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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

A Soldier Remembered in His ‘Letters to Talia’

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Considering the continued uncertainty in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition quest/negotiations, I see this as a good time to post my review of the English translation of the Israeli bestseller,  מכתבים לטליה Michtavim liTalyaLetters to Talia, by Dov IndigHaYa”D.

I remember hearing about the book when it was first published in its original Hebrew, but as usual I let news of Hebrew books fly over my consciousness, since I don’t expect to read them.  It’s not that I don’t read Hebrew at all.  My Hebrew is for labels, ads, my pay slip, letters and notices on the Shiloh email list, our weekly newsletter and the very occasional newspaper or magazine article.

I received Letters to Talia from Gefen Publishing House to review.  I don’t remember if they mailed it to me or it was one of the books I picked up from them at the Jerusalem International Book Fair.  But it really doesn’t matter how I got it, because it’s a great book and I must tell you why.

First of all the translation by Yehuda Burdman is fantastic.  I have no idea how easily the original Hebrew read, but it was a true pleasure reading it in English.  I even carried the book around with me to take advantage of a few minutes’ reading time here and there.  I don’t normally do that.  My bags are always too full and my time too short for such a luxury.  But this book followed me around for the few days it took to complete reading it.

Now, what’s it about?

Dear Dov,You must really be surprised to be receiving a letter from a girl you don’t know… Dov Indig was killed on October 7, 1973, in a holding action on the Golan Heights in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Letters to Talia, published in his memory by family and friends, contains excerpts from an extensive correspondence Dov maintained with Talia, a girl from an irreligious kibbutz in northern Israel, in 1972 and ’73, the last two years of his life. At the time, Talia was a highschool student, and Dov was a student in the Hesder yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, which combines Torah study with military service. It was Talia’s father who suggested that Talia correspond with Dov, and an intense dialogue developed between them on questions of Judaism and Zionism, values and education. Their correspondence continued right up to Dov’s death in the Yom Kippur War.  (Gefen)

While readying the book my mind was full of “ifs.”  The main “if” obviously is: If only Dov Indig hadn’t been killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War…

Indig’s analysis and predictions as to what would happen if Israel withdrew from our Land liberated in the 1967 Six Days War or what he expected would happen to the kibbutz movement, especially the secular ones, are so on target, that it’s frightening.  We, Israel and the Jewish People, lost a great and brilliant talent.  There is no other way to describe him.  Yes, you must read the book to fully comprehend what a terrible loss it was to all of us as a People and Nation that he isn’t with us today.

So many of the very best were killed in that terrible war in 1973.  My friends and I still mourn our Betar New York friends who were killed.  We get together every year at Mount Herzl to honor them.  From my perspective, having made aliyah with my husband in 1970, I can easily identify with Indig’s friends who felt it vitally necessary to publish this correspondence.

Everything Indig said about the secular kibbutz movement has happened (for instance, “I will risk a prophecy … that in the next generation most of the kibbutzniks will grow tired of the cooperative spirit and all the ideals associated with it” (page 52)).  That makes me even more curious about Talia, not her real name.  All that is revealed in the postscript is that after her National Service and subsequent army service, she returned to her kibbutz where she still lives.  In her letters, we discover that her best friend actually became religious, Talia is too attracted by the idea.  She’s infatuated with Judaism and Dov.  In her last letter, which Dov most probably never read, she tells Dov that she will fast and go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur to pray for his safety.  It’s too easy to imagine her disappointment even anger with God when she discovers that her prayers didn’t protect Dov from death.

The Left: Getting Rich by Fighting for the Poor

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Hugo Chavez’s death was met with tributes from Iran, Bolivia, China and El Salvador. The Western left did not waste much time adding their withered roses to El Comandante’s coffin. George Galloway called him another Spartacus. Jimmy Carter described him as a leader who fought for the “neglected and trampled.” Michael Moore praised him for declaring that the oil belongs to the people.

Whether or not the oil belongs to the people is a matter of some debate considering how much of it seemed to end up in Chavez’s pocket.

