Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2011

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION

In a society torn with wars and threats of war, world starvation and global pollution members of the owning class and their girlfriends have more pressing problems. Which handbag to buy? The advertising world is quick to provide a solution to this pressing problem. "Celine simply epitomises understated chic. Sleek lines, gold hard-wear and the minimal shape of this shoulder bag will polish off your effortless style - £1,600." (Independent, 19 March) RD

RICH AND POOR IN THE USA

In a recent newspaper debate about the growing inequalities of wealth in the USA  entitled "Rising Wealth Inequality: Should We Care? Why do Americans seem unperturbed about the growing gap between the rich and the poor?", Michael I. Norton an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, who is  is currently co-writing a book on money and happiness, made some interesting observations. "In a recent survey of Americans, my colleague Dan Ariely and I found that Americans drastically underestimated the level of wealth inequality in the United States. While recent data indicates that the richest 20 per cent of Americans own 84 per cent of all wealth, people estimated that this group owned just 59 per cent believing that total wealth in this country is far more evenly divided among poorer Americans." (New York Times, 22 March) It may have escaped the professors' notice, but all the media is owned by the rich and it is in their interest to spread th…

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DISASTER

Newspapers are quick to cover a story like the miners rescued from the cave-in in Chile, but mining disasters are so common that they hardly register in the media compared to important events like a Royal wedding. So it should come as no surprise to learn of the following event only being covered by a few lines in the national press. "At least six workers were killed and 46 trapped by a methane explosion in a coal mine in southwestern Pakistan. An official said that the mine was declared dangerous two weeks ago, but the warning was ignored." (Times, 21 March) The reality inside a capitalist society is that coal and the profits that can accrue from it is much more important that human lives. RD

who owns north pole - part 27- now Germany joins in

As the Arctic ice melts, Germany wants to make sure its scientists gain unfettered access to the region. They have been hindered by the Russians, and other Arctic nations have been hesitant to cooperate. But Berlin also has its eyes on the bigger North Pole booty: natural resources and sea routes.

What happens in the Arctic in the coming years and decades is everyone's business. The Far North has a decisive impact on the climate of the entire planet. Temperatures in the region are rising at higher rates than elsewhere in the world, which affects people and the environment far away from the Arctic. The German scientists' data are urgently necessary to understand these changes.
"This is why we need access to allow our scientists to move about and work throughout the entire Arctic,"says polar scientist Lochte. She is now getting prominent support for her demand. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), is hosting…

COMIC BOOK CAPITALISM

Capitalism is an insane society that values things much more than human beings. The following news item should be read with the knowledge that millions of people are trying to exist on the equivalent of $1.25 a day. "A comic collector has been caught in Spider-Man's web, paying $1.1 million for a near-mint copy of "Amazing Fantasy" No. 15 that features the wall-crawler's debut. The issue, first published in 1962, was sold Monday by a private seller to a private buyer, ComicConnect.com chief executive Stephen Fishler told The Associated Press on Tuesday. It's not the highest price ever paid for a comic book, an honor that goes to "Action Comics" No. 1 with Superman on the cover, which went for $1.5 million." (Yahoo News, 9 March) RD

THE CLASS DIVIDE

In a recent issue of the Guardian newspaper there was an an inserted leaflet from the charity WaterAid. It was appealing for 52 million pounds in a campaign to change the lives of 884 million people who still lack clean water and the 2.6 billion who have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. According to the leaflet "It's a fact that around 4,000 children die every day from diarrhea because they lack clean water and sanitation." If 52 million pounds seems like a lot of money it should be noted in that same paper there was an  article that reported the sale of super luxurious  flats in London. "The property tycoons behind London's most lavish residential development are £62 million better off after fresh details emerged of sales at One Hyde Park. The Candy brothers, Nick and Christian, and their backers have pocketed the sum after selling one sixth floor property for £22m, and one on the second floor for £21.6m .... A penthouse flat in the development is …

CHANGED DAYS

From time to time we see political parties and religious groups change their tactics to suit changing times but this takes a bit of beating for a turnabout. "Cardinal Keith O'Brien today launches an attack on Foreign Secretary William Hague following the announcement that the UK plans to double overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million. Cardinal O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, says the aid package should be conditional on a commitment to religious freedom and a pledge to protect Christians and other religious minorities." (Herald, 15 March) The Roman Catholic Church wanting to protect religious minorities? Could this be the same church that threatened Galileo with the Inquisition, that sponsored the slaughter of the Crusades and persecuted and burnt any that did not bend the knee to Rome? Of course in those days they were all-powerful but in those areas where they are a threatened minority they have found it convenient to cha…

HYPOCRICY AND TORTURE

The UK and US governments are fond of claiming that they have strict moral rules against the use of torture in dealing with enemies. Recent disclosures from a high ranking ally seems to cast doubt on that claim however."Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has cast doubt on Britain's public stance that countries should not torture British citizens on its behalf. He said he was never told that was the policy and this may have been "tacit approval of whatever we were doing". His comments raise questions about how much MI5 knew about torture being used in the fight against al-Qaeda." (BBC News, 14 March) The truth is that in the struggle for markets and the sources of raw materials countries go to war and there has never been a war yet that was fought in a decent or moral fashion. RD

LAND OF THE FREE?

