25 June 2006
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
This past academic year, 2005-2006, has seen a diversity of democratic
movements in so-called First- and Third-World nations. It would appear
that a significant part of humanity has reached the conclusion, more or
less independently, that Yes! Specialists
do possess valuable
information and understandings which if applied to real situations
could improve the quality of life for all of us. And, No! Specialists
cannot be entrusted to apply their "solutions" without popular consent.
The people are, in fact, the only experts
concerning their own
needs, and free public debate
is the most efficient method to
determine what is acceptable to satisfy the needs of those involved,
and what is not! As the French proverb reminds us, l'absent a
[those who are not present are always wrong
: the collective "veto power" of all parties concerned is the essence
of democracy, the right to send the Specialists
back to their
drawing boards to come up with a better policy proposal. . . .
The liberal capitalist fallacy of not recognizing natural and social
hierarchies has become increasingly visible. The contemporary
communication revolution, instead of mapping ideological illusions upon
a given reality --ideas like "variety is diversity," and "everyone is
like an individual atom," and "everything is relative to everything
else," and "there are two sides to every question," and instead of
adopting "the analytic logic of 'either/or' as a instrument that can
explain everything"-- is in the process of popularizing the
understanding that matter-energy exists independently of its being
perceived, while information does not.
[A common socialist fallacy in practicing Democratic Centralism
is to emphasize centralism
and to adopt
the view that democracy is an obstacle to be overcome by threat of
force, thereby undermining its own creation of a legitimate
hierarchy of power.]
We have come a long way from the Stalinist purges in Russia, the
American witch hunts
and bomb shelters
of the 1950s,
and the phony American egalitarianism of the 1960s ("Do your own
thing!"), which served to sabotage the democratic socialist challenge
to the capitalist order and to perpetuate illegitimate
hierarchies of political power against the well-being of both society
and society's context, the natural order. Today, at the start of the
21st century, metacommunication (communication about communication) is
challenging the capitalist order. More than ever before, the public is
aware that they are despised by their rulers, who can barely tolerate
their dissent. What tries to pass as "democracy" is the rubber stamp of
approval in the absence of real debate. The wider social context
includes the threat of sanctions if automatic approval is withheld.
Thus caught in the paradox of an authoritarian matrix, where the only
choice is "the lesser evil", we find ourselves recruited to collaborate
with our own executioners, as it were, competing for opportunities
which destroy our environment and ultimately ourselves. [In Elizabethan
England, tradition allowed for the condemned to pay a coin to his
executioner to encourage the efficiency of his services.]
Along with today's advances in metacommunication, we are witnessing a
better grasp of the limits of digital representations, the practice of
dividing the parts of a whole into separate, numeric units, in contrast
to analog coding, where communication occurs along the lines of
continuity and an infinite shading of differences. Neither of
these modes of thought can be ignored; both are necessary, and
though very different, they complement one another to do that work
which is essential to the survival of our species, i.e. the transfer of
information over space and time. In his book, The Great Chain of
Being, A Study of the History of an Idea
philosophy professor Arthur O. Lovejoy writes,
- There are not many differences
in mental habit more significant than that between the habit
- of thinking in discrete,
well-defined class concepts and that of thinking in terms of
- of infinitely delicate
shadings-off of everything into something else, of the overlapping of
- so that the whole notion of
species comes to seem an artifice of thought not truly applicable
- to the fluency, the, so to say,
universal overlappingness of the real world. (p.57)
Pointing to the context of contemporary society, communications analyst
Anthony Wilden observes evidence of a third form of communication in
his book, The Rules are No Game
- analog coding, based on
difference, is continuous; digital coding, based on distinction, is
- and iconic coding, based on both
differences and distinction, is both continuous and discrete. (p.222)
"Iconic" communication, derived from the visual and plastic arts,
combines digital and analog coding and expresses meaning
by representing both digital discontinuities (the discovery of significance
and analog continuities (the discovery of feeling
- Analog and digital coding are
found in all communication systems. Where the analog
- communicates context and
relationship, the digital is its instrument: the two forms of coding
- do not oppose or contradict each
other ('either/or'), but complement each other ('both/and').
- In modern society, however,
where emotion and feeling, which are typically analog or iconic
- states, are commonly disparaged
and divorced from (digital) reason (in spite of their being its
- ultimate source, i.e. the
reasons for reason), and where images and thoughts not expressed or
- expressible in words are
commonly regarded as not worth thinking at all, digital information
- and digital coding --the form
taken by signification in language, by commodities in production,
- by money in relations of price,
and by value in relations of exchange-- have come to dominate
- their context of analog and
iconic communication, just as 'all-or-none' has come to dominate
- 'more-or-less', just as
'either/or' has come to dominate 'both/and', and just as competition
- come to dominate co-operation. (p.225)
Below, please find several sources of information which associates of
CEIMSA have sent recently to us. William Blum, author of Killing
has again forwarded to us a copy of his own very remarkable
newsletter, The Anti-Empire Report,
which you are
invited to read at the following Internet address:
And we have gathered the following 7 items
of information which we submit to you as material for context analysis
of contemporary American society, developing, if you wish, new theories
which might bring forth new and useful tactics against the propaganda
machine employed by illegitimate hierarchies wherever they may
, forwarded to us by
Jean-Pierre Simard, is a metacommunication on the media blackout around
information on the National Student Strike in Greece, which is now in
its 6th week.
, from Ralph Nader, is a
proposition concerning "The Cruel and Unusual"
, from American Studies
graduate student Frédéric Méni, are two easily
accessible video presentations on the horrors of food production under
the Capitalist Dictatorship.
is the inimitable
Bertell Ollman arguing in favor of democracy in America
NEWS, of all places, viewed by tens of millions of Americans.
is a discussion by Michael
Albert on the fit between technology and democracy,
is once again Ralph Nader
warning us against suffering from amnesia
and self deception
while fighting the "The Good Fight."
And finally, item G.
