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Showing posts from November, 2007

PANAMANIAN PARADOX

No matter where in the world you look the contrast between extreme wealth and extreme poverty is obvious. In a booming Panama the story is the same as it is all over the capitalist world.
"These are heady days for tiny Panama. It is undertaking a massive expansion of the Panama Canal, luring billions of dollars in maritime and high-tech investment that could make it the Hong Kong of the Americas. But here's the other side: in the past few months, scores of toddlers have died of malnutrition in villages around the country. More than half of Panamanian children under 5 are at risk of suffering the same fate." (Time, 2 November) RD

FORESTS VERSUS FORTUNES

This dreadful report from Honduras shows what capitalism's priorities are.
"The blunt economic truth is clear: deforestation can never be stopped as long as trees are worth more dead than alive. The two environmentalists never stood a chance. As they drove into the small Honduran town of Guarizama on 20 December last year, armed men forced Heraldo Zúñiga and Roger Iván Cartagena to the side of the road, dragged them from their car, stood them against a wall next to the municipal building in full view of passers-by, and shot them. Although at least 40 shots were fired, Zúñiga survived long enough to denounce those who had hired the assassins - the timber barons who are making a fortune by razing the region's pine forests and exporting wood to the United States. ..Now, after a long campaign, the Environmental Investigation Agency is supporting a rare bipartisan legislative effort in the US Congress to choke off domestic demand for imported illegal wood products. Promoted by …

DEATH IN A HARSH SOCIETY

The latest figures on deaths in winter make for harsh reading and illustrate the fate awaiting many British workers when they are unable to work anymore. "More than 23,000 people died of cold last winter despite it being one of the mildest recorded, according to the Office for National Statistics. Of these deaths, 19,200 were among those aged 75 and over. Charities called it a "national scandal" and gave warning of more deaths this winter because of higher fuel prices and colder temperatures." (Times, 29 November) RD

The Super-Star Super-Rich

A report by the BBC on those super rich super-stars .

England captain Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup in 1966 he earned £100 a week. Today's England captain, John Terry, holds the same position, but reportedly earns over £130,000 a week. David Beckham earned over £11 million from endorsements alone last year.

Then there are humble cooks like Gordon Ramsay , wealth of nearly £70 million , James Oliver , almost £60 million .

Superstars are boosting the luxury goods market, with worldwide sales in the sector topping £75 billion last year. Its all Aston Martins and private jets .

Naturally , the apologists of this insane distribution of riches claim that there are the benefits of the "trickle-down effect " but other commentators are more observant .

"Although these are people who will clearly have significant interests here in the UK and invest here in the UK, they're also looking to place their money around the world," said Mr Charrington , head of Citi's U…

Workers Have No Country

From the editorial of December's Socialist Standard

Whether Polish plumbers, Portuguese hop-pickers or Chinese cockle-pickers, migrant labour in the UK is undoubtedly higher profile now than it has been for many decades. The focus groups and private polling used by the major parties are confirming immigration as the No 1 issue for voters at the moment.

In some parts of the UK the influx may well have resulted in increased unemployment for existing workers and appears to be putting a downward pressure on wages in some sectors.

It’s worth noting that there has been an enormous effort made to vilify, criminalise and erase racist language and ideas over the last few decades. World socialists have not opposed these developments but we have argued that racism – like other the so-called "hate" crimes – is usually fuelled and ignited by poverty and fear, and therefore cannot be removed until the cause is.

For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation…

Long Live The Workers - NOT

Men in routine jobs, such as bus drivers and refuse collectors, are more likely to die early figures show. The Office for National Statistics data showed routine workers were nearly 3 times more likely to die by the age of 64 than high-level managers. After the routine workers, semi-routine staff, including postmen and security guards, were most likely to die early.

The average 65-year-old man in Glasgow could expect to live a further 13.8 years, the lowest life expectancy in Britain.

"Those in better paid, more prestigious jobs are less likely to suffer violence, behave differently, are treated better and value their work more."

The report said the most disadvantaged were more likely to live in poor housing, be exposed to environmental pollution and occupational hazards, have a poor diet and smoke. Conditions at work also play a part with career prospects, control over work and performance-related bonuses associated with better health and longer life.

This latest research just…

Price Fixers

Capitalism is all about competition , right ? Wrong , if these stories are to go by .

Four of the world's biggest glass manufacturers have been fined a total of £348.2million for illegally co-ordinating price rises. The firms are Guardian of the US, Pilkington, which is the UK unit of Nippon Sheet Glass, Saint-Gobain of France and Belgium's Glaverbel. The European Commission said the firms had raised or stabilised prices in 2004 and 2005 through illicit contacts.

Between them they control 80% of Europe's market for flat glass. Flat glass is used in products such as windows, glass doors and mirrors.

Then there was this in Canada too

Regulators have launched an investigation into allegations of price-fixing by some of the biggest makers of chocolate bars in Canada. Officials from the Canadian divisions of Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and Mars confirmed the probe is underway.

