Monday, 30 April 2007

World's worst country hates free trade

Most of you should by now have worked out that I have a low opinion of France, which I deem to be the World's Worst Country. As a colonial power they oversaw the abject destruction of nearly every society in their empire. The debacle of Vietnam came about due to their miserable incompetence. As one of the Big Three of the EU they've used that power to extort unconscionable agriculture deals from politically weaker states, which is what's been propping up their dodgy economy for the last 10 or so years. As a member of the Security Council they've ensured that anything that makes the US look good is vetoed, or horribly hamstrung so it can't be effective, in spite of its moral correctness such as was the case with Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Somalia. As an ally they've proved feckless at best and treacherous at worst. As a direct enemy they've proved to have no spine or moral conviction. It's a pity that they weren't on the other side during the last two world wars. Would have made our task much easier.

As reported by the BBC:
Many French people say they are anti globalisation, but paradoxically France has launched dozens of world beating brands and grown rich on free trade.
Lucky for France that there are still a few realists in the place who understand how the world works, have embraced globalisation and reaped the rewards that are used to pay for the majority of cocooned from reality, nanny state no-hopers.
A poll recently conducted by an American university sent shock waves through the Finance Ministry in Paris. Researchers found that only just over a third of French people think a free market economy is the best system to develop the country.
Most of us would think that the shock waves are due to the figure being so low. Au contraire, mon ami. Surely it was because the figure was at least triple what they expected? The result was so good that it probably caused much celebration within the Finance Ministry whose management immediately broke out cheese and wine and took the rest of the day off. And why not? After all, it was 10AM.
By way of contrast, the survey found that a majority of citizens in 19 other countries were in favour of the free market, including 65% of Germans, 59% of Italians, 66% of the British and 74% of the Chinese. Even the Russians, many of whom have suffered in a painful transition to a market economy, were more favourable at 43%.
What the heck do the other 35% of Germans, 41% of Italians etc want? A closed market? Do 34% of Britons really want to go back to the pre-Thatcher days when union chaos was tearing the fabric of society asunder? It goes without saying that today's enviro-religious Brown Shirts are 100% in the camp of non-free trade. Didn't any of them take a look at how bad the environment was in the state-controlled Soviet Union? Best not to let facts get in the way of fanaticism, n’est ce pas?
In a bar outside the National Library in Paris, I met two students, Laurent and Florence who told me globalisation is "scandalous" because it often means French jobs are lost to poorer countries with lower wages and harsher working conditions.

"I think globalisation today is the modern equivalent of the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean," says Laurent. "I am for human globalisation, but I am against the capitalist economic system and I think we need to make capitalism history."
When people say that education needs to return to a focus on the three Rs - reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic - can I be so bold as to add a fourth R? Reality. Or Rationality. Economics should be a mandatory subject for all middle school students; then they might not have such a pathetic insight into how the world works. The movement of jobs overseas ensures lower prices for products in France benefiting those at the lowest socio-economic level. It also leaves more money in the wallets and purses of the better-to-do, increasing their purchasing power which has a direct positive consequence on local employment. However, the most profoundly positive effect is on those people to whose countries the jobs have moved. Why not ask them whether they'd prefer to work in those supposed 'sweatshops'? The elephant in the room with this argument is that they have a higher annual pay rate than the average of the countries they're in. Laurent and Florence need a good, solid arse-kicking if you ask me. Make capitalism history but promote human globalisation equals socialism. And hasn't that been such a stunning success? What is truly "scandalous" is that these two fois-gras fattened French phonies could care less about the well-being of the supposedly oppressed foreign worker.
Laurent's aversion to the market might sound extreme, yet it's not untypical in a country that fielded one Communist and three Trotskyite presidential candidates.

Quite a few on the French right too are suspicious of free enterprise.
If the French right is suspicious of free enterprise then that tells you where their right is in the global scale of things. Sounds like what we call left wing here in Australia.
These attitudes have troubled Finance Minister Thierry Breton so much that he has decided to create a new organisation to make his fellow citizens more market friendly. It has got a distinctively Gallic name: Codice, or the Council for the Diffusion of Economic Culture.
The answer to troubling issues? More government organisations! Now why didn't I think of that? There I was thinking that lower taxes and flexible labour rules did the trick. Thanks, Thierry, for the enlightenment.
Patrick Fauconnier, who edits a business magazine, is one of the Council's members. He describes the findings of the American poll as "serious and traumatic".

He says that the idea that profit is somehow unclean has its roots in French Catholicism and that business acumen is undervalued in French society.

"The brightest kids are encouraged to become engineers or lawyers or doctors. You only go into business as a last resort".
Let me think about that. Kids only go into business as a last resort (sounds like the Left's opinion of those that enter the military). Those kids run businesses that are so successful they make up one-third of Europe's top 100 companies and keep the rest of France afloat. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me. And what notable successes have French engineers, lawyers or doctors achieved in the last twenty years other than managing to sew a dead person's hand onto a patient that had lost theirs?
Fauconnier tells me he has come up with a formula to encapsulate the views of the average Frenchman.

"Economy equals enterprise, enterprise equals CEO (chief executive), CEO equals profit and profit equals exploitation."

The main task of Codice, he says, is to educate French citizens about the way the economy works so they are better informed and less hostile. The council plans a slick new website, pamphlets and campaigns in universities and schools.
That ought to do it! Particularly the slick website. The chances of a French university allowing a campaign supporting free enterprise is about as likely as their promoting military service as an honourable profession.
Training journalists, says Fauconnier, is vital because economic stories are often covered in a one-sided way on French TV.
Everything is covered in a one-sided way on French TV. That's why they're so ignorant. Imagine if they knew the reality of what they did in Rwanda?
"When a factory closes or sheds jobs, for example, there are lots of emotional interviews with angry workers, but rarely any analysis of the reasons behind the company's decision."

In some ways, anti business attitudes are baffling, given that French multinationals are conquering world markets with everything from shampoo to nuclear power.

The French may moan about cheap, foreign imports undercutting their products, or jobs moving to China, but they seem to forget that their very own hypermarket, Carrefour, is the world's second largest retailer after Wal-Mart, and is making huge profits in China.

But even France's most successful firms cannot count on the affection of the public, says leading sociologist Gerard Mermet.

"Many people don't have a positive view of these flourishing enterprises. They wonder if they have stayed French or whether they have turned into these awful multi nationals who play the perverse and dangerous game of globalisation."
Globalisation is 'perverse and dangerous'? I assume they think that global socialism is benign and harmless. No doubt that Carrefour is as widely criticised as Wal-Mart for its negative work practices, use of sweatshop labour et blah.
To some extent, such misgivings are understandable since nowadays French multinationals create most of their jobs abroad. That is partly because many business people say it is easier to operate overseas than in France.
Traitors! Monsieur Robespierre. The guillotine. At once!
Francoise Holder, who co-heads the Paul chain of bakeries, is one of the country's top businesswomen.
She won't co-head much at all, including her torso, once Robespierre is finished with her.

She complains about high corporate taxes in France and about the 35 hour week, which she says "unleashed a hurricane or tsunami" on working culture in France.

"The main obstacles we've come up against over the last 20 years, it's true, are in France rather than abroad. We have franchises in faraway places like Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia or Japan and we can find good managers there who are willing to work hard and so have been very successful."

It is worth remembering though that French labour productivity is still the highest in Europe and France has more foreign direct investment than anywhere in Europe except the UK.
While that's true, and would come as a surprise to the Germans, productivity is based on a per hour measurement and a 35 hour working week, which people adhere to religiously, means that the French economy wallows in stagnation.
For Philippe Bloch, who set up a French chain of coffee shops, the main problem is over-zealous employment legislation. He protests that the Code du Travail, the book of labour laws, which runs to 2800 pages, is "bigger than the Bible".

