Sunday, October 31, 2010


  "Britain's bosses have been accused of greed and ignoring economic reality after boardroom pay leapt by 55% over the last year. FTSE 100 directors saw their total earnings soar in the 12 months to June, thanks to sharp rises in bonuses and performance-related pay. The average FTSE 100 chief executive now earns £4.9m a year, or almost 200 times the average wage. Unions reacted angrily to the report today. "Don't they know that this is meant to be austerity Britain?" said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. (Guardian, 28 October) RD


  "Sales of million-pound properties have more than doubled over the past year, fuelled by foreign cash in London. Wealthy buyers picked up nearly 3,000 properties for £1 million or above in Britain during the first six months of this year, an increase 118 per cent on the same period in 2009 compared with a 27 per cent rise generally, according to the Halifax." (Times, 23 October) RD

Saturday, October 30, 2010


 "The shift of income to the top has occurred in the most prosperous English-speaking nations, such as Australia, Britain, and Canada. But it has been most pronounced in the United States. Thirty years ago, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 9 percent of total national income. By 2007, they had 23 percent. Last year, new census data show, the rich-poor income gap was the widest on record. Wealth is more unevenly distributed. The top 20 percent of wealth-holders own 84 percent of America's wealth." (Christian Science Monitor, 18 October) RD


 "Every email, phone call and website visit is to be recorded and stored after the Coalition Government revived controversial Big Brother snooping plans. It will allow security services and the police to spy on the activities of every Briton who uses a phone or the internet. Moves to make every communications provider store details for at least a year will be unveiled later this year sparking fresh fears over a return of the surveillance state." (Daily Telegraph, 20 October) RD

Friday, October 29, 2010


 "The worlds most expensive Barbie doll has fetched almost £200,000 at auction. The custom-made doll, who wears a one carat pink diamond necklace surrounded by three carat white diamonds, was designed by jeweller Stefano Canturi. The custom-designed doll ...sparked a bidding frenzy. The winning offer at the Christies auction in New York was $302,500." (Daily Telegraph, 21 October) RD


 "Crystal Cathedral, the mega church birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," filed for bankruptcy Monday in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million. In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart." (Associated Press, 18 October) RD

Thursday, October 28, 2010


  "As with the international climate negotiations which ended in fiasco last year in Copenhagen, the biodiversity talks in Nagoya could well end in political stalemate -- as the situation in numerous ecosystems around the world gets worse and worse. Already, 20 percent of the planet's 380,000 plant species are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily due to habitat destruction caused by the world's growing population. Of 5,490 species of mammals, 1,130 are threatened and 70 percent of the world's fish population in danger from over-fishing" (Der Spiegel, 18 October) RD

$312,00 FOR A WATCH?

   "Purists prefer Patek Philippe, says Vanessa Herrera, deputy director for Sotheby's Asia watch department. Every time the auction house has a Patek in its lot, it is flagged as an auction highlight. For the Oct. 6 Sotheby's watch auction, a Patek Philippe platinum 5078P sold for 2.42 million Hong Kong dollars (US$312,000). It was "a most sought-after piece," says Ms. Herrera." (Wall Street Journal, 18 October) RD

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


  Defenders of American capitalism are fond of claiming that whatever its faults it is at least democratic. It is however a strange sort of democracy wherein money is the real dictator. Take the election campaign of Meg Whitman for the California Governorship. "With nearly two weeks to go before the election the eBay billionaire's campaign to become chief executive of California has already smashed all records. At $140 million (£89 million) it is the most expensive non-presidential campaign in American history and the deepest any candidate has ever delved to fund their campaign." (Times, 25 October). There is nothing unique in large corporations pouring millions of dollars into election campaigns, but in this case we have an individual spending a grotesque amount that represents about $8.24 for every one of California's 17 million registered voters. Her opponent has spent a "mere" $20 million! This is democracy? RD

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The rich get richer

Wage freeze for many. Benefit cuts for many.

