Thursday, January 31, 2008


"Tax avoidance by the super-rich costs the British taxpayer £13bn a year - enough money to increase old-age pensions by 20 per cent. The first ever forensic study of Revenue figures to establish the true scale of tax avoidance by some of the wealthiest people in Britain will pile pressure on the government to prevent the tax burden falling disproportionately on ordinary working people." (Observer, 27 January) RD


"A record price has been set for a British vehicle registration number plate after a businessman paid £375,000 to buy F1. Afzal Kahn, 37, smashed the previous record of £331,000 paid 18 months ago for M1, to purchase the plate from the Essex County Council. The Bradford entrepreneur, who has built a £75 million fortune through Kahn Design, his specialist car design company, plans to display the plate on his £317,000 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar." (Times, 26 January) RD


"A restaurant in Britain's financial district has devised a 2,000-dollar-a-head menu for high-flyers to eat into their substantial bonuses, the Financial Times said Saturday. Vivat Bacchus has already taken at least half a dozen bookings for the 1,000-pound (1,347-euro, 1,980-dollar) meal since it began taking reservations on Friday, the business daily said. "Many of them work in the City and often ask for something unique during bonus season," co-owner Neleen Strauss was quoted as saying, adding that some people were unconcerned despite fears for the state of the world economy. "I have found over the years when bad news begins to circulate around the stock market, our City customers never fully lose their appetites," she said. The menu includes royal Seruga caviar, fresh Bahama rock lobster linguini, grilled Wagyu fillet steak, a 15-variety cheese board and chocolate souffle with clotted cream. Each course is washed down with its own glass of wine, including Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau D'Yquem, although diners can upgrade their vintages at extra cost." (Yahoo News, 26 January) RD

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Child-care Blues

Childcare costs are rising above the rate of inflation, with parents paying more than £8,000 a year, a charity report suggests.

The Daycare Trust says costs nationally rose 5% last year. Inflation is 2.1%. The average cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under the age of two in England was £159 per week. It also said that the cost of childcare in out-of-school clubs had risen by six times more than the rate of inflation to an average of £43 a week.

The trust said that Britons paid more for childcare than elsewhere in Europe, and many did not claim tax credits and vouchers, which can lower costs.

"Claiming tax credits - which can cover up to 80% of childcare costs - and vouchers from your employer can cut the cost of childcare considerably." said Daycare Trust joint chief executive "But even so, parents in the UK are still paying a bigger share - around 70% on average - of this spiralling cost than their neighbours in Europe, where the average is nearer 30%."

Mortgage Blues

AROUND 123 homes will be repossessed every day during 2008 as people struggle to keep up with their mortgage repayments, research claimed today.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said just under 45,000 people would lose their home during the year as the cost of servicing a mortgage remains close to record levels .

The figure is in line with estimates from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which also expects 45,000 homes to be taken over by lenders, while City watchdog the Financial Services Authority said that 840,000 mortgages were a "cause for concern" due to their riskier lending characteristics.

It said a first-time buyer couple who were both on the bottom 25 per cent of earnings, bringing in £26,595 a year after tax, would now have to save the equivalent of 104 per cent of their joint annual take-home pay, or £27,729, in order to afford the deposit, fees and stamp duty for a typical home.


David Hind, editorial director of The Bodley Head publishing, in a talk he gave at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers & Commerce."Attacking astrology, New Ageism and religious fundamentalism is fun and profitable. The trouble starts when it distracts us from far more serious threats to reason...First let us look at the corporations. They pose as the trustworthy guardians of science, yet when they deem it necessary they will manipulate research to ensure the results fit their marketing needs. They even suppress research results outright, with sometimes lethal consequences. These are not accidental and occasional failings: maximising profits is what corporations are for....The pose of trustworthiness, for all its demonstrable falsity. Reaps them vast rewards, in the form of direct and indirect subsidies from the taxpayer. In the UK, for example, under a formula agreed by government and business at the end of 2004, 28 per cent of the money spent on branded drugs is earmarked to support R&D, a subsidy worth more than £2 billion every year. The largest part of this money is spent looking for ways to transform diseases of affluence and lifestyle disorders into chronic, and therefore revenue-generating conditions..." (New Scientist, 19 January) RD


"As a Saudi soldier with a gold sword high-stepped in front of him, President Bush walked slowly beside King Abdullah through the shivery grey mist enveloping the kingdom, following the red carpet leading from Air Force One to the airport terminal. When the two stepped onto the escalator, the president tenderly reached for the king’s hand, in case the older man needed help. He certainly does need help, but not the kind he is prepared to accept. ...Blessed is the peacemaker who comes bearing a $30 billion package of military aid for Israel and a $20 billion package of Humvees and guided bombs for the Arabs." (New York Times, 16 January) RD


"The Swiss company Caran d'Ache pays homage to watch making with a new limited-edition fountain pen. Known as the 1010—for the time at which a clock face is considered balanced, and which almost all watch ads display—the pen's body resembles watch gears and the clip a watch hand. Five-hundred silver-plated, rhodium-coated instruments will be sold for $19,000 apiece, and ten 18-karat-gold models will retail for $174,000. It's a sure way to add value to one's signature." (Newsweek, 28 January) RD

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


"Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future: Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items — and, by extension, consumers — wherever they go, from a distance. A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them. In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets — all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives." (Yahoo News, 26 January) RD


Inside capitalism everything has a price even your organs as this news report from New Delhi shows. "As many as 500 poor labourers may have been tricked into operations by a gang of organ traders selling kidneys in a wealthy suburb of the Indian capital, according to a report Friday. Police in Gurgaon, home to call centres and high-rise buildings, raided a house late Thursday on a tip-off from a middleman who was arrested earlier this week, the Indian Express daily reported. Two people, including a doctor, were arrested while three others who had recently been operated on were taken to hospital, the report said. Two men who were yet to be operated on were also rescued. Gurgaon police commissioner Mohinder Lal told the paper that the labourers were paid between 50,000 (1,250 dollars) and 75,000 rupees for a kidney. The kidneys were later sold by doctors for between 800,000 and one million rupees, Lal said, citing information from those arrested Thursday. (Yahoo News, 25 January) RD

Monday, January 28, 2008

1957 and 2006 - Are we better off ?

What difference does 50 years make for the working class . Are we all better off . Well , it certainly appears that way . UK household income has doubled in real terms over the last fifty years. And the pattern of family spending has also changed dramatically. Basic necessities including food accounting for a smaller proportion of our family budget, while spending is up on leisure activities, travel and motoring. Income going to housing makes up a greater share.

In 1957, spending on food, fuel and rent , the basic three items , made up nearly half of all household expenditure. Taken together with clothing and travel, basics made up nearly two-thirds of family spending. The main luxuries for the ordinary family were tobacco and alcohol, which combined made up just under 10% of spending. The biggest other luxury item was meals eaten out making up 3% of spending. Four of the top ten spending items were food or drink, with spending on meat, fruit, vegetables and beer all in the top twenty.
Overall, the average family spent a total of £14.30 per week in 1957, out of a gross income of £16. In today's money, spending was £243 per week.

In 2006 the average household spent £456 out of a gross income of £642 before taxes.

In five decades, spending on most basics has declined sharply, with food making up only half as much of the average household budget as it did in 1957. And half of that food budget now consists of meals and takeaways - a new category introduced in the l970s.

But the cost of housing, including mortgage interest payments or rent, has more than doubled since 1957. Mortgage interest payments or rent accounted for 19% of spending in 2006, up from 9% in 1957Using a slightly broader measure of housing costs, which includes council tax, insurance and home improvements, UK households spent an average of £143 a week on housing-related costs in 2006 - or 22%.

Motoring and travel costs have doubled from 8% of spending in 1957 to 16% in 2006, mostly because of rising car ownership .

There are big social divisions in the ownership of some popular consumer goods, and the greater affluence is at least partly a result of more families having two incomes - both parents going out to work .

And But there are big differences in consumption between rich and poor.
Nearly every household in the richest tenth of the population had a computer and an internet connection. In contrast, among the poorest tenth, only 31% have computers and 21% have an internet connection. And 56% of that group have mobile phones, compared to 92% of the richest tenth. The pattern of car ownership also varies sharply by income, with less than a third of the poorest tenth of households owning a car, compared to 94% of the richest tenth of families.

Nor are we happier it is claimed .

According to economist Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, once people can afford the basics, happiness does not increase with income when comparing happiness among rich and poor countries. And looking at surveys of happiness over time, he says levels of happiness have not changed across either the UK - or US - in the last 30 years, despite the doubling of living standards in both. Moreover, the availability of new goods can just make people more jealous of what they are unable to afford, especially for the less well-off.

Other studies show that what we have lost in the last 50 years is time. Strikingly, most families now talk more in the car than at home.

