Tag Archives: communism

Propaganda 101

13 Dec

There aren’t a lot of Stalinist dictatorships left in the world, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea is the weirdest of all. Led now by a Swiss-educated twentysomething, it is effectively a large jail with its own currency, and the world’s only Communist dynasty. 

This week, North Korea sent a satellite into space. For a country that follows long-discredited communist central planning and considers anyone not in the military or the party to be disposable, launching a rocket seems to be hardly a priority. But for all the tea party dummies, this is communism, and this is communist propaganda. It’s a dying art; one that was once practiced throughout the globe.  Clap in unison, comrades for the “Hot Wind of Kim Jong-Un”, the sun of the nation and the lodestar for unification

If you want to learn a bit more about the reality of the concentration camps within the national prison that is the DPRK, watch this: 

Overcoming The Enforced Mask of Apathy

19 Dec

On Sunday, a great hero of the 1989 anti-Communist revolutions, Czech playwright, dissident, and political figure Vaclav Havel passed away.  He risked his life, his livelihood, and his freedom to peacefully combat against a totalitarian regime. He was active in 1968’s Prague Spring, and in 1977 joined other dissident Czechoslovak intellectuals to prepare and execute “Charter 77“, demanding that the communist government grant the Czechoslovak people what we understand to be basic human rights and freedoms.

The Velvet Revolution overthrew the Communist regime in December 1989, and by New Year’s 1990, he was President. He held office until 2003, and helped steer the Czech people from a shambolic planned economy, to a break with the Slovaks, right up through NATO accession in 1999, and almost to EU accession in 2004.

To honor him, I reproduce here the New Year’s address he gave the Czechoslovak people on January 1, 1990 – just days after they regained their freedom. These words are striking in that they implore his countrymen – his country – to reject 40 years of cynical immorality. Remember that there still exist people toiling and suffering under similar regimes. Kim Jong-il reportedly died on Sunday, as well. He is a totalitarian murderer who has kept his people poor, hungry, and backward. Hopefully, there is a Havel-in-waiting living in North Korea who will someday lead those poor people out of the darkness.

My dear fellow citizens, 

For forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations on the same theme: how our country was flourishing, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us.

I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.

Our country is not flourishing. The enormous creative and spiritual potential of our nations is not being used sensibly. Entire branches of industry are producing goods that are of no interest to anyone, while we are lacking the things we need. A state which calls itself a workers’ state humiliates and exploits workers. Our obsolete economy is wasting the little energy we have available. A country that once could be proud of the educational level of its citizens spends so little on education that it ranks today as seventy-second in the world. We have polluted the soil, rivers and forests bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and we have today the most contaminated environment in Europe. Adults in our country die earlier than in most other European countries.

Allow me a small personal observation. When I flew recently to Bratislava, I found some time during discussions to look out of the plane window. I saw the industrial complex of Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petr’alka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough for me to understand that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their planes. No study of statistics available to me would enable me to understand faster and better the situation in which we find ourselves. Continue reading

Kim Jong Il

19 Dec

Want to occupy? #Occupy Pyongyang. #Occupy Kim Il Sung Square. #Occupy Juche Tower. Now, a 28 year-old product of a Swiss boarding school is in charge of a dangerous, mercurial nuclear power with a disproportionately large army. Time will tell whether he’s an agent of change, or if the system is so tightly controlled that change is impossible without a coup.

Yoani Sanchez on the State of Women’s Rights in Cuba

24 Jun

I quite literally can’t pick a pullquote from this blog post by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez. It is something you really ought to read. The whole thing is depressing and sad – imagine several generations of an entire nation having their dreams crushed.

