Thursday, December 30, 2010
On average, Scots trying to get on to the property ladder will have to find a £21,000 deposit for their starter home, according to the Halifax. It means at least a decade of scrimping and saving to get a foot on the ladder. Someone earning the average Scottish wage of £25,350 and saving one-tenth of their take-home pay would need more than a decade to amass the down payment, while still paying rent.Overall, the average house price paid by a first-time buyer in the UK has more than doubled over the past decade, increasing by 102% from £68,644 in 2000 to £138,682 in 2010 – equivalent to a weekly increase of £135. With such high demands made of those looking to buy, the average age of a first-time buyer in 2010 was 29. But it estimated that the average age of first-time buyers without financial assistance, such as a parental loan, had increased from 33 in 2007 to 36 now.
While the average-earning Scottish buyer will take 11 years to amass a deposit, a typical buyer elsewhere in the country would take nearer 15 years if they saved at the same rate.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
A STORY FOR GIRLS AND BOYS
Christmas Eve was only twenty-seven days away. A thousand feet down beneath the ice and rock of northern Greenland Father Christmas was feeling pleased and rather excited. In his workshops the output of toys and sweets was going almost exactly according to plan.
And what a plan! Five years ago he had decided that, old as he was, he must move with the times. And he and his elves had begun to modernise and expand his workshops. It was an immense task and it meant a profound change for all of them. But at last it was finished, and everything was working well. Now the production lines and stores and packing departments spread out under ground for many hundreds of metres, and it was all fully automated and computerised. The elves, who had once been craftsmen in wood and metal and leather and pottery and cloth, now sat at control panels and monitored whole banks of machines and conveyor belts. Now they watched over the manufacture and warehousing of a bewildering range of plastic toys, construction kits, bicycles and tricycles, dolls prams, computer games, model space ships, racing cars, toy kitchens and nurses' outfits, robots, chemistry sets, prehistoric monsters and a wide variety of sweets and chocolates and biscuits and cakes.
Father Christmas himself dressed in his workaday red smock, sat at his control desk, smoothing his white beard and watching the VDU screens as the reports from every section flashed up in front of him. In his mind he was already composing his press statement. This was what excited him. It was something he had never done before, but he had never had such news to tell as this. Now that the reorganisation was complete and everything was working well, he was going to tell the world that, this year, for the first time, he could give every child in the world what they wanted on Christmas morning.
Suddenly making up his mind, he got up and moved across to his world processor. Tentatively, he began to type out his message, going back to insert words here and there, moving paragraphs about, then wiping out fussy details, trying all the time to keep his news short and simple. He wanted everyone to understand the significance of the change that had taken place - how it would affect them all, but particularly the children.
For as long as he could remember a great many years - he and his helpers had toiled without rest to make a few hundred thousand presents every year to take to a few hundred thousand children in just a few parts of the world. There was never enough: never enough time; never enough hands to do the work; never enough materials, tools or energy to drive the machinery. And so most children had to go short, and many more had to go without. Now, all that had changed. Father Christmas had at last caught up with the modern world and could now turn out an almost limitless supply of the sort of things that today's children wanted.
When the press release was finished it ran to just over two hundred words. He read it through again carefully. Nothing boastful or misleading. Just a simple statement of the facts. He hoped that every newspaper and broadcasting station would eventually carry the story in one way or another. He transferred the finished text to the main computer, keyed in Reuter's code number, waited for the "ready" signal and then touched the "transmit" key.
He made his way to the post room near the surface. The trickle of letters that had started over a month ago had now become a steady stream. By mid-December it would be a flood. Childish handwriting and bad spelling all had to be deciphered and the details entered into the computer where they would form instructions for the packing department. This work could not be automated. It was a job for experts of long experience. Often they had to guess what was wanted or provide substitutes. This year, children who did not write at all were being given standard parcels of sweets and toys. What Father Christmas could not do - and he was acutely conscious of this as he looked at a few of the letters - was to relieve the gruelling poverty of so many of the families to which these children belonged. As he walked along the corridor towards the stables he reflected that perhaps his new initiative might point the way to ending the deprivation of adults too.
The new sleigh was a massive affair. In spite of its traditional appearance, it was really a huge VTOL aircraft more like a spaceship, with vast load carrying capacity- It was their own design, and its test flights had probably given rise to some of the UFO stories that had spread around the world in the last two years. It incorporated one piece of advanced technology that far surpassed anything they had copied from the world outside a transporter which would beam down presents to children while the sleigh flew over at high speed, miles above.
