"The number of deaths during the coldest three months of the year was up almost 50 per cent on the previous year to 36,700, sending extra 10,000 pensioners to early graves, new figures showed yesterday. The rise in "excess winter mortality" for England and Wales for the three months to February was the biggest for years and the highest total in a decade, sparking fresh calls for ministers to combat high energy prices. ... As fuel bills have soared over the past six years, the number of households in "fuel poverty" defined as having to spend 10 per cent or more of their income on power and heat has risen five-fold to 6.6 million this year. Britain has a worse record on winter deaths than colder European states such as Sweden, Norway and Finland. Age Concern, the charity for the elderly, warned that unless heating was made more affordable, further large-scale deaths would occur this winter. ... Last winter more than 90 per cent of deaths were pensioners, who are among the least able to afford heat but the most vulnerable to cold-related disease, such as seasonal flu, hypothermia, bronchitis and emphysema." (Independent, 25 November) RD
Monday, November 30, 2009
From time to time politicians like to spread the lie that modern politics is a very complicated complex subject and that is why we need clever people like them to administer capitalism.
Part of this fiction is supported by what they choose to call "think-tanks." Recently the Tory party leader David Cameron has given his support to Phillip Blond's new organisation rather grandly titled "ResPublica". The political sketch writer Ann Treneman went along to the launch of this new organisation to try and find what it stood for. She was completely baffled.
"The label that the great and the good have given to Mr. Blond is "philosopher king". Not only is he a blond who is a brunette but he is also something called a red Tory, which I am told is a blend of Catholic social thought and a critique of the effects of economic neo-liberalism. Since I have almost no idea what that means, I was looking forward to the speech, which was his vision of a "radical transformative conservatives".
"I listened closely and can report that this is radical transformative conservatism at its deepest: abstract, abstruse, and quite possibly, total gobbledygook."
Political sketch writers are notoriously flippant and renowned for taking the Mickey, but to be fair to Treneman she has certainly got a point when she directly quotes Blond on human relationships.
"These associations themselves are not post-modern verities; they are arbitrary collections of whim and sophistry arrayed against the void." (Times, 27 November)
Before you go searching for a dictionary trying to decipher that utterance lets go with Treneman's description "total gobbledygook".
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Don't rely on experts.
"Even as th e financial system collapsed last year, and millions of investors lost billions of dollars, one unlikely investor was racking up historic profits: John Paulson a hedge fund manager in New York. His firm made $20 billion between 2007 and early 2009 by betting against the housing market and big financial companies. Mr Paulson's personal cut would amout to $4 billion, or more than $10 million a day. That was more than the 2007 earnings of J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods combined".
"According to consultants AT Kearney, the richest 1pc in the UK hold some 70pc of the country's wealth. That there is this divide between rich and poor is not exactly new but the scale of it, and the likelihood that it is not being narrowed by the financial crisis, is a big worry. Indeed, according to the report, in the US the amount of financial assets owned by the richest 1pc in the US is far, far lower at 48pc, and only 34pc in Australia. This must, to a large degree, be due to the fact that the UK set itself up in recent years as a haven for the super-rich, with its relatively generous rules on capital gains tax, because the income tax system itself is rather more redistributive than in the US. But the Kearney report is interesting because, unlike the traditional measure of inequality, the gini coefficient, it focuses not on income (the flow of money) but on actual substantive wealth (the stack of it that sits beneath us)." (Daily Telegraph, 25 November) RD
Friday, November 27, 2009
While the "Cash for Appliances" programs will vary by state, some of the
proposed rebates that have been annouced so far, range from $50 to £100 per item
"After what it must have deemed a decent interval since triggering a furore over its attack on traders and bankers as "robbers and assassins" last year, the Church of England is shamelessly seeking more yield. Just to refresh your memory, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, last September said it was right to ban short selling, while John Sentamu, archbishop of York, called traders who cashed in on falling prices "bank robbers and asset strippers". But the Church Commissioners had a tough year in 2008, as the Church's total assets dropped from £5.7bn to £4.4bn, a 23 per cent fall over the period. Clearly, faith alone was not enough. As the FT's People column reports on Wednesday in an appropriately headlined piece "God meets Joy", the Church of England has appointed fund manager Tom Joy to run its £4.4bn investment portfolio from a "very strong field of more than 70 applicants". (Financial Times, 6 August) RD
"A gas explosion tore through a state-run coal mine in Northern China, killing 42 people and leaving 66 others trapped underground. More than 500 people were working in the Xinxing mine in Heilongjiang province at the time. In the first nine months of this year, China's coal mines have suffered 11 major accidents with 303 deaths." (Observer, 22 November) RD
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Jacob Selechnik at his office in the Bronx, from which he oversees an empire of
"In the feudal world of real estate, where a handful of landlords claim ownership to its skyline of cramped apartments, Jacob Selechnik is most certainly royalty. He has been buying buildings in the city's poorest borough for nearly 50 years, amassing an empire that reached a peak of more than 7,000 apartments. Brokers estimate his net worth at more than half a billion dollars. What's more, Mr. Selechnik, who has $300 million in proceeds from recent sales and uncommon good will from banks, sees the haemorrhaging real estate market as an open season for bargain hunting."
