Archive for the ‘communism’ Category

Why Taxpayers Should Pay the AIG Bonuses; Obama is Dead Wrong On This

March 17, 2009

Communists understand this.  If you lived under communism or studied their practices — you do too.

When my wife, who lived through the communist takeover in Vietnam, heard President Obama say the U.S. taxpayers should ignore legal contracts and not pay the AIG bonuses, she flew into a rage and said, “This is how it starts.  This is how the state sweeps away everything involved in legal free enterprise.”

The writer of the column below, Andrew Ross Sorkin, explained his thinking of the “Today Show” on NBC March 17, 2009.

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By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
The New York Times

Do we really have to foot the bill for those bonuses at the American International Group?

It sure does sting. A staggering $165 million — for employees of a company that nearly took down the financial system. And heck, we, the taxpayers, own nearly 80 percent of A.I.G.

It doesn’t seem fair.

So here is a sobering thought: Maybe we have to swallow hard and pay up, partly for our own good. I can hear the howls already, so let me explain.


Andrew Ross Sorkin

Everyone from President Obama down seems outraged by this. The president suggested on Monday that we just tear up those bonus contracts. He told the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, to use every legal means to recoup taxpayers’ money. Hard to argue there.

“This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents,” he said. “It’s about our fundamental values.”

On that last issue, lawyers, Wall Street types and compensation consultants agree with the president. But from their point of view, the “fundamental value” in question here is the sanctity of contracts.

That may strike many people as a bit of convenient legalese, but maybe there is something to it. If you think this economy is a mess now, imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start abrogating contracts left and right.

As much as we might want to void those A.I.G. pay contracts, Pearl Meyer, a compensation consultant at Steven Hall & Partners, says it would put American business on a worse slippery slope than it already is. Business agreements of other companies that have taken taxpayer money might fall into question. Even companies that have not turned to Washington might seize the opportunity to break inconvenient contracts.

If government officials were to break the contracts, they would be “breaking a bond,” Ms. Meyer says. “They are raising a whole new question about the trust and commitment organizations have to their employees.” (The auto industry unions are facing a similar issue — but the big difference is that there is a negotiation; no one is unilaterally tearing up contracts.)

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17
/business/17sorkin.html?hp

Related:

Obama Tells “Turbo Tax” Geither To Get Back AIG Bonus Money
.
Grassley on AIG execs: Quit or suicide
.

Related:
Ultimate Hipocracy and Irony: Obama Wants You To Trust Markets and Government; But He Offers to Ignore AIG Contracts
.
AIG Bonus Caper Demonstrates Obama Administration Weak Thinking
.
Obama Plans to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment
.
Stimulus: Way Fewer Jobs Than You Thought

 Obama Tells “Turbo Tax” Geither To Get Back AIG Bonus Money; Dumb and Dumber

Obama: Really Want to “Fix Schools”? Try The China Or Singapore Model
.
Obama’s War On Banks: Backlash Stirring

From March 13:
Republicans: If You Can’t Agree On Core Values Now, Commit Harakiri

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France’s Sarkozy aims to defuse economic protests

February 15, 2009

French President Nicholas Sarkozy will try this week to defuse protests against his economic plans but talks with unions will be tough with unemployment rising, growth tumbling and Caribbean unrest threatening to spread.

More than a million people took to the streets across France two weeks ago in protest at Sarkozy’s policies, demanding pay rises and protection for jobs in the face of the downturn, and trade unions have penciled in another protest next month.

By Francois Murphy, Reuters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) waves at spectators as ... 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) waves at spectators as he stands next to French former ski legend Jean Claude Killy after the women’s Slalom race at the Alpine Skiing World Championships 2009 in Val d’Isere February 14, 2009.(Stefano Rellandini/Reuters)

Sarkozy’s 26 billion euro ($33.6 billion) stimulus plan has focused on public spending projects such as building roads and modernizing rail links rather than helping consumers directly. Unions and the political left have called on him to change tack.

