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Showing posts from May, 2011

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

Members of the working class suffer all sorts of indignities in their working life but it is when they grow old and infirm that capitalism really rubs their nose in it. "Failures in nursing care for elderly patients have reached the point at which doctors are prescribing water to make sure it is provided, the health regulators say. Inspections at 12 hospitals by the Care Quality Commission found that three failed to meet basic standards of dignity and nutrition, and that three more raised concerns. This, according to Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of the CQC, was "fairly representative" of the NHS, with only half of hospitals meeting essential standards of dignity and nutrition for older people." (Sunday Times, 29 May) After a lifetime of producing surplus value for the owning class many workers are condemned to eke out an existence in sub-standard nutrition and toilet conditions.RD

THE MIDDLE CLASS MYTH

In reviewing Owen Jones's book "Cavs: The Demonization of the Working Class", the journalist Carol Midgely makes some valid points. "When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 more than seven million people earned a living in manufacturing. Now that figure is about 2.83 million. Much easier to blame the unemployed than the forces that caused the unemployment. The Thatcher experiment, Jones says, repositioned working class not as something to be proud of but something to escape from. Being middle class was the holy grail. The Dockers, miners, skilled factory workers and car workers of Britain have watched powerless as their jobs disappeared or were sent abroad." (Times, 28 May) Here we have Jones and Midgely making the usual mistake about class. All men and women who because of their lack of property are forced to seek work for a wage or a salary are members of the working class. Whether you work in a factory or an office whether you push a barrow …

rich list 2011

The 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, published this weekend, reveals that the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country are now worth a combined £395.8 billion, equivalent to more than a third of the national debt.

The number of billionaires has risen from 53 to 73, while nine people have seen their fortunes rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months alone.

Britain’s 10 Largest Fortunes (in billions of pounds)

1. Lakshmi Mittal and Family Steel 17.5
2. Alisher Usmanov Steel, Mines 12.4
3. Roman Abramovich Oil 10.3
4. The Duke of Westminster Property 7
5. Ernesto and Kitty Bertarelli Pharmaceuticals 6.9
6. Leonard Blavatnik Industry 6.2
7. John Fredriksen and family Shipping 6.2
8. David and Simon Reuben Property 6.2
9. Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja Industry 6
10. Galen and George Weston Retail 6

AUSTERITY - FOR SOME

We live in austere times, there is a budget deficit and the government has been forced to make all sorts of unpopular public spending cuts. We have recently seen drastic cuts in local amenities like libraries, transport and social amenities. The government draw the line at some cuts though as seen from this announcement. "David Cameron has spent more than £680,000 of public money renovating Downing Street in the year that his government inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector." (Guardian, 27 May) Times might be tough but one has got to have decent living accommodation, old chap.RD

NEVER STEAL ANYTHING....

Working class school children throughout the world are taught the mantra "never steal anything". So what are we to make of the following news item? "A former managing director of Nasdaq has been charged with insider trading by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Donald Johnson stole client information, making $755,000 in illegal trades, it said. He admitted securities fraud in criminal charges brought by the Justice Department." (Times, 27 May) $755,000 is quite a haul so perhaps children of the capitalist class are taught not to get caught and just as important "never steal anything - small." RD

all at sea

How the other half live and more accurately how the 0.00002 per cent live. CRN Spa, builders of mega-yachts, estimates that there are just 1,500 people in the world wealthy enough to consider buying a boat from them. ( there is also, of course, the "ultra-mega yachts" of the type recently purchased by the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the world's biggest, featuring two helipads and a submersible escape submarine.)

"I know the names of all our clients," says the boatyard's chairman, "They're not famous people. You won't have heard of them." But, chances are, in one way or another, money that was once in your bank account is now in theirs'.

A few years ago an American client arrived and had signed a contract to buy a 43-metre yacht within two hours, with a price tag of €25m (£21.6m). He had never owned a boat before. "He told us: 'The interiors, the colours, the finishes, I don't care. The only thing I care about is the saf…

BEHIND THE TV FANTASY

Every evening on the TV you can see programmes where some dastardly criminal is brought to justice by some ingenious detective. Every crime committed in these dramas is solved. It is all very satisfying, but of course it is a complete fantasy. "Just one criminal jailed for every 93 crimes. Just one criminal is jailed for every 93 offences committed, figures showed. A total of 101,500 offenders who were convicted last year were handed an immediate custodial sentence representing less than eight per cent of all those sentenced, according to the Ministry of Justice. But separate figures from the British Crime Survey show a total 9.5 million crimes were committed in England and Wales during the last 12 months." (Daily Telegraph, 26 May) As long as we have a property based society we will have crime, and despite the efforts of Inspector Morse, Taggart and Miss Marples the vast majority of them will go unsolved. RD

