Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2010

A MERRY CHRISTMAS?

Hundreds of thousands leaflets produced by Crisis UK were pushed through letterboxes recently appealing for donations. They painted a horrible picture of what Christmas meant for the homeless. "Hidden homeless people live in hostels, squats, bed and breakfasts or sleep on friends' floors. They often lead miserable, isolated lives and suffer from debilitating mental and physical health problems. Crisis wants to open nine centres between 23 and 30 December offering homeless people companionship, care, hot food and warm clothing at a time of year which can be particularly lonely for those without a home or a family." These well-meaning people are obviously sincere in their attempts to alleviate the plight of the homeless, but what happens after the 30 December? It is the nature of capitalism to produce great wealth and great poverty. Charity cannot solve the problems of poverty, homelessness or alienation. Only a complete transformation of society from the profi…

WHAT HOUSING PROBLEM?

"This was a house fit for an oligarch: indeed, it was expressly designed for such. House 6, in Cornwall Crescent, is one of two grand Regent's Park mini-mansions going into what estate agents call the super-prime market: the luxury, £15m-plus, "if you have to ask you can't afford it" central London bracket. Oddly, despite the nation's straitened circumstances, the super-primes are thriving. Indeed, these two houses - number 6 is £39m - number 11 £29m, are part of eight in the Grade I-listed, John Nash-designed, 1811-vintage cream-coloured terrace. They fit the super-rich bill but, as one agent tells me, they might be deemed down-market by an oil baron: "Belgravia's the top destination, not Regent's Park." (Independent, 19 November) RD

HIGH-ROLLERS ROLL ON

"Across New York a long-forgotten rustling and snapping can be heard. It's the sound of high-rollers opening their wallets. In the clearest sign yet that the very wealthy are spending again, Tiffany & Co reported third-quarter results yesterday that ripped through analysts' expectations. Profits at the New York-based luxury jeweller rose 27 per cent to $55.1 million (£34.8 million), up from $43.3 million a year earlier, while revenue rose to $681.7 million." (Times, 25 November) RD

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS

"John Prescott's office authorised spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on "indoor plant landscaping" and "silver service" waiters when he was Deputy Prime Minister. Contract documents seen by The Independent reveal Lord Prescott's department demanded catering staff must always be discreet, wear a uniform and on no account disrupt meetings of ministers." ( Independent, 18 November) RD

POVERTY IN HAITI

"Nearly one month after cholera took hold, the confirmed fatalities have risen to 917. This  Sans Frontieres (MSF)  medical facility in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince has 70 beds but is receiving 300 cases a day. "They are arriving in large numbers. Our hospital is completely full," said Caroline Seguin, emergency coordinator for MSF. "We're even having to refuse referrals because we know we are unable to treat them. While cholera can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts or intravenous fluids, it can kill if not treated quickly. The only way to prevent the spread of cholera is to avoid drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera, but in tent cities waterborne cholera can spread easily through shared sanitation, washing and cooking facilities. An estimated 1.3 million Haitians are living in refugee camps around the capital since an earthquake devastated the city in January." (Daily Tele…

CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE?

"Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any major city, with one out of four people living in poverty. One-third of that population is under 18. In September, about 70,700 Philadelphians were unemployed and looking for work. In December 2007, when most economists say the recession began, 39,500 people were unemployed. More than 900,000 residents of the Delaware Valley are at risk for chronic hunger and malnutrition. In fiscal year 2009, Philabundance distributed 17 million pounds of food in the Delaware Valley, reaching about 65,000 people per week. Of those who rely on Philabundance, 23 percent are children and 16 percent are seniors. In 2004-06, the average percentage of the Pennsylvania population that was food insecure - meaning that at certain times they were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food for the household - was 10 percent. The average rose to 11.8 percent in 2007-09. Sources: Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Philabundance, USDA F…

A NICE LITTLE SNACK

"White truffles are displayed Sunday during the traditional annual truffle auction in Alba, northern Italy, where a 900-gram white truffle was auctioned for 105 million Euros ($143.58 million) to a Hong Kong buyer." (Global Times), 18 November)  RD

fuel poverty increases

A third of Scots households are unable to keep their homes warm, according to Scottish government figures.

In 2009, about 770,000 homes were said to be in fuel poverty, spending over 10% of income on heating, compared with 618,000 in 2008 and 293,000 in 2002. The figures from the Scottish House Condition Survey also indicated that the number of households in "extreme fuel poverty" had risen from 3% in 2002 to 10% in 2009.

