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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hitler alive and well in Thailand!!!!

I am not sure whether this has been mentioned yet but as I drove into Pattaya on sunday the first thing that greeted me after the Sawasdee to Pattaya sign was a massive billboard with Hitler giving the Nazi salute. There was some Thai writing on it which my gf said mentioned something about him being alive. Although she did say she had not taken too much notice so could be wrong.

There was no English writing so I have no idea why Hitler is promoting Pattaya, presumably some waxworks. But what were they thinking??????? AM I the only person who finds it offensive or is that the huge jewish chip on my shoulder!!!

This is Thailand!!



The AP reports that the waxwork museum also covered up the poster, which carried the slogan "Hitler is not dead", after receiving complaints from the Israeli and German embassies.

The billboard was one of four posters of dead people used to promote the museum, which opens next month.

Museum director Somporn Naksuetrong said: "We didn't choose Hitler with the intention of praising him, but because he is well-known. But we understand. It is sensitive for some people and countries."

Posters of Bruce Lee, Mahatma Gandhi and Michael Jackson also appear in the campaign.

The museum has not yet decided who will replace Hitler on the billboard.

====

Well, I've seen another large bill board of Hitler on the Patternakan / Srinarkarin junction at the PSTV office. Seems he's a popular guy for advertising in Thailand.

"Museum director Somporn Naksuetrong said: "We didn't choose Hitler with the intention of praising him, but because he is well-known. But we understand. It is sensitive for some people and countries."

I believe the director is being honest here. I also understand why the billboard would be offensive to some people. Good idea that it is being removed but I would not remove the wax figure. He was part of history. However, there are plenty of ways to advertise without being offensive. Plus those offended certainly would not be visiting the museum, so it additionally makes financial sense.


Interesting to note it was farang foreign interests - Israelis and Germans that made the complaint, not the Thais! An earlier comment shows the truth that most average Thais have no idea about Adolf Hitler or even about WWII. Historical education here on world wide events is incredibly poor for the average person. The education system concentrates entirely on their own history as they have written it. This is typical of a developing nation in the education system which has not yet reached a standard which encourages creative thinking or the acquisition of external knowledge. Best to keep them in the dark and just feed them the literacy development which will continue to encrust the Thai elite in their position of power while the poor remain ignorant of other world events. The museum was right to open education views, and this shows that Thailand is still a free country in many respects.

http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/image011f1.jpg

Yes clearly Hitler was an evil maniac, but if we hide from historical facts, then we do a disservice to these people. I don't find the billboard offensive, as pictures of Hitler's salute is extremely common on TV, especially "History", "National Geographic Channel" and "Discovery" which are all largely "farang" based and they are not censored, nor should they be. The museum is not glorifying this lunatic, they are, I agree helping to educate people and maybe making a little money in the process. I doubt if the average old German male here on a sex tour could care less about this billboard; think it sounds more like a knee jerk reaction from politically correct rich toffs in the German and Israeli Embassies rather than a consideration of educational ideals.

Hitler billboard
The billboard before it was covered on a road out of Bangkok


Museum apologises for Hitler billboard

A wax staff moves a Adolf Hitler wax figure at
the Louis Tussauds Waxworks room in Pattaya
Monday. A billboard to promote the museum
showing Hitler giving a Nazi salute, with the
slogan "Hitler is Not Yet Dead" was covered up
after strong criticisms.//epa


PATTAYA: -- A Thai museum has apologised for a billboard which showed Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi salute.

Museum officials in Thailand have covered a billboard depicting Adolf Hitler saluting after complaints from the German and Israeli embassies.

The advertisement, which reads in Thai, "Hitler is not dead," was set up on a main road out of Bangkok two weeks ago.

The billboard was covered up after the museum received "a lot" of complaints, director Somporn Naksuetrong said.

The series of highway advertisements featuring famous dead people promote Louis Tussaud's Waxworks in Pattaya.

"We weren't showing his image to celebrate him," Mr Naksuetrong told AFP.

"We think he is an important historical figure, but in a horrible way. We apologise for causing any offence which was not at all intended. We did not realise it would make people so angry," he added.

German Ambassador Hanns Schumacher was quoted in the Bangkok Post as labelling the advertisement "tasteless" and complained directly to the Thai foreign ministry.

The Israeli embassy protested directly to the museum, Mr Naksuetrong said.

http://antithaksin.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/thaksin_hitler.jpg

Thailand in the post-Thaksin era may be compared to the post-Hitler world. The majority of the people could afford a sigh of relief following the fall of these two great men who, during their respective periods, were real demagogues: they had used their special rhetorical expertise to persuade people into believing they were helping the underprivileged strata in society but actually they were doing this for their own benefits.


The Thais are perhaps more fortunate, in that they caught up with Thaksin more quickly than the German people of the Nazi era did, and hence they succeeded in stopping his fraudulent behaviour, including his economic imperialist designs on Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Many Thais might say that Phra Sayam Deva Thiraj – the country’s Guardian Spirit – really exists, though the damage that has been done to the country by Thaksin is actually more extensive than it has ever sustained in its long history.

Thaksin Regime

thaksin_redyellow

Thaksin is the most controversial figure in Thai history. He is most fervently loved by a large number of people, and is at the same time hated by at least an equally large number of people. Those who hate him carry their hatred to the extreme. Their hatred, in other words, is so strong that they do not even want to see him assassinated but would rather see him live a tormented life that he deserves for the evil deeds that he has perpetrated.

Therefore, as the nation’s most dangerous person, he is also relatively free from assassination threats. Only crazy people would attempt to assassinate him, like those allegedly involved in the planned car-bomb attack on Thaksin (General Panlop Pinmanee was the accused): the assassination attempt was aptly dubbed as a “car bong” [Bong in Thai means nuts!]. These people are not those who nurture extreme hatred for Thaksin.

However, while such incidents succeeded in boosting his fame, Thaksin, on his part, succeeded in creating divisions in the whole Thai society: deep divisions have occurred at all levels – from the national to the family levels. He anyway failed to capture his coveted star – being the greatest person on Thai soil and the ASEAN leader, before eventually catapulting himself onto the world scene as one of its leaders.

Thaksin’s Star Waned

After his government was toppled by the coup d’état on 19 September 2006, Thaksin has been formally charged or accused in a total of 17 cases involving unlawful or unconstitutional acts. Before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions delivered a two-year imprisonment verdict on Thaksin, he had already fled to Britain to avoid imprisonment (end of July 2008).

Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat

Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat

Other cases remain at the various stages of the judicial process. The governments that were regarded as Thaksin’s proxies (those led by Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat) could help only in so far as their executive authority was relevant. Hence, the cases that have already been submitted to the court of justice and independent organizations must duly go on, even though Thaksin is away in foreign countries.