Palest offers us an insightful analysis of Republican tactics
to defend their political hegemony over the American government system.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Jean-Pierre Simard :
Date: 21 June 2006
Subject: université : ce qui se passe en Grèce
Pour info devant el blackout de
nos grands médias
(POURQUOI LE SILENCE SUR CE QUI SE PASSE EN GRECE ?)
par Raoul Marc JENNAR
Rien ne s'écrit, rien ne se dit, rien ne se montre sur ce qui se
passe en Grèce depuis cinq semaines. Les journaux, les stations
de radio, les chaînes de télévision nous privent du
droit à une information majeure : depuis cinq semaines,
354 départements académiques sont occupés;
des milliers d'étudiants manifestent
régulièrement ; la manière dont la police a
réprimé la manifestation du 8 juin rappelle
à bien des égards les heures noires de la dictature
des colonels (une personne dans le coma). Dans un pays de l'Union
européenne ! Et nous n'en savons rien. Le gouvernement grec,
suivant en cela les décisions dérégulatrices
prises par nos gouvernements pour être ensuite imposées
par l'OMC et par l'Union européenne, va modifier la
Constitution rédigée après la chute de la
dictature pour permettre la privatisation de l'enseignement
>> universitaire. Il prépare en outre une loi qui va
permettre la création d'établissements universitaires
privés, qui va imposer les critères de gestion des
firmes privées aux facultés d'État, qui va
supprimer «l'asile universitaire » soumettant
jusqu'ici l'intervention de la police sur les campus à l'accord
du Conseil d'administration de l'université, qui va
réduire drastiquement la possibilité de repasser
C'est à cela que des dizaines de milliers d'étudiants
grecs s'opposent. Dans l'indifférence totale des journalistes et
correspondants de presse des autres pays européens.
Le black-out des médias propagandistes de la pensée
unique néolibérale vise un but : empêcher qu'on
sache dans toute l'Union européenne que la résistance au
néolibéralisme existe partout, qu'elle n'est pas
une exception française et que le rejet de l'Europe telle
qu'elle se construit depuis cinquante ans grâce à
l'alliance de la
démocratie-chrétienne et de la
social-démocratie va grandissant.
En Europe, on impose la liberté de circulation des biens, des
services et des capitaux, mais on brime la liberté de
circulation desinformations. Il s'impose d'urgence de manifester
notre solidarité avec les étudiants grecs. Il s'impose de
dénoncer l'information sélective et orientée des
médias privés et publics, tous à la solde
des banquiers et des marchands.
Combien de temps encore allons-nous supporter ce coup d'État
permanent qu'est la construction d'une Europe néolibérale
destructrice de nos acquis démocratiques et sociaux ?
Raoul Marc JENNAR
from Ralph Nader
Date: 23 June 2006
Subject: "Cruel and Unusual"
I have a hobby -- it's handing out books. All kinds of books to all
kinds of people.
In fact, if it was up to me I'd rather have "bookshakes" than
"handshakes" on the campaign trail.
Handing out books respects the intelligence of the voters. It is the
opposite of sloganeering and silly 30 second campaign ads on television.
Now comes Mark Crispin Miller -- professor of media studies at New York
University -- with his recent book Cruel and
. It is a devastating, documented critique of George W. Bush
and his outlaw regime.
I offered copies to the Democratic National Committee. Just for a few
dimes. The cost of freight. To test them. They said no.
I offered them to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and
the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on the same terms. Not
is a hardback book retailing for $24.95. It covers
Bush/Cheney's New World Order.
Individual Democrats who have read its 343 pages have reached a deeper
understanding of just where this extremist, dictatorial President is
heading. And why the Democrats in Congress have not blocked him? Or why
the Democrats did not landslide him and the Republican Congress in 2004?
The book jacket says:
- "As Mark Crispin Miller argues here with great clarity and
effect, we are in fact living in a state that would appall the Founding
Fathers: a state that is neither Democratic nor Republican, and no more
'conservative' than it is liberal."
The jacket continues:
- "He exposes the Bush Republicans' unprecedented lawlessness,
their bullying religiosity, their reckless militarism, their
apocalyptic views of the economy and the planet, their emotional
dependence on sheer hatefulness, and, above all, their long campaign
against American democracy."
How would you like to hand out Cruel and
? A box containing 24 copies of this hardback slam against
the Bush Corporation? To your relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors
and local library?
to help us further reduce our campaign expenses
, I'll send you a
box containing 24 copies of Mark Crispin Miller's Cruel and
leading to twenty four conversations and twenty four
thank yous and twenty four readers who pass the book on to twenty four
more readers ready for political activation. Or twenty three, if you
want to keep a copy for yourself.
Reading this book is motivating. It improves one's judgment, sharpens
one's arguments, elevates one's belief that people can make the
difference. It moves people to recover their country from the rogue
corporate politicians who have seized power.
Twenty four new books for a $100
Please tell us your experiences when you "bookshake" your gift to
members of your circle.
Onward to bright horizons. Thank you for your support.
P.S. Please let your friends and family know about this offer by
forwarding this letter to your e-mail address book.
from Frédéric Méni :
Date: 17 Jun 2006
Hello Professor Feeley,
Here are two links with nice animations denouncing factory farming:
from Bertell Ollman :
Date: 23 June 2006
Subject: The International Endowment for Democracy (IED) on
FOX NEWS's Hannity and Colmes
Much to say about what has been happening to
the IED, and a report is being prepared. Meanwhile, I thought you would
enjoy my 5 minute "Happening" on FOX's "Hannity and Colmes" on Teusday
night. Click below for their website and look for "Revenge" and my
photo. It gets hotter at the end, so don't give up.
The internet address is - <http://www.foxnews.com/hannityandcolmes/index.html
PS. Please visit http://www.democracynow.org/
from Michael Albert :
Date: 23 June 2006
Subject: Participatory Economics
Parecon and Science/Technology
by Michael Albert
Like every label for a complex personal and
social practice the word science is fuzzy at its edges making it hard
to pin down what is and what isn’t science. Nonetheless, for our broad
purposes, we can assert that science refers to an accumulated body of
information about the components of the cosmos and to testable claims
or theories about how those components interact, as well as to the
processes by which we add to our information, claims, and theories,
and/or the processes by which we reject them as false or determine that
they are possibly or even likely true.
My personal knowledge that the grass that I can see from window is
green is not science, nor is my knowledge that my back was hurting an
hour ago, or that my pet parrot Zeke is on my shoulder or will likely
frolic in a bath only once or at most twice a week. Experience per se
is not science, nor are perceptions, even of regularities, though both
can be valid and important.
It isn’t by way of science that we know what love is or that we are
experiencing pain or pleasure. It isn’t science that tells a Little
Leaguer how to get under a fly ball to catch it. We don’t know how to
talk nor what to say in most situations due to practicing nor even
benefiting from the practice of science, and this is likely true as
well even for knowing how to add or multiply numbers, as compared to
knowing how to calculate the size of molecules.
Most of life, in fact, including even most information discovery and
communication occurs without doing science, without being ratified by
science, and without denying, defying, crucifying, or deifying science.
And yet, most of knowing and thinking and especially most of predicting
or explaining is much like science even if it is not science per se.
What distinguishes what we do every day from what we call science is
more a difference of degree than a difference of kind.