Charities claim that the governement target to effectively abolish fuel poverty by 2016 is not likely to be achieved if current trends continue.

(A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income to adequately heat its home, and in extreme fuel poverty if it would have to spend more than 20%.)

HUNGER IN THE USA

"Almost 15% of US households experienced a food shortage at some point in 2009, a government report has found. US authorities say that figure is the highest they have seen since they began collecting data in the 1990s, and a slight increase over 2008 levels. Single mothers are among the hardest hit: About 3.5 million said they were at times unable to put sufficient food on the table. Hispanics and African Americans also suffer disproportionately. The food security report is the result of an annual survey conducted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)." (BBC News, 15 November) RD

GOD AND MAMMON

"A Pentecostal church (The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God) with 10,000 followers in some of the poorest parts of Britain is encouraging worshippers to sell all their possessions and default on their bills in order to donate more money to the church an investigation by Times Money has found. ... The Church's aggressive pursuit of tithes and offerings means that donations dwarf those made at mainstream churches. The Church's accounts state that it received £8.8 million in 2008-09, the most recent year for which figures are available. This is an average of £225,556 per congregation - 600 per cent more than raised by the Church of England." (Times, 20 November) RD

WAR IS BIG BUSINESS

"A US arms sale to Saudi Arabia worth $60 billion (£37 billion) - the largest single deal on record - was expected to go ahead last night despite concerns from some American lawmakers over its potential impact on Israel security." (Times, 20 November)RD

SUPER RICH BRITONS

"The super-rich British property magnates who managed to survive the credit crunch are seeing their fortunes rise again for the first time in three years. The Estate Gazette Rich List 2010 indicates that the UK's 250 richest real-estate investors are worth a combined £3 billion more than they were last year, thanks to a turnaround in commercial property prices." (Times, 20 November) RD
The number of unemployed women has reached a 22-year high of more than a million, prompting warnings of worse to come.

Analysts say women are bearing the brunt of the recession and public-sector cuts, with women in Scotland losing their jobs at a rate more than seven times greater than for men. The number of females out of work north of the Border soared by 5000 to 93,000 over the summer. Across the UK, female unemployment rose by 31,000 in the three months to September to reach 1.02 million – the highest level since 1988.

The number of workers forced to take part-time jobs because they cannot find full-time work has also reached a record high, according to the Office for National Statistics.

AN INTERVIEW FROM A JOURNALIST

This blog has many contributions from our Canadian comrade John Ayers, recently he was interviewed by a journalist from the Digital JournalI've copied it, I hope you'll be interestedSome believe that the recent financial meltdown was caused by free markets and capitalism, which has drawn many people to look at the alternative: Socialism. The Socialist Party of Canada's wants to define what Socialism really means.At several demonstrations in Toronto, this journalist has come across a lot of members of the Socialist and Communist Parties of Canada. The representatives hand out information on certain events occurring and their stance on the issue.It was time to finally speak with the party and understand their points of view.

At several demonstrations in Toronto, this journalist has come across a lot of members of the Socialist and Communist Parties of Canada. The representatives hand out information on certain events occurring and their stance on the issue. I…

SUPER RICH AMERICANS

"No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid  - the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation's pretax income in 2007. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent's pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose." (New York Times, 13 November) RD

SITUATIONS VACANT

"In Baltimore this weekend more than a hundred Roman Catholic bishops and priests gathered to discuss a skills shortage within their congregation; it seems there are simply not enough exorcists. Just as US industry has suffered a lack of engineers, the number of men capable of casting out demons has declined, even as demand for their services has increased. In parts of the country they are now harder to find than a good plumber." (Times, 15 November) RD

ANOTHER ILLUSION GOES

One of the illusions about capitalism that its supporters are always proclaiming is that it is a ruthlessly efficient society that rewards honesty and punishes double-dealing. It is not a view shared by the capitalist class themselves as illustrated by this recent media expose. "The European Commission has fined 11 of the world's largest airlines £799 million for their part in a conspiracy to fix the price of cargo shipments. British Airways is among the carriers to be fined and has been ordered to pay a 104 million euro (£90 million) penalty." (Times, 10 November)
The capitalist class are fond of lecturing workers about honesty, but when extra profits can be realised they are not adverse to a bit of sharp practice. RD

THE GAP WIDENS (2)

"The bosses of Britain's largest companies are enjoying lavish pay rises despite the wobbly economic recovery, with most of the surge in rewards coming from long-term incentive schemes and gains from share options. The chief executives of FTSE 100 companies have seen their pay surge by 55% in a year, according to a report released yesterday by research group Incomes Data Services (IDS), while across the top 350 listed companies, total board pay rose by an average of 45%." (Guardian, 29 October) RD

Families live in fear of losing home

More than half a million Scottish families are heading into winter weighed down by fears about keeping a roof over their heads, a new study has revealed.Research by Shelter showed thousands of people face serious problems trying to stay afloat.

