14 March 2009
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In a political landscape filled with Trojan horses and other Greeks bearing gifts, it appears that we would be well advised to follow Professor Anthony Wilden's Rule of Extinction to test hierarchies of dependent power relationships in order to see whether the levels in any one of the many dependent power hierarchies which occupy our society can exist after the removal of one level. If they cannot, the relationship is legitimate. But if the remaining levels of the selected dependent power pyramid can continue to exist after removal of one level, then that dependent power hierarchy is illegitimate, and can be maintained only by the use of violence. The Rule of Extinction can be applied to many relationships in our daily lives, from those between producers of goods and services and private capitalist investors; to relationships in public education between building maintenance workers, students, teachers, and administrators; to public transportation, where passengers depend on bus drivers, and bus drivers on mechanics, for example; to patriarchal families, where women and children appear at different levels in the dependent power pyramid under the male head of the family; to military units, where foot soldiers are dependent on a hierarchy of superiors; to business and government offices, where clerical workers are dependent on a hierarchy of managers, etc., etc. . . . .
What is the origin of power and how is it distributed? And how does it relate to what has been described as four components of the human mind --reason, memory, will, and feeling ? [For a materialist analysis of the human mind, we recommend the ground-breaking studies of neurobiologist Antonio Damasio: Descartes' Error, Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994), and Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain (2003).]
We can easily imagine how the human mind has come to be exploited by such sciences as psychological warfare, propaganda, consumer marketing techniques, and electoral campaigns. Long ago, Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man (1964) came of age, but contradictions abound and today, with the collapse of world capitalism as we have known it, comes the decline of alienation as we have lived it. Here in France, the mind goes back to dependent power hierarchies in Vichy France, the ideas and images that sprang from these relationships. For democratic socialists, the priority seems to be to enter into the political fray and social confusion with an authentic vision of social justice and economic equality, consciously rejecting the appeal to follow leaders in a lazy-headed determination to gain an advantage and remain on "top" of the social heap. The stench of opportunism is everywhere, and a healthy distrust of leaders inspires genuine dialogues rather than formula thinking, while dogma has little purchase today and more and more people are looking for information that might be useful for understanding the social changes they are actually living and what future society they might want to participate in creating for themselves and for others.
In the 6 items below, we have collected "conversations" from the recent past to suggest how they may serve to bring about a desirable future for all of us. We have been on strike at Stendhal University for the past several weeks, and "alternative courses" have been conducted on and off campus to reduce the calculated divisions between "town and gown" populations. With considerable success, students and faculty in France have established their legitimacy in the greater community, and creative resistance to moribund capitalist control of education continues to widen throughout French society . [Please the Stendhal University's Strike Agenda for on-going programs this month.]
Item A., sent to us by the Council for the National Interest Foundation, is an article on the Israel Lobby's "victorious" attack on the nominee to Chair the National Intelligence Council, Retired U.S. Ambassador Chas Freeman.
Item B., sent to us by Information Clearing House, is an English version of the Argentine documentary film by Fernando L. Solanas, "MEMORIA DEL SAQUEO," which describes what a financial collapse looks like.
Item C., is an article by Michael Albert on the Nation magazine's Symposium on America's socialist future, built around Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher's provocative essay, "Reimaging Socialism".
Item D. is an article from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, showing a video clip from the National Rifle Association which advances the idea that "The Guys with the Guns Make the Rules."
Item E. is an article sent to us by UCSD Professor Fred Lonidier on the need perceived in Britain for a left-wing critique of the philosophy of Communism and its practical shortcomings until now.
Item F. is an article from The New York Times on China's concerns about the future value of its investments in the United States as a confrontation at the G-20 April meeting in London approaches.
Once again, we invite CEIMSA readers to attend our International Colloquium on Ethics and Social Class Society in the USA on May 6, at The University of Paris 10, in Nanterre.
And finally, we offer below a powerful video commentary on the old-and-boring methods of genocide and rapport de force, presented by the Anarchists Against War collective :
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Council for the National Interest Foundation :
Date: 14 March 2009
Subject: The Freeman Brouhaha.
he scurrilous campaign against the leading American diplomat on China and the Middle East, leading to the voluntary withdrawal
of his name, may have been a blunder of strategic proportions for Israel and her lobby in the United States.