Sick of state meddling, he says he may start his next venture in America.
A Frenchman saying he's going to set up business in America is like Kim Philby moving to the Soviet Union. Monsieur Robespierre! The guillotine! Again!
"I'm not quite sure I want to re-invest the same amount of energy and effort and money in an economy that does not want me to create jobs. I think France has the unemployment it deserves, France has chosen unemployment. We have chosen to pay jobless people benefits to keep the peace."
"France has chosen unemployment." What a terrifically insightful statement.
But after the 2005 riots in many French suburbs, that peace is looking shaky.
Not to mention the 700+ suburbs that are no-go zones for non-Muslims or the 112 cars burned every night by these supposedly peaceful, grateful immigrants.
France has an increasingly divided society. It is not just the gulf between those with secure jobs and the unemployed. The country is also on the brink of a war between the generations, according to Bernard Spitz, a former government advisor.

The premise of his latest book, Papy Krach, is that in the next 30 years the number of pensioners will double, but there will be even fewer people in work to support them. He thinks young people are being held to ransom by the ageing baby boomers and that they may refuse to foot the bill.

"Three quarters of young people believe, in France, that they are going to live less well than their parents.

"How can you expect a society to be dynamic, entrepreneurial and optimistic if they feel they are going to live worse in the future?"
They won't just refuse to pay. They'll leave. Simple as that. Many countries in Europe now have net positive emigration rates as people flee the high-taxation, no reward for effort, socialist spending regimes that also allow unfettered immigration while clamping down on freedom of speech and association. Europe's loss is our gain. Even if they do speak French and smell of garlic. At least they recognise the value of work. With luck, they'll also recognise the value of values.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Sunday night Aussie rock

From his bio page: Russell Morris is one of Australia's most enduring singers. A major pop star in the late '60s, he went on to become one of the country's first singer/songwriters. Both ends of his career feature predominantly in the soundtrack to the movie The Dish.

Morris' career started in September 1966 with the formation of the Melbourne group Somebody's Image, which rose to prominence with a local hit version of the Joe South song "Hush." Morris was convinced to leave Somebody's Image for a solo career. His manager/producer, local music identity Ian Meldrum, spent unprecedented hours and money to create a seven-minute production extravaganza around a song called "The Real Thing." Once the result was released to shocked radio programmers who had never been asked to play such a long Australian single before, it was up to Morris' personality, singing, and performing talents to make the record work. It reached Australia's number one spot in June 1969. Without any promotional support from Morris, "The Real Thing" reached number one in Chicago, Houston, and New York.

Here's The Real Thing with a made for MTV video. It's a great tune.

Why hasn't the mainstream media reported these poll findings?

Support for the War On Terror has been divided pretty much along political lines since it first started. The bit I can't understand is why there's so much support for war in Afghanistan and not Iraq given we're fighting the same people. It may not have started out that way but that's the situation we face now so surely the goal needs to be to defeat Al Qaeda and its supporters wherever they are?

Justification by the Left for war in Afghanistan is based on the fact that it's where the Taliban and Al Qaeda were based, using it as a training ground for terrorists. On that basis shouldn't we also be in Warizistan, northern Pakistan, which has effectively been annexed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda as their new base? When Germany invaded France, took over the country and fought Allied troops does it mean that we're not allowed to take unilateral action against the German homeland?

The National Review Online has some interesting polling results in recent days. For example:
  • According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 61% of Americans oppose “denying the funding needed to send any additional U.S. troops to Iraq,” and opposition is up from 58% in February. (3/23-25, 2007).
  • A Bloomberg poll reveals 61% of Americans believe withholding funding for the war is a bad idea, while only 28% believe it is a good idea (3/3-11, 2007).
  • A recent Public Opinion Strategies (POS) poll found that 56% of registered voters favor fully funding the war in Iraq, with more voters strongly favoring funding (40%) than totally opposing it (38%); (3/25-27, 2007).
  • POS found also that a majority of voters (54%) oppose the Democrats imposing a reduction in troops below the level military commanders requested (3/25-27, 2007).
  • A separate POS poll finds 57% of voters support staying in Iraq until the job is finished and “the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people.” And 59% of voters say pulling out of Iraq immediately would do more to harm America’s reputation in the world than staying until order is restored (35%); (2/5-7, 2007).
  • A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll show 69% of American voters trust military commanders more than members of Congress (18%) to decide when United States troops should leave Iraq. This includes 52% of Democrats, 69% of Independents and 88% of Republicans (3/27-28, 2007).
  • According to a recent Pew Research survey, only 17% of Americans want an immediate withdrawal of troops (4/18-22, 2007). That same poll found a plurality of adults (45%) believe a terrorist attack against the United States is more likely if we withdraw our troops from Iraq while the “country remains unstable”
  • Should a date for withdrawal be set, 70% of American believe it is likely that “insurgents will increase their attacks in Iraq” starting on that day. This is supported by 85% of Republicans, 71% of Independents and 60% of Democrats. (FOX News/Opinion Dynamics, 4/17-18, 2007).
  • An LA Times/Bloomberg polls reveals that 50% of Americans say setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq “hurts” the troops, while only 27% believe it “helps” the troops (4/5-9, 2007).
Given the results of the above polls I have a question. How does it come about that after a prolonged bombardment by the mainstream media and other major institutions - education, unions and various churches - to portray the war as illegal, going badly, unwinnable and 'lost' that there is still majority support in the United States for sustaining the effort, not de-funding the troops and not announcing a date for withdrawal?

If you took this poll in Western Europe you'd get exactly the opposite result including in the UK. What does that tell us about those people? It's certainly true that there's no such thing as balanced reporting and in the UK the conservative message is carried by only a few Fleet Street papers.
I've posted previously on how the US has paid for world peace and continues to pay. It's ironic that the sense of security Europe has felt for the last 50 years which has lulled it into its current intellectually sophomoric state has been entirely due to the power of the United States. Instead of having to spend money on their military they've chosen to build the huge social programs that are in the process of bankrupting the place.

Obviously, it's morally correct to stay in Iraq and ensure that the place is stabilised lest the lesson of Vietnam is repeated and millions are slaughtered. Why one side of politics can be so blind to this obvious truth is beyond reason.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

CNN Flying Pig Moment on Iraq

CNN is pretty much in lock-step with the rest of the left wing mainstream media and, therefore, it's always a surprise when they put something to air that's against what the Democrats are saying in Washington.

Michael Ware and Kyra Phillips, who both report from Iraq, talked to American Morning co-host Kiran Chetry.

As reported by Newsbusters in their article: CNN's Ware: Troop Pullout Debate Is 'Delusional,' Would Hand Iraq to al Qaeda:
Left-wing blogs loved it when CNN’s Michael Ware rebuked Senator John McCain a few weeks ago, after McCain suggested he could safely walk through areas of Baghdad. But this morning on CNN, Ware took dead aim at Democratic schemes for pulling out of Iraq, saying that debating a U.S. troop withdrawal was “delusional” and such a step would amount to “giving Iraq to Iran...and al Qaeda. That’s who would own it.”

Ware also provided an interesting insight into how the battle in Iraq has shifted from Anbar province and Baghdad, areas where the U.S. has built up troop levels, to Diyala province, which he described as “the new frontline against al Qaeda.”

Apparently Ware has no doubt that al Qaeda has made Iraq a central front in their battle against the U.S., and that the U.S. pulling out would hand al Qaeda a huge victory.

Baghdad correspondent Ware was joined on Thursday’s CNN’s American Morning with Kyra Phillips, who has also been reporting from Iraq for the past several months. Both were in New York and talked to co-host Kiran Chetry during the program’s 8am EDT hour.

After Phillips talked about how U.S. General David Petraeus is “a straight shooter” who has admitted difficulty in some provinces in Iraq, Ware focused on the fighting northeast of Baghdad:

“Diyala is now the new frontline against al-Qaeda. I mean, to be honest, it’s a tragically bloody affair. The brigade that was there last year lost 19 troops in 12 months. The brigade there now has lost 50 in six months.

“And you listen very carefully to what General Petraeus says, he says ‘This is what we would like to see, a representative government.’ When I was in Diyala province, I interviewed a two-star general on camera for CNN, and he admitted for the first time from anyone in the military that they’re now prepared to accept options other than democracy.

