Friday, November 16, 2007

Fitba' Madness

Patriotism - It is all hype .

It is Scotland against Italy for a place in Euro 2008 .

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service said all of its appliances would be flying Saltire and Lion Rampant flags on Friday and Saturday to show support for the team .

The Big Match will be worth £8 million (£1m more than the £7m the Edinburgh economy was boosted by Barcelona's pre-season match with Hearts this summer) to the Glasgow economy, economists have predicted.


The Tartan Army is also expected to gamble a record £10 million ( The previous record of £5m was held by Scotland's Euro 2000 play-off game with England at Hampden in 1999. )

Meanwhile, rock group Runrig, who are to perform three songs during half-time at Hampden, have officially launched their Loch Lomond single in aid of Children in Need.


Yup , Scotland still goes cap in hand for charities to alleviate poverty and for the rest of us it is not going to be much different from the Roman Empire and its bread and circuses .


And Italy arrives in Glasgow from a day of mourning for a dead football fan shot dead by police , spurring a comment from Sergio Campana, president of the Italian players' association.


"I think football should stop for a year in order to reflect on the evils that exist."


But perhaps for some readers of Socialist Courier , this might all be too much .

A Fragmented Society

From the president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland.

"The expectations which have been placed on Scottish education are enormous in a society which has grave problems of obesity in young people and in the population at large, in which one in ten young people and one in four in the population will experience mental health issues.

"[A society] in which binge drinking in public and hazardous and harmful drinking in private are a growing concern. In which teenage pregnancy is among the highest in Europe, in which one in four young people can expect to experience family break-up.

"[A society] in which antisocial behaviour is a major issue in many communities and, in which, the gap between the most advantaged and most disadvantage members has never been greater, there are extraordinary demands on schools to fill the gaps in a fragmented society."

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country's biggest teaching union, said : "Schools will always reflect society, but that does not mean they can be expected to solve all of society's problems..."

A recent study revealed children in the UK were the unhappiest of any of Europe's wealthier nations.

For our childrens' and grand-childrens' sake - Isn't it time for socialism

Yuppie Blues

They were the generation with "loadsa money" .

But now the former 1980s yuppies are struggling to live within their means in middle age.

Almost half of the Young Urban Professionals of 20 years ago are finding it tough financially,
"Despite the champagne lifestyle and optimism of the time, our research reveals that many former high flyers have ended up no better off than the average mid-life family. They are just as worried about meeting the monthly bills, the cost of bringing up their kids and how they will fund their old age." - said the communications director at Liverpool Victoria friendly society




Thursday, November 15, 2007

Market Madness

Capitalism is a system that if it doesn't make the profit , it doesn't get made .

Low prices led to sheep on hill farms being slaughtered because they could not be sold and faced a shortage of grazing with the onset of winter. Mr Picken of National Farmers Union Scotland said the difficulties facing livestock farmers could see grassland being ploughed up and left fallow.

But when it comes to making a buck , there is always an alternative .

Mr Picken said the UK was lagging behind other countries in the production of biofuels. "So there is a bit of room so to speak for growing energy crops."

Ineos Enterprises' proposal to build one of Europe's biggest bio-diesel plants in Grangemouth was given the go-ahead . And there are pending plans by DMF Biodiesel for a processing facility in Rosyth . And there will be another at Motherwell , partly financed the Scottish Parliment's Regional Selective Assistance .

So as elsewhere in the world , it is will now be a matter of growing crops for fuel not food - and farmers will be eligible for a single Common Agricultural Policy payment and also claim EU energy aid payment to a maximum of 45 Euros (£32) per hectare.

The greed for profits will starve hungry bellies .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When helping can be a crime

Councillors in London are embroiled in a growing row over whether to ban the distribution of free food on public land, which could signal the end of soup runs for the capital's homeless.The idea – contained in the London Local Authorities Bill to be presented to Parliament in a fortnight – has been put forward by Westminster City Council, which claims the much-needed charitable services cause "public order issues". If the ban is approved, all those distributing free food to London's hungry will be breaking the law. The move would not include corporations wishing to promote their products by giving out free refreshments.

Luke Evans, a policy officer at Housing Justice, the charity which oversees soup runs in the capital said: "These people could be left on the streets to die. But, more than anything, it is a philosophical principle that you should be able to care for your fellow human beings. They are penalising people who are trying to help.There is a danger that people will starve... "

Shelter, the housing charity, said: "Proposing to stop acts of charity and kindness by a legally enforceable ban is against the principles of tolerance, freedom and understanding which underpin British society...Shelter is calling on London's council bosses to show compassion and moral leadership by deleting this inhumane clause from the Bill."

Westminster City Council's cabinet member for housing, the Conservative councillor Angela Harvey, claimed the distribution of free food was causing a "nuisance"

More Migrant Misery

A report criticises the denial of rights to those dealt with by private firms on behalf of the Immigration Service.

The Border and Immigration Agency's Complaints Audit Committee's report, for 2006/07, says investigations into misconduct complaints have been "poor".

Only 8% of complainants were interviewed and 89% of investigations were "neither balanced nor thorough".

As a result, 83% of replies were "indefensible".

Some 71% of misconduct complaints were not completed within time targets.

In 95% of cases, those investigating the complaints had been from the companies under investigation.

Of those misconduct complaints received, 19% were over criminal behaviour - up from 12% in 2005/06.

The report says serious misconduct complaints remain a source of "grave concern to us because of the risks of injury or death, wrongful arrest and civil liability arising from the arrest, detention and removal of failed asylum seekers".

One asylum seeker, Apollo Okello, told the BBC he had been bundled onto a plane at Heathrow and refused permission to see his lawyer, with the security guards knowing he already had permission to stay in the UK. He struggled and was beaten up in the back of a van .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CHINESE STATISTICS

One of the effects of the rapid expansion of Chinese capitalism is the pollution of the atmosphere and drinking water. This has led to these horrendous statistics.
"40% - Percentage by which birth defects among Chinese infants have risen since 2001, according to a government report, which linked the rise to environmental pollution. 460,000 - Number of Chinese who die prematurely every year from exposure to pollution and dirty water." (Time, 12 November) This expansion may be leading to the creation of more billionaires, but it is also producing more corpses. RD

Slave Labour

There is much ado about those described as illegal immigrants working in the security industry and an alleged cover-up by the minister of the numbers . Much less is mentioned about that type of work being one of the lower paid and less rewarding occupations which migrants seem to end up in .

Nor has there been too much media coverage of the comments by Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the T&G Union about the conditions that some migrant workers in the UK are forced to work under could be likened to "a modern form of slave labour" .
"...there are all too many employers taking advantage of the vulnerability of the newly arrived...a depressing pattern of workers who are promised the move in their countries of origin, sometimes with such serious deception in terms of what actually happens when they arrive here in Britain that it would in statutory terms of international law be classed as trafficking".

He describes :-
"The awful reality all too often is national minimum wage or less, illegal deductions, deductions for transport, housing, unspecified administrative charges. Often workers on national minimum wage having deductions of between £110 and £130 a week, no contracts of employment, compulsory overtime, having to pay for their own safety equipment, and in extreme cases, racial harassment and violence. In terms of accommodation, where all too often gangmaster employees or agency employees stay, it is five and ten to a house, sometimes actually sleeping in the premises where they actually work, often illegal evictions. I have been into houses ... 16 people in a small house where they couldn't all be there at the same time so it was a hot bedding arrangement."
He talks about :-
Of how in a crop picking firm, a pregnant woman had collapsed.
"They were embarrassed about the circumstances in which she had been working," he said.
"When she asked for an ambulance to be called, they said 'by all means, but you realise in this country you have to pay for an ambulance'.

"A sad reality in modern day Britain is that it is not sufficiently focused on, which at its most extreme, is a modern form of slave labour."






Pensions - Inadequate Beyond Question

The UK's state pension system has been named as the worst in the European Union for the second year running in a survey .

British pensioners receive a pension equivalent to just 17% of average earnings, the lowest level in Europe, and well below the average of 57%.

The "inadequacy" of the UK's state system is "beyond question".

The lowest earners in the UK achieved an income in retirement which approached the level provided by other countries. This is because they qualify for extra means-tested help from the government. However, when all the criteria were taken into account, the UK was placed fifth in a list

THIS IS COMMUNISM?