(New York Times, 18 November) RD
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
"Britain may still be in recession, but the appetite for the finer things in life, it appears, lives on. Topping all expectations, Bonhams, the upmarket auction house, last week sold a decanter of whisky to a bashful buyer for a record-breaking £27,600. The unique Dalmore Oculus, blended from some of the most exceptional whiskies of the past 140 years, had been expected to reach up to £20,000. Instead it raised the largest amount of money ever paid for a Dalmore whisky. The buyer asked to remain anonymous." (Observer, 22 November) RD
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"The head of Goldman Sachs apologised for the Wall Street investment bank's role in helping to create the financial crisis. After being ridiculed for saying he was doing God's work, and seeing his company labeled as a blood-sucking vampire squid, Lloyd Blanketing delivered a mea culpa to a conference in New York.
"We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret," Blankfein said. "We apologise."
So that's all right then." (Observer, 22 November) RD
Monday, November 23, 2009
In a Socialist Society technical innovation can be welcomed as a further reduction in repetitive work and a further increase of opportunity to use the time saved for developing your interests: In a Capitalist Society technical innovation becomes a further opportunity for employers to increase their profits and reduce the number of workers.
Scotland on Sunday's article about "Smart Meters" is an example of this process.
SMART meters will be the biggest revolution in the power industry since North Sea gas was discovered, and legislation enabling their use should be pushed through parliament before the general election, says the head of the Energy Retail Association (ERA).
Garry Felgate said he expects an announcement on the roll-out of smart meters for residential customers to accompany next month's pre-budget report from Chancellor Alistair Darling
He said bills might also be reduced because utility companies would be able to save money on administration and postage costs associated with sending out amended bills when customers are unhappy with estimated amounts.
"The new meter technology will streamline a lot of our internal procedures, helping to improve account handling and turnaround times for processes like a change of tenancy or a change of supplier. Fundamentally, they will make it easier for our customers to do business with us."
Darling's pre-budget report is also expected to be accompanied by an outline for the UK government's "social pricing support" under which the ERA expects Westminster to define which customers need support.
I'm sure banks will be happy enough to lend the necessary capital in this stringent period to facilitate the energy bosses impatience, however, bills might be reduced, so it shows they're thinking about us.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
While President Obama's decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say.
The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favoured by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.
Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier per year, appears almost constant.
So even if President Obama opts for a lower troop commitment, Afghanistan's new costs could wash out the projected $26 billion expected to be saved in 2010 from withdrawing troops from Iraq. And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration.
Such an escalation in military spending would be a politically volatile issue for Mr. Obama at a time when the government budget deficit is soaring, the economy is weak and he is trying to pass a costly health care plan.