“Now this is what this war was sold to the American public on, yet they’re now saying democracy isn’t mandatory, it’s an option, and that they’re prepared to see a government that can protect itself, give services to its people, and it doesn’t have to be democratic. In fact, the general said, most of our allies in this region are not democratic. So that fundamentally addresses the root cause of why America says it went to war, and now the military is saying, well, we may not get there.”

Then, after talking about the difficulty of daily life in Iraq, Chetry asked the pair “would all of us, all the American troops pulling out, help the situation?”

Phillips and Ware both loudly protested: “Oh, no! No. No way!”

Phillips zeroed in on the problems a U.S. withdrawal would cause for the Iraqis: “It would be a disaster. I mean, I had a chance to sit down with the Minister of Defense, to General Petraeus, to Admiral Fallon, head of CENTCOM. I asked them all the question whether Iraqi or U.S. military — there is no way U.S. troops could pull out. It would be a disaster. They’re doing too much training, they’re helping the Iraqis not only with security, but trying to get the government up and running. I mean, this is a country of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ there’s so much corruption still. If the U.S. military left — they have rules of engagement, they have an idea, a focus. It would be a disaster.”

Ware agreed, but argued that winning the war was in America’s best interest: “Well, even more than that, if you just wanted to look at it in terms of purely American national interest, if U.S. troops leave now, you’re giving Iraq to Iran, a member of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil,’ and al Qaeda. That’s who will own it. And so, coming back now, I’m struck by the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill, how delusional it is. Whether you’re for this war, or against it; whether you’ve supported the way it’s been executed, or not; it doesn’t matter. You’ve broke it, you’ve got to fix it now. You can’t leave, or it’s going to come and blow back on America.”
Video (1:15): Real (2 MB) or Windows (2.5 MB), plus MP3 audio (392 KB)

Michael Ware is a noted critic of the administration. For him to be getting stuck into the Democratic Party confirms that their stance on the war is miles off target. He's in Iraq. He can see the danger. They can't.

Saturday Shortcuts

Here's a great blog keeping track of who's to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre.

Dennis Prager gets it right on the appalling Duke Lacrosse scandal.

Eject, Eject, Eject's Seeing the Unseen Part 1 and Part 2 are mandatory reading and are in the same vein as my 10 Signs post.

American Thinker tells us about the trouble with Harry Reid.

Want to know about natural, and unnatural, disasters? Armageddon Online is the place for you.

Add Australian uber-blogger Tim Blair to your favourites for even more common sense from Down Under.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Japanese buy poodles that go baaaaaa

Nothing to add to this one except that the scammers are baaaaad people, learned in fleecing the innocent and probably the black sheep of their families.
Thousands of Japanese have been swindled in a scam in which they were sold Australian and British sheep and told they were poodles.

Flocks of sheep were imported to Japan and then sold by a company called Poodles as Pets, marketed as fashionable accessories, available at $1,600 each.

That is a snip compared to a real poodle which retails for twice that much in Japan.

The scam was uncovered when Japanese moviestar Maiko Kawamaki went on a talk-show and wondered why her new pet would not bark or eat dog food.

She was crestfallen when told it was a sheep.

Then hundreds of other women got in touch with police to say they feared their new "poodle" was also a sheep.

One couple said they became suspicious when they took their "dog" to have its claws trimmed and were told it had hooves.

Japanese police believe there could be 2,000 people affected by the scam, which operated in Sapporo and capitalised on the fact that sheep are rare in Japan, so many do not know what they look like.

"We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company were selling sheep as poodles," Japanese police said, the The Sun reported.

"Sadly we think there is more than one company operating in this way.

"The sheep are believed to have been imported from overseas - Britain, Australia."

Many of the sheep have now been donated to zoos and farms.
Update: Looks like this story is a hoax. Baaaaaad luck for whoever decided to run it in the mainstream media!

Ted Nugent tells it straight (and with a lot of humour)

Rock 'n' Roll guitar legend Ted Nugent has sold more than 35 million albums making him one of the most successful musicians of all time. He's also been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association for more than 10 years, which might give you a hint about his politics.

He recently addressed the Young Americas Foundation the audio of which is hosted on the Townhall audio replay site. Click on Listen Now on the Ted Nugent:"Freedom is my life" program.

It's both insightful and amusing.

When Lefties Attack

American talk radio host Hugh Hewitt presided over a classic caller situation on his show of Wednesday, April 25. Go to the audio replay page at Townhall and click Listen Now on the Jim DeMint segment.

About 10 or 12 minutes into the segment a caller who listens to Air America rings in to argue with Hugh about his support for the war in Iraq and the troops etc. He starts off in that elevated state of hysteria that only the Left can achieve but Hugh 'talks him down', keeps him for the balance of the 34 minutes, asks him about himself and gets his position on a few subjects. A few minutes from the end of the replay another Air America listener calls in and Hewitt has the two on the phone together.

What ensues is a moment of classic comedy.

For those not familiar with some of the players and terms involved here are a few things you'll need to know:
  • Hugh Hewitt is a very popular conservative talk show host, author and lecturer in law;
  • Air America is a response from the Left to the success of conservative talk radio. It has proven to be spectacularly unsuccessful, losing tens of millions of dollars, and went belly up a few months back before being purchased by new ownership;
  • ROTC is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps is the on-campus officer training program run in the US; and
  • Dennis Kucinich is a presidential candidate from the Democratic Party who is somewhere to the left of Vladimir Lenin.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Intellectual Origins of America Bashing

I came across this post from the Hoover Institute last year and bookmarked it for future reference. Written for the 2002-3 edition of their Policy Review by Lee Harris, The Intellectual Origins of America Bashing is a terrific piece that explains exactly why the most successful nation that has ever existed and the world's first non-imperial super power is so hated around the world, especially by the political Left.

I was going to post just a couple of paragraphs to whet your appetite but I'll save people the trouble and post the whole thing here even thought it's quite long. Normally, I would make my own comments in a piece that I use but this one is so powerful that it doesn't need my input.

A specter haunts the world, and that specter is America. This is not the America discoverable in the pages of a world atlas, but a mythical America that is the target of the new form of anti-Americanism that Salman Rushdie, writing in the Guardian (February 6, 2002), says “is presently taking the world by storm” and that forms the subject of a Washington Post essay by Martin Kettle significantly entitled “U.S. Bashing: It’s All The Rage In Europe” (January 7, 2002). It is an America that Anatol Lieven assures us, in a recent article in the London Review of Books, is nothing less than “a menace to itself and to mankind” and that Noam Chomsky has repeatedly characterized as the world’s major terrorist state.

But above all it is the America that is responsible for the evils of the rest of the world. As Dario Fo, the winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for literature, put it in a notorious post-September 11 email subsequently quoted in the New York Times (September 22, 2001): “The great speculators [of American capitalism] wallow in an economy that every years kills tens of millions of people with poverty [in the Third World] — so what is 20,000 dead in New York? Regardless of who carried out the massacre [of 9-11], this violence is the legitimate daughter of the culture of violence, hunger and inhumane exploitation.”

It is this sort of America that is at the hub of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s revision of Marxism in their intellectually influential book Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000) — a reinterpretation of historical materialism in which the global capitalist system will be overthrown not by those who have helped to create it, namely, the working class, but rather by a polyglot global social force vaguely referred to as “the multitude” — the alleged victims of this system.

America-bashing is anti-Americanism at its most radical and totalizing. Its goal is not to advise, but to condemn; not to fix, but to destroy. It repudiates every thought of reform in any normal sense; it sees no difference between American liberals and American conservatives; it views every American action, both present and past, as an act of deliberate oppression and systemic exploitation. It is not that America went wrong here or there; it is that it is wrong root and branch. The conviction at the heart of those who engage in it is really quite simple: that America is an unmitigated evil, an irredeemable enormity.

This is the specter that is haunting the world today. Indeed, one may even go so far as to argue that this America is the fundamental organizing principle of the left as it exists today: To be against America is to be on the right side of history; to be for it is to be on the wrong side.

But let’s pause to ask a question whose answer the America-bashers appear to assume they know: What is the right side of history at this point in history?