Transport tycoon Brian Souter reveals the value of his investment portfolio has risen by 41% over three years totalling £400million.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


"The number of homes taken over by banks topped 100,000 for the first time in September, though foreclosures are expected to slow in coming months as lenders work through questionable paperwork, Banks foreclosed on 102,134 properties in September, the first single month above the century mark, RealityTrac said. There were 347,420 total foreclosure filings in September, 3 percent higher than August and 1 per cent higher than a year earlier." (Yahoo News, 14 October) RD

Friday, October 22, 2010


"George Osborne's claims that his spending cuts are fair have begun to unravel after the country's leading tax and spend think-tank revealed the poorest will be hit harder than the better off. In its analysis of the chancellor's spending review, the Institute for Fiscal Studies described the public spending cuts as the deepest since the second world war and said benefits would suffer the biggest squeeze since the 1970s." (Guardian. 21 October) RD

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


"Christopher Kane's silk-embroidered cashmere jumpers could look a bit prim. But they're the coolest thing in knitwear right now. Price: £930." (Independent, 4 October) RD


For hundreds of years the Pope ruled supreme in the Vatican and never ventured beyond its sacred environs. In recent times though less and less people are swallowing the medieval nonsense that is the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and he is forced to become a sort of Thomas Cook tourist. The current holy father looks like beating all records in air miles as he tries to whip up enthusiasm for a growingly unattractive organisation. He recently visited Britain and declared the prospect of sainthood for an English convert. Now concerned about falling attendances in North America he is about to canonise a Canadian doorman. "A Canadian monk who began life as a sickly, illiterate orphan before becoming a porter is to be canonised at the Vatican on Sunday. Alfred Bessette was renowned in the late 19th century as the diminutive doorman of Montreal's College of Notre Dame, whose hands were said to have powers of healing. ... He began his life at the college in 1870 as a porter. "Our superiors put me at the door, and I remained there for 40 years," he said later." (Daily Telegraph, 15 October) As an organisation that claim to have the keys to heaven they could do worse than make a doorman a saint. They have got to get those empty collection bags full somehow. RD


"Three peers should be suspended and repay expenses, A parliament."committee-report-on-conduct/" a House of Lords committee has recommended after investigating their claims. Baroness Uddin should be suspended until Easter 2012 and told to repay £125,349, the committee said. It also recommended Lord Paul be suspended for four months and cross bencher Lord Bhatia for eight months.Baroness Uddin has been suspended from the Labour Party and Lord Paul has resigned his party membership Lord Paul has already paid £41,982 and Lord Bhatia has paid back £27,446." (BBC News, 18 October) RD

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"A small rural community in western Tennessee is outraged and the fire chief is nursing a black eye after firefighters stood by and watched a mobile home burn to the ground because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 municipal fee. South Fulton city firefighters -- equipped with trucks, hoses and other firefighting equipment -- didn't intervene to save Gene Cranick's doublewide trailer home when it caught fire last week. But they did arrive on the scene to protect the house of a neighbor, who had paid his fire subscription fee. "I just forgot to pay my $75," said Cranick. "I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind." Later that day, Cranick's son Timothy went to the fire station to complain, and punched the fire chief in the face." (AOL News, 6 October) RD


"Specialist Aguilar was one of 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood who are believed to have committed suicide this year. The Army has confirmed 14 of those, and is completing the official investigations of six other soldiers who appear to have taken their own lives - four of them in one week in September. The deaths have made this the worst year at the sprawling fort since the military began keeping track in 2003. The spate of suicides in Texas reflects a chilling reality: nearly 20 months after the Army began strengthening its suicide prevention program and working to remove the stigma attached to seeking psychological counseling, the suicide rate among active service members remains high and shows little sign of improvement. Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides." (New York Times, 10 October) RD

Monday, October 18, 2010


"The billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani will soon take up residence at his recently completed Mumbai abode, a £1.2 billion glass tower said to have been inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Looking over a city where more than half the population lives in slums, it is a soaring monument to the growing chasm dividing India's rich and poor. ...For many, however, the gleaming tower will be an uncomfortable reminder that India's economic renaissance has delivered extraordinary benefits to a handful of hugely wealthy "Bollygarchs" but little to the 800 million Indians who live on not much more than £1 a day." (Times, 14 October) RD


"Hundreds of millions of people in poor countries suffer from untreated mental health disorders that could be helped with inexpensive care, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. The United Nations agency launched guidelines for primary care doctors and nurses to treat patients debilitated by depression and psychosis as well as neurological ailments including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias." (Yahoo News, 7 October) RD