We have been witnessing the awesome exchanges between supporters for Ambassador Chas Freeman and AIPAC legmen for the past few days. Our judgment is that the great American desire to be fair and morally balanced is winning out as usual.
All across the country David Broder's article
is saying, "Blair [Director of National Intelligence] said that the White House told him that if he wanted Freeman, he'd have to fight for him himself. When I asked the White House on Tuesday if Obama supported Freeman, a National Security Council spokesman said he would check, but he never got back to me. Freeman vanished without a squawk from Obama."
We at the Council for the National Interest predict that there will be a long and continuing backlash by the American, as well as European, Chinese and Arabian Intelligence Services over this incident. The question is can American Intelligence estimates on Israel and her neighbors ever be trusted again? The Freeman incident is far worse than the incident involving Valerie Plame and her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003. We know now that Israeli intelligence in all probability worked with Italian intelligence to mislead America, the world and Secretary Colin Powell regarding yellow cake uranium from Niger.
The Freeman incident will have a much broader effect than how America went to war on behalf of Israel in Iraq with no exit strategy and little thought to the consequences. How can the Obama intelligence estimates so far as the Middle East is concerned, ever be trusted?
Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby wrote about the Freeman incident this week in Foreign Policy
, "It is one thing to pander to various special interest groups while you're running for office -- everyone expects that sort of thing -- but it's another thing to let a group of bullies push you around in the first fifty days of your administration."
Ambassador Freeman himself, has cited Shelly's Prometheus Unbound:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
- To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
- To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
- To love and bear; to hope till Hope creates
- From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
- Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
- This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
- Good, great and joyous, beautiful, and free;
- This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory
Israel and her lobby may have won a pyrrhic victory but the real loser is America, Israel and final Middle East peace process that we all so desperately need. This is not the end of this incident. It uncovered the deep fissures in American Middle East policymaking.
President, Council for the National Interest
P.S. A related matter is the obvious defeat the Israel lobby took on the three amendments, SA 629, SA 630 and SA 631 by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) regarding Gaza and Egypt.
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 11 March 2009
Subject: What a Financial Collaspse Looks Like.
Below is a documentary film on the events that led to the economic collapse of Argentina in 2001 which wiped out the middle class and raised the level of poverty to 57.5%. Central to the collapse was the implementation of neo-liberal policies which enabled the swindle of billions of dollars by foreign banks and corporations. Many of Argentina's assets and resources were shamefully plundered. Its financial system was even used for money laundering by Citibank, Credit Suisse, and JP Morgan. The net result was massive wealth transfers and the impoverishment of society which culminated in many deaths due to oppression and malnutrition.
from Z Magazine :
Date: 9 March 2009
Subject: Responding to the Nation Ehrenreich/Fletcher Symposium.
Taking Up The Task
(Responding to the Nation Ehrenreich/Fletcher Symposium)
by Michael Albert
In the March 21st Nation and the Nation online on March 4, there is a welcome foray into addressing vision and strategy, a symposium built around Barbara
and Bill Fletcher's
provocative essay, "Reimagining Socialism."
Ehrenreich and Fletcher report that capitalism, always despicable, is now in a "death spiral," wisely adding that today's horrible dislocations warrant seeking a better system, not voyeuristic celebration.
They also claim with some exaggeration, I think, that there is not much U.S. economy left to redefine, merely paper thin banking, insurance, and the like, but then accurately add we would need much new Green, humane, creation to meet needs and develop potentials.
But the main contribution is that they then ask: "do we have a [shared] plan?" and they forthrightly and accurately answer that we don't, and that we need a "deliberative process for figuring out what to do."
Immanual Wallerstein replied in the Symposium that indeed there is a "death spiral" of capitalism and what will follow will be worse unless we have a "clear and coherent" shared vision and related strategy. Wallerstein argued compellingly that we must create militant opposition now, to push Obama and other elites in desirable directions, but also "organize at a thousand levels and in a thousand ways to push things in the right direction." But what is the right direction?