WHERE THE GREEN MOVEMENT FAILS

On the face of it the Green Movement has a lot of things in its favour. It would be difficult to find fault in their concerns about how the planet is being abused. Global warming, deforestation and pollution are real areas of concern for anyone who examines how modern society is developing. Where socialists would differ from green activists is in two major areas. Firstly in their analysis of what causes the problems and secondly what is the solution to the problems. Quite often green activists make the assumption that the problems are caused by social ignorance and that secondly the solution can come about by a series of legal enactments that would save the planet from its present dangers. Socialists would repudiate such a simplistic analysis. Let us look at one of the major concerns of Greens and socialists alike - the deforestation of the Amazon area. "Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased almost six-fold since last year despite government promises to …

DIVINE NONSENSE

Inside capitalism politics and religion throw up some crazy ideas, but this piece of Russian nonsense takes a bit of beating. "A new Russian religious sect worships Vladimir Putin as the reincarnation of Paul the Apostle whose career follows in the footsteps of the early Christian missionary, a news report said Wednesday. The sect is based near the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod and led by Mother Fotina -- a former convict who once worked on the local rail road, the Sobesednik weekly said on its website. "According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first," the sect's founder told the weekly. "In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the holy spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock," she said." (Yahoo News,11 May) If a virgin can give birth, a carpenter make the blind see and the dead walk why can't a memb…

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 30

The Danish government is planning to officially announce that it is to lay claim to the North Pole, according to a draft Danish-Faroese-Greenland strategy. The draft says that “The Kingdom is expected to lay claim to the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself”.

Several ministers have previously suggested that Denmark could lay claim to the North Pole, but if the draft is adopted, it will be the first time that Denmark’s official policy is to claim the Pole and puts Denmark on a collision course with other Arctic claimants. Territorial claims over vast stretches of the energy-rich Arctic are serious business. Conservationists aren’t pleased with the territorial ambitions, however, saying countries bordering the Arctic Ocean should focus on the region’s fragile environment and not its demarcation and development.“This is a land grab which is about getting access to resources,” saidMads Christensen, …

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

That we live in a society that has world hunger, unemployment and homelessness is hardly a matter of dispute, but that is only a series of problems that confront the useful members of society, for others there are no social problems."Paris Hilton has been spotted house hunting in Malibu. The heiress and reality TV star seemed to have taken a particular shine to a luxury pink stucco mansion with a hefty price tag. The rental property is reportedly costing $80,000 to rent per month. With four bedrooms and four bathrooms, the beachside mansion would make the perfect summer hangout for the LA socialite and her many friends. Paris also checked out other luxury villas, all close to the beach with gorgeous sea views. "Just got home. Saw some beautiful properties, so it's going to be a hard choice to make, she tweeted later that day." (Yahoo News, 12 May) Could someone please tweet her that she is a useless parasitic exploiter? RD

LAND OF THE FREE?

In schoolrooms throughout the USA children are taught to be patriotic and learn to sing with pride the verses about "Home of the Brave, Land of the Free", but the reality is somewhat different according to recent statistics. "Today, 2.3 million Americans are behind bars; the United States has the world's highest rate of incarceration. Convictions for non-violent crimes and relatively minor drug offenses - mostly possession, not sale - have accounted for the bulk of the increase in the prison population since the mid-1980s. African-Americans are far more likely to get prison sentences for drug offenses than white offenders, even though studies have consistently shown that they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites." (New York Times, 14 May) RD

The Russians are coming !!

Thanks to big-spending wealthy Russians visitors Scotland's tourism industry is withstanding the economic downturn.

Hotel bills of around £20,000 for a 10-day stay for two are said to be commonplace while some small family groups are reported to have spent £100,000.

The Scotsman has learned of guests hiring a castle for £7,000 a night and shopping sprees lasting just half an hour have notched up the same bill. Two Russian guests were said to have hired out the Royal Yacht Britannia, in Leith.

Moscow is home to the world's second-largest concentration of billionaires after New York.

Denise Hill, head of international marketing of VisitScotland, said:"We are getting a lot of oligarchs visiting, for whom money is no object, as well as growing numbers on incentive trips through their businesses. Some groups will spend £20,000 on whiskies in a hotel without even thinking about it."