"The number of households struggling to afford to stay warm has more than doubled in the past six years according to official figures. An extra 2.5 million homes have gone into fuel poverty since 2004, a report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change said. Homes are defined as living in fuel poverty if they have to spend more than 10 per cent of their income to maintain a minimum temperature of 21C in their main living area." (Times, 15 October) RD

Friday, October 15, 2010


One of the illusions that supporters of capitalism like to boast of is the notion that whatever the failings of the profit system at least it is thoroughly democratic. This is a complete fabrication as by the expenditure of million of dollars, euros and yen the owning class completely distort any pretence to democracy that capitalism may possess. A recent example of this manipulation by the power of money has emerged in the USA.
 "It likes to present itself as a grassroots insurgency made up of hundreds of local groups intent on toppling the Washington elite. But the Tea Party movement, which is threatening to cause an upset in next month's midterm elections, would not be where it is today without the backing of that most traditional of US political supporters - Big Oil. The billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, a private company with 70,000 employees and annual revenues of $100bn (£62bn), used to joke that they controlled the biggest company nobody had ever heard of. Not any more. After decades during which their fortune grew exponentially and they channelled millions of dollars to rightwing causes, Charles and David Koch are finally getting noticed for their part in the extraordinary growth of the Tea Party movement. The two, 74-year-old Charles and David, 70, have invested widely in the outcome of the 2 November elections. One Koch subsidiary has pumped $1m into the campaign to repeal California's global warming law, according to state records." (Guardian, 14 October) Like Bob Dylan once wrote - "Money doesn't talk, it swears." RD


"West Africa's cocoa industry is still trafficking children and using forced child labour despite nearly a decade of efforts to eliminate the practices, according to an independent audit published by Tulane University. A U.S.-sponsored solution called the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by cocoa industry members to identify and eliminate cocoa grown using forced child labour. A child-labour-free certification process was supposed to cover 50 per cent of cocoa growing regions in West Africa by 2005 and 100 per cent by the end of 2010. But independent auditors at Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development said in a late September report that efforts have not even come close to these targets." (Globe and Mail, 8 October) RD


"A million people are expected to lose their jobs in the next four years as a result of the Government's decision to cut public spending by £83 billion, according to a report out today. Nearly 500,000 jobs are likely to be cut in the private sector as the Government stops building schools, hospitals and roads and cancels other contracts. This is on top of about 500,000 job losses in the public sector as employers reduce budgets by about a third and lay off civil servants, town hall staff, nurses, teachers and police officers." (Times, 13 October) RD

Thursday, October 14, 2010


"U.N. food agencies said Wednesday that 166 million people in 22 countries suffer chronic hunger or difficulty finding enough to eat as a result of what they called protracted food crises. Wars, natural disasters and poor government institutions have contributed to a continuous state of undernourishment in some 22 nations, including Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, the Food and Agriculture Operation and the World Food Program said in a new report." (Associated Press, 6 October) RD


When the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed away back in 1904 we were told by reformers in the Liberal Party and later the Labour Party that by a series of reforms capitalism could be made more fair and that the inequalities between the classes could be eradicated by a programme of reformist legislation. More than a hundred years of such legislation has led to what? According to a survey produced by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission set up in 2007 to produce a three yearly report on the "state of the nation", it has led to abject failure. "Today's report How Fair Is Britain?, shows that health inequalities remain stark between rich and poor, with men and women from the highest income groups living seven years longer on average than the lower." (Times, 11 October) All the ingenuity of the reformers has merely led to the continuation of the same stinking inequalities of capitalism. RD

