today’s august 31

August 31, 2006 § Leave a comment

    And Interesting that a more right website would carry this, close to reasonable,

    What are we to do? There are no easy answers, but we should begin by jettisoning as folly the naive idea that all Muslims want the same things the liberal West wants. Followers of Qutb’s brand of Islam hold that our wealth, secularity and freedom, especially for women, are evidence of our corruption.

    While Qutb’s prescriptions are quite mad, his diagnosis of the Western spiritual and psychological condition was serious, and it requires a serious response. If we Westerners cannot look at the world we’ve created for ourselves and understand that Sayyid Qutb was not all wrong, we will never figure out how to convince the Islamic masses he lived and died for that their holy martyr was a false prophet.

    Rod Dreher is an assistant editorial page editor. The views expressed here are his own. His e-mail address is .

    Find a link to an English translation of Sayyid Qutb’s “Milestones” at

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    And the outline of an empowering state. What does it take to et everyone there? Vision first.

    Geoff Gallop: Liberation a marriage of rights and obligations

    The welfare state needs to become an enabling state

    From Tom Paine to T.H. Marshall, the welfare state pioneers simply assumed that the values of the times would ensure personal responsibility in the exercise of these rights and capacities. Their radical successors, such as Anthony Giddens in England and Noel Pearson in Australia, have recognised that personal responsibility, alas, has been amiss. Indeed Pearson argues that a welfare system too focused on income supports traps many of his people into poverty.

    But as a 2003 report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the St Vincent de Paul Society showed, those with social, intellectual, mental health, addiction, education or communication difficulties are the victims of narrowly applied mutual obligation policies.

    The problem with the modern welfare state is not that it is a welfare state but that it has yet to become a truly enabling state. In the first place, regular outbursts of ideological overkill from Left or Right set the clock back. In the second place there are timelines and resource implications here that are much longer than the regular election and budget cycles of government.

    Human welfare requires rights, capacities and responsibilities. Rights need capacities and capacities need to be exercised. Both context and commitment are required, as are individual and collective responsibilities. When our nation’s commitment to equal opportunity is effectively discharged and combines with a desire for change and improvement on the part of individuals and communities, significant results follow. I would call it liberation.

    Geoff Gallop is a former Labor premier of Western Australia and a professor at the graduate school of government at the University of Sydney.

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    General Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda, dictator of Paraguay, died on August 16th, aged 93

    He did not give interviews to the press, having no wish to reveal himself. A single conversation, with Isabel Hilton of Granta when he had just begun his long exile in Brasilia in 1989, is almost all obituarists have to go on.

    As a firmer, more loyal base than these soldiers, General Stroessner used the Colorado (“Red”) party, a right-wing body that became steadily more so as its moderate politicians were ejected. Membership of the party was compulsory for all teachers, doctors, engineers, officers or those who hoped for government service. In a population of 3.8m, 900,000 belonged to it,

    for eight years in the 1970s, the highest rate of growth in Latin America. General Stroessner was a master-dispenser of illegal spoils. Yet the dark truth of his Paraguay was that he co-opted even his opponents into that system with him.

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    Muammar al-Gaddafi has rejected terrorism and brought Libya back into the international fold. Now he is returning to his early radical ideas, which he thinks have common ground with some of new Labour’s. By Anthony Giddens

    You usually get about half an hour when meeting a political leader. My conversation with Gaddafi lasts for more than three.

    He likes the term “third way”, because his own political philosophy, developed in the late 1960s, was a version of this idea. It has been written up in the form of The Green Book, authored by Gaddafi, on display almost everywhere in Libya.

    The Green Book is based upon a theory of direct democracy. Representative democracy, Gaddafi argues, is an inadequate form of government, given that it means rule by a minority and in which the majority have little direct say. Soviet communism, on the other hand, led to government by an even smaller elite. His “third alternative” favours self-rule, in which everyone can, in principle, be involved. At one point in the conversation he points to the symbol with which the awning is covered. It is a series of concentric circles, with points of connection between them marked. The outer circle is formed by the basic people’s congresses, which anyone can attend and contribute to. They communicate decisions to inner groups, which pass them on finally to the General People’s Committee – which is supposed to register and act on them, with further consultations if necessary. In theory, Libya has self-government without a state.

    Gaddafi’s economic theory holds that everyone should receive the fruits of their labour. In a capitalist economy, so his account runs, workers get only a proportion of the wealth they create, the rest being appropriated by the employer. Freedom can be built only on individual econ o m ic autonomy. The material needs of life – clot h ing, food, a home and means of transportation – must be owned by the individual family. Hence in Libya, at least until recently, no one was allowed to rent property.

    During our talk, we discuss the fact that there is a major revival of thinking in modern political philosophy about participatory and discursive democracy. I say that, contrary to his thinking, a democratic system must have mechanisms of representation, choice between parties and a regular system of voting. Yet these could be complemented by direct forms of citizen involvement, making use of information technology, such as citizens’ juries, and national “discussion days”, as pioneered in Scandinavia, in which important initiatives are debated. Much will depend upon the creation of a healthy civil society.

    Discussing these matters with others later, I find out that the modernisers working with Saif are taking such ideas seriously. A committee has been meeting for the past two years to draw up a new constitution. I sit in on one of their discussions and am impressed by the sophistication of their ideas. The group has made much progress and has recognised the need for far-reaching trans formation of the political system, while seek ing to sustain the genuine elements of egalitarianism that Gaddafi’s rule has sustained.

    Gaddafi does not demur when I point out that his economic approach has to be rethought. Egalitarianism is a core social-democratic value, but it cannot be built upon denying basic principles of capital accumulation and investment. Competition and profit are the conditions of economic success, not intrinsic barriers to it. To control inequality, the country needs other measures, especially in relation to taxation, welfare and corporate governance.

    Dc: Giddens seems to want the country to merge with the western model, and ignores the contribution of an alternative frame.Why is ecnomic success so important and what does giddens do about the deterioration of quality of life at the increasingly lare margin?

    Libya thus far has squandered its oil wealth, but it could be used to help diversify the economy, and encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, highly visible in Libya, in spite of its being constrained by a welter of restrictions. It could also be spent on a state-of-the-art welfare system to protect the poor and vulnerable. Libya needs foreign direct investment, and the expertise that comes along with it. Such investment will emerge if it is clear that social and economic reform are for real. The country has some clear advantages over others in the region. Literacy, for example, is above 80 per cent. Women fare better than in most Muslim countries. According to the latest report of the Economist Intelligence Unit, economic growth in Libya in 2006-2007 is expected to exceed 9 per cent. There are clear strengths to build on and it is in the interests of the global community to support those people in the country who are pushing for change.

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    The return of people power

    Here in the west, we have much to learn from resistance movements in dangerous places and their tactics of informed direct action. By John Pilger

    In researching a new film, I have been watching documentary archive from the 1980s, the era of Ronald Reagan and his “secret war” against Central America. What is striking is the relentless lying. A department of lying was set up under Reagan with the coy name, “office of public diplomacy”. Its purpose was to dispense “white” and “black” propaganda – lies – and to smear journalists who told the truth. Almost everything Reagan himself said on the subject was false. Time and again, he warned Americans of an “imminent threat” from the tiny impoverished nations that occupy the isthmus between the two continents of the western hemisphere. “Central America is too close and its strategic stakes are too high for us to ignore the danger of governments seizing power with military ties to the Soviet Union,” he said. Nicaragua was “a Soviet base” and “communism is about to take over the Caribbean”. The United States, said the president, “is engaged in a war on terrorism, a war for freedom”.

    Whereas Powell’s lies paved the way for the invasion of Iraq and the violent death of at least 100,000 people, Reagan’s lies disguised his onslaught on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guate mala. By the end of his two terms, 300,000 people were dead. In Guatemala, his proxies – armed and tutored in torture by the CIA – were described by the UN as perpetrators of genocide.

    In my experience, this critical public intelligence and moral sense have always been ahead of those who claim to speak for the public. What Vandana Shiva calls an “insurrection of subjugated knowledge” is on the rise in Britain and across the world, perhaps as never before, thanks to a revived internationalism aided by new technologies. Whereas Reagan could get away with many of his lies, Bush and Blair cannot. People know too much. And there is the presence of history; no imperial power has been able to sustain three simultaneous colonial wars indefinitely.

    On 13 August, as the Israeli army advanced in southern Lebanon, they warned people not to return to their homes. This was defied almost to a man, woman and child, who abandoned the refugee centres and headed south, jamming the roads and flashing victory signs.

    An eyewitness, Simon Assaf, described “gangs of local men along the route clear[ing] paths by dragging away the piles of electrical cable, rubble and twisted metal that littered the highway. A new stream of cars would rapidly form through every breach in the rubble. There were no army or police . . . it was the locals who directed traffic, guided cars past dangerous craters and pushed buses up dirt tracks around collapsed bridges. As they neared their homes, the refugees would form great processions. Town after town, village after village was reclaimed. Powerless to confront this human wave, the Israelis abandoned their positions and began fleeing to the border. This flood of people emerged out of an unprecedented mass movement that grew up across the country as the bombs rained down.”

    Throughout Latin America, mass resistance movements have grown so fast that they now overshadow traditional parties. In Venezuela, they provide the popular support for the reforms of Hugo Chávez. Having emerged spontan eously in 1989 during the Caracazo, an eruption of political rage against Venezuela’s subser vience to the free-market demands of the IMF and World Bank, they have provided the imagination and dynamism with which the Chávez government is attacking the scourge of poverty.

    Here in the west, as people abandon the political parties they once thought were theirs, there is much to learn from resistance movements in dangerous places and their tactics of informed direct action. We have our own examples in Britain, such as the achievements of the growing resistance to Blair and Brown’s privatising of the health service by stealth. An American giant, United Health Europe, has been prevented from taking control of GP services in Derbyshire, after the community was not consulted and fought back. Pat Smith, a pensioner, took the case to court and won. “This shows what people power can do,” she said, as if speaking for millions.

    There is no difference in principle between Pat Smith’s campaign of resistance and that of the people of Cochabamba who refused to pay almost half their income to an American company for their water. There is no difference in principle between the people’s movement that saw off the Israeli invaders and the stirring of people everywhere as they become aware of the real meaning of the ambitions and hypocrisy of Bush and his vassal, who want us to be ever fearful of and cowed by “terrorism” when, in truth, the greatest terrorists of all are them.


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    And, just a brief review,

    The New Lion of Damascus

    Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria

  1. David W. Lesch

    The fate of Syria, very much tied to its young ophthalmologist-turned-president, will profoundly affect what type of Middle East emerges in the near future.

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    Hope for a better world

    Means, rather than ends, must come under scrutiny, says Steven Poole after reading Ted Honderich’s Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War

    Looking into things and following arguments might be our only hope. At times, indeed, Honderich expresses a wistfulness about impossible worlds: “The world isn’t a university or a book or a half-decent discussion. If it could be, there are people who make sure it isn’t.” Well, this is a book, and readers who enjoy being goaded into thinking for themselves will enjoy a better than half-decent discussion with it.

    Steven Poole’s Unspeak is published by Little, Brown

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    And, evidence that focus on the wars is a way of avoiding larer issues. War now is small scale compared to WW1&2.

    Welcome to world peace

    By Charles Kurzman and Neil Englehart

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. AND BOWLING GREEN, OHIO – World peace was not supposed to look like this. It was supposed to be more – well, more peaceful. But a remarkable global phenomenon is being obscured by headlines about bombs and conflict in the Middle East. The ancient scourge of war has disappeared, at least in the sense of one government’s army doing battle with another.

    The world is far more peaceful than a dozen years ago, when slaughters in Rwanda and the Balkans led to gloomy predictions of rampant civil war.

    Despite this outbreak of world peace, we remain fixated on international conflict. For example, the United Nations called for a traditional Olympic truce during the Winter Games in Turin, Italy, despite the fact that no countries were actually fighting one another.

    Yet our sense of insecurity grows even as the threat level diminishes. Although Ameri- cans are far more likely to die in a traffic accident than a terrorist attack, politicians don’t scramble to demonstrate their toughness on auto safety.

    Paradoxically, world peace may lead us to turn these nonwars into real wars. Without serious threats from other states, the US is more likely to use military power to address other goals – a temptation all the stronger when these are labeled as wars, too.

    Militarizing the approach to these problems can lead to conflict with other states, and thus into real wars. The war on drugs has led us to get involved in the civil conflict in Colombia. The war on terror led us to the invasion of Iraq and, more recently, to help start a new civil conflict in Somalia, where we are funding warlords who claim to be fighting affiliates of Al Qaeda.

    The remnants of war are nasty and brutish, and the world needs to address collective violence wherever it appears. But let’s keep these concerns in perspective. The global trend is a hopeful one, if we can avoid making wars out of problems that are not. Perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and pause to appreciate world peace.

    • Charles Kurzman teaches sociology and Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Neil Englehart teaches political science at Bowling Green State University, with a focus on Southeast Asia and human rights challenges in failing states.

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    Dc: is it the lull before the storm, a period whre fighting is at the fringe while the cener decays, and fighting now can be seen as jkying for position I the next phase of real decline and reaction?

    And I recall a visit to one of Mcnamara’s major aids when he was at Brookings. I enered (1970) and on his wall were large maps of Vietnam and mexico. Why Mexico I asked? I have to look out for my career, said he. But this seems drien more by imagntion than reality, which is messy in many other diretions.

    Is War With Mexico Inevitable?

    Written by William H. Calhoun

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    As recently exposed by various news sources, Islamic terrorists disguised as Mexicans have been entering the United States–and Mexico is assisting them. They not only look just like Mexicans, but they speak fluent Spanish too. They blend in as migrant workers–just waiting to strike.

           These terrorists have training camps in Mexico and Brazil, and other locations in Central and South America. They first arrive at such places to learn fluent Spanish and how to blend into Hispanic culture. They then go to the US-Mexico border to find a way across.  Sheriffs in Texas have recently found Iranian currency, military badges in Arabic, clothes, and other Arabic items along the banks of the Rio Grande River.

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    Expert Political Judgment:

    How Good is It? How Can We Know?

    Philip E. Tetlock


    Quantifying the Unquantifiable

    I do not pretend to start with precise questions. I do not think you can start with anything precise. You have to achieve such precision as you can, as you go along.


    This book is predicated on the assumption that, even if we cannot capture all of the subtle counterfactual and moral facets of good judgment, we can advance the cause of holding political observers accountable to independent standards of empirical accuracy and logical rigor. Whatever their allegiances, good judges should pass two types of tests:

    1. Correspondence tests rooted in empiricism. How well do their private beliefs map onto the publicly observable world?
    2. Coherence and process tests rooted in logic. Are their beliefs internally consistent? And do they update those beliefs in response to evidence?

    In plain language, good judges should both “get it right” and “think the right way.”10

    Dc: he argues tht the discipline of good prediction requires a kind of modesty that is couner to the tenacity and imagination required for science. Interesting.

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    Not God’s PartyA new poll shows Democrats are losing (more) religious voters.

    By Amy Sullivan

    Dc; basic idea, that whie polls show decline, thins are mixed and complex and he democrats have some good territiry and should pres more for the cmmon good.

    And they should shout from the mountaintops about Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid’s plan to reduce abortion rates, talk to every evangelical who will listen about tackling global warming, and re-embrace the concept of the common good that once united religious and political progressives. Democrats, take those lights out from under your bushels.

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    The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America

    Kristin A. Goss

    From chapter 1.

    Studying the gun control issue in the early 1970s, Hazel Erskine observed: “It is difficult to imagine any other issue on which Congress has been less responsive to public sentiment for a longer period of time.”9 That insight is at the heart of the well-known “gun control paradox”: Most people want strict gun laws, but they don’t get them—why? This book argues that there is a deeper puzzle: Most people want them, but they don’t mobilize to get them—why? I refer to this as the “gun control participation paradox.” This book seeks to explain that puzzle. To put the question in stark, if overly simplistic, terms, Why is there no real gun control movement in America?10

    Between 1992 and 2001, more than 336,000 Americans died by gunfire,11

    The pattern of firearms regulation in the United States, coupled with its high gun violence rate, led historian Richard Hofstadter to proclaim America the quintessential “gun culture.”17 Interestingly, the popular image of America as a gun culture is at odds with more than fifty years of public opinion polls, which have found both widespread concern about gun violence and overwhelming support for measures to restrict access to firearms. Summarizing the findings, Tom W. Smith observed: “One of the few constants in American public opinion over the last two decades has been that three-fourths of the population supports gun control.”18 For example, in more than two dozen surveys conducted between 1959 and 1994, roughly 70% to 80% of respondents have favored “a law which would require a person to obtain a police permit before he or she could buy a gun.”19

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    Dc; so a politician should just say, polls show the majority are for control, so, as a representative,  I am for control. It seems to be what the people want.

    Avoid a fight, just aquiesce, end of story.

    The gun control paradox properly understood is: Why do Americans who want strict gun control not mobilize, in large numbers in a sustained way, to get it?

    Dc: because a few mobilized have more energy than many who nly care a little? His argeguemnts are comprehensive, and can be studied when thinking about any issue of change, like private property or innerst rates!

