Sunday, November 30, 2008


"Charities for the elderly predicted that deaths from the cold would rise in the months ahead as temperatures fall. An extra 25,3000 people died in England and Wales between December and March compared with the non-winter average and Age Concern says that this winter is predicted to be especially cold. Gordon Lishman, the director general, said: "We have a higher number of excess winter deaths than every other country in Europe." Help the Aged blamed fuel poverty and urged the Government to act to "prevent the nation's grandparents becoming casualties of winter" (Times, 28 November) RD


Cluster bomblets are destroyed at a farm in Xiengkhuang

"Imagine growing up in a country where the equivalent of a B52 planeload of cluster bombs was dropped every eight minutes for nine years. Then imagine seeing your children and grandchildren being killed and maimed by the same bombs, three decades after the war is over. Welcome to Laos, a country with the unwanted claim of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions -- also known as bombie in Laos. To put this into perspective, this is more bombs than fell on Europe during World War Two. The U.S. bombing was largely aimed at destroying enemy supply lines during the Vietnam war that passed through Laos. The war ended 35 years ago, yet the civilian casualties continue. According to aid agency Handicap International, as many as 12,000 civilians have been killed or maimed since, and there are hundreds of new casualties every year." (Yahoo News, 26 November) RD

Saturday, November 29, 2008


"The European Union accused drug companies on Friday of adding billions of dollars to health care costs by delaying or blocking the sale of less expensive generic medicines. One common tactic, said Neelie Kroes, the European competition commissioner, was for drug companies to amass patents to protect active ingredients in the medicines — in one case, 1,300 patents for a single drug. Another tactic, she said, was for pharmaceutical companies to sue the makers of generic drugs for ostensible patent violations, which tended to delay the availability of the lower-cost products for years. Ms. Kroes made her comments Friday while presenting the preliminary findings of a broad investigation into accusations of anticompetitive practices in the drug sector. She also turned her sights on the generics companies, which she said had received $200 million from pharmaceutical companies over seven years in exchange for holding their products off the market."
(New York Times, 28 November) RD


"Patient groups will tell a committee of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) that there should be more leeway for the approval of drugs which cost more than the approved limit. Nice has asked its Citizens Council to consider in what circumstances it should go over its threshold for drug costs, currently set at around £30,000 a year per patient. Just weeks ago the Government ordered the body to look more favourably on expensive drugs which prolong life for terminal patients. Nice has faced criticism in recent years for denying drugs deemed not “cost effective” or for restricting them to patients in the later stages of their condition. The organisation was forced to overturn a decision to deny Herceptin, the breast cancer drug, to women in the early stages of the disease after a public campaign. More recently Alzheimer’s patients protested against a decision on the drug Aricept, which can slow down the progression of their disease, means that they have to wait for their condition to worsen before they can receive it."
(Daily Telegraph, 27 November) RD

Friday, November 28, 2008


"Fears are being raised there could be a jump in the winter death toll. An Age Concern poll of 2,300 people found many over 60s were worried about being able to heat their homes because of soaring energy prices. And with a one of the coldest winters for some years predicted, the charity said the death toll could rise. It comes after figures for England and Wales suggested there was a 7% jump in extra deaths last year despite a relatively mild winter."
(BBC News, 27 November) RD


"A wealthy female surgeon has commissioned a £1.4 million kennel for her two Great Danes, next to her second home on the exclusive Lower Mill Estate, near Circencester. The kennel has a Jacuzzi, a plasma screen TV, thermostatically controlled beds, a £150,000 music system and a security gate with retinal scanner." (Times, 26 November) RD

Thursday, November 27, 2008


"In recent years, dozens of religion-based and guru-led Indian organizations got into the business of making and marketing offerings, be it health tonics, DVDs or education. Now, amid rising competition, including from those trying to piggyback on these brands, these organizations are realizing that they can’t just rely on a wing and a prayer. And, for starters, religious organizations are increasingly applying for a raft of trademark protections and initiating legal action against copycat websites. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon), Divya Yog Mandir of Baba Ramdev fame, and Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) that manages Akshardham and other temples in various countries, have all filed for hundreds of trademarks in recent years as they look to protect their growing brand recognition and revenues, and eye new franchise extensions."
(Wall Street Journal, 26 November) RD


"Mobiles are bad for your soul, the Vatican warned yesterday. Phones and computers are making the world so noisy and hectic that people cannot cultivate their spiritual dimension. And without a spiritual life 'you will lose your soul', said Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope's spokesman. The Jesuit priest, who is the director of the Vatican press office, made his remarks on the weekly Vatican TV programme Octavia Dies. He said that modern advances in technology had made the world so noisy and hectic that many people were now in danger of allowing their souls to perish." (Mail Online, 25 November) RD