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


THE WORD REVOLUTION is almost as misused as the word Socialism. If a government is changed, a political leader is replaced, a coup takes place, and the media shout "revolution!" Indeed, if this usage of the word were correct, then revolutions occur every year and sometimes every month!
     What is meant by "revolution" and why is this concept so important to the future of the working class? Revolution means a transformation in the object to which the term is being applied. If it is being used about society, then it means a total change in economic relations. The easiest example to understand is the revolution that took place to transform feudalism to capitalism. In feudal society the majority were tied to their superiors. Over and above what they produced for themselves and their families in order to live, the serfs were compelled to produce for their feudal masters and the Church. That form of society was transformed by a revolution into a society—capitalism--where there is no direct ownership of the lives of people by other people in the same way.
     Capitalist society is organized on the basis that the worker sells his labour-power voluntarily to an employer for a wage or salary. In theory, no one is compelled to work for another. In practice, the majority must do so. They have no other means of living, since legally they do not own sufficient of the means of wealth production to enable them to live without this form of selling known as wage-labour.
     In all forms of society, minorities have owned the means of living, with the result that the other classes have had to submit to the dictates of the minority whilst that particular form of society existed. Feudalism depended on agricultural production and personal subservience by the majority to clearly defined groups. Privilege in capitalism depends not on accidents of birth (though these can be of importance to the individual) but on the ownership of capital. Whilst in feudal society by and large it was birth that determined into which class one fell, in capitalist society it is purely a question of ownership of wealth however obtained.
     The revolution that will change capitalism into socialism will involve the replacement of all the relationships of capitalism. Instead of the primary characteristics of, capitalism--production for profit, the buying and selling of all things including labour-power, and private (or state) ownership of wealth, society will be characterised by common ownership and of free access to that wealth. Production will be for human satisfaction only, hence neither money nor all the paraphernalia that goes with it, and will be based upon voluntary co-operation by all in the interests of all. To get to that form of society involves a transformation---a revolution. It is only in Socialism that man will solve the major problems he now faces. That is why the SPGB is a revolutionary party.
     Because the next revolution must be the work of the majority consciously co-operating in the work that it will entail, a transformation in men's ideas is the pre-requisite to its successful implementation.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


"A rare pink diamond that goes on sale next month could fetch up to $38 million, according to auctioneers Sotheby's. The fancy intense pink 24.78 carat gem is being sold by an unidentified private collector, the auction house said. "We are able to say its been in the possession of the same owner for 60 years, but beyond that, we are not able to reveal more", Sotheby's spokesman Matthew Weigman said Tuesday. The diamond was last sold by New York jeweler Harry Winston and has a classic emerald cut with gently rounded corners, the company said." (Associated Press, 8 October) RD

Monday, October 11, 2010

Failure of Reformism

"Yet despite this significant progress, our ambitions still exceed our achievements and it is clear that we have some distance still to go. Despite all our advances, we have unfinished business and new social and economic faultlines to contend with." Kaliani Lyle, Scotland Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission said

41 per cent of permanent exclusions were among pupils from the 20 per cent of areas in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation.

Scotland's suicide rate is higher than that for the UK as a whole, with a figure of 12.6 per 100,000 population compared with 9.51 per 100,000 population. Men are more likely to kill themselves than women, with rates particularly high for men aged 25-34 and those aged 35-44. Men and women living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to take their own life as those in less deprived areas.


"Disabled people will be hit with more than £9bn in welfare cuts over the next five years, a think tank has warned. Demos suggests the government's plans will see 3.6m disabled people and carers lose about £9.2bn by 2015. It said moving those on incapacity benefit who were reassessed as fit to work to jobseeker's allowance would account for half of the losses." (BBC News, 9 October) RD

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Food for thought

In a survey, Working Less and Earning More' the Toronto Star reported (4/Sept/2010) that the average wage is $23.10 per hour ($19.93 in 2005) and average hours are 33.24 per week (down from 34.69 in 2000). The largest job increases came in the service sector where hardly anyone is offered a full week to save on benefit payments, and 82% said they would take a pay cut to work at a job that guaranteed a work-life balance.