The reindeer knew that their formation ahead of the sleigh was now symbolic rather than functional but still they were getting restless, faintly sensing the seasonal change in the air above, eager to begin their annual
journey. Father Christmas walked slowly from stall to stall, murmuring softy to each one, calming and reassuring them.
When he returned to his control room, over an hour later, his computer screen carried the notice that an incoming message had been received and required an answer. When he called it up on the screen, it read, "Reuterlond to SaCIaus Greenld. Request clarification your 1343.55 hrs 281186. Please confirm extent of enhanced Xmas delivery". It irritated him. He replied tersely that all children, everywhere would have presents delivered - where available, those they had requested. And then he settled down again to the job that he and the computer had been doing for weeks - the complicated planning of his delivery flights throughout the dark hours of Christmas Eve, right around the world.
He was not left in peace for long. A reporter on a New York newspaper sent a message requesting an interview. He replied immediately that he did not give interviews. In the following two hours more than thirty similar requests came from different parts of the world. He sent the same reply to all of them, adding to the later ones the emphasis that he never had given interviews and never would. But he was worried. This was not the sort of reaction he had expected. There were no congratulations or expressions of pleasure at his news.
He became more worried, even alarmed, when he began to receive offers to appear on television. Now he wished that he had told them nothing. Surely they understood that he never appeared in public did not want any publicity for himself, disliked even being seen. Replies to that effect seemed to do the trick. The screen stayed blank and he was able to get on with his work again.
It lasted three days. Then the real trouble started. The first indication of the way things were going came from a Hong Kong toy company. It complained of what it called "unfair competition". This was followed by a long series of calls from toymakers' federations, confectionery groups, chain stores, trades councils and even transport associations, using expressions like, "We hope there is some mistake. . .", ". . . view with grave concern. . .", ". . . lack of consultation . . ." First he became agitated and then, increasingly, angry. None of them seemed to have any concern at all for the children they were supposed to be serving.
By the end of the week, even governments' boards of trade and foreign offices were asking him to "reconsider" or accusing him of "dumping" - a term he did not understand - and demanding that he attend all sorts of meetings to discuss his plans. Through the dry bureaucratic jargon and the impassive green lettering on the computer screen he could feel a growing panic, almost hysteria, in their messages. They've gone mad! he said aloud, but he was deeply upset.
All his work to bring pleasure and happiness to the children seemed to have aroused nothing but dismay and hostility. For a few hours he clung to the hope that, even if these trade associations and government departments did not appreciate the breakthrough he had achieved, then ordinary people would. But angry communications from trade unions representing shop and distributive workers, employees in toy and sweet factories, and even Father Christmases in department stores all but squashed that hope.
But the letters from the children did not stop. They wrote to him in ever-increasing numbers as the day drew nearer and the postal services kept delivering them, many more than in previous years, letters from parts of the world that had never heard of him before. They wanted his gifts, whatever their parents said. And he was determined to go on providing what the children wanted, as he had always tried to do. So when the Food and Drugs administration of the USA informed him that accusations had been made about the purity of his candy and the British Office of Trading Standards questioned the safety of his toys, he ignored them. He ignored the threats of sanctions from the secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and he smiled dismissively when the United Nations General Assembly informed him that "defensive measures" might be taken if he persisted. He was quite intent on going ahead in spite of all of them. He said, Christmas is for the children. They must know that.
The reindeer behaved well on Christmas Eve. In the steady arctic twilight they streamed north ahead of the sleigh, over the Pole and down the international dateline. At the height they were flying, the sun remained low but visible even when they reached the south Pacific. They traversed Tonga and the neighbouring islands, where the dateline bulges east, in a few swift sweeps and then began to cover New Zealand and the sprinkled islands of Melanesia. The parcels of gifts whistled out of the unloading bay and were steadily replaced by a stream from the cargo hold as they passed over villages and cities and ships at sea. As they swept north over Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, the earth below was dark but as they reached eastern Siberia the winter sun still lit the frozen land with a dull glow.
Before touching China at all, they returned to Greenland to reload and refuel. And so they worked their way gradually westward around the world.
They were flying south over India when they noticed the first bright flares coming up from the Maldives Islands. They looked a little like fireworks, but they came far too high and fast for fireworks and exploded behind them with shocks that they could feel faintly. "Bless my boots!" said Father Christmas. "They're shooting at us! 'Defensive measures'!"
It did not happen again until they were over the Ural mountains in Russia but this time the missiles detonated ahead of them and frightened the reindeer. "Peace on earth, good will toward men" he muttered fiercely through his beard. "They are probably singing that just about now."