    The gun control case serves as a cautionary tale. The Founding Fathers meant for political reform to be slow and difficult. Movements that adapt their strategies to that reality will expand; movements that do not adapt will falter.

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    Mind the Gap

    Democratic voters have unambiguously repudiated the Bush doctrine. The same can’t be said for Democratic foreign policy elites.

    Kenneth “Threatening Storm” Pollack, who recently co-wrote a piece in The Washington Post

    The Pollack-Byman strategy “requires Americans to endure significant long-term costs — in both blood and treasure — in Iraq.” The authors look at history and admit that, given historical experience, we could be looking at 20 years of intervention in Iraq. Twenty years.

    And it isn’t just Pollack and Byman. The Democratic Leadership Council has a big enough tent to house Marshall Wittman, the former John McCain staffer who spends time urging Hillary Clinton to “move to the right of the Bush administration on Iran,” and wondering, in the context of that country, “When does containment become appeasement?” General Wesley Clark, another top Democratic foreign policy thinker, stated in a speech at New England College earlier this year that he opposes starting to leave Iraq until “stability” is achieved and the Sunnis and Shi’a are at peace.

    The haze of World War III delirium surrounding the Bush administration and its ideological supporters is making reality-based right-wingers squirm. Independents are clearly in play for the Democrats. And Democratic voters themselves, of course, call out for meaningful change every time they get the chance. The danger is that casting a ballot for a Dem in ’08 will yield a reheated, squishier version of the Bush doctrine, applied via people like Kenneth Pollack.

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    The Militarization of the American Language

        By Vicki Gray

        t r u t h o u t | Perspective

       One danger of military newspeak is that it conditions the mental muscles in much the same way that video games do – to react instinctively, violently to perceived threats. Enemies are not to be understood or reasoned with. They are to be bombed – killed – as quickly as possible. No questions, no regrets.

      Huntington’s is a truly dangerous book, a sort of Mein Kampf for the GWOT. Written in the mid-nineties, when the military-industrial complex was searching for a new “enemy” to replace the collapsed Soviet Union, it depicts the by-definition culturally superior West in a “civilizational war” with Islam and, to a lesser degree, China. All is black and white, life and death, kill or be killed … good and evil. No need for nuance. No need for understanding beyond “they” are bad, we are good. Simple minds latched on to such simplicity as an explanation for all the bad happenings in the world, missing even Huntington’s recognition of the causative tension between modernization and fundamentalism.

    And take our easy acceptance as “robust” such phrases as “regime change” and “pre-emptive war,” un-American phrases that have found their way into the pages of the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Take also the president’s embrace of so offensive a term as “Islamo-Fascist,” a term popularized by a hate-mongering talk show host and softened only to Islamist-Fascist in the president’s mouth. Does he know how that sounds in the Middle East? Does he care? I doubt it. For in the closed mind of our Decider, there is no need to understand or talk with our growing number of real and potential enemies in the Middle East. Iran? Syria? No need to talk with them. “They know what they have to do.” We’ve told them.

        And, if they don’t do what we’ve told them? In our militarized lexicon, they’ll “suffer the consequences.” We’ll bomb them. We’ll kill them. We know how to do that. That’s all we know any more. Trouble is, we can no longer follow through on our threats. It’s time to stow the “newspeak” and to start speaking truth to our friends, our enemies, and, above all, to ourselves.


    Vicki Gray, a retired Foreign Service Officer, served as Director for Northern Europe in the Department of State and as International Cooperation Director at EPA.

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    Jihad in Islamic History:

    Doctrines and Practice

    Michael Bonner

    Islam arose in an environment where warfare—or at any rate, armed violence with some degree of organization and planning— was a characteristic of everyday life. Even if it often amounted to little more than livestock-rustling, its threat was never far away,

    I portray the origins of jihad as a series of events, covering all of the broad extent of Islamic history. Of course, I only have room for a few representative instances. However, I hope to show that many people have used the notion of jihad creatively in the construction of new Islamic societies and states. For this they have employed a shared idiom, derived from the Quran, from the various narratives of origins, from the classical doctrine of jihad, and from their own shared experience. However, their ways of doing this, and the Islamic societies they have constructed, have been quite diverse: not mere repetitions or reenactments of the first founding moment but new foundations arising in a wide variety of circumstances.

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    Dc: and perhaps is related to the psychology of sacrifice as part of the process of life. Baudrillard on reigion. If you want some good backgrund, here is a text fo careul study leading ot the conclusion that all is more complex and unintegrated, than we think.


    Germany and U.K. narrowly escaped major attacks

    By Stefan Nicola

    Rolf Tophoven, Germany’s leading terrorism expert, spoke with United Press International’s Berlin correspondent Stefan Nicola about the recent incidents in Europe and what can be done to prevent similar attacks.

    Well, who ever believed that Germany was not in the gridlock of terrorism was naive. We have a new threat situation since Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks in Madrid and London were perceived as signals of terror against the participation of both countries in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But because of several reasons, Germany has always been a target, despite the refusal of the former government to take part in that war: We have soldiers in Afghanistan, we have navy soldiers taking part in the Mission Enduring Freedom at the Horn of Africa, and we are members of the alliance to fight terror, and cooperate in that field with many countries all over the world. Maybe we are not the number one on the terrorism hit list, but we are not ignored. All the above reasons are enough for terrorists to choose Germany as their target.

    also strongly support the swift implementation of an anti-terror file, one that not only contains vague details but gives a complete image of an Islamist. Those are the things that make most sense right now. And above all, now is the time for intelligence strategists to come forward. You need good intelligence to fight terrorism.

    Tophoven: At least, since 9/11, they know much more about Islamist terrorism. They can differentiate between the peaceful religion of Islam and the perversion of radical groups that use Islam as a justification for terrorist acts. But international intelligence cooperation can surely be improved. Especially in light of the dislocated structures of terrorism, the many small and smallest cells, which seem to spread like metastases, it is very difficult to guarantee successful access. Often, cell A does not know what cell B plans. So the fight against these groups is becoming increasingly difficult.

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    Let’s be Realists, Let’s Demand the Impossible!

    Why pragmatic politics are doomed to fail in the Middle East

    By Slavoj Zizek

    Let’s try a mental experiment and imagine that, instead of Lebanese women and children, the human shields used by Hezbollah were Israeli women and children. Would the IDF still consider the price affordable and continue the bombing? If the answer is “no,” then the IDF is effectively practicing racism, determining that Jewish life has more value than Arab life.

    The problem courted by Israel in its continuous display of power is that this display will be soon perceived as a sign of its opposite, of impotence. This paradox of power is known to anyone who has had to play the role of paternal authority: In order to retain its force, power has to remain virtual, a threat of power.

    Many political theorists, from Blaise Pascal to Immanuel Kant to Joseph de Maistre, have elaborated on the ways in which nation-states have manufactured heroic national mythologies to replace and ultimately erase their “foundational crimes,” i.e. the illegitimate political violence necessary for their creation. With regard to this notion, it is true what has often been said: The misfortune of Israel is that it was established as a nation-state a century too late, in conditions when such “founding crimes” are no longer acceptable (and—ultimate irony—it was the intellectual influence of Jews that contributed to the rise of this unacceptability!).

    One would automatically attribute it to an Islamic terrorist group and condemn it. The author, however, is none other than Menachem Begin, in the years when Hagannah was fighting the British forces in Palestine. It is interesting to note how, in the years of the Jewish struggle against the British military in Palestine, the very term “terrorist” had a positive connotation. Today, amid Dershowitz’s acrobatic rationalizations, it is almost heartening to look back at the first generation of Israeli leaders, who openly confessed that their claims to the land of Palestine cannot be grounded in universal justice, that we are dealing with a simple war of conquest between two groups where no mediation is possible. Here is what David Ben-Gurion wrote:

    Everyone can see the weight of the problems in the relations between Arabs and Jews. But no one sees that there is no solution to these problems. There is no solution! Here is an abyss, and nothing can link its two sides … We as a people want this land to be ours; the Arabs as a people want this land to be theirs.

    This is why the way Simon Wiesenthal approached this problem in Justice, not Vengeance appears today deeply problematic:

    One should finally take cognizance of the fact that one cannot found a state without curtailing the rights of those who were already settled at this territory. One should be satisfied with the fact that the violations were limited in that a relatively small number of people was hurt. This is how it was when the state of Israel was founded. Eventually the Jewish population lived there for a long time, while the Palestinians were, in comparison with the Jewish one, sparsely settled and had great opportunities to withdraw. That is to say, the continually victorious state of Israel cannot forever rely on the sympathies that the world accords to victims.

    What Wiesenthal is advocating here is nothing else than “state-founding violence with a human face,” with “limited violations.” (As to the comparative sparsity of settlers, the population of the Palestinian territory in 1880 was 24,000 Jews versus 300,000 Palestinians.) However, the truly interesting part of this passage is the last sentence: Its only consistent reading is that now that Israel is “continually victorious,” it no longer needs to behave like a victim, but can fully assert its force—true, insofar as one doesn’t forget to add that this power also involves new responsibilities. That is to say, the problem is that Israel, while “continually victorious,” still relies on the image of Jews as victims to legitimize its power politics (and to denounce its critics as closet anti-Semites).

    Arthur Koestler, the great anti-Communist convert proposed a profound insight: “If power corrupts, the reverse is also true; persecution corrupts the victims, though perhaps in subtler and more tragic ways.” Cécile Winter recently proposed along these lines a nice mental experiment: Imagine the state of Israel, as it has developed over the last half century, without the history of Jewish suffering as a rationale for its policies. It would be a standard story of colonization. So why should we, as Alain Badiou proposes, abstract the Holocaust from our judgments about Israel’s actions toward Palestinians? Not because one can compare the two, but precisely because the Holocaust was an incomparably worse crime. It is those who evoke the Holocaust who effectively manipulate it, making it an instrument for today’s political uses. The very need to evoke the Holocaust in defense of Israel’s actions implies that its crimes are so horrible that only the absolute trump-card of the Holocaust can redeem them.

    The big mystery apropos of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is: Why does it persist for so long when everybody knows the only viable solution?—the withdrawal of the Israelis from the West Bank and Gaza, the establishment of a Palestinian state, as well as some kind of a compromise concerning Jerusalem. There is effectively something of a neurotic symptom in the Middle East conflict—everyone sees the way to get rid of the obstacle, and yet, nonetheless, no one wants to remove it, as if there is some kind of pathological libidinal profit gained by persisting in the deadlock.

    So what would be the truly radical ethico-political act today in the Middle East? For both Israelis and Arabs, it would be to renounce the (political) control of Jerusalem—that is, to endorse the transformation of the Old Town of Jerusalem into an extra-state place of religious worship controlled (temporarily) by some neutral international force. What both sides should accept is that, by renouncing the political control of Jerusalem, they are effectively renouncing nothing—they are gaining the elevation of Jerusalem into a genuinely sacred site. What they would lose is only what already deserves to be lost: the reduction of religion to a stake in political power plays.

    Dc: limp conclusion, what of security in such a place, a non issue?

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    Borderlands journal of the humanities cross discipline… for example.

    Live and Let Die: Colonial Sovereignties

    and the Death Worlds of Necrocapitalism

    Subhabrata Bobby Banerjee

    University of South Australia

    In this paper I develop the concept of necrocapitalism by discussing contemporary forms of organizational accumulation that involve dispossession and the subjugation of life to the power of death. Drawing on the works of Agamben (1998, 2005) and Mbembe (2003) I discuss how some contemporary capitalist practices contribute to this subjugation of life. I discuss some ideological formations of necrocapitalist practices and examine what kind of social relations are disrupted and destroyed as a result of these practices. I discuss the organization and management of global violence and explore the rise of the privatized military and its use in the so-called war on terror.


    30. To return to the questions I posed at the beginning of the paper: a theory of necrocapitalism requires us to pay attention to the specific colonial capitalist practices that result in the subjugation of life to the power of death. These are the practices that manage and organize global violence by privatizing sovereignty and creating states of exception that enable accumulation by dispossession and death. Debord (1995) described capitalism as an accumulation of spectacles, not just an accumulation of images, but a ‘social relation among people, mediated by images’. The society of the spectacle represents an image of the world in which the forms of the state and the economy are interwoven and ‘where the economy achieves the status of absolute and irresponsible sovereignty over all social life….. where everything can be called into question except the spectacle itself which as such says nothing but “what appears is good, what is good appears”‘ (Agamben, 1993: 79). A critical theoretical approach must necessarily create a space for challenging necrocapitalist practices. The ideology of neoliberal market fundamentalism is so prevalent that it has almost become immune to empirical disconfirmation where the nexus of governments and corporations leave no room for a no-war zone. New theoretical perspectives are required to rethink the relationship between the economy, the polity and society as alternatives to necrocapitalist practices. Perhaps the questions asked by the African novelist Ayi Kwei Armah provide us with a fitting beginning to these challenges:

    Bobby Banerjee is Professor of Strategic Management and Director of Research at the International Graduate School of Business, University of South Australia. He is attempting to create states of exception that enable critical reflection in business schools.


    Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Agamben, G. (1993). The coming community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Agamben, G. (2005). State of exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Berle, A. & Means G. (1932). The modern corporation and private property. New York: Macmillan.

    Benjamin, W. (1978). Critique and violence. In Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. Trans. E. Jephcott. New York: Schocken Books.

    Boggs, C. (1997). The great retreat: Decline of the public sphere in late twentieth-century America. Theory and Society, 26: 741-780.

    Debord, G. (1995). The society of the spectacle. London: Zone Books.

    Doyle, M. (1986). Empires. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Dutt, R. (1970). India today. New Delhi: Navjivan Press.

    Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: selected interviews and other writings. New York: Pantheon.

    Gregory, D. (2004). The colonial present . Oxford Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

    Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Hertz, N. (2001). The silent takeover: Global capitalism and the death of democracy. London: Arrow.

    Iraq Body Count (2006). Accessed July 10, 2006.

    Katz, W. (2006). A time to look over President Wilson’s shoulder. Accessed July 10, 2006.

    Luttwak, E. (1999). Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and losers in the global economy. London: Orion Books.

    Marx, K. (1867). Capital: A critique of political economy: Volume 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Harmondsworth (1976).

    Mbembe, A. (2003). Necropolitics. Public Culture, 15 (1): 11-40.

    McKelvey, T. (2005). Torture Inc. Scenes, September/October.

    Mir, A. & Mir, R. (2006). Anthems of resistance: A celebration of progressive Urdu poetry. New Delhi: Roli Books.

    Montag, W. (2005). Necro-economics: Adam Smith and death in the life of the universal. Radical Philosophy, 134: 7-17.

    Neucleous, M. (2005). The political economy of the dead: Marx’s vampires. History of Political Thought, 24 (4): 668-684.

    Ong, A. (2005). Graduated sovereignty in South East Asia. In J.X. Inda (Ed.) Anthropologies of modernity: Foucault, governmentality and life politics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

    Perera, S. (2002). What is a camp? Borderlands e-journal, 1 (1).

    Phinney, D. (2005). Blood, sweat & tears: Asia’s poor build U.S. bases in Iraq. . Accessed July 10, 2006.

    Pugliese, J. (2006). Asymmetries of terror: Visual regimes of racial profiling and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the context of the war in Iraq. Borderlands e-journal, 5 (1).

    Said, E. (1993). Culture and imperialism. London: Vintage.

    Schmitt, C. (1985). Political theology: Four chapters on the concept of sovereignty . Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Shiva, V. (2001). Protect or Plunder: Understanding Intellectual Property Rights. London: Zed Books.

    Singer, P.W. (2004). Corporate warriors and the rise of the privatised military industry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Smith, A. (1986). The theory of moral sentiments. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

    USA Today (2005). Pat Robertson calls for assassination of Hugo Chavez. Accessed July 10, 2006.

    Williams, R. (1976). Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana Press.

    Wood, E.M. (2003). A manifesto for global capital? In G. Balakrishnan (Ed.) Debating empire. London: Verso Books.

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    The American seen

    Stein Ringen

    Claus Offe


    Tocqueville, Weber and Adorno in the United States

    Translated by Patrick Camiller

    What outside observers have always seen, writes Offe, is “the precariousness of liberty in capitalist societies”. Today, of course, there is deep concern over the destiny of freedom, and not only in the United States, but that concern is as old as is the republic of liberty.

    That similarity breaks down when we get to Offe’s own reflections on the United States in the twenty-first century. So much has changed that an inclusive transatlantic concept of “the West” hardly applies any longer. The US has become “distinctive”, and the comparative curiosity of Offe’s predecessors is no longer meaningful. Offe’s reflections then turn away from the American social model to America the world power.

    Tocqueville was a radical democrat. He deplored the backwardness of Europe, specifically France in his case, and admired America for its “almost complete equality of condition”. By equality, he meant the absence of aristocratic hereditary political rights. For most contemporary Europeans, that was tantamount to anarchy and mob rule, but in America Tocqueville saw democratic order. Europe’s difficulty with democracy, he concluded, had nothing to do with democracy as such, but with the transition to democracy, a difficulty America had been spared because it was created as democratic.

