Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The International Goyish Conspiracy

It is time to recognize the existence of a diabolical conspiracy whose tentacles cover the globe: the INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY!

Some may scoff and disbelieve, but its existence is clear to all those who EDUCATE themselves and pay attention to world events. Have you ever paid attention to votes in the United Nations' General Assembly? There you can find perhaps the STRONGEST evidence of the existence of the International Goyish Conspiracy. The General Assembly will regularly vote on the Israeli government's actions. These votes are set up in such a way as to offer only two options: the just and fair choice, and the anti-Semitic* choice.

Take, for instance, the 2004 General Assembly vote on the International Court of Justice's decision condemning Israel's construction of a HOLY FENCE OF SAFETY FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND PROTECTION AGAINST DEMONIC EVIL in the West Bank. The International Goyish Conspiracy saw to it that 150 countries made the anti-Semitic choice, by supporting the decision of the PATENTLY anti-Semitic International Court of Justice. The only countries to have eluded the grasp of the INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY in this instance were the United States, Israel, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

(The International Court of Justice, remember, is composed of judges from the fair and knowledgeable United States, half anti-Semitic Britain, Arab-loving Russia, Arab-loving Madagascar, anti-Semitic Morocco, anti-Semitic Jordan, Arab-loving China, Arab-loving Sierra Leone, Arab-loving Venezuela, Arab-loving Japan, and five other anti-Semitic and Arab-loving countries. Not a single judge is from the only country on earth that G-d loves and cherishes above all others!)

Another strong piece of EVIDENCE demonstrating the INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY is the world's reaction to Israeli's present mission of peace and love in Gaza. Already, most of the world has condemned the Israeli Defense Forces. The tentacles of this conspiracy have reached into Africa, South America and even China.

If this was not evidence enough, world public opinion delivers the knockout blow. There is no argument against the INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY in the face of evidence of the opinions of common people throughout the world. The graph to the right clearly shows the grey/tan tentacles of the International Goyish Conspiracy's handiwork: the poisoning of the minds of the world's people to think that G-d's holy state is somehow "negative". From the world's most moderate Muslim country, Turkey, to the east Asian tigers like South Korea, the world has clearly been duped into thinking that Israel's treatment of the "Palestinians" is somehow bad.

The goyish forces of anti-Semitic propaganda have encircled the globe, and turned a clear morality story of a good, whiter and richer people defending itself from a bad, darker and poorer people into something else. Somehow, it seems the entire world - minus, of course, the United States and Israel - has been HOODWINKED, BAMBOOZLED AND TRICKED. Without any evidence whatsoever, the world's peoples seem to think that Israel is a nation where a religious fundamentalist minority and a chauvinistic, racist and/or just ignorant bare majority dominate government policy, leading the state to trample upon the "Palestinians" (that is, the goys currently living on the land G-d permanently deeded to His Chosen People).

(Don't forget, the International Goyish Conspiracy has recruited many Jewish collaborators, both in the United States and in Israel itself.)

The International Goyish Conspiracy has clouded the issue in the minds of the world's people. The goyish conspirators have underhandedly highlighted facts. Yes, facts - the last refuge of SCOUNDRELS! Facts such as that since 2000, Israelis have killed about 5,000 Palestinians, while Palestinians have killed about 1,000 Israelis (5:1 ratio); Israelis have killed over 1,000 Palestinian kids, while Palestinians have killed about 100 Israeli kids (10:1 ratio); Israelis hold nearly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners, while Palestinians hold 1 Israeli political prisoner (11,000:1 ratio). There are many more such facts. Irrelevant facts.

As the cartoon below makes crystal clear, facts do not matter. What matters are INTENTIONS. Israelis intend to kill only BAD guys, while Palestinians intend to kill only INNOCENT GOOD guys. Therefore, as everyone who has not been taken in by the INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY knows, everything Israel does is good, and everything the Palestinians do is bad.If there were no goyish conspiracy poisoning the world, people would clearly see that if an Israeli F-16 bombs a university and kills a bunch of students, that's OK, but if a Palestinian fighter shoots a brave IDF solider, that's evil. Why? Basic logic, of course. Basic logic that is covered up by the black clouds of INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY PROPAGANDA! The Israeli air force MEANT to kill some extremist terrorists planning to kill Israeli women and children, while the Palestinian fighter MEANT to kill the soldier only as an afterthought, while hoping that the bullet would ricochet and hit an Israeli baby in a neonatal intensive care unit, severing its oxygen tube and starting a fire that would burn the hospital, killing hundreds of babies and old people, and spreading to the nearby pet store where cute Israeli puppies would also perish in the blaze.