Perceiving is perceiving. Claiming is claiming. Respecting evidence is
respecting evidence. What distinguishes scientists doing these things
in labs and libraries from Mr. Jones doing these things to choose the
day’s outfit and stroll into town is science’s personal and collective
Science doesn’t add new claims about the properties of realities’
components or their interactions onto its piles of information and its
theories, nor assert the truth or falsity of any part of that pile,
without diverse people and even groups of people reproducing supporting
evidence and verifying logical claims under very exacting conditions of
careful collection, categorization, and calculation, nor does it do so
without reasons to believe that what is added has significant
implications vis a vis the pile’s overall character, history, and
Random noise doesn’t matter, even if verified. As Einstein writes, “a
theory is more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises,
the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended is
its applicability.” What is most happily added to science’s knowledge
pile is checkable evidence or testable claims that verify or refute
previously in doubt parts of the pile or that add new non-redundant
terrain to the pile in turn giving hope of providing new vistas for
If we look in the sky and say, hey, the moon circles the earth it is an
observation, yes, but it is not yet science. If we detail the motions
of the moon and provide strong evidence for our claims about its
circling the earth that are reproducible and testable by others, we are
getting close to serious science and arguably contributing data to
science, supposing that the data is not already present. If we pose a
theory about what is happening with the moon, as Newton did, and we
then test our theory’s predictions to see if they are ever falsified or
especially if they predict new real outcomes that are surprising to us,
then we are very likely doing science.
Webster's Dictionary defines science as "the observation,
identification, description, experimental investigation, and
theoretical explanation of natural phenomena."
The Oxford English Dictionary defines science as "a branch of study
which is concerned with a body of demonstrated truths or observed
facts, systematically classified and more or less colligated by being
brought under general laws, and which includes trustworthy methods for
the discovery of new truths within its own domain."
72 Noble Lauriates agreed on the following definition: “"Science is
devoted to formulating and testing naturalistic explanations for
natural phenomena. It is a process for systematically collecting and
recording data about the physical world, then categorizing and studying
the collected data in an effort to infer the principles of nature that
best explain the observed phenomena."
And Richard Feynman one of the foremost physicists of the twentieth
century pithily sums up the whole picture: “During the Middle Ages
there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of rhinoceros
horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for
separating the ideas - which was to try one to see if it worked, and if
it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of
course, into science."
To get on with our own agenda for this chapter, we can say with
confidence, then, that what type of economy a society has can impact
science by affecting:
· what information is
collected and what claims about it are explored
· what are the means
and procedures utilized in the collection and exploration, and
· who is in position
to participate in these processes or, for that matter, even to know
about and be enlightened by science’s accomplishments.
Science has at least two individual motivations and at least two social
First there is pure curiosity, the human predilection to ask questions
and seek their answers.
Why is the sky blue? What happens if you run at the speed of light next
to a burst of light? What is time and why does it seem to go only one
way? What is the smallest piece of matter and tiniest conveyor of
force? How do pieces of matter and conveyors of force operate? What is
the universe, its shape, its development? What is life, a species, an
organism? How do species form, persist, get replaced? Why is there sex?
Where did people come from? How do people get born, learn to dance,
romance, try to be a success? What is a language and how do people know
them and use them? What is consciousness? When people socialize, what
is an economy, how does it work, and what is a polity, culture, family,
and how do they work?
Inquiring minds passionately want to know these things even if there
are no material by-products to enjoy, rather like some clever feet
passionately want to dance even if no one is watching or some nimble
hands passionately want to draw even if no one will put the result on
As a second personal motive of science we have personal and collective
self interest. Knowledge of the components of reality and their
interconnections sufficient to predict outcomes and even to intervene
to impact what happens can not only assuage our curiosity, it can
increase the longevity of our lives and also their scope, range, and
What is the cause and cure for polio or cancer? How do birds fly? How
does gravity work, friction, flight? Curiosity opens the door and peeks
sometimes into the unknown with gigantic desire and energy, to be sure,
but we also run through and indeed drive whole huge caravans through
the doors of science in part because the insights we accumulate benefit
A parallel social motive of science is also benefit, but now the
benefit is not from the implications of the knowledge itself, but is
instead from remuneration offered for our scientific labors or
achievements. There are or can be material rewards for gathering
information and for proposing or testing hypotheses about reality.
Pursuit of these rewards is another motive for doing science.
Likewise, and also social, the benefits to be had beyond the pure
satisfaction of fulfilling one’s curiosity are not confined to material
payment. There is also the social bestowal of stature and fame or
whatever other accolades a society causes us to value, and doing
science is often at least in part driven by pursuit of the social
prizes, notoriety, stature and admiration that accompany discovery.
An economy can plausibly increase, diminish, or just push people’s
curiosity in one direction or another. It can impact as well the ways
that scientific knowledge can directly benefit people and of course the
remuneration and other material rewards bestowed on people for doing
science, as well as the social non-material rewards they can garner.
We can see all of this in history, of course. Thus for a long time
science as we mean it did not even exist. There was mysticism and
belief, sometimes approximating truth and sometimes not, but there
wasn’t an accumulation of evidence tested against experience and guided
Later, societies and economies propelled science and oriented it in
various ways. At present, of course, tremendous pressures from society
most broadly and from capitalist economy more specifically both propel
and also limit the types of questions science pursues, the tools
science utilizes, the people who ever have a chance to participate in
science, and the people who benefit from or even know of science’s
In the capitalist U.S. science has of course become ubiquitous
influentially revealing the inner secrets of materials, space, time,
bodies, and even to a very limited extent, as yet, minds. But science
has also become, in various degrees and respects, an agent of capital.
Where Steven J. Gould writes "Science is a pluralistic enterprise with
a rich panoply of methods appropriate for different kinds of
problems... Direct vision isn't the only, or even the usual, method of
inference.” Distortion arises when the different methods and problems
are biased by motives other than those of science itself.
One kind of problem arises, for example, from the fact (unearthed by
British journalist George Monbiot) that “34% percent of the lead
authors of articles in scientific journals are compromised by their
sources of funding, only 16% of scientific journals have a policy on
conflicts of interest, and only 0.5% of the papers published have
authors who disclose such conflicts.”
In pharmaceuticals things are arguably worst in that we find that “87%
of the scientists writing clinical guidelines have financial ties to
drug companies.” In other words, as we all know, much science is
directly and overtly biased by corporate money.
More subtly, commercial funding and ownership impact what questions are
even raised, what projects are pursued and then supported, etc. If
patent prospects are good, money flows. If they are bad, even though
general curiosity reasons or even human welfare reasons for a field are
high, money is barricaded.