( New York Times 14th November)
Saturday, November 14, 2009
(Sphere News, 6 November) RD
"Gen. Eric Shinseki was famously shunned by the Bush administration for daring to state the true costs of occupying Iraq. As President Obama's secretary of veterans affairs, he is, thankfully, no less candid about the grinding problems veterans face at home. They lead the nation in depression, suicide, substance abuse and homelessness, according to data that Mr. Shineski is delivering in salvos in his current role. About one-third of all adult homeless men are veterans, and an average night finds an estimated 131,000 of them from five decades bedding down on streets and in charity sanctuaries. About 3 in 100 of them are back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem of homelessness for Vietnam veterans is, shamefully, well known. But the men and women in this growing cohort took just 18 months to find rock bottom, compared with the five years-plus of the previous generation's veterans." (New York Times, 11 November) RD
Friday, November 13, 2009
It used to be popular for supporters of the so-called Communist Party to decry Imperialism. They would point out how Britain had exploited Africa and India during their colonial conquests. Later on they would concentrate on the role of the USA in Central and South America. Changed days now with China investing heavily in all sorts of corrupt regimes throughout Asia and Africa. "Barely a fortnight after soldiers loyal to Guinea's military junta butchered at least 150 demonstators calling for civilian rule, a deal for oil and mineral rights worth about $7 billion has been struck between China and Guinea. ...It seems that China's commercial march across Africa will continue unabated, however vile the human-rights record of the government it seeks to befriend." (Economist, 17 October) RD
Thursday, November 12, 2009
One of the condition of attaining sainthood according to the Roman Catholic Church is two miracles. One gets you beatified and the other gets you canonised. It is understood that the Pope may beatify Cardinal Newman during his visit to the UK next year, but the claim of an American clergyman may bring on the full sainthood. According to Deacon Jack Sullivan, from the archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts he was afflicted with a serious spinal condition causing intolerable pain with utterly no prospect of relief. He was told he was on the brink of complete paralysis. "I was completely helpless and the situation seemed hopeless. But it was this state of mind that led me to prayer. ..."Please Cardinal Newman, help me to walk, so that I can return to my classes and be ordained". (Times, 10 November)
Next thing the clergyman was up and walking, something he hadn't been able to do for months. Amazing as this may seem - and certainly a boon to a hard pressed NHS - it pales into insignificance according to the same newspaper report when compared to an earlier miracle.
"In the Miracle of Calanda in the 17th century, the amputated leg of a young Spaniard grew back."
They just don't have miracles like that nowadays, do they? RD
Billionaire Warren Buffett's investment firm has reported that profits almost tripled in the third quarter. Berkshire Hathaway said it's net profit was $3.2bn ( £1.9 bn ) in the three months to September, compared with the $1.1bn in the same period last year. ( BBC News 8 Sept 09) RD
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
vis-a-vis their competitors. This is why shoplifting does not raise the prices (nor wage increases), as companies are not at liberty to set the price of their goods just anywhere. The price must revolve around value, and supply and demand. I decided I needed another shed; getting late in the season; bought a kit for $999; didn't include the floor or shingles (roofing); the frame was so skimpy, I was afraid it might blow down if the cows in the next field farted (although we all know it's going straight up and is the main cause of global warming); basically, the sheets of siding would be holding up the frame instead of the other way round; bought more timber to shore it up and frame it properly: end result a fairly decent shed that cost about $1500, or just a bit more than the shed I built two years ago framed with 2x4s (not 2x3s) and sided with 1x12 pine boards. Home Depot still gets to advertise the shed for under $1000, which is the whole point of the exercise.
Hope that sheds some light on the workings of capitalism. John Ayers
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
On the poverty front, capitalism may be 'lifting millions out of poverty' in India, but an article on McDonald's in that country (Toronto Star 18/Oct/09) tells us that the mashed potato sandwich is the highest grossing product and sells for 50cents. For the 456 million (that would be the third largest nation on earth) that live on $1.25 a day (World Bank) even that might be a bit of a stretch- In Toronto, food banks fell well short of their Thanks giving goals and the recession is blamed. Maybe McDonalds should be selling the mashed potato sandwich here.- To celebrate the 20th. Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Toronto Star published an article on communism and Marx. Of course, as expected, it was the fall of communism (communism is as dead as the waxen figure in Lenin's tomb). Information was supplied mainly by 'respected communism scholar' Archie Brown. The level of misinformation and misrepresentation reached new lows. Apparently, the 70% plunge in the Moscow stock market last fall left the 'communists' speechless and afraid to criticize Putin. The ideals of 'communism' could never come to pass in an imperfect world, but Marx didn't die without a legacy his ideals of social justice have penetrated the wealthiest countries, including the US. In the 21st. century, The West has adopted Marx's core belief that social progress is driven by material well-being, and social democracy has flourished. It was in the US, too, that Marx's philosophy of materialism soared to its outer limits, as a pioneering philosophy of 'toil and sweat' turned to rampant consumerism that broke all class barriers. Oh boy!
Needless to say, I fired off a letter which didn't get published, but it points clearly to the misinformation that is gleefully published by the capitalist press, even a 'liberal' paper such as The Star, Canada's largest. John Ayers
Monday, November 09, 2009
Capitalists always take the prize for audacity. As Ontario's telecommunications manufacturing firm, Nortel, divvies up its assets, CEO Mike Zafirovski is requesting $12.3 million, while employees on long term disability are ignored and left to expect to exist on $10 000 per annum.
Oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens told US Congress that US energy companies are entitled to some of Iraq's crude, because of the large numbers of American troops that lost their lives fighting in the country and the large amount of taxpayers' money spent there.
At a conference in London, Goldman Sachs international advisor, Brian Griffiths, praised inequality. As his company was putting aside $16.7 billion for exec's compensation and benefits for the first nine months of the year (up 46% from a year earlier), Griffiths told us not to worry, "We have to tolerate inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." John Ayers
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Food For Thought
"The food industry is making us sick", said CNN's Rudy Ruiz (Toronto Star 11/Oct/09). Costs of Obesity are estimated at $147 billion, diabetes $114 billion in the US. John Hopkins US researchers estimate in another 6 years, three quarters of Americans will be overweight or obese and already
26% of children entering kindergarten are overweight. Similar statistics could apply to several "developed countries, of course. How does this come about?
When US farmers were coping with chronic corn gluts in the 1960s and 70s, Earl Butz, agricultural secretary in the Nixon administration, unveiled a program of subsidies for farmers, school lunches, and alterations in food processing allowing corn to become a mainstay of the American diet. Canada followed suit. This ushered in the era of cheap, bad, fast food. Now the call to put this right is facing a tough challenge from farm-state politicians and fast food lobbyists.
Again, it's not what's right that counts, but what makes the most money for the owning class. John Ayers
Saturday, November 07, 2009
get the year 2005 as the new baseline for the reduction of greenhouse
gases. They're touting 20% reduction by 2020, i.e. equivalent to 5% below
1990 levels or what was proposed at Kyoto but by 2010. Two steps back, one
forward. Great game!
- Let's get more people in prison. New proposed "get tough on criminals"
legislation by the Harper government is projected to increase
incarceration by 10%, now about 149 per 100 000. The worst crime for most
of those caught in the drug net is that they are racial minorities,
especially aboriginal, or that they have fallen through the cracks in our
education system, or suffer from a host psychiatric and psychological
syndromes. Conversely, spending on anti-drug programs and mental health
lag way behind prison spending.(Toronto Star, 17/oct/09).
A company behind plans to open the first hotel in space says it is on target to accept its first paying guests in 2012 despite critics questioning the investment and time frame for the multi-billion dollar project. The Barcelona-based architects of The Galactic Suite Space Resort say it will cost $4.4 million for a three-night stay at the hotel, with this price including an eight-week training course on a tropical island. During their stay, guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and travel around the world every 80 minutes. They would wear Velcro suits so they can crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman.
(Reuter, 1 November) RD
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
"Could you imagine how much money you would have to have to be able to spend $609,000 a day? What would you expect to receive for that amount of money? Who has that kind of money to spend, especially during a "recession"? According to the latest issue of Time magazine, in the first 6 months of this year, the pharmaceutical industry spent about $609,000 a day to influence lawmakers. Can you imagine the financial payoff they must expect to get to be able to spend that kind of money? This does not include all the money they spend on advertising as well. The drug industry has 1,228 registered lobbyists. This equals 2.3 lobbyists for every member of congress. Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry does not want to be left out of the current healthcare reform debate and are willing to pay handsomely to make sure they aren't. The return on that investment has already been considerable. As drug lobbyist Jim Greenwood says, "We've done very well." (Dr Brian's Blog, 26 October) RD
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
"New figures from Credit Action show that a property is repossessed every 11 and half minutes as the recession begins to bite. The debt organisation also said that 9,300 people are visiting Citizens Advice every day as their struggle to cope with their personal debts. Total UK personal debt at the end of September 2009 stood at £1,459bn. The twelvemonth growth rate remained at 0.8pc said Credit Action." (Daily Telegraph, 3 November) RD
"GlaxoSmithKline is getting rich from swine flu vaccine sales. GSK, which has already sold 440m doses of its vaccine Pandemrix worldwide, said sales would hit £1bn this quarter. GSK confirmed in July that it would cost developed countries about 7 Euros (£6.30) for each dose, but it has declined to reveal production costs amid speculation it costs as little as £1 a dose to make." (Observer, 1 November) RD
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
"As workers up and down the UK sat at home last week worrying about whether they would still have a job in a month's time, a raucous crowd of hedge fund managers and investment bankers at the Whisky Mist nightclub in Mayfair pulled yet more vodka out of their huge ice bucket and called for the waiter to bring another bottle of Dom Perignon, served with a sparkler. ...In London nightspots last week, the City's finest were spending with a swagger. ...As City workers once again prepare for corporate excess, and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs get ready to pay record bonuses, new bars, restaurants and nightclubs are springing up around the office tower blocks in the City and Canary Wharf to feed demand." (Observer, 1 November) RD
Monday, November 02, 2009
When we were children around about the time that we were tiring of Ludo and Snakes and Ladders we discovered the board game Monopoly. I can't remember the details or the rules - something about cards that said such things as "Pass Go, collect £200" - "Go to jail" - "Get out of jail". In real life it is usually found that going to jail meant the only people to collect money were the lawyers, but whatever the rules were it was good fun building hotels in Park Lane while your opponent was stuck in a hovel in the East End somewhere or off to jail and not collecting £200.
