Monday, December 24, 2007
- industrial unions within the context of "fordism" -- fordism and mid-20th century capitalism allowed a few gigantic corporations to dominate the economy. Because of realities of technology, these firms employed armies of industrial mass-production workers. Because of realities of economics, these mass-production workers could (if they could arrange it) shut down significant portions of the leading production of the economies of nations. Because of political realities (having to do with the crises of the 1930s and 1940s) these workers were able to unionize and exercise this latent power.
- an important portion of this political reality was the existence of a genuine threat of an alternative; this being Soviet-style communism. It's often perception that is more important than reality when it comes to elites. In the case of the elites and Soviet Communism, many Western elites saw the governments of the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China as offering an alternative to voters in the West. For that reason, many leaders in the West advocated providing workers with reforms in the hopes of forestalling revolution.
- public sector unions and the growth of government: prior to 1929, even after the accomplishments of the Progressive Movement, and the realities of World War I economies, capitalists and many capitalist politicians were able to delude themselves that some fantastical illusion of a "free market" was a sufficient means for organizing industrial-urban society. The ten lost years of the Great Depression and successful public mobilization of resources in World War II disabused them of that notion. While significant public activism in the economy was and is still regarded as heresy against the laws of nature by right-wing cranks, even they aren't going to do anything to roll-back the size of the state to 1929 levels. (Maybe. In this late period of right-wing triumphalism and delusion, anything is possible, despite what the reality-based communities have to say on the subject. ) Anyhow, ... the state grew in importance as an employer and provided large numbers of workers with steady work, ... and in response to the culture of the times, these workers were allowed to unionize. In Canada, these public sector workers and their unions remain significant sources of progressive strength and resources, even after over two decades of assaults.
- the welfare state, "full" employment policies, and mass education: While education is usually intended as a means of training obedient workers and indoctrinated managers, ... and while revolutions had been fought and sometimes won by illiterate peasants and workers in the past, it was and is also the case that education systems sometimes train people for independence, as well as providing expecatations of fulfilling work and careers. When these expectations are not met, there is often an articulate pool of resentment. In the 1960s and 1970s, and even up to today, the former manifestation, ... independent, critical thinkers, continue to be produced in larger numbers.
- feminism: economic independence and education produced the second wave of feminism, in the West, producing a powerful movement that has had impacts on the social, economic, and political levels. It has also created a body of critical thinking that naturally responds with skepticism to the platitudes of elites.
- environmentalism: full employment and the welfare state created a sense among many that the struggle for survival (in a realistic sense, I mean within the economic and technological realities of the late-20th century West) did not require constant consumption of the world's resources, strip-mining of all available natural resources. It too served as an area of critical thought.
I suspect that I'm getting into results of the sources of strength. I don't know. I haven't typed an entry for a number of days, and I need to put something out there.
We need to take stock today, of what our potentialities are. That's all for now spam-bots and uninvestigated google hits. And me.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
But, I would argue to such a conservative, that right-wing policies really only serve to reward a rapacious elite, people more selfish and thoughtless than is healthy for human society. Inequalities of power, meant to place the superior over the inferior have invariably rewarded the most violent and rapacious. And then the system produces a ruling class of the privileged, unremarkable children of those greedy sociopaths.
It remains the case that the best years for industrial capitalism were the years between 1945-73. The time when our societies were at their most democratic. This was the era that saw significant gains in living standards for the working class, for the democratic and material rights of oppressed minorities, for feminism, for the rights of youth. All these gains in the Western capitalist democracies produced a fear on the part of the elites, so that they called it a "crisis of democracy." And they therefore worked to destroy it. But the achievements of that era are with us still: a vibrant peace movement, sanity on the strength of the environment, and a more mature attitude towards sexuality and its diversity (please remember the pathetic batch of closet-cases and rapists who seek to impose their "family values" upon the rest of us).
Even the poorer nations were getting in on the act. And when it came to the enormous rise in oil and other commodity prices, Western elites had had enough and they sought to destroy the many-headed hydra of democratic impulses. We see the glorious results of their efforts. The demented simpleton, george w. bush has presided over the creation of perhaps one million violent deaths in Iraq, the creation of 2 million refugees, which, in the calculus of narrow-minded bigoted US policy leaders, counts as the greatest foreign policy blunders in their country's history. Meanwhile, the capitalist ruling class, the mass entity that had the power to sabotage (alas, perhaps not fatally) bush II and Cheney's delusions about attacking Iran as well, has not had the power to police itself, and has produced with its real-estate speculations yet another gigantic credit crisis for the US and world financial systems.
It appears that social inequality only gives a minority of stupid people the power to lord it over everyone else and to create even bigger messes that mass democracy produces. The genius of democracy is that individuals' self-interest works at a rational level to counteract the selfish attacks of other peoples' stupidity. We are not all uniformly stupid all the time, and we can and have acted to defend ourselves from the out-of-control stupidity of the most violent and rapacious.
Finally, social inequality prods people to put their own selfishness and desperation to work as a survival mechanism, creating a society of bitter, vicious cretins.
The best means for conducting the affairs of the billions of voracious humans on this planet is through leftist policies of equality, democracy, and human rights.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
One part reads: "After an early autumn in which his government regularly and successfully divided the opposition - particularly Stephane Dion's Liberals - Mr. Harper's Conservatives have found themselves dealing with a series of negative events."
It occurred to me that Harper was successful when he was trying to be destructive, but with his present unpopularity (a result of the nauseatingly bad high policy of his government) and traditional conservative corruption and incompetence beginning to blossom, making his enemies look bad isn't going to save him.
This latest mutation of "conservatism" is an empty shell, but for the lingering stench of the foul soul that died within it long ago.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The same goes for getting imperialist politicians to bring an end to their imperialist wars. It isn't going to happen. We have to do it ourselves. The sooner we stop deluding ourselves that the party of the corpor-rats and the stupes, and the other party of the copor-rats and the deluded, are going to do what we ask them to, the sooner we can start doing the serious work of finding out how we can accomplish these things ourselves.
Fuck off wayne. You support arbitrary arrests and political harrassment. I don't give a shit what you say about anything from now on.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Under the circumstances, our actions probably seemed heartless, but the truth of the matter is that we could not see that there would be any end in sight to the situation, and, more importantly, we were being made to feel unwelcome in our own home.
There are two sides to every story. We feel we did more than our fair share. That's all I intend to say on the matter.
Evidently, the US Federal Reserve's quarter-point rate cut isn't having the desired effect because the US banking system is paranoid as a result of its own pervasive corruption.
In other news, the Harpercons have pulled their copyright bill again. So, maybe a victory there. And I watched a few minutes of Brian Mulroney's testimony yesterday. I'd like to have seen Chretien or Martin squirm like that. Seemed to me, Mulroney was trying to bluster his way through his completely sloppy "accounting" of the money he said he never got from the guy he never liked. Brazen fibbery. I couldn't watch much of it.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Why, for instance, is the antiwar movement basically nowhere on campuses? I don't know, and the people on campuses I've spoken to don't have good answers either, but it's up to them to answer that. They were disappointed when the war wasn't stopped before it started after the Feb. 15, 2003, worldwide demonstrations. They were disappointed when it wasn't stopped after that, and after a few more marches. They were disappointed and demoralized when Bush was re-elected. They can never get more than 15 people for a meeting and 5 are pushing a sectarian agenda, 5 want to talk only about Palestine and 5 can't get past identity politics.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
How casually we take civil rights. A Commons committee is examining the government's plan to fix an unconstitutional law that allows it to lock up non-citizens indefinitely without charge. But committee members won't let lawyers for the six men detained under this law appear before them because –given a tight February deadline set by the Supreme Court, plus the six weeks of Christmas holidays that MPs allow themselves – there just isn't enough time.
What else can you say?
Friday, December 7, 2007
But his latest criticisms of the bush II regime's demonstrable lying on Iran's nuclear ambitions is bang-on. This is inexcusable behaviour on the part of any government, especially that of the most powerful nation in the world.
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that the National Intelligence Estimate this week talks of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program in 2003…And you talked of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program on October 17th…
And that term suspending is just a coincidence?
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that nobody told you any of this until last week?
Your insistence that you were not briefed on the NIE until last week might be legally true — something like “what the definition of ‘is’ is” — but with the subject matter being not interns but the threat of nuclear war.
Legally, it might save you from some war crimes trial… but ethically, it is a lie.
It is indefensible.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
The OPP say charges are pending after a protest rally over a native-operated smoke shop erupted into violence. Two people, including controversial figure Gary McHale, were injured during the
melee on Saturday morning.McHale suffered a bruised rib, black eye and head and feet injuries.