A television appearance after the protests, intended to allay public fears, only weakened Sarkozy’s support further. He will head into a meeting with unions on Wednesday under pressure to address their concerns, but room for maneuver is limited.

“The outcome of my five-year term is at stake,” newspaper Le Figaro, which is close to Sarkozy, quoted him as telling advisers in its Saturday edition.

French gross domestic product fell 1.2 percent in the last three months of 2008, its biggest drop in 34 years, as exports fell and retailers reduced their stock, and unemployment in December was 11 percent higher than a year earlier.

Increasing the pressure on Sarkozy before Wednesday’s “social summit,” the opposition Socialists have called for a 1 percentage point cut in value-added tax and a 3 percent rise in the minimum wage to give a boost to consumer spending.

CARIBBEAN TROUBLE

“France is the only country not to act massively and immediately in the direction of purchasing power, while a consensus has been established by economists on the need for such measures alongside those in favor of investment,” prominent Socialist Dider Migaud said last week.

Britain has cut its value-added tax by 2 percentage points but Sarkozy lambasted the move in his television address, saying it “brought absolutely no progress,” angering Downing Street.

Sarkozy has also said it is only worth increasing France’s public debt for stimulus measures that amount to investments for the future rather than funding consumer spending, even though that is traditionally the main driver of French growth.

He is likely to cite one of the few bright spots in last week’s GDP figures in his defense — household consumption rose 0.5 percent in the last three months of 2008, suggesting that consumers did not need further encouragement to keep spending.

But that is unlikely to sway protesters in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique which have been crippled by strikers demanding pay rises and lower food prices.

Unions and associations began the protest in Guadeloupe on January 20 demanding a 200 euro monthly rise for low-wage workers. The protest has since spread to Martinique and, to a more limited extent, the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, and there are fears that it could spread to mainland France.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/2009021
5/wl_nm/us_france_sarkozy_1

Related:
http://www.uexpress.com/tedrall/

http://integralpsychosis.wordpress.com
/2009/02/15/france-it-couldnt-happe
n-here-could-it/

France Rejects “Obama Style” Stimulus

France Rejects “Obama Style Stimulus;” Turns Way Left

France Rejects “Obama Style Stimulus;” Turns Way Left

February 15, 2009

It couldn’t happen here, right?

Most Americans don’t care what happens in France. But the oldest country in “Old Europe” remains the Western world’s intellectual capital and one of its primary originators of political trends. (Google “May+1968+Sorbonne.”)

The French are reacting to a situation almost identical to ours–economic collapse, government impotence, corporate corruption–by turning hard left. National strikes and massive demonstrations are occurring every few weeks. How far left? This far: the late president François Mitterand’s Socialist Party, the rough equivalent of America’s Greens, is considered too conservative to solve the economic crisis.

A new poll by the Parisian daily Libération finds 53 percent of French voters (68 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds) favoring “radical social change.” Fifty-seven percent want France to insulate itself from the global economic system. Does this mean revolution? It’s certainly possible. Or maybe counter-revolution: Jean-Marie Le Pen’s nativist (some would say neofascist) National Front is also picking up points.

One thing is certain: French politics are even more volatile than the financial markets these days. In yet another indication of How Far Left?, the Communist-aligned CGT labor union is on the defensive for not being militant enough. “We’re not going to put out the blazing fires [of the economic crisis],” the CGT’s secretary general said, trying to seize the initiative by calling for another strike on February 18th. “We’re going to fan them.”

By Ted Rall
http://www.uexpress.com/tedrall/

http://integralpsychosis.wordpress.com
/2009/02/15/france-it-couldnt-happe
n-here-could-it/

France Rejects “Obama Style” Stimulus

France’s Sarkozy aims to defuse economic protests

Task No 1 for Barack Obama: reinvent capitalism

January 21, 2009

The words “Remaking America” were splashed yesterday across the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and almost every other paper in the US. This kind of unanimity in the press corps is not coincidental – “Remaking America” was the phrase the President’s media machine wanted to emphasise. Why?

