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The classical Marxist blog about the crisis

Archive for January, 2009

Male death rates rise after privatization

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 23, 2009

LONDON, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Male mortality rose 42 percent between 1989 and 2002 in Russia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, London researchers said.Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge analyzed mortality rates of men ages 15-69 in post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union between 1989 and 2002.

The researchers found that mass privatization programs were associated with a rise of 12.8 percent in short-term adult male mortality rates. They suggest unemployment, which rose by 56 percent during the period, was probably a key factor.

The five countries implemented “shock” rapid privatization, but other countries which adopted slower rates of change fared much better. The five best-performing countries were Albania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia, which saw a 10 percent fall in male mortality and a 2 percent rise in unemployment.

In addition to unemployment, other factors found to be associated with a rise in male mortality rates were stress, a decrease in the quality of healthcare, rising social inequalities, social disorganization and increased corruption, the study said.

The findings are published in the Lancet.


Posted in Crisis, Political Economy, Poverty, Unemployment | Leave a Comment »

“Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks”

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 20, 2009

From the Financial Times, mouthpiece of finance capital:

“Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks

By Philip Stephens

Financial Times : January 19 2009 19:40

For once, Gordon Brown is guilty of understatement. The other day the prime minister remarked on the rising public anger at the behaviour of Britain’s banks. Unbridled rage would have been a more accurate description of the national mood.

On a recent visit to Washington I heard several people say that when the reckoning is finally made some big Wall Street figures are going to end up in jail. My impression is that many on this side of the Atlantic would like to see one or two British bankers join them.

For the moment, though, I cannot think of a more popular policy than shooting the bankers and nationalising the banks. It might even win Mr Brown an election. Come to think of it, it could also be the way to get us out of this mess.”

And I thought left-wing extremists were bad …

Posted in Crisis, Imperialism, Own Goal, Political Economy | Leave a Comment »

Niwdog’s Law

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 18, 2009

Godwin’s Law, as every good geek knows, predicts that discussions on the internet arrive at a point where someone accuses someone of being ‘almost as … as’, ‘as … as’ or ‘even …er than’ Hitler. Whoever does this first wins the discussion and the accusee loses, and the discussion is over.

It seems there’s a special inverted variant of this for Zionists – Niwdog’s Law. If you’re pro-Israeli and Israelis are busy blowing hundreds of children to pieces, it’s not very smart to start accusing others of being Nazis. So instead anyone who criticises Israel is accused of being ‘anti-semitic’, a holocaust supporter, card carrying member of the National Socialist Party, crypto-fascist  etc etc etc. Unlike Godwin’s law, where debate has to be allowed to develop and only one player hurl’s the Hitlerite comparison, Niwdog’s Law must be used before serious discussion – preferably before any discussion – of Israel begins. Once the accusation has been made, all players except the accusee are expected to immediately agree with the accusation and repeat it. If they don’t, then they themselves fall victim to Niwdog’s Law since silence clearly indicates agreement. Penalties include angst and guilt over whether one really is anti-semitic, loss of friends, acquaintances and spouses, stigmatisation, loss of job, physical beatings and death.

Niwdog’s Law is actually stronger than Godwin’s Law and its only know antidote. In any discussion on Israel, if someone applies Godwin’s Law, for example by suggesting that Israeli action is reminiscent of Nazi blitzkriegs then the accusee or an ally can immediately counter with Niwdog’s Law, accusing the accuser of anti-semitism.

Furthermore, it completely covered in Teflon. If you suggest that someone is following Niwdog’s Law, that suggestion itself is prima facie evidence that you should be Niwdoged. Only someone who is truly anti-semitic could possibly make such a suggestion. The Catch-22 of all Catch 22s.

Posted in Bourgeois Ideology, Racism, Zionism | Leave a Comment »

Tax dodger to run Treasury?

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 14, 2009

The US Department of the Treasury is run by the Secretary of the Treasury. It operates the Mint, which prints and coins currency and manages the government’s borrowing. It also manages the Internal Revenue Service – IRS – which collects taxes. Now a tax cheat is about to take charge there.

Timothy Geithner short paid his new employer by $17,230 in 2003 and 2004 according to the IRS, which he will be running. The Obama transition team learned that he also owed a further $25,970 for 2001 and 2002, but claimed it was common mistake. Republicans quickly pointed out that the IMF – his then employer – repeatedly emphasized the need for employees to cough up their taxes. He also dodged on penalties for early withdrawal from a retirement plan, small-business, charitable deductions, personal expenses and child deductions. In addition, he employed an immigrant housekeeper while her work authorization papers were expired.

Of course everyone is making excuses – ‘just a mistake’, ‘all is now in order’, blah blah. These are the same people who virtually incinerate ‘Welfare cheats’. Capitalism’s hypocrisy and cynicism knows no bounds!

