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Showing posts from June, 2012

Rio = Zero

For what was billed as an historic summit, Rio+20 was an anti-climax.

Many are touting a mythical new "green economy" they say will solve all our climate challenges. Under the rhetoric of “green economy”, capitalists are actually attempting to use nature as capital, proposing unconvincingly that the only way to preserve natural elements such as water and forests is through capitalist investment. For capitalists, nature is mainly an object to possess, exploit, transform and especially to profit from. This will open the door to the development of a new speculative market. This will allow some banks, corporations, brokers and intermediaries to make a lot of profit for a number of years until their financial bubble explodes, as can be seen with past speculative markets. While still ill defined, they're generally referring to a model of economic growth based on massive private investment in clean energy, climate-resistant agriculture, and ecosystem services - like the ability…

Food for thought

Most soccer clubs in Columbia are millions of dollars in debt and thenational team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In the game's heyday, Columbian drug capitalists used teams to launder money, boost their image, and flaunt their wealth in a process called narco-soccer. That money helped the national team climb to fourth place in world rankings. Things changed after the US war on drugs cut the flow of millions of dollars from organized crime to soccer. Capitalism corrupts everything it touches, even an otherwise healthy and skillful sport like soccer.
Coral Gardens which is off the coast of Komodo, Indonesia, used to be one of the world's most spectacular undersea areas, teeming with damselfish, bassets and hawksbill turtles, but not any more. The area has been destroyed by illegal fishermen who use explosives and cyanide to kill their prey. The fact that it's illegal means nothing considering the objective is the same as any legal busines…

Robert Owen and New Lanark

Paternalism is a common attitude among well-meaning social reformers. Stemming from the root pater, or father, paternalism implies a patriarchal, benevolent but superior sensibility. Paternalistic social reformers feel a social responsibility and believe that they should "uplift" those beneath them, but also see those they help as inferior, or childlike, in some way. Paternalistic industrialists assume that they have a responsibility to those in their employ.  Robert Owen built the mill town of New Lanark, where he created relatively high quality schools and housing for his workers. He was never a democrat because workers' democracy would mean he would lose his personal control.

Robert Owen, left his home in Wales when he was only ten, to make his own way in business. He walked to London, where he entered the retail drapery trade. When he was 14 he went to Manchester. With a partner and £100 capital he began making machines (mules) for spinning cotton. Later he became …

Food for thought

The Harper cabinet erupted in indignation this week when a UN 'Right --to- Food envoy, Olivier de Schutter criticized Canada for turning a blind eye to poverty, inequality, and hunger in the country. Too bad they didn't erupt in indignation at the facts -- almost one million Canadians rely on food banks; three million Canadians, including 600 000 children live in poverty and the numbers are growing. Obviously they are embarrassed it got a public forum. These are problems that are endemic to the capitalist system, of course, although no one is saying that.
King Juan Carlos of Spain recently had a hip replacement after suffering an injury while elephant hunting in Botswana. According to an editorial in "EL Mundo", hunting elephants sets a bad example when the economic crisis is so dire. Apparently, it transmits an image of indifference and frivolity that a head of state ought not to give. What it shows is that royals are just part of the world …

THE CONTROL OF IDEAS

The New Yorker Magazine asked a worthwhile question recently. "Last week, Gallup announced the results of their latest survey on Americans and evolution. The numbers were a stark blow to high-school science teachers everywhere: forty-six per cent of adults said they believed that "God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years." Only fifteen per cent agreed with the statement that humans had evolved without the guidance of a divine power. .... Such poll data raises questions: Why are some scientific ideas hard to believe in? What makes the human mind so resistant to certain kinds of facts, even when these facts are buttressed by vast amounts of evidence?" (The New Yorker, 7 June) We would suggest that one of the factors that stops the flow of scientific ideas to the minds of workers is the control that religious and political factions have over the education and communication facilities. The owning class in the USA spe…

A CARING SOCIETY?