"The United States has more billionaires than any other country: 415 by the last count of Forbes magazine. No. 2 and closing fast? China. A year ago, there were 15 billionaires in China. Now, there are more than 100, according to the widely watched Hurun Report. Forbes has documented 66. ..As much as the bounty of billionaires is a source of pride, it is also a potential cause for concern in a nominally Communist country. Per capita income in China is less than $1,000 a year." (New York Times, 7 November)
China is a fast developing capitalist country and just like any other capitalist economy the gap between the rich and the poor is immense. RD

HOMELESS HEROES

"More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead. Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did. “We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counselling centre. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.” ... Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11 percent of the adult population, they make up 26 percent of the homeless on any given day, the National Alliance report calculated. According to the V.A., some 196,000 veterans of all ages were homeless on any given night in 2006." (New York Times, 8 November)
Behind the sham of military splendour this is the shabby truth of capitalism and its wars. RD

Old and Cold

2.5 million of elderly people spend their winters in one room to reduce heating bills .

2 million older Britons wear outdoor clothes indoors.

2.2 million turned off their central heating .

1 million cut back on their food shopping, to save cash.

Preventable winter illnesses claim the lives of 25,000 senior citizens each year

Anna Pearson, spokeswoman for the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership, said: "The government is literally gambling with people's lives."

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Lords on the Gravy Train

Instead of claiming what they are entitled to , those law-makers and upholders of law and order in the House of Lords are on the fiddle with their expenses .

Peers are exploiting an expenses loophole to claim a tax-free annual income of up to £48,000, it was claimed today . Parliamentary rules mean members of the House of Lords can claim back up to £308 a day for travel, meals and accommodation while performing their duties and is not eligible for tax.

However, under the system they do not have to submit receipts to prove their outlay.
It was reported that nearly two thirds of peers are automatically claiming the maximum amount nearly every time they visit the Lords , viewing it as a right .

Some 259 of the 550 Lords who applied for "day subsistence" - a £78.50 payment for meals and taxis - claimed the maximum amount at least 95 per cent of the time.
272 0f the 406 peers who claim "overnight subsistence" for hotels - worth £159.50 a day -claimed the maximum at least 95 per cent of the time.
And 338 of the 514 Lords who claim office expenses - worth £69 a day - claimed the maximum on nearly all occasions

It was reported that several lords admitted that they saw the expenses as an allowance and collecting the full amount was routine.

The Gravy Train


The highest-earning 300 bosses in the public sector saw their salaries increase by 12.8 per cent last year, raising their average to £237,564. Seventeen of the top bosses earned more than £500,000, according to the Taxpayer's Alliance second annual Public Sector Rich List.

The pay rises, more than three times the national average . The top 10 earn an average salary of £799,000 – more than 40 times the basic pay of a nurse or soldier.


Top of the league is Adam Crozier, chief executive of the Royal Mail. The only person on the list with a seven-figure salary. Strike-breaker Crozier has presided over the cancellation of the second mail delivery and an increase in the price of stamps. He saw his pay package swell by 21 per cent last year, taking his salary to £1,256,000. The report shows that it equates to earning £1,000 every 1 hour and 27 minutes and he had the gall and audacity to say that the ordinary postal worker was over-paid

Friday, November 09, 2007

PROMISES AND REALITY

Mrs Thatcher promised us a "property owning democracy", Mr Blair promised a new deal for the "socially excluded". Despite all the promises from all the different political leaders the end result is poverty and insecurity for the working class. "UK homeowners are already reeling from five interest rate rises since the summer of 2006, with many facing the threat of repossession in 2008. Borrowers coming off low fixed-rate mortgages now face an immediate increase costing hundreds of pounds a month. Repossessions are set to rise by 50 per cent next year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Thousands of borrowers have already been forced to paying their mortgages on their credit cards to avoid arrears, according to a recent report by Shelter, the housing charity." (Times, 6 November) RD

NO SEX PLEASE, WE'RE AMERICAN

The antics of the far-right religious fundamentalists in the USA never fail to amaze us. These groups are really upset with the Pentagon. Not about US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but something much more important than that. "A Pentagon decision to allow the sale of Playboy and Penthouse magazines on military bases has appalled US religious groups, which insist it is illegal. ...Pat Trueman, the head of the Alliance Defence Fund, said that he along with other family values groups was overseeing an e-mail campaign to two million Americans asking them to lobby their congressmen against the Pentagon decision." (Times, 6 November) RD

Off with their CAPs

Oh , the poor rich aristocrats are being picked upon again as they begin to lose their European Union farming subsidies .

The proposal, being drawn up by the European Commission, is the first attempt in years to tackle the scandal of giant agri-businesses and millionaire barley barons – as opposed to smallholders and family farmers – being the chief beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy. The plans, due to be submitted for consultation with EU member states on 20 November, will suggest that some of the largest payments to super-rich landowners and industrial farms could be reduced by as much as 45 per cent. Although the British Government officially supports reforms to CAP it is particularly wary of any proposals that target large holdings because the vast majority of farm subsidies in the UK go to big businesses and wealthy landowners. Analysts also warned that the Commission's proposals could be significantly watered down by the time member states actually come to vote on the issue some time next year and that Britain and Germany were most likely to be the main countries behind any such move.

"It's a start ..." said Claire Godfrey, Oxfam's EU policy adviser. "But what it still doesn't do is actually address the inequalities in the distribution of subsidies."

The Queen
£544,000 slashed to £299,000
One of the richest women in the world and a landowner whose farms bring in more than £0.5m a year in subsidies. The Queen's Sandringham estatein Norfolk nets her £404,000 a year in subsidies; Windsor Castle brings in a further £140,000.

Prince Charles
£225,000 slashed to £121,000
The heir to the throne received approximately £168,000 in subsidies for his organic Home Farm at Highgrove in Gloucester between 2003 and 2004, while farms in the Duchy of Cornwall – the 141,000-acre estate which provides most of the Prince's income – brought in more than £135,000.

Duke of Westminster
£325,000 slashed to £178,750
A regular in the top five richest men in Britain, the duke receives a healthy remuneration from the EU thanks to his farmlands in Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. A report by Oxfam in 2004 claimed his subsidies were the equivalent of £1,000 a day from the taxpayer, compared to the £7 a day in tax credits that a single mother received at the time.

Duke of Marlborough
£370,000 slashed to £203,500
The 81-year-old Duke,head of the Churchill family, received subsidies worth more than £510,000 over a two-year period between 2003 and 2004. His 1,600-acre Oxfordshire estate, which includes Blenheim Palace and largely farms cereals, brings in just under £370,000 a year

Duke of Bedford
£380,000 slashed to £209,000

The Duke's 5,400-hectare Woburn Abbey is widely known for its safari park, but at least half the land is arable, and has been known to bring in more than £700,000 in subsidies over a two-year period.

Earl of Leicester
£250,000 slashed to £137,500

Holkham Hall, the earl's 18th-century Norfolk seat, is surrounded by 25,000 acres of land, much of which is set aside to grow cereals. The estate's 405 hectares of wheat and 486 hectares of barley make him eligible for annual support of around £254,280, the equivalent of £686 a day

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Land Grabbers

A bit of local news from West Lothian Herald and Post 8th November .

Community councils are up in arms about the council policy of selling off common land to housing developers .

Land in Stoneyburn sold even though the previous Labour council denied it was up for sale . Stoneyburn Community Council secretary said "It was originally done without our knowledge "

Plans to sell land in Craigshill , Livingston and according to the Community Council secretary " It looks like they were trying to slip it through quietly "

Common land -West Lothian Council - Common Thieves

The Ills of Capitalism

Prescriptions issued in Scotland for anti-depressants have risen more than four-fold in less than 15 years, an NHS report has revealed. For every 1,000 people there were 85 daily doses of the drugs dispensed in 2006, compared with 19 doses in 1992.

Dr Kohli, a medical adviser for NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, said the rise was partly due to a new generation of drugs.
However Shona Neil, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said :-
"Social problems are a bigger factor in the increase than the new drugs - these figures show a huge cry for help from people from deprived backgrounds."
Depression affects about one in five people at some point in their lives.

