"We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."
by Albert Einstein
This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review(May 1949).
Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature.
For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.
Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.
For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.
Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"
I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?
It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.
Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being.
As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior.
The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word "society."
It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings arevery variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.
Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types ofinfluences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practicalpurposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call "workers" all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is "free," what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education).
It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the "free labor contract" for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from "pure" capitalism.
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an "army of unemployed" almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism.
Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
'Dark Horse' Ron Paul:
'The majority of Americans are with me'
By David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
May 21, 2007
'Dark horse' presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) believes that "that the majority of Americans are with me," regarding his harsh insurgent attacks on President Bush's Iraq policies.
During CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer host John King asked Paul a hypothetical question, in reference to the war in Iraq: "If China took back Taiwan today, you say go to the Congress, or does the president not have the authority as commander in chief?"
"Absolutely he does not have the authority," Paul said. "Where does he get it? You can't go to war without Congressional approval. And that's not a threat to our national security. That's something internal affairs. Why should we send hundreds of thousands of Americans to die in a civil war?"
Paul added, "I mean, are we over in Russia right now over Chechnya? I mean, it wouldn't make any sense. Did we go to war over Hong Kong?"
"We should follow the Constitution and the advice of the founders," Paul continued. "Don't go looking for dragons to slay. I mean, why should we go and provoke and look for trouble? We should talk to people, negotiate, be diplomatic and trade with people."
Paul also blasted criticism that he isn't "Republican enough."
"I support the Republican platform better than any other candidate, I am convinced of," Paul insisted. "Take out the platform. They're for less government. They're for personal liberty. We ran on our program in 2000 for a humble foreign policy."
Paul asked incredulously, "How can anybody say I'm not Republican? I'm the most conservative member of the Congress. I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, and they say I'm not Republican enough?"
"I mean, why don't you challenge that side rather than challenging me and feed into the frenzy that say get rid of the reporter, get rid of the person delivering the information rather than dealing with the information," Paul added. "Non-intervention is a real political victory. We cannot win as Republicans next year if we just continue to dig our heels in, send more men and women over there to die on a policy that has failed."
Paul said that "Republicans are scared to death to face up to the truth. And my job is to make them face up to it and show them that the majority of Americans are with me, not with the current foreign policy that we're following."
"Low in the polls but certainly shaking and stirring things up in the Republican race," CNN's King remarked at the end of the interview.
The following video is from CNN's Late Edition.
Rep. Ron Paul Interviewed on CNN's Late Edition (excerpt)
Here is Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul's recent interview with CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," hosted by John King:
KING: Let me ask you more broadly about your views on foreign policy. Obviously, you believe the United States should have a limited role in the world, especially in terms of projecting military force. So, if Kim Jong Il rolled south into South Korea today, should the United States intervene?
PAUL: Well, it depends on what the Congress says. We certainly shouldn't do what we did in -- under the Truman administration, go in under our U.N. resolution. You go to the Congress and find out if it's a threat to our national security. I personally would think right now that it isn't a threat to our national security.
I want to make a point, though, that if we weren't over there, I think Korea would be unified like South Vietnam or Vietnam is unified. They have railroads now opened up between the two. They want to share information.
KING: Let me jump in. I don't want to solve the problems of the Korean peninsula today. I do want to get your views on foreign policy. Let me give you another example. If China took back Taiwan today, you say go to the Congress, or does the president not have the authority as commander in chief?
PAUL: Absolutely he does not have the authority. Where does he get it? You can't go to war without Congressional approval. And that's not a threat to our national security. That's something internal affairs. Why should we send hundreds of thousands of Americans to die in a civil war?
I mean, are we over in Russia right now over Chechnya? I mean, it wouldn't make any sense. Did we go to war over Hong Kong?
We should follow the Constitution and the advice of the founders. Don't go looking for dragons to slay. I mean, why should we go and provoke and look for trouble? We should talk to people, negotiate, be diplomatic and trade with people.
We do much better trading with Vietnam than we did with fighting with them, and we lost 60,000 men there. It makes so much common sense and is so appealing to the majority of Americans. Let me tell you, I really believe that.
