Subject : ON PATTERNS OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION.
21 September 2010
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The neo-liberal ideology (if you can call it an ideology) is greed, greed, and more greed. Noam Chomsky, after Adam Smith, calls it the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people. Oliver Stone's new film, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, depicts this mentality in the character of Gordon Gekko, the compulsive capitalist capable of ruining the people closest to him.
This summer while preparing my undergraduate course on US mass media I came across the infamous document, A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, is a NAFTA era proclamation (1994) sponsored by Newt Gingrich & Co. which prescribes a future political culture for Americans --a global arena of disembodied information competing for domination in a hapless world of "haves-and-have-nots."
One of the handicaps inherited from our judeo-christian-muslim tradition is the firm belief that good and evil exist, an almost Manichaean system of thought which attributes innately evil characteristics to "them," those people other than "us". This over-simplified habit of thought is insufficient for understanding the origins of violence. Often it takes a great effort of the part of ordinary people to overcome such false "common-sense" perceptions and to understand, for example, that in Nazi Germany supporters of genocide against Jews, Slaves, Gypsies were not "bad" people, they were ordinary people who were convinced they were doing something "good" because they thought these acts were necessary in order to protect those they loved the most from harm. This "brainwash" is of the essence, for as I have mentioned many times to students over the years, we all could become obedient Nazis and Kapos if we too were possessed by the FEAR that harm to those we love most is imminent. The responsibility for such violence lies far beyond the finger that pulls the trigger, and any strategy which aims at reducing violence must take into account the mind-numbing social context --that of political injustices, economic inequalities, and illegitimate dependent power hierarchies (where subordinates could do better without the power of those ruling over them)-- a context which penetrates our institutions and influences our thinking.
The 8 items below provide CEIMSA readers with information on the magnitude of the growing economic crisis and its implications around the world. We are aware how fear mongers have used similar crises in the past for their own advantages, and we urge our readers to discuss these issues in public places whenever possible.
Item A., from Znet, is an article by University of San Francisco professor of politics Stephen Zunes on the Israeli tactics of ecocide in the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Lebanon.
Item B., from Information Clearing House, is the grim analysis of "the economic debacle already begun" written by the collective, Economic Collapse Blog.
Item C. is a New Statesman interview with Noam Chomsky, in which he accuses President Obama of committing war crimes in Afghanistan.
Item D. is a Real News Network series of short videos on how US military training makes "killing civilians acceptable."
Item E., from Information Clearing House, is an article by John Mearsheimer formulating the equation: Israel + USA = ???
Item F. is an article from the Indypendent by American sociologist Stanles Aronowitz on "critical education" and the need for it in American schools.
Item G. is a Znet article by Noam Chomsky on the future of US-China relations.
Item H. is an announcement sent to us by University of California professor, Fred Lonidier, on the One Nation National Coalition which is mobilizing for a march on Washington, 2 October and for other national actions on 7 October.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to view this short Real News Network video report :
Battling the bastards is as about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Stephen Zunes :
Date: 12 September 2010
Subject: The Other Oil Spill.
When the victims of a massive oil spill are not the predominantly white residents along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, but instead are Arabs living in the eastern Mediterranean, the reaction from Congress and environmentalists is very different.
from The Economic Collapse Blog :
Date: 21 September 2010
Subject: "After me the deluge. . . ."
For most Americans, the economic collapse is something that is happening to someone else. Most of us have become so isolated from each other and so self-involved that unless something is directly affecting us or a close family member than we really don't feel it.
from The Real News :
Date: 15 May 2010
Subject: Learning to kill unarmed civilians. . . .
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 11 September 2010
Subject: Israel + USA = ???
There is no question that the United States has a relationship with Israel that has no parallel in modern history. Washington gives Israel consistent, almost unconditional diplomatic backing and more foreign aid than any other country. In other words, Israel gets this aid even when it does things that the United States opposes, like building settlements.
by Stanley Aronowitz
The reasons why public education is suddenly an issue despite years of neglect by politicians and the media are straightforward. In this depressed economy credentials seem to have lost their advantage. Many parents and politicians claim schools have failed to deliver what students need. There is a widespread perception that illiteracy is rising, meaning, for one, that fewer people can read complex texts. And the results of No Child Left Behind with its draconian high-stakes standardized testing have been disappointing, to say the least.
Mainstream educators and commentators warn that the United States, once a leader among advanced capitalist societies in graduation rates, has fallen to 12th place and is still tumbling. Many are concerned that education has become a national security issue. Others point out that the engines of the global economy are math and science and this country is turning out fewer trained physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians and computer scientists.
Some trumpet as solutions the usual neoliberal bromides charter schools and for-profit private schools at all education levels. But, according to numerous studies, these schools rarely live up to the hype. Others have rejected the long American experiment with progressive education, in which students are the subjects of schooling, not just its object. In the 1980s, school authorities decided that kids needed more discipline, more time in school and more homework. The latest brilliant policy concept is to reward or punish teachers for their students’ performance.