An appropriate moment to promote a day-school in London at the SPGB Head Office
THE INSANITY OF CAPITALISM
Saturday 24 November from 1pm
Living in a sick society Speaker: Brian Johnson (Disability Counsellor)
Capitalism on the couch Speaker: Peter Rigg (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist)
Whose messing with your head? Speaker: Ed Blewitt (Clinical Psychologist)


THE UNTOUCHABLES

The plight of Guzar Ahmed seems almost idyllic when compared to the fate of the following Indian woman.
"Soon after she was married, at the age of 10, Usha Chaumar began collecting human excrement for a living - as her mother and her grandmother did before her. Every day for the next 20 years she gathered night soil from 20 houses without lavatories in the state of Rajasthan, carrying it in a pan on her head to the nearest dump. She was paid 200 rupees (£2) a month - the money usually dropped at her feet so that her hands did not touch her employers." (Times, 2 November)
Apparently there are estimated to be 500,000 Indian Untouchables who still earn a living this way. The Indian government have promised to eradicate open-air defecation by 2012, but as this is the same government who say that talk of children in sweat shops is exaggerated we wouldn't put too much store by such a claim. RD

SWEAT SHOP INDIA

Behind the amazing development of capitalism in India lies the harsh reality of child exploitation. "Delhi children's rights activists said that they had received 70 boys who were embroidering garments in small squalid factories in the Indian capital. The boys aged 8 to 14, were mostly the children of farmers in Bihar, India's poorest eastern state. They had been brought to Delhi to make saris worn by Indian women. Gulzar Ahmed, 12, said that he was paid 3,000 rupees (£36) a month for working up to 15 hours a day. The activists, from the Save the Children Mission, said that the children would be returned to their parents. The Indian Government has accused activists of exaggerating the problem of child labour." (Times, 2 November)
We imagine the prospect of one of the government's children working in a sweat shop at 12 years of age is so remote they are unconcerned about poor farmers' kids. RD

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

HIGHER PRICES AND HIGHER DEATH RATES

The plight of many old workers is illustrated in these sad statistics. "Organisations for the elderly in Scotland last night suggested that anxiety among older people about the cost of soaring fuel prices may be a key reason behind an extraordinary increase of around 1,000 in the number of winter deaths last year. Official figures released yesterday showed that the seasonal difference in terms of the number of deaths between winter and the periods immediately before and after the winter months was 2,750 more than the previous year." (Times, 1 November) RD

THE CLASS DIVIDE

Inside capitalism the rich get access to the best education, best of food and the best of health care, so it should come as no shock to learn that the poor do not live as long as the rich. It has become so obvious that even the daily press can report on it.
"There is no escaping the stark facts. Death knocks seven years sooner at the door of dustmen than dukes, of security guards sooner than solicitors. And new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that the gap is refusing to close. The rich get richer and the poor get sicker, sooner. "
(Times, 26 October) RD

Chinese in Antarctica


Further to this post on our companion blog Socialism Or Your Money Back , the BBC reports that China is building its third research station in Antarctica, shoring up its presence just weeks after the UK and Chile made renewed territorial claims. Argentina has also said it intends to present a claim to the UN.
Almost 200 construction workers are heading for the southern continent, the state-run Xinhua news agency says. They will build facilities including a space observatory, radar station and sewage discharge system.


Mineral mining is banned in Antarctica, but analysts say this is not stopping countries from jockeying for position. Competition for territorial and economic rights has heated up as melting polar ice caps have introduced the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed. Countries have until May 2009 to ask the United Nations to consider their right to the seabed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It is expensive being rich

It seems, it is the rich who have it hard. Luxury goods are rising in price three times faster than their more mundane consumer counterparts.

Robby Hilkowitz, executive director of the Stonehage Group which helps the world's super-wealthy manage their incomes said ;-
"Global wealth is growing at an unprecedented rate and as it increases they want more luxury goods to meet their lifestyle needs. With status items, the more expensive they become the more desirable they become..."

There are some 800 US dollar billionaires in the world, a figure that rose by 15 per cent last year. They are among the class of ultra-high net worth individuals with a personal fortune in excess of £25m of net investable assets. The second tier covered by the survey, so-called high worth individuals with more than £5m to spare, grew by 20 per cent.

* School Fees (Up 6.8 per cent)
With a history dating back to the time of Pope Alexander III, Westminster offers one of the most desirable old school ties around. One term's fees for two seniors cost £17,304 in 2007.
* Outdoor activities (Up 8.3 per cent)
Blasting away on the grouse moors of northern Britain was once the preserve of the landed gentry. Today any old hedge fund manager can have a go with a two-day shoot costing £3,600 in 2007.
* Vintage wines (Up 116.9 per cent)
Surely there can be no more famous wine than that emanating from the Rothschild's family vineyard in the Medoc? But three cases of Lafite Rothschild 2000 will set you back £9,250 this year.
* Exclusive facilities (Up 20 per cent)
Sweat with the best, or at least the richest, of them at The Dorchester Gym and Spa. A year's membership cost £1,800 in 2007.
* Luxury accessories (Up 26.7 per cent)
Patek Philippe once made watches for Queen Victoria and Tchaikovsky. The Swiss manufacturer could make one for you too. A limited edition Calatrava cost £19,000 in 2007.
* Football tickets (Up 25 per cent)
Chelsea FC remains the footballing choice of the west London glitterati . One season's executive box hire at Stamford Bridge cost £117,500 in 2007.

Fuel Poverty

Claire Telfer, of Save the Children said :-

"Another winter is fast approaching and far too many children are living in cold, damp homes. The consequences of living in fuel poverty are misery, discomfort, ill health and debt."

Some 600,000 households and 100,000 children in Scotland have been hit by rocketing fuel prices between 2003 and 2006 .

A household is said to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of of its income to maintain satisfactory heating, according to a UK government definition.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Public Discussion Meeting

...Defaulting US mortgages cause a British bank to crash...Global debt hits a 100 TRILLION dollars...
...Climate change will create widespread flooding , great loss of life , and mass migrations of peoples
....Land-grab for mineral wealth in the Arctic and Antarctica ....
...Oil prices soar as war fears rise on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
..Experts claim future wars will be fought over water...

The Socialist Party wants an end to the market system of buying and selling and of production solely for profit .
We'll be taking a look at the economics of capitalism and the environment – And asking , does it all add up ?

PUBLIC MEETING: FRIDAY 9TH NOVEMBER at 7-30PM

The Quaker Meeting House
Victoria Terrace ( above Victoria St )
Edinburgh

A short talk and then a general discussion will take place .
In the Chair : Alan Johnstone (Edinburgh Branch)
Speaker : Richard Donnelly (Glasgow Branch)

All Welcome Admission Free

Everybody is reading it


The Standard Online







Saturday, November 03, 2007

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

It is a basic premise of the case for socialism that capitalism is a wasteful society. Just how wasteful it has become was illustrated by the following news item. "The U.S. government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell released the newly declassified figure Tuesday. In a statement, the DNI said there would be no additional disclosures of classified budget information beyond the overall spending figure because "such disclosures could harm national security." How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multibillion dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers and software. Much of the intelligence budget - about 70 percent - goes to contractors for the procurement of technology and services including analysis, according to a May 2007 chart from the DNI's office. Intelligence spending has increased by a third over 10 years ago, in inflation adjusted dollars, according to Steve Kosiak at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments." (Yahoo News, 30 October)
100,000 workers spending their days snooping on other workers. Madness! RD

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN

Much is made of the tremendous development of capitalism in India over the last few years, but there is a terrible price to be paid in human suffering. "Child workers some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant. Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. ... According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India's economy is dependent on children, the equivalent of 55 million youngsters under 14." (Observer, 28 October) RD

MORE TROUBLE AHEAD

Politicians like to paint a picture of working class bliss where everybody has an increasing standard of living, but the reality is somewhat different. "The number of repossessed homes looks set to soar next year to levels not seen since the 1990s house price crash, it was claimed today. At the same time, house prices will edge ahead by just 1% in 2008 and property sales will fall by 15%, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). The group expects the number of repossessions to rise by 50% during the year, rising from 30,000 this year to 45,000 in 2008. ...The number of people who are in arrears of at least three months is also set to increase, with 170,000 people expected to have problems keeping up with their mortgage repayments next year, compared with an estimated 145,000 this year." (Guardian, 2 November)
The bright words of politicians will appear somewhat tarnished to workers who lose their houses. RD