"We can confirm that we are investigating alleged anticompetitive practices in the chocolate confectioner…

MONEY MADNESS

If the idea of world socialism could be summed up in one phrase it would probably be "a world without money". So the following news item seems particularly crazy. "An anonymous buyer has paid more than $30 million for a collection of rare U.S. prototype coins, some from the 1700s, that never went into circulation, according to the dealer that brokered the deal. The collection consists of about 1,000 coins that collectors refer to as pattern coins — trial designs that never went into production because the U.S. Mint chose other designs. "This collection is an incredible collection. ... These were some of the first coins ever, ever struck by the United States government," said Laura Sperber, a partner in Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, N.J., which brokered the deal. ... "Both the buyer and the seller are very competitive people. And they're very successful in their careers, and they both love the romance and collectability of coins," Sperber said.&…

THE GLORIES OF WAR

We are all aware of the Hollywood movies about the nobility of heroism, but here is a blast of reality to question that nonsense. "The psychotherapist remembers the strapping young soldier, slouched in a chair in her office one morning last month, asking if God could be punishing him because he had once thought it would be exciting to fight in a war. By then, the soldier, Sgt. Brad Gaskins, had been absent without leave for 14 months from his post at Fort Drum in northern New York State, waging a lonely battle against an enemy inside his head — memories of death and destruction that he said had besieged him since February 2006, when he returned from a second tour of combat in Iraq. “I asked Sergeant Gaskins whether he thought about death,” the psychotherapist, Rosemary Masters, said in an interview on Thursday. “He said that death seemed like a good alternative to the way he was existing.” (New York Times, 18 November) It is hardly John Wayne material is it? RD

EVEN THE RICH GET RIPPED

"A Manhattan restaurant that unveiled a record-breaking $25,000 dessert last week has been forced to shut its doors temporarily due to an infestation of mice and cockroaches. Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side failed its second consecutive health inspection in a month on Wednesday night after health officials found a live mouse, mouse droppings in multiple places, flies and dozens of live cockroaches, the Heath Department said. "We're rectifying it as quickly as we can," said owner Steven Bruce, adding the restaurant would then be allowed to reopen. Serendipity 3 set a Guinness world record on November 7 for the most expensive dessert when it partnered with luxury jeweller Euphoria New York to create "Frozen Haute Chocolate," a blend of 28 cocoas fused with 0.2 ounces of edible 23-karat gold."£ (Yahoo News, 16 November)
Mice and cockroaches can shit on the owning class, why don't we? RD

The Credit Crunch

Further to the previous post this news item perhaps explains the reason why many workers find it necessary to work long hours .

Around one in three mortgage customers face higher repayment rates and difficulty in borrowing more on their homes in the light of the recent credit crunch.Lenders have become increasingly cautious following the problems in the credit markets, and as a result many home- owners will be offered less favourable terms if they want to remortgage their homes. More people than ever are set to fall into the sub-prime category as a result of missed debt repayments, meaning that borrowing will now be put out of reach for many.
Mintel market analysts , estimates that around 9% of the UK's 16.5 million mortgage holders will now be considered sub-prime by lenders. It also forecasts that a further 24% could also be considered a high risk because of their personal circumstances, such as being self-employed or not having a regular income, or because they had moved freque…

Working Hours Get Longer

People are working longer hours, reversing a 10-year trend of a cut in the working week, a report suggests. More than one in eight people now work more than 48 hours a week, rising to one in six in London, the TUC said.


An analysis of official figures revealed that 3.2 million people were now working more than 48 hours a week - more than 13% of the workforce. Official figures underestimate long hours because they are unlikely to include migrant workers or people who live at their place of work, such as hotel or care staff.

According to the study, the biggest rise in the number of people working a 48-hour week was in the south-east of England and London, with 16% of staff in the capital now working long hours.

Of course , the lick spittles of capitalism have their own spin on this trend to work longer - according to the government minister for Employment Relations research has shown that seven out of ten long-hours workers would not want a cut in hours if it meant a cut in pay and that …

Malnutrition in the UK

A quarter of all adults admitted to hospital and care homes in the UK are at risk of malnutrition, a major survey has found.

The survey found that it was not just older patients who were at risk of malnutrition.
Patients under the age of 30 had a 27% risk of malnutrition, compared with a 34% for those over 80. Malnourished people stay in hospital longer, succumb to infection more often and visit their GP more frequently. They also require longer-term care and more intensive nursing care.

Professor Marinos Elia said: "This finding establishes - if there was any doubt - that malnutrition is a major public health issue in the community that must be addressed both at source and when individuals are admitted into care."

Wage Slavery

Anti-racism protestors have marched through Glasgow to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.The St Andrew's Day Anti-Racism March, organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, will remember the anniversary of the act to abolish the trade. First Minister Alex Salmond has given his support to the rally.Yet we know there still exists to-day another type of slavery - wage slavery


JUSTIFED KILLING?