I know that some people will call this a conspiracy theory. But before you take out your favorite weapon, Occam's Razor, allow me to use it myself. So you say that the true explanation for any given phenomenon will be the simplest, eh? Well, we can dismiss out of hand the simplistic explanation that most of the world's 6 billion people have come to the conclusion, after examining the facts, that the Israeli government is unscrupulously and illegally using its greater power to crush Palestinians and steal more of their territory. Theory dismissed; Q.E.D. What is still unexplained is why, outside of the U.S. and Israel, the dominant view of Israel is negative. Clearly, goyish conspiracy is the simplest explanation. Why would South Korea, for instance, have a negative view of Israel, what with Israel's far more sophisticated public relations capabilities compared to the Palestinians? For Chrissakes, Israel has spokespeople with impeccable British accents speaking for it, while Palestinian spokespeople interrupt every fourth word to emit an interminable, deep-throated "uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh"! Israel has the United States on its side, the country whose culture dominates the world in the form of its food, music, movies and videogames; yet we are to believe that the Palestinians' Libyan allies are carrying the day all alone? Ridiculous! The only rational explanation is that a vast INTERNATIONAL GOYISH CONSPIRACY is brainwashing the globe.

As the correct application of Occam's Razor demonstrates, if you want to see a conspiracy theory, LOOK ELSEWHERE. Here's a real tin-hat, crazy nutcase conspiracy theory: that public opinion in the United States and Israel are just two modern examples in a long line of countries and kingdoms, from Britain to Greece to Japan to Spain, whose violent depredations and mass-murders were viewed as justified by the domestic population - and whose justifications have since been discarded by the judgment of history as shameful rationalizations for revolting barbarism and inhumanity.

*"Anti-Semitic" in the modern propagandistic sense of course, defined as "taking any position with which the Likud Party would disagree."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The ant and the grasshopper, squished

Back during the campaign season, I received an email with a modified version of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. The original fable is about an industrious ant, and a lazy grasshopper; during the summer the grasshopper lives it up while the ant slaves away at storing food. When winter hits, the grasshopper starves and the ant survives. The moral, of course, is that you must defer pleasure indefinitely and live life like a Calvinist, or else you will die. And the hero of the story is the ant, a species that lives in a weird sort of feudal slave-type of social organization: something Calvinists could support.

The Unitedstatesian version
The Canadian version
The British version (with squirrels - what the fuck? - they are Brits, whatever)
The Indian version
The Nepali version
The Maltese version
The South African version
The Australian version (again, with squirrels!)
The Pakistani version
The Singaporean version (watch out, it's actually clever)
The New Zealand version

There are probably many, many more, probably even in countries that were never part of the British empire.

The basic gist of all of these stories is this: leftists in every country are like grasshoppers whose desire for pleasure (in this case, the pleasure of helping one's fellow man avoid suffering) leads them to destroy the foundations of society - laissez faire capitalism - which ultimately makes everyone worse off. The only way to avoid this dire outcome is to take the example of the rightist ant, who (with great, if subdued, consternation of course) is willing to leave some to slave, suffer and die; but only for the exalted goal of ensuring that all do not perish.

The thing about these modified ant-and-grasshopper stories that would be hilarious - had their writers intended to use absurdity for comedic effect - is the assumption that the poor are poor because they are lazy. Such is not the case, and incontestably so. But the idea is so soothing to the consciences of those doing well in any given society, that reality has a tough time intruding and displacing the fiction. Another laugh riot about these stories is the idea that tampering with the status quo would be disastrous for society. As if most currently constituted societies were not already disastrous for wide swaths of the population. Perhaps this cartoon does the best job at updating the ant and grasshopper fable for modern times:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where you and George W. Bush agree - and why you shouldn't

Back in November, walking in midtown Manhattan on my way to a conference on securities regulation (entitled "how to unspill milk", eh?), I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Bush Defends Capitalism Ahead of G-20 Summit" . Some hours later the article was renamed to be more blah: "Trade, Jobs Data Paint Gloomy Picture Before Bush's G-20 Economic Summit" (for proof see the link at the bottom of this page). But the original title was better, because Bush's speech was a defense of capitalism - at least its Unitedstatesian variant. And I thought it was interesting because most of the Unitedstatesians I know, informed by deficient Unitedstatesian media, would agree with Bush's overall defense.