Cue the closeted racists to appear and start denouncing First Nations violence, roused from their blissful sleep, where they were not dreaming about over one-hundred years of broken treaties and "two-tier justice" against the First Nations.
Note to the banned: Your links aren't being considered because your track record on everything has been disastrous, and Gary McHale has been a complete idiot and a hypocrite for over a year now, so he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Apparently, Vladimer Putin wants to be Prime Minister of Russia and there's a strong possibility that he'll get to be.
Putin represents the class of former-Soviet state rulers who helped orchestrate the top-down revolution that destroyed the official myth of "ownership by the people" and instead, through a corrupt privatization process, gave it to the managerial class (that is to say, themselves).
But some of these guys stayed in the public sector, and while they got rich through corruption, they got nowhere near as wealthy as the few, better-positioned who became "oligarchs" along with out-and-out mobsters. They watched resentfully as the oligarchs looted the country and took the wealth to Western banks, as Russia sank into the most pathetic weakness.
Putin represents the gang left behind by the oligarchs. But Putin's gang still controlled the legal system, and they have the power to crack-down on this tiny bunch of would-be plutocrats. No tactic is out-of-bounds to this ruthless caste.
Together with the high price of oil, Russia is on a sounder footing to make a stand in the world, but it's testimony to Russia's continued weakness that this stance is a nakedly surly, resentful, nasty one.
But what Putin's continued strength means is that democracy is still not an option. Not after the word was so abused and discredited during the Yeltsin era, when illegal state violence and massive corruption was greeted with applause by the sensitive, liberal West.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
We tend to care about the environment and if the vast majority of the world's scientists say that our constant belching of gigantic clouds of smoke and other dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere is having a major and worrisome effect on the planet, we take it seriously. Especially if the scientists who reject this analysis appear to all be funded by the oil companies or other contributors to the alleged problem. That, or they're unpublished cranks who Alexander Cockburn has dredged up in a desperate attempt to maintain a disproven thesis.
We certainly don't go to war, or ignore the possibility of global warming, if the people who tell us to are the biggest, absolute idiots in all the world. People who feel compelled to abuse respected Canadian scientist and eco-activist David Suzuki with all manner of hateful abuse; calling him a charlatan for his warnings about the danger of global warming, while at the same time being able to believe in the contradictory theses that the world is not warming up AND that the world is warming up because the whole solar system is warming up.
It's a serious subject dipshits, which is it? Is the world heating up or isn't it?
People who I like tend not to think that the authorities should be empowered to sweep anyone and everyone off the street and hold them indefinitely without even charging them with anything, subjecting them to torture to produce useless "confessions" and using these "confessions" to go after people of a similar skin colour or political orientation.
People who I like tend to be sane, reasonable, humane people with an natural tendency to prefer the truth to stupid, insulting lies.
People who I don't like believe these stupid lies. They repeat them and tell their own. They're ugly-minded, useless people. People like the execrable Werner Patels, or as some have taken to calling him: "Weiner Prattles."
When faced with a clear case of unjustified police brutality (brutality is never justified, but occasionally you can see a reason for it) as the recent shameful, black-eye for Canada, when four RCMP officers tasered, swarmed and killed an unarmed, distraught man at Vancouver International Airport, Werner is quick to side with the out-of-control cops and cast aspersions on the victim:
Exactly. The Taser is the best approach available. The public needs to be protected from such animals. In the (good) old days, he would have been shot; with a Taser, death is not the most common outcome at all. But as I also said, if you act like an animal, you have to be prepared to face the consequences, including death.
Again, when Canada is disgraced (Hello! The RCMP was involved again! How about that?) by our complicity in helping the bush II regime ship Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured, Werner is once again quick to blame the victim and defend the perpretators:
Another such case of ‘manipulation by media’ was the hoopla around Maher Arar, a Syrian living in Canada who was deported by the US government to Syria, where he remained for some time before he was released and returned to Canada. Arar claimed that he had been tortured in Syria but to this day has failed to provide evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) of his allegations. The Canadian government, to avoid a lawsuit he had filed for several hundred million dollars, decided it was better to pay him C$10 million and get him to shut up once and for all.
What ridiculous, hateful stupidity. Patels describes Arar as "a Syrian living in Canada," which is wrong. Arar is a Canadian citizen. Syria doesn't allow anyone to renounce their citizenship, but even if Arar wanted to be a dual-citizen, he would still be a Canadian. Werner doesn't want to be called "a piece of shit that fell out of Mrs. Patels and is now lying around in Canada" does he? I could go on, but the lies and stupidities are too pervasive.
Why am I discussing this imbecile? It's part of a wider argument, bear with me. (Or don't. It's a free country.) The main reason I know anything about Werner Patels is through the work of Canadian Cynic, who somehow has the strength to daily keep tabs on the right-wing blogosphere and report on their various and sundry atrocities. It was also due to Canadian Cynic that I encountered one Tony Phryllis, who saw fit to link approvingly to Werner's idiotic diatribe:
The crux of the writer's argument, at least the way I read it, is that conservative blogs help deliver truth in a world where the mainstream media is biased while liberal blogs help perpetuate the bias.
Read the article by Werner Patels for yourself to see if it makes sense.
Okay, big fucking deal. One stupid loser links to another stupid loser. But here's the thing; Phyrillas has this link to a book called Tip of the Spear, which is apparently about one citizen standing up to corruption in Philadelphia politics
Musician, businessman, politician, citizen activist, revolutionary. Russ Diamond has been a lot of things during his 44 years. Add author to the list.The founder of PACleanSweep, which led the fight to repeal the July 2005 pay raise and punish members of the Legislature for their betrayal of the public trust, Diamond has chronicled his efforts to reform state government in a new book, "Tip of the Spear." ... Makes a wonderful holiday gift for that political revolutionary in your life.
I don't know much about Pennsylvania politics. Matter of fact, I know sweet dick-all about the subject. But if this right-wing doofus points to Tip of the Spear as an admirable example of citizen activism, I'm sure the book is as lame as Werner Patel's political analysis.
But this Russ Diamond fellow has (allegedly) had some sort of impact on the world of Pennsylvania politics, beyond empty-headed bloviating. In this, he is quite similar to all the right-wing foot soldiers, all the Christian-right chumps and saps, who have lined-up to make sure that the unions that could have protected them, the environmental laws that could have preserved their world, the welfare state that could have shielded them from their masters' economic policies were destroyed. About the only non-negative thing they've achieved is to make illegal all the homosexual behaviour that they're so evidently prone to. (I said "non-negative" but not positive. By this I mean they wrote laws that did things, albeit bad things.)Just like the happily witless Toronto Sun letter writers who bitch endlessly about immigrants, taxes, and spending on the people, I'm sure that Diamond has had a real influence on his world, all of it bad.
That's what makes Phryllis momentarily important to me. This unremarkable US right-wing idiot, the creation of a community of losers, scum, madmen, is part of gigantic network of similar idiots from the pitifully insane Werner Patels to this Russ Diamond fellow. And while their wave has crested, they did a powerful amount of damage during the almost thirty years they had in power.
The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 is a convenient signpost for the movement represented by the goons of our present times. The significance of Ronald Reagan is that he represented a conscious decision to embrace fantasy over reality, to celebrate ignorance over inconvenient reality, to use simplistic slogans over nuanced deliberations, and to engage in naked agression over the pretence of diplomacy. Reagan was not so much different from Jimmy Carter insofar as the outcomes were pretty much the same (see El Salvador for instance), but in the inane justifications, and the abusrd evidence he and his handlers would use as arguments for his destructive policies.
Ronald Reagan was an actor, and a simple-minded individual as well. He was therefore perfect in acting the role of a heroic American president, in a simple-minded fantasy just perfect for all the simpletons who had been mourning their lost privileges and shattered delusions since the 1960s.
By "simpletons" I mean the slow-witted authoritarian white males, anyone who ever felt threatened by the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Minority civil rights, feminism, environmentalism, the peace movement, ... all these challenges to the bigoted status-quo of racism, sexism, destructive consumerism and plunder, militarism. Also, there was the gay rights movement, religious pluralism, and the intellectual challenges to entrenched capitalism spreading through academia. In short, a thorough, and long overdue challenge to the whole gamut of prejudices, delusions, superstitions, and cultural bullying of a large portion of society.
