Archive for April, 2013

26
Apr
13

International News, International Idiots

It’s been some time and a bomb but we finally know why Iraq was invaded in 2003. Most of us assumed that, by the moniker “weapons of mass destruction”, the US and its allies meant nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, of which there hardly was a trace in Iraq. We were wrong: they obviously meant pressure cooker devices since, starting three days ago, they have officially been classified as WMD in Massachusetts. Well, there definitely were pressure cookers in Iraq in 2003, there was black powder, and there were ball bearings, so all the necessary materials to build countless weapons of mass destruction were there; the US invasion was perfectly justified, as will be any invasion near you, in case you happen to own oil and repress Islamism.

Of course, the fact that a pressure cooker device is just a primitive form of cluster bomb doesn’t seem to matter: the US rejected the Convention on Cluster Munition in 2008, explicitly stating that they are conventional weapons. Not that it would matter, either: the US, which owns all types of weapons of mass destruction, still finds it fitting to wage war on whoever else attempts to create them. Not on those who already have, mind: those people are dangerous, and therefore perfectly ok.

Truth is, Americans just want to see Tsarnaev dead. When Stalin wanted people executed, he accused them of incompetence, of being on Germany’s payroll, and of having participated in the murder of Sergei Kirov. The US government accuses them of being terrorists, “enemy combatants” and users of weapons of mass destruction. As it didn’t Stalinist Russia, it doesn’t really matter in modern America whether some of the accusations are true: Nikolai Yezhov was, indeed, an enemy of the people, and eminently incompetent, but was condemned of co-operating with Germany as well. Tsarnaev is, indeed, a terrorist, but he is being accused, beyond reason, of using weapons of mass destruction as well.

The difference is not in the methods, really, but in the purposes: while Stalin quietly purged the power elite to have free hand in implementing harmful policies, the US offer a bloody show to glorify the power elite and distract the people from harmful policies that are already being implemented: is anybody still talking about this, for instance?

19
Apr
13

Excel and the Ruin of the World

Surprise, surprise: firing people doesn’t help with unemployment, and reducing taxes doesn’t help the state budget. And the article claiming it does is bullshit. I personally think blaming Excel is unfair: this is standard neoliberal cherry-picking.

16
Apr
13

Test Your Knowledge, Find a Bomber

You want a shot at finding who is behind the Boston Marathon bombing? Try answering the following:

  1. Who hates to see half-naked women and, possibly, gay and black people parading through the streets of a city all day?
    • Islamic basket cases in the Middle Eastern deserts
    • Christian basket cases in the South-Western deserts
  2. Who always thinks god is with them, regardless of what they do in their name, except, of course, for abortions?
    • Islamic basket cases in the Middle Eastern deserts
    • Christian basket cases in the South-Western deserts
  3. What is releasing a condemnation of the bombing in Boston, while a number of its supporters thinks “They had it coming”?
    • Hizb ut-Tahrir
    • The Tea Party
  4. Which desertic state has 90% of its territory owned by religious basket cases, with less than 10% left to violently oppressed natives, and uses starvation-wage, religious immigrants to do most of the work?
    • Bahrain
    • Arizona
  5. Where are pressure cookers used?
    • Bahrain
    • Arizona
    • Everywhere else

If you can answer the questions above correctly, you will have a good idea of the environment that engendered this latest attack. I, for one, can’t.

Update (19/4/2013): apparently, it was Islamic basket cases from the Russian South-Western scrublands, who spent a good part of their life in the deserts of Kazakhstan (some sources say Kyrgyzstan). Remember the times when Islamism and terrorism did not exist, either in the Caucasus or in Central Asia? It was when they were both part of the Soviet Union; the same Americans who are now holding vigils and spamming facebook with the “martyrs” of the Boston Marathon bombings called it the Empire of Evil, mostly on account of lack of such consumer goods as pressure cookers; they also called Al Quaeda and the Talibans “freedom fighters”.

15
Apr
13

The Three Faces of the Crisis

Etruscan chimera

The chimera: pretty pointless to grab it by the horns.

There is much confusion in the capitalist media about what the financial, or any other, crisis, is. The confusion is, of course, voluntary: a clear description of the nature of the crisis would imply a rational set of policies to solve it, and these policies run opposite what neoliberalism imposes–which can be summed up as: less taxes for the rich, cheaper labour, and hope the gods of capital are pleased with the offerings.

There are several ways of defining a crisis; a financial crisis is defined as a situations in which some financial assets suddenly lose a large part of their nominal value; this results in recession, which results in unemployment. As a communist and indeed as a reasonable person of any political orientation, unemployment is the only indicator that should interest you. In other words, instead of defining the crisis in terms of the value of assets, and seeing unemployment as a consequence, let us change approach, and consider the crisis for what it is: a massive increase in unemployment. In an employment crisis, certain assets will have fewer buyers, and therefore drop in price; furthermore, these buyers will have less purchasing power, as the drop in employment is associated (by the law of offer and demand) with a drop in the cost of labour. The “financial” crisis of 2007 is easily explained in terms of employment: as the average home owner could not afford housing, the prices dropped, and defaulted loans could not be covered by their securities. If you look at the trends in housing prices, you will notice that the prices in the posher parts of Manhattan were hardly affected by the so-called housing bubble, whereas those in the outskirts of Detroit, for examples, dropped rather sharply: your average Manhattanite is not the “average home owner”: he lives a life of privilege, and scoffs at unemployment figures every morning while cursing at the beggars outside of Starbucks.