Posted in Crisis, Dumb Sh*t, Dunce, Own Goal, Political Economy | Leave a Comment »

Israel scores ‘Own Goal’ with its sponsorship of Hamas

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 9, 2009

Israel apparently originally sponsored Hamas in an attempt to undermine secular and Marxist organizations in the Palestinian liberation movement. Ever heard the saying “What goes around, comes around”?

‘Politically speaking, Islamic fundamentalists were sometimes regarded as useful to Israel because they had their conflicts with the secular supporters of the PLO. Violence between the groups erupted occasionally on West Bank university campuses, and the Israeli military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Sergev, once told me how he had financed the Islamic movement as a counterweight to the PLO and the Communists: “the Israeli government gave me a budget and the military government gives to the mosques,” he said. In 1980, when fundamentalist protesters set fire to the office of the Red Crescent Society in Gaza, headed by Doctor Haidar Abdel-Shafi, a Communist and PLO supporter, the Israeli army did nothing, intervening only when the mob marched to his home and seemed to threaten him personally.’

Former New York Times correspondent, David Shipler, Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (New York: Penguin, 1987), p. 177.

See also this enlightening report from UPI:

‘Saturday, 24 February 2001 11:28 (ET)

Israel gave major aid to Hamas
By RICHARD SALE, Mideast Correspondent

NEW YORK, Feb. 24 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
speaking of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas recently described
it as “the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face.”

Active in Gaza and the West Bank Hamas wants to liberate all of
Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel.
It has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other
acts of terrorism.

But Sharon had left something out.

Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but,
according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials,
beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect
financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a
counterbalance to the PLO,” said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst
for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute
support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious
alternative,” said a former senior CIA official.

According to documents obtained from the Israel-based Institute for
Counter Terrorism (ICT) by UPI, Hamas evolved from cells of the
Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in
Israel and Palestine were “weak and dormant” until after the 1967 Six
Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab

After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim
Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the
Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an
impressive social, religious, educational and cultural
infrastructure, called Da’wah, that worked to ease the hardship of
large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many of
whom were living on the edge.

“Social influence grew into political influence,” first in the Gaza
Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who
spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to ICT papers, Hamas was legally registered in Israel in
1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movements spiritual leader, as an
Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma Al Islami, which widened
its base of supporters and sympathizers by religious propaganda and
social work.

Funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and
directly and indirectly from Israel, according to U.S. intelligence
officials. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian
nationalism. Hamas wanted set up a transnational state under the rule
of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran.

What took Israeli leaders by surprise was the way the Islamic
movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed
resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon organized by an
Iran-backed movement called Hezbollah that bore similitaries to
Hamas, these sources said.

“Nothing stirs up the energy for imitation as much as success,”
commented one administration expert.

A further factor of Hamas’ growth was the fact the PLO moved its base
of operations to Beirut in the 1980s, leaving the Islamic movements
to strengthen their influence in the Occupied Territories “as the
court of last resort,” he said.

When the intifada began, the Israeli leadership was further surprised
when Islamic groups began to surge in membership and strength. Hamas
immediately grew in numbers and violence. The group had always
embraced the doctrine of armed struggle, but the doctrine had not
been practiced and Islamic groups had not been subjected to
suppression the way groups like Fatah had been, according to U.S.
government officials.

But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the
birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began
to gain strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror
to resist the Israeli occupation.

Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One US
intelligence source who asked not to be named, said that not only was
Hamas being funded as a “counterweight” to the PLO, Israeli aid had a
more devious purpose: “to help identify and channel towards Israeli
agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.”

In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could listen to
debates on policy and identify Hamas members who “were dangerous
hardliners,” the official said.

In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counterintelligence
system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot.
Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike
the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing
to acknowledge its very existence.

Even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to
continue to give Hamas support: “The thinking on the part of some of
the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other
groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do
with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in
place,” said a U.S. government official.

“Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the
United States to deal with,” he said. All of which is viewed with
disapproval by some former U.S. intelligence officials.

“The thing wrong with so many Israeli operations is that they try to
be too sexy,” said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro. Former
State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson told UPI:
“The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting
terrorism. They are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then
tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer.They do more to
incite and sustain terrorism than curb it.”

Aid to Hamas may have looked clever, “but it was hardly designed to
help smooth the waters,” he said. “It gives weight to President
George W Bush’s remark about there being a crisis in education.”

Cordesman said that a similar attempt by Egyptian intelligence to
fund Egypt’s fundamentalists had also come to grief because of

An Israeli Embassy defense official, asked if Israel had given aid to
Hamas replied: “I am not able to answer that question. I was in
Lebanon commanding a unit at the time, besides it is not my field of

Asked to confirm a report by U.S. officials that Brigadier General
Yitshaq Segev, the military governor of Gaza, had told U.S. officials
that he had helped fund “Islamic movements as a counterweight to the
PLO and communists,” the Israeli official said he could confirm only
that he believed that Segev had served back in 1986.

