Blimp deflator: Letting out the gas

Urban myth: The college socialism experiment

Posted in economy by Blimp deflator on January 31, 2012

Urban myth: The college socialism experiment

This letter appeared in the Manawatu Standard on January 31, 2012. My reply, which I wrote the same afternoon:

T. Whyman’s tale, supposedly illustrating “Socialism’s folly” (Letters, January 31), is an urban myth that has been circulating since the mid-1990s, in recent years as a chain email. One of the latest versions of it has the classroom experiment being conducted at Texas Tech in 2009. There is, however, no evidence to support this claim. Other current versions of the tale appear to have been designed to discredit President Obama’s alleged socialism. In short, the whole thing is sheer bunkum, and a waste of newspaper space.

word
It should be obvious to any discerning person that this type of story is apocryphal (to use a charitable adjective). One’s suspicions should be immediately aroused by its careful exclusion of any facts (name of college, name of professor, date, etc.) that can be checked.

T. Whyman responded on February 9, 2012, as follows:

Missed the point

My reply, written on February 10:

With reference to T Why-
man’s letter of February 9: I don’t accept that his/her “analogy of socialism” works — except at the level of the comic strip, where individuals are reduced to automatons who act strictly in accordance with the ideological bias of the cartoonist.

Furthermore, his first letter (of January 31) effectively reverses the reality of our privatised and deregulated international order, in which those who are poorest — the virtual slaves in the sweatshops of the Third World — are actually those who work hardest.

Conversely, most of the super-rich make their money not through real work, or through any productive activity, but through a process that has seen them (a) gamble with their clients’ funds, (b) lose everything, (c) receive bailouts from the taxpayer, and (d) continue to pay themselves multi-million-dollar bonuses.

Call this “capitalism”, if you like. I call it a racket. These “banksters” have been compared with the Conquistadors of the 16th century, who looted the frontier of the New World.

The only difference now is that the “frontier” is the state, and that we, the citizens of the state, have replaced the hapless, bamboozled Aztecs and Incas. It’s hard for us to resist, because it’s hard for us to even grasp what is going on.

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The Iran crisis: Israel pulls the strings

Posted in iran, israel, united states by Blimp deflator on January 29, 2012
The Iran crisis: Israel pulls the strings

Manawatu Standard, January 24, 2012

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A perverse tribute to ‘Islamic mathematics’

Posted in islam by Blimp deflator on January 29, 2012
A perverse tribute to 'Islamic mathematics'

Manawatu Standard, January 21, 2012

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Oil found in NZ: Obama plans ‘humanitarian’ intervention

Posted in economy, new zealand, united states by Blimp deflator on January 29, 2012

Oil found in NZ: Obama plans 'humanitarian' intervention

Manawatu Standard, January 16, 2012


Cartoon by Malcolm Evans.

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Capitalism a catastrophe, but still ‘best’ system, says Karl du Fresne

Posted in economy by Blimp deflator on January 28, 2012

Capitalism still best for world, says Du Fresne
Capitalism for poor, socialism for rich
A problem for the writer of letters to the editor is that a reply to a columnist must be made in 200 to 250 words, compared with the 1000 to 1500 words allotted to the columnist for the exposition of his or her case. If I had had more space, I might have pointed out that when the sweeping policies of deregulation/privatization were introduced, from the 1980s onward, they explicitly excluded any “moral” dimension. “Greed is good,” we were solemnly informed. When people were allowed to devote themselves entirely to the pursuit of their own interests, all sectors of society would eventually benefit. Even those at the bottom of the heap would see their standard of living rise, thanks to the “trickle-down effect” of the accumulation of wealth at the top.

As The Economist noted in 2002: “The case for greed was perhaps best made over 200 years ago by Adam Smith, who argued that the invisible hand of market forces would ensure that the efforts of individuals acting in pursuit of their own self-interest made society as a whole better off. In other words, judge capitalism not by the motives of the capitalists but by its fruit.”

Du Fresne an idiot

Earlier, in 1987, the fictional character Gordon Gekko summed up the thinking of the era when he said in the film Wall Street: “I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

Clearly, there is no “moral compass” here, now waiting to be “rediscovered”. There are no “moral moorings”, which the deregulated and privatized system has unaccountably “slipped”.

Any “moral” action was left entirely to the discretion of the individual. A rich businessman could, if he wished, toss a coin to the beggar at his gate — in much the same way as an 11th-century robber baron distributed largesse. He could also use his wealth to create new industries and employment opportunities, and thereby give substance to the “trickle-down” theory.