It’s a story about a woman who has a permit to emigrate from Cuba to Belgium, and the fact that she prostituted herself to earn the convertible currency to afford that luxury. A parallel is drawn to how Cuba prostituted itself to the Russians as its economy was planned into oblivion and it had to rely on the Soviets and COMECON to subsidize its kleptocratic defiance. While Cuba claims to be oh-so progressive when it comes to women’s rights, women remain an oppressed second fiddle in a society that has only rhetorically abolished machismo.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago, we tend to forget that a tiny handful of nations still cling to their Leninist/Stalinist ideology despite the fact that it is a failed system that leaves its people poor, weak, and backwards. No amount of slogans, rallies, and speeches can change that, and it’s only an opportunistic, privileged nomenklatura and its private secret police force that keeps the people quiet. Because making the people happy, apparently, is out of the question.

Leninism/Stalinism is a political construct that is based on terror and lies. The fact that Cuba still exists in this way is astonishing. The fact that Venezuela politically creeps in Cuba’s direction is disheartening.

It’s incredible that in this era of the internet we have a proud and brave voice in Yoani Sanchez, who risks detention – and worse – by choosing to live as a free person in a totalitarian state.

A Use For Unions

3 May

If unions must exist in the 21st century, Dave Robinson finally found a beneficial use for them in yesterday’s column in The Buffalo News. Noting that the writing was on the wall for the closing of the GM plant in Tonawanda, management and the union sat down to make a plan. The result:

The union played ball. It agreed to a four-day work week of 10-hour days, saving the company about $500,000 in utility costs. It added a third, overnight shift to do preventive maintenance work at standard pay, not the usual time-and-a- half or double pay that work typically carried, allowing the plant to operate more efficiently during normal business hours.

“We’ve asked our members to do some very unpopular things,” said Joe Cantafio, a UAW shop committee member who’s worked at the plant for 31 years.

But those unpopular changes helped lead to a popular result, judging by the smiles and applause from the plant’s workers during last week’s announcement that GM would make a second $400 million investment to bring a new line of V-8 engines to the plant. That follows on the heels of the $425 million investment announced in February to bring a new four-cylinder engine there.

Imagine that – by taking basic economics into account, reducing costs and boosting productivity, the plant overall became more successful.  In other words, what was good for the overall business was better for the workers as well. I’m sure the individual worker would have rather made double-time working the graveyard shift. But more than that, he (or she) would rather have a job.

Should a union be required for workers to feel thet have a stake in making their operation successful? No. But if unions must exist outside of those industries that still truly need them (we’re looking at you, West Virginian Coal Miners), then one of the few ways they remain beneficial is by rallying workers to do what’s already in their own self interest. If they believe such rallies are still worth the price of their union dues, that is up to them.

The obvious contrast to this $875 million success is the DemandFAIL at Canalside. Here, of course, is where the self appointed leaders of the “community,” after almost ten years of actual community input, hijacked the development process by making 11th hour demands of potential tenants. The only group more complicit in this masquerade than the unelected obstructionists are the elected ones: the City of Buffalo Common Council.

Ironically, the CBA endorsers undercut their own case by inviting the lead advocate of the Pittsburgh Penguins arena CBA to Buffalo to give a talk on their process. 

Among the benefits contained in the Pittsburgh agreement is a $2 million fund for community development, money to build a full-service grocery store, development of a master plan that aims to foster business opportunities and job-hiring goals. The dialogue even resulted in some design changes to the new arena.

Sounds fine so far. In fact, it sounds a lot like what’s in place now. Buffalo is awash with community development money from NYPA and ECHDC (providing the cash for this Canalside venture), and there has been plenty of community involvement with the master plan. And reasonable people on both sides have said job-hiring “goals” are not the deal breaker other measures are. And design changes? Plenty of those in the endless Canalside review. Where’s the demands? 

Unlike the pact being proposed by advocates in Buffalo, the Pittsburgh agreement does not include a mandate that businesses locating in the development area pay workers a “living wage” that is higher than the state’s minimum wage.

Lucas-Darby added that the Pittsburgh pact doesn’t address dozens of other objectives that aimed to promote “social justice.”

“I don’t look at it as a panacea,” she said of the CBA.

