From KCFS President, Harry McDonald
Unbelievably, Kansas Citizens For Science just celebrated the 10th anniversary of our founding. We remain at the forefront of the struggle to promote science and good science education.
Looking ahead to 2010, we will find ourselves once again facing the prospect of losing control of the State Board of Education. Five of the 10 BOE seats are up for grabs in the elections. With numerous state races garnering most of the attention, KCFS will need to work all that much harder to ensure that science and science education are on voters' minds and that voters know where the candidates stand on science-related issues.
Now, the following will catch you up on what we've been doing the past year:
At our annual meeting in November, we elected the following officers, Harry McDonald - President, Cheryl Shepherd-Adams - Vice-President, Keith Miller - Treasurer, and Charlotte McDonald - Secretary. In addition, we welcomed Gene Garman as a new board member.
• Individual board members accepted invitations to speak at a number of events locally, across the state and nationally.
• KCFS retained its presence at KATS Kamp, the state science teachers' convention.
• KCFS continued its support of the Hays Science Cafe’ and organized a new Science Cafe’ which will begin in Johnson County in January.
• We adopted priorities to increase activities in non-science standards issues and function as a science resource; continue outreach to teachers; emphasize the teaching of established science in all our activities; and to emphasize the Year of Science 2009 in all our activities.
• Our President registered as a lobbyist for Kansas.
• We created several new flyers.
• Members monitored state board and state legislature activities that could affect science education, both in Kansas and across the nation.
• We continued to network with like-minded organizations across the country.
• KCFS co-sponsored science-related events in communities across the state, including several celebrating the Year of Science.
As always, our greatest influence came as the result of individual efforts of members acting in behalf of our shared values.
The KCFS website has been static recently, but the new year brings hope for change. A friend of KCFS has volunteered to clean up the site and keep postings up-to-date. The plan is for you to be able to go to our website, www.kcfs.org, and find out the latest news and happenings.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
From KCFS President, Harry McDonald
Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Russell Fox has posted his list of essential Christmas CDs and issued a challenge for others to share their lists.
Though I like diversity in my Christmas music, I've decided to restrict this to jazz CDs and only those by a single artist. There are some great compilations done by labels, but there is a special challenge in putting together an entire album of Christmas music. ( On another day, I might classify the great Christmas albums by Bela Fleck and Brian Setzer as jazz, but the narrow definition gives me a post for holiday season 2010.)
Wynton Marsalis Crescent City Christmas. This is a classic. On LP, there is a secular side and a religious side. That's lost on CD. Wynton does some great playing and the ensemble and arrangements swing. His 2009 Christmas Jazz Jam is something I'd like to hear, but it's available only at Target and iTunes.)
Joe Pass Six String Santa Joe's late 1990s working quartet, plus a few solo pieces. Enjoyable anytime of the year.
Kenn Burrell, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Burrell was the definition of a soulful guitarist. Nice horn arrangements, but KB is the star. Originally released in 1966 for Cadet, the jazz imprint of Chess.
Jimmy Smith Christmas '64 It is only a slight exaggeration to claim that Jimmy Smith invented the Hammond B-3 organ. There's a version entitled Christmas Cooking that has two extra cuts. One highlight is "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Wes Montgomery.
Gerry Beaudoin A Sentimental Christmas
Tuck Andress, Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Christmas
Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You A Swingin' Christmas
Etta James Twelve Songs of Christmas
Eric Reed Merry Magic
Chet Baker, Silent Nights
An Oscar Peterson Christmas
Al Grey, Christmas Stockin' Stuffer Jazz trombonist set features two humurous tunes with vocalist Jon Hendricks.
Dianna Krall, Christmas Songs
Carla Bley Carla's Christmas Carols. new in 2009. really exquisite arrangements for a small group. Allmusic.com says
This may be the Christmas recording of 2009. Bley's arrangements are both elegant and sometimes quirky, but always engaging and fun, and show a complete love of the original material. ...While the argument that there should be a moratorium on Christmas recordings is a good one in the 21st century, Carla's Christmas Carols provides a powerful counter to that view. She has added so much to these songs without taking away any of the warmth, joy, and nostalgia inherent to the season or their place in it.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Tiger Woods has announced his indefinite withdrawal from the golf circuit in order to repair his family life.
I am not sure that Tiger will ever return to golf or his championship form. One thing for certain, though I could be wrong, he will never be "Tiger" again. Tiger was not just the greatest golfer ever, he was a "brand." Like Faust and Dorian Gray, Tiger made a deal and now he is paying the price.
His downfall reminds me of A Face in the Crowd where the character played by Andy Griffith rises from the ranks of country music to TV star and political demagogue (a premature Teabagger) only to be undone when his true feeling are revealed.
Here's the end of the movie from Wikipedia
Rhodes is shown smiling and waving to the camera while in the control room, Jeffries and the technical staff hear him mock his viewers as "idiots", "morons" and "guinea pigs". Aware she helped create the monster, Jeffries pushes switches that throw Rhodes's comments on the air. Furious fans call the network. In a symbolic moment, an unaware Rhodes's popularity is shown plummeting as he rides an elevator going down.
The story ends with a meltdown at Rhodes's penthouse apartment, as Jeffries admits she betrayed him and Matthau predicts his future: that Rhodes is finished as a top-flight entertainer, though he may still salvage some of his career, it will never be the same. An uncredited Rip Torn is shown as "Barry Mills", the next Lonesome Rhodes waiting in the wings until the tutilage of Rhodes' agent. Rhodes ends up threatening to kill himself and pleading for Jeffries to come back, but the spell is broken as she and Mel drive off into the night.
