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Showing posts from July, 2010

BEHIND THE FINE WORDS

Recently in a show of strength the USA and South Korea mounted an exercise in and around the Sea of Japan. It consisted of 20 ships, 200 aircraft and 8,000 military personnel and was supposedly a response to the sinking of a South Korean vessel by North Korea. Like all such military displays of power it was accompanied by fine words. They were "protecting the democratic South against the tyranny of the North". China, an ally of North Korea viewed it as "an intrusion into an area not far from Chinese territorial waters". It is much more likely that the correspondent Giles Whittell was much nearer the real economic truth behind the fine words when he reported "The military display that may or may not have struck fear into the hermit dictatorship north of the 38th parallel has angered Beijing as it seeks to assert sovereignty over nearly 1.5 million square miles of the South China Sea, rich in oil and mineral deposits". (Times, 28 July) RD

AN EXPENSIVE WANK

"Hugh Hefner'sPlayboy: 1953-1979 (Taschen), his 3,506-page, six-volume "illustrated autobiography", is distilled from this modest collection and mixes personal reflection with pictures of breasts culled from the magazine. It is printed in a limited edition of 1,500 copies, and is on sale for the princely sum of £900." (Guardian, 17 July) RD

HALF A MILLION HOMELESS

"More than 500,000 people will be added to social housing waiting lists and nearly 300,000 jobs will go under proposals to cut the housing budget by up to 40 per cent, say campaigners. The National Housing Federation says ministers risk "shutting the door on an entire generation of low-income families" by cutting cash for affordable homes." (Times, 26 July) RD

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

"The gap between the health of rich and poor is greater now than at any time since modern records began, a study shows. Government initiatives have done little or nothing to close the gap between the life expectancy of poor people and those who are wealthy, researchers from universities in Sheffield and Bristol, writing in the British Medical Journal, said. They looked at deaths between 1921 and 2007." (Times, 23 July) RD

"HUMANITARIAN" SLAUGHTER

"The Israeli military has imposed restrictions on the use of white phosphorous munitions, which led to civilian deaths and casualties in Gaza last year. Israel told the UN that it would deploy them only when approved by a "humanitarian affairs officer." (Times, 22 July) RD

CASH, CORRUPTION AND CAPITALISM

"Last week Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a $550 million (£360 million) fine to settle accusations by the US regulators that it misled investors over a mortgage-backed security. It followed claims that the investment bank had - among other things - helped Greece to hide the true level of its indebtedness, played a key role in the 2008 US banking crashed and behaved like a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money" (Rolling Stone magazine)." (Times, 21 July) RD

CORRUPTING RESEARCH

"One of the world's largest oil companies has broken its pledge to stop funding groups that promote scepticism about man-made climate change. Exxon Mobil, parent company of Esso, gave almost £1 million last year to organisations that campaign against controls on greenhouse gas omissions." (Times, 19 July) RD

TOUGHER AT THE BOTTOM

"For the first time since the 1970s more than one billion people, almost one-sixth of humanity, were either hungry or undernourished last year and the number is growing, an international conference on food security held in Manila was told last week. This figure was 100 million more than in 2008, and the Asia-Pacific region leads the world with more than 650 million hungry people, according to data by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)." (The National, 11 July) RD

TOUGH AT THE TOP

"Charles, the Prince of Wales, doesn't exactly have to save for a rainy day: he collects Aston Martins, has three chauffeurs and holds overseas investments totaling at least $68 million. But as Britain copes with a bleak economic forecast and austerity measures meant to tackle its $230 billion deficit, the future King has embraced a royal version of frugality sure to make playboy princes around the world quiver: he's cutting back on canapes, and he's hosting drinks parties instead of lavish dinners. "We are always keeping an eye on the economic climate," Charles' private secretary, Michael Peat, told reporters in London on June 29. "We do live in the real world for the most part anyhow." (Time, 3 July) RD