Ahhhh. So, you aren’t going to fix every social justice issue by demanding it. It should be telling that the main sticking point for the Buffalo CBA is not present in Pittsburgh. But Buffalo’s attitude is summed up here, by Arthur Robinson of the Seneca-Babcock Block Club:

“It’s our tax dollars that are subsidizing this program. Why shouldn’t we have a say in it?” he said.

Good sir: first, it is not your tax dollars. The lion’s share is paid for by the Power Authority and New York State from special funds. Secondly, you did get a say in it. For almost ten years. That’s why there is an exhaustive, and exhausting, environmental review process, with public meetings and outreach. Just because Steve Levy is unable to rewrite the rules of economics doesn’t mean he wasn’t listening to you.

The Economist, in an unrelated article, once said the following about Communism:

It promised much, delivered little, and cost millions of lives. It played to two human appetites – the noble desire for justice and baser hunger for revenge.

I’m not saying the CBA promoters are communists (although a couple certainly are), or that the CBA would cost millions of jobs, much less lives. But the union-demand culture of Buffalo, the taxpayer entitlement meme, has certainly promised much and delivered little. Having the highest unionization rate in the country has not stopped us from also being the Third Poorest (attentive readers will remember I debunked this myth previously – I use it here purely for my own rhetorical benefit). And the human appetites it plays to are the same – justice and revenge. Because make no mistake, this is as much about sticking it to the Bob Rich’s of the world, and his sweetheart golfing deals with that oversized tackle shop, as it is about  “economic justice.” In this case, economic justice is talking about high wage jobs that don’t exist, instead of accepting  jobs that will exist.

It would be nice if high paying jobs could be assembled out of thin air by simply demanding them. If you are a fan of the current version of the CBA, why not take the next logical step? Why not demand every job in the City of Buffalo everywhere pay a “living wage?” Let’s establish a local ordinance declaring $15 an hour as the new City of Buffalo minimum wage. We could declare a wage ceiling too, and close the gap between rich and poor by fiat! If only reality worked that way. The CBA proposers should call the union at GM’s Tonawanda plant for some tips instead.

Traffic Control in North Korea

2 Mar

The question here is, how did someone get a modified Mini Cooper S into North Korea?

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North Korean Markets – wait, what?

4 Feb

One of the oddest articles I’ve read in a long time, for this reason:

Some analysts say the main reason for the currency revaluation was rein in the newly emerging middle class, many of whom have made their money trading in the free markets.

I wonder what it will take to blow the lid off the tyrannical Kim dynasty. If Albania could do it, the DPRK can, too. Plus, it has a really wealthy brother living just next door.

If You Go Carryin' Pictures of Chairman Mao

23 Dec

Idiots are upset that Obama’s Christmas tree contains an ornament with a reproduction Warhol print of Chairman Mao.

I guess they take this as proof positive that Obama is transforming the country into a place where our society could pretty much skip the whole bourgeois capitalist phase anticipated by Marxist philosophy, and go directly to socialism on its way to communism using the peasants as the vanguard of the revolution to wage guerrilla war against feudal leaders.

Or something.

Meanwhile, Obama’s just pissed off the left wing of his own party, because he’s such a moderate centrist.

Seriously, it would so much help if people knew what they were talking about when they throw the dumb around.

The Intersection of Blogging and Totalitarianism

13 Nov

You may be aware of Yoani Sanchez’s blog “Generation Y”.  Sanchez is a Cuban blogger who has been very open about her criticism of that government through her blog, and has been subject to typical Leninist harassment from the government there.  Until last week, it was dumb stuff like surveillance or being forbidden from traveling abroad to receive an award.

Last week, Sanchez was abducted on the streets of Havana and beaten.  It was nothing more than brutal intimidation from a dying regime whose days are numbered. But it’s also a regime stuck in a 50s mindset, which has no idea how to maintain complete control over the media, dissent, and expression in a world with Twitter and blogs.

I don’t read Spanish, so I turned to the English translation of Sanchez’s blog to find out what happened to her.  The story is recounted here.