At the most gross end of things citizens may wind up “guinea pigs as in
the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment between 1932 and 1972, or in
experiments between 1950 and 1969 in which the government tested drugs,
chemical, biological, and radioactive materials on unsuspecting U.S.
citizens; or the deliberate contamination of 8000 square miles around
Hanford, Washington, to assess the effects of dispersed plutonium.”
(from Cornwell 2003 ).
But on a larger scale, in the U.S. the Pentagon now controls about half
the annual $75 billion federal research and development budget with
obvious repercussions for the militarization of priorities.
I recently sat on an airplane next to an MIT biologist whose interest
was comprehending human biological functions and dysfunctions. He was
not at all political or ideological, but he had no confusions about
this matter at all. “What we do, what we can do, even what we can think
of doing is overwhelmingly biased by the need for funding which,
nowadays, means the need for corporate funding or, if government, then
a government that is beholden overwhelmingly, again, to corporations or
to militarism. More, the corporations have a very short time horizon.
If you can’t make a very strong case for short run profits, forget
about it. Find something else to pursue, unless, of course, you can
convince the government your efforts will increase killing capacities.”
It is the deadly combination of market competition and profit seeking
plus militarist governments at work, again.
What would be different about science in a parecon? Four primary
structural things, which in turn have a multitude of implications.
First, each parecon scientist would work at a balanced job complex
rather than occupying a higher or lower position in a pecking order of
Second, each parecon scientist would be remunerated for duration,
intensity, and to the extent relevant harshness of their work, not for
power or output much less for property.
Third, the scientist, with other workers in his or her scientific
institution – whether it might be a lab, a university, a research
center, or whatever other venue – influences decisions in proportion as
he or she is affected by them.
And fourth, the level of resources that scientists are allotted to
engage in their pursuits is determined by the overall economic system
via participatory planning, again with self management.
As a result pareconish science will no longer be a hand maiden to power
and wealth on the one hand, indeed these won’t even exist to be a hand
maiden too, and, on the other hand, nor will science be so exalted or
so reviled as to be different in kind in respect to material well being
or decision making rights than other pursuits.
A scientist who makes great discoveries within a parecon will no doubt
enjoy social adulation and personal fulfillment for the achievement,
but not material plenty or an accrual of greater voting rights than
others. Likewise, a scientific field will not be funded on grounds of
benefiting a few people as compared to advancing human insight for all.
Will there be huge expenditure on tools for advancing knowledge of the
fifteenth decimal point of nuclear interaction or the fourteen
billionth light year distant galaxy even before there is great
expenditure on reducing the travail of mining coal or containing or
reversing its ecological impacts, or providing alternative energy
Will there research be undertaken on grounds of its military
applications instead of on grounds of its implications for knowing our
place in a complex universe?
These are questions that will arise and be answered in a new future,
what parecon tells us is the broad procedure not the specific outcome
people will choose, though we can certainly make intelligent guesses
about the latter, too.
When the latest and greatest particle accelerator project was being
debated in the U.S., a congressman asked a noted scientist who was
arguing for allocating funds to the super collider what its military
benefits would be. The scientist replied it would have no implications
for weaponry, but it would help make our society one worth defending.
The scientist’s motivations and perceptions failed to impress the
Congress which voted against the project.
Do we know that in a parecon the participatory planning system would
have allotted the billions required? No. We don’t know one way or the
other. But we do know that the calculation would have had near nothing
to do with militarism and near everything to do with making society a
more desirable, wiser, and more insightful place.
So parecon in no way inhibits scientific impulses instead likely
greatly enhancing them due to both having an educational system that
seeks full participation and creativity from all sectors, and due to
allotting to science what a free and highly informed populace agrees
to. Science in the sense of creatively expanding the range and depth of
our comprehension of the world depends greatly on real freedom, which
is to say real control over our lives to pursue what we desire – which
is what parecon provides.
Consider Albert Einstein on the topic, “It is, in fact, nothing short
of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction [not to mention
financing, then far less of an issue] have not yet entirely strangled
the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside
from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”
Technology is similar to science, of course, in its trajectories of
pursuit and logic of development. Those who work to produce it in a
parecon, let’s now call it applied science, are like those who work in
any other endeavors regarding influence, conditions, and income. The
critical change is the determination of what technologies are worth
pursuing and implementing. In capitalism this is determined by profit
making possibilities and the need to maintain or even enlarge the
relative advantages of elites which include capitalist and coordinator
class dominance as well as hierarchies regarding race, gender, polity,
As a result the direction of technological innovation reflects the
needs of narrow sectors of the population, not generalized human well
being and development.
In the U.S., for example, technological nightmares abound. Indeed the
whole idea of high tech and low tech is revealing. It is high tech if
it involves huge apparatuses and massive outlays of time and energy to
generate and utilize (many profit possibilities). It is low tech if it
is simple, clean, and comprehensible (fewer profit possibilities). Why
isn’t it high tech if it greatly enhances human well being and
development, and low tech if it tends toward having the opposite effect?
Smart bombs are the highest of high tech, in their deadly majesty. The
sewage system, in contrast, is mundane, at best. Yet the former only
kills and the later saves.
Pursuit of new drugs with dubious or even no serious health benefits is
high tech. Working to get hospitals cleaner and bug free is low tech –
relying largely on medical hygiene norms. The former is profitable for
the rich and powerful in accruing more wealth. The latter is beneficial
for all society in accruing longevity and quality of life, but might
actually minimally diminish profits, at least short run. Capitalism
pursues the former and rejects the latter.
In the U.S. the pursuit of industrial technology is overwhelmingly
about profits. This has diverse implications. U.S. technology seeks
innovation to lower market-determined markets costs which in any event
misprice everything, not least discounting the adverse effects of
production on environment and workers. Thus technologies that use less
inputs that must be purchased are sought, but technologies that spew
less pollution or impose less stress on workers are not a priority
unless owners are forced by social movements to pursue them.
U.S. technology seeks to increase market share by convincing audiences
to buy products regardless of the value of the incorporated innovation
(or its social cost in byproducts) or the manipulation of the
incorporated design and display features. Thus gargantuan resources and
human capacities go to designing packaging and conceiving and producing
advertising, often for entirely interchangeable and utterly redundant
or even harmful products. Everyone knows it. It is all built in. Within
our system, taking that system as a given, it is just another
nauseating fact of life.