With a new coalition government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva coming to power (January 2009), Thaksin tried to regain his power by ordering his close aides to mobilize red-shirt people who he had organized before his fall from power to serve as a spearhead. The political masses thus mobilized were instigated by propaganda through media inside as well as outside Thailand to create tension and chaos in society and cause heavy political and economic damages to the nation.

However, the Abhisit government succeeded in turning the situation that had placed it at a serious political disadvantage (8-11 April 2009) into a favourable one, which was significantly helpful for its measures to disperse the rioting mobs (12-14 April). The instigation of these red-shirt mobs to cause serious damages to the country, the use of road blockades and intimidation of Bangkok’s Din Daeng and Nang Lerng communities, as well as setting more than 20 buses on fire – all with a view to provoking the government to resort to violence – had the important effect of increasingly turning the people of Bangkok more openly against these pro-Thaksin mobs.

redshirt_blockage

redshirts_riot

When the government declared the emergency situation by invoking the Emergency Decree in its use of troops to disperse the rioting crowds without causing any death (although 131 soldiers and civilians were injured, and two members of the Nang Lerng community were killed – with substantial evidence indicating that this was the work of those belonging to the Thaksin camp), the credibility and popularity of the government was significantly boosted, whereas the voice dictating the red-shirt groups through telephone and video links became silent.

A question arises in this connection: Will Thaksin and his supporters stop their moves to scuttle the Abhisit government? The answer is “No”.

This is because Thaksin has huge interests at stake, and he still dreams of coming back to Thailand as a powerful figure capable of claiming his 76,000 baht-worth assets back, lifting all the cases against him together with the jail sentence that he has received, and using political power to clear himself and members of his clique of all political and criminal charges and accusations.

thaksin_phonin

He still believes that the gigantic amounts of money he has easily acquired are sufficient to buy off the Thai people. Moreover, he still commands the loyalty of the red-shirt masses that would serve as a spearhead in pushing for his political gains and controls the MPs and senators who have received benefits from him, and who would fight for him in Parliament. Finally, he can still rely on the large grassroots support in northern and northeastern Thailand.

If Thaksin stops engineering the moves that are damaging to Thailand, and if the Abhisit government fails in its effort to solve the economic problems that have pulled the country down since the time of Thaksin’s puppet governments, when the whole world plunged into a major economic crisis, then he might have a chance of returning to power in the country. The world economic meltdown has made the task of the present government in overcoming the economic problems even more difficult. And, given the existing political instability, its chance of having enough time to accomplish this task becomes even less.

It is therefore not surprising that Thaksin and his supporters have continually created political crises and tensions in Thailand, and at the same time engaged in propaganda work in the country as well as abroad to discredit the government. They will continue these demagogic activities as long as Thaksin remains at large and has not been put in jail in accordance with the court verdict, or as long as he is still provided with freedom to engage in such activities by foreign governments that are friends of Thailand. He will never cease his search for a chance to restore his power and come back to power.

pardon_pettition

There are chances for Thaksin’s influence to decline with the passage of time and changing political situations in Thailand. These are

(1) the dwindling of the financial resources he has at his disposal to support anti-government activities by red-shirt people and pro-Thaksin MPs;

(2) the MPs under Thaksin’s control (presently the Peau Thai and other pro-Thaksin MPs) becoming in disarray with the lapse of time;

(3) the Abhisit government gaining greater popularity as a result of the policies it has undertaken; and

(4) the sharp decline in the popularity of Peau Thai Party as result of its support for violence perpetrated by the red-shirt mobs who were instigated into such actions by Thaksin and the fact that Thaksin and his supporters have acted in strong opposition to several members of the Privy Council, especially General Prem Tinnasulanond. Not only did these people threateningly surround Prem’s residence, but also many of them including Thaksin have acted in manner that is tantamount to lèse majesté.

Who Used Violence?

redshirt_riots

On 11-14 April 2009, press reports fully and straightforwardly covered how red-shirt mobs led by Arisman Pongruangrong sabotaged the ASEAN + Three Summits and ASEAN + Six Summits in Pattaya, as well as how the troops had dispersed red-shirt mobs at Din Daeng and the Government House without casualties. How the people of Nang Lerng community came out in opposition to the red-shirt mobs, who had seized a bus with an intention of setting it on fire near this community and who murdered two members of the community, were also extensively reported.

The media indeed covered all these other incidents as they occurred. No other governments in the world had given the media such freedom for full coverage of a serious political disturbance, but the red-shirt mob leaders, Peau Thai Party, and their patrons who manipulated a remote control from a foreign country have repeatedly accused the government of using troops to commit violence against the people.

Let us take an example of how the Thaksin-type people have distorted the facts relating to the red-shirt mobs threatening the life of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the Ministry of the Interior.

Here is a brief factual summary of the event. Following their success in sabotaging the Summit Meetings (11 April), the red-shirt mobs who were in their jubilant mood widened their rioting activities in Bangkok. The prime minister invited his cabinet members to a meeting at the Ministry of the Interior (12 April), because the Government House was still sealed off by the red-shirt mobs. The ministry was intended to serve as a hideout where the cabinet could work to solve the country’s problems in safety from a sudden attack by the red-shirt mobs. It was here that the government declared an emergency situation.

carattacking

PMcar_attacked

However, there was an enemy within the government circle, who tipped the red-shirts off about this hideout. A mob was thus mobilized and directed to the Ministry of Interior. Although by that time the government had declared an emergency situation in Bangkok, the police still maintained their “empty-gear” work and allowed the red-shirt mob to blood-thirstily go after Abhisit and his colleagues, who the mobs suspected might still be their cars or in certain rooms at the ministry. Abhisit’s car managed to escape from the hunting mob, but Mr. Niphon Promphan, the Prime Minister Secretary General, who was in another car, was not as fortunate as the prime minister: he was violently attacked by the red-shirt mob and later hospitalized.

The facts relating to this incident were recorded by all branches of the media that witnessed it. They should not have allowed the Thaksinians to distort these facts and resorted to political games to discredit the government. The mob leaders, particularly the supposedly “honourable” MPs who belonged to the party that had twice been formally disbanded by the verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal, raised very unlikely issues that Abhisit was not in the car that was attacked by the red-shirt mobs; and that other people posed themselves as red-shirt mobs to attack the prime minister.

Raising such ridiculous issues was simply a political game of the Thaksinians to defeat their enemy – that is, creating chaos within their enemy’s ranks by raising queer issues to attract the attention of certain shallow media that in turn took the bait by extensively reporting on them and thereby succeeding in both covering up and distracting the public from their evil deeds.