We live in a dreadful society and we obviously need a new one that would never use phrases like "justified killing". Let us all cooperate to get rid of capitalism's killing fields, and make the following news item impossible.
"Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case. The F.B.I investigation into the shootings in Baghdad is still under way, but the findings, which indicate that the company’s employees recklessly used lethal force, are already under review by the Justice Department. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek indictments, and some officials have expressed pessimism that adequate criminal laws exist to enable them to charge any Blackwater employee with criminal wrongdo…

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

If the United States is the embodiment of capitalism, then New York must be the jewel in its crown. A modern technologically advanced city it is forever being revered as the epitome of modernity, but there is another side to capitalism as revealed in this news item.
"Over 1.3 million people, one in six New Yorkers, cannot afford enough food, with queues at soup kitchens getting longer, anti-poverty groups say. The New York City Coalition Against Hunger says the number of people who use food pantries and soup kitchens in the city increased by 20% in 2007. Some of the food distribution points are struggling to meet demand. The coalition blames the situation mainly on increased poverty as well as government cutbacks in food aid." (BBC News, 21 November) RD

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

It is difficult to assess just how wasteful the society capitalism is but a recent estimate of the US government's military expenditure in the Middle East gives some idea of the astronomical waste involved.
"The economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to total $1.6 trillion — roughly double the amount the White House has requested thus far, according to a new report by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee. The report, released Tuesday, attempted to put a price tag on the two conflicts, including "hidden" costs such as interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars, lost investment, the expense of long-term health care for injured veterans and the cost of oil market disruptions. The $1.6 trillion figure, for the period from 2002 to 2008, translates into a cost of $20,900 for a family of four, the report said. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report st…

Reforming Child Poverty

Child poverty in Scotland once again is in the news .

A charity has launched a campaign aimed at eradicating child poverty in Scotland. Save the Children said almost one in every 10 children in Scotland was living in "severe poverty" and that the problem was a "national disgrace "

Save the Children classes the worst deprivation as that which forces families to live on £19 a day, after paying housing costs. Previous research by Save the Children revealed that 90,000 children in Scotland live in severe poverty.

"Parents are being forced to make impossible decisions between such basic provisions as providing an adequate meal or putting on the heating..." said Save the Children's programme director for Scotland .

Yet , as always and as before , the solutions offered by the charity are aimed at only alleviating child poverty through tinkering with the system - more government money (£4 billion) , helping parents back to work, and a new scheme to give poorer…

Church Business

Serve God ?
Only if there is a bonus in it .

The Vatican says it has decided to give financial rewards to employees who are doing a good job.
It says it will take into account issues such as "dedication, professionalism, productivity and correctitude" when awarding a pay rise.

It says that "this novelty brings an element of incentive and remuneration into the Vatican salary system".

The new, corporate-style incentives are likely to require some careful book-balancing, the BBC's says.

Salaries already constitute the largest drain on the Vatican's finances - and its coffers are feeling the pressure of the falling value of the US dollar,

The morning after hang-over

Let's feel sorry for the sad departure of Scotland and England from the qualifiers for Euro 2008 .

But also let us shed a tear for all those profits that will now disappear .

England's exit will cost the U.K. economy about 2 billion pounds , according to Simon Chadwick, a professor at Coventry Business School. England's failure will have ``far-reaching consequences,'' according to Chadwick, a professor of sport business. ``Sporting success is essential not only for the pleasure we get from it, but also for the psychological well-being and economic benefits it generates,'' he said and workers are more productive when England does well, according to the professor.

Sports Direct's shares fell 13.3 per cent to 97.5p this morning. Sports Direct has an agreement to buy 65 per cent of all England shirts that Umbro expects to sell in the UK in any given year.

"As England have not qualified for the 2008 European Football Championships, the company can no long…

THE BOGEY OF TAXES

Earlier this year Scottish showbiz celeb Elaine C. Smith followed Michael Moore's example of criticising big business fat-cats for making huge profits but don't gift part of them to their workers.
Now, in her column in the Sunday Mail (15th November), she echoes Moore's complaint about the rich who avoid paying tax and singles out Grand Prix driver Lewis Hamilton for leaving Britain to do likewise. Elaine wants Hamilton and his like to make deals with the Inland Revenue which would allow them to pay, for example, say £3million instead of £10million and everybody would be happy.
Elaine hasn't noticed that this already happens: for instance, there's Al Fayed, owner of Harrod's, London's poshest department store, who for years had a deal with the Inland Revenue which allowed him and his whole family to pay almost no tax at all.
Another thing Elaine seems not to have noticed is that it isn't only the rich who avoid paying tax. Countless thousands of workers al…

Your Lives , Their Profits

A "frightening" report by the Health and Safety Executive which said the North Sea oil industry was not doing enough to safeguard the 30,000 people who work offshore. The report follows a three-year investigation of almost 100 offshore installations which revealed that on nearly 60% the state of plant was below an acceptable level and 16% of them were failing to comply with legislation.
Lessons learned and highlighted at the inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster in which 167 men died in 1988 have been forgotten . Speaking at the launch of the KP3 report, Health and Safety Commission Chair Judith Hackitt said "corporate memory" had been "lost" since the disaster.

Unite union said: "It is clear to me there are companies out there which are still risking the lives of our members and the offshore workforce for the sake of a barrel of oil and that is unacceptable."

Findings :-
On 58% of installations inspected the plant was considered "poor".
10…

The unfairness of schooling

England's grammar schools are "ghettos for the advantaged", doing little to alleviate poverty.

Research showed just 2% of pupils in grammars received free school meals, compared with 13% nationally. And in some grammars more than one third of pupils had come from fee-paying schools .

Professor Jesson said: "Far from providing 'ladders of opportunity' for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, grammar schools are more like 'ghettos of the advantaged'.
Grammar schools do not offer a ladder of opportunity to any but a very small number of disadvantaged pupils. In fact, their recruitment policies tend to favour pupils from more prosperous communities where eligibility for free school meals and other measures of deprivation are at very low levels. Parents who can afford to send their children to private fee-paying schools have a distinct advantage in securing places at local grammar schools over pupils from state junior schools who are similarly able."