The charity found that more than one in three homeowners are worried about keeping up mortgage payments, and one in six are already struggling to find the money each month.

“We know from the cases we see every day that it only takes one problem, like a bout of illness, or redundancy, to tip people over the edge and into a spiral of mounting debt and arrears.” Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said

One in every six mortgage holders across the UK was actively struggling to pay a mortgage.

THE MUTED MOCKERY OF POPPY (COCK) DAY

The ribbons arrayed the honours displayed
The medals jingling on parade
Echo of battles long ago
But they're picking sides for another go.

The martial air, the vacant stare
The oft-repeated pointless prayer
"Peace oh' Lord on earth below"
Yet they're picking sides for another go.

The clasped hands, the pious stance
The hackneyed phrase "Somewhere in France"
The eyes downcast as bugles blow
Still they're picking sides for another go.

Symbol of death the cross-shaped wreath
The sword is restless in the sheath
As children pluck where poppies grow
They're picking sides for another go.

Have not the slain but died in vain?
The hoardings point, "Prepare again"
The former friend a future foe?
They're picking sides for another go.

I hear Mars laugh at the cenotaph
Says he, as statesmen blow the gaff
"Let the Unknown Warriors flame still glow"
For they're picking sides for another go.

A socialist plan the world would span
Then man would l…

Reading Notes

An example of the use of fear and theatre in religious compliance comes from "1491" written by Charles C. Mann. Of the Mesoamerican city that existed between 800BC and 200 AD, he says, " Its most important feature, a ceremonial temple…was a master piece of architectural intimidation. Using a network of concealed vents and channels, priests piped loud, roaring sounds at those who entered the temple. Visitors walked up three flights of stairs, growls echoing around them and into a long, windowless passage. At the end of the corridor, in a cross-shaped room that flickered with torchlight, was fifteen foot-high stone figure with a cat-like face, taloned fingers, fierce tusks and Medusa hair. Immediately above it, hidden from visitors' eyes, sat a priestly functionary, who provided the god's voice." Not unlike our present day churches, their architecture and d├ęcor, and ceremonies. John Ayers

Food for thought

Apparently, Pope Benedict has been on the attack against atheists, possibly to cover up the widening abuse scandals that continue to pop up everywhere the priests have been.
(Gwyn Dyer in EMC newspaper 30/09/10).
Benedict juxtaposes god, religion and virtue on the one side and nazis, communists and atheists on the other. Only the fear of god makes people act morally. But is that so? Researcher Gregory Paul says, "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator coordinate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, venereal disease, teen pregnancy, and abortion. According to Benedict's logic, the United States should be a crime free paradise and Sweden a vortex of crime and violence. Obviously, the opposite is true. Dwyer asks if people are more religious in low socio economic countries where crime is more prevalent, so the correlation might better be expressed as religion and poverty and ignorance, where religion has its stron…

Food for thought

The Futility of Reform
French workers protested in Paris and around the country with the main focus being to stop government reform of pensions, increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62. French unions see retirement at 60 'as a firmly entrenched right in a country attached to generous state benefits'. (Toronto Star 3/10/10). France, like many countries is having to enforce cut backs to pay for its expenditures and avoid going deeper into debt. Guess who is going to win? Reforms take years to acquire and a second to take away.
The Toronto Star revealed (2/10/10) that the United States, with the full knowledge of the Guatemalan government, deliberately infected citizens of that country with syphilis by getting prison inmates to sleep with prostitutes who had been infected between 1946 and 1948. In addition, mentally ill patients were inoculated with the bacteria. None of those in
the experiments gave consent. This was revealed by medical historian, Susan Reverby, …