The result was that their enemy had to keep on denying the distorted facts and had no time to any good work, whereas the Thaksinians succeeded in keeping themselves in the news. Hence, when an absurd issue they had raised began to lose public attention, they would find a new one to create news for themselves.

To defeat an enemy intent upon causing trouble in their homeland with a democratic spirit is a difficult task. It seems Abhisit has been trying to do this. The media that know the country’s problems are not in a position to solve them; they tend instead to end up quarrelling among themselves about what the appropriate role of the media should be. Such a social illness in Thai society might have a chance of abating if the media would abstain from reporting the news of those who are maliciously intent upon destroying social peace and the people’s happiness. It is necessary in the long term to rid Thai society of the yoke of Thaksinism.

Author: Khien Theeravit
- Professor Emeritus, Chulalongkorn University
- Outstanding Research Scholar awarded by National Research Council

PAD, consumed democracy and self-dramatization: A comparative view from Taiwan

October 20th, 2008 by Christian Schafferer, Guest Contributor · 7 Comments

As a political sociologist by training, I find it interesting to analyze the local discourse on democratization processes in different transitional societies in East and Southeast Asia. I have lived in Taiwan for almost ten years and during that time I have frequently visited Thailand, South Korea, Mongolia and Japan for research purposes.

In political science there is the question of whether a transitional society succeeds in coping with the pitfalls of democratization or whether it regresses to authoritarianism. From this perspective, Thailand and other transitional societies in the region are worth studying and may help us to gain a better understanding of what policy makers could do to prevent the collapse of democratic institutions in other newly established democracies.

From my observations, South Korea has best overcome the difficulties of dealing with the pitfalls of democratic development among the new democracies of Asia, whereas other countries, especially the Philippines and to some worrisome extent Thailand and Taiwan, have put their political achievements at risk. Developments in the later two transitional societies have striking similarities, although the general settings of these two polities are fundamentally different.

In this brief photo essay, I would like to address those similarities in order to stimulate further discussions among members of the scientific community. I believe that more extensive comparative research is necessary and would benefit the global discourse on democratization and the consolidation thereof.

Emergence of unprecedented corruption

During the last few years, Thailand as well as Taiwan experienced the emergence of what is frequently termed “new democracy movements.” Growing dissatisfaction with the policies adopted by incumbent political leaders, the perceived government’s attempt to destroy the very foundations of the state, and the wide-spread perception of unprecedented corruption and misuse of state authority sparked off anti-government demonstrations and debates about the apparent shortcomings of democratic elections.

In Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian has been the prime target of the self-proclaimed new democracy movement since his presidential inauguration in 2000. In Thailand, the protectors of democracy targeted Thaksin Shinawatra for about the same period of time. The accusations are strikingly similar and so is the (academic) discourse.

The protectors of democracy and the right to kill opponents

At the height of the local discourse, the protectors of democracy raised two fundamental questions: First, is a comparison between those two leaders and Adolf Hitler justified? Second, under what circumstances is the execution of political leaders necessary and fully justifiable?

As to the first, intellectuals agreed that there is enough evidence to claim that both leaders deserve to be listed as the regional version of Adolf Hitler.

In Taiwan, the political wing of the new democracy movement distributed posters that likened President Chen Shui-bian with war criminal Saddam Hussein and terrorist Bin Laden during the 2004 presidential election. Although some people failed to comprehend what Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had to do with President Chen Shu-bian, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) insisted that their posters were extremely inventive and refused to stop their circulation.

Image 1: Saddam Husein poster, official campaign material, presidential election, March 2004

Image 2: Bin Laden poster, official campaign material, presidential election, March 2004

The chief campaign strategists at the KMT headquarters in Taipei considered the posters a belittlement of President Chen’s real character and decided to look for a more appropriate comparison. Soon, the people of Taiwan were taught in newspaper advertisements that President Chen Shui-bian is Taiwan’s Adolf Hitler. It did not take long and bookstores around the island were filled with publications about Hitler Chen. One of the most popular books at that time was Shuddering Future: Dismantle Taiwan’s New Dictatorship.

Image 3: Hitler Chen ad in leading newspapers, March 2004

Image 4: Cover of popular Hitler-Chen book, 2004

In Thailand, PAD protestors distributed pamphlets depicting Thaksin as the Thai version of Hitler, who forced his fellow citizens to raise their arms to the Nazi salute. More recently, artwork likening the activists’ enemy to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler could be seen on the newly occupied territory of the PAD.

Image 5: Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, pamphlet distributed during PAD rallies (Source: Srithanonchai)

Image 5a: Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, picture posted on website of influential Thai NGO (Source: Srithanonchai)

Image 6: Reincarnation of Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler, PAD territory, 26 September 2008

As to the second question whether one has the right to kill a dictator like Thaksin or Chen. Intellectuals in both countries answered this question in the affirmative.

In Thailand, supporters of the new democracy movement openly called for the execution of Thaksin, whereas other influential activists also wanted to see Thaksin’s daughter become a whore infected with venereal diseases. During my last visit to the PAD occupied territory, death wishes against the opponents are still in evidence among the protectors of justice.

Image 7: Political opponent hanged, PAD territory, 26 September 2008

In Taiwan, the leader of the political wing of the new democracy movement openly declared Chen Shui-bian an outlaw who should be hunted down, whereas other intellectuals, especially one outspoken law (!) professor of the prestigious National Taiwan University, repeatedly demanded the death penalty.

Emergence of new democracy movements and markets

In 2006, Taiwan’s new democracy movement gained new momentum. President Chen’s wife was accused of corruption and his son-in-law of insider trading. Shi Ming-de, a former victim of the KMT dictatorship, called on the people of Taiwan to wear red shirts to symbolize disapproval of Chen Shui-bian. Soon, the red movement covered the streets of Taipei. Shi’s revolutionary speech lasted for a mere 5 minutes, repeatedly claiming that Chen was corrupt and should step down immediately. Despite the disappointing speech, Taipei had a new tourist attraction for the weeks to come. Buses packed with “protesters” arrived at the site of the revolution, especially on weekends. The streets of Taipei were crowded with yelling people and making thumbs-down gestures. The media spoke of a great moment in the nation’s history. Justice would come soon; the unscrupulous, ferocious, corrupt president would soon be gone. The period of the Red Movement was a time of enormous intellectual discourse. University professors dressed in red showed their unlimited support for the new leader, the protector of democracy.