WALL STREET SHUFFLE

We are always being told that capitalism is a competitive system that rewards success and punishes failure, but what are we to make of the following? "Merril Lynch's directors may be weighing E.Stanley O'Neal's future, but one thing is already guaranteed: a payday of at least $159 million if he steps down. Mr. O’Neal, the company’s chairman and chief executive, is entitled to $30 million in retirement benefits as well as $129 million in stock and option holdings, according to an analysis by James F. Reda & Associates using yesterday’s share price of $66.09. That would be on top of the roughly $160 million he took home in his nearly five years on the job. Under Mr. O’Neal, Merrill moved aggressively into lucrative businesses like the packaging of subprime mortgages and other complex debt securities. ...But those big bets appeared to go bust this week. Merrill announced an $8.4 billion write-down, raising questions about whether Mr. O’Neal will keep his job. One thing that he surely will hold onto, though, are the giant paychecks he has collected. “I lay the blame at the foot of the board,” Frederick E. Rowe Jr., a money manager and president of Investors for Director Accountability. “He was paid a tremendous amount of money to create a loss that is mind-boggling, and he obviously took risks that should never have been taken.” (New York Times, 27 October)
He managed to lose $8.4 billion for the company and can claim $159 million for his efforts. Who says capitalism isn't crazy? RD

Friday, November 02, 2007

WAR IS GOOD - FOR SOME

When it comes to making money there is no such thing as nationalism, loyalty or principles. Take this example of swopping allies when it makes commercial sense
"For the past four years Tomislav Damnjanovic has played a crucial role in the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2003, he has delivered millions of rounds of ammunition, guns, grenades and mortars to the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, United Nations officials say, facts he does not dispute. His aircraft have even been used to shuttle supplies between American bases in Iraq, saving troops from having to make hazardous trips by land. But it was not always so. For Mr. Damnjanovic, the work has been an unexpected twist in a career dominated not by serving American interests, but by dodging law enforcement agencies, and by smuggling weapons to American opponents and countries under United Nations sanctions, like Libya, and to other parts of Africa." (New York Times, 7 October)
Mr Damnjanovic made millions but his guns, grenades and mortars killed thousands. RD

THE HIGH COST OF DYING

When politicians are confronted with problems like disease and hunger they often respond that they would love to deal with those problems but they are far too expensive to deal with at present. No such concern prohibits them when it comes to wagering war. "The cost of the US’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with wider efforts in the “war against terror”, could reach $2,400bn (£1,175bn, €1,700) over the next decade, with interest payments representing more than a quarter of the total, the US Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday. The figures, presented to the House of Representatives budget committee by Peter Orszag, the CBO’s director, are based on an assumption that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will be reduced to a total of 75,000 by 2013 and stay at that level for a further four years." (Financial Times, 24 October) RD

Thursday, November 01, 2007

CALIFORNIAN NIGHTMARE

The dreadful fires in California that led to death and destruction were well reported in the British press, but what was hardly covered was the plight of the immigrant workers. "Out of the burning brush, from behind canyon rocks, several immigrants bolted toward a group of fire-fighters, chased not by the border police but by the onrush of flames from one of the biggest wildfires this week. ... Immigrants from south of the border, many illegal, provide the backbone of menial labour in San Diego, picking fruit, cleaning hotel rooms, sweeping walks and mowing lawns. The wildfires, one of the biggest disasters to strike the county, exposed their often-invisible existence in ways that were sometimes deadly. The four bodies were found in a burned area in south-eastern San Diego County, a region known for intense illegal immigration. ...Terri Trujillo, who helps the immigrants, checked on those in the canyons, urging them to leave, too, when she left her house in Rancho Peñasquitos ahead of the fires. Ms. Trujillo and others who help the immigrants said they saw several out in the fields as the fires approached and ash fell on them. She said many were afraid to lose their jobs.“There were Mercedeses and Jaguars pulling out, people evacuating, and the migrants were still working,” said Enrique Morones, who takes food and blankets to the immigrants’ camps. “It’s outrageous.” Some of the illegal workers who sought help from the authorities were arrested and deported." (New York Times, 27 October)
What a comment on capitalism, some workers live in such poverty and insecurity they give up their lives in an attempt to keep a menial weekly wage. RD

Monday, October 29, 2007

Whats good for the goose - is good for the gander

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.
Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009.

"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy."If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."

More Money for the Wealthy


Yet again Socialist Courier reports that the rich are getting richer


The earnings of top company executives in the UK have doubled in the past five years to a new record of more than £3 million each, research revealed today. Total pay of chief executives of the top 100 firms has reached "new heights" because of ever-increasing incentive payments, according to a study by pay analysts Incomes Data Services.

It follows reports from earlier in the month by accounting giant KPMG that chief executives enjoyed an average 16% rise in total remuneration in 2007, while other executive directors on company boards saw their base salaries increase at a similar rate. The study also found that earnings for chief executives of the FTSE-250 firms have increased by 90% since 2001-02 to an average of £1.4m each. The salaries of directors in FTSE-350 firms rose by 9.3% in the past year alone compared with wage settlements across the economy as a whole of 3.5%, said IDS. Chief executives in FTSE-100 firms were paid average salaries of £737,000 in the last financial year, but total earnings averaged £3,174,000 when incentive payments and share options were added.


In August, Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, along with other top managers, was awarded shares which will see him take home around £3.6m, three times his basic salary, as well as his annual bonus. Standard Life's top three executives received more than £5m in pay last year, despite shedding more than 5000 jobs in the past three years. Sandy Crombie, Standard Life's chief executive, received more than £2.2m, a rise of £870,000 on 2005.


TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:


"Britain's top directors clearly have no shame. Year in, year out they have been paying themselves far bigger rises than they are prepared to pay their staff while lecturing the rest of us on the need for low taxes. It beggars belief that they are somehow working twice as hard as five years ago."

Steve Tatton, editor of the IDS Executive Compensation Review and one of the report's authors, said:

"It is time the rest of us gave a big raspberry to all their hand-wringing excuses of needing the incentives and matching the international going rate. This is not just morally offensive greed, it is bad for the rest of society too. The growth of a new class of the super-rich, semi-detached from the rest of society, hits social cohesion, feeds into house price inflation and harms staff loyalty and commitment."

The days grow longer

The unpaid working time we give to our bosses .

Socialist economics is based upon the Labour Theory of Value which is the Marxian explanation of our exploitation . Unpaid labour is the source of all surplus value. Normally , this takes place in the work-shop or office from 8 to 5 but more and more the time of the working day is growing in ways that we are not immediately aware of giving to the employers . When capitalists buy a worker’s labour they buy the worker’s capacity to work for a full day . Nowadays , with factories seldom at your doorstep , workers are forced to travel to and fro their workplaces . This travelling time we also give free to the bosses .

The amount of time that workers spend commuting between home and their workplace has rocketed in the past 10 years, with millions of workers now taking at least an hour to get to the office, new research shows. TUC research found the number of people who travel for more than an hour to get to work has risen by as much as 40% and that around 145,000 people in Scotland are now setting off for work earlier and getting home later than they did 10 years ago and has increased by 1.5 million to 5.5 million across Britain. Not-for-profit group Work Wise UK said Britons face the second longest commutes in Europe, behind the Netherlands, averaging 8.7 miles a day. One-in-ten commuters has a daily journey in excess of two hours, and 3 per cent of employees are "extreme commuters" averaging three hours a day.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "We work some of the longest hours in Europe, and on top of this have to endure the second-longest daily commute in Europe - on average 54 minutes per day."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Rich List


The new Estate Gazette Rich List reveals that the 500 wealthiest UK property owners have amassed a combined net worth of £117 billion . The average individual fortune in Britain was just over £230 million for each of the 500 Rich List entrants in Britain .


Sir Tom Hunter , Scotland's first billionaire , yesterday strengthened his place as Scotland's most affluent man when a new rich list found the value of his land and property was 35% higher than last year. His holdings are now worth £1.05 billion and tops the list of Scots with the most valuable collection of properties in the Estates Gazette Rich List 2007.


Although the combined personal holdings of the head of the West Coast Capital investment firm has grown by £270 million since last year according to the research, it still only makes Sir Tom the 19th biggest land and property investor in Britain, a drop of one place from last year.

Nevertheless, Hunter's property pot remains only a fraction of the £7 billion assets credited to the most wealthy British magnate in the survey, the Duke of Westminster, whose holdings were worth £400m more than last year.


Sir Tom Hunter's property fortune is worth 30% more than the £810 million portfolio amassed by Scotland's second-richest magnate, Keith Miller, the 58-year-old who has spent 13 years as chief executive of the Edinburgh-based Miller Group, the UK's largest privately owned housebuilding, property development and construction business. Mr Miller's personal land and property fortune is thought to have grown by nearly £100 million in the past year but he has dropped from 22 to 30 in the British league table.


Rangers chairman Sir David Murray, who earlier this year bought what at the time was Edinburgh's most expensive home, in affluent Barnton for £4.5 million , slots into third place on the Scots property rich list, with a portfolio worth of £750 million which is £100 million more than last year. His fortune is ranked the 32nd highest in Britain after being placed 23rd in last year's survey.


