Friday, August 31, 2007
Iain Rogers of Reuters reports ("Growth Spurt No Mask for Eastern German Problems," 12 August 2007):
At 14.9 percent in July unemployment remains almost twice as high as in western Germany and particularly affects younger people. Emigration and a low birth rate are shrinking the population, social problems are rife and right-wing extremism has been on the rise.Persistent unemployment in East Germany has become a fertile ground for the growth of Neo-Nazis targeting people of color. See Victor Grossman, "Neo-Nazis in Germany, or Déjà Vu?," MRZine, 31 August 2007.
The number of people living in the east has dropped by 12 percent since 1988 and the region still relies on massive transfers from the federal government -- some 1.5 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) since unification and running at around 90 billion euros annually.
. . . The gross annual wage per worker in the so-called "new states" in the east was 21,340 euros (about $29,400) in 2006 -- well below the level in the "old states" in the west of 27,615 euros.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A Forsa poll for television station n-tv published earlier this month showed 60 percent of Germans think easterners and westerners are yet to become one "Volk", or people.
And the share of easterners who think they are better off now than under communism has fallen to just 31 percent from 66 percent in 1995, n-tv said.
From the International Committee of the Red Cross's photo collection "The Missing: the Faces of Those Left Behind" (click on the link for other photos from Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Georgia, Guatemala, Iraq, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Sudan):
The ICRC also issued a report on the disappeared: "The Missing: A Hidden Tragedy." In the report is a telling admission:
Sometimes little or nothing can be done. This is the current scenario in Iraq where, according to the roughest of estimates, hundreds of thousands of people are missing following years of strife -- including the Iran/Iraq war, the regime of Saddam Hussein and the current conflict. Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, says “Iraq is a very special situation. Security-wise it’s the most difficult. There have been other times when we haven’t actively worked on the issue of missing persons, but never for such a prolonged period. We have to face reality -- right now, apart from supporting the legal institute with some equipment and training, it’s nearly impossible.” (p. 5)
Thursday, August 30, 2007
According to the latest report of the World Bank, "In Iran, women’s participation in the labor force rose from 33 to 41 percent in five years, a phenomenal leap. In 1990, participation rates for women in Iran were below MENA average; by 2005, they were the third-highest in the region. . . . In Iran, women made up a majority of all additional entrants to the labor market" (The World Bank, 2007 Economic Developments & Prospects: Job Creation in an Era of High Growth, pp. xvii, 34). See, also, "Table 2.2: Women’s Participation in the Labor force: Rising Rapidly" on p. 33 and the graph "Women as Share of Labor Force in 2000 vs. Women’s Share of Additional Entrants to Labor Force in 2000–05" on p. 34 of the World Bank Report.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The New York Times also reports on the same page (Steven Lee Myers, "Bush Cites Nuclear Risk of Leaving Iraq," 29 August 2007):
President Bush told a receptive audience of veterans on Tuesday that an American withdrawal from Iraq would unsettle the entire Middle East, create a haven for Al Qaeda and embolden a belligerent Iran. He said Tehran's nuclear programs threatened to put "a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."Most leftists in the USA have yet to digest the fact that the White House is making an argument that it won't withdraw its troops from Iraq unless and until it succeeds in "regime change" in Iran and installs a pro-Washington government there, for, otherwise, America will end up leaving Iraq in the hands of Tehran. Leftists, as a matter of fact, have been as incapable of coming to terms with Iran's Islamic government as the White House and Congress are, so there is no coherent response to the White House's commitment to "regime change" in Iran.
Speaking here before the American Legion's annual convention, Mr. Bush said competing brands of Islamic extremism -- the Sunni model exemplified by Al Qaeda and a Shiite version that he said was abetted by Iran -- were vying for dominance in Iraq.
That, he said, made it imperative for the United States not to fail in establishing a pro-American government there.
"I want our citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East," he said in a speech interrupted several times by applause. "The region would be dramatically transformed in a way that would imperil the civilized world."
Mr. Bush has previously warned Iran about its involvement in Iraq and its nuclear programs, but his remarks on Tuesday were especially forceful, and suggested that he was blending the justification for staying in Iraq with fears held by members of both parties in Congress that Iran could emerge as a threat. (emphasis added)
What should leftists do instead?
The first thing that leftists need to learn to accept is the fact that there was no chance of socialist revolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Iran and that there is no chance of that in Iran today or anytime soon (or anywhere else for that matter).
