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Showing posts from December, 2011

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 …


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.


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


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


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…


"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


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.


"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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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,…


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


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


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


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!


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?


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)

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, " 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


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.

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.