SCOTLAND'S TOP FIVE

1 (19 in UK list) Sir Tom Hunter £1.05bn

2 (30) Keith Miller and family £810m

3 (32) Sir David Murray £750m

4 (76) Robert Adair £372m

5 (78) Brian Kennedy £350m


UK AND IRELAND'S TOP FIVE

1 The Duke of Westminster, Grosvenor Group £7bn

2 David and Simon Reuben, Trans-World Metals £3.5bn

3 Sean Quinn and family, Quinn Group £3.05bn

4 Earl Cadogan and family, the Cadogan Group £2.6bn

5 Simon Halabi, Buckingham Securities £2.5bn

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sickness and Wealth

We said it before and we say it again , the poor pay the price of their poverty with their lives . The wide gap in life expectancies between rich and poor persists .

A male lawyer can expect to live over seven years longer than the man who empties his wastepaper bin suggests Office for National Statistics figures .
Male and female non-manual workers saw the greatest increase in life expectancy in the 33 years covered by the study .

Non-manual man: 79.2
Manual man: 75.9
Non-manual woman: 82.9
Manual woman: 80

One idea is that the less affluent started to give up smoking much later than their richer neighbours - the 1970s compared to the 1950s - and the health improvements seen by this change take about 30 years to materialise.

However :-

"If we don't start seeing changes as a result of this, then it means there are other major factors at play," says Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University.

Such as the rich are getting richer, and can effectively "buy" longer lives through more regular holidays and leisure activities.

Or that the very nature of people's work, and not just the lifestyle it affords them, can have an impact on longevity.

"Monotonous jobs where workers have little control over what they do can be much more stressful than more high-powered jobs, where people have much more freedom," said Professor Dorling. "And that ultimately may take its toll."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OIL RICHES - FOR SOME

"Angola is gushing oil, pumping about 2 million barrels a day, more than any other African country except Nigeria. The International Monetary Fund projects a 24 percent economic growth this year — one of the fastest rates in the world. The government is taking in two and a half times as much money as it did three years ago. But Angolans, by many indications, remain as poor as ever. The poverty rate is a matter of debate: the government claims a 12 percent drop in the past five years; analysts for the Catholic University of Angola’s research centre say two in three Angolans still live on $2 or less a day, the same percentage as in 2002. Still, no one disputes that most Angolans face appalling living conditions, sky-high infant mortality rates, dirty water, illiteracy and a host of other ills." (New York Times, 14 October)
Inside capitalism the whole purpose of wealth production is to make profits for the owners. Some have to live on less than $2 a day while immense fortunes are enjoyed by the capitalist class. That is how capitalism works. RD

Food stamps soon ?

A charity is to begin handing out food vouchers to destitute Scots amid claims they are being let down by the welfare system. The Stirling Citizen Advice Bureau will launch the radical scheme after being inundated by desperate pleas for help.

"We have noticed a significant increase in the number of people coming to Stirling Cab with no money for food. The main reason appears to be the time it takes to get benefit paid since the DWP have adopted a call centre model, based in Middlesbrough. It can take up to eight weeks to receive money from the date you call to claim..."

A director of the Poverty Alliance, described it as "a desperate response to a desperate situation"

THE PRICE OF GOLD

The recent rise in the price of gold to $750 per troy ounce has led to mines being sunk to even more dangerous levels. "South Africa's gold companies, already mining at the world's deepest depths, are looking to plumb even deeper veins in a new gold rush spurred by soaring prices. The deeper miners go the richer the ore being uncovered. The price in dangers, though, includes rock falls, poisonous gas explosions, flooding and earthquakes. That has stirred up concerns about the safety of miners, who experts say have the worst lot among South Africa's industrial workers. Some foreign companies have been deterred by the risks here. But Gold Fields, the country's second-biggest producer after AngloGold Ashanti, is ready to set a new record, digging more than 2.5 miles at its Driefontein mine. A worker was killed there earlier this month by a tremor at just under 2 miles. For comparison, the deepest mine elsewhere in the world is in Ontario, at 1.5 miles. Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd., the world's fifth largest producer, wants to develop a new mine below an existing one at Elandsrand, at a depth of about two miles, which it says would extend the life of the mine by 18 years. ..Of 119 people reported killed in South African mines last year, 113 died in gold mines. ...A South African commission in 1994 said each ton of gold produced in South Africa cost one life and 12 serious injuries. South Africa produces about 600 tons of gold a year. ..In August, a mineworkers' strike won wage increases of 7.5 percent to 10 percent. The average miner makes $365 to $511 a month." (Yahoo News, 13 October) As prices soar and profits too there is no risk the owners won’t take - with workers' lives! RD

Monday, October 22, 2007

CENSORSHIP AND CAPITALISM

The advance of the internet has been acclaimed as a boost to information and education but we live in a society that needs to suppress information at times. Take the case of Chinese capitalism.
"The Chinese government worked last year to suppress a news story that exposed poor working conditions in Foxconn's iPod factory, an investigation has revealed. The allegations are contained in a 17-page report by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Journey to the heart of internet censorship, produced in cooperation with Chinese Human Rights Defenders and an anonymous "Chinese technician working in the internet sector."It claims tens of thousands of Chinese cyber-police monitor the activity of internet users, and alleges that editors and reporters at leading Chinese news sites are often directed by text message not to write about certain topics or to rely only on certain sources, such as the state-run Xinhua News Agency. One such case was a story in June 2006 which examined working conditions in the Guangdong province Foxconn factory in which iPods are manufactured. This story first appeared in the China Business Daily and later in the U.K.'s Daily Mail. The report revealed the plant's predisposition to hire women to work 15-hour days, believing female workers to be more honest and less likely to complain." (PC World, 11 October) RD

A WORLDWIDE PROBLEM

The awful reports of death by starvation are commonplace today, we usually associate them with some rural African backwater, but here is one from a modern industrialised nation. Capitalism is a cruel and callous social system that operates worldwide.
"In a thin notebook discovered along with a man’s partly mummified corpse this summer was a detailed account of his last days, recording his hunger pangs, his drop in weight and, above all, his dream of eating a rice ball, a snack sold for about $1 in convenience stores across the country. “3 a.m. This human being hasn’t eaten in 10 days but is still alive,” he wrote. “I want to eat rice. I want to eat a rice ball.” These were not the last words of a hiker lost in the wilderness, but those of a 52-year-old urban welfare recipient whose benefits had been cut off. And his case was not the first here. One man has died in each of the last three years in this city in western Japan, apparently of starvation, after his welfare application was refused or his benefits cut off. Unable to buy food, all three men wasted away for months inside their homes, where their bodies were eventually found." (New York Times, 12 October) RD

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

THE CASE OF THE MOUNTING MILLIONS

In a sensational High Court ruling a bequest to the Conservative Party was declared as invalid because the donor was mentally unfit at the time. "Bratislav Kostic, a pharmaceutical tycoon from Ealing, West London left his entire fortune to the Tories after claiming that Margaret Thatcher could save the world from a satanic plot." (Times, 16 October)
Overlooking the obvious conclusion that the Tory Party are an unprincipled money-grabbing outfit that are prepared to do a family out of their mentally handicapped father's will, there still remains a mystery. "Mr Kostic died aged 80 in 2005, leaving £8.3 million, which is now understood to have grown to nearer £10 million." How did £8.3 million grow to nearly £10 million. It took Mr Kostic 80 years to amass his £8.3 million fortune, yet after his death it had increased by £1.7 million in only 2 years.
The answer to that mystery is not to be found by Mr Holmes at Baker Street, but from the works of Mr Marx of Highgate Cemetery. RD

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A NEW KIND OF SOCIETY

One of the great difficulties that socialists have in trying to convince their fellow workers of the need to transform society from capitalism to socialism is the notion that members of the Labour Party or the myriad organisations that claim to be socialist have anything to do with socialism. They all want a buying and selling system, only the Socialist Party want a society without owners and non-owners. It seems so obvious to us, but people who claim to be socialists still get away with the fraud of calling themselves socialists. Do any of them want a society that means there will be no money? No, only the Socialist Party. Can anything be simpler? A so-called "socialist" ex-premier of Great Britain Tony Blair is debating whether to buy a £2 million new house or stay in his present abode, not a problem for the homeless or council house tennants that we know. RD

PEACETIME KILLING

Most people are aware of the terrible loss of life occasioned by war but what is not so well known is the carnage during "peacetime".
"An average of almost eight people under 19 is shot dead in America everyday. In 2006 there were more than 14,000 gun murders in the US - with 400 of the victims children. There are 16,000 suicides by firearm and 650 fatal accidents in an average year. Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century." (Observer, 14 October)
Capitalism is such a competitive and stressful society that citizens are shooting themselves and others in so-called peacetime. RD

Fear of the Future

Primary school children are suffering from "deep anxiety" about modern life, according to a study of education in England.

