year to July 2010, Hearts revealed that their matchday revenues were more than two and a half times greater than their income from broadcasting. Their income from TV was £1.5million, while that from matches (gate receipts plus smaller associated items such as programme sales) was £3.9m. There is an even greater disparity across the city Hibs are understood to take in around four times more from match-days than they do from broadcasting.

The Old Firm, Rangers (presently insolvent) and Celtic dominate Scottish football. A new £80m TV contract with Sky and ESPN, is dependent on the provision of four Old Firm fixtures a season and shows the importance of Rangers and Celtic. The ten non-Old Firm clubs in the SPL want to change the league’s voting structure, which at present requires an 11-1 majority for substantial changes to be passed. Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston said that he would urge the ten to resign if Rangers and Celtic continued to block democratisation of the rules on voting. The Old Firm have historically shown their ability both to ignore the common good where there is a buck to be made, and so it was to prove again.

Man­­agers and directors of the ten have begun to make it clear that a future without the Old Firm was not only an option, but might even be preferable. Fans will see their departure as a chance for real competition to be returned to an SPL championship

one law for the rich , another for the poor

Five years ago Scotland’s wealthiest woman Stagecoach tycoon, Ann Gloag, to defend her privacy challenged the right to roam legislation, winning her battle against the Ramblers Association Scotland and Perth and Kinross Council to erect a fence around a 12-acre area of Kinfauns. Yet she is now happy to proposal to build another house which has led her neighbours to complain that it would ruin their privacy and seclusion.

Forestry Commission Scotland also objected, warning authorities that were the scheme to go ahead, it would ruin an area of ancient woodland and was in direct contravention of planning policies.

As part of the local authority’s decision to approve the plans for the new properties, Gloag will pay a £12,790 “education contribution” fee as a condition of the planning permission. The money will be used to fund improvements and increase pupil capacity at the nearby Kinnoull Primary School.

Socialist Courier wonders what does constitutes a bribe?

http://www.scotsman.com/news/ann-gloag-wins-battle-to-extend-stagecoach-empire-1-2201868

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MONEY AND MORALITY

Three years ago, Europeans lauded new weapons export rules meant to control the trade of military technology and equipment. The "Security-related export controls II" rules state that export approval should be avoided in the event that weapons "might be used for undesirable purposes such as internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability." "But it appears that some European Union members are disregarding these rules when it comes to Saudi Arabia. A European Commission summary obtained by SPIEGEL shows that combined exports from member states amount to the EU being the world's largest exporter of weapons to the Middle Eastern country. In 2010, member states delivered at least 3.3 billion euros ($4.34 billion) worth of military equipment and licenses to Riyadh." (Der Spiegel, 19 March) When it comes to making a profit, fine words like "undesirable intentions" mean very little. Sweden, for example, helped the Saudis build a missile factory and sold them some 330 million euros in defence technology in 2011. Meanwhile, Finland recently received an export permit to deliver 36 grenade launchers, and Germany is preparing 270 Leopard 2 tanks for delivery. Great Britain is providing fighter jets RD

dirty glasgow

Pollution in several residential areas of Glasgow has reached potentially deadly levels. All the air quality monitors in the city are exceeding the maximum level for particulate pollution – one of the most dangerous forms with microscopic particles which can cause breathing and blood problems as well as increased risk of heart attacks.

Chris Connor, air quality specialist at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said "There is a particular concern about young children and toddlers in buggies as they're at a similar height to exhausts where the cocktail of pollutants is at its highest concentrations."




Broomhill Drive, Byres Road, Nithsdale Road and Battlefield Road are among the worst affected, with most of the pollution thought to be caused by buses, cars and taxis.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

POLITICS AND PAYBACK

Just in case that you thought only British capitalists have access to their government here is an example of how this practice is international. "President Barack Obama is using privileged access to the White House to reward his most generous financial supporters. Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum cannot match his move. More than 60 of Mr. Obama's biggest campaign donors have visited more than once for meetings with top advisers, holiday parties or state dinners." (Independent, 26 March) He who pays the piper calls the tune. RD

POLITICS AND PAPACY

The papacy has changed a great deal. We now have press reporters calling him by his first name, and even more than that. "Benedict dons a Mexican sombrero as he preaches Mass to 300,000. More than 300,000 Catholic pilgrims gathered in the central Mexican city of Silao on Sunday to hear Pope Benedict XVI say Mass in the country on his first official visit to Latin America." (Daily Telegraph, 25 March) They even have him depicted in mass circulation newspapers wearing a sombrero. Wow, is this the new with-it Pope? No, this is a Pope who is so concerned by falling collections in churches that he has to travel the world rallying his faithful. Years ago the pope didn't even have to leave the Vatican to fill the church's coffers. RD

Wasted Capitalism

One third to one half of all food produced in the world goes to waste uneaten, according to data recently collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council and presented this month at the 2012 Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. Yet the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 925 million people went undernourished in 2010 alone. And hunger is not a problem restricted to developing countries: last year, an estimated 1 in 4 American children lived in households where food was not always available, and 1 in 5 Americans sought food aid through the federal food stamp program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month — that’s nearly 400 pounds each year. Food waste makes up nearly 14% of American families’ trash. Americans toss more food in their garbage cans than plastic products. This waste includes both leftover cooked foods, and food that was purchased but allowed to spoil without being eaten. The foods most commonly discarded without ever being eaten include fresh produce, eggs and fish.

Farmers, packaged food producers and retailers all waste edible food, too. Farmers may throw away excess produce that cannot be sold; food process may discard edible byproducts; grocery stores often reject or discard produce with minor defects. And at any point along the food supply chain, failure to deliver food promptly or store food properly may lead to spoilage.

Agriculture and food production are highly energy-intensive industries. Industrialized farms use petrochemicals to fertilize soil, and fossil fuels to power farm equipment. Transporting food from field to plate consumes even more energy. According to the a report issued by the UN FAO in November 2011, the food sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Wasted food, essentially, is wasted energy. And wasted water, too: the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of human water consumption. Beyond the substantial environmental impact of the wasted energy and water represented by wasted food, food waste contributes significantly to global climate change when it decomposes in landfills. When left to decompose in natural conditions or in a compost pile, food waste naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But under unnatural landfill conditions, in the absence of air, most food waste undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which results in the production of large amounts of methane gas instead. Though both carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change, EPA scientists estimate that methane gas is 20 times more efficient at trapping the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide — making excess methane much more dangerous to the climate than excess CO2. Landfills are currently the third-largest source of methane in the United States, producing more of the dangerous greenhouse gas than coal mining or crude oil production. And much of the methane in landfills comes from decomposing food waste.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/while-children-starve-up-to-half-of-the-worlds-food-goes-to-waste.html#ixzz1qIF2NUnI

Monday, March 26, 2012

AN EXPENSIVE DINNER

represent the owning class. "Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas has resigned after secretly filmed footage showed him apparently offering access to the prime minister for a donation of £250,000 a year. He made the claim to Sunday Times reporters posing as potential donors. He said £250,000 gave "premier league" access, including dinner with David Cameron and possibly the chance to influence government policy." (BBC News, 25 March) So there you are, man in the street - just dig up a quarter of a million quid and the prime minister will give you dinner and the chance to influence government policy. RD

Facts and fiction 2



One confusion is to talk about average and median wages. The red line is the average income, and the black bar (5th decile) shows where the 'middle earner' lies. Our middle earner earns £26,200, which gives us a good idea of what a typical worker might earn. The average pay is £32,800, however around 60 per cent of full time workers earn less than this. This is the effect of a skewed balance towards higher earners.