The concept of a right side of history is derived from Marxism, and it is founded on the belief that there is a forward advance toward a socialist future that can be resisted, but not ultimately defeated. But does anyone believe this anymore? Does anyone take seriously the claim that the present state of affairs will be set aside and a wholly new order of things implemented in its place, and that such a transformation of the world will happen as a matter of course?

And, finally, if in fact there are those who believe such a thing, what is the status of this belief? Is it a realistic assessment of the objective conditions of the present world order, or is it merely wishful thinking?

Marx’s political realism

The importance of these questions should be obvious to anyone familiar with the thought of Marx. Marx’s uniqueness as a thinker of the left is his absolute commitment to the principles of political realism. This is the view that any political energy that is put into what is clearly a hopeless cause is a waste. Utopianism is not only impractical; it is an obstacle to obtaining socialism’s true objective, since it diverts badly needed resources away from the pursuit of viable goals, wasting them instead on the pursuit of political fantasies.

The concept of fantasy as a political category assumed its central place in Marxist thought in The Communist Manifesto, where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used it as the distinguishing mark of their own brand of socialism: It was this that condemned all previous forms of socialism to the realm of vague dreams and good intentions, and which gave Marxism the claim to be a “scientific” form of socialism.

Marx’s use of the term “scientific” in this text has often been criticized. But, in his defense, it should be remembered that the German Wissenschaft describes a far wider category than the English “science.” It means what we know as opposed to what we merely opine, or feel, or imagine; the objective as opposed to the subjective; realistic thinking as opposed to impractical daydreaming. And it is in this last sense that Marx and Engels use it: For the opposite of the scientific is none other than the utopian.

This is the basis of Marx’s condemnation of all forms of utopian socialism, the essence of which is the enormous gap between the “fantastic pictures of future society” the utopian socialist dreams of achieving, on one hand, and any realistic assessment of the objective conditions of the actual social order on the other.

This concept of fantasy as “fantastic pictures” inside the head of impractical daydreamers is a classic theme of German Romantic literature and is perhaps most closely identified with the characters of E.T.A. Hoffman’s stories, such as Kapellmeister Kreisler. The fantasist, in this literature, is a character type: He lives in his own dream world and can manage only the most tenuous relationship to the real world around him. But, unlike the character type of the absent-minded professor, the Romantic fantasist is not content to putter around in his own world. Instead, he is forever insisting that his world is the real one, and in the process of doing this, he reduces the real world around him, and the people in it, to an elaborate stage setting for the enactment of his own private fantasies.

Marx and Engels’s wholesale condemnation of all previous socialism as utopian fantasy is the fundamental innovation of their own work. It is the basis of their claim to be taken seriously, not merely by Hoffmanesque daydreamers, but by men of practical judgment and shrewd common sense. To fail to make this distinction, or to fail to stay on the right side of this distinction once it has been made, is to cease to be a Marxist and to fall back into mere Träumerei.

This demarcation line arose because Marx believed that he had grasped something that no previous utopian socialist had even suspected. He believed that he had shown that socialism was inevitable and that it would come about through certain ironclad laws of history — laws that Marx believed were revealed through the study of the very nature of capitalism. Socialism, in short, would not come about because a handful of daydreamers had wished for it, or because pious moralists had urged it, but because the unavoidable breakdown of the capitalist system would force the turn to socialism upon those societies that, prior to this breakdown, had been organized along capitalist lines.

Schematically the scenario went something like this:

• The capitalists would begin to suffer from a falling rate of profit.

• The workers would therefore be “immiserized”; they would become poorer as the capitalists struggled to keep their own heads above water.

• The poverty of the workers would drive them to overthrow the capitalist system — their poverty, not their ideals.

What is interesting here is that, once you accept the initial premise about the falling rate of profit, the rest does indeed follow realistically. Now, this does not mean that it follows necessarily or according to an ironclad scientific law; but it certainly conveys what any reasonable person would take as the most probable outcome of a hypothetical failure of capitalism.

For Marx it is absolutely essential that revolutionary activities be justifiable on realistic premises. If they cannot be, then they are actions that cannot possibly have a real political objective — and therefore, their only value can be the private emotional or spiritual satisfaction of the people carrying out this pseudo-political action.

So in order for revolutionary activity to have a chance of succeeding, there is an unavoidable precondition: The workers must have become much poorer over time. Furthermore, there had to be not merely an increase of poverty, but a conviction on the part of the workers that their material circumstances would only get worse, and not better — and this would require genuine misery.

This is the immiserization thesis of Marx. And it is central to revolutionary Marxism, since if capitalism produces no widespread misery, then it also produces no fatal internal contradiction: If everyone is getting better off through capitalism, who will dream of struggling to overthrow it? Only genuine misery on the part of the workers would be sufficient to overturn the whole apparatus of the capitalist state, simply because, as Marx insisted, the capitalist class could not be realistically expected to relinquish control of the state apparatus and, with it, the monopoly of force. In this, Marx was absolutely correct. No capitalist society has ever willingly liquidated itself, and it is utopian to think that any ever will. Therefore, in order to achieve the goal of socialism, nothing short of a complete revolution would do; and this means, in point of fact, a full-fledged civil war not just within one society, but across the globe. Without this catastrophic upheaval, capitalism would remain completely in control of the social order and all socialist schemes would be reduced to pipe dreams.

The immiserization thesis, therefore, is critical to Marx, for without it there would be no objective conditions in response to which workers might be driven to overthrow the capitalist system. If the workers were becoming better off with time, then why jump into an utterly untested and highly speculative economic scheme? Especially when even socialists themselves were bitterly divided over what such a scheme would be like in actual practice. Indeed, Marx never committed himself to offering a single suggestion about how socialism would actually function in the real world.

Immiserization goes global

By the twentieth century the immiserization thesis was already beginning to look shaky. Empirical evidence, drawn either by impressionistic observation or systematic statistical studies, began to suggest that there was something wrong with the classical version of the thesis, and an attempt was made to save it by redefining immiserization to mean not an absolute increase in misery, but merely a relative one. This gloss allowed a vast increase in empirical plausibility, since it accepted the fact that the workers were indeed getting better off under the capitalist system but went on to argue that they were not getting better off at the same rate as the capitalists.

The problem with this revision lay not in its economic premises, but its political ones. Could one realistically believe that workers would overthrow an economic system that was continually improving their own lot, simply because that of the capitalist class was improving at a marginally better rate? Certainly, the workers might envy the capitalists; but such emotions simply could not supply the gigantic impetus required to overthrow a structure as massive as the capitalist system. Before the workers of a capitalist society could unite, they had to feel that they had literally nothing to lose — nothing to lose but their proverbial chains. For if they had homes and cars and boats and rvs to lose as well, then it became quite another matter.

In short, the relative immiserization thesis was simply not the stuff that drives people to the barricades. At most it could fuel the gradualist reforms of the evolutionary ideal of socialism — a position identified with Eduard Bernstein.

The post-World War II period demolished the last traces of the classical immiserization thesis. Workers in the most advanced capitalist countries were prosperous by any standard imaginable, either absolute or relative; and what is even more important, they felt themselves to be well off, and believed that the future would only make them and their children even better off than they had been in the past. This was a deadly blow to the immiserization thesis and hence to Marxism. For the failure of the immiserization thesis is in fact the failure of classical Marxism. If there is no misery, there is no revolution; and if there is no revolution, there is no socialism. Q.E.D. Socialism goes back once more to being merely a utopian fantasy.

Yet those who still claim to derive their heritage from Marx are mostly unwilling to acknowledge that their political aims are merely utopian, not scientific. How is that possible?

There might be several reasons advanced for this, but certainly one of them is Paul Baran. A Polish born American economist and a Marxist, Baran is the author of The Political Economy of Growth (Monthly Review Press, 1957). In it, for the first time in Marxist literature, Baran propounded a causal connection between the prosperity of the advanced capitalist countries and the impoverishment of the Third World. It was no longer the case, as it was for Marx, that poverty — as well as idiocy — was the natural condition of man living in an agricultural mode of production. Rather, poverty had been introduced into the Third World by the capitalist system. The colonies no longer served the purpose of consuming overstocked inventories, but were now the positive victims of capitalism.

