Voice From The Back
“The economic crisis could help the military recruit and retain troops, Pentagon officials said Friday, potentially ending years of extraordinary bonuses and waivers that have become necessary to keep enough troops to fight two wars. “We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” said David S.C. Chu , undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.” (Yahoo News, 10 October) In other words, when young workers are desperate enough they join the armed services. The best recruiting agency for the armed forces is poverty. You need to eat? – go kill. That is capitalism for you.
WAR IS MENTAL
We are all familiar with the TV ads for the British Army that portray an exciting, fulfilling career but what many of the impoverished youths at whom the ads are aimed may not be aware of are the following facts. “The number of British military personnel discharged from the armed forces following a `nervous breakdown has risen by 30 per cent since the start of the Afghan war. More than 1,300 have been medically discharged since 2001 when operation first began against the Taliban, new figures revealed. Of these, 770 belong to the army, which has borne the brunt of overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. …The rising numbers of service personnel leaving for psychological reasons will fuel concerns that thousands of soldiers face being traumatised by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Health charities claim that as many as one in 10 soldiers will develop a mental health problem from the horrors of combat.” (Observer,19 October)
THE SAME DIFFERENCE
Amidst the misguided euphoria about the election of a Democratic Party president it is a sobering thought that whether there is a Republican or Democratic legislation capitalism carries on as usual. “Although there is a widespread belief that Wall Street prefers Republican presidents, most studies show that the market has actually done better under Democrats. Since 1901, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.2 percent a year on average under Democratic presidents and 3.2 percent under Republicans, according to Ned Davis Research. Looking at a more recent time period – 1944 through mid-2008 – the S&P was up 10.7 percent a year on average with a Democrat in the White House versus 8 percent with a Republican, according to International Strategy & Investment.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 4 November) Changing the ruling party doesn’t change the exploitation system that is capitalism.
ANOTHER MARKET GURU
Mr Brown blames the unregulated stock dealers, Mr Cameron blames Mr Brown and socialists blame the slump/boom cycle of capitalism, but here is someone with yet another explanation. “From his base in India’s financial capital Mumbai, Raj Kumar Sharma has been tracking the turbulence in the world stock markets and has come to one firm conclusion — it was written in the stars. As an astro-finance specialist, he has made a career on predicting whether the Bombay Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, Dow Jones or FTSE-100 will go up or down by studying favourable or unfavourable planetary alignments. Where many blame banks overstretching themselves or inadequate financial controls and policy, Sharma sees a clash between fiery Saturn and its arch enemy Leo as a key factor in the recent financial turmoil. ‘Leo is the sign of the sun and the sun is the father in Indian astrology,’ he told AFP. ‘But the son (Saturn) and his father (the sun) don’t get along, so whenever they are sitting in the same house together, they always fight and create ill-will and danger in the market,’ he said.” (TIME.com, 16 October)
“The Vatican has reintroduced a system of clocking in, nearly 50 years after it was last phased out. Senior clerics will have to swipe plastic cards when entering and leaving, all in a drive to improve time-keeping and efficiency. … Lay and ecclesiastical staff working in the tiny city state, are now using the swipe cards. The cards have been issued to everyone from the lowest office staff to the heads of departments, even if they are priests and archbishops, though there has been no mention if Pope Benedict XVI carries one. …It is all part of a drive to increase efficiency and to make the Vatican more meritocratic. Next year there are plans to introduce performance-related pay.” (BBC News, 3 November) Capitalism is a social system that needs concepts like “performance-related pay”, but we wonder how it will operate in the Vatican. One miracle equals how many euros? Two visions equal more or less than one miracle? We foresee some difficulties when disputes go to arbitration.