I had planned to write about it, but thankfully I had a life that weekend so I passed on the opportunity. Henry C.K. Liu just took it on (China and the Global Crisis and Part 2), and so thanks to him I can vicariously follow through on what I had originally hoped to do.

(First of all, here's a transcript of Bush's speechwriter's speech.)

Liu: "President Bush [gave a] self-absolving explanation of the global financial crisis:
'The massive inflow of foreign capital, combined with low interest rates, produced a period of easy credit. And that easy credit especially affected the housing market. Flush with cash, many lenders issued mortgages and many borrowers could not afford them. Financial institutions then purchased these loans, packaged them together, and converted them into complex securities designed to yield large returns. These securities were then purchased by investors and financial institutions in the United States and Europe and elsewhere - often with little analysis of their true underlying value.

The financial crisis was ignited when booming housing markets began to decline. As home values dropped, many borrowers defaulted on their mortgages, and institutions holding securities backed by those mortgages suffered serious losses. Because of outdated regulatory structures and poor risk management practices, many financial institutions in America and Europe were too highly leveraged. When capital ran short, many faced severe financial jeopardy. This led to high-profile failures of financial institutions in America and Europe, led to contractions and widespread anxiety - all of which contributed to sharp declines in the equity markets.

These developments have placed a heavy burden on hardworking people around the world. Stock market drops have eroded the value of retirement accounts and pension funds. The tightening of credit has made it harder for families to borrow money for cars or home improvements or education of the children. Businesses have found it harder to get loans to expand their operations and create jobs. Many nations have suffered job losses, and have serious concerns about the worsening economy. Developing nations have been hit hard as nervous investors have withdrawn their capital.'"
First of all, note that even liberal Unitedstatesians would agree with this narrative. The disagreements between the left and right in the U.S. on the correct narrative to weave about the global financial crisis are minor enough to be entirely absent from Bush's account. Back to Liu:

"Notwithstanding Bush's attempt to blame the victims for the crime, the easy credit was not caused by massive inflow of foreign capital. It was the other way around.

The massive inflow of foreign-owned capital denominated in dollars was caused by easy credit that grew out of monetary indulgence on the part of the US central bank, which alone can issue dollars. This monetary indulgence enabled the US to sustain a current account deficit with a capital account surplus of recycled dollars.

The US has been consuming more that it produces through recurring trade and fiscal deficits made possible by dollar hegemony, sucking up wealth form its trade partners who are not in any position to increase domestic consumption because real wealth has been exported to the US in return for fiat dollars that cannot be used in the domestic economy without causing inflation. "

In other words, U.S. debt has been the nation's number one export. But foreign investors have not been buying it because they think it's the smartest investment to make - although now investors the world over are buying U.S. debt simply because it is seemingly the safest investment in a toxic environment. But the lion's share of U.S. debt has been "bought" by foreign governments whose banks receive dollars for all of their exports that are denominated in dollars - which is an awful lot, as despite the success of the euro, the dollar still dominates international trade. So foreign governments typically use these dollars to buy U.S. debt, which has allowed the U.S. alone in the world to run enormous deficits without facing - thus far - an Argentina or South Korea style meltdown. Foreign governments could sell these dollars for their domestic currency, rather than buying U.S. debt, so as to use this form of wealth (U.S. dollars) they receive for their exports to serve domestic development. However, this would raise the value of their own currencies, thereby making their products less competitive in the world's largest market: the United States'.

Liu goes on, noting that Bush's commitment to free markets has been compromised by the financial crisis, and he has made socialist interventions into the economy, e.g., wholly and partially nationalizing banks.

"President Bush said with a straight face about his ideological surrender:
'We are faced with the prospect of a global meltdown. And so we've responded with bold measures. I'm a market-oriented guy, but not when I'm faced with the prospect of a global meltdown. At Saturday's [November 15] summit, we're going to review the effectiveness of our actions.