U.S. technology likewise seeks to increase coordinator class and
capitalist domination of workplace norms regardless of the implications
for workers below, or in fact even including imposing divisive control
and fragmentation. As evidence for this all too obvious claim, consider
the type of machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution via
the comments of Andrew Ure, a consultant for the factory owners, "[i]n
the factories for spinning coarse yarn. . .the mule-spinners [skilled
workers] have abused their powers beyond endurance, domineering in the
most arrogant manner. . . over their masters. High wages. . . have, in
too many cases, cherished pride and supplied funds for supporting
refractory spirits in strikes. . . . During a disastrous turmoil of
[this] kind. . . several capitalists. . . had recourse to the
celebrated machinists. . . of Manchester. . . [to construct] a
self-acting mule. . . . This invention confirms the great doctrine
already propounded, that when capital enlists science in her service,
the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility." [Andrew
Ure, Philosophy of Manufactures, pp. 336-368]
Or more recently, referring to modern circumstances, consider David
Noble’s summary that "Capital invested in machines that would reinforce
the system of domination [in the workplace], and this decision to
invest, which might in the long run render the chosen technique
economical, was not itself an economical decision but a political one,
with cultural sanction."
The point is under the norms of capitalism there won’t be funds to
research new workplace organization and design or new tools with the
aim that the well being and dignity, not to mention the knowledge and
power of workers should be enhanced, but exactly the opposite.
U.S. technology also seeks to ward off avenues of innovation that would
diminish profit making possibilities for the already rich, even at the
expense of lost public and social well being for the rest of society.
Don’t even think about replacing oil as social lubricant and fuel as
long as there are profits to be extracted from its use, as but one
example. The economy will push against doing so and only social
movements could propel serious pursuit of wind, water, geothermal and
other approaches, especially ones that would decentralize control,
diminish specialization benefiting elite sectors, and challenge major
centers of power regarding their current agendas.
And U.S. technology seeks to implement the will of geopolitical war
makers and negotiators via provision of the tools of statecraft –
smarter bombs, bigger bombs, deadlier bombs, and vehicles to deliver
them, of course. So if you are a young potential innovator, the
pressure on what to study, what skills to develop, and what personality
to nurture, if you want to “make it,” are enormous. No one honestly
doubts any of this. It is even evident throughout popular culture just
how much it is all taken for granted. What people doubt, only, is that
there is any alternative.
As David Noble urged in an interview with The Chronicle of
Higher Education, “No one is proposing to ignore technology
altogether. It's an absurd proposition. Human beings are born naked; we
cannot survive without our inventions. But beneficial use demands
widespread and sustained deliberation. The first step toward the wise
use of our inventions would be to create a social space where these can
be soberly examined.” Additionally, this space has to not only prepare
people to soberly examine options, and not only welcome them to doing
so, it has to remove incentives and pressures that run counter to their
applying as their norms and values ones that truly emerge from and
support human well being and development. Does parecon do all that and
therefore abet desirable technological development?
Imagine a coal mine, a hospital, and a book publishing house in a
society with a participatory economy. Inside each there are people
concerned with evaluating work and conditions and proposing possible
investments to alter production relations and possibilities, not in
pursuit of greater profit – a category that doesn’t exist in a parecon
– but in pursuit of more efficient utilization of human and material
inputs to provide means of greater fulfillment and development of those
who consume workplace outputs as well as of the workers producing them.
In the coal mine there is a proposal for a new technique, made possible
via new scientific or technical insights, that would ease the
difficulty of work and increase its safety, or, if you want, that would
reduce the pollution effects of the work.
In the hospital there is a proposal for a new machine that would
increase healing effectiveness in certain cases, or again, reduce the
difficulty of certain hospital tasks.
In the book publishing house there is a proposal for technological
change or new equipment that would make the work of preparing books a
And let’s add one more proposed pair of innovations, as well, first a
social investment moving social energies and resources to some military
experiment and implementation of a new weapons system on the one hand,
or second an allocation of energies and resources to an innovative new
set of machines and work arrangements to produce quality housing at low
labor cost and with reduced environmental degradation.
What is the difference in how a capitalist economy and capitalist
workplaces and consumers address these possibilities, as compared to
how a participatory economy and pareconish workplaces and consumers
address these possibilities?
In capitalism, as we have seen, various affected parties will, to the
degree they even know the decisions is being made, weigh in on it.
Capitalists and coordinators will be privy and will have access to the
levers of say. They will consider immediate implications for themselves
– largely via profit possibilities but partly, for the coordinators,
via implications for their conditions and status – and they may also
consider longer run implications for the overall balance of class and
Innovations bettering the situation of workers or even consumers will
be ignored unless and to the extent they are also profitable for owners
and to the degree the more general benefits don’t raise profitability
problems. Technical innovations will be appreciated for lowering
incurred costs – perhaps by dumping costs on others – and for
increasing control and subordination on behalf of lasting preservation
of favorable balances of power.
In the capitalist workplace, in fact, innovations that cost more and
generate less gain in output per input but that provide greater control
from above will often even be preferred to the reverse, innovations
that yield more product per asset but empower workers. The reason is
that in the latter case the gains may ultimately be distributed, due to
workers’ greater bargaining power, such that the overall result for
owners is a loss rather than a gain, even though the result for
productivity is positive.
Or take another indicative case. Why is there such a disproportionate
allocation of social resources to military expenditure and research in
the U.S., as compared to spending it on health care, low income
housing, roads and parks, and education? Diverse explanations are
offered for this bias. Some say it is because the military expenditures
provide more jobs than the social expenditures, and therefore are
better for the economy. But this is clearly wrong, of course, and in
fact the reverse is overwhelmingly the case. The technology laden
production of bombs and planes and associated research has only a
fraction of the labor needs, per dollar invested, that producing
schools and hospitals has.
Others say it is because of the massive profits that accrue to
aerospace and other militarily involved industries which obviously
lobby hard for the government support. But this too is false. The same,
or indeed equally large other industries, would make the same kind of
profits from expenditures going to housing, road repair and other
infrastructural work that they undertook for government contracts. It
is highly interesting, indeed, that in the aftermath of obliterating
the social structure of Iraq there is a tremendous flurry of interest
and pursuit by U.S. and other multinationals to rebuild that country,
assuming a climate of safety can be guaranteed for them, yet there is
no similar flurry to rebuild the inner cities of the U.S. itself. What
makes blowing up societies, or even just stockpiling to do so, or
reconstructing societies other than our own – at least up to a point –
more attractive as a path of major social commitment than
reconstructing and/or otherwise greatly improving the social conditions
of poor and working class communities throughout the U.S.?
The answer is not short run profits. They can be had in all the
competing pursuits. The same companies or equally large ones could make
huge profits building schools, roads, and hospitals in cities
throughout the U.S., just as in Iraq.