What needs to be stressed here is that, prior to Baran, no Marxist had ever suspected that capitalism was the cause of the poverty of the rest of the world. Not only had Marx and Engels failed to notice this momentous fact, but neither had any of their followers. Yet this omission was certainly not due to Marx’s lack of knowledge about, or interest in, the question of European colonies. In his writing on India, Marx shows himself under no illusions concerning the brutal and mercenary nature of British rule. He is also aware of the “misery and degradation” effected by the impact of British industry’s “devastating effects” on India. Yet all of this is considered by Marx to be a dialectical necessity; that is to say, these effects were the unavoidable precondition of India’s progress and advance — an example of the “creative destruction” that Schumpeter spoke of as the essence of capitalist dynamics. Or, as Marx put it in On Colonialism: “[T]he English bourgeoisie . . . will neither emancipate nor materially mend the social condition of the mass of the [Indian] people . . . but . . . what they will not fail to do is to lay down the material premises for both” the emancipation and the mending of this social condition.

The radical nature of Baran’s reformulation of Marxist doctrine is obscured by an understandable tendency to confuse Baran’s theory with Lenin’s earlier theory of imperialism. In fact, the two have nothing in common. Lenin’s theory had evolved in order to explain the continuing survival of capitalism into the early twentieth century, and hence the delay of the coming of socialism. In Lenin’s view, imperialism is not the cause of Third World immiserization, but rather a stopgap means of postponing immiserization in the capitalist countries themselves. It is the capitalist countries’ way of keeping their own work force relatively prosperous — and hence politically placid — by selling surplus goods into captive colonial markets. It is not a way of exploiting, much less impoverishing, these colonies. It was rather a way “to bribe the upper strata of the proletariat, and . . . to . . . strengthen opportunism,” as Lenin put it in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (International Publishers, 1933).

This gives us the proper perspective from which to judge the revolutionary quality of Baran’s reformulation. For, in essence, what Baran has done is to globalize the traditional doctrine of immiserization so that, instead of applying to the workers of the advanced capitalist countries, it now came to apply to the entire population of those countries that have not achieved advanced capitalism: It was the rest of the world that was being impoverished by capitalism, not the workers of the advanced countries.

Baran’s global immiserization thesis, after its initial launch, was taken up by other Marxists, but it was nowhere given a more elaborate intellectual foundation than in Immanuel Wallerstein’s monumental study The Modern World-System (Academic Press, 1974), which was essentially a fleshing out in greater historical and statistical detail of Baran’s thesis. Hence, for the sake of convenience, I will call the global immiserization thesis the Baran-Wallerstein revision.

America as “root cause”

What i now would like to consider is not the thesis itself, but the role that this thesis played in bolstering and revitalizing late twentieth-century Marxism. For it is here that we find the intellectual origins of the international phenomenon of America-bashing. If there is any element of genuine seriousness in this movement — if, indeed, it aspires to be an objective and realistic assessment of the relationship of America to the rest of the world — then that element of seriousness is to be found in the global immiserization thesis: America has gotten rich by making other countries poor.

Furthermore, this is no less true of those who, like Chomsky, have focused on what is seen as American military aggression against the rest of the world, for this aggression is understood as having its “root cause” in America’s systematic exploitation of the remainder of the human race. If American exploitation did not create misery, it would not need to use military force. It is the global immiserization thesis that makes the use of force an indispensable tool of American foreign policy and that is responsible, according to this view, for turning America into a terrorist state. This explains the absolute centrality of the global immiserization thesis in the creation of the specter of America now haunting so much of our world.

The Baran-Wallerstein revision of the classical immiserization thesis into its global context was far better adapted to fix what was wrong in Marxist theory than the revisionist notion of relative immiserization discussed above. For, as we have seen, what was needed was real misery, and not merely comparative misery, since without such misery there would be no breakdown of capitalism: no civil war, no revolution, no socialism. And who can doubt that great real misery exists in the Third World?

In addition to providing a new and previously untapped source of misery, the Baran-Wallerstein revision provided several other benefits. For example, there was no longer any difficulty in accepting the astonishingly high level of prosperity achieved by the work force of the advanced capitalist countries — indeed, it was now even possible to arraign the workers of these countries alongside of the capitalists for whom they labored — or, rather, more precisely, with whom they collaborated in order to exploit both the material resources and the cheap labor of the Third World. In the new configuration, both the workers and the capitalists of the advanced countries became the oppressor class, while it was the general population of the less advanced countries that became the oppressed — including, curiously enough, even the rulers of these countries, who often, to the untutored eye, seemed remarkably like oppressors themselves.

With this demystification of the capitalist working class came an end to even a feigned enthusiasm among Marxists for solidarity with the hopelessly middle-class aspirations of the American blue-collar work force. The Baran-Wallerstein revision offered an exotic new object of sympathy — namely, the comfortably distant and abstract Third World victims of the capitalist world system.

Perhaps most important, the Baran-Wallerstein revision also neatly solved the most pressing dilemma that worker prosperity in advanced capitalist countries bequeathed to classical Marxism: the absolute lack of revolutionary spirit among these workers — the very workers, it must be remembered, who were originally cast in the critical role of world revolutionaries. In the new theoretical configuration, this problem no longer mattered simply because the workers of the capitalist countries no longer mattered.

Hence the appeal of the global immiserization thesis: The Baran-Wallerstein revision neatly obviates all the most outstanding objections to the classical Marxist theory. This leaves two questions unanswered: Is it true? And even if it is true, does it save Marxism?

Whether the immiserization thesis is true or not is simply too complex a topic to deal with here. Indeed, for the sake of the present argument, I am willing to assume that it is absolutely true — truer than anything has ever been true before. For what I want to concentrate on is the question of whether the Baran-Wallerstein revision is consistent with Marxism’s claim to represent a realistic political agenda as opposed to a mere utopian fantasy. And the short answer is that, no matter how true the global immiserization thesis might be, it does not save the Baran-Wallerstein revision of Marxism from being condemned as utopian fantasy — and condemned not by my standards or yours, but by those of Marx and Engels.

This is because the original immiserization thesis was set within the context of a class war within a society — an actual civil war between different classes of one and the same society, and not between different nations on different continents. This makes an enormous difference, for it is not at all unreasonable to think that a revolutionary movement could succeed, by means of a violent and bloody civil war, in gaining the monopoly of force within a capitalist society, and thus be able to dictate terms to the routed capitalists, if any survived.

But this is an utterly different scenario from one in which the most advanced capitalist societies have a monopoly of force — and brutally effective force — at their disposal. For in this case it is absurd to think that the exploited Third World countries could possibly be able to alter the world order by even a hair, provided the advanced capitalist societies were intent on not being altered.

What could they do to us?

9-11 calling

The answer to this question, according to many of those who accept the global immiserization thesis, came on 9-11. Noam Chomsky, perhaps America’s most celebrated proponent of the Baran-Wallerstein thesis, expressed this idea in the immediate aftermath. Here, for the first time, the world had witnessed the oppressed finally striking a blow against the oppressor — a politically immature blow, perhaps, comparable to the taking of the Bastille by the Parisian mob in its furious disregard of all laws of humanity, but still an act equally world-historical in its significance: the dawn of a new revolutionary era.

This judgment can make sense only in the context of the Baran-Wallerstein thesis. For if 9-11 was in fact a realistic blow against the advanced capitalist countries — or even just the most advanced — then here was an escape from the utopian deadlock of the global immiserization thesis. Here was a way that the overthrow of world capitalism could be made a viable historical outcome once again, and not merely the fantastic delusions of a sect. This explains the otherwise baffling valorization of 9-11 on the part of the left — by which I mean the enormous world-historical significance that they have been prepared to attribute to al Qaeda’s act of terror.