Teachers unions have soundly rejected this particular “solution,” calling it a blatant attack on teacher professionalism and living standards. In a time of severe cuts in school funding, however, many locals of both major national teacher unions have meekly accepted layoffs, increased class sizes and performance criteria. Above all, neither the unions nor educational authorities have offered serious alternatives to the conservative-led drive toward neoliberal privatization. And the left seems content to roll out the usual proposals: more money for schools, wider access for poor and working-class students of color to higher education and an end to privatization.
While these reforms are necessary, they are hardly sufficient. The right wants to keep kids’ noses to the grindstone by testing them into submission, hand off schools to the for-profit sector and throw unworthy, disruptive kids out of school or at least relegate them to “special education,” the only thriving sector in K–12.
Most liberals lack a similarly direct and powerful program. They may praise the centrality of critical thinking, a legacy of the progressive era, but they mainly offer band-aids. That’s because liberals have accepted the dominant framework that education, or more accurately, schooling should serve the economy by training students to take their respective places in the world of work.
Not true. What radicals should offer handwringing liberals is what radicals do best: go to the root of things. Education should be a preparation for life, especially helping kids become active in determining the conditions that most affect them.
The Root of Things
Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner, three leading 20th-century theorists of developmental psychology, argued that the curriculum, the heart of school learning, should be articulated with the sensory motor skills of children. They asserted forcefully that imposing academics is inappropriate for young children until ages eight or nine. They reason that while children aged three to seven have developed significant cognitive abilities, the algorithms associated with the acquisition of most academic skills are really beyond the capacity of most children. This is a time of life when the imagination should be the subject and the object of learning. Reading, writing and math need not be withheld, but the main content of learning at earliest years can be delivered by means of play. The model of kindergarten is the right one for younger kids. They are learning to get along with their peers, to manipulate objects; to experiment with painting, sculpture and music; and to express themselves orally as well. Kids who express an interest in reading, for example, should be encouraged and the teacher should provide suitable materials and integrate reading with play.
All The World’s a School
Later, when academics are near the center of the curriculum, the classroom should largely be transferred from the school building to the wider world. Vygotsky described how confining a child to a desk for hours subverts her development. The ages of eight to 12 are times for exploration, for the flowering of curiosity: the city as school means that museums, research laboratories, health and senior centers, concerts, factories, offices, parks and the streets are all learning sites. “Field trips” are no longer occasional activities but regular events woven into the entire school day. Students meet musicians, artists, industrial and service workers, scientists, urbanists all of whom become part of the school faculty. Reading, math and science become important components but in terms of assisting the learner to effectively negotiate her environment and to stimulate further critical learning.
At ages 11 or 12, having explored the social and physical environment, the student has acquired the developmental conditions for academic rigor. In this regard, it should be acknowledged that some domains, such as math, science, grammar, history, even music, are full of rote dimensions. But rote should be combined with conveying both the practical and historical significance of basic math, algebra and geometry; the importance of chronology in learning history; the stories, as well as the laws and procedures of physics, chemistry and biology. Ecology should become an important part of every level of education and its comprehension should have a theoretical as well as descriptive content.
At the same time, history and literature should not privilege nationalism. So-called American history is bound up with the African slave trade, the reasons for immigration, the drive for imperial domination, the need of capital for vast supplies of industrial labor (as former slaves were confined to the cotton and tobacco-producing plantations of the South and barred, except as strikebreakers). History shows that workers’ struggles from metal and textile factories to farms and ranches are intrinsic to the American story beyond the narrative of united interests during wartime which gives lie to the official ideology that America was the Great Exception to the European experience of class and class struggle. And great American literature was, and is, produced by Blacks as well as whites and was always bound up with the narrative of American history, from the slave narratives to the works of Melville, Whitman and Hawthorne.
The distinction between middle school and high school should be challenged. The 7–12 grade model could be more widely disseminated because these are the main years for cultivating critical, intellectual capacities. As some educators have discovered, young people of these ages are able to read original texts rather than suffering watered-down textbooks. Music and art must remain a vital component of the curriculum. Students need their own periodicals that they control without interference by school authorities, not only for peer communication but as places where criticism of both school and society can flourish outside official channels.
Don ’t Know Much Philosophy
In France, high schools have required the study of philosophy, though less so in recent years. High school graduates had knowledge of the main traditions of European philosophy in its classical form: the pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle, medieval thinkers, Descartes and Kant, Bergson and some 20th-century philosophy.
Philosophy has been excluded from the U.S. secondary schools, with the exception of elite, mostly private schools. This is a telltale sign that we don’t take critical thinking seriously as an educational goal. If philosophy has pedagogic value, it is to teach students the value of doubt, without which it is impossible to penetrate propaganda and discern the presence of particular interests within knowledge.