When we grew up of course we quickly learned that the Grosvenor Hotel and a mansion in Park Lane were not for "the likes of us". Our fate was to be members of the working class who had to work for a wage or a salary and lead an anxious life between weekly or monthly pay cheques. However there are people who wheel and deal in such properties and a recent newspaper article gave some details of these deals.
Two separate properties in Park Lane valued at £5m-£6m, one in Grosvenor Street for £10m and one in Reeves Mews at £25m. The astonishing thing about these desirable residences is that they have been vacant for between five and ten years. According to the empty properties officer for Westminster council Paul Palmer the owners intend to keep them empty for the present.
"There are an estimated 1m empty homes in the UK, and as empty properties officer for Westminster council, Palmer is responsible for about 3,000 of them. Every day he visits some of the ritziest addresses in the capital and does his best to get them lived in again. What makes his job unique is the staggering value of the properties on his books; some of his Mayfair mansions are worth as much as £50m, even in their dilapidated state. ... The properties usually aren't abandoned for reasons which might prompt sympathy. Palmer believes many elusive owners don't have the slightest intention of bringing them back to life. "So often offshore owners have little or no interest in the property as a building it is merely an asset to be traded as they see fit," he says adding that offshore firms are tricky to track down." (Guardian, 17 October)
The article points out that in some cases where property is owned by offshore companies, no UK capital gains tax is payable, and there are cases where the wheelers dealers sell a £1m property after a year for £2m and avoid the 18% tax. These traders do not look upon these properties as places to live but as chips in their grown-up game of Monopoly. All of this financial skullduggery goes on against a background of millions of workers living in sub-standard housing, thousands homeless and hundreds even sleeping in the streets around about these empty luxurious mansions.
Compared to the complexities of capitalism socialism is a simple social system. Houses will be built for people to live in, not counters in a horror version of the kids' board game like we have today. At 21 Upper Grosvenor Street there is a house valued at £25m, it has been empty for more than ten years. Once we establish world socialism it will be occupied immediately by a family at presently homeless. A simple socialist solution to a problem that capitalism finds insoluble.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Ever since the publication of his "Unsafe at Any Speed" in 1965 Ralph Nader has been the darling of radical circles in the USA. Here was a man who dared to question the power of such capitalist concerns as General Motors. He went on to found scores of progressive non-profit organisations. He even ran as a Green Party and later an Independent candidate for the President of the USA. On one occasion he even polled almost 3 million votes. Capitalism however is a resilient social system and his attempt at reforming capitalism has ended up with him looking to the capitalists to solve the problems. He is on tour at present to promote his first fictional book entitled "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us". This has led some of his former supporters to doubt his reasoning. "There is a poignancy in listening to Ralph Nader these days. Here is a man who, for the last 45 years, has hurled his body at the engine of corporate power. He’s dented it more than anyone else in America. But he knows it’s still chugging, even more strongly than ever. Nader understands that he’s losing. He understands that we’re losing—we who believe in democracy, we who care about justice. But if our only hope is with a handful of billionaires, we’re in a lot worse shape than I thought." (The Progressive, 28 September)
"Despite evidence that human evolution still functions, biologists concede that it's anyone's guess where it will take us from here. Artificial selection in the form of genetic medicine could push natural selection into obsolescence, but a lethal pandemic or other cataclysm could suddenly make natural selection central to the future of the species. Whatever happens, Steve Jones, an evolutionary biologist at University College London says, it is worth remembering that Darwin's beautiful theory has suffered a long history of abuse. The bastard science of eugenics, he says, will haunt humanity as long as people are tempted to confuse evolution with improvement. "Uniquely in the living world, what makes humans what we are in our minds, in our society, and not in our evolution," he says." (TIME, 23 October) RD
Saturday, October 31, 2009
A crop of genetically modified canola grows in a field in Lake Bolac, in
the Western District of Victoria, Australia, Sept 29 2009
(New York Times, 23 October) RD
Friday, October 30, 2009
Women spreading wet rice to dry in Bangladesh after record rains in July
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Corvette, Lotus -- you can name all the ultra high-end sports vehicles in the auto industry and none of these cars hail from Japan, home of the Camry, Corolla, Civic and other family-oriented models. But the Lexus LF-A is finally ready for production after nine years in development. Just 500 units of the most powerful and most expensive car Toyota has ever produced will be available worldwide. The car offers 560 horsepower, a top speed of 202 miles per hour (325 kilometers per hour), your choice of 12 shades of leather and a price tag of over €255,000." (Independent, 22 October) RD
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Chris Kelsey, right, director of the C.R. England truck driving school in Burns
Harbor, Ind., received several hundred applications for an administrative
assistant position that was eventually filled by Tiffany Block, 28.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It often takes over three years following the death of a construction worker before a company is brought to trial and convicted.
