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Is it accidental?

Adults and children from the most deprived areas of Scotland are twice as likely to die from an accidental injury than those from the most affluent postcodes, new figures show.

Some 1,364 deaths were recorded in 2010 in an Office of National Statistics as due to “unintentional injuries” , “Unintentional injury” is the NHS classification used where the victim has not deliberately inflicted injury on him or herself, but is admitted to hospital or dies as a result, such as road accidents, poisoning, and violent crimes like stabbings and shootings. However, the vast majority were from falls. Of these deaths, the bottom fifth of the population in terms of deprivation was listed as having a Standard Mortality Ratio for children of 119.3, compared with just 54.7 in the top fifth. Figures for adults were similar with an SMR of 125.2 for the bottom 20 per cent and 65.1 for the top 20 per cent.

It is thought that sub-standard housing, poor health and more crime in deprived areas (as wel…

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 43- China will b uy it

There is no unclaimed land available in the Arctic, because Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States carved up the region centuries ago. But this fact doesn't discourage a resource-hungry China, which knows it can buy the access it needs. China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts. China is fully aware of the enormous potential for offshore oil and natural gas development in the Arctic, which holds at least 20 per cent of the world's undiscovered reserves.

Chinese state-owned companies have already invested tens of billions of dollars in Canada's northern tar sands. Three years ago, the Chinese government lent a Russian company $25bn so that it could build an oil pipeline from Siberia to China, which now carries 300,000 barrels per day. Russian oil, natural gas and minerals are also moving eastwards to China via the Northern Sea Route along Siberia's increasingly ice-free Arctic coastline. And soon, natural …

VICTIMS OF THE DOWNTURN

Much is made of the hardships suffered by bankers and investors in the recent economic downturn, but the real sufferers are of course the working class. "But the real victims of the financial collapse in the US state of Alabama's most populous county are its poorest residents - forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets after being cut off from the mains supply. And there is widespread anger in Jefferson County that swingeing sewerage rate hikes could have been avoided but for the greed, corruption and incompetence of local politicians." (BBC News, 14 December) Some investors may have had to cut back on their consumption of champagne but they still have plenty of water to drink and can still go to the john! RD

No housing crisis for some

Dick Place in the Grange area of Edinburgh is Scotland's most expensive residential street, according to data.

The average price of a property was estimated at just over £1.5m. A total of 13 of the 20 most expensive streets named were located in Edinburgh. Some of the other most expensive addresses in the capital were Ann Street, with an average property price of £1,188,000, and Kinellan Road (£992,000).

The next most expensive streets were in the west of Aberdeen - Rubislaw Den South (£1,430,000) and Rubislaw Den North (£1,190,000).

The Glasgow area's most expensive streets were Burnside Road (£974,000) in the Whitecraigs area of East Renfrewshire and Bowmore Crescent (£908,000) in Thorntonhall, South Lanarkshire. Outside Scotland's three major cities, the most expensive homes were on Queens Crescent in Auchterarder, Perthshire, with an average sale price of nearly £1.2m.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

We are now at that time of the year when many workers are hunting through glossy holiday brochures for an escape for a couple of weeks in the sun. No such search is necessary for members of the owning class as a recent court case shows. "An armed gang stole the Dubai Royal Family's £2 million holiday spending money as it was being loaded into a car boot, a court heard. The money, in £50 bundles in two suitcases which each contained £1 million, was being placed into the boot outside the Emirates Bank in Knightsbridge, West London, when the armed robbers struck on June 24, jurors were told." (Daily Mail, 13 December) It looks as though the accused will be having a far from pleasant holiday at her majesty's pleasure unlike the Dubai Royals with their £2 million spending money. Like all members of the owning class their lives are one long holiday.RD

dirty air

People living and working in Scotland’s major cities are being exposed to “dangerous” levels of air pollution, figures have revealed.

Analysis of Scottish Air Quality data from 2011 showed levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in parts of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth were in breach of European Union targets of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air designed to protect health. The average life expectancy in the most polluted cities in Europe is reduced by more than two years, EU chiefs have estimated.

“As a result of a complacent approach, thousands of people are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution in Scotland’s major cities..."Dr Dan Barlow, WWF Scotland head of policy said

FAMILY PROBLEMS

Many working class families face problems today with youth unemployment at its highest for years, but even the mega-rich have their problems. "Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone has accused his daughters of squandering the money he set aside to provide for his future grandchildren. The Formula 1 boss said he had put £3 billion in a trust fund for his glamorous daughters Tamara, 27, and Petra, 22, to invest in property . But he has now expressed his exasperation that the money has instead been used to fund Petra's lavish £12 million wedding earlier this year, and to renovate both girls' luxury mansions to cater to their whimsical, indulgent tastes." (Daily Mail, 12 December)RD

There are bankers and then there are bank staff

While investment bankers collect hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in salary and bonuses, front-line branch staff are more modestly paid, with starting salaries typically around £14,000 a year.

One Lloyds insider said: “It’s always the people on the ground who suffer. You could earn more working in Asda..."

Cashiers at the high street lender earn commission by referring clients to sales staff, who talk them through the options for mortgages, savings accounts and other products. But the bank has not only cut the commission from £2 to 60 pence as part of a clampdown on costs, and it has increased the target for each cashier from 72 referrals every three months to 77.

