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Voice From the Back

Corporate crookery
Next time you hear apologists for capitalism lauding its marvellous attributes remind them of the following little list, compiled by the Economist magazine at the end of last year. Andrew Pastow, former finance director of Enron was charged with fraud and conspiracy. Michael Kopper, his assistant, pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering. Scott Sullivan, ex-finance chief of WorldCom was indicted on charges of securities fraud and making false filings with the SEC. David Myers of the
same firm pleaded guilty to similar charges  and their ex-director of accounting Bufford Yates plead guilty to securities fraud. New York prosecutors charged Tyco's Dennis Kowslowski and his finance chief, Mark Swartz with stealing more than $170 million and illegally obtaining more than $400 million by selling shares.Yeah, great system.

Cold as charity
The sincerity and sacrifice of charity workers is legendary, but from a socialist perspective charity is worse than useless. Take the recent example from the Times (21 December). “The charity Crisis will celebrate its 30th anniversary by opening five temporary cold weather shelters for homeless people in London on Monday. More than 2,500 volunteers will staff the shelters, which will provide accommodation, friendship and practical help for an expected 900 between December 23 and 30.”  The most obvious question that arises is what happens on 31 December? Another one is what will happen to this charity in the future? Another 30 years trying to patch up capitalism?

Pay up or die
“The United States effectively blocked agreement on a global pact to allow poor countries to buy cheap drugs to tackle epidemics such as Aids, malaria and tuberculosis. . . . . An organisation (NGO) campaigning for a deal accused the big powers of being driven by the interests of their pharmaceutical firms rather than by humanitarian considerations” Herald (21 December). The whole purpose of capitalist production is to realise a profit. If, in protecting their patents, drug firms condemn millions to an early grave; well, that is just the logic of the market place.

A gentleman of the press
The British tabloid press has a world-wide reputation for sleaze, hypocrisy and downright lies, so it is with pleasure we record an editor of one such comic book, Piers Morgan, editor of the Mirror, telling the truth for once! “Editorials I regret running? What's the point? You can always run the complete opposite view later if the mood takes you. Tabloid newspapers are a fast-moving torrent of contradictions, U-turns, self-serving policy changes and shocking hypocrisy. That's why I love them so much” Observer
Magazine (22 December).

Our betters
As the world teetered on the brink of a Middle East war, and everybody was trying to figure out President Bush's intentions, he took a reporter to task, in a fashion more akin to a spoiled child who was having a tantrum than the so-called “most powerful man in he world”. “You said we're headed to war in Iraq. I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you” Times (2 January). It's a bit scarey aint it?

Bargain basement
The New York Times (5 January) reports on the cut-rate luxury goods that are now available because of the turn-down on the stock exchange. “Rather than pay £30,000 for a haute couture Christian Dior wedding dress, brides can now wear embroidered satin bridal pieces by Dior for $1,700 to $13,000. And instead of paying all those first class fares, moguls can buy their own jets for $850,000.” One millionaire, Dick Cray, president of Premium Beverage was so excited at the news that he remarked, “A jet for under a million? Well that gets your attention.” Yeah, Cray, we can imagine the intense excitement these bargains must make on New York's daily subway commuters.

Bags of money
The journalist Jonathan Meades writing in Times (11 January) uncovered one commercial opportunity that may arise in the event of a war in Iraq.“Body bags, for instance. These retail for between £10.52, inc. VAT (single use, “ideal for transporting bodies and protecting the vehicle from bodily fluids”) and £46.94, inc. VAT (heavy duty, re-useable, 'ideal for transposing bodies . . .')”. What a disgusting social system we live in. Let's change it.