HUNGER IN THE USA

We are used to reading statistics about world hunger, but what is not generally known is the hunger suffered by worker's children in the most advanced capitalist nation in the world.
"One of every four children in New Mexico and Texas and one of every five in a dozen other states, live in households that struggle to provide enough food at some point during the year, a report released Thursday says. The report is the first to give a state-by-state look at child hunger based on annual Census Bureau data, says Ross Frazer, spokesman for America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger-relief group, which released the study. It analyzes data from 2003 to 2005, giving a three-year average. (USA Today, 15 November) RD

Illegal Drugs - Indeed a business

There are about 300 major drug importers into Britain, 3,000 wholesalers and 70,000 street dealers producing a turnover of £7-8billion a year ( This constitutes approximately 33 and 41 per cent of the size of the UK tobacco and alcohol markets respectively ) , according to an internal Home Office estimate revealed today based on prison interviews with 222 convicted high-level drug dealers.

Home Office research study reveals that about three-quarters of drug dealers "attempt to grow their operations", enjoy mark-ups of 16,800% on heroin and 15,800% on cocaine, and now employ salaried staff as runners and storers.

A business just like any other

NHS - We are not all equal

The NHS is failing to deliver in poor areas, a study of general practices in the west of Scotland has found. Patients had a greater number of psychological problems, more long-term illnesses and a wider variety of chronic health problems. Consultations were shorter than in affluent areas and doctors reported being under greater stress.

The research compared consultations in typical practices, serving both affluent and poor populations.

"The NHS should be seen at its best in helping the neediest patients, but ... that is not the case... Despite a decade of political rhetoric about addressing inequalities in health care the NHS has still not squared up to this problem."

Preferential Treatment

How different the government can respond to some financial woes .

Mr Darling told MPs the government had a clear duty to protect the public interest . The government put up huge loans to save the Northern Rock bank , emergency funding equivalent to twice the amount of the annual primary school budget. Deposits of savers would continue to be fully guaranteed .

Contrast now the collapse of the Farepak Christmas savings club that last year drove many of its low-income victims into a cycle of debt according to a union-sponsored report . Many of those affected were low-paid women saving small sums for Christmas who went into debt to buy the gifts they had been expecting to purchase with their Farepak savings . Over 122,000 people have lodged claims , and they have been told to expect just 5p in the pound for their claims, and that there will be no payout this year.

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies Director Richard Garside. said "Many Farepak customers are asking why, if the gover…

All at sea

"I want to create my own monument," the 60-year-old Italian entrepreneur says as he gazes across the sprawling ship building yard . Mr Vitelli has chosen a relatively modest yacht; a 103 feet long Azimut sports yacht, with a list price of 7 million euros ($10m or £5m). Modest, that is, compared with some of the other yachts sold by Azimut-Benetti Group. As one of the world's biggest players in the fast-growing market for hyper-luxurious motor-yachts, its multi-storey crafts can cost as much as $50m (£25m) and stretch from 24 metres to 85 metres in length.

Some of the world's wealthiest people will travel here to commission their own life monuments . In the year to September, the group built 800m-euros worth of yachts for the world's super-rich. And with an order book worth more than 1.5 billion euros, at a time when the global yacht market is growing steadily at some 10-15% per year.

In order to get the super-rich's attention, Azimut-Benetti's well-heele…

CHILD POVERTY

"The true hardships of the one in three children in Britain who live in poverty are exposed in a new report revealing that a quarter of the country's poorest households cannot afford to put a daily hot meal on the table for every family member. The ground-breaking report, Living WithHardship 24/7, which was published yesterday by the child poverty charity.
The Frank Buttle Trust, takes an in-depth look at the experiences of families surviving in low-income households, exposing details of their daily struggles that would not look out of place in a developing country. The study found that children as young as five were so keenly aware of their parents' financial difficulties that they gave back money to help support the household. The children surveyed were from 70 families across the country with an income of less than £11,000. Almost half of the parents interviewed said they could not afford basic toys or sports equipment for their children, and a third did not have enough…

SAVE THE CHILDREN. AGAIN AND AGAIN

Save the Children TV night has ended and some of the TV performers were being interviewed, “Did you enjoy your night on the TV?” “Yes I did and I’m looking forward to next year”.
Sadly, it’s true, Children in need is an annual event, it always will be for some while capitalism remains the way our lives are organised for us, it can be different, we organise ourselves and produce what we need. That requires a Socialist solution, one where we own the means of production and by that I don’t mean nationalisation.

Fitba' Madness

Patriotism - It is all hype .

It is Scotland against Italy for a place in Euro 2008 .
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service said all of its appliances would be flying Saltire and Lion Rampant flags on Friday and Saturday to show support for the team .

The Big Match will be worth £8 million (£1m more than the £7m the Edinburgh economy was boosted by Barcelona's pre-season match with Hearts this summer) to the Glasgow economy, economists have predicted.

The Tartan Army is also expected to gamble a record £10 million ( The previous record of £5m was held by Scotland's Euro 2000 play-off game with England at Hampden in 1999. )

Meanwhile, rock group Runrig, who are to perform three songs during half-time at Hampden, have officially launched their Loch Lomond single in aid of Children in Need.

