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Voice From the Back

WHAT FUN!

The newspapers are always reminding us that the US expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq were carried out for humanitarian reasons, so it is good to be reminded from time to time of the mind-set of some of the combatants in those conflicts. "‘Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people.’ Lieut. General James Mattis, who commanded U.S. Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, in comments during a panel discussion for which he was later reprimanded" Time (14 February).

MIND THE GAP

The gap between the rhetoric of politicians and the economic realities of capitalism is a very large one. Here is a recent example. "As Tony Blair argued that a precautionary approach to greenhouse gas emission was vital to prevent environmental disaster, the European Commission threatened legal action because the UK wanted to raise the amount of carbon that industry is allowed to pump out under the European emission trading scheme. The government was accused of caving in to business led by the Confederation of British Industry" The Observer (20 February). They are messing up our world, how do you feel about that? Pass the inhaler we feel a little sick.

USELESS TOIL

One of the most attractive features about a future socialist society is that it will do away with a lot of dangerous, dirty and nasty occupations. Think of a society without arms manufacture, armies, policemen, jailers, prostitutes, bankers, insurance men and debt collectors. One of the multi-billion dollar industries that will disappear is the advertising and marketing con game. How big an industry is revealed in the following figures of some of the big global advertising spenders. "Procter & Gamble $5.6 bn, Unilever $3.54 bn, General Motors $3.4 bn." The Observer (27 February). It is reckoned that $60 billion will be spent this year telling you what kind of toothpaste to use, clothes to wear, food to eat and what kind of credit card is "in" this year. What a madhouse.

NICE FOR SOME

In January we reported that according to the International Labour Organisation 1.4 billion, the highest number ever, were living on less than $2 a day and 550 million were living on less than $1 a day. So it is only proper that we report the other side of the coin as reported by the 2005 Forbes dollar billionaire list. "Topping the list for the 11th year running is the Microsoft boss Bill Gates, worth £24.1 billion. The 19th annual list shows the world's rich getting ever richer, with a total of 691 billionaires.Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate who has backed the Labour Party, increased his net worth by £9.7 billion to £13 billion" The Times (11 March).

RIDING THE TIGER

Piers Morgan was made editor of the News of the World when he was only 28 years of age. Within two years he was editor of the Daily Mirror, a job he held for nine years until his "exclusive" of fake pictures of British guards abusing Iraqi prisoners was exposed. He has now published his memoirs The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade. It is the usual mix of celebrity-spotting and anecdotes that such memoires tend to be. Here is an extract from a book review that reveals the high-minded thinking of our leaders. "Before the 1997 general election Morgan suggested to Blair that he shouldn't forget his friends at the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror in his cosying up to Murdoch to win the "vote" of the The Sun. ‘Piers, I had to court him‘, said Blair. ‘It is better to be riding the tiger's back than let it rip your throat out. Look at what Murdoch did to Kinnock‘" The Times (12 March).

READ IT AND WEEP

Jeffrey D.Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute and special adviser to UNO chief Kofi Annan has just written a book called The End of Poverty. Being by a reformer who thinks that capitalism can solve the problem of world hunger, the book has limited value, but what cannot be denied is the mass of information that Sachs has gathered on the state of world hunger today. It makes for awful reading. "Currently more than 8 million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive." Every morning our newspapers could report "More than 20,000 people perished yesterday of extreme poverty." How? The poor die in hospital wards that lack drugs, in villages that lack anti-malarial bed nets, in homes that lack safe drinking water. They die namelessly, without public concern. Sadly such statistics rarely get written" Time (14 March).