Another common factor for confusion is between talking about individuals and households. The average UK household earns £517 a week. However only around 40 per cent of households earn more than this. The middle (the median) household, earns £413.

The "average" wage-earner and are relatively high-earning compared to most of us. The picture of what is clearer when we look to the middle rather than the average.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FACT AND FICTION

Ian Fleming's novels may have been a lot of sexist, snobbish nonsense but they now seem to be reflecting the mad consumerism of modern capitalism. "James Bond's nemesis Goldfinger may be fictional, but his love of gold is a real phenomenon. In fact, if the villain was alive and had £5m to spare, this might have been his next purchase - a Rolls Royce decked out inside and out with 120kg of gold. This Rolls Royce Phantom - worth around £330,000 by itself - has been turned into a golden tribute for a mega-rich Middle Eastern business man by designer Liverpool-based Stuart Hughes. With gold worth more than £3m lavished on the vehicle - plus other customised work to make the car both bullet and grenade-proof - the value of the car is now close to £5.2m." (Daily Mail 12 March) This crazy sale is taking place while millions try to survive on £1.25 a day. RD

Bigoted law

In updated guidance to police, Frank Mullholland, Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, has warned singing or chanting songs which “glorify, celebrate or mock events involving the loss of life” should be viewed as offensive. The ten-page report also says that “flags, banners, songs or chants in support of terrorist organisations” are “likely to be offensive”. Songs “which promote or celebrate violence against another person’s religion, culture or heritage” are also “likely to be offensive”, according to Mulholland. It is understood Mulholland’s guidance outlaws songs like the Billy Boys, The Boys Of The Old Brigade, the so-called Famine Song, and the chant “Ooh Ah, Up The Ra”, which is sung by Celtic supporters. Where the song is religiously prejudiced the relevant aggravation will be libelled.

Socialist Courier wonders just how many countries national anthems fall under that classification. "But we can still rise now And be the nation again!" A call for rebellion in Flower of Scotland? And verse 6 of God Save the Queen? "Lord grant that Marshal Wade, May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring, May he sedition hush And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush"

Hibs fans Andrew Whitson and Paul Swanbecame the first people to be convicted under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act last week when they admitted singing songs that were “of a racially derogative nature” on a train between Ayr and Glasgow. They were fined a combined £380.

Buying Influence

"Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league … what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners. You do really pick up a lot of information and when you see the prime minister, you're seeing David Cameron, not the prime minister. But within that room everything is confidential – you can ask him practically any question you want. If you're unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10 – we feed all feedback to the policy committee." - the now Tory party's ex-co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, who built a £750m fortune through financial spread-betting

This offer of influence was made even though Cruddas knew the money would come from a fund in Liechtenstein that was not eligible to make donations under electoral law. Options said to have been discussed included creating a British subsidiary or using UK employees as conduits. The overseas clients were, in fact, reporters posing as wealth fund executives who had made clear they wished to develop contacts with the prime minister and other senior ministers to further their business. The Sunday Times claims to have hired Sarah Southern, a former Cameron aide now working as a lobbyist, who advised that making a "huge donation" was the best way to gain access to senior government figures.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Afghan resources

Afghanistan's immense mineral wealth is estimated to be worth around £2trn, according to the Kabul government. Afghanistan's mineral wealth extends over a huge range of valuable resources: iron, gold, copper, niobium (used in hardening steel), uranium, marble, cobalt, mercury, caesium, molybdenum (a metal which can withstand high temperatures and is used to make various alloys), and other rare earth minerals. The country has especially valuable deposits of lithium, the metal used in the world's batteries. Indeed, a Pentagon official is on record suggesting that Afghanistan could be "the Saudi Arabia of lithium".

As far back as 2008, China agreed a deal to develop the Aynak copper mine in Logar province. This is said to be the world's second largest deposit of high-grade copper. The Afghan National Police has deployed 1,500 officers to guard the mine. As part of its agreement to develop a massive copper mine in Aynak, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) is being asked to build a 575-mile railway from the mine, south-east of Kabul. One branch would head to the Pakistani border, another in the opposite direction through the capital and connecting with the new Hairatan line in the north. The deals are not confined to minerals. In late December, China's state-owned National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a contract for three oil fields in Zamarudsay, Kashkari, and Bazarkhami in the northern provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab, which will make it the first foreign company to exploit Afghan-istan's oil and natural gas reserves. The intention is that CNPC will build a refinery within three years, and this will be guarded by dedicated units of Afghan police and army.

Chinese state firms have also been involved with seven infrastructure projects, including roads in Kondoz and Jalalabad. They have also won contracts for telecommunications systems in Kandahar and Kabul. And last year, the Asian Development Bank announced it had allocated more than $200m for the development of the gas wells of Sheberghan, and an attendant pipeline.

Italy, Turkey and Germany are also actively pursuing deals. PricewaterhouseCoopers is advising the Ministry of Mines in Kabul, and the US bank JP Morgan is active, having put together a consortium that won rights to the Qara Zaghan gold deposits. An Indian consortium has secured the rights to two blocks in the huge Hajigak iron ore field, the other block going to a Canadian firm. The Afghan government is also negotiating with the Indian-led consortium that won the contract for the equally huge iron deposits at Tajigak in central Afghanistan for the companies to fund a 560-mile railroad – likely through Iran – to bring out the heavy ore. India will also contribute to the establishment of an Institute of Mines in Kabul, and last October signed a strategic partnership with Afghanistan.