American politicians are fond of boasting about the "land of the free" and contrasting the freedoms of people in the USA with that of other countries, but recent developments in the state senate in Ohio seem more dictatorial than democratic. "Ohio joined Wisconsin on Wednesday in advancing a plan to restrict public sector unions, posing a new threat to U.S. labor union power in one of the most politically and economically important states. The Republican-controlled Ohio state senate approved a proposal to curb the collective bargaining rights of public employees and forbid government workers from going on strike." (Reuters, 2 March) RD

HARD TIMES - FOR SOME

We are told ever day by the mass media that we are living in hard times and that we must be prepared to tighten our belts. Longer working lives, lower pensions and the threat of growing unemployment are the prospects for the working class. This period of "economic reality" does not affect the owning class of course."Carlos Slim gets even richer as he beats Bill Gates to the top of the 2011 Forbes billionaires list. Carlos Slim, the world's wealthiest man, saw his fortune jump $20.5bn last year as he beat a record 1,209 rival billionaires, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and British resident Lakshmi Mittal, to the top of the Forbes global rich list." (Daily Telegraph, 10 March) In case you imagine that this only applies to Mexican, American or Indian billionaires Forbes informs us that the Duke of Westminster managed to increase his stack to $13 billion last year. RD

Karl's Quote

Before capitalism could get going, it was in need of money capital to finance its operation. Primitive accumulation began with the age of exploration and continued through the mercantile period to provide the necessary capital. Marx comments, "The capitalist mode of production – since its basis is wage labour, and therefore also the payment of the worker in money and the general transformation of services in kind into money payments – can develop on a large scale and penetrate deeply only when there is a quantity of money in the country in question for circulation and for the hoard formation (reserve fund etc.) conditioned by this circulation, This is a historical precondition, even if the situation should not be conceived in such a way that a sufficient hoard has first to be formed before capitalism production can begin. The latter rather develops simultaneously with the development of its preconditions, and one of these preconditions is a sufficient supply of preci…

Food for Thought

An example of the federal Tory's governing Orwellian style, Human Resources Minister, Diane Finlay, recently replied to critics of her government's decision to scrap a national daycare program that the former government was ready to establish. She described the program as forcing parents to hand their child-rearing duties over to 'other people'. Who
they can hand them to without it being 'other people' is beyond most people's comprehension, and what they will be expected do when the child gets to school age when they are handed over to teachers is not yet clear! John Ayers

Reading Notes

Letter to The Toronto Star (12/Feb/2011)"Behold democracy in Canada, a nation where a government rejected by two-thirds of the voters, continually lies to us and withholds information from us as it serves the interests of those who finance and control it. It spends millions of our tax dollars on self-promotion and misinformation and billions more in the service of its masters. It views democratic principles as obstacles to the goals of its hidden agenda, it undermines the sources of truth by withholding access to it, dismantling the census and promoting broadcast journalism that is nothing more than a propaganda machine designed to cloud our minds while serving the rich and powerful. And then it assures us of its commitment to transparency, accountability, and democracy."
The function of the educational system
"It (the school) was a Victorian building with pointed windows like a church. It had been built by the Fitzherbert family, as the headmaster never t…

THE GANJA OF THE PEOPLE

Away back in the 19th Century Karl Marx once stated "Religion is the opium of the people", but we wonder how he would have responded to this 21st Century news item. "The sale of marijuana has been banned by authorities in Nepal during a popular Hindu festival at which holy men traditionally smoke the drug. About 500,000 people and thousands of holy men travelled to the Pashupatinath temple in Katmandu for the festival, which marks the end of winter. ... Police stopped people from dealing but  did not prevent the holy men from smoking the drug." (Times, 4 March) Perhaps the Christian holy men should take a leaf out of the Hindu's book, it might help their falling church attendance figures. RD

CLASS DIVISION IN iNDIA

A visit to an Indian city such as Calcutta would convince the visitor that it is a country of extreme poverty and qualifies as what the press call a "third world country". You can see homeless families eeking out an existence living on the streets but that is only part of the story. "In a wedding estimated to have cost Kanwar Singh Tanwar, the groom's father and a member of Parliament, £15 million, about 30,000 guests ate 100 different dishes and the couple's main gift was a seven seater helicopter. (Times, 4 March) For a tiny minority of Indians a life of undreamt affluence is the norm in this "third world" country. RD

