Capitalism: A Ghost Story

by Arundhati Roy

Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?

CORBIS (FROM OUTLOOK, MARCH 26, 2012)

Antilla the Hun Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey home on Altamont Road. Its bright lights, say the neighbours, have stolen the night.

Is it a house or a home? A temple to the new India, or a warehouse for its ghosts? Ever since Antilla arrived on Altamont Road in Mumbai, exuding mystery and quiet menace, things have not been the same. “Here we are,” the friend who took me there said, “Pay your respects to our new Ruler.”

Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I had read about this most expensive dwelling ever built, the twenty-seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the six hundred servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn—a soaring, 27-storey-high wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid. The grass was dry in patches; bits had fallen off in neat rectangles. Clearly, Trickledown hadn’t worked. Continue reading

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Stephen Harper’s Illusions

by Fidel Castro Ruz

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, said in his latest written reflections that the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the US President Barack Obama should be questioned about what position will they assume towards the Malvinas issue in the upcoming Americas Summit.

I think –and I do not intend to offend anyone- that this is how the Prime Minister of Canada is called. I deduced it from a statement published on “Holy Wednesday” by a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of that country. The United Nations Organization membership is made up by almost 200 States –allegedly independent States. They continuously change or are forced into change. Many of their representatives are honorable persons, friends of Cuba; but it is impossible to remember the specifics about each and every one of them.

During the second half of the twentieth century, I had the privilege of living through years of intensive erudition and I realized that Canadians, located in the northernmost region of this hemisphere, were always respectful towards our country. They invested in areas of their interest and traded with Cuba, but they did not interfere in the internal affairs of our State. Continue reading

Debating Every Last Word of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Wipe Israel Off the Map’

by Uri Friedman


Photo credit: Reuters
 
The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler has a fascinating article today on the six-year dispute surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration that Israel must be “wiped off the map”–a line that has become shorthand for Iran’s belligerent (some would say genocidal) posture toward Israel. The quote first stirred controversy in 2005, when Nazila Fathi of The New York Times cited a report by the Iranian Students’ News Agency on Ahmadinejad’s remarks at a “World Without Zionism” conference (the Tehran-based Fathi later issued a full-text translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech, and official Iranian sources like IRIB ran with the same translation). Since then, however, some have argued that Ahmadinejad was mistranslated, and that getting the translation right is critical to decoding the meaning behind the Iranian leader’s incendiary words.

Here is the passage in question from Ahmadinejad’s 2005 speech in Persian, rough transliteration, and Times translation (we’ve taken what appears to be the full line in Persian from an archived transcript of Ahmadinejad’s address):

امام عزيز ما فرمودند كه اين رژيم اشغالگر قدس بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود

Imam ghoft een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Qods bayad az safheh-i ruzgar mahv shaved

Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map

Let’s isolate the key phrases in the line:

  • Imam ghoft: People generally agree that these words mean “our (dear) Imam said,” and indicate that, instead of making a brazen, unprecedented proclamation, Ahmadinejad was quoting comments made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, in the 1980s.
  • een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Qods: Again, the literal translation here isn’t really in question. These words are translated as some variation on “the regime occupying Jerusalem.” But the meaning of the words is a matter of dispute. The liberal Middle East expert Juan Cole and the The Guardian‘s Jonathan Steele have argued that the phrasing suggests Ahmadinejad is calling for a change in the Israeli government rather than military action against Israel, especially since he was comparing regime change in Israel to regime change in Iran in 1979. But, as The Times puts it, others argue that the line “indicates the depth of the Iranian president’s rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East because he refuses even to utter the name Israel.”
  • mahv shaved: Cole, Steele, and the Mossadegh Project’s Arash Norouzi have all disputed theTimes‘ “wiped off” translation above, arguing that these words instead mean “vanish from.” But an Iranian translator and consultant supportedThe Times‘ “wiped off” or “wiped away” rendering in 2006, asserting that the Persian verb is active and transitive (Cole says the verb construction is intransitive). At the time of Ahmadinejad’s speech, the Middle East Media Research Institute(MEMRI) translated the verb as “eliminated.”
  • safheh-i ruzgar: This is where things really get interesting. Ahmadinejad actually misquoted Khomeini, who used the phrase “sahneh-i ruzgar.” As the Times noted several years ago, “sahneh” literally means “scene” or “stage” and “ruzgar” means “time,” but translators in the 1980s interpreted Khomeini’s words as a metaphorical reference to a “map”–an interpretation that stuck when Ahmadinejad substituted “sahneh” for “safheh,” or “page.” But the Cole-Steele-Norouzi trio recommends the literal translation of “page of time” (MEMRI, for its part, went with “pages of history”). Steele claims that the “page of time” phrase, along with the rest of his translation, suggests that the Iranian president was expressing a desire for an end to Israeli occupation at some point in the future. “He was not threatening an Iranian-initiated war to remove Israeli control over Jerusalem,” Steele writes.