Why not be part of a revolution? After all, participants could enjoy artistic performances while sharing free food and drinks. Everybody was curious to find out what would be next on the programme. Not only artists could perform there, intellectuals from all walks of life could express their opinion. Students joined the programme, too. Some of them repeated their leader’s opinion that Chen was corrupt and should step down. Others were more intellectual and rephrased songs and poems. All of them were extremely excited because they were live on TV. They were the heroes of a great revolution. The world would remember them as the true fighters for justice and democracy. It was simply in vogue to be on TV and to attack Chen Shui-bian. Even primary school kids learned their anti-Chen poems and presented them at school or on TV. T-shirts, banners, books, cups and other merchandise were sold as souvenirs. Photos were taken so that the participants could prove with pride to future generations that they defended democracy at high personal risks. It did not take long before media reports referred to the protests as the “carnival in Taipei.”

When I visited the PAD’s newly occupied territory around Government House in Bangkok, many things seemed familiar. Brand-new expensive cars parking around and inside the territory, kids voicing their concerns, abundant souvenirs, free food, and the sale of products that nobody would seriously associate with a revolution.

Image 8: Street market, PAD occupied territory, 26 September 2008

Image 9: A concerned young activist expressing his opinion, PAD territory, 26 September 2008

Image 10: Another concerned young activist expressing his opinion, PAD territory, 26 September 2008

Image 11: A revolutionary designing shopping bags for the PAD night market, PAD territory, 26 September 2008

The PAD occupied territory looks more like a market than a place where serious social and political issues are discussed. Remove the English protest signs, and the PAD occupied territory easily sells as a new tourist spot besides the floating market and other attractions in Bangkok. They offer bags, T-shirts, CDs and framed photographs featuring famous people and historic events, such as the 1976 Thammasat Massacre and the 1992 anti-government demonstrations.

Image 12: Sale of plastic hand clapping tools for the revolution, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 13: Sale of food, bags, shoes and other tools for the revolution, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 14: A king-loving woman selling items featuring Che Guevara, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 15: A Thailand-loving woman selling boot scrapers featuring the enemies, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 16: A Bob Marley activist selling souvenirs featuring the revolution, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 17: Information booth exhibiting and selling documentaries of this and previous revolutions. PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 18: Special collections of modern Thai soap operas. PAD night market, 26 September 2008

For the younger visitors, cosmetics and other commodities, such as milk powder and instant coffee are available for sale.

Image 19: A young activist buying cosmetics for the revolution, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 20: Condensed milk and instant coffee for the revolution, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

In case you get lost on the PAD occupied territory, free tour guides are available.

Image 21: PAD tour guides, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Moreover, there are live performances featuring concerned democracy activists reading poetry and novels, and of course presentations of new PAD products. And for those who want to stay overnight free accommodation is also available.

Image 22: Concerned upper-class citizens attending the PAD Friday night show, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 23: One of the keynote speakers at the PAD Friday night show, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 24: The same keynote speaker signing autographs and chatting with fans, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 25: New product presentation at the at the PAD Friday night show, PAD night market, 26 September 2008

Image 26: Free accommodation available, PAD occupied territory, 28 September 2008

Image 27: WC facilities, PAD occupied territory, 28 September 2008

The new tourist spot is already famous, visitors travel long distances to get hard evidence of their active participation in the revolution.

Image 28: Young part-time activists taking pictures together with a PAD veteran, PAD occupied territory, 26 September 2008

Image 29: Tourists taking pictures, PAD occupied territory, 28 September 2008

While walking through the PAD territory, I could not but notice that most participants were middle-aged women. When I told one of the PAD supporters about my observation, he noted that PAD defends women’s rights and seeks gender equality. Asked whether this equality was also represented in the composition of PAD’s leadership, the supporter started to talk about the injustices Thaksin and his followers had imposed upon the poor people of the country.

On the PAD territory, I also saw a branch office of the Young PAD. One of the students talked to me in English and I asked him why he had joined the movement. He responded by saying that in Thailand few people were rich and the rich controlled the political and social lives of the masses. At the same time, one of his colleagues arrived in a brand new car.

Image 30: Youth division of the revolutionaries, PAD occupied territory, 26 September 2008

Image 31: Car of a Young-PAD functionary parking outside the Young PAD branch office on PAD occupied territory, 26 September 2008

In Taiwan, I have hardly heard that a student joined the movement out of his concern over the poor. They would usually tell me that their borough chief or some other politician offered them NT$ 2,000 (US$ 60) for taking a weekend trip to the carnival in Taipei.

What’s the difference?

Street protests and the call for justice are nothing new. They have occurred numerous times in Thailand as well as in Taiwan. So, why should the so-called new democracy movements be classified as mob rule and be considered a threat to the future development of democratic institutions in the region?

In the past, the opposition took to the streets, sometimes with violence, just like the participants of the new democracy movements. In this respect both generations of democracy activists share similarities. But that is the only thing they have in common. Everything else was fundamentally different to what the situation is in today’s Thailand or Taiwan.

During the martial law period in Taiwan, there were great injustices. Political opponents were imprisoned, tortured and many disappeared. The media was strictly controlled and publications critical about the regime were banned. There was no opportunity for the opposition to address their issues of concern publicly without facing dire consequences. The political system was de-facto authoritarian with gross human rights violations. The concerns of the democracy activists were more than justified. I do not see the existence of such a situation in today’s Thailand or Taiwan, though. They do not have to fear about their personal safety, when they speak out against their opponents. In addition, they do have legal means of communication. When I started to do comparative research on Taiwan’s democracy movements there was one critical difference I noticed. Previous movements not only addressed injustices but they also tried to communicate with ordinary people and what is even more important they looked for ways to help the people overcome their social difficulties and to defend their rights. At the end of the 1970s, for example, democracy activists set up legal counseling offices around the island, where workers and others affected by the government’s policies could get free legal advice and other practical help. University professors were invited to give lectures on what is wrong with the current policies and what could be done to overcome these difficulties. There was a meaningful intellectual discourse, which brought about many powerful social movements in the late 1980s. These movements in turn made incumbent governments aware of the need for new legislation improving the rights of the people.

The new democracy movements, on the other hand, have abundant ways to deal with their concerns, but they do not make use of them. Today’s activists voice their concern about the widespread corruption of Thaksin, Chen Shui-bian and their followers. They believe that once they have toppled those “criminals,” their country will be freed from corruption and injustices. But, are they really concerned about corruption? What steps have they taken to fight corruption in their countries? How many seminars on corruption prevention has the intellectual wing of the new movements organized? How many local initiatives have there been? How many legislative drafts has the political wing of the movements submitted to parliament for discussion?

Instead of seeking feasible and meaningful solutions, they are opposed to any conversation with their critics. They have opted for isolation and unnecessary violence. Critics are simply condemned and vowed to be replaced. The creation of the Ratchadumnoen University serves as an example here. Academics critical of their approach were declared incompetent. The new democracy activists ascertain that only those who joined their protests at Ratchadumnoen Nok Avenue are qualified to speak about democracy, Thailand and the people.