One of the dreams that many hard working members of the working class have is that after a lifetime of toil at least at the end of their working lives they will be able to enjoy some sort of contentment in retirement. This dream often turns out to be nightmare however."Hundreds of vulnerable adults are being put at risk of abuse at residential homes and care institutions, a damning inquiry has found. The Care Quality Commission ordered 150 inspections following a Panorama investigation which found residents at private hospital Winterbourne View were being subjected to beatings. The official report shows that less than half – 48 per cent – of hospitals and care homes comply with 'essential' standards on the care and welfare of people with learning difficulties; and safeguarding them from abuse." (Daily Mail, 24 June) RD

The Scottish Propertarian Party

Another party of confusion has been added to the Scottish political arena - the Scottish Libertarian Party (see website)  which declares that the ownership of property is a requirement for human existence and therefore a right, which advocates the abolition of all taxes on business and a free trade policy with a return to the gold standard amongst its policies. Fairly standard stuff of the Right. But genuine libertarians are vehemently anti-capitalist. How easy it is to fall into the  trap of accepting re-definition of words. Check out the history of the political meaning of "Libertarian" here 

The Scottish Libertarian Party is NOT  libertarian, no matter how often they make the claim. To be clear and to use the correct terminology they are a propertarian party. Right-"libertarians" are not interested in eliminating capitalist private property nor the authority, oppression and exploitation which goes with it. They make an idol of private property and claim to defe…

WINNERS AND LOSERS

We are constantly made aware that we are living in an economic depression and that during these hard times we will all have to make sacrifices. This of course does not apply to the owning class. "Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of Burberry, the fashion house, took home £15.6m last year through a mixture of pay, bonus, cashing-in shares and a clothes allowance. The package makes the American one of the UK's best paid chief executives. Her salary was £990,000 and her bonus was £1.98m, both of which were unchanged. However, she enjoyed a large jump in her pension contributions and a £387,000 "cash allowance" which includes a clothing allowance on top of her staff discount, and money relating to her "relocation" package dating to when she moved to Britain in 2006. It is understood this includes children's school fees and some travel. Her total pay packet was £3.68m, up 4pc." (Daily Telegraph, 8 June) This obscene amount of…

The Death of Co-ops

Co-operative Funeralcare, which organises more than 100,000 funerals a year from 900 funeral homes has begun an inquiry after staff were secretly filmed storing dead bodies like "stacking television sets" in a warehouse on an industrial estate off a busy motorway. While relatives believed their loved ones were at funeral homes,the bodies were being stored in a warehouse or "hub". The warehouse contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered. When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles. The documentary claims staff are under pressure to sell expensive funeral packages to mourners, to increase profits, which last year were £52 million. The former funeral ombudsman, Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe, described the practices alleged in the film as shockin…

THE REALITIES OF WAR

We are all aware of the Hollywood depiction of wartime bravery and noble sacrifice in battle, but one aspect of war is never dealt with by the cinema. "Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year — the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan — about 50 per cent more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press." (Associated Press, 8 June) More suicides than those killed by the enemy! No wonder those portraying war as something admirable keep quiet about the suicide rate. RD

who owns Scotland

Scotland 19,068,631acres 100%
Urban 585,627 acres 3%
Rural 18,483,004 acres 97%
Of the rural land, 2, 275,768 acres are in the ownership of public bodies and 16,207,236 are in the ownership of private bodies.
Of this privately-owned rural land:
One quarter is owned by 66 landowners in estates of 30,700 acres and larger
One third is owned by 120 landowners in estates of 21,000 acres and larger
One half is owned by 343 landowners in estates of 7,500 acres and larger
Two thirds is owned by 1252 landowners in estates of 1 ,200 acres and larger
Two thirds of Scotland is owned by one four thousandth (0.025%) of the people!

hat-tip Wojtek
 http://libcom.org/blog/some-quick-thoughts-scottish-independence-20062012

The Cliff-edge of Nationalism

Love of country, in the form of "patriotism," is a late creation. Under serfdom people were bound to the soil but they had no "country". Nor has capital any "country" even though capitalism is the precondition for building a "nation," and advocates "nationalism," and protects  "national market." The development of the capitalist and rise of nationalism has been symbiotic. However, as soon as it can, capital continues to expand and pursue the global market, using its own "nationalism" as a springboard. Simply put, nationalism is anything but natural; it is an ideology of capitalism, which serves to produce the conditions for capitalist accumulation and gives it a legitimacy. In other words, it is not some kind of natural human phenomena. It is a social, political and ideational construction. Once the nation state has been physically constructed as "political sovereign", nationalism provides the glue by whi…

Food for thought

In a ruling in April, judges at a special court for Sierra Leone at The Hague found former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, guilty of eleven counts of war crimes by assisting rebels in Sierra Leone. The war ended in 2002 with 50 000 dead. The rebels atrocities included public executions, amputations, displaying decapitated heads at checkpoints, the killing and public disembowelment of a civilian whose intestines were stretched across a road to make a checkpoint, public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes. Taylor said, "What I did...was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward. One must wonder to what depths humans can sink in this dog eat dog world. John Ayers