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


"Alastair Darling will be forced to admit tomorrow that the credit crunch has plunged Britain into a deep recession, and the economy will contract for a full year in 2009, for the first time since the early Nineties. As the credit crisis ravaged the world's financial markets earlier this year, the Chancellor insisted repeatedly that Britain's `economic fundamentals` were sound. In the budget six months ago, he pencilled in a strong recovery for 2009."
(Observer, 23 November) RD

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Everyday you can read about the mounting figures of the unemployment. This used to be called "getting the sack", "getting the bullet" or in Scotland getting "your jottters", but we live in more sophisticated times so they sugar coat it with terms like "being surplus to requirements" or some such business-speak. We think that Nokia must take the prize though. "Is your firm experiencing a "synergy-related headcount restructuring"? This, probably the most ghastly euphemism yet encountered for mass sacking, has been invented by Nokia. Indeed, so proud of it are they that they repeat it, or different versions of it, nine times in a comparatively short announcement." (Times, 22 November) RD


"For a company whose business is rocket science Lockheed Martin has been paying unusual attention to plumbing of late. The aerospace giant has kept its engineers occupied for the past 12 months poring over designs for what amounts to a very long fibreglass pipe. It is, of course, no ordinary pipe but an integral part of the technology behind Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), a clean, renewable energy source that has the potential to free many economies from their dependence on oil. "This has the potential to become the biggest source of renewable energy in the world," says Robert Cohen, who headed the US federal ocean thermal energy programme in the early 1970s." (New Scientist, 19 November) RD

Monday, November 24, 2008


"Pawnbrokers in the Russian capital are enjoying the global credit crunch. The world's worst economic crisis for 80 years has hit Russia hard. Its stock market has dived by over 70 percent since May and the government has promised to spend $200 billion (135 billion pounds) propping up its main banks and businesses. But for Vadim Karashuk, head of Moscow's 16 state-owned pawn shops, business is good. "We're lending out more cash now than ever because the banks are giving less credit," he said, flicking a gold cigarette lighter between his fingers during an interview at his spacious central Moscow office. He estimated his shops now loan around $200,000 a day -- about 15 percent of the total for all Moscow's state and private pawn shops -- compared to about $130,000 two months ago." (Yahoo News, 16 November) RD

Sunday, November 23, 2008


"Eighteen months after the US troop surge aimed at creating the security necessary for Iraqis to resolve their political conflicts, those political conflicts are threatening to become even more complicated. Besides the Arab-Kurd and Sunni-Shi'ite divides, there has long been a struggle among rival political parties for supremacy among the Shi'ites. Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently called for amendments to Iraq's constitution to strengthen the central government's power at the expense of the country's 18 provinces. This week, Maliki's rivals in the southern Shi'ite bastion of Basra submitted a petition demanding a referendum in the oil-soaked province aimed to turning it into a semi-autonomous federal region akin to Kurdistan. Federalism is a deeply divisive issue among Iraqis. The Constitution adopted under U.S. occupation stipulates that any of the 18 provinces, except Baghdad, can combine to form regions similar to the northern Kurdish-run zone, which has been semi-autonomous since 1991. While the Kurds insist upon the principle, the Sunnis have traditionally been strongly opposed."
(Yahoo News, 16 November) RD

Saturday, November 22, 2008


"This week Citigroup’s already depressed shares have lost half their value, and shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are down 30 percent. Those declines have come despite reassuring comments from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who told National Public Radio a week ago that people were no longer worried about the possibility of a major bank failure. “I’ve got to tell you,” he said. “I think our major institutions have been stabilized. I believe that very strongly.”The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks fell by more than 6 percent on two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday, something that had not happened since July 20 and 21, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, when panic was brought on by collapsing commodity prices. Such prices have fallen rapidly this week as well, as evidence mounted of a world recession." (New York Times, 20 November) RD

Friday, November 21, 2008


When governments count the cost of war they use dollars and pounds and figure what strategic gains or losses have been made, but workers have a much more brutal and realistic way of accounting. Here it is."As of Monday, Nov. 17, 2008, at least 4,200 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,392 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The AP count is the same as the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.The British military has reported 176 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each." (Associated Press, 17 November) RD


Many workers in the USA believe that with the election of a new president all their troubles are over, but the realities of capitalism will soon shatter that illusion. The US must compete in the world-wide struggle for markets and raw materials and to do so they need an immense military budget. How immense was recently revealed. "As President-elect Obama plans for his first budget early next year, the Pentagon is asking for a record amount, according to a senior Pentagon official. The official said the Pentagon's baseline request being sent to the White House will be $524 billion for fiscal 2010, $9 billion more than last year's $515 billion baseline request." (, 19 November) RD

Asbestos compensation ruling due

Insurance companies try to wriggle out of compensation claims.

