Tag Archives: fail

Occupy Wall Street’s debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism

In buying debt so cheaply and writing it off, Occupy has revealed the illusory and circular nature of owing money

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Across the United States, 2,693 people have received a letter in the last few months, which identified a debt and read: “You are no longer under any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector, or anyone else.” This is the work of the Rolling Jubilee project – a non-profit initiative which buys personal debt for pennies on the dollar in the secondary market (where debt is sold to companies who then resell it to collection agencies) but then simply cancels it.

When the Occupy movement came into being in the summer of 2011, its critics said that a lack of identifiable objectives and strategy for achieving them meant it was doomed to fail. This was a monumental underestimation of its potential impact. Two years on, the debate about the ethics of corporate capitalism in its current form, the fairness of the remuneration of those at the top, the widening wealth gap and the morality of tax avoidance is alive and well. The concept of the “99%” is now part of the collective consciousness. All this is, in no small part, down to the fuse lit by the Occupy movement.

However, another significant aspect of the movement – dismissed as being woolly – was that it brought like-minded people together and allowed a dialogue which identified common strands. This appears to have evolved into several focused and practical initiatives. One of the most significant, and perhaps the most threatening to the status quo, is the Strike Debt group, of which the Rolling Jubilee project forms part.

The idea is that, those freed from debt and those sympathetic to the movement, then donate into the fund to keep it “rolling” forward; hence the name. The fund has already raised $600,000 and has used $400,000 of this to purchase and cancel an astonishing $14.7m of debt, primarily focusing on medical bills. This strikes at the very heart of the system, not only by using its own perverse rules against it, but critically by revealing the illusory and circular nature of debt.

Capitalism requires a layer of cheap, flexible labour to operate optimally. It is not a coincidence that the most successful global economy, by any traditional capitalist measure, is an authoritarian quasi-communist state. Many, myself included, have been arguing that our current predicament is not crisis-consequent austerity, but a permanent adjustment. David Cameron on Monday confirmed as much. The great lie, peddled by Thatcher and Reagan, was the idea that we could all be middle class, white-collar professionals within a neoliberal economy. It was simply not true.

Continue reading Occupy Wall Street’s debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism

Digging our own graves – By Kamran Shafi

As we Pakistanis heap more ridicule on the American action to place a bounty on Hafiz Saeed’s head, derisively pointing out to the world how he is living openly in known residences; attending rallies in the open; addressing announced press conferences, and how he is thumbing his nose at his adversaries, we lose sight of the fact that (most of) the world is not on the same page as us.

No matter what defence we trot out: there is no evidence that he is a terrorist, the Lahore High Court having given him a clean chit; he heads a charity, the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), and not a militant group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT); that he has even asked the United Nations to strike the JuD off the terrorist organisations list, and so and so forth, we lose complete sight of the fact that the United States is a power that can exert its influence anywhere in the world.

Continue reading Digging our own graves – By Kamran Shafi

Dirty talk

By Saroop Ijaz

Excerpt;

…. The terrorists are fanatics who wish to destroy society and life as we have known it. The cliché “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” is overrated and in any event they are nobody’s freedom fighter. If all this sounds as dreary sentimental nonsense and hollow distant bravado to you, remember it is in our self-interest to fight and defeat them. Any capitulation or one-sided peace deal with them is by its nature doomed to fail and once it does, they will come back with a vengeance as they did after Swat. The precedent of negotiating and ceding to the edicts of people threatening to kill is one which is susceptible to permeate and will be applicable to your local gangster before you know it.

Read more » The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.

Why Muslim states fail

By Khaled Ahmed

States released from colonial rule in the 20th century have by and large not done well. Today, most of them are either failing or failed states. Only a few have reached the finishing line of liberal democracy with a survivable economic model beyond the 21st century. Most of the Muslim states are included in the failing postcolonial model. Dictators with mental bipolar disorder — historically mistaken for charisma — who aimed to achieve romantic goals have crumbled, leaving in their wake equally romantic mobs of youths demanding what they presume is liberal democracy.

