Sunday, March 25, 2012

Those Who Get It, Those Who Don't.

Today, it was reported that Pope Benedict XVI, on a trip to that Caribbean paradise, has said, "...Marxism was out of place in the contemporary world," and has urged Cubans to find "new models".
"Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality." 
Not that it ever did correspond, but recognizing even this much is what I call "progress".

Reading that story, my eye happened on another story linked from September 14, 2010, which is much more entertaining, and I don't know how the hell I ever missed it:
"Capitalist storm clouds loom over Havana after state cuts 1M jobs ... Cuban workers told to become entrepreneurs in bid to boost island's private sector"
This is brilliant -- the communist nation held up as the model of communism for the West for 50 years is abandoning communism and laying off one million government workers.

Let's put that in perspective: Cuba has a population of 11.2 million people. That's almost ten percent of the population are being given pink slips. If it was the U.S. -- with a population of 312 million -- that would be the equivalent of laying off almost 28 million government workers.

Note that total Federal Government employment today is about 3 million.  (And isn't it interesting that the population of Cuba has plateaued?  What would have caused that?)

Echoing the Pope, a year and a half earlier, Fidel Castro told a correspondent of The Atlantic magazine:
"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."
The shock heard 'round the communist world.  Not that it ever did work, of course, but I'll give him that shred of his pride to hang on to.
It was supposed to be the start of a brave new world in which the customer was king. But the teenage boy in the barber's chair stared at his reflection, aghast and almost crying. "What have you done?" he asked, caressing uneven clumps on a shorn scalp.
The barber, a fortysomething man with a grubby white coat, put down the scissors, lit a cigarette, and shrugged. "Looks OK to me. Don't know what you're on about."
That about sums up Obama's approach. But the difference is that Cuba is fleeing from communism, while Obama is still racing towards his Brave New World.
... providing good customer service, let alone expanding market share, is an alien concept to many accustomed to receiving the same pittance wage regardless of job performance. "I don't want to take over this place," Luis, the barber, who preferred not to give his surname, told the Guardian. "How do I know it'll make a profit? How do I pay suppliers?"
Oh, the pain of independence. But he'd better start learning: sheep shears do not a profitable barber make.
"The Communist party document admitted lack of experience, insufficient skill levels and low initiative could sink new enterprises. "Many of them could fail within a year," it says.

This just sounds like the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- or just Solyndra.
...Unemployment last year was officially 1.7%, but with average monthly salaries of only $20, supplemented by a ration book and free health care and education, many Cubans make minimal efforts, prompting an old joke: "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."
And there you have the Obama vision for all of us. "Hope and change" really meant "hope for loose change."
"Leftwingers abroad may feel let down by the cuts, but Cuban officials believe the thriving black market is an indicator that the private sector will soak up surplus labour."
God knows, Barack "Che" Obama is probably feeling let down. Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, said,
"We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working," he told the national assembly last month.
Can anyone imagine Barack "Mao" Obama saying such a thing? Easier to imagine him asking to extend unemployment benefits by another trillion or three.
[Said Raul Castro,] The decades-old US embargo – a crippling, punitive measure – could no longer be blamed for all the island's woes...
And over here, capitalism can no longer be blamed for all our woes, after the decades-long, crippling, punitive measures that have been imposed on it.

Even the Cuban Labor Federation gets it, as they issued this mea culpa:
"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls [and] losses that hurt the economy," said the official Cuban labour federation, which announced the news. ...It was no longer possible to protect and subsidise salaries on an unlimited basis and cuts will affect all government sectors, said the labour federation. "Losses that hurt our economy are ultimately counterproductive, creating bad habits and distorting worker conduct."
If Obama wants to continue appointing communists to be his Czars, I could probably get behind these guys.
Leftwingers abroad may feel let down by the cuts, but Cuban officials believe the thriving black market is an indicator that the private sector will soak up surplus labour. ...One Havana-based western diplomat was less sanguine about Cuba's response ... "People knew this was coming, but now it's here, it's real, and they're worried. Bosses will get rid of the least productive employees, the ones who don't work or show up for work. The type of people who may lack the get up and go to start a business."
Amen to that.

Cuba has a lot of growing up to do, and that last quote echoed something said by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged -- his words are good advice for anyone on the long road back to independence and self-respect:
"Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours."

Postscript from the Department of Life meets Grand Irony:
The day after writing this, I read this report of Obama's trip to look across the DMZ and see North Korea through binoculars, where he said,
"It is like you are in a time warp," Obama said Sunday, after he toured a rocky border post in the demilitarised buffer zone that has split the Korean peninsular for longer than he has been alive. "It is like you are looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 years or 50 years of progress..."
"If a country can't feed its people effectively, if it can't make anything of any use to anybody, if it has no exports other than weapons and even those aren't ones that in any way would be considered state of the art. If it can't deliver on any indicators of well-being... for its people... then you'd think you'd want to try something different. There are certain things that just don't work and what they are doing doesn't work."
This doesn't mean Obama "gets it", or "gets" anything at all.  From his perspective, those dumb North Koreans simply don't know how to properly run a communist state.

In a related news item that has exploded over the web, at the summit he attended in South Korea -- concerning nuclear proliferation -- Obama got caught talking very candidly to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in this exchange:
President Obama: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space." 
President Medvedev: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…" 
President Obama: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." 
President Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you."
Flexibility for what?  On all of what "issues"?

You have to wonder what Obama's true allegiances are.  Well, I  know.  And I'm sure Vladimir knows.  You all recall my many posts on Obama's goal of unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States?  My claims that after the election he will attempt to eliminate all U.S. nuclear weapons by Executive fiat?  Stay tuned.  After the election he will have more "flexibility," for this, and so much more.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Musings of Henry Bemis

Many people are in love with their e-books -- and the convenience is certainly a factor.  I'll stick with my print copies.

But when I hear from many friends who delight in their ability to dispose of all their print books -- and many of them are literally throwing their books in the garbage -- I imagine the most-pessimistic scenario: post-apocalyptic, end of the world stuff, and descent into a new Dark Ages.

Maybe it's the aftermath of a global nuclear armageddon, or maybe it's just slow decay into world-wide despotism and economic decline.  But suppose before it happens most of the print industry ceases to be cause of e-books.  Maybe in the post-Armageddon period most of the print libraries are burned to the ground, or burned for heating.  Everybody has their e-books, of course.  But there's no way to power the damned things.  Industrial civilization  is in smoking ruins.  No power plants, no chargers.

But it gets worse:  the microchips and hard-drives that all the knowledge of humanity is stored on  -- those electronic devices die of their own accord after awhile.  Atoms move around randomly over time, cosmic rays break down crystal structures, heat de-magnetizes disk platters.  Most of it won't work after 20 years, but after 50 years?  Not much will remain.

So your world has ended, most libraries are gone, everyone got rid of their print books -- and e-books go permanently dead.  Education goes completely in the toilet in the short term, without books.  And in the long-term -- the utter lack of books will greatly facilitate the decline into a _Very_ _Dark_ _Age_.