Food for Thought

Our federal government is pushing the ever popular 'tough on crime' program to protect us from the bad guys. Senator Hugh Segal in the Toronto Star (20/Feb/2011) reveals just who the government is after. Almost 100% live beneath the poverty line; aboriginals, just 4% of the population make up 20% of the prison population; more than 70% did not complete high school; 80% arrive in prison with serious substance abuse problems; 70% have unstable job histories .In other words, the economically marginalized people of society. Segal advocates getting tough on poverty but, of course, is unable to discover the cause of poverty, like so many other people and governments.
But wait! A solution has just arrived. The dean of the Rotman School of Management at Toronto University has commented on the latest figures showing that Canadian workers are low on the productivity scale. If we can match the high producers such as Luxembourg and Norway, we can expect our mortgages to be pai…

Food for Thought

The parliamentary bill to send generic drugs to Africa is still in the works - after eight years! The fact that the original proposer has left parliament, amendments to the bill, and the government's reluctance, have all conspired to make its passage longer and less sure. How many people have died since Canada trumpeted to the world its intention to provide cheap drugs. It was Liberal government in power then!
On the environmental front, it has been revealed (Toronto Star, 19&26/Feb/2011) that Ontario Hydro sprayed enough agent orange, the deadly chemical, to cut a 30 metre swath four fifths around the world. There was no regard to streams, soils or the mostly student workers who did the job. It continued until 1979 and, not surprisingly, is turning up a lot of people involved with a variety of diseases. John Ayers

Food for Thought

In the 'futility of reform' category, The Toronto Star reported (12/2/2011) that the provincial government, which has continually stated that it will reduce poverty (25% reduction in five years) froze minimum wages at$10.25. Premier Mcguinty commented that Ontario's minimum wage is the highest in the country (except for the territory of Nunavut, to be correct) and that freezing it would help employers to recover from the economic meltdown. To add insult to injury, the provincial government also brought in new rules to make it harder for welfare recipients to access funding for food. This, of course, will affect the already meager diets of their children – nice guys. Strange when minimum wage earners must sacrifice to help the economy after billions of dollars were given to the auto industry!
John Ayers

Reading Notes

A few observations by Jared Diamond in "Guns, Germs, and Steel – The Fates of Human Societies"
"The remaining way for kleptocrats (Diamond's excellent term for societies where the surplus value is stolen!) to gain public support is to construct an ideology or religious justification for kleptocracy. Bands and tribes already had supernatural beliefs…but the supernatural beliefs of bands and tribes did not serve to justify central authority, justify transfer of wealth…When supernatural beliefs gained those functions and became institutionalized, they were thereby transformed into what we term a religion." On the advantages of states over tribes,
" Second, the official religions and patriotic fervour of many states making their troops willing to fight suicidally. The latter willingness is one so strongly inured into us citizens of modern states, by our schools and churches and governments that we forget what a radical break it marks with previous …

Karl’s Quotes

The worker advances his labour to the capitalist; the capitalist does not advance money. Marx says, " It should be noted here that the capitalist 'advances' the capital laid out on wages, to use the mode of speech peculiar to political economy, for different periods, according to whether he pays wages, by the week, by the month, or every three months. In point of fact, the opposite happens. The worker advances the capitalist his labour for a week, a month, or every three months, according to the intervals at which he is paid. If the capitalist did actually buy labour, instead of simply paying for it later, i.e. if he paid the worker for the day, week, month, or three months in advance, then we could speak of an advance for these periods. But since he pays only after the labour has lasted for days, weeks, or months, instead of buying it and paying for the time it is to last, the whole thing is a capitalist quid pro quo, and the advance that the worker makes to…

AND SOME CALL IT COMMUNISM?

For years and years socialists pointed out that Russia was not socialist. We were mocked by the left wing, but eventually they conceded that there were class divisions in Russia. Ah, said our opponents but at least in China we have a classless society. Our opposition to that viewpoint was met with derision but what is the position today? "Sales of luxury goods are exploding, despite a hefty tax on importing them. A new report by CLSA, a broker, forecasts that overall consumption in China (including boring everyday items) will rise by 11% annually over the next five years. .... But sales of luxury goods will grow more than twice as quickly, reckons CLSA: by 25% a year. No other category comes close. ... China is already the largest market for Louis Vuitton, a maker of surprisingly expensive handbags, accounting for 15% of its global sales. Within three years, reckons Aaron Fischer, the report's author, China's domestic market for bling will be bigger than Japan…