What causes the military investment to be preferable to the social
investment isn’t that it is more profitable, or that it employs more
people – both of which are false – but is that its product is less
problematic. Sad as it is to contemplate, the distinguishing feature is
that social investment benefits most of society, particularly those who
need better health care, education, transport, housing, etc., whereas
military expenditure’s outputs benefit either no one or only elites via
their utilization in wars.
The key to comprehension, in other words, is that while social
investment betters the conditions, training, confidence, health, and
comfort of most working people, it also contributes to their ability to
withstand unemployment and their ability to develop and advocate their
own interests. It increases their bargaining power. And their increased
bargaining power in turn means workers will be able to extract higher
wages and better conditions at the expense of capitalist profits – and
that’s the rub.
It isn’t that owners are sadists who would rather build missiles that
sit in the ground forever than build a school that educates the poor
because they revel in people being denied knowledge. It is that owners
want to maintain their conditions of privilege and power and realize
that overly distributing knowledge or conditions of security and well
being is contrary to doing so.
How is parecon different? In a parecon proposed technological
investigation, testing, and implementation are pursued when the
planning process incorporates budgeting for them. This involves no
elite interests but only social interests. If military expense will
benefit all of society more than schools, hospitals, parks, etc., so be
it. But if not, as we can reasonably predict, than priorities will
But that is the obvious part. What is really instructive is to look at
the other choices mentioned earlier. What is the calculus of a parecon
regarding an innovation in a workplace – be it publishing house, coal
mine, hospital, or what have you?
A change can have diverse benefits and costs. If it doesn’t require
added inputs and expenditures but does have benefits, of course it will
immediately be adopted. But suppose there are high costs in materials,
resources, and human labor. Not everything can be done. Choices must be
made. If we produce another toothbrush, something else, using the same
energies and labors, goes unproduced. On a larger scale, if we make one
innovation, or a bunch, some others will have to be put off. What is
The claim is that in a parecon the criteria of evaluation are human
fulfillment and development writ large and that people have a say
proportionate to the degree they are affected. Without redescribing
participatory planning in full, it may hopefully suffice to point out
one very revealing aspect.
If I am in a capitalist coal mine contemplating a work altering (to
make some of it less dangerous) innovation there, and you are in a
capitalist book publishing house contemplating a work altering (to make
some of it more pleasant) innovation there, in the same society, of
course, we each want the innovation in our own workplace for our own
well being. Neither one of us has any reason at all to be concerned
about conditions beyond our workplace, nor do we have any means to know
what is afoot outside. We battle for our investment – actually, we try
to accrue profits to pay for it. We don’t give a damn about others and,
indeed, if we are to gain maximally, should waste no time fruitlessly
worrying about others.
Now suppose the workplaces are pareconish in a participatory economy.
Things change very dramatically. The coal miners have a balance job
complex and so do the publishing house workers. It isn’t just that each
person in the coal mine has a job comparable to all others there, or
that each person in the publishing house has one comparable to everyone
else there, it is that all of us, taking into account our work inside
our primary workplace but also outside it, have a socially average job
complex. I, who do some coal mining and some quite pleasant and
empowering work in my neighborhood (or whatever) and you, who do some
publishing house work and some largely rote and tedious work in your
neighborhood (or whatever) have, overall, comparably empowering and
How do we benefit from innovations in our workplaces? We will also wind
up with a balanced job complex. Benefits don’t accrue only in single
workplaces, in other words. They average over society. We all have an
interest in investments – technological undertakings – that maximally
improve the overall social average job complex. We have to be concerned
with what occurs outside our workplace if we are to favor what is, in
fact, most in our own interest.
In a parecon whether you look at the issue as what is best for society
or what is best for self, the result is essentially the same, and the
norms guiding choices among technological possibilities are, therefore,
within the limits of our knowledge, in accord with people’s unfettered
and self managed desires rather than reflecting overwhelmingly the
preferences of a few based on their interests in elite conditions and
circumstances. Parecon establishes the kind of context that both
benefits and is benefited by technology in precisely the humanistic
sense one would rationally prefer.
a Further Indicator
A particularly graphic example of the entwined logic of both
science and technology and their interface with economics is the issue
of health in society. In discussing health and the economy, on the one
hand there is the issue of health levels and health care. How do we
organize care giving, pharmaceuticals, associated research, etc.?
Before that, even, what is the relation of economic life to the degree
of health enjoyed or the degree of illness and harm suffered by the
On the other side of the same coin, particularly if we were going to
have a whole chapter on Parecon and Health, there is the issue of
receiving care. Who is eligible, to what degree, and at what personal
and or social cost? What happens economically to people who are unable
to work, whether temporarily or even long term or permanently? And
finally, does having a worthy approach to health issues place any undo
pressure on economic life that parecon is unable to abide? The logic of
all this is very like the logic of our other chapters, however, so we
want to stick to a few indicators that bear on not only health, but
also the larger science and technology realm.
There is a sense in which the situation of capitalism is well
summarized by this quote from Andrew Schmookler: “Which entrepreneur
will the market reward better? The one who sells a device that will
give many hours of joy over a few years before, for a pittance, it
needs to be replaced? Or the one who sells an addictive substance that
must literally be "consumed" to be used, and that itself consumes the
life of its devotee?”
At any rate, borrowing from Yves Engler’s research, we note that
“a report by Health Grades Inc., concludes that there were an
astounding 575,000 preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals between 2000
and 2002, many from hospital-acquired infections.” Likewise, “an
American study reported in the Chicago Tribune concluded that up to 75
per cent of deadly infections caught at hospitals could be avoided by
doctors and nurses using better washing techniques.”
As Engler concludes, “Billions of dollars are spent annually on the
development of new drugs and medical technologies, but little is spent
on basic hospital infection control - even though this would save a
greater number of lives - because there has been little economic
incentive to do so. Some company makes a profit when a new MRI machine
is purchased, but the bottom line that benefits from better
hand-washing techniques is only measured in lives.”
In capitalism not only accounting but the actual impetus of markets
favors accumulation and profit making. Not only pharmaceutical
companies but even hospitals are generally seeking market share and
profit. Those without monies get short shift. Those with monies, should
be separated from them, if possible. Those who own, whether the
pharmaceutical companies or the hospitals or medical practices, should
benefit. Profit uber ales sounds like rhetorical excess but in fact it
is only a little wrong. Profit always operates, always pressures, and
what is gained that isn’t actually profitable is gained only by virtue
of fighting hard against profit making pressures. Ironically, everyone
knows this…one need only read popular novels or even watch the better
TV series to see it.