I can hear the critics respond, “All well and good, but who will teach all of this? What happens to teachers trained in the old curricula?” The short answer is that we need a major reformation of education schools. If they are to exist, students must be required to major in subject matter and education becomes only a minor. The education minor should not focus on teaching methods, but on concepts associated with critical thought, that is, philosophy and history, but not only of education. And there needs to be a massive program of faculty development to prepare experienced teachers for the new curriculum. They should not be “trained” but, even as they widen their own scope, should be asked to participate in planning elements of the curriculum. So the curriculum no longer remains the prerogative of central authorities whether administrative or legislative. Renovating teacher education would, of course, involve the professoriate as well. And parents and teacher unions should become part of the planning process.
These ideas are all subject to debate, discussion and revision. Yet without radical political and social movements standing behind educational change, school reform is unlikely except in the cosmetic sense. We need projects that challenge the mainstream if there is to be any change at all. At the moment, these projects are few and largely invisible, partly because they have not made a public display of their difference. But we need to begin to explore what an education reveille for radicals, to borrow a phrase from Saul Alinsky, would look like.
from Noam Chomsky :
Date: 10 September 2010
Subject: The future of US-China relations.
by Noam Chomsky
A Pentagon study released on August 13 expressed government concerns that China is expanding its military forces in ways that “could deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off the coast,” Thom Shanker reports in the New York Times. Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that that the US eliminate military forces that could deny the ability of Chinese warships to operate off American coasts.
Washington is concerned further that “China’s lack of openness about the growth, capabilities and intentions of its military injects instability to a vital region of the globe.” The US, in contrast, is quite open about its intention to operate freely throughout the “vital region of the globe” surrounding China (as elsewhere). It also advertises its vast capacity to do so, with a growing military budget that roughly matches the rest of the world combined, hundreds of military bases worldwide, and a huge lead in the technology of destruction and domination.
China’s lack of understanding of the rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China’s coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing. In contrast, the West understands that such US operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security.
The term “stability” has a technical meaning in discourse on international affairs: domination by the US. The usage is so routine as to pass without notice. Thus no eyebrows are raised when a respected analyst, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explains that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile in 1973, it was necessary to “destabilize” the country -- by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship, which proceeded to slaughter and torture with abandon and to set up an international terror network that helped install similar regimes elsewhere, always with US backing, in the interest of stability and security.
It is also routine to recognize that US security requires absolute control. The premise was given a scholarly imprimatur in the first book on the roots of George W. Bush’s preventive war doctrine, by the noted Yale University historian John Lewis Gaddis. As he explains, the operative principle is that expansion is “the path to security,” a doctrine he traces admiringly to the great grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual author of Manifest Destiny. When Bush warned “that Americans must `be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives’,” Gaddis observes, “he was echoing an old tradition rather than establishing a new one,” reiterating principles that presidents from Adams to Woodrow Wilson “would all have understood...very well.”
Wilson’s successors have also understood very well; for example, Clinton, whose doctrine was that the US is entitled to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” with no need even to concoct pretexts of the Bush variety. The US therefore must keep huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security” (Defense Secretary William Cohen). This prescription for permanent war is a new strategic doctrine, military historian Andrew Bacevich observes, later amplified by Bush and Obama.
The traditional doctrine is understandable. As every Mafia Don knows, even the slightest loss of control might lead to unraveling of the system of domination as others are encouraged to follow a similar path. This central principle of power is familiarly formulated as the “domino theory,” which translates in practice to the recognition that the “virus” of successful independent development might “spread contagion” elsewhere, and therefore must be destroyed while potential victims of the plague are inoculated, usually by brutal dictatorships.
According to the Pentagon study, China’s military budget is expanding, approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a fraction of the US military budget of course. The concerns are understandable, on the virtually unchallenged assumption that the US must maintain “unquestioned power” over much of the world, with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs.
These were the principles established by high-level planners and foreign policy experts during World War II, as they developed the framework for the post-war World, largely implemented. The US was to maintain this dominance in a “Grand Area,” which was to include at a minimum the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, including the crucial energy resources of the Middle East. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. It was always understood that Europe might choose to follow an independent course, perhaps the Gaullist vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat, and the issue remains very much alive today as NATO is expanded to a US-run intervention force with particular responsibility to control the “crucial infrastructure” of the global energy system on which the West relies.
But world control is no simple matter, even for a state with the historically unprecedented power of the US, a matter to which we return.
from Fred Lonidier :
Date: 21 September 2010
Subject: One Nation National Coalition.
One Nation Coalition will be marching in Washington DC Oct. 2. Let October 7 (details coming) be our Day of Action rally/march for things which are consistent with defending public education and the public services.
* An economy that works for all;
* More good jobs, fair jobs, safe jobs, reforming Wall Street;
* Repairing our immigration system;
* Ensuring quality education for every child;
* Giving everyone in America the opportunity to contribute to and strengthen our country;
* And restoring workers' freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.
Dump the "Tea Party" into the Bay!!!