A ruling is expected later that could have profound implications for asbestos-related cancer victims and their families.

The High Court is due to give a verdict in a case between victims' families, employers and insurance firms.

The hearing has hinged on when an insurance firm was liable - at time of exposure or when a worker becomes ill.

If it is ruled the policy in place at the time of illness is the relevant one it may make it harder to get a pay-out.

This is in keeping with many claims against employers,.despite reforms over a century for negligence, neglect and just plain poor safety standards,employers attempt to wriggle out of paying high insurance premiums and insurers out of paying compensation claims.

By the time some settlement is made in a lot of cases the worker is dead and buried,their families exhausted with the care of them and the employers have taken off to pastures new, their profits intact.

It can't even deliver compensation.
(As if we can compensate for a life ruined)

Capitalism is bad for our health ,the environment,the planet.

Lets get rid of it,its wage-slavery and its monstrous legal and financial spin-offs, such as insurance and courts, deciding on the very relief of its victims and establish a sane system of society with' free access' to all we need and require to live a fulfilling and useful life.

From a BBC News item

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Capitalism is a murderous social system. Millions die in wars and starvation. Little kids die every day because of the lack of clean water and basic medical care. Everywhere you look the buying and selling system kills, maims and starves but even in personal relationships it distorts human judgements and actions. A recent example of how awful it has become came to light recently. "A pensioner was beaten to death with a hammer and a screwdriver by a neighbour who planned to inherit her house to pay off his debts, a jury was told. ... The jury at Nottingham Crown Court was told that Mr Smith decided to kill her because she was becoming frail, and he feared that her money would be spent on her care." (Times, 14 November) RD

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

American poverty

It is not just third world African countries that has difficulty in feeding its people .
Almost 700,000 U.S. children lived in households that struggled to put food on the table at some point in 2007, according to a federal report.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual report on food security showed that those 691,000 children lived in homes where families had to eat non-balanced meals and low-cost food, or even skip meals because of a lack of money. The number of children struggling to feed themselves adequately rose 50 percent from 430,000 children in 2006.

Nearly 36.2 million children and adults struggled to put proper food on the table in 2007, according to the report. Of the 36.2 million, nearly a third were not able to eat what was deemed a proper meal.
The other two-thirds -- 11.9 million people -- changed their eating habits by eating low-cost foods, participated in federal food and nutrition assistance programs, ate less varied diets or obtained emergency food from pantries or emergency kitchens, according to the report. That number is up more than 40 percent since 2000.

Families headed by single mothers, Hispanic families, African-American families and households with incomes below the poverty line struggled the most, according to the report.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"One result of Ethiopia’s dreadful famine in 1984, when at least 1m people starved to death, was the invention of celebrity activism on behalf of the world’s most miserable. Band Aid, then Live Aid, then ever more sophisticated networking and the airing of films of starving children on television helped persuade rich countries’ governments to double aid to Africa as part of a wider set of promises to meet the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals laid out in 2000, the first of which is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” by 2015. Despite progress in setting up early-warning systems, better procurement methods and the rapid delivery of nutrition in the form of foil packets of plumpy nut, the Horn of Africa has remained a hunger zone. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) says the present drought is the worst there since 1984. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is usually slow to press the panic button, says it may be the tragedy of the decade. At least 17.5m people, the agencies reckon, may face starvation. The WFP is trying to feed 14m of them. High food prices, together with civil strife, the assassination of aid workers by jihadists, and piracy against food convoys sailing from Kenya to Somalia have combined with drought and desert to create a catastrophe. Some 12m of the hungry are in Ethiopia, 3m in Somalia, 2m in Kenya and Uganda, the rest in Eritrea and Djibouti." (Economist, 30 October)
This is typical of the futility of a policy of reformism, many well-intentioned people spend an enormous amount of energy and time in trying to patch up capitalism only to find that instead of a million starving to death they now have over 17 million threatened with the same fate. The only way to solve this awful problem is to abolish the system that produces it and bring about world socialism. RD


