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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

How Toy Story 3 Is About Freedom

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The libertarian Adam Smith Institute opines that Toy Story 3 is an animated allegory on the pitfalls of socialism. I never thought about Toy Story 3 in stark political terms, but I’ll be damned if it’s not true!

However, there are more movies that harp on the evils of capitalism. One clear cut example is Chicken Run, an animated film about a group of chickens plotting to escape from the clutches of an evil farmer, who is bent on turning them into chicken pot pies in order to maximize profits. The chickens, acting collectively (like good Marxists), manage to thwart the farmer’s plans and fly the coop, so to speak. On the surface, it is a fun little movie, but the underlying theme is more insidious. On this score, Toy Story 3 is a welcome antidote.

Whatever the political themes, both films are a joy to watch.

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Written by niraj

August 4th, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Review: Marx for Beginners

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Rius. Marx for Beginners. New York: Pantheon, 2003. 160pp.

Many people know about Karl Marx and what he stood for, but how many people, including his many admirers and critics, actually understood the man and his revolutionary ideas? In my opinion, not many, including those who unabashedly call themselves “Marxists.’ Not surprisingly, Marx’s ideas are impenetrable by even the most intelligent of people. Very few understand Marx, and even fewer who successfully translated his thinking to the general public: reading and comprehending Marx is simply beyond the ability of mere mortals. Marx’s ideas are a knotty mess of philosophy and economics, written in the turgid, confusing prose that is the hallmark of many intellectuals. So a book like Marx for Beginners is a welcome antidote, as it explains Marx in the simplest way possible—through cartoons.

The book is illustrated and written by Rius, a pseudonym used by famed Mexican cartoonist and left-wing political activist Eduardo del Rio. The book is only 160 pages or so, but Rius encapsulates Marx’s ideas in a tight, unsparing format, not wasting time on ephemeral matters but focusing on main ideas that made Marx an icon of the left. Rius gives us a biography of Marx, his influences, explains the philosophical underpinnings of Marx’s ideas, and Marx’s blueprint how the proletariat (the “working” class) can seize power. Naturally, Marx was no lover of democracy, which, for him, was a bourgeoisie concept.

Though this edition was published in 2003, the book was originally published in 1975. This explains the many references to Chile and snide attacks on the United States. Obviously, the author was bitter about the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and American imperialism in South America in general. Never mind that Allende was planning to turn Chile into another Cuba. But that’s a debate for another day.

Marx for Beginners is not intended to be a comprehensive, or even an exhaustive, look at Marx. That is just not possible. This book is a primer, of sorts, a kind of jumping off point. Because to understand the man there is no going around reading the man’s various works. A bit of a warning: reading Marx is only for the heartiest of souls and not for the faint of heart. And I’m not writing this review as a supporter of Marx. Hardly. But you cannot deny the man’s influence on history; and to understand the world today you have to understand Marx.

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Written by niraj

October 22nd, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Obama Wins Nomination.

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Not surprisingly, Obama has won the Democratic nomination for president – unofficially. Clinton has yet to concede, but knowing her modus operandi, she’s probably angling for VP.

I’m disappointed it has come to this. I consider politics to be a blood sport, the political equivalent of the MMA. So to see the event end so early has cheated me of the enjoyment I so desperately needed: to see Clinton and Obama beat each other into a bloody pulp by convention time. Alas, it is not to be.

On the upside, it’s good to know who the contenders are. For me, both McCain and Obama are bitter disappointments. McCain, with his maverick persona long worn off, represents a party that desperately needs to renew itself ideologically. Obama is the feel good candidate, whose lack of experience (and ideas) seems secondary to his natural gift as an orator and schmoozer. For people who are voting with their hearts instead of their brains, Obama is their man. I’m much too cynical to fall for Obama’s charisma.

I’m not saying I’m not voting in November. I am. Just not for McCain or Obama.

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Written by niraj

June 4th, 2008 at 10:01 am

China: Friend Of The Environment?

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No one kisses China’s ass more than The Pakistan Observer, whose editorials are nauseating for their sycophancy, if not outright worship of the Red Dragon. In its latest editorial, it heaps praise on China’s new found concern for the environment:

The world today is facing grave threats due to unplanned, reckless and irresponsible development that has produced serious ecological and environmental problems for the mankind. Most of these problems are the direct result of the blind pursuit of material development by the West, which is still not prepared to take bold and vital steps to save the globe from impending disaster. In this backdrop, China deserves credit for bringing leaders and experts together to discuss the crucial issue of how to improve environment of Asia. This is timely initiative in view of the fact that after Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, countries like China and India too are moving swiftly on the path of industrial growth raising concerns about environmental issues.

If China wants to improve the environment, it should look in its own backward. According to The Guardian, no friend of capitalism, China is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, and it’s only going to get worse. Many of China’s major cities live in clouds of pollution so toxic residents have to wear masks. And in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, China has banned thousands of automobiles from Beijing in order to improve its air quality.

It is quite obvious that the developing countries, which are at the receiving end, cannot spare adequate resources to undertake comprehensive programmes for promotion of environment and therefore, it is responsibility of the rich and developed nations to provide them financial assistance as well as transfer technology for the purpose.