Celebrating Christ Mass

According to the New American Stndard Bible Jesus says in Matthew 10 Verse 34

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

Merry Marxmas

KARL'S QUOTES

On surplus-value coming free to the capitalist, "The circulation mechanism, however, has shown if the capitalist class casts money into circulation to be spent as revenue, it withdraws this same money again from circulation, and so the same process can always begin anew; considered as a capitalist class, therefore, it remains now as before in possession of this sum of money needed for the realization of its surplus-value. If the capitalist not only withdraws surplus-value from the commodity market in the form of commodities for his consumption fund, but at the same time the money with which he buys these commodities flows back to him, he has evidently withdrawn the commodities from circulation without an equivalent. They cost him nothing, even though he pays for them with money. If I buy commodities for one pound sterling, and the seller of these commodities gives me back my one pound in exchange for a surplus product that costs me nothing, then I have obviously rece…

CALIFORNIAN NIGHTMARE

"With the prospect of 305,400 Californians losing unemployment insurance on Dec. 31, local labor unions and unemployed workers held a candlelight vigil Thursday to urge Congress to extend their benefits. Federal unemployment insurance, which currently adds up to 73 weeks of benefits once state coverage runs out, is set to expire for more than two million Americans at the end of the year. "Without it, it almost puts me in the street," said unemployed iron worker Doug Von Mauw." (San Diego 6 News, 8 December) RD

ALLEY CAT MORALITY

There are many reasons to be a socialist and one of the most powerful is the insanity and cruelty of capitalism. It is doubtful if you could find a better example of social madness than this. "A black cat in Italy has lived up to its reputation for good luck after inheriting 10 million euros (£8.5 million) from his adoptive owner, a widowed heiress. Four-year-old Tommaso, who was saved from a hardscrabble existence on the mean streets of Rome, as a kitten, is now the proud owner of cash, shares and a property empire which includes flats and houses in Rome and Milan and land in Calabria." (Daily Telegraph, 10 December) While millions strive to survive on $1.25 a day we have millionaire pussycats. Capitalism has a strange set of moral standards. RD

Housing Shortage?

Bank of Scotland research suggested about 105,000 homes in Scotland were not being used. This meant about one in 25 houses was empty.

Kristen Hubert, from Shelter Scotland, said: "The 100,000 figure used by the Bank of Scotland includes property that is only empty for a brief period, between tenants or owners. What is really important is those which are empty for longer, and that problem is really in the private sector."Shelter Scotland claimed there were 23,000 privately-owned empty homes.

LAND OF THE FREE?

"Does America joyously lead the world in something? Yes, but 'tis not a joy, but the sad fact that the United States of America is a leader in incarceration. There are about 2.3 million people behind bars - one of every 100 citizens. The prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years. America has several times the number in jails of other countries: four times Israel, six times Canada or China, eight times Germany, and 13 times more than Japan. America, with a bit more than 4% of the world's population, accounts for one-fourth of the world's prisons and has more inmates than the leading 35 European countries combined." (Oklahoma Observer, 7 December) RD

A MAD, MAD WORLD

We are often told that the wages and prices society is the only possible way to run the world and that the incentive of money is the most logical solution to all social problems. Try telling that to this family. "A Tennessee couple helplessly watched their home burn to the ground, along with all of their possessions, because they did not pay a $75 annual fee to the local fire department. Vicky Bell told the NBC affiliate WPSD-TV that she called 911 when her mobile home in ObionCounty caught fire. Firefighters arrived on the scene but as the fire raged, they simply stood by and did nothing. ...South Fulton Mayor David Crocker defended the fire department, saying that if firefighters responded to non-subscribers, no one would have an incentive to pay the fee." (Yahoo News, 6 December) RD

MIND THE GAP

Supporters of capitalism often claim that while capitalism is not perfect at least it is improving and its worst inequalities are lessening. How do they explain this report then we wonder. "The pay gap between the highest and lowest earners in the UK has grown more quickly than in any other high-income country since 1975, a report has said. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found the sharp increase in income inequality, which began in 2005, leaves Britain well above the group's average. ....Data showed the money earned by the country's top 1% of earners doubled from 7.1% of the total UK income in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005." (Huffington Post, 5 December) In 35 years the top "earners" have doubled their loot.RD

PROFIT AT ANY COST

There is no limit to the efforts capitalist firms will go to in order to capture a bigger slice of the market. Here is a particularly nasty example of this competition. "Unhealthy food is being "shamelessly" promoted to children online to get around bans on television adverts, campaigners have claimed. The British Heart Foundation cited websites by Cadbury's and Nestle as examples of "cynical marketing". Sites used childish language, games and free gifts to appeal to children, according to the report." (BBC News, 18 December) RD

A WONDERFUL TOWN?

