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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A World View - Sadly! 

My stars tell me that, now, I should take a world view - look at the big picture.
OK. That's fair enough; but, when I do, what do I see?
I see very little positive thinking among our world leaders and even less positive action.
I read about violence - in Turkey, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and many other places. I read about the determination of people like President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to meet violence - the "acts of terrorists" are the catch-all category in which they put violence against them - their determination to meet horrific violence with even more violence.
They will not flinch. They will deliver bigger and better bombs against targets which will claim more and more innocent victims.
But, while there is talk of, indeed obsession with, all this violence, there is little talk of ways to achieve peaceful change. I suppose we can be grateful that change, more or less peaceful, seems to be in process in Georgia.
But, on a larger scale, where is the action to bring people together in peaceful action - to eliminate hunger and poverty, for example?
Each day more people starve or go hungry.
Each day their distress is ignored or tended by too few.
We come back to that "big picture" my stars tell me I should see.
We need a PROCESS like Victory Over Want which will bring together people of all continents, all races, all religions, to decide what they need and how to get it.
It's that action that we need to put an end to violence, an end to hatreds, and to begin to lay the foundations for peaceful change for all of us.
We need hope and we need vision.
I am reminded of the escape of Jozef Imrich from oppression in Czechoslovakia twenty years ago. He has told the story in his book, COLD RIVER (see below).
He made his escape. Two of his friends died in the crossing.
What hopes did he have at that time? Hopes of Freedom, hopes of Democracy?
Have those hopes been realised in the past twenty years for most people around the world?
Or have the very terms themselves - Freedom and Democracy - been abused by those who are intent on violence, oppression and satisfying their own lusts for power and privilege at the expense of their fellow men and women?
That is the "big picture" we have to look at.
Let's see if we can paint in some positive elements. Let's see if we can return to the vision that we had at certain times in the past.
President Roosevelt's vision of the Four Freedoms, for example, which included freedom from fear and want.
Or we should recall President Kennedy's approach - just forty years after his assassination.
He asked us not to question "Why?" we should do great things and have grand aspirations. Instead, he asked that we should say, "Why not?" - why not build a better world, why not free people from want and oppression, why not seek for all people everywhere a brighter life, within the wondrous Creation that our God - however variously we identify Him - that our God has offered us here on Earth.
President Kennedy also exhorted us to be less selfish, less demanding for ourselves and more conscious of what we might be able to do for others. "Ask not," he said, "what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
How far have we come in the forty years since President Kennedy's assassination?
How far have we gone, not forward, but back?


James Cumes
---------------------------------------------------------

Cold River:
A Survivor's Story
Jozef Imrich


Genre: Non-Fiction
Our Price: $4.99 USD
eBook 405 (July 2002)
Double Dragon eBooks; ISBN: 1-894841-06-9


From the Inside Flap
[NEW re-edited, new material August 2003]

Cold River: A Survivor's Story is about man's desire for freedom during a time when none existed. Jozef describes the village in which he grew up with such emotion and sadness that the reader can hear the snow crunching beneath his expectant mother's feet as she makes her way through the snow drifts.

This story is fact, not fiction. When you are finished you will know what it is like to taste freedom for the first time. And perhaps feel the pain of its cost.


Read more

Read the Reviews


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Light on the Hill: The Chill of the River 

