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Voice From the Back

Capitalist moonshine
Phineas T. Barnum (1810-1891) was a famous showman and circus owner who is perhaps best remembered for the phrase, “There's a sucker born every minute”, but even that old huckster would have been astounded at capitalism's most recent scam. Selling property on the moon! It's true; a Mr Dennis M. Hope of the Lunar Embassy is offering on the internet to sell you an acre of the moon. According to their website “The sale of lunar property has been ongoing for 22 years by the Lunar Embassy, which is the only company in the world to possess a legal basis and copyright for the sale of lunar, and other extraterrestial property within the confines of our solar system.” They claim to have sold over a million acres already. Its not as unlikely as it sounds, after all the majority of people on the planet earth seem to think it is a sensible arrangement to have all the resources of this planet owned by a tiny handful.

Winners and losers
“America's defence spending grew so strongly in supplying the war against Iraq that it propelled the US economy to a spring surge just as Britain and the eurozone suffered from cuts in tourism and travel.” Times, Business Section (1 August) In any war some sections of the capitalist class will benefit, such as the armament business, others will lose business and have to face possible tax increases. There is one section of the population that never gains from war – the world's working class. Ask the recently bereaved families of Iraq, Britain or the US.

Yesterday's allies
In reviewing Clyde Prestowitz's book “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions”, Economist (9 August) highlights the duplicity of US foreign policy. “He reminds us that the United States tacitly accepted the Taliban's assumption of power in Afghanistan, tells us that it supplied them with anthrax and botulin, and unkindly notes that it was one Donald Rumsfeld who went to Baghdad in 1983 to assure Saddam Hussein of American support.” This is not peculiar to US foreign policy, every country in the world adopts a policy that it hopes will advance the interests of their capitalist masters. Duplicity and double-dealing are the norm in the cut-throat world of capitalism.

US charm offensive
Some sectors of the US population seem puzzled that their troops in Afghanistan and Iraq don't seem to be universally loved so perhaps the following may shed some light on the matter. “ Like many of his fellow GIs, (Pte Simon) Behrndt's take on how best to conduct security in an occupied nation is not complicated. “Basically”, he told the Daily Telegraph, “we go in, kick in the doors, pull the guys out of bed, drag them outside, put zip ties around their wrists, throw them in the truck and take them in for questioning . . . The raids are a real adrenaline rush, plus I get to practice my Tae Kon Do moves on out-of-line EPWs (enemy prisoners of war).” The Week (9 August)

The final solution?
Labour's David Blunkett wants longer sentences, Conservative spokesman Oliver Letwin wants more prisons built, but Phil Wheatley, the new director of the prison service reckons they are both wrong. “In a direct challenge to central elements of the home secretary's criminal justice reforms, Phil Wheatley declared that prisons should not be “lightly used” because “they are not the answer” to crime. Mr Wheatley's extraordinary comment that overcrowding was one factor behind the record increase in suicides is likely to be welcomed by members of the judiciary, who have warned that Mr Blunkett's reforms will swell the prison population yet further.” Guardian (18 August) Maybe Wheatley, Letwin and the judiciary have got it wrong; could Blunkett have a “cunning plan” a la Blackadder? With a prison population in England and Wales of 74,000 and 105 suicides maybe his plan is to double the overcrowding and thus the suicide rate. More suicides equals less criminals! It could be a New Labour vote winner with league tables just like schools and hospitals.