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Showing posts from January, 2010

MILLIONS LIVE ON $2 A DAY

"NBC confirmed to the Associated Press and other news outlets that it had reached a $45 million deal for Conan O'Brien to leave The Tonight Show. The redheaded comic hosted the late-night show for seven months, but was pushed out of his 11:35 p.m. time slot to make way for the return of Jay Leno, whose new low-rated prime time series was cancelled. The Associated Press reports that O'Brien will personally receive $33 million for the early exit, with the remainder going to his staff as severance pay." (US  Magazine, 21 January) RD

The Shame of Scotland

The number of children living in poverty in Scotland remains at an "unacceptably high" level. Save the Children found 95,000 young people, almost 10% of all children in Scotland, were living with families that had less than £33-a-day to spend. The charity found the poorest families were, on average, £113-a-week short of enough money to cover essential costs.Youngsters in single parent households were about three times more likely to live in severe poverty.More than two thirds of those included in the figures lived in families where no adults worked.

The charity described government promises to end child poverty by 2020 as "increasingly hollow"

Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children's programme director in Scotland, said: "We are absolutely outraged that so many children have to go without essentials - we're talking about winter coats and proper shoes, real basics that families just can't afford...."

CAPITALISM IS WORLDWIDE

Members of the working class are taught in schools from a very early age that the country they were born in is somehow special. We are taught to be proud of the country wherein for generations our family has been exploited. We wave flags, sing patriotic songs and are taught to mistrust workers from other countries. The owning class suffer from no such zenophobia. They are prepared to exploit workers of any nationality, creed or so-called race. To them profit is much more important than patriotism. Here is a recent example from the Brighton College newspaper. "Workers at a Sussex-based electronics firm were today left "devastated" after being told in a video message that manufacturing at their factories is to end and 220 jobs moved to Korea and the Czech Republic. Unite said Edwards planned to cease all manufacturing at its Burgess Hill and Shoreham factories. The announcement was made to employees via a video message, which the union said was "tactless&…

MIND THE GAP

"Remember the heady days of 1997 and the promised transformation of British society? After 18 long years of rule by a Conservative government whose policies had led to greater prosperity, but also an unprecedented wealth gap, the Labour Party was back in office, offering a fresh start. In the early days, Blair, Brown, and their team promised a land where "wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few." Trouble is that the Labour Party's more equal future has yet to arrive. Despite the rhetoric, the inequality gap has only grown under New Labour. Measured by the income gap between the richest and poorest 20 percent of the population, it's not far behind the U.S.A., Singapore, and Portugal, which top the global list." (Newsweek, 7 January) RD

DEBT RIDDEN BRITAIN

"There has been a huge rise in the amount of money that banks are writing off as bad debts on their credit cards. Bank of England figures show that the total value of the write-offs doubled to £1.6bn in the third quarter of 2009. In each of the two preceding quarters, the figure had been about £800m. It totaled £3.2bn during 2008. The figures reflect the impact of the recession and are an acknowledgement by the banks that the money will never be repaid by defaulting borrowers. By contrast, the value of mortgages written off in 2008 was just £408m, and has averaged £260m in each of the first three quarters of 2009." (BBC News, 19 January) RD

SOCIALISM AND DISASTER

Inside a socialist society everything won't be perfect we will have disasters such as the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti "The leading US general in Haiti has said it is a "reasonable assumption" that up to 200,000 people may have died in last Tuesday's earthquake. Lt Gen Ken Keen said the disaster was of "epic proportions", but it was "too early to know" the full human cost. Rescuers pulled more people alive from the rubble at the weekend, but at least 70,000 people have already had burials. Relief efforts are being slowed by bottlenecks, and many thousands of survivors are fending for themselves. Many Haitians are trying to leave the devastated capital city, Port-au-Prince, and there are security concerns amid reports of looting and violence." (BBC News, 18 January) Inside a socialist society we will have a commitment by every human being on earth to help every other human being. We won't have some well paid politic…

A POLLUTED SOCIETY

"Islamabad: Over 400 million gallons of untreated industrial waste are being discharged into the sea daily and the city district government of Karachi is finding it difficult to handle the situation because of lack of funds, Environment Minister Hameed Ullah Jan informed the National Assembly during a question-hour on Monday. He said the city government needed Rs13 billion to set up four treatment plants under the K-III project, adding that the Sindh government had arranged Rs7 billion, but was still looking for additional resources.The project is aimed at treating over 300 million gallons of effluent daily. Apprehensions have been raised about poisonous effects of industrial waste on seafood collected from coastal areas of Karachi." (Dawn.com, 12 January) RD

Class

The newspaper reads"The number of middle-class homeowners in Scotland who are declaring themselves bankrupt is rising dramatically...The trend is being blamed on the well-off no longer being able to use rising equity in their homes to finance their lifestyles and pay off debts.."