Everyone knows, as well, for example, that the AMA exists largely to
protect the monopoly on skills, knowledge, and particularly credentials
of doctors, keeping the level of doctors down, and their bargaining
power up, not least against aspiring nurses. Everyone knows – just read
the industry magazines – the intense preoccupation with throughput,
On another front, once there is disease treatment of it is of course
important, even given the very considerable risks associated with
entering a hospital, but treatment may be more subtle than just give
the pill and reckon the success. Engler, again, notes that, “Recent
American data, reported in New Scientist July 2003, shows that more
than 70 per cent of hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at
least one common antibiotic. Infections resistant to antibiotics
significantly increase the chance of death.” From where does this
resistance come? It is “in large part, attributable to our overuse of
antibiotics, which is connected to drug companies' bottom lines.” To
sell product there is great pressure to give the drugs even when not
warranted, and/or carelessly, so antibiotics are routinely
over-prescribed. This facilitates “the growth of multi-resistant
Even more dramatically, “half of all antibiotics sold each year are
used on animals, according to New Scientist. Industrial farmers give
their animals constant low doses of these drugs to treat infection but
also as a growth hormone. The administration of low doses is especially
problematic since it becomes a feeding ground for organisms to mutate.
Data shows a strong correlation between increased use of antibiotics on
animals and the emergence of resistant strains in the animal population
with mirrored increases amongst people.” Profits of major food
companies run up against the health of the populace…and in capitalism
the former are likely to win.
This discussion of violations of health by modern social choices could
proceed at almost infinite length, but let’s explore at least one more
arena of experience and revealing evidence.
It turns out that as Steven Bezrucha reports, “about 55% of Japanese
males smoke, compared to 26% of American men.” Nonetheless Japan has
the greatest longevity for its citizens on the planet, and the U.S.
comes in nearly 30th. Bezrucha asks, “How do [the Japanese] get away
with winning both Gold Medals? What is loaded in Japan's smoking gun?”
One explanation would be that while smoking is certainly bad for
people, other prevalent health conditions in which Japan scores better
rather than worse than the U.S. are significantly worse.
Bezrucha reports that “Research has shown that status differences
between the rich and the poor may be the best predictors of a
population's health. The smaller the gap [in status] the higher the
life expectancy. The caring and sharing in a society organized by
social and economic justice precepts produces good health. A CEO in
Japan makes ten times what an average worker makes, not the 531 times
in the USA reported earlier this year.”
The point here is that the impact of an economic system on health
occurs in numerous ways, and perhaps most importantly via the
environment it establishes for us to live in, endure tension and pain
in, or thrive in.
In contrast to understanding the overarching impact of economies
people “commonly equate health with health care.” But the U.S. spends
“almost half of all money spent world-wide on health care to serve less
than 5% of the planet's people.” Despite this, its health is not even
top notch, much less proportionately better than in other countries.
Partly this is due to the expenditures mostly benefiting a few rather
than all citizens. Partly it is due to much of the expenditure being
profit guided rather than health guided, and having limited health
impact. And partly it is due to the other impacts of the economy –
pollution, tension, inequality, etc. – being so harmful. The U.S., for
example, is first in the world “in the Non-Voter Olympics, the Homicide
Olympics, the Incarceration Olympics, the Teen Birth Olympics, the
Child Abuse Death Olympics, and the Child Poverty Games,” as well as in
having “the highest rates of significant mental illness,” plus, of
course holding “a commanding lead in the Billionaire Olympics, with
over five times the silver medalist's score.”
What all this has to do with science and
technology is that it demonstrates, again, how they can be misdirected,
biased, and perverted by profit and market pressures. What is different
in a parecon?
All of it is different. Firms don’t operate in a market and have no
incentive to sell other than to meet needs and develop potentials.
Addiction is not profitable but only socially destructive.
Preventable deaths are to be prevented not ignored due to their being
profitable, or even preventing them being costly. Research and
technology is directed where it can do most good, not be most
profitable to a few. Reduce not only deaths in hospitals due to
insufficient attentiveness to hygene, or short staffedness, but deaths
due to pollution, dangerous means of transport, insufficient attention
to workplace health and safety, not to mention addictive consumption
such as of cigarettes or alcohol, etc. There is not only no impediment
to addressing real areas of benefit, not only no inclination to violate
such areas, but there is every incentive to solve social ills in
proportion to benefits that can thereby accrue, not to individuals
hoarding property, but to all society.
We have the number of doctors that health warrants. No doctor has any
incentive to try to inhibit the numbers who get medical training and
are able to provide medical relief. There is no coordinator class
interest to protect at the expense of society losing the productive
capabilities of its populace.
Similarly there is no drive toward speed up and cost cutting producing
tension destroying health in a parecon. People choose to work longer or
less long accounting precisely for the quality and richness of their
lives thereby afforded. And similarly the gap in income that generates
so much ill health in capitalism in a parecon is not 500 times or 10
times between high ranked and low ranked employees because there are no
high ranked and low ranked employees, whether in an income or power
sense, but only people having balanced job complexes and exercising
self managing decision making influence. Nor are there billionaires and
paupers due to ownership differences…because no one owns means of
production in a parecon.
In a parecon, whether we are talking about the direction or scale of
basic research or about the technology of health provision, or about
the social structures that make either beneficial or harmful, the
guiding precepts are as with all the economy, self management by
affected parties in pursuit of well being and development and in accord
with equity, solidarity, and diversity.
from Ralph Nader
Date: 9 June 2006
Subject : Self-Deception
"The Good Fight"
She sat on the board of Wal-Mart for six years.
She is Rupert Murdoch’s new political buddy and beneficiary of his
She voted for Bush’s illegal, immoral, and fabricated war in Iraq.
And she supports NAFTA and GATT-WTO.
She does not challenge the bloated, corruption-ridden, redundant
She does not challenge hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate
welfare - subsidies, giveaways, bailouts...
She does next to nothing against the corporate crime wave sweeping
through the inner cities of New York state and around the country - the
poor pay more and are defrauded more...
And if the vote were held today, Senator Hillary Clinton would be the
Democratic nominee for President in 2008.
And even the most progressive of Democrats would support Clinton in her
campaign for the White House.
The philosophers have a word for this – it’s called self-deception.
These Democrats are deceiving themselves into believing that they can
support Clinton for President and live with themselves as conscientious
Self-deception is a major problem affecting conflicts throughout the
world – in families, corporations, politicians, and in war zones.
Self deception arises when we deny our own humanity and the humanity of
Actions that contradict our own human standards.