The second thing that leftists need to accept is that they have to make a case for America's normalization of its relation with Iran under the Islamic government as it exists, with all its vices and virtues, without waiting for the Iranians to reform or revolutionize it into a government to leftists' liking, or else America is on a collision course with Iran.
The third thing that leftists need to accept is that most Iranians, including reformists, do not think of Khomeini the way leftists do, just as most Americans don't think of Jefferson the way leftists do, most Russians don't think of Lenin and Stalin the way leftists do, and so forth. Listen to how Mohammed Khatami speaks. Notice that, even in his argument for democracy, he defends his position by invoking Khomeini.
President Mohammad Khatami lashed out Sunday night against foes of the country's reform movement, warning the opponents of democracy were defying the vision of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.The fourth thing that leftists need to begin to think about is what kind of historical materialism may be useful to Muslims as well as others who will never become historical materialists themselves but may still find historical materialism useful as an intellectual tool in a certain context, such as in an attempt to understand the empire's political economy, but not as the only intellectual tool in all or even most contexts.
"The rejection of democracy and the defense of dictatorship are threats to the Islamic Republic and such points of view are in contradiction with the aspirations of the Imam (Khomeini)," Khatami told government officials at a planning meeting for the anniversary of Khomeini's death on June 4, 1989. ("'Dictatorship Threatens Islamic Republic': Khatami," IranMania.com, 3 June 2002)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Hello Kitty is not only the dream of capital but also its nightmare at the same time: she doesn't have sex, and she doesn't reproduce labor power. It's like the word "kawaii" (cute) pronounced by the average American, whose tongue dissolves it into "kowai" (frightening).
Monday, August 27, 2007
Parties and movements of the Left of Latin America and the Caribbean were invited today by the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, to have a meeting in 2008 to create an international organization.If such an International actually comes about under Chávez's leadership, and if the new International can forge a cooperative relation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization1 and populist mass Islamist parties and movements in West Asia and North Africa, it will be a great leap forward.
Speaking before thousands of applicants for membership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Chávez specified that he recently talked about this possibility with the Presidents of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and of Bolivia, Evo Morales, and other leaders.
Chávez said that 2008 "could be a very good year for convoking a meeting of parties of the Left in Latin America and organizing a kind of International there, an organization of parties and movements of the Left of Latin America and the Caribbean."
1 See M K Bhadrakumar, "The New 'NATO of the East' Takes Shape: The SCO and China, Russia and US Maneuvers," Japan Focus, 25 August 2007 and "Shanghai Cooperation Organization Primed and Ready to Fire: Toward a Regional and Global Realignment?" Japan Focus, 10 August 2007.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Japan's power elite, while extraordinarily good at selling almost all their commodities, not just pleasure toys, to the world, are rather poor at marketing the culture of Japan, however. They accumulate dollars, but they fail to use them to assert themselves culturally in proportion to their economic power. Everyone -- from the Taliban to suburban Americans -- loves Toyota, and yet few learn the Japanese language.
But there is one defining element of Japanese culture that has successfully replicated itself everywhere in the global North -- and in most nations of the global South with the exception of Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and perhaps a few others -- though not due to any conscious effort to export it on the part of the Japanese ruling class. Which element is that? That is utter indifference to republican virtue.
The world, especially the global North, is perhaps becoming Japanese.
1 But, at the same time, surveys tell us that, having elevated fetishism to art, few Japanese bother to have sex, or so says USA Today (Paul Wiseman, "No Sex Please -- We're Japanese," 2 June 2004):
TOKYO — Junko Sakai was nervously looking forward to a romantic getaway with the man she'd been seeing. But when they arrived at a seaside hotel last fall, her beau requested separate rooms.
Stunned, Sakai nonetheless anticipated a late-night knock on the door. It never came. "Nothing happened," the Tokyo writer says.
Nothing is happening with depressing regularity between Japanese men and women these days. Marriages, births and hanky-panky are all spiraling downward with troubling implications for the nation's future: A sagging birthrate means that fewer working-age people will be around to support a growing population of elderly; a social crisis looms.
Only in Japan would a popular weekly newsmagazine deem it necessary to exhort the nation's youth to abstain from sexual abstinence: "Young people, don't hate sex," AERA magazine pleaded last month in a report detailing a precarious drop in sales of condoms and in business at Japan's rent-by-the-hour "love hotels."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And so, to an astonishing degree, men and women go their separate ways -- the women to designer boutiques and chic restaurants with their girlfriends or moms, the men to karaoke clubs with their colleagues from work or the solitude of their computer screens to romance hassle-free virtual women.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
• Sex. In a 2001 survey, condom maker Durex found that Japan ranked dead last among 28 countries in the frequency of sex: The average Japanese had sex just 36 times a year. Hong Kong was next to last with 63. (Americans ranked No. 1 at 124 times a year.)