Reading Notes
Continuing from above (the prevailing ideas…) Charles C. Mann in "1491" shows how rulers change history to create allegiance to their cause, "Tlacaelel (ruler of the Mexica in ancient Mexico) insisted that in addition to destroying the codices (picture histories) of their former oppressors, the Mexica should set fire to their own codices. His explanation for this idea can only be described as Orwellian: "It is not fitting that our people/ Should know these pictures/ Our people, our subjects will be lost/ And our land destroyed/ For these pictures are full of lies". The lies were the inconvenient fact that the Mexica past was one of poverty and humiliation. To motivate the people properly, Tlacaelel said, the priesthood should rewrite Mexica history by creating new codices, adding in the great deeds whose lack now seemed embarrassing and adorning their ancestry with ties to the Toltecs and Teotihuacan." i.e. the Ministry of Truth is established to tell lies. Sounds familiar!
Further on, Mann describes how loyalty to the ruling class can be achieved, "In their penchant for ceremonial public slaughter, the Alliance (of Mexican tribes) and Europe were much more alike than either side grasped. In both places the public death was accompanied by the reading of ritual scripts. And in both the goal was to create a cathartic paroxysm of loyalty to the government – in the Mexica case, by recalling the spiritual justification for the empire; in the European case, to reassert the sovereign's divine power after it had been injured by a criminal act."

For socialism and meaningful reading, John Ayers

Saturday, October 09, 2010


"Nurses are being asked to work extra shifts for free to save their jobs as health boards across Scotland spend up to £30million hiring agency staff. Almost 4,000 NHS jobs, including more than 1,500 nursing and midwifery posts, will be axed this year due to cutbacks, according to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. But last night it emerged that the country's 14 health boards have set aside a combined £30million for temporary nurses and theatre staff over the next four years. Grampian hopes to save £385,000 by asking staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's surgical unit to take on one more shift each month for no extra money." (Press and Journal, 6 October) RD

Food for thought

Churchill had freedom of speech and used it to his own ends and those of the capitalist class. In a new book by Richard Toye, "Churchill's Empire", the author reveals a side of Churchill not usually shown but well known to oppressed peoples of the Third World. Toyne details Churchill's part in replacing the democratic government of Iran with the Shah after the
Iranian government had the audacity to demand a fair share of the profits of their oil, "The idea that leaders of poor countries would stand up and claim control of their own resources was something that Churchill could never grasp or sympathize with. The mere fact that some valuable resource was sitting under the soil of another country instead of British soil did
not mean that Britain shouldn't have it." Sounds just like a dozen other imperialist powers!
John Ayers

Friday, October 08, 2010

Food for thought

The prevailing ideas of a society are those of the ruling class, Marx stated. Here is one small example of how that happens. The University of Toronto, like all educational institutes, solicits donations from anyone and everyone. Many wealthy businessmen have donated to get their names on plaques, auditoriums, or even whole buildings, depending on the donation.
Those so commemorated are the likes of merchant banker Joseph Rotman, pharmaceutical entrepreneur, Leslie Dan, and businessman, Peter Monk, chairman of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company. Unfortunately, those without money, even icons such as Tommy Douglas, recently voted the Greatest Canadian of All Time, and considered the
father of Canada's public health care system, do not get their names on walls as a group of professors found out when they proposed naming the Health Studies Program after Douglas. Presumably, being dead, he was unable to contribute hard cash, and didn't meet the requirements for potential fund raising. Peter Monk donated $35 million to help set up the
Monk school of Global Affairs. Linda McQuaig and Neil Brook reveal in their new book, "The Trouble with Billionaires" (reviewed in Toronto Star 12/Sept/2010) that Monk would receive a tax refund of $16 million on the donation, more if he donated the money in the form of shares, reducing his donation to about half. Various levels of government contributed $66million but that didn't count for anything when it came to naming the building. It gets worse. Monk's donation will be spread out over many years and will be subject to his family's approval of the school, i.e. socialist professors need not apply. The school's director will be required to report annually to a board appointed by Munk 'to discuss the programs, activities, and initiatives of the school in greater detail.' Obviously, the school will have to reflect the views of Munk, not those of taxpayer John Ayers, even though I contributed much more (without my consultation, of course.) It is fine to have freedom of speech, but that right to get your ideas and opinions heard depends on how much money you have, as all elections show. John Ayers


"About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis. Researchers compiled a composite index of "water threats" that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution. The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people." (BBC News, 29 September) RD