Here in the United States, we have taken unprecedented steps to boost liquidity, recapitalize financial institutions, guarantee most new debt issued by insured banks, and prevent the disorderly collapse of large, interconnected enterprises. These were historic actions taken necessary to make - necessary so that the economy would not melt down and affect millions of our fellow citizens.'
The 'market-oriented guy' is forced to temporarily change his orientation toward massive government intervention in the market until the prospect of a global meltdown is averted. Since August 2007, the 'unprecedented steps' the US has taken have so far failed to stabilize market seizure, price volatility and loss of confidence. Equity market value has fallen over 50%. Major financial institutions had to be nationalized or allowed to go bankrupt. Financial sectors in all market economies are moving closer toward total collapse by the day. "

So Bush's socialist interventions into the economy have not been working so far. As Bush said, "[t]his crisis did not develop overnight, and it's not going to be solved overnight." Liu agrees, conceding that it "is true that the crisis took over two decades of flawed policy to develop." And the economic ideology forming the basis of "over two decades of flawed policy" will not be displaced overnight. Bush, along with most educated Unitedstatesians, believes that capitalism is still the best economic system available and that socialist interventions (that is, government regulation) inevitably muck things up. Liu writes:

"Showing his ideological conceit, Bush asserts that 'free market capitalism is far more than economic theory. It is the engine of social mobility - the highway to the American Dream.' He cites technological inventions as evidence of his ideological fixation. It is true that the US socio-economic system has produced much that benefited mankind, yet inventions are not unique to US capitalism. Historically, inventions also were made under feudalism, communism and even fascism. Bush concludes that 'today, the success of the world's largest economies comes from their embrace of free markets'.

By now, a case can be easily made with solid evidence that the failure of the world's market economies comes from their indiscriminate embrace of unregulated free markets."

A corollary point Liu could have made is that the success of the world's largest economies has only recently come from their embrace of free markets. As economist Ha-Joon Chang has convincingly demonstrated, the success of today's free market-embracing economies is due to their embrace of protectionism as they developed, and their subsequent embrace of and proselytizing for free markets once they had developed sufficient advantages in production. In other words, countries embraced free economic competition at the point at which they could compete successfully.

Bush gets to the heart of the matter later in his speech:
"Ultimately, the best evidence for free-market capitalism is its performance compared to other economic systems. Free markets allowed Japan, an island with few natural resources, to recover from war and grow into the world's second largest economy. Free markets allowed South Korea to make itself into one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world. Free markets turned small areas like Singapore and Hong Kong and Taiwan and into global economic players. Today, the success of the worlds largest economies comes from their embrace of free markets.

Meanwhile, nations who have pursued other models have experienced devastating results. Soviet Communism starved millions, bankrupt an empire, and collapsed as decisively as the Berlin Wall. Cuba, once known for its vast fields of cane, is now forced to ration sugar, and while Iran sits atop giant oil reserves, its people cannot put enough gasoline in their cars. The record is unmistakable. If you seek economic growth, if you seek opportunity, if you seek social justice and human dignity, the free-market system is the way to go.

(APPALUSE) [sic] "
This is an exposition of the conventional Unitedstatesian wisdom that only a small minority on the left-right spectrum of public debate in the U.S. would disagree with. Should you?