The final deliveries were very late. The sun was already rising over the western states of America and Canada. The sleigh, now minus its reindeer, glinted in the sunlight like a star and left vapour trails high in the atmosphere. The children were already waking but the fighter planes had been grounded. There had been no more attacks since Father Christmas had returned to base and sent out his ultimatum. It was very brief. He simply threatened to tell everyone, parents and children, how they could have plenty of everything they wanted, all the year round, all round the world. And that really frightened the governments. They called off their defensive measures and Father Christmas went on with his task in silence. That is why not many people know about it yet.
Socialist Standard December 1986
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Ten years ago it was estimated that 6% of the Scottish population were regularly taking anti-depressants and this figure has been climbing for a decade. NHS Scotland said: “It is estimated that 10.4% of the Scottish population aged 15 and over make daily use of an anti-depressant drug.”
Billy Watson, chief executive at the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said: “The high numbers of people taking anti-depressants reflects the prevalence of mental health problems generally: one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives."
The Scottish Government’s goal, to stop the rise in anti-depressant prescribing by 2009-10 and prepare the ground for a 10% reduction in future years, has been abandoned. It has been replaced by a waiting time guarantee for psychological therapies of 18 weeks by 2014.
A survey carried out jointly by the Office of National Statistics and the Institute of Psychiatry found that children from poorer families are three times more likely to suffer from some kind of mental disorder.
The transport system is in chaos. The health service is crumbling. Schools have become testing factories. Pollution is rife and the environment under attack. The poor have got poorer. Begging and homelessness have spread. Crime is rising. Racism is reviving. Business culture reigns supreme, with “market forces”, “competition” and “profit” as the buzz-words. Life is becoming more and more commercialised and empty. People are becoming isolated from each other, so should we be surprised that mental illness is on the increase?
Some might say the standard of living may be going up, but the standard of life is most definitely going down.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We are being told that "Our Resources" are being wasted, we must recycle newspapers glass etc.
A socialist would agree that there is much wasted in a capitalist world, saving newspapers may save the amount of trees felled, but he would no doubt be aware that the ownership of the trees are not his and any savings made would benefit the capitalist owners of trees, not him. However, a socialist agrees recycling is something that would benefit the planet and would certainly be encouraged in a socialist society where the common ownership and control of the world's resources would be used to benefit everyone not the privileged few.
An article in the Sunday Herald( 19th December 2010 ) demonstrates once again that the profit motivation of capitalist society throws a spanner into what would appear could never be a problem,
"Scotland is aiming for "zero waste" by attempting to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste created. Over the last five years the amount of waste recycled by Scottish local authorities has risen from 17% to over 37%."
Can't be much wrong with that one would think, but in a capitalist world some people own the land and they want to make a profit, so if you want to dump your waste you must get signed up in a contractual manner and pay for the privilege of dumping, dressed up to a better term called landfill.
As can be seen from this link, the success of recycling by the councils have caused problems which certainly would not arise in a socialist society.
" This means that much less waste is being disposed of as landfill, where it rots and causes noxious pollution. But some councils signed contracts with waste companies in the 1990s that oblige them to deliver minimum amounts of waste to landfill sites every year.
The City of Edinburgh Council signed a contract in 1995 under which it now has to supply 110,000 tonnes of waste a year to a landfill site near Dunbar in East Lothian run by waste company, Viridor.
A report estimated that shortfalls in meeting this could end up making the council liable for "fresh air payments" of £2.5 million a year for three years from 2017. This is because of Government plans to introduce bans on some kinds of waste being dumped as landfill.
"It is ridiculous that Edinburgh is locked into a contract which requires it to either generate rubbish, or pay for empty landfill space," said Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy with WWF Scotland.
"This must act as a warning to all local authorities to avoid locking themselves into long-term landfill or incinerator contracts which undermine progress to cut waste volumes and increase recycling."
Edinburgh council argued that it had to honour contracts it had signed in the past. "Our aim, along with the Scottish Government, is to minimise the amount of waste being sent to landfill. We are extremely proud of our successes in recycling to date," said a council spokeswoman.
"We don't yet know the impact new Scottish Government legislation will have on our contractual commitments to Viridor. However, if we are still bound to pay for any shortfall, the maximum exposure would be £2.5m per annum from 2017 to 2020."
Several other councils are thought to have long-term landfill contracts that could give them similar headaches. Dumfries & Galloway Council admitted that it was committed to a minimum tonnage of waste going to landfill."We're not currently liable for 'fresh air payments', though we could be in the future," said a council spokesman. "But we want to reduce our waste. Income from processing waste from private waste companies could offset any future fresh air payments."