The Israeli Embassy press office referred UPI to its Web site.’

Posted in Dumb Sh*t, Own Goal, Zionism | Leave a Comment »

More Israelis killed in road accidents than by Hamas

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 8, 2009

I decided to check out how dangerous Hamas attacks on Israel really are.

Turns out that Israeli drivers are MUCH more dangerous than Hamas:

Year Killed
in Road Accidents
by terrorist attacks”
2000 421 43
2001 475 247
2002 456 453
2003 418 212
2004 428 118
2005 381 54
2006 373 29
2007 351 13

Sources: Statistical Abstract of Israel (various years) and
Anti-Israeli Terrorism in 2007 and its Trends in 2008

When we flip to the 2008 Abstract’s Table 3.30, we find the following causes of death for 2005 (latest available year):

Cause of Death – selected Number of Deaths
Breast Cancer
Transport Accidents
Intentional Self-Harm
Mental and
behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use
“Killed by Terrorist
Gastric and Dudenal

Comment seems superfluous.

Finally, a letter from the Jerusalem Post a few years ago by a visitor to Israel:

Competing risks and realities

American leaders have stressed the importance of leading normal lives in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Travel, shop, eat out, and take in that movie.

But what if your normal life includes regular trips to Israel? The US State Department has issued a warning urging Americans, for their own safety, not to go there.

One cannot deny that, with help from the media, Israel is perceived as a dangerous place due to the threat of terrorism. Indeed, while recently in Israel giving talks and attending a conference, I received numerous e-mails from colleagues and friends worrying for my safety, admonishing me to avoid public places, or otherwise urging me to watch out. I truly appreciate such genuine expressions of concern, but they stem from the aforementioned perception that Israel is much more dangerous than America. A simple review of available data, however, suggests the opposite.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, during the 442 days from the beginning of the current Palestinian intifada until the end of December, 2001, 120 Israelis were killed by terrorist suicide bombings, shootings, hit-and-runs, stabbings, or other means within “Israel proper,” that is, not including terror victims in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

All of these murders are tragic, and I do not intend in any way to make light of them here. However, given that 6.3 million people reside within Israel proper, these deaths work out to an annual personal risk of death from terrorism of 16 in one million, within the boundaries of Israel proper, which would be the destination of most visitors.

Is this a big risk or a little risk? Let’s compare first with the risk of death from motor vehicle accidents in Israel, since one thing tourists do is travel around. Again, excluding the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports 461 traffic fatalities during the 2000 calendar year. This adds up to an annual personal risk of 73 per one million, which is nearly four times higher than the risk of death from terrorism.

So what, you say – this makes Israel look worse! Look again. The 2000 Statistical Abstract of the United States reports that about 41,500 traffic fatalities have occurred in each of the past several years in the US. With a population of 286 million people, the annual personal risk of death from a motor vehicle accident in the United States is 145 per one million.

That’s right – the personal risk of road death is nearly twice as high in the United States as in Israel. And the risk of road death in the United States is nearly eight times higher than the risk of death from terrorism in Israel! Since we Americans readily accept the 145 per million risk of road death without worry, why has the US State Department warned us not to travel to Israel?

Let’s put this into an even more direct perspective. My recent visit to Israel was one week in duration. Since I did not enter the West Bank or Gaza, my combined probability of dying from either terrorism or a car crash on this visit equaled 1.7 in one million.

Had I followed the State Department’s guidance and canceled my visit to Israel, I would have instead enjoyed a 2.8 in one million chance of being killed in a motor vehicle accident at home. In other words, for those keeping score, my death risk would have been 65 percent higher in the US than in Israel.

And I have neglected to note my 23 combined hours flying El Al, one of the safest activities available within the limits of Earth’s atmosphere. It seems that the most dangerous thing I did on this trip was drive from New Haven to JFK Airport!

Perceived risks govern human behavior more than actual risks, and the elevated perceived risk of terror in Israel relative to the actual danger is no exception. I know of at least two canceled academic meetings and a third that is in jeopardy due to the perceived danger of holding such events in Israel. To the extent that terrorism relies on this psychology of fear, such cancellations are victories for the terrorists. And, while the fate of academic events is important to me, this is nothing compared to the economic losses Israel faces from the drop in tourism and other business revenues.

When the US State Department issues travel warnings, many people listen. If citizen safety is the goal, perhaps the State Department should urge all of us Americans to stop driving. But then, wouldn’t that conflict with the goal of leading a normal life?

The Jerusalem Post – January 8, 2002
Edward H. Kaplan

(The writer is the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Management Sciences, Yale University.)

Posted in Bourgeois Ideology, Dumb Sh*t, Imperialism, Zionism | 2 Comments »