    Dc: we face the problem of “transition” here in the US, to redo the economy.

    While political equality itself contains no threat to liberty, order or stability, this is not so with “extreme equality”, by which Tocqueville meant equality in economic life. The trouble here is that once people set their minds to equality in this sense, that passion becomes insatiable and the smallest difference proves the greatest annoyance. Dire consequences then threaten. Governments will be asked to provide and regulate ever more, and we are on the way to despotism, or “soft despotism”, as Tocqueville called it. Community disintegrates under the force of acquisitive individualism, and we sink into a culture of greed, conformity and a flattening of tastes.

    Like Tocqueville he was fascinated by what he saw, and developed an almost childlike admiration for the Americans he met, their customs and way of life – in particular their associational life which, echoing Tocqueville, he thought of as producing a “magic of freedom” that maintains liberty in spite of the odds. The visit was so invigorating for him personally that the experience pulled him out of a near-debilitating depression.

    Weber was a deeply pessimistic student of modernity. His ambition was to explain the meaning and consequences of “occidental rationalism”. In Europe, specifically Germany in his case, he believed those consequences were mainly negative: bureaucratization, depersonalization and a flattening of life, so that freedom was available only to a privileged minority. He now needed to fit America into that theory. That proved difficult. He found social life there to be lively and free. For example, this son of the European university establishment found that the American universities outshone those of the old world in creativity and free education. His solution, while making many of the same observations as Tocqueville, was to turn the interpretation of trends upside down. For Tocqueville, America was advanced and represented the future Europe should aspire to; for Weber it was raw and backward in not having yet subjected life to “rational bureaucratization”. That backwardness was America’s good luck, but the luck could not last. America was doomed to catch up with Europe, and all the magic of associational life Weber saw there would come to an end.

    Unlike both Tocqueville and Weber, Adorno did not see the pressure for conformity as a mere threat, but as something actually happening. This was at the core of his great contribution to sociological theory, that of “the culture industry”.

    What is the destiny of freedom and is it better protected in the American or the European social model? Are we excessive in our demand for equality, and if so what follows? The state is both necessary for and dangerous to freedom; how do we find the balance? Is culture, now a huge sector of economic growth, an industry of manipulation? Is there a social architecture between the individual and the state or was Margaret Thatcher right that there is no such thing as society?

    the European model is more state and less voluntarism, the American model less state and more voluntarism. Which serves the cause of liberty best?

    Egalitarians today tend to think of it in distributional terms. The classics saw it as a matter of rights and liberty, and warned against reducing the great idea of equality to a quest for goods. Their challenge, translated to present day conditions, is this: are propenents of the European social model obsessed with little inequalities at the cost of ignoring the big ones? As an egalitarian, I am uneasy about not being able to dismiss that question.

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    The Retreat of Reason: A Dilemma in the Philosophy of Life

    Ingmar Persson, The Retreat of Reason: A Dilemma in the Philosophy of Life, Oxford University Press, 2005, 494pp., $99.00 (hbk), ISBN 0199276900.

    Reviewed by Jonas Olson, Brasenose College, University of Oxford

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    Overly wordy and acceting of a narro frame of discussion.


    The British Moralists on Human Nature and the Birth of Secular Ethics

    Michael B. Gill

    University of Arizona

    Uncovering the historical roots of naturalistic, secular contemporary ethics, Michael Gill shows how the British moralists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries completed a Copernican revolution in moral philosophy. They effected a shift from thinking of morality as independent of human nature to thinking of it as part of human nature itself. He also shows how the British Moralists – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes by design – disengaged ethical thinking, first from distinctly Christian ideas and then from theistic commitments altogether. Examining in detail the arguments of Whichcote, Cudworth, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson against Calvinist conceptions of original sin and egoistic conceptions of human motivation, Gill also demonstrates how Hume combined the ideas of earlier British moralists with his own insights to produce an account of morality and human nature that undermined some of his predecessors’ most deeply held philosophical goals.


    Introduction; Part I. Whichcote and cudworth: 1. The negative answer of English Calvinism; 2. Whichcote and Cudworth’s positive answer; 3 Whichcote and Cudworth on religious liberty; 4. Rationalism, sentimentalism, and Ralph Cudworth; 5. The emergence of non-Christian ethics; Part II. Shaftesbury: 6. Shaftesbury and the Cambridge Platonists; 7. Shaftesbury’s Inquiry: a misanthropic faith in human nature; 8. The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody; 9. A philosophical faultline; Part III. Hutcheson: 10. Early influences on Francis Hutcheson; 11. Hutcheson’s attack on egoism; 12. Hutcheson’s attack on moral rationalism; 13. A Copernican positive answer, an attenuated moral realism; 14. Explaining away vice; Part IV. Hume: 15. David Hume’s new ‘science of man’; 16. Hume’s arguments against moral rationalism; 17. Hume’s associative moral sentiments; 18. Hume’s progressive view of human nature; 19. Comparison and contingency in Hume’s moral account; 20. What is a Humean account, and what difference does it make?

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    And, for Garden world.

    From deforestation to the art of topiary, humans have a long history of altering their environments. But our environments, say scientists at Arizona State Univeristy, may also change us.

    In a multi-year project called the “The North Desert Village Landscaping Experiment,” researchers transformed 24 identical family housing units on the Arizona State University campus in the Sonoran Desert, creating five mini-neighborhoods, each with a different landscape style. The multidisciplinary project, encompassing everything from sociology to ecology, allows scientists to observe how people’s behaviors and attitudes vary in response to different environmental characteristics.

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    Dc: Striking how small scale the differences are. Compare to the great issues in architecture.


    One Hundred Semesters:

    My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way

    William M. Chace

    A witness of higher education for that half-century, I continue to find the American campus an attractive and even a good place. Most informed people believe that American higher education is the best the world has to offer. They are right. Our colleges and universities might also be the best of America’s achievements. Inventive, responsive, energetic, and endlessly productive, they are the cynosure of the world and a tribute to the possibilities of the human mind. I champion them and, in this book, offer an enthusiastic defense of them. But I also find, and report on, things about them to lament.

    My praise is mixed with descriptions of some tough problems they face. The best schools are too expensive, and only a tiny fraction of the young people who could benefit from them even apply to them, much less gain admission to them. Those who arrive on most campuses do not now find what once was the mission of America’s best colleges and universities: a commitment to the kind of moral development that produces an informed and responsible citizenry. That kind of education, to which I was introduced decades ago at little Haverford College, is now in danger of being lost. It is sinking beneath the waves of faculty neglect, administrative busyness, preprofessional frenzy on the part of students, and the depressing uncertainty on almost every campus about what moral development might even mean. But it is what some parents want their children to have, and it is a realm of learning that no other entity in the country is prepared to provide. That the nation’s best schools cannot, or will not, provide it is profoundly lamentable.

    Dc: actually sad

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Today’s august 30

August 31, 2006 § Leave a comment

Mexico City as hint of world economy and politics. Scene setting, weep.

Angrily Awaiting a Messiah

John Ross

Mexico City

The US media seem to have forgotten about the imbroglio just south of its border. Nonetheless, the phone rings and it’s New York telling me they just got a call from their man on the border who said Homeland Security is beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of upheaval further south. The phone rings again and it’s California telling me they just heard on Air America radio that US Navy patrols were being dispatched to safeguard Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-wing daily La Jornada runs a citizen-snapped photo of army convoys carrying soldiers disguised as farmers and young toughs.

Although AMLO’s reps in the counting rooms came up with gobs of evidence–violated ballot boxes, stolen or stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other bizarre anomalies–only La Jornada saw fit to mention them. The silence of the Mexican media and their accomplices in the international press in respect to the Great Fraud is deafening–although they manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on López Obrador for tying up Mexico City traffic.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always functioned best as an opposition party. With notable exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes government, it collapses into corruption and internecine bickering, and behaves just as arrogantly as the PAN and the PRI.

Seven weeks after the July 2 electoral debacle, Mexico finds itself at a dangerously combustible conjunction in which the tiny white elite here is about to impose its will upon a largely brown and impoverished populace to whom the political parties and process grow more irrelevant each day. “¡No Pasarán!” the people cry out. But to whom and what they are alluding to remains to be defined.

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rough notes aug 29

August 30, 2006 § Leave a comment



“Korea’s Future Lies With China, Not the U.S.”

Sunny Lee

OhmyNews International

Seoul, South Korea

August 24, 2006

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In East Asia, America just wants to maintain its hegemonic order. The U.S. has little regard for stability, prosperity and common development in the region. The main reason is that essentially the U.S. itself isn’t located in the region. On the other hand, China pays closer attention to these issues than the U.S. does.

In the Korean peninsula, the U.S. wants to maintain the status quo. China is different. The U.S. doesn’t want to see economic cooperation between China and North Korea, either. China, on the other hand, wants the two Koreas to improve their relationship because China believes doing so would also benefit itself. But the U.S. doesn’t want to see this [improvement].

Besides, the U.S. is behind Japan’s becoming not just an economic power, but now also its growing military might.

American support of Japan to become a military power gravely damages the interests of South Korea and China. A newly-armed Japan’s target of aggression will first be Korea, and then China. There is a clear difference of interest between China and America on it. Choosing America, South Korea will merely become its scapegoat.

Practically, Japan’s military power is number two in the world, after that of the U.S. Then, America’s “no engagement” will encourage the hawkish politicians in Japan to be more aggressive toward Korea.

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The real thing

Aug 24th 2006

From The Economist print edition

Sunita Narain, an Indian environmentalist, has dented two of the world’s glossiest brands

For some foreign firms the controversy illustrates much that is troublesome about doing business in India’s argumentative democracy. On this view, CSE, a small, 100-strong outfit led by the articulate and charismatic Ms Narain, wields a disproportionate influence. It is able to do so by tapping the deep vein of Indian suspicion of globalisation in general and of big multinationals in particular. What better exemplifies the evils of Coca-Colanisation, say protectionists, than cola itself? It is sweet, alluring and rather glamorous. But not only does it make you fat and rot your teeth—it turns out to be poisonous, too. There is even a Bollywood film, “Corporate”, inspired by CSE’s cola battles.

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Social Europe

What is a ‘Social Europe’?

Tuesday 22 August 2006 – Jon Worth

In light of the French and Dutch no votes on the European Constitution, calls for a ‘Social Europe’ became ever stronger. Yet what does this term actually mean? And how might a ‘Social Europe’ actually be achieved?

First and foremost, is ‘Social Europe’ synonymous with Social Policy and/or Welfare Policy, or might it mean something else? If we are talking of EU Social Policy, we must start by discussing money. Social policy is expensive, very expensive.

More than 40% of GNI (Gross National Income) in the EU is in the hands of the public sector. Only 1% of GNI is committed to the EU budget, some €100 billion per year. The Department of Work & Pensions, the UK ministry responsible for most aspects of social policy, alone has a budget of £115 billion (€186 billion) per year!

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Dc: keeping people in the market, rather than in attractive living places where they can take leisure and hobby energy prevents a continual employment in making the world beautiful.

Simply put, a Social Europe might well be defined as the antithesis to a raw free-market Europe; while the EU might not make traditional social policy of its own accord, it must ensure it does not seek to damage important aspects of social protection that remain national competences. In addition, the EU might in the short term be able to carve out additional niche areas where it can play a social policy role, but do not have any expectations (or wish?) for anything major.

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Dc: it is hard to break out of the box of “social” meaning dealing with the direct consequences of the economy. These issues are not yet emerging.

Back with a splash

By Harry Eyres

Published: August 26 2006 03:00 | Last updated: August 26 2006 03:00

One of the most depressing and telling sights of the 1980s was the derelict West Ham Lido in east London boarded up and closed to swimmers in the sweltering summer of 1989, while a poster stuck to the entrance advertised TWA flights to Miami, urging locals to “strip off this winter”. In the same year the lidos at London’s Kennington Park, Southwark Park and Victoria Park were demolished. Brockwell Lido in south London (now back in action) was mothballed. It seemed that lidos – open-air swimming pools with ample sun-bathing surrounds often set in parkland – were as dead as the dodo or as dated as men’s one-piece swimsuits or cinema organs.

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Dc: another sign for gardenworld

What is being revived and rediscovered is not just something to do with health and exercise (important as these are) but part of the cultural and communal fabric. According to Simon Inglis, editor of the Played in Britain series of books for English Heritage, lidos are a vital example of “non­commercialised public space. As public space recedes everywhere and commerciality intrudes into every crevice of recreational life, lidos provide a genuine haven, where you’re not bombarded with messages urging you to buy things. They are places to linger and provide benefits for the physical, mental and spiritual life of the nation.”

Building new pools certainly seems to make more sense than destroying old ones. Surely the preservation of lidos should be a concern not just for local government but for central government too. A lido revival would bring together government aims and commitments to make us all fitter and leaner, to achieve community inclusion and to reduce carbon emissions.

All this makes the continued reluctance of (Lottery-backed) Sport England to support outdoor pools seem unpardonably blinkered. The days of cheap sun, sea and sand holidays might be numbered as climate change renders displacement to the Mediterranean (itself a source of carbon emissions) unnecessary. According to some predictions the British climate will soon be attracting tourists fleeing the unbearable heat of southern-European summers.

Once the resort of those who could not afford foreign holidays, lidos now bring together a more varied community. As one swimmer quoted in Liquid Assetsremarks: “When people swim together on a regular basis, a bond develops. They share things when they are at the pool and are concerned for each other when the pool closes.”

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French Crisis, Left Crisis: Report by a Compromised Social Democrat

By Mitchell Cohen

Paris: The first thing I noted on arriving here at the New Year was the number of homeless in an especially cold winter.

Many newspapers reported that protestors knew what they were against but not what they were for. What policies would actually alleviate unemployment? Could France sustain its social protections in the “globalizing age”? There seemed to be few answers and just a little of the spirit of ’68.

At the end of March, Le Monde reported that 63 percent of the population opposed the law. Nonetheless, Chirac and Villepin complained that it would be “anti-democratic” to rescind it because it had been passed by a duly elected legislature. But if a bill mobilizes so much antagonism to it and polls show two-thirds of the citizenry are opposed, “democracy” becomes a feeble justification for going forward, especially when the bill’s point man, the prime minister, has never been elected to the many offices he has held (foreign minister, interior minister, and general secretary of the president’s office).

And Chirac barely reached 20 percent in the first round. French voters then took the sole sober option when faced with a runoff between Chirac and Le Pen.

A poll in February showed that 57 percent of the French thought anti-Semitism was rising in their society. In reality, anti-Semitic attacks in 2005 fell to half those of the preceding year, due in part to vigorous government efforts. Both Chirac and Villepin made a point of attending Halimi’s funeral.

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Many commentators, especially in the United States, explained the CPE-conflict through a neoliberal narrative that goes something like this: The world has changed and France refuses to “adjust.” The French are “coddled” by the state. Social protections are “too generous.” Employment regulations are too “rigid.” This discourages foreign investment. Unions are always striking. Growth is inhibited. No wonder there is a long-standing unemployment problem. (Ten percent of the population is unemployed, including a quarter of the youth, with numbers going up to 50 percent in poor banlieues.) A poll in March revealed that only 36 percent of the French think “the free market” is the best economic system in contrast to 71 percent of Americans, 66 percent of the British, and 65 percent of Germans. Imagine that!

Here are some things unmentioned in the preceding précis. The Paris Bourse (stock market) reached its highest point in five years in March 2006. France’s top forty companies reported record profits in early 2006, up 50 percent since 2004 (The Economist, April 1, 2006). France is the fifth richest country in the world and somehow managed to achieve that rank with social protections. Direct foreign investment is at 42 percent of GDP, six percentage points higher than in Tony Blair’s Britain. In fact, the country loses few days to strikes, and French workers are more productive per hour than their American and British counterparts

But something is stirring. An “intellectual atelier” of academics and intellectuals, mostly in their thirties and early forties, met in Grenoble in May to prompt a public conversation based on “New Social Criticism.” In addition to official participants, some eight thousand people came over several days to hear the meetings, which were initiated by “The Republic of Ideas,” an intellectual network fostered by historian Pierre Rosenvallon, and “The Solidarity Activist Association.” Roundtables debated a wide range of issues: To what extent are France’s multiple crises reflections of the general problems of Western democracies and to what extent specifically French? How has French society been reshaped by social differences and tensions beyond class? To what extent has the current education system or unequal access to culture shaped the country’s current malaise? How can a new conversation—one with practical consequences—engage a generation that grew up after—rather than through—upheavals like Algeria and 1968? The debates that once animated the left were absent from these deliberations, at least from the reports I read. Nobody quarreled about who was an authentic leftist and who a treacherous social democrat. Le Monde gave six pages of coverage to the atelier. A week earlier Le Nouvel Observateur’s cover story was about young “intellos” who “want to change the left.” The article had a People magazine quality to it; still, it indicated desire for new thinking within France’s gloom.