Another young Scottish construction worker killed
UCATT Regional Secretary Harry Frew was shocked and saddened to hear of a young worker killed on a construction site in Troon, Ayrshire
" We will await the results of the HSE investigation but it is clear from the recent fatality figures that the construction industry is just as dangerous as at the time of the major health and safety summits called by the government in 2001 and 2004, we hope the upcoming summit will bring about a cultural change in the industry to health and safety. This only adds to the figures of workplace fatalities spiralling out of control this year. This year construction deaths leapt by 31%.”Last year 79 people were killed on construction sites and the HSE acknowledge that at least 70 per cent of those deaths are caused by management failures to take adequate health and safety measures.Yet Another construction fatality hits Scotland
UCATT Regional Secretary Harry Frew was shocked and saddened to hear of a young worker killed on a major construction site at the Earlsburn windfarm near Stirling. A 19 year old man died after falling 100ft while working inside a turbine.
He stressed: " This only adds to the figures of workplace fatalities which is spiralling out of control this year. Last year construction deaths leapt by 25%."Last year 79 people were killed on construction sites and the HSE acknowledge that at least 70 per cent of those deaths are caused by management failures to take adequate health and safety measures.
"The continued scale of fatalities reinforces our demand for Corporate Killing legislation, " said Mr Frew.A UCATT commissioned report has revealed that convictions of companies responsible for the death of construction workers have fallen by nearly three-quarters. The reports findings come at a time when construction deaths are rising.The report Levels of Convictions and Sentencing Following Prosecutions Arising from Deaths of Workers and Members of the Public in the Construction Sector undertaken by the Centre for Corporate Accountability on behalf of construction union UCATT, has been published to coincide with Workers Memorial Day (April 28). It reveals that in a six-year period from 1998 to 2004 Health and Safety Executive prosecutions in construction deaths plummeted from 42 per cent to just 11 per cent. The study covered the deaths of 504 construction workers. It often takes over three years following the death of a construction worker before a company is brought to trial and convicted.
Friday, October 23, 2009
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.
(Times 22nd October 09)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sheri West operated a shelter for homeless people, but last year she lost her
home in Cleveland and had to sleep in her car.
“No one could have told me that in a million years: I’d wake up in a homeless shelter,” she said. “I had a house for homeless people. Now, I’m homeless.” Growing numbers of Americans who have lost houses to foreclosure are landing in homeless shelters, according to social service groups and a recent report by a coalition of housing advocates." (New York Times, 19 October)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Reuters – BYD (Build Your Dreams) president Wang Chuanfu sits inside
the BYD E6 Electric Car
Saturday, October 17, 2009
"Competition is the complete expression of the battle of all against all which rules in modern society. This battle, a battle for life, for existence, for everything, in case of need a battle of life and death, is fought not between the different classes of society only, but also between individual members of these classes.
Each is in the way of the other, and each seeks to crowd out all who are in his way, and to put himself in their place. The workers are in constant competition among themselves. The power-loom weaver is in competition with the hand-loom weaver, the unemployed or ill-paid hand-loom weaver with him who has work or is better paid, each trying to supplant the other. But this competition of the workers among themselves is the worst side of the present state of things in its effect upon the worker, the sharpest weapon against the proletariat in the hands of the bourgoisie.
Hence the effort of the workers to nullify this competition by associations, hence the hatred of the bourgoisie towards these associations, and its triumph in every defeat which befalls them".
Frederick Engels, "The Condition of the Working Class in England" (p108)
(Times, 15 October) RD
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Almost one in three households in Glasgow have no wages coming in, official statistics have revealed.