Chavez died with an estimated net worth of two billion dollars making him the fourth richest man in Venezuela and the 49th richest man in Latin America. For a while, Chavez weathered attacks from the media empire of Gustavo A. Cisneros, the richest man in Venezuela. Then before the 2004 election, their mutual friend Jimmy Carter brokered an agreement between them. Cisneros’ media stopped criticizing Chavez and both men bent to the task of getting even richer.

While the Bolivarian Spartacus lined his pockets with oil money, Venezuela’s middle-class was struggling to get by in a country where the private sector had imploded. Income increased on paper, but decreased in reality as inflation increases ate the difference. Around the same time that Comrade Hugo was launching the third phase of his Bolivarian Revolution, inflation had decreased household income 8.8 percent while consumer goods prices increased 27 percent.

On his deathbed, Hugo Chavez devalued his country’s currency for the fifth time by 32 percent, after tripling the deficit during his previous term when the national debt had increased by 90 percent. From 2008 to 2011, Chavez’s oil-rich government increased the debt by nearly 50 billion in a country of less than 30 million. That same year, The Economist speculated that Venezuela might go bankrupt.

Chavez had swollen the ranks of Venezuela’s public employees to 2.5 million in a country where the 15-64 population numbered only 18 million. With 1 public employee to every 7 working adults, the entire mess was subsidized by oil exports and debt. When the price of oil fell, only debt was left.

Those public employees became Chavez’s campaign staff with no choice but to vote for him or see their positions wiped out to keep the economy from crashing. And they won him one last election.

The dead tyrant leaves behind the lowest GDP growth rate and highest inflation rate in Latin America. He leaves behind an economy where more than half the population depends on government benefits or government jobs. He leaves behind a giant pile of debt for the people and 2 billion dollars in misappropriated oil money for his heirs.

But we don’t need to look to a leftist banana republic south of the border to see how profitable fighting for the poor can be.

Seven of the 10 richest counties in America are now in the Washington D.C. area. Arlington County alone added $6,000 to its average income in one year alone. D.C. and its bedroom communities got rich at twice the rate of the rest of the country and in the last election; Obama won eight of the 10 richest counties in the country.

Washington D.C. is richer than Silicon Valley. Median income in the D.C. area has hit $84,523 despite the city itself having horrendous unemployment and poverty statistics. The top five percent in D.C. earns 60 percent more than the top 5 percent in other cities and 54 times what the bottom fifth earns in that same city.

This wealth of government money isn’t a rising tide that lifts all boats. Income inequality in Washington D.C. is one of the worst in the nation. For families with children, the income inequality level in D.C. is double the average for the rest of the country.

But when you concentrate the wealth of the land in a single imperial city, then you end up with a sharp gap between the poor and the fighters for the poor. Mid-level jobs are disappearing, but high-level jobs continue to grow. Small businesses are going out of business, but lawyers and consultants are being hired at a breathtaking rate.

Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of lawyers in the country. One out of every 12 city residents is a lawyer. One in 25 of the country’s lawyers lives in Washington D.C. In 2009, the Office of Personnel Management reported that there were 31,797 practicing lawyers in the Federal government earning an average salary of $127,500 a year. Or to put it another way, the taxpayers were spending double Hugo Chavez’s two billion dollar net worth each year just to pay the lawyers.

The Road to Oligarchy

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Regardless of how many wars on poverty are declared and how often calls are issued to make the rich pay their fair share, neither the rich nor the poor will be going anywhere anytime soon. The question is what forces will keep the poor impoverished and where the rich will derive their wealth from.

The founder of Subway recently said that he could not have started up his company today. Similar messages have come from the founders and heads of other major companies. That isn’t to say that companies will cease to exist. What we think of as business has been changing for some time.

In most countries, starting a business does not begin with a great idea. It begins with connections. Knowing the right people is still important, but in most places it’s the most important thing.

Under the current American model, a company becomes successful and then begins to lobby Washington to gain a competitive advantage or to avert hostile lobbying directed at negating its existing competitive advantage. That is a perversion of free enterprise, but in much of the world companies begin lobbying first and then become successful. This is the model that has evolved under Obama. And it’s a familiar model to anyone doing business in Russia or China. Political connections come first and then the business becomes feasible.