At a time when many New Yorkers are facing the prospect of unemployment and re-possession of their homes it is worth noting that not all New Yorkers are facing homelessness. "Step through the weathered front door of a 19th-century building on Lafayette Street in SoHo and you face a window of blue water - a view into the depths of a 39-foot-long swimming pool. It is an unusually edgy entrance - crafted by a filmmaker who is a master of the horror movie -to what is currently the most expensive residential home for rent in Manhattan. The huge loft-like, 13,000-square-foot townhouse went on the market Wednesday for $100,000 a month furnished, or $50,000 a week, or $20,000 a night for short stays." (Wall Street Journal, 5 December) RD

CLUELESS ABOUT THE JOBLESS

One of the recurring problems of capitalism is the problem of unemployment, and one of the constant claims of governments is that they can solve the problem. "The number of people out of work in Britain hit its highest level for 17 years, fuelling worries that the economy is heading back towards recession. In the three months to October, the jobless total rose to 2.64m, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics - 8.3% of the economically active population are now unemployed. Joblessness among 16 to 24-year-olds reached 1.003m, its highest level since records began in 1992." (Sunday Times, 18 December) Like all previous governments the present one cannot deal with the booms and slumps of the capitalist market place that lead inevitably to unemployment. RD

A HEARTLESS SOCIETY

In its relentless drive for profits capitalism will go to any lengths, even if that means exploiting the naivety of the mentally disabled. "People with dementia are being cheated out of at least £100 million a year by banks, cold callers, door-to-door salesmen and even their carers according to research. A report from the Alzheimer's Society found that more than 100,000 people with dementia have been victims of fraud or abuse and calls on companies renowned for hard-sell tactics to change their ways." (Times, 14 December) This report's appeal to hard-headed business people for some sort of compassion is in itself a glaring example of naivety. RD

MAKING AN ARSE OF LITERATURE

Shakespeare, Dickens and Doestevesky had great difficulties trying to get a publisher but of course they lacked two essential attributes beloved by capitalism. "The younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has been the subject of a fierce bidding war by some of Britain's largest publishers for her first book. It is understood that publisher Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin books, last week signed her up to a publishing deal worth £400,000." ( Daily Telegraph, 23 November) You see what William, Charles and Fydor lacked was they had not got the "bottom of the year" according to the tabloid press and were not related to the next queen of England. One wonders at their success after such disadvantages.RD

Just a Thought

Watching a European soccer game recently, I noticed the Italian team wore the sponsor, Arab Emirates, on their sweaters. The Spanish team did likewise with its sponsor, Bahrain Union. Do the capitalist enterprises put away their differences if money is offered? Just wondering. John Ayers

Food for thought

The Toronto Star has been running a series on the BRIC countries (those emerging countries that have attracted the avaricious eyes of the countries in the northern hemisphere and who have invested heavily to make big profits, i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, Brazil etc.). Economic indicators are shooting up and a little is trickling down to a few workers but mainly it's business as usual for the average Joe. For example, the Star reports, one in two Indian children are malnourished, 74% under three years are anaemic, and 400 million Indians live in poverty -- i.e. $1.25 a day! In South Africa, large investment in Mining has pushed up the GDP and unemployment has improved from 37% (2001) to 23% today. However, amid the new wealth, 67% of Africans, 41% of coloured, 14% of Asian/Indian, and just 4% of whites are considered below the poverty line. Life expectancy for the nation is 49.3 years. As always, wealth goes back to the investors and the rest share a few crumbs.
In Cana…

Food for thought

The Arab Spring continues as the Egyptians once again take to the streets because they see that the old rulers, the army, will become the new rulers. The brutal crackdown by the military seems to confirm their worst fears.
Meanwhile, Tunisians interviewed by The Toronto Star (Tunisia: TheJobless Revolution, 26/Nov/2011) are mainly saying that nothing has changed for them. Unemployment remains high, life remains a struggle, and they have put their trust in new untried and largely unknown
leaders. The future looks very uncertain. Taking a page from the Occupy Movement (see below) would be a large step forward.
The Toronto Occupy Movement has now been evicted by court order and by the actions of the police and the city, but, as we like to say, you can't evict a conversation or an idea. So I expect the movement to carry on in some yet to be determined form. Some of the more important aspects are tenets such as anyone affected by decisions should be at the tablemaking them,…

FIGURES DON'T LIE

Politicians like to claim that under their benign guidance we are all better off but what do their own statisticians find? "New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that average salaries in the UK have fallen by 3.5% in real terms as pay rises fail to keep pace with inflation. An average full-time employee earned £26,200 in the year to April, up 1.4% on the previous 12 months. However, with inflation running at 5%, that amounts to a pay cut." |The Week, 23 November) It is true that statistics don't lie - unlike politicians. RD

RICH ARROGANCE

One of the nastiest aspects of capitalism is the arrogance of the owning class who live of the unpaid labour of the working class. Here is an example from an Irish multi-millionaire. "Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has called for the scrapping of children's allowance payments, describing them as a subsidy for people to have sex. He said that child benefit was "ridiculous" and neither he nor his wife needed it." (Independent, 22 November) The fact that millions of working class families rely on the allowance to get by would never occur to the arrogant Mr O'Leary. RD

A TOXIC SOCIETY

In its drive for more and more profits capitalist society cares little for the health of its workers. Many small scale methods for extracting gold use mercury, which is both poisonous and a potential neurotoxin. "Toxic pollution affects the health of more than 100 million people, shortening their productive life spans by an astonishing 12.7 years on average. .... Unlike diseases, toxins and pollutants like lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides were created by humans and are often improperly disposed of in a classic example of fouling our own nests. ....At least 100 million people are affected based on assessments of 2,000 toxic sites in 47 countries." (Inter Press Service, 2 December) RD