  • "Free markets allowed Japan, an island with few natural resources, to recover from war and grow into the world's second largest economy." Nope. Japan followed a protectionist, imperialist form of development ever since the Meiji restoration crushed feudalism in the country and set it on a path of modernization, which included following the most successful examples in the world in terms of the military and economics: Europe and the United States. The economic portion of the example was characterized by state intervention and protectionism; only Britain, with the most advanced economy and powerful empire, preached (if not practiced) free markets at the time.
  • "Free markets allowed South Korea to make itself into one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world." There is a grain of truth in this: the freedom South Korean corporations had to export to the United States' market certainly helped the former's economic development. But it was the freedom South Korea had, as a U.S.-allied dictatorship bordering North Korea and "Red" China, to develop its economy using judicious measures of state planning and protectionism that was the key factor driving its advance to become "one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world." Needless to say that Chile, as one of many examples, did not enjoy the same freedom.
  • Free markets turned small areas like Singapore and Hong Kong and Taiwan and into global economic players." No they did not. Singapore and Hong Kong were turned into global economic players when Britain established them as trading posts in its empire. Taiwan was turned into a global economic player through incorporation into another empire: the Unitedstatesian empire. (Empires, by the way, are not reconcilable with "free markets".)
  • "Soviet Communism starved millions, bankrupt an empire, and collapsed as decisively as the Berlin Wall." Indeed millions starved during the Soviet period; and yes, the empire was critically weakened by its military expenditures so it did face bankruptcy in a sense; and it is a trivial truth that it collapsed "as decisively as the Berlin Wall." Poorly-designed, overconfident policies, droughts, and paranoid, disconnected leadership led millions to starve. Facing the brunt of the Nazi war machine did not help either. But what is overlooked in our era - after the Cold War era of communists vs. capitalists, where nothing each side had to say was worth a penny to the other - is that the Soviet system resulted in unprecedented economic growth that turned Russia from a barely post-feudal, war-ravaged backwater into a global economic powerhouse. The Soviet system built an empire. Bush only notes that the empire "Soviet Communism" built eventually collapsed. It was stifled first by its own violent birth and the resulting, but also ever-deepening, sense of paranoia pervading its leadership. Always the capitalists were plotting to overthrow the Russian people's revolution - and often, they were. And it spent too much of its social product on military expenditures, though given its enemy one can understand the pressures that resulted in this allocation. Furthermore the Soviet leadership's fear of foreign propaganda led it to choke off information flows to a detrimental extent. But it is an unjustifiably long hop from these ideas to the idea that government intervention into the economy is universally doomed to failure.
  • "Cuba, once known for its vast fields of cane, is now forced to ration sugar" Vast fields of cane - get it? Sounds like "vast fields of grain." Kudos to Bush's speechwriter. How romantic, those vast fields of cane, worked by slaves. Cuba rations a lot of things for different reasons. The reason sugar is rationed is not that it is rare in this island, "once known for its vast fields of cane"; Cuba produced 1.5 million tons of sugar this year. Regardless, is economic success measured by a reliance on exporting agricultural products? No. The U.S. economy would not allow for our vast fields of grain if it weren't for billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies. When the market sends the signal that your competitive advantage does not lie in agricultural products, that is universally recognized to be a good thing. Besides, Cuba's sugar industry has historically been used for a colonial or neocolonial master's use: Spain and the United States, respectively. It is neither a mark of pride nor an indication of Cuba's overall economic vitality. Nor is its decline such an indication. What is important is that Cuba's economy does a lot better for its people, by objective measures, than the economies of nearby Haiti, Jamaica or the Dominican Republic do for their respective peoples.
  • "[W]hile Iran sits atop giant oil reserves, its people cannot put enough gasoline in their cars." This is a puzzling statement, if you take Bush's words seriously. Because to the extent to which Iranians cannot put enough gasoline in their cars, it is due to market forces and U.S. economic pressure. Could Bush have been so brazenly hypocritical if he was conscious of it? Not likely. The price of oil being high, Iran chooses to milk it for all it is worth, especially because powerful foreigners are constricting other parts of its economy. Milking for all its worth means refusing to subsidize domestic consumption. And Bush certainly would be aghast at subsidies - subsidies that foreigners use, that is.
And the final affront to reality: "If you seek economic growth, if you seek opportunity, if you seek social justice and human dignity, the free-market system is the way to go." How would Bush, his speechwriter, or anyone else know? Where is there a country with social justice and human dignity, opportunity and economic growth?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book review: How to Be Idle

Book review: How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

This book is a broadside against the insanity of capitalism; in particular the exploitation of workers, and the lives it utterly wrecks.

Quoted in a chapter discussing the insanity of the work world is Bertrand Russell's "In Praise of Idleness":

"Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?"

Robert Luis Stevenson's "An Apology for Idlers" is included at the end of the book, and it illustrates the humanism which is at the book's core:

"Extreme BUSYNESS, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality... There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they CANNOT be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill. When they do not require to go to the office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them... To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no one to speak with; you would imagine they were paralysed or alienated; and yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. They have been to school and college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; they have gone about in the world and mixed with clever people, but all the time they were thinking of their own affairs. As if a man's soul were not to small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another... now the pipe is smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and my gentleman sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable eyes. This does not appeal to me as being a Success in Life. ... Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things... The ends for which they give away their priceless youth, for all they know, may be chimerical or hurtful; the glory and riches they expect may never come, or may find them indifferent; and they and the world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that the mind freezes at the thought."