Image 32: PhD diploma signed by PAD leaders and authorizing people to speak about democracy, available for 100 Baht at PAD night market, 26 September 2008

The new democracy movements have failed to practice democracy; they have just consumed it. And that is why the movements constitute a threat to the future development of democracy and humanity in the region. In the early 1990s, the global academic discourse focused on the question of whether democracy is a universal value or whether there should be regional interpretations of what democracy is and what not.

The new democracy movements in Thailand and Taiwan are likely to be used in the near future to back up the so-called Asian values theory, which will seriously endanger human development in the region.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oldrightie - Oh dear oh dear!

Anything Goes?

Are We Any Different from The Terrorists?


http://tangibleinfo.blogspot.com/2007/08/hiroshima-nagasaki-end-war-myth.html

Afghanistan 2009.

I recommend you visit the link above this picture and if you accept the argument given, like me, you and my generation will be enlightened to further understanding of the sheer arrogance of power. I have always been uncomfortable with excuses that the ends justify the means, because you and I may well become one of the 'ends'.

I have posted about the immorality of the arms trade, the corruption and slush bribes for The Taliban, the love-in with The IRA.

Poppycock! How about focussing on the big problem, US/UK militarism, here is just ONE example how you are deceived: Gladio CIA ...

All carry the 'means' argument. These arguments are made and decided on our behalf. Our unelected PM is able to pursue HIS agenda and dress it up as "in the best interests of The UK".

It is not his agenda. Ask yourself, who bombed the London underground on 7/7??

http://u2r2h.blogspot.com/2009/07/london-7-july-2005-deep-state-murder.html

My frustration is that I cannot believe that all that is going on is in anybody's interest other than the great and patently the not so good.

We need socialism, don't you get it? You are being deceived by a multi-billion dollar effort to have cognitive dissonance! You are supposed to hate socialism, but real-democracy=socialism is our only hope to stop the mass murder and spent our energy on a happy future.

Today, we learn that secret intelligence would be compromised if a known terrorist is not released. So here we have a conflict in our own country we cannot resolve. How on earth do we think that 212 UK soldiers, many allied troops and countless civilians' deaths and horrific injuries are justified when we cannot lock up people we consider dangerous to our security. It makes a mockery of a Government floundering, even begging for support, whilst putting us at risk on our own doorstep. I watched Flight 93 last night and as my anger at the murderers rose to fever pitch,

You watched a piece of utter fiction! Nearly nothing in that movie is factual. The US military did 9/11. It is doubtful the planes even existed. Read and comprehend Operation Northwoods, please, then check out how they did 9/11: http://u2r2h.blogspot.com/2008/08/nose-out.html

http://u2r2h-documents.blogspot.com/2007/10/911-hologram-theory.html

http://u2r2h-documents.blogspot.com/2009/04/hologramm-theory-on-911compositeswiki.html




my admiration for the brave passengers grew beyond coping.

You poor manipulated soul!

I went to sleep depressed at the waste of so many lives for the belief that we can trust and have faith in our leaders. Somehow, along the way, capitalism has taken over governance and this is just sheer madness.

No, it is intentional!

All the benefits of trade and commerce are sunk beneath the crooked and downright evil, that suddenly a glimmer of sympathy appears for the mis-guided acts of terrorism taking place in our world.

What have they spiked your drink with?

We are becoming as bad as they. Change needed, indeed.


WAR IS TERROR
war must be outlawed!

US soldier corpse (apache helicopter occupant) being dragged through the streets in Somalia, filmed by an italian TV crew. This soldier and his gang killed THOUSANDS of innocent Somalis on their murderous rampage through town.

Photo copied from Oldrightie blog. ... This guy needs to read more chomsky. He is obviously a well-off person.His humanity is in need of strengthening. He is another victim of the western doctrinal system, Living in england does that to you. He believes he is entitled to lambast socialism and negate the progress that the EU has brought (to his country most of all). Without the EU, britain would still pollute the north sea, for example. A small mind, sadly.

