Voice From the Back

Watch the parking meters
In a strange couplet Bob Dylan once sang “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.” It seemed a weird rhyme, although the advice about leadership was sound; but a recent report on the Duke of Westminster may have given some substance to Dylan’s advice. “The duke, who is 53, is Britain’s second-richest man, whose wealth is based on tracts of land in Central London, including 200 acres in Belgravia and 100 acres in Mayfair. The land is so valuable that the Grosvenor Group sold a parking space in Mayfair for £65,000 in 2002” The Times (25 January). Nice one, Bob. We won’t be allowed to park there, will we?

Telling it like it is

It is not often that capitalists tell the truth about their system, so we couldn’t resist recording the following rare statement. “Governments, not oil companies, must act now on global warning or there will be a ‘disaster’, the chairman of Shell’s UK arm warned last night. … ‘Whether you like it or not, we live in a capitalist society. If we at Shell ceased to find and extract and market fossil fuel products while there was a demand for them, we would fail as a company. Shell would disappear as any kind of economic force,’ Lord Oxburgh maintained” The Independent (26 January). Even the owning class know this society doesn’t work. It sucks.   

Human rights adviser?

“Elliot Abrams, a special assistant to the president and an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, has been appointed deputy national security adviser with a focus on promoting global democracy and human rights” Associated Press (2 February). This is the same Abrams who was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his role in illicitly raising money for the contras, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offences (including withholding information from the Congress) in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail sentence.

The Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory said of him, “Members of Congress remember Abram’s snarling appearance at committee hearings, defending death squads and dictators, denying massacres, lying about illegal US activities in support of the Nicaraguan contras.” Wow, we have a real champion of human rights here.

Its a mad, mad world

“Laura Bush – or ‘First Fashionista’ as the New York Post has dubbed her – was posing for a photo opportunity on a catwalk next to designers Caroline Herrera and Oscar de la Renta. Her arrival turned Bryant Park, the temporary Midtown home of the fashion circus, into a twilight zone. The homeless people had disappeared, policemen dotted the pavement instead. A large black van was parked ostentatiously in a pedestrian area, and filled with men in suits emblazoned with the words “secret service” in white capital letters” The Observer (6 February). This prompts us to ask two questions: where had the homeless people disappeared to?, and how secret is a secret seviceman with a secret service label? We imagine the homeless will have been put out of camera shot, and none of them allowed to speak. This is called democracy?

An ill wind

Two items from the same magazine illustrate what a hellish society capitalism is. They show the awful consequence of a social disaster like world poverty and how even a natural disaster can be a money-making opportunity. “Poverty is a man-made tsunami. ‘The biggest tyranny in the world is the tyranny of an empty stomach.’ John Samuels, a founding member of Global Call to Action Against Poverty, launched at the World Social Forum.” “$300 Market price, before the tsunami, to rent a house with indoor plumbing in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, for one month. $4,000 Current market price, due to increased demand from aid workers and journalists” Time (7 February). Making money out of human misery is disgusting, but then capitalism is a disgusting society.

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