Paradoxically , while we spend more on leisure goods than half a century ago, we have less time to enjoy our free time - increasing numbers of households need two earners as earlier said and working hours have increased even if there has been an official reduction , since doing overtime has climbed .

Blair - quids in

My , isn't he going to be busy man for business . First he has a job with J P Morgan Chase Bank as reported here , although the fee turned out to be 5 times what we believed at the time - $5 million a year . Now Zurich Financial Services AG, Switzerland's biggest insurer have said former Tony Blair has agreed to advise the company on international politics according to .
Blair will specifically help the insurer with its climate initiative, the Zurich-based insurer said today in a statement. He will also advise Chief Executive Officer James Schiro on general political trends and developments. No word on the filthy lucre yet though, but it's rumoured to be another half million or so .


"Although the election has become all about "change", precious little of that commodity can be found in this corner of the Old South. This is where the Confederate battle flag from the Civil War still flutters outside the state capital in Columbia, next to a large statue of Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman, a former Governor who justified and even participated in lynching." (Times, 25 January) RD


Daniel Everett once was a missionary in Brazil dealing with so-called primitive tribes, but his experience of the Piraha people made him give up that calling to become a linguist. When asked how he had changed his views he replied: "They lived so well without religion and they were so happy. Also they did not believe what I was saying because I did not have any evidence for it, and that made me think. They would try so hard to understand what I was saying, but it was utterly irrelevant to them. I began to think: what am I doing here, giving them these 2000-year old concepts when everything of value I can think of to communicate to them they already have?" (New Scientist, 19 January) RD


There are many examples of how capitalist society favours property rather than human life, but this is just about the craziest example we have come across recently.
"A Spanish driver who collided with a cyclist is suing the dead youth's family $29,300 for the damage the impact of his body did to his luxury car, a Spanish newspaper reported on Friday. Businessman Tomas Delgado says 17-year-old Enaitz Iriondo caused $20,500 of damage to his Audi A8 in the fatal 2004 crash in La Rioja region, El Pais newspaper reported. Delgado, who has faced no criminal charges for the incident, wants a further 6,000 euros to cover the cost of hiring another vehicle while his car was being repaired, El Pais said."
(Yahoo News, 25 January) RD

Sunday, January 27, 2008


The biggest division in China today is between the rich and the poor. The advances of Chinese capitalism have left the working class well behind. "Despite its growing wealth, China still has a large number of poor people struggling with dramatic increases in the price of daily essentials such as pork, which jumped by 50%. Inflation hit an 11-year year high in November. Thursday's figures show that it fell back in December, although at 6.5% it remains a worry. The government has introduced a range of price controls recently aimed at bringing the cost of ordinary goods, particularly food, under control. Dramatic price rises have led to social unrest in the past and Beijing cannot afford for its millions of poor to go hungry." (BBC News, 24 January) RD


We are often told that capitalism is a very sophisticated system and that only bankers, investors and stockbrokers can be trusted to deal with its complexities, but recent events suggest otherwise. "French bank Societe Generale says it has uncovered "massive" fraud by a Paris-based trader which resulted in a loss of 4.9bn euros ($7.1bn; £3.7bn). The bank said the fraud was based on simple transactions, but concealed by "sophisticated and varied techniques". It also announced fresh losses of 2.05bn euros related to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US. The losses are four times greater than those made by Nick Leeson, the rogue trader who brought down Barings Bank. Leeson was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail. ... Richard Fuld, the chairman of Lehman Brothers, told BBC News in Davos that "nothing stuns me; nothing really surprises me these days." (BBC News, 24 January)
It seems that even these so-called masters of the universe haven't a clue about the slumps and booms of capitalism. RD


The old saying "hard work never killed anyone", like most old sayings, turns out be nonsense."Work really can kill you, according to a study on Wednesday providing the strongest evidence yet of how on-the-job stress raises the risk of heart disease by disrupting the body's internal systems. The findings from a long-running study involving more than 10,000 British civil servants also suggest stress-induced biological changes may play a more direct role than previously thought, said Tarani Chandola, an epidemiologist at University College London. "This is the first large-scale population study looking at the effects of stress measured from everyday working life on heart disease," said Chandola, who led the study. "One of the problems is people have been skeptical whether work stress really affects a person biologically." (Yahoo News, 22 January) RD


From a very early age members of the working class are taught to respect authority and look up to "our betters". One of those would undoubtedly be Boris Johnson. His birth, education, wealth and social standing would certainly qualify him for that position. The following news item shows that notwithstanding birth, wealth and social standing he is still a bit of an idiot. "Boris Johnson has apologised for referring to black people as "piccaninnies" and talking about "watermelon smiles". During a debate for the London mayoral contest on Monday, the Conservative candidate said he was "sad" that people had been offended but insisted the words had been taken out of context." (Guardian, 23 January) RD


The desperate lives of many workers are haunted by debt and poverty. Just how widespread this misery has spread can be seen by this item.
"The scale of Britain's credit dependency is revealed today by a study that shows more than five million people are spending more than they earn every month. The research into the scale of the ''buy now pay later" culture has found spending on eating out, leisure and holidays has soared above inflation and income in the past decade. Millions of people are increasingly using credit to fund their lifestyle and loan repayments have risen at twice the level of income since 1997 as people try to emulate the profligate behaviour of high-spending celebrities." (Daily Telegraph, 22 January) RD


Governments are always boasting what an efficient social system capitalism is. They also claim how well they run the system, but such a claim seems somewhat hollow.
"Benefit fraud has fallen from £2 billion to £800 million a year since 2000, but the Government is spending more money identifying overpayments than the amount being tracked down, an official report has shown. More than £154 million was spent in the last financial year to identify £106 million worth of overpayments due to fraud, said the National Audit Office (NAO). An MP said the track record of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in recovering money lost to fraud was "frankly embarrassing".(Guardian, 23 January) RD

Global Warming and Capitalism

We are not at all surprised . We have been saying it all along .

The Independent On Sunday carries an article on a report that global warming ranks far down the concerns of the world's biggest companies . Nearly nine in 10 of them do not rate it as a priority . The report's publishers believe that big business will concentrate even less on climate change as the world economy deteriorates.Nearly twice as many see climate change as imposing costs on their business as those who believe it presents an opportunity to make money.

The survey found that only 5 per cent of the companies questioned – and not one in China – regarded global warming as their top priority. And only 11 per cent put it in second or third place. Overall it ranked eighth in business leaders' concerns, below increasing sales, reducing costs, developing new products and services, competing for talented staff, securing growth in emerging markets, innovation and technology. Although most are taking limited action to reduce their own emissions, almost one in five had done nothing.

What we of the world socialist movement said was "We can only 'cure the planet' by establishing a society without private productive property or profit where humans will be freed from the uncontrollable economic laws of the pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital."

Saturday, January 26, 2008


"A chasm still separates the black people of South Carolina, from what Rev Jackson calls their white "brothers and sisters". It is a deep division, as was apparent after a short parade from the porch of Rev Jackson's church to the domed statehouse, where the marchers congregated in the shadow of the South's most defiant symbol of white supremacy, the battle flag of the Confederacy. Across the street from where the marchers were honouring the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr, a small group of white secessionists jeered. They spoke of keeping alive the memory of the "lost cause", a euphemism for racial domination. Uniformed police and secret service agents mingled with the crowd, watchful for trouble." (Independent, 22 January) RD


The recent study of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that showed 0.1 per cent of the UK population has an income of £780,000 per annum looks decided modest when compared with the US figures. " ... the IFS's findings will be cited alongside the work of Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the US academics who have highlighted how wealth is held in ever fewer hands. Their study, published last year, showed that the most affluent Americans are better off than at any time since the 1920s. The top 10 per cent now account for 48.5 per cent of income, and the top 1 per cent for 21.8 per cent of income." (Times, 18 January) RD


Despite its nonsensical claims to be communist the growth of Chinese capitalism is explosive and inevitably has lead to gigantic differences of wealth. "Growth in China has been spectacular but it has also been unbalanced and has created staggering inequality; the US magazine Forbes identified 66 billionaires on its China rich list last year, their coffers swelled by soaring share prices on the Shanghai exchange. Neither Donald Trump nor Steven Spielberg is rich enough to make it into a table of the top wealthiest Chinese, but most people are still desperately poor, and the Beijing government is worried that rampant food price inflation will lead to serious unrest." (Observer, 20 January) RD

Friday, January 25, 2008


David Attenborough in an interview said: "Every society that's ever existed has felt it necessary to have creation myths. Why should I believe one? People write to me and say: `You show us birds and orchids and wonderful, beautiful things - don't you feel you should give credit to He who created those things?` My reply says: what about a parasitic worm that's boring through the eye of a four-year-old child on the bank of an African river? It confuses me that I should believe in a god who cares individually for each and every one of us and could allow that to happen" (Observer Magazine, 20 January) RD