You may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you.

~~~~~~Leon Trotsky


This here is sooo below the belt, it is the work of an anti-social gadfly:

Arbeit macht frei!

Arbeit macht frei!
Now what?


Now what? Wrong premise! Let go! Let's make it a success for the benefit of people, lets have rules that stop us partaking in mass murder. It is always beneficial to have a dutch, danish and greek person sitting on the decision-making table! Unlike britain, they know what it is like.


CAPITALISM LOVE STORY - Michael Moore 2

Here is another interesting blogposting about the film, this time from Louis Proyect:

September 29, 2009
Are worker-owned companies an alterative to capitalism?
Filed under: economics, socialism

This is a follow-up to my review of Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: a Love Story” where I neglected to discuss his proposals for an alternative to capitalism, which boil down to worker-owned firms or cooperatives. He interviews the top guy at the Alvarado Street Bakery in California, whose website describes a cooperative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”. He also visits a robotics manufacturer in Wisconsin that operates on the same basis.

In an interview on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” radio show, Juan Gonzalez asks a pointed question that gets to the heart of the matter: “Michael, you have obviously amassed a lot in terms of the indictment of capitalism as a system, but some would say the film doesn’t offer much in terms of the alternative.” Moore replies:

I do show in the film some very specific examples of workplace democracy, where a number of companies have decided to go down the road of having the company actually owned by the workers. And when I say “owned,” I’m not talking about some ding-dong stock options that make you feel like you’re an owner, when you’re nowhere near that. But I mean these companies really own it. And I’m not talking about, you know, the hippy-dippy food co-op, and I don’t mean that with any disrespect to the food co-ops who are listening or any hippies that are listening. But I go to an engineering firm in Madison, Wisconsin. These guys look like a bunch of Republicans. I mean, I didn’t ask them how they vote, but they didn’t necessarily look like they were from, you know, my side of the political fence. And here they all are equal owners of this company. The company does $15 million worth of business each year.

I go to this bakery. It’s not a bakery really; it’s a bread factory out in northern California, Alvarado Street Bakery. And they’re all paid. They all share the profits the same. They’re all shared equally, including the CEO. And they vote. They elect, you know, who’s going to be running this and how this is going to function. The average factory worker in this bread factory makes $65,000 to $70,000 a year, which, I point out, is about three times the starting pay of a pilot who works for American Eagle or Delta Connection. And that’s another harrowing scene in the movie, where I interview pilots who are on food stamps—pilots who are on food stamps because of how little they’re paid.

As someone who has paid fairly close attention to the airline industry over the years, I could not help but remember how worker ownership did little to stave off the race to the bottom in what was once a well-paying industry with excellent benefits. On July 7th, 1996 Louis Uchitelle informed his NY Times readers that worker ownership was no obstacle to the kind of downsizing that victimized the workers at Republic Window, whose sit-in was documented by Moore. Uchitelle reported:

Or take Kiwi Airlines, founded in 1992 by former Eastern Airlines pilots. It is 57 percent owned today by its 1,200 employees. But to cut costs, 60 owner-workers were laid off in January, many of them clerks whose jobs had been automated. “If we had done these layoffs earlier, there would have been revolution,” said Robert Kulat, a Kiwi spokesman. “We still had this concept of a happy family and of employees being bigger than the company. But big losses changed that. And people realized that to remain alive, to keep their own jobs, they had to change too.”

Interestingly enough, Uchitelle claimed that a strong union allowed United Airlines, another worker-owned firm, to avoid downsizing but only four years later economic reality caught up with the company, as the January 14, 2000 New York Times reported:

Faced with rising labor and fuel costs, the UAL Corporation, the parent company of United Airlines, said yesterday that its 2000 earnings were likely to be as much as 28 percent below expectations.

United Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, is being plagued by troubles that are common to the industry and by others that are singular to its operation. Jet fuel prices increased about 24 percent last year and United predicted further jumps this year.

Adding to the carnage, several of United’s unions were demanding large wage increases, in part to keep up with competitors and to replace money generated from the company’s expiring stock ownership plan.

“UAL gave a very sobering message yesterday,” said Kevin Murphy, an airlines analyst with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. “No airline outperforms when you’re negotiating with labor. If United gives big wage boosts to its pilots and mechanics, the other carriers may have to catch up.

In 2001 United Airlines went bankrupt as a result of the impact of 9/11 on travel and rising fuel costs and was subsequently reorganized as a regular corporation. This had nothing to do with whether the company was “democratic” or not. Even if it was the most democratic institution in the world, it could not operate as a benign oasis in a toxic wasteland. Capitalism forces firms to be profitable. If they are not profitable, management takes action to make them more profitable, including slashing wages or laying workers off. The only way to eliminate these practices is to eliminate the profit motive, something that Moore is reluctant to advocate.



http://tangibleinfo.blogspot.com/2009/10/capitalism-love-story-michael-moore.html


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It is understandable that Naomi Klein would have referred to the notion of worker owned firms this way in an interview with Moore that appears in the latest Nation Magazine: “The thing that I found most exciting in the film is that you make a very convincing pitch for democratically run workplaces as the alternative to this kind of loot-and-leave capitalism.” Klein, like Moore, has extolled the virtues of worker ownership in her own documentary “The Take”. This was my take on her movie:

In the opening moments of Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein’s documentary about occupied factories in Argentina titled “The Take,” we see Klein being hectored by a rightwing TV host. If she is not for the capitalist system, then what is she *for*. This is obviously is a tough question for autonomists like Klein who resist being pinned down, but she and her partner decided to make an attempt in “The Take.” Despite their best intentions, the film poses more questions than it answers. Ultimately, the film succeeds not as a political statement but as a record of ordinary workers trying to maintain their dignity.

For non-Marxist radicals like Klein, coming up with a model means first of all rejecting the USSR or Cuba which are dismissed as verticalist nightmares at the beginning of the film. The attraction of occupied factories in Argentina is that they are exercises in direct democracy, but do not involve the messy business of government, with its distasteful cops, courts and bureaucracy, etc. Of course, if you do not evaluate such institutions through the prism of class, you will never be able to operate politically on the most basic level. In the final analysis, cops will either support factories run by workers or they will evict them. Class power is the ultimate determinant of that outcome.

The film focuses on the efforts of workers to keep three factories running on a cooperative basis: Forja San Martin, Zanon and Brukman. Although Brukman, a garment shop, has only 58 workers, it is by far the best-known of these experiments. For autonomists, it has achieved the kind of mythic proportions that the St. Petersburg Soviet has for some Marxists. (It should be mentioned that the sectarian Marxist left rallied around Brukman as well, not so much because it was a model but because it was seen as an apocalyptic struggle between society’s two main classes.)

There’s a certain cognitive dissonance at work with Moore’s treatment of cooperatives. If it is a virtual panacea for what ails American workers, it amounts to a rightwing conspiracy when it is advocated as a solution to the health care crisis by Obama’s adversaries (of course, Obama is open to the idea himself.) If you go to Moore’s website, you will find an article by Robert Reich that makes a rather effective case against health insurance cooperatives: “Don’t accept Kent Conrad’s ersatz public option masquerading as a ‘healthcare cooperative.’ Cooperatives won’t have the authority, scale, or leverage to negotiate low prices and keep private insurers honest.” The same thing applies to outfits like the Alvarado Street Bakery in California or the robotics plant in Wisconsin. They lack the power to transform the American economy, just as health insurance coops would lack the power to safeguard the health of American workers. They would be nothing but tokens in a vast system operating on the basis of profit.