Hodgkinson fills his writing with penetrating anecdotes. From a chapter on sleep: "I see ads on the London Underground for energy drinks and pills which claim to provide wakefulness to the user. One current ad runs the line: 'Drained? You needn't be.' It claims that such 'daily fatigue' can be 'beaten' by taking little capsules containing various vitamins. You don't get ads on the Underground saying 'Tired? Then Sleep More'."

The latter is the kind of shit you only see in Cuba.

From a chapter on partying, Hodgkinson quotes the philosopher Theodor Adorno writing the most sensible thing I have read from the latter's keyboard: "If the satisfaction of instinctual urges is denied or postponed, they are rarely kept under reliable control, but are most of the time ready to break through if they find a chance. This readiness to break through is enhanced by the problematic nature of the rationality that recommends postponement of immediate wish-fulfillment for the sake of later complete and permanent gratifications."

From a chapter on conversation: "Ideas emerge in conversation and are embellished, improved, contradicted or torn apart by the assembled company. Friends will come up with anecdotes that either affirm or disprove some notion. One's ideas are developed, modified. They are taken down from the museum shelf, dusted and put on view. And their true worth is revealed: the diamond turns out to be a piece of glass, the dusty stone a rare fossil." Conversation is incredibly important not only for the individual but for society as a whole. But good conversation is hard to come by in a society where leisure time is a luxury.

From a chapter on the pub: "Fashion took the drinking culture and made the licensed establishment a place to be seen rather than a place to talk and think. In fact, in most of these places it's actually impossible to talk or to think as the banging techno is at ear-splitting volume. What looks like a 'buzz' from the outside is in fact a collection of half-drunk, lonely, insecure people trying to make themselves heard above the din. One becomes hoarse with shouting, and the conversation, such as it is, is punctuated by long periods of staring at the clientele simply because one can no longer be bothered to shout. I was once told that they reason for the high volume levels was profit: 'if you're not talking, you're drinking' was the theory. Commerce killed the pub."

On "The Death of Lunch": "Observing 1930s New York, Lin Yutang also complained that the speed of life was destroying the pleasure of eating. 'The tempo of modern life is such that we are giving less and less time and thought to the matter of cooking and feeding ... it is a pretty crazy life when one eats to work and does not work in order to eat.'"


In summation, as "G.K. Chesterton [a writer beloved by conservative Roman Catholics] put it in What's Wrong with the World (1910):
'The rich did literally turn the poor out of the old guest house on to the road, briefly telling them that it was the road of progress. They did literally force them into factories and the modern wage-slavery assuring them all the time that this was the only way to wealth and civilization.'"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bedbugs in Bratz

Toys of Misery Made in Abusive Chinese Sweatshops - May also be carrying Bed Bugs by the National Labor Committee

"Young workers in China who make holiday toys for Disney, Hasbro and RC2—including Bratz dolls—are suffering from a serious infestation of bed bugs in their dorms. Workers report that their bodies are often covered with red welts from the bug bites, which can easily become infected if the wounds are scratched. A leading entomologist at a major university confirmed to the National Labor Committee that it would be very possible for bed bugs to hitch a ride to the U.S., especially if they hid the cardboard toy boxes."

You've got to wonder about the sense of justice God has. She/He/It/They (or S.H.I.T. for short) does have a sense of justice, it's just skewed.

Like in this case for instance. Here Unitedstatesian and European parents are buying these cheap toys for their precious little children. They can afford to buy so many of them because the Chinese workers who make them work 96-hour weeks, are paid peanuts and cheated out of 40% of their already low wages, and sleep in horrid, bedbug-infested dorms. (Also the environmental degradation caused by OUR toys happens in THEIR country. Those polluting bastards!) The justice part is that now the bedbugs that attack the workers are hitching a ride in the toys to infest little Tommy and Jane's beds.