So there you have it. Depending on who you ask, Ahmadinejad was either endorsing Khomeini’s battle cry for Israel to be wiped off the map or invoking Khomeini’s wish that, someday, somehow, the Israeli government will collapse under its own weight. The varying translations, of course, may be inextricably linked to people’s political views on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And some argue that the distinction is academic at this point. In a study for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Joshua Teitelbaum states that Ahmadinejad’s public statements, taken as a whole, indicate that the Iranian leader is bent on the “actual physical destruction of the State of Israel,” however one may translate his 2005 speech. Other Iranian leaders, he adds, have made even more militant comments.

And what of Ahmadinejad himself? He hasn’t exactly brought closure to the debate. In a 2006 interview with The Washington Post‘s Lally Weymouth, he evaded her question about whether he wanted to “wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” in Weymouth’s words. “Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted,” he told Weymouth. “The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.”

More recently, Ahmadinejad has declared that a NATO missile defense system in Turkey “will not stop the fall of the Zionist regime” and that Iran’s response to any provocation by the “bankrupt, uncivilized and criminal Zionist regime” would be “crushing and regrettable.” Well, at least he said those things according to the Fars News Agency’s English translation.

*note: originally published on October 5, 2011 on The Atlantic Wire. Original here.

Ron Paul Hates Me (Black, non-white, GLBTQ, Working, and Poor People, really)

by Cliff Cawthon

When talking to many friends about Ron Paul there’s one suggestion that always repulses me: ‘you should register Republican to vote for Ron Paul….he’s anti-corporate and anti-war’. No, I shouldn’t vote for someone who wrote in a 1980- 1990’s newsletter that “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks”.  Ron Paul is tied to bigots and a friend to neoliberal capitalism and business. Furthermore, my non-U.S. friends may desire the empire to collapse but Paul will fiddle while completing the American ‘wall’: along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Issue by issue, Paul’s right-libertarian policies reproduce his populist ignorance. His is touted as a peace loving savior but, his KKK wizard friends, such as; David Duke and Don Black (seriously, look it up on News One) wouldn’t appreciate an America  that is apart of the global community. Paul’s paleo-conservative love of isolationism is precisely that. What is rather disturbing is that Paul’s isolationism means that we retreat to our borders, with the stuff we’ve expropriated and that U.S. corporations continue to expropriate from faraway places. A fortress America also would be an America of states rights’ (something which Ron Paul avidly supports) state’s rights enabled American Apartheid (a.k.a. Jim Crow) to occur by relieving themselves from observing U.S. constitutional or federal law.

