Friday, February 07, 2014

The Left still hanker after Communism

While Soviet Russia existed, the Western Left defended it to the end.  Their over-riding goal at that time was to get the West to lay down its arms so that the Soviets could take over everywhere:  The so-called "Peace" movement.  As with the Left today, no facts could shake them from their beliefs and objectives.

An article has recently appeared in the iconic Leftist "Salon" magazine which shows that the love of Communism has not disappeared.  Leftists are still defending it. It's a pretty feeble effort  -- as ever.  I reproduce two parts of it below:

Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession

For one thing, a large number of the people killed under Soviet communism weren’t the kulaks everyone pretends to care about but themselves communists. Stalin, in his paranoid cruelty, not only had Russian revolutionary leaders assassinated and executed, but indeed exterminated entire communist parties. These people weren’t resisting having their property collectivized; they were committed to collectivizing property. It is also worth remembering that the Soviets had to fight a revolutionary war – against, among others, the US – which, as the American Revolution is enough to show, doesn’t mainly consist of group hugs. They also faced (and heroically defeated) the Nazis, who were not an ocean away, but right on their doorstep.

So much for the USSR. The most horrifying episode in 20th Century official Communism was the Great Chinese Famine, its death toll difficult to identify, but surely in the tens of millions. Several factors evidently contributed to this atrocity, but central to it was Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous combination of applied pseudoscience, stat-juking, and political persecution designed to transform China into an industrial superpower in the blink of an eye. The experiment’s results were extremely grim, but to claim that the victims died because they, in their right minds, would not volunteer for “a left-wing dream” is ludicrous. Famine is not a uniquely “left-wing” problem.

21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.

Before their revolutions, Russia and China were pre-industrial, agricultural, largely illiterate societies whose masses were peasants spread out over truly vast expanses of land. In the United States today, robots make robots, and less than 2% of population works in agriculture. These two states of affairs are incalculably dissimilar. The simple invocation of the former therefore has no value as an argument about the future of the American economy.

For me, communism is an aspiration, not an immediately achievable state. It, like democracy and libertarianism, is utopian in that it constantly strives toward an ideal, in its case the non-ownership of everything and the treatment of everything – including culture, people’s time, the very act of caring, and so forth – as dignified and inherently valuable rather than as commodities that can be priced for exchange. Steps towards that state of affairs needn’t include anything as scary as the wholesale and immediate abolition of markets (after all, markets predate capitalism by several millennia and communists love a good farmer’s market). Rather, I contend they can even include reforms with support among broadly ideologically divergent parties.

Given the technological, material, and social advances of the last century, we could expect an approach to communism beginning here and now to be far more open, humane, democratic, participatory and egalitarian than the Russian and Chinese attempts managed. I’d even argue it would be easier now than it was then to construct a set of social relations based on fellowship and mutual aid (as distinct from capitalism’s, which are characterized by competition and exclusion) such as would be necessary to allow for the eventual “withering away of the state” that libertarians fetishize, without replaying the Middle Ages (only this time with drones and metadata)



ALL Communist revolutions have been bloody.  They know no other way

Excerpt from ALG in reply to the above mealy-mouthed tripe:

The truth, however, is that Communism has proven itself a cancer that demands unto itself a revolution baptized in the blood of human beings unwilling to subjugate themselves to the will of the sovereign man in his collective expression: the socialist state.

But Karl Marx’s vision was not one of peace or democracy. Marx was a man of violent action. The famous last lines of the Communist Manifesto read, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

In the United States centuries and decades past, there was a practical middle ground between the polar political persuasions. Some question, and rightly so, why the same is conspicuously absent from today’s political environment.

The fact is, there is no middle ground between the socialist and lover of individual responsibility, achievement, and liberty. At the end of the day, conservative annihilation is a necessary means to a socialist utopian end.



More community organizing at work

Trader Joe’s wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. Instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.

The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.

The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordly said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)

After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe's, we understand, and we won't open the store in question.”

Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.

“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”

“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African American-owned construction company.

Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted “this is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.” Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot: “I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.”

Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.

But have no fear, Portland. You might not have a new Trader Joe’s, but PAALF promised to hold a “community visioning process” later this month. No word yet if that brainstorming session will offer jobs, affordable housing or Two-Buck Chuck.



The Bay State's model of health care 'reform': Wait for it

by Jeff Jacoby

IS MASSACHUSETTS, now in its seventh year under Chapter 58, the health-care overhaul signed into law by Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, a preview of what the rest of the country can expect under ObamaCare? If so, my fellow Americans, you'd better get used to waiting.

According to a national survey of approximately 1,400 medical practices in 15 major metropolitan markets, the average wait for new patients scheduling a non-emergency doctor appointment between June and November 2013 was 18.5 days. In Boston, however, patients had to wait an average of 45 days, and considerably more than that for some specialties. The wait was 66 days to see a family physician and 72 days to see a dermatologist.