DISTORTED VALUES

Socialists always claim that capitalism is a society with distorted values wherein human lives are less important than profit margins, but it is doubtful if we could find a worse example of this distortion than the following, "They are the hands that have been admired in adverts from America to Australia - and insured for £5 million. Gemma Howorth's flawless hands, with their smooth, blemish-free skin, long, elegant, straight fingers and deep nail beds, have doubled for those of supermodels like Kate Moss and Lily Cole in photoshoots. Her hands are so crucial to Miss Howorth's fortune that she has had them insured at Lloyds of London for £5 million. They can earn her £200 for two hours, £800 for an average day's work and £2,500 a day for the most lucrative assignments." (Daily Telegraph, 20 November) This is occuring at the same time as millions of workers are trying to exist on the equivalent of $1.25 a day!
RD

A FEARFUL FUTURE?

With the Scottish Nationalist Party in power and pressing for total national independence it is worthwhile noting some of their "achievements". "Patient care is being jeopardised by cuts to NHS staffing in Scotland, it was claimed last night, with the workforce shrinking by 4,000, including 2,000 fewer nurses and midwives than last year. Scottish government figures put the number of nurses at a five year low ..." (Times, 30 November) Is this the future for an independent Scotland?
RD

A FAMILY MAN?

The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is fond of the role of "the family man" and is often reported as praising "family values", but the realities of capitalism show just how hollow such claims are. "British families are suffering the worst squeeze in living standards for more than half a century, and will be no better off in 2016 than they were in 2002. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed yesterday that the average family on middle income will have £2,496 less to spend next year than three years ago." (Times, 1 December)
RD

one law for the poor , another for the rich

Ten years after legislation banned the blood-sport forever, fox-hunting still goes on.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was passed – in the teeth of furious opposition led by the Scottish Countryside Alliance – on 13 February, 2002. The legislation outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, but made some exceptions. It is legal to use dogs to flush a fox from cover in order for it to then be shot, so long as this is done as a form of pest-control. The act further states that no offence is committed if the dog kills the fox during the course of this activity, in other words if it was not the intention of the huntsman that the dogs should do so.

These loopholes have allowed fox hunting to continue in Scotland. Hunts now present themselves as pest-control operations offering a service to farmers. The packs of hounds, followed by riders, chase the fox towards waiting gunmen who attempt to shoot it. If the fox is killed by the hounds before it runs towards the guns then tha…

health and safety??

Hospital chiefs are discouraging “whistleblowing” nurses from reporting their concerns about patient safety and staffing levels, nursing leaders have warned. More than one-third of nurses in Scotland (37%) said they had been discouraged, or told directly, not to report their concerns to their NHS health board or employer.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) revealed more than 80% of nurses in Scotland said they had highlighted problems. But, in more than half of cases, no action was ever taken. The overwhelming majority (84%) of nurses in Scotland fear they will be victimised if they speak out about the problems.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland director, said: “It is extremely worrying that nurses are being explicitly told not to raise concerns, particularly after all we have learned about the consequences of ignoring issues around patient safety. The survey clearly shows nurses are committed to improving care for patients, but more than half, 55%, say no action was ever taken when they rais…

Food for thought

Top international climate scientists, meeting in Africa had some sharp warnings for the world's governments -- "Get ready for unprecedented extreme weather.' They point out that since the 1970s, 95% of fatalities from storms have been in developing countries. Making preparations, they say, will save lives and money. Perhaps the latter might have some effect on the worlds' governments!
Meanwhile, scientists say that the Arctic sea ice has declined more in the last half century than it has in the last 1 450 years. However, The New York Times points out that the environment is no where to be seen in the US and has disappeared from the political
agenda, " ...now that nearly every other nation accepts climate change as a pressing problem, America has turned agnostic on the issue." John Ayers

Nation or class?

The Scotsman reports that nearly a third of Scots support independence.

Nationalism has served to divide workers into different nation states not only literally but ideologically. It is probably fair to say that a majority of workers—to some degree or another—align themselves to their domestic ruling class. The ideology of nationalism means that workers and capitalists living in a particular geographical area must have a common interest. However, socialists argue that society can he broken into two classes, capitalists and workers.

Despite differences of language or cultural barriers this does not alter the fact that those of us who are working class are all part of one globalised exploited mass with more in common with each other than with our "native" bosses. Capitalists and workers do not share a common identity nor do they share any interests in common. Scotland, like every other country or state in the world, is class-divided: a minority of rich owners and the rest of us.…

Socialist Standard Vol.107 No.Issue No. 1288 December 2011

BIGHEAD BLOWS IT

Up to two million workers went on strike on 30 November and on the BBC programme The One Show Jeremy Clarkson the BBC motoring correspondent had this to say about the strikers. "Frankly, I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?" (BBC News, 1 December) Let us just hope for Jeremy's sake he doesn't have a road accident on one of those overpriced super-charged motor cars of his and has to rely on the attention of an ambulance driver or a nurse who can remember that particular piece of arrogant bombast.
RD

Who owns the North Pole- Part 42 - Scotland stakes its claim

The Arctic with its possibilities for mineral extraction, shipping and fisheries will become an important issue for an independent Scotland. Angus Robertson, a MP in the British Parliament and a leading member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, has issued a call for Scotland to embrace its long-latent "Nordic" identity and to join with neighboring Norway and nearby Iceland — as well as Canada and all other Arctic nations — to "properly engage with our wider geographic region”

Arctic sea traffic and a more northward military focus would absolutely be a priority for an independent Scotland, Robertson says. Citing opportunities such as oil-and-gas development, mineral extraction, shipping and the emergence of new fisheries, Robertson said SNP leaders are thinking about the challenges ahead of the independence referendum and predicted the massive changes impacting on the High North and Arctic will become a significant feature of the years and decades…

dying early in Scotland

More men and women die before retirement age in Scotland than in any other part of the UK., The premature death rate – where people die before 65 – is 50 per cent higher north of the Border than in the east and south-east of England, where it is lowest, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported.

