The proven performance of protest

By way of Yves Smith’s excellent blog Naked Capitalism is this piece in yesterday’s The Independent about the power that protest still hold in today’s society.

The Independent – Johann Hari: Protest works. Just look at the proof

There is a ripple of rage spreading across Britain. It is clearer every day that the people of this country have been colossally scammed. The bankers who crashed the economy are richer and fatter than ever, on our cash. The Prime Minister who promised us before the election “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts” just imposed the worst cuts since the 1920s, condemning another million people to the dole queue.

Yet the rage is matched by a flailing sense of impotence. We are furious, but we feel there is nothing we can do. There’s a mood that we have been stitched up by forces more powerful and devious than us, and all we can do is sit back and be shafted.

This mood is wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way – if enough of us act to stop it.

[Let’s] look at a group of protesters who thought they had failed. The protests within the United States against the Vietnam War couldn’t prevent it killing three million Vietnamese and 80,000 Americans. But even in the years it was “failing”, it was achieving more than the protestors could possibly have known. In 1966, the specialists at the Pentagon went to US President Lyndon Johnson – a thug prone to threatening to “crush” entire elected governments – with a plan to end the Vietnam War: nuke the country. They “proved”, using their computer modeling, that a nuclear attack would “save lives.”

It was a plan that might well have appealed to him. But Johnson pointed out the window, towards the hoardes of protesters, and said: “I have one more problem for your computer. Will you feed into it how long it will take 500,000 angry Americans to climb the White House wall out there and lynch their President?” He knew that there would be a cost – in protest and democratic revolt – that made that cruelty too great.

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The trouble with capitalism

The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.

National Review Online: Willi Schlamm, Apr. 20, 2005

In China’s factories, pay and protest are on the rise

The Economist – The rising power of the Chinese worker

Cheap labour has built China’s economic miracle. Its manufacturing workers toil for a small fraction of the cost of their American or German competitors. At the bottom of the heap, a “floating population” of about 130m migrants work in China’s boomtowns, taking home 1,348 yuan a month on average last year.

That is a mere $197, little more than one-twentieth of the average monthly wage in America. But it is 17% more than the year before. As China’s economy has bounced back, wages have followed suit. On the coasts, where its exporting factories are clustered, bosses are short of workers, and workers short of patience. A spate of strikes has thrown a spanner into the workshop of the world.

The hands of China’s workers have been strengthened by a new labour law, introduced in 2008, and by the more fundamental laws of demand and supply (see article). Workers are becoming harder to find and to keep. The country’s villages still contain perhaps 70m potential migrants. Other rural folk might be willing to work closer to home in the growing number of factories moving inland.

But the supply of strong backs and nimble fingers is not infinite, even in China. The number of 15- to 29-year-olds will fall sharply from next year. And although their wages are increasing, their aspirations are rising even faster. They seem less willing to “eat bitterness”, as the Chinese put it, without complaint.

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Inside the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill

TIME Magazine’s excellent finance-focused blog The Curious Capitalist pointed me the way of this interactive Wall Street Journal graphic on what’s found inside the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Real leaders have real self-confidence

I’m not a fan of Ms. Kay, but I couldn’t agree more with this statement.

Full Comment Forum

Even the best-organized plans can be derailed by bad weather or glitches nobody can have foreseen, but whether the incidents or gaffes blow over quickly, or whether they become legendary tipping points has a lot to do with impressions that have already been formed subliminally in the public perception about the leader’s internal authenticity and confidence.

When leaders have self-confidence — the real kind, that comes from within and glows in the dark, or rather glows in luggage-losing interludes — they can fumble the ball and shrug it off. If Trudeau had fumbled a football, he would have made it seem as though it were the football’s fault for being such a stupid shape. Barack Obama has all kinds of blippy things happen to him — the Rev Wright fiasco would have sunk a less confident man – but he never loses his cool because, say what you will about his leadership, he is supremely confident inside with an unshakeable sense of his greater destiny. That can go a long way to cover up gaffes. Clinton has it. JFK had it.

G20 Summit: Fortress Toronto

Just putting this on here for the sake of remembering how downtown “looked” during this once in a lifetime summit here in Toronto. All hysteria aside, not much is really going on in the city. A couple of police cars were torched at Bay & King. Have yet to see a police officer utter a single word to a protestor.

What do Socrates and Obama have in common?

Barack Obama’s rant against technology: Don’t shoot the messenger

“WITH iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations—none of which I know how to work—information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.”

In a speech to students at Hampton University on May 9th, Mr Obama did not just name-check some big brands; he also joined a long tradition of grumbling about new technologies and new forms of media.

Socrates’s bugbear was the spread of the biggest-ever innovation in communications—writing. He feared that relying on written texts, rather than the oral tradition, would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls…they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”

Enos Hitchcock voiced a widespread concern about the latest publishing fad in 1790. “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth.” (There was a related worry that sofas, introduced at the same time, encouraged young people to drift off into fantasy worlds.)

Cinema was denounced as “an evil pure and simple” in 1910; comic books were said to lead children into delinquency in 1954; rock’n’roll was accused of turning the young into “devil worshippers” in 1956; Hillary Clinton attacked video games for “stealing the innocence of our children” in 2005.

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