Tariq Ali questioned, in the Symposium, the "death spiral" expectation, but mainly added that "until the emergence of a viable sociopolitical and economic alternative, perceived by a majority as such, there will be no final crisis of capitalism." I agree, but then mustn't we prioritize developing and advocating such an alternative? Ali also concisely argued, "Without action from below, there will be no change from above." But then don't we need to soon create organization that has program and structure sensitive to future vision? In my own view, all this has been the priority case for a long time, so of course we should re-offer or newly offer ideas about vision and strategy. Here are ten related claims (actually first offered at a Z sponsored Symposium in 2006), that may help get the ball moving a bit faster and further than otherwise.
Claim 1: Need Vision
First, as Ehrenreich and Fletcher highlight, we need shared institutional vision to inspire hope, incorporate the seeds of the future in the present, and guide gains that will take us where we desire.
Opponents of the importance of vision emphasize that a proposed vision can congeal inflexibly to exclude new insights, can fuel sectarianism, can overextend into details that aren't knowable, consequential, or a matter for prior determination, and can become frivolous and divert attention from more important concerns. Worst, a proposed vision can be monopolized as a bludgeon to aggrandize power.
These worries are warranted, however the answer is not to reject having vision, but to collectively deliberate on and arrive at vision flexibly. We should focus on essentials and not overextend. We should share and continually refine results widely, openly, without elite jargon or posturing.
Claim 2: Classlessness
Classlessness ought to be part of our economic goal. We know we must end the rule of the capitalist class over labor. But for classlessness, we must also end the rule of the coordinator class over labor.
To have classes means to have groups that by their economic position have different access to income and influence, including benefiting at one another's expense. Attaining classlessness, in contrast, means establishing an economy in which everyone is equally able to participate, utilize capacities, and earn income.
We cannot eliminate the distinction between those who own means of production and those who do not own means of production, unless no one owns means of production, or, conversely, and what amounts to the same thing, unless everyone owns means of production equally. That much is an obvious tenet of advocating a new classless economy beyond capitalism. All socialists, past and present, accept this view.
But class division can also arise due to a division of labor that affords some producers, who I call the coordinator class, far greater influence and income than other producers, who I call the working class.
A modern capitalist economy has owners or capitalists. It also has people who have no economically structurally built-in power other than owning their own ability to work, or workers.
An additional insight we need to share is that capitalism also has a third coordinator class, who, though they sell their ability to work like workers, unlike workers have great power and standing built into their position in the economic division of labor.
These coordinator class lawyers, doctors, engineers, managers, accountants, elite professors, and so on, by their position in the economy accrue information, skills, confidence, energy, and decision making access. They largely control their own tasks. They largely define, design, determine, and even control the tasks of workers below. They utilize their empowering conditions to enhance their position both at the expense of workers below and capitalists above. Yes, they are subordinate to capital and can be pushed down from above. But they are also above workers, and push them down still lower.
Capitalism is by this account mainly a three class system. Seeking classlessness therefore means not just eliminating capitalist rule, but also not constructing coordinator class rule in its place. "Out with the old boss in with the new boss" does not end having bosses. To eliminate private ownership but retain the distinction between the coordinator class and the working class would ensure that the coordinator class rules the working class. This type change can end capitalism, but it will not attain classlessness.
In other words, our desire for classlessness must take us beyond what have been called market socialism and centrally planned socialism - which systems have in fact been market coordinatorism and centrally planned coordinatorism due to the fact that they elevate the coordinator class to ruling status above workers.
Our movements and projects must not only be anti-capitalist, that is, they must be pro-classlessness. They must prioritize both eliminating the monopoly of capitalists on productive property and also the monopoly of coordinators on empowering work.
Claim 3: Our Values Forefront
Beyond classlessness, we also ought to seek positive economic values including equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, ecological balance, and economic efficiency.
To be against something bad - such as class division and class rule - is very desirable, of course. But rejecting bad features does not easily generate clear standards for positive goals and claim 3 is about positive values.
Economics affects how much we each get from what we all produce. We want equitable outcomes and what's equitable is that each person who is able to work receives back from society in proportion to what they expend at a cost to themselves in production. We should be remunerated, that is, for the duration, intensity, and, when it varies from person to person, the onerousness of our socially valued work.