Many expressed concern about climate change, global warming and pollution, the gulf between rich and poor, and terrorism.

The report concluded that prospects for the society and world that young children would inherit looked "increasingly perilous".

The research team had found "unease about the present and pessimism about the future".

What a society we are bequeathing our next generation .

Friday, October 12, 2007

where there is muck , there is a buck

New York City has now passed a bill that would raise the fine for anyone caught stealing rubbish from $100 to $2,000.

The city noticed the amount of paper and cardboard that was being recycled had dropped over the past year by as much as 25% in some parts of the city. And the culprits ? "Thieves" are taking other people's rubbish in an effort to make money.

City councilman Michael McMahon, chairman of the council's sanitation committee, says that material left out on the kerb is the property of the city of New York.
"It's not just some silly rubbish - the junk has value, and paper in particular pays for the collection of the glass and plastics ." he says.

John Dardy, commissioner for New York's department of sanitation, denies the city is being greedy.

THE PRICE OF GOLD

The South African government shut down Elandsrand gold mine yesterday as the last of 3,200 miners trapped more than a mile underground made their way back to the surface after more than 36 hours underground. The 3,000 men and 200 women became trapped when the electricity cable of the main lift at the mine near Carletonville was severed on Wednesday morning, condemning them to a long and anxious wait in a confined, cramped space where temperatures touched 40C. ...About 200 mineworkers died in various accidents at mines around South Africa last year alone, prompting allegations from trade unions that established mining companies put profits ahead of the safety of their mostly black workers. Just last week, four workers were killed in a rock fall in a mine operated by Anglo Gold Ashanti. The main mining union said that Harmony's Gold practice of mining 24 hours a day meant that there was no time to make adequate checks. Peter Bailey, the union's health and safety chairman said that an inspection of the shaft last week had taken 30 minutes rather than the full day required, and that the alternative emergency exit had been neglected and allowed to become flooded." (Independent, 5 October)
Capitalism is the same the world over, profits always come before any other consideration. RD

MORE COMIC BOOK CAPERS

Holy Collectibles, Batman! A near-mint copy of Detective Comics No. 27, a pre-World War II comic featuring Batman's debut, was recently found in an attic and sold to a local collector. The comic is considered to be the second-most valuable available and can fetch up to $500,000. The only comic considered more valuable is Action Comics No. 1, in which Superman makes his first appearance. Collector Todd McDevitt said the Batman issue he bought is worth about $250,000, but he won't say exactly how much he paid or who sold it to him." (Yahoo News, 10 October)
What a mad world capitalism is - people dying of starvation, lack of clean water or medical treatment yet some people can spend thousands of dollars on a comic book. RD

COMIC BOOK CAPERS?

The American security firm Blackwater is owned by the millionaire Eric. D.Prince, a right-wing Republican and fundamentalist Christian. “I think that he thinks he is like Bruce Wayne in Batman,” said Robert Young Pelton, the author of “Licensed to Kill” (Crown Publishing Group), a book on contractors in Iraq, who is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Mr. Prince extensively.
“Bruce Wayne lives in a mansion and then at night he is out in the bat cave with the Batmobile. And that is Erik. I think he is conflicted.” (New York Times, 8 October)
The difference between Batman and Prince is that Batman doesn't own and defend a security company that is accused of killing 17 innocent Iraqis in downtown Baghdad. RD

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

The song declares "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere", but that may not be as easy as the song makes out. "Beginning tomorrow night, the city will stop giving emergency shelter to families who are reapplying for a place to stay after being ruled ineligible, officials said yesterday. The decision means that families who apply for benefits but are turned down — usually because the city believes they can stay with a friend or a relative — will find themselves without shelter as they reapply one or two more times. The toughening of the policy, which follows a rise during the summer in the number of families given emergency shelter in free public apartments, was criticized as cruel by advocates for the homeless and by some of the people it will affect." (New York Times, 11 October)
Behind the glitzy facade of the richest city in the richest country in capitalism lurks the grim reality of working class poverty. RD

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

RAQUETS AND RACKETS

In recent weeks we have seen scandals about drugs and gambling in all sorts of sports. Baseball, athletics and horse racing have recently been the subject of press speculation. Now tennis has joined the list of sports that capitalism with its money-driven ethos has corrupted.
"Andy Murray last night became the latest high-profile tennis player to claim that his sport is being corrupted by the twin toxins of gambling and match fixing. "It is pretty disappointing for all the players, but everyone knows that it goes on," Murray told BBC Radio in a programme broadcast on FiveLive last night. "I speak to lots of guys, especially the experienced ones that have been around for a long time. They obviously know that it goes on. A lot of guys have been approached." A plethora of professional players of varying nationalities and abilities - they include Tim Henman, Novak Djokovic and Dmitry Tursunov - have said much the same thing in recent weeks." (Herald, 10 October) RD

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

We live in a crazy society where millions of human beings are dieing because they cannot scrape together a dollar to get something to eat, where parents watch their kids die because they cannot afford to give them clean water or purchase the cheap medicines necessary to keep them alive. Contrast that with the luxurious living of the owning class.
"A flawless blue diamond that fetched $7.98m (£3.93m) has set a record as the most expensive gemstone per carat bought at auction. Moussaieff Jewellers of London bought the stone from a private Asian collector at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong. Bidding for the emerald-cut 6.04 carat diamond lasted eight minutes. The stone sold for $1.32m per carat, easily beating the previous record of $926,000 per carat." (BBC News, 9 October)
Diamonds may be forever but because of capitalism millions of kids never even reach adulthood. RD

Monday, October 08, 2007

THE NEW IMPERIALISTS

It used to be that supporters of Chinese and Russian state capitalism decried the imperialism of the British Empire. Today though , it is a case of the kettle calling the pot black.
"Today, emerging-market giants are fighting for oil, gas and metal ore in Africa as energetically as 19th-century European colonialists grabbed land on the continent. Recently, the Chinese have been the most aggressive, with more than 700 companies active in 50 countries, according to Standard Bank of South Africa. China is now Africa's second largest aid donor and trading partner, behind the United States, with trade up fourfold to $40 billion since 2000. But Russia, the second most active emerging-market power in the area, is gaining. While trade with Africa is only $3 billion a year (up threefold since 2000), Russian companies flush with cash have sunk over $5 billion into buying up African assets since 2000— and that's not counting $3.5 billion of oil exploration deals that will come online before the end of the decade." (Newsweek, 15 October) RD

DEVOUT MURDERERS

We are often told by the religious-minded that "God moves in mysterious ways". After reading this report we can see what they mean by that..
"Women in Basra have become the targets of a violent campaign by religious extremists, who leave more than 15 female bodies scattered around the city each month, police officers say. Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf , the commander of Basra's police, said Thursday that self-styled enforcers of religious law threatened, beat and sometimes shot women who they believed weren't sufficiently Muslim." (Yahoo News, 4 October) RD

PEACE LOVERS?

The government of the USA likes to portray itself as a peace- loving country ever watchful to sponsor peace and prevent war but the reality is somewhat different.
"The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers. The global arms market is highly competitive, with manufacturing nations seeking both to increase profits and to expand political influence through weapons sales to developing nations, which reached nearly $28.8 billion in 2006." (New York Times, 1 October)
When the prize is over $28 billion a year you can be sure the peace-loving role is a sham. RD

Who owns the North Pole - Part 9


Reported by the BBC , in another sign of potential friction in the warming Arctic, Canada has warned that it will step up patrols of the North West Passage . Canada maintains the waterway that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific lies within its territorial waters and that it can bar transit there. The retreating ice, coupled with rising costs of petroleum, has set off maneuvering among nations bordering the Arctic as each attempts to extend claims to the continental shelf where oil might be found.