Many workers as they struggle to pay their mortgage are concerned about the so-called credit squeeze, but it does not affect members of the owning class as can be seen from the following.
"A palatial home complete with a Turkish bath for 20 people has been sold for £50 million, breaking the record for the most expensive new-build house in Britain, which was recently set by a nearby property. Toprak Mansion in north London boasts seven bedrooms, four kitchens and an 80ft dining room containing a 40ft table. It also has a green copper roof, Grecian-style pillars, a grand double staircase, a glass lift, a swimming pool with a glass bridge and a two-acre garden. The new owner, who has not been identified, is reported to be planning to spend £30 million on a makeover by an Italian designer to create a beauty salon, spa, helipad, cinema and squash court. ...The mansion was built on The Bishops Avenue, a street full of palatial homes that was once known as Millionaires' Row, but is now referred to as Billionaires' Row. The price tag trumps that paid for Palladio, a mansion in a nearby street that was bought last year by Lev Leviev, the Israeli billionaire, for £35 million."
(Daily Telegraph, 21 January) RD


"In a detailed study of the very rich, the Institute for Fiscal Studies uses data from the HM Revenue and Customs to show that the top 1 per cent of adults - comprising a group of 47,000 people - earn an average of £222,000 a year; while the top 0.1 per cent make a pre-tax income of, on average, £780,000 compared with the average across all taxpayers of £25,000." (Observer, 20 January) No worries here about minimum wage legislation or foreclosed mortgages we imagine. RD

What price a life ?

A cancer patient who was forced to pay out £3,400 per fortnight for the life-saving drug cetuximab has won his battle for funding , having previously been refused the treatment on the NHS , according to the BBC .

Originally ,the Scottish Medicines Consortium said it was not cost-effective because it could only prolong life, not cure him.

Preserving life for as long as possible should be the responsibility of the NHS , the patient is quoted as saying .

Maybe so , but under capitalism , there is always a price tag and a value placed upon a person's life . Not everyone is as fortunate as this patient was .

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Over fifty years ago a popular song of the day was Baby, Its Cold Outside. Today for many workers that song would have to be changed to Baby, Its Cold in Here.
"One in six British households is living in fuel poverty, the highest for almost a decade, according to new figures that threaten the government's target to eradicate the problem in England by the end of the decade. Fuel poverty is defined as when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills. The consumer group Energywatch said yesterday there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone." (Observer, 20 January)
Needless to say this "progress" only hurts the poor, the old and the incapacitated; yes only the working class suffer. RD


"New research on mice shows the brain processes aggressive behaviour as it does other rewards. .. The mouse brain is thought to be analogous to the human brain in this study, which could shed light on our fascination with brutal sports as well as our own penchant for the classic bar brawl. .... Scientists have known that mice and other animals are drawn to fights. Until now, they didn't know how the brain was involved. The new study, detailed online this week in the journal Psychopharmacology, reveals the same clusters of brain cells involved in other rewards are also behind the craving for violence. "Aggression occurs among virtually all vertebrates and is necessary to get and keep important resources such as mates, territory and food," said study team member Craig Kennedy, professor of special education and paediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. "We have found that the reward pathway in the brain becomes engaged in response to an aggressive event and that dopamine is involved." (Yahoo News, 17 January)
Many American apologists for the violence of capitalism have claimed that it is innate in human beings but this is the first time we have heard it blamed on mice. There has been a lot of lynching historically in Tennessee but we have never heard of white mice hanging black mice. The so-called science of "special education and paediatrics" as practiced at Vanderbilt University is to say the least suspect. RD


"The residence of France's ambassador to Ireland is up for sale with a 60 million euro (45 million pound) price tag that would make it the most expensive home ever sold in the Irish Republic. "It's so big I have to call my wife on her mobile phone if I want to talk to her," Ambassador Yvon Roe D'Albert, who is downsizing to a more modest property, told The Irish Times. The 1,065 square metre (11,450 square foot) house sits on 1.75 acres (0.72 hectares) in Dublin's leafy embassy belt of Ballsbridge and has 10 bedrooms, including one used by former French President Charles de Gaulle. "A residence of such magnitude so close to the centre of Dublin has rarely been offered, if ever, to the market," boasts a sales brochure which also describes it as "possibly one of the finest city homes in Europe".(Yahoo News, 18 January)
We imagine that neither the working class of Paris or Dublin will be making a bid! RD

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Over twenty years ago during the miners' strike the role of the police was questioned by the strikers. There were reports of the police jeering at the miners and holding up bundles of fivers of overtime money and shouting "keep up the strike, we're making a fortune". Now the police find themselves in the position of having to accept a less than generous wage settlement. They are not permitted to strike but they intend to demonstrate their grievances. "Up to 15,000 officers from all 43 forces in England and Wales will march through central London in the biggest police protest for more than a decade. ... Today's protest is the first time that police have marched to demonstrate their anger over a pay deal or unhappiness with a Government reform programme." (Times, 23 January)
Somewhat belatedly some members of the police force may now recognise that they are members of the working class, just like the miners. RD


"British Gas, the UK's biggest power provider, is to raise the amount it charges for gas and electricity by 15%. The announcement followed increases from rivals Npower and EDF Energy, with the firms blaming high wholesale costs. British Gas, owned by Windsor-based Centrica, said that it would make a loss this year without the price rise. Consumer groups and the Unite trade union have criticised the move, saying it would make life harder for firms, the elderly and those on low incomes. Before the British Gas move, Npower raised its electricity prices by 12.7% and gas by 17.2% earlier this month. EDF Energy also put up its electricity tariffs by 7.9% and gas bills by 12.9% this week." (BBC News, 18 January)
But why all the panic? After all we have a caring, sharing Labour government and they will immediately raise the pensions for the elderly and the dole for the unemployed by 15% wont they? What do you mean capitalism doesn't work that way? RD


The Labour Party promised to bring about a more equitable society, but despite these promises the exact opposite has occurred.
"The very rich have grown richer at double the pace of most Britons under Labour and their incomes may have accelerated further in recent years on the back of a rising stock market, research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows. Using the most detailed analysis of tax return records to date, the think-tank showed that, in every 1,000 adults, the income of the very richest person rose on average by 4 per cent above inflation every year between 1996-97 and 2004-05. That compared with growth of about 2 per cent for those on middle incomes." (Financial Times, 17 January) RD


"Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Iran to abolish the "grotesque and horrific" practice of stoning people to death. Amnesty, which opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, said an Iranian man had been stoned to death in July last year for committing adultery, despite a moratorium being imposed on such executions in 2002. The woman he was convicted of committing adultery with still faces the threat of being stoned, a practice that involves the woman being buried up to her breasts in sand and then pelted with stones until she dies. "Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian government to abolish immediately and totally execution by stoning and to impose a moratorium on the death penalty," the rights group said in a 30-page report on the practice. "Iranian law prescribes that the stones are deliberately chosen to be large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately ... It is a particularly grotesque and horrific practice." (Yahoo News, 14 January)
It is difficult to quarrel with Amnesty's indignation, but the "grotesque and horrific" practice of starving people in a society capable of producing an abundance and millions of children dying for lack of clean water also seems "grotesque and horrific" to socialists. RD

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


We are all victims of the allure of holidays by the sea. There is nowhere stronger in its allure than the Mediterranean, but recent reports seem to make that place a little less attractive. "The pristine white beach that stretches for miles here is one of Albania's most popular holiday destinations. But the water is a toxic brew, contaminated with untreated sewage and industrial pollutants. Durres's pollution is among the region's worst, labelled in 2006 by the European Union as a hot spot. But across the Mediterranean, millions of tons of pollution and waste are emptied into the sea each year, according to the United Nations. Some comes from factories or the runoff from agriculture. But untreated sewage is also a major cause. More than half the sewage from Mediterranean coastal development seeps into the sea untreated. Although that percentage is lower than in some other parts of the world – in Latin America, 80 percent of sewage is untreated – the problem is particularly acute in the Mediterranean, whose closed geography means that it takes 100 years to renew its waters."
(Yahoo News, 15 January) Capitalism buggers up everything, even our fortnight "away from it all". RD


"Five thousand children die every day globally because they do not have access to clean toilets, health experts said on Tuesday. Wealthy governments and donors could make a huge impact on global health by making sanitation a priority, representatives from a coalition of 60 health groups said. They estimated that 40 percent of the world's people do not have access to clean and safe toilets."It is about generating political will, and we also want to see is a real mobilization around sanitation in the aid system," said Henry Northover of Water Aid, which founded the coalition End Water Poverty. "We want to see the G8 (group of industrialized nations) prioritize it this year." This would also go a long way toward meeting global targets aimed at sharply reducing world poverty by 2015, the experts said. Water Aid says 1.8 million children are dying each year before their fifth birthday from diarrhoea." (Yahoo News, 15 January) We've said it before, we will say it again - capitalism is a shitty society. RD

In Debted to Capitalism

Researchers have found that, by the age of 50 years and 90 days, the typical adult will shake off the shackles of debt. In Scotland, debt-free status comes at an average age of 49 years and six months . To pay off their debts, people use a mixture of salary, inheritance, windfalls and profits from investments.

