Ronald Dworkin, "The Threat to Patriotism,"
New York Review, February 28, 2002.
Briefer version in The Guardian and
Chimp, March 9, 2002.
"What has al-Qaeda done to our Constitution, and to our
national standards of fairness and decency? Since September 11, the
government has enacted legislation, adopted policies, and threatened
procedures that are not consistent with our established laws and values and
would have been unthinkable before."
Open Letter to Democrats and Progressives: Focusing the Anger,"
of Stupidity," Salon, February 14, 2002.
"Bush utters the word 'evil' the way child does when it
first dawns on him that there is darkness and danger in the world, and only
his goodness and courage stand in its way. His axis-of-evil war cry
... reminds us that this is a man who entered the 2000 presidential race in
midlife with the barest, most homespun grasp of the world beyond America's
The Nation, January 7/14, 2002: "The Big Media" --
Theme for the entire issue.
This is an issue to keep for your files. Numerous fine articles, but
we especially enjoyed Mark Crispin Miller's,
Wrong With This Picture?," Forget
"the myth of the liberal media." Face up to "the myth of
the free press" and
"the myth of the marketplace of ideas."
Gore Vidal, "Times
Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore," The Nation, December 17,
miss this one!)
Held Hostage," Salon.com. 9/29/01. "We are
fighting for freedom -- including the right to vigorously debate. But
the war fever crowd wants us all to march in step.
Stanley Hoffmann, "On the War," The New York Review, November 1,
The National Whistleblowers Center (www.whistleblowers.org).
Late in February, we saw a C-SPAN broadcast of a panel of whistleblowers,
sponsored by this organization. Very provocative and
Urban Legends (
) . A terrific collection of "urban legends" from many sources
and in numerous categories, identified as to their likely veracity.
Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (
). Yes, there are a few savvy businesspersons who are well aware that
there is no prosperity on a ruined planet, and that a nation's economic health
is based upon just distributions and cooperative effort. Here is a good
place to find them.
World Policy Institute (
). A fine liberal "think tank" (yes, there are a few -- a
very few), centered at the New School University in New York City. We
ran across this one on CSPAN.
Petroleum is the leading consumer-purchased source of
atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. (Coal, primarily from electric power
generating plants, produces more greenhouse gases). Since most of us
cannot avoid using at least some gasoline for vehicle fuel, what is the
eco-conscious driver to do?
The question has long been on our mind, and now the Sierra Club
publication, Sierra, offers us some guidance -- sort of. In a
recent issue of Sierra ("Pick Your Poison"), the leading
gasoline retailers are profiled, according to their refining records, their
stance on global warming, their record of environmental and human rights abuses,
and their "green initiatives." The authors do not
"rank" the brands, leaving that task to the reader who must then
assign his or her own "weight" to the four factors.
While we urge our readers to examine the article for themselves,
here, for what it is worth, is our conclusion. Highest marks go to Sunoco,
which, unfortunately, is not sold in our region (California). However,
Tosco scores well, and is available under the "Circle K" and
"76" brands. Unfortunately, Tosco is expected to be purchased
soon by Phillips Petroleum, which has a poor environmental record.
Of the "majors," British Petroleum (AMOCO and ARCO)
appears to be the "least bad" -- I can't bring myself to say "the
"Selective purchasing" by an appreciable number of
eco-sensitive and informed customers just might steer some of these corporate
giants toward environmentally responsible behavior.
Higher Education, Inc.
"The Kept University" by Eval Press and Jennifer Washburn, in the
March 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The title-page blurb" reads, "commercially sponsored research is putting at
risk the paramount value of higher education -- disinterested inquiry.
Even more alarming..., universities themselves are behaving more and more like
for-profit companies." In response, the authors conclude, the
universities should establish "new guidelines designed to preserve academic
freedom in all their interactions with industry." They continue:
These could include forbidding professors from having direct financial ties
to the companies sponsoring their research; banning universities themselves
from investing in these companies; prohibiting publication delays of more than
thirty to sixty days and any other editorial constraints; and minimizing
proprietary restrictions on basic research tools. In addition,
universities could no more to make the case of preserving public support for higher
education while refusing to tailor either the research agenda of the
curriculum to the needs of industry. "The best reason for
supporting the college and the university," [Richard] Hofstadter wrote,
"lies not in the services they can perform, vital though such services
may be, but in the values they represent. The ultimate criterion of the
place of higher learning in America will be the extent to which tit is
esteemed not as a necessary instrument of external ends, but as an end in
On a similar theme, David Noble writes in "Digital Diploma
. . . at the very outset of this new age of higher education, the
lines have already been drawn in the struggle which will ultimately determine
its shape. On the one side university administrators and their myriad
commercial partners, on the other those who constitute the core relation of
education: students and teachers... It is no accident, then, that the
high-tech transformation of higher education is being initiated an implemented
from the top down, either without any student and faculty involvement in the
decision-making or despite it.