Reagan's victory came at a very significant point in his nation's and the world's history. The US empire was weakening for reasons unrelated to beginnings of democratic upsurge. An overvalued US dollar until Nixon abandoned the gold standard in 1973, had weakened US industry for years. Imperial overstretch, especially in Vietnam, where the nationalist resistance had the support and protection of both the relatively powerful Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China, had brought on a political-military crisis. The recovery of Cold War clients of Western Europe and Japan was a further challenge to US economic superiority. The "Third World" was feeling its strength in the surging world economy, demanding higher commodity prices and a better deal from the international economy overall. The best example of this "Third World" insurgency was the successful oil price revolution of the OPEC cartel. In the USA's "backyard" of Latin America, decades of repression and (inevitably) failed capitalist development schemes had produced a widespread insurgency, similar to what we're seeing now in the early-21st century.
Finally, and most traumatically for the American people, on top of all this, the people of Iran rose up against the brutal, corrupt, US puppet, the Shah, and Iranian university students invaded and occupied the American Embassy in Tehran in anger over their suspicions that the US government was continuing to plot with the Shah to destroy their revolution. Several US Embassy staff were taken hostage and the occupation lasted for months. During the crisis, the Carter Administration attempted a military rescue of the hostages which ended disastrously and seemed to be representative of then-current worries of the USA's "weakness."
This perception of "weakness" had stemmed from the USA's supposed "defeat" in Vietnam. (They had been unable to impose a puppet government against the will of the vast majority of the Vietnamese people and against an organized North Vietnamese military backed-by the two great communist military powers.) In the face of the obvious lies and incompetence of successive US governments on Vietnam, the American people were reluctant to endorse further military adventurism for years afterwards, compelling the Carter Administration to have to pursue diplomacy and negotiation with international adversaries, rather than instantly resorting to brute force. This brief period of sanity was referred to as "The Vietnam Syndrome."
The decline in US dominance was not due to "decadence" and "weakness," arising as some sort of unavoidable consequence of women getting decent pay, treating blacks as equals, driving smaller cars, or not sacrificing one's children to Moloch, but from real structural causes. In 1945, the United States of America was the world's creditor nation, the only economic great power with an intact industrial base, with by far the most powerful military capabilities the world had ever seen. The economy was humming along because of new-found consumer strength, because of postwar reconstruction, military Keynesianism, and other causes. But such an artificial position of total dominance could not last. When its rivals had recovered, when capitalism's enemies found new sources of strength, when the US began to be challenged as it moved into the former European empires after 1945, the image of pristine supremacy of 1945-50 could not be sustained.
But this was all too difficult for morons seeking scapegoats and easy answers. Just as Western civilization was getting smarter, Western imperialism was getting injured enough for the morons, thugs, imperialists, racists, assholes, weeping over their lost entitlements, to blame the good people for these geo-political developments. "Reaganism" was to be the antidote. Union-busting. Tax-cuts for the rich. Deregulation of the economy. Shredding of the welfare state (even the stunted US one). And unapologetic support for brutality, imperialism, and militarism worldwide.
A group of right-wing hacks and war-mongers calling themselves the Committee on the Present Danger had concocted a fraudulent analysis of Soviet military power (similar to Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's fraudulent "missile gap" with the Soviets, and the recent fraudulent PNAC analysis) claiming that the USSR was overtaking the USA militarily. Obviously the thing to do was to rachet-up military spending enormously. (This last gasp of counter-cyclical military Keynesianism might have actually helped Reagan on the economic front. It certainly mitigated the high-interest rate recession which occured at the beginning of his first term.)
It has been downhill ever since. Reagan was allowed to say any fool-ugly thing that popped into his head. Trees caused pollution. The Nicarauguan Contra rebels, raping and murdering their way throughout that poor country were the moral equivalent of the US founding fathers. Libya was to be bombed. Tiny Grenada was invaded and treated as an example of US heroism. Black welfare queens were responsible for the deficits. And, in the Iran-Contra scandal, some of the most significant crimes of any US president were excused by their being carried-out by a confused, kindly grandfather and an allegedly telegenic US Marine colonel.
Neurotic, far-right whacko billionaires responded to the increased influence of sane people in the media and decided to meet the challenge by funding hack publishers and pro-business think-tank/propaganda mills. And they bought up geneuine media outlets and gave guaranteed careers to shameless professional liars, and denied access to the voices of reason. And certain sectors of the population, those who had been forced into some mild form of reticence about their love of war, injustice, bullying, and theft, lapped it all up. America was great. America was strong. The thing to do was to push all the feminist bitches, faggots, atheists, and darkies, back into the shadows, and let the upstanding white Christian [allegedly apparently] heterosexual men, those who had proven incapable of keeping up with the changing times, back in charge. We now have an entire network FOX news, and a culture of lies, swallowed up by deluded, ugly shits.
And of course, these morons, being morons, have fucked everything up. As their movement went from strength to strength, they gained in the self-confidence of their bankrupt ideas and their impunity at ever facing a reckoning for their corruption and brutality. But now their control over the system is at its peak, and their influence over the population is self-destructing. This article:
Does an admirable job of outlining their moral decline. And now, they have barfed up stammering moron bush II, and the "brains" behind their operation (the laughable Cheney and Rumsfeld) were allowed to pursue their hubris to its fullest extent, producing the greateset US foreign policy disaster in their nation's history. They have brought ruin to the economy, hollowing it out in their pursuit of maximum individual profit. And they have revealed the full extent of their sleazy hypocrisy with the implosions of various "Christian" movements ... Ralph Reed's cynical work for Jack Abramoff, and Falwell and Robertson's ghoulish blaming of the victims after 9-11. It's all gone wrong, because these people are wrong, stupid, losers.
We on the left, we in the reality-based community have to be poised to seize the moment.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Since June 2000, almost half of Canada's soldiers have been receiving a bump in their monthly salary -- dubbed the post living differential -- for living and working in cities with a high cost of living.
However, the Forces is reviewing the payments, and according to a report on Global National last night, the Tory government plans to put a halt to them.
Maybe, maybe, some new, similar program is in the works, however:
a new wage package -- which includes post living differential, rental rates for married quarters and special duties allowances -- was discussed by federal Treasury Board but no government announcement had yet been made.
It will be a good idea to keep an eye on this one. Harper doesn't have as many chances to provide blatant examples of hypocrisy on his party's whole "support the troops" mantra as the bush II regime gets. Perhaps he's taking the opportunities to rub everyone's noses in his cynicism and all-around scuzziness where he can find them.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
"I love America because America loves war."
Abu-abu-asshat wrote comment after comment, asserting that my scorn for these war-mongers was evidence of insanity because I used nasty words to describe them. I tried and I tried to get some sort of sustained, coherent statement out of the asshat, to show why such people shouldn't be derided in the strongest terms possible. Why should we maintain some level of dignified discourse when it comes to discussing them?
Alas, the most that I can make of it is that abu-asshat objects to foul language and that's that.
Which prompted me to write this post. I wondered this morning if asshat was being cynical. Simply posting insulting assertions about my mental health in order to waste my time, and perhaps to infuriate me, an on-line leftist, and therefore an enemy in the "culture war." But it now occurs to me that asshat really does object to cuss-words, and, furthermore, that asshat probably sympathizes with the war-mongers (who will, if recent history is any guide, not sign-up for the war that they claim to love so much, allowing others to fight and suffer and die on their behalf).
In short: Asshat is not "evil," but "stupid." (Obviously, they're not mutually exclusive terms. Asshat's "evil" arises out of the positions that it takes out of stupidity.)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
And then I wondered; are these clowns actually being smart? Are their blatant double-standards merely a tactical decision? Are they cognizant that there is a war going on, a "culture" or "ideological" war and that all's fair in love and war, as the saying goes?
Then I thought, nahh. They're just hypocritical morons who have no idea how stupid they sound. And what convinces me that their hypocrisy is genuine rather than cynical tactics is that these dumbkoffs are themselves victimized by their own political masters. Working-class shlubs without the brains to know who their real enemies are, and lacking the courage to go after their powerful exploiters even if they could figure out how they're being cheated. Religious dupes at war with themselves and by extension everyone else who won't conform to their narrow, superstitious morality. Wanna-be tycoons who will never get a foot in the door, but live vicariously through their simplistic business ("bizness") books and their Ayn Rand fantasies.
So, in the end, they're just stupid.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
"Students Wear Confederate Flag Shirts To Oppose Peace-Shirt Group"
It seems that some nice kids at a Florida highschool have decided to start a peace club. This involved their wearing shirts with homemade peace symbols on them every Thursday, and, later, putting up peace posters on each others' lockers. It was intended to be a fun, non-partisan way for these kids to express how much they liked the state wherein resources aren't wasted on guns provided by profiteer scum, children's lives aren't destroyed by these weapons which maim and kill them and their loved ones, and so-on and such-forth.