KING: You have received some criticism. Some say you are the person who doesn't belong in a Republican debate. You were a past libertarian candidate for president, of course. You have views that are out of what many would think of the mainstream, at least in today's Republican Party.
I want to read you some of the criticism that came out after this last debate and ask you to respond to the politics of it. These are some comments made of your performance. Here's Roger Simon writing in The Politico: "In terms of the presidency, nobody cares what Ron Paul says, perhaps not even Ron Paul."
Gloria Borger writing in U.S. News and World Report: "Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who gives new meaning to the question asked by Ross Perot's former running mate, Admiral James Stockdale: 'Who am I? Why am I here?' " And in The Daily News of New York, an editorial: "Ron Paul, whose performance Tuesday proved him the Sanjaya of the political arena."
What do you make of the critics who say, why is this guy in a Republican debate? If he wants to run, run as the Libertarian.
PAUL: Well, I would ask you why you pick out three when I could find you probably 1,000 that contradict exactly what you say. I would say that I'm more Republican than they are. The Republican tradition is always to win on the peace position.
Democrats have always won or, you know, got us into war. We got out of Korea with Eisenhower. We got out of Vietnam with, eventually, with Nixon. We ran on a peace program in the year 2000. No world policemen, no nation-building, humble foreign policy.
Peace is a positive message, not a negative message. You don't win by -- politically, you don't win. There's a strong tradition of non-intervention in the Republican Party. That is the American position. That is the constitutional position. That is the very strong advice from the founders.
So when they attack me and say, silence Ron Paul, they're saying silence the constitution, silence the advisers, the founders of the country, silence our platform, close down the big tent, make it narrow. And as long as you agree with a foreign policy that is failing, then it's OK to be a Republican. I don't buy into that, and neither do the American people.
KING: Let me jump into what comes next. You're about 1 percent in the polls, and many say, whether they agree or disagree with your views, there are many who say at some point you need to have fewer candidates on the stage for these debates to be meaningful.
The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party says he's going to try to get you -- and perhaps others, but you specifically -- pushed out of future debates. He said of you: "I think he would have felt more comfortable on the stage with the Democrats in what he said last night and I think he is a distraction in the Republican primary, does not represent the base of the party, does not represent the party."
That's Saul Anuzis, the chairman of the Republican Party in the state of Michigan, who says, among other things, he thinks you don't deserve a spot on the stage. Will you continue to be in the Republican debates and at some point, forget your name for a second, forget your candidacy, should they be winnowed down to fewer candidates?
PAUL: Well, why do you pick that statement that has been discredited and removed? The chairman of the Michigan party now has withdrawn that. He has given up on that.
Why don't you let the people decide? Why do you want to eliminate democracy? Why stomp out the grassroots candidate and only reward those with $100 million that get money from the special interests? That's not very democratic.
I support the Republican platform better than any other candidate, I am convinced of. Take out the platform. They're for less government. They're for personal liberty.
We ran on our program in 2000 for a humble foreign policy. How can anybody say I'm not Republican? I'm the most conservative member of the Congress. I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, and they say I'm not Republican enough?
I mean, why don't you challenge that side rather than challenging me and feed into the frenzy that say get rid of the reporter, get rid of the person delivering the information rather than dealing with the information. Non-intervention is a real political victory. We cannot win as Republicans next year if we just continue to dig our heels in, send more men and women over there to die on a policy that has failed.
That is the issue. Republicans are scared to death to face up to the truth. And my job is to make them face up to it and show them that the majority of Americans are with me, not with the current foreign policy that we're following.
KING: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Republican candidate for president. Low in the polls but certainly shaking and stirring things up in the Republican race. Congressman, thanks for joining us today on "Late Edition."
To watch a video of the interview:
To support Ron Paul for President:
Friday, May 25, 2007
H R 2206 RECORDED VOTE 24-May-2007 6:45 PM
Last night, Congress sent the president a blank check to continue the war through the summer. Anyway you slice it, it stinks. The worst part is that too many Democrats—who we elected in November with a clear mandate to lead us out of the chaos in Iraq—crumbled when we needed them to fight.
In these moments, it's tempting to throw our hands up and walk away. But it's also acutely clear that there is no one else who will fight this fight. Either we do it, each one of us, or no one does.