China, Iran, Pakistan and India all have government or corporate plans for separate rail projects across Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is completing its own plans for another line, and it was Uzbekistan that built the first major rail link, a 47-mile line from the border town of Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of Afghanistan. "We would be able to import and export to Russia, Turkey, and even European countries," says Noor Gul Mangal, Afghanistan's deputy public works minister. Opening new transport gateways would also reduce Afghanistan's dependence on neighbouring Pakistan as its only link to sea ports.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/an-ios-investigation-to-the-chinese-and-the-indians-the-spoils-of-a-terrible-war-7576426.html

selling yourself

The UK's wig making industry is estimated to be worth up to £18 million according to the National Framework Agreement of Wig Supply. There are no official figures for the hair extension industry; however recent estimates put the value at £65 million. In 2009 nearly £15m worth of treated human hair - it has been washed and sometimes dyed - was imported into the UK, according to Customs and Excise.

Brazil, along with India, has long led the way in the lucrative global market in human hair. In the past few years, demand from UK businesses for human hair extensions has increased significantly, according to industry reports. The UK is now the third-largest buyer of human hair worldwide, behind the US and mainland China.

"As the demand outweighs supply, the price for the hair has increased. Which is one reason more people consider selling their hair as it is now considered a valuable commodity." says Emma Furlong, spokesperson for the UK's biggest supplier of wigs to the NHS, Trendco

Quality is an important factor. What is known as "virgin hair" - hair that has not has any treatments or colouring - is the most sought-after. A lot of Indian hair - known as remy hair - falls into that category, and has long been popular in the US, China, the UK and other parts of Europe. Ninety-five per cent of human hair is imported. In terms of Europe, a lot of it is sourced in Poland and Italy. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the appetite for "European hair". Trendco, says there is a shortage of the "softer" European kind. "European hair is finer in density and texture than Asian hair and so is very popular for human hair wigs and extensions, especially in EU countries where this integrates better with a client's own hair," says Emma Furlong. It is difficult to get natural, adult hair that is blonde. About 90% of the world's population has dark brown hair and the rarity of the hair colour will dictate the price. Blonde hair can cost up to three times as much as dark hair. The price for 100g of blonde, European hair is about £1,000. Graham Wake, owner of Bloomsbury Wigs in central London, says he has noticed a two-fold increase in the number of people from the UK selling their hair for money.

Human hair can be used to make an additive that is found in foods such as the dough for pizza crusts and bagels. It is a rich source of L-cysteine, an amino acid that can be extracted from hair and used as a flavour enhancer or flour improver. It is sometimes listed as E920 on food packaging. As well as being found in dough it can be used to give food a meat-like flavour, especially in dog food. Ten to 15 years ago human hair was a main source of L-cysteine, mainly produced in China. As more people found out where L-cysteine came from they thought 'yuck, human hair, don't fancy that'. More Chinese people also started perming their hair, which made extracting the amino acid more difficult. Now L-cysteine comes mainly from chicken and duck feathers, which can be collected in larger quantities than hair. In recent years it has also started to be manufactured synthetically.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17043055
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8753698.stm

Friday, March 23, 2012

Docs Get Ready to Fight

The British Medical Association is poised to ballot its members on industrial action for the first time in 40 years. Under the Dept. of Health plans, doctors' pension contributions would increase immediately by up to 2.4%, with continued increases over the next two years. It also wants to raise the retirement age to 68 and end the final salary scheme for hospital doctors. Although the DoH proposals are intended to apply to NHS workers throughout the UK, Scotland has its own devolved NHS pension scheme which is overseen by the Scottish Public Pensions Authority. However, if the Scottish Government decided to break with the reforms it is likely Holyrood would have to pick up the tab for any shortfall.

Dr Dean Marshall, outgoing chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said doctors north of the Border had been let down by Holyrood's inaction and the Scottish Government's "complicity" with Westminster on the issue.

Dr Marshall said: "Is it fair for NHS staff to be taxed for the Government's failures to properly regulate the banking sector? And while the Scottish Government argues it does not agree with these plans it appears to be going along with the UK Government and is therefore complicit in taxing public-sector workers for the failures of the private sector. Scottish ministers could seek to do something different and I urge them again to find that solution – not just invite us to new talks"

Dr Marshall said doctors were unhappy that pension reforms were being "foisted" on them just four years after they agreed substantial changes to their package.

He added: "We agreed to tiered contributions where higher earners contributed more than lower paid workers. We agreed to the increased retirement age of 65 and we agreed to a cap on employer contributions so that the taxpayer would not pay for any future shortfall in the scheme. These changes worked and the NHS Pension Scheme is in surplus to the Treasury to the tune of £2 billion, and this is projected to continue into the future."

Taken for a ride

ScotRail dividends to its share-holders add 7% to cost of fares.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) said franchise holder ScotRail paid dividends of £18 million in 2010, £18m in 2009, £17m in 2008 and £21m in 2007.

"In two of these years, ScotRail actually paid more in dividends than it made in profit, leading to the obvious conclusion that because it does not contribute anything towards investment in the railway or rail infrastructure, and with the level of Government subsidy even covering its track access charges, it is simply milking Scotland's railway."

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/political-news/scotrail-dividends-add-7-to-cost-of-fares.17085971

Thursday, March 22, 2012

HEALTH AND HYPOCRISY

The health service has been working on the basis that £20bn of efficiency savings needed to be identified by 2015, but NHS finance chiefs are now working on the basis that a similar amount will have to be found in the following spending period because of the squeeze on public finances. "NHS staff numbers in England have seen their biggest drop in a decade with nursing posts among those culled, official figures show. The workforce declined by nearly 20,000 - 1.4% - in 2011 to 1,350,000. Most of the drop related to support and managerial staff, but nurse numbers also fell by 1% - despite promises by ministers to protect the frontline. It comes after NHS finance chiefs have been told they need to find even more savings than expected." (BBC News, 21 March) So the "we are all in this together" coalition government will save £20bn in 2015 and £20bn in 2016 on medical treatment for the working class. RD

ART AND AUSTERITY

While unemployment rises and the government warns "we are all in this together" it seems that all is not doom and gloom. "Sotheby's in London's upmarket New Bond Street sold nearly £1bn of fine art in its sales during 2011, according to results filed at Companies House. And with global sales of fine art estimated to have hit £35.8bn last year, it appears Britain is taking a significant chunk. The biggest sale of the year was Francesco Guardi's Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, which yielded £26.7m. " (Independent, 19 March) It is heartening to note that the owning class have not let the present austerity affect their love of a nice picture. RD

THE PRICE OF PLATINUM

South African mine owners are complaining about government interference in the safety precautions in their booming industry. "A surge in government-ordered safety stoppages has already hit output in the world's largest platinum producer and the murder of a female miner underground last month means South Africa's mines are going to come under even more scrutiny. With deaths among miners up 10 percent in the first two months of this year - albeit alongside a sharp drop in injuries - the industry is going to keep feeling the heat. Mine deaths have plunged since the end of white-minority apartheid rule in 1994 but around 10 miners, the vast majority of them black, are still killed every month, chiefly in accidents." (Reuters, 7 March) Every month ten workers die in the mining industry and the owners are complaining about interference in their profit making. RD

Music to their ears

Scotland's biggest music festival, T in the Park, was worth more than £40 million to the Scottish economy last year, according to organisers.

work til you drop

Someone born today may have to work until they are 80, a leading insurer has warned.