The Popular Front government of 1936 was, for the French, “100 Days that changed our life,” as a well-timed cover story about it proclaimed in Le Nouvel Observateur just after the CPE was withdrawn. It was led by Léon Blum, who rebuilt the French Socialist movement after three-quarters of its members joined the French Communist Party in 1920. Blum believed that democratic commitment had to animate socialist pursuit of an egalitarian society. A speech he delivered to a socialist congress in 1926 showed how. He addressed an old argument within the French (but not only the French) left: should socialists, who aim to transform society, enter government within a “bourgeois” order? Blum opposed “participation in power,” that is, just sharing government responsibilities. He was for the “exercise of power,” that is, serving in government if socialists could initiate far-reaching reforms to point a new social direction. He contrasted both these to “the conquest of power,” which meant achieving an overwhelming popular mandate to revolutionize society.

The Popular Front “exercised” power after an electoral victory by a coalition of socialists, radicals, and communists (the latter did not enter the government, preferring credit without responsibility). As Blum became prime minister, strikes spread throughout France, and he was able to use their pressure to extract concessions: workers received a 12 percent raise and paid holidays for the first time, a forty-hour work week and collective bargaining were established, state control was extended over the arms industry and the Bank of France. These “Matignon Accords” (named for the prime minister’s residence) pointed France in a new social direction that continued, reconstructed and with modifications, for decades after the war. That achievement is, finally, neoliberalism’s nemesis because it began to socialize citizenship.

IN FACT, Blum pressed social transformation about as far as any democrat could in the circumstances. Adam Przeworski pointed out in his 1986 study Capitalism and Social Democracy that Marx’s working class, the industrial proletariat, never made up more than about 40 percent of Western societies. Its status as a universal class—society’s inevitable vast majority and incarnation of transcendent interests—was ascribed. It was never a reality, even if support for its (differentiated) interests did push Western societies toward more social egalitarianism and democracy. Without more agile notions of history, social structures, and change, the left—or at least part of it—was fated to be the proponent of a social minority to which it imputed universalistic aspirations and of a long-term agenda that could never be enacted in a democratic framework.[2]

The alternative was alliances and social democratic compromise.

The phrase “social democrat” was first used in a derogatory way by Marx himself in writings on the French revolutions of 1848–1851. (Lenin made it an epithet, only to be bested by Stalin’s claim that “objectively social democracy is the moderate wing of fascism.”) Marx criticized the French “Demosocs” (“Democratic Socialists”) led by Louis Blanc for their inter-class alliance with “petty bourgeois” democratic republicans.

Social egalitarianism was furthered in Western societies only because of the compromising politics he rejected; it was due to social democrats’ trying to socialize democratic republics. Blum’s exercise of power in 1936 is the outstanding example. True, it never led—and never could have led—to “the conquest of power.” But Leninist alternatives produced only catastrophes. After the 1960s, some left theorists idealized “new social movements,” but these have proven to be relatively limited in scope and impact. Today’s “anti-globalization left” relies on jumbled ideas, which received expression intellectually in works like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire or in outmoded but postmodernized Trotskyism-cum-third-worldism.

But the “exercise of power” rested on the state, and the state’s role—and the project of socializing democratic republics—is now in question as a result of globalization. That is why France’s crisis under the neo-Gaullists is also the left’s crisis.

It might have been useful for France’s governors and especially the Socialists to read a recent pamphlet on “Sweden’s New Social Democratic Model” published by “Compass,” a London-based intellectual project that seeks to prepare the British Labour Party for a post-Blair era. Its author, Robert Taylor, urges that attention be paid to how Swedish Social Democrats have coped with globalization. Sweden’s welfare state was originally the product of a triangular relation among an efficient private sector, a vigorous trade union movement, and an “enlightened state” (dominated by the Social Democrats). It ran into difficulties in the 1970s, but in the next decades Social Democrats pursued “modernization through consensus.” They adapted to the changing environment and, in fact, conceded a certain amount of economic liberalization, but also maintained social solidarity as the regulative idea of politics. Growth and worker productivity have remained strong in Sweden since the mid-1990s.

“Flexibility” and solidarity were linked. But there was a social prerequisite: 85 percent of Swedish workers are in unions.

Mitchell Cohen, co-editor of Dissent, has been in Paris in 2006. He teaches political theory at Baruch College, CUNY.

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None of us knows enough about others..


A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

By Beppe Severgnini

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Everything is personal and open to discussion. As a result, Italy totters along in a state of amiable chaos, its situation desperate but not serious, which is more or less the way Italians like it, those in charge and those, in principle, being led. “Controllers and controlled have an unspoken agreement,” Mr. Severgnini writes. “You don’t change, we don’t change, and Italy doesn’t change, but we all complain that we can’t go on like this.”

There is one rule, by the way, that cannot be violated. It is wrong, and possibly illegal, to order a cappuccino after 10 a.m. This is worse than eating pizza in the middle of the day. It is nonnegotiable. Discussion over. Rosso pieno.

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With the failure of the United States and Israel to achieve decisive victories in Iraq and Lebanon, the age of Western military dominance in the Middle East appears

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By Andrew J. Bacevich  |  August 27, 2006

EVER SINCE BRITAIN AND FRANCE overthrew Ottoman rule in World War I to create the modern Middle East, Western nations have relied on unquestioned military superiority to secure their position in the region. Between the world wars, European imperialists ruthlessly employed firepower to crush nationalist uprisings. After World War II, as the United States supplanted Europe, American military power underwrote the oil-for-protection bargain forged with Saudi Arabia and eventually made Washington the ultimate guarantor of regional stability. When Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had the temerity to challenge American primacy in 1990, the outcome served only to affirm US military preeminence.

That Israel was itself a Western implant and that it relied increasingly on weapons with a “Made in the USA” label seemed further proof of Western military superiority.

Not that Arabs had hesitated to contest that superiority. Beginning with Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and ending with Saddam Hussein, a series of Arab strongmen attempted to beat the West at its own game. They acquired massive fleets of armored vehicles, heavy artillery, jet fighters, and missiles, calculating that with a large enough arsenal they could overcome the West’s advantage. Although the Egyptian army came close to defeating Israel in October 1973, this approach never worked — Arab tanks and fighter-bombers tended to end up as smoking heaps of twisted metal.

The failures suffered by the United States in Iraq and by Israel in southern Lebanon may well signify a turning point in modern military history, comparable in significance to the development of blitzkrieg in the 1930s or of the atomic bomb a decade later. Although the full implications of this shift are not clear, they promise to be huge, calling into question basic strategic assumptions that have held sway in the United States and Israel.

What the Islamist way of war does represent, however, is the ability to prevent conventional armies from achieving decisive results.

Resistance is a strategy not of conquest but of denial. Wars undertaken with the expectation that they will be short and conclusive — on the model of the Six Day War or Operation Desert Storm — instead become open-ended and inchoate. Politically, the Islamist way of war is demonstrating that the West can no longer impose its will on the Middle East.

For both the United States and Israel, the real issue is not how to defeat the Islamist way of war but how to circumvent it, rendering it irrelevant. This implies resetting the terms of the competition.

A second approach to circumventing the Islamist resistance, premised on a more sober appreciation of war’s efficacy, begins with admitting the possibility that the problem posed by radical Islamists has no military solution.

Over the past five years, the quasi-permanent “war on terror,” as conceived by the Bush administration and generally endorsed by the government of Israel, has enjoyed a fair trial. During that period, it has bred widespread anti-Americanism, generated sympathy for the Islamist cause, and provided “the terrorists” with a ready supply of recruits. To continue down this path will only produce more of the same.

DC: And here is the crux.

For the United States, here’s a five-point alternative strategy.

First, terminate actions that are self-evidently counterproductive, above all by extricating ourselves in an orderly way from Iraq.

Second, revive in modified form the Cold War principles of containment and deterrence, incorporating explicit security guarantees for Israel, much as the United States has long guaranteed the security of Europe, Japan, and South Korea.

Third, initiate a new Manhattan Project to develop alternative sources of energy, thereby increasing US freedom of action and reducing the flow of wealth to the Persian Gulf, wealth that ends up subsidizing the Islamist cause.

Fourth, through police action, in collaboration with our allies, redouble efforts to dismantle the organizations comprising the radical Islamist network.

Fifth, patiently nurture liberalizing tendencies within the Islamic world, not by preaching or threats of regime change, but by demonstrating at home and inviting Muslims abroad to witness, the manifest advantages of freedom and democracy.

This alternative strategy will also entail costly exertions over a long period of time. Unlike the current “war on terror,” however, it promises to be affordable and sustainable, while holding out the prospect of delivering success in the long run.

For Israel, the risks posed by such a shift in strategy are considerable and very much at odds with the self-reliant strategic traditions of the Jewish state. A US strategy of containment places Israelis in the position in which West Berliners found themselves throughout the Cold War: a democratic island in a hostile sea, their survival dependent on the good faith of the United States. An Israeli government might well judge those risks unacceptable. Rather than relying on Washington, it may count instead on the IDF to hold the Islamists at bay.

At some point Israeli policies and US policies for dealing with the Islamist threat may diverge. This pivotal juncture in modern military history may bring us to that moment.

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The Rise to Power of Alberto Gonzales.

By Bill Minutaglio.

First Chapter: ‘The President’s Counselor’ (August 27, 2006)

Minutaglio shrewdly observes that Bush and Rove became emboldened by the lack of any Democratic opposition in Austin, and were determined to exercise the same kind of power in Washington.

Jacob Heilbrunn, a frequent contributor to The Book Review, is writing a book on neoconservatism.

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New York City’s lawsuit is based on BATFE data that traces the sales history of guns recovered in crimes in a number of US cities between 1994 and 2001. The data reveals that more than 500 guns used to commit crimes in the city were sold by just 15 gun dealers in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

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Jaron’s World: The Murder of Mystery

How Silicon Valley joined the superstitious fringe as the enemy of open inquiry.

Many of today’s Silicon Valley thought leaders seem to have embraced what used to be speculations as certainties, without the spirit of unbounded curiosity that originally gave rise to them.

Ideas that used to be tucked away in the obscure world of artificial intelligence labs have gone mainstream in tech culture. The basic tenet of this new culture is that all of reality, including humans, is one big information system. The meaning of life, in this view, is making that system function at ever-higher “levels of description.” People pretend to know what “levels of description” means, though I doubt anyone really does. A Web page is thought to represent a higher level of description than a single letter, while a brain is a higher level than a Web page. An increasingly common extension of this notion is that the Net as a whole is or soon will be a higher level than a brain.

There’s nothing special about the place of humans in this scheme. Soon computers will get so big and fast and the Net so rich with information that we will be obsolete, either left behind or subsumed into some cyber-superhuman something.

Silicon Valley culture has recently taken to enshrining this abstract idea and spreading it in a novel way. Since implementation speaks louder than words, ideas can be spread in the designs of software. If you believe the distinction between the roles of people and computers is starting to dissolve, you might express that, as some friends of mine at Microsoft once did, by designing features for a word processor that are supposed to know what you want, such as when you want to start an outline.

For decades I’ve been complaining about antihuman computer culture, and I frequently end up attracting some unwelcome allies. I seek to influence young technical people—and I think I have been able to do that—but I also seem to excite some other folks who get it all wrong. I’m not the slightest bit Luddite. I don’t believe that something natural is necessarily any more meaningful or true than something artificial. I’m actually a raving technological utopian!

A description of my particular utopian thinking will have to wait for another month’s column, but I believe the most beautiful possibilities come from treating people as mysterious wells of meaning and using technology to find new ways to connect people to each other. The important point is that while I’m willing to go very far in imagining what information technology might be like in the future, I don’t assume that I know quite what a person is, and therefore I don’t attempt to reduce personhood in my designs

These days I feel as though I’m walking on a tightrope, with a crowd of ravenous faux robotic nerds on one side and a gaggle of sentimental antiquarians on the other. I try not to fall to either side.

The least likable have always been those driven by the power that comes from perpetuating church empires built on the fear of death. This was and remains the setup for popes and bishops who would bother to persecute a Galileo or ridicule a Darwin.

Of course, there are also many religious or spiritual people who understandably wonder about questions related to death and who worry whether meaning, beauty, and other deeply human qualities can survive the cold scrutiny of rational inquiry. If a new technologically informed worldview isn’t attractive to such people, I think technologists ought to change their culture to make it more welcoming,

Biology benefited from an intellectual revolution provided by Darwin but has in many ways left him behind. Biologists now deal in genes, viruses, and a world of other objects and ideas Darwin didn’t know about.

Is reality a giant information system and people just arbitrarily defined portions of it? Wrong question! Information theory is tremendously useful, but it doesn’t tell us anything until it’s been used. The idea that you might someday understand something is different from actually understanding it, or even knowing the right questions to ask. The big idea behind the new fake rationality is so diffuse that it’s useless, except as a cultural badge.

If I really believed that science was reducing the mystery of life, I would feel claustrophobic, but just the opposite is true. The more science I learn, the more mysteries I learn about, and the richer life becomes. I wonder if a technical culture that was better at avoiding premature claims of mystery reduction would find more friends among the sensitive, “spiritual” people I referred to earlier.

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Satan: A Biography

by Henry Ansgar Kelly

The book’s intentions are good – by which, transvaluing values, I mean that they’re bad, because they demolish the ‘theological fictions’ that for so long terrorised the human race into obedience.

Devil in disguise

Satan only appears in the Bible in the Book of Revelations, described as a great red dragon.

The name’s Old Nick

‘Satan’ is from the Hebrew verb ‘to oppose’. ‘Devil’ comes from the Greek for slander, ‘diabolos’.

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Cross purposes

By Marcus Bull

Published: August 25 2006 14:44 | Last updated: August 25 2006 14:44

GOD’S WAR: A New History of the Crusades

by Christopher Tyerman

Allen Lane ₤30, 1,040 pages

Given so much room to work with, however, the problem becomes one of chronological distribution. With fewer than 200 pages remaining we are still only 150 years or so into the story, with at least another 300 to go; and from that point on there is a sense of getting through to the end as briskly as possible. This is a pity, because there has been a lot of exciting scholarly work on crusading in the late medieval and early modern eras, and this expansion of our understanding deserves a proportionate treatment.

The upside is that the discussion of the early crusades, up to and including the Third Crusade (1187-92), has room to develop some of the nuances and complexities that historical overviews can easily miss.

This is an interesting and clear, if oddly off-balance, account of an important subject. It’s not the new Runciman, but then nothing ever will be – which is a blessed relief.

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The Infant GrammarianThe genius of baby talk.

By Emily Bazelon

My 3-year-old son, Simon, sees no point in the to be verb. “This my Superman costume,” he says. “Where my Batman boot?” I’ve always assumed he’s just making a small-child’s mistake, and if I don’t correct him, that’s mostly because it’s too much bother. According to a new book by the Yale linguist Charles Yang, however, Simon is mirroring the grammar of a different language.

And research has shown that they are surprised and put off when adults mimic childlike speech. Ask your 2- or 3-year-old “Want go school?” and he’s likely to make a face at you. “Kids seem to know they’re speaking funny and differently from adults,” says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale who thinks the errors of baby talk are about short attention span and poor articulation, not parameters or grammars.

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Jonathan Chait: Losers, Left and Right

Conservatives and liberals both think they’re getting walloped in Washington.

But in politics, somebody has to win every fight. So it can’t really be the case that everybody is losing, can it?

Actually, it can. We don’t realize it, though, because ideologues tend to think that if they’re doing badly, the other side must be doing well. Call it the zero-sum fallacy.

But how successful, really, were those conservatives? That’s a complicated question, but here’s a simple answer: In 1964, the federal government spent 18.5 cents of the American economic dollar. In 2005, it spent 20.5 cents. This is not what small-government conservatives would call progress. So, yes, the conservatives have amassed a lot of power in Washington. But I’m not sure their “success” is the sort that liberals really ought to emulate.

From the liberal or centrist standpoint, this statement is mystifying. The Bush presidency has been rife with acts of big government, but nearly all of them have been the sorts of things liberals and centrists abhor. The Medicare giveaway, the corporate tax bill, the unprecedented pork, the tariffs — all were designed for no other purpose than to maximize the

The mistake Goldberg and other conservatives make here is in thinking that because these policies were bad from a conservative point of view, they must be good from a liberal (or, at least, a moderate) point of view. In fact, they were awful from any point of view, save that of their direct financial beneficiaries.

The politics that has dominated Washington the last half-dozen years is a corrupt brand of right-wing corporatism. People who reside in the highest 1% of the income spectrum or have K Street lobbyists at their command have done very well. But the philosophical program that most conservatives advocate — and by “most” I’m excluding the small minority who value tax cuts over everything else — has lost.

Conservatives and liberals both feel beleaguered for a good reason. The fact is, both of them have been losing.

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The origins of veggie might

Jonathan Beckman is left more than satisfied by Tristram Stuart’s scintillating study of vegetarianism, The Bloodless Revolution

Though St Clement of Alexandria favoured abstinence from meat, vegetarianism was quelled by the early church fathers, and many Renaissance clerics on both sides of the Reformation divide viewed it as heresy.

