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Showing posts from May, 2007

Socialist Standard June 2007

Butlers

The Independent is reporting a crisis in the supply and demand of household man-servants.
The Guild of Professional Butlers is now reporting an explosion in the numbers of super-rich households who want to be waited on hand and foot.

There simply are not enough butlers .

Charles MacPherson, the vice-chairman of the International Guild of Professional Butlers explained . "If we doubled the number of butlers, they wouldn't be without work,"

Jane Urqhart, the principal of the Greycoat Academy which trains butlers, said that demand for "good butlers" was soaring.

"What's happened is that there has been a growth among those people with a lot of money who want to emulate the old traditions, such as having a butler. So they buy the manor house but they also want to hire someone from the days when the house was staffed by a butler..."

Ivor Spencer, 81, a butler with service in 14 of the grandest houses in England, runs a butler-training school and agency. He sa…

Tesco drivers' strike

Tesco drivers' strike continuesUp to 150 Tesco lorry drivers have begun a strike after refusing to sign up to new working terms and conditions.The dispute came after the supermarket chain revealed plans to move its depot in Livingston, West Lothian, to a new site nearby. Local MP Jim Devine has called for a one-day boycott of Tesco for threatening to sack drivers who refuse to sign the new contract. A Tesco spokesman said the chain "strongly refuted" Mr Devine's claims. The drivers, all members of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G), are taking part in a strike which is due to last from Thursday until Saturday. Tesco vehicles were having to turn around at the warehouse as workers formed a picket line, according to union members. The T&G claims the new contracts, brought in with the move to the new site, mean losses to the drivers of between £3,000 and £6,000 and the de-recognition of the union.
Tesco strongly refuted claims that the drivers would lo…

Wealth Gap Widens

A previous blog revealed that under Tony Blair the gap between the richest and the poorest had widened . The Scotsman confirms that indeed this is the case .

The think-tank , Compass , has issued a report that finds that people living in the affluent London borough of Kensington and Chelsea now live, on average, 10.9 years longer than people from Glasgow. That inequalities in mortality rates for children born to working-class mothers compared with middle-class ones have also grown since 1998.

The publication said the share of national wealth owned by the richest 1 per cent in Britain had risen from 17 per cent in 1991 to 24 per cent in 2002, while the share of the country's riches held by the bottom 50 per cent of people had dropped from 8 percent to 6 per cent. It warned that massive house-price rises and huge pay hikes for executives in industry and commerce were fuelling the growing gap between rich and poor.

"The super-rich have, during Tony Blair's premiership, been a…

Salesmen or Soldiers

The Socialist Party makes the point that capitalists struggle among themselves and other countries for markets, sometimes it can lead to open hostility, watch the use of the language in this article about beer.
Scotland on Sunday 27th May 2007
Carling takes on rivals with £7m new beer launch
by WILLIAM LYONS

CARLING, part of the US-based Coors group, is to wage a full-scale war on Scottish & Newcastle and Belhaven with the launch of a new beer and a multimillion-pound marketing push north of the Border.
It will spend £7m on launching a new dark beer, Maclachlan's, as it moves to outgun John Smith's and Belhaven Best.
Who will go down? Result of friendly fire!
enjoy your pint, if you can. even if it is launched at you.

The Bitter Price for Better Life

The Independent carries this story -

Spotted by a Maltese armed forces reconnaissance plane on Monday morning 80 nautical miles south of Malta, roughly halfway between the coast of Libya and the southernmost point of the EU. At around the same time, some of the 53 people on the boat, all of them from Eritrea, were begging their friends and relatives in Europe by satellite phone to help them, saying the boat's engine had stalled, that the sea was rising and that the boat risked being swamped. Calls were placed to Malta, towns in northern Italy and to London.
"They called me to say water was coming on board, the engine was broken, they wanted me to get people to help them," An Eritrean woman called Lepetan, living in the Italian city of Bologna said. "Nobody had come to help, they told me."

Yet it took nine hours for a fast offshore patrol vessel of the Maltese armed forces to reach the zone where the 10-metre-long boat had been logged , 4 hours after the last fina…

The Big Dream

The Herald carries the story of Glasgow in 2020 with seven possible future scenarios envisaged by Demos, the think-tank, after spending 18 months speaking to 5000 Glaswegians , at a cost of £200000 . If a true reflection of peoples thoughts of the the future , it is grim reading but perhaps also incorporating a glimmer of hope .