But was 9-11 truly world-historical in the precise sense required to sustain the Baran-Wallerstein revision? For 9-11 to be world-historical in this sense, it would have to contain within it the seeds of a gigantic shift in the order of things: something on the scale of the decline and collapse of capitalist America and with it the final realization of the socialist realm.

But this investment of world-historical significance to 9-11 is simply wishful thinking on the part of the left. It is an effort to transform the demented acts of a group of fantasists into the vanguard of the world revolution. Because if there is to be a world revolution at all there has to be a vanguard of that revolution, an agent whose actions are such as to represent a threat to the capacity of the capitalist system simply to survive. This means that it is not enough to injure it; it is not enough to wound or madden it; it is not enough to rouse it to rage — the agent must kill it, too. He must be capable of overthrowing the hegemonic power at the center of the capitalist world system.

But this is absolutely implausible. Any realistic assessment of any possible scenario will inevitably conclude that nothing that al Qaeda can do can cause the collapse of America and the capitalist system. The worse eventuality in the long run would be that America would be forced to break its hallowed ideal of universal tolerance, in order to make an exception of those who fit the racial profiling of an al Qaeda terrorist. It is ridiculous to think that if al Qaeda continued to attack us such measures would not be taken. They would be forced upon the government by the people (and anyone who thinks that the supposed cultural hegemony of the left might stop this populist fury is deluded).

In other words, the only effect on America of a continuation of September 11-style attacks would be an increasingly repressive state apparatus domestically and a populist home front demand for increasingly severe retaliation against those nations supporting or hiding terrorists. But neither one of these reactions would seriously undermine the strength of the United States — indeed, it is quite evident that further attacks would continue to unite the overwhelming majority of the American population, creating an irresistible “general will” to eradicate terrorism by any means necessary, including the most brutal and ruthless.

But this condition, let us recall, is precisely the opposite of the objective political conditions that, according to Marx, must be present in order for capitalism to be overthrown. For classical Marxism demands, quite realistically, a state that is literally being torn apart by internal dissension. Revolution, in short, requires a full-fledged civil war within the capitalist social order itself, since nothing short of this can possibly achieve the goal that the revolution is seeking. Hence, 9-11-style attacks that serve only to strengthen the already considerable solidarity between classes in the United States are, from the perspective of classical Marxism, fatally flawed. For such attacks not only fail to further any revolutionary aims; they actually make the revolution less probable. A society of 300 million individuals whose bumper stickers say “United We Stand” is not a breeding ground for revolutionary activity. Nor is it a society that can be easily intimidated into mending its ways, even if we make the assumption that its ways need mending.

But if the result of 9-11 was to strengthen the political unity of the United States, then 9-11 was definitely not world-historical. The unspeakable human horror of 9-11 should not blind us to the ghastly triviality of the motive and the inevitable nullity of the aftermath.

The temptation of fantasy ideology

The baran-wallerstein revision of Marxism does provide a new global reformulation of the immiserization thesis. But the locus of this misery, the Third World, does not and cannot provide an adequate objective foundation for a revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system. Rather, this foundation can be provided only by a majority of the workers in the advanced capitalist countries themselves; but, as we have seen, the effect of 9-11 on the working class of the United States was not one conducive to the overthrow and demise of capitalism. On the contrary, nowhere was the desire to retaliate against the terrorists more powerfully visceral than among the working class of the United States. The overwhelming majority of its members instantly responded with collective and spontaneous expression of solidarity with other Americans and expressions of outrage against those who had planned and carried out the attack, as well as those who attempted to palliate it.

For those who are persuaded by the Baran-Wallerstein thesis, 9-11 represents a classic temptation. It is the temptation that every fantasy ideology offers to those who become caught up in it — the temptation to replace serious thought and analysis, fidelity to the facts and scrupulous objectivity, with the worst kind of wishful thinking. The attempt to cast 9-11 as a second taking of the Bastille simply overlooks what is most critical about both of these events, namely, that the Bastille was a symbol of oppression to the masses of French men and women who first overthrew it and then tore it down, brick by brick. And while it is true that the Bastille had become the stuff of fantasy, thanks to the pre-1789 “horrors of the Bastille” literature, it was still a fantasy that worked potently on the minds of the Parisian mob and hence provided the objective political conditions necessary to undermine the Bourbon state. But the fantasy embodied in 9-11, far from weakening the American political order, strengthened it immeasurably, while the only mobs that were motivated by the enactment of this fantasy were those inhabiting the Arab streets — a population pathetically unable to control even the most elementary aspects of its own political destiny, and hence scarcely the material out of which a realistically minded revolutionary could hope to fashion an instrument of world-historical transformation. These people are badly miscast in the role of the vanguard of the world revolution. And what can we say about those in the West, allegedly acting within the tradition of Marxist thought, who encourage such spectacularly utopian flights of fantasy?

The Baran-Wallerstein thesis cannot save Marxism; and, in fact, it is a betrayal of what is genuinely valid in Marx — namely, the insistence that any realistic hope of a world-historical transformation from one stage of social organization to a more humane one can come only if men and women do not yield to the temptation of fantasy ideology, even — and, indeed, especially — when it is a fantasy ideology dressed up to look like Marxism.

Instead, the Baran-Wallerstein thesis has sadly come to provide merely a theoretical justification for the most irrational and infantile forms of America-bashing. There is nothing Marxist about this. On the contrary, according to Marx, it was the duty of the non-utopian socialist, prior to the advent of genuine socialism, to support whatever state happened to represent the most fully developed and consistently carried out form of capitalism; and, indeed, it was his duty to defend it against the irrational onslaughts of those reactionary and backward forces that tried to thwart its development. In fact, this was a duty that Marx took upon himself, and nowhere more clearly than in his defense of the United States against the Confederacy in the Civil War. Only in this case he was defending capitalism against a fantasy ideology that, unlike that of radical Islam, wished to roll back the clock a mere handful of centuries, not several millennia.

Those who, speaking in Marx’s name, try to defend the fantasy ideology embodied in 9-11 are betraying everything that Marx represented. They are replacing his hard-nosed insistence on realism with a self-indulgent flight into sheer fantasy, just as they are abandoning his strenuous commitment to pursuit of a higher stage of social organization in order to glorify the feudal regimes that the world has long since condemned to Marx’s own celebrated trash bin of history.

America-bashing has sadly come to be “the opium of the intellectual,” to use the phrase Raymond Aron borrowed from Marx in order to characterize those who followed the latter into the twentieth century. And like opium it produces vivid and fantastic dreams.

This is an intellectual tragedy. The Marxist left, whatever else one might say about it, has traditionally offered a valuable perspective from which even the greatest conservative thinkers have learned — including Schumpeter and Thomas Sowell. But if it cannot rid itself of its current penchant for fantasy ideology of the worst type, not only will it be incapable of serving this purpose; it will become worse than useless. It will become a justification for a return to that state of barbarism mankind has spent millennia struggling to transcend — a struggle that no one felt more keenly than Marx himself. For the essence of utopianism, according to Marx, is the refusal to acknowledge just how much suffering and pain every upward step of man’s ascent inflicts upon those who are taking it, and instead to dream that there are easier ways of getting there. There are not, and it is helpful to no party to pretend that there are. To argue that the great inequalities of wealth now existing between the advanced capitalist countries and the Third World can be cured by outbreaks of frenzied and irrational America-bashing is not only utopian; it is immoral.

The left, if it is not to condemn itself to become a fantasy ideology, must reconcile itself not only with the reality of America, but with its dialectical necessity — America is the sine qua non of any future progress that mankind can make, no matter what direction that progress may take.

The belief that mankind’s progress, by any conceivable standard of measurement recognized by Karl Marx, could be achieved through the destruction or even decline of American power is a dangerous delusion. Respect for the deep structural laws that govern the historical process — whatever these laws may be — must dictate a proportionate respect for any social order that has achieved the degree of stability and prosperity the United States has achieved and has been signally decisive in permitting other nations around the world to achieve as well. To ignore these facts in favor of surreal ideals and utterly utopian fantasies is a sign not merely of intellectual bankruptcy, but of a disturbing moral immaturity. For nothing indicates a failure to understand the nature of a moral principle better than to believe that it is capable of enforcing itself.