Coming, Tiger's tawdry behavior has foreover tarnished his "brand," but there there are cotnradtictions in the brand that should have made us pause long ago.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
Here's a confession. I have sometimes mixed up or confused or conflated some prominent intellectuals and musicians. (I'm not including aural confusion of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan or Madeleine Peryoux and Billy Holliday.)
In retrospect it is easy to understand or excuse, I read a reference to someone and it sticks vaguely in my mind, then I read about someone with a similar name in a similar field an make an association.
I'm going to pretend that my confusions are the mark of a curious mind.
Anthony Crosland and Richard Crossman--two prominent intellectuals in the British Labour Party in the 1950s and the 1960s
Isaiah Berlin and Ira Berlin-- two prominent historians who wrote about issues of freedom and politics, but the first is British from the 1950s and Ira is an American and they are a generation (at least) distinct.
Elia Kazan and Alfred Kazin. Film maker and literary critic.
Bruce Cockburn and Bruce Hornsby-- North American rock musicians who incorporate jazz and folk touches and who have achieved somewhat more than a cult following but less than superstardom. I've never confused either with Bruce Springsteen, though.
Murray Bookchin and Murrray Rothbard--libertarian/anarchist theorists. They are from the social and individualist trends of the movement. Rothbard, in fact, seems to have been a particularly nasty political strategist, advocating and implementing an alliance of libertariansim with racist grievances. (See this article from the liberatarian Reason magazine)
Daniel Bell and Daniel A. Bell
sociologist and political scientist who have both written for Dissent.
Thomas Frank and T. A. Frank After What's the Matter with Kansas, some of the later's articles were by-line Thomas A. Frank, if I recall correctly.
Max Gordon and Max Gordon--founder of the Village Vanguard and one-time editor of the Daily Worker who broke with the CP after Khrushchev's Secret Speech.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Russell Fox has insomnia earlier this week and put it to good use by re-organzing his CD collection and gracing us with an interesting post of live rock double (rock) albums in his collection.
He asked for suggestions, and since he gave me some great leads and rates the Allman Brothers at Fillmore as the greatest live rock double album, I decided to search my collection and my memory.
Derek and the Dominos Live at the Fillmore
Butterfield Blues Band, Live (1970) after the departure of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop and the addition of a horn section.
Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield, The Live Adventures--recorded over 3 mights at Fillmore West. A follow-up to the Super Session.
Grateful Dead, Live in Europe 1972. It was 3 LPs so perhaps it doesn't qualify and I've never actually owned it, but it is excellent.
Peter Frampton, Comes Alive. I can't believe this isn't in Russell's collection, given that he likes both MOR as well as hipper music. I also can't believe it is in my collection.
Bob Dylan, 30th Anniversary Concert
Various Artists, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, okay it is actually folk music, but there's one track with the Band. I have in on LP. There's a CD which includes another live recording of a Guthrie tribute concert.
(When I get my courage up and search through the LPs and tapes), I may find a few more.)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
NY Times reports
In a news conference on Tuesday aimed at pressuring swing-vote senators, leaders of the National Farmers Union, which represents about 250,000 farm and ranch families, stressed the importance of major health care
John Hansen, the president of the Nebraska chapter of the Farmers Union, noted that the state had succeeded in lowering its utility costs through the use of publicly sponsored generation of electricity, including wind power, to make a case for government-run health insurance.
“The public option in Nebraska for electric generation has served us extremely well,” he said, “and yet we villainize a similar kind of public option when it comes to health care.” Mr. Hansen said that 69 percent of health insurance policies in the state were written by just two private insurers and that the public plan — a government-run insurance option — was needed to increase competition.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Today, in Great Britain, there will be an important demonstration against Sharia law. The demo is largely organized by UK muslims and supported by the democratic left and secularists.
Vetran human rights campaigner Peter Thatchell comments at Harry's Place
Millions of people are suffering at the hands of clerical regimes, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Sadly, the turn out in Hyde Park will probably be quite small. This is odd. Most liberals and left-wingers would protest loud and strong if these persecutions were perpetrated by a western regime or by Christian fundamentalists. But they get squeamish when it comes to challenging human rights abuses done in the name of Islam. They fear being denounced as Islamophobic. They confuse protests against fundamentalist, political Islam, which seeks to establish a religious dictatorship, with an attack on Muslim people and the Muslim faith. These are two very different things. Saturday’s protest is in defence of Muslim people – and all people everywhere – who are victims of any form of religious tyranny.
Sharia law is, however, one of the most barbaric manifestations of fundamentalist religion, which is why we need to highlight it. While other faiths are also often oppressive, Sharia is especially oppressive. Its interpretations stipulate the execution of Muslims who commit adultery, renounce their faith (apostates) or have same-sex relationships. Sharia methods of execution, such as stoning, are particularly brutal and cruel.
Sadly, Thathcell's activism in support of gay rights in Islamic countries has been attacekd by some Western pseudo-lefists as a form of "imperialism."
Monday, November 09, 2009
The CBO found that the GOP plan would save money because it doesn't actually extend insurance coverage to any of the 17 percent of legal, non-elderly Americans who the CBO thinks will be without health insurance in 2010. In fact, most of the Republican plan centers around reforms that would make the health insurance industry work more like the credit card industry by allowing insurers to base themselves in the state with the weakest regulations and then sell their health plans nationwide (as credit card companies already do from South Dakota).
Sunday, November 08, 2009
I have to admit that I have never heard of Joshua Nelson before Moti Rieber mentioned the Mid Kansas Jewish Federation plans to bring him to Wichita for a December 6 concert at the Orpheum.
This is how Nelson is described
Dubbed "The Prince of Kosher Gospel," Joshua Nelson is an African American Jew who transcends race with Hebrew hymns sung in a gospel style. He spreads the sheer joy and fervent spirituality of his music from New Jersey to Jerusalem. He has performed for presidents, at music festivals, synagogues and churches, and on "Oprah," who called him "The Voice of Mahalia Jackson."