Oligarchy is the inevitable outcome of an economic climate where the governments acts as a gatekeeper to the country’s customers. Measures that began as limited safety and fraud regulations have become a comprehensive political economic system that controls every aspect of every economic transaction.

The government creates markets. It creates companies and customers. It sets prices and taxes industries that it does not favor out of business.

Corporate lobbying isn’t just about the proverbial 200 dollar screwdriver. It’s about making it more expensive for some companies to make screwdrivers than others. It’s also about forcing independent screwdriver manufacturers out of business. It’s about government grants to make environmentally friendly screwdrivers and heavy taxes on companies that don’t make environmentally friendly screwdrivers.

Tactics like these aren’t new. The Esch Act eliminated white phosphorus matches through a punitive tax back in 1910. But a century later, the government wiped out the incandescent bulb industry, not for health reasons, but to comply with a trendy ideology. Microsoft, which had hardly bothered to lobby before, was dragged to Washington on monopoly charges that Google, the ultimate dot com insider, today laughs off. And Microsoft learned its lesson, investing in sizable amounts of lobbying capital.

The government is a bigger factor in business models for both large and small businesses than any other. Whether it’s struggling against the mountains of paperwork or looking for ways to profit from the latest regulations, business has come to be defined by government. The tier of governments at every level have accumulated huge amounts of wealth and power. Government power is used to control how business is done while government spending makes political officials into the country’s biggest consumers.

The fusion of business with government leads to oligarchy. The rich are not going anywhere, but wealth becomes a factor of their government connections, rather than skill or even inheritance. Government control over business began under the banner of combating monopolies only to end by creating government monopolies. The war against income inequality will end the same way and with the same results as the oligarchies in Russia, China, Mexico and everywhere else.

The future of Obamerica is a country full of corrupt government officials and tycoons. The future is an aristocracy of union bosses running their own guilds, corporate monopolies that change with each election and government officials with mansions and armed bodyguards.

Income inequality will be huge with oceans of poverty and small islands of wealth locked away behind gated communities. Populists will promise power for the people, only to make the system even more corrupt. One company or one boss will be brought down, only to be replaced with the favorites of another party.

Everyone will despise the tycoons and the government. The government will promise to protect the people from the tycoons, even as it works closely with them, and the tycoons will lavish money on certain areas in exchange for loyalty. Both the government and the tycoons will be closely tied up with organized crime which will launder its drug profits through the tycoons and use its political connections to gain protection and sanctions against rival organizations.

Someone Else Will Pay

Friday, December 28th, 2012

From 1977 to 1980, BBC One ran “Citizen Smith,” a TV comedy about an aspiring young revolutionary who wore a beret and a Che T-Shirt and did his best to create a Communist Britain while heading up the Tooting Popular Front, consisting of six members, by virtue of shouting “Power to the People” and making up lists of the people he would put up against the wall on the day of the glorious revolution.

This is finally Citizen Smith’s time where the lazy and cowardly aspiring revolutionary can create his own Tooting Popular Front, camp out in a public park for a few months, and earn generous media coverage. And for those too lazy to camp out in the spring and summer, there’s always hacktivism, the truly lazy man’s revolution, download a denial of service program, aim it at a site and watch it go down for a minute, an hour, or perhaps even a day or two.

Social media is full of Citizen Smiths, dressing up in Che avatars and shouting their “Power to the People” slogans in 140 characters or less. And these Citizen Smiths are taken seriously by their older peers in the media who have had their own days of pretending to be Che and now just pretend to be journalists. While the Citizen Smiths create their fake revolution, the grown-up Citizen Smiths show up to cover it, in the great battle for a Communist Britain, America, Australia and also all the rest.

There is a great deal of hard work ahead, such as deciding who to put up against the wall first. Everyone has agreed on the rich, the dreaded 1 percent, except presumably for those 1 percenters funding the revolution and paying the Citizen Smiths who work for NGOs and come up with new social media engagement strategies to tackle economic disparities and that sort of thing.