It's a dark moment, but there are some hopeful signs that point the way ahead. In the Senate, Democratic presidential candidates Dodd, Obama and Clinton stood firm against this weak bill and voted 'no.' In the House, they were joined by 140 Democrats. It's not nearly enough. But it's a start.
We need to keep fighting. So take a moment today and do one of these things to help ensure that Congress never does this again:
1. Tell the representatives who voted wrong that they screwed up.
You can check to see how your representative voted below—if they voted for a blank check, please tell them how you feel about it.
This is the number to call: 202-225-2015
2. Thank the folks who voted against this weak bill and encourage them to fight harder.
DC pundits are already talking about how much this vote is going to "cost" everyone who did the right thing.1 They need to hear from us, today, that we support them. Click below to send a thank you note to the Democrats who voted right—and urge them to keep pushing for a quick end to the war.
3. Show up at town hall meetings next week and tell Congress that you're disappointed.
Congress is coming home now for Memorial Day recess. Senators and representatives will be holding town hall meetings and appearing at events. We need to send them back to Washington with a clear message: The public is unhappy with what they did, and they can't ever do it again.
Click below to call your senators and representative to see if they're holding any public events next week. If they are, let us know and we'll tell other MoveOn members in your state. This way we can tell our senators and representatives in person just how disappointed we all are.
Yesterday's vote was a setback for those of us who want to end this war and get our troops out of the mess in Iraq. It hurts. But it's only a temporary one.
Yesterday, a New York Times poll found that opposition to the war is at a record high. And a large majority of the public—63 percent—wants us to set a date soon for withdrawing troops from Iraq.2
Monday, May 21, 2007
NEXUS OF DARKNESS
The battles really begin now against an entrenched administration which argues it is not just not beholden to the rule of law, but independent of the law. Not just a situation to be resident within dusty legal tomes, the cases undoubtedly to unfold over the next two years are of vital importance as to whether the 200-plus-year-old American system of government (three branches in dynamic tension, defined by and in obeisance to the framing document of the country) holds in practice and is firmly restored in fact or is relegated to an historical shelf as a qauint construct.
The woebegone G. walker admninistration has ceaselessly attempted to grasp the naked core of raw power (and thus far has been abetted by a blinded, compliant Congress). As with the myth of Icarus, its very essence stands eternally ready and now bodes to prove their undoing (emphasis added).
“The United States believes that… the individual federal defendants have valid claims of immunity,” the document said. “The vice president possesses absolute immunity from civil damages claims in connection with acts taken within the scope of his office.” Article Removed
Hold on for a sec while ye old scribe goes and checks that ol’ Constitution.
Ah, there it is — right before the section that reserves for the Veep all the green M&Ms and right after the one that lays out the mandate of heaven and the infallibility of any President.
Quoth Pirate Jenny in Brecht’s A Three-penny Opera: Idiots, all of ‘em.
Several (by no means fully comprehensive, though) related items of background, including one (a bit further below) filed during the time of Nixon-Agnew by that darling of the extremist, strict constructionist right, Robert Bork.
…the Court has long recognized the right of limited presidential immunity with regard to official acts — actions carried out under the auspices of the office of the presidency. This tradition goes back to Spalding v. Vilas (1896). There the Court held: “In exercising the function of his office, the head of an Executive Department, keeping within the limitations of his authority, should not be under any apprehension that the motives that control his official conduct may at any time become the subject of inquiry in a civil suit for damages. It would cripple the proper and effective administration of public affairs as entrusted to the Executive Branch of the government if he were subject to any such restraint.”
Some commentators took the matter further, pressing the point that the successful conduct of the office of the presidency required immunity from criminal sanction for official acts.
Justice Storey argued that “The President cannot be liable to arrest, imprisonment, or detention while he is in the discharge of the duties of his office; and for this purpose his person must be deemed in civil cases to posses an official inviolability.”
More recent case law has affirmed this notion of presidential immunity for official acts. The Court held in Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982) that such license represented “a functionally mandated incident of the President’s unique office, rooted in the constitutional tradition of the separation of powers and supported by our history.”