With 450 doctors per 100,000 residents, Boston has a higher ratio of physicians to population than any other metro market in the study, which was conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a Texas-based health care search and consulting firm. All other things being equal, such an abundance of providers ought to mean shorter waits for an appointment, not the longest in the country.

But all other things haven't been equal for Massachusetts, especially since the enactment of Chapter 58. Romney accurately predicted that the law would be "a model for the nation," and indeed it was the template of the Affordable Care Act — as President Obama and many Democrats have readily acknowledged. Which suggests that what's happening in Boston is unlikely to stay in Boston.

"Long wait times in Boston may be driven in part by the health-care reform initiative that was put in place in Massachusetts in 2006," the new study notes. As the share of residents without health coverage has shrunk to 3 percent, "many patients in Massachusetts are encountering difficulty in accessing physicians. . . . Long appointment wait times in Boston could be a precursor of what is to come nationally should some 25 million people or more eventually obtain health insurance through the ACA."

The Massachusetts Medical Society raises similar concerns. In a statewide survey last year, it found that half of primary-care practices were not accepting new patients. Among those that were, wait times averaged 39 days for an appointment with a family physician, and 50 days for an internist. The numbers have fluctuated over the years. But the trend is clear, and disturbing: The share of family physicians and internists available to new patients has dropped by one-fifth over the last seven to nine years.

Health insurance doesn't guarantee accessible and affordable health care, not even in the state with the nation's highest concentration of medical providers. Through a combination of penalties, subsidies, mandates, and moral suasion, Massachusetts has succeeded in achieving near-universal insurance coverage for Bay State residents. But that doesn't mean that those residents are getting the care they need, from the providers they prefer, at prices they can afford. Chapter 58 hasn't brought down health-insurance premiums, as its proponents were sure it would. Nor has it saved the commonwealth millions of dollars, freeing Beacon Hill to concentrate on other public priorities.

Last fall, amid the disastrous rollout of the ObamaCare exchanges, the president flew to Boston to defend the law in a speech at Faneuil Hall, where Romney had signed the Massachusetts legislation seven years earlier. "I'm confident these marketplaces will work," Obama said, "because Massachusetts has shown that the model works.

What Massachusetts really shows is that it's possible, in a state where roughly 90 percent of population already had health insurance, to deploy an elaborate series of carrots and sticks and boost coverage levels to about 97 percent. Beyond that, as the Pioneer Institute's health-policy analyst Joshua Archambault demonstrated in a series of eye-catching graphics at the time of Obama's Boston visit, the Massachusetts experiment only confirms that health-care reform is a lot easier to proclaim than to accomplish.

Romney's law didn't make a dent in the number of patients showing up in the state's emergency rooms. It didn't keep insurance premiums from racing ahead of inflation. It didn't relieve taxpayers from having to pour hundreds of millions of dollars annually into more and more "free" care for safety-net users.

And it hasn't made it any easier to get a doctor's appointment without a long wait.

Andrew Dreyfus, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, often introduces himself to out-of-state audiences by telling them: "I am from the future." Now there's a scary thought.




Report from the inimitable Phyllis Chesler:  "My trip through Security at JFK this afternoon was slowed when one of the agents spotted me holding a copy of the Jewish Press. He found it suspicious, brought it to another agent, and they had a discussion. At that point, my bags were opened and searched. Meanwhile, a woman in niqab – a veil covering the entire face except the eyes -- walked through without incident. I saw no one ask her to lift the veil to check her actual identity against her documents. [Phyllis is an elderly NYC Jewish lady so does not need anyone else to blow her trumpet but nonetheless let me recommend her latest book: here.  I admire her sincerity]

Gibson Strikes Back:  "In 2011, two Tennessee factories of the Gibson Guitar Corporation were raided by federal authorities, who seized guitars, office files and pallets of exotic wood used in the manufacture of instruments, including East Indian rosewood. The raid was conducted on the basis of India's law that discourages the processing of this wood outside India; the company did not violate any American laws. Now that the dust has settled, Gibson is introducing a new guitar series made from the very same wood targeted by the feds. According to Gibson, “Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville – only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended – it was an event worth celebrating.” That's a tune we love to hear!

Poster girl representing hard-working, low-paid 'American' in President Obama's minimum wage ad is actually a British woman on a LONDON train:  "In a new ad by a political action group affiliated with President Barack Obama urging the U.S. Congress to raise the minimum wage, one of the featured hardworking, underpaid taxpayers is not like the other. The nonprofit Organizing for America, which formed out of the President's campaign and is run by 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, used what appears to be stock footage showing a woman on London's Overground commuter train.  The train car where the young woman is standing is empty enough to see the unmistakable yellow chairs and railings of Overground trains that run between central London and the suburbs."


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