Experts warn the high numbers of early deaths are driven by violence, drug and alcohol problems, and unhealthy lifestyles, particularly in deprived areas. The report the UK government was failing to tackle poverty and warned cuts to social security could see inequalities rise rather than fall in future.

OPTIMISM AND REALITY

With the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea many optimists predicted that gas for home heating would cost next to nothing. Another piece of optimistic predictions about the future that was once made was that with the great technological advances we would soon enjoy a much shorter working week and we would all be retiring a lot sooner. A glance at your last gas bill shows the hollowness of the first prediction, but even wider of the mark was the second one. "More than 6 million (28%) of today's over-50s expect to work past the state retirement age, according to the working late index compiled by LV. They expect to work an extra six years, the retirement specialists said." (Sunday Times, 27 November) The realities of capitalism often leave the optimists looking foolish.
RD

Fight back or revolution

Education, hospitals, transport and the like are primarily a service for the smooth running of capitalism and were brought in as such. It is the essential nature of the services in these industries which has led to their being associated with state control. In other words, they are useful to the capitalist class and so it is in their interest to maintain them at a reasonably efficient level. On the other hand, the public sector costs money to run and this can only come in the end out of taxes, which ultimately fall on the capitalist's profits.

Cameron and other apologists for the status quo claim that the whole population will have to make “sacrifices” to keep paying for those public services. What these defenders of capitalism utterly and deliberately fail to tell us is that the overwhelming burden of the sacrifice will have to be made by the working class. The rich will, for the most part, as usual keep their privileges and luxurious lifestyles. Capitalism always works in the int…

A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

Any pretence that Britain's intervention in Libya had anything to do with stopping military conflict is surely exploded by this piece of information. "As Libya struggles to rebuild, power effectively rests in the hands of the heavily armed militias who ousted the former dictator. But that hasn't stopped the British government from pushing ahead with plans to renew arms sales to the war-torn country. The Independent has learned that a defense industry trade delegation is planning to travel to Libya early next year in the hope the country's new pro-western National Transition Council will become lucrative customers." (Independent, 5 November) Britain's participation in Libya should be seen for it was - a lucrative business deal worth millions in oil and arms. RD

DEATHS ON THE HOME FRONT

The media give great prominence to the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, but less prominence is paid to another tragedy. "180 pensioners died every day as a result of cold conditions during the 2010-11 winter months in England and Wales. The annual "Excess winter mortality" report found that an estimated 21,800 people over the age of 65 died as a result of adverse conditions, on top of the average mortality rate for the same period of time (4 months from December 2010 to March 2011). Over-65s accounted for 84% of the overall 25,700 deaths during the winter months. "The numbers of excess winter deaths are a disgrace",said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK." (Yahoo News, 22 November) Needless to say the pensioners who die of the cold this winter will all be members of the working class who could not afford the rising cost of gas and electricity bills RD

A 12 YEAR OLD VICTIM

Capitalism is a horrendous society with world hunger, poverty and war being obvious examples of its inhumanity, but here is a tale to chill the blood of the most unfeeling. "The youngest girl in the brothel had been trafficked from Vietnam a few months ago when she was in the seventh grade, meaning that she was born in 1999. That makes her about 12 years old. Her youth made her very popular in the brothel. There were sometimes lines of men waiting to have sex with her, and she could have 20 customers a night. Of course, she didn't get a penny of that income."(New York Times, 12 November) This example from a brothel in south Cambodia shows the horror of the profit system in action. Why do we let such things happen? RD

TWO LIES EXPOSED

Almost half of China's millionaires are considering moving abroad, according to a survey released recently by Hurun, best known for publishing a Chinese rich list, and the Bank of China. "The report found that 46% of the 980 people surveyed had thought about emigrating; 14% had done so already or applied to do so. .... Many sought immigrant investor status, which grants residence rights to those making large investments." (Guardian, 11 November) This gives the lie to the notion that Western governments are fundamentally opposed to China. If you have capital and want to invest it - you are welcome. It also shows as a sham the idea that China has anything to do with communism. Millionaire communists? RD

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

All their lives workers must endure hardships but for many of them the end of their working life proves even more unendurable. A report on the care given to retired workers at home illustrates this. "The Equality and Human Rights Commission said they found numerous examples of physical and financial abuse. Only half of the 1,254 people questioned by the EHRC said they were satisfied with their home care. Among the catalogue of failures they documented were theft and chronic disregard for older people's privacy and dignity." (Times, 23 November) Dignity is not too much to ask for ageing workers, but theft and violence from so called "carers" is just another awful indictment of capitalism.RD

THE SEEDS OF WAR

Reformist political parties spread the idea that wars are fought over such issues as principles, liberty or democracy. Only the SPGB points out that all capitalist wars are fought over markets, sources of raw material and spheres of political influence. "Australia is set to become home to hundreds of U.S. Marines - as America moves its servicemen to a military base on the northern tip of the country. In a bid to combat China's increase in global military and financial power, between 500 to 1,000 officers are to form a permanent U.S. military presence at a barracks outside Darwin. "(Daily Mail,14 November) The presence of US troops in far away Australia has nothing to do with principles, it is an awareness of the growing economic and military importance of the South China Sea.RD

THIS IS PROGRESS?