The brilliance of Stuart’s book is to demonstrate that the study of attitudes towards food is the gateway to appreciating how people understood their place in society, their relationship to their environment and the significance of being human.

The final phase is revolutionary and climaxes with the French Revolution. Meat signified social inequality – only the rich could afford it – as more and more land was enclosed for pasture so the privileged could indulge themselves. Seditious circles in Paris and London were crammed with vegetarians

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In Defense of Andrew Young

By John H. McWhorter

Sunday, August 27, 2006;

The mainstream media have ignored (or remain unaware of) an interesting point concerning Young’s allegedly racist comments: His views are in fact common coin among inner-city black people — the very people the hate-speech patrol so ardently hopes to protect. The notion that non-black owners of corner stores are “interlopers” in African American communities is a staple of black nationalist politics and black talk radio. Young’s statement played right into the Sentinel’s motto: “The Voice of Our Community Speaking for Itself.”

So why did Young raise the ethnicity of the shopkeepers at all? I suspect he did so to reinforce a sense of group solidarity; after all, the interview was with a black newspaper, not National Public Radio

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The General and the Jaguar: Pershing’s Hunt for Pancho Villa — A True Story of Revolution & Revenge

by Eileen Welsome,

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist manages to take a great story with all kinds of fascinating sidebars and suck the drama out of it

Mexico was ruled by Spain from 1521 when Cesar Romero — or, rather, Hernan Cortes — conquered Tenochtitlan, until 1821, when the country won its independence. That 40 terrible years of freedom saw the loss of Texas and millions of acres that are now called California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah as well as parts of Colorado and even Wyoming.

Next there were Ferdinand Maximilian von Hapsburg and his wife Carlota, who played Emperor and Empress of Mexico. The former was executed and the latter went crazy, and Paul Muni — or, rather, Benito Juarez — took over. When the only Indian who has ever been president died, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada took over and ruled for four years. He was replaced by Porfiro Diaz, in 1876. Diaz invited big business into the country, mainly American big business, and after 30 years of it, Mexicans wanted Mexico back.

In 1910, Francisco Villa, butcher turned bandit, began to wreck havoc on the countryside under the guise of patriotism. He was at first a friend of the Americans but when President Woodrow Wilson allowed the troops of Venustiano Carranza to pass through American soil to cut him off southwest of Aqua Prieta in Mexico, Villa changed political directions.

Villa’s ultimate revenge was to attack the town of Columbus, New Mexico. This daring raid, on March 9, 1916, has been called the last attack by an enemy on American soil until 9/11. (It wasn’t. Mexicans attacked two Texas towns later in the spring of 1916.)

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Unfinished Dialogue by Isaiah Berlin

Political Ideas in the Romantic Age by Isaiah Berlin

One of Berlin’s favourite quotes was from the 18th century Bishop Butler: “Things are what they are; why should we wish to be deceived?” As Berlin saw it, there is no final reconciliation, no overarching explanation, no march of history, no heaven, no political science, no natural rights. We have to deal with the here-and-now. Berlin particularly loathed the idea, used to justify great tyrannies, that we are living in a condition of false consciousness and it is only the state that can bring us to our true selves

“Man is incapable of self completion, and therefore never wholly predictable; fallible, a complex combination of opposites, some reconcilable, others incapable of being resolved or harmonised; unable to cease from his search for truth, happiness, novelty, freedom but with no guarantee of being able to attain them, a free, imperfect being capable of determining his own destiny in circumstances favourable to the development of his reason and his gifts.”

“He (Turgenyev) shared their hatred of every form of enslavement, injustice and brutality, but unlike some among them he could not rest comfortably in any doctrine or ideological system. All that was general, abstract, absolute, repelled him: his visions remained delicate, sharp, concrete, and incurably realistic. Hegelianism, right-wing and left-wing, which he had imbibed as a student in Berlin; materialism, Socialism, positivism, about which his friends ceaselessly argued, populism, collectivism, the Russian village commune idealised by those Russian socialists whom the ignominious collapse of the left in Europe in 1848 had bitterly disappointed and disillusioned – these came to seem mere abstractions to him, substitutes for reality, in which many believed and few even tried to live, doctrines which life with its uneven surface and irregular shapes of real human character and activity, would surely resist and shatter if ever a serious effort were made to translate them into practice.”

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Are Women Human?

And Other International Dialogues

by Catharine A. MacKinnon

The answer that MacKinnon argues for is ‘No’.  According to her, ”no state effectively guarantees women’s human rights within its borders” (148) and ”international law still fails to grasp the reality that [men] are dominating [women] in often violent ways all of the time” (266).

In fact, one of the leitmotifs of Are Women Human? is MacKinnon’s argument for the claim that philosophers traditionally have been unable to provide the right interpretation of women’s real condition.  What Western philosophy has been interested in, MacKinnon points out, is ”general and abstract thought”, thought that is ”free from substantive social content” (46).  Feminism (among some other modern philosophical movements), contrary to this tradition, pays close attention to the social reality (of women) and aims to provide a theory that does justice to this reality.  As MacKinnon herself puts it, women’s social condition is ”a specific reality that, collectively conscious, calls for a new way of thinking about knowing” (45).  That is, taking social reality seriously leads feminist thinkers to adjust ‘knowledge’ to ‘reality’, and theory to life.

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Richard Overy reviews Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark.

From the start, Clark makes it clear that the heart of his story is the explanation of how this tiny, impoverished collection of medieval princely estates, with no tradition of developed urban life, poor sandy soil and no natural communications to the outside world, became the engine of a future German state that later on transformed the history of Europe.

…..focuses on this transformation in the 200 years from the bloody Thirty Years War in the 17th century (which cost Prussia half its population) to the creation by the Prussian nobleman Otto von Bismarck of a German Empire in 1871.

The term Prussia is, of course, misleading. The name, adopted from a Duchy under Polish suzerainty which the Hohenzollern Electors of Brandenburg took over in the early 17th century, was only adopted in 1807 to describe the whole state. After 1871, it was just one – though the largest and most important – of the German Länder, or provinces of the German Empire.

The transforming hand of kingship could be seen in the work of the Great Elector Frederick William in the 17th century and, most famously, the efforts of his great-grandson, Frederick II, “the Great”, who emerges from this, as from every history of Prussia, as a monarch of extraordinary talent, ambition and intelligence (but a personality of perplexing opacity).

The modern Prussia of myth and memory was constructed by Frederick the Great. He enlarged and consolidated much of its territory, filled the treasury, created a formidable native fighting force, reformed the law, gave the economy a much-needed boost from the state, and encouraged a Prussian version of the Enlightenment.

“How gladly will I die this noble death,” wrote the poet Christian von Kleist in 1757. This was not mere jingoism. The morbid preoccupation with death as the highest calling gives to Prussia’s elite a sombre, even menacing complexion compared with the more frivolous or commercially minded elites of western Europe. In 1945, as the Red Army stormed through Prussia, the scions of these ancient families fought on with a profound fatalism.

It could be argued that much of what has been laid at Prussia’s door might with as much historical justice be blamed on Austria, which fought for more than a century, from the 1740s to 1866, to stifle Prussia’s claims to represent Germany.

The war of 1914 was Austria’s war, not Prussia’s; Hitler was Austria’s revenge on Prussia for defeat in 1918. If Clark could give us a book on Austria half as good as his history of Prussia, it would be well worth the wait.

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Embodying the essence of humanism

That his ideas still resonate today, a century and a half after his birth, is a measure of Bernard Shaw’s lasting impact.

“GBS”, as most knew him, was born in Dublin to poor Irish Protestant parents (his mother was a singing teacher who instilled in him a lifelong love of music). Like his near-contemporary Tagore, he hated (and fared badly at) school, dropping out at the age of 15. He tried office work unsuccessfully, then turned to the life of the pen — his first published work, at age 19, being a letter to the editor, a mode of expression that was to become a lifelong passion. He wrote five failed novels in his 20s, and his years of penury may well have caused what he called his “kindly dislike” of capitalist society, leading to his activism in the Fabian Society, a small but highly influential group of socialist intellectuals. In his 30s, newly married to a heiress, he embarked on the career that would make him world-famous — that of the most illustrious playwright in the English-speaking world.

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Russia’s changing relations with China

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, Russia has increasingly gravitated towards China. The formation of initiatives such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation in June 2001, with Russia and China as key players, underlined the desire to develop close bilateral and regional ties. Despite a short period of Russian rapprochement with the US following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, a cooling of the Russian-Western relationship followed on from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the perceived Western influence in the ‘coloured revolutions’ in Georgia and Ukraine.

However, the situation is much more complicated as a result of internal influences on Russia’s position. A particular cause for concern is the level of Chinese immigration, principally into the Russian Far East and Siberia. The Russian population in these regions has fallen by some 18 per cent since 1990 and is being gradually replaced by Chinese migrants. It is estimated there are already more than a million Chinese living in Russia’s Far East, making the region’s economy massively dependent on their labour.

While the political elite acknowledges that relations with China provide economic and other benefits to Russia, popular mistrust of the Chinese may in turn colour Moscow’s threat perception. In particular, Russia’s desire to restrict China’s economic and military development to non-threatening levels and prevent the development of a world superpower on its borders is a major consideration. The decision in January 2005 to build an oil pipeline connecting Russia with the Japanese market instead of one directly to China represents more than just Moscow’s desire to diversify its energy customers. A proposed gas pipeline from Russia to China is also currently undergoing feasibility considerations and could be affected by a cooling in relations.

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Dc: doesn’t reach out to the Iranian potenttial if the US/Israel were to attack.


Born to Be Good


How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.

By Marc D. Hauser.

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The humanities and the social sciences have, over the centuries, done a great deal to encourage such initiatives. They have helped us better to distinguish right from wrong. Reading histories, novels, philosophical treatises and ethnographies has helped us to reprogram ourselves — to update our moral software. Maybe someday biology will do the same. But Hauser has given us little reason to believe that day is near at hand.

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Dc: relevant to neurology, piaget, and ethics.


Uncivil war

By Geremie R. Barme

Published: August 25 2006 15:00 | Last updated: August 25 2006 15:00

Mao’s Last Revolution

by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals

On August 18 1966, Mao Zedong reviewed a mass gathering of zealous young people in Tiananmen Square. At the last moment, he donned a People’s Liberation Army uniform and, although it didn’t quite fit his bulky frame, it marked both to his audience of more than a million Red Guards and to his colleagues standing on the rostrum with him, that the old guerrilla leader was launching a new campaign. It would become a war of all against all, a civil conflict unlike any other that China had experienced.

Mao’s Last Revolution will be essential for students of the denouement of the Chinese revolution. However, this tome is not for the general reader. And while the authors are savvy connoisseurs of power politics, their work provides scant insight into the broader world of high-Maoist China.

It is frustrating that the authors give so little weight to the underpinnings of Mao’s last revolution; nor do they help the reader gauge the origins or extent of pent-up mass fury. On the ground, beyond the corridors of power, there was great popular resentment towards the socialist state’s callous rule. The party’s arrogant elitism, its entrenched system of privilege and the yawning gap between its high-minded rhetoric and day-to-day reality, all fed into a frenzy that not only created “bloody August”, but also eventually saw the country awash in blood.

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Scientific and literary musings on who or what we are

Susan Dodds, University of Wollongong

Robin Headlam Wells and Johnjoe McFadden (eds) Human Nature: Fact and Fiction London, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006 (200 pp). ISBN 0-8264-8546-4 (paperback) RRP $26.95.

During the Enlightenment, human nature (rather than God’s will) came to be viewed as the basis of morality, intellect, and conscious appreciation. A range of arguments were put forward to explain how human nature (ahistorical, pre-social, universal characteristics of all human beings) could be the source of morality. For some, moral sympathy and fear of pain is natural, and so shared by all. For others, adult, sane humans all share a capacity to reason about right and wrong or good and bad. Similarly, appeals to human nature have been used to distinguish consciousness, reasoning and agency from innate stimuli responses (the muscle spasms of frogs’ legs) or programmable processing of data (computer simulated ‘thinking’). Our morality, reasoning, consciousness, and volition (or Will) distinguish Man from Beast and Man from Machine.

In recent years, however, the idea of human nature has taken a battering, from two quite different sources. Science has established the very close similarities between human and non-human animal behaviours, capacities and emotions, making claims of distinctiveness less convincing. A range of critical social theories have also weighed into the debate about human nature. Feminists, for example, have challenged the ‘masculinist bias’ that views rationality and reasoning as privileged human traits, while post-colonial theorists have criticised the racist Euro-centrism of arguments about what is properly human.

If there is such a thing as human nature, is it robust enough to justify moral claims to rights or to a certain kind of respect? Major figures in the history of Western philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Rousseau and Dewey have offered theories of human nature. Yet, as I’ve mentioned, in recent years there have been sustained attacks on the very idea that ‘human nature’ is something worth examining. The enlightenment’s dis-enchantment of the world—replacing the divine hand with the mechanical processes of nature—and post-modernism’s dissolution of concrete singular causes or Truth with a capital ‘t’ have forced a re-thinking of what, if anything, our universal human nature might be

What makes humans special, then, is not difference in kind, but difference in degree; and the appeal to our unique humanness as the source of our special moral, political and environmental standing (we alone are free to despoil the earth for our own ends) rings hollow.

At the same time, post-modernism has challenged the empirical basis for these scientific claims, by challenging our ability to make claims about ‘the way the world really is’ outside of our experience of it through language. Post-modernism rejects the possibility of meaningful claims about human nature outside of culture, because any concepts we may use to articulate what such a nature might be are themselves cultural products. Post-modernism also rejects the idea of some universal human nature, given the specific experience of each individual within their complex cultural contexts. While the geneticist may point to our genetic heritage as our ‘human nature’ the post-modernist claims that any such appeal to universal human nature is just one way of telling a story about some overlapping cultural experiences (and it is the story, according to Michel Foucault, that suits the interests of the powerful).

The book is thought-provoking, cloying, rewarding, and irritating in turn, as scientists intersperse insight into, and ham-fisted respect for the significance of literature to human self-understanding, and as novelists and literary theorists exploit scientific ideas for literary adaptation. The editors juxtapose papers by scientific and literary experts so as to highlight both the contrasts and similarities in views between the two cultures.

Susan Dodds is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wollongong. Her current research investigates the possibilities for democratic deliberation in making policy in the ethically contentious areas of health, medical research, and technology

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Keepers of truth are a closed book


A second Enlightenment to rival that of David Hume’s 18th-century Edinburgh (right is the statue of Hume on the Royal Mile) will require academics to broaden their horizons. Picture: Robert Perry

Among the speakers are four eminent academic philosophers who have attempted to address a wider audience than their donnish peers: Simon Blackburn, AC Grayling, Anthony Kenny and Roger-Pol Droit. Does this mean philosophy is breaking out from the cloisters of academe?

No. For instance, AC Grayling’s popular writings have ranged from short, provocative essays, through accessible introductions to, most recently, a moral appraisal of the Allied bombings of Germany in the Second World War. It’s an impressive CV, but it is one which has been developed in parallel with his academic career, not as part of it. Grayling is an eminent professor at Birkbeck College, London, but the work the public knows him for counts for virtually nothing among his academic peers. He may well have broken out of academe, but he hasn’t brought academia with him.

Similarly, Anthony Kenny’s History of Western Philosophy, the third volume of which has just come out, reveals a lifetime of scholarship, but it’s his bequest to the public, not universities, where such sweeping histories would not be deemed original contributions to research. Roger-Pol Droit is different because he’s French, but needless to say his wonderfully playful popular books are not likely to feature on any university reading lists on this country. Only Simon Blackburn, with his book Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed draws substantively from current, live debates in academic philosophy about whether there is such a thing as truth and whether we can know it.

This is something the non-academic Alain de Botton has tried to do. Academic philosophers tend to be a bit snooty about de Botton, in part because he often seems to be claiming greater originality for his work than it really merits, and also in part, I’m sure, because he shifts books by the truckload. At least de Botton is trying to bring the resources of western philosophy to issues of wider public concern. In reaching for the big issues, he takes a risk with failure that too many academics are not prepared to make.

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Speculating to the death

19 August 2006

William Merrin reviews Jean Baudrillard on new media.

Jean Baudrillard was born in Reims in 1929. He taught language in provincial lycees before moving into sociology, completing a thesis with Henri Lefebvre at Nanterre University of Paris X in 1966 where he lectured in sociology and from where he retired in 1987 to concentrate upon his writing and public lecturing.

His early publications on literary theory and in the pro-Situationist journal Utopie were followed by a series of books – The System of Objects (1968), The Consumer Society (1970) and For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1972) – in which he developed an original critique of the “sign” system of post-war consumer and media society. In its rejection of Marxism and its contemporary relevance, his 1973 book, The Mirror of Production, developed his critical position and his analysis of the sign, paving the way in 1976 for his major work, Symbolic Exchange and Death.