For his audiences, whatever their faith or heritage, his "kosher gospel" style music brings people and cultures together and dazzles audiences in joyous song!
Tickets on sale through Select-a-seat, 316-755-SEAT, and at all Dillon's Superstores, Plant Employee Clubs or at the door.
in reference to: Community Concert with Joshua Nelson! | Events (view on Google Sidewiki)
I've just played a Youtube video of Nelson and he sound great! (There are other youtube clips of Nelson, but there is at least one other Joshua Nelson who sings Jewish songs that may show up in your Youtube search--he sounds great too)
This should be an outstanding community event.
The Wichita Eagle had a terrible idea for their college basketball preview--a mash-up of sports and fashion. It didn't work for this basketball fan and I doubt it got more women to read the section or to follow college basketball.
Moreover, if they were going to do a fashion of sports twist, they should have looked at the questionable ethics of college sports and athletic apparel. Let us know just how much the workers the workers who make Nike goods are paid. Ask whether public universities should be signing deals with clothing manufacturers who exploit workers.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Wichita State University, RSC 203
Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities are often exacerbated by fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. The case becomes more nuanced for LGBT people of faith. The WSU Political Science Club invites you to an open dialogue around religion, faith, morality, and sexuality which will host three speakers that will explain their faiths understanding on these issues.
This event will feature 3 speakers:
Rabbi Moti Rieber, of Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation.
Father Eric Weldon, of St. Paul Newman Center.
Pastor Charles Claycomb, of East Heights United Methodist Church
I can't attend this program because of a conflict, but it looks interesting. Hopefully, someone will record it.
If like me you avoid those annoying polls and quizzes on Face book but have never overcome that school-induced infatuation with polls, you might be interested in two on-line quizzes I took today.
I scored great on one and lousy on the other.
The Pew Research Center periodically does a survey that measures what the public knows about events and they give interested folks an opportunity to take the quiz as well as reporting on the results of their scientific poll. I liked this poll--I got 12 of 12 right, better than 98% of the population.
Bill Clinton's foundation has a challenging 10 question quiz to determine what you know about urgent world issues. I only got 3 or 4 right. It's a tough one. Except for the last one, which is all about how great Bill is. Someone should a more cynical version of that question.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Image via WikipediaAppearing recently on a Wichita Christian radio station, Republican Congressman Todd Tiahrt attempted to paint Jerry Moran, his rival for the 2010 Republican Senate nomination, as soft on gays, and managed to distort the record of his party's 2008 standard bearer.
His evidence Moran has been endorsed by 2008 Republican Presidential nominee John McCain. McCain on October 7 signed the conference report for the 2010 Defense Appropriation, which includes the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act.
According to Tiahrt, this means that Moran isn't fit to represent Kansas family values. According to Tiahr's logic, McCain and Moran are soft on homosexuals. Tiahrt claims the hare crimes prevention act will mean that Ministers will be prosecuted for reading 1st Corinthians from the pulpit.
There's a big problem with Tiahrt's guilt by association. At the time that McCain endorsed Moran, McCain was leading the fight against including the hate crimes bill.
Another problem: the bill protects military personnel against hate crimes because of their status.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
NPR is having a contest to name the great vocalists, sans genre, unlike the (mainly) rock list compiled by Rolling Stones a couple fo years back. Though curiosly, the web copy asks people to name the most beautiful, which is not the same as the greatest.
Here are some I think should be named as greatest
Bobby "Blue" Bland
A Koch-funded think tank came out with an alarmist report about the state employees' pension fund. Republican legislators after years of underfunding pensions and under-paying employees are talking about switching to a 401-K program. Harold Schlechtweg of SEIU 513 addressed some of the issues at a recent USD 259 board meeting.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Very impressive figures for 4th District Congressional candidate Raj Goyle.
Just Three Months Into Race, State Rep. Goyle Sets Fundraising Record
Wichita, KS - State Representative Raj Goyle today announced he raised a record-breaking total of $403,083.68 during his first three months as a candidate for Congress in Kansas's 4th Congressional District.
After entering the race for Congress in July of this year, Goyle posted the strongest first fundraising quarter of all candidates in the race to date. Goyle's July-through-September total of $403,083.68 represents the most money ever raised in the first quarter by a challenger in the history of the district.
"I'm proud to have the support of so many people who are looking to bring some Kansas common sense to Congress during these challenging times," Goyle said. "I'm humbled and honored to have the support of business owners, farmers, teachers, medical professionals, and other hard working Kansans as we begin this campaign," said Goyle.
Goyle received contributions from over 800 individual donors. Half of the contributions to Goyle's campaign were $100 or less.
(title HT: Moti)
I listened to the much anticipated Bob Dylan Christmas album today on the first day of its release. Christmas in the Heart is terrible. Is it the worst Dylan CD ever or the worst Christmas album ever?
I used my Rhapsody subscription to take a listen, thank goodness. I would have hated to have forked out the $16 or whatever for this disc.
Naturally, I expected and was ready to deal with Dylan's scraggly voice, but the arrangements are sacchrine, muzaky schlock that sound like they were stolen from the 1950s. There are a few exceptions. "It Must Be Santa" done as a Tex-mex polka and Christmas Blues done as a jazzy blues work just fine. Too many of the secular songs are light-weight, starting with the set opener "Here Comes Santa Claus" And, Bob just doesn't have the voice to tackle Mel Torme's "Christmas Song." But the religious songs just don't cut it.
Reportedly, Dylan swung a deal with Citigroup to relase the album early to its customers.