I first saw a lakatoi as a teenage soldier in Port Moresby Harbour in early 1942. In a recent message, a learned gentlemen declared it racist and unseemly to refer to the Japanese as Japs. But we tend to be less caring and sensitive to those who have committed aggression against us and who are doing their best to kill us.
The Japanese were then the enemy - they had unequivocally conducted themselves as MY enemy - and to brand them as Japs seemed a modest and restrained response.
The lakatoi is a relatively small, native South Pacific craft used for fishing and navigating rather small distances, in this case along the coast of Papua. But Port Moresby harbour was then the destination of many larger ships, naval and merchant, bringing men and supplies to hold back the Japs - there I go again - in their effort to conquer New Guinea and go on to occupy Australia.
I arrived in New Guinea in a 4500 ton motor vessel vastly bigger than any lakatoi and made my way to the wharf - encumbered by packs and weapons and tin hat and even a gas mask - by crossing two Australian corvettes, so stacked were the vessels trying to load and/or unload at the Moresby wharf.
Both loading and unloading had to be done quickly. If not, the lingerers might be hit by Jap bombers which ranged freely over the skies of New Guinea. We had yet to deploy an air force that could offer a real contest to the aggressors. That would come and it did come; but, even in the middle of 1942, the Jap aircraft could do pretty much as they pleased.
That was so when, on 18 June 1942 - Waterloo day - the Macdhui found that it had lingered too long in harbour. It cut its mooring ropes and tried to manoeuvre in the harbour but it could not get away. The Jap bombs hit their target and the Macdhui sank, with all those on board, some of them colleagues of mine who had arrived as reinforcements for a number of units in New Guinea Force.
Why am I telling this?
Partly it is because I have written a story, HAVERLEIGH, which records the crucial defence of New Guinea in 1942 and later; and partly because it is key to the human spirit to resist and survive. That is the story of events on the other side of the world, much later, when Jozef Imrich crossed what he has called, in his book, the "COLD RIVER."
You must read his book - and talk to him on his blog.
I shall give you the corordinates in my next message.

James Cumes
· http://VictoryOverWant.org
· http://members.chello.at/schulte-baeuminghaus/
· http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?AuthorID=3473
· http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/forums/?showtopic=54

Is This the Chinese Century? And the Poor Man's? 

The China Century James Cumes
Oct 28, 2003 03:22 PST
The China Miracle


What is these days often referred to as China's "miracle" can fairly be classified as such on the basis of the
scale and speed of its economic development in the past thirty years. The
Wirtschaftswunder in (West) Germany, in the 1950s and 1960s, was perhaps
comparable in some respects and had some of the same or similar causes.
However, the German experience had some important differences, relating
especially to differences in size and to the stage the West German economy had already reached at the starting point of its economic re-development.
In both cases, an important element in the two "miracles" was the policy of
the United States. However, in the case of the FRG, the objective was well
defined, especially under the Marshall Plan, and that objective was
achieved.
We can argue whether, in the case of China's miracle, United States policies
were more or less important than in the case of West Germany, but what is
clear is that, in both cases, American policies were a crucial element.
On a rather different aspect, that of the slide in the value of the US
dollar, I have recently written -

"To understand what the US dollar problem is - and what therefore the
solution is - we have to understand how the present dollar indebtedness came about.
Inflation is the problem of supply being inadequate in relation to effective
demand.
In that sense, the United States never solved the problem of inflation which
emerged in and after 1969.
On the contrary, United States policies, especially of using hikes in
interest rates to "fight inflation," only made things worse and gave us
stagflation.
The solution - the only genuine solution - of expanding supply through
fixed-capital investment - was never achieved or indeed seriously attempted.
Instead, the continuing excess of effective demand over supply provided
incentives for other countries to bridge the United States supply gap.
First, these included even such countries as Britain which then applied the
same American policies to "fight inflation," with the same result - an increase
rather than a decrease in inflationary pressures.
Germany and Japan did better. Then gradually the Asian Tigers and, of
course, more recently and most significantly, China came in to meet the shortage of
supply.
In other words, United States inflation was never "solved"; it was simply
shifted from domestic price increases to deficits in the balance of trade
and payments.
The United States was not alone in this. Australia followed much the same
unhappy path, with much the same unhappy results, qualified of course - but not
essentially transformed - by the massive stature of the United States in the world
economy and world finance.
I know that I am unique in my interpretation of the origins of the
dollar problem - and consequently, of course, of the problems of
manufacturing, labour, and the downward drift in the living levels of the working and much of the
middle class in the United States, especially in the last 20 years.
However, any other interpretation is difficult to justify.
It follows that the solution to the underlying problems of the United States
economy - and of course, for example, the Australian economy - is to "fight
inflation" by expanding domestic supply, rather than persist with dependence
on overseas suppliers, which can lead only to even more massive
distortion of world trade and payments and, almost certainly, major collapse, sooner or later, in the world economic and financial "system."
The only way to achieve this "expanded domestic supply" is to promote
fixed-capital investment which will bring real growth to the domestic
production of goods and services.
(We must remember that real, stable and persistent growth ultimately
depends, not on consumer spending and consumer debt, but, in the end, on fixed-capital
investment which is the economy's real driving force.)
That promotion of fixed-capital investment is not easy. It's much easier to
export your industries overseas - as the United States and Australia have
done for the last twenty years - than it is to get them back.
So it'll be a tough struggle.
It'll need all the support and encouragement it can get.
The only way to get this effective support and encouragement on the scale
that will be necessary is to expand fixed-capital public investment on what
will probably have to be an unprecedented scale.
Unprecedented but not impossible. On the contrary, it is now an absolute
imperative if we are to save the world from economic catastrophe - and
political and strategic catastrophe as well.
You see this acceptance of public investment in the European Union's plans and -
vital if the easy exports of the last twenty years are now to be
scaled down - in the infrastructure plans of the Chinese.
That's where VOW (Victory Over Want) comes in and where it is crucial, both to the advanced
economies like the United States and Australia, and to the poorer,
developing countries in all the continents - and that includes Europe which
of course has problems of its own making through, inter alia, the
restraints - most of them foolish - of the single currency."