CHEAP, CHEAPER, CHEAPEST

"As costs have risen in China, long the world's shop floor, it is slowly losing work to countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia at least for cheaper, labor-intensive goods like casual clothes, toys and simple electronics that do not necessarily require literate workers and can tolerate unreliable transportation systems and electrical grids. Li Fung, a Hong Kong company that handles sourcing and apparel manufacturing for companies like Wal-Mart, H & M and other Western retailers and brands. Liz Claiborne, reported that its production in Bangladesh jumped 20 percent last year, while China, its biggest supplier, slid 5 percent. Bangladesh is getting very competitive, William Fung, Li Fung's group managing director, told analysts in March. The flow of jobs to poorer countries like Bangladesh started even before recent labor unrest in China led to big pay raises for many factory workers there and before changes in Beijing's currency policy that coul…

STOP MOANING WORK HARDER

Next time you complain to your boss about being exploited let us hope he doesn't read this piece of nonsense. "People who make their colleagues miserable by constantly moaning at work may actually be suffering from a mental illness, a study suggests. According to researchers in Germany, they are suffering from a new condition called post-traumatic embitterment disorder. ...The findings are based on a two-year study of 21 people by researchers at the University of Berlin." (BBC News, 20 June) Presumably the "researchers" didn't moan or complain and no one mentioned to them that research that only used 21 people is hardly convincing. Here's to the day when more and more of us "suffer" from post traumatic embitterment disorder. The researchers may call it a mental disorder we call it good sense. RD

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

"A boy aged seven has been found working 98 hours a week to produce decorative Christmas goods for the British high street. He is employed from 9am to 11pm, seven days a week, earning 7p an hour for his widowed mother. The boy, known only as Ravi, not only works but sleeps in a Delhi sweatshop that produces items for Pound-land, the cut-price chain store." (Sunday Times,11 July) RD

A FUN-LOVING GENERAL

"General Mattis will be questioned closely by the US Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings into his nomination as the next commander of US Central Command. His remarks in 2005 when he spoke of having fun killing the Taleban are likely to be raised. ... A no-nonsense Marine, General Mattis stood up in front of television cameras during a speech in California in 2005 - when he was a lieutenant-general - and said: "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women about for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know that guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it is a lot of fun to shoot them ... It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot people." (Times, 10 July) RD

PROFITABLE CARNAGE

"Russia has exported $5.3 billion worth of weapons-related production in the first six months of 2010, the head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said on Wednesday. "With a plan for $9.5 billion, we have delivered $5.3 billion in [weapons-related] production in the first six months [of 2010], which constitutes 56% of the plan," Mikhail Dmitriyev told the Engineering Technologies International Forum 2010 in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow. In 2009, the figure was $8.5 billion." (Ria Novosti, 30 June) RD

Who did win the World Cup?

This is an article taken from the Socialist Party's blog today,called Socialism or your money back. ( SOYMB) I think it should be available here. The 2010 South Africa World Cup now has a winner, Spain, but just who really won the cup? SOYMB reads about the profits generating by this "sporting" event.

What they paid: ESPN paid $100 million for broadcast rights; Univision paid more than three times that amount - $325 million - for the same coverage.
What they get: The advertising dollars that accompany an average of 125 million viewers worldwide per match, and the almost 1 billion people who will watch the final on July 11. 715 million people watched the 2006 championship game and in light of increased viewership this tournament, that number is supposed to be well-surpassed with forecasts that the match will "draw the biggest audience of any sporting final in history."
What it cost them: Adidas signed a whopping $351 million deal with FIFA in 2005.

LET 'EM FLY COPTERS

The arrogance of the Russian ruling elite is prodigious but even by their standards this takes a bit of beating. "As Moscow residents sweltered in an unprecedented traffic snarl-up, the governor of the region around Moscow offered an unusual solution on Friday: buy a helicopter. "I fly in a helicopter. (You) should also buy helicopters instead of cars -- then you do not need roads," Moscow Region governor Boris Gromov told journalists, the RIA Novosti news agency reported." (Yahoo News, 2 July)This crass statement brings to mind Marie Antoinette's reputed statement on hearing that the lower orders were rioting because of the lack of bread "Let them eat cake". In Marie's defense she probably never said such a thing, but Boris did and he should remember Marie's fate. RD

Banking crisis - who pays the price ?

“I get up in the morning crying and go to bed crying.You go in to work and you hope you won’t tear up. But somebody does, nearly every day.” The problem? Fear, says Jane. “We are all scared. We are all afraid of getting paid off. Maybe because of the way the building is, the fear just seems to move across the room. But they are disciplining us for everything, including clerical errors and timekeeping.” The building is open-plan. “When someone cracks up, we all see it,” she explains. “You’ll hear the sobbing and see her pals huddle around her." Middle managers, she keeps stressing, are just as scared as their employees.