I am not saying that financial crises do not exist. Marx predicted that the capitalist economy is intrinsically unstable, and will necessarily go through cycles of recession. However, a purely financial crisis can be solved many ways, which I am not going to get into. If you look at the chimera up there, the financial side of the unemployment crisis is the goat’s head: you can grab it by the horns but, unless you’ve taken care of it before, the lion’s head will tear you to shreds and the dragon’s one will burn you to a crisp in the meanwhile.

What is the lion’s head, then? It is the transfer crisis: the very well-known fact that jobs are being moved to countries with low labour costs, lax environmental laws, nominal quality standards and good old state-funded strike breakers. This crisis is so prominent that at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the US team could not find anybody in the States to make their uniforms: they were made in China. If you want to have an idea of how serious it is, try buying your Christmas presents and avoid anything made in either China or Bangladesh: I tried myself, last year, and simply couldn’t.

The third, or dragon’s head is the one people understand the least. It is the resource crisis. Production does not only require a starting capital and a labour. It requires, in most cases, some kind of raw material, and the price of virtually all raw materials is increasing. This means that production of material goods is not only threatened by competition with cheaper labour: it also sees its margins cut by increasing raw material prices. The wasteful nature of capitalist production makes this side of the crisis much worse than it needs be. The resource crisis is not as easy to identify as the transfer crisis but it is very real and, unlike the other two, it is irreversible. Nauru, which was known to be the only country with a negative foreign debt in the 80’s, is the most obvious instance of this: as soon as its phosphate reserves dried out, it plunged suddenly and permanently into the Third World: its unemployment rate is now 90%. The most obvious side of the resource crisis is the demographic one; preserving employment rates implies that the amount of labour needed grows in parallel with the increase in available work force. As production requires both resources and labour, if resources were unlimited (as the capitalist assumption seems to be), this mechanism would be automatic. Reality is, obviously, far away from this. The capitalist and Islamic media blamed much of the rebellions of the Arab Spring on local dictators, but truth is that most revolts originated in lack of jobs, food and housing, which had no other origin than the unsustainable demographic growth promoted by the very same Islamo-capitalistic vision of life.

What are capitalist governments then doing to fight this three-headed monster? Very little. If anything, they are doing much to feed it.

  • Nothing at all is being done to stem the transfer crisis: when asked about it, politicians of all sides generally answer that it is impossible. Of course it isn’t. Occasional rules are created to prevent the import of war diamonds, products of child labour, contaminated meat, or any product from countries that show Socialist tendencies. If similar rules were used to prevent the import of products that do not comply to the importing country’s labour or environmental laws, imports from China would drop by 95% in a flash.
  • Mostly, pseudosolutions are being implemented to fight the financial crisis. Government interventions are concentrating on saving the banks; this is done by pouring ample parts of the state budget in them, which in turn means massive firings of state employees, and therefore a worsening of the employment crisis, whereas, as the Icelandic example amply demonstrated, the default of banks has very little impact on a country’s employment rate. Some governments even work to artificially increase housing prices, as if it were a good thing to have an impoverished population struggle to pay for a place to live: these are measures that use the state’s funds (and therefore sacrifice state jobs) to ensure, again, the future of banks, sacrificing everybody else’s interests to them.
  • Capitalist governments work proactively to make the resource crisis worse: noble as it may seem that a law forbids nuclear power production, the consequence of such a decision is the use of more oil for energy production. The “painful but necessary” cuts to public transport systems mean more cars, and more oil. As far as the demographic bomb is concerned, capitalist governments have a very clear policy: paying people to have children, leave those children badly educated and helpless as soon as they reach 18, and blame “benefit scroungers” (i.e., the unemployed) every time the children privileges are abused. I personally live in a country in which the police would not arrest people trying to steal in front of their station, 45% of the hospitals have been closed in the past 10 years, and the railways have sold their ticket counters to 7-11. The big debate on TV? Apparently, kindergarten children do not get enough ecological food.
09
Apr
13

Quick Reminder

Capitalism, like many other religions, loves to make saints of its dead, mostly because the dead can’t turn to socialism. Doubtlessly, this will happen to the nastiest bitch ever to have sat in Downing Street, a woman who, in spite of her plebeian taste and approximate English, thought well of destroying the English working class by slashing its salaries, intimidating its labour unions, and doubling its unemployment rate.

You are going to hear a lot about how great Margaret Thatcher was, in the coming days. You will hear about how she saved her country from yet another crisis that would have destroyed the world as we know it. You will hear how she tamed labour unions which were threatening to take England over and turn it into North Korea.

It is all nonsense, of course. If you want to know what she actually did, look at this chart.

And when you are done with it, keep in mind that, as coal prices soar, half the mines in the UK have collapsed out of disrepair, and the rest have been sold to private investors for a pittance and lagniappe. Dying does not make people better: it just makes them stink otherwise.

05
Apr
13

Washington’s “playbook” on provoking North Korea

Since the delirious News reports purporting that North Korea wants to attack the US out of the blue, I, and a number of others, have been waiting for Gowans (who is about the only objective commentator of North Korean affairs I know of) to set the recrod straight. Now he has; everybody should read this post of his

what's left

By Stephen Gowans

In an April 3 Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. dials back on Korean show of force,” reporters Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes revealed that the White House approved a detailed plan, called ‘the playbook,’ to ratchet up tension with North Korea during the Pentagon’s war games with South Korea.

The war games, which are still in progress, and involve the deployment of a considerable amount of sophisticated US military hardware to within striking distance of North Korea, are already a source of considerable tension in Pyongyang, and represent what Korean specialist Tim Beal dubs “sub-critical” warfare.

The two-month-long war games, directed at and carried out in proximity to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, force the North Korean military onto high alert, an exhausting and cripplingly expensive state of affairs for a small country whose economy has already been crippled by wide-ranging sanctions. North Korea estimates…

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