AERA reports that condom shipments are down 40% since 1993 (probably in part because Japan finally legalized birth-control pills in 1999) and love-hotel check-ins are off at least 20% over the past five years. What's more, an increasing number of those visiting love hotels aren't there for romance, AERA says; they've found that love hotels offer the cheapest access to karaoke machines and video games.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But most young Japanese seem to enjoy the single life. In 1973, a Japanese government survey found that the happiest people in the country were those over age 60. A similar survey 24 years later found that the happiest people were in their 20s, and twentysomething women were the happiest of all: 77.7% said they were content with their lives. Maybe Gloria Steinem was right: Women need men like fish need bicycles.
Many young Japanese women live carefree lives, staying at home with their parents, paying little if any rent, letting their mothers cook their meals, clean their rooms and do their laundry. Many work dead-end jobs that don't pay much but don't cause much stress and give them enough spending money to buy designer handbags, shoes, clothes and jewelry and enough time to take overseas holidays with their girlfriends.
Another blog entry of mine, "Working-class Academics" (Critical Montages, 5 December 2004), has been mentioned in Radical Teacher (March 2005): "Right/left Campus Monopolies." I like this magazine, too, so I'm delighted to be included in it.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Lenin Platz in Berlin
by Fadhil al-Azzawi
There in his square
he stood, arms stretched forward
as if begging the passers-by
to stop and hear him out.
He wore his ragged black coat
and had his grey cap
pulled over his eyes.
I saw him prophesy revolution
to workers and soldiers
and threaten the bourgeoisie with Hell.
He did not have a chair to sit on
so he remained standing
and waited forever.
When they arrested him
he was asleep and dreaming
on his high platform.
They cut through his hardened body
with an electric saw
and carried his marble head
with a rented forklift
to a storeroom of archaeological remains.
The workers covered his grassy square
afraid the thieves of the class struggle
would plunder its invaluable dust.
A lot of blood stuck to our shoes
as we walked the streets
following his coffin.
Translated by the author
and Khaled Mattawa
Banipal, No. 6, Autumn 1999, p. 7
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Politically, the Iranians, with their Jacobin tendency and revolutionary history (the first revolution in the global South and the last social revolution in the world), are more like the French (my Great White Hope) than anyone else in Asia.
The syntactical body of the Persian language, moreover, is an Indo-European body, invisible to outsiders as it is, under its fine Arabic raiment. Its basic structure is SOV (with adjectives always coming after the noun they modify), so if you come to Persian from French or Spanish (SOV when a pronoun is used as the direct or indirect object, with adjectives usually coming after the noun they modify) for instance, rather than from English, you'll probably find it an easy language to learn.1
Nevertheless, even for English speakers, Persian may be in fact easier to learn than most other Indo-European languages, as Persian doesn't have grammatical gender of the sort that marks their nouns and adjectives among others. Persian is a very gender-neutral language. E.g., "she" and "he" are both expressed by او (u). That gender neutrality makes Persian love poetry very fascinating.
