Monday, April 21, 2008

Review: China and Socialism

China and Socialism: Market Reforms and Class Struggle by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett

While the Chinese government has done an excellent job in raising the country's GDP using protectionist techniques similar to the East Asian Tigers, this book delves into the cost of such economic growth. For instance, while wages have gone up (highly unevenly), health care that used to be provided for free (and so wouldn't be reflected in wages) is now very difficult to come by for the mass of Chinese. The heart of socialism - full provision of education, food, housing, medical care - has been eviscerated by Chinese leaders in Deng's mold who think that capitalist economists are the true scientists, and their advice can be relied upon to generate wealth. Wealth which one day may be more evenly redistributed, someday in the future. Someday in the future, of course, we will all be dead.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Review: Bush Versus Chávez

Bush Versus Chávez: Washington's War on Venezuela by Eva Golinger

This book marshals indisputable evidence that the U.S. government and its supporters among the Venezuelan elite have been trying to overthrow Hugo Chavez, using all the tricks in the U.S. playbook covering 50 years of covert action experience in Latin America. Possibly as a result of its murderous bumbling in Iraq, and the distraction and diversion of resources it has caused, the U.S. government has so far failed.

Then again, it could also be because Latin Americans have become better prepared to deal with the U.S. government's illegal, undemocratic and imperialist ways...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If "terrorists" doesn't work out, we've got a backup official enemy

On Hypocrisy Over Tibet by John V. Whitbeck

I love listening to the U.S. government denounce the Chinese government for the latter's lack of respect for human rights - it's like watching a serial rapist berate Larry Flynt for degrading women. It's cheap irony, but good fun. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't enjoy this - after all, wouldn't it be a blast to watch a press conference where some grand dragon wizard from the Klu Klux Klan denounces Univision for disproportionately showing light-skinned Latin Americans in their broadcasts?

It's hard to pick a favorite aspect of this situation - is it that the U.S. government practices torture as an instrument of policy while its representatives criticize China's human rights standards? Or is it that Western media sources used images of Tibetan protests in Nepal - whose monarchical government, before it was overthrown by the Maoists, enjoyed friendly relations with the U.S. government - and pawned them off as pictures of Chinese police cracking down on peaceful protesters?

[The Washington Post expresses its regret that its graphic artists are on strike. The editorial board has taken on all Photoshop responsibilities.]

Friday, April 11, 2008

A writer from Dickensian England, or India as it's known today

Chan Akya has it right when it comes to the U.S. losing its vice grip over the world because its economic power is waning. But this numbnuts, like a lot of Indians, is a victim of the collective Stockholm Syndrome. Britain invades your country, destroys your textile industry which was the best in the world at the time, forces your country's economy to be Britain's export market for manufactures, dope factory and farm, causing the deaths of tens of millions by starvation which no one knows about (but everyone thinks Mao was a mass murderer) and of course does the traditional raping, slaughtering and pillaging. Then the victims of all this think: ah, the British - what fine chaps!

Akya certainly thinks so, at least insofar as Anglo Saxon economics is concerned. He desires a world dessicated no longer by U.S./European capitalists - but by Asian capitalists instead. You may call him a dreamer, but he's not the only one.

[Figure at left: the best thing the Romans ever did to the Hebrews, according to the Prisoner with collective Stockholm Syndrome in Monty Python's The Life of Brian: "If we didn't have crucifixion, this country'd be in a right bloody mess... Terrific race, the Romans! Terrific!" Mr. Akya thinks that neoliberal economics is the best thing the British, another terrific race, did to India.]

I think I am finally beginning to appreciate the particular genius of Mr. Chan Akya, columnist at Asia Times Online. His slapstick explanations of cause and effect are a pleasure to behold, for the sheer perfection of their absurdity.

Stand-out example: what is responsible for "the low birth rates across the continent [of Europe], which have pushed most countries (eg [sic] Italy, Spain, Germany as well as all the Scandinavian countries) into [sic] sub-replacement demographic trend"? Is it the enlightenment of a people who realize that bringing children into the world their parents have created would be depraved? No, it is "in equal part [due] to the stupidly high tax rates and low economic dynamism" in Europe. This results in humans throughout the world, including Europeans, shunning the idea of living there. "[N]o one really wants to live in Europe," writes Mr. Akya, and therefore the birth rate is low. But how does that work? Because sperm and ova, before forming a zygote, look out across the European economic landscape and see too many taxes and not enough dynamism, and so go their separate ways? This must be how the desire to avoid living in Europe due to insufficiently neoliberal economic policies causes low birth rates.

But Mr. Akya also deserves kudos [Asia must rally behind China, Apr 10] for calling for Asia to flex its muscles and throw off modern US/European imperialism. Sadly, Mr Akya's ideas about economics are the same as those dominant in the US and Europe, and a shift of power to Asia as he imagines would keep these same ideas in power. Such a power shift from neo-liberal West to neo-liberal East would be one merely of bodies, not minds. Unless, of course, what Asia does with the world's economic reins in its hands is markedly different from what Western capitalists have been doing. Otherwise, if the cat catches mice the same way, what does its color matter?