Yup , Scotland still goes cap in hand for charities to alleviate poverty and for the rest of us it is not going to be much different from the Roman Empire and its bread and circuses .

And Italy arr…

A Fragmented Society

From the president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland.

"The expectations which have been placed on Scottish education are enormous in a society which has grave problems of obesity in young people and in the population at large, in which one in ten young people and one in four in the population will experience mental health issues.

"[A society] in which binge drinking in public and hazardous and harmful drinking in private are a growing concern. In which teenage pregnancy is among the highest in Europe, in which one in four young people can expect to experience family break-up.

"[A society] in which antisocial behaviour is a major issue in many communities and, in which, the gap between the most advantaged and most disadvantage members has never been greater, there are extraordinary demands on schools to fill the gaps in a fragmented society."

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country's biggest teaching union, said : "Scho…

Yuppie Blues

They were the generation with"loadsa money" .
But now the former 1980s yuppies are struggling to live within their means in middle age.
Almost half of the Young Urban Professionals of 20 years ago are finding it tough financially,
"Despite the champagne lifestyle and optimism of the time, our research reveals that many former high flyers have ended up no better off than the average mid-life family. They are just as worried about meeting the monthly bills, the cost of bringing up their kids and how they will fund their old age." - said the communications director at Liverpool Victoria friendly society



Market Madness

Capitalism is a system that if it doesn't make the profit , it doesn't get made .

Low prices led to sheep on hill farms being slaughtered because they could not be sold and faced a shortage of grazing with the onset of winter. Mr Picken of National Farmers Union Scotland said the difficulties facing livestock farmers could see grassland being ploughed up and left fallow.

But when it comes to making a buck , there is always an alternative .

Mr Picken said the UK was lagging behind other countries in the production of biofuels. "So there is a bit of room so to speak for growing energy crops."

Ineos Enterprises' proposal to build one of Europe's biggest bio-diesel plants in Grangemouth was given the go-ahead . And there are pending plans by DMF Biodiesel for a processing facility in Rosyth . And there will be another at Motherwell , partly financed the Scottish Parliment's Regional Selective Assistance .

So as elsewhere in the world , it is will now be a matte…

When helping can be a crime

Councillors in London are embroiled in a growing row over whether to ban the distribution of free food on public land, which could signal the end of soup runs for the capital's homeless.The idea – contained in the London Local Authorities Bill to be presented to Parliament in a fortnight – has been put forward by Westminster City Council, which claims the much-needed charitable services cause "public order issues". If the ban is approved, all those distributing free food to London's hungry will be breaking the law. The move would not include corporations wishing to promote their products by giving out free refreshments.

Luke Evans, a policy officer at Housing Justice, the charity which oversees soup runs in the capital said: "These people could be left on the streets to die. But, more than anything, it is a philosophical principle that you should be able to care for your fellow human beings. They are penalising people who are trying to help.There is a danger that…

More Migrant Misery

A report criticises the denial of rights to those dealt with by private firms on behalf of the Immigration Service.

The Border and Immigration Agency's Complaints Audit Committee's report, for 2006/07, says investigations into misconduct complaints have been "poor".

Only 8% of complainants were interviewed and 89% of investigations were "neither balanced nor thorough".

As a result, 83% of replies were "indefensible".

Some 71% of misconduct complaints were not completed within time targets.

In 95% of cases, those investigating the complaints had been from the companies under investigation.

Of those misconduct complaints received, 19% were over criminal behaviour - up from 12% in 2005/06.

The report says serious misconduct complaints remain a source of "grave concern to us because of the risks of injury or death, wrongful arrest and civil liability arising from the arrest, detention and removal of failed asylum seekers".

One asylum seeker, Apol…

CHINESE STATISTICS

One of the effects of the rapid expansion of Chinese capitalism is the pollution of the atmosphere and drinking water. This has led to these horrendous statistics.
"40% - Percentage by which birth defects among Chinese infants have risen since 2001, according to a government report, which linked the rise to environmental pollution. 460,000 - Number of Chinese who die prematurely every year from exposure to pollution and dirty water." (Time, 12 November) This expansion may be leading to the creation of more billionaires, but it is also producing more corpses. RD

Slave Labour

There is much ado about those described as illegal immigrants working in the security industry and an alleged cover-up by the minister of the numbers . Much less is mentioned about that type of work being one of the lower paid and less rewarding occupations which migrants seem to end up in .

Nor has there been too much media coverage of the comments by Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the T&G Union about the conditions that some migrant workers in the UK are forced to work under could be likened to "a modern form of slave labour" .
"...there are all too many employers taking advantage of the vulnerability of the newly arrived...a depressing pattern of workers who are promised the move in their countries of origin, sometimes with such serious deception in terms of what actually happens when they arrive here in Britain that it would in statutory terms of international law be classed as trafficking".
He describes :-
"The awful reality all too often is nat…

Pensions - Inadequate Beyond Question

The UK's state pension system has been named as the worst in the European Union for the second year running in a survey .

British pensioners receive a pension equivalent to just 17% of average earnings, the lowest level in Europe, and well below the average of 57%.

The "inadequacy" of the UK's state system is "beyond question".

The lowest earners in the UK achieved an income in retirement which approached the level provided by other countries. This is because they qualify for extra means-tested help from the government. However, when all the criteria were taken into account, the UK was placed fifth in a list

THIS IS COMMUNISM?

