Friday, March 30, 2007

Transplant Tourism

As mentioned before about the medical exploitation of the poor , another report came to my attention .

"Transplant tourism" is on the rise , especially for kidneys, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said .
The United Nations agency said it was concerned about a rise in cases where people in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and the Philippines were persuaded to sell their body parts to outsiders, mostly through a broker.

"We believe 5 to 10 percent of all kidneys transplanted were in 2005 transplanted in this setting " said Luc Noel of the WHO's health technology and pharmaceuticals unit. Noel said many of those who sell their organs and tissues do not receive adequate follow-up medical care, increasing their health risks.

"There are villages that are in the poorer parts of Pakistan where as many as 40 to 50 percent of the population of the village we know only has one kidney" Farhat Moazam of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Pakistan said . She said donors are often promised as much as 150,000 rupees (1,767 pounds) for an organ but may only get a fraction of that after brokers' fees and associated medical costs are paid.

"The wealthy, in search of their own survival, will sometimes seek organs from the poor" Jeremy Chapman, a physician at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, said

We are no longer just milch cows for the rich to exploit for our labour , but now we have become their walking transplant bank .

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rich get Richer , Poor get Poorer

The New York Times is reporting that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer . So whats new .

Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans — those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 — receiving their largest share of national income since 1928 . The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression .

Total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005 but average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent. The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent.

The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.

The top 10 percent of Americans collected 48.5 percent of all reported income in 2005.

The top 1 percent received 21.8 percent of all reported income in 2005 .

The top tenth of a percent and top one-hundredth of a percent recorded even bigger gains in 2005 over the previous year. Their incomes soared by about a fifth in one year . The top tenth of a percent reported an average income of $5.6 million . The top one-hundredth of a percent had an average income of $25.7 million.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Give a dog a bad name

All children could be required to take a test to find out if they are a risk of becoming criminals, new government proposals unveiled today say.
The government plans to "establish universal checks throughout a child's development to help service providers to identify those most at risk of offending," the report says.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said. :-
"Who, for example, can disagree with the idea of 'early intervention'? But are we talking about supporting and educating young people or bar-coding babies at birth?"

Neera Sharma, the principal policy officer at the chuildren's charity Barnardos said:-
"If this means that parents might get early help and support, if it means that issues such as poor school attendance were to be addressed, this has the potential to reduce crime and keep young people out of trouble. But if a child is identified as at risk, is that family going to get the support it needs? The danger could be that they are labelled and they live up to the expectations of them. There is a risk of stigmatising the child."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Union Makes Us Strong

It's all over now

Strike update as promised in the previous post . It is over .

Sunday morning saw the continuation of the strike in support of 5 night-shift ware-house workers who management were endeavouring to discipline for allegededly working -to-rule , i.e. following loading and bag handling guidelines . Management had called forward meetings with union officials and after a few hours , the men were briefed on the progress of the discussions .

Basically , a Mexican stand-off .

Royal Mail were not going to lift the threat of disciplinary action until unofficial industrial action had stopped .

So it was now a matter of pragmatism for the CWU to find a solution that would avoid a long , painful drawn out dispute . A formula was reached which re-assured those directed threatened by discipline that they would receive a fair hearing and the agreement safeguarded all those involved in the unofficial walk-out .

Was it all worth it ? Was it worth the loss of wages ?

Of course .

A warning to Royal Mail that they cannot use managerial intimidation to browbeat its employees into agreeing improper work procedures and a gratifying display of solidarity for fellow workers after a very lengthy campaign of vilification at team-briefs by Post Office supervisors to isolate targetted work areas .

It was an example of shop-floor industrial action that hopes to maximise the impact and minimalise the cost when it comes to fighting the bosses .

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag

Full Story here but just bear in mind how Jewish people would feel if constantly confronted by the Nazi Swastika flag where-ever they went , then imagine how the Afro-Americans feel when faced by that reminder of slavery and those who fought to preserve it .

Wild-cat in Edinburgh

While i had been waxing lyrically upon my vacation in Canada trouble had been brewing in t'mill back home .

This morning as i arrived at work at the Mail Centre , i found myself confronted by picket lines . During the night there had been an unofficial walk-out .