The seven speculated future scenarios are :-

The Two Speed City

By 2020 economic and social divisions have become so entrenched that Glasgow is virtually two cities living side by side in blissful ignorance of each other. One half believes that ‘everyone is middle class now’, that talent and skill automatically rises to the top and that anyone who does not believe this is choosing to leave themselves behind. They use special toll roads, air conditioned walkways and luxury water-taxis carrying people about quickly and cocooned from the rest of the city. The other half thinks that living in social housing estates and existing in temporary jobs or on state benefits …

child poverty - again

Shall we see a difference in poverty figures with a new Scottish Parliament government under the SNP ? Only time will tell but we of the Socialist Party very much doubt it , going by the experience of history and what we know of Capitalism .

Barnados have released their latest report on child poverty . One-in-four Scots children is living in poverty - 250,000 youngsters are currently living below the breadline ( that's families it said are living on less than 60% of the average household income , less than £301 for a couple with two children and £223 for a lone parent with two children, after housing costs) .

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo's Scotland, said: "Today in Scotland children are missing out on what most of us would consider essentials. Although the Scottish Executive has taken steps to reduce child poverty, we should be ashamed that one-in-four children is still living in poverty in Scotland today, when the UK is the fifth-richest economy in the world."

Ba…

The War Business - Blood Money

The Guardian carries an interesting article from Mark Curtis that should be brought home to everybody .

That when it comes to the ethical foreign policy once espoused by the Labour Party and the British Government , it was the drive for profits from the armaments industry that the real priority has been at . £45 billion worth of arms were sold by Britain in the past 10 years, making us the world's second-largest arms exporter.

In the past three years, arms have been exported to 19 of the 20 countries identified in the Foreign Office's annual human rights report as "countries of concern".

The Colombian military and its paramilitary allies have killed thousands of people in the country's civil war. Yet last year Britain exported armoured all-wheel-drive vehicles, military communications equipment and heavy machine guns, alongside a military aid programme. Indonesia has received more than £400million worth of military equipment since 1997, while using British military…

A car for the very high rollers

A new model Rolls-Royce convertible is going on sale this summer.

In the UK, where it will go on sale in July, the car will cost some £325,000 when extras such as chrome wheels (£4,500), a brushed steel bonnet (£6,400) and a teak deck (£5,300) around the back seats are included.

At least 40% of its customers will be recruited amongst America's super-rich, though some 20,000 of the world's 85,400 ultra-high net worth individuals - people with more than $30m (£15m) ready cash at their disposal, as measured by CapGemini Merrill Lynch - are European, 3,700 of them British.

"The wealth factor is an important part of the market growth," points out Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' chief executive, Ian Robertson. "We're aiming to pick up about 1% of them each year. " - and that would be 800 out of a world's population of 6.5 billion .One American bid £1million in an auction to be the first U.S. customer. Rolls-Royce's chairman and chief executive Ian Robertson …

Rich and Poor - No Change After Blair

The gap between Britain's rich and poor again widened in the 2005-6 financial year, official figures showed on Thursday .


The Office for National Statistics said income for the bottom 10% after taxes and welfare benefits fell £10 to £11,374 . The richest 10 % average income actually grew by more than £2,000 to £60,908.

The figures have barely diverged since Blair came to office in 1997.

"The latest evidence suggests that income inequality may be increasing again," the ONS said. "Inequality still remains high by historical standards -- the large increase which took place in the second half of the 1980s has not been reversed."

When you get old ...

The average 60-plus-year-old owes more than £35,000 in unsecured debts, a survey shows. 63 percent of those aged 60 and over have unsecured debts -- such as credit card and loan debt . It found that the average pensioner owes £9,098 in personal loans, £7,551 in credit card debt, £3,215 in overdrafts and a further £15,616 in other unsecured debts, such as store cards and car finance schemes -- a total £35,480. Taking account of outstanding mortgage debts carried into retirement adds a further £31,000 per pensioner to the debt mountain, according to the research.
The over-70s were found to have the largest unsecured debts, at an average of more than £40,000 .

Figures from financial education charity Credit Action showed that the number of over-60s with money worries increased faster than among any other age group last year, as pensioners grapple with rising energy and council tax bills.

With monthly repayments on that of over £450 and more than 38 percent of pensioners living on £10,000 …

THEY CALL IT TRUTH?