Ironically, this protest against the "digitilization of learning"
can be acquired immediately, through the internet. We highly recommend
Diploma Mills, David Noble).
"Sustainability" -- Some Reflections
Comments prepared for a workshop
sponsored by the Lake Superior Bi-National Forum
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan/Ontario, January, 1995
The concept of "sustainability" is deceptively simple on the
surface: i.e., "more of the same, indefinitely into the future." A
closer look reveals several fundamental problems in the concept. Even
so, a theory of "sustainability" is essential to viable environmental
Anticipatory critiques and rebuttals:
- While indigenous cultures (e.g., Native Americans) provide
valuable lessons in sustainable adaptation to the natural
environment, it is neither possible nor desirable to abandon all
advantages to civilized life to return to conditions to
pre-industrial life. Our numbers are too great, and our
technology has so transformed the Earth that "we can not go home
- "Cornucopian economists" such as Herman Kahn and Julian Simon
reject the concept of "sustainability" on the grounds that there
is no practical limit to the capacity of human beings to solve
emerging environmental problems, and that natural resources "are
not finite in any economic sense" (Simon). Accordingly, it is
claimed that growth and progress can be perpetual, without any
concern for maintaining a supporting resource base. This position
is totally untenable in the face of basic physical and ecological
principles. Even so, "cornucopian economics" is the prevailing
model of politicians and policy-makers today. (See "Perilous
Optimism," this site).
- The popular concept of "sustainable development" a
compromise between environmentalism ("sustainable") and commerce
("development") may be oxymoronic. If "development" means
perpetual grown in resource consumption and population, then such
"development" can not be sustained. Instead, "development" must
be conceived as qualitative change. conjoined with
quantitative diminution of resource use and waste
"Sustainability," then, must be regarded as "perpetual
qualitative improvement within limits defined by fundamental physical
and biotic principles."
This concept bears the following implications:
- Consumption of depletable resources (e.g., fossil fuels) is
acceptable only if the consequences (e.g., pollution) are
monitored and compensated for, and if research is directed to
finding and utilizing sustainable replacements (e.g., solar
- Resource policy should be directed to the eventual use of
"interest-bearing resources" which sustain human populations on
surplus production, while maintaining an undepleted "capital" of
productivity. (The prime example, of course, is the sustenance of
indigenous peoples in the Amazon rain forest, or the great plains
of North America)
- "Development" must be understood to mean qualitative
improvement rather than quantitative growth.
- A sustainable economy must be conservative, first in
the medical sense "first do no harm," and then as an
application of "Commoner's Law" "nature knows best."
Incidentally, such an economy stands in stark contrast to the
exploitative, free-market economic politics which adopts the label
of "conservatism." From the perspective of physical-biotic
principles, such so-called "conservatism" is in fact, radically
- If we elect to combine enduring advantages of civilized life
with a sustainable economy, then we are committed to the
maintenance of an appropriate "knowledge base." This means that
scientific research, archiving, and education must be generously
supported. But scientific knowledge, and knowledge
combined with humane values ("wisdom"), must take precedence over
application (technology). We must, in short, "look" and evaluate
before we "leap."
- If democratic institutions are to be sustained in this
"sustainable" civilized condition, then "education" must be
understood to include such informal but pervasive sources of
attitudes and (mis)information as the public mass-media, as well
as the emerging telecommunication technologies. These media are
currently dominated by commercial interests which are driving the
unsustainable consumptive and egocentric life-styles of the
so-called "free-market economies." Unless and until alternative
and sustainable life-styles are exemplified and celebrated in the
public media, there is little prospect for ecologically rational
reform and progress toward a sustainable global community.