In practice, he generally did neither. Instead, he chose to maximize his profits by closing his industries in the West and exporting their workers’ jobs to Third-World countries, where the elimination of local industries, mainly through the undercutting of local prices by imports of cheap food from the United States, had sent millions of potential slave laborers flooding into the cities. At the same time, he tended to blame the poor for their plight, by suggesting they lacked initiative and the necessary get-up-and-go attitude. (Note the tone of almost all the mainstream media comments on the various Occupy movements, and the emphasis placed on the protesters having beards, being “hygienically challenged”, and — horror of horrors! — handing out free condoms.)

This means that, today, many consumer products are made in Third World sweatshops, and are bought by Westerners who, if they want to maintain their “affluent” lifestyle, must increasingly do so by borrowing — and entering inter-generational debt servitude. The whole system is a racket that ultimately benefits no one except the super-rich, who must now resort to draconian security/surveillance measures, including the so-called War on Terror, to ensure a lid is kept firmly clamped on unrest. But as Michael Parenti points out in The Face of Imperialism (see earlier post), this “Third Worldization” of all countries is actually the objective of our present capitalist system — to which, the pundits stress ad nauseam, there is no alternative.

In short, what we are witnessing is tantamount to a revival of feudalism, cleverly obscured by the banners of “freedom” and “democracy” that it is promoted under, by an elite class that knows the world’s resources are either running out or being seriously degraded and that it must act decisively now to cement its position of privilege. When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said in 1959 that “most of our people have never had it so good,” — usually paraphrased as “You’ve never had it so good” — he thought he was speaking only about the past. But we now know that his words are equally appropriate when put into the future tense. The “good times” of the late 1950s to late 1960s will never come again.

  • The column appeared in the Manawatu Standard on December 7, 2011. My reply was published on December 9, 2011.
  • The deposed elite snips Arab Spring

    Posted in egypt, iraq, libya, syria by Blimp deflator on January 28, 2012

    The deposed elite snips Arab Spring
    Cartoon from the Manawatu Standard of November 26, 2011.

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    The Wandering Who?

    Posted in books, history, israel, palestine, religion by Blimp deflator on January 27, 2012

    The Wandering Who?The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Essential reading for anyone interested in the issues of Zionism, Judaism, Jewish-ness, anti-Semitism, and history in general. (Atzmon maintains that Zionism “developed as a reaction to the emancipation of European Jewry”, when it was realized that this “might lead to the disappearance of the Jewish identity”. He further maintains that Zionism drew strength from a “created image of emerging anti-Semitism” . . . “a myth of persistent persecution”. Hence Herzl’s displeasure when French Jews, in the wake of the Dreyfus affair, showed signs of feeling “truly emancipated”.)

    Elsewhere, Atzmon shows how a tribal cult like Zionism, which by its nature is exceptionalist, is incompatible with a universalist ethic, and suggests that nothing truly progressive can be expected from a state, such as Israel, that clings relentlessly to “a phantasmic, invented yesterday”. Appositely, he notes that Britain and America have also abandoned a “true historical discourse” in favor of a “banal and simplistic historic tale to do with WWII, Cold War, Islam, 911, etc”.

    View all my reviews

    EXTRACT: The Holocaust religion [as first postulated by Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz] is the conclusive and final stage in the Jewish dialectic: it is the end of Jewish history, for it is the deepest and most sincere form of ‘self-love’. Rather than requiring an abstract God to designate the Jews as the Chosen People, in the Holocaust religion the Jews cut out this divine middleman and simply choose themselves. Jewish identity politics transcends the notion of history — God is the master of ceremonies. The new Jewish God, i.e. ‘the Jew’, cannot be subject to any human contingent occurrence. Thus the Holocaust religion is protected by laws, while every other historical narrative is debated openly by historians, intellectuals and ordinary people. The Holocaust sets itself as an eternal truth that transcends critical discourse.

    The Face of Imperialism

    Posted in books, economy, history, united states by Blimp deflator on January 23, 2012

    The Face of ImperialismThe Face of Imperialism by Michael Parenti
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    “Excellent summary (in only 134 pages) of the monstrous crimes committed by the US empire as it attempts to control the world.”

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    EXTRACT: The goal of US reactionary rulers is the Third Worldization of the entire world including Europe and North America, a New World Order in which capital rules supreme with no public sector services or labor unions to speak of; no prosperous, literate, effectively organized working class or highly educated middle class with rising expectations and a strong sense of entitlement; no public medical care, pension funds, occupational safety, or environmental and consumer protections, or any of the other insufferable things that might cut into profits and lead to a more egalitarian distribution of life chances.