Until then, the average Briton is in debt to the tune of £10,306. Men are deeper in the red, with debts totalling £12,631, while the average woman owes £7,982, excluding any mortgage.

"There are a lot of people in a cycle of debt. They're paying for credit over ten to 15 years, which means they may not pay it off until their retirement." Stuart Glendinning, the managing director of said .

A spokesman for Your Money Matters said: "As the cost of living continues to rise, we're being forced to save through our twenties and delay the major milestones of life until our thirties. On top of that, the average cost of a house is now well over £200,000 so we're not even getting on the housing ladder until 34. All of this and the average UK salary is just £25,986 for men and £20,488 for women, so it's no surprise that the majority of us are hitting our fifties before shaking off the shackles of debt."

Monday, January 21, 2008


Away back in 1906 when the British Labour Party was formed they made great play of their morality and principles. So they spoke in an almost biblical fashion about ethics. Today however we live in different circumstances and the Labour prime minister has to deal with the real world of capitalism. He represents the British capitalist class and must represent their interests. So while it true that dictatorship and the suppression of democracy may not be very ethical when he visits China he has to remember who are his paymasters.
"He said trade was not "one way" - while Britain would import more goods, it would export its financial services. He and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao have agreed to boost trade by 50% by 2010 and he predicted "tens of thousands" of British jobs would be created. ... Speaking to reporters after talks in Beijing, the two leaders confirmed they had agreed a joint target of increasing two-way trade to $60bn (£30bn) over the next two years." (BBC News, 18 January) And not a word about democracy or free speech we imagine. RD


It used to be said that horse racing was The Sport of Kings now it seems that football is the sport of millionaires. After a series of takeover bids in the premier league, football has moved from the sports page to the financial page. "Manchester United intends to carve out new global sponsorship deals as it seeks to capitalise on a fan base it estimates at 33m, according to David Gill, its chief executive. Announcing a record pre-tax profit of £59.6m for the year to June 30, up from £30.8m the previous year, Mr Gill said future growth would accrue from the first year of the new Premier League TV deal and commercial ventures." (Financial Times, 11 January)
So while United and City football fans might argue in the pub about the merits or demerits of this or that striker's abilities, the real business of football is raking in the loot from sponsorship deals. Capitalism sees everything from a profit angle RD

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Inside capitalism men and women of the working class have to please the owners. They must be good timekeepers, hard workers and extremely obedient, but now it seems this is no longer enough - we must smile while we are being exploited. "Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker's productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. ... The system would allow managers to monitor employees' performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure." (Times, 16 January) "
There will be no frowning in this office, Smith. Smile, damn you. Smile". RD


The columnist Richard Morrison in an article mocking the ridiculous prices paid for modern art, refers to Don Thompson's book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark and brings to notice the obscene wealth enjoyed by a handful of billionaires. Remember we are dealing with the social system of capitalism where millions exist on a $1 a day. "He looks at the buyers for "trophy" art; billionaires such as the American asset manager Steve Cohen, who bought the shark with what, for him, was loose change (it would have taken him five days, Thompson estimates, to have earned the $12 million price tag). (Times, 16 January)
Overlooking the term "earned", we are talking about someone whose income is over 2 million times that of another. Doesn't capitalism make you sick? RD


The dreadful censorship of the so-called communist party in China and the mind-numbing restrictions of Moslem leaders in the Middle East are often attacked in the Western media but what is not so generally known is the censorship enacted by Christian churches in the so-called free West. "Slovakia's broadcasting regulator Tuesday slapped a two-million-koruna (60,000 euros, 88,400 dollars) fine on a private TV company for mocking the Vatican, a report said. The broadcasting council said a programme screened by commercial station Joj's last year, which mocked Vatican instructions on applying the concept of Christian love to driving, abused viewers' religious sensibilities and was not objective, the CTK agency reported. Priests were "not the best experts" to give guidance on driving since the Vatican possessed "only two kilometres of highway and the last traffic accident was more than half a year ago," the programme mocked." (Yahoo News, 8 January) RD

Saturday, January 19, 2008


One of the craziest aspects of capitalism is its "everything has a price" mentality. Thus an industrial court decides how much the loss of a limb or of an eye is worth in pounds and shillings. Even the loss of a partner in a divorce case is evaluated in money. This news item shows that in Kenya there is even a price put on a murder.
"The price for burning down a home: 500 shillings, or about $8. Double that to have someone hacked to death. The price list comes from a leading Kenyan human rights group that says some of the worst violence in the country's deadly disputed presidential election is the work of militias paid and directed by politicians. The government of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition have traded blame for the killing and arson that followed Kibaki's victory in the Dec. 27 election that international observers say was followed by a rigged count. Some of the attacks took on an ugly ethnic twist, with other tribes turning on Kibaki's Kikuyu people. But the respected and independent Kenyan Human Rights Commission says there is more to it, and that it appears to involve politicians from both sides." (Yahoo News, 12 January) RD


The vast amounts of wealth spent on weapons is staggering as this recent news item illustrates.
"The United States has agreed in principle to provide Israel with better "smart bombs" than those it plans to sell Saudi Arabia under a regional defence package, senior Israeli security sources said on Sunday. Keen to bolster Middle East allies against an ascendant Iran, the Bush administration last year proposed supplying Gulf Arab states with some $20 billion in new weapons, including Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb kits for the Saudis. The plan has angered Israel's backers in Washington, who say the JDAMs, which give satellite guidance for bombs, may one day be used against the Jewish state or at least blunt its power to deter potential foes. Israel has had JDAMs since 1990 and has used them extensively in a 2006 offensive in Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government dropped its objections to the proposed Saudi deal in July after securing U.S. military aid grants worth $30 billion over the next decade." (Yahoo News, 13 January)
The bombs may indeed be "smart" but those supporting such a system are very foolish indeed! RD

Friday, January 18, 2008


"Near what remains of the first sugar factory in Brazil, built in 1877 with a sign in Latin over the entrance that translates as “Sweet is the Reward of Work,” Danuza Gomes da Silva swings a glinting knife as she makes her way down the length of a field cutting cane. She bends to slice the sticks of young cane dropped by other workers from the top of a truck. Again and again she straightens. A band of 12 labourers like her plants about 10 acres a day. Sugar cane buds easily from the ploughed furrows, and it grows fast. But the work associated with it is hard. Danuza, round-faced and soft-eyed, makes between $8 and $13 a day depending on her productivity. At 35, she has four young children. Only 20 percent of the 7.5 million acres planted with sugar cane in Brazil is mechanized. The rest depends on manual labour like hers. ....Machines that plant and harvest are slowly spreading across the expanse of Brazilian cane fields. But Danuza’s harsh existence is a reminder that behind the global buzz over Brazil’s cane-based ethanol production — the 21st century’s environment-friendly bio fuel par excellence — lurk enduring social problems. Ethanol, renewable and relatively clean, is lovely. The life of the migrant Brazilian rural worker, finite and hot, is not." (New York Times, 10 January)
Every advance that capitalism makes it does so out of the exploitation of workers like Danuza. RD


6,000 illegal immigrants from Africa to the Canary Isles died or went missing attempting to get work in Europe. Many European governments decry this illegal operation but they are partly to blame for this trade.
"Ale Nodye, the son and grandson of fishermen in this northern Senegalese village, said that for the past six years he netted barely enough fish to buy fuel for his boat. So he jumped at the chance for a new beginning. He volunteered to captain a wooden canoe full of 87 Africans to the Canary Islands in the hopes of making their way illegally to Europe. The 2006 voyage ended badly. He and his passengers were arrested and deported. His cousin died on a similar mission not long afterward. Nonetheless, Mr. Nodye, 27, said he intended to try again. “I could be a fisherman there,” he said. “Life is better there. There are no fish in the sea here anymore.” Many scientists agree. A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing. That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled." (New York Times, 14 January) RD

The Gap Widens ( 4 )

And From the BBC

The rapidly rising incomes of the richest 10% of the population are the major factor contributing to growing inequality in Britain.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an independent think tank, the incomes of the top 10% have risen faster than those of the population as a whole since Labour came to power in 1997. And that increase has been particularly concentrated at the very top of the income distribution - among the half million individuals in the top 1% of the income scale.
Between the 1996-97 tax year and 2004-05, the income of the richest 1% grew at an annual rate of 3.1%, compared to 2.3% for the population as a whole, and the income of the top 0.1% grew by 4.4%. The stock market boom has boosted the income of the rich
The growth was particularly strong in the Labour's first term, where the income of the super-rich grew by 8% per year. The IFS suggests that the rising stock market between 2005 and 2007 may have further boosted the income of the rich - a view confirmed by the 20% increase in the wealth of those in the Sunday Times rich list in 2007.