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Despite its formulaic quality and despite some very dubious politics, I have no problem recommending Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: a Love Story”. Since there are so few movies (or television shows) that reveal the human side of the largest economic crisis since the 1930s, we must be grateful to Michael Moore for his steadfast dedication to the underdog. Except for Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s American Casino, a documentary that covers pretty much the same terrain as Moore but without his impish humor, there’s nothing out of Hollywood that would give you the slightest inkling of the scale of human suffering.

There are two passages in “Capitalism: a Love Story” that I found particularly compelling. As an erstwhile analyst of airline deregulation, I thought that Moore’s interviews of a couple of low-paid regional airline pilots effectively illustrate how capitalism puts profits over human needs. One pilot was forced to go on food stamps while another had to take additional jobs to make ends meet. As Moore puts it, he would not want to step foot in a jet plane piloted by somebody making about the same money as a fast food employee. Other pilots, who are higher up on the salary scale working on nationwide routes, tell a similar tale of woe. After losing pensions and taking drastic pay cuts, they stick with their profession for the love of flying.

One of them is US Airways pilot “Sully” Sullenberger III, the hero who taxied his plane into the Hudson River, seen testifying before a packed audience in Congress about his rescue mission. But once he starts talking about the corporate attacks on airline workers, the politicians begin to sneak out like rats. He eventually ends up talking to a bunch of empty seats. This image–worth a thousand words–is Moore at his best. Another powerful image is the wreckage of a regional carrier Colgan Airline jet in Buffalo, New York from last February that cost 50 lives. Shortly after the plane crash, the NY Times reported that co-pilot Rebecca Shaw drew an annual salary of $16,200 a year and once held a second job in coffee shop. Both Shaw and the pilot were undertrained and exhausted much of the time. But it hardly mattered to Colgan if it remained profitable. If this isn’t an argument for socialism, I don’t know what is.

Since so much of the current crisis involves the housing market and its injustices, Moore hits a home run by demonstrating how politicians are bought off by the big players in the industry, especially Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage broker. He interviews an assistant to CEO Angelo Mozilo, who administered the “Friends of Angelo” program. This was a way of allowing elected officials to get discounted mortgages, including Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat with populist pretensions. As was the case with “Sicko”, there has been a major PR effort on behalf of the capitalist class trying to undermine Moore’s reporting. If you Google “Mozilo” and “Michael Moore”, you will find thousands of articles emanating from the same source that try to clear Dodd’s name as well as discredit Moore’s other claims. This one from Yahoo news is typical:

THE FACTS: Dodd has acknowledged that he participated in a VIP program at Countrywide, refinancing loans on two homes in 2003. One was a 30-year adjustable rate loan for $506,000 with an interest rate of 4.25 percent and a fee of 0.45 percent. He also got a 30-year adjustable rate mortgage for $275,042 with an interest rate of 4.5 percent and a fee of 0.73 percent.

Both interest rates and fees were within industry norms for that time, according to data provided to the AP by Bankrate.com.

Last month, the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics cleared Dodd and Kent Conrad of North Dakota of getting special treatment on the mortgages. But the bipartisan panel also said the senators should have “exercised more vigilance” in their dealings with Countrywide to avoid the appearance of sweetheart deals.

One has to chuckle about the idea of a Senate Select Committee on Ethics clearing Dodd and Kent Conrad, another pig at Mozilo’s trough. It reminds me of how when the New York Police Department “investigates” an incident of police brutality, the malefactor is always cleared as well. The best tribunal for Dodd and company is the nation’s movie theaters where there are no special interests, except a desire to see bad guys nailed by the famous radical movie director.

I also got a big kick out Moore’s attempts to bust into the offices of AIG, Goldman Sachs and other financial corporations that received tax-payer bail-outs. As a former employee of Goldman who walked through the gilded doors at 85 Broad Street for about 2 years in the 1980s, I had to laugh at the spectacle of the bearish, baseball-cap wearing Moore trying to weave through security guards and into the lobby of by now the country’s most despised corporation.

Like “Roger and Me”, “Capitalism: a Love Story” contains autobiographical material about growing up in Flint, Michigan as the son of an auto worker. Moore’s father, who is still alive, escorts the director to the site of the auto parts company that employed him. Now it is nothing but a two mile wide vacant lot. Nowadays, the main industry of Flint is sending out foreclosure notices to the victims of the latest economic upheaval. Moore observes that the United States is rapidly turning into one big Flint, Michigan.

For Moore, the 1950s were a kind of Paradise Lost for the American working class. His father enjoyed four weeks of vacation every year and had enough money to participate in the post-WWII consumerist bonanza. Except for Jim Crow and the occasional imperialist war such as Korea or Vietnam, this was an unblemished society. Like many young people coming of age in the 1960s, Moore was deeply affected by these blemishes, so much so that he seriously considered becoming a Catholic priest, following the example of a Phillip Berrigan.

Moore’s revelations about his early religious leanings clarified for me what kind of compass he has been using from the very beginning in his career as a documentary maker. He has a deeply moralistic sensibility that is most often reflected as a kind of yearning for a more innocent and more egalitarian America, symbolized by his father’s good fortunes as an auto worker and the New Deal.

Although some critics have compared Michael Moore to Charlie Chaplin, I associate his moralism with the movies of Frank Capra, especially “It’s a Wonderful Life”. With the banks in his gun-sight, Moore evokes the struggle in this movie between an idealistic banker James Stewart and the evil banker Lionel Barrymore. There is a strong sense that Moore’s problem with capitalism is not that it is based on a class system per se but that it has broken a social contract established during the New Deal. His enemies are of course the Republicans but also the Democrats who abandoned FDR’s vision, starting with Jimmy Carter who is seen delivering a speech in 1979 with these words:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

Moore understands that the business about “piling up material goods” was a green light for American corporations to cut wages. What better way to get workers to become more spiritual than to reduce their earning power, after all.

Unfortunately, the Capraesque vision is ill-equipped to explain exactly why Flint and other rust belt cities hemorrhaged jobs from the 1970s onwards. Or why the banking sector was deregulated in a kind of New Deal reversal, leading to the marketing of derivatives and securitized mortgages. Were such decisions ultimately a failure of leadership at the top, when businessmen stopped behaving like good Christians?

There are glimmers of understanding in “Capitalism: a Love Story”. In one key segment, Moore shows exactly why General Motors earned the kind of profits that allowed his family to live well. He shows footage of the devastation in Japan and Germany following WWII. No wonder so many people bought Chevrolets. The competition had been bombed into rubble.

A real examination of the capitalist system would be far more systemic than Moore is capable of delivering. It would lead to the devastating conclusion that the groundwork for prosperity in such a system is war and nothing else. Periodically the system has a deep convulsion that leads to millions of deaths. If the current economic crisis is as intractable as the Great Depression, then the logical outcome would be a new global bloodletting with the unleashing of nuclear weapons. If this sounds suicidal, you must remember that an Adolph Hitler was ready to sacrifice every German life for his mad quest to build a thousand year empire. With the US in a far more prosperous state today than 1920s Germany, it is still capable of churning up the kind of madmen hounding Barack Obama. Imagine what this nation would look like if the unemployment rate ratcheted up to 20 percent.

There is one scene toward the end of “Capitalism: a Love Story” that really piqued my interest. For Moore, the formation of the UAW was a key historical step forward, an insight that naturally would come to somebody growing up in Flint. He reveals that his uncle was a sit-down striker in 1937, one of the biggest labor struggles of the 1930s. For Moore, a key element in winning union recognition was FDR’s deployment of the National Guard to Flint. Supposedly, FDR—unlike other presidents past and future—saw the National Guard as a pro-working class force. In February 1937, for the first time in history, the Guard protected strikers from the Flint police on FDR’s instructions and the battle for union recognition was won.