And then we seek all kinds of ways to justify these contradictions...
This happened in 2004.
And it is destined to happen again in 2008.
The only way out is for the country to understand that it is in a box
of collective self-deception.
And then to get out of the box.
And there is a way out.
See others as human beings.
Not as objects or subjects.
Once we do this, our humanity will not allow us to support pro-war,
corporate candidates like Senators Clinton and Joseph Lieberman.
And we will begin to build a viable, strong, winning alternative to the
corrupt, decaying, and deceiving two party system.
Here is one thoughtful way to see others as human beings. It comes from
one of America's greatest philosophers of justice - John Rawls.
Rawls came up with a concept called the "veil of ignorance." Put on a
"veil of ignorance," and imagine a just and fair society without yet
knowing where you would place in it. Set the rules before you know
whether you'd end up rich, poor, middle class, white, black, man, woman
and so forth.
That's one way to put aside one's biases and class and see how you
would design a fair and just society.
As our enduring recognition of your support, we offer you today two
important books for a contribution
of $100 to help us pay down our dwindling campaign expenses.
The first is Justice as
Fairness by John Rawls published by Harvard University Press which
will help clarify the basis for a just society - great talking points
with your friends or opponents.
The second is an important new bestseller - Leadership
and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, published by Berrett
This gem of a book lays out the problem of self-deception and how we
can confront it to help resolve conflicts within families, our country
and in war zones around the world.
books make a special gift for young and older alike.
Please consider giving a second
package to friends in need - of political insight. You can obtain
both books for a $100
donation to our campaign of conscience and action.
We are close to ending this campaign in the black. We hope your
generous response to this appeal will help us achieve our goal.
Together we can make the difference in the struggles ahead.
Onward to bright horizons. Thank you for your support.
from Greg Palest :
Date: 23 June 2006
Subject: Voting Rights Act Nailed To Burning Cross
VOTING RIGHTS ACT NAILED TO BURNING
[New York] Don’t kid yourself. The Republican Party’s decision
yesterday to “delay” the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a
darn thing to do with objections of the Republican’s White Sheets
Behind the “Delay” in Renewing Law is Scheme for Theft of ‘08
White Sheets Changed for Spreadsheets
by Greg Palast
Complaints by a couple of Good Ol' Boys to legislation has never
stopped the GOP leadership from rolling over dissenters.
This is a strategic stall meant to de-criminalize the Republican
Party's new game of challenging voters of color by the hundreds of
In the 2004 Presidential race, the GOP ran a massive multi-state,
multi-million-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of Black,
Hispanic and Native-American voters. The methods used broke the
law -- the Voting Rights Act. And while the Bush Administration's
Civil Rights Division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights
lawyers are circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the
Act before the 2008 race.
Therefore, Republicans have promised to no longer break the law -- not
by going legit … but by eliminating the law.
The Act was passed in 1965 after the Ku Klux Klan and other upright
citizens found they could use procedural tricks -- "literacy tests,"
poll taxes and more -- to block citizens of color from casting ballots.
De-criminalizing the "caging" lists
Here's what happened in '04 -- and what's in store for '08.
In the 2004 election, over THREE MILLION voters were challenged at the
polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow
and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their
registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect."
Denied the right to the regular voting booths, these challenged voters
were given "provisional" ballots. Over a million of these
provisional ballots (1,090,729 of them) were tossed in the electoral
Funny thing about those ballots. About 88% were cast by minority
This isn't a number dropped on me from a black helicopter.
They come from the raw data of the US Election Assistance Commission in
At the heart of the GOP's mass challenge of voters were what the
party's top brass called, "caging lists" -- secret files of hundreds of
thousands of voters, almost every one from a Black-majority voting
When our investigations team, working for BBC TV, got our hands on
these confidential files in October 2004, the Republicans told us the
voters listed were their potential "donors." Really? The sheets
included pages of men from homeless shelters in Florida.
Donor lists, my ass. Every expert told us, these were "challenge
lists," meant to stop these Black voters from casting ballots.
When these "caged" voters arrived at the polls in November 2004, they
found their registrations missing, their right to vote blocked or their
absentee ballots rejected because their addresses were supposedly
Why didn't the GOP honchos 'fess up to challenging these allegedly
illegal voters? Because targeting voters of color is AGAINST THE
LAW. The law in question is the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Act says you can't go after groups of voters if you choose your
targets based on race. Given that almost all the voters on the
GOP hit list are Black, the illegal racial profiling is beyond even
Karl Rove's ability to come up with an alibi.
The Republicans target Black folk not because they don't like the color
of their skin. They don't like the color of their vote:
Democrat. For that reason, the GOP included on its hit list
Jewish retirement homes in Florida. Apparently, the GOP was also
gunning for the Elderly of Zion.
These so-called "fraudulent" voters, in fact, were not fraudulent at
all. Page after page, as we've previously reported, are Black
soldiers sent overseas. The Bush campaign used their absence from
their US homes to accuse them of voting from false addresses.
Now that the GOP has been caught breaking the Voting Rights law, they
have found a way to keep using their expensively obtained "caging"
lists: let the law expire next year. If the Voting Rights
Act dies in 2007, the 2008 race will be open season on dark-skinned
voters. Only the renewal of the Voting Rights Act can prevent the
planned racial wrecking of democracy.
"Pre-clearance" and the Great Blackout of 2000
Before the 2000 presidential balloting, then Jeb Bush's
Secretary of State purged thousands of Black citizens' registrations on
the grounds that they were "felons" not entitled to vote. Our
review of the files determined that the crimes of most on the list was
nothing more than VWB -- Voting While Black.
That "felon scrub," as the state called it, had to be "pre-cleared"
under the Voting Rights Act. That is, "scrubs" and other changes in
procedures must first be approved by the US Justice Department.
The Florida felon scrub slipped through this "pre-clearance" provision
because Katherine Harris' assistant assured the government the scrub
was just a clerical matter. Civil rights lawyers are now on the
alert for such mendacity.
The Burning Cross Caucus of the Republican Party is bitching that
"pre-clearance" of voting changes applies only to Southern
states. I have to agree that singling out the Old Confederacy is
a bit unfair. But the solution is not to smother the Voting
Rights law but to spread its safeguards to all fifty of these United
White Sheets to Spread Sheets
Republicans argue that the racial voting games and the threats
of the white-hooded Klansmen that kept African-Americans from the
ballot box before the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act no longer
threaten Black voters.
That's true. When I look over the "caging lists" and the "scrub
sheets," it's clear to me that the GOP has traded in white sheets for
Greg Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of
Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No
Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the
Class War. Order
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3