Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Excerpts from Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

QUESTION: You write in Manufacturing Consent that it's the primary function of the mass media to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. What are those interests?

NOAM CHOMSKY*: Well, if you want to understand the way any society works, the first place to look is who is in a position to make the decisions that determine the way the society functions. The major decisions over what happens in the society - decisions over investment and production and distribution and so on - are in the hands of a relatively concentrated network of major corporations and conglomerates and investment firms. They are also the ones who staff the major executive positions in the government. They're the ones who own the media and they're the ones who have to be in a position to make the decisions. They have an overwhelmingly dominant role in the way life happens. You know, what's done in the society. Within the economic system, by law and in principle, they dominate. The control over resources and the need to satisfy their interests imposes very sharp constraints on the political system and on the ideological system.

QUESTION: When we talk about manufacturing of consent, whose consent is being manufactured?

NOAM CHOMSKY: To start with, there are two different groups, we can get into more detail, but at the first level of approximation, there's two targets for propaganda. One is what's sometimes called the political class. There's maybe twenty percent of the population which is relatively educated, more or less articulate, plays some kind of role in decision-making. They're supposed to sort of participate in social life - either as managers, or cultural managers like teachers and writers and so on. They're supposed to vote, they're supposed to play some role in the way economic and political and cultural life goes on. Now their consent is crucial. So that's one group that has to be deeply indoctrinated. Then there's maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything - and they're the ones who usually pay the costs.

*Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author and lecturer. He is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Street Fighting Years

When the link is lost between citizens and governments, when politicians see the world through the eyes of rent-seekers, when mainstream media is infatuated with the darlings of Big Business, it's no surprise mobocracy takes on flawed democracy. Protest is the TINA (There Is No Alternative) of disenchanted citizens.

True, the critical mass is not there yet but the build-up looks promising. Slowly, but surely, our civil society is waking up to the consent manufactured by reactionaries.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kinn Arive? Pann Kontan Sa Susu La?

Yer ver onzeredmi enn zurnalis Radio Plus telefone pu dimann mo lopinion lor sipa stimilus pakeg pu ed lekonomi moris. Mo dire li ki mo fek fer enn duel lor sa size la ar so koleg Axel e ki donk mo panse li pa neseser ki mo rekoz lor la. Li insiste, li dir mwa c pour Dossier ki pase lindi gramatin 7h ek 8h ek ki li envi fer kiken de nuvo intervenir e ki semen dernyere li ti fer Pramode Jaddoo intervenir. Etan done ki se enn zurnalis sympa mo desid pou done li mo lopinion kan mem. Ala sekin derouler pli ou mwin ek en bref:

R+: Dan ki direksyon ou pu koze?

Mwa: Dan oken direksyon. Mo pou donn u mo lopinion setu (mo dir mwa: bizin dir ki direksyon pou repon??? ki kuyonad sa??? Radio Plus sa ou bien Radio Pyongyang???)

R+: Eski ou panse ki stimilus pakeg pu ed lekonomi?

Mwa: Mo pans pas. 6 milyar dan sa 10.4 milyar la ti fini anonse dan bidze 2008/9 donk ena ene gros kompozant dipin rasi ladan.

Par kont ena lezot priorite:

1. Lesans ti bizin Rs 25 enn lit me akoz sa mardaye ki p deroule la ou kone komye pri lesans ete. En plis akoz resesyon mondyal ti bizin met li Rs 20 pu soulaz dimunn

2. Pri kuran abizif. Si u pri kuran pa kompetitif u pa pu kompetitif. Ramgoolam ti promet nu sa depi Novam 2007

3. Konzestion routyer. Ti bizin met bon bis lor sime...

R+: U pann dir mwa ki ti bizin fer ek kas la?

Mwa: Mo fek don ou 3 zafer ki ti kav fer la...

Mo repet seki monn dir li plis mo azuter ki en 1985 enn liv sterlin ti 20 rupi e en 2007 li ti 60 rupi e ki donk bann exportater inn tap plin tu sa banane la san ublyer azute ki stimulus pakeg c ene eskrokri intelektyel. Kelke mo ossi lor sa de dinozor ki Empowerment Fund ek Land Based Oceanic Industry ete.