After Saddam Hussein, Iraq is in disarray; after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is teetering; Libya promises nothing better. And after Musharraf, Pakistan’s democracy is dysfunctional. Among Muslims, only the market state in the Gulf may survive. In the Far East, too, it is the market state that looks like marching on. Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia may survive if they don’t exterminate their entrepreneur Chinese minorities under the spur of Islam. In Europe, when the dictator quits, civilisation takes over and the state survives. No such thing happens in the Muslim world. The premodern seduction of the Muslim mind prevents return to democracy. The blasphemy law is more powerful than any democratic constitution. …

Read more » The Express Tribune

Cut Pakistan Loose : Bailing it out will only impede its transformation into a normal state.

By NITIN PAI

As the United States reviews its troubled relationship with Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden, a number of thoughtful voices have argued for Washington to continue aid to Islamabad. The money is necessary, the argument goes, both to buy support for a graceful U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and because nuclear-armed Pakistan is “too big to fail.”

This is a terrible idea.

First, it’s important to understand why aid to or sanctions against Islamabad so far have not had their desired effect. In effect, two entities comprise Pakistan—the military-jihadi complex and the Pakistani state—and aid benefits the former at the expense of the latter. The military-jihadi complex started on the back of U.S. assistance during the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s and has been in effective control since. The state is little more than a shell entity.

Though the world’s governments plead with or try to coerce the state into co-operating with them in the fight against terrorism, it can’t because it doesn’t really hold the reins. Look no further than President Asif Zardari’s inability to prosecute the assassins of his own wife, Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in 2007.

On the other hand, the military-jihadi complex is more powerful, officially taking one-fifth of the state’s budget, receiving three-quarters of direct, overt U.S. aid and presiding over a business empire with interests ranging from nuclear technology to breakfast cereal. This complex presents a security threat to the international community because it uses terrorism as an instrument of policy, secure in the knowledge that its nuclear arsenal shields it from punishment.

U.S. diplomats may think that there is a chance to bolster the state at the expense of the military-jihadi complex. Recent aid measures from the U.S. have tried to do that.

However, it doesn’t quite work that way, for the military-jihadi complex is able to corner aid for itself and deflect hardship onto the state. Economic sanctions, like those imposed after Islamabad tested nuclear weapons in 1998, hurt the average Pakistani more than they hurt the average military officer and militant. And foreign aid, of which Pakistan received significant amounts after September 2001, has benefited the officer and militant more than the hapless citizen. Even if aid is specifically earmarked for the average Pakistani, money is fungible. As long as the military establishment is in effective control of the administrative spigots, it can divert flows from other domestic revenue sources.

More aid will then only strengthen the army and its nexus with militants. It is not a coincidence that even as the U.S. has spent $20 billion in overt assistance to Pakistan since 2002, there has been both an increase in the size of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and more antipathy toward the U.S. among the population—polls demonstrate this. Both protect the military-jihadi complex from external threats.

The international community should therefore rely on domestic processes to dismantle the military-jihadi complex. So far, the Pakistani elite who lead the putative state have had little incentive to put up an existential struggle against the complex: They know that the latter enjoys the West’s tacit support and they believe that foreign sponsors will avert the fiscal crises caused by the army eating up resources. The elite is likely to fight harder if they know that there is no bailout package in the offing.

They can certainly fight, if they want to. Over the last decade, they first backed Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator; then Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry in his legal battle against the dictator; then Mr. Zardari and so on. Clearly, the elite are pragmatic; they will support whichever side can win. If the military-jihadi complex is seen to be losing, they will pile up against it.

The time is right for Islamabad’s three chief bankrollers, the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia, to cut it loose. So far the onus of preventing really bad outcomes in Pakistan—the most extreme of which is represented as a jihadi takeover of the nuclear-armed state—has fallen on them.