"The seller of one of the world’s most luxurious yachts – the 164ft Alibella – is offering a €9.5m (£8.1m) discount to a buyer prepared to complete a deal within the next 30 days. Alibella – which has been finished with gold leaf and marble and comes complete with a helicopter landing pad – is one of a number of super yachts to have had millions of pounds slashed from their asking price in recent weeks. Edmiston & Company, the London-based yacht brokers, have offered Alibella to its clients just six months after the super yacht was launched and delivered to its unidentified owner. “The current global economic conditions have produced a number of interesting opportunities on the large yacht market,” wrote William Christie, a broker at Edmiston, in an e-mail to clients. “The brand new 50 metre Benetti, Alibella [has been] reduced in price by €9.5m ... the owner will sell at this massively reduced price if the deal can be completed in under 30 days.” The discount reduces the cost of the yacht – which can accommodate 14 guests in six cabins – to €24.5m." (Daily Telegraph, 17 November) RD

Monday, November 17, 2008


Palladio, the house on Bishops Avenue bought by Lev Leviev for £35 million

"Three enormous houses in Hampstead with billionaire price-tags are being launched in London's depleted and depressed property market with as much chutzpah as if there had been no recession at all. Jersey House in The Bishops Avenue at £40 million, The Mansion and The Villa, both in Courtenay Avenue, at £35 million and £25 million, are looking for mega-rich buyers." (Daily Telegraph, 12 November) RD


"Millions of elderly people will heat just one room in their homes this winter to cut down on soaring heat bills. Research by the charity Help the Aged found that 4.5 million people planned to live in one room in the coldest months. Many would stay in bed longer to keep warm, the charity found. A spokesman said: "It is a scandal that in a civilised society we are behaving in this way." Energy bills have risen by about 30 per cent this year." (Times, 10 November) RD

Sunday, November 16, 2008


"Bruce Springsteen wants to make sure one bank remains solvent: the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. The singer will appear in a newspaper ad for the state's largest food bank that says: "We Can't Let This Bank Fail!" Springsteen has been a supporter of the food bank for 23 years, often donating proceeds from concerts or encouraging fans to bring food donations to his shows. This is the first time he's lent his image to the anti-hunger campaign. The Community Food Bank says the economy has resulted in a 30 percent increase in those needing food and could lead it to ration supplies for the first time in its 26-year history. The food bank assists charities serving a half-million people each year." (Yahoo News, 11 November) RD


"Sixty corpses of would-be refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia were found on a beach in Yemen over the weekend after smugglers forced many of them overboard, an international aid agency said on Monday. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the latest victims on the notoriously perilous smuggling route came across the Gulf of Aden from the Somali port city of Bosasso, fleeing war and poverty at home." (Yahoo News, 3 November) RD


"If it was not evident already how much developers in Dubai value the input of a celebrity name, the news that Kylie Minogue is to be paid about $4.4 million (£2.8 million) to officially open the $1.5 billion Atlantis Hotel on November 20 should silence any doubters. The Australian singer's first performance in the Middle East will be part of a $35 million extravaganza billed as the most expensive party yet held - the fireworks alone are to cost $6.58 million. But why bother with such expenditure? The Atlantis has already attracted huge publicity over its £13,000 a night suites." (Times, 31 October) RD

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Profiting from the poor

Consumer Focus said it estimated power suppliers were making up to £550 million a year in extra charges from people on pre-payment meters. Typical customers using the devices were often those on the lowest incomes . Energy firms were using customers who pay for their gas or electricity through pre-payment meters to help subsidise cheaper deals for others.

"The energy companies are making the most money out of those on pre-payment meters and often those are the people on the very lowest incomes." said CF spokesperson

Energy awareness group National Energy Action said pre-payment metered customers paid on average £359 more a year than those with normal meters. This contrasts with the extra annual cost of between £85 and £100 to maintain the pre-payment boxes - a sum estimated by energy industry regulator Ofgem.

An NEA spokeswoman also added: "Once you are in debt you are effectively blocked from switching to cheaper deals."

Friday, November 14, 2008


"Families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives, homeless advocates say. "There are lots of families hemorrhaging into homelessness and we need to figure out how to put a tourniquet on the hemorrhaging," Philip Mangano, the homelessness czar appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, told Reuters. There is little time to waste. The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 14-year high and more job losses are forecast, while the Mortgage Bankers Association says nearly 1.5 million homes are in the process of foreclosure."
(Reuters, 12 November) RD


"And U.S. employees do love to work. According to the 2007 Vacation Deprivation Report, "51.2 million Americans are vacation deprived, earning (14 days) and taking (11 days) the least amount of vacation days among their international counterparts." Furthermore, the number of U.S. workers not using all their vacation days is on the increase (31% in 2005, 33% in 2006 and 35% in 2007)." (PC World, 4 November) RD

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity's holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus' tomb. The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus. The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule -- the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus -- and give the Armenians a claim to the site." (Associated Press, 10 November) RD