After 1976, in addition to foregrounding his critique of the media in his book, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (1978), he began to rework his critical project in texts such as Forget Foucault (1977) and Seduction (1979), escalating both his analysis and critique of western society in key books of the 1980s and early 1990s, such as Fatal Strategies (1983), The Transparency of Evil (1990) and The Illusion of the End (1992). From the early 1990s, Baudrillard’s work has placed an increasing emphasis upon new media, developing an important critique of virtuality in books such as The Perfect Crime (1995), The Impossible Exchange (1999) and The Vital Illusion (2000).

Other publications by Baudrillard include five volumes of his Cool Memories journals, several books of interviews, a dialogue, reflections on his career and history, essay collections, books on cinema, his experience of America and photography, a collection of his own photographic work, and famous, controversial reflections on major political events, such as the 1991 Gulf War and 9/11. His more recent books, such as 2002’s Power Inferno and 2004’s The Intelligence of Evil, Or the Lucidity Pact, extend these ideas, analysing the global trends and politics of the post-9/11 world. All this has cemented Baudrillard’s recognition as one of the most important and challenging contemporary thinkers.

Baudrillard’s early work must be understood in the context of the socio-economic and technological, post-war modernisation of France and the emergence there of a modern consumer society. Of the many different philosophical and social analyses of this new world, Baudrillard was simultaneously drawn to the existentialist and humanist Marxist critique of everyday life and consumption in the work of Sartre and of Lefebvre, Marcuse and Debord, the opposing structuralist analysis of the formation of the individual and society in the work of Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Althusser and Lacan, as well as Ellul’s critique of technology, Simondon’s analysis of technique and the discussion of electronic media in the North American media theory of McLuhan and Boorstin. These influences are most clearly seen in his first two books, The System of Objects and The Consumer Society.

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The Museum of Accidents1

Paul Virilio

(Emeritus Professor, École Spéciale d’Architecture, Paris, France).

Translated by Chris Turner

            A society which rashly privileges the present – real time – to the detriment of both the past and the future, also privileges the accident.

            Since, at every moment and most often unexpectedly, every­thing happens, a civilization that sets immediacy, ubiquity and instantaneity to work brings accidents and catastrophes on to the scene. The confirmation of this state of affairs is provided for us by insurance companies, and particularly by the recent Sigma study, carried out for the world’s second-largest reinsurance company Swiss Re. This recently published study, which each year lists man-made disasters (explosions, fires, terrorism etc.) and natural catas­trophes (floods, earthquakes, storms etc.), takes into account only those disasters causing losses in excess of 35 million dollars. “For the first time”, the Swiss analysts observe, “since the 1990’s, a period when damage due to natural catastrophes predominated over man-made damage, the trend has reversed, with man-made damage standing at 70 percent”.

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The Evatt Foundation was established in 1979 as a memorial to Dr Herbert Vere Evatt with the aim of advancing the ideals of the labour movement, such as equality, participation, social justice and human rights. For the past twenty-seven years the Foundation has been helping to promote these ideals through research, publication and discussion.

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And from juan cole quoting

Achcar Guest Editorial: The Situation in Iraq

The Situation in Iraq by Gilbert Achcar

Along with many others, I have warned for quite a long time that, when all is said and done, Washington’s only trump card in Iraq is going to be the sectarian and ethnic divisions among Iraqis, which the Bush administration is exploiting in the most cynical way according to the most classical of all imperial recipes: “Divide and rule.” This is what Washington’s proconsuls in Baghdad, from L. Paul Bremer to Khalilzad, have tried their best to put in place and take advantage of.

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today’s Aug 28th

August 28, 2006 § Leave a comment



    Looking at past issues of counterpunch

    Who’s to Blame?

    Israel on the Slide


    In the aftermath of the Lebanon disaster you can open up the Israeli press, particularly the Hebrew language editions, and find fierce assaults on the country’s elites from left, right and center.

    Disfigured by its “special relationship” with the US arms industry, of which the US Congress is an integral component, the IDF has been morally corrupted by years of risk-free brutalization of unarmed Palestinians, many of them children. It’s one thing to level an apartment building with a missile from a plane or crush a protester with a bulldozer or lob shells at a Palestinian family having a picnic on a beach or kidnap middle-aged and democratically elected Palestinian politicians. It’s another confront a foe, with modest but effectively deployed weaponry, prepared to fight back.

    Years of racism have taken their toll too. Think of Arabs as subhuman “terrorists” and you end up making a lot of misjudgments, tactical and strategic.

    On that first pre-ceasefire weekend USA Today carried a story datelined Nabatiye by Rick Jervis headlined “Hezbollah workers rush to help victims rebuild”, beginning “Two days after agreeing to a cease-fire to end 34 days of fighting with Israeli forces, Hezbollah deployed its army of social workers and engineers throughout this southern Lebanese city. They visited wrecked homes and businesses, surveyed damage, gave compensation estimates and coordinated relief efforts with city officials. ‘Hezbollah workers were here even before the bombing stopped,’said Mustafa Badreddine, 50, the mayor. ‘They have offices here. They have municipal resources. And the people trust them.'”

    Israel has been kidnapping Lebanese for years, a hefty chunk of the 10,000 or so rotting in horrifying Israeli prisons, like the secret Facility 1391 in central Israel, worse than Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo. On June 25 Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in Gaza, prompting an escalation in Israel’s already barbaric assaults on the civilian population there. Since June 25, says the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, Israel has kidnapped over 35 Palestinian Parliament Members and 10 cabinet Ministers. It was certainly hard to find in any US paper or newscast any reference to the fact that one day before, on 24 June, Israeli forces kidnapped two civilians in Gaza, a doctor and his brother, and sent them off to some Israeli dungeon. As Noam Chomsky remarked to an interviewer from al-Ahram, “The timing alone reveals with vivid clarity that the show of outrage over the capture of Israeli soldiers is cynical fraud, and undermines any shreds of moral legitimacy for the ensuing actions.”

    Open up the Washington Post and the strategic vision on display was an utterly mad piece co-written by one of the big boosters for war on Iraq, Kenneth Pollack, a hack thinker at the Brookings Institution, now an integral part of Israeli territory with its “Saban Center for Middle East Policy” named for the fanatic Zionist billionaire Haim Saban, majority owner of Paramount Pictures, a man who handed the Democratic Party a total of $12.3 million in 2002, a $7 million component of which was the biggest single contribution ever recorded up to that time.

    Thirty years ago I used to be told that liberal American Jews were aghast at the rise of the ur-neocon fanatics like Norman Podhoretz, at Commentary, whose parent outfit was and is the American Jewish Committee. Soon, such liberals used to say to me off the record, there would be a counter-attack by the forces of reason, as embodied in liberal American Jewry. There never was, at least on any effective scale. The liberal Jewish intelligentsia here has, politically, speaking, sat on its hands for decades, mouths zipped shut, when it comes to criticizing Israel. Even more effectively than America’s defense contractors they have contributed to, and indeed cheered on Israel’s corrupt rejectionism. Will this war make them change their minds? I doubt it.

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    Fraud, Scandal and Greed Has Cripple the Gulf Coast’s Recovery, But Made Some Very, Very Rich

    Profiting from Disaster


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    On Sept. 18, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a $5.2 million contract to Gary Heldreth, a West Virginia pastor, and his company, Lighthouse Disaster Relief, based on the company’s assurances that it could set up a base camp within 48 hours to support 1,000 first responders in St. Bernard Parish. The results were disastrous.

    “[Lighthouse] billed the entire $5.2 million in advance of beginning work in violation of the contract terms, and upon receipt of the proceeds began spending them at an incredible pace, buying cars and real estate, withdrawing large cash withdrawals, and transferring tens of thousands of dollars to family members,” a federal lawsuit would later allege.

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    Revelations from the Watada Court Martial

    A Religious Movtive for Iraq War Deceptions?


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    An Interview with Noam Chomsky

    “The Strong Do as They Can”


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    Why is Israel given the right to self- defense while Arab countries are denied it?

    Thucydides gave an answer to that a long time ago: “The strong do as they can, and the weak suffer as they must.” It is one of the leading principles of international affairs.

    As this long and ugly record makes clear, kidnapping of civilians — a far worse crime than the capture of soldiers — is considered insignificant by the US, UK, and other Western states, and by articulate opinion within them quite generally, when it is done by “our side”.

    That fact was revealed very dramatically once again at the outset of the current upsurge of violence after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, on June 25. That action elicited a huge show of outrage in the West, and support for Israel’s sharp escalation of its attacks in Gaza. One day before, on June 24, Israeli forces kidnapped two civilians in Gaza, a doctor and his brother, and sent them off somewhere in Israel’s prison system. The event was scarcely reported, and elicited little if any comment within the mainstream. The timing alone reveals with vivid clarity that the show of outrage over the capture of Israeli soldiers is cynical fraud, and undermines any shreds of moral legitimacy for the ensuing actions.

    And we may add the forgotten West Bank, where the US and Israel are proceeding with their plans to drive the last nails into the coffin of Palestinian national rights by their programs of annexation, cantonization and imprisonment (by takeover of the Jordan Valley). These plans are carried out within the framework of another cynical fraud: “convergence” (in Hebrew, hitkansut ), portrayed in the US as “withdrawal”, in a remarkable public relations triumph. Also long forgotten is the occupied Golan Heights, virtually annexed by Israel in violation of unanimous Security Council orders (but with tacit US support).

    elite support for the UN sharply declined in the US, though, interestingly, popular support for the UN remains remarkably high, one of the many illustrations of an enormous gap between public opinion and public policy in the US.

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    Challenging the Vested Interests

    The Legacy of John Kenneth Galbraith


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    Before the discipline of economics broke off from what students used to major in–“political economy”-early in the 20th century, my professor’s comment would not have been a put down. Today, most economists see economics as a branch of mathematics and tend to dismiss economists who bring into their study the variables of politics and power.

    His books, articles, letters, testimony and advice to Presidents, members of Congress and the general public for over 60 years connected numbers to understanding what was really going on between the powers-that-be–the haves–and the powerless–the have nots. He proposed policies that were designed to lift the livelihoods of regular people and their essential public services.

    What would a Galbraithian economy look like in the United States? For starters, major public investments–fueled by corporate tax reforms–in public works–public transit, repaired schools, clinics, upgraded drinking water systems, good parks and libraries, and environmental health projects. These forms of public wealth for everyone, he believed, would also advance the objective of a full employment economy.

    Galbraith believed that uncontrolled capitalism, especially the giant corporations, required prudent regulation to diminish the damage their out-of-control greed and power inflict on society. Always a realist, he was more than aware of the capture of regulatory agencies by the very companies that they were created to regulate.

    He saw sham in the pretense that the large defense manufacturers are free market corporations. Since over 90% of their business comes from the Department of Defense, he urged that they should be taken over and treated as public corporations shorn of their profiteering, waste and unaccountable lobbying pressure.

    As far back as July 1970, he wrote an article in Harper’s magazine titled “Who Needs Democrats? And What it Takes to be Needed.”

    He wrote:

    “The function of the Democratic Party, in this century at least, has, in fact, been to embrace its solutions even when it outraged not only Republicans but the Democratic establishment as well. And if the Democratic Party does not render this function, at whatever cost in reputable outrage it has no purpose at all. The play will pass to those who do espouse solutions. The system is not working.The only answer lies in political action to get a system that does work. To this conclusion, if only because there is no alternative conclusion, people will be forced to come.”

    Maybe Galbraith’s thousands of friends, colleagues and admirers could help bring about his desired transformation by establishing the “John Kenneth Galbraith Institute for a Progressive Political Economy.” Right wingers do this for their intellectual heroes–to wit the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama. Can progressives do anything less for Canada’s gift to America–a man who came from rural Ontario and lived the nexus between knowledge and action as if people mattered?

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    Self-Deception in Miami and Washington

    The Cuban Mirage


    Unfortunately, however, Washington has recklessly used its policy towards Cuba as a legislative Christmas tree, under which anti-Castro Miami hardliners are able to place gifts of political patronage. Private campaign donations of a few million dollars to both Republican and Democratic candidates are exchanged for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds which Miami hardliners obtain as backing for pet anti-Castro projects such as Radio and TV Martí, and scores of other pork barrel entitlements. All told, in its attempt to “aid” Cubans by slavishly following the goading of Miami ideologues, the U.S. has devoted billions of dollars in public funds to bring about a variety of outlandish projects, directed at vilifying Castro’s regime.

    In keeping with this theory, Washington has chosen to release its new strategy to guide Cubans down the ‘right’ path to democracy. The July 7 Report to President Bush is the second by the Commission for Assistance to Free Cuba (CAFC) since it was established in 2003. The Commission, which is entirely made up of high level bureaucrats, sanitized Cuban-Americans close to the White House and Cold War apostles, like Caleb McCarry, espouses a monochromatic tabloid ideology when it comes to Cuba, inspired by a clutch of ultras like Otto Reich, John Negroponte, John Bolton and Roger Noriega. The body has the specific purpose of designing and implementing a rightwing capitalistic democracy in Cuba. CAFC is currently co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and its members include officials from over 24 departments of the federal government. McCarry, a longtime activist and a former employee of the CIA-surrogate agency, the National Endowment for Democracy, has been designated the “Transition Coordinator,” in charge of the daily operations of the Commission. It should be noted that his new position hardly marked an abrupt departure from his tough anti-Castro role, since he previously held a staff position with such an arch Castro basher, former as Sen. Jesse Helms (R-SC).

    Contrary to Washington’s hopes and Miami’s anti-Castro assurances, many Cubans posses, at the very least, the same “Pink Tide” left-leaning sentiments as the new governments of South America. In fact, even in the United States, Cuban-Americans, whatever may be their feelings on Castro, tend to support left-leaning social welfare policies, even if they may cast their vote in favor of a single foreign policy issue ­ anti-Castro retribution.

    The notion that the transition government will be imbued with the benefits of Washington’s presence is not necessarily welcomed in Cuba. As most area specialists stress, Cubans are likely to be resistant to any government that does not answer to their demands for complete sovereignty.

    The Emergency Network of Cuban American Scholars and Artist (ENCASA) reacted to the report’s heady impositions on Cuban sovereignty by calling them “Orwellian” and declaring, “a state that respects the sovereignty of another nation and its people does not produce a detailed script for the political future of that nation and that people.”

    Despite these frustrations, the Bush administration’s actions come as little surprise. Policy makers have shown great audacity to instinctively embrace unipolar initiatives, which Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clark claim in their book, America Alone, has led to a crisis of international legitimacy. Counterproductive steps in Cuba, coupled with the foreign policy disasters in Iraq, reflect the ease with which U.S. government authorities guide themselves and much of the Cuban-American community down a destructive path, enticed by money, fear and power.

    At this pivotal moment in hemispheric politics, one must wonder if the Cuban people, when determining their future, will reflect on Washington’s diplomatic sins that have plagued their island for so many years by raising some questions about the bona fides of the genera of “democracy” being so generously imposed by the Bush administration.

    Emily Kirksey is a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

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    Blair is one key fellow who, going against the Iranian policy and critiquing Iraq could make a real difference.

    Jimmy Carter: “I Have Been Surprised And Extremely Disappointed By Tony Blair’s Behaviour”…

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    Dc:Infrastructure rebuilding, and the restoration of the WPA, may be the waay to deal with the post crash economy.

    The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation “D” for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

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  1. The book to read on that is Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained, The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought.

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    Salvation, Galbraith argued, lies in the subversion of the conventional wisdom by the gradual encroachment of disquieting thought. “The emancipation of belief,” he writes, “is the most formidable of the tasks of reform, the one on which all else depends.” 

    J.K. Galbraith

    And excerpts

    A Team Player


    August 27 2006

    Washington is broken.

    In the years ahead, Connecticut and America will face a number of other critical challenges, which we will meet only with similar teamwork: Winning the war against Jihadist terrorists. Fixing our broken health care system. Creating new jobs. Giving every child a great education. Stopping global warming. Lowering energy costs. Strengthening Social Security and Medicare. Protecting and growing the middle class.

    None of these problems can or will be solved by one party in Washington. And no party has a copyright on good ideas. Progress will only happen if we take the best ideas from across the ideological spectrum, follow the example of Team Connecticut in saving the New London sub base and put the interests of our state and nation first.

    My opponent Ned Lamont, represents the old politics of partisanship, polarization and negativism.

    I offer a different way forward – a new politics of unity, purpose and hope, in which our top priority is not to win the election by tearing down our opponents but to help the people we serve build a better future.

    As someone who has supported the war, I feel a heavy personal responsibility to end our mission in Iraq as quickly as possible. But I believe that Ned Lamont’s strategy of pulling all our troops out by an arbitrary, politically determined date will lead to the collapse of Iraq, Iran surging in, and Iraq becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida and a launching pad for terrorist strikes against other countries in the region and the United States.

    Our disagreement, however, does not end there. I believe that the best way for us to win the war in Iraq is to come together – the administration, Congress, and Republicans and Democrats – to find a solution that will allow our troops to come home with Iraq united and free, with the Middle East stable and the terrorists denied a victory. My opponent has a different idea: unilateral, arbitrary withdrawal, and never mind the consequences.