Jim McCourt, who runs the Inverclyde Advice and Employment Rights Centre, says he has seen a lot of stressed-out RBS workers since 2008. "I have been doing this job for 15 years and I have never seen any company that is so unnecessarily brutal.”

From the Herald

DEVOLUTION, BENEFITS, HANDOUTS?

In an article By Eddie Barnes in today's Scotland on Sunday he say's John Swinney hints at the end of benefits for all.Every government, be it Scottish, English or what ever, must look after the interests of their capitalist class and the Scottish one is no different. The benefits handed out since devolution could be in jeopardy. Like any other reforms used to attract votes, they can be withdrawn in a slump crisis, no doubt available for future promise in another election. This is an excerpt from the article"FREE personal care for the elderly is among the benefits facing the axe in Scotland as a result of multi-billion pound cuts to budgets, with public sector chiefs warning they can no longer afford to provide universal state payments to the middle classes.Amid warnings from Scottish ministers today that the days of extra spending are over, council chiefs have spelled out bluntly that "universal benefits" must be cut, with cash focused solely on…

PAYDAY LENDING COMPANIES LEAVE ARIZONA

Governments get into debt and must service that debt or their credit rating in the international world will diminish, they immediately tell the working class thatit is our debt and proceed to diminish our wages, either directly if they can or indirectly by inflation for example. This can lead in some cases of workers going to lending companies who charge charging fees that can amount to interest rates of more than 400 percent on an annual basis. In Arizona, State law now caps the annual interest rates for loans at 36 percent. Of course, workers in debt can't claim it's our debt, like the government does, so, as one worker explains,"I see the places popping up all over town. I can't believe that so many stores can be so profitable with these loans. The Armed Services made all of these kinds of businesses "Off limits" for members of any military service. We also have "title loan" stores. They loan a max of $1500 on late model cares that …

poverty and disability

The charity Contact a Family, which supports and advises families who have a child with a disability, said the impact of the global recession meant families who were already under strain were now at "breaking point".

The charity asked 88 families in Scotland about their financial situation as part of a UK-wide survey.
A total of 19% said they had gone without food to try and make ends meet, while 14% said they had sacrificed heating. Three-quarters missed out on days out, while two-thirds said they did not go on holidays. Nearly half - 46% - said they had fallen behind with loan payments, with 24% saying they needed to borrow money for basic household goods.
42% admitted borrowing money from family and friends to pay for groceries, household goods and heating. Meanwhile 44% of those surveyed said they feared their future financial situation would get worse. The charity said there were a number of reasons why families with a child with a disability were likely to suffer financi…

Food for thought

G8/20 notes
That 'democratically elected leaders need the kind of billion dollar security that was used in Huntsville and Toronto makes a mockery of the whole system.
If there was ever any doubt that the police are the natural enemy of the working class, it was dispelled by the 20 000 in riot gear and guns drawn (at the American Embassy), the mass sweeps and arrests (900) of even innocent bystanders, and the allegations of abuse, strip searches, and threats.
If there was any doubt that the government and the legal system work for the capitalists class, it was dispelled by the Ontario government's passing of a law, in secret, giving police search and arrest powers for the weekend of anyone within five metres of the wall. Turns out, after the fact, it is unconstitutional and could only apply inside the compound, anyway.
For socialism, John Ayers

Food for thought

According to the Toronto Star editorial (19/06/10), poverty is not on the agenda of the current federal government, so an NDP MP backbencher has introduced a private members' bill to obligate the government to eliminate poverty by setting targets for short term (1-3 years), medium term (4-7 years) and long term (8 years and more). Care to guess how long the 'more' will take? Obviously he has no understanding of how the system that he was
elected to run works. Just a short distance from the $1.1 billion G8 summit in Huntsville,
Ontario, First Nations people are commemorating the signing of a one-hundred-year-old treaty that ceded 100 000 square kilometers of their land to the British Crown for a few tools, life in poverty on the reserve, and $5 per head per year 'for as long as the sun shone'. Don't think there's any inflation on that payment either!
In "The High Price of Cheap Bananas", (Toronto Star, 5/06/10), Sonia Furstenau tells us t…

Bushmeat trade threatens Pygmies' existence

Mbuti pygmy men carrying hunting nets and spears as they await the day's hunt outside the town of Epulu, Congo. The pygmies' traditional practice of hunting bushmeat has become a commercial endeavour, staged not for subsistence, but to feed growing regional markets.