The tradition of tension between the Executive and Judicial branches of the government is old. President Jefferson, writing to U.S. Attorney George Hay in 1807, argued that “The leading principle of our Constitution is the independence of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of each other, and none are more jealous of this than the judicial. But would the executive be independent of the judiciary if he were subject to the command of the latter and to imprisonment for disobedience which would withdraw him entirely from his duties?”
Jefferson concluded that “to comply with such calls would leave the nation without an Executive Branch, whose agency, nevertheless, is understood to be so constantly necessary that it is the sole branch which the Constitution requires always to be in function.”
Potential intrusions upon the autonomy of any of the branches of government is cause for concern. The fact remains, however, that determinations of legal questions, including the question of whether the Judicial Branch has the authority to determine the scope of its own authority, remain the province of the Judiciary. As expressed in the landmark decision of Marbury v. Madison (1803): “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”
This principle was reaffirmed in Baker v. Carr. There the Court held: “Deciding whether a matter has in any measure been committed by the Constitution to another branch of government, or whether the action of that branch exceeds whatever authority has been committed, is itself a delicate exercise in constitutional interpretation, and is a responsibility of this Court as ultimate interpreter of the Constitution.”
The Court, therefore, is simply carrying out its constitutionally-mandated functions when adjudicating claims of right advanced by the President. The claim of absolute immunity for the President, however, would pose a great threat to the power of the Judiciary.
Justice Burger declared for the Court in U.S. v. Nixon: “The impediment that an absolute, unqualified privilege would place in the way of the primary constitutional duty of the Judicial Branch to do justice would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under Article III of the Constitution.”
Complete autonomy of each branch of government is neither practical nor desirable in a constitutional democracy wherein the three branches work together.
The separation of powers, delineated in the Constitution, was never intended to correspond to absolute independence of operation.
Justice Jackson explained in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer: “While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.”
In sum, the constitutional weight of the interest to be served must be balanced against an appreciation of the dangers of judicial intrusions upon the authority and proper jurisdiction of the Executive Branch. <http://www.princeton.edu/~lawjourn/Fall97/II1huddleston.html>
The Veep exists in a particularly different position then does the President, in that he is unequivocally not the head of any Executive Department, and Constitutionally has no assigned duties beyond existing and being the presiding officer of the Senate.
… the Department addressed the question later that same year in connection with the grand jury investigation of then-Vice President Spiro Agnew. In response to a motion by the Vice President to enjoin grand jury proceedings against him, then-Solicitor General Robert Bork filed a brief arguing that, consistent with the Constitution, the Vice President could be subject to indictment and criminal prosecution. See Memorandum for the United States Concerning the Vice President’s Claim of Constitutional Immunity (filed Oct. 5, 1973), In re Proceedings of the Grand Jury Impaneled December 5, 1972: Application of Spiro T. Agnew, Vice President of the United States (D. Md. 1973) (No. 73-965) (”SG Brief”). In so arguing, however, Solicitor General Bork was careful to explain that the President, unlike the Vice President, could not constitutionally be subject to such criminal process while in office. <http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/sitting_president.htm>
SCOTUS tried to split the difference in the last case involving Cheney. Justice Alito, as a past promoter of the unshackled primacy of the Executive, can be presumed to continue to vote accordingly. Chief Justice Roberts, however, now is throust into a position to determine whether the court under his term will relegate itself to a submissive, secondary status or will flex its authority as a co-equal branch of the government; whether the Constitution remains the supreme law of the land.
In Cheney v. District Court, the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Kennedy, determined that when a court considers whether to issue a writ of mandamus in a civil action that involves the President or Vice President, it should not deny the writ on the grounds other relief was available because the President and Vice President can assert Executive Privilege.… <http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/sitting_president.htm>
Related: The deconstruction of the house of Cheney.
The book’s thesis can’t be overstated: Dubose and Bernstein think Cheney is a threat to the republic on a scale unseen since the Civil War. (No, really.)
They don’t quite make the sale for that, partly because to build the case for Cheney’s world-historical menace they embrace two contradictory propositions. The first is that his entire political career, dating back to the Ford administration, has involved the single-minded pursuit of one ambition: expanding the institutional power of the executive branch, which Cheney believes was unduly weakened by post-Watergate reforms. Dubose and Bernstein note that Zern Jenner, the fictional president in wife Lynne Cheney’s 1979 political thriller “Executive Privilege,” argues for executive secrecy in terms similar to those a very real vice president would use more than 20 years later to defend his energy task force. They also detail Dick Cheney’s zealous defense, as a member of the House Republican leadership, of President Reagan’s presidential powers during the Iran-Contra scandal.