Sadly, things haven't been going so well for the peace club in the Florida highschool:
The heckling began early in the school year, according to group members. They said they were putting small posters promoting peace on friends’ lockers with their permission.
They thought it was OK, because the cheerleaders and football players had signs on theirs. Eventually, though, group members said they were told by the school’s administration they could no longer hang up the posters.
“People tore them down and drew swastikas and ‘white power’ stuff on them,” Lauren said. Skylar had similar things written on her posters.
“Someone taped an ‘I Love Bush’ sign over my ‘Wage Peace’ sign,” she said. “So I tore it down, threw it away, and the whole commons starting booing. I walk by later and find that someone has completely tore my sign down and placed an ‘I Love America, Because America Loves War’ sign up.”
Nice. Here's my thoughts on the subject: Peace club kids, you guys are an inspiration. You're brave, noble, and obviously incredibly intelligent and mature for being able to resist the brainwashing efforts of your country's utterly detestable media-government establishment.
To the enemies of the peace club, you guys stink. I'm sure some of the swastikas and "white power" scrawlings were only intended in the lame, callous manner of teenage shock humour. (That's how we spell "humor" here in Canada!) In this context however, when your country has been raping and pillaging in Iraq for half a decade, when by some scientific estimates your country has presided over the deaths of over a million men, women and children, when countless other children your age and younger have lost their childhoods to the horrors of war, you're just not funny.
To the committed enemies of peace, you guys really stink. And you're stupid. Your president is a moron, a hypocrite, and a coward. Oh yeah, he's a thief and a dictator. He's the laughing-stock of the world, and that's saying a lot for a political system that's now regarded as a pathetic joke worldwide. I pray that when you graduate (probably by hiring people to do your assignments and write your exams) that you go to Iraq and suffer all the horrors of the war that you claim to love so much. But if the past is any indication, you won't go. Because like most bush-fetishist war-mongering scum, you leave the fighting and dying up to other people.
I can't really blame you guys for being such empty-headed idiots though. You weren't raised right is all. How could you have been, what with your closet-case fathers all off every night getting corn-holed at roadside gay orgies ("Jesus, I have failed you again!") and your mothers' minds destroyed by bulimia-induced malnutrition and their days spent swigging booze and bribing gardeners and other tradesmen to gang-bang them.
To the dipshit who wrote "I Love America, Because America Loves War," well now, you have to go to war now, don't you? Anyway, thanks for expressing the thoughts that have made the vast majority of humanity loathe you. Sure, you guys are still the most powerful country in the world, but another decade of your kind of government and you'll collapse into civil war and anarchy.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Of course, acknowledging the holocaust in Iraq might change the debate over the war. While Iraqi lives do not count for much in US politics, recognizing that a mass slaughter of this magnitude is taking place could lead to more questions about how this horrible situation came to be.
In fact, there is considerable evidence that the occupation itself - including the strategy of the occupying forces - has played a large role in escalating the violence to holocaust proportions. It is in the nature of such an occupation, where the vast majority of the people are opposed to theoccupation and according to polls believe it is right to try and kill the occupiers, to pit one ethnic group against another. ... It has become even more obvious in recent months as the United States is now arming both sides of the civil war, including Sunni militias in Anbar province as well as the Shiite government militias.
Nazi references are considered gauche, but when reality presents something like so strong a parallel, one has to wonder. At least the Germans could argue that they were living under a genuine dictatorship.
But most Canadians remain happily ignorant of our brutalities in Haiti, and willfully deluded about our work in Afghanistan. NATO has killed as many Afghans this year as the Taliban. Our soldiers apparently hand teenaged prisoners to the rapists and torturers in the Afghan prison system.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
About the only real reason to keep US troops in Iraq has been the understandable worry that, as bad as things are right now, withdrawing our troops will only make things worse for the Iraqi people.
Well, the Brits have had their troops out of Basra for two and a half months now — and guess what? The violence level’s dropped by 90%. That’s right, Ninety Friggin’ Percent:
There's also a story about mainstream cable-news pundit Chris Matthews and how he's an idiot. I don't watch much of any television news, let along USian news. I only know about Chris Matthews from what I see on crooksandliars.com. But Matthews appears to be a supremely vapid personality, and the epitome of the sort of telegenic airhead that the corporate propaganda system promotes. Matthews doesn't have to censor himself, or reign-in his critical faculties and isolated radical beliefs. Matthews doesn't have any critical faculties or isolated bits of ideological purity. Matthews can pontificate at length and never threaten anybody of substance in the system because such ideas never occur to him. That's why he can condemn the war in Iraq while at the same time mock anti-war protestors and work himself up to an erection about bush II's manliness.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
But as the days have gone by and I haven't had a spare hour to devote to blogging about this incident, my attitude about its causes has changed.
I started out thinking that it was this new attitude of impunity of our forces of "law and order" in these increasingly authoritarian times that was responsible for those RCMP thugs killing that man at the Vancouver International Airport.
Remember the security goons tasering that Muslim kid at his college library, shouting: "Here's your violation of civil liberities!!"
Now, when dissent is marked as treason, anyone standing up and shouting what's on their mind transforms into the image of Osama bin Laden and harmless loudmouths at a microphone are now dragged-off to arrest and electrocuted if they refuse to comply.
But while this new attitude might be part of the problem, as I reflect upon the historic traditions of attacking dissenters (weren't we all "useful idiots," "fellow travellers," "paid agents" of the USSR during the Cold War?) in the USA and Canada during the union struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, and on campuses and at rallies since the 1960s, I can't really bring myself to believe that police today are that much different from police in the past. What is a "Charter-free zone" after all? And notice that it didn't take 9-11 for that Mountie to feel the need to justify his unilateral creation of a "Charter-free zone" at the APEC Conference in Vancouver.
Maybe things have changed a little, since the "Reagan revolution" in the USA, and the attending coarsening of political debate he brought about. Things have changed a little since 9-11-01, but not that much.
I think the lion's share of the blame rests with the technology. Tasers give police the groundless belief that they have an EASY, NON-LETHAL means of quickly subduing a threat, real or imagined, and they all-too-quickly resort to it. And now, all-too-often, people die.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Indeed. Due to a number of fragile circumstances, Canada is a different political culture from the US. A far less debased, cruel, and stupid one. (This is not a slight against ordinary Americans. Half of them are so sickened by their political culture that they do not bother to vote, and much of the Democratic Party's rank-and-file are furious at their leaders' corruption, weakness, and dithering.)
But Harper, and the Conservative Party of Canada, supported by a loud, stupid minority, unrepresentative of the average Canadian, are working to to destroy this political culture and transform it into the shambling horror south of our border.
Monday, November 12, 2007
"Okay. Hold it right there. Pack up all your so-called 'evidence' and just get out."
"Huh? But don't you want to ..."
"If you have to lower yourself to the level of personal invective and ad-hominem attacks, we want nothing to do with you. You've cheapened everything about your case, ... you've basically handed the other side the victory."
"I'm not sure I ..."
"It's simple. By coarsening the level of discourse, by debasing the tone of the debate, you've removed yourself now and forever from civilized conversation and interaction. I'd rather those people never be punished than that they be convicted in such a fashion."
"O-o-o-k-a-y-y-y then. We'll be in touch."
"You might want to see someone about that potty-mouth of yours. And that spittle-flecked chin, from all your raging."
(Door closes. End scene.)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
It wasn't politically correct. There's a pervasive heterosexism, and women are presented as they always are in these movies, as beautiful, idealized objects of desire, or as party-girls flashing their tits. Still, it did manage to score some strong points on racism and politics while being a well-written example of the stoner-movie genre.
That's why I'm excited that these two cultural sign-posts have apparently gotten even more political their second time out. This time, they're confronting the absolutely hysterical racism that's been given a free ride since "9-11 changed everything." This time, our heroes have been shipped off to that blight on everything the United States imagines it stands for: the gulag at Guantanamo Bay. I'm interested to see how they deal with the subject.
Friday, November 9, 2007
When you are repeatedly invited to try and do that by the blowhard, and you are consistently exposed as incapable of it, it kinda makes the rest of the world think that maybe you're the moron, and your target's argument is the better one.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Why? Why did this Mattera person go and bother Murtha upon hearing news about the Haditha accused?