Oh , how often we come across the expression "middle class" , as if those people are somehow different from the working class. This article from the archives of the Socialist Standard explains why there is no such thing as middle class and that we are all members of the working class.

Getting the blues in suburbia

There aren't many factory workers like me in the area where I live - a pleasant suburb called Giffnock which lies just over the south side of the Glasgow boundary. I moved there about five years ago and when my workmates heard where I was moving to they were amazed. Al­most all of them live in council flats or houses (Scotland has a much higher percentage of council and other r…

CRAZY MONEY

"A rare 1913 U.S. coin once owned by an Egyptian king and later featured in a famous U.S. TV detective series was sold for more than $3.7 million (2.3 million pounds) in a public auction in Florida, the auctioneers said on Friday. The so-called Liberty Head nickel, one of only five known of that specific date and design, was sold "in spirited bidding" to a private East Coast coin collector in Orlando late on Thursday, said Greg Rohan, president of Dallas, Texas-based Heritage Auctions. The buyer wished to remain anonymous. The $3,737,500 price for the five-cent coin included a 15 percent buyer's premium." (Yahoo News, 8 January) RD

POVERTY IN NEW YORK

A letter to the press from Joe Berg, Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger is very revealing. "In 2008, even before the economic downturn had its worst impact, 1.5 million city residents lived in poverty, 104,000 more than in 2000. More than 1.3 million New Yorkers are now forced to use food pantries and soup kitchens. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, there are 45 percent more people staying in city homeless shelters nightly than when Mayor Bloomberg took office, with levels at an all-time high. On Jan. 7, there were 36,961 people, including 15,727 children, sleeping in city shelters, enough to fill Madison Square Garden two times over. While the number of billionaires in the city dipped slightly in the last year (from 64 to 56), their combined net worth still equaled more than 27 times the yearly income of all 1.5 million New Yorkers in poverty." (New York Times, 11 January) RD

MILKING THE PROFITS

"All across the country, diary farmers are facing the loss of their livelihood. In 1985, there were 28,000 diary farmers in England and Wales. By last November ... there were 11,551 left. As recently as two years ago Britain was self-sufficient in milk. Now we import 1.5 million litres a day. For the farmers who struggle on, their working lives – and that of their herds – have become a grind: such is their despair that one a week commits suicide. Forget the idyll of the straw-hatted farmer watching his contented cows chewing the cud in open pasture. Many herds have never seen fields. They are indoors day and night and are milk-producing machines, fed on grass brought to them and mixed with concentrates to boost their yields. The chief villains are the supermarkets which, by driving down milk prices, are forcing farmers to intensify production or go out of business and leave the way clear for foreign imports. Currently one litre of full fat milk costs around 75p – of …

A HOME OWNING DEMOCRACY?

"About 1 million families have resorted to using credit cards to pay their mortgage or rent during the past year, the housing charity Shelter claimed today. A survey by the organisation found around 6% of households had used their plastic during the past 12 months, in order to keep up with their housing costs. People in working class professions were most likely to use debt to cover their mortgage or rent at 8%, but 4% of ABC1s also admitted they had used their credit card in this way. "If people are already struggling to the extent that they fear losing their home, increasing credit card debt cannot be the answer," said Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter." (Guardian, 11, January) RD

Scotch Mist

Another article on Scottish Nationalism from the archives of the Socialist Standard that remains pertinent even today .

In Scotland today it’s true that there is a struggle - as there is in England , Wales , Ireland , or rest of the world for that matter . But the struggle in Scotland is not , as the Scottish National Party would have us believe , the struggle for home rule , self - government , self- determination , or self anything . The struggle in Scotland , as in the rest of the world , is a class struggle: the struggle between the working class and the capitalist or owning class.

The SNP tell us , the workers , that independence from England and the control of our own purse strings will cure all our problems . What they do not seem to realise is that the problems they are going to try to solve are an integral part of the capitalist system , and history has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that within this system there is no satisfactory solution to these problems apart from Social…

A WASTEFUL SOCIETY

Cynthia Magnus holds up unworn, destroyed clothing she has found in the garbage. "This week the New York Times reported a disheartening story about two of the largest retail chains. You see, instead of taking unsold items to sample sales or donating them to people in need, H and M and Wal-Mart have been throwing them out in giant trash bags. And in the case that someone may stumble on these bags and try to keep or re-sell the items, these companies have gone ahead and slashed up the garments, cut off the sleeves of coats, and sliced holes in shoes so that they are un-wearable." (Shine, 7 January )