David Tobin, founder of Dream Escape, which provides tailor-made luxury holiday packages in Scot…

A MOCKERY OF DEMOCRACY

The capitalist media is fond of depicting the democratic political systems that exist in Britain and the USA as perfect examples of fairness and well- balanced pieces of legislation where everyone is equal as far as the law is concerned, but this is shown to be a complete charade when we consider the following example. David and Charles Koch are billionaires, in fact each is reckoned to be worth $22 billion. "Both have a 42% stake, (in Koch Industries) which makes chief executive Charles (now 75) and vice-president David (71) the joint 18th richest people in the world. Charles is co-founder of the libertarian think-tank the Cato Institute, while David founded the conservative non-profit group America for Prosperity and has spent $45m bankrolling rightwing politicians." (Observer, 15 May) The brothers fund such organisations as the America for prosperity which is linked to the Tea Party and have spent $20m in 2008 and $20.5m from 2009 to 2010 lobbying against legi…

An Amazon drug for the poor

There’s often a fine line between using drugs for enjoyment and using drugs to escape the pressures of society. While the drugs "problem" is not a make or break issue for socialists, it does illustrate how capitalism tends to operate in defiance of any logic, even its own. Even if you accept capitalism's own profit-oriented logic, its attitude to illegal recreational drugs still fails to make any kind of sense. From Al Capone to Afghanistan, the history of drug prohibition by capitalism continues to represent one of the most bizarrely stupid aspects of a social system never notable for its good judgment. Most of the arguments against illicit drugs are bogus, unscientific and politically oriented. Whether it’s a pint in a pub, a joint at home, or ecstasy in a nightclub, many of us use drugs to unwind or enhance our experiences. However, heroin and alcohol addiction are causing countless damaged lives. Now there is a new one.

Officials in the Amazon region of Brazil fi…

Against independence

Nationalists believe we, the workers, should hold allegiance to "the Nation". Socialists do not. Socialists look forward to and struggle for a new world of common ownership and democratic control of society's resources, and uncluttered with the frontiers and class divisions which go hand, in-hand with "the Nation". As socialists, we say that nationalism is a dangerous poison. Nationalism is anathema to socialists. Wage and salary workers have no country. The outlook of “us and them” is a strong notion in the lives of many people and the idea that the world is naturally divided into nations is widespread. But the world of nationalism is full of contradictions, odd ideas and illogical beliefs. It comes almost as a reflex action for people born and brought up in Scotland to use “we” and to regard themselves as part of a Scottish “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the English at Bannockburn” or “we got five gold medals at the Commonwealth…

Doom and gloom

Despite record low interest rates, falling by more than one-fifth since in 2008 the cost of owning and running a home in the UK has risen over the last year.

Bank of Scotland research found that soaring gas, electricity and main-tenance costs were the main causes of the rise. It showed that the average annual cost associated with owning and running a home rose by 1.4%, or £116, from £8525 in March 2010 to £8641 in March 2011. Utility costs were up by £102 on average and maintenance costs by £33.

Bank of Scotland housing economist Suren Thiru said: “Household finances remain under pressure with the significant drop in mortgage payments since 2008 mostly offset by increases in other household bills. Rising utility bills have been a clear driver behind this, along with increases in maintenance costs. The current strain on household finances is particularly concerning at a time when earnings growth remains weak.”

Another study revealed over-50s are suffering a drop in their quality of life a…

funemployment

The Guardian columnist describes what is called "funemployment"

Workshy, embracing unemployment as a lifestyle choice, sometimes one inherited from the parents, and spending money scrounged off others on booze and drugs. No, not the feckless "chav" caricatures who regularly feature in tabloid horror stories, used to justify further attacks on Britain's besieged welfare state. It's a new generation of young, wealthy freeloaders - the "funemployed".

It might seem perverse to associate fun with the trauma of unemployment. Around 2.5 million Britons are officially without work; youth unemployment is currently running at over 20%. But in a society where Jobseekers Allowance is just £67.50 – among the lowest of comparable western European nations – it's a right that only a small elite can meaningfully exercise. While most Britons are suffering the biggest squeeze on living standards for nearly a century, there is plenty of money around for the uber-…

unemployment

Areas such as West Dunbartonshire and East Ayrshire have overtaken inner London boroughs as the hardest places in the country to find work, with more than 40 candidates chasing each job, TUC analysis has revealed.

"Dozens of towns and cities have more than 10 dole claimants chasing every vacancy and areas on their doorstep are not faring much better. It's not good enough for ministers to brand those out of work as feckless and claim that there are plenty of jobs out there. The reality is very different." TUC general secretary Brendan Barber saidIt doesn't matter where you live, deprivation is a world problem.

