Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

‘La sombra de Pinochet’

In today’s NY Times, Ariel Dorfman has quite a moving little op-ed.

In order to truly exorcise him from our existence it would have been necessary that he stand trial, that he defend himself from the accusations of murder and torture… In order to cleanse his image from our land, we would have had to witness him looking into the face of each and every one of his victims… Instead we must watch the sad spectacle of one-third of the country lamenting his departure, one-third of Chile still silent accomplices to his crimes… And yet…I feel that something has in fact changed quite categorically with his demise. What convinced me were the thousands upon thousands of Chileans who spontaneously poured into the streets here to celebrate the news of his extinction…we have come out from under the general’s shadow…

Anyhow, I’m delighted to see the bastard go and I’d have been happier if he’d done it sooner. As I wrote at the time, I was disappointed to see his mate Milton Friedman live so long and die so comfortably. Does evil promote longevity or something?

And speaking of Friedman, Greg Palast shows in today’s ICH that the Chilean economic miracle carried out by Friedman’s monetarist Chicago boys was in fact a fairy tale,

In 1973, the year General Pinochet brutally seized the government, Chile’s unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernization, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

The WSWS reports an article I seem to have missed in the NY Times on the release of 2004 income statistics from the Internal Revenue Service (the US tax department). A few significant findings:

  • In 2004, the richest 0.1%, the 130,500 households with average household incomes of US$4.9 million, saw their incomes rise by 27.5%.
  • Those same 300,000 persons had reported earnings totaling US$639 billion ($679 billion according to the article, but that doesn’t compute), 9.5% of all pretax income, and twice as much as the poorest 120 million persons combined.
  • In 2004, the three lowest quintiles (i.e. 60%, 180 million persons) earned less than 95 cents in real terms for every dollar they earned in 1979, when they started collecting these statistics.
  • The top tenth of 1% of the population earned $3.48 in 2004 for every dollar they earned in 1979.
  • The bottom quintile, or 60 million persons, have an average income of US$7 per day, just over a quarter of the official poverty line of $27 per day.

And that’s the kind of society everyone on the planet aspires to, or else.

Back in Palestine, JSF drew my attention to a concise article on al Jazeera about Israel’s refusal to grant a visa to Desmond Tutu and the rest of his delegation from the UN Human Rights Council for nearly a fortnight. But it transpires that Israel had good reason for this, according to Mark Regev, Israeli spokesperson and final arbiter on all human rights issues,

"We saw a situation whereby the human rights mechanism of the UN was being cynically exploited to advance an anti-Israel agenda. This would do the Israelis, the Palestinians and peace in the Middle East no good at all. This would also have done nothing to serve the interest of human rights."

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