"Thousands of people flocked to a remote jungle in southeast Nepal to see a boy, some believe is a reincarnation of Lord Buddha, who reappeared after being missing for more than a year, police said on Tuesday. Seventeen-year-old Ram Bahadur Bamjon spoke to devotees from nearby villages on Monday in the remote forest in Ratanpuri, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of Kathmandu, Prakash Sen, a police constable said. Bamjon made international headlines in 2005 when tens of thousands of people turned up to see him sitting cross-legged under a tree in a dense forest for nearly ten months. reportedly without food and water." (Reuters, 10 November) RD

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food for meaty Thought

And what about the animals? The turkey dinner for holidays is huge in N.America. Capitalism has seized the opportunity to make big profits by, “A miracle of modern science, the birds grow cheaply, quickly, and uniformly especially when treated according to protocol in an industrial-scale setting. What they do best is convert the least amount of feed, which costs money, to the largest amount of breast meat, which makes money. Sure, they can’t reproduce naturally, fly, forage well, or even live long beyond their market-weight date (thanks to genetic problems like ruptured aortas, hypertension, and lameness). But these ‘robot turkeys’ get big and meaty right quick.”
(from Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine, October 2007 – and, believe it or not, the article came with the ‘how to cook your turkey’ tips!) John Ayers

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Food for Thought

A big issue for Canadians is the preservation of our universal “free” Health care. Especially as half the 1.5 million American families that go bankrupt each year do so due to medical causes. In Canada we have creeping privatization as for profit clinics keep popping up contravening the Canada Health Act but never challenged by any level of government. These clinics are slowly stripping the health care system of doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, and resources. They charge fees that most Canadians cannot afford, such as $13-20 000 for knee surgery.
- Still on health, cigarette manufacturers, virtually chased out of the shrinking tobacco market in North America, have found new ones in the Third World (will it ever get to Second place?). China is the land of cheap cigarettes with ads such as, “This special product was created…as an appreciation to all women in style. Because you deserve the best” (message on packs of ‘low side stream lady’ rose flavoured cigarettes, Toronto Star, 25/10/08). Apparently it’s going well as smoking kills over a million in China every year!
- Still in China – Toronto Star headline, “Crisis Slows China’s March to Capitalism”. Ignoring the fact that they have always been capitalist, the story tells how a business couple saw the writing on the wall for their company so they took the money and ran, throwing 6 000 employees out of work. This is portrayed as ‘raw capitalism’, China style. Is it any different from the Canadian manufacturing companies who, over the last five years, have run from Canada to greener (as in green money) pastures, throwing 300 000 workers out of a job.
- And in the irony section - Mao’s personal airliner, a national relic, is on the auction block as it’s taking up too much space on a mall parking lot, needed for more shoppers!
- Canada’s election is over, thankfully quite a bit shorter than our neighbors to the South. Nevertheless it cost $300 million to stage the election not counting what the parties spent, to get an almost identical parliament to the last one – a Conservative minority with a few more Conservatives and NDP and a few less Liberals and a million voters for the Green Party with not one seat for them. The largest block of votes actually went to the No Voters – 41%, plus the estimated 8% who don’t bother to register, giving 49%. The Conservatives ‘won’ with less than 40%. Four out of five adults did not want Harper as PM! Some democracy!
John Ayers

Monday, November 10, 2008

One law for them , another law for us

So much for government assurances of sympathetic treatment for mortagage arrears by the banks during this credit crunch and slump.

The Financial Times reports a landmark High Court ruling under a 1925 law has paved the way for mortgage lenders to sell the homes of borrowers in arrears without seeking a court order after just TWO mortgage payments have failed .

The judgment dismissed the human rights defence of the homeowners in arrears and backed the right of GMAC-RFC, a specialist subprime and buy-to-let lender that is part-owned by General Motors, to appoint receivers and auction the property. The former homeowners were then evicted for trespassing by the new owner, Horsham Properties. The sale circumvented the court process through which judges can give struggling borrowers more time to arrange repayments .