Because when Murtha heard about the Massacre, in which crazed marines (angered at the immediately preceding death of a comrade from the explosion of a road-side bomb) went methodically from one house to another, shooting innocent, unarmed, men, women, and mostly children, sometimes execution style, Murtha said that US soldiers had been put in an impossible situation, in insufficient numbers, and some were cracking and killing people in cold blood and this had to stop.
Obviously, speaking this simple truth meant that Murtha hated the troops, hated America, wanted America to "lose" in Iraq, and on and on.
Murtha, speaking out from his position on the House Appropriations Committee's sub-Committee on Defense, has supposedly compromised these marines' rights to a fair trial. The right-wing is very concerned about due-process dont'cha know, just check out their silence on the case of Jose Padilla. They never called him a terrorist, or a "dirty-bomber," or anything, because the right-wing believes that rules are rules, and principles are principles, and actually, I'm being sarcastic. The right-wing doesn't give a shit about due-process. They wanted to sweep the massacre of innocent civilians, including children as young as two years old, under the carpet, and let the bullshit charade of US military justice against its mass-murdering heroes to do its work and exonerate as many of them as possible and limit punishment to the obviously guilty by as much as possible.
Because they're vermin.
And, because (as I suggested in that earlier post) Mattera and others as contemptibly stupid as he is must believe that those Iraqis shot themselves. (Which would make the marines' earlier lies about a desperate fire-fight all the more inexplicable.)
But what's going on in the trial of the Haditha accused? How have some of these massacre-participants managed to get the charges against them dropped?
Rahul Mahajan has recently written about the trial at his blog: "Empire Notes." Not surprisingly, this trial has been as big a whitewash as the Abu Ghraib trials, the Padilla trial, or any other trial under bush II's war on democracy and human rights:
The hearings have been a circus. First of all, they were held in Camp Pendleton, California, rather than in Iraq, so the Iraqis who witnessed the events couldn’t testify. Second, the families of the victims refused requests by military interrogators to exhume the bodies for forensic evidence. Third, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who presided over the hearings, has been both excessively sympathetic to the defendants and excessively concerned with the effect that the verdicts will have on future Marine operations. Fourth, some rather odd plea bargains have been made.
Most recently, Ware recommended that all charges of murder (originally 13 counts) against Wuterich be dropped and replaced with charges of negligent homicide only for seven of the murdered women and children (many of them shot in their beds) – and has added that he doesn’t think Wuterich would be convicted on those charges either.
Earlier, Ware recommended dropping all charges against Sharratt, accepting his claim that the execution-style killings of the three men shot in the head occurred in self-defense in the heat of combat. He also wanted charges dropped on Tatum, even though fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Humberto Mendoza testified that Tatum had ordered him to shoot the seven women and children, even after being informed of their identity and that they posed no threat.
Charges were dropped against the two captains, Grayson is still under investigation, and Ware recommended that Chessani be charged with dereliction of duty, although with none of the actual murderers on trial, apparently, he was derelict in investigating nothing.
Aboslutely disgusting, and all-too common in bush II's United States.
Now then, in my post on Maretta-Murtha, one commentator ("anonymous") decided that I was blind to the irony of my harsh words about Maretta and my own condemnation of the morons who wanted Murtha hanged for treason:
"You, Maretta, are just some smirking, useless, stupid piece of shit."Is what I said about Maretta. Following a summary of idiotic ravings about Murtha, I wrote:
"What happens to the "marketplace of ideas" when there's garbage like this in it, screaming louder than all the rest?"To which "anonymous" wrote:
You wouldn't recognize irony if it bit you on the ass.Where "anonymous" got confused is his equating a clearly (to an honest person with half a brain anyway) outlined detail of Maretta's stupidity (to whit; that Murtha responded with genuine outrage at the horrifying consequences of bush II's evil and incompetence, and the grave nature of a slaughter of this nature and these proportions, he did not implicate individual marines, he did not say he hated America, he did not jeopardize anyone's right to a fair trial, and that, regardless, marines on the site went on a killing spree and nobody investigated it until TIME Magazine found evidence of the massacre, and the marines clearly lied about the circumstances of the event. Somebody killed those innocent people. And they were among those marines present.)
"anonymous" equated that, with callous, sadistic, cretinous individuals who called for Murtha's hanging for expressing upset at the marines' slaughter of civilians, including some no-doubt hypocritical thugs who defended the slaughter as a fact of war.
So, the moral of that particular little story is that if someone from the reality-based community sees a piece of dogshit on the floor and says "It smells like shit in here. The dog shit on the floor." then that person is describing reality. But the right-wing will accuse that person of making an "ad-hominem attack," and all protestations that they are accurately describing reality will be met with snorts of derision. (The right-winger will try to outlast the normal person, hoping they will leave the room in a huff, whereupon the right-winger can dive towards the lump of dog-shit and merrily eat it.)
When some right-wing moron sees a bouquet of flowers on a table and says "They smell like shit." and you challenge them, "What do you mean? They're flowers. They smell like flowers." and they say, "You're unhinged. You're a moonbat. You hate America. You're an anti-Semite. You smell like shit too." and etc., etc., you'll find that you're experiencing the delight of the right-wing internet in 3-D! And if, in despair at their hopeless stupidity you turn and walk away, they'll crow about how you're unable to debate them, and that censorship is the natural inclination of the left, and how they always consider views from all sides of the spectrum. But by this time, they've proven themselves so completely idiotic that you couldn't care less what they're saying.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
In this post; "Suppressing Dissent" I link to the harassment of peace activists Ann Wright and others from CODEPINK as they try to enter Canada to discuss the implications of the authoritarian "Security and Prosperity Parntership" for the health of democratic dissent in North America.
Essentially, these fine US citizens have been arrested on bullshit grounds, ticketed, and now their foreign travel is being restricted under regulations that were meant to control dangerous criminals and terrorists, not people who protest illegal wars and mass slaughter.
"wayne" responds to this horrible and disturbing behaviour with the asinine comment: "Good. Condi for president," which got his ugly, pig-headed self banned for life from the schoolyard.
No-life loser "nonny" attempted to post something (in a frenzy of juvenille activity) and I deleted it so that it appears as if it never existed.
But "bert" is the guy who has me scratching my head. In his first post, the twit argues that this harassment of these citizens is no big deal. Then, when I comment that I'd like to see them suffer similar treatment under a left-wing government, he accuses me of fascist tendencies. Which he apparently finds alarming. When I tell him that he's just exposed himself as a complete hypocrite he lets loose with the following idiotic tantrum:
You've got a little on your chin, there, thwappy. Might wanna wipe that up before you go out in public. And try taking your meds, too, before the nice men with the net come by and fit you for one of those trendy jackets with the sleeves that tie in the back. Anti-hallucinatory drugs could surely cure you of your tendency to just make shit up and accuse the other guy of having said it.What a fucking moron you are.
But it is comical to watch you blather on, having a fucking conversation with yourself about points nobody actually made.
You should just disable comments completely because you are incapable of comprehending anything written to you. Your blog is a fucking waste of time. So, fuck you, arsewipe.
I mean, really, what did I miss? I've titled this entry "How are they able to tie their own shoelaces?" and I really do wonder how a person can genuinely miss the significance of their own fucking thoughts and words, and react in genuine outrage when the significance of their own words is presented to them.
"bert" is a prize example of the clueless incomprehension, hypocritical self-righteousness, inability to argue the simplest points, and, finally, inability to grasp the use and meaning of an argument ad hominem that so characterizes this frightfully stupid, and formerly influential political demographic.
Let's review the arrests of the CODEPINK activists:
Desiree Fairooz holding up her red paint stained hands to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and shouting “The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands!” As Capitol Hill police took he out of the hearing of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, Fairooz yelled over her shoulder “War criminal! Take her to the Hague!” Shortly thereafter two Codepinkers were arrested for just being in the room and brutally hauled out of the hearing by Capitol police. An hour later Medea and a male Codepinker were arrested for no reason. Four of the five had to stay overnight in the District of Columbia jail.
Now, it should be completely obvious that all of these arrests were completely bogus. The Ms. Fairooz could be argued to have been causing a disturbance, but her companions were arrested for simply sitting near her, or later, two were arrested simply for knowing her.
Let's repeat that for the braindead morons and/or disgusting fascist authoritarians like "wayne," "nonny," and "bert." They were arrested for nothing. Try to picture this guys: You're walking down the street. A friend of yours had been arrested the day before for shouting "Taliban lover!" at Jack Layton, and had been arrested and held overnight for this non-crime. And now, two police officers approach you as you're on the way to work, or home, or wherever it is, and they say that you're under arrest. Now they're handcuffing you and putting you in a squad car and taking you to jail.