The Citizen Smiths who speak on behalf of the 99 percent of Tooting have won their great victory in the last election through the wallets of such champions of the working class as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, George Soros and several thousand other billionaires and millionaires, quite a few of whom also fancy being Wolfie Smith more than they want to play the top hat guy from Monopoly. They have struck a blow against the influence of money on politics from some billionaires on behalf of the influence of money on politics from other billionaires.

And with the 1 percent safely disposed of, at least aside from the 1 percent that is running the show and turning the Citizen Smiths from clowns smoking on their girlfriend’s couch while drawing up plans for revolution, into men and women sitting in posh offices in corporate towers delegating the drawing up of those plans to subordinates who can actually draw, the revolution marches on.

In Austria, an Australian Professor teaching Musicology, put up his own list of who to bop bop bop when the day of the glorious revolution comes.

“Right now, in the year 2012, these ideas will seem quite crazy to most people. People will be saying that Parncutt has finally lost it,” Professor Parncutt wrote, “If someone found this document in the year 2050 and published it, it would find general support and admiration. People would say I was courageous to write the truth, for a change. Who knows, perhaps the Pope would even turn me into a saint.”

Parncutt’s sainthood may prove somewhat difficult to achieve considering that the people he proposed to put up against the wall on the glorious day include the Pope and his closest advisors, along with prominent critics of Global Warming, who will be put on trial before an international tribunal of qualified scientists, and then be given an opportunity to recant and have their sentence reduced to life in prison. Some modern heretics however would, in Parncutt’s words, “would never admit their mistake and as a result they would be executed.”

It’s easy to laugh at Citizen Parncutt’s proposal to bring back heresy trials staffed with modern scientists, but who knows by 2050, when scavengers digging through the rubble around what used to be London, come across a copy of Parncutt’s brilliant manifesto, they will hop on their donkeys and deliver it immediately to the Eco-Pope who will proclaim Parncutt a saint right before the Saracens storm through the barricades.

Even now the difference between Parncutt and a lunatic is that much of the infrastructure to make Citizen Parncutt’s dreams a reality already exists. There are international tribunals and an entire political and media frenzy declaring that global warming is the greatest threat of our age. We snicker at fools who took the Mayan apocalypse seriously, but people who would never hide out in a basement because of some ancient prophecy listen to media buffoons drawing up lists of what parts of the world will be underwater in ten years or twenty and take the whole ridiculous thing seriously.

Parncutt wants you to know that he is not by any means a monster. He opposes the death penalty for murderers, even those like Breivik. It does no good to kill the people who have already killed, our Citizen Parncutt explains, what he would like to do is kill the people who have yet to kill but whose ideas the moral musicologist has decided are deadly.

Such is the humanitarianism of the true progressive who will not kill a serial killer, but will kill those who are truly dangerous. “The death penalty is barbaric, racist, expensive,” Parncutt explains, and he will have no truck with barbarically expensive racist death penalties, the only people who truly deserve to be killed according to him are those who, like the Pope and Global Warming skeptics, whose views differ from his own so dramatically that they must be killed to save lives.

“The death penalty is an appropriate punishment for Global Warming deniers who are so influential that one million future deaths can with high probability be traced to their personal actions,” Parncutt writes. “Please note also that I am only talking about prevention of future deaths – not punishment or revenge after the event.” Naturally. Citizen Parncutt is not motivated by such petty emotions. His revolutionary will-to-kill is as pure as the driven snow.

The good thing about a number as high as one million is that you can kill any number of people if you set the number of people you want to save high enough. If Parncutt were to kill 999,999 people to save 1,000,000, he would still have saved net one person and be ahead of the saint game. And then in 2050 when historians wondered why the Parncutt Popular Front was allowed to pile up all those corpses, the response will be that it was a matter of numbers. They started small and then kept going because they had so much room to spare with all those zeroes and before they knew it  they were only a few corpses shot of the big one million. But luckily they stopped with one man to spare and are considered heroes.

“The fact is that Socialism, in the form in which it is now presented, appeals chiefly to unsatisfactory or even inhuman types,” George Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier, essays meant to be a defense of Socialism, but showing the strains that would eventually lead him to transform Ingsoc, or English Socialism, into the greatest fictional tyranny in modern literature, “all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.”