I guess the only redeeming feature of the album is that it will benefit charities that feed the hungry. My advice, be nice to yourself: don't buy the CD and give the full price to your local food bank.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
State Senator Laura Kelly has confirmed that she will challenge rookie Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins for Kansas' Second Congressional District. Jenkins attracted national attention when she said Republicans were looking for a "Great white hope" to run against Obama and seemed blithly unaware of the racist history and connotations of her remarks. And that was just one of Jenkin's many failures.
State Senator Tom Holland had been rumored to be interested in the race, but he seems to be fully behind Kelly's candidacy.
Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly confirmed Friday plans to campaign for the congressional seat now in the hands of Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican who unexpectedly defeated an incumbent in 2008.
Kelly, a Topekan who is in her second term in the Senate, said she would share with voters her "reputation and history of working across party lines" to advance public policy in the Legislature.
"I actually walk the walk," she said. "Kansas families in the 2nd District deserve a representative who will energetically stand up for their most important concerns -- their pocketbooks, their jobs and their health care -- not sit back and block progress in Washington."
Kelly has a Facebook page, ActBlue account and a campain twitter account, which are good signs. Not so good, the twitter page isn't customized and has too many @ posts.
More seriously, unlike Raj Goyle who is running for the open 4th District, Kelly doesn't yet have a 2010 campaign website setup to gather email addresses and contributions.
Still, Kelly is a serious candidate and the 2nd District should be a real donnybrook.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
From the CSMonitor
Kabul, Afghanistan - When Medea Benjamin stood up in a Kabul meeting hall this weekend to ask Masooda Jalal if she would prefer more international troops or more development funds, the cofounder of US antiwar group Code Pink was hoping her fellow activist would support her call for US troop withdrawal.
She was disappointed.
Ms. Jalhal, the former Afghan minister of women, bluntly told her both were needed. "It is good for Afghanistan to have more troops – more troops committed with the aim of building peace and against war, terrorism, and security – along with other resources," she answered. "Coming together they will help with better reconstruction."
Though Afghans have their grievances against the international troops' presence, chief among them civilian casualties, many fear an abrupt departure would create a dangerous security vacuum to be filled by predatory and rapacious militias. Many women, primary victims of such groups in the past, are adamant that international troops stay until a sufficient number of local forces are trained and the rule of law established. (Read more about Afghan women's concerns here.)
During their weeklong visit here, in which they met with government officials, politicians, ministers, women activists, and civil society groups, the small team of Code Pink members had hoped to gather evidence to bolster their call for US troop withdrawal within two years, and capitalize on growing anxiety back home about the war.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Right-wing groups have long made unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud the supposed rationale for pushing legislation that would erect new barriers to the ballot box. A How to Take Back America workshop on “Voter Fraud, the Census, and ACORN” made it clear that right-wing politicians will try to use ACORN’s recent troubles to build momentum for restrictive voting laws.
Kris Kobach, a lawyer and failed congressional candidate who has made a name for himself on the Right as an anti-illegal immigration crusader, announced this summer that he is running to be Secretary of State in Kansas. His theme is combating voter fraud, a solution in search of a problem in Kansas. Kobach, like other speakers, implied that Al Franken’s Senate seat was somehow illegitimate, referring to Franken’s “pseudo-election.”
The workshop was largely a tirade against ACORN and the “hard left,” which is supposedly engaged in a massive effort to steal elections. No one, said Kobach, is disenfranchised based on the color of their skin these days. He slammed the Obama Justice Department for signaling to states that they’re “on their own” when it comes to fighting voter fraud.
Kobach’s five-step prescription for states, which he hopes he can implement in Kansas as a model, includes ramping up prosecutions for voter fraud, enacting photo-ID laws, taking more aggressive steps to “clean up” voter rolls (otherwise known as purging), requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration, and standardizing provisional ballot and recount procedures, which he said “the left” was abusing.
Massimo Pigliucci,The Problems with Libertarianism
nice round-up of the varieties of liberatarianism, from left to right, and some insightful critiques. Over one hundered comments, which I haven't slogged through.
Ben Cohen on Marek Edelman, the last hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Marek Edelman (zichrono livracha) - the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising - has passed away at the age of ninety. In 1942, Edelman was one of the founders of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) which united Bundists, Zionists, communists and others to confront the Nazi threat. The uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto the following year was the first act of mass civilian resistance in Nazi-occupied Poland - a salient fact that should be remembered by those who portray the victims of the Holocaust as having passively accepted their fateHarold Meyerson, "Is Europe's Left in Crisis"
Europe's socialists suffer from three major maladies. First, each of their parties has been the champion of the welfare state in their respective nations, but the political support for universal welfare states has weakened as immigrants have transformed the populations of the hitherto homogenous European states. Second, the relative numerical decline of the blue-collar working class across Western Europe has compelled the parties of the left to embrace new constituencies and new agendas, some of which conflict with their old constituencies and agendas. And third, though globalization has not had the catastrophic effect on European workers that it has had on their American counterparts, it has weakened the nation state's ability to manage its own economy and secure it from harm, undermining the arena where socialists won their greatest victories.Socialist International, "The Way Forward on climate change and the financial crisis"
Max Dunbar, "The Glorious Leap Backward"
when China’s economy piles success on success. Murdoch has been trading with China for decades, Brown welcomes its leaders to Downing Street. Does it really matter that the government evicted around 1.5 million people from Beijing and kept migrant workers in states of indentured slavery in the runup to the Olympics. As a power China is heading into growth and prosperity while the Western economies go smash in the setting sun.