Some supporters of capitalism claim that for all its shortcomings it is at least a progressive society, but this report would seem to contradict that notion. "A global plan to halve by 2015 the number of people without access to sanitation is failing so badly that some of the world's poorest countries will not have this basic necessity for another 200 years. Almost 900 million people worldwide live without access to clean water and more than two and a half billion people live without adequate sanitation - more than a third of the world's population. But, says the charity WaterAid in a report due out this week, aid given to solve this problem is not reaching the people who need it most." (Independent, 13 November) It is hardly a progressive society that condemns millions of people to live without clean water for another 200 years. RD

NOT SO NEAT

One of the illusions that supporters of capitalism love to expound is that "the young don't realise how lucky they are" or "things were a lot worse when I was a lad". The media depict young workers in a mocking fashion. In the past they have been "teddy boys" or "ne'er -do-wells", but now they have come up with a new one "neets". "The number of young people not in education, training or work has risen to a record level in England. Official figures for the third quarter of this year say there were 1,163,000 people aged from 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training (Neet).That is almost one in five of that age-group and an extra 137,000 compared with the same point last year." (BBC News, 24 November) The increase of Neets has nothing to do with a media "degeneration of youth" but a lot to do wither the slump of present day capitalism. RD

Return to the slums

More than 1.4 million homes have failed to meet a key housing standard, new figures have revealed. In 2010 61% of houses, 1,014,000 in the private sector and 393,000 in the socially-rented sector, failed to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard.One-fifth of the stock in Scotland is now more than 90 years old, a third of the housing stock is more than 60 years old and a fifth of homes have been built in the last 30 years.

its getting worse

Families are £13 a week worse off than they were a year ago, as deteriorating employment conditions and high inflation continue to erode their spending power, according to a report.

UK families typically had £164 a week left of income in October after paying regular bills such as food, clothing and housing costs, 7.1% less than a year ago.

Charles Davis, managing economist of the Centre for Economics and Business Research compiles the report, said: "Worsening employment conditions, alongside the persistently elevated rate of inflation, are continuing to erode household real incomes and family spending power." He warned: "UK households will remain under pressure for some time."

DEATHS ON THE HOME FRONT

The media give great prominence to the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, but less prominence is paid to another tragedy. "180 pensioners died every day as a result of cold conditions during the 2010-11 winter months in England and Wales. The annual "Excess winter mortality" report found that an estimated 21,800 people over the age of 65 died as a result of adverse conditions, on top of the average mortality rate for the same period of time (4 months from December 2010 to March 2011). Over-65s accounted for 84% of the overall 25,700 deaths during the winter months. "The numbers of excess winter deaths are a disgrace",said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK." (Yahoo News, 22 November) Needless to say the pensioners who die of the cold this winter will all be members of the working class who could not afford the rising cost of gas and electricity bills RD

Lazy Workers ?

New research shows that 49 per cent of working parents don't use up all of their holiday allowance, and that one in five of us simply can't take enough time off work to get away. We are becoming a nation where the notion of a fortnight away from it all is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Rebecca Taylor, web editor and mother of one said "The reason families don't spend enough holiday time together is because we are all desperately clinging to the jobs we do have in order to earn just enough to pay our huge childcare bills. Some mothers I know haven't managed a proper fortnight off since they gave birth."

Nicola Chappell, who has worked in TV for the past 20 years, says in that time, she has witnessed an almost complete transformation of attitudes. "I always make sure I take every single day of holiday that's owed to me but I've noticed that younger people in the office don't seem to take any. It's freelance culture – they'…

DISCONTENT AND REVOLUTION

One of the sillier notions abroad at the moment is that we live in a revolutionary era - we don't. We live in a society that makes profit making it's major priority and this leads to major discontent but not to revolution. When a member of the working class, whether a shipyard labourer or a brain surgeon realises that the whole world and everything in and on it is owned by less than 10 per cent of the world's population we get a revolutionary era. We can not forecast the future but we do know that men and women who want a new society based on common ownership and production for use want a better world. No war, no world hunger or poverty. That will do us. RD

THE PRIORITIES OF PROFIT

Greece is forced by European leaders to abandon a referendum to allow the people the chance to vote on its latest bailout conditions. The conditions of the next 130bn euros rescue package will be severe but ignores the extent to which the German and French military industries rely on Greece. "The small, crisis-hit nation, whose prime minister, George Papandreou, narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Friday, buys more German weapons than any other country. Some Greeks want to know why it is that France and Germany are demanding cuts in pensions, salaries and public services, but the buying of arms is allowed to continue unabated." (Independent, 7 September) French and German capitalists, like all capitalists world-wide, are more interested in profits than the plight of Greek pensioners.RD