It is not. It requires an entire social order to shelter and protect it. And if it cannot find these, it will perish.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Virgina Tech versus Iraq

The always interesting and informative Diogenes Lamp highlights a letter to the socialist rag, The Age (Australian equivalent of The Guardian), which beautifully demolishes the ridiculous comparisons the Left are making between the Virginia Tech tragedy and what's going on in Iraq in a post called Age sensible letter of the week. Here's the full post:
And a superb letter it is. The Age has attracted a number of letters comparing the death toll of the Virginia Tech shootings with deaths in Iraq. The Left do their utmost to try to put it over that it is the United States that is killing all these people in Iraq. That the killing is being done by fanatical, psychopathic Muslims is carefully never mentioned. The United States is trying to STOP the mayhem.

In this letter Bruce M. Stillman describes the situation in Iraq perfectly. The United States is the police, trying to bring order out of chaos.

A PARALLEL could be drawn between the tragedy in Iraq and the tragedy in Virginia. But only if the students had attacked the police when they arrived on the university campus to apprehend the deranged murderer and then proceeded to form into groups and attack each other.

These attacks would have been carried out in the most barbaric fashion possible, and would have targeted those students and staff who did not wish to join in the general mayhem and/or who assisted the police.

Meanwhile, the staff would have split and taken sides with whichever faculty they favoured and then provided at least tacit support for their chosen student groups, while at the same time indulging in intrigue and personal enrichment.

An endless succession of pointless meetings and discussions would have taken place at which time the main topic of conversation would be to do with the activity of the police along with calls for them to leave the campus ASAP. All this would have been exacerbated by staff and students at neighbouring universities sending weapons to selected faculties on the increasingly chaotic campus.

The non-university population, meanwhile, would blame the police, arguing that they should have stayed away from the university and left control of the situation to the staff and students presently dismembering each other. After all, it was the police intervention that converted them to cold-blooded barbarians. Otherwise they would have been nice, civilised, caring human beings.
Bruce M. Stillman, Fitzroy North

Let’s get this straight: the United States overthrew a barbaric totalitarian mass murderer, who had overseen the murder of hundreds of thousands, and very likely millions, of people.

America knew that Saddam’s dethronement would lead to chaos. But nobody could have predicted the lunacy of Islamicists using Iraq to conduct an insane religious war, and even using their own children as human bombs.

And nobody did. The Democrats in the last five and a half years have not offered one suggestion of how the war against Islamic terrorism should be fought (and it must be fought. If September 11 2001 was not a horrific act of war, then neither was the Nazi invasion of Poland, nor the attack on Pearl Harbour).

Our own whingers have done no better. Phillip Adams complains about the war in Iraq, but regarding what is to be done in response to the 2001 terrorist attack, or the 2002 Bali bombing, or the 2005 bombing of the London tube, or a thousand other acts committed by bloodthirsty Islamic fanatics, Adams and his ilk have nothing to offer.

One is reminded of the words of Cicero:

I criticise by creation, not by finding fault.

Anyway, thank you Bruce. That was one hell of a letter.
And thank you, Diogenes, for bringing that insightful letter to people's attention. A large number of people on the Left started making Iraq comparisons with unseemly haste in a horrible display of partisan politics. While that behaviour is not the sole domain of the Left at least the Right knows they're wrong when they do it.

Somalia carnage - United Nations 'concerned'

Advocates call climate change the greatest moral challenge of our time. What, then, do they call the ongoing bloodshed and carnage in Africa? A couple of days ago I highlighted the UN's inaction in Sudan.
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The carnage and suffering in Somalia may be the worst in more than a decade -- but you'd hardly know it from your nightly news.

For a mix of reasons, from public fatigue at another African conflict to international diplomatic divisions and frustration, a war slaughtering civilians and creating a huge refugee crisis has failed to grab world attention or stir global players.

"There is a massive tragedy unfolding in Mogadishu, but from the world's silence, you would think it's Christmas," said the head of a Mogadishu political think-tank, who declined to be named because of the precarious security situation in Somalia.

Somalis caught up in Mogadishu's worst violence for 16 years are painfully aware of their place on the global agenda.

"Nobody cares about Somalia, even if we die in our millions," said Abdirahman Ali, a 29-year-old father-of-two who works as a security guard in Mogadishu.

Liban Ibrahim, a 30-year-old bus driver in the Somali capital, said: "The world does not care about our plight. The United Nations is busy issuing statements when innocent civilians are dying every day."
In just two sentences a 30 year old Somali bus driver shows more wisdom than all of the politicians of the United Nations and Western Europe combined. If you go to the UN website and search for 'Somalia' & 'concerned' you will be unsurprised to find 11,000 results. Filter that for 'deeply concerned' and there's more than 2,000 examples of United Nations perfidy.
The latest flare-up followed a U.S.-backed Ethiopian-Somali government New Year offensive that ended the Islamists' six-month rule of Mogadishu. In the past month, local officials and activists say nearly 1,300 people have died in fighting between government troops and their Ethiopian allies on the one side, and Islamists with disgruntled Hawiye clan fighters on the other.

Aid agencies have sounded the alarm over an exodus of 321,000 refugees from Mogadishu, and there have been appeals for calm from the United Nations and the Arab League. But nothing like the sort of global mobilization or concern that would normally accompany events of such magnitude, analysts say.

"In Washington, of course, people are too tied up with Iraq and their own impending elections to pay any attention to yet more news of Somalis killing each other," said a Nairobi-based Western diplomat who asked not to be named. "And if they do have a snippet of time for Africa, it's only Darfur because of the international dimensions that has taken and the power of the lobbyists," the diplomat added.

Mogadishu is too dangerous for most Western journalists, while Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera has been shut down. So the news comes largely from a handful of brave locals filing to international news agencies.

Images to shock the conscience are everywhere -- corpses on the street, shattered buildings, wounded babies, refugees under trees, hospital corridors full of blood and screams.

But they are, in large, not getting out because of the dangers of capturing such footage and the few cameramen there.

"The world's media are far away. That's definitely part of the problem," Ali Iman Sharmarke, co-owner of Somali broadcaster HornAfrik, told Reuters. "But also, the political actors just aren't talking about it. Maybe they believe Somalis have brought this on themselves and deserve it."

Rather than willful disdain, however, it is splits over what to do with Somalia that are paralyzing the world's response. The West broadly supports the government, but is uneasy at its failure to reach out to Islamists and the Hawiye. There are tensions between the United States and Europe over the degree of support to the government and its Ethiopian backers.

Some Arab nations are accused of sending arms to the Islamists. And in the Horn, Eritrea has just pulled out of the regional body IGAD which it feels is bowing to Ethiopian interests over Somalia.

Michael Weinstein, a U.S. expert on Somalia at Purdue University, said the international community had tied itself up by backing a government without a broad national constituency. President Abdullahi Yusuf's administration was set up at internationally endorsed peace talks in Kenya in 2004 in the 14th attempt to restore central rule so Somalia since 1991.

"For the major (world) leaders, there is a tremendous embarrassment over Somalia," he said. "They have committed themselves to supporting the interim government -- a government that has no broad legitimacy, a failing government. This is the heart of the problem. ... But Western leaders can't back out now, so of course they have 100 percent no interest in bringing global attention to Somalia. There is no doubt that Somalia has been shoved aside by major media outlets and global leaders, and the Somali diaspora is left crying in the wilderness."
In fact, the United States has been actively looking for a solution in Somalia in spite of what is claimed above. That's why the government is described as "US backed". Unfortunately, gutless Western European leaders are too afraid of their own Muslim populations to take decisive action in the face of evil. What is going on in Africa is a blight on humanity that diminishes us all. That the United Nations remains paralysed through indifference and incompetence is yet another example of why it should be dismantled at the earliest opportunity.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Sausages are off the menu until further notice

I'm not too sure there's much to be added to this story:
A man has undergone ground breaking microsurgery after cutting off his penis in a crowded London restaurant.