John Lawson, head of pension policy at Standard Life, said a child born this year may have to work through their seventies.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WINNERS AND LOSERS

As many European countries face bankruptcy and workers find themselves out of a job with social benefits being constantly cut, it should be noted that in Greece and Italy where the crisis is deepest the owning class are still doing very well. "A recent survey published by agency Knight Frank shows that Italians have overtaken Russians as the leading buyers of prime London property. Since January, they have accounted for eight per cent of all sales in the area. Last year it was the Greeks, who more than doubled their spending on prime London as riots raged across Athens. This year, it is their cousins across the Adriatic who are opening their chequebooks. The total spend for Italians in prime London is estimated to be £408m for 2011, up from £185m in 2010." (Daily Telegraph, 9 March) All this is happening at a time when Italy is in danger of falling apart at the seams. Economic reports worsen daily. The Bank of Italy forecast the Italian economy to contract by 1.5 per cent this year, while employment is shrinking at its fastest rate since July 2009. RD

THIS IS CAPITALISM

Living in Rio de Janerio Eike Batista is reckoned by many to become the world's richest man in the next couple of years. He has possibly a fortune of £19 billion according to the Sunday Times (18 March) He is pictured therein with a McLaren F1 Mercedes in his living room. "Oxfam said that malnutrition rates across Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal are hovering between 10% and 15%, and in some areas have risen beyond the emergency threshold level of 15%. It says that more than one million children in the Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition. In parts of Chad, Oxfam says, some villagers are digging up ant hills to gather grain that the ants have stored." (BBC News, 9 March) A useless parasite that produces nothing lives in such an arrogant display of wealth while people starve. This is how capitalism operates RD

HUNGRY FOR PROFITS

Along with caviar and truffles, foie gras is part of the top three Western gourmet items. However, the forced feeding of geese in order to fatten up their livers has been plagued with controversy internationally. Geese or ducks forced to undergo gavage feeding, starting when they are between 10 and 14 weeks old, have a 20 to 30-centimeter-long tube stuck into their esophagus two or three times a day. Food is poured down this tube. Occasionally this causes the bursting of the esophagus. Sometimes the bird develops liver disease. “Feeding like this for two weeks is the limit of what the poor birds can bear. Beyond this limit, they’d die in large number,” says Zhou Zungo, director of the World Animals Welfare Farms Association.

Countries like Germany and Poland outlaw the “gavage” method of feeding, while California prohibits the sale of foie gras. the European Union has planned to stop, from 2019 onward, the production of this traditional cuisine. Currently, Hungary, which used to be the second-biggest producer, has gradually decreased its output. Israel, another major producer in the past, has also discontinued its production. Last year, some French foie gras producers were shut out at the Cologne International Food Fair.

So it is not altogether surprising that production is shifting eastward to China. The world’s biggest goose farm and foie gras factory will soon be established on the banks of Poyang Lake, Jiangxi Province, China. The American investment company Creek Project is said to be putting $100 million into the venture. The planned Poyang Lake project will raise around two million geese and eight million ducks annually. China already produces an estimated 1,000 tons of foie gras per year, double its output in 2006. France still remains No. 1 with about 20,000 tons a year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bruce - the invader

He was probably brought up in a mixture of the Anglo-French culture of northern England and south-eastern Scotland, and the Gaelic culture of Carrick and the Irish Sea, French being his paternal-tongue and Gaelic his maternal-tongue. In 1292 his mother died, elevating Robert the Bruce to the Earldom of Carrick

Bruce, like all his family, had a complete belief in his right to the throne. However his actions of supporting alternately the English and Scottish armies had led to a great deal of distrust towards Bruce among the “Community of the Realm of Scotland”. His ambition was further thwarted by John Comyn, known simply as the Red Comyn and another lord of Norman origin. English records still in existence today state that the Comyn murder was planned in an attempt to gain the throne of Scotland. For this reason King Edward of England wrote to the Pope and asked for his excommunication of Robert Bruce. Barely seven weeks after Comyn was killed in Dumfries, Bruce was crowned King of Scots

Bruce's struggle for the Scottish crown wasn't an enterprise born of patriotism. Bruce's motives appear to be slightly more self-serving than that. The ascension of his family to royalty seemed more central to his long-term plans than Scottish liberation from English rule.

The facts speak for themselves. Both Bruce and his father supported Edward I's invasion of Scotland in 1296, hoping to gain the crown after Balliol's fall. They were understandably disappointed when Edward proceeded to install himself as king. In 1297, Bruce, encouraged by Bishop Wishart, raised the standard of revolt at Irvine (the reason why he was absent at the Battle of Stirling Bridge). However, the rising failed and Bruce, rather than join Wallace after the Scots victory at Stirling Bridge, kept a low profile until he could determine what the English reaction would be. Bruce was also absent at the Battle of Falkirk, in which Wallace's army was devastated, but seems to have made an effort to help by burning the town of Ayr in order to deny it to the English as they returned south.

In 1298, after the Scots defeat at Falkirk, Bruce and John Comyn replaced Wallace as Guardians of Scotland. They soon quarrelled however, Comyn being a supporter of Balliol's claim to the throne, and Bruce was 'replaced' a year later. He continued to fight on until it seemed Balliol was about to return, then, once again, he submitted to the English king, hoping for recognition of his claim to the throne. So Bruce wasn't adverse to switching sides in pursuit of his goal, and this wasn't irregular practice amongst noblemen in pursuit of power at the time. The rhetoric of the Declaration of Arbroath, 22 years later – "For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English" – was never Bruce's rhetoric, for he had appealed to English lordship on more than one occasion.