THE POOR GET POORER

Governments always claim in times of economic downturn that "we are all in this together", but it is significant that it is the poor and needy who always suffer most. "Millions of benefit claimants are about to lose £1 billion of increases planned for next year after the Government decided to break the historic link between inflation and welfare payments. The Times has learnt that key ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pension Secretary, have agreed that 5.7 million people claiming benefit for the unemployed will each lose hundreds of pounds a year." (Times, 18 November) The report then goes on to claim that the government hope to save £10 billion a year with changes in the benefit system. RD

A SICK SOCIETY

The owning class are always seeking ways of increasing their profit margins and one way of doing that is by decreasing their expenditure on welfare and health. "People should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service not GPs, a government-backed review says. The review also suggests tax breaks for firms which employ people who suffer from long-term conditions. It is estimated the changes would send 20% of those off sick back to work." (BBC News, 19 November) In sickness and health the working class must be kept toiling to keep those profits rolling in. RD

WORK HARDER, WAGE SLAVES

In a desperate move to ease their financial difficulties European politicians have been looking to the Chinese capitalist class for some assistance, but so far have been rebuffed. "The head of the Chinese state's overseas investment arm said he would only help Europe if it reformed its outdated labour laws and welfare systems. Jin Liqun, chairman of the board of supervisors of China Investment Corporation, said Europeans should stop "languishing on the beach" and work harder it they want to drag the eurozone out of its downward spiral." (Daily Mail, 13 November) The Chinese model of ruthless exploitation, long hours and starvation wages may be the ideal for the European capitalists but their workers may prove less accommodating than the Chinese wage slaves. RD

CLUELESS ABOUT THE JOBLESS

Every reformist political party claims that it can deal with the problems of capitalism. They all have a "Cunning Plan" to deal with poverty, war and unemployment. The British working class at various times have tried different brands of political tricksters to deal with the problems. They have most recently even tried a coalition government - with what results? "UK unemployment rose by 129,000 in the three months to September to 2.62 million, as youth unemployment rose above a million. The jobless total for 16 to 24-year-olds hit a record of 1.02 million in the quarter and female unemployment was at its highest for 23 years. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless rate hit 8.3%." (BBC News, 16 November) The sad fact is that capitalism by its very nature must have slumps and booms, and unemployment is one of the inevitable outcomes. RD

NO HOUSING PROBLEM HERE

In the present economic situation it is often difficult for newly-weds to find affordable accommodation, so it is nice to see that one couple have solved the problem."The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to make Kensington Palace their family home after the Queen personally intervened to enable them to live in Princess Margaret's former apartment. About £1million will now be spent renovating the lavish four-storey, 20-room Apartment 1A - which comes complete with its own private walled garden - to make it fit for William and Kate." (Daily Mail, 6 November) There is no problem about housing for the owning class and all their hangers-on. That is only a problem for the working class. RD

MILITARY REALITY

The Hollywood stereotype of war veterans returning to a hero's welcome from their home town population amidst cheering crowds and flag-waving adulation is just that - a Hollywood invention. "One U.S. veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan attempts suicide every 80 minutes, according to new study. In a staggering indictment on the lack of mental health programmes in the U.S. military, the report reveals 1,868 veterans made suicide attempts in 2009 alone. Many veterans face dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, high unemployment and a loss of military camaraderie after returning from tours." (Daily Mail, 3 November) We can't expect Hollywood to reflect this grim reality - it's not good box office material.RD

POLITICAL PROMISES

Vladimir Putin hopes to return to the Russian presidency for a third time, and like all politicians is peddling the usual patriotic electioneering nonsense. "Repeating his usual criticism of the West for meddling in the affairs of other countries such as Libya, the former KGB spy hinted that his third stint in the Kremlin would not be all that different from his first two. "Putin does not split in two. He is one person," he quipped. "There are basic things that are not subject to change, that will not change -- a love for the Motherland, the push for results... to increase people's wealth, and to improve internal and external security." (Daily Telegraph, 12 November) During Putin's tenure of office he certainly assisted in increasing the wealth of some people - the Russian capitalist class.RD

PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE

In a desperate attempt to cut costs in the NHS the government awarded Circle Health the management of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridge. The company is run by a former Goldman Sachs banker, and the move was hailed by government ministers as "a good deal for patients and staff". "The first private company to take over an hospital has admitted in a document seen by the Observer that patient care could suffer under its plans to expand its empire and seek profit from the health service. Circle Health is already feeling a strain on resources due to its aggressive business strategy, the document reveals, and the firm's ambition to further expand into the NHS "could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients", it says." (Observer, 13 November) In view of the company's own appraisal it would appear the government's forecast of "a good deal for patients and staff" could prove to be well wide of …

Tartan Trots

Further to this earlier post Socialist Courierfinds vindication.

Tommy Sheridan’s former press chief Hugh Kerr has resigned from Solidarity to join the SNP, claiming he wants to fight for an “independent Socialist Scotland” within Alex Salmond’s nationalists and also said he would be “delighted” to stand for the SNP as a Holyrood candidate or in the 2012 council’s elections.