John Gallagher, principal solicitor with Shelter, the housing charity, said the case “gives the green light” for lenders to sidestep courts with legal remedies “rooted in the 19th century and repugnant to most people’s sense of justice”.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Food for Thought

October 17th. was UN Day to Eradicate Poverty. Last year about 43 Million people took part in the global Stand Up, Take Action campaign. In addition, The Toronto Star editorial (26/10/08) headline read, “Vital to Reduce Poverty This Year”. Why this year, I’m not sure, as they have been saying this for about 100 years. How are we doing so far? The same newspaper highlighted the growing phenomenon of tent cities around North America. In Las Vegas, they are sprouting up in the shadow of the glitzy casinos. Can anything be more obscene? And they are not all mental health migrants. Seven out of ten are people from the area who have lost their houses in the current mortgage melt down. In Victoria, BC, a new by-law had to be rushed in to enable Police to move in and break up their tent city. “Ask not what your government can do for you…yadda yadda yadda” asJohn Kennedy once said. Indeed! - Never fear, however, Toronto City Council has found the solution. The notorious, poverty and crime ridden Jane/Finch area has been rebranded as University Heights with spiffy new banners hanging from the light poles. Now doesn’t that sound better? I’ll bet the people there feel richer already!- But wait! Our federal government will come to the rescue. Apparently they are not as cash-strapped as they thought and had us believe. Those poor, poverty-stricken banks, that have reported record profits for as long as I can remember, have received a gift from our government of $25 billion. And, the war in Afghanistan will cost $18 billion by the withdrawal date of 2011. Surely, the end of poverty must be in sight now. ! Not- On the environment, 46 scientists from ten countries, who are studying the Arctic, have concluded that Fall temperatures are 5C above normal, and accompanied by unprecedented rates of rising sea levels and the attendant effect on marine and mammal life. Is it time to act yet?- John Ayers

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reading Notes

- A few examples of how capitalism works and why:- “British Railway construction in Argentina was dramatic – from 1000 kilometres in 1871 to 12 000 kilometres two decades later, but entirely commercial in motivation: to move wheat and meat to ports.”-

“The effort to ensure a plentiful supply caused bloody conflict as one European country after another sought to establish monopolies over the produce of India’s Malabar coast (pepper, ginger), Sri Lanka (cinnamon)…”i.e. economic causes for war.-

“The meat-packing industry made beef an everyday luxury, but there was nothing benevolent about these butchers. Chicago became the world’s largest concentration of industrial capital, mass production, and human misery.” (see also Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle”).-

“Every tonne of sugar consumed in Europe came at the cost of one slave’s life.”-

“In Mexico, the pre-conquest population of five to ten million was just 1.6 million in 1618. In the future United States, the native population shrank from two million in 1500 to 750 000 in 1700 and just 325 000 in 1830.” No wonder the Indian T-shirt says, “Fighting Terrorism Since 1492”. All the above come from “A Brief History of Globalization”, by AlexMacGillivray.
John Ayers

Friday, November 07, 2008

credit crunch bites

The number of Scots declared bankrupt is rising at record levels, figures have revealed.
Finance experts PKF said in the third quarter of 2008, 5,998 people had been made bankrupt or entered a voluntary repayment agreement with creditors.
The firm said this was an increase of 26.7% on the previous quarter and a 70% rise on the same quarter of 2007.
A total of 14,008 Scots have been made bankrupt so far this year, while the total figure for 2007 was 13,814.
PKF said around 20,000 Scots could be declared bankrupt by the end of 2008.

work is bad for your health

Writing in the European Journal of Oncology, Prof Watterson, an expert in occupational health, said "In Scotland more people die from occupational cancers than die from road traffic fatalities, murder and suicide all combined."
He estimated that about 10% of all cancers were work related.While the issue is usually associated with older industries involving asbestos, Prof Watterson said carcinogens were present in diesel, pesticides, silica, wood dust and solvents. He added that Scotland gives a higher priority to road deaths and murders, which claimed about 1,250 lives in 2003/04, than it does to tackling work-related cancers.

Socialist Standard November 2008

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

editorial: contents:
Also available as HTML (image lite)
and PDF
Pages: 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Green Health - Red Revolution

from the bbc
Across the country, there are "health inequalities" related to income and social deprivation, which generally reflect differences in lifestyle, diet, and, to some extent, access to medical care.
This means that in general, people living in poorer areas are more likely to be unhealthy, and die earlier.
However, the researchers found that living near parks, woodland or other open spaces helped reduce these inequalities.

While the health specialists and enviromentalists place their faith in capitalism re-designing cities , the SPGB once more argues only socialism will create the conditions for the separation of town and countryside to wither away.