Thursday, October 07, 2010


In its endless quest for profit capitalism pollutes the rivers, the seas and the atmosphere. A particularly nasty incident has recently occurred that threatens to turn the world-famous Blue Danube into a sludgy red colour. "A state of emergency has been declared in the Hungarian region submerged by toxic sludge because the chemical flood is threatening water supplies by rushing towards the Danube River. The lethal tidal wave of poisonous red mud burst from a reservoir of toxic waste belonging to an alumina plant in the town of Ajka and flooded a 16-square mile area. At least four people were killed, 120 were treated for serious chemical burns and six remain missing after the tsunami of poison surged through several towns around 100 miles southwest of Budapest." (Daily Mail, 6 October) There will be the usual outcry with well-meaning environmentalists calling for "something must be done". Nothing will be done of course because the profit motive is sacrosanct inside capitalism and human considerations are of no account compared with the need for bigger and bigger profits. RD

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Food for thought

Talking of poverty, the queen is apparently experiencing difficulties in paying for heating of her drafty old palaces. The Toronto Star reports (25/Sept/2010) that the Queen's staff applied for subsidized heating in 2004 to a program designed to help people in need. Apart from being one of the richest people in the world, the queen receives household funds from the taxpayers to the tune of $60 million per year. Tough life!
After going through a year-long strike with its workers, Brazilian mining giant, Vale Inco, is back in the news. They are preparing to dump 400 000 tons of toxic tailings into a Newfoundland Lake known for its prize-winning trout. Apparently, the federal Fisheries Act says that if a lake is re-classified as a 'tailings impoundment area' a company cannot be sued for dumping. Why is there such a loophole anyway, one might ask? Vale thinks it is doing nothing wrong and is complying with the law. The second part may be quite true but this is where we ask, for whom does your government work? And, it is just these companies and this government on whom we must rely to put our polluted planet right! John Ayers

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Food for thought

On the poverty front, both The Toronto Star and Gwynne Dyer (EMC newspaper) review progress of the Millennium Development Goals set out in 2000. Both see progress but too slow, and faltering. The Star reports that the number of hungry people has been reduced (other figures contradict this) from 20% to 16%, yet still children are dying at the rate of one
every six seconds. Dwyer sees progress in key areas such as literacy, access to clean water, and infant mortality, yet sees a rising population as a barrier to bringing everyone up to Northern Hemisphere standards. Pollution, global warming, and resource depletion would put a halt to any rise in living standards of the Third World. Neither, of course, can think outside the capitalist box and promote a complete reorganization of the economic and social systems under which we live today. To them a shared world of the provision of all needs for all to replace the total madness of capitalist production is not a consideration. It's about time that it
was! John Ayers


"Super cool Swedish perfumers Byredo were inspired by the Seventies when they created 'Green', with its notes of sage, honeysuckle and almond. Price: £115 for 100ml. (Independent, 27 September) RD

Monday, October 04, 2010


"Before running for the US Senate, Christine O'Donnell dabbled in witchcraft. That may account for mounting evidence that her grasp on reality is fading. Ms O'Donnell has little executive experience but an impressive CV that claims that she has studied at the prestigious Claremont Graduate University, California, and at the University of Oxford. She has also indicated in a lawsuit that she once began a master's degree course at Princeton. Not one of these claims is true." (Times, 30 September) RD

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Financiers, stockbrokers and City wheeler-dealers are fond of portraying themselves as masters of the universe whose expertise and accumen gives them an insight into how modern capitalism works. However one of their numbers, David Tepper has revealed in a recent TV interview some of the tricks of his trade that cast doubt on the master of the universe description. "Last year we learnt that the founder of Appaloosa Management kept a pair of brass testicles on his desk to rub for good luck. Another of his tricks emerged in an interview with CNBC last week. "We keep three little pigs in the office and we shake a pig to see which way to invest. If it lands on its feet we go long, if it lands on its back we go short." (Sunday Times, 26 September) David Tepper as a hedge fund billionaire investor may regard himself as a master of the universe, but to socialists he is more a master of the con-trick! RD


The extravagant spending habits of President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace are well-documented. Described as the First Shopper of Zimbabwe, she is usually clad in haute couture and hidden behind designer sunglasses. With a £25,000 diamond-encrusted Rolex watch hanging off her wrist, the 45-year-old thinks nothing of spending millions of pounds during foreign shopping trips each year - while ordinary Zimbabweans can barely find enough food to eat. (Daily Mail, 26 September) RD