Viridor, part of the £3.9 billion Pennon Group, claims to be the largest waste and recycling company in Scotland. Last week it was given the go-ahead for a £200m incinerator at its Dunbar site."
The average size of estate has increased from 3700 acres to 4467 acres and the average sale price has increased from £.2.6 million to £3.5 million. Offers have risen from an average of 2% over the asking price to 6% over the asking price.
Robert McCulloch, an associate in the Edinburgh office of estate agents Strutt & Parker who specialises in the sale of farms and estates, said: “In short, despite the pessimism which inevitably accompanies the present ‘age of austerity’, the Scottish sporting estate market is in good health and appears set to remain so.”
Okay for some , eh?
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
During the 1830s, the UK exchequer paid out £400,000 to around 100 Scottish claimants, mostly with Glasgow addresses.
The sums were to compensate for the freeing of their slave labour force. The total amount for the UK was £20 million. If equated to a proportion of national income at that time, the Scottish figure alone is equivalent to around £2bn in today’s terms.
Compensation to slave-owners was achieved largely due to the lobbying efforts of the West India societies, of which Glasgow had one of the most influential. The activities of the society, founded in 1807 and continuing to lobby on behalf of Caribbean sugar interests until the 1960s.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
"Millions of families are struggling to pay their bills- and the number is likely to increase in the new year, according to a new analysis from the Bank of England. The report published today shows that two fifths of households have difficulty from time to time or constantly in meeting their monthly bills, compared with a third last year, and more than a half regard their overdrafts or credit cards as a burden." (Times, 13 December)
Behind the dry statistics we are talking about human misery and anxiety. RD
Monday, December 13, 2010
In addition, NMG notes that 48pc of all households are on fixed-rate mortgages, "paying about £680 a month in comparison with about £530 a month for those on trackers or variable rates" for equivalent sized mortgages. Households with high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages or renting are struggling the most, the survey says, with the proportion resorting to credit card debt rising: The fraction of high LTV mortgagors with unsecured debt had risen between the 2009 and 2010 surveys, from 68pc to 92pc.
Despite record low interest rates, half of respondents reported a fall in monthly disposable income after tax, mortgage, rent, bills and other loan payments. Nearly a third, 29pc, said their debt concerns had risen over the past two years, compared with just 12pc who are now less worried
UK consumer borrowings are around £1.45 trillion and have not begun to shrink. The Bank has already warned that more than one in two people with "unsecured" debts, such as credit cards or personal loans, are struggling to cope.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Dundee has the highest levels of poverty in Scotland with 24% of families officially classed as poor.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said; “Iain Duncan-Smith should have the guts to stand up in front of the communities at the sharp end of his welfare cuts, like the people of Dundee. If he refuses to meet with the Unemployed Centre it will show in the clearest terms that this ConDem Government doesn’t have the bottle to justify their cuts plans to those who will be hit hardest.”
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Sunday, December 05, 2010
The Chilean miners have learned the lessons of capitalism well. While still trapped underground, they discussed how to make the maximum money their new-found stardom. They made a pact down below to preserve the material and hold back on information for a book or movie deal. Only a few have agreed to interviews and only for money, and giving only general information. One miner who is asking for $30 000 per interview, explained that he's out of a job and must act while the story still has interest. Others have asked for $1 000 per question.( Toronto Star, 13/Nov/2010).
The real cost of war is often hidden from view. We know about 150 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan because their bodies are paraded down the "Highway of Heroes", otherwise known as the 401 expressway, but we hear nothing of the wounded. Tanya Talga reported in the Toronto Star (7/Nov/2010) that the planes from Afghanistan arrive at Landstuhl, Germany, all day, seven days a week with as many as 80 injured soldiers in seats and stacked three deep on stretchers. Many will be permanently disabled and unable to work. They are looking at meagre pensions that don't pay the bills. Too bad they are not socialists and refuse to fight capitalism's wars. Unfortunately, most are well brain washed into the system as they get their training. One mentioned had lost most of both legs and one arm. He proudly displayed his tattoo on the piece of arm that was left, "God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot shoot, the courage to shoot the people I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." At the time of writing, the Canadian government is trying to stiff the injured soldiers out of their pensions by proposing a lump sum at a fraction of the cost of a lifetime pension.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
$50 000 a day rental, it helps to pay the ice-breaker's way! The logic escapes most sane people.
On the poverty front, good news. A House of Commons committee, after three years of study, has put forward solid recommendations to combat the scourge of poverty for three million Canadians. Unfortunately, the fact that it is a supplementary report signals its low priority. In 1989, parliamentarians voted unanimously to eliminate child poverty. They still
haven't. Of course, we know, it's endemic to the profit system.