Capitalists and leftists alike can support a country that combines the worst of capitalism with the worst of socialism. As well as corporations and governments trading with Beijing there has been a rash of books in praise of the glorious republic and progressive pundits – Martin Jacques is probably the best known – playing down its human rights atrocities. Ti
bet is just so last millennium. The point is to be on the winning side – at whatever cost.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
The Campaign for Peace and Democracy has a valuable statement on the decision of the Obama administration to drop plans to install a "star wars" missile defense installations in Eastern Europe. CPD worked closely with groups in Czechoslovakia and Poland to oppose the Bush plan. I supported them in this effort.
Here's is the CPD statement.
By now you've no doubt heard the good news that the Obama administration has canceled plans to deploy a military radar in the Czech Republic and Interceptor missiles in Poland. Although it is by no means the end of the story of resisting U.S. military power, this is a great victory for the peace movement around the world, and deserves to be celebrated! Excerpts from the recent victory statements of the Czech radar opponents are at the end of this message.
The majority of Czech and Polish people never supported these proposed U.S. military bases -- though you would never know it from reading the American media with its recent headlines about the cancellation of the bases such as "Eastern Europe Grumbles About Downgrade in US Ties," "Poles, Czechs: US Missile Defense Shift a Betrayal," or, perhaps most preposterous of all, "Eastern Europe Not Feeling the Love From Obama." These headlines make the classic error of presuming that the views of governments are necessarily the same as those of the people.
In the Czech Republic, relentless mass protest prevented the Czech Chamber of Deputies from ratifying the radar agreement: opponents engaged in a whole range of creative actions against the proposed base, from petition drives and marches to hunger strikes and street theater. Czech anti-radar activists succeeded in gaining the support of many politicians in their own country, and in generating solidarity around the world -- including here in the U.S. where, as you probably know, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy was a major organizer of support for the Czech protestors with our own sign-on statements, demonstrations, forums and publicity in The New York Times, The Nation, The Progressive, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. (See the CPD website for more information about our solidarity campaign since 2007.)
We can only speculate about the Obama administration's actual motives in canceling these missile "defense" plans. It was conceivably a simple military modernization to deploy more effective anti-missile weapons, as Robert Gates claimed in his op-ed in the The New York Times on September 20th. It may have been an attempt to moderate wasteful military spending, as administration spokespersons have said, since replacement weapons will cost less than those originally planned. It may have been an attempt to conciliate the Russians, who have seen the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic as the seeds of a threat to their own strategic military capability; the administration hopes to enlist the Russians in imposing heightened sanctions on Iran if it refuses to cooperate on nuclear issues.* But, though they are never likely to admit it, the administration and the Pentagon also had to take into consideration the dangerous consequences of trying to install these new bases in the face of negative popular opinion in the Czech Republic and Poland and the prospect of militant and very public resistance in the Czech Republic.
In his September 20 Op Ed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a point of stating that, "The future of missile defense in Europe is secure." He says the Pentagon plans to soon "deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles -- weapons that are growing in capability -- in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe, and in about 2015, to place "upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe." (For an analysis of the Pentagon plans, see Bruce Gagnon's very helpful “Missile Defense: The Other Story" on the website of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space at http://www.space4peace.org/)
We are not reassured by these plans for military escalation, and we do not believe that such escalation is the way to respond to the threat of future Iranian nuclear capability. Instead, as we said in our original 2007 sign-on statement against the Czech radar, "The United States and other nuclear powers can best reduce the danger of nuclear warfare by taking major steps toward both nuclear and conventional disarmament and refraining from waging or threatening 'preventive' war -- not by expanding the nuclear threat. Such steps by the existing nuclear powers would create a political context that would powerfully discourage new countries from developing their own nuclear weapons."
Czech groups opposed to the radar have been celebrating their victory: “We have been active more than three years in the struggle to prevent this plan from materializing. We are very happy that finally the position of the US administration is in line with the will of majority of Czechs,” said Jan Tamas, spokesman of the Nonviolence movement, one of the Czech groups active in opposing the radar.
Another Czech anti-radar group, the No Bases Initiative, released a statement that said, in part,"The struggle against the radar has always been the struggle for democracy, for the right to decide on the principal orientation of the country in a referendum. Despite all difficulties and the arrogant and ignorant behavior of many politicians, it is clear that an important victory in our common struggle has been achieved. We should remember this, no matter how the situation develops in the future. It has been meaningful to sign the anti-radar petition and demonstrate against the radar, it has been meaningful to pose questions to the members of the Parliament and put pressure on them. Civic protest is meaningful.”
“For the civic No Bases Initiative (Ne zakladnam), this is not the end of our activities. We will go on, enriched by this experience. Nor does it mean the end of the U.S. anti-missile defense projects; discussion has already started about alternatives to the radar in the Czech Republic and to the missiles in Poland. But a the really good news remains that we have been able to prove, within the broad anti-radar movement, and hand in hand with all those who took part in the most diverse anti-radar activities during these three years, that we have the power to change things to for the better.”
We join with our Czech colleagues in belief that “civic protest is meaningful.” We are committed to continuing the fight against nuclear escalation, missile “defense,” and U.S. militarism, including the growing wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan. --Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison, Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Friday, September 25, 2009
With membership rising and pressure increasing, management at Spirit AeroSystems today presented a new and improved contract offer to 783 engineers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001.
If ratified by a union member vote, the new 3 ½-year contract will provide a 3 percent bonus, annual salary increases and ensure engineers are compensated for all overtime hours above the regular 40-hour workweek. Employees will see medical premiums increase from 10 to 15 percent, for the life of the contract.