In the early 14th century, Ireland was divided between Irish dynasties and Anglo-Irish lords who ruled parts of Ireland. The Dark Age Kings of Alba had been intensely proud of their Gaelic-Irish origin and Bruce wrote as king asking them to free "our nation" (meaning both Scots and Irish) from English rule. Edward Bruce may also have had a reasonable claim to the Irish high kingship. He was supported by Ireland's most powerful king, Domnall Ua Neill, a kinsman of Robert and Edward through their maternal grandfather. Robert appealed to the native Irish to rise against Edward II's rule, and some have seen this as a cynical manipulation of Gaelic sentimentalism. Bruce popularised an ideological vision of a "Pan-Gaelic Greater Scotia" with his lineage ruling over both Ireland and Scotland. This propaganda campaign was aided by two factors. The first was his marriage alliance from 1302 with the de Burgh family of the Earldom of Ulster in Ireland; second, Bruce himself on his mother's side of Carrick, was descended from Gaelic royalty in Scotland as well as Ireland. Bruce's Irish ancestors included Eva of Leinster (d.1188), whose ancestors included Brian Boru of Munster and the kings of Leinster. Thus, lineally and geopolitically, Bruce attempted to support his anticipated notion of a pan-Gaelic alliance between Scottish-Irish Gaelic populations, under his kingship. This is revealed by a letter he sent to the Irish chiefs, where he calls the Scots and Irish collectively nostra nacio (our nation), stressing the common language, customs and heritage of the two peoples:

"Whereas we and you and our people and your people, free since ancient times, share the same national ancestry and are urged to come together more eagerly and joyfully in friendship by a common language and by common custom, we have sent you our beloved kinsman, the bearers of this letter, to negotiate with you in our name about permanently strengthening and maintaining inviolate the special friendship between us and you, so that with God's will our nation (nostra nacio) may be able to recover her ancient liberty."

The diplomacy worked to a certain extent, at least in Ulster, where the Scots had some support. The Irish chief, Donal O'Neil, for instance, later justified his support for the Scots to Pope John XXII by saying "the Kings of Lesser Scotia all trace their blood to our Greater Scotia and retain to some degree our language and customs."

However, the Scots failed to win over the non-Ulster chiefs, or to make any other significant gains in the south of the island, where people couldn't see the difference between English and Scottish occupation. The Irish Annals of the period described the defeat of the Bruces by the English as one of the greatest things ever done for the Irish nation due to the fact it brought an end to the famine and pillaging brought on the Irish by both the Scots and the English. Edward Bruce's bid for the high kingship ended when he was slain in 1318 at the Battle of Faughart .

The whole expedition does show, however, just how ambitious the Bruce family were. The attack on English-ruled Ireland could be perceived as ploy to split English forces and, hence, better defend Scotland, but Edward Bruce did have a serious ambition to rule Ireland as the King. Would the Bruces have stopped at Ireland and Scotland? Or would Wales have been their next target, in a sort of United Celtic Kingdom?

PROFITS AND POLLUTION

As China strives to become the world's biggest producer and manufacturer there is a horrendous price to pay. "Air pollution will become the biggest health threat in China unless the government takes greater steps to monitor and publicise the dangers of smog, the country's leading respiratory disease specialist warned this week. Lung cancer and cardiovascular illnesses are already rising and could get worse in the future because of factory emissions, vehicle exhausts and cigarette smoke, Zhong Nanshan, the president of the China Medical Association, told the Guardian." (Guardian, 16 March) Zhong said he has been concerned about the problem for 10 years, but his efforts to press for official data have met with silence. During the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he said he asked the environment department for information about ozone and carbon levels, but made no headway. What Zhong does not seem to comprehend is that in their mad dash for profits the capitalist class look upon health risks as unimportant. RD

EDUCATION AND NUTRITION

The owning class are always thinking up ways to cut costs and increase profits, so it should come as no surprise to learn the US government have thought up a ruse to cut the education bill. "Like a horror-film villain, "pink slime" - the cheeky nickname for scraps of slaughtered cow that have been pulverized, defatted, subjected to ammonia steam to kill pathogens, and congealed into a filler for ground beef - takes a pounding but keeps coming back. Last month, McDonald's announced it would stop using the stuff. But just this week, pink slime got a de facto endorsement from none other than the USDA, which the online journal The Daily reported plans to keep buying millions of pounds of it for use in the National School Lunch Program." (Mother Jones, 7 March) This "pink slime" was too awful for even cut-rate eaterie MacDonald's to use but perfect for kid's school lunch

EDUCATION AND EXPLOITATION

One of the illusions that many young workers have is that if they can get a university degree it would mean that they could get a better job. "According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of graduates employed in jobs requiring less skill than they were trained for stands at 36 per cent, up from just over 25 per cent a decade ago. The findings mean that around 500,000 people of the 1.5 million who graduated in the last six years are in low-skilled work. The figures will lead young people to question the value of university education, according to recruitment experts. The ONS said that around one new graduate in every five available for work is unemployed." (Daily Telegraph, 6 March) A degree in Philosophy is not much use to you when you are stacking shelves in Tescos, but it is all part and parcel of the unpredictability of capitalism RD

who owns the sea-side?

Socialist Courier reads that MPs on Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee recommend that the Crown Estate Commissioners, the body responsible half of Scotland’s coast and almost all the seabed should be stripped of the role and control of the coast handed back to the local communities.

“The point is to conserve these assets and maximise the benefits to the island and coastal communities most closely involved with them.The only way this can be done is by devolving as much of the responsibility – and benefit – down to those local communities as possible.”

Socialist Courier previously but briefly touched upon this subject when it highlighted the continued existence of the Viking-derived Udal law found in Shetland. Scottish Courts have acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases and in particular about shore ownership rights, where it declared that the Shetland community owns the sea and seabed around its isles. The Crown Estate had to admit the supremacy of Udal Law.

The old neglected again

Older patients are “not safe” on hospital wards in Scotland because of a lack of qualified nurses to care for them according to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) findings. The report suggests there is just one nurse caring for nearly ten patients on old people’s wards. A survey of almost 1,700 nurses found that 78 per cent said comforting and talking to patients was not done or done inadequately on their last shift because of low staff numbers. Some 59 per cent said promoting mobility and self-care was left undone or unfinished, with 34 per cent saying they could not provide patients with food and drink, and 33 per cent claiming they were unable to fully help patients to the toilet or manage incontinence.

The RCN warned there was a danger that “care becomes compromised” and said that many nurses say “they are too busy to provide the standard of care they would like”. The report said: “Older people in Scotland are being let down by a lack of professionally qualified nurses in hospitals, despite nationally agreed planning for the nursing workforce. Despite older people often having the most complex needs, the evidence suggests that they regularly suffer from a severe shortage of nurses and healthcare support workers (HCSWs), coupled with an inappropriate skill mix of HCSWs to nurses."
The RCN called for a “patient guarantee” to set out the number of nurses needed on older people’s wards.

It emerged the number of nurses in Scotland’s hospitals plummeted by thousands in just over two years, with further nursing posts lost during the last few months of 2011. The RCN said the number of nursing and midwifery staff employed in Scotland had fallen by 2,190 between September 2009 and the end of 2011.