Let’s remember, unless you were a white, wealthy landowning (probably slave-owning), male, Protestant Christian, and heterosexual (homosexuality was considered sinful and socially abhorrent at that time) America’s promise was simply propaganda. Only later on, constitutional amendments such as, the 13th(freedom from slavery), 14th (Equal Rights, Privileges and Immunities of citizenship, Due process, and Equal Protection), 15th (Right to vote), and acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were political and civil manifestations that were the result of struggle and of social and political change. These things weren’t conceived by the “founders” who dominated another class of people (namely my ancestors) by virtue of how much property that they had, particularly via the ownership of others. These changes however, occurred through a convergence of changing economic conditions, social movements, and political struggle from pressure from below that translated into concession s and adjustments from above.

Owners, bosses, slaveholders, agrarian America’s bourgeoisie led the revolution that Paul fervently alludes to like a fanatic. When I hear some Paul supporters hailing Paul and ‘constitutionalism’ they forget the aforementioned clash between classes and the evolutionary nature of bourgeois republics’. People like David Duke, just want to take us back to 1776 or 1950’s in Mississippi where WASPMH’s (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, male, heterosexual) ruled and people ‘knew their place in the real America’ and we didn’t have to worry about “Obama’s corporate commu-nazi fascist socialist imperialism”, a la big government.

In a few words: Paul’s aspirations are inspired by a system supported by slaveocracy and merchant-barons- the America of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin. He’s very clear about this, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Paul’s positions against corporations have gotten a lot of support as well, but he’s more pro-corporate than the openly pro-business candidates! Paul’s position is complete laissez-faire. The machinery of the state, as opposed to being operated in the public’s interests or addressing historical inequalities will either be abolished or privately run. Upon the private sector being de-regulated corporations outsourced millions of jobs and reduced cities like Buffalo from gilded living cities to communities on life-support. In doing so, it widened the historical race gap. It has been government intervention, not abstention that has helped close the gap. For example, in the wake of the deregulation of the Bush regime, U.S. National Public Radio and the Pew Research Center cited a significant decrease in income for non-white people: the black home was 20 times poorer than white in 2009.

So whose interest is Paul’s utopia in? When he says that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “undermine[d] the concept of liberty”, I know that it wouldn’t include me; or anyone who comprises the has-nots.  However, one cannot completely erase history; the catch of this liberty is that it covers those with power, privilege or favor.

Ron Paul’s message of universal liberty from government intrusion, taxation, via the free market, based on what the founders intended wouldn’t have been good for a slave. I would have been enslaved in 1776 as America declared its independence! That’s what Paul’s vision means to me.

To my friends who suggest Ron Paul as a left-wing alternative to Obama and do mean well, I hope you consider that his agenda represents the opposite of what we want. Do we want capitalism to be unregulated so people with money can accumulate as much as they want and buy up the world around us? No, because that is control. It’s small government but big corporations where everything is a commodity and greed.

Lastly, For my anti-war friends, don’t just judge on moralistic talk. If we are for peace in general then we have to accept our mistakes.  Lastly, we’ve messed up. The last 100 years we have gone across the world and we’ve done horrific things but, the only thing we can do is make it right. Global poverty is not an accident and simply withdrawing bases and troops as a panacea is Paul’s pipe dream. We are the result of people we don’t even know, so we owe it to our brothers and sisters to work for a better tomorrow. Not praise slaveholders and imperialists and wish for Jim Crow, at home or abroad.

Also, on a racial note to my white friends who identify with Paul’s ideas, do you really want to identify with a particular (and recent) strain of libertarianism that is based on racial and class privilege? If so, then remember the true crime of racism is that we are stuck in our skin: you and I, white and black. Therefore, there’s a dynamic of privilege and un-privilege, whereas human beings are given goods and prioritized by an artificial category. Paul and likewise, European fascists who want to defend “western values” or ‘mainstream’ intellectuals like the riot-hawk David Starkey, who attributed the multiethnic riot to white kids “turning black”, refuse to see  race or acknowledge historical un-privilege. We have to deal with these things, or we fear repeating the horrors of the past. So let’s not start smoking Paul’s crack pipe.

*note: Originally posted on http://www.redemancipation.wordpress.com