Food for thought

On the environmental front, the New York Times reports (24/10/2010) That the cradle of civilization, the fertile crescent is experiencing a drought (no pun intended) of biblical proportions. Climate scientists report that a four-year drought has turned much of it into barren land, ancient irrigation systems have collapsed, underground water sources have run dry and hundreds of villages have been abandoned. In Syria and Iraq, millions have been driven into poverty.
On the positive side, Syncrude has been fined $3 million (probably about two hours' profit) for allowing those 1,600 birds to land and die in their tailing pond in 2008. The bad news is it just happened again. One radio wag reported that a syncrude spokesman said " Not to worry, the ponds are not damaged!"
Just to set your mind at rest, environmentally speaking, Matthew E. Khan in his book, "How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future" assures us that, " It was the capitalist machi…

Food for thought

Can a T-shirt save a country? Asks the Toronto Star (17/10/2010). The Haitian garment industry needs rebuilding but suffers from poverty-level wages (funny, I thought it was the worker that suffered from low wages!), an unreliable electric supply, and cut-throat competition. Remuneration for slaving for a day is now 150 gourdes (up from 125), or about $3.15 which will get you 3 cups of beans OR 5 cups of rice OR 6 tins of charcoal OR 3 bottles of Prestige beer OR 20 cell phone minutes OR ¾ of a gallon of gasoline OR 12 mangoes!
Behind the euphoria of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners lurk some disturbing details – across the globe, some 13 million of the world's poorest people, including one million children, work in mining. "IN addition to the explosions, falling rock and entrapments that have killed
thousands of people in recent years, miners experience among the highest rates of work-related illness and premature death of any industry." (Toronto Star, 17/10/…

Food for thought

The Mirage of capitalism – The Toronto Star of 24/Oct/2010 reported 43 million displaced people in the world.
India's 'economic miracle' has meant some improvement in the living standards of some sectors of the population. However, there are still 475 million living on less than $1.25 a day, or one in three people in the world living without basic necessities are Indian. Initiative at Oxford University puts the Indian poverty rate at 55% or 645 million. (Toronto Star 2/Oct/2010)
Not to worry, there is a game plan – soccer tournaments to keep the youth's minds off rebellion. Apparently, Maoist guerrilla activity is prevalent with bombings and sabotaged roads. "When young men are idle, they get destructive thoughts in their minds. When you are loving a sport, you don't have time to think about bad things." Said a district officer in charge of education. (Toronto Star, 2/10/2010) Presumably bad things like living on $1.25 a day!). John Ayers

PROFITS BEFORE SAFETY

In their ruthless pursuit of bigger and bigger profits the owning class care little for human life or the pollution of the planet, but even by their standards the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico illustrated a complete contempt for humanity in its efforts to cheapen production costs. "The companies involved in drilling the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico were aware that the cement they used to seal the well before it blew out was unstable. That is the conclusion of a US presidential panel investigating the reasons behind the April 20 explosion and ensuing oil leak. Both BP and the US company Halliburton had received test results on the cement showing it to be unstable - but neither acted on the data." (The Week, 29 October) All the companies involved are trying to shift the blame for the explosion  on to each other, but the truth is that capitalism by its very nature causes such disasters. RD

OLD, COLD AND FORGOTTEN

FORGOTTEN                                   "Almost two-thirds of older people in Northern Ireland cannot afford to heat their home through the winter, it has been revealed. The fuel poverty rate among people aged over 60 is up 15% on four years ago and now stands at 60.5%, according to the latest House Conditions Survey. The study conducted by the Housing Executive shows that the situation is even worse for older people living on their own - with almost four-fifths officially designated as living in fuel poverty.  (Independent, 28 October)     RD

ARTISTS AND PHONIES

"Visitors to Berlin's Museum for Contemporary Art can book themselves a night in an installation created by artist Carsten Hoeller at a cost of 1,000 Euros (889.6 pounds) as of November 5. The installation, which includes a floating hotel room on a platform shaped like a mushroom, gives guests an "opportunity to dive into the world of soma," the museum said." (Yahoo News, 22 October) There are many ideas about art but inside capitalism like everything else it is decided on price. Artists like Rembrandt and Van Gough died skint so  probably in their day they were failures not like this con man who knows how to make a few bob inside capitalism. Who do you prefer? RD

POINTLESS PROBING

"No-one stopped and searched by police under controversial anti-terror powers was arrested for a terrorism-related offence, figures showed today. A total of 101,248 stops and searches were made under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in 2009/10, but only one in every 200 led to an arrest and none of these were terror-related, the figures released by the Home Office showed." (Independent, 28 October) RD

Perspective