But Dubose and Bernstein suggest at the same time that 9/11 radicalized Cheney, who was transformed from a sober and moderate conservative into a “strategic hysteric.”… Article Removed
Sunday, May 20, 2007
White House Opposed Pay Raises For Troops/Widows’ Benefits
By: Nicole Belle
May 17th, 2007
Let me see if I understand this: Extending tours of duty is a strategic move. But paying our troops more money for putting their lives on the line is "unnecessary":
Army Times: The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year's average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.[..]
Bush budget officials said the administration "strongly opposes" both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases "unnecessary."
Further, as The Gavel cites, the administration has also opposed an additional $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers; additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees; and price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military's health care plan for military personnel and their dependents.
But here's where the Irony-meter redlines: in addition to not wanting to pay more to our troops or support the survivors of fallen troop members, the administration also does not want to have stricter accountability on contract employees.
That's right…don't pay the soldiers, but don't ask us to watch what we pay Blackwater.
Remind me again, how is asking for timelines to get them out of an unwinnable situation is hurting our troops and this isn't?
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Video on War Profiteering Republicans Don’t Want You to See
Progressive film director Robert Greenwald is scheduled to testify at a hearing on Thursday, May 10 about war profiteering. He requested to show a few minutes of one of his films, but Republicans blocked his request.
Here’s what Congress won’t see:
By Jake Tapper
May 9, 2007
In an act of defiance perhaps not seen since President Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur, today the anti-war veterans group VoteVets.org, which has been influential with Capitol Hill Democrats, is launching a half-million-dollar TV ad campaign featuring Maj Gen John Batiste (Ret.), former commanding general of the first infantry division in Iraq.
The ad begins with a clip President George W. Bush saying "I have always said that I will listen to the requests of our commanders on the ground."
Batiste then appears, saying, "Mr. President, you did not listen. You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women."
The ads are targeted at Republican members of Congress seen to be wavering in their support for the war. Those targeted include GOP Senators Susan Collins (Maine), John Sununu (NH), John Warner (Virginia), and Norm Coleman (Minnesota), and GOP Representatives Mary Bono (Calif.), Phil English (Penn.), Randy Kuhl (NY), Jim Walsh (NY), Jo Ann Emerson (Missouri), Tim Johnson (Illinois), Mike Rogers (Michigan), Fred Upton (Michigan), and Mike Castle (Del.)
The ads conclude with Batiste saying, depending on the congressperson targeted, "Senator Collins, protect America, not George Bush."
Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.) and Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) will also appear in ads.
Meanwhile, at the VFW headquarters in DC later today, according to the ARMY TIMES, an "Appeal for Courage" petition signed by 2,700 current and former service members supporting continued U.S. combat operations in Iraq will be given to House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC.
"The petition was organized by two U.S. service members serving in Iraq, Navy Lt. Jason Nichols, serving in Baghdad, and Minnesota National Guard Staff Sgt. David Thul, who is conducting convoy operations in Iraq with the 34th Infantry Division," the newspaper reports.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Justice Official Says He Was Directed to Call Fired Prosecutors
By Murray Waas
The National Journal
May 3, 2007
The chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty has told congressional investigators that phone calls he placed to four fired U.S. attorneys - calls that three of the prosecutors say involved threats about testifying before Congress - were made at McNulty's direction.
Michael Elston, the chief of staff, told congressional investigators in a closed-door session on March 30 that McNulty specifically instructed him to make the phone calls after the Justice Department's No. 2 official learned that the fired prosecutors might testify before Congress about their dismissals.
A transcript of Elston's confidential interview with the congressional investigators was made available to National Journal.
The U.S. attorneys have said that Elston, in effect, told them that if they kept quiet about their dismissals, the Justice Department would not suggest that they had been forced to resign because of poor performance.
At least one member of Congress has questioned whether the phone calls might constitute obstruction of justice.
In his interview with congressional investigators, Elston adamantly denied that he