    I have a different plan. I want to build a new politics of unity and purpose that will cut through the gridlock in Washington and solve problems for my constituents, my state and my country. After serving you for 18 years in the Senate, I still believe that together, Team Connecticut can renew America’s greatness and make our future as good as we all want it to be.

    Dc: the idea that a victory can be found in Iraq is proabaly an illusion, the idea that working with the Admin can find a way is also an illusion. His quiet “as a person who supported the war I feel..” does not get at the issue of his support for Bush. Overall he is asking for staying the course, and the issues he lists he has done nothing to either crticize the admin or offer deep rooted alternatives. He is rather abstract, cool, and appearing calculated.

    Changing Washington means fighting to restore American values. This administration, supported by Sen. Lieberman, is bringing the government into our private lives in ways the Founding Fathers never intended – in the Schiavo family’s private medical decisions, with warrantless wiretaps and judicial appointees that jeopardize a woman’s reproductive rights. Government has gotten too big and too intrusive, and we need to change that.

    And Lamont. 


    1. What Voters Want From Their SenatorSomeone Who Listens


    August 27 2006

    At first, we were offering simply a choice and a chance for debate. It’s exactly what people wanted. Since we launched our campaign last January, I have met thousands of you. You have stopped me on the street to talk about the rising cost of health care, the loss of good-paying jobs and your kids’ education. You know America is weakened when we are too dependent upon foreign oil and capital – and our troops are stretched thin because of our decisions in Iraq, leaving us less ready to respond and protect ourselves.

    And we’ve agreed that in this dangerous time, President Bush and his supporters like Sen. Lieberman have weakened America’s security and moral standing in the world by fighting an unprovoked war in Iraq instead of a real war against terrorism.

    It begins with changing Washington. The people of Connecticut are tired of a Congress that has 63 lobbyists for every elected representative – spending more than $400,000 per month per member of Congress.

    Changing Washington also means changing our national priorities. We’re spending more than $250 million a day in Iraq while our deficit explodes and our domestic agenda is starved for funds. Today in Connecticut, 400,000 people lack health insurance and schools close early because we don’t have the resources for after-school programs that aid academic achievement and give kids a place to study before their parents come home to dinner.

    Finally and most urgently, we need to change Washington to replace a national security policy of weakness with one of strength. Our costly and counterproductive decision to go to war in Iraq has weakened America – by taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, by overstretching our military, by failing to invest in homeland security, by putting Israel’s security at risk and by alienating our allies and further angering our adversaries. We need to change course, in order to restore America’s strength and place in the world.

    This is what we stand for – an America that is stronger when we remain true to our values.

    Dc: the idea that the admin put Israel at risk is true, deeply true, and a good way into the Israeli morass. We needed to push Israel to a realistic and attractive two state soution, but Bush lket the situation drift, or, at worst, used Israel as a leading edge of a middle eassten strategy aimes at “winning” rather than in nation building.



    1. The schlock Western pundits, journalists and politicians who keep maintaining that Ahmadinejad threatened “to wipe Israel off the map” when he never said those words will never, ever manage to choke out the words Ahmadinejad spoke on Saturday, much less repeat them as a tag line forever after.

      Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei’s pledge of no first strike against any country by Iran with any kind of weapon, and his condemnation of nuclear bombs as un-Islamic and impossible for Iran to possess or use, was completely ignored by the Western press and is never referred to. Indeed, after all that talk of peace and no first strike and no nukes, Khamenei at the very end said that if Iran were attacked, it would defend itself. Karl Vicks of the Washington Post at the time ignored all the rest of the speech and made the headline, ‘Khamenei threatens reprisals against US.” In other words, on Iran, the US public is being spoonfed agitprop, not news.

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today’s aug 26

August 27, 2006 § Leave a comment



Remarks by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

At the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Thirtieth Annual Economic Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

August 25, 2006

Global Economic Integration: What’s New and What’s Not?

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The expansion of international trade in the sixteenth century faced some domestic opposition. For example, in an interesting combination of mercantilist thought and social commentary, the reformer Martin Luther wrote in 1524:

“But foreign trade, which brings from Calcutta and India and such places wares like costly silks, articles of gold, and spices–which minister only to ostentation but serve no useful purpose, and which drain away the money of the land and people–would not be permitted if we had proper government and princes… God has cast us Germans off to such an extent that we have to fling our gold and silver into foreign lands and make the whole world rich, while we ourselves remain beggars.” (James, 2001, p. 8)

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The composition of the core and the periphery remained fairly stable, with one important exception being the United States, which, over the course of the nineteenth century, made the transition from the periphery to the core. The share of manufactured goods in U.S. exports rose from less than 30 percent in 1840 to 60 percent in 1913, and the United States became a net exporter of financial capital beginning in the late 1890s.1

That said, domestic opposition to free trade eventually intensified, as cheap grain from the periphery put downward pressure on the incomes of landowners in the core. Beginning in the late 1870s, many European countries raised tariffs, with Britain being a prominent exception. Britain did respond to protectionist pressures by passing legislation that required that goods be stamped with their country of origin.

Dc: which of course raised taxes so to speak on consumers and protectted the major estates.

Unfortunately, the international economic integration achieved during the nineteenth century was largely unraveled in the twentieth by two world wars and the Great Depression. After World War II, the major powers undertook the difficult tasks of rebuilding both the physical infrastructure and the international trade and monetary systems. The industrial core–now including an emergent Japan as well as the United States and Western Europe–ultimately succeeded in restoring a substantial degree of economic integration, though decades passed before trade as a share of global output reached pre-World War I levels.

Dc: note the lack of concern for people, but much for the syste, and the secret is that the system amplified the activities of the richer factory owners. Nor is war seen as caused by market competition but just an external event of disruption. Cause and effect are hence not seen as connected at the front end of cause but only on the lead ed as effect.

Dc: now he will seem to open the questions. The very fact of raising hem makes a he contribution.

In yet another parallel with the past, however, social and political opposition to rapid economic integration has also emerged. As in the past, much of this opposition is driven by the distributional impact of changes in the pattern of production, but other concerns have been expressed as well–for example, about the effects of global economic integration on the environment or on the poorest countries.


Although this opposition has many sources, I have suggested that much of it arises because changes in the patterns of production are likely to threaten the livelihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms, even when these changes lead to greater productivity and output overall. The natural reaction of those so affected is to resist change, for example, by seeking the passage of protectionist measures. The challenge for policymakers is to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared–for example, by helping displaced workers get the necessary training to take advantage of new opportunities–that a consensus for welfare-enhancing change can be obtained. Building such a consensus may be far from easy, at both the national and the global levels. However, the effort is well worth making, as the potential benefits of increased global economic integration are large indeed.

Dc: which is a quite weak conclusion. Yet, the discussion is broadened.

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The US State Department will investigate whether Israeli deployment of these weapons in civilian areas violated secret agreements under which Washington supplied them to Israel.

Nothing will come of the investigation, given the clout of the Israel lobby in Washington, but someday the relative of an innocent maimed Lebanese may decide to take revenge on the country that supplied the cluster bombs. And the American public will ask in astonishment why anyone should hate us.

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Unexploded “bomblets” from cluster munitions have emerged as the most lethal obstacle to the return of refugees to southern Lebanon after the month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah. The UN said the fist-sized bombs had been found in nearly 300 locations and about two-thirds were American-made.

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Israel’s use of cluster bombs in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon provoked a congressional enquiry, which concluded Israel had broken the conditions on their sale. Ronald Reagan’s administration then imposed a six-year ban on deliveries of the munitions to Israel.

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And on the deeper story, the most obvious story, the story bullies never can hear (out of fear)

The US State Department will investigate whether Israeli deployment of these weapons in civilian areas violated secret agreements under which Washington supplied them to Israel.

Nothing will come of the investigation, given the clout of the Israel lobby in Washington, but someday the relative of an innocent maimed Lebanese may decide to take revenge on the country that supplied the cluster bombs. And the American public will ask in astonishment why anyone should hate us.

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Unexploded “bomblets” from cluster munitions have emerged as the most lethal obstacle to the return of refugees to southern Lebanon after the month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah. The UN said the fist-sized bombs had been found in nearly 300 locations and about two-thirds were American-made.

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Israel’s use of cluster bombs in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon provoked a congressional enquiry, which concluded Israel had broken the conditions on their sale. Ronald Reagan’s administration then imposed a six-year ban on deliveries of the munitions to Israel.

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On cognition, just got this, looks really interesting.

Cognitive Dimensions of Social Science:

The Way We Think About Politics, Economics, Law, and Society

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CONSUMER GROUPS USE troop support for curbs on predatory lending.

After failing to win broader restrictions, advocates get 36% interest-rate cap on payday loans to military personnel attached to Senate’s Pentagon funding bill. The proposal appears headed for House-Senate negotiations.

About a dozen states have similar caps, and Pentagon backs the idea. “It would be poor politics…to come out against predatory-lending protections for the troops,” says Kim Warden of Center for Responsible Lending. In Missouri, incumbent Republican Sen. Talent calls predatory lending a “staggering problem” affecting “troop readiness.”

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The lesson that the Republicans drew from the 1994 election was that the Democrats in Congress had failed to support Clinton, made the country see his presidency as a failure, and so lost their Congressional majority. Their conclusion was that their own majority in the House would crumble either if a Democratic president was seen as a success or a Republican president was seen as a failure. Hence–they thought–they needed to do everything they could to undermine Bill Clinton (no matter what its effect on the country) and everything they could to support George Bush (no matter what its effect on the country).

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August 24, 2006 § Leave a comment

So, what will Bill have to say?

**How we eneded welfare, together.


In my first State of the Union address, I promised to “end welfare as we know it,” to make welfare a second chance, not a way of life, exactly the change most welfare recipients wanted it to be.

Ten years ago, neither side got exactly what it had hoped for. While we compromised to reach an agreement, we never betrayed our principles and we passed a bill that worked and stood the test of time. This style of cooperative governing is anything but a sign of weakness. It is a measure of strength, deeply rooted in our Constitution and history, and essential to the better future that all Americans deserve, Republicans and Democrats alike

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Seems to make one point: pragmatism needs to be bi-partisan. But the gut issues are not addressed. Maybe this is a good approach.

Shantytown apocalypse

Mike Davis’s global survey of the spread of urban poverty, Planet of Slums, is a horrifying but essential read, says Ian Sansom

“neoliberal capitalism since 1970 has multiplied Dickens’s notorious slum of Tom-all-Alone’s in Bleak House by exponential powers. Residents of slums, while only 6% of the city population of the developed countries, constitute a staggering 78.2% of urbanites in the least-developed countries”; and “China … added more city-dwellers in the 1980s than did of all Europe (including Russia) in the entire 19th century!”

The majority of the world’s population live in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving. But you knew that already. The great interest – indeed the morbid fascination – of Davis’s book is that it seeks to identify exactly how and why the majority of the world’s population is currently living in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving; the poor may always be with us, but times change.

And this is bad news, because the cities that Davis examines and describes are not the rich, vibrant cultural centres beloved of Sunday-supplement dandies and middle-class flâneurs, but vast “peri-urban” developments, horizontal spreads of unplanned squats and shantytowns, unsightly dumps of humans and waste, where child labour is the norm, child prostitution is commonplace, gangs and paramilitaries rule and there is no access to clean water or sanitation, let alone to education or democratic institutions. As evidence, Davis points to Beirut’s Quarantina, to Santa Cruz Meyehualco in Mexico City, to Russia’s ex-socialist company towns, to Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and to Cairo’s City of the Dead, “where one million people use Mameluke tombs as prefabricated housing components”. He estimates that there are already some 200,000 such slums worldwide and argues that the slum is becoming the blueprint for cities of the future, which, “rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood.”

According to Davis, this is largely due to the “neoliberal restructuring of Third World urban economies that has occurred since the late 1970s” – which is to say it’s the fault of the World Bank and IMF, and also “middle-class hegemony”, “petty landlordism”, “soft imperialism”, “elite homeowners” and NGOs which, he claims, are “captive to the agenda of the international donors, and grassroots groups similarly dependent upon the international NGOs”.

Davis – in case you couldn’t already tell – is an unrepentant Marxist. Clearly, he was either going to be that, or a lapsed Catholic priest. A former truck driver and one-time editor at New Left Review, he is the author of a number of strange and brilliant books about cities and their discontents, most notably a great, surging trilogy of books about Los Angeles – City of Quartz (1990), Ecology of Fear (1998) and Magical Urbanism (2001) – which are renowned and, in some quarters, reviled for their bravura prose style and fizzes of facts. Like all of his books, Planet of Slums is a vision of apocalypse rather than an actual argument, but if its apocalypse you want – and frankly who doesn’t, because how else to explain the mess we’re in? – no one does it better.

When the next terror attack comes

**And scared to think of what the government’s response to another terrorist strike would be? Before the next attack, Bruce Ackerman contains, we should act to create a new legal framework for federal emergency powers.

And what of the living of most of us?

**What happens to our freedoms when the next terrorist strike succeeds?

They may be swept away by a presidential declaration of martial law. For the first time in our history, the Pentagon has devised war plans for responding to terrorist attacks in the United States. According to The Washington Post:

[T]he dispatch of ground troops would most likely be justified on the basis of the president’s authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to serve as commander in chief and protect the nation… “That would be the place we would start from” in making the legal case, said Col. John Gereski, a senior [military] lawyer. But Gereski also said he knew of no court test of this legal argument.

Bruce Ackerman is a professor of law and political science at Yale, and author of Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism.


On futurists, of which I think myself one.

Games get serious

If you think video games are child’s play, meet the growing community of scientists, policy makers, and game developers who beg to differ.

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The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars christened them “serious games” four years ago, mobilizing a loose-knit collection of game developers, educational foundations, grassroots organizations, human rights advocates, medical professionals, first responders, homeland security consultants, and assorted others around a common cause. Together–the experts provide the facts, the game developers the technological know-how–they’ve created a nascent industry. Their goal: To convince nonbelievers that games teach just as well as books, film, or any other medium.

“In the mid-1990s, I worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on a number of topics, including climate change. At one point, I was given a fairly simple simulation created by the Dutch government that ran on PCs–the Dutch actually played the simulation in their parliament. I would play this model while eating lunch. Because of its interactivity, I discovered more about climate change in a few hours than I ever learned from any briefing or supercomputer output.”

–David Rejeski, director of the Wilson Center’s Serious Games Initiative

Every now and again, Ben Sawyer, codirector of the Serious Games Initiative,

First, they crafted a manifesto of sorts, a 2002 white paper entitled “Serious Games: Improving Public Policy Through Game-Based Learning and Simulation,” which Rejeski commissioned and Sawyer wrote. Drawing upon his experiences working on Virtual U, a game the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation released in 2000 to train higher education administrators, Sawyer outlined why stodgy simulations and models could use a makeover. “Any casual observer who has seen someone interact with a computer or video game can easily understand how games can quickly captivate their audience,” he wrote.

Next, Sawyer and Rejeski went about building a community. With money from the Sloan Foundation, they held a small gathering–comprised of a multifarious mix of archetypal bureaucrats and gamers–in Washington. From there, they assembled a website and listserv. They quickly found that a disconnected community already existed, which included Gee and some colleagues at the University of Wisconsin and Howell and FAS President Henry Kelly. “People came out of the woodwork,” Rejeski says. “The idea that you could do something else with this medium had occurred to them, but they figured they were the only ones thinking like this.”

Obtaining the Game

A Force More Powerful – the Game of Nonviolent Strategy is available for purchase at $19.95 plus shipping and handlingPasted from <>

Shortly before lunch on the second day, Sawyer confronts all such concerns, conducting an hour-long panel with Gee and Kelly–entitled “What’s Wrong with Serious Games?”–that deconstructs the ills of the serious games space.

“We’ve been given a Maserati before we’ve been given a driver’s license,” Kelly opens.

“We have to evaluate the learning systems that games generate,” Gee continues.

“Are we just apologists for Grand Theft Auto?” reads one Sawyer slide.

With the purging complete, Sawyer returns to the stump, convinced as ever that such squabbles merely indicate the discipline’s growth and maturity and that games represent the future. “People are getting a growing sense that gaming is a very powerful medium,” he says passionately, a few weeks after San Jose. “As they start to think about that, they’re willing to invest more time to get down that road. Once they’ve traveled a few miles, you can get them to jump at it.”

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United Nations: The World’s Scapegoat

Middle East cease-fire will evaporate if great powers hide their failures behind the U.N.

By Paul Kennedy, PAUL KENNEDY is a professor of history at Yale University. His latest book is “The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present and Future of the United Nations.”

August 20, 2006

So, any defense of the U.N. has to be very careful in explaining what the organization can do, and what it cannot. It is, for example, useless (and ignorant) to blame the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) observer force for not disarming Hezbollah when its Security Council mandate expressly forbade it from taking such military action.

And the subtle, cynical truism? The United Nations is a scapegoat for the failures of the leading governments to agree or to act

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**A review of In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India.

The euphoria about India’s capability in information technology, economic might and superpower potential has of late been tempered by an awareness of just how much darkness is still beneath the lamp. Study after study has revealed this sobering fact. According to one, India still has only 84 television sets per 1,000 people (America has 938); 7.2 personal computers for every thousand people (Australia has 564.5); and the internet reaches only 2 per cent (Malaysia’s figure is 34 per cent).