This is a matter of preference, of course, not proof. It is a value, an aim, a norm, not some kind of natural law, but it is certainly consistent with history's most morally enlightened thought. Moreover, remunerating effort and sacrifice also provides appropriate incentives to elicit what each individual has the ability to in fact withhold or provide, which is his or her socially valuable time, intensity, and willingness to endure hardship.
Economics also affects relations among people. Anyone who isn't pathological would presumably prefer to have people concerned with and caring about one another in a cooperative social partnership - rather than seeking to fleece one another in an anti social competitive shoot out. Thus, a second value we can seek to implement is solidarity.
Economics affects our range of available options. We are limited beings who have neither time nor means to each do everything. We are also social beings who can enjoy vicariously what others do that we cannot. And finally we are thinking and pragmatic beings who can benefit from avoiding over dependence on narrow options that leave us stranded if some of those limited options are flawed. Diversity of options, our third value, enriches possibilities and protects against errors.
Economics affects how much say we each have over what is produced, in what quantities, by what methods, with what apportionment of people to tasks, and with what product allotted to people. Economic decisions determine outcomes that in turn affect us and even the act of decision making itself also affects our mood, our sense of involvement and efficacy, and our sense of personal worth.
There is no moral or operational reason any one able person should have excessive say compared to how much they are affected, nor insufficient say compared to how much they are affected. One decision-making norm can apply to all socially involved people, yet also respect the variation of conditions from case to case.
That is, we should each have a say in decisions in proportion as those decisions affect us. No single methodology such as majority vote, two thirds vote, consensus, or single method of information dissemination and deliberation will optimally fit all cases. What will suit all cases, however, is the overarching self management norm by which we choose among possible means of decision making in each instance.
Economics also affects relations to our natural surroundings. An economy should not compel us to destroy our natural habitat nor should an economy compel us to so protect the natural habitat that we are left no means with which to fulfill ourselves. An economy should reveal the full and true social and ecological costs and benefits of contending choices, and convey to workers and consumers control over what choices to finally implement. In that way we can cooperatively care for both our environment and ourselves, in proportions that we freely choose.
Economics finally of course also affects the social output we have available for people to enjoy. If an economy abides the above values but wastes our energy and resources by failing to meet needs and develop potentials, by producing harmful byproducts that offset the benefits of intended products, or by splurging what is valuable in inefficient actions that waste assets needlessly, it will diminish our prospects. Even as an economy operates in accord with equity, solidarity, diversity, self management, and ecological balance, it should also efficiently utilize available natural, social, and personal assets without undo waste or misdirection of purpose.
Claim 3 is that economic institutions should by their operations and outcomes advance equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, ecological balance, and productive efficiency, not violate much less obliterate them.
Claim 4: Economy is only part of Society
A new and better world will include new and better economics, yes, but also new and better relations of kin and family, religion, race, and culture, law, adjudication, and collective action, ecological arrangement, and international organization, as well as more specific parts of life in these and other dimensions as well, such as science, art, education, health, and so on.
We therefore need vision to learn, inspire, rebut cynicism, and guide practice not only for economics, but for kin relations and socializing, cultural and community relations, legislative and juridical relations, ecology, and international relations.
More, just as our economic vision and strategies provide a context that feminist vision and strategy, cultural vision and strategy, political vision and strategy, ecological vision and strategy, and global relations vision and strategy must abide and augment, so too, in reverse, feminist, cultural, political, ecological, and global relations vision and strategy provide a context that pareconish economic vision and strategy must abide and augment.
In every case, new arrangements in one realm if life will have to fit compatibly with new arrangements in other realms of life. Movements for a new world will have to combine vision and strategy across entwined centrally important aspects of social life and should not prioritize one key area above others as that would be morally bankrupt and strategically suicidal.
Claim 5: Rejecting Dead Options
Seeking classlessness, positive values, and accommodating economy to gains in other spheres of social life and vice versa, compels us to reject private ownership of productive property, corporate divisions of labor, top down decision-making, markets, and central planning.