In contrast, those at the bottom of the income distribution - and especially the poorest 15% of households - saw their income go up at below-average rates, and in some cases even fell.

"It seems there are two interesting phenomena, at either end of the income scale, that are driving trends in overall income inequality" said IFS's Mike Brewer
Overall, the gap between the bottom 10% and the top 10% has widened. The top 10% of individuals in the UK now receive 40% of all personal income, while the bottom 90% receive 60%. The top 0.1% get 4.3% of all income - the highest figure in the UK since the 1930s, and three times as much as they received as a share of income in 1979.

The report says that "income inequality is at its highest level since the late 1940s".

The average income of the top tenth, of £49,950, was double the average income of all taxpayers (£24,769) and triple that of all households (£15,000), one-third of whom pay no tax.
To get into the top 1%, an individual needed an income of £100,000, and to get into the top 0.1%, £350,000. The average income of £155,000, while the top 0.1% of taxpayers had an average income of £780,000.

Male: 90%
Middle-aged: 80%
Live in London/SE: 70%
Work in finance, property, accountancy, law: 60%
Average income: £785,000
Source: IFS, top 0.1% of GB taxpayers, 2004/5

yet again another bunch of bankers

Just how does all those bank losses bear on the rich rewards that bankers are accustomed to ? Well , for the minions of Merrill Lynch , the investment bank , not very much , at all .

This according to The Independent

Despite plunging $8.6 billion into the red , and writing off a further $14.1bn of its investments in mortgage-backed debts, taking the total write-downs to $22bn and making it Wall Street's biggest loser since the mortgage market collapsed in the summer Merrill Lynch could still pay its executives an average pay of $353,089 per employee and an average bonus of $211,849, just down only very modestly from the previous year when the figures were $364,940 and $218,957, respectively despite the sub-prime mortgage meltdown .

Stan O'Neal , the ex - chief executive of Merrill Lynch received a retirement package estimated at $160 million .

Thursday, January 17, 2008


The inequalities of capitalism are worldwide, as this recent example from Peru shows.
"Kicking a football around a dusty lot, Judin Quicano looks like any other boy of four. But stand him against a standard growth chart and he is almost a head shorter than he should be at his age. ...Health officials say he is among nearly 30% of Peruvian children in his age group who suffer from chronic malnutrition. The figure rises to 90% in such places as Lliupapuquio, a village in Apurimac department in Peru's heavily Indian southern Andes where Judin lives. The picture is similar in neighbouring Bolivia and Ecuador. What makes the stunting of children's lives and bodies more shocking in Peru's case is that the country is enjoying a boom. The GDP expanded by 8.3% last year alone, and is some 45% bigger today than it was in 2001 ... Although governments have increased spending on social programmes, they have done little to improve their effectiveness. In Apurimac, majors complain of duplication, corruption and lack of local control. But the bigghest problem is that economic growth is not reaching many parts of the Andes. Official figures put poverty in Apurimac at 74.8 in 2006, having increased slightly since 2004." (Economist, 10 January) RD


An example of how the gap between rich and poor is growing in China can be seen from the wealth enjoyed by the capitalist class in that country.
"In early December, Beijing's in-crowd converged on the central business district for the opening of the Kunlun gallery. Sipping Veuve Clicquot and Mumm champagne, the real estate tycoons, stock market warriors, and Prada-clad celebrities gawked at Ming Dynasty Buddhist statuary and 15th century scroll paintings. Four Tibetan art works eventually fetched $3.4 million and, at a follow-up auction eight days later, 87 pieces of Buddhist art netted $10.4 million." (Yahoo News, 11 January) RD


The gap between rich and poor widens as capitalism develops, so it should come as no surprise that China is experiencing just such a gap. "Beijing wants to give the impression of a "harmonious society", yet the gap between rich and poor is growing. With food-price inflation nudging 20 per cent, some fear protests. The heavy, grey pollution that squats like a toad over the capital has caused the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, to talk of delaying the marathon. The government's confidence seems brittle. The dissident writer Hu Jia was arrested for "subverting state authority" in late December. Hu Jia sees the problems of the poor, those affected by environmental problems and people with Aids as indivisible, and this government cannot abide anyone who joins the dots. A new decree banning all but state-owned video-sharing sites will hit those showing any anti-government footage."
(New Statesman, 10 January) RD

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"Accidents in China's notoriously dangerous coal mines killed nearly 3,800 people last year, state media reported Saturday — a toll that is a marked improvement from previous years, but still leaves China's mines the world's deadliest. A total of 3,786 were killed in mining accidents in 2007 — 20 percent lower than the 2006 toll, indicating the effectiveness of a safety campaign to shut small, illegal mining operations and reduce gas explosions, the Xinhua News Agency quoted the head of China's government safety watchdog as saying. Coal is the lifeblood of China's booming, energy-hungry economy. The mining industry's safety, which has never been good, has often suffered as mine owners push to dig up more coal to take advantage of higher prices." (Yahoo News, 12 January)The development of capitalism in China has led to more deaths amongst the working class. Surprise, surprise? RD


Men and women because of poverty are forced to work for wages. Inside Europe and North America they have to do as they are told by their masters, to turn up on time to be respectful and if asked to do so cringe, but it is even worse for our African comrades.
"Last year roughly 31,000 Africans tried to reach the Canary Islands, a prime transit point to Europe, in more than 900 boats. About 6,000 died or disappeared, according to one estimate cited by the United Nations." (New York Times, 14 January)
Men and women of the working class are dying to be exploited. Let us get rid of this mad society. 6.000 died last year, how many this year? RD

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


In a sane society technological advances would be looked upon as a step forward for humanity, but we don't live in a sane society we live in capitalism. Simon Caulkin the Management Editor of the Observer reveals some alarming outcomes of such technical progress.
"More than half of all UK employees - 52 per cent - are now subject to computer surveillance at work, according to research from the Economic and Social Research Council's "Future of Work" programme. That's a remarkable figure, and it has lead to a sharp increase in strain among those being monitored - particularly white-collar administrative staff. ... Substantial pay rises for most managers contrast with static or even declining wages for low-end computer-monitored workers, who are working harder, and longer hours, into the bargain." (Observer, 13 January) RD


The future of global warming is a complex subject, but many experts believe the growth of carbon emissions could lead to disaster. One of the supporters of that notion is the World Bank with its various schemes to halt or lessen these emissions, but their difficulty is that they also support the profit system so they are left in a contradictory position.
"The World Bank has emerged as one of the key backers behind an explosion of cattle ranching in the Amazon, which new research has identified as the greatest threat to the survival of the rainforest. Ranching has grown by half in the last three years, driven by new industrial slaughterhouses which are being constructed in the Amazon basin with the help of the World Bank. The revelation flies in the face of claims from the bank that it is funding efforts to halt deforestation and reduce the massive greenhouse gas emissions it causes. Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth Brazil and lead author of the new report, obtained exclusively by The Independent on Sunday, said the bank's contradictory policy on forests was now clear: "On the one hand you try and save the forest; on the other you give incentives for its conversion." (Independent on Sunday, 13 January) RD

Monday, January 14, 2008


The history of capitalism is one of death and destruction. Thus the English enclosure acts decimated the agricultural population, the Highland Clearances replaced generations of clans with sheep, the indigenous population of the USA were robbed and murdered, the aborigines of Australia were killed like vermin and now in South America the same pattern emerges."These are the Yanomami; a group of just under 30,000 indigenous people who live in one of the most remote and mysterious regions of the Amazon, a Portugal-sized area of almost pristine jungle, straddling the border between Brazil and Venezuela. For thousands of years the Yanomami have inhabited the region living in an almost identical way, hunters and gatherers, bound by age-old traditions and isolated from the modern world, deep in the world's largest tropical rainforest. But for how long? In the 1980s, some 40,000 illegal wildcat miners poured into the Yanomami's ancestral lands in search of gold. ... According to some sources, before the government expelled the miners in 1992, up to 20% of the Yanomami people died in just seven years. Now the Indians fear history may be about to repeat itself. At the end of last year, the indigenous rights NGO Survival International reported that hundreds of illegal miners - known in Brazil as garimpeiros - were again flocking into Yanomami lands. Activists fear that the miners are likely to unleash a new wave of destruction in the region; bringing violence, alcoholism, disease and prostitution to the region's virtually untouched indigenous villages." Sunday Herald, 13 January) RD

School exam cheats

Soicialist Courier has previously drawn attention to the inequities of the education system that provided for the more privileged sections rather than the poorer students . We now discover that built into the school examination system was a system of appeals procedure against low grades that favoured those who attended larger independents and comprehensives in wealthy suburbs, as opposed to those in deprived or sparsely populated areas.