I see what You're doing S.H.I.T., but to better serve justice why couldn't You just eliminate the exploitative conditions instead of spreading bedbugs to pay back the rabid consumers whose demand for lots of cheap shit - no offense - occasioned the exploitation?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bomb bay and Hindoofascism

Who knows who did it - no one yet. The attackers might have been Pakistani Muslims, they might have been Indian Muslims... Or something else. They might not have been Muslim at all; perhaps it was a false flag operation run by the Hindu right, or, my favorite monniker, the Vedic Taliban. (My apologies to the Taliban, who don't literally idolize Hitler and Mussolini.)

The Vedic Taliban is an umbrella term for an alphabet soup of organizations sharing the common dream of a "Shining India" made rich and powerful by whatever economic ideology happens to be reigning and most politically advantageous at the moment. And, additionally, by ethnically cleansing the country of non-"Hindus" - a concept whose application is at least as stupid as the concept of "Aryan" is in application to Germans. My favorite organization in this alphabet soup is the unfortunately-named Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJ Party. Unfortunate, of course, for blowjobs, which do not deserve the association. (As in the cartoon, its logo is a lotus flower, and its favorite weapon for hoisting the fetuses cut out of pregnant Muslims post-gang rape is a trishul, or trident.) For a Unitedstatesian audience, perhaps the best name for the whole lot of them, from the BJ Party, to the RSS, to the VHP, is Hindoofascists. Unlike the "Islamofascists", for whom political philosophy ended when Allah sent the last page of the Quran floating down from heaven, Hindoofascists love them some newfangled thinkers like Mussolini. The Vedic Taliban also has a somewhat less than charming infatuation with Hitler. From a high school textbook in Hindoofascist state of Gujarat: "Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time by establishing a strong administrative set up. He created the vast state of Greater Germany. He adopted the policy of opposition towards the Jewish people and advocated the supremacy of the German race. He adopted a new economic policy and brought prosperity to Germany." And he had such nice things to say about Aryans - which the Hindoofascists consider themselves to be.

What with Hindoofascism such a strong force in India, you had better believe the Anti-Defamation League, with its mission to "secure justice and fair treatment to all" and to fight "all forms of bigotry", is all up in their Hindoofascist faces. Oops. Not so much. Guess when we say "Never Again!" we mean "never again will we allow Hitler in 1939 Germany to start a world war that resulted in... etc."

At any rate, if you look at who benefits most from this attack, it is clearly the Hindoofascists. They have an election coming up in a few months, and the BJ Party, with its troll-looking president LK Advani, is looking to win. I saw this troll on NDTV on the day of the attack; they had the feeble ghoul on for an eternity, yammering away like a crazy old patriarch on his deathbed, as if he were a Fox anchorman. An anchorman who will be milking the Bombay attack like a rBHT-enhanced cow udder for the next few months of the presidential campaign. Nothing like a little domestic terrorism to yolk the locals into voting for the right, and getting them to ignore the murderous poverty they'll continue to live... er, die... under during Hindoofascist BJ Party rule.

But bringing up the concept of "voting" might suggest to some that India is a democracy, as in, a functioning democracy, as in, a society where political power is shared equally by all. In reality, where the earth is round, India is a "democracy" only in the sense of a country where an uninformed, uneducated and overburdened electorate is swayed by political propaganda/advertising into voting for politicians whose only true loyalty is to the elite. Whose only true loyalty, in turn, is to enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and their land. Winston Churchill said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. If he had taken a five-day trip through modern India, he might have changed his mind.

So the Indian government says, to no one's surprise, that the culprits were Pakistani Muslims. But when the Indian government speaks on responsibility for acts of terrorism, it speaks with all the credibility of Karl Rove giving an ethics seminar. Regardless, it seems that most Indians have bought this explanation. And it may well be true - it would certainly make some sense (Mumbai: Exporting Pakistan’s Resources by Gary Brecher). Besides, determining responsibility solely on the basis of who benefits most from an act is a misleadingly incomplete method of inquiry.

What is important at this point is not so much who did it - because we just do not know (As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath by Biju Mathew) - but what the response will be. And in a country where Viagra is accessible only to the rich, political commentators are urging the country to follow the example of an aroused penis, by engaging in a "hard" response, and avoiding being "soft". Where on the hard/soft spectrum the cushy-sounding "carpet bombing" falls I do not know, but it has been advocated as the proper treatment for Pakistan. As Mathew writes:

"The dead are on the floor. The vultures are moving in. The conjecture will try to unite the country into a series of unexamined positions. That POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act - the Indian Patriot Act] must be recalled. That States must be allowed to pass even more draconian laws. That Hindu terror is not a big issue and must be forgotten for now - especially now that we may not find an honest policeman or woman to head the ATS [Anti-Terror Squad]. That the defense budget must go up. That the coastline must be secured.