There are more cats and bluebottles than ever. Orwell’s description of the Socialist crank now describes the mainstream leadership and a sizable portion of the base of every ruling lefty party you can think of, including the one ensconced in the White House, while shouting about class warfare and power to the people, while pocketing the allowance money from billionaires that allows them to win elections.

Economic crises and crises of all sorts bring their sort out to play more than ever. The children of the 1 percent wear buttons boasting that they are the 99 percent. Every global problem from terrorism to ethnic cleansing is explained purely in economic or environmental terms. And the people playing Citizen Smith and drawing up their lists of who to plant up against the wall are, as Orwell wrote, are not out to join “a movement of the masses”, but to enact “a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’.”

The “hypertrophied sense of order” from Orwell’s Socialist “with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation” can be found just as easily in Citizen Parncutt as in Citizen Smith or Citizen Obama. It should not be confused with competence or practical skill, the only area the Smiths ever achieve any skill in is yelling from stepladders about a revolution until they find enough sheep to drive ahead of them to the polls or the battlefields, but with the sort of half-grown men who draw up lists of all the people they’ll kill to make the world a better place.

Their sense of order does not extend to actually making the world a better place, but of matching up their inflated sense of self-importance with the power to impose their own whims on the world for their own emotional satisfaction.

“I would just like my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the human race in general, to enjoy the world that I have enjoyed, as much as I have enjoyed it,” Professor Parncutt writes. “And to achieve that goal I think it is justified for a few heads to roll. Does that make me crazy?” And just to make certain that you give the right answer, he adds, “I don’t think so.”

Crazy is a judgement call. In 1956 drawing up plans to have some international body execute scientists for questioning the interpretation of global temperature readings would have been crazy, but in the age of Citizen Smith it may no longer be. Hitler and Goebbels were both completely insane, and yet they were perfectly adapted to their time and place. They were lunatics, but it was a time when sane men wanted lunatics to tell them what to do and who to kill.

At the tail end of the ’70s, Citizen Smith was a joke, but at the dawn of the 2010s, he is an institution, the head of an NGO, a member of the board of a dozen foundations for social and environmental justice, and perhaps even a cabinet minister. Joschka Fischer went from Citizen Smith in the 70s, clubbing police officers and consorting with terrorists, to the Vice-Chancellor of Germany in the oughts. Obama went from Community Organizer Smith in the 90s to the White House in even less time.

This is the age of Citizen Smith. The age of the lazy, egotistical, cowardly, spiteful and petty man of the people, who prefers to avoid the people. This is the age of the 1 percent revolutionary playing the 99 percenter. This is the age of the enemies list, when their work within the system has paid off and it’s time to make someone else pay.

“On these streets of no solution/Where the gutters run with tears/I will lead my revolution/I’ve been revolting here for years/‘Cos I’m a people’s man,” went the words to the closing song of Citizen Smith, “On the glorious day/Someone else will pay/On the glorious day.”

The glorious day of the inglorious man is here. And someone else is paying. Any someone else who isn’t him.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Egypt Falls Over the Islamic Cliff

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Both the Islamists and the opposition in Egypt confirmed that Egyptians overwhelmingly chose to become yet another Islamic, Sharia-based state with the adoption of their new constitution.

It is estimated that 64% of those voting in both rounds, voted “yes”, with numerous irregularities reported during both votes.

And to top it off, as pointed out in Forbes, the new constitution does more than just enshrine Islamic Sharia law, it also enshrines socialism as their economic structure.

Ahram Online reports that Egyptian President Morsi has announced his list of 90 representatives who will become members of the Shura council (out of 270 members).  The Shura Council will take on the powers from the president to issue laws.

But despite Morsi including a handful of women and minorities in his list, Ahram Online reports:

Tens of liberal and leftist figures have declined the positions offered to them by the president in the Shura Council.

This means that members of the main opposition’s parties, previously represented in the now-dismantled People’s Assembly, are now not represented in new appointments to the Shura Council.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/egypt-falls-over-the-islamic-cliff/2012/12/23/

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