“Remaking America” is President Obama’s riposte to the slogan of populist conservatism through the ages: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This do-nothing mentality was taken to its logical extreme by George W. Bush and his doltish Administration, whose epitaph should be the P.J.O’Rourke quip: “The Republicans are a party who believe that government doesn’t work and get themselves elected to prove it.”

To have any hope of repairing the ruin left behind by the Bush Administration, President Obama must first convince the 45 per cent of the population who voted against him that America really is broke. Not only is the US trapped, as Mr Obama noted, in a geopolitical quagmire and the worst recession in living memory. But behind both of these dreadful things lurks a horror even more existentially shocking: the entire politico-economic model of free enterprise, rugged individualism and small government on which America built its global hegemony seems to have broken down. How else can one describe a situation in which all of the country’s main financial institutions and many of its biggest industrial companies are effectively bankrupt and on government life-support?

The crisis triggered by September’s bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers appears to have discredited many of the assumptions on which American prosperity and democracy was founded. In this sense, it really is possible to compare the credit crunch, as Ed Miliband did last weekend, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989 the world, from China and Russia to South Africa, India and Brazil, concluded that there was no serious alternative to market forces as a means of organising productive activity. In 2009 the whole world seems to have reached the opposite conclusion – that free markets and financial incentives lead even the richest and most sophisticated societies to disaster.

There is, however, a crucial difference between these two pivotal years and this brings us to the positive side of President Obama’s message. Communism was a monolithic and inflexible system that worked against the grain of human nature and had to be brutally imposed. Capitalism, by contrast, is a constantly evolving and organic set of human relationships. It advances by trial and error and takes a myriad different forms. Thus the demise of the post-1989 fundamentalist faith in market forces as the solution to all social problems now offers Mr Obama the chance to preside over a new evolution of American capitalism into a more stable and ultimately more successful form. Creating this new kind of capitalism will be the most important challenge of the Obama presidency and beyond.

But two features of this evolutionary process can already be suggested. First, it is clear that America will continue to lead the world, not only as a military power and technological innovator but also as a model of economic management. The idea that Anglo-American capitalism will give way to a European or Asian model is already crumbling, as Germany, Japan and China discover that their economies are even more dependent on American (and British) consumers, mortgage markets and financial institutions than the Americans themselves. With the US likely to start recovering this year, while Europe and Japan remain mired in recession, American economic management will again be seen as a model around the world, instead of a cautionary tale.

Second, America’s new leadership will encourage much more pragmatic thinking around the world about when market mechanisms are useful and when they are useless, about the right balance between the profit motive and social objectives, and about the relative efficiency of private and public enterprises.

This may sound abstract, but such a shift in US ideology will have profound practical effects. Once it is understood, for example, that financial markets often send perverse signals about values, whether of houses, mortgages or barrels of oil, new solutions to the credit crisis will become possible. In America many homeowners will have their mortgages reduced and guaranteed by government. Such mortgage writedowns have been stridently opposed by bank lobbyists and Republicans for ideological reasons, yet they are likely to save many banks from going bust. More generally, there is likely to be recognition that many problems demand non-market solutions and that financial incentives are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve social ends.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the State will necessarily grow. As President Obama said on Tuesday: “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”

This injunction brought to mind Philanthrocapitalism, a fascinating book by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. It describes the varying approaches of billionaires who spend extraordinary sums of their own money to achieve social ends, such as Bill Gates’s campaign against malaria or George Soros’s promotion of “open societies” in former communist dictatorships. The book’s main conclusion is that these efforts could serve as models for broader collaboration between government and private enterprise, whether charitable or not.

As the book notes, the most important asset that these hands-on philanthrocapitalists bring to their foundations is not just money but a way of thinking, specifically that “society’s biggest problems have to be addressed in a businesslike way in the sense of a serious focus on results; understanding where scarce resources have the most impact; a determination quickly to scale up solutions that work and a toughness in shutting down those that do not”.

Given that many of the people now joining the Obama Administration, including the President, have spent large parts of their careers in the non-profit sectors, philanthrocapitalism may well be an idea whose time has come for the new model of US capitalism that the President must now invent.