Without belaboring the obvious, each of these institutional possibilities intrinsically violates one or more (and usually all) of the norms set forth above.
For example, private ownership produces capitalist class rule over coordinators and workers. It obliterates equity by remunerating property and power. It obliterates self management by vesting primary power in the hands of owners.
Corporate divisions of labor produce coordinator class rule over workers. They negate self-management by disempowering some and aggrandizing power to others, as does top-down decision making.
Markets obscure true social costs and benefits of all items that involve positive or negative effects that extend beyond immediate buyers and sellers. They lead to incredible misallocation of assets, particularly ecological, not to mention orienting output to maximizing surpluses rather than human well being. Markets also impose anti-social behavior, nice guys finish last, and produce class division between coordinators and workers because firms must compete by cutting costs and because to cut costs firms will create and employ an elite that is freed from the implications of their cost cutting choices and callous to the immediate human implications of their choices, and this is precisely the coordinator class.
Central planning intrinsically violates self-management and imposes coordinator class rule to ensure obedience. Central planning typically also aggrandizes the ruling coordinator class at the expense of workers below, including centralizing control in ways that yield ecological imbalance.
Beyond economics, capitalist relations also aggravate hierarchies of power, status, and wealth generated by other spheres of social life, for example aggravating and exploiting sexual, gender, racial, and political hierarchies born of extra-economic relations. Capitalism likewise produces ecological imbalance and even violates ecological sustainability. It produces as well a competitive rat race that, writ large, internationally unleashes colonialism, imperialism, neo colonialism, empire, unimaginably extreme destitution, and war.
It follows that if we are serious about classlessness, economic equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, ecological balance, and socially oriented efficiency, as well as about broader aspirations for race, gender, political power, ecology, and peace, we must reject typically available economic institutions and must seek alternatives.
Claim 6: New Economic Institutions
Seeking classlessness, the proposed positive economic values, and the broader social aims, and rejecting capitalist and coordinator institutions, leaves us needing to advocate new economic institutions, which for me leads to advocating the defining structures of participatory economics, or parecon. These are: self-managing workers' and consumers' councils, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning.
For workers and consumers to influence decisions in proportion as they are affected by them requires self-managing councils where they can express and tally their preferences.
Equity requires that ethically workers are remunerated for the personal cost to them of their participation in time, intensity of effort, and harshness of conditions, and that economically they are remunerated only for socially useful work to ensure incentives consistent with eliciting fulfilling output.
Self-managed decisions require confident preparation, relevant capacity, and appropriate participation and therefore lead to advocating apportioning to every worker a balanced mix of empowering and disempowering tasks so that no sector of actors monopolizes empowering work while others are left disempowered and unable to even arrive at much less manifest a will of their own. Balanced job complexes eliminate the monopoly on empowering labor that differentiates coordinators from workers by giving each worker a job of average empowerment implications so that all workers are enabled by their work related conditions to participate comparably in self-management.
Finally, to make all the above viable, allocation should be accomplished in accord with the freely expressed will of self-managing workers and consumers and should be undertaken via cooperative and informed negotiation in which all people's wills are proportionately actualized and in which operations, mindsets, and structures further the logic of self-managing councils, balanced job complexes, and equitable remuneration rather than violating each. All this implies, I believe, what advocates of parecon call participatory planning.
Insofar as worker and consumer self-managing councils, equitable remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning treat all actors economically identically, they also counter any possible social hierarchies among actors generated outside the economy. Insofar as these institutions properly value ecological effects and convey decision making power to those affected, and insofar as writ large, internationally, they progressively eliminate inequality of wealth and power between nations, they also accommodate and even augment aims for natural and international arenas of social life.
Claim 7: Program Must Reflect Aims
Requirements for our own projects, organizations, and movements ought to include patiently incorporating the seeds of the future in the present, including self-managed decision-making, balanced job complexes, equitable remuneration, and cooperative negotiated planning, as well as central features of other dimensions of the new world we seek.