THE "BENEFITS" OF RELIGION

"The country (Nigeria) has a population of about 150 million; its roughly 400 ethnic groups speak more than 400 languages. Half the nation prays to "Allah" and the other half to "God." Hardly anywhere in the world has the ongoing rivalry between Christians and Muslims claimed so many victims, with at least 10,000 dead? There has been killing everywhere. Muslims have been hunted down in the southern port city of Lagos, while Christians have been victimized in Kano in the Muslim north. But the majority of deaths occur in the Middle Belt, in places like Kaduna and Bauchi, and particularly Jos, where followers of the two religions live relatively close to one another. In almost no city in the world is the clash of civilizations more evident. Without a wall, Jos is a divided city. Entire neighbourhoods go up in flames, over and over, most recently in November 2008. Each new conflagration claims hundreds of lives. In 2001 Muslims set fire to the enormo…

BEHIND THE GLAMOUR

Capitalism is a society based on deceit. It purports to be based on freedom yet it is a ruthlessly class-divided society that enslaves millions in its quest for greater and greater profits for its owning class. A good example of the facade that is capitalism is the recent completion of the tallest building in the world the Burji Khalifa in Dubai. This 2,717 foot edifice has 600 apartments, 300,000 square feet of office accommodation, the world's highest swimming pool and mosque. Behind this facade of opulence lies another story. "Many of Dubai's construction workers live on starvation wages: £120 a month on average for a six-day week, with shifts of up to 12 hours. ...Construction workers on the Burj Khalifa have rioted on several occasions, including in March 2006, when 2,500 protested at the site, and again in November 2007. A Human Rights Watch survey found a cover-up of deaths from heat, overwork and suicide in the emirate. The Indian consulate recorded 97…

Scots Nationalism Part 2

Scots Nationalism Part 2 by Vic Vanni (continued from here )

The incredible hotchpotch of ideas contained in the new organisation soon became a cause for alarm among the more sensible members and drove one, Lewis Spence, to complain that the party was… a maelstrom boiling and bubbling with the cross- currents of rival and frequently fantastic theories, schemes and. notions we have people who wanted all Scotland to speak the Gaelic….
some hark back to the hope of a sixteenth-century Scotland regained still others a Jacobite
restoration. A certain group sees in the expulsion of all the English and Irish in- Scotland the country's only chance of survival . All is hubbub, outcry, chaos. There is no plan,Nothing approaching a serious, practical Scotsman-like policy in -either art or politics. (H. J. Hanham, Scottish Nationalism. p. 154)

Poor- Spence, but he should have known. With the loss of interest in Home Rule of the Scottish ruling class-and their political sidekicks, the nationalist …

Scots Nationalism The First Of Two Articles

Scots Nationalism The First Of Two Articles by Vic Vanni


NATIONALISTS BELIEVE THAT ALL CLASSES IN SOCIETY should hold allegiance to "The Nation". Socialists do not and point out how nations have always been the creation of a ruling group having nothing to do with working-class interests.
What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations
This is certainly true of Scotland and far from having a common history or anything else the population there are mainly the descendants of native Picts, in-vaders from Ireland (the original Scots), Western Europe and Scandinavia. After centuries of what were really tribal wars the whole land came under one king by the middle of the ninth century and the nation was born - by the coe…

THE OIL INVASION

"British companies have benefited from the award of oil contracts in Iraq because of the decision to help to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Gordon Brown's chief foreign policy adviser told the Chilcot inquiry yesterday. Simon McDonald said British companies had "done pretty well" in a recent auction of oil rights and that Britain had "privileged access" to the Government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister." (Times, 6 January) RD

MERCHANTS OF DEATH

"Two UAE orders for military helicopters and guided bombs capped a remarkable year for procurement in which the Emirates became the largest foreign purchaser of US defense equipment, a Pentagon agency said. The UAE, which has peacekeepers in Afghanistan, awarded Sikorksy Aircraft a US$171 million (Dh628m) contract for 14 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, which are used for tactical transport. Separately, the US defense security co-operation agency, a unit of the Pentagon, said last week it had notified Congress of a potential sale of enhanced guided bomb units, parts, training and support to the UAE for about $290m. The same agency said in November that in the last fiscal year the UAE became the largest foreign purchaser of US defense equipment with sales of $7.9bn, ahead of Afghanistan ($5.4bn), Saudi Arabia ($3.3bn) and Taiwan ($3.2bn)." (The National, 2 January) RD

A FRIGHTENING WORLD

"It is Europe's dirty secret that the list of nuclear-capable countries extends beyond those that have built their own weapons — Britain, France and Russia. The truth is that Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands store nuclear bombs on their air-force bases and have planes capable of delivering them. There are an estimated 200 B-61 thermonuclear-gravity bombs scattered across these four countries. Under a NATO agreement struck during the Cold War, the bombs, which are owned by the U.S., can be transferred to the control of a host nation's air force in time of conflict. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dutch, Belgian, Italian and German pilots remain ready to engage in nuclear war." (TIME, 4 January) RD

HOME, SWEET HOME?