More generally, financial regulation and macroeconomic management will surely now recognise that naive theories about “efficient” financial markets and the statistical models they spawned were a major cause of the entire financial disaster. It will still be capitalism, but Obamanomics will not try to rebuild America on the principle that “markets are always right”.

Chinese censor parts of Obama speech dealing with dissent, communism

January 21, 2009

It came as no surpirse to China watchers that the Communist government of the  nation most interested in censoring the media and Internet, chopped sections out of President Barack Obama’s first speech as Commander in Chief before it was distributed by state media services….

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The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when the topic was mentioned.

The comments by the newly installed U.S. president veered into politically sensitive territory for China’s ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal affairs.

By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press Writer

At one point, Obama said earlier generations “faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.” He later addressed “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent — know that you are on the wrong side of history.”

The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official China Daily newspaper, was missing the word “communism” in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.

The censored version was carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and posted on popular online portals Sina and Sohu. Another portal, Netease, used a version without the paragraph mentioning communism, but retaining the part about dissent.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090121/ap_
on_re_as/as_inauguration_china_obama;_
ylt=AtPfWDN5.Yt_Tr.xTHKS.tdvaA8F

China, Corruption and Petty Inhumanity

December 26, 2008

Shortly after China’s devastating May 12 earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people, I was intrigued by a terse Xinhua News Agency report. The Communist Party secretary of Unity Village, Liu Dingshuang, had been sacked within days of the quake for “dereliction of duty.” I figured there was more to this story, so in early June I tracked Liu down. (He’s not a relative.)

By Melinda Liu
Newsweek

Only a handful of residents in Unity had died. But so many buildings were damaged that, wandering through the destruction, I felt as if I’d stumbled into a post-apocalypse movie. One family welcomed me into their kitchen, which had gaping holes in the roof and a motorcycle parked near the stove. While chatting, villagers revealed that neighbor Zhang Mingzhi had blown the whistle on Liu by making a phone call to the party’s powerful Discipline and Inspection Commission, which probes official corruption. At Zhang’s equally ramshackle home, he said he became angry after hearing neighbors talk of being overcharged for mineral water, soft drinks and toothpaste at Liu’s family store. “If you’re a party cadre, you’re supposed to show leadership,” he said. “People saw Premier Wen Jiabao rush to Sichuan. He even shed tears in public. But here nobody saw Liu.”

When two investigators arrived in Unity on May 15, more than 20 villagers complained about Liu. Farmer Li Daogang told them Liu’s daughter had overcharged him by 20 percent for six bottles of Sprite. “I thought, ‘If things are like this everywhere in the quake zone, then this whole country is a mess’,” Li told me. That very evening, Liu was fired.

Read the rest:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/176402

China’s Slowing Growth, Unemployment Leads Toward Social Unrest

December 23, 2008

Eight is an important number in China. Its association with good fortune makes it a big hit for license plates and mobile phone numbers. It’s no accident that the Beijing Olympic Games opened on the eighth day of the eighth month in 2008. But the number may have another meaning. If economic growth falls below 8 percent, some say, China’s masses will turn the country into a simmering cauldron of unrest.

That thesis has been bandied about by politicians and economists for years. It could soon be put to the test. In 2009, China’s growth is expected to fall to 7.8 percent, according to HSBC, from almost 12 percent in 2007, driven down by the collapse in China’s exports to the crisis-wracked developed world.

Social unrest is a rising threat in China. Recorded incidents increased almost eightfold from 1994 to 2005, after which the government stopped releasing comparable data. When growth fell to 4 percent, from 11 percent, in 1989, ugly protests erupted. While the state has been tolerant of recent peaceful sit-ins by factory workers, coordinated action might leave only two options: impose order the hard way, or renegotiate the terms of government.

Fortunately, the “theory of eight” is probably wrong. What really matters isn’t how much China’s growth falls, but what happens to unemployment. The two aren’t perfectly linked. A collapse in capital-intensive industries, for example, would have less of an effect on jobs than a more modest decline in lower-value, labor-intensive work. Besides, unemployment isn’t the only reason the masses complain. As they become more prosperous, they are more likely to protest about noneconomic issues like pollution and corruption.