Creating institutions in the present that incorporate seeds of the future makes sense as an experiment to learn, as a model to inspire, as a way to do the best possible job now for current fulfillment, and to begin developing tomorrow's infrastructure today.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that even in our own operations we cannot have perfect future structures immediately, both because of surrounding pressures and because of our own emotional and behavioral baggage. But the fact that we need a sense of proportion about what future seeds we can experimentally harvest now is not the same as calling for entirely rejecting contemporary harvesting.
Just as movements should foreshadow a future that is feminist, poly-cultural, and also politically free and just, to avoid being internally compromised in their values, incapable of inspiring diverse constituencies or even prone to alienate them, incapable of overcoming cynicism, and weak in their comprehension even of current flaws and potentials, so should movements for the same reasons foreshadow a future that is classless, including incorporating self-managing council organization, balanced job complexes, equitable remuneration, and self-management.
Put strategically, constructing movements that embody coordinator class assumptions, mannerisms, and aspirations would violate our aims and cripple our prospects just as horrifically as constructing movements that embody sexist, racist, or authoritarian assumptions, mannerisms, and aspirations would cripple our prospects.
Claim 8: Seeking Reforms Without Succumbing to Reformism
Seeking participatory economic institutions requires that we not only create in the present new institutions, but that we also fight for changes in existing capitalist institutions. Demands made against existing institutions ought to enhance people's lives, advance the likelihood of further successful struggle, and advance the consciousness and organizational capacity to pursue those further aims.
As valuable as experiments in creating visionary economic (or gender, race, or politically inspired) organization in the present are, to only prioritize creating forward oriented experiments would consign those who work in existing institutions to observer status as well as callously ignoring pressing needs of the moment. The path to a better future includes creating experiments in its image in the present, but it also includes a long march through existing institutions, battling for changes that improve people's lives today even as they auger and prepare for more changes tomorrow.
Changes in existing institutions which do not replace those institutions down to their defining core, are undeniably reforms, but the effort to win such reforms need not accept that only reform is possible. On the contrary, efforts to win reforms can enable a process to win a whole new economy.
We can utilize demands, language, organization, and methods, all in accord not only with winning sought short term gains but also with increasing the inclination and capacity of people to seek still more victories in the future. Rather than presuming system maintenance, battles around income, workplace conditions, decision-making, allocation, jobs, work day length, and other facets of economic life should enlarge and empower future-oriented desires. We should win reforms now not only to enjoy the benefits, but also to pave the path to win more gains later. This is a non-reformist approach to winning reforms.
Claim 9: Change Is Not Automatic
At some point in the future vast movements will have features such as those noted above, and will become vehicles toward winning new societies. This will not happen, however, automatically.
Change will not arise from an unfolding inevitable tendency that sweeps us, uncomprehending, into a better future. Change will come, instead, via self-conscious actions by huge numbers of people bringing to bear their creativity and energy in a largely unified and coherent manner that will have internal debate but that will also overarching shared aims and steadfast purpose.
It we travel into the future in our minds, and we imagine looking into the past, we will see a historically relatively brief period, at some point, during which people in one nation or another, or in many at once, form projects, organizations, and movements that thereafter persist to become centrally important vehicles for fighting for, constructing, and even finally merging into a new world.
We can reasonably ask what attributes such a lasting project, organization, or movement would incorporate. We can also reasonably act on our shared answers, once we feel we have them more or less in hand, to try to create such vehicles of change. Might we get our efforts wrong? Yes, we might. But if we don't try, then we have no chance of succeeding. And if we do fail, we can take lessons from our mistakes, and try again.
It follows that at some point building vehicles not just of opposition but for self-conscious creation of a new world must become our agenda. We should undertake this with exaggerated images of instant success, or with inflated ideas of ease, or utilizing impatient approaches that limit participation or bias outcomes, but we should also refuse to succumb to cynical delay.
Claim 10: What's Next?
When a capable and caring group agrees on claims like those offered above, however refined and adapted by their deliberations, it will become incumbent on them to collectively seek wider agreement from a still larger group and to solidify their inspiring intellectual unity into a more practical organizational and programmatic unity. That is the injunction of justice and revolution. And if not now, when?
from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence :
Date: 11 March 2009
Subject: Video: NRA Extremism on Display.
I'm sick to my stomach.