Kerr said that the far left had become a “sideshow” as he resigned from Solidarity and claimed that the only way he and other Sheridan supporters could have “any influence” would be to join the SNP. He said: “The split with the SSP and other factors has meant that the far left is doomed to be a sideshow for a decade and if I’m to have any influence the truth is that this has to be in the SNP, which has the support of the majority of Scots."

Former Labour MEP Kerr told The Scotsman he had held talks with Sheridan during a prison visit to his former boss, whom he insisted was “very sympathetic” to his decision …

FORGOTTEN HEROES

On 11th November every year all over Britain they commemorate the millions killed in war. Veterans parade in city squares, military bands play rousing music, reverend gentlemen mouth platitudes and of course politicians make promises. "David Cameron said ministers would "strain every sinew" to do more for service personnel and their families.The Remembrance weekend initiative aims to end the scandal of veterans being left too poor to buy a home and unable to get on a social housing list." (Daily Mail, 12 November) In 1918 politicians told us it was a war to end all wars. It turned out to be an empty piece of rhetoric - just like Mr. Cameron's latest piece of political bombast. RD

A TALE OF TWO NATIONS

The USA is the most developed capitalist nation in the world and it has some of the richest people in the world. It also has some people desperately poor. "Nearly 15% of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million. Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1% in the past year, the Department of Agriculture reported, though the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession. .... Mississippi reported the largest share of its population relying on food stamps, more than 21%. One in five residents in New Mexico, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana also were food stamp recipients. (Wall Street Journal, 1 November) This gap between rich and poor is not unique to the USA. It is a worldwide feature of capitalism. RD

The Scots Left Behind

When someone comes across the Socialist Party for the first time, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing political organisation. But digging a little deeper will show that our political position is very different from that of the Scottish Socialist Party or Sheridan's Solidarity. The first difference is that of our aims, the kind of society we wish to see established. Socialists are quite clear and uncompromising on this — our aim is a society without wages, money, countries or governments.

The Scottish "Socialist" Party despite its name, does not stand for socialism but is a left-wing nationalist - a Tartan Trotskyist - party. The SSP is a direct descendant of Militant and campaigns to get elected with non-socialist votes on a programme of attractive-sounding reforms to capitalism. It is a ploy to attract a following. But it's a bad tactic that can only encourage illusions about what can be achieved under capitalism. It glosses over the fact th…

The Muted Mockery Of Poppy 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 live in peace with man
Then wealth to all would freely flow
And want and war we would…

Food for thought

Last month I reported on how India was addressing poverty(a database to find all those who need assistance). This month, we learn that in India, a sweeper earning $1.50 a day (a grandmother raising her two grandsons) is not poor enough to collect benefits as the government lowers the threshold. (Toronto Star, Oct 9,2011). The World Bank estimates that 455 million Indian citizens, or 40% of its population, live on less than $1.25 a day, the bank's poverty line. If they keep on moving the line, maybe they will be able to eliminate the data base and write the names of those eligible for assistance on the back of an envelope!
How different it is for the rich and famous. Chelsea Clinton has been appointed to the board of a large corporation at age thirty- something with no experience and a salary of $300 000 per year.
Canada's Tory government lost the Supreme Court case to close the safe injection site in Vancouver. It could have probably opened safe sites in every major…

POVERTY AND HYPOCRICY

One of the tenets of Christianity that men of the cloth delight in expounding is its rejection of worldly wealth and riches. "Blessed are the poor", "Seek not the material things of life" and the old favourite about a rich man entering heaven was as unlikely as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. These are all great stuff on a Sunday morning sermonising from a pulpit, but the practice is somewhat different. "The Roman Catholic Church has lost the first round of a court battle to escape liability for paying damages to victims of sexual abuse." (Times, 9 November) This case reported the RC Church's attempt to escape paying compensation to children who were raped by the clergy in the Portsmouth area. They are more concerned about holding on to their wealth than practicing what they preach.RD

ANOTHER BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

The guns in Libya have barely quieted, but a new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli. "Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners. A week before Colonel Gaddafi's death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defense minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to "pack their suitcases"and head to Tripoli." (New York Times, 28 October) It is always good to see the fall of a dictator but obviously the capi…

Food for thought

No wonder the latest beating of the workers is gaining ground with little opposition. I refer to the practice of work auctioning. In Canada so far, it is limited to determining what shifts you will work, according to desire and seniority. In the US, the price you are willing to work for has already been introduced. Up to now, it's used for nurses to work extra shifts who bid for them with the wage they want to earn. Right now bidding begins at regular wage rates and saves the hospital money by replacing hiring from temp firms that charge much more. Will it be long before the floor drops below the normal wage, or is applied to all work? Capitalism gets uglier by the day and spawns the occupy movements, hopefully, digging its own grave. John Ayers

A CRAZY SOCIETY

The madness of capitalism can be observed worldwide but surely nowhere is the insanity more obvious than in the case of the poverty stricken masses of Africa and this grotesque parasite. "The U.S. government may soon own one of Michael Jackson's white gloves, a $530,000 Ferrari and a $30 million Malibu estate if it succeeds in seizing them from the son of a corrupt African dictator. In a case kept hidden from public view until last week, the U.S. Department of Justice says it's pursuing more than $32 million in assets from Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, whose father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 32 years -- and has been accused by authorities around the world of illicitly siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and his family." (Yahoo News, 26 October) RD