In 1917 Hiram Johnson in a speech to the US Senate said "The first casualty when war comes is truth." This perceptive view was recently reinforced when Private Jessica Lynch of the US army exposed the lies of the Pentagon in her testimony to Congress. "The Pentagon said initially that she was shot after emerging from her vehicle, guns blazing, before being abducted. It later emerged that she was injured in the ambush and was incapable of fighting. She was taken to an Iraqi hospital by Iraqi troops and owes her life to Iraqi doctors, who even tried to return her to American troops. Speaking to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Ms Lynch told of waking up in hospital with terrible injuries, unaware that the Pentagon was circulating "the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting". "It was not true", she said yesterday. (Times, 25 April) R.D.

What Price Slaughter

The American journalist had an interesting article on the value placed on different people's lives .
He begins with reference to history when in the days before child labour laws, the business of insuring working-class children, who were then quite valuable to poor families, achieved enormous success. The courts assessed the literal value of an earning child to a family.
During the Vietnam War, as part of the American pacification program, U.S. officials made what were called "solatium payments" for wrongful deaths caused by American forces. Back then, the U.S. valued Vietnamese adults at about $35 , while children's lives were worth about $15.
The practice continues in its wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan .
For example :-
9-year-old boy, shot by one of our soldiers who mistook his book bag for a bomb satchel - $500
An Iraqi journalist shot on a bridge - $2,500 to his widow .
In early March , a platoon of elite Marine Special Operations troops in a convoy of Humvees we…

Iraq - It was always about the oil

Our comrade at Mailstrom has posted a short animated cartoon that succinctly summarises the new Iraq Oil Law that is in the process of being passed by the Iraqi Parliament .

The Quick Fix

More than 31 million prescriptions for drugs such as Prozac were issued in 2006 - a 6% rise on the year before , the BBC reported .

In particular prescriptions for a group of drugs known as SSRIs, which include Prozac, rose by 10% last year from 14.7 mllion to 16.2million . There have been fears that the drugs are linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm in some cases. In 2003, experts said SSRI antidepressants should not be given to teenagers after experts' concerns they made some patients suicidal. However, Prozac is still recommended for under-18s .

Research cited by MIND , the mental health charity, says the UK is trailing behind other countries in the use of other therapies.

The Guardian reports that levels of suicide and self-harming are soaring in mental health wards where there are few activities, locked wards and constant surveillance .
"It [ the psychiatric hospital ] can feel like a prison and unsurprisingly if people are very distressed at the time that's when th…

Day School in Glasgow

Click forpage 2page 3page 4of leaflet.

The Wages of Sin

From the BBC:-

Once he leaves Number 10, Tony Blair is entitled to an immediate prime minister's pension of £63,000 and he will still earn a MP's salary of £60,000. Added to this, Cherie Blair, as a leading QC, is estimated to earn a six-figure salary.

In 2004, the Blairs took out a 95% mortgage on a £3.65million townhouse in Connaught Square near Hyde Park, London. This year, they bought the adjoining mews house for £800,000. These two purchases - combined with the £200,000 remortgage of their Sedgefield constituency home, Myrobella, in 2003 - mean they now have interest payments of more than £20,000 a month. This is almost as much as the average annual salary.

However, the Money Programme has calculated the Blairs could make £10.5 million in the next 12 months. Sir John Major has reportedly made £1m a year since he left Downing Street, while Lady Thatcher amassed a fortune after she stepped down in 1990. Both Sir John and Lady Thatcher took up positions in the City, but surpr…

Bliar or Brown-nose -Who Cares

picturecourtesy of Capitalist Money Madness


Our opinion on the resignation of Tony Blair and the impending anointing of Gordon Brown ? Different cheeks on the same arse .

Capitalism , the Co-opting System

The Socialist Courier isn't known as a blog page for arty criticism but The Independent carries a story featuring the "guerrilla" graffiti artist known as "Banksy" who has a few pearls of wisdom .

"...The money that my work fetches these days makes me a bit uncomfortable, but that's an easy problem to solve - you just stop whingeing and give it all away. I don't think it's possible to make art about world poverty and then trouser all the cash , that's an irony too far, even for me."

"I have been called a sellout, but I give away thousands of paintings for free, how many more do you want?"

"I think it was easier when I was the underdog, and I had a lot of practise at it."