Union negotiators are unanimously recommending engineers accept the offer.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
From Think Progress.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) offered a defense of Bunning’s amendment by arguing that the 72-hour provision was critical because it provides time for senators to consult with health insurance lobbyists:
All the Senator from Kentucky is asking is for 72 hours to determine the cost. Senator Snowe has spoken eloquently about sunshine, and the openness, and the fact that the American people would support this 90 percent, 95 percent. But the thing that I’m trying to point out is we would have at least 72 hours for the people that the providers have hired to keep up with all of the legislation that we pass around here, and the regulations that we pass around here, to say “hey, wait a minute. Have you considered this?” And that’s all I’m asking for — is not only cost, but also the content of a bill. And that 72 hours, I think, is highly, highly important.
To be clear, Roberts is referring to health insurance lobbyists when he references the “people that the providers have hired to keep up with all of the legislation.” Watch it:
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Roberts has received over $172,000 in political contribution from insurance companies over the last five years. Unsurprisingly, Roberts opposes a public option because, he claims, “it won’t work.” Presumably, that’s because that’s what health insurance lobbyists have told him.
Roberts has received $844,569 from the health care industry between 2000-2008, according to Common Cause (source: Center for Responsive Politics).
Quote from the report:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since 2002, had never raised more than $100,000 from the health industries in a previous cycle. In 2007, he took a seat on the Senate Finance Committee and its Health Subcommittee, and in the 2007-08 cycle alone he raised over $710,000 from health industries, including $116,500 from health insurers. In early 2009, Roberts introduced an industry-friendly amendment to the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) extension, seeking to lower the income level under which children are eligible for state insurance program. The amendment failed.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I'm not rushing out to buy the Beatles box set.
I didn't watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, but I remember classmates discussing it the next day and debating whether the lads or The Dave Clark Five were better.
A few years later, it was the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. I bought Beatles 45s and Sergeant Peppers, Abbey Road, and the White Album. I even managed to write a high school English paper on the "poetry" of Sgt. Pepper.
As I found my interest in blues and jazz growing, my interest in the Beatles faded away. Part of the attraction of the Beatles, after all, was, first, that everyone my age thought they were the greatest, and, second, establishment figures like Leonard Bernstein gave them the okay. Take away the mirror desires of rebellion and acceptance and it was natural for the interest to fade a little.
While I think I would like to listen to at least some parts of the restored Beatles CDS, I'm determined to resist the marketing onslaught of rock band, box set, and mono sets. It reminds me just a little too much of junior high school.
Now, if a friend or relation buys the box set and wants to loan it to me, I'll take a listen. Probably more to Revolver and Rubber Soul, rather than the latter CDs.
Meanwhile, I've been listening on Rhapsody to the early Rolling Stones CDs and Mannfred Mann, a far hipper band than I knew, to neglected US rockers like Doug Sahm and to contemporary rock groups like Phish, Third Eye Blind, and the Killers.
For those who haven't tried it, Rhapsoday is an internet-based music service. For a reasonable monthly fee, you can access their entire library and download it to a MP3 player.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Kansas Secretary of Labor Jim Garner at the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor picnic on September 5
Monday, August 31, 2009
Foreign Policy magazine has a fascinating selection of photos from David King's Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin.
But in the caption for the first photo, FP has a world-class howler. They write
Lenin stands on the left side of the bottom step with comrades at a Marx Day rally in Moscow's Red Square in 1919. On a gramophone record, Lenin mercilessly lambasted the leaders of Karl Marx's First International and the Third International organizations, saying: "They betrayed the workers, prolonged the slaughter, became enemies of socialism, and went over to the side of the capitalists." [emphasis added]In reality, the First International, in which Marx and Engels had played leading, had ceased to exist in 1876 . It was the Second International, home of the reformist socialist and labor parties of the world, which Lenin attacked. It was Lenin himself who demanded the formation of the Communist, or Third International.
Don't let FP's howler divert you from King's book. If you are interested in Soviet history, it is something you will want to check out. King is the author of The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia, a classic.
Jan Biles of the Topeka Capital Journal reports
Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins had not read a resolution that contained the phrase *"great white hope" and urged President Obama to posthumously pardon black boxing champion Jack Johnson when she supported the measure last month, her press secretary said.
Jenkins, R-Kan., supported a resolution containing the phrase when the House approved unanimously on a voice vote. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and co-sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in the Senate. The House version co-sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
"No, she did not read the specific resolution," Mary Geiger, Jenkins' press secretary, said Monday morning.*Whereas the victory of Jack Johnson over Burns prompted the search for a White boxer who could beat him, a recruitment effort dubbed the search for the 'Great White Hope';
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
August 29 1920 – March 12, 1955.
America differs from Europe not by having less great art, but by a failure to recognize and honor our artistic geniuses. At least if their skin is the wrong color.
Kansas's Second District Representative Lynn Jenkins used racist code words at an August party event in Hiawatha.
When African-American Jack Johnson won the heavyweight boxing crown about a century ago, it was considered an affront to whites. A search went out for a "great white hope" to win back the crown. Congress even passed a law to prohibit the interstate transport of boxing films.
Jenkins told people at the Hiawatha forum the nation could benefit from inspired leadership of a group of "really sharp" young Republicans in the House, particularly Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor was mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008 and is thought to be interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said to the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."
When another African American Joe Louis was finally given a change to fight for the title and won it, the search again went out for a "great white hope."
There was a 1967 play and 1970 movie based on Johnson and the reaction to him.
Another Kansas GOP leader, Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach got in trouble for making a "birther" joke at a party fundraiser. I don't think it's accidental.
UPDATE: Keith O. on LJ
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I always thought that the Burt Bacharach song "Alfie," a big hit for Dionne Warwick was the theme song for the Michael Caine movie.
Turns out, I was wrong. The 1966 movie actually features a great jazz score, arranged by Oliver Nelson, and featuring the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins.