"The United States has more billionaires than any other country: 415 by the last count of Forbes magazine. No. 2 and closing fast? China. A year ago, there were 15 billionaires in China. Now, there are more than 100, according to the widely watched Hurun Report. Forbes has documented 66. ..As much as the bounty of billionaires is a source of pride, it is also a potential cause for concern in a nominally Communist country. Per capita income in China is less than $1,000 a year." (New York Times, 7 November)
China is a fast developing capitalist country and just like any other capitalist economy the gap between the rich and the poor is immense. RD

HOMELESS HEROES

"More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead. Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did. “We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counselling centre. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.” ... Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11 percent of the adult population, they make up 26 percent of the homeless on any given day, the National Alliance report calculated. …

Old and Cold

2.5 million of elderly people spend their winters in one room to reduce heating bills .

2 million older Britons wear outdoor clothes indoors.

2.2 million turned off their central heating .

1 million cut back on their food shopping, to save cash.

Preventable winter illnesses claim the lives of 25,000 senior citizens each year

Anna Pearson, spokeswoman for the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership, said:"The government is literally gambling with people's lives."

The Lords on the Gravy Train

Instead of claiming what they are entitled to , those law-makers and upholders of law and order in the House of Lords are on the fiddle with their expenses .

Peers are exploiting an expenses loophole to claim a tax-free annual income of up to £48,000, it was claimed today . Parliamentary rules mean members of the House of Lords can claim back up to £308 a day for travel, meals and accommodation while performing their duties and is not eligible for tax.

However, under the system they do not have to submit receipts to prove their outlay.
It was reported that nearly two thirds of peers are automatically claiming the maximum amount nearly every time they visit the Lords , viewing it as a right .

Some 259 of the 550 Lords who applied for "day subsistence" - a £78.50 payment for meals and taxis - claimed the maximum amount at least 95 per cent of the time.
272 0f the 406 peers who claim "overnight subsistence" for hotels - worth £159.50 a day -claimed the maximum at least 95 …

The Gravy Train

The highest-earning 300 bosses in the public sector saw their salaries increase by 12.8 per cent last year, raising their average to £237,564. Seventeen of the top bosses earned more than £500,000, according to the Taxpayer's Alliance second annual Public Sector Rich List.
The pay rises, more than three times the national average . The top 10 earn an average salary of £799,000 – more than 40 times the basic pay of a nurse or soldier.

Top of the league is Adam Crozier, chief executive of the Royal Mail. The only person on the list with a seven-figure salary. Strike-breaker Crozier has presided over the cancellation of the second mail delivery and an increase in the price of stamps. He saw his pay package swell by 21 per cent last year, taking his salary to £1,256,000. The report shows that it equates to earning £1,000 every 1 hour and 27 minutes and he had the gall and audacity to say that the ordinary postal worker was over-paid

PROMISES AND REALITY

Mrs Thatcher promised us a "property owning democracy", Mr Blair promised a new deal for the "socially excluded". Despite all the promises from all the different political leaders the end result is poverty and insecurity for the working class. "UK homeowners are already reeling from five interest rate rises since the summer of 2006, with many facing the threat of repossession in 2008. Borrowers coming off low fixed-rate mortgages now face an immediate increase costing hundreds of pounds a month. Repossessions are set to rise by 50 per cent next year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Thousands of borrowers have already been forced to paying their mortgages on their credit cards to avoid arrears, according to a recent report by Shelter, the housing charity." (Times, 6 November) RD

NO SEX PLEASE, WE'RE AMERICAN

The antics of the far-right religious fundamentalists in the USA never fail to amaze us. These groups are really upset with the Pentagon. Not about US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but something much more important than that. "A Pentagon decision to allow the sale of Playboy and Penthouse magazines on military bases has appalled US religious groups, which insist it is illegal. ...Pat Trueman, the head of the Alliance Defence Fund, said that he along with other family values groups was overseeing an e-mail campaign to two million Americans asking them to lobby their congressmen against the Pentagon decision." (Times, 6 November) RD

Off with their CAPs

Oh , the poor rich aristocrats are being picked upon again as they begin to lose their European Union farming subsidies .

The proposal, being drawn up by the European Commission, is the first attempt in years to tackle the scandal of giant agri-businesses and millionaire barley barons – as opposed to smallholders and family farmers – being the chief beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy. The plans, due to be submitted for consultation with EU member states on 20 November, will suggest that some of the largest payments to super-rich landowners and industrial farms could be reduced by as much as 45 per cent. Although the British Government officially supports reforms to CAP it is particularly wary of any proposals that target large holdings because the vast majority of farm subsidies in the UK go to big businesses and wealthy landowners. Analysts also warned that the Commission's proposals could be significantly watered down by the time member states actually come to vote …

Land Grabbers

A bit of local news from West Lothian Herald and Post 8th November .

Community councils are up in arms about the council policy of selling off common land to housing developers .

Land in Stoneyburn sold even though the previous Labour council denied it was up for sale . Stoneyburn Community Council secretary said "It was originally done without our knowledge "

Plans to sell land in Craigshill , Livingston and according to the Community Council secretary " It looks like they were trying to slip it through quietly "

Common land -West Lothian Council - Common Thieves

The Ills of Capitalism

Prescriptions issued in Scotland for anti-depressants have risen more than four-fold in less than 15 years, an NHS report has revealed. For every 1,000 people there were 85 daily doses of the drugs dispensed in 2006, compared with 19 doses in 1992.