Who owns the North Pole - Part 29

Greenland is an autonomous territory belonging to Denmark. But the U.S. believes Greenland is headed for independence, presenting “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to make money.

With Arctic ice receding due to global warming, American officials have been cozying up to Greenland, where future oil and mineral deposits may become available to exploration. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the U.S. and other industrial nations are jockeying to “carve up” Arctic resources in the coming years. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Greenland territory may sit atop oil reserves as large as those in the North Sea. The Arctic Circle could contain 90 billion barrels of oil, about 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. In addition to oil and natural gas, mining companies also have their eyes on aluminum, iron ore, gold and rubies.

One diplomatic dispatch states: “Our intensified outreach to the Greenla…

FINE WORDS AND HARSH REALITY

Politicians are wonderful at coining words at election times but a little less wonderful on delivering on electoral promises. Mr. Cameron has promised us all a wonderful future in his "Big Society", but we should be aware of the outcome of Mrs. Thatcher's promised "Property-owning democracy". "The number of homes repossessed in Britain increased by 15 per cent in the first quarter of the year as unemployment and the cost of living continued to rise. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that 9,000 homes were repossessed in the first three months of this year compared with 7,000 in the final quarter of last year." (Times, 13 May) Rising unemployment and homelessness - a strange sort of property-owning democracy. RD

Food for thought

A rally of several thousand turned out to oppose the new hard right mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who came to power with the usual 'reduce taxes, no cuts in services' platform. He started with the Toronto Transit Commission with an attempt to get the Provincial government to declare the workers as 'essential' and therefore unable to strike. Privatising garbage collection is next, and so on, a la Wisconsin. Only supporting and getting socialism will put the boots to these capitalist puppets.
More government waste and incompetence. No, not the $30 billion, and counting, shortrange fighter planes in the second biggest country in the world. I'm talking about the 1998 purchase of four British submarines that were fitted to fire, guess what? British torpedoes. They are still incapable of firing our own MK-48 torpedoes, and that's just fine by me!John Ayers

losing homes

Repossession numbers began to rise again during the early part of 2011, jumping by 15%. A total of 9,100 properties were taken over by lenders during the three months to the end of March, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

The group has predicted that a total of 40,000 people will lose their homes this year, up from 36,300 in 2010, due to the squeeze on household incomes as a result of the combination of rising taxes and living costs and slow wage growth. Around 166,900 people were in arrears of at least 2.5% of their outstanding loan at the end of March.

Industry commentators have also warned that Government initiatives to help keep people in their homes may simply be delaying a spike in repossession numbers.

Food for thought

"The World's Poor Grow Hungrier" stated The Toronto Star, quoting from a World Bank Report. More than 935 million around the world do not have enough food to eat, and the number is growing every year. Rising food prices have exacerbated the problem mostly driven by diverting corn, cassava, canola, and sugar to the production of ethanol fuel. For example, global maize prices rose 73% in the six months after June, 2010. But wait, isn't this about the same number we have been quoting for years? If there was no ethanol production, would that eliminate the hungry? Of course not, it's the system, stupid!
How government works in the people's interests – the Tory government has spent millions in the courts trying to shut down Vancouver's much-lauded safe injection site for drug addicts, Insite. Our tax dollars have been hard at work in the BC Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals rather than funding something worthwhile for $500 000 a year. Of cours…

A grouse

A group of landowners is calling on the Scottish government to allow them to kill birds of prey to protect stocks of grouse and other game birds.

Every year birds of prey are found trapped, poisoned and shot on the country's hills, despite being protected by law and specialist wildlife crime officers. Landowners say the number of illegal killings is relatively small. The official figures are between 25 and 30 each year. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes many other cases of raptor persecution go undiscovered and unreported.

Why would anyone want to kill a bird of prey?

The RSPB believes it's all about money. Shooting, especially grouse shooting is worth £240m a year.