Rio Minus 20

It is against the background of repeated failures in almost every aspect of the environment that the Rio+20 conference took place. The messages of gloom and doom have never been clearer. The planet has never been under such massive pressure. Humanity faces its biggest threat with climate change. It is urgent to reduce global warming by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, but since 1990 emissions have increased by almost 40 per cent. A report by the UN and over a thousand leading scientists showed that as much as two thirds of the world's ecosystems services - on which we are directly dependent for our survival - are threatened or in serious decline. In just 15 years global demand for natural resources has doubled. By 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy, and 30 per cent more water. It may not be the end of the world but may well be the end of society as we know it. The soil is being degraded, the water supply depleted, the air pollu…

A CRAZY SOCIETY

Every day workers are confronted with the awful problems of capitalism. We can read about millions trying to survive on a pittance of an income, we can hear of the plight of millions of children facing an early death from a lack of clean water. The list of social disasters just goes on and on. At the same time we are informed of such obscenities as the following. "Not content with a vast collection of toys that spans luxury homes, private jets, lavish cars and cup-winning sailboats, the software mogul Larry Ellison is splashing out on his own paradise island, it has been revealed. The American founder of Oracle is buying Hawaii's sixth-largest island, Lanai, for a price estimated at around half a billion dollars – putting Britain's Richard Branson to shame, since his Caribbean idyll, Necker Island, is worth barely one-fifth of that." (Independent, 22 June) RD

THE RUSSIAN OWNING CLASS

Politicians the world over love to project the notion that they are just ordinary people doing a difficult job. Recent information from Russia shows that this is a complete sham. "With a collection of watches worth almost £500,000, many would assume they belonged to a Russian oligarch. But Russian president Vladimir Putin has a collection of timepieces worth almost six times his official annual salary of £72,000. One of the watches - made from platinum with a crocodile skin strap - sells for more than £300,000 alone." (Daily Mail, 9 June) Such staggering wealth is beyond the imagination of most members of the Russian working class.. RD

streets ahead

North Charlotte Street, where the average house price is £1,791,179, came top of a list of Scotland’s highest valued street.

 There are now 31 streets in Scotland with average prices of more than £1m, and almost half of them, 14, are in Edinburgh.

 Milltimber, a suburb near Aberdeen, topped the website’s list of highest valued towns and neighbourhoods in Scotland, with house prices averaging at £432,421. Following closely were Humbie and North Berwick, both in East Lothian, which came second and third with average property prices of £388,076 and £313,556. Bearsden in the East Dunbartonshire area took 20th place.

 http://news.stv.tv/scotland/107374-edinburghs-million-pound-streets-top-scotlands-property-rich-list/

TRIDENT BEFORE THE NHS

Two news items illustrate the priorities of capitalism. The UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond announced a £1 billion deal for reactors to power new Trident submarines. "Bruce Crawford, the Scottish government's Strategy Minister said: "It's estimated that the costs of the new Trident weapon system could be anything up to £25 billion and over the lifetime, £100 billion." (Times, 18 June) On the same day the government showed it thought little of the NHS compared to expenditure on nuclear weapons. "A panel of experts says the NHS is failing to provide even the most basic treatment for mental illness to millions of people, with children particularly poorly served, and gives a warning that services are being cut back even farther because of budgetary constraints in the health service." (Times, 18 June) RD

A NICE LITTLE EARNER

Controversy over the presence of 26 unelected bishops in the upper House will be exacerbated by revelations about how much some of them are being paid for the privilege. "Bishops are claiming up to £27,000 a year in fixed-rate allowances to attend sessions of the House of Lords on top of their travel costs. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent has found that some bishops are claiming up to the maximum fixed allowance for attending sessions in the second chamber while having full-time jobs in their dioceses." (Independent, 21 June) These claims can be quite significant for instance the Bishop of Chester attended the House on 97 days, claiming £27,600 in attendance allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses. The Bishop of Liverpool attended on 60 days, claiming £15,600 for attendance and £4,220 in expenses. These men of the cloth are used to preaching that "The Lord will provide", but in their case it would seem the House o…

On abundance and post-scarcity

How much is enough? Enough means enough for a good life. Enough means enough to meet our needs. However, capitalism channels our hopes and dreams into the acquisition of consumer goods. There are vast commonalities around the world. They reveal broad agreement on what we call the basic goods, food clothing and shelter,  and what constitutes living well good health, respect, security, loving, trusting relationships — these are recognized everywhere as part of a good human life, and their absence is recognized everywhere as a misfortune. Capitalism and conspicuous consumtion puts us under continual pressure to want more and more. The “scarcity” discerned by economists is due this pressure. Considered in relation to our vital needs, our world is one not of scarcity but rather of extreme abundance.