According to the RCN Scotland director, Theresa Fyffe, the number of nurses employed was at a six-year low. She said: “As health boards come under increasing financial pressure to deliver the same services to more and more people, they are saving money when nurses leave by not replacing them or by replacing them with nurses and healthcare support workers at lower-paid bands."

The charity Age Scotland demanded dramatic improvements to care services in the community, to keep older people “safe and out of hospital”.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Scotlands water

Forget oil ... It is water the world wants more than anything else.

Last week the Environment Agency warned parts of England were facing a drought this year. Seven water companies have announced hosepipe bans in the southeast from next month. It is not just the southeast of England that is short of water. According to the latest United Nations (UN) water report, published last week, there are a billion people across the world who do not have access to safe drinking water, and the number is rising.

Droughts and water shortages are common across large parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Two-thirds of the Arab region's available surface water originates from outside of the region, leading to many conflicts with upstream countries. Experts have often predicted that "water wars" will break out in the Middle East as nations struggle to feed their people and water becomes scarcer. At the UN World Water Forum in France, the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, warned there was no substitute for water. "The deficit of fresh water is becoming increasingly severe and large scale," he said. "Continuation of water consumption at 20th-century rates is no longer possible."

In his book, Peak Water, Scottish writer and a political adviser to the Scottish Government, Alexander Bell imagines the decimation of Dubai, leaving hundreds of thousands dead. "The great monument to 21st-century civilization lies in ruins, shattered into the sand like so many before," he wrote. "Not long before the world had fought over oil, but now water is the prize."

In another scenario, he has both Chicago and Toronto smashed into "twisted steel and broken concrete" after a war between the US and Canada over access to water. Canada is one of the wettest countries in the world, but the US is growing short of water, partly because it consumes two and half times more per person than Europe. Debates have raged for decades over whether Canada should sell water to its southern neighbours. The US problem is illustrated by Las Vegas. To sustain the city's two million people, water is brought 1400 miles from the Rockies by the Colorado River via a vast artificial lake created by the Hoover Dam. "This may be a sure case of ecocide," observed Bell. "Las Vegas can only die, and within our lifetimes, because the water supply is running out."

Even in Europe, as many as 120 million people lack access to safe drinking water. "Water resources are under pressure in many parts of Europe, and it is getting worse," warned Jacqueline McGlade, the executive director of the European Environment Agency, based in Copenhagen. "With climate change making water supply less predictable, it is extremely important that Europe uses water more efficiently for the benefit of all its users. Water resources should be managed as effectively as any other natural asset owned by countries." Farmers, who use about a quarter of Europe's water, need to adopt less wasteful ways of watering their crops like "drip irrigation" , she said

Large parts of Spain, France, Ireland and the southeast of England are shown to have "extreme water stress". The whole of Italy and other parts of France, Spain and England are said to be enduring "water stress", while Scotland has "no stress".

First Minister Alex Salmond views Scotland's water is a natural resource with the potential to swell the national coffers by selling it to England. Salmond suggested that Scotland could help alleviate the long-term shortages. "..you would sell it on...as an ongoing commercial transaction." The Scottish Government said Scottish Water could make a profit out of selling water to England. But the idea of selling water to England has run into criticism from other experts, who warn that it would be impractical, polluting and expensive. "It is not simple," said Dr Jon Hargreaves, chief of Scottish Water for six years until 2007 and now chair of the British Waterways Scotland Group. "Ultimately, it depends on the market.

Chris Spray, a professor at Dundee University's water centre and a former director of environmental science at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency explained that it raised a series of difficult questions about ecological damage, costs and ownership. Dr Sarah Hendry, another Dundee University specialist said exporting water would also mean that you would have to turn it into a commercial commodity, which would open up the difficult political issue of who should own and benefit from Scotland's water. Scotland's water has no legal owner.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/pipe-dreams.17056511

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PUBLIC MEETING ADMISSION FREE

Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party GB

Don't recycle Capitalism, BIN IT

Many people look at history as a dull
academic subject, like Henry Ford they may say "history is bunk". Although it should be noted that when he said that he was referring to the notion that history was just the recording of the acts of kings, queens and great men. If that was the case then it would indeed be bunk. The viewpoint known as the Materialist
Conception of History is central to the world viewpoint of the SPGB, so the speaker will attempt to:-
1. Outline the basic viewpoint
2. Correct some illusions about the
MC of H
3. Discuss the role of the class struggle

Venue: Maryhill Community Central Halls

304 Maryhill Road Glasgow G20 7YE

Wednesday March 21st
AT 8.30PM

Future Meetings of the Glasgow Branch which will take place at the same time are.

Wednesday May 16th

The Positive Case for

World Socialism

speaker

Brian Gardner

Wednesday April 18th

The Main  Barriers to 
Socialism

speaker

John Cumming

We don't micro-credit it

Glasgow and surrounding parts of western Scotland have some of the worst pockets of poverty in Britain. Life expectancy is below the national average and some families have been on welfare for three or four generations.

Mohamed Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winning economist, hopes to raise £1m ($1.56m) in coming months to open the first European branch of his Grameen Bank in Glasgow by the end of the summer. Under its business plan for Glasgow, which will be overseen by experienced managers from Bangladesh, Grameen expects to raise £3m over three years and lend an average of £1,000 to 1,500 borrowers at an interest rate of 19.8% a year.

Rushanara Ali, the Labour Party’s spokeswoman for international development, welcomed the symbolism of experts coming from a developing country to share their knowledge “If they’ve got solutions that work somewhere else, it doesn’t do us any harm to look at how we adapt them,”

Unfortunately Yunis mico-credit schemes are NOT the panacea for poverty. Thomas Dichter of the Cato Institute - “In Bangladesh, 30 years after Yunus’s invention, poverty statistics are worse than they’ve ever been, so something else is the source of the problem and micro-credit is not helping.”

And Socialist Courier asserts that the source of the problem is property, not the lack of riches. Private property and poverty are twins born of the division of society into classes. To end poverty you have to end private property and wage-slavery.

See our companion blogs related posts.

http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2010/11/yunis-and-micro-credit-myths.html http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2011/08/microfinance-fails-poor.html http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2011/05/poverty-of-micro-finance.html http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2012/03/micro-credit-bubble.html
http://socialistbanner.blogspot.com/2007/12/can-ethical-capitalism-work.html
http://socialistbanner.blogspot.com/2012/01/micro-debt-slavery.html

WHOSE LAND?