Before the times of computers and blogs , in the mid-90s , Edinburgh had been a hotbed of militancy and contributed to much of the opposition to Royal Mail's re-organisations of working procedures , the infamous Way Forward . Since the union compromise , nay , sell-out , over the issue it has been relatively quiet apart from an occasional flare up . Royal Mail tactics have been a matter of picking off individual offices or work areas in a policy of divide and rule to enforce management's labour intensification projects .

On the night shift , 5 postal workers , when there should have been 8 working , were charged with deliberately working slow . The trouble had been building up all week since Tuesday and the matter seemed resolved til last night when the shift manager reneged on previous promises given to union reps and those 5 workers were threatened with being taken down the disciplinary code for following health and safety rules . Bullied and harrassed , more like , by a management who believed that those 5 postmen would not receive the support and sympathy of the rest of the office and would be left out to be hung and dry . A bad miscalculation by management because the Mail Centre walked , and the arriving early and back shifts honoured the picket lines . Yet again , Edinburgh displayed the resolve it was once famed for . One out - All out .

That this was an engineered provocation by post office management can be shown by the fact that duty rosters for the following week were changed on Friday evening before the walk-out took place re-deployed all the spare staff from the back-shift on to the night-shift into the effected work area and that outside agency staff had also been hired early Friday evening . Certainly seems like they were preparing for some sort of trouble for that night .

John Milne , the Mail Centre manager , well known for his deviousness and insincerity , addressed the crowds of postal workers outside the office , appealing for them to end the unofficial action but still refusing to agree to the necessary pre-condition that those 5 intimidated warehouse workers would not be subjected to any discipline charges . Without that undertaking , staff remained adamant there would be no return to work . His retort was then to say , "Well , you might be out for two or three weeks then ...Good ! "

Talks are on-going with CWU Divisional and Area union reps to seek a resolution that will guarantee no discipline charges against anyone .

Update tomorrow when management and union resume discussions .

Meantime , as many times before , i'm back to my old habits of being at the front of the picket line , stopping as many vans and trucks as i can and again demonstrating that the only strengths the working class possess is withdrawal of labour and our solidarity .

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's the same old story

From Medialens

" First you push into territories where you have no business to be , and where you had promised not to go ; secondly , your intrusion provokes resentment and , in these wild countries, resentment means resistance; thirdly, you instantly cry out that the people are rebellious and that their act is rebellion (this in spite of your own assurance that you have no intention of setting up a permanent sovereignty over them) ; fourthly, you send a force to stamp out the rebellion; and fifthly, having spread bloodshed, confusion and anarchy, you declare , with hands uplifted to the heavens, that moral reasons force you to stay, for if you were to leave, this territory would be left in a condition which no civilized power could contemplate with equanimity or with composure . These are the five stages in the Forward Rake's progress."

David Starr Jordan , Imperial Democracy, 1899

Sound familiar ?

Not much changes , does it ?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Back Again

Toronto against the war

Some may have noticed a certain degree of inactivity on this blog recently . The explanation being that i was on holiday , two weeks in Toronto , Canada .

Needless to say , for SPGBers there is no such thing as a holiday away from politics .

I met up with John Ayers , secretary of the Socialist Party of Canada and had a chin-wag with him and also with an interested inquirer who he was having discussions with and who hopefully wasn't too put off by my gloom and doom .

I attended a rally about global warming ... which more or less added up to - join the Kyoto Treaty , turn the lights off and we can all save a polar bear .

On the 17th , Toronto participated in the world wide protests calling for troops out of Iraq and the end of the war which i went along to . All the usual were present , the Canadian equivalent of the SWP and of course those Commie Cultists , the Spartacist League

Became embroiled in a rather sterile debate about the potential possibilities presented to the working class by the Russian Revolution and also the relevance of vacuous slogans such as anti-imperialism with a member of the International Bolshevik Tendency but was pleasantly surprised when he recognised that my arguments were ones he associated with the Socialist Party of Canada . Small as they are , i'm pleased they still get recognised by the Leninist Left .

Bought a few books of course . Fromm , Reich , Zinn , Upton Sinclair , Jack London .