Figures released by the Scottish Government show 62,000 households in the city - 28.9% of all homes - had no working-age adult in employment last year. That puts Glasgow behind the national average of 24%. The stats also reveal a shocking 22,900 children in Glasgow live in a workless home.
The director of the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance, branded the figures a "scandal".
"There is little doubt that unemployment means that people will struggle to afford the basics in life. For these families heating their home and putting food on the table is the challenge. In the 21st century that is quite clearly a scandal. We know that children in workless households, living in poverty, will have less chance in life than children from better-off backgrounds.We know that their education will be adversely affected and they are more likely to suffer health problems. The danger is that we perpetuate a cycle of worklessness and limited opportunity."
Capitalism cannot be reformed for the benefit of the working class and sooner the well meaning realise this fact , the sooner , we can begin the dismantling of the capitalist system .
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been sparring with President
Obama over whether Iran is developing the technology nuclear weapons.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Church and the City: bankers are said to have lost their way, with the financial
crisis being partly blamed on a culture of greed
“We haven’t heard people saying, ‘Well, actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, empty’,” Mr Williams told bankers in September. Such rhetoric echoes that of Lord Turner over the summer, when the chairman of the Financial Services Authority spoke in moralistic terms about the need for banking to become "socially useful" again. Hector Sants, his chief executive, has even explained his move to a regulatory job in terms of a sense of Christian “duty” to give something back to society after a 30-year career in money-making." (Financial Times, 7 October)
We expect Archbishops to utter hypocritical nonsense, after all it is their stock in trade, but when financiers rant on about "Christian duty" and banking becoming "socially useful" it is a bit hard to bear. Here’s to the day when banks and other financial institutes are part of our unlamented history along with all its apologists, both religious and secular. RD
Monday, October 12, 2009
If they had switched on their super duper plasma TV screens (or do they view on ipod now?) on Friday 9 October they would have seen a Channel 4 programme entitled Unreported World, Peru: Blood and Oil. It depicted the bloodshed and military violence that has accompanied the Peruvian government’s decision to auction off large parts of the Amazon countryside that has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous people.
"For the first time isolated indigenous groups are uniting to fight the government's plans to auction off 75% of the Amazon - which accounts for nearly two thirds of the country's territory - to oil, gas and mining companies. ... These would allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to obtain permits for exploration and extraction of natural resources, logging and the building of hydroelectric dams." (Times, 9 October)
What we have here is the modern enactment of what Marx described in Capital in 1867 as the "so-called primitive accumulation" in Europe from the 16th century onwards. As he so aptly put it when commenting on the Enclosure Acts and the Highland Clearances - "The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process." Far from being out of date Marxism is bang up to date with the current developments of the capitalist system. RD
Sunday, October 11, 2009
"Later this month United Nations inspectors will visit Iran's secret nuclear facility near Qom to find out if the Islamic republic is about to become the world's tenth nuclear power. Whatever they find, the world already has enough nuclear weapons to destroy every single nation on the planet. With approximately 23,000 warheads, there is enough deadly material for 2.3 million blasts the size of Hiroshima. ... The world is committed to nuclear disarmament in principle, in practice it will never happen." (Times, 6 October) RD
(Yahoo News, 2 October) RD
Friday, October 09, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Canada's Access to Medicines Regime is now five years old but only one country, Rwanda, has benefited. Progress at a glacial pace is one way to prevent change.
2 – Apparently Osama Bin Laden's ex body guard told The Toronto Star that he, Laden, didn't target civilians. He hit targets and civilians happened to be around! But wait! Isn't that exactly what "collateral damage" is that our `leaders' use to excuse murder? Seems they're all the same, surprise.
3 - More obfuscation – The news is that US taxpayers are now profiting from the bailouts of the financial system( New York Times). They are touting $4 billion in profits but ignore that trillions were spent in the first place. Sounds good anyway.
4 – Despite the well-earned reputation of the dirtiest site on earth for the Alberta tar sands oil project, the Canadian government is expected to formulate its climate change plan so that Alberta and Saskatchewan could carry on as usual, while the rest of the country, with much smaller problems vis-à-vis pollution would be restricted. You can bet that they will be screaming, not about beating climate change, but about the advantage given to the Western Provinces. John Ayers
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
"After crossing half of Africa and surviving a perilous boat trip from Libya in search of a better life in Italy, Boubacar Bailo is now contemplating suicide. One of an army of illegal immigrants hired to harvest tomatoes in the Puglia region, Bailo squats in a fetid cardboard shack restlessly waiting for a call to the fields. Every year thousands of immigrants, many from Africa, flock to the fields and orchards of southern Italy to scrape a living as seasonal workers picking grapes, olives, tomatoes and oranges. Broadly tolerated by authorities because of their role in the economy, they endure long hours of backbreaking work for as little as 15-20 euros ($22-$29) a day and live in squalid makeshift camps without running water or electricity."