I refused to get into the bright Geely-made car and we demanded they show us identification or a warrant to take us. Of course they didn’t show us any papers to prove the legitimacy of our arrest. The curious crowded around and I shouted, “Help, these men want to kidnap us,” but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, “Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.” In the face of our verbal resistance they made a phone call and said to someone who must have been the boss, “What do we do? They don’t want to get in the car.” I imagine the answer from the other side was unequivocal, because then came a flurry of punches and pushes, they got me with my head down and tried to push me into the car. I held onto the door… blows to my knuckles… I managed to take a paper one of them had in his pocket and put it in my mouth. Another flurry of punches so I would return the document to them.

Par for the course for someone outspoken in a communist dictatorship, but under the Warsaw Pact, the dissidents didn’t blog about it (in Sanchez’s case, dictated by phone).

In this post, Sanchez explains that she is physically ok, but comments on the “blame the victim” mindset that is only enhanced when revolutionary self-preservation plays a part.

But the post that really drew my attention to Sanchez’s unique situation is this one.  Here, Sanchez explains that her home is under constant surveillance, constant harassment.  Amazingly, this brave woman confronts and photographs her tormentors.  She’s identified one of the guys who beat her, as well.

I have begun to post a testimony of these creatures who watch and harass us. Beings from the shadows who, like vampires, feed on our human happiness and inoculate us with terror through punches, threats and blackmail. Individuals trained in coercion who could not foresee their conversion into hunters who are hunted, faces trapped on camera, mobile phones, or in the curious retina of a citizen. Accustomed to gathering evidence for this dossier about each of us kept in some drawer, in some office, now they are surprised that we make an inventory of their gestures, their eyes, a meticulous record of their abuses.

In the old days, the communist regimes tightly controlled mimeograph and copy machines to prevent and chill dissident Samizdat.  Those days are over, as digital cameras, cell phones, internet, regular phones, and Twitter get the story out in kilobytes rather than ditto paper.

As awed I am by her bravery in confronting the insidious secret police and other informers who harass her, You should read the speech she gave earlier this month when she snuck into a “debate” being held in Havana about the internet.

Well, I’m glad my name has been mentioned, I have come incognito [in a blonde wig and glasses which she now has removed], but well, I’m happy to be here. No, no I know, but I would like to ask…. What relationship exists between bandwidth, the trumpeted bandwidth that every now and then they bring up to explain why we Cuban citizens cannot access the Internet en masse and the censored sites?

I’m talking about a variety of sites where one may find things as inoffensive as a parish in the Canary Islands where Cubans can find the birth certificates of our grandparents. A site like Cuba Encuentro, Cuba Net, Voces Cubanas, a magnificent blogger platform that is maintained from Cuba, but which was censored as of the last week of August. My own web site that has existed for more than a year and a half. This is the same ideological screening that was used to exclude from this debate people like Claudia Cadelo from the Octavo Cerco blog, a magnificent window open to the real Cuba, to the Cuba of a generation that has never spoken. Blogs like Desde Aqui, by a journalist expelled from the official media, my husband Reinaldo Escobar.

That is also why I have come here, in this way, having outflanked the police encirclement surrounding my home to come to this debate. Why in the virtual Cuba, is censorship being repeated, intimidation, stigmatization of people because they think differently?   Is this “cyber-garbage”? Is writing what you call “garbage” the same as telling the truth without subterfuges? Is writing what you call “garbage” the same as not bowing before an official opinion? I was born in a tenement in Central Havana in the Cayo Hueso neighborhood. If what we say is “cyber-garbage” let it be welcomed. This society needs it.

If you want to see what the next anti-Communist revolution looks like, take a look at the photos at this site, where Cubans are taught to blog and Tweet.

Daily Life in the DPRK

8 Nov

You can truly travel the world thanks to Flickr.  A lot of really stupid people have used North Korea as some sort of example of what life is like under Obama.  You know who else had free health care?  Hitler.

Anyhow, this set I stumbled on tonight via this site shows what life looks like in Kim Jong-il’s Stalinist paradise in a way that goes beyond the standard government-sanctioned photography that’s been prevalent for the past 50 years.

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