Lindi gramatin mo p ekut exsepsyonelman radio pu guete kuma zon edit sa lopinion la. Abdoollah Earally present so zurnal 7h ek sirpriz se Pramode Jaddoo ki p intervenir dan Dossier. Vers 7h30 mo text Abdoollah pu dir li ki mo pa ti konne si pa mo appel Pramode Jaddoo. Sa senti la censir e le boykott me mo attan 8h parski pe dir pu ena ene 2eme parti. Nuvel 8h non pli mo lopinion pa passer.

Mo telefon Abdoollah ek mo dimann li kifer pann passe mo lopinion etc. Li dir mwa se andeor so kontrol, li ekskiz li e li pu seye passe li dan la zurne. Mo aksepte so eskiz me mo dimann li kan mem si pa li pu pass sa dan nuvel mortyer.

Finalman mo dekos ene texto vers zurnalis ki ti intervye mwa pu dir li pa kas latet pu retelefon mwa zame enkor.

24/7: Ene Ti Kestion

Si nu anvi lekonomi turne 24/24 7 zur lor 7 eski ban bis usi pa ti bizin rule tut la nwi? B CNT inn desid pu aret fer bis ruler 21h. Amwin kiken pu transport travayer dan so Aston Martin a partir never aswar...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not So Sure About That

One of the many many lies that Sithanen keeps on repeating (or maybe he's trying hard to convince himself that it's not a lie) is that the best antidote to poverty is job creation. That's untrue because it depends on how much the jobs that are being created actually pay. If the jobs you are creating are very low-paying although some people would indeed start to work -- and make the unemployment numbers look better than what they really are -- they would still not have gotten out of the poverty trap.

Income is also not everything. How fast prices of everything increase will also determine whether the income you are earning makes you a poor person. That is why inflation is considered the worst enemy of the poor and politicians in many countries, mostly out of self-interest, have passed laws to announce specific inflation targets -- between 1% and 3% per year -- and have adhered to them. The UK, Canada and Germany are good examples.

Another lie is the fact that he's improved the lot of many people because they've been removed from the tax nets. We've called that one too (see here).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How Many Makes it Perfect?

I mean storms. On one hand he says that there are currently 7 storms hitting Mauritius and on the other he says that his priority is to avoid the perfect storm?

The other inconsistency he's been blurting out recently is that he's trying to avoid Mauritius from going into the intensive care unit of the IMF. How could that ever be possible after he brought an early harvest followed by a bumper crop to us?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weapons of Mass Deception

Paul Krugman wrote a bold statement in his blog "The Conscience of a Liberal" yesterday :

"Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link. There’s a word for this: it’s evil."

Likewise, it would be naive to expect an insider to dismiss our national champions as mere impostors. It is so much easier to blame somebody else.

See no evil, hear no evil!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Matters is What Works

Here's in an excerpt of a spot-on column by John Kay in the Financial Times:

"Since the 1970s economists have been engaged in a grand project. The project’s objective is that macroeconomics should have microeconomic foundations. In everyday language, that means that what we say about big policy issues – growth and inflation, boom and bust – should be grounded in the study of individual behaviour. Put like that, the project sounds obviously desirable, even essential.

Most economists would claim that the project has been a success. But the criteria are the self-referential criteria of modern academic life. The greatest compliment you can now pay an economic argument is to say it is rigorous. Today’s macroeconomic models are certainly that.

But policymakers and the public at large are, rightly, not interested in whether models are rigorous. They are interested in whether the models are useful and illuminating – and these rigorous models do not score well here."

The message could not be clearer: if you cannot illuminate, keep your schizophrenia to your silo!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Isn't it Ironic?

About nine years ago a chairman of the CEB declared that the public utility didn't have the financial means to expand so that it would have to rely on private capital. That reliance translated into the fleecing of its customers as the CEB ended up, quite conveniently for some, buying power at uncompetitive prices. At about the same time our government offered its guarantee without which the infamous Illovo deal wouldn't have gone through.