William’s Words

- William Morris continues with his description of capitalist production as War
in the pamphlet, “How We Live and How We Might Live” (page 21),
"Meantime, let us pass from this “competition between nations to that between the organizers of labour, great firms, joint stock companies; capitalists in short, and see how competition stimulatesproduction among them: indeed it does do that; but what kind of production? Well, production of something to sell at a profit, or say production of profits: and not how war commercial simulates that: a certain market is demanding goods; there are, say, a hundred manufacturers who make that kind of goods and every one of them would if he could keep that market to himself, and struggles desperately to get as much of it as he can, with the obvious result that presently the thing is overdone, and the market is glutted, and all the fury of manufacture has to sink into cold ashes. Doesn’t that seem something like war to you? Can’t you see the waste of it – waste of labour, skill, cunning, waste of life in short? Well you may say, but it cheapens goods. In a sense it does; and yet, only apparently as wages have a tendency to sink for the ordinary worker in proportion as prices sink:”
A good analysis of how economic crises come about and relevant given our situation today.
John Ayers

Thursday, November 06, 2008


"Each of the 80 floors in the world's first moving skyscraper — with offices and a hotel, topped by apartments — will rotate 360 degrees, all at different speeds. Designed by Italian architect David Fisher and located in Dubai (another is planned for Moscow), the prefab, wind-powered tower will cost an estimated $700 million. The residences will sell for $3.7 million to $36 million. The building should be completed in 2010." (Time, 27 October) RD


Amidst the misguided euphoria about the election of a Democratic Party president it is a sobering thought that whether there is a Republican or Democratic legislation capitalism carries on as usual. "Although there is a widespread belief that Wall Street prefers Republican presidents, most studies show that the market has actually done better under Democrats. Since 1901, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.2 percent a year on average under Democratic presidents and 3.2 percent under Republicans, according to Ned Davis Research. Looking at a more recent time period - 1944 through mid-2008 - the S&P was up 10.7 percent a year on average with a Democrat in the White House versus 8 percent with a Republican, according to International Strategy & Investment." ( San Francisco Chronicle, 4 November)
Changing the ruling party doesn't change the exploitation system that is capitalism. RD

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


"A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human rights group said. Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct. 27 in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said." (Yahoo News, 1 November) RD


"Major high-street retailers are targeting poor families with bad credit records to prop up their Christmas sales during the credit crisis. Dozens of high street stores are taking part in a doorstep lending scheme which charges poor families extreme rates of interest. Woolworths, Comet, B&Q and Mothercare and 92 other retailers have been accepting vouchers that are repaid by borrowers at an annual percentage rate of 222 per cent – more than 10 times the rate of a credit card." (Independent, 28 October) RD

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Gina Catana and her grandchildren, Emily, 2, and Christopher, 3, at the administration building for a Bronx shelter. The number of families entering homeless shelters has been increasing

"In what some see as a sign of the economic downturn’s impact on the city’s poorest, more families entered the homeless shelter system in September than in any other month since data has been collected. Some 1,446 families entered shelter in September, city officials said. That was the highest number in one month since the city began keeping track 25 years ago. In each of the past three months, the city has seen record numbers of families admitted to shelter. With the increase, roughly 9,300 families are now in shelter, or more than 28,000 people. In 2003, when the previous record was set, the average daily census of families in shelter was 9,200." (New York Times, 29 October) RD


"The Vatican has reintroduced a system of clocking in, nearly 50 years after it was last phased out. Senior clerics will have to swipe plastic cards when entering and leaving, all in a drive to improve time-keeping and efficiency. ... Lay and ecclesiastical staff working in the tiny city state, are now using the swipe cards. The cards have been issued to everyone from the lowest office staff to the heads of departments, even if they are priests and archbishops, though there has been no mention if Pope Benedict XVI carries one. ...It is all part of a drive to increase efficiency and to make the Vatican more meritocratic. Next year there are plans to introduce performance-related pay."
(BBC News, 3 November)
Capitalism is a social system that needs concepts like "performance-related pay", but we wonder how it will operate in the Vatican. One miracle equals how many euros? Two visions equal more or less than one miracle? We foresee some difficulties when disputes go to arbitration! RD

statistics and lies

The press made head-lines of this report :
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Growing Unequal? report published on 21st October 2008 found that “since 2000, income inequality and poverty have fallen faster in the UK than in any other OECD country”

However , not much was reported on this report Poverty and inequality in the UK: 2008 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published in June this year, which found that in the UK “income inequality has risen for its second successive year and is now equal to its highest-ever level (at least since comparable records began in 1961)”.

The OECD report covers the period from 2000 to 2005, whereas the IFS report covers data up until 2007. The IFS report notes an increase in poverty in the last two years which includes an extra 300,000 children living in poverty between 2005 and 2007, and nearly a half a million pensioners entering poverty in the same period. Overall relative poverty increased by 400,000 in 2006/07 alone. Therefore it could be that 2000 to 2005 was the halcyon period of UK poverty reduction (OECD), but this has been reversed in the subsequent two years (IFS).

even so , the positive spin placed on the OECD report couldn't disguise its other findings , that the “the gap between rich and poor is still greater in the UK than in three quarters of OECD countries”. It also states that “the wage gap has widened by 20% since 1985”, and that “child poverty rates are still above the levels recorded in the mid-1980s”

Neither report studied actual wealth distribution which shows that wealth inequality has expanded most aggressively in the years between 1996 to 2003 – the period of Labour in government.