But the current moment provides an opportunity for them to get out of the way of Pakistan’s political transformation. Recent incidents, from the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad to the raid on a Pakistani naval base, should begin to turn public opinion against the army. The civilian leaders of the state have the opportunity to force reform. They can reduce defense expenditure, place the military under civilian control and wind down support for militants. However, if external aid and political support shores up the credibility of the military establishment, this process will stop and the old dynamic will resume.

Needless to say, turning off aid flows to Pakistan comes with risks. The army will try to play the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia against each other. In the past month, Pakistan has made a show of cozying up to China for military support. Yet China’s response has been lukewarm, indicating that Beijing or Riyadh wouldn’t want to become the sole guardians of a delinquent ward. Their own self-interest, along with persuasion from Washington, might bring about cooperation.

And what if tough love actually brings about the nightmare, putting a jihadi regime in control of nuclear weapons? Yes, the risks of nuclear proliferation, international terrorism and war with India are likely to increase. Even so, the overall situation would at least inject clarity in the minds of statesmen to allow them to work together and move to contain or dismantle the source of the threats.

But this worst-case outcome is unlikely simply because it is not in the interests of the Pakistani elite. It is certainly not in the interests of the army, which is primarily interested in its own survival. When threatened with the risk of punishment by the Bush administration in 2001, Mr. Musharraf promptly changed course.

Once aid is cut off, ground realities will create more chances for Pakistan’s own state to force the army to change course. All the more reason then for the world to allow Pakistanis to decide what they want to do about their state.

Courtesy: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Pakistan has been playing us all for suckers

Britain is spending millions bolstering Pakistan, but it is a nation in thrall to radical Islam and is using its instability to blackmail the West

by Christina Lamb

When David Cameron announced £650m in education aid for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: why are we doing this?

While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5% of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7m of a population of 180m pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain’s? A country so corrupt that when its embassy in Washington held an auction to raise money for flood victims, and a phone rang, one Pakistani said loudly: “That’s the president calling for his cut”? A country which has so alienated powerful friends in America that they now want to abandon it?

As someone who has spent almost as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing more in education there.

That there is a crisis in Pakistan’s education system is beyond doubt. A report out last month by the Pakistan education taskforce, a non-partisan body, shows that at least 7m children are not in school. Indeed, one-tenth of the world’s children not in school are in Pakistan. The first time I went to Pakistan in 1987 I was astonished to see that while billions of pounds’ worth of weapons from the West were going to Pakistan’s intelligence service to distribute to the Afghan mujaheddin, there was nothing for schools.

The Saudis filled the gap by opening religious schools, some of which became breeding grounds for militants and trained the Taliban. Cameron hopes that investing in secular education will provide Pakistan’s children with an alternative to radicalism and reduce the flow of young men who want to come and bomb the West.

“I would struggle to find a country that it is more in Britain’s interests to see progress and succeed than Pakistan,” he said. “If Pakistan is a success, we will have a good friend to trade with and deal with in the future … If we fail, we will have all the problems of migration and extremism that we don’t want to see.”

As the sixth most populous country, with an arsenal of between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, as the base of both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, and as homeland to a large population in Britain, Pakistan is far more important to our security than Afghanistan. But after spending two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain.

The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington — its paymaster to the tune of billions of dollars over the past 10 years — is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the House foreign affairs committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises “they were playing us for suckers all along”.

“I used to be Pakistan’s best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be an unfriendly country to the US,” he said. “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years.

“We were snookered. For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look western they fooled a lot of people.”

Christine Fair, assistant professor at the centre for peace and security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, is equally scathing. “Pakistan’s development strategy is to rent out its strategic scariness and not pay taxes itself,” she said. “We should let them fail.”The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, comes from one of Punjab’s largest land-owning families. Watching Cameron sign over the £650m, he said: “I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy. Therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education.”