Nowhere in Canada is poverty more obvious than in First Nations' communities but some chiefs are pulling in large salaries, such as at Peguis First Nation community. The Toronto Star reported (31/Oct/2010) that in that nation, where many houses are mould-infested, the chief earned $355 000 a year, and his predecessor made $665 000. In Toronto there are 75 000 families waiting for a subsidized place to live while there are many empty houses. The Toronto Star reporter who investigated met a woman who waited for 21 years to get an affordable apartment. By then, her kids had grown up! The old rubric of money to fix
up housing for the needy is offered. Meanwhile 131 city owned houses are rotting. Homelessness and poverty are not just the domain of the cities. In my mainly rural township of Cramahe in the county of Northumberland, local papers are reporting increased numbers of those needing help. The Cramahe food bank's roll of those in need has risen from 8-10 households when it began eight years ago to 75-100 households per month today. Homelessness in the county is mainly invisible because 'couch surfing' is the usual course of action for those without shelter, or the house that is maintained for short stays. All agencies are asking for help because money is tight for those trying to help, but freely available for some, as you can see from the next item.
Meanwhile, money is no problem for the financial industry. The G20 countries bailed out the rich to a tune of $5 trillion (Toronto Star editorial, 13/Nov/2010). Now the austerity measures brought in by almost every government hit, of course, the most vulnerable the hardest. Do we expect anything different? No, but it would be nice if the protests were
bigger and had a real purpose like establishing socialism. John Ayers
Friday, December 03, 2010
With one fifth of the world's oil and gas at stake, countries are struggling to control the once-frozen Arctic. With global warming, the search for resources have led to a new battle for northern dominance. As the planet warms, as northern sea lanes become accessible to shippers, as countries and companies hungrily eye vast petroleum and mineral deposits below its melting ice, a quiet, almost polite, scramble for control is transpiring in the Arctic
"Countries are setting the chess pieces on the board. There are tremendous resources at stake," said Rob Huebert, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary."At this point, everyone is following the rules and say they want cooperation; behind the scenes developments are happening that suggest it may not be so cooperative," Huebert said.
Russia and Canada are the only two Arctic states who have ramped up the rhetoric on the military front. The US, despite its military power, doesn't rattle swords in the same way. The Norwegians are talking the most cooperatively but they are arming very assertively, recently buying at least five combat frigates with advanced AEGIS spying and combat capabilities. The Danes are re-arming too.
"It is our land and our water. They don't own it, it is ours," Calcote said, echoing the view of some indigenous peoples from Greenland, through Canada, Norway, and Siberia.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Here's an example. As Arnold Schwarzenegger is leaving the governorship of California, he is pushing through an environmental bill against oil industry practices. The oil lobby has introduced Proposition 23 that will mothball the legislation until the economy recovers read never. Even Canada has got into the act as the federal and Alberta governments object to the green law on the grounds that it discriminates against the tarsands industry another example of government going to bat for the owning class even when it's on 'dirty' ground. Schwarzenegger commented on the attempt by the oil industry to kill his bill, " This is like Eva Braun selling a kosher cookbook. It's not about jobs at all. It's all about their ability to pollute and protect their profits." He got this one right, at least. John Ayers
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Statistics showed that males living in the most deprived 10 per cent of the country have a life expectancy that is 13.4 years shorter than those in the richest 10 per cent of the country. That means men in the most affluent areas can expect to live to the age of 81.1, compared with 67.7 for those in the most deprived areas.
The area with the lowest life expectancy is North Glasgow -where men can expect to live to just 69.8 years and women to 76.2 years.
Female life expectancy in the most deprived 10 per cent of the country is nine years lower than for the wealthiest 10 per cent of the country. Women in poorest parts of Scotland can expect to live to 75.4 years of age, but that figure rises to 84.4 years of age for those in the most affluent communities.
Scotland's life expectancy had worsened over the past five years and was now just ahead of eastern European nations such as Slovenia and Poland.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said "Nobody should be condemned to a life of ill health because of where they live or their family's background. Poor health is not inevitable and we should not accept it."
How true but how false. Under capitalism that is just what happens and we have seen that regardless of all the public health initiatives and reforms the situation remains and it will only be with the establishment of socialism that those words of the government spokeswoman will have any veracity.
Y ou have read that socialism w ill result in the loss of individual liberty; that all power would be surrendered to the state or the go...
"Where are the leaders and what are their demands?" will be the question puzzled professional politicians and media pundits...
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