The 35-year-old Polish national burst into the 200-seat Zizzi eaterie on The Strand and grabbed a large knife from the kitchen before jumping onto a table and dropping his trousers.

As panicking diners fled, the man sliced his penis off.

"This guy came running in then charged into the kitchen, got a massive knife and started waving it about," sales rep Stuart McMahon told The Sun newspaper.

"Everyone was screaming and running out as he jumped on a table, dropped his trousers and popped his penis out. Then he cut it off. I couldn't believe it.

"The staff were really upset and there was blood everywhere."

The man was subdued by police wielding tear gas, who packed the severed organ in ice then took it and the man to St Thomas's Hospital in south London.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Surgeons confirmed this was the first attempt in British history to reattach a severed penis, but there is no indication at this stage that it was a success.

Zizzi was set to re-open for business last night.
Apart from bringing a new meaning to the term 'Zizzi sausage' things have returned to normal. What do you charge someone with for lopping off their old feller in a crowded restaurant? Are there any charges to be laid at all? Exposing oneself in public, perhaps. The things people do...

Letter to American Liberals, Western Europe and the World's Left

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

On behalf of Al Qaeda, the Iranian Revolutionary Council, Jemaah Islamiah, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar Al-Islam, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Tawhid and Jihad, and other brother organisations we send this message to you.

From the depths of our hearts we salute the steadfast support of American liberals, the people of Western Europe and the world's Left for our global mission to build a world in which all countries are Islamic and guided by Sharia Law.

Thank you to your media for providing coverage of our military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Chechnya, Algeria, Kenya and Thailand. Without the likes of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Age, CNN, the BBC, NBC, CBS, PBS, the ABC, SBS, Reuters and AFP we would not be able to influence public opinion in your countries and ensure our success.

Thank you to your new media outlets including DailyKos, Huffington Post, MyDD and FireDogLake for providing a forum where people can come together to voice their support for us in the so called War On Terror, can reveal the massive Jewish Conspiracy, and can deny the Holocaust.

Thank you for your belief in and support of the Martyrs of Islam - those brave warriors who performed one final mission to help break down the societies we both fight against - in their actions on 9/11 and 7/7, the Bali bombings, operations against Israel and the jihad in Iraq.

Thank you for not supporting the American troop surge in Iraq. It brings much joy to us to have such a staunch ally as the Democratic Party and we applaud its efforts to enable our cause by ensuring that the surge fails.

We single out special praise for Congressmen John Murtha and Dennis Kucinich for their tireless efforts to defund the war. We bow down before the wisdom of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who understands that all is lost in Iraq. Once American troops withdraw from there we look forward to the same support in Afghanistan. There is a special place for you all in Paradise. To Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi we send our deepest gratitude and have reserved for you the special blue burqa that signifies authority over other women in the Umma and allows you to walk alone in public without needing the company of a relative.

Thank you to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Muslim Students Association and the Islamic Supreme Council of America for working so hard to silence the critics of Islam, implement Sharia Law wherever possible and raise funds for our activities around the world.

Thank you to the imams and other staff working at mosques in the United States, the UK and Australia for spreading our message, providing financial support, converting young men to Islam and sending so many fresh soldiers to replace the Martyrs that have entered Paradise.

Thank you to Michael Moore, Robert Fisk, George Galloway, William Blum, Rowan Williams, Rosie O'Donnell, Keith Olbermann, Yusuf Islam, Ken Livingston, Gareth Pierce, John Pilger, Norman Mailer, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Joel Beinin, George Soros, Noam Chomsky and many others for your passionate support.

"So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers" [Quran 3:139]

"Allah has decreed that 'Verily it is I and My Messengers who shall be victorious.' Verily Allah is All-Powerful, All-Mighty." [Quran 58:21]

With such strong support we know that we will never become weak. Muhammad (peace be upon him) shows us the way and we will have victory.

Osama bin Muhammed bin 'Awad bin Laden
Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri

Monday, 23 April 2007

Darfur - What does the UN actually do?

The Wall Street Journal is probably the world's best paper. It focuses on accuracy, reality and takes no prisoners on the issues du jour. Read its recent article, Diplomacy and Darfur, and tell me whether you can work out what the heck the UN is actually doing to fulfil its charter.
If hand-wringing alone could make the world a better place, Darfur today would be as prosperous as Switzerland and as safe as Singapore. But good intentions do not stop genocide. In the hands of the U.N. and the rest of the "international community," they often facilitate it.

We're reminded of this once again this week as yet more evidence emerges that the Sudanese government in Khartoum is violating U.N. sanctions by arming the Janjaweed militias directly responsible for most of the mass killing, mass rape and mass evictions in Darfur. Khartoum's support for the militias isn't exactly news. But its dishonest denials of the fact -- credulously believed by some and disingenuously accepted by others -- have helped stave off international action against it.

Now those denials ring completely hollow as a U.N. investigation produced photographic evidence of Sudanese cargo planes -- painted white to resemble U.N. aircraft -- off-loading howitzers and other military equipment at Darfur air bases. The investigation has also documented more than 100 cases of "aerial bombardment" by Sudanese planes between October and January. Just yesterday, Reuters reported that a Sudanese air strike destroyed the Darfuri village of Jemmeiza.

You might have thought all this would finally have prompted the U.N. Security Council to go beyond the mostly inconsequential steps it has taken so far. The first, a 2005 arms embargo, was imposed on both sides, thereby helping to render the principal victims of the conflict defenseless. The second, a 2006 resolution, imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on just a handful of people.

Instead, the Chinese, who speak openly about their "profound friendship" with Khartoum and buy 60% of its oil while supplying it with weapons, have indicated they will not go along with any further U.N. sanctions. (The Chinese also objected to the public release of the U.N. investigation.) Ditto for the Russians, while our sources at the U.N. describe the French attitude as "wishy-washy" and the British one as scarcely better.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in his debut as a diplomatic soloist, has been earnestly negotiating with Sudan's dictator, Omar Bashir. Mr. Bashir has reportedly agreed to allow several thousand (mainly African) U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. Mr. Ban considers this a signal breakthrough, though the agreement is a retread of a similar one negotiated last year by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, not to mention previous agreements Mr. Bashir has agreed to and ignored. Even if implemented -- and even if the U.N. force is extravagantly well-supplied -- the blue helmets could do little to police, much less stop, the killing taking place across an area the size of France.

That leaves the endlessly maligned Bush Administration, which is the only government that has shown any spine on Darfur. On Wednesday, President Bush announced that the U.S. would take unilateral steps against Sudan, including sanctions against 29 government-controlled Sudanese companies and the blocking of any dollar-based transactions conducted by Khartoum, if Khartoum didn't meet its commitments to the U.N. Similar kinds of sanctions were shown to be effective against North Korea, at least before the State Department negotiated them away.

Speaking of the State Department, our sources also tell us that it has been lobbying the White House on Mr. Ban's behalf, working to postpone any unilateral U.S. action until the U.N. plan has been given a chance to work. How long is that supposed to take? A year?

For similar reasons, we hear that State has resisted a White House proposal to impose a no-fly zone on Sudan. We agree that a no-fly zone would be a difficult and expensive undertaking to enforce. Far better would be to destroy Khartoum's air force on the ground at a single go the next time evidence emerges that Mr. Bashir is using it against Darfur.

In the 1990s, millions of diplomatic man hours were fecklessly squandered trying to reach a deal with Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic over the status of Bosnia. Billions of dollars were also wasted on U.N. peacekeeping efforts that did more to hinder than promote an end of the conflict. This isn't exactly ancient history. So why are its lessons never learned?
Why is the United States the only country proposing that strong action be taken? As I pointed out in my 10 Institutions that Ruin the World series, the UN Charter's preamble states:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
What is the point of the United Nations? Why does it spend so much more time criticising Israel than working on solutions to genocide in Darfur or, previously, Kosovo? It seems to me that the UN is at about the lowest point in its history. The League Of Nations was a dismal failure. The UN is a dismal failure. It's about time the thing was closed down and with no successor organisation planned. Global diplomacy worked just fine before the League Of Nations and will work just fine without the UN.