Erasing its ancient past

THE ITURI FOREST, Congo — They emerge from the stillness of the rainforest like a lost tribe of prehistoric warriors forgotten by time — a barefoot band of Mbuti Pygmies wielding iron-tipped spears. The men come first, cloaked head to toe in coiled hunting nets shaved from the liana vine. Then the women, lugging hand-woven baskets filled with the same bloodstained antelope their ancestors survived on for thousands of years.And waiting anxiously in the middle of their smoke-filled hunting camp: a horde of village traders who've come to buy as much bushmeat as the Mbuti can bring.Time has long stood still in the innermost reaches of northeast Congo's Ituri Forest — a remote and crepuscular world without electricity or cell phones that's so isolated, the Pygmies living here have never heard of Barack Obama or the Internet or the war in Afghanistan. But the future is coming, on a tidal wave of demand for game meat that's pushing an army of tall Bantu traders ever deeper in…

Scottish sheep no longer radioactive

Remember the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986 , now the last Scottish sheep farm affected by it has been released from movement restrictions imposed by the Food Standards Agency Tests last month revealed the levels of radioactivity in Scottish sheep have finally dropped below the safety limits allowing the FSA to lift all restrictions on the movement, sale and supply of sheep.

Initially 73 areas in Scotland were under restriction. In April 2009 there were still 3,000 sheep at five farms in Stirling and Ayrshire under restriction but over time the radioactivity levels have continued to decline. The final Scottish area was removed from restrictions on 21 June 2010 but England and Welsh sheep farmers remain affected.

In North Wales 330 holdings and approximately 180,000 sheep remain within a restricted area and a further eight holdings in Cumbria are also still under restriction.

In wake of the revelations of gross and grotesque safety infringements by nuclear companies in …

Food for thought

Remember PCBs? First used in 1929 in products such as inks, lubricants, paints, electrical equipment until it was discovered that exposure could cause cancers, birth defects and developmental problems; they're all gone now, right? Wrong. A 22 000 tonne mound in west Toronto is still sitting there, largely forgotten, along with 22 other sites in Ontario. It's probably too expensive for any company to dispose of the problem without affecting its bottom line.
The Global Footprint Network has announced that September 20th. Is 'Earth Overshoot Day', i.e. the day that humans will have consumed our allotment of the earth's resources for the entire year, and from there, we will be in ecological deficit for the rest of the year. Is it correctable? Fifty years ago, we only consumed half of the world's yearly allocation, and by 2030, we'll be taking double the allocated amount. These four points show why we must get rid of the dirty wasteful system that is…

Food for thought

One thing the G8 did not do was work on the most pressing problem of climate change. Although Canada, as host, was allowed to set the agenda, PM Harper, a well known denier of climate change, chose to 'see no carbon, hear no carbon, and speak no carbon' (Toronto Star). Obviously, making sure profits continue apace is more important.

It's a certain bet that BP will face numerous law suits re their horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Are they worried? Probably not. Exxon Corp. was fined over $5 billion for the Valdez spill in Alaska, but after 20 years of legal battles engaged by Exxon, they paid just $500 million, or four days' profit. John Ayers

old age , same old story

The average Scottish male will be able to claim just five years of the state pension before he dies, under the new government plans to raise the retirement age.

ALMOST seven in ten British adults believe they will have to work beyond their pension age to give themselves a comfortable retirement, a new study has revealed.
In 2005 just 52 per cent of workers said they would have to work longer and 82 per cent planned to retire ahead of the state pension age. In 2005 the average male worker planned to retire at 60 years, with women targeting 59. But while a third of people would like to retire between the ages of 61 and 65, according to the latest report, 29 per cent now believe they will not be able to give up work until they are at least 66.

After a lifetime of toil many workers look forward to the comfort and leisure of old age. Alas, for many it is just another of capitalism’s illusions. Research published by Aviva yesterday showed that many people over 55 are likely to struggle to fu…