Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Politkovskaya and hypocrisy

/ the plank in the eye /
Mark Ames in the eXile, considers the dearth of American "Politkovskayas" and the inability of the mainstream US press (and it isn't just a US phenomenon) to approximate anything remotely as brave as Politkovskaya's reporting. Extended excerpts:

"The West has used poor Anna Politkovskaya's corpse to do exactly what she fought against: whipping up national hatred, lying, and focusing on evils committed safely far away, rather than on the evils committed by your own country. The West has exploited her death with all of the crudity and cynicism of an Arab mob funeral...only at least the Arabs use their own people's corpses to demonize an enemy that actually kills them. Whereas in this case, the West stole another country's corpse, then paraded it at home in order to whip up hatred against the corpse's birthplace. It would be like the Palestinians slipping into Tel Aviv, grave-robbing Rabin's corpse after his murder, then parading it around Gaza City, ululating hate towards Israel for allowing the great peacemaker to get killed.

That's kind of how Russians reacted when they saw that the West crudely exploited Politkovskaya's murder. The West's crude reaction only increased Russia's crude counter-reaction.

If you ask me, what is most significant for us in the West about Anna Politkovskaya's death, and her courageous life (btw, a big 'fuck you' to our nationalist readers who don't agree with this), is not so much what it says about Russia -- it doesn't say much new at all, to be honest, but instead is another chapter in an increasingly depressing story that started under Yeltsin.

Rather, what is significant about her death is this: Why doesn't America have an Anna Politkovskaya? Why don't we have someone as courageous as she was to tell the story of how we razed Fallujah to the ground Grozny-style? How we bombed to smithereens and ethnically cleansed a city of 300,000 people in retaliation for the deaths of four American contractors? Where is the American Anna Politkovskaya who will tell us about how we directly killed roughly 200,000 Iraqis, and indirectly are responsible for about half a million Iraq deaths since our invasion? Why isn't there a single American willing to risk almost certain death, the way Politkovskaya did, in the pursuit of truth and humanity?..."

...The lesson of Anna Politkovskaya's fearless journalism was completely lost on the West. It's up to Russians to figure out the significance of her murder to their culture and their civilization. But in a West increasingly drowning in lies, war, murder and hatred, the last thing her death should give us is the opportunity to create another enemy, another nation to hate, another regime to be changed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Nobel prize recipients

/ nobel reactions /
In light of the recent Nobel prize awards in Economics and Peace, let me present for the sake of argument some critical commentary:

Girish Mishra
: Meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize to Phelps. Excerpt:

Assuming that a government tries to maintain the natural rate of unemployment as computed according to the formula of Phelps, it means a number of workers who possess the necessary qualifications and physical ability to participate in the process of production and contribute to the national wealth, are told that they are redundant. It is sure to hurt their self-respect and inculcate a feeling in them that the government and economy have no relevance for them. If they, in these circumstances, have no stake in the society, country and the economy, they may take to subversive activities and to some kind of nihilism or commit suicide. It is a sad commentary on the system that allows people to spend valuable resources in acquiring requisite capabilities and skills and when they acquire them and are ready to contribute, they are told that they are unwanted. How humiliating it is!

Notwithstanding all the sophistications of Phelps' analysis and models, his pontifications violate human dignity. His kind of economics may earn a Nobel prize and endear him to monopoly capital in the present era of globalization, it cannot be accepted by people who care for human dignity and think that human beings must be at the of all economic policies.

Alexander Cockburn: The Myth of Microloans. Excerpt:

...microlending can be a useful tool but it should not be romanticized as some sort of transformational activity. On that plane it's useless. By contrast, as Bob Pollin stresses, "the East Asian Tigers, like South Korea and Taiwan, relied for a generation on massive publicly-subsidized credit programs to support manufacturing and exports.
They are now approaching West European living standards. Poor countries now need to adapt the East Asian macro-credit model to promote not simply exports, but land reform, marketing cooperatives, a functioning infrastructure, and most of all, decent jobs."

Walden Bello: Microcredit, Macro Issues. Excerpt:

So probably the best way we can honor Muhammad Yunus is to say, Yes, he deserves the Nobel Prize for helping so many women cope with poverty. His boosters discredit this great honor and engage in hyperbole when they claim he has invented a new compassionate form of capitalism--social capitalism, or "social entrepreneurship"--that will be the magic bullet to end poverty and promote development.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Iraqi trail of Death

/ massacres: ongoing /

A new study published in the respected medical journal "Lancet", recounts and revises the death toll in post-invasion Iraq.

Its findings? Let's put it this way: If one were to line up carefully the corpses on a road, they would extend from Brussels to Marseille (or from Chicago to DC).

Or another way: given that the costs of this war run at 200 million dollars per day, that's about 400.000$ spent per dead Iraqi, putting an end to the notion that the Bush administration doesn't value Iraqi lives.

Yet another way: Since the invasion, the total number of Iraqi casualties is approximately equal to four 9/11 death tolls (that no Iraqi played a part in) for every state in the US.

Or if one made a pyramid out of the sculls of the dead, its height could be over 20 meters (and its base 40x40m).

Or even: the casualties in Iraq are about the same in number (but twice in proportion to the population) as the total casualties in France during WWII.

Or plainly:

Pre-invasion mortality rates were 5·5 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 4·3–7·1), compared with 13·3 per 1000 people per year (10·9–16·1) in the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that as of July, 2006, there have been 654,965 (392,979 –942,636) excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2·5% of the population in the study area. Of post-invasion deaths, 601 027 (426,369 – 793,663) were due to violence, the most common cause being gunfire