Bacharach was inspired by the movie to write the song "Alfie", which became became a top ten hit in the UK for Cilla Black. In the US version of the movie it appears over the end credits, sung by Cher. Bacharach and David won an Oscar for the song.
There's a trivia question or two in these facts.
Critics and viewers like the classic Caine version much more than the remake with Jude Law. I agree.
And, that's not even taking into account the vast superiority of the soundtrack.
Here's Sonny playing the real "Alfie's Theme" in 1973.
Posted by Stuart Elliott at 6:29 PM
The 2009 LabourStart conference got off to an impressive start last Monday with welcoming remarks from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
LabourStart, the international labor news and campaigning site. held its 2009 conference last week in Washington D.C. On Monday, the Teamsters held a reception for LabourStart. President James Hoffa talked about LabourStart, unions, and the media,the employee free choice act, and health care.
President Hoffa stayed at the reception for quite a while, talking not only to the US correspondents, but also to our colleagues from Canada, India, Finland, and Australia.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Les Paul, guitarist extraordinaire, inventor of the solid body guitar and multitracking died today at the age of 94.
There's going to a lot written about Paul in the coming days, but it is doubtful that any will surpass this from jazz critic David Adler
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.
I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.
After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.
On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.
After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.
And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on Freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.
Friday, August 07, 2009
I really want to read Elijah Wald's new book and you should, too. But if you're of a certain age or younger, you may find your mental universe exploding.
Wald challenged conventional wisdom about the blue in his highly recommended Escaping the Devil: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues,
Here's the title of the new book.
How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music.
You can't get more provocative than that.
Here's the description from Wald's website
How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll is a history of American popular music stripped of the familiar clichés of jazz and rock history. Tracing the evolution of popular music through developing tastes, trends and technologies, rather than applying modern standards and genre categories, it gives a fuller, more balanced look at the broad variety of styles that captured listeners over the course of the twentieth century.
Wald goes back to original sources—recordings, period articles, memoirs and interviews—in an attempt to understand how music was heard and experienced over the years. He pays particular attention to the world of working musicians and ordinary listeners rather than to stars and specialists, looking at the evolution of jazz as dance music and of rock 'n' roll in terms of the teenage girls who made up the bulk of its early audience. There are plenty of famous names—Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles—but they are placed alongside figures like Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Mitch Miller, Jo Stafford, Ricky Nelson and the Shirelles, who in some cases were far more popular and more accurately represent the mainstream of their times.
As the title suggests, this is not a hesitant or stolidly academic history, but neither is it heedlessly provocative. Wald’s intention was to explore the past with an open mind, asking some new questions and answering them as honestly and accurately as possible, and to make sense of times and people who often seem very foreign, though they are our own parents and grandparents. He has also tried to make that journey amusing and interesting, whatever we may think of ballroom orchestras, bobby-soxers, pop balladeers or British invaders.
I suspect that everything that won the Beatles praise from the likes of Leonard Bernstein and the cultural elite is regretted by Wald.
Erik Himmelsbach explains Wald's provocative thesis in a LA Times review:
Wald explains that the Beatles did in fact destroy rock 'n' roll by creating a schism between white and black music that's only grown farther apart in the decades since the dawn of Beatlemania (see: disco, soul, hip-hop). Like many early rock bands, the Beatles were rooted in the music of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. As the band found its creative voice, they abandoned their early influences. The results included "the effetely sentimental ballad" "Yesterday," a song that Wald claims "diffused" rock's energy and opened the door for milquetoasts such as Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Billy Joel, and Elton John. With the Sgt. Pepper album, the band draped their music "in a robe of arty mystification, opening the way for the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer."
"Rather than being a high point of rock," he continues, "the Beatles destroyed rock 'n' roll, turning it from a vibrant (or integrated) dance music into a vehicle for white pap and pretension." And what, again, was so revolutionary about Pat Boone?
UPDATE August 19 Be sure to read the comment from Elijah Wald.
I bought the book yesterday at Kramerbooks in DC. I've already read through the first six chapters. Essential reading for those interested in American popular culture.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
This weekend is the 50th anniversay of the Newport Folk Festival. It began as a spin-off of George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival, but took on a life of its own. Early on, Pete Seeger suggested a new format. Each artists would be paid the same modest $50 fee and the extra money would be spent on additional artists and, more importantly on "song-catchers who would scout the country for unknown or forgotten folk artists. Special efforts were made as well to recruit young and rising artists. Joan Baez made her national debut here.
The festival was discontinued, but it's back for a big gala event this year. NPR has a mini-site devoted to the Newport Folk Festival. It is also broadcasting lots of perfomances live on Saturday and Sunday. NPR Music, WFUV, Folk Alley and mvyradio will broadcast and webcast from the Folk Festival 50 on Aug. 1-2.
Here's Saturday's Scheduled Live Performances, check the NPR site for further details.
12:10 p.m. Billy Bragg
1:20 p.m. The Avett Brothers
2:40 p.m. Gillian Welch
4 p.m. Fleet Foxes
5:30 p.m. The Decemberists
The NPR site has lots of archived performances from past NFF and even a free 12-tune download. Unfortunately, it is done through iTunes, so you are going to be restricted on where you can play them. There a nice photo essay on Bob Dylan at the 1963 festival.
1965 is the year I would have liked to have been at Newport. I wouldn't have been booing.
Couldn't find a video of the third song, but this is the performance with pics from the NFF.
Monday, July 27, 2009
How will a "moderate" in the Kansas GOP translate into national politics? Hard to tell. In the Second District, Lynn Jenkins was the "moderate" alternative to Jim Ryun in the 2008 primary, but she's been pretty much a far-right wing-nut since being elected
WICHITA — State Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, announced today the formation of an exploratory committee to decide whether to seek the 4th District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.