What’s certain is that unemployment is rising. Urban joblessness is already at 9.4 percent, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The real figure may be higher, and the official national unemployment figure of 4 percent is almost certainly too low. Export sectors alone account for around 50 million employees, and around 4 million have been laid off this year.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/business/23views.html

Related:
China plans crackdown as economic crisis spurs crime

China’s Migrant Unemployment Sparks New Effort

China Faces Social Unrest As Up To 150 Million Migrants Go Home Without Work

China Celebrates 30 Years of Economic Reform; Almost Zero Political

December 17, 2008

Thirty years ago this month, China’s communist leaders launched an economic revolution, opening the door to free market reforms and foreign trade — though not to political change.

The new era began with a Communist Party gathering on Dec. 18, 1978, that endorsed small-scale private farming, the first step toward abandoning the late leader Mao Zedong’s vision of communal agriculture and industry.

China’s economy has since grown into the world’s fourth-largest behind the U.S., Japan and Germany, and annual per capita income has soared to about 19,000 yuan ($2,760) last year, up from just 380 yuan in 1978.


Above: The Shanghai skyline

Along with private enterprise and capital markets have come greater prosperity and stability than ever before.

By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer

Virtually all Chinese families now have at least one television and, in the cities, a washing machine — rare items three decades ago. Some 15 million families own private cars, and many Chinese also own their own homes.

“Nowadays, we worry instead about eating too well rather than not eating enough,” says Guo Linchun, 78, retired music teacher in Beijing. “Now, living standards have improved so much, we see not only televisions, so many people even own cars.”

But with modern industries come many other modern ills: pollution, industrial accidents and product safety scandals. And China‘s heavy reliance on exports and foreign investment ensures that the uncertainties now afflicting the global economy are haunting the Chinese as well.

An ethnic Uighur sits under a poster of the 2008 Beijing Olympic ... 
An ethnic Uighur sits under a poster of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on a street in Xinjiang’s famed Silk Road city of Kashgar in China’s far northwestern area.(AFP/File/Peter Parks)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081217/ap_on_b
i_ge/as_china30_years_reforms_3

Human Rights? China Has A Problem the UN Ignores

December 10, 2008

China is to Human Rights what Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is to world peace….

By Don Feder
The Washington Times

With much self-congratulatory back-slapping today, Dec. 10, the United Nations will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration is a noble document to which many U.N. members pay lip-service, and routinely violate.

In the aftermath of World War II – with memories of genocide and other atrocities still fresh – the delegates from 48 nations who gathered in Paris in 1948 were anxious to affirm the universality of human rights.

File photo shows a girl waving a flag in front Mao's Memorial ...

Thus, the UDHR’s preamble affirms that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

It goes on to affirm: “the right to life, liberty and security of person,” freedom from cruel or degrading punishment, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to a fair hearing by an “independent and impartial tribunal,” freedom of conscience and expression, freedom of religion, and the right to protest.

The document also proclaims “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” – said will expressed in “periodic and genuine elections.”

Recruits for the People's Liberation Army attend a ceremony ...
 Recruits for the People’s Liberation Army attend a ceremony before they head off to start their service, at a square in Taiyuan, Shanxi province December 10, 2008. REUTERS/
.

While all this looks great on paper, the operation of the United Nations makes a mockery of UDHR. Nowhere is this more starkly revealed than in its treatment of China and Taiwan. These neighbors across the Taiwan Straits provide their own vivid contrast in the area of human rights.

After two decades of political reform, Taiwan is one of the freest countries in Asia. The first multiparty legislative elections occurred in 1991-92. Since 1996, Taiwan has had four presidential elections and two orderly transfers of power between the major parties.

Its people enjoy freedom of expression and worship, the right to fair trial by an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully protest and freedom from arbitrary arrest, to the same degree as citizens of the more mature democracies.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008
/dec/10/double-standards-on-china/