So the causes of China's "miracle" are neither exotic nor abstruse. At the
same time, of course, the mists and miscalculations embodied within
America's own policies have caused the Americans inadvertently to provide
thrust to a China "miracle" which many may consider to be contrary to the
United States own economic, political and strategic interests. The Americans themselves may
indeed have given that vital thrust necessary to create a powerful rival claimant for
their own hyperpower status.
At the same time, of course, the United States has destroyed much of the
capacity on which its own strength was based. In some ways, it has travelled
much the same road as the defunct Soviet Union. American policies of the
last thirty, and especially the last twenty years, have gravely weakened the
economic and social base on which the American military/strategic preponderance has
been raised.
Unless American policies are fundamentally changed, the United States
"century" will come to an end and what is largely America's creation - the
modern China - will begin its own Chinese "century."
Of course, it would be foolish to claim that it was enough for the United
States to offer China an opportunity for extraordinary and extraordinarily
rapid economic development - and, ultimately, for growth towards hyperpower
status.
It was for the Chinese Government to grasp this opportunity - as, indeed,
several other Asian countries have done.
We then come to the question whether China is undergoing "evolution to an
unknown world" or whether it is simply applying sensible and practical
policies which are, with clear thinking, available to us all.
That China is not applying the "mainstream" economic policies which the
Americans have spread around the world is obvious. Only to that extent may
the Chinese policies be said to be "exotic" or to be an "evolution to an
unknown world."
What they have done and are doing is to encourage fixed-capital investment
and to join public and private fixed-capital investment on the road to rapid
and domestically sustainable development.
The ambitious infrastructure plans of the Beijing Government contrast with
the way in which vital infrastructure in the United States has been allowed
to run down. Even if a robust start were made right now to restore United
States infrastructure, it would take several to many years - according to
their own official calculations - to restore it to the levels of a decade or
so ago.
Here we have the clues to the grasping of the opportunity that the United
States presented.
China has not buried itself in the past and stultified its own economic,
social, political and strategic development. Nor has it made a mad dash into
the future, with the chaos that we have seen, for example, in Russia and
some other components of the late Soviet Union. Above all, it has been
astute enough not to swallow whole the theories, concepts and policies of
mainstream economics, especially as expressed in the United States.
At the moment at least, it appears that China has formulated a melange of
policies - a "mixed economy" with ingredients mingled in a particularly
skilful way - that will carry it forward, even if the world economy falters
and perhaps even if it undergoes a substantial collapse in the next few
years.
Such a collapse, involving the United States, might provide another
opportunity, inadvertently offered by the United States, for China to stride
towards unprecedented greatness and to become the new, single hyperpower of
the 21st century.



James Cumes
· http://VictoryOverWant.org
· http://members.chello.at/schulte-baeuminghaus/
· http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?AuthorID=3473
· http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/forums/?showtopic=54



Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Dark Long queue at drive-in soup kitchen
George Bush's America, the wealthiest nation in history, faces a growing poverty crisis.
· Amerikan Winter [Guardian](UK)

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