Fastforward to the present and a section of the private sector now wants taxpayers' money to apparently stay afloat and to avoid having to sack people and they don't guarantee that they will not eliminate jobs even if they get saved by government. That's of course after the rupee was depreciated from twenty-five to the USD to about 35, interest rates were cut and corporate tax rates were slashed. And the Joint Economic Council is now going to ask for help just in case they might need it.

What do you make of all this Alanis?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the Importance of Good Taste in Life

The Prime Minister used that line to justify the purchase of his Aston Martin DB9 a couple of years back and likes to tell us and distinguished visitors alike that he likes speed. I never understood why he had to justify himself for being the proud owner of a supercar. That's his private business.

What I still don't understand either is why good taste has been absent from his economic policies and how he's been managing Mauritius in general since July 2005. If there is one place where the importance of good taste matters for a head of government it is surely in the design and speedy execution of national policies. Unless of course if you don't give two hoots about the country.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lefe Savat Leponz Ek Gato Pima Lor Inegalite

Minis finans abitie dir ki li kompran kiete lamizer parski li ti mizer limem ek ki li ti van gato pima dan bazar rozil. Resaman lor radio li fin azute ki li ti ossi met savat leponz ziska laz sez an ek ki donk ban pov kav kont lor li pou zot refer.

Abe ler nu get distribisyon revenu nasyonal apre so premier pasaz kom minis finans de septam 1991 a desam 1995 nu oblizer met so parole en doute pou trwa rezon prinsipal kuma sa tablo lao p indike:

1. 10% ban menaz pli mizer (mo sipoze dan sa group la mem trouv ban dimun ki met savat leponz) fin trouve zot par reveni nasyonal degringole par 13%. Apel sa laflam.

2. Tou les 10 grup menaz, sof ene, fin trouv zot par diminier. En effet, 10% menaz pli riss fin trouv zot part gato nasyonal ogmenter par 10.8%. Apel sa dimiel.

3. Par 10% menaz pli riss fin pass de 12.1 fwa par 10% menaz pli pov a 15.4 apres premier pasaz Sithanen kom minis finans.

Donk nu konklir ki probableman a koz minis finans, buku dimun fin bizin met savat leponz ziska o mwin laz sez an ek ki zot fin oblize van gato pima dan bazar.

Bien sir sa pa v dire ki si ou fin met tanga ziska laz diset an trwa kar ek ki oune van badia ek pimen frir dan bazar porlwi ou pa pu rapel ou la mizer si ou vin minis finans.

Don't Kick'em When They're Down

So said Xavier-Luc Duval in Parliament this week. He was referring to the outrage that was sparked over the pay packet of the new CFO at MK. What the Minister seems to be forgetting is that an otherwise healthy and strategic company was kicked to the ground by an incompetent CEO and a Chairman that were handpicked by the Prime Minister and a board, which includes Ali Mansoor, that failed to uphold even the basic principles of corporate governance. And ironically that all of these people, save one, are still around to get at least another chance to kick MK while it's down.

Nevertheless, the compassion expressed by XLD this week puts him in a special position to understand the sufferings of the beautiful people of Mauritius who have been brutally thrown to the ground by Mansoor and Sithanen before being relentlessly kicked by these two bean-counters. The latest kick is the accounting gimmick of making us pay for the outlandish Rs3 billion of hedging losses sustained by the STC so that it doesn't show up in his deficit numbers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mauritius Slides into International Significance

Relative to Singapore complimentary of the bean-counting policies of Dr. Sithanen. That's what you conclude when you look at the annualised growth rates in USD for the two islands during the whole time he was Minister of Finance till December last.

Indeed, Singapore added an unbelievable 9.75% every year to the growth rate in USD Sithanen produced for Mauritius in his career. Or if you prefer Singapore posted a 7.72% growth rate on average while its currency appreciated against the American dollar while Sithanen's growth rate numbers don't look very good once you remove the effect of the persistent depreciation of our rupee that he's been orchestrating.