"We claim it to be part of our internal waters, which gives us a lot more authority and control over it," he told CBC News
The United States and Europe have claimed that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, while Canada has held its position that it's an internal passage.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Oct. 5: For decades, Simmons Bedding Company, an iconic American business, was a
prized holding for top private equity firms. But the mattress maker has fallen
into bankruptcy for the first time in 133 years.
Presidents have slumbered on its mattresses aboard Air Force One. Dignitaries have slept on them in the Lincoln Bedroom. Its advertisements have featured Henry Ford and H. G. Wells. Eleanor Roosevelt extolled the virtues of the Simmons Beautyrest mattress, and the brand was immortalized on Broadway in Cole Porter’s song “Anything Goes.”
Its recent history has been notable, too, but for a different reason.
Simmons says it will soon file for bankruptcy protection, as part of an agreement by its current owners to sell the company — the seventh time it has been sold in a little more than two decades — all after being owned for short periods by a parade of different investment groups, known as private equity firms, which try to buy undervalued companies, mostly with borrowed money.
For many of the company’s investors, the sale will be a disaster. Its bondholders alone stand to lose more than $575 million. The company’s downfall has also devastated employees like Noble Rogers, who worked for 22 years at Simmons, most of that time at a factory outside Atlanta. He is one of 1,000 employees — more than one-quarter of the work force — laid off last year.
But Thomas H. Lee Partners of Boston has not only escaped unscathed, it has made a profit. The investment firm, which bought Simmons in 2003, has pocketed around $77 million in profit, even as the company’s fortunes have declined. THL collected hundreds of millions of dollars from the company in the form of special dividends. It also paid itself millions more in fees, first for buying the company, then for helping run it. Last year, the firm even gave itself a small raise.
Wall Street investment banks also cashed in. They collected millions for helping to arrange the takeovers and for selling the bonds that made those deals possible. All told, the various private equity owners have made around $750 million in profits from Simmons over the years.
How so many people could make so much money on a company that has been driven into bankruptcy is a tale of these financial times and an example of a growing phenomenon in corporate America.
Every step along the way, the buyers put Simmons deeper into debt. The financiers borrowed more and more money to pay ever higher prices for the company, enabling each previous owner to cash out profitably. New York Times 5th October
- Other places can't make that claim. Canada, as a whole, saw poverty reduced in 2007, but the expectation is that 2008 figures will climb back to where they were previously, or worse. Women, as usual, lead the way, especially women living on their own.
- The summer job picture was so bad that many students will have to take on increased debt to continue their studies. U of Toronto has seen a 12% increase in financial aid applications.
- Labour Day 2009 dawned with 500 000 more jobless Canadians than last year, and job losses are expected to continue.
- And that's the way it goes under capitalism. Gains in one area are sure to be lost in another, and so it will continue until private ownership is defeated. John Ayers
Sunday, October 04, 2009
"Brno, Czech Republic – Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that all of Europe — and not only this ex-communist country — must acknowledge its Christian heritage as it copes with rising immigration from other cultures and religions. The second day of Benedict's pilgrimage to this highly secular country was marked by a joyous open-air Mass that drew tens of thousands of pilgrims and a sober message for the entire continent. "History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," Benedict said." (Associated Press, 27 September)
Ah, the good old days of Christian supremacy. The burning of so-called witches, the torture of heretics and the mass slaughter of the church-sponsored crusades. Not to mention the support of dictatorships and the suppression of science when it did not accord with Christian "truths". RD
His assessment comes after warnings from Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary-General, who said this week that climate change had “potentially huge security implications” for Nato. The thinning ice cap is opening up a new Northwest Passage trade route, while it is estimatedthat previously inaccessible oil worth $90 billion (£56 billion) lies beneath ice in the Arctic Circle.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
This overview shows the district of Mongkok in Hong Kong.
Paternalism is a common attitude among well-meaning social reformers. Stemming from the root pater, or father, paternalism implies a patria...
The Socialist Party insist the working class is the only social force capable of putting an end to capitalism—the root cause of econom...
The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Scottish workers are being caught up by the "...