453 acres of King's Park below Stirling Castle – the last significant ancient property of the Scottish Crown not controlled by Scottish Ministers – is being sold off by the Crown Estate Commissioners for £1 million. The people of Stirling will pay for more than half the sale price to secure the site for the town's golf club, despite the public having effectively owned the land since the 12th century. Over the past years the CEC has managed the park as just another part of their commercial rural estate. In 2006, it began secret negotiations to sell Stirling Golf Club lands they already leased. Stirling Council stepped in and agreed to acquire the parkland and land at the back of the castle funded by £567,000 Stirling common good fund (60% of its reserves) and £450,000 from the golf club, which would then be granted a 175-year lease.

Andy Wightman, an authority on land-ownership in Scotland, is calling for answers from ministers and the local council. "This land is crown land. It is Scottish public land. It should be administered by Scottish ministers, as nearly all other historic castles, palaces and royal parks are. No public money should be needed to acquire control of this land, least of all the bulk of Stirling's common good fund. Why...is the Scottish Government sitting idly by while a common good fund is raided to pay for public land that already belongs to us, to be given away to a private golf club for 175 years? It is time to stop this madness."

King's Park Community Council wrote to the council: "In our opinion this is a serious mistake given that the recommendations about to be published in the Scotland Bill give every indication that Crown Estate management in Scotland will be returned to Scottish ministers."

Friday, March 16, 2012

$250 MILLION? CHICKENFEED!

The arrogance of the owning class knows no bounds. Take the case of Mitt Romney who is estimated to have a fortune worth about $250 million. "Mitt Romney's wife says she doesn't consider herself to be wealthy. In an interview Monday on Fox News, the wife of the Republican presidential front-runner, Ann Romney, was asked about criticism that her husband can seem out of touch with average Americans. .... She added: "How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people that I care about in my life, and that's where my values are and that's where my riches are. ... Mitt Romney has drawn criticism for offhand remarks that point to the wide economic divide separating him and nearly all other Americans. ....While campaigning in Michigan, Romney referred to his wife driving "a couple of Cadillacs" as he pointed to his longstanding support of American automakers." (Washington Post, 6 March) RD

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

When workers are in employment they are often treated like the wage slaves they are, but retirement will bring no improvement to their conditions. "More than half of elderly and disabled people in care homes are being denied basic health services while staff are failing to to do enough to preserve their dignity, according to an official review. Some older people routinely have to wait up to three months for formal checks for painful conditions such as bed sores, according to figures from the health care watchdog. A quarter were not given a choice of male or female staff to help them use the lavatory and more than a third of care homes surveyed admitted delays in getting medication to residents. " (Daily Telegraph, 7 March) In times of economic crisis the owning class must look for ways to reduce overheads. An obvious sources of savings is in cutting the cost of care for old workers. RD

Thursday, March 15, 2012

THE OLYMPIAN SPIRIT?

We shall shortly be hearing a lot of nationalistic rubbish from the media about the Olympian spirit and how it is better "to compete than to win" and other such nonsense, but capitalism is just not like that. "Bangladeshi workers producing sportswear for Puma, Nike and Adidas are being physically abused, a British newspaper claimed on Sunday. Bangladeshis working in factories making clothing for the brands, all three of which sponsor the Olympic Games that begin in London on July 27, reported being beaten, verbally abused and sexually harassed, The Observer said." (Himalyan, 5 March) All three companies intend to compete AND win, no matter how much their workers suffer. RD

NHS rationing

What is the value of a few precious extra months of life? It's a very difficult question to answer, but if Scottish Medicines Consortium's is to be believed then, it is not worth £2.5 million.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Scotland, with 2700 cases diagnosed every year. It kills two men every day. There are 19,000 Scottish men currently living with the disease.

Last October, Alex Salmond, the First Minister, signed up to a charter calling for better treatment for patients.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium has denied Scottish men a drug that prolongs life. It said the cost of abiraterone at £3000 a month did not justify the health benefits – even though it can extend lives by more that three months .

In a letter to the Scottish government, sufferer John Thomson writes "It is a disgraceful decision, cruel and unjust, that abiraterone is not available simply because of cost. How do you evaluate the cost of drugs against someone’s life?...This drug not only gives men an extra few months but also some quality to those last few months...It is unfair for some people to access the drug and not others. Money should not be an issue."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AN EXPENSIVE ROUND

The owning class are very concerned about the drinking habits of the working class. The government is attempting to put through legislation that would limit cut-rate drink offers at supermarkets and pubs. It would have little effect on the following boozers. "A businessman blew £125,000 on a single bottle of the world's most expensive champagne while buying a round of drinks for more than £200,000 in a night club. The financier ordered a 30-litre double Nebuchadnezzar-size bottle of Armand de Brignac Midas bubbly along with £60,408 on other beverages for his 10-man entourage." (Daily Mail, 5 March) RD

HUNGER IN THE USA

When world hunger is mentioned it is usually assumed that the problem is peculiar to Africa or Asia, but this is not the case. "Here in the United States, growing numbers of people can't afford that most basic of necessities: food. More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit research group. About 18.6 percent of people -- almost one out of every five -- told Gallup pollsters that they couldn't always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011." (Huffington Post, 29 February) The USA may well be the most powerful country in the world but that doesn't stop sections of its working class suffering hunger. RD

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reading Notes

As the mining industry gets set to blow the top off Blair Mountain, archaeologists and activists join together to stop it. Archaeologists are there to record the evidence of the 'Battle of Blair Mountain' in 1921. Some 10 000 miners, marched to the courthouse in Logan to protest martial law and heavy- handed treatment of strikers. They were opposed by 3 000 volunteers under anti-union sheriff, Don Chafin. The archaeologists, from the pattern of ammunition distribution, have determined that the miners fought cleverly in guerrilla fashion, not the undisciplined mob that they were thought to be. One million rounds were fired in five days and estimates of the dead range from twenty to one hundred. Now the archaeologists have been told to pack up and get off the land by the owners, the mining company, of course. It was a fairly major battle, probably bigger than some of the small skirmishes in the War of Independence, but, unlike them, remains almost completely forgotten. Another example of the manipulation of facts and the media to deny labour history.(Archaeology magazine, Jan/Feb, 2012) John Ayers

Monday, March 12, 2012

CAPITALISM IS INTERNATIONAL

The Daily Mail has a long history of fanatical nationalism but even by its standards it went over the top with this story. "How Qatar bought Britain: They own the Shard. They own the Olympic Village. And they don't care if their Lamborghinis get clamped when they shop at Harrods (which is theirs, too)". (Daily Mail, 10 March) So how come this backward Gulf state has become so powerful? The answer is simple. In the last two years Qatar has become Britain's biggest supplier of imported liquefied natural gas. When profits are to be made the owning class are truly international. Only mis-informed workers imagine they are British. Do you know the nationality of the people who own the company you work for? RD