Erich Fromm's commentary on Marx's 1844 Economic and Philospohical Manuscripts drew my attention to these thoughts of the Moor :-

" An enforced increase in wages ( disregarding the other difficulties and especially that such an anomaly could only be maintained by force ) would be nothing more than a better remuneration of slaves , and would not restore , either to the worker or to the work , their human significance and worth
Even the equality of incomes which Proudhon demands would only change the relation of the present-day worker to his work into a relation of all men to work . Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist "

And elsewhere ,

" this communism [ crude communism ] is concerned; the category of worker is not abolished but extended to all men... This communism, inasmuch as it negates the personality of man in every sphere, is simply the logical expression of the private property which is this negation. Universal envy constituting itself as a power is the hidden form in which greed reasserts itself and satisfies itself, but in another way. The thoughts of every piece of private property as such are at least turned against richer private property in the form of envy and the desire to level everything down; hence these feelings in fact constitute the essence of competition. The crude communist is merely the culmination of this envy and desire to level down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. It has a definite, limited measure. How little this abolition of private property is a true appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilization, and the return to the unnatural simplicity of the poor, unrefined man who has no needs and who has not yet even reached the stage of private property, let along gone beyond it.
(For crude communism) the community is simply a community of labor and equality of wages, which are paid out by the communal capital, the community as universal capitalist. Both sides of the relation are raised to an unimaginary universality -- labor as the condition in which everyone is placed and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community."

Those who claim to be socialists such as the SSP and those in Sheridan's Solidarity should take note of Marx when they advocate a "workers wage" and a "workers state ".

Toronto against Global Warming

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Out of Body - Out of Mind

Yet again science dispels another myth of the supernatural .

People who have out-of-body experiences are more likely to suffer a strange effect called sleep paralysis, according to a survey that adds to mounting evidence for a biological explanation for the experience , rather than anything to do with a spiritual dimension, a glimpse of heaven or the existence of the soul.

The details of sleep paralysis vary from person to person. Some hear vague sounds, indistinct voices and demonic gibberish. Others see hallucinations of humans, animals and supernatural creatures. There is a striking inability to move or to speak, or a weight on the chest.
Also common are feelings of rising off the bed or flying. In addition, people report out-of-body experiences, sometimes accompanied by "autoscopy" when they look down on themselves. Throughout history, there have also been accounts of people having visions on the brink of death - what are now called "near-death experiences".

People who have had near-death experiences are also likely to have suffered sleep paralysis, according to the survey published by a team in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, by Prof Kevin Nelson, from the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

In a survey of 55 people who had a "near-death experience" - defined as a time during a life-threatening episode when a person experienced a variety of feelings, including unusual alertness, seeing an intense light, and a feeling of peace - he found three quarters had an out-of-body experience and half of them had also felt they had left their body during the transition between wakefulness and sleep.
"We found that 96 per cent (24 of 25) of near-death subjects having sleep paralysis also had an out-of-body experience either during sleep transition or near-death," said Prof Nelson.
In a control group of 55 people, three reported an out-of-body experience. Two of them also suffered sleep paralysis. Prof Nelson says this suggests the same brain circuitry plays a role.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bluenose Murray supports the Union

Glasgow Rangers FC supports the union why aren't we surprised by that revelation ?

Perhaps Murray's main concern is more to do with the risk of losing Rangers red, white and blue fan base if he supported anything other than queen and country .

"The Union has served us well. Whether you like it or not, we have benefited from it. " sez Murray and who can disgree when we look at all the Union Jacks flying at Ibrox

Class struggle and the SPGB

I read Darren's Socialist Standard MySpace reprint of a 1937 article on the sit-down strikes in America .

The article once again reveals that we have indeed supported workers in struggle and didn't carp on from the sidelines that the trots and anarchos constantly and falsely harp on at about us .

" As Socialists, we see in this something that is to the good in the class struggle. These efforts of the workers to combine, either to resist the onslaughts of the master class, or to gain whatever they can, must meet with the support of all workers who understand their class position."...

"The particular form of economic organisation through which the struggle is conducted is one which the circumstances of the struggle must mainly determine. The chief thing is to maintain the struggle whilst capitalism lasts."...

"Meanwhile the struggle on the economic field must be looked to and encouraged. "...

"Nevertheless, the workers should take what opportunities that come along. It would be a lamentable fact if they failed to take advantage of a "rising market" in the sale of their only commodity -- their power to labour. Failure to take this elementary step in the class struggle would generally indicate failure to work for the greater movement for Socialism."...