Dr Kohli, a medical adviser for NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, said the rise was partly due to a new generation of drugs.
However Shona Neil, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said :-
"Social problems are a bigger factor in the increase than the new drugs - these figures show a huge cry for help from people from deprived backgrounds."
Depression affects about one in five people at some point in their lives.
An appropriate moment to promote a day-school in London at the SPGB Head Office
THE INSANITY OF CAPITALISM
Saturday 24 November from 1pm Living in a sick society Speaker: Brian Johnson (Disability Counsellor) Capitalism on the couch Speaker: Peter Rigg (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist) Whose messing wit…

THE UNTOUCHABLES

The plight of Guzar Ahmed seems almost idyllic when compared to the fate of the following Indian woman.
"Soon after she was married, at the age of 10, Usha Chaumar began collecting human excrement for a living - as her mother and her grandmother did before her. Every day for the next 20 years she gathered night soil from 20 houses without lavatories in the state of Rajasthan, carrying it in a pan on her head to the nearest dump. She was paid 200 rupees (£2) a month - the money usually dropped at her feet so that her hands did not touch her employers." (Times, 2 November)
Apparently there are estimated to be 500,000 Indian Untouchables who still earn a living this way. The Indian government have promised to eradicate open-air defecation by 2012, but as this is the same government who say that talk of children in sweat shops is exaggerated we wouldn't put too much store by such a claim. RD

SWEAT SHOP INDIA

Behind the amazing development of capitalism in India lies the harsh reality of child exploitation. "Delhi children's rights activists said that they had received 70 boys who were embroidering garments in small squalid factories in the Indian capital. The boys aged 8 to 14, were mostly the children of farmers in Bihar, India's poorest eastern state. They had been brought to Delhi to make saris worn by Indian women. Gulzar Ahmed, 12, said that he was paid 3,000 rupees (£36) a month for working up to 15 hours a day. The activists, from the Save the Children Mission, said that the children would be returned to their parents. The Indian Government has accused activists of exaggerating the problem of child labour." (Times, 2 November)
We imagine the prospect of one of the government's children working in a sweat shop at 12 years of age is so remote they are unconcerned about poor farmers' kids. RD

HIGHER PRICES AND HIGHER DEATH RATES

The plight of many old workers is illustrated in these sad statistics. "Organisations for the elderly in Scotland last night suggested that anxiety among older people about the cost of soaring fuel prices may be a key reason behind an extraordinary increase of around 1,000 in the number of winter deaths last year. Official figures released yesterday showed that the seasonal difference in terms of the number of deaths between winter and the periods immediately before and after the winter months was 2,750 more than the previous year." (Times, 1 November) RD

THE CLASS DIVIDE

Inside capitalism the rich get access to the best education, best of food and the best of health care, so it should come as no shock to learn that the poor do not live as long as the rich. It has become so obvious that even the daily press can report on it.
"There is no escaping the stark facts. Death knocks seven years sooner at the door of dustmen than dukes, of security guards sooner than solicitors. And new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that the gap is refusing to close. The rich get richer and the poor get sicker, sooner. "
(Times, 26 October) RD

Chinese in Antarctica

Further to this post on our companion blog Socialism Or Your Money Back , the BBC reports that China is building its third research station in Antarctica, shoring up its presence just weeks after the UK and Chile made renewed territorial claims. Argentina has also said it intends to present a claim to the UN.
Almost 200 construction workers are heading for the southern continent, the state-run Xinhua news agency says. They will build facilities including a space observatory, radar station and sewage discharge system.

Mineral mining is banned in Antarctica, but analysts say this is not stopping countries from jockeying for position. Competition for territorial and economic rights has heated up as melting polar ice caps have introduced the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed. Countries have until May 2009 to ask the United Nations to consider their right to the seabed.

It is expensive being rich

It seems, it is the rich who have it hard. Luxury goods are rising in price three times faster than their more mundane consumer counterparts.

Robby Hilkowitz, executive director of the Stonehage Group which helps the world's super-wealthy manage their incomes said ;-
"Global wealth is growing at an unprecedented rate and as it increases they want more luxury goods to meet their lifestyle needs. With status items, the more expensive they become the more desirable they become..."

There are some 800 US dollar billionaires in the world, a figure that rose by 15 per cent last year. They are among the class of ultra-high net worth individuals with a personal fortune in excess of £25m of net investable assets. The second tier covered by the survey, so-called high worth individuals with more than £5m to spare, grew by 20 per cent.

* School Fees (Up 6.8 per cent)
With a history dating back to the time of Pope Alexander III, Westminster offers one of the most desirable old school ties…

Fuel Poverty

Claire Telfer, of Save the Children said :-

"Another winter is fast approaching and far too many children are living in cold, damp homes. The consequences of living in fuel poverty are misery, discomfort, ill health and debt."

Some 600,000 households and 100,000 children in Scotland have been hit by rocketing fuel prices between 2003 and 2006 .

A household is said to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of of its income to maintain satisfactory heating, according to a UK government definition.