Is this concrete enough of an example for you shitheads? Does this register as suppression of dissent yet in your pea-brains?
And what's more, when you try to travel to the United States, you find that you're on some watch-list for dangerous criminals and terrorists, and you're unable to visit relatives, seek employment, vacation, or network with other compatriots in your great war against "liberal appeasement stalinist gay-burqa loving beheading fetishist global warming fascism" or whatever the hell it is you numbskulls believe you're fighting against.
Of course, there are options to escape from these restrictions. Mountains of paperwork that nobody bothered to inform you about:
And in no way, shape, or form, can anything, any one of you did, be construed as making you security threats on par with dangerous criminals and terrorists, but there you have it.
After nearly four hours of interrogation, I was told by the senior immigration officer that I was banned from Canada for one year for failure to provide appropriate documents that would overcome the exclusion order I had been given in early October because of conviction of misdemeanors (all payable by fines) in the United States. The officer said that to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for entry for a specific event on a specific date, I must provide to a Canadian Embassy or consulate the arresting officer’s report, court transcripts and court documents for each of the convictions and an official document describing the termination of sentences, a police certificate issued within the last three months by the FBI, police certificates from places I have lived in the past ten years (that includes Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia), a letter acknowledging my convictions from three respected members of the community (the respected members that I will ask to write a letter all been convicted of similar “offenses”) and a completed 18 page “criminal rehabilitation” packet.
Additionally, besides obtaining theTemporary Resident Permit, since I was being banned for a year from Canada, I would have to obtain a “Canadian Government Minister’s consent.” The officer said that the TRP and the Minister’s consent normally took from 8-10 months to obtain. In the distant future, to be able to enter Canada without a TRP, I would have to have to be “criminally rehabilitated” and be free for five years of conviction of any offense, including for peaceful protest.
Once again, ugly-minded, bone-stupid "wayne" thought this was a good way to treat dissenters. And sweet, sensitive "bert" says that everythings on the up-and-up and they can do the paper-work and provide advance notice of their travel plans, and then he makes a lame joke about lefties singing "Kumbiya."
But when I talk about a leftist government meting out the same treatment as these women suffered, when I said that I'd love to see people like "bert," "wayne," and all the other assorted assholes treated like Ms. Wright and friends were, "bert" starts to worry about my fascist tendencies. (I'll admit I also talked about media campaigns of denigration, and spying, which isn't mentioned by Ms. Wright, but unless you've been walking around with your head up your ass for the past five or so years, you'll understand that warrantless, widespread spying, and worse, are the modus operandi of our undemocratic neo-liberal authoritarians. If "bert" wants to argue that he has, in fact, been licking the insides of his colon for the past half-decade, let him do so. I'll give him a pass for his ignorance.)So, it's pretty clear that "bert" was established as a fascist thug as well as a disgusting hypocrite, yet he's too stupid and self-righteous to notice. Is he a complete waste of time? Obviously. But how such a limited human can function in the world on other levels is still a matter of curiosity for me.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I have a couple of reservations about the article: 1) This economic growth was more like a recovery from an artificially low starting point, 2) The IMF "oversaw" but did not really approve of the dollarization of the Argentinian currency that proved so disastrous.
But the important point remains true: Following the discrediting of the dollarization policy, Argentina defaulted on foreign creditors and rejected IMF austerity policies and have managed to emerge from a financial crisis far more quickly, and with far more price stability, than the conventional wisdom would have predicted.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Many countries have succumbed to the behind the scenes 9/11 pressure of the Bush administration to enact extensive and expansive anti-terrorism laws to increase “harmonization” and integration of security measures among countries. Unfortunately, the Canadian government is mirroring the Bush administration’s use of security measures to increase control over dissent in their country-and in other countries.
Most of the new security measures are done through administrative agreements, international joint working groups, regulations and the use of international organizations such as the G-8 and the International Civil Aviation Organization. By using administrative regulations, the U.S. and Canadian governments avoid opening up the proposed restrictions of personal privacy to public scrutiny and debate by preventing such regulations from being enacted in the Congress or Parliament.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The first story was "Israel power cuts to answer Gaza rockets," which is part of the ongoing tragedy of Israel's war on the Palestinian people. The second story was "Report: 15 Kurds dead in Turkey clashes," describing how Turkey (which has been oppressing its Kurdish minority for decades) is responding to alleged sheltering of Kurdish rebels in bordering Iraqi Kurdistan by launching cross-border raids into US-occupied Iraq.
Those were the two important stories. The ridiculous story was entitled "Al-Qaeda threat reduced - US." The story yahoo.news linked to is no longer available evidently. Here's the search result snippet:
It's a ridiculous story because Al-Qaeda in Iraq has always been a relatively unimportant player in that country, with most of the armed opposition to the US, and most of the overall violence, coming from domestic insurgents and sectarian or tribal militias. However, in the fantasy world of the capitalist news media, imbecilic announcements from the incompetent imperialist enforcers of bush II's delusions are instantly elevated to serious story status, and so this blatant propaganda ploy is reported as if anyone who has half-a-brain is supposed to give a shit.
And it's related to the two other stories because one: the plight of the Palestinian people was one of the motivating factors behind the creation of the original Al-Qaeda, and the general animosity of the Arab and Muslim worlds to US foreign policy. The continued expansionist tendencies of Israeli chauvinists shows no signs of abating, so, therefore, neither will this anger and the occasional terrorist inclination, and two: because the regional instability that has been created by the blundering, stupid Cheney and bush II duo is of such intensity (well beyond the very limited capabilities of both of these dunder-heads put together) that one of the potential bastions of pro-US, pro-Western government policy, Turkey, is moved to its own anti-US actions.
bush II's invasion of Iraq has strengthened fundamentalism, devastated the rights of women, produced millions of refugees and perhaps over a million excess deaths, and might bring about the dismemberment of that country along sectarian and ethnic lines, bringing all the countries of the region into direct confrontation. Meanwhile, bush II blithers on about Iran causing World War III, as part of his mindless subservience to Israel's irrational fears.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Born in turmoil, raised in war and division, Pakistan is the country where things always seem to go wrong. With a resourceful people gathered under the green flag of Islam, the country of 164 million should be one of the developing world's success stories.
Instead, it finds itself embattled, divided, misruled and perpetually on the doorstep of catastrophe.
Headline writers call it a nation "on the edge." Scholars debate whether it will join the ranks of failed states, spewing out loose nukes and Islamic militants.
Why doesn't Pakistan work?
What follows is a relatively (for a Gee editorial) inoffensive description of Pakistan's troubled history. Many of Pakistan's problems do have their roots in the domestic dictators and corrupt politicians of its own political system. Where Gee goes wrong here is in removing any contribution of the West in aiding and abetting this corruption, oppression, and failure.
In the first place, Benazir Bhutto's return wasn't the unmixed triumph of democracy that Gee painted it to be:
A joyous throng cheers the returning opposition leader as she heads home after years in exile. Then, suddenly, an explosion shatters bodies and hopes.
Great expectations, blasted dreams.
Benazir Bhutto created many enemies in Pakistan for her strong faithfulness to the demands of US foreign policy, and for her government's corruption.
The massacre in Karachi had been widely predicted. Benazir Bhutto herself has stated that she was aware of the dangers. The government pleaded with her to delay her return. Jihadi leaders, angered by her slavish support of US foreign policy, had publicly threatened to kill her. She survived but a few hundred people have been killed without reason.
More trouble lies ahead. Benazir may be the preferred politician of Washington and the EU, but the Supreme Court is considering five separate petitions to reject the Ordnance that pardons corrupt politicians. Were the court to accept these petitions, Ms Bhutto would have to serve time in prison.
Furthermore, as my last post showed, Gee wouldn't know what makes a country successful if the rules were tatooed upside down (for ready reference) on his stomach.
India, its great rival next door, is going from strength to strength, with a thriving democracy and a booming economy.
It seems that the point of Gee's column is to present Bhutto (the friend of the West) as a necessary component of Pakistan's future success. Being a friend of the West is, for Gee, a sign of being one of the "good guys/gals." In Gee's world, the West (especially the United States) only wants what is best for the world. Western puppets, enforcing economic policies that benefit the wealthy few, are the best thing for the nations of the Global South, because such policies cannot fail to produce a world full of Marcus Gees. Urbanized, educated, and free to think, say, and write whatever they want (so long as it supports neoliberalism).