Thousands of pupils from leading state and independent schools across Scotland were apparently given artificially inflated exam qualifications through a controversial computerised appeal system. Under the scheme, which was scrapped last year, Standard Grade and Higher exam results at certain schools were automatically upgraded without being separately checked by officials at the Scottish Qualifications Authority. New SQA figures reveal that in 2007, when these exam appeals were manually checked for the first time in 15 years, a large proportion were rejected demonstrating that a sizeable number of previous upgrades were questionable. Schools with small class sizes or those where only a handful of pupils were predicted A passes were not eligible. Therefore, bright pupils who just fail to meet their predicted grades from these schools would not be automatically uplifted. Five out of the 10 schools with the most derived grades were private, with George Watson's College in Edinburgh topping the list and Hutchesons' Grammar in Glasgow coming second. Two comprehensive schools from East Renfrewshire, Williamwood High School in Clarkston and St Ninian's in Giffnock, also had a high number of derived grades.

Christina McKelvie, SNP MSP and a member of the Scottish Parliament's education committee, said: "This change in the appeal rate shows the SNP was right to demand the end of the derived grades system which was seen to clearly favour pupils in better-off areas or in private education..."

John Milligan, a science teacher from Sutherland who was responsible for starting a campaign to end derived grades, said the figures vindicated his position. "It was was already hard enough for pupils from poorer areas to overcome hurdles in their path and this system supported that..."

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The newspapers are full of foreboding about a possible economic slump and cite mortgage re-possessions and credit card debt, but this only applies to members of the working class. As usual the owning class are still rolling in it.
"If the economy is about to hit a rough patch, there was scant evidence of it at the opening day of the Collins Stewart London Boat Show at the Excel exhibition centre in Docklands. Sunseeker, a company based in Poole, Dorset, has the most expensive boat on sale, an £11.5m super yacht (anything over 24 metres is a super yacht) moored outside the hall. The Sunseeker 37 has three decks and four guest berths. It has a professional galley, room for a dozen people to sit around a walnut dining table, two lounge areas and a huge sundeck. Robert Braithwaite, who runs the company, said the firm has sold 10 and that anyone wanting to buy one would now have to wait until 2011." (Guardian, 12 January) RD

Northern on the Rocks

Northern Rock , the bank that is in crisis , has been paying a number of its senior managers secret bonuses according to a report in the Independent .

The bank has sanctioned millions of pounds in confidential "retention bonuses" to managers and management board directors deemed "essential to its continuing excellent operational performance". Some 173 staff out of a workforce of more than 6,000 have been paid the bonuses. An outlay of more than £2 million a month on bonuses to this select band of employees.

As the saying goes "The Devil protects his own"

Saturday, January 12, 2008


"The love of money," the New Testament teaches in Timothy 1.6:10, "is the root of all evil." But what about some televangelists' fondness for major bling — such as multiple, multimillion dollar estates, luxury cars, vacation homes, exotic trips and private jets? Does that make them, in the words of one author, "pimps in the pulpit?" Many outside the evangelical movement are puzzled by the apparent lack of outrage following reports of high-living, tax-exempt religious broadcasters. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has been looking into six mega church pastors and broadcast ministries, requesting financial records. Richard Roberts has stepped down as president of Oral Roberts University following charges that he used the school's resources for family perks, such as a trip to the Bahamas for his daughter. These charges come as no surprise to those within the evangelical world. Such tales of excess and profligacy have been an open secret for years." (Yahoo News, 7 January)
There is an old bible notion that it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. We imagine some of these holy-rollers will be kicking the camels out of the way come judgement day! RD


"Potential recruits to the armed forces are given a misleading picture of military life, including the physical risks and ethical dilemmas involved, according to a report published today. ... Britain is the only European country which recruits youngsters into the armed forces from the age of 16, though they cannot be deployed on operations until they are 18. The Ministry of Defence, which last night criticised the report, says this is the only way it can compete in the battle to attract school-leavers. However, today's report says the armed forces draw non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with "low educational attainment and living in poor communities". More than £2bn is invested each year in recruiting and training about 20,000 new personnel to replace those who leave, it adds. ...The report was written by David Gee, a researcher who formerly ran the Quakers' peace and disarmament programme. It was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust." (Guardian, 7 January)
The army and the report may be in disagreement, but what cannot be disputed is the statement that recruitment is aimed at those living in poor communities. Poverty was always the most efficient recruiting sergeant! RD

Friday, January 11, 2008


The US primary elections have featured many politicians claiming that US forces in the Middle East are now in ascendancy; alas the death statistics give the lie to that notion.
"Many Americans and Iraqis feel that 2007 was the year the war in Iraq turned around: the “surge” strategy has pacified large sections of the country; previously hostile factions like those of the cleric Moktada al-Sadr and the sheiks in Anbar Province have dropped their opposition or even sided with American and government forces; and the number of insurgent attacks has dropped steadily. Still, numbers don’t lie: for those in uniform, 2007 was the deadliest year since the invasion. The chart below — compiled from data provided by the American and Iraqi governments and news media organizations (the independent Coalition Casualty Count in particular) — gives information on the type and location of each attack responsible for the 2,592 recorded deaths among American and other coalition troops, Iraqi security forces and members of the peshmerga militias controlled by the Kurdish government. Since the data on Iraqi security forces killed are not reported systematically by the Baghdad government, these numbers have been accrued through news reports; the actual number of Iraqi deaths is likely to be much higher. And, sadly, civilian fatalities in Iraq last year were simply too numerous to represent on a single newspaper page." (New York Times, 6 January) RD


Socialists have always maintained that countries like Russia and China that have claimed to be establishing socialism were in fact building up state capitalism, and now a pillar of US capitalism agrees with us that China has nothing to do with socialism.
"The spending choices for China's rich are multiplying as quickly as the world's fastest-growing major economy can mint new tycoons. In the latest sign of China's rising upper crust and its growing appeal to international marketers, Robb Report, a self-declared catalogue of the best of the best for the richest of the rich, is making its pitch here with a Chinese-language edition. The 200-plus-page Chinese monthly, published under the name Robb Report Lifestyle, is packed with news, product placements and advertising that promotes elite brands such as Volkswagen AG's Bugatti sports cars and L├╝rssen yachts to an audience." (Wall Street Journal, 9 January) RD

Thursday, January 10, 2008


"Last month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $19 million to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative to further one of its goals: finding a new drug for African sleeping sickness. Not that $19 million will come close to doing that. Even if a miracle cure is found, it will take lab work and clinical trials that could easily cost $100 million to prove it is really a miracle and not the Vioxx of the African savannah. But the gift spotlights just how tricky the search for new treatments can be when the disease is fearsome but nearly forgotten because its victims are poor and obscure. ...“Sleeping sickness” is too benign a nickname for human African trypanosomiasis, which is caused by a protozoan spread by biting tsetse flies. When the parasites enter the brain, victims hallucinate wildly. They have been known to chase neighbours with machetes, throw themselves into latrines and scream with pain at the touch of water. Only at the end do they lapse into a lassitude so great that they cannot eat, followed by coma and death. About 150,000 people contract the disease each year, but 50 million people in 36 countries live in areas where they are at risk." (New York Times, 8 January)
How typical of capitalism, we have an awful disease but it is not lucrative enough to provide a cure and anyway the victims are all poor! RD


There is an illusion abroad that the NHS is free and available to all, but in fact like everything else inside capitalism health has a price and the wealthier you are the healthier you are likely to be.
"Drug rationing is essential in the NHS, and ministers should back the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which plays the key role in deciding which ones are worthwhile, MPs will say today in a hard-hitting report. The health select committee will call for more appraisals, not less, by Nice, which has been castigated by patient groups and drug companies whenever it has banned a new drug from the NHS. In a report following an inquiry into the workings of Nice and the fierce opposition it provokes, MPs recommend that all drugs should be given a rapid appraisal by Nice at the time of launch. Those that clearly work well enough and are cheap enough - probably no more than £20,000 a patient a year, which is lower than the current threshold - would be provided by the NHS straight away. More expensive medicines would have to go through a full appraisal which could take more than a year. Kevin Barron, the committee's chairman, said that might have the beneficial effect of encouraging some drug companies to pitch their drugs at lower prices. The drug industry was not pleased. "British patients already have worse access to new medicines than others in Europe," said Richard Barker, the director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry." (Guardian, 10 January) RD

Blair - politican for hire

Tony Blair has taken a part-time post with US investment bank JPMorgan , one of Wall Street's leading banks, part of JPMorgan Chase & Co, a global financial services firm with assets of $1.5 trillion (£760billion) and operations in more than 50 countries. Blair has been employed "in a senior advisory capacity", the bank said ,

Advising the bank on the "political and economic changes that globalisation brings" according to Blair himself .