And the most poignant observation from him:-

"I love the way capitalism finds a place - even for its enemies. It's definitely boom time in the discontent industry."

Capitalism is a Cancer

Bucharest will witness a protest demonstration of a grisly kind today. The streets of the Romanian capital will be filled with cancer patients pleading with a government that they say has turned its back on them.

More than 370,000 patients have been diagnosed with cancer in Romania but only 76,000 are in treatment, according to official estimates. This year's budget for cancer treatment has been set at 336 million lei (£65 million), a fraction of the amount spent in other EU member states. The UK, with a population less than three times as big as Romania's, spent £4.3 billion on cancer in 2005-06. Many women with breast and gynaecological cancers who had had surgery and radiotherapy are unable to get chemotherapy.

In September, the government ordered a ban on newly trained doctors joining two-year oncology [ the study and treatment of tumors ] courses to qualify as specialists - the first EU member state to obliterate the specialty of oncology - replacing it with a 4 month cour…

Edinburgh Mayday 2007

Glasgow and Edinburgh members attend the traditional Mayday Saturday rally in Edinburgh .

The Struggle to Subsist

Nearly half of all UK families need two or more salaries to cover the bills and live comfortably, a survey from Scottish Widows suggests. Families with more than one child rely even more on two salaries, 51% of whom say they could not cope without them. High household bills and debts are putting pressure on family finances .

The survey revealed that a quarter of UK families have no savings while a further 25% have less than £3,000, figures showed.

The average two-child household has more than £100,000 mortgage, loan and credit card debt, the survey found. This compares to just £82,000 average debt for families with no children.

"This reliance on two incomes to buy and run the family home means millions of households are effectively doubling the risk of financial hardship should one of the breadwinners become unable to work," said Richard Jones, Scottish Widows spokesman.

Another report informs us that more than 30,000 people became insolvent in England and Wales during the firs…

The Polling Stations are now open

A final message from Oor Jimmy before you head off to mark your cross and vote .



...what the politicians of all Parties are saying, is just a cocktail of the same pledges, about how they will deal with the same problems.



And guess what, when the next election comes round, we will get it all again, because the problems of capitalism never go away, they are always with us.When I first voted, and it's a good few years, and elections ago now, the politicians were saying practically the same things, about the same problems, with the same equally hollow answers, and promises, so fellow workers, what's new?



But, as long as we put up with capitalism, then we have to put up with capitalism's problems, with no resolution in sight, and this not only applies to Britain, it also applies to the World.



It's the never ending story of a few everyday rich folk, versus millions of everyday poor folk.



But, it doesn't have to be that way, surely it's not impossible for us, the millions …

Paid Richly For Failure

Yet another of Socialist Courier's never-ending exposure of greedy capitalist pigs with snouts in the trough .

Former Scottish Media Group chief executive Andrew Flanagan was handed a pay-off of £831,024 after being ousted last year. This comprised £649,600 in compensation for loss of office, the Scottish Media Group's annual report reveals, together with the release of awards worth £181,424 under the company's long-term incentive and performance share plans.

He earned more than £1.1 million from SMG in 2006 after working only six-and-a-half months of the year before stepping down on July 18. This included £257,000 in salary for the period, plus benefits of £50,000 comprising car, medical insurance and pension supplement. On top of that, his severance deal included a payment of £555,600, representing 12 months' salary and benefits in lieu of notice. Surprisingly perhaps, he also got a £44,000 bonus. A further £50,000 was added to Flanagan's compensation package becau…

The Great Money Trick

From the novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressel (published 1914), this story traces a year in the life of a group of painters and decorators in the town of Mugsborough in the early twentieth century. Haunted by fears of unemployment, the men struggle to keep their jobs at any cost but, in the course of events, some of them begin to realise that their condition of miserable poverty is neither ‘natural’ nor ‘just’. Robert Noonan (Tressell is a pen-name) was a painter and decorator himself and drew on his own experience of working life in contemporary Britain.

THE GREAT MONEY TRICK

"Money is the real cause of poverty," said Owen.

"Prove it," repeated Crass.

"Money is the cause of poverty because it is the device by which those who are too lazy to work are enabled to rob the workers of the fruits of their labour."

"Prove it," said Crass.

Owen slowly folded up the piece of newspaper he had been reading and put it in his pocket.

"A…