The tragedy is that Pakistan could do so much better. Its urbane, educated elite can hold their own with any in the world. ... Pakistanis, for all their divisions, have a strong sense of national pride, visible whenever its cricket team takes on India.
A vibrant free press has grown up to challenge government views. Various non-governmental groups, from women's organizations to the lawyers guilds that challenged the government in street protests earlier this year, are coming together to form a vital “civil society.”
Gee overlooks the British incompetence in the partition of 1947 which produced so much violence. Gee overlooks US meddling in Indo-Pakistani relations during the 1960s and 1970s, including US support for Pakistan's military government's massacre of anywhere from 500,000-3,000,000 Bangladeshis (in what was then known as East Pakistan), because Pakistan was friendly with China, which US President Nixon was wooing for purposes of Cold War realpolitick.
Still, it seems that most of Pakistan's corruption and lack of democracy have domestic roots. But neoliberalism and sucking-up to the United States isn't the answer to Pakistan's problems. It certainly doesn't look like Benazir Bhutto is going to deliver for Gee:
The tragedy of Pakistan is that the People’s Party of Bhutto and its rivals offer no real alternatives to the policies currently being pursued. The State Department notion of Bhutto perched on Musharraf’s shoulder parrotting pro-Washington homilies was always ridiculous. Now there are doubts as to whether she will even reach the General’s shoulder. (From Tariq Ali, "A Massacre Foretold," cited above.)
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Now then, ... t'would appear to be the case that Gee has chosen to write about India's economic reforms, as opposed to US foreign policy. Why not? One can mindlessly cheerlead for neo-liberalism anywhere one wants to, since it's the mindlessness that's important. Not the specific details of time and place.
The article is called: "India May be on the Right Track; Too Bad it's on the Slow Train," and with a title like that, you know you're in for some sensitive, nuanced analysis. As near as I can tell, it appears that Marcus has got ahold of an OECD report: ("Economic Survey of India 2007") and has decided that not only is it the god's own truth on everything, but that it requires Marcus's attention to really bring the prescriptions in the report home to the timid, half-heartedly neoliberal Indians.
According to Gee, the OECD report celebrates India's recent economic progress, which is due to "market" reforms, but because India is so powerful and proud, the report's authors have to restrain their enthusiasm about recommending, or pressing, further market advice on it.
you can almost picture its authors biting their knuckles to hold themselves back. ... What they must really want to say is: Are you blind? Can't you see what a dose of the market has done for you? Can't you see what you could achieve if you took a little more?What has the dose of the market done for India? According to the OECD, and Gee, it has done the following:
1. Over the course of two decades, the contribution of exports as a proportion of India's GDP has tripled.
I'm not sure why that statistic is something to unreservedly celebrate. It's actually quite meaningless on its own. It could of course mean that India is earning foreign currency which is then being used to invest in the country's development. But it also means that India's exposure to foreign economic conditions has grown, and it is less in control of its own destiny.
2. India's GDP has grown to the point where, "by one measure," it is the third-largest in the world, and is growing by 9 percent a year.
At the end of the day, I'm going to agree with Gee, that India's overall economy has grown due to its involvement with the rest of the world's economy. What I'm not going to do is to point to every statistic of growth as an unmixed blessing that surely means more food in the belly of every Indian child.
As India re-enters the world economy, foreign dollars can buy up Indian assets and Indian rupees can buy up foreign assets, and this bidding can build up money values of the Indian economy so that it's GDP appears to have brought more real economic growth than it has. As well, Indians fleeing the subsistence economy of the countryside for the paid labour market might represent an relatively substantial increase in those individuals' per capita contribution to the GDP but with no real increase in their personal living standards. They might have worked for adequate food and shelter then, but are now working for pay that affords them inadequate food and shelter, but it is only the latter work that got entered into national economic statistics.
Besides increasing the monetized (and therefore easily countable) proportion of India's economy, there's also the reality that even real GDP growth can be distributed unequally, a reality that appears to have been lost on the OECD and Gee. Determined to talk about GDP growth six ways to Sunday, he continues:
Annual growth in gross domestic product per capita - a standard measure of a country's wealth - has accelerated from just 1.25 per cent in the three decades after India achieved independence in 1947 to 7.5 per cent at present, a rate that will double average income in 10 years.
Here's the thing: I could never see myself writing such a sentence without thinking about the fact that the average income of myself and Bill Gates is something like $10,000,015,000. Not only is it the case that this growth in India's GDP is not being distributed evenly; as we'll see, some people (many people) are seeing absolute losses in their economic well-being. You can take homeless people and sell them to pet-food companies and increase the GDP. I doubt those homeless people would be all that pleased about their re-entry into the world of government economic statistics. This is basic stuff. It's why us "irresponsible" leftists don't cheer whenever the economy grows by half-a-percent. You have to dig a little more deeper, or else you'll be forced to write drivel, week after week, for major national newspapers at a respectable personal salary, forever.
That, by the way, was the sum total of Gee's account of the OECD report's glowing progress report for market reforms in India. That exports are a larger proportion of a substantially growing GDP. Gee then turned his attention to what India needs to do to achieve even more spectacular GDP numbers:
What's frustrating is New Delhi's hesitance to take the next step. The reforms that are needed to sustain and ramp up India's boom are blindingly obvious; the government's policy progress painstakingly slow. Hobbled by its Communist coalition partners, afraid to take on rural lobbies and other entrenched interests, the Congress Party administration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is failing to do what's needed.
How truly superb it must be to be Marcus Gee! Like a child, he's constantly frustrated that others fail to see the world as he does, but also like a child, he harbours these gigantic hopes, nay, certainties, that all will be much, much, better, if only the rest of the world does the few simple things that he asks of it.
So what "blindingly obvious" policies do the Indians have to implement? Obviously, workers have too many rights in India, and it must be made easier in a country of over one billion (1,000,000,000) people, to toss people willy-nilly into destitution. Nothing bad could ever happen with a totally deregulated labour market in India!
First, reform labour markets. Job protection laws are stricter than in any other OECD country except the Czech Republic and Portugal.
Here's the chart Gee is referring to for this factoid:
You'll also notice that India is roughly up there with those economic basket-cases of Germany and Sweden! T'would seem that protecting workers isn't always pure death for a national economy.
But anyway, let's look at the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic. It's about 10 percent, the same as most other Continental European economies. (You can read the standard neoliberal argument for the causes of this unemployment here, but really, I can't get too excited about policy prescriptions that call for the total disregard of older or disabled workers, and for the elimination of social housing.)
What's Portugal's unemployment rate? It's 8.2 percent. Again, similar to other European nations which enjoy a better quality of life than do the majority of the world, including the majority in the United States, when things like crime, healthcare, and housing, are factored in.
The point is that both of these countries share a number of statistics with other European countries, statistics which India's people would no doubt enjoy for themselves. From his comfortable perch, Gee wants to throw a country of one-billion people over to the roller-coaster of the unregulated capitalist labour market.
What does the OECD have to say about India's labour market?
Economic growth could be made more inclusive by achieving faster growth in regular employment, as opposed to casual and self-employment. Although regular employment has risen, it still represents only 15% of total employment and its growth has been almost exclusively in the smaller, least productive enterprises. Employment in firms with more than ten employees accounts for only around 3¾ per cent of total employment (one quarter of regular employment) and has been falling. Indeed, India has a much smaller proportion of employment in enterprises with ten or more employees than any OECD country. The number of workers has also fallen in the manufacturing sector where the share of labour income in value-added is low compared to other countries and capital-intensity is relatively high. Such developments indicate that India is not fully exploiting its comparative advantage as a labour-abundant economy.
Pardon me, but this all sounds a little strange. Only 15 percent of Indian workers work in regular employment, and while only one-quarter of those work in firms with more than ten employees, supposedly allowing firms employing over 100 workers to more easily fire people is supposed to kick-start India's labour market into creating more jobs? All this on top of the fact that India's regular employment sector has been shedding workers, we should make it easier for them to shed more workers, in order to create jobs? (I know there's some sort of bullshit neoliberal logic behind this about the costs of hiring people being prohibitive and blah, blah, blah, but I'm more certain that this is more about allowing rich people to buy up big firms and trim their labour costs quickly and easily to recoup their expenses, than it is about creating jobs for Indian workers.)
Then there's the complaint that India's large firms are too capital-intensive, and that India isn't exploiting its comparative advantage in cheap labour. If Indian capitalists and managers are pursuing a capital-intensive approach to manufacturing, who is to say that this is wrong? Aren't automated factories and robotics and all the rest part of the cutting-edge of manufacturing these days? What is this report asking for? That India recreate the assembly-lines of the United States circa 1950?