Saturday, October 02, 2010


"Richard Dawkins seemed to be saying last night that he rather envied those teachers who have to drill irregular Latin verbs into the heads of schoolchildren. At least they do not have to teach their discipline against the background noise of well-organised and expensively funded pressure groups who deny that ancient Rome even existed and claim that all languages sprang into existence simultaneously more recently than that. But that, in a sense, is the fate of the scientist who wants to teach evolution. In the USA, 40 per cent of the population believes that every word of the Bible is literally true." (Independent, 16 September) RD

Friday, October 01, 2010


Schoolboys and schoolgirls are taught about the splendour of military valour and yet such medals as the Victoria Cross are often sold by the recipenients or their surviving family in order to get by inside capitalism. Many English schoolboys must dream of reprising the football heroes of 1966 and winning a World Cup medal, but like military heroes the football heroes and their families have got to get by inside capitalism. "Yesterday, more than 40 years on from their great triumph, Nobby Stiles became the latest member of the team to announce that he was selling his winner's medal. When he does, Roger Hunt, Bobby Charlton and Jack Charlton will be the only players to still to own their precious medallions. The other eight players (only the 11 who played the final were initially awarded a medal) have sold theirs to collectors or to museums. Stiles, who since retiring from football has been working on the after-dinner speaking circuit and recently had a stroke, said he wanted to cash in on his medal, along with other items of memorabilia from his playing days, to provide for his family." (Independent, 15 September) So whether you die for their country or just win a game of football capitalism will evaluate your actions in pounds and pence. RD

Glasgow's Shame Games

A useful blog to follow that focusses upon the coming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is the Glasgow Games Monitor 2014. It carries the story of Margaret Jaconelli and her fight for a fair deal rather than accept the risible £30,000 she has been offered for her two-bedroom tenement home.Yet Margaret Jaconelli states that an independent chartered surveyor valued her home (which she owns) at £95,000. A quick search on S1 homes shows that there isn’t a single property in the East End of Glasgow going for less than £72,950. This makes a valuation of £30,000 seem like a sick joke.Imagine if a Compulsory Purchase Order was placed on a homeowner in a wealthy suburb of the West End, and if instead of offering the full value of the house, the Council offered less than a third of that value; or shared ownership; or a Housing Association. There would be an outcry. Certain developers – such as Charles Price - who don’t even live in the area, have been compensated with millons of pounds profit. Mayfair property developer Charles Price and the City Council. Price bought a parcel of land in Dalmarnock for £8 million in the period 2002-2005. The land also lies on a site earmarked for the Commonwealth Games Village and is likewise deemed essential for the Games development. The City Council had it within their powers to perform a Compulsory Purchase Order on Price’s land, but instead negotiated with Price (a process denied to Margaret Jaconelli and the other shopkeepers) resulting in a fantastically generous £17 million sale of the land - with £3 million added VAT. A total cost of £20 million pounds . Price has argued that he didn’t know the site he bought would later be developed for the Games Village. This claim seems remarkably economical with the truth. In fact, Price’s PPD consortium was one of two bidders for the construction of the Games Village site, and it is hugely unlikely that a consortium of that scale including leading architectural firms, and real estate advisors wouldn’t know about such a significant development. More likely, they bought the land knowing that its monopoly value would increase enormously with the pressure of the Games.

“I’m just a wee person from the east end of Glasgow...They said well we’re just going to grass the site over. I said, listen, do not tell me that in the East End of Glasgow, near the city centre, that all this land is going to be grassed over. It all boils down to money. I know the way everything gets sold, the bricks, everything, the land will get sold"

Later, when Glasgow bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it became clear that the building, like many others around it, stood in the way of the Athlete’s Village. This development of approximately 38 hectares will be adjacent to the new National Indoor Sports Arena and cycling Velodrome. According to the brief to the consortia of companies bidding for the development rights for the Village, the site should ultimately contain around 1,200 homes. The significant majority of these will be sold in the open market after the Games.

Discussion meeting: Inflation

Wednesday, 20 October, 8.30pm

INFLATION Speaker: Vic Vanni

Community Central Halls,
304 Maryhill Road,
G20 7YE.

This is a regular series of discussions by the SPGB's Glasgow branch.

All welcome