It is not known how much JPMorgan will pay him, but some estimates say more than $1m (£500,000) a year. The bank said he had a "unique perspective".

Blair would advise the firm's chief executive and senior management team, "drawing on his immense international experience to provide the firm with strategic advice and insight on global political issues and emerging trends... Our firm will benefit greatly from his knowledge and experience," the bank said.

Blair earlier told the Financial Times he planned to take up "a small handful" of similar roles with other companies in different sectors.
"I have always been interested in commerce and the impact of globalisation. Nowadays, the intersection between politics and the economy in different parts of the world, including the emerging markets, is very strong."

As prime minister he was always a representative of the capitalist class and now , without the need to disguise the fact to the British elector , Blair can openly and shamelessly promote world capitalist interests .

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Just information ?

If you or anyone you know has one of the "National Entitlement Cards" that are currently used by most people for concession travel on public transport (1/3 off fares for 16-18 year olds & free bus travel for over 60s and disabled) then it's important that you check out this website:

Basically, the ID database is being set up with these as the trojan horse for this scheme. Download the report and check out the links. Do a bit of research and you'll see what's going on here.

Whether you are for or against the rise of national databases / ID cards and the like,you should give some thought to this as well - the NHS national database (which may be going EU wide).

This'll enable many thousands of people in NHS and elsewhere to access all your health records - even sensitive stuff like abortions or mental health problems. Crazy stuff.

Check out the Big Opt Out.

These links show how the NHS care record and Citizens Account (ID file more like) will be linked:

for the paper 7, this part says it all:

4. The issuing of entitlement cards.. was in effect a pilot for the whole CA system.

Some criticism of the seemingly backdoor ID Card here by Sunday Herald reporter:

Good article in the Guardian:,,2216772,00.html

This is not just paranoia, don't you agree?

This below is a spoof but could it be the plan, long term?


Whenever we hear of intellectual disputes at Oxford we have this idyllic picture of learned debate on deep philosophic matters, but it turns out instead to be more like a bar room brawl.
"The trials and tribulations of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, have been many in recent times. The bad times, the arguments and the fire and brimstone all began when the college principal, the Rev Richard Turnbull, gave Britain a startling warning to the effect that 95 per cent of the population was bound for hell and damnation "unless the message of the Gospel is brought to them". Embarrassing newspaper headlines followed that address to religious conservatives, and soon there were blazing rows in cloisters which were more used to the tranquil silent study of theological texts. For months hard-line evangelicals, sticking to biblical chapter and verse, battled with liberals over issues such as hell and homosexuality. Then Elaine Storkey, 64, a female theologian at Wycliffe and contributor to BBC's religious slots, had an incendiary "thought for the day". Dr Storkey, who had been forced to leave the college after crossing swords in the religious wars with Mr Turnbull, decided to demand compensation and sue the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, the college president. ...And on it goes. Dr Storkey has accepted around £20,000 from the trustees of the college after it was acknowledged that she had been unfairly dismissed. But she clearly does not intend to leave it there. Instead she has accused Bishop Jones, in his formal capacity as college president, of religious discrimination. But the real target of her ire is the now notorious Mr Turnbull. (Independent, 9 January)
It speaks volumes for the intellectual capabilities of these learned scholars that in a society threatened with world hunger, threats of war and environmental disaster they should choose to debate "hell and homosexuality"! RD

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Politicians every ready to seek the votes of little-Englanders often speak about the problem of immigrants from abroad coming to this country and causing problems such as housing, medical care and education. We imagine these politicians will completely ignore this type of immigration though. "Lev Leviev, who until a week ago was classified as the richest man in Israel, has joined the growing list of Israeli billionaires who have made their homes in London, where wealthy foreigners are not asked to pay tax on income earned overseas. This month, Mr Leviev officially moved into a bullet-proof house in Hampstead, which he bought for £35m. His near neighbours include several other mega-rich Israeli tycoons who prefer UK tax rates. In Israel, they are liable for tax on all their income, no matter where it is from. ...News of his departure has shocked the Israeli business community and created a political headache for its government, because of the drain of wealth from Tel Aviv to London. Among those who have made their homes in London are Zvi Meitar, the founder of one of Israel's biggest law firms; Benny Steinmitz, a diamond dealer and property tycoon; Yigal Zilka, head of Queenco Leisure International; and the real estate developer, Sammy Shimon." (Independent, 8 January) RD

Disabled Face Poverty

Up to three million people with disabilities in the UK could be trapped in poverty, a study by campaigning group Leonard Cheshire Disability has suggested.

Disabled people are more likely to live in hardship now than a decade ago. The poverty trap is largely due to higher day-to-day living costs for basics needs such as mobility aids, care and transport for people with disabilities which can be up to 25 per cent more than for able-bodied people .

The report, 'Disability Poverty in the UK' finds that disabled people are twice as likely to live in hardship than others. The report says that more than one-third of children living in poverty in the UK live in low-income disabled households.

Mr Parckar warns that while deprivation faced by children and elderly people has received much government attention, the hardship of people with disabilities has not been recognised.

Yet another group of people who suffer poverty . But there should not be league table of "i am more poverty-stricken than thou" and for those who suffer such impoverishment and for those who campaign to eliminate it , be prepared for all those worthy practical proposals by politicians and charity professionals to fall on stoney barren ground .

Monday, January 07, 2008

Blue Monday

A special course is being run to help businesses cope with unhappy workers on the "most depressing day of the year". Experts calculate that 'Blue Monday' will fall on January 21 - the first work day in the last week of January. A team of counsellors from Kirkcaldy in Fife will advise managers of medium-sized businesses on how to spot the symptoms of depression and stress.

Triggers for Blue Monday include the weather and the arrival of the Christmas credit card bill. The formula was calculated from research carried out by Dr Cliff Arnall from the University of Cardiff.
Jeni McCabe from HR consultancy Simple Corporate Resource Solutions said : "Problems can arise with the festivities being over, 'real life' resuming, foul weather, first credit card bills of the year coming through our doors and so on. But in reality these symptoms cause year-round headaches for employers. Our event will help delegates prevent and treat these common workplace ailments. There's no doubt that a happy workforce is a productive workforce."

Every day is a Blue Monday for the world's working class and everyday the capitalist class wants us to be more productive .

Keir Hardie on Migrant Labour

Socialist Courier has previously de-bunked the Keir Hardie myth of his anti-war credentials here and now it is time to dismiss him as a supporter of the international working class and expose his Scots racism .

James Keir Hardie in 1889 said said :-

"Dr. Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so" .

Speaking of the Poles at Glengarnock, he said "their habits are very filthy, six or seven males occupying a one-roomed house, and having women to cook for them"

He suggested that the employment of foreigners by British employers should be prohibited, unless they were political exiles or had fled from religious persecution or if they came from countries where the wage rates were the same as in Britain.

Instead of directing his wrath at the capitalist class which exploits and takes advantage of the lack of working class unity , Hardie simply parrots the commonly held mis-conception that it is the poor unfortunate immigrant who is responsible for wage cuts .

Members of the capitalist class don't stay put. They travel freely round the world, from London to Paris, from grouse moor to ski slope, from Caribbean island to Mediterranean cruise, from the chateau in Switzerland to the ranch in Arizona. And no-one dreams of telling them that they can't. Like many laws enacted by the ruling class, restrictions on the crossing of borders really only hit at members of the working class. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries.

Vultures of War

Young people are being recruited into the Army with misleading marketing . The report, by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, says that recruiters are targeting children as young as seven .

The advertising campaigns used by the Ministry of Defence "glamorise warfare, omit vital information and fail to point out the risks and responsibilities associated with a forces career", says the study. The report's author, David Gee, said: "The literature available to the young glamorises the armed services but does little to show the dangers recruits may face and even less the moral dilemmas they may face..."

One particularly successful advertising programme is "Camouflage", aimed at 13 to 17-year-olds, which includes a magazine, website and interactive games. The language in the recruiting literature and promotional DVD is so sanitised, a report says, that one brochure, "Infantry Soldier", does not even mention the words “kill” or “risk”.

A common tactic, is to “emphasise the game-playing character of battle to attract children by blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality”.

The report, "Informed Choice? Armed Forces recruitment practice in the UK", says: “The literature rarely refers to the dangers of combat and never mentions the risk of being killed, seriously injured or chronically traumatised. The absence of the word ‘kill’ suggests a policy decision to avoid it.”

Potential recruits can also be confused or misled in other ways, it says: “A soldier is obliged to serve for at least four years and three months (or up to six years in the case of under18s) with no right to leave once three months have passed. [But] this is omitted from the brochure and video.” The differences between civilian and military life are not made clear, it adds. “Readers are told that there is ample free time and personal freedom.” In reality, the training programme involves “a tough regime of discipline. Trainees face relative isolation from family and friends for several months and can be posted to active service overseas immediately after training.”

