Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
The high cost of bugs
Did you see that report in The Sydney Morning Herald and elsewhere that the bill for fixing up the year 2000 problem (the "Y2K bug") in the Pentagon's computers — so that warheads won't detonate or missiles be launched by malfunctioning computers on January 1, 2000 — will be a cool US$2.5 billion (A$3.98 billion)? The same article reported that in Russia, the cost of de-bugging the Soviet-era computers that control their nuclear weapons and atomic reactors is approximately half a billion dollars (US$500 million or A$796 million). Am I being overly suspicious or is the Pentagon squandering public money? Again? As to Russian nuclear missiles, the Herald article quoted a certain Professor Andrei Terekov. The good Professor is apparently one of the new breed of private enterprise Russian academics: as well as being Professor of Mathematics at St Petersburg University, he is also, it seems, "a director of Lanit Holding" which the Herald describes as "a firm that is helping Russian companies" with their Y2K bug problems. According to Professor Terekov, the Russians have successfully debugged their nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems ("the problem with strategic weapons has been solved"). However, he says the country's air defence and early warning systems have not yet been fixed ("there are still problems with infrastructure" as he puts it). Boris Yeltsin has accepted an offer of expert aid to fix the Russian air defence and early warning systems: from NATO! (Yeltsin's purchase of property in Western Europe is allegedly unrelated.)
* * *Out of touch The British Communist newspaper The New Worker was startled by an article in Rupert Murdoch's up-market flagship The Times last month. The article attacked the proposal for a minimum wage in Britain on the grounds that it could double the costs of employing an au pair. According to The Times, a minimum wage will affect "lower paid female workers such as nurses, for whom an au pair is often the only type of childcare they can afford". Commented The New Worker: "It makes you wonder what planet these journalists are living on. Do they really imagine working class households have ever been able to afford au pairs? "And what is an au pair if not a low-paid female worker? And what was all that fuss a week or so ago about the dangers of employing cheap, unskilled nannies?" * * *Economic genocide An interesting exchange of email dropped into our electronic mail box last week from the USA. Briefly, one Lawrence Court proposed that someone in New York ("someone who is nearer to the centre of things") could look into the possibility of bringing a class action against the IMF for what they have done to Brazil. Court felt sure that if such a case could be launched other countries that have been devastated by global currency speculation and loan manipulation would soon join in. Although I feel sure the US ruling class would not let an adverse court decision deter them from their drive for total global domination, assuming you could even get an adverse decision, nevertheless the idea has tremendous propaganda value. It would certainly focus attention on the machinations of the IMF, the banks and the speculators. As Court says: "The effect would be profound and far-reaching. Not only would it expose what has been going on, for the whole world to see, and enable a fight-back by the people, but also it would act as a deterrent in regard to future action of a similar kind." He then goes on to characterise the recent spate of devastating, hostile raids on various countries' currencies and reserves, the manipulation of capitalist crisis to destroy national economies and leave them at the mercy of global banks and corporations, as "economic genocide". Considering the effects of such actions it's not a bad description. Court's piece was responded to — enthusiastically — by someone signing himself "Wendell W Solomons" who commented that he had counted "something like 20 mega raids" on national currencies during the last 18 months! Solomons makes the telling observation that the upswing in such economic raids is only possible because of the overthrow of the USSR, which had "a devastating effect for the informal system of checks and balances in international affairs. "The left-wing opposition of the past 60 years had curbed the naked greed and avarice that we now find being uncorked." Referring to Court's proposed class action case against the financiers, Solomons points out that "Harvard's Jeffery Sachs was the man who with the active support of Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers, promoted and propagandised (on Federal money) the privatisation (alienation) of the socialised assets of 324 million people [in Russia] before a commercial law infrastructure was developed in Russia." Addressing himself directly to Court, Solomons observes that, as far as Russia is concerned, "with 7,000 factories still not functioning" and its population "reducing in number by one million a year, your term genocide seems quite starkly in order."