Interesting. Is The Pakistan Observer saying that China– with over $1 trillion in foreign reserves and arguably the second largest economy in the world– is still considered a developing country, and that developed countries (code for the West) should give it resources to improve its environment so China can continue its economic growth at no cost? Ridiculous, simply ridiculous.

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Written by niraj

April 14th, 2008 at 10:25 am

Affirmative Action In India

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Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh says the UPA will be quick to implement the law that gives members of Other Backward Castes (OBC) 27% of seats in elite public education institutions like IIT and IIM after the Supreme Court ruled the law was not unconstitutional. The law is odious because it institutionalizes discrimination against another group while supposedly protecting another, but the UPA government is not stopping there:

Singh told HT that a bill to regulate admissions and fees in private educational institutions “will be taken up” once the current “priority of implementing the SC order,” is finished. “I have not moved away from it,” Singh said. He said his ministry is interacting with central institutions to implement the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act cleared by the apex court on Thursday, after excluding the creamy layer.

Forcing private institutions, who do not rely on government funding of any kind, to implement such an immoral policy is a classic example of socialist high-handiness the UPA is still known for.

Do private institution even quiz applicants on their caste? Do they even care? If the government forces them to set aside seats to OBCs, they will be forced to ask that question. This will only increase resentment, and discrimination, against OBCs by affected groups who are already shutout from public institutions.

The only good thing to come out of this (if you want to call it that) is the fact that the Supreme Court has rightly excluded members of the ‘creamy layer’ from the quota. Plus, the Supreme Court will reevaluate the law after five years to gauge its effectiveness.

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Written by niraj

April 12th, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Pakistan To Get Aid To Fight Terrorism: Here We Go Again

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With the restoration of ‘democracy’ in Pakistan, the United States will reopen the aid spigot:

President George W. Bush has cleared the way for giving millions of dollars to Pakistan to fight terrorism this year, the White House said as a new government took power in Islamabad.

In a memo to the secretary of state dated Monday, Bush used his authority to exempt Pakistan from a law that restricts funding countries where the legitimate head of state was deposed by a military coup, as in Pakistan.

The waiver, which Bush has approved every year since 2003, opens the way for the United States to provide about 300 million dollars this year to key “war on terror” ally Pakistan to boost its counter-terrorism operations.

It’s not like the $10 billion given since 2001 hasn’t been put to good use or anything, so why not another $300 million, a drop in the bucket for President Bush. The returns have been spectacular after all. Let the Chinese build Pakistan’s infrastructure and profit from it while the United States takes taxpayer money and sets fire to it.

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Written by niraj

April 11th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Three Cheers For Saddam

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John Cherian, the leftist foreign editor for Frontline magazine, gives us his assessment on five years of brutal American occupation of Iraq. In a nutshell, Cherian writes, Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein. Cherian gives numerous examples, of course, including the usual set of indicators that make most leftists swoon for the likes of Saddam, Castro, and Mugabe: advancement of women, outstanding health and education systems, standing up to the United States, etc.

Mussolini made the trains run on time but he was still a fascist. Saddam was from the same mold but even crueler. Cherian does not mention this because it would mar an otherwise perfect narrative. In addition, there is no mention on how Saddam dealt with dissent from dissidents, Kurds or Shias – that he simply annihilated them. Saddam was not one for democratic niceties. And, finally, no mention of the fact that the famed Oil For Food program, which was riddled with corruption, did very little to ameliorate the suffering among Iraqis, but did line the pockets of Saddam, his family and his sycophants.

If the United States was brutal as Saddam was, and as colonialist have been in the past, Iraq, perhaps, would be peaceful and prosperous as in Saddam’s time. This is what leftists like Cherian want, right? But I doubt they would be so charitable.

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Written by niraj

April 9th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Pakistan’s Humble Leaders?

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Wit is a rare commodity these days, combine it with humor and it’s even a rarer find. KO fills both qualities amiably with this hilarious post, where he explains how Pakistan is becoming an egalitarian society:

Pakistan is turning out to be a very egalitarian society. Some of the new crop of politicians come from very humble beginnings, indeed. Sure, not all of them started out humble, but all of them have improved in leaps and bounds from their starting point. Not too many countries can boast of that, so here is a listing of our extremely egalitarian politicians:

Asif Ali Zardari, went from selling cinema tickets in black and second hand cars to political husband, First Mate to Benazir, than billionaire extraordinaire. Considering he never worked much, being busy with polo, cars, vacations, exile and jail, it’s amazing how fast he went from zero to hero. Back in his heyday as a young man about town, he had his finger in every pie – today, he is the pie.

Nawaz Sharrif‘s family owned a smallish middling sized industrial concern, not doing too well – but after the military blessed the family their fortunes started rising on rockets. Today, his star is high up in the sky, hanging with the likes of Zardari and Saudi Kings. From not much money and land at all, Nawaz turned himself into a veritable landlord by acquiring land and contracts everywhere.

Sarcasm never sounded so good. Read the rest.

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Written by niraj

April 1st, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Anti-War Films Fail To Garner Many Oscars

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Oscar nominations are finally out. It was suppose to be a year where anti-war films shined, but aside from Tommy Lee Jones getting a best actor nomination for In the Valley of Elah, there were no takers.

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Written by niraj

January 22nd, 2008 at 1:09 pm