If that were the case one might expect Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the most elite universities in the country, to be a bastion of liberalism. Yet in the physics department Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics, sits with his head in his hands staring out at a sea of burqas. “People used to imagine there was only a lunatic fringe in Pakistan society of these ultra-religious people,” he said. “Now we’re learning that this is not a fringe but a majority.”

What brought this home to him was the murder earlier this year of Salman Taseer, the half-British governor of Punjab who had called for the pardoning of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. The woman, Aasia Bibi, had been convicted after a mullah had accused her of impugning Islam when she shouted at two girls who refused to drink water after she had touched it because they said it was unclean.

Taseer had been a key figure in Pakistan’s politics for decades and had suffered prison and torture, yet when he said the Aasia case showed the law needed reforming, he was vilified by the mullahs and the media. In January he was shot 27 times by one of his own guards. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, became a hero, showered with rose petals by lawyers when he appeared in public.

After the killing, Hoodbhoy was asked to take part in a televised debate at the Islamabad Press Club in front of students. His fellow panellists were Farid Piracha, spokesman for the country’s biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulana Sialvi, a supposed moderate mullah from the Barelvi sect. Both began by saying that the governor brought the killing on himself, as “he who blasphemes his prophet shall be killed”. The students clapped.

Hoodbhoy then took the microphone. “Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed I managed to say that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan. I said I’m not an Islamic scholar but I know there are Muslim countries that don’t think the Koran says blasphemy carries the death sentence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

“I didn’t get a single clap. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said you have Salman Taseer’s blood on your hands, he looked at them and exclaimed: how I wish I had done it! He got thunderous applause.”

Afterwards, “I came back and wanted to dig a hole in the ground,” he said. “I can’t figure out why this country has gone so mad. I’ve seen my department change and change and change. There wasn’t one burqa-clad woman in the 1980s but today the non-hijabi, non-burqa student is an exception. As for the male students, they all come in turbans and beards with these fierce looks on their faces.”

Yet, he points out, these students are the super-elite, paying high fees to attend the university: “It’s nothing to do with causes normally associated with radicalism; it’s that the mullah is allowed complete freedom to spread the message of hate and liberals are bunkering down. Those who speak out are gone and the government has abdicated its responsibility and doesn’t even pretend to protect life and property.”

Raza Rumi, a young development worker and artist who blogs regularly, agrees. As we sat in a lively coffee bar in Lahore that could have been in the West until the lights went off in one of the frequent power cuts, he said: “Radicalism in Pakistan isn’t equated with poverty and backwardness — we’re seeing more radicalisation of the urban middle and upper class. I look at my own extended family. When I was growing up, maybe one or two people had a beard. Last time I went to a family wedding I was shell-shocked. All these uncles and aunts who were regular Pakistanis watching cricket and Indian movies now all have beards or are in hijabs.

“I think we’re in an existential crisis. The moderate political parties have taken a back seat and chickened out as they just want to protect their positions. What is Pakistan’s identity? Is it an Islamist identity as defined by Salman Taseer’s murder, ISI [the intelligence service], the jihadists? Is that really what we want to be?”

He does not know how much longer he will write about such things. “I’ve been getting repeated emails that I should leave the country or shut up,” he said.

When I left the cafe I was followed for the rest of the day by a small yellow car.

Courtesy: thesundaytimes.co.uk

Pakistan’s populist judges : Courting trouble

– An overactive judiciary might undermine a fragile democracy

PAKISTAN’S chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is riding high. At a time when most of the country’s political leaders are despised as venal, lazy or inept, its senior jurist is held in esteem. People tell pollsters they trust him more than anyone. They cheer his efforts to take on the corrupt and hapless president, Asif Ali Zardari. Yet Mr Chaudhry may be crossing a line from activist judge to political usurper.