Towards the end of the book, Luce elaborates on how the relationship between the two Asian countries has altered and how America, suspicious of India during the Cold War years, has warmed to it more recently. The US, he says, would want to promote better ties with India to counterbalance China’s emerging dominance and ‘prolong American power in the coming decades’.

‘Less than 7 per cent of India’s dauntingly large labour force is employed in the formal economy … that means only 35 million people out of a total of 470 million people have job security … and only about 35 million Indians pay income tax.’ This is admirable but it can at times seem a little dizzying. In a country as complex as India, figures do not always tell the whole story, but at least they hardly ever lie. For instance, even ‘in 2006, almost 300 million Indians can never be sure where their next meal will come from’. Take that.

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And on China

** The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the First British Expedition to Tibet

by Kate Teltscher

Bloomsbury, £20, pp336

Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present

by Peter Hessler

Kate Teltscher’s The High Road to China ends with the total failure of the first British trade mission to reach Beijing in 1793. ‘As your ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things,’ the Qing emperor wrote blandly to George III, returning gifts (‘I have no use for your country’s manufactures’), refusing concessions and pointing out that his correspondent was at best a minor king of a remote island whose minions must never again set foot in China: ‘Tremblingly obey and show no negligence.’

The first attempt to get around this prohibition originated in the 1770s with Warren Hastings, the East India Company’s governor in Calcutta, who planned to infiltrate the Chinese market via Tibet. His envoy was George Bogle, a cocky young Scot travelling with neither permit nor map: ‘I was equally in the Dark about the Road, the Climate and the People.’

Bogle caused a sensation in the Himalayas. When he approached the palace of the ruler of Bhutan, his route was lined with spectators – ‘I daresay there were 3,000’ – all craning to catch sight of this weird, white-faced alien with tight clothes and funny hair. Stubborn, shrewd, pragmatic and infinitely inquisitive, Bogle was astonished when he finally reached his goal to find how easily he got on from the start with the ruler of Tibet. His conversation amused and sometimes amazed his host, who showed him unprecedented favour in return, inviting him to tea, dressing him in imperial yellow and offering him the best seat at court functions. ‘The Lama is a short fat Man,’ Bogle wrote home disrespectfully, ‘and as merry as a Criquet.’ But even the Panchen Lama could not wangle permission to take Bogle into China with him for the emperor’s 70th birthday celebrations in 1780.

Instead, Hastings offered him the residency of Rangpur so that he could make a fortune from collecting taxes like any other Asiatic despot. When a troublesome rajah objected to an exorbitant tax rise, Bogle wrote home: ‘I was obliged to set People on him. His Head was this Moment brought to me.’ Hastings urged Dr Johnson to read his protege’s Tibetan journal, but Bogle drowned in a swimming pool aged 34 before he had time to write up the mass of notes, jottings, curiosities, route maps and diary entries that form the basis of Kate Teltscher’s strange and fascinating book.

On Oracle Bones

**Perspective is the key to this extraordinary survey of contemporary China with its artificial boomtowns (‘designed to flourish and then fade, like a flower that blooms only once’), its migrants and refugees, its persecuted minorities, its febrile, rootless, restless, endlessly inquiring workforce. Young people confide the stories of their lives to Hessler. An older generation tells him things they could remember and things they would like to forget. His chapter on the destruction of Beijing is really quite unforgettable. So is his account of his visit to the island of Taiwan, and his beautiful brief history of the cultural and cohesive power of Chinese writing

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** A review of Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.

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But it wasn’t until 20 years later that Pomfret, by then the Washington Post’s Beijing bureau chief, decided fully to plumb the devastation the period wrought in his friends’ lives.

The party silenced debates about how a person could be good and virtuous, Pomfret charges, and “It is still unclear whether the country has the ability to revive the tradition of asking these timeless questions…. China has destroyed its traditions and the current vacuum in everyday morality hampers everything from public safety to education to the stock exchange.”

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History and the Culture of Nationalism in Algeria

Series: Cambridge Middle East Studies (No. 24)

James McDougall

Princeton University, New Jersey

Colonialism denied Algeria its own history; nationalism reinvented it. James McDougall charts the creation of that history through colonialism to independence, exploring the struggle to define Algeria’s past and determine the meaning of its nationhood. Through local histories, he analyses the relationship between history, Islamic culture and nationalism in Algeria. He confronts prevailing notions that nationalism emancipated Algerian history, and that Algeria’s past has somehow determined its present, violence breeding violence, tragedy repeating itself. Instead, he argues, nationalism was a new kind of domination, in which multiple memories and possible futures were effaced. But the histories hidden by nationalism remain below the surface, and can be recovered to create alternative visions for the future. This is an exceptional and engaging book, rich in analysis and documentation. It will be read by colonial historians and social theorists as well as by scholars of the Middle East and North Africa.


Preface; The language of history; Prologue: Tunis, 1899; 1. The margins of a world in fragments; 2. The conquest conquered?; 3. The doctors of new religion; 4. Saint cults and ancestors; 5. Arabs and Berbers?; Epilogue: Algiers, 2001; The invention of authenticity; Bibliography.

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How Europe Wrote the Rules of Global Finance

Q&A with:

Rawi Abdelal


August 21, 2006


Ann Cullen

In this interview about his research and his book, Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance, forthcoming from Harvard University Press, Abdelal discusses the rise and diminishment of capital controls in the 1900s, the coming influence of China and India on global financial markets, and a conspiracy theory that U.S. institutions rewrote the rules to force capital liberalization on developing countries. His article, “Writing the Rules of Global Finance: France, Europe, and Capital Liberalization,” appeared in the Review of International Political Economy in February 2006.

my students and I were discussing the financial crises that erupted in Asia during 1997 and 1998. Unlike its neighbors, the government of Malaysia restricted the outflow of capital in September 1998 as part of its management of an apparently ongoing crisis.

The hyperbole was striking: The language of religion—orthodoxy, heresy, dogma—seems for some reason to pervade policy discussions of international monetary and financial issues. And the prevailing orthodoxy had been determined in significant part by norms of appropriate policy practices and the collective expectations of market participants.

Dc: interesting idea that economics is discussed in tems approapriate to religion. Science is not quite so characterized.

The big, unanswered question was: Why were capital controls heretical at the beginning of the twentieth century, orthodox in the middle, and heretical again at the end?

My book, Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance, is going to be published by Harvard University Press later this year.

The U.S. approach to globalization has been ad hoc, relying on the bilateral influence of the U.S. Treasury and private financial firms, such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. European policymakers, in contrast, have sought to create new rules for the international system and empower international organizations, such as the EU, OECD, and IMF, to enforce them. French policymakers invented the doctrine of “managed globalization” as an alternative to U.S.-centric ad hoc globalization. A handful of French policymakers—all of them socialists, paradoxically—first liberalized France and then, upon taking leadership roles in international organizations, sought to organize and manage the process of globalization with new jurisdictions and rules.

The international financial community no longer embraces capital mobility with just a few qualifications; rather, the qualifications these days are many, and the consensus favors capacious domestic institutions and prudential regulations, careful sequencing, and caution. The proposal to amend the IMF’s Articles of Agreement to give the organization jurisdiction over the capital account policies of members and endow it with the purpose of liberalizing capital flows failed primarily as a result of the financial crises of 1997 and 1998. Today, the IMF is very cautious about encouraging countries to liberalize, and indeed generally IMF officials offer developing countries warnings about the serious risks involved. The OECD has retreated from its once enthusiastic and unambiguous support for rapid capital liberalization. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s write very often these days about the risks of liberalization, and the credit-rating agencies have praised China and India for liberalizing slowly.

Undoubtedly, the United States played an important role in the creation of a world of mobile capital, and the Treasury and private financial firms were influential. Unilateral liberalization, bilateral pressure, crisis management, and massive flows of capital in both directions have put the United States at the center of global finance. But neither the U.S. Treasury nor the private financial community has preferred or promoted multilateral, liberal rules for global finance. The most important liberal rules of the international financial system—those of the EU and OECD—were conceived and authored by Europeans, not by U.S. policy makers. And in the debate about a universal rule in favor of full capital mobility to be codified in the IMF’s Articles, the U.S. Treasury was ambivalent, and private financial firms were publicly and vigorously opposed. The private financial community in the United States has in fact been generally suspicious of codified rules that empower international organizations. That community has, moreover, always been cautious about the dangers of capital liberalization for countries that are not prepared in terms of their macroeconomic policy making or the domestic institutional foundations for sound financial systems, in part because of the risk of contagious financial crises.

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**Moving Right? Bush’s Decline and American Conservatism

By David Plotke

I will begin with the political context of Bush’s evident decline, and then assess the effects of the administrations’ efforts both for public opinion and policies.

The result was a complicated process of rethinking on the left that became one source of Tony Blair’s political success.

Outside the terms of the realignment debate, however, it is clear that politics in the United States shifted substantially to the right in the late 1960s and early 1980s. If Bush has not produced a similar shift, one cannot use that absence to prove that there is a deep and strong pro-Democratic majority just waiting to be unearthed.

Dc: So, Reagan produced a larger shift than Bush, and in fact Bush maybe not at all.

These combine a vigorous and useful anti-Republican polemic with the argument that Republican domination is in some sense artificial, created either by people’s misrecognition of their economic interests or by institutional mechanisms that inflate and sustain Republican electoral prospects beyond what the public really wants.

It is true to such an extent that one can describe national politics as defined by the following rule: To be elected president, you should be a conservative Republican (Nixon twice, Reagan twice, Bush père, Bush fils twice). You have a limited chance of being elected if you are a center-right (Carter) or centrist Democrat (Clinton twice). You cannot be elected president if you are a liberal Democrat.

Dc: forumlaic but… OK, why? My thinking is that cener and cener left are not now defied, and have been less relevant ov he last decades. But a revitalization around the 80% solution/ garden world is possible.

The conservative shape of contemporary national politics remains largely in place despite Bush’s falling popularity. Much of the growing and well-deserved public disapproval of the Bush administration is about poor performance and bad judgment; it isn’t a rejection of the administration’s basic direction.

Dc: but the “basic direction” of Bush is chaotic, and includes are spending, making enemies and alck of business accumen.

If people were deeply unhappy with Bush on grounds that he was enacting programs dangerously far from their preferences, that was a good occasion to express their dissatisfaction. The Democrats provided a reasonable candidate. John Kerry’s résumé and his campaign had flaws, but he was a qualified candidate who conducted a vigorous and decent campaign.

Another significant measure of Bush’s legitimacy comes from public opinion studies. In the last decade there has been relative stability in the self-identification of citizens as conservative, liberal, and moderate. About 40 percent of citizens describe themselves as conservative, 40 percent as moderate, and 20 percent as liberal. (These results vary by year and by how questions are posed, but only within a modest range.)

Dc: but conservative and liberal are in flux, around environment, what kind of economy, military. It is redefinition that will create new politics.

If these figures are roughly correct, they indicate that a plausible Republican candidate can win a majority of votes with a very conservative campaign if he or she can articulate themes that attract slightly more than 25 percent of moderates. This is not a high threshold. Thus Bush is a conservative Republican who has a large and strong political base (35 percent to 40 percent of the population) committed to supporting him even when his administration is doing poorly.

The gap between Bush and the center of public opinion varies greatly by issue.[1]

But the major debates in contemporary U.S. politics do not easily merge into a single left-right axis. Thus it is not easy to spell out the distance between Bush and “the center”—there may be no single center.[2]

Bush is not the source of this complexity, but he has benefited from it. It means that sharp disagreements with some of his policies often coexist with relatively strong support in other areas.

Dc: smart thinking. Disaggregation, but voting is unitary.

The Republicans in 2006 and their presidential candidate in 2008 are not apt to gain any wartime advantage. November 2008 is seven years from September 11, 2001.

Dc: what strikes me is how slow history is moving, in some crucial ways. There is not much room for leadership in the upper middle of the country, and slowness means that careers cannot make anything happen. Talent is frustrated.

But cutting taxes is a widely shared enthusiasm, so that a clear majority of the population supports his tax cuts, and even larger majorities report that their own income taxes are too high.

Dc: allowing Bush to cut taxes on the rich gives less money to government, a desired outcome by many. The Dems need to return to reinventing government.

Bush has not been successful in moving things further his way, especially with regard to Social Security. If there has been movement it has been away from Bush, for two reasons. One, Bush has provided no solutions to the big problems in health care, and this opens the way for proposals that would involve a larger government role and more spending. Two, the Hurricane Katrina disaster seems to have persuaded more than a few critics of “big government” that limited government has its limits.

Although the deficits (now and through the rest of the decade) are vast in dollar terms, they are not huge relative to a large and growing economy. In percentage terms, current deficits are smaller than the deficits of the Reagan years of the mid-1980s.[4]

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August 23, 2006 § Leave a comment

Where is the space between science as dogmatic thingism, and religion as dogmatic dependency on power?

Here is an article (excerpts)  that touches on the issues, especially the need for awareness of lare forces, and dependencies for which we can be grateful. Gratitude, he essays, is deeply human and important.

**Gratitude, central to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, is largely absent from our secular culture. Life without God is robbed of much of its coherence and meaning… more»

Ronald Aronson

Living without God today means facing life and death as no generation before us has done. It entails giving meaning to our lives not only in the absence of a supreme being, but now without the forces and trends that gave hope to the past several generations of secularists. We who live after progress, after Marxism, and after the Holocaust have stopped believing that the world is being transformed by reason and democracy.

The first step of such a project concerns paradoxically, the issue of giving thanks. Gratitude, central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is virtually absent from our secular culture, except in relation to the “oughts” of individual interactions. But this deprives living without God of much of its coherence and meaning. My thesis is that there is much to be grateful for. Exploring this feeling and idea, so little noticed from a secular point of view, opens a new way of experiencing our relationship with forces and beings beyond our individual selves.

But there is an alternative to thanking God on the one hand and seeing the universe as a “cosmic lottery” or as absurd on the other. An alternative to being grateful to a deity or to ignoring such feelings altogether. Think of the sun’s warmth. After all, the sun is one of those forces that make possible the natural world, plant life, indeed our very existence. It may not mean anything to us personally, but the warmth on our face means, tells us, and gives us a great deal. All of life on Earth has evolved in relation to this source of heat and light, we human beings included. We are because of, and in our own millennial adaptation to, the sun and other fundamental forces. My moment of gratitude was far more than a moment’s pleasure. It is a way of acknowledging one of our most intimate if impersonal relationships, with the cosmic and natural forces that make us possible.

As philosopher Robert Solomon has neatly pointed out, we have much to learn by abandoning the interpersonal model of gratitude and thinking not of God and other people’s intentions but of our gratitude to larger and impersonal forces. The moment we do, he correctly notes, one of the first experiences we confront is our dependence. It is as if we live in a profound series of dependencies that dominate our existence but which, outside of religion, we more and more manage to hide from ourselves: dependence on the cosmos, the sun, nature, past generations of people, and human society. Living without God, we should for the first time become intensely clear about all that we do, in fact, rely on.

Ronald Aronson is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wayne State University.

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Looking at 9/11

**A review of Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton.

C.I.A.’s unit set up to find him, code-named “Alec Station,” was recently, and quietly, disbanded after 10 years of failure

Calling the invasion of Iraq “a godsend to Osama bin Laden,” the former Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer warned that American foreign policy in the region was playing directly into his hands. “It validated so much of what he has said and told Muslims: that the Americans want Arab oil; that the Americans will destroy any Muslim regime that appears to be powerful; the Americans will destroy any country that appears to be a threat to the Israelis; and they’re willing to invade any Muslim country if it suits their interests.”

In fact, he insisted that he and Vice President Dick Cheney appear together, a move that led many skeptics to speculate that they wanted to ensure they kept their stories straight. Because of the insistence on secrecy, whatever was said in the room was largely lost to history. Unfortunately, Kean and Hamilton shed little additional light on the event, which is one of the problems with the book: an overabundance of self-censorship by the authors.

What motivated them to do it?”

These questions fell to Supervisory Special Agent James Fitzgerald. “I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States,” he said. “They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States.”

“Lee felt that there had to be an acknowledgment that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital to America’s long-term relationship with the Islamic world, and that the presence of American forces in the Middle East was a major motivating factor in Al Qaeda’s actions.”

James Bamford’s most recent books are “A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies” and “Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultrasecret National Security Agency.”

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We need to keep working on putting the pieces together, and seeing how wrong the “crusade” response was. Remember the Gorbachev quote fromyesterday, not military, not police, but partnership.

** Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says GOP has lost its way.

Hagel asked: ”Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in ’68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined — fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government?”

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This kind of thinking, part of the Gingrich “contract with America”, has become in many ways the core Democratic approach. But not with vigor.

Good resource paper


The Lobby

by Mazin B. Qumsiyeh

On the Israel/Zionist lobby in America and its influence on US policy: Why strategically and tactically focusing on this lobby maybe important

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for August, 2006 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.