I just listened to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) recently.
His diatribe was made worse by Rush Limbaugh who spewed vitriol about wanting President Obama to fail.
It makes it crystal clear why your support is so critical to this movement and our country.
Wayne's speech was fear mongering at it worst. Let me quote a few lines:
- "Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules."
- The guys with the guns make the rules? Spoken like a true bully, Wayne. In a democracy, the men and women with the votes make the rules. In the last election, voters rejected NRA extremism.
- "Our founding fathers understood that freedom always rides with a firearm by its side."
- Freedom rides with a firearm at its side? In your world, Wayne, paranoia rides with a firearm at its side. It's sad ... and disturbing.
- "They understood that if the only guys with the guns are the bad guys, we're screwed. Our founding fathers knew that. And it's no different today. That’s why we own guns. We're not giving 'em up. The Constitution says it, we believe it, and that settles it."
- No one is telling you to "give 'em up", Wayne. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Heller made that clear. The decision also said that the Second Amendment was not an absolute right and that there can be reasonable restrictions on guns.
The real point is: we make it way too easy for the "bad guys" to get guns in this country and we need to do something about that now.
We need to find common sense solutions to the carnage of gun violence in this country. And that's what your Brady Campaign is about. We have tremendous opportunity to pass strong gun laws like Brady background checks on all gun sales, including at gun shows to protect you, your family and your community.
Thank you for your continued support.
Sarah Brady, Chair
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
1225 Eye Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
from Fred Lonidier :
Date: 13 March 2009
Subject: The Idea of Communism is hottest ticket in London this weekend.
Move over Jacko, the Idea of Communism is hottest ticket in town this weekend.
he hottest ticket in London this weekend is not for a pop singer or a football match but for a conference on communism which brings together some of the world's leading Marxist academics. The international financial crisis has led to a resurgence of interest in a philosophy that many claimed had been buried with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Such has been the interest in the conference, entitled On the Idea of Communism, being staged at London university's Birkbeck college from tomorrow, that the venue has been changed three times to accommodate the extra demand and is sold out. Participants are flying in from the US, Latin America, Africa and Australia to hear from some of the world's big hitters on the subject.
One of the organizers, the Slovenian philosopher and writer, Slavoj Zizek, has emphasized that the purpose of the gathering is not to "deal with practico-political questions of how to analyze the latest economic, political, and military troubles, or how to organize a new political movement". He added: "more radical questioning is needed today - this is a meeting of philosophers who will deal with communism as a philosophical concept, advocating a precise and strong thesis: from Plato onwards, communism is the only political idea worthy of a philosopher."
Although the conference seems particularly timely, it was planned last summer, well before the scale of the current economic collapse had become apparent.
"The response has taken us by surprise," said Costas Douzinas, director of the Birkbeck institute for the humanities, which is hosting the three-day event. "It must be related to the wider political context. There is a sense that we have to start thinking again."
He said that the gathering was about the meaning of communism and speakers had indicated that they would be very critical of the Soviet model. Among the questions to be addressed is whether "communism is still the name to be used to designate the horizon of radical emancipatory projects".
The participants include the radical Italian writer and academic, Toni Negri, who was once sentenced to a long prison term for "insurrection against the state" in Italy, Terry Eagleton and the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, author of the recent book on the French president, The Meaning of Sarkozy. Other speakers include Michael Hardt, Gianni Vattimo, Bruno Bosteels from Cornell university, Alessandro Russo, Judith Balso, and Alberto Toscano.
"The communist hypothesis remains the good one, I do not see any other," said Badiou, in his foreword to the conference programme. "If we have to abandon this hypothesis, then it is no longer worth doing anything at all in the field of collective action. Without the horizon of communism, without this idea, there is nothing in the historical and political becoming of any interest to a philosopher. Let everyone bother about his own affairs, and let us stop talking about it... what is imposed on us as a task, even as a philosophical obligation, is to help a new mode of existence of the hypothesis to deploy itself."
from The New York Times :
Date: 14 March 2009
Subject: Report on Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, statement that China is "worried" over U.S. treasuries.
China’s Leader Says He Is ‘Worried’ Over U.S. Treasuries