The Canadian Coast Guard is preparing to send one its research vessels, the Amundsen, through the North West Passage with about 40 scientists on board. Equipped with a remotely operated robot submarine and a sonar system, the ship will undertake a detailed survey of the sea-bed - essential if the waterway is to become more open to commercial shipping.
Bush is pushing the Senate to ratify a long-spurned high seas treaty that has gained new relevance with the melting of the polar ice cap and anticipated competition for the oil that lies below. Ex-President Reagan opposed the treaty because of a section dealing with deep seabed mining. Even after that section was overhauled in 1994 to satisfy U.S. concerns and President Clinton signed it, Congress has showed little interest in ratification. Opponents say it would impinge on U.S. military and economic sovereignty.
But , "Far from threatening our sovereignty, the convention allows us to secure and extend our sovereign rights," said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden

And "Currently, as a nonparty, the United States is not in a position to maximize its sovereign rights in the Arctic or elsewhere," Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte said.
Paul Kelly, a former vice president of an oil drilling company, now president of Kelly Energy Consultants in Houston expects "substantial" additions to U.S. territory once the United States joins the treaty.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

IMPORTANT ISSUES

We live in a society beset by social problems like war, poverty and world hunger, but the Archbishop of Chicago has more important issues to deal with. "A senior American cardinal has asked Jews to reconsider descriptions of Jesus as a "bastard" in exchange for a softening of traditional Catholic prayers calling for Jews to be converted to Christianity. The controversial comments, by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago, concern a prayer said during Easter celebrations by the small number of parishes or priests who celebrate a particular form of Good Friday mass. That version of Good Friday prayers calls for the congregation to pray for Jews to be converted to Christianity. But Cardinal George said this prayer should be amended to ensure it did not offend Jews." (Daily Telegraph, 6 October)
Good to know the reverends have their priorities right! RD

GOT YOUR INVITATION YET?

"There is only one place to be this week if you are anyone, or aspire to be anyone, in the arts – the Frieze Art Fair. The showcase of contemporary art, held in a marquee in Regent's Park, central London, begins on Thursday and has grown in just four years to become one of the most important and glamorous events in the world's cultural calendar. ..Such is the draw that the top auction houses time their sales of contemporary work to coincide with the arrival in London of big spenders from Britain, Russia, China and America. And breathtaking masterpieces have been flown in from New York to be showcased before they are auctioned in the Big Apple next month – these include works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Gauguin that haven't been seen publicly for a generation." (Independent on Sunday, 7 October)
It is good to know, isn't it, that in these days of austerity and tightening of belts our billionaires and their foreign companions can still afford to spend millions on works of art and still have time to have a little knees up. RD

GETTING USED TO POVERTY

"Four out of five young people aged between 18 to 24 years old are struggling with debt. Half of those owe more than £2,000, one in five owes more than £10,000 and three in ten owe over £20,000. Student fees and loans account for less than half of the debts, according to the research by YouGov to be published next month by Rainer, the youth charity. The rest was generated by spending on store cards, credit cards and overdrafts generated by socialising, shopping and 'personal luxuries'." (Observer, 7 October)
Capitalism is a wonderful system it is getting young workers used to the poverty treadmill of work and debt that will be their unenviable future. RD

Saturday, October 06, 2007

WATER SWIZZ

In 2004 Coca-Cola's Dansini water "filtered for purity" by using "reverse osmosis" turned out to be tap water marked up from 0.03p to 95p per 500ml. In July, Pepsi was forced to change labels on bottles of Aguafine and admit that it "originated from a public water source" - the tap. A gullible public is still being conned though.
"Boots confirmed yesterday that it is selling water at £3.99 for little more than a cupful. Its Expert Sensitive Refreshing Facial Spritz is exactly what it says on the can: water." (Times, 6 October)
In its constant drive for profit the capitalist class are prepared to engage in all sorts of skulduggery, but Boots selling tap water at £32.92 a litre takes some beating. RD

Thursday, October 04, 2007

NOT SO PATRIOTIC

At the Labour and Conservative Party conferences the drum was banged for patriotism. "British jobs for British people", "this great country of ours", "our proud British heritage", and so on ad nauseum. In fact the British capitalists don't care where they make their profits, if they can exploit workers abroad more profitably then that is what they will do, despite the cant spoken at political conferences.
"Unite, the manufacturing trade union, yesterday accused Cadbury Schweppes of behaving like an "asset-stripping private equity firm" following the company's announcement that it would shed 700 jobs by outsourcing chocolate production to Poland. Cadbury said it planned to shut its factory in Keynsham, near Bristol, by 2010, with the loss of 500 jobs, while 200 further posts would go in Bournville, in the Midlands, at the plant where it has been producing chocolate for almost 130 years. Much of the work done at the Keynsham and Bournville plants will be switched to the Polish company Wedel, which it acquired in 1998, Cadbury said, because labour and manufacturing costs would be much lower". (Independent, 4 October) RD

NOT SO SWEET CHARITY

Capitalism taints everything it touches even charity. "Indeed, the sector is very much a target for unscrupulous operators, whether they are diverting donations for relief missions for their own use or are sham clothes collectors depriving established charities and their shops of donated garments. ...Increasingly, charities use street collectors to encourage the public to donate regularly by direct debit. ..."There is an awful lot of personal information being given out," Dearman (PKF Accountants) says. There is a risk that fraudsters might impersonate street collectors and complete their own donor lists, complete with financial details, he cautioned." (Times, 2 October)
Capitalism certainly is a wonderful system; workers hoping to assist others are being ripped off. RD

NEVER STEAL ANYTHING - SMALL

Workers are taught in school and church that honesty is the best policy, but this is capitalism and capitalism just does not work that way.
"Depending on who you talk to, fraud costs the economy £14 billion a year (according to the Association of Police Officers) or £72 billion (the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)" (Times, 2 October)
This is not workers dodging fares on the train this is a big business operation, it involves VAT evasion and what is called "carousel fraud". The Revenue and Customs have added an extra 700 staff bringing the total to 1,500 to deal with this fraud.
What a wasteful society capitalism is. Thousands of workers, crooks and cops in a ceaseless unproductive treadmill. RD

WE HOPE IT IS TRUE

It is sad, but true that it is almost impossible to lift up a newspaper without being informed about bad news. War, poverty and world hunger - it is the media's daily ration of social problems. How welcome to read of this ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy press.
"Outrage in cyberspace as the US Navy describes the MySpace generation as "alien life forces". They spend their lives in front of screens meeting foreigners and are therefore less willing to sign up and kill them, a Navy study reports." (Times, 2 October) RD

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

DIAL O FOR ORWELL

"A massive extension of surveillance powers comes into force today, giving police, government officials and even local councils unprecedented access to everyone's telephone records. The new regulations will force telecommunications companies to retain information about all landline and mobile calls made by members of the public for one year, and hand over the data to over 650 public bodies and quangos. The move, quietly approved by Parliament in July under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, is being justified as a vital tool in the fight against terrorism." (Daily Telegraph, 1 October)
In George Orwell's dystopia 1964 the frightening slogan was Big Brother is Watching You. A more up-to-date slogan would be Big Brother is Listening to You. RD

NOW THAT'S LIVING

"The bonanza in boardroom pay has become even more spectacular, according to the latest figures from the accountancy firm KPMG. The typical chief executive of a FTSE 100 company has seen their total remuneration rise by 12 per cent in the past year, to reach over £2.6m. That's four times the rate of increase in average earnings, leaving the business elite on pay over100 times what most of their employees earn. In the case of those chief executives still in post, their income went up by 16 per cent, accelerating last year's 9 per cent rise. The chief executive of one of the smaller FTSE 250 companies would expect to see a total package of just over £1m, up from £878,000 in 2006. Britain's top corporate earner is probably still Bob Diamond of Barclays Capital, who took home £22.9m last year, including a performance-related bonus of £10.4m." (Independent, 1 October) RD

A LIVING WAGE?

"The adult rate for the statutory minimum wage will go up from £5.35 to £5.52 and from £4.44 to £4.60 for 18-21-year-olds. The rate for 16 and 17-year-olds will increase from £3.30 to £3.40 an hour. Meanwhile, annual leave entitlement will increase from 20 to 24 days a year for full-time workers and will increase again to 28 days from April 2009. Employment Relations Minister, Pat McFadden, said: "These changes will improve the lives of millions of British workers, giving them more time with their families and ensuring our lowest paid workers continue to be able to earn a living wage." (Guardian, 1 October)
McFaddens "living wage" must seem laughable to politicians and big earners in the City. 17p an hour increases? Let the good times roll! RD

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

WHO IS AFRAID OF WHO?