None of that section seemed to make sense, even on its own grounds.
Gee and the OECD then set their sites on India's retail sector. According to Gee, laws protecting small shopkeepers are hurting efficiency and keeping prices high. Foreign retail firms should be allowed into India, to compete freely with domestic shops and chains. One would imagine that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shopkeepers in India. Doing to them what Wal-Mart does to thousands of small retailers across North America, only on a far greater scale and in a country as desperately poor on a per capita basis as India is, sounds to me like further dogmatic, arrogant foolishness.
(Of course, Gee and his ilk will argue that bigger, more "efficient" Western retailers will bring lower prices to Indian consumers, thus raising living standards, but notice how this is just one more instance of definite short-term pain for only promised long-term gains.)
The next "blindingly obvious" policy for India to pursue is to "get government out of business." Here Gee reveals his dogmatic opposition to any field of the economy being handled by the public sector. Anything can be a business. Education, health care, you name it. In some cases, a public sector monopoly can do a better job than can a competing private sector, or a regulated private monopoly. In this case, Gee specifically refers to electricity. Much of the energy sector remains in "clumsy state hands."
This impacts on Gee's fourth recommendation; that the Indian government invest in improving its economic infrastructure of roads, ports, railways, etc. These areas are underserved by India's state-dominated electricity system, wherein management is so lax as to allow 40 percent of the power to be siphoned by the grid before it gets to its clients, causing frequent brownouts.
Finally, while it's spending all this money upgrading its ports, railways, and roads, India has to do more to reign in its budget deficits. While they've been doing some work in this regard, they could do much more, as Gee confidently (simplistically) puts it: "governments still spend far too much on wasteful food and fuel subsidies that don't really help the poor. "
So, what should they do Mister Gee? Eliminate these subsidies? Alter these subsidies? There's actually a healthy debate going on in India about the structure of the food subsidies. From his track record, there's no doubt that Gee, dogmatically believing that subsidies distort market, thinks that they should be totally eradicated. The OECD argues that these subsidies could be better targeted, so that the benefits actually reach the poor they're intended for, but as the last link shows, how one subsidizes poor farmers, and poor consumers, in a country with so much poverty, is a difficult matter. Do you wipe-out local farmers during times of local shortage by bringing in subsidized grain for consumers? Do you pay farmers subsidized prices and sell to consumers at a loss and perhaps open yourself open to cheating from farmers? Do you hand out food vouchers that can be stolen and sold on the black market?
I can't really fault the OECD's complaints about corruption and mismanagement. I'm not a fan of the OECD's overall analysis, but they're a serious institution. The sloppy arrogance of Gee throughout his article just rubs me the wrong way.
And the truth of the matter is a lot more murky than Gee realizes. For instance, the "dose of the market" has created better GDP numbers, but the standard of living of the majority of the population appears to have actually fallen, as this report from the CCPA makes clear:
According to Professor Usta Patnaik, “The average [Indian] family is absorbing annually nearly 100 kilograms less in food-grain today than a mere five years ago. [That is] a phenomenal drop... never seen before in the last century of India’s history.” Ninety percent of pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 are malnourished and anaemic.
Even though the Indian economy is booming, the country has actually slipped in the UN Human Development Index ranking from 124th to 127th. Driving this deterioration has been the reduction
of official spending on health care and education. Health care spending dropped from 1.4% of GDP in 1991-92 to 0.9% in 2001-02. As in China (see second article in this series: Monitor, October 2005), harsh poverty in the countryside has forced millions of people to migrate to cities in search of employment. More than 30 million people inhabit urban slums in India.
The political fall-out from this disaster might be one reason that India's mainstream politicians are so leery of embracing anymore of Gee's and the OECD's neo-liberal snake-oil. In the 2004 elections, the people of India rejected the slick, pro-globalization campaign of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and opted for the professed "secularism and self-reliance" of Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Party.
The vote against the BJP was a vote against trade liberalization and economic reform for global corporate welfare. It was a vote for self-reliance, basic needs, human dignity, economic justice.
In Indian history, these values have been referred to as "Swadeshi". The opposite of "Swadeshi" is economic dependency, of the kind we experienced during colonialism and are now experiencing through W.T.O., World Bank, IMF driven corporate globalisation which allows Monsanto's profits to grow while Indian peasants get into debt which allows Suez to sell our sacred Ganges water to us.
And why shouldn't the majority reject this model? Other articles mention the tens of thousands of farmers' suicides in the countryside, and I wondered whether this was a long-term problem in that country of over one billion people, but this article from Vandana Shiva explicitly states that the problem first started in 1997, as pro-corporate agricultural policies began to push more and more small farmers into hopeless debt:
1997 witnessed the first emergence of farm suicides in India. A rapid increase in indebtedness, was at the root of farmers taking their lives. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy, a loosing economy. Two factors have transformed the positive economy of agriculture into a negative economy for peasants - the rising costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalisation.
As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. More than 25,000 peasants in India have taken their lives since 1997 when the practice of seed saving was transformed under globalisation pressures and multinational seed corporations started to take control of the seed supply. Seed saving gives farmers life. Seed monopolies rob farmers of life.
There's so much more I could type, but Gee's probably moved on to more nonsense for me to tackle. One last bash of the old boy's bean is going to have to do it for this post.
Gee mentions taking the economy out of the "clumsy" hands of the state, and handing it over to the supposedly more competent, professional hands of the private sector. Gee must imagine that the public sector bribes itself, that it cuts corners and does a shitty job because public sector bureaucrats have less magical goodness than do private sector bureaucrats.
Only, it was the private, foreign, Union Carbide, making decisions at the home office in the United States that produced the Bhopal tragedy.
The behaviour of foreign firms leaves a lot to be desired. Coca-Cola was taking ground water needed by local farmers for its bottling plant in Uttar Pradesh.
And regarding energy and the private sector, there's the small matter of the hyper-corruption surrounding corporate citizen Enron, and it's hydro-electric project in India:
The impugned contract had involved annual payments to Enron of $430 million for Phase I of the project (740 megawatts), with Phase II (1,624 megawatts) being optional. The "renegotiated" power purchase agreement makes Phase II of the project mandatory and legally binds the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) to pay Enron the sum of $30 billion! It constitutes the largest contract ever signed in the history of India.
Indian experts who have studied the project have called it the most massive fraud in the country's
history. The project's gross profits work out to between $12 billion and $14 billion. The official return on equity is more than 30 percent. That's almost double what Indian law and statutes permit in power projects. In effect, for an 18 percent increase in installed capacity, the MSEB has to set aside 70 percent of its revenue to pay Enron. There is, of course, no record of what mathematical
formula was used to "re-educate" the new government. Nor any trace of how much trickled up or down or sideways or to whom.
But there's more: In one of the most extraordinary decisions in its not entirely pristine history, in May 1997 the Supreme Court of India refused to entertain an appeal against Enron.
Today, everything that critics of the project predicted has come true with an eerie vengeance. The power that the Enron plant produces is twice as expensive as its nearest competitor and seven times as expensive as the cheapest electricity available in Maharashtra. In May 2000 the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Committee (MERC) ruled that temporarily, until as long as was absolutely necessary, no power should be bought from Enron. This was based on a calculation that it would be cheaper to just pay Enron the mandatory fixed charges for the maintenance and administration of the plant that it is contractually obliged to pay than to actually buy any of its exorbitant power. The fixed charges alone work out to around $220 million a year for Phase I of the project. Phase II will be nearly twice the amount.
Two hundred and twenty million dollars a year for the next twenty years. Meanwhile, industrialists in Maharashtra have begun to generate their own power at a much cheaper rate, with private generators. The demand for power from the industrial sector has begun to decline rapidly. The MSEB, strapped for cash, with Enron hanging like an albatross around its neck, will now have no choice but to make private generators illegal. That's the only way that industrialists can be coerced into buying Enron's exorbitantly priced electricity.
Finally, I leave with this link describing Vanadana Shiva's despair at the lame characterization of the globalization debate from Jagdish Bhagwati:
The book should have been called "An attack on peoples' movements" not "In defense of globalisation" because its entire content is an attack on civil society, its institutions and its leaders.
There are no arguments in defense of globalisation. There are no empirical facts, no concrete realities. The dominant paradigm has to be loosing when one of its leading proponents spends more time quoting Shakespeare than giving us a picture of people's economic realities.
That's all folks!