Public Discussion Meeting

...Defaulting US mortgages cause a British bank to crash...Global debt hits a 100 TRILLION dollars...
...Climate change will create widespread flooding , great loss of life , and mass migrations of peoples
....Land-grab for mineral wealth in the Arctic and Antarctica ....
...Oil prices soar as war fears rise on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
..Experts claim future wars will be fought over water...

The Socialist Party wants an end to the market system of buying and selling and of production solely for profit .
We'll be taking a look at the economics of capitalism and the environment – And asking , does it all add up ?

PUBLIC MEETING: FRIDAY 9TH NOVEMBER at 7-30PM
The Quaker Meeting House
Victoria Terrace ( above Victoria St )
Edinburgh

A short talk and then a general discussion will take place .
In the Chair : Alan Johnstone (Edinburgh Branch)
Speaker : Richard Donnelly (Glasgow Branch)

All Welcome Admission Free

Everybody is reading it

The Standard Online




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THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

It is a basic premise of the case for socialism that capitalism is a wasteful society. Just how wasteful it has become was illustrated by the following news item. "The U.S. government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell released the newly declassified figure Tuesday. In a statement, the DNI said there would be no additional disclosures of classified budget information beyond the overall spending figure because "such disclosures could harm national security." How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multibillion dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers and software. Much of the intelligence budget - about 70 percent - go…

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN

Much is made of the tremendous development of capitalism in India over the last few years, but there is a terrible price to be paid in human suffering. "Child workers some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant. Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. ... According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India's economy is dependent on children, the equivalent of 55 million youngsters under 14." (Observer, 28 October) RD

MORE TROUBLE AHEAD

Politicians like to paint a picture of working class bliss where everybody has an increasing standard of living, but the reality is somewhat different. "The number of repossessed homes looks set to soar next year to levels not seen since the 1990s house price crash, it was claimed today. At the same time, house prices will edge ahead by just 1% in 2008 and property sales will fall by 15%, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). The group expects the number of repossessions to rise by 50% during the year, rising from 30,000 this year to 45,000 in 2008. ...The number of people who are in arrears of at least three months is also set to increase, with 170,000 people expected to have problems keeping up with their mortgage repayments next year, compared with an estimated 145,000 this year." (Guardian, 2 November)
The bright words of politicians will appear somewhat tarnished to workers who lose their houses. RD

WALL STREET SHUFFLE

We are always being told that capitalism is a competitive system that rewards success and punishes failure, but what are we to make of the following? "Merril Lynch's directors may be weighing E.Stanley O'Neal's future, but one thing is already guaranteed: a payday of at least $159 million if he steps down. Mr. O’Neal, the company’s chairman and chief executive, is entitled to $30 million in retirement benefits as well as $129 million in stock and option holdings, according to an analysis by James F. Reda & Associates using yesterday’s share price of $66.09. That would be on top of the roughly $160 million he took home in his nearly five years on the job. Under Mr. O’Neal, Merrill moved aggressively into lucrative businesses like the packaging of subprime mortgages and other complex debt securities. ...But those big bets appeared to go bust this week. Merrill announced an $8.4 billion write-down, raising questions about whether Mr. O’Neal will keep his job. One th…

WAR IS GOOD - FOR SOME

When it comes to making money there is no such thing as nationalism, loyalty or principles. Take this example of swopping allies when it makes commercial sense
"For the past four years Tomislav Damnjanovic has played a crucial role in the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2003, he has delivered millions of rounds of ammunition, guns, grenades and mortars to the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, United Nations officials say, facts he does not dispute. His aircraft have even been used to shuttle supplies between American bases in Iraq, saving troops from having to make hazardous trips by land. But it was not always so. For Mr. Damnjanovic, the work has been an unexpected twist in a career dominated not by serving American interests, but by dodging law enforcement agencies, and by smuggling weapons to American opponents and countries under United Nations sanctions, like Libya, and to other parts of Africa." (New York Times, 7 October)
Mr Damnjanovic made mill…

THE HIGH COST OF DYING

When politicians are confronted with problems like disease and hunger they often respond that they would love to deal with those problems but they are far too expensive to deal with at present. No such concern prohibits them when it comes to wagering war. "The cost of the US’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with wider efforts in the “war against terror”, could reach $2,400bn (£1,175bn, €1,700) over the next decade, with interest payments representing more than a quarter of the total, the US Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday. The figures, presented to the House of Representatives budget committee by Peter Orszag, the CBO’s director, are based on an assumption that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will be reduced to a total of 75,000 by 2013 and stay at that level for a further four years." (FinancialTimes, 24 October) RD

CALIFORNIAN NIGHTMARE

The dreadful fires in California that led to death and destruction were well reported in the British press, but what was hardly covered was the plight of the immigrant workers. "Out of the burning brush, from behind canyon rocks, several immigrants bolted toward a group of fire-fighters, chased not by the border police but by the onrush of flames from one of the biggest wildfires this week. ... Immigrants from south of the border, many illegal, provide the backbone of menial labour in San Diego, picking fruit, cleaning hotel rooms, sweeping walks and mowing lawns. The wildfires, one of the biggest disasters to strike the county, exposed their often-invisible existence in ways that were sometimes deadly. The four bodies were found in a burned area in south-eastern San Diego County, a region known for intense illegal immigration. ...Terri Trujillo, who helps the immigrants, checked on those in the canyons, urging them to leave, too, when she left her house in Rancho Peñasquitos ahe…