Not considered was that personal debt ballooned in the UK from 102% of personal income in 1997 to 160% of personal income by the end of 2005 and now with the credit crunch unraveling insolvency and re-possessions loom ahead .


Alright for some , eh ?

Amanda Staveley , former girlfriend of Prince Andrew , is set to bag almost £40million in commission paid to her advisory firm, PCP Capital Partners, for brokering last week's £3.5billion capital injection into Barclays Bank by Middle East investors , according to The Independent.

PCP Capital Partners, which Ms Staveley founded in 2005, acted for Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nah-yan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, to deliver his £3.5bn personal investment into Barclays in return for a 16 per cent shareholding of the bank.
As part of the overall £7.3bn investment Barclays unveiled on Friday, the bank is also raising up to £2bn from Qatar's sovereign wealth fund and £300m from a member of Qatar's royal family.
PCP's total commission will be £110m, but after other advisers are paid Ms Staveley's firm will earn a £40m profit. While PCP also has a handful of other partners including David Mellor, the former Tory MP, Ms Staveley is expected to pocket the majority of the £40m.

Ms Staveley also previously brokered the takeover of Manchester City football club in August by the same sheikh, Mr Mansour, who is investing in Barclays.

Ms Staveley first started to make her mark with the sheikhs and the Arabian Gulf's kingpins when she set up a restaurant in Cambridge-shire after persuading her bank manager to lend her £180,000. Crucially, she set up her Stocks eatery close to the British horseracing hub of Newmarket.The patrons of the restaurant, where Ms Staveley would work while also dabbling in her alternative career of dealing in shares worth thousands of pounds, included senior staff from the Godolphin stables owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the most powerful racehorse owner on the planet.
This is where the seeds of her association with the Middle East's wealthiest figures were sown.

Not what you know but who you know , it appears

Monday, November 03, 2008


"The number of repossessions in Britain soared by 71 per cent in the three months to June. The Council of Mortgage Lenders has forecast that total repossessions this year will rise by 50 per cent to 45,000." (Times, 1 November) RD

Sunday, November 02, 2008


"Two rival monks are posted at all times in a rooftop courtyard at the site of Jesus' crucifixion: a bearded Copt in a black robe and an Ethiopian sunning himself on a wooden chair, studiously ignoring each other as they fight over the same sliver of sacred space. For decades, Coptic and Ethiopian Christians have been fighting over the Deir el-Sultan monastery, which sits atop a chapel at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The monastery is little more than a cluster of dilapidated rooms and a passageway divided into two incense-filled chapels, an architectural afterthought alongside the Holy Sepulchre’s better-known features. And yet Deir el-Sultan has become the subject of a feud that has gone far beyond the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. The Ethiopians control the site, but the Egypt-based Copts say they own it and see the Ethiopians as illegal squatters. The quarrel has erupted into brawls — in 2002, when the Coptic monk moved his chair into the shade and too close to the Ethiopians, a dozen people were hurt in the ensuing melee."
(Associated Press, 25 October) RD


"Greenspan 1963: Writing in Ayn Rand's Objectivist Newsletter, Greenspan declared as myth the idea that businessmen "would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings. It is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product."Greenspan 2008: Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Greenspan recanted: "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief...." This modern [free market] paradigm held sway for decades. The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year."
(Yahoo News, 23 October) RD

Saturday, November 01, 2008


For those not feeling the global economic crisis -- and not content just to wear diamond earrings -- a Japanese company on Thursday unveiled a line of mobile telephones encrusted with diamonds. Japan's Softbank Mobile said it will sell 10 of the phones, each studded with 537 diamonds of 18.34 carats from Tiffany & Co. The "Softbank 823SH Tiffany" phone will sell for around 1.3 million yen (13,265 dollars), the company said. The phone has a top that flips open to a display also designed by the luxury New York jeweller. Japan is the world's largest market for luxury goods and nearly everyone owns a cell phone, leading fashion companies to try to tap into the mobile market. Earlier this year Softbank rival NTT DoCoMo Inc. launched a cell phone designed by Italian brand Prada. Fellow designer Gucci also started a website for Gucci goods accessible only by Japanese mobile phones."
(Yahoo News, 30 October) RD