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

Socialists often highlight the wastefulness of capitalist society. The waste of human lives with the premature deaths of millions of people from the lack of clean water. The waste of human usefulness with millions forced into unemployment. The waste of the world's natural resources in the mad scramble for profits. The plight of millions of homeless and the inadequately housed should be contrasted with this piece of wastefulness by a member of the useless capitalist class. The property dealer Vincent Tchenguiz has recently put his £25m villa in St Tropez up for sale, and according to one friend . "Vincent bought the villa five years ago but he's spent only one night there". Really, one night? "Really, he always stays on his yacht." So, why have a seven-bedroom pad with extensive staff quarters? "It's for overflow guests. There's not always enough room on the boat so they stay at the house." Of course." (Sunday Times, 8 May)…

'A Society in Crisis' - Glasgow and Edinburgh Branches' Day School (Glasgow)

Saturday 14 May 2011 1pm to 5pm

















Has Capitalism a Future?: John Cumming (Glasgow Branch)
Most supporters of capitalism, including, most critics, claim that capitalism is the only society which can exist, despite their abhorrence of certain aspects of capitalism, often demand reforms of capitalism as a way of solving social problems.
The Socialist Party has always denied that capitalism could or would collapse spontaneously or that reforms of capitalism are a solution to social problems.
What is the solution then? The Socialist Party is organised for nothing less than the overthrow of capitalism: a complete revolution. Do you agree? If so, join us! If not, tell us why not!

The Rise of Chinese Capitalism:Paul Bennett (Manchester Branch)
China recently overtook Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Like other capitalist countries it has been taking steps to ensure supplies of raw materials and secure export markets as seen by the increasing activities of Chinese companies in A…

The Scottish Rich

Scotland's richest have increased their fortunes. The Sunday Times Rich List found Highland Spring and Park Hotels owner Mahdi al-Tajir is still the wealthiest Scot, with a fortune of £1,550 million, up £50m in a year. Sir Ian Wood and his family remain at number two, with an increase of £157m from their oil services and fishing business.

With a combined fortune of £18.257 billion, many of Scotland's richest 100 men and women have seen their fortunes increase in the past year. The top multi-millionaires added a combined £60.2bn to their £395.8bn wealth.

The Daily Record provided lesson on capitalist economics - the rich get richer while the poor get poorer .

This is how it comes about. On a simple level, if you have money, you're earning interest. If you have loans, you're paying interest. The result is that the rich are always moving forwards while the poor are always going backwards - and bear in mind that there are different speeds involved. If the rich are earning f…

Food for thought

In the Middle East the people continue to demonstrate despite cruel repression by the forces of their own government. The leaders haven't hesitated to open fire on their own people. In Egypt, the taste of victory has soured as new demonstrations were put down by the interim military government, killing two people. Same old… Bahrain, Syria, and other places continue to shoot to kill. On CNN this morning it was reported that a small army of 3 000 well armed Syrian soldiers had closed the border with Jordan and then attacked a city that held anti-government rallies, going door to door and shooting the inhabitants. The dislocation between workers and the ruling owners has never been starker than in this region right now. Let's hope something worthwhile comes out of the death and bravery that we see every night. A chance to elect socialist representatives at least.
The Toronto Star published a piece about the Pope. "For the first time in History, Pope Benedict XVI …

Food for thought

In an article in the Toronto Star newspaper, economist David Olive looks at the economic train wreck of Ireland. Fueled by low corporate taxes and a fake real estate boom, this Celtic Tiger and darling of neocon supporters, collapsed in five years as companies, despite the low taxes, fled to low wage Poland, and the real estate bubble burst. Olive quotes Irish historian, R.F.Foster,
"It appeared like a miraculous beast materializing in a forest clearing, and economists are still not sure why."
So much for the brilliance of vulgar economists. At the time of the Irish boom, our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, was quoted,
"It (Canada) will look more like Ireland. More dynamic, more attractive to investors, brighter, and more positive, outward-looking."
The budget that failed and led to the present federal election contained large corporate tax cuts. Ireland is now on the hook for $369 billion with a GDP of just $164 billion. Guess whose paying the price …

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

One of the illusions much favoured by politicians is that inequalities are gradually disappearing thanks to their wonderful efforts, but the reality is somewhat different. "After a jarring leap upwards during the industrial collapse of the 1980s. the gap between rich and poor has, with brief interruptions, been trending higher. By the tail-end of Labour's time in office, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was at its highest since comparable figures began in 1961. ... Britain still ranks just after the United States among the leading Western economies in terms of the gulf between rich and poor." (Times, 2 May) RD

recession news

The typical household will see its disposable income fall by 2 per cent this year, the equivalent of £780, an economist warned today. Roger Bootle, a former government adviser who now works with Deloitte, the accountancy firm, predicted that 2011 would be the worst year for household finances since 1977 – and added that if interest rates were to rise, British families would not have seen conditions deteriorate so badly since 1952.

Said Mr Bootle. "I think this year will see falling real earnings, falling real house prices and rising unemployment."