I have an interest in Flint labor history as well, mostly as a comrade of the late Sol Dollinger, a long-time UAW member and revolutionary socialist. Although not a participant in the sit-down strikes, Dollinger was married to Genora Dollinger who was a leader of the Woman’s Emergency Brigade in Flint in 1937. She was known as Genora Johnson at the time, married to Kermit Johnson at the time, a strike leader and socialist like her.

Sol Dollinger’s “Not Automatic”, a book about the Flint strike that depends heavily on Genora’s papers and recollections, paints a somewhat different picture from Moore’s. I reread Genora’s report on the sit-down strike, which is contained verbatim in Sol’s book. I also looked at the chapter on Flint in Art Preis’s “Labor’s Giant Step”, a book I read shortly after joining the Socialist Workers Party in 1967, Jeremy Brecher’s “Strike!”, and N.Y. Times articles from February 1937. Here is what all this material adds up to, from my admittedly far-left-of-center perspective.

To start with, the decision to send in the National Guard was made by Governor Frank Murphy, a Democrat who did have strong New Deal sympathies but those sympathies were not exactly in sync with the deepest aspirations of the strikers. Murphy’s intention was to get the strikers out of the factories and not to defeat General Motors. He hoped for a peaceful settlement of the strike and negotiations at the table. To put pressure on the sit-in, the Guard was instructed not to allow food to be sent into the factory. To my knowledge, the same pressure was not applied on the men and women who owned General Motors, who continued to enjoy three square meals a day.



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Not long after the Guard was mobilized, Genora Johnson formed an Emergency Brigade of women who not only put their bodies on the line but dramatized the willingness of the entire community to come to the aid of the workers. Workers flowed into Flint from all around the industrial heartland in caravans, each one ready to confront any armed force that would be used against workers, either the local police or the National Guard. Additionally, many of the National Guardsmen were workers themselves who could not be relied on to shoot fellow workers. All in all, Murphy had to step gingerly around what was arguably the greatest display of working class militancy in the 1930s.

Flint auto strike, Genora Johnson at 2:33

The role of women in the formation of the UAW

To give some credit to Moore, he certainly does understand the need for such actions. A fairly lengthy portion of his film is shot in Chicago at Republic Windows, where workers were being screwed out of severance payments after the owners decided to shut it down. They sat in, determined to force the bosses to pay what was owed to them. However, in keeping with his tribute to FDR, Moore makes sure to credit the candidate Barack Obama who said that the workers deserved what the company owed them. At the time, many leftist supporters of Obama interpreted this as the second coming of FDR. In a way they are correct insofar as FDR came into office with the same loyalty to the big bourgeoisie as Obama. It was only the militancy of a desperate working class that forced him into taking a modicum of progressive actions.

However, these actions in and of themselves were not sufficient to break the back of unemployment. It took the hellfire of WWII and the cranking up of the arms industry to finally have the stimulus effect that led to postwar prosperity and all the rest that looms so idyllically in Moore’s memory. Humanity can not afford another cataclysm like this in order to sustain a consumerist economy that will eventually lead to ecological crisis of a scale never experienced before. In critical times such as these, it takes a deeper and broader vision of society than that found in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It will require a willingness to break with class society and go deeper into the roots of the crisis than any Hollywood producer might be willing to bankroll.



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Michael Moore's new movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story" opened today.

The first thing that must be said is that it isn't really a love story. Capitalism, Mr. Moore tells us, is "evil," and if his word isn't enough, he quotes two Catholic priests who say that capitalism is sinful and immoral, as well as Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit, who says that capitalism runs counter to the teaching of Jesus.

But if you can get past that – admittedly, a big if – there are some pretty entertaining moments in this movie. Mr. Moore is as tough on the Democrats as he is on the Republicans and the corporate executives. Democrats Richard Holbrooke, Donna Shalala, Senator Kent Conrad, and Senator Christopher Dodd all get skewered in the film for participating in Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" program that offered favorable treatment for mortgages. Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers are targeted for their big corporate paydays following (and, in Mr. Summers's case, also preceding) government service. Mr. Moore asks how Timothy Geithner got his job as President Obama's Treasury secretary, and the answer turns out to be, according to the movie, by completely screwing up as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The funniest moments of all in the movie, though, may just be in the opening and closing credits. We see that the movie is presented by "Paramount Vantage" in association with the Weinstein Company. Bob and Harvey Weinstein are listed as executive producers. If Mr. Moore appreciates any of the irony here he sure doesn't share it with viewers, but for those members of the audience who are in on the secret it's all kind of amusing. Paramount Vantage, after all, is controlled by Viacom, on whose board sit none other than Sumner Redstone and former Bear Stearns executive Ace Greenberg, who aren't exactly socialists. The Weinstein Company announced it was funded with a $490 million private placement in which Goldman Sachs advised. The press release announcing the deal quoted a Goldman spokesman saying, "We are very pleased to be a part of this exciting new venture and look forward to an ongoing relationship with The Weinstein Company."

Knowing that background puts the rest of the movie in a different context. Mr. Moore shows Rep. Dennis Kucinich asking rhetorically on the floor of the House of Representatives, "Is this the United States Congress or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?" Later, Mr. Moore shows up at Goldman Sachs headquarters in Manhattan driving an armored Brinks trunk and announcing, "We're here to get the money back for the American people." Maybe Mr. Moore should look in his own pockets.

One could fault Goldman or Weinstein or Viacom for promoting or funding this sort of stuff – capitalist enemies of the predicates of capitalism – but in the end some of Mr. Moore's criticism is justified, and the rest is so farfetched as to be unlikely to do much lasting damage. Mr. Moore is right that Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" program was outrageous, as was the federal bailout of Wall Street (which both Senator McCain and Senator Obama backed) and the fear tactics the Bush administration used to get Congress to approve it.

He's even right that capitalism is imperfect. But Mr. Moore doesn't make a convincing case that any other system would be an improvement. He offers some tantalizing glimpses of worker-owned and managed cooperatives such as the Alvarado Street Bakery and Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing, and he suggests that things would be better if there were a 90% top income tax rate, stronger labor unions (like in Germany), and a second bill of rights added to the Constitution guaranteeing a job at a living wage, health care, housing, and education. He also seemed buoyed by a recent poll that found 33% of young Americans favored socialism over capitalism.

Interspersed with the credits at the end of the movie are a series of quotes from the founding fathers, including the one from Jefferson (discussed here yesterday, strangely enough) about how "banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies," and one from John Adams to the effect that "Property monopolized or in the possession of a few is a curse to mankind."

Mr. Moore at one point shows a man whose home is being foreclosed on saying, "There's got to be some kind of rebellion between the people that's got nothing and the people that's got it all." But the reverence in this movie for the founding fathers and for the Catholic Church are in some ways not particularly rebellious at all. Nor is Mr. Moore's yearning for a return to the idealized capitalism of his childhood as the son of a GM worker, when unionized employees could enjoy pensions and four-week-long summer vacations, and families with one wage-earner were securely middle-class. "If this was capitalism, I loved it," he said. One gets the sense that Mr. Moore still loves that part of America that allows him to make a living by running around publicly criticizing big companies and politicians, the America that funds the camera crews and movie theaters that allow him to display and distribute his ideas. He may not realize that it's capitalism, but there it is. So maybe it's a love story after all, if not in quite the way that Mr. Moore intended.




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Who should we believe? The propaganda from the past, or Moore's version of the present?http://tangibleinfo.blogspot.com/2009/10/capitalism-love-story-michael-moore.html