Socialist Courier has always stated the only war worth fighting is the class war

Saturday, January 05, 2008


The rising threat of mortgage foreclosures and credit card debts has lead some commentators to forecast a gloomy economic future, but this is not a universal view as one up-market manufacturer explains.
"Any talk of a downturn in UK manufacturing seems very distant to Ian Robertson, chairman of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, the upmarket UK vehicle maker owned by BMW of Germany. In 2007, Rolls-Royce’s plant in Goodwood, West Sussex, is likely to make just under 1,000 cars, a quarter up on 2006, while in 2008 Mr Robertson is pencilling in further growth of at least 10 per cent." (Financial Times, 27 December) RD

Friday, January 04, 2008


That we live in a crazy society where millions subsist on less than a $1 a day, while millionaires spend fortunes on crazy whims is well illustrated by this news item.
"One of the most famously flawed stamps in U.S. history sold for $825,000 to a New York man who bought it slightly cheaper than the record price another "Inverted Jenny" copy fetched at auction last month. The rare 1918 24-cent stamp, depicting an upside-down Curtis JN-4 biplane known as "Jenny," was sold privately this week to a Wall Street executive who did not want to be identified. Heritage Auction Gallerie’s president Greg Rohan, who brokered the sale, said the buyer is the same collector who lost an auction last month in which another "Inverted Jenny" sold for $977,500. Rohan said his client, whom he described as not being a rare stamp collector, was glad to get another chance at the prized misprint. "I suspect he's going to enjoy owning it and showing it to a few close friends," Rohan said." (Yahoo News, 27 December) RD


Socialists have always stressed that supporting schemes of reforms will not fundamentally change the nature of capitalism and here comes an official capitalist institution whose findings back up that view.
"There are 1.4 million children living below the poverty line in Britain, even though at least one of their parents has a job. Despite the changes to taxes and benefits, and the introduction of the national minimum wage, the number of poor children in working households is no lower than in 1997, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research says. (Times, 3 January) RD

Definitely not for the homeless

House hunting for a new home ??

Some buyers are looking for a house they can make their mark on, others are looking for a home that has already been renovated to the highest standard. This traditional Victorian stone villa in the perennially popular Grange area is in the latter category. From the outside, it has a traditional appearance, but the inside has been made over with a light, contemporary feel and state-of-the-art fixtures and fittings. It has a cinema room and substantial Victorian conservatory, and a guest flat was recently added above the triple garage.SOLD FOR £3,500,000 (April 07)

A former architect's office over seven floors, this property was converted by its former owners into a family home. The house is now one of the biggest in the West End of Edinburgh and includes a fully-equipped gym with stunning panoramic views over the city. The garden looks out on to Dean Village and the Water of Leith, while the front of the house has views of the castle. Converting former offices into top end residential homes is one of the big trends at the top end of the market.Blair Stewart, who is head of residential sales for Strutt and Parker, said: "The beauty of the West End is the easy access to the financial district and to the airport."SOLD FOR £3,500,000 (Jan 07)

Buyers are sometimes willing to pay a premium for homes that have not been modernised and renovated to someone else's taste – which is one of the reasons this Edwardian property raised more than a million over the asking price.Properties in Hermitage Drive come on the market rarely and before it went up for sale, Allanton, built in 1904, had been in the same family for 40 years. A fine redstone property, it still retained a lot of the original features but was ripe to be renovated. It also features a ground-floor annexe.SOLD FOR £3,729,500, Oct 2007

The fashion here is for huge American-style modern mansions, but there are a few older homes from the 1920s when the street was originally built.Green Gables, a large traditional family home, which dates from that period, is on one of the biggest plots on this private road, which enjoys a peaceful wooded setting.Recently sold, it is likely to be extensively remodelled or perhaps even demolished if the buyers want a home to compete with the vast marble mansions of their nearest neighbours.SOLD FOR £3,750,000 (Sept 07)

Caledonian Crescent, overlooking the famous golf course, is the new must-have address for Scotland's multimillionaires.Built in 2004, Strathearn Lodge is, by our reckoning, the most expensive modern home in Scotland. With marble floors and a bright airy feel, it has everything the modern tycoon needs, with four huge bedroom suites, a games room, cinema and built-in three-car garage. Homes in this private crescent benefit from high security, with houses hidden behind huge hedges and electronic gates. SOLD FOR £3,750,000 (Dec 07)

There were people who said David Murray had paid over the odds for Woodcroft when he bought it at the end of 2006. But he proved them wrong by selling ten months later at a big profit. The official sale of Barnton Avenue came on the same day as The Scotsman concluded its series of Scotland's most expensive homes in 2006 – so it was too late to make our list. But at the time, it broke all records as Scotland's first £4 million home.The new buyer was rumoured to be an Edinburgh businessman.SOLD FOR £4,500,000 (Oct 06)

A Fife property record was set at the end of last year with the sale of 16th- century Fordell Castle, which has been renovated to become a luxurious family home –owning it also traditionally confers the title of Baron and Baroness of Fordell. Set in 210 acres of woodland and formal gardens, it has an imposing great hall and oak-panelled bedrooms. Set in the gardens is St Theriot's private chapel, an aviary and an icehouse. Although both the castle and the chapel are A listed the building has been remodelled and modernised. SOLD FOR £3,850,000 (Nov 07)

Secluded, private and with views across to the Pentland Hills, Easter Belmont Road is one of Edinburgh's most sought after addresses. In the words of Simon Rettie, of Rettie and Co: "This is the most exclusive residential street in Edinburgh."This property, which came on to the market a few months ago, is a large arts and crafts period family home, set in extensive grounds. The property needed renovation but attracted so much interest from buyers that it was able to attract a record price.SOLD FOR £4,875,000 (Sept 07)

The arts and crafts mansion on Edinburgh's "Millionaire's Row" was the first property in Scotland to break the £4 million barrier, when it was bought by Rangers chairman Sir David Murray at the end of 2006. But he never lived in the six-bedroom house, and it was sold ten months later for a £450,000 profit. Barnton Avenue is a secluded, tree-lined street with views over the Royal Burgess golf course. Popular with bankers and industrialists because of its proximity to the airport, it includes many huge family homes.SOLD FOR £4,950,000 (Aug 07)

Built by classical architect Robert Adam using the stones of the ruined Seton Palace, this grand Georgian, 14-bedroom house, formerly owned by the Wemyss family, was extensively refurbished by an Edinburgh entrepreneur, who put it on the market for £15 million, hoping to attract an overseas buyer. After two years, the price was reduced to £7 million and more recently to £5 million, when it was snapped up by Stephen Leach and Heather Luscombe, founders of internet marketing company Bigmouthmedia.The four-storey house has a gallery, library, billiards room, nursery and staff quarters, which include a laundry room and butler's pantry. It is set in 13 acres of wooded parkland, overlooking the Firth of Forth and includes stabling for six horses, a coachman's cottage and the ruins of a medieval mill.SOLD FOR £5,000,000 (February 2007)

The criteria for what constitutes prime property is gradually changing, from homes above £1 million to those costing more than £2 million.

The ragged trousered philanthropists

Workers in Scotland are doing increasing amounts of unpaid overtime and would receive an extra £4517 a year if they were paid for the additional hours they are putting in, according the STUC.
The number of employees in Scotland working unpaid increased by 20,000 in 2007, bringing the total to 436,000. The average amount of unpaid overtime is six hours and 54 minutes a week.
The STUC has calculated that if everyone in the UK who works unpaid overtime did all their unpaid work at the start of the year, the first day they would get paid would be February 22.
The number of employees working unpaid overtime across the UK increased by 103,000 to nearly five million; about one in five of the working population. The average annual value of unpaid overtime in the UK is £4955 per employee.

"'s figures suggest many people are not even being paid for putting in these extra hours.Workers in Scotland are giving away over £4500 a year in unpaid overtime. That's too much time and money that could be better spent with friends and family..." Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC said

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The working poor

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says 1.4 million children in Britain live in poverty despite having at least one working parent.

Government efforts to tackle child poverty have "forgotten" to help poor parents who work.

Kate Stanley, head of social policy at the IPPR, said the challenge now was "to ensure that work really is a route out of poverty...Tax credits and the minimum wage have 'made work pay' relative to being on benefits, but these don't yet go far enough to ensure more children are lifted out of poverty. More action is needed to combine financial support and measures to boost parental employment with action to deliver fairness on pay and opportunities for progression at work."

Socialist Courier has news for this highly prestigious research institute - the slogan 'a fair days work for a fair days pay' is as old as the hills and for the working class it is a demand that is never fulfilled .

Poverty will end when the wages system itself ends .