None of the well educated masters of the media will write that the 7000 odd kilometer coastline cannot be protected - that all it will translate to is billions in contracts for all and sundry including Israeli and American consultants. Nobody will write that a hundred POTAs will not prevent a terror attack like this one; that Guantanamo Bay has not yielded a single break through. Nobody will write that higher defense budgets have been more often correlated with insecure and militarized lives for ordinary citizens. Nobody will write that almost without exception all of US post-9/11 policies have been disasters. Bin Laden is still around, I am told and so is the Al Qaeda. The number of fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews have probably gone up over the last decade. So much for good policy. But the conjecture will go on.

The foreign hand and its internal partner will be floated without ever naming anything precise. But the country will read it just as it is meant to be read - Pakistan and the Indian Muslim. Everything will rest on the supposed confession of the one gunman who has been captured. A Pakistani from Faridkot, I am told. Why should we believe it? Didn't the same Indian State frame all the supposed accomplices in the Parliament attack case? Didn't the same Indian State claim that the assassins of Chattisinghpura were from across the border until that story fell apart? And more recently, didn't the same Indian State finally agree that all the accused in the Mecca Masjid bombings were actually innocent? And even if Mr. Assassin supposedly from Faridkot did say what he did say - why should we believe him? Why is it so difficult to believe that he has his lines ready and scripted? If he was willing to die for whatever cause he murdered for, then can he not lie? Oh the lie detector test - that completely discredited science that every militarized State trots out. And the media love the lie detector test because it is the best scientific garb you can give to conjecture.

I certainly don't know the truth. But I do know that there is more than enough reason for skepticism."


Most important to recognize amid all of this, is that the death toll of 195 in these attacks was small change for India. This is terrifyingly vulgar to say; but more relevantly, true. India grinds through 6,000 children's lives every day due just to hunger; and these are just kids. Adults, as you might imagine, needlessly die too. Fuck, if Bombay was following the annual average from 2002-2003, it would take just two weeks for the Bombay train system to kill as many people as died in these attacks. But what makes these attacks such a big deal is that these weren't just a bunch of Adivasis (also known as "tribals" in India) dying out in the countryside. A good number of the victims of this attack were rich enough to afford a night's stay at the Taj or Oberoi, which costs more than two years' wages for the vast majority of Indians. (Praise be to the Free Market!) This, and the fact that the attack can be used as a pretext for war against Pakistan or (more) pogroms against Indian Muslims, means that the victims were actually important. To a Hindoofascist, after all, to be that rich one must have been saintlier than Nathuram Godse, Ghandi's Hindoofascist assassin, in one's previous life.

So now, according to leading intellectuals in New Delhi and Bollywood, Pakistan and Muslims must pay. Which is why the tragedy of of "26/11" has yet to begin.

Sterling dumbfuck Fareed Zakaria recently wrote:

"I think India is showing remarkable resilience. They're trying to get back to business as usual. They were planning to open the stock market, which is not far from the Taj; they ultimately decided that that might have been a bridge too far, but they're encouraging people to go back to work. That's the best thing about an open society. They're trying to project an image of resilience."

To which an intelligent observer responded:

"Remember the Republocrat resilience rhetoric?

What else can you do? What else especially the subcontinent's working poor and middle class can do? From New York, I called my sister and nephew in Mumbai on the morning after the terror strike. Both of them work in the private sector, one as a receptionist, and other as a junior computer professional. Both of them told me that their companies had not called them yet not to come to work, even though it was extremely dangerous to go out and even in Mumbai where the subway is the lifeline of millions of commuters, it was all but shut down. Resilience? Of course, my sister and nephew must go back to work and 'show courage' to stand up against those ghastly cowardice forces. Or else, Zakaria must know, the private sector would show them the door.

Welcome to the globalized, neo-liberal, Wall Street-modeled world, India being at its forefront, along with its corrupt, criminals and crooks."