1 Engels claimed that he could master its grammar in 48 hours:
Since I am in any case tied up with the eastern mummery for some weeks, I have made use of the opportunity to learn Persian. I am put off Arabic, partly by my inborn hatred of Semitic languages, partly by the impossibility of getting anywhere, without considerable expenditure of time, in so extensive a language -- one which has 4,000 roots and goes back over 2,000-3,000 years. By comparison, Persian is absolute child's play. Were it not for that damned Arabic alphabet in which every half dozen letters looks like every other half dozen and the vowels are not written, I would undertake to learn the entire grammar within 48 hours. This for the better encouragement of Pieper should he feel the urge to imitate me in this poor joke. I have set myself a maximum of three weeks for Persian, so if he stakes two months on it he'll best me anyway. What a pity Weitling can't speak Persian; he would then have his langue universelle toute trouvie [universal language ready-made] since it is, to my knowledge, the only language where 'me' and 'to me' are never at odds, the dative and accusative always being the same. (Engels to Marx, Manchester, 6 June 1853, MECW Vol. 39, p. 335)
Saturday, August 18, 2007
BTW, Japan's ambassador to Venezuela, Matsui Yasuo, said in an El Nacional interview that the Japanese are more socialist than Chavez:
Los japoneses somos más socialistas que el presidente Chávez porque las diferencias en la calidad de vida entre los ricos y pobres en Japón son mucho menores que las que se ven en Venezuela. La clave no está en la ideología, sino más bien en la filosofía. Lo importante no es que un gobierno sea capitalista o socialista, sino en cómo organiza a la gente para que sea más productiva y supere la pobreza. El desafío para Venezuela es convertir la riqueza petrolera en calidad productiva. ("Los japoneses somos más socialistas que Chávez," 23 July 2007)Seriously, there is a grain of truth in the ambassador's remark, given the political economies of Japan and Venezuela, but the grain of truth gets lost in the sea of ideology that washes away the history of imperialism that developed Japan and underdeveloped Venezuela (cf. Miguel Angel del Pozo, "El Embajador Yasuo Matsui nos deja su pensamiento socialista japonés y critica el socialismo criollo tercermundista venezolano," 10 August 2007). Moreover, as this Communist of Yamanashi, Japan points out ("駐ベネズエラ大使の粗忽さ," 26 July 2007), quoting Akahata, poverty in Japan has been rising in recent years, so much so that now some are dying of hunger in the rich country (!): "厚生労働省の直近の調査で、二〇〇五年には八十二人（男性七十人、女性十二人）が餓死していました。〇四年には、七十一人（男性五十七人、女性十四人）、〇三年には九十七人（男性七十七人、女性二十人）となっています."
Matsui's remark, naturally, caused the Venezuelan government to protest against the Japanese government: "Ministro Maduro entregó nota de protesta al Gobierno de Japón: Venezuela no acepta que nadie se inmiscuya en los asuntos que son de decision y debate de los venezolanos," 24 July 2007.
Yes, it is right and proper for Chavez and Chavistas to protest. But we also have to remember the aforementioned grain of truth and its implications for the future: they will soon have to make harder political and economic decisions than they used to, for the era when it is possible to do "Socialism of the 21st Century" under which the poor get richer and the rich get richer than ever -- the phenomenon that supporters of the Chavez government and Chavez himself, too, not just the undiplomatic diplomat from Japan, have noticed -- is likely to end soon, though oil booms may last longer than credit bubbles, giving them more time.
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl article in The Nation online (17 August 2007), "Reading Arendt in Caracas,"1 is very much in line with The Nation's previous anti-Chavez article: Joaquín Villalobos, "Revolution in Venezuela?" The Nation, 9 July 2007 (see, also, letters to The Nation regarding this article). It is surely the case that Hugo Chavez and Chavistas are not liberal in the way that Hannah Arendt2 and her fellow New York intellectuals would have desired and many petit-bourgeois university students in Venezuela and The Nation do today. Good for Venezuela. No authentic social revolution in the interest of the poor majority can be a politically liberal one, least of all in the global South.
1 The title of the article is a variation of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran which has been incisively criticized by Hamid Dabashi: "Native Informers and the Making of the American Empire," Al-Ahram Weekly (No. 797), 1-7 June 2006. Recall, also, that Dabashi, too, was attacked in The Nation recently for his failure to toe the liberal party line: Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, "The Iranian Impasse," 16 July 2007.
2 Reuven Kaminer, an Israeli leftist, says that Arendt's worst writings -- about the faulty concept of "totalitarianism" -- have been lauded while her best ones -- especially about her skepticism about Zionism -- have been ignored: "On the Concept 'Totalitarianism' and Its Role in Current Political Discourse," MRZine, 15 August 2007.
Friday, August 17, 2007
His dear imam wrote a letter to Gorbachev in 1989. Among other things, Khomeini said, "However much the Western world may appear to be the land of economic dreams, due to the wrong methods of the previous communist rulers, that is an illusion. If you seek to solve the problem of socialism by adhering to the Western heart of capitalism, not only will you not help your society revive itself but you also will need yet another group of rescuers to come and compensate for your mistakes." He was right.
(Khomeini also urged the Soviet leader to study Islam seriously. I doubt that Gorbachev did, but Putin, or his advisers, must have. Putin is the only non-Muslim leader who fought a bloody "war on terror" against Muslim separatists, earned respect from the entire Islamic world, across the political spectrum from Hamas to the House of Saud, and won observer status for the Russian Federation at the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- all at the same time, besting the empire's power elite.)
Khomeini also said that the West faced the same crisis of faith. On this his diagnosis proved to be premature, but only by less than two decades. Just as Soviet socialism faced the crisis of faith, so does market fundamentalism today, as faith in credit is now being shaken up, for the seemingly material foundations for credit -- Americans' continuing ability to consume far more than they produce, "Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese" (Paul Krugman, "Safe as Houses," New York Times 12 August 2005) -- were in truth a flimsier ground for faith than any religious belief.