 In abstract terms it is impossible for us to carry on growing without end. Endless growth is an ecological impossibility. Sooner or later we'll exhaust the world's supply of oil, gas, c…

A Cold Reception to the Dalai Lama

The reknown spiritual leader of Tibetan buddhism arrived in Scotland to little official welcome. The Dalai Lama is on a two-day tour that will see him visit three cities delivering public talks in Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness to promote his message of non-violence, compassion and universal responsibility. Dundee’s have failed to substitute an alternative speaker after Lord Provost Bob Duncan cancelled a speech during the appearance of the Tibetan spiritual leader at the Caird Hall due to personal bereavement. The council are accused of distancing themelves following a visit from the Chinese consul. Alex Salmond, the Scottish nationalist leader, has been  criticised for not arranging to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit, and faced claims he is failing to confront human rights issues of Tibet's claims for independence to protect his relationship with China. Changchub Mermesel, chairwoman of the Tibetan Community in Scotland, said she believed Scottish Government efforts to nur…

It's beyond belief !

Thousands of American school students in Louisiana attend private religious schools that teach from a fundamentalist christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster is real and disproves evolution.

"Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."explains an Accelerated Christian Education science textbook
It goes on to declare that "True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture...If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded."
Politically, the religious school curriculums denounce trade unions as "... plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise syst…

OK for some

American International Group Inc. (AIG) Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmoschesaid Europe’s debt crisis shows governments worldwide must accept that people will have to work more years. “Retirement ages will have to move to 70, 80 years old,”  Benmosche, said during a interview at his luxury holiday villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia. “That would make pensions, medical services more affordable. They will keep people working longer and will take that burden off of the youth.”

AIG, rescued from the brink of collapse with a bailout package worth up to $182.5 billion,  said this week that Benmosche will receive $3 million in cash and $4 million in stock under his annual compensation package.

Meantime, frail elderly people were routinely left without food after their care home ran out of supplies because of an apparent attempt to “cut down the shopping bill”, the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission said. The senior citizens home was so short-staffed that at times there were not even en…

Food for thought

On May 5, an article in the Toronto Star focused on people at New Delhi's Ghazipur landfill who 'live' on a trash pile, "On Trash Mountain, families earn $1 to $2 a day slogging through waist-deep muck. But 'residents' also marry, have children, pray, and celebrate life's other milestones." Let's speed the day when we can put capitalism on the trash pile where it belongs.
The police were up to old tricks before the recent NATO summit in Washington. Three men were arrested ahead of the protest and charged
with possessing weapons, a charge denied by the three. Their lawyer said, "This is obviously an attempt to chill dissent ahead of the NATO
demonstrations." So much for democratic rights if the denials are true.
An article in the Daily Beast, an American news reporting site (www.dailybeast.com <http://www.dailybeast.com/>) bleated, "Why can't
Obama bring Wall Street to justice?" The reporters we…

Why are you fat?

Nearly 14 percent of women in the world are considered obese, up from 7.9 percent in 1980. Among men, 10 percent are obese, up from 5 percent in 1980.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public policy at New York University, one of the leading nutritional experts who has written many books on the food industry, explains obesity rates started to rise in the 1980s, she says largely because of demands Wall Street placed on food makers.

Wall Street "forced food companies to try and sell food in an extremely competitive environment," she says. Food manufacturers "had to look for ways to get people to buy more food. And they were really good at it. I blame Wall Street for insisting that corporations have to grow their profits every 90 days."

 Large government subsidizes given to the corn, wheat, soybean and sugar industries allowed farmers to reap high returns on their crops. Farmers could grow these commodities cheaply and were encouraged by the food…

Socialist speech - from Upton Sinclair's Jungle

Part Two
Part One

Hat tip to Stefan at his website

Greenwashing Capitalism

Presidents, politicians, UN officials, local government leaders, and thousands of environmental activistts from across the world are meeting in Rio to arguer over what ‘green economics’ really means. Should economic forces be harnessed in service to the environment or the environment subjugated to economic interests? If 700 international environmental treaties hasn't saved the planet, will 701... 702 do it? Will harnessing people power have more success?

Our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a potential cornucopia of material wealth. Yet a billion or more people  face a worsening of their conditions, and the very existence of hundreds of millions of them is threatened. The vast majority of these victims bear little or no responsibility. Pushing 1 billion persons down to extreme poverty, and enriching a very few is one of the major “accomplishments” of capitalism. If we allow businesses to measure our natural res…