This is the first step toward running for the office but stops short of an official announcement. Schodorf says she will launch a listening tour of the 4th District.
Schodorf, considered to be a legislative moderate, will face two more conservative candidates in the GOP primary: state Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, and Republican National Committee member Mike Pompeo.
The Sunday New York Times had a long profile on murdered abortion doctor George Tiller.
Registration is required, but it is free.
Here's an excerpt
Long ago, he had accepted the possibility he might be assassinated. It was something he and his fellow abortion providers had quietly discussed, and friends said he had lost count of all the death threats.
Even so, there was a mood of stunned rage when local abortion rights advocates gathered the Friday after his killing at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Wichita. ...
But it was a demoralized group. In Topeka, the state capital, they have long been outmuscled by conservative Christians, who have been steadily chipping away at abortion rights. One woman, a lobbyist for abortion rights, described how some legislators literally turned their backs when she testified.
Gail Finney, a junior member of the Legislature, stood and asked why there had not been more outcry from the state’s leaders over Dr. Tiller’s killing. “Where’s the anguish?” Ms. Finney said.
Not a single Kansas politician of statewide prominence showed up the next morning for Dr. Tiller’s funeral, which drew 1,200 mourners. Nor were any at Reformation Lutheran the next day, the first Sunday service after his death.
In the foyer where he was shot, the juice and coffee table had been turned into a memorial, with Dr. Tiller’s photograph next to a basket of buttons he had passed out by the boxful to patients, employees and friends. “Attitude is Everything,” they said.
Outside, Pastor Michelson greeted families with hugs. “There was no way I was going to hide inside,” he later said.
The Tiller clan took their usual spot in the pews, and Mrs. Tiller, radiant in red, was embraced again and again. Flowers from her husband’s funeral framed the altar.
The church was more crowded than usual.
In his sermon, Pastor Michelson openly acknowledged his own apprehensions. “Our sanctuary has been violated,” he said. He urged his congregation to rise above fear and anger, and took note of the supportive letters and e-mail messages from churches all over the country.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Low-paid home care workers in Missouri vote decisively for a union and high-paid engineers at Spirit in Wichita resoundingly reject a take-away contract that included giving the right for the company to have workers work 4 hours of overtime a week without pay.
Of course, these are victories along the way. Both workers still have to negotiate a decent contract. The home care workers have to build a new union and negotiate a first contract. The engineers will be back at the table next week and they need to build their membership to get a better contract.
Best of luck to them.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
18. (Do you think it's possible to reform the health care system in a way that people who have coverage now can keep it without any changes if they want to), or (do you think health care reform will require everyone to make changes, whether they want to or not)?
Reform possible Reform will
without changes require changes No opinion
6/21/09 38 58 4
19. Would you support or oppose a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance, either getting it from work or buying it on their own?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 49 47 4
20. Would you support or oppose a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance if it included [ITEM]?
6/21/09 - Summary Table*
Support Oppose No opin.
a. A rule that all employers either offer health
insurance to their employees or pay money into
a government health insurance fund 62 34 4
b. A rule that working Americans who don't get
insurance through work or on their own would
have to pay money into a government health
insurance fund 44 52 4
c. A tax credit or other aid to help low-income
Americans pay for health insurance 70 28 2
d. A rule that insurance companies sell coverage
to people regardless of pre-existing conditions 68 27 5
*Half sample asked items a-b; other half sample asked items c-d.
21. Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? (IF SUPPORT) Would you rather have that plan run by a government agency, or run by an independent organization with government funding and oversight?
----------- Support ------------
NET Gov't agency Indep. org. Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 62 21 41 33 5
21a. (IF SUPPORT) What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete? In that case would you support or oppose creating a government-run health insurance plan?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 56 41 3
------- Oppose --------
Support NET At first Now do No opinion
6/21/09 37 58 33 25 5
22. (HALF SAMPLE) Would you support or oppose a federal tax on health insurance benefits people receive through their employer if those benefits cost more than 17-thousand dollars a year?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 24 70 6
23. (HALF SAMPLE) Would you support or oppose raising income taxes on Americans with household incomes over 250-thousand dollars to help pay for health care reform?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 60 37 3
24. (HALF SAMPLE) Would you support or oppose a law limiting the amount of money someone can collect if they win a lawsuit after being injured by bad medical care?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 57 42 2
25. (HALF SAMPLE) Would you support or oppose a law limiting the amount of money you could collect if you won a lawsuit after being injured by bad medical care?
Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 53 42 4
26. Just your best guess, if the health care system is changed, do you think the quality of your health care will get (better), get (worse), or remain about the same?
Better Worse Same No opinion
6/21/09 16 31 50 3
27. Which comes closer to the way you feel: government reform of the nation's health care system (is necessary to control costs and expand coverage), or government action on health care (will do more harm than good)? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
------- Necessary ------- -- More harm than good --
NET Strongly Somewhat NET Somewhat Strongly No opinion
6/21/09 58 34 23 39 15 24 3
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Lezek Kolakowski, the exile Polish philosopher,died last Friday. I remember reading an essay of his on utopia when he was still a dissident in Communist Poland. This essay below was written many years later. I think you might enjoy it.
How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist"
By Leszek Kolakowski.
Motto: "Please step forward to the rear!" This is an approximate translation of a request I once heard on a tram-car in Warsaw. I propose it as a slogan for the mighty International that will never exist.
A Conservative Believes:
1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.
2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.
3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.
A Liberal Believes:
1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.
2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.
3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.
A Socialist Believes:
1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.
2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.
3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.
So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options.
As for the great and powerful International which I mentioned at the outset--it will never exist, because it cannot promise people that they will be happy.
From Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial (University of Chicago, 1990).