Yes, indeed, the age of materialism is over, but it was already over by the time Marx criticized Feuerbach: "The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism -- that of Feuerbach included -- is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism -- which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such" (Theses on Feuerbach, 1845). The "active side" has been "developed abstractly by idealism," such as Islam. The question today is, Can Islam learn to know "real, sensuous activity as such," to better resist the empire?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
"Now that the cold war is over, Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States," they write. "Yet no aspiring politician is going to say so in public or even raise the possibility" because the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful. They credit the lobby with shutting down talks with Syria and with moderates in Iran, preventing the United States from condemning Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon and with not pushing the Israelis hard enough to come to an agreement with the Palestinians. They also discuss Christian Zionists and the issue of dual loyalty. (Patricia Cohen, "Backlash Over Book on Policy for Israel," New York Times 16 August 2007)The question that Mearsheimer and Walt have raised is a valid question, and their raising of it, given their institutional stature in academia, has helped open up a political space for necessary debate on the US-Israel relation in a way that no writer on the Left could.
That said, whether Israel has become "a strategic liability for the United States" can be only answered by asking another question first of all: what are the goal and strategy of the power elite of the United States? Depending on the answer to that question, Israel may or may not be a liability.
Moreover, "now that the cold war is over," has anything fundamental changed in the US power elite's outlook? The USA is still as much of an empire as it was during the cold war, and its policy toward not just countries with considerable assets such as Iran and Venezuela but very poor ones such as Cuba, Nepal, and Haiti is still the same: make sure the power elites of countries in the South are pro-Washington, by any means possible. If the US policy elsewhere hasn't changed, why should it regarding Israel/Palestine?
After looking at the map, click on "Analysis," and then click on "Bilateral Trade Ranking, by $ Amount of Business Transactions, 2000-Present." The main business partners with Iran are China (44.45% of the total)* and India (34.97% of the total), which are way ahead of France, Germany, and Italy.
If the AEI's research is accurate, whether Iran can survive economic sanctions depends a lot on China and India.
* See, also, Paulo Prada and Betsy McKay, "Trading Outcry Intensifies: Firms Face More Calls to Cut Ties With Censured Nations," Wall Street Journal 27 March 2007.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
But do the data tell us our sexual truth or sexual myth? Gina Kolata, in her recent New York Times article,1 pointed out: "It is logically impossible for heterosexual men to have more partners on average than heterosexual women" in a given population. Kolata has mathematician David Gale illustrate this point:
Jordan Ellenberg of Slate takes issue with Kolata:
"By way of dramatization, we change the context slightly and will prove what will be called the High School Prom Theorem. We suppose that on the day after the prom, each girl is asked to give the number of boys she danced with. These numbers are then added up giving a number G. The same information is then obtained from the boys, giving a number B.
Proof: Both G and B are equal to C, the number of couples who danced together at the prom. Q.E.D."
The problem is hiding in the distinction between the median (the number reported by the CDC study [that Kolata questions]) and the mean (the number Gale was talking about). . . . Consider a village with 200 people, evenly divided by sex. Ninety of the women are virgins, but none of the men is. Each man has slept with just one of the sexually active women; each woman who's had sex, then, has had 10 partners. In this case, the median woman has zero sexual partners, but the median man has one. So we see a big difference in medians between the male and female populations, just as in the CDC data.2On page 3 of the CDC study, however, it is said: "Twenty-nine percent of men reported having 15 or more female sexual partners in a lifetime compared with 9% of women who reported having 15 or more male sexual partners in a lifetime."
For men and women to have roughly the same mean, which has to be the case mathematically, and for men to have a much higher median than women, there ought to be a group of extraordinarily sexually active women who outclass the most sexually active men, helping raise the manhood median despite sexual lethargy of the other women, but the CDC study, based on self reported data, is no evidence for the existence of a female sexual overclass (see above, but also see Tables 7 and 9).
I conclude either men or women or both are lying.
Perhaps it is time to promote a new idea in order to correct the prejudice that makes people lie: what is attractive in women is wisdom and experience, and what is adorable in men is chastity and modesty.
1 "The Myth, the Math, the Sex," 12 August 2007, nytimes.com/2007/08/12/weekinreview/12kolata.html.
2 "Mean Girls: The New York Times Slips Up on Sexual Math," 13 August 2007, slate.com/id/2172186/.