Naturally , what we don't do is go around creating myths of false hopes and false dawns . The Socialist Party reminds workers of the reality of the class struggle and its limitations within the capitalist state , just as Marx did .

Red and Black Unite

With a certain amount of sadness i read that the Cherokee Nation have chosen to follow the road of the white man and exclude blacks from their society .

The Cherokee Nation of native Americans have voted to revoke tribal citizenship for descendants of black slaves the Cherokees once owned.
Supporters said only the Cherokees had the right to determine tribal members. Opponents said the amendment was racist and aimed at preventing those with African-American heritage from gaining tribal revenue and government funding. Members can obtain government benefits and tribal services including housing and medical support.

Tribal council member Taylor Keen said: "This is a sad chapter in Cherokee history... this is not my Cherokee Nation. My Cherokee Nation is one that honours all parts of her past."

It is a shame that the native americans have not recognise the symbiotic relationship that the negro slaves and the native peoples enjoyed in the 18th and 19th centuries and have chosen to follow the route of self-interest , even though in the past they have together fought for their freedom.

In 1726 the British governor of colonial New York exacted a promise from the Iroquois Indians to return all runaway slaves who had joined up with them. This same promise was extracted from the Huron Indians in 1764 and from the Delaware Indians in 1765. Despite their promises, no escaped slaves were ever returned by these tribes, who continued to provide a safe and secure home for escaped slaves.
As did the Seminole a few years ago , the Cherokee are now revoking that sanctuary .

Friday, March 02, 2007

Some light relief

Straying away from my usual boring political self I'm posting this story from the BBC

An 80-year-old woman has crashed her car into a driving test centre in Florida, after being summoned to retake a road safety examination.
Therese Smith smashed into the office's waiting room, injuring 11 people.

The accident was caught on surveillance camera and shows people rushing up to Ms Smith who was still buckled in her seat belt. No-one was seriously hurt.

The videotape also shows a man in a Superman costume walking around the car, but he did not stop to help the driver or any of the victims. His identity is unknown.

Can i suggest that they seek out a journalist called Clark Kent .

Scottish Poverty

The BBC is today reporting the findings of a study on Scottish poverty that Socialist Courier bloggers reported last Saturday .

Just to re-iterate , more than 900,000 people in Scotland are living in poverty, including 240,000 children .

Dr Gerry Mooney, from the Open University in Scotland, an editor and contributing author of the CPAG report, warned there was a "marked unwillingness" on the part of government to tackle the causes of inequalities in Scottish society.

Yes - since the real solution calls for an end of the exploitative social system that is Capitalism . And i would be very much surprised if Dr Mooney , himself , goes any further than demanding the tickering with a society that fundamentally cannot be reformed in the interests of the majority .

Only the total abolition of Capitalism will suffice .

Migrant Workers - Labour turns the screw once more

Migrant workers who come to Britain as cooks, cleaners and nannies could become virtual slaves in their employers' homes under new immigration rules, campaigners are warning. Ministers faced charges of hypocrisy as Labour campaigned on the issue in opposition, highlighting accusations of sexual abuse, physical assault and poverty pay regularly faced by foreign domestic staff.

17,000 non-European Union foreign nationals receive visas every year to work as domestic servants in Britain.
They are legally entitled to leave their employer if they are abused or exploited and to receive basic protection - including the minimum wage - under UK employment law.
That will be swept away by proposed changes to immigration rules, which will severely restrict domestic workers' rights.
In future domestic workers will only be allowed in on non-renewable business visas which will end their ability to get a new job if they are mistreated by their employer.

Kate Roberts, a community support worker , which counsels the victims of abusive employers, said she was horrified by the Government's change of heart. "These changes will remove the most basic protection for migrant domestic workers," she said. "They will be left incredibly vulnerable to exploitation or abuse."

Barbara Roche, a former immigration minister, said: " These new proposals are a very retrograde step. Workers who suffer abuse from employers will feel absolutely alone. "

Diana Holland, the T&G National Organiser for Women, Race and Equalities, said that until 1998 the visa system had turned "migrant domestic workers into slaves". She warned that Home Office policy reversal would strip them of their right to challenge and would once again mean abuse going unchecked.

This month's Socialist Standard carries an editorial on slavery