"For the second time in seven years the Vatican is hosting a scientific conference for astronomers. More than 200 scientists from 26 countries including the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Japan have gathered in Rome for a five-day meeting on disc galaxies. ...Why does the Vatican fund astronomical research after centuries of public dispute over the relative roles of science and religion? Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, a member of Father Funes's team and curator of one of the world's most important collections of meteorites, kept at Castelgandolfo (the Pope's summer residence), explains.
"They want the world to know that the Church isn't afraid of science," he said." (BBC News, 1 October)
In the 17th century it was this church that was persecuting and executing scientists. Galileo was tried for heresy by the Inquisition because his findings contradicted the scriptures. It was not until the reign of Pope John Paul II - nearly four centuries later - that the Catholic Church finally admitted that Galileo had been right and he was officially rehabilitated. RD

ILLUSION AND REALITY

Capitalism is a society that thrives on illusions. One of the cruellest is the one about elderly workers sitting in rocking chair contentment after a lifetime of toil. For many workers the reality behind this idyllic picture turns out to be this.
"The proportion of pensioners going bankrupt has more than doubled in five years, research has suggested. Of bankruptcies in England and Wales during 2007, 7% involved retired people - up from 3% in 2002, a report said. This meant 7,900 pensioners were declared bankrupt over the past year, compared to 900 five years previously. Accountants firm Wilkins Kennedy, which produced the study, said older people unused to being offered credit "may take on unmanageable levels of debt". The researchers warned that the figures are likely to get even higher, as increased life expectancy and rises in the price of food and fuel put a greater strain on the limited savings of many pensioners." (BBC News, 1 October) RD

PHONEY COMMUNISTS

"The Chinese authorities are in the midst of an unusually harsh crackdown on the Internet, closing tens of thousands of websites that had allowed visitors to post their opinions, according to bloggers and Internet monitors in China. The new censorship wave appears linked to next month's 17th Communist Party Congress, a key political gathering that will set China's course for the coming five years. Party leaders generally prefer to meet undisturbed by criticism." (Yahoo News, 25 September)
This phoney Communist Party of course run a system of state capitalism not communism. Early socialists like Marx and Engels who wrote the Communist Manifesto were themselves the victim of censorship and deportation and were completely opposed to the concept of censorship. In their day it was the avowedly capitalist parties that practiced censorship but today dicatorships in China and Cuba who falsely describe themselves as communists are the ones who most rigidly suppress all opposition. RD

Monday, October 01, 2007

BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID (2)

"Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski likened U.S. officials' sabre rattling about Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions to similar statements made before the start of the Iraq war.
"I think the administration, the president and the vice president particularly, are trying to hype the atmosphere, and that is reminiscent of what preceded the war in Iraq," Brzezinski told CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday." (CNN Politics.com, 24 September)
We don't want to be like Charles Dickens's Fat Boy and "make your flesh creep", but this guy is supposed to be an expert in such matters. Let us hope he is like a lot of capitalism's experts and has got it all wrong. Capitalism makes our flesh creep. RD

WAR IS HELL - FOR SOME

"The Bush administration plans to increase its 2008 financing request for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere by almost $50 billion, with about a quarter of the additional money going toward armoured trucks built to withstand roadside bombs, Pentagon officials said Saturday. The increase would bring the amount the administration is seeking to finance the war effort through 2008 to almost $200 billion." (New York Times, 23 September)
This increase in expenditure is bad news for the American capitalist class who will have to pay for this. On the other hand it is good news for that section who have their capital tied up in the manufacture of this additional material. RD

MAKING A KILLING

"Habana Health Care Centre, a 150-bed nursing home in Tampa, Fla., was struggling when a group of large private investment firms purchased it and 48 other nursing homes in 2002. The facility’s managers quickly cut costs. Within months, the number of clinical register nurses at the home was half what it had been a year earlier, records collected by the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate. Budgets for nursing supplies, resident activities and other services also fell, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The investors and operators were soon earning millions of dollars a year from their 49 homes. Residents fared less well. Over three years, 15 at Habana died from what their families contend was negligent care in lawsuits filed in state court." (New York Times, 23 September)
When it comes to making a profit there is no depth to which capitalism won’t descend. RD

EXPLOITATION IN BANGLADESH

If you have ever wondered how some clothing stores manage to have such low prices, wonder no more. "At least 25,000 textile workers defied a ban on protests in emergency-ruled Bangladesh on Saturday to demand back-pay and bonuses in one of the country's biggest industrial zones, police said. The workers walked off the job in the Tejgaon Industrial Area in Dhaka and held protests in the streets, forcing the shutdown of most factories in the area, assistant police commissioner Moshiur Rahman said. Police used batons to break up protests after demonstrators smashed the windows of several factories. ...The military-backed government has banned all kinds of protests and rallies and has said it will not tolerate any unrest in the important textile sector, which is crucial to impoverished Bangladesh's export earnings. ...Garments are Bangladesh's biggest export earners with sales abroad fetching more than nine billion dollars, or three-quarters of the country's total export earnings, in the last fiscal year." (Yahoo News, 22 September)
Behind the strikes and demonstrations is the government's refusal to introduce the agreed minimum wage of $25 a month RD

The Standard October 2007











The Standard Online





Npower - no help to the poor

Npower, whose German parent company RWE reported profits of £1.68 billion last year on the back of rising energy prices, was singled out in a report by the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group. Scottish Power, which made £483 million last year, was also rated poorly for doing least to help its most vulnerable customers.

Households are deemed to be living in fuel poverty if they spend more than 10% of their income on heating and lighting bills. The industry regulator Ofgem estimates that there are now 4 million households living in fuel poverty in the UK.
Currently, each power company can set the level of help it chooses to offer those customers, such as through lower prices or subsidies for loft insulation.

In August, Ofgem , the industry regulator , examined what each company was doing to help its poorest customers. Its findings were then analysed by the fuel poverty group . The report said npower "clearly stands out as the company that does the least for its vulnerable customers". It also criticised the company for having the highest prepayment electricity tariffs . The original Ofgem report found that npower had fewer than 1,200 of its total 6.8 million customers on its First Step social tariff - less than 0.02%. In comparison British Gas had 300,000, or 2%, of customers receiving financial help. EDF offers help to about 60,000 customers, or 1%.

The Bankrupt System

Research based on a study of 1,250 bankrupts in England and Wales found the proportion of pensioners going bankrupt has more than doubled in five years . Of bankruptcies in England and Wales during 2007, 7% involved retired people - up from 3% in 2002 . This meant 7,900 pensioners were declared bankrupt over the past year, compared to 900 five years previously.

Researchers warned that the figures are likely to get even higher, as increased life expectancy and rises in the price of food and fuel put a greater strain on the limited savings of many pensioners.

Keith Stevens, insolvency partner at Wilkins Kennedy, said: "More and more pensioners are going bankrupt as they struggle to repay debts when their pension is their sole source of income. "

Senior citizens could be missing out on money to which they are entitled because of the complexity of the government's pension credits system

Older people unused to being offered credit "may take on unmanageable levels of debt".

The problem might be worst in rural areas. That could be because of pensioners not being able to rely on free public transport, and fewer opportunities for part time work.

More Pay For the Bosses


We previously reported how directors pay increases are much higher than their workers wage rises and today's Herald produces new figures that once again confirms that the rich always reward themselves more than those that produce the wealth .

Chief executives enjoyed an average 16% rise in total remuneration in 2007 - a marked acceleration over the prior year's 9% increase - according to accounting giant KPMG's .Moreover, other executive directors on company boards saw their base salaries increase at a similar rate, although finance directors are seeing bigger increases in pay. KPMG noted that the rate of increase in directors' pay is far higher than the national average .

The median total remuneration for FTSE-100 chief executives in 2007 - including new hires as well as promotions - increased to £2.6 million, compared with £2.3 million last year.


Whereas today's Independent is reporting of the story is that The bonanza in boardroom pay has become even more spectacular, according to the latest figures from the accountancy firm KPMG. The typical chief executiveof a FTSE 100 company has seen their total remuneration rise by 12 per cent in the past year, to reach over £2.6m. That's four times the rate of increase in average earnings, leaving the business elite on pay over 100 times what most of their employees earn.


Britain's top corporate earner is probably still Bob Diamond of Barclays Capital, who took home £22.9 million last year, including a performance-related bonus of £10.4 million.

Bart Becht, chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the man behind Mr Sheen, on £22 million; Giles Thorley, head of Punch Taverns, making ends meet on £11 million; . Mr Thorley's package is equivalent to 1,147 of his staff's pay.


Taken together, the directors of FTSE 100 companies collectively earned £515 million lastyear – exceeding the GDP of the likes of Eritrea and the Seychelles.