"Tokyo_ For Alsukshi Nakanishi, since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin_ one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo's decrepit "capsule" hotels. "It's just a place to crawl into and sleep,"he said, rolling his neck and stroking his black suit _ one of just two he owns after discarding the rest of his wardrobe for lack of space. "You get used to it." When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel's tiny plastic cubicles offered a night's refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home. Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510's capsules, no larger than 6.5 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II" (New York Times, 2 January )RD

Food for Thought 4

Many of the world's famines have been documented, even if their human causes have not. But did you know about this one? In 1950 a photographer, Richard Harrington, went to the arctic in a year that the caribou did not appear and famine stalked the land. More than once he photographed people who died the next day. In 1950 southern Canadians were welcoming a
prosperous decade of suburbs and big-finned cars and were unaware of the famine, "It's not a story that's well understood or appreciated." Said Arctic sociologist, Frank Tester. No details of numbers are given but it has to be noted that ten years earlier the Canadian government had no trouble getting men, supplies and armaments across the Atlantic Ocean, but failed to do the same in their own country when the need arose. John Ayers

THIS SPORTING LIFE

There was a time when sport was supposed to be a pleasant physical exercise. The popularity of association football inside capitalism made it an activity much adored by workers too unfit to play it themselves, but keen to follow the efforts of their local sporting heroes. With the development of capitalism football has just become another business opportunity. Its development more likely to be followed by financial journalists rather than football ones. "Manchester United is exploring a bond issue as part of efforts to refinance its £700m debt, with the English Premier League champions in talks with two banks about how to reorganise its borrowings. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are advising the football club on its options. It is one of a number of clubs whose debts have alarmed football authorities. People familiar with the situation said the options under consideration included the issue of high-yield bonds. These would be used to refinance bank debt or payment-in-kind…

Food for Thought 3

On the environmental front, we got pretty well what was expected out of the Copenhagen Conference – nothing. Despite the loud shouting of accomplishments from the world's leaders, it was the usual 'long on praise and short on substance' result. The chasm between the developed and developing' countries was apparent for all to see, but, as we have continually said, in a world of some 200 competing nations, all acting in the interests of their capitalist class, it is near impossible to get a consensus to do anything worthwhile, so they will keep on fiddling while the world burns, or until the workers of the world become class conscious and realize they have to do the job and to hell with nations, governments and leaders. The Toronto Star pretty well admitted this when its December 20 editorial began, "The stakes were high in Copenhagen: charting thecourse of carbon emissions over the next decade and beyond to stem the rise of global warming. And the odd…

Food for Thought 2

On Dec 12th. the Toronto Star printed an article on credit card debt which is up $2 billion to $78 billion and credit card delinquencies (bills at least 90 days overdue) are up 53%. Are the credit card companies worried? Not a bit. Apparently, most of those who can't pay are counted among the poor and, to them, low income consumers are the most lucrative customers because they never get out of debt and keep on paying interest for ever.
Lastly in our investigation into whether poverty is still among us, the Star tells us (Dec 6, 2009) about the Dixon Hall soup kitchen which continues to do a roaring business after 80 years in service. In fact, it began in the Great Depression. We have come a long way indeed So it seems, Mr. Broadcaster, that we have plenty of poverty right here in Canada and will continue to do so while we have a system where the social product is divided into 90% for the richest 10% and 10% for the rest, and until we have common ownership and free acc…

Food for Thought

A recent CBC current affairs program asked 'What is poverty, and will it Always be with us?' Even in the capitalist media it keeps raising its ugly head. Talking to 'some of Toronto's most successful business people' (WHY?), she stated, " One hundred per cent more children are living in poverty now than twenty years ago." (Toronto Star, 26/Dec/2009).- The same source (20/Dec/2009) trumpets the success of the Warm Coat program for homeless people. "Have you ever wondered what a homeless person wants for Christmas?" the article begins. Maybe you should start with a home! All this takes place in the shadows of the billion dollar sky scrapers in downtown Toronto. John Ayers

A SENSE OF VALUES

We are taught in their schools at an early age to have a "sense of values". We are taught by our masters' employees to weight things and decide what is important and what is trivial. We may even if our masters' employees are paid enough learn to dismiss the nonsense of the Sun, Express and Daily Mail and prefer the "quality press". In a world where a third of the population may die from starvation, where the whole human race may be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust or where global warming may threaten our existence what does one area of the "quality press" concern itself with? "An "irreplaceable" medieval stained glass window has been saved after fire broke out at York Minster's stone yard, police said today. More than 30 firefighters tackled the fire at the Minster Yard in Minstergate late yesterday evening. The window, which was undergoing restoration, was safely removed by fire crews working with York Minster Police and other…