OCEANIC POLLUTION

Changing something as fundamental as the pH of seawater - a measurement of how acid or alkaline it is - has profound effects. Ocean acidification threatens the corals and every other species that makes its living on the reefs. "According to a new research review by paleoceanographers at Columbia University, published in Science, the oceans may be turning acid far faster than at any time in the past 300 million years. .... The authors tried to determine which past acidification events offer the best comparison to what is happening now. The closest analogies are catastrophic events, often associated with intense volcanic activity resulting in major extinctions. The difference is that those events covered thousands of years. We have acidified the oceans in a matter of decades, with no signs that we have the political will to slow, much less halt, the process." (New York Times, 9 March) With its mad drive for profits the capitalist system is destroying the oceans and all its diverse life forms. RD

Sunday, March 11, 2012

REGRETTABLE FOR SOME

Modern capitalism is a complicated system but it seems it has even complicated the English language. "UK Asset Resolution (UKAR), which is in charge of running the bad loans of failed lenders Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley, repossessed 8,800 properties last year, an increase of 10pc on the 7,980 the state-backed body repossessed in 2010. Richard Banks, chief executive of UKAR, said the repossessions were "regrettable" and that "multiple forbearance assistance" was given to people before their properties were seized by the organisation. "Regrettably, repossession is the final answer,"said Mr Banks. Last year, UKAR's profits increased by 145pc to £1.09bn, from £444m in 2010, enabling the "bad bank" to hand a total of £2.8bn over to the government in the form of repaid loans, interest, fees and corporation tax." (Daily Telegraph, 2 March) So let us get this straight "regrettable" can mean losing your home or an increase of 145pc in profits. Confused? We are. RD

INVISIBLE UNDER-CONSUMPTION

Whilst the owning class of capitalist society gorge themselves in every known form of over-indulgence millions of poor people suffer the horror of watching their children die from lack of food and clean water. Oxfam has recently been highlighting the latest African horror story. "The British charity said tens of thousands of people in the Sahel region of west and central Africa could die in the coming months if the international community did not distribute much needed aid immediately. The charity said western governments and aid agencies risked making the mistakes of last year in the Horn of Africa, where the famine may have been far less severe had there been a swifter response to the crisis as it developed. In parts of Chad, Mali and Niger, the malnutrition rates have exceeded 15 per cent, with more than one million children at risk of starvation." (Daily Telegraph, 9 March) RD

glasgow public meeting






8-00 pm

Maryhill community central halls

304 Maryhill Road

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In the red, Whyte and blue

A "large number" of players at struggling football club Rangers have agreed pay cuts of between 25% to 75% to save the jobs of non-playing staff, administrators have said. It is understood senior players like captain Steven Davis and Scotland internationals Allan McGregor, Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker have accepted the largest wage cuts.

In a statement, joint administrator Paul Clark said: “The agreement on very substantial wage reductions and voluntary departures from the club represents a major sacrifice by the Rangers players."

Socialist Courier takes this opportunity to clarify why footballers earn so much.

Footballers at least start from the same position as the rest of us: not owning any wealth from which to obtain an unearned income, to obtain what they need to live they have to go out on to the labour market and offer their mental and physical energies for sale. Most professional footballers, working for clubs in the lower divisions or for non-league clubs, never earn anything more than the average worker.

But some, those who play for the top clubs, are paid fabulous amounts of money, by working class standards. What is their income? Is it wages? Not really. It’s more like rent. Rent is paid whenever there is a natural monopoly in something that cannot be increased, normally land, mineral deposits and other natural features that can be employed in production. The rent of land and natural resources is essentially fixed by the paying demand for it. The higher the demand, the higher the rent.

As Arsène Wenger pointed out, “you normally need special qualities to be a strong footballer”. It is these “special qualities – which are a sort of natural resource that cannot be increased – that enable the best footballers to command so high an income, but as rent rather than as the price for the mere sale of their labour power. Their income is so high because the demand for their talents is so high.

Friday, March 09, 2012

MORE BANGS FOR YOUR BUCKS

While more and more manufacturers find it difficult to increase sales of their products there is one branch of manufacture that is experiencing a boom. "Sales of weapons and services by the world's biggest arms companies have continued to rise during the downturn and now exceed $400bn (£250bn), a leading independent research body has reported. Though the increase has slowed, just 1% year-on-year in 2010, the rise in sales has been 60% in real terms since 2002, figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) showed. The total sales, including military services, of the top 100 arms companies, reached $ 411.1bn (£257.6bn) in 2010, Sipri said." (Guardian, 29 February) It is difficult at present to make profitable the sale of food, clothing, shelter and medicines but selling weapons of destruction has never been easier. That is capitalism for you! RD

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Rangers Blues

The woes of Rangers grows by the day. The insolvency firm Duff and Phelps have set a 48-hour deadline over the sale of the club after cost-cutting talks involving slashing players' salaries to prevent redundancies broke down and are already considering the possibility of liquidation if they cannot reach a deal. They also said Rangers may not be able to fulfil their remaining SPL fixtures without the promise of new income or drastic measures to reduce costs while also confirming Rangers had no chance of competing in Europe next season as they would not be able to submit fully audited accounts by a March 31 deadline. .

Asked if Rangers was in a state to be sold, an administrators source admitted: "There's an awful lot still to be resolved. It is all about who owns what. It doesn't matter whether you are selling a house, or a football club, or a company, you have to know what you're buying."

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has described the prospect of Rangers going into liquidation as "a disaster...[and] the news that the club is running out of cash and may be unable to fulfil their fixtures is the final piece of news that will send Rangers fans into despair."

The popularity of football inside capitalism made it an activity much adored by workers often too unfit to play it themselves, but keen to follow the efforts of their local sporting heroes. With the development of capitalism football has just become another business opportunity. Its development more likely to be followed by financial journalists rather than football ones. Football used to be about watching the match, buying a greasy pie and a cup of bovril. But now stadiums are like shopping malls. It is a truism - if not a cliché - that football today is big business.

Every activity that capitalism touches it turns into commodities.

As Rangers football club ails, vultures circle. In a society where common and shared identity count for little when there is a quick buck to be made, it can be no surprise that football has become infested by the sort of parasites whose idea of of a pastime is making money, especially at other people's expense. The market economy creates the conditions in which they can prosper and seize control of assets that communities often mistakenly think are theirs already.

It is time to take the money out of football altogether. And that means abolishing money in all other areas of life.

We live in a world of inequality. That is a natural consequence of the workings of capitalism. Socialists want a world of equality where everybody would have an equal say in the way things are run including our local sporting associations and where there would still be football, but no bankers or stockbrokers dealing in a football club's future, that being determined solely by the players skills on the field.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

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