His judges pass up no chance to swipe at the government. Mr Chaudhry spent months trying to get Swiss officials to reopen a corruption case that could have toppled Mr Zardari (in Pakistan, criminal proceedings against a sitting president are prohibited). After that failed, the courts took up a thin-looking case in which the president is accused of unconstitutionally holding an office for profit. That looks vindictive: the office in question is his post as head of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

The courts quickly adopt populist causes, especially those that squeeze Mr Zardari. After an American diplomat shot dead two men in the street in Lahore last month, the mother of one victim appealed for justice on television, saying that she would trust only Mr Chaudhry to help. The High Court in Lahore promptly ordered that the diplomat, who had been arrested, must not be allowed out of the country—even if the government were to rule that he had immunity. In this case, as in many others, the judges have shown themselves to be able self-publicists. Their stance has won approving coverage.

And on the country’s illiberal but widely popular blasphemy law, the Lahore High Court intervened to forbid the president from issuing an early pardon to anyone convicted by lower courts. Before the murder last month of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab and critic of the blasphemy law, Mr Zardari had told him he was planning such a pardon. The courts seem set on boxing him in. …

Read more : The Economist

The Downfall of Political Islam

by Samir Yousif

Finally I would point out that political Islam has failed to provide a political model that can compete with other contemporary political models, such as the Chinese model, Western democracies, or even developing democracies such as India and the other Asian countries. That comes with no surprise, as religion, any religion, keeps itself centuries behind.

The theme of my argument is the following statement: Islam, as a religion, has nothing to offer to economic or political theory. This simple idea has serious consequences. Political Islam, when it runs the country, will ultimately fail. It has no appropriate agenda that provides solutions to real political or economic challenges such as underdevelopment, unemployment, inflation, recession, poverty, just to mention a few.

(I will not touch upon the most significant political-socioeconomic issue which is income inequalities, because Islam accepts a society composed of very rich classes living side by side with very poor classes- examples can be found from history or from today’s Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, and Iran). While some Islamists continue to claim the existence of “Islamic economics,” they have failed in producing anything close to a simple theory of economics.

I believe that the main reason for the downfall of Muslim civilisation was the inherent social crisis: a society composed of few rich surrounded by the poor masses kept going by a strong religion. Social and political revolutions took place several times during the heyday of Muslim civilisation, as happened during the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate, in Muslim Spain, and the famous Zanj Rebellion during the year 869 in Basra. But historians have ignored such revolutions. Muslim economies have failed throughout history to solve the very basic problem: the wage equation. Unskilled and skilled workers were downgraded to the lowest classes in Muslim societies, and were paid the minimum. History has showed that under Islam the wealth of the country went mainly to the Calipha, feeding his palace, army, the royal family, and to the vested interest that the Calipha has chosen himself. The tax system was mainly imposed on the agricultural sector, what was known as the produce tax (Kharaj).

“Islamic economics” is a term used today to justify the significant income inequalities in such societies and to find religiously- accepted investment opportunities for the rich. …

Read more : http://www.document.no/2011/01/the-downfall-of-political-islam/

Blind and stupid and savage – Ardeshir Cowasjee

Teach me, my God, to see that I have no right to impose my own way of thinking upon others. Teach me to acknowledge and honour the right of all to pray and worship and sacrifice in their own way. Keep me free from sectarian spirit, and give me strength to root out from my heart bigotry and fanatic zeal. Teach me to discern true religion from religiosity. Fill my mind and heart with the spirit of toleration.”

This is what the early generations were taught. We all listened well then. But later, along the way, we failed to see or check the creeping darkness.

MY generation and the one that followed have much to answer for. But we cannot, because it is now too late. We let things slip and slide. …

Read more:  via – WichaarDAWN

 

 

Pakistan – Borrow until broke: how to make a nation fail

– Dr Manzur Ejaz

The lack of governance, irresponsible spending by the governing elite and non-collection of income taxes are the biggest hurdles. Power shortages, corruption and nepotism are major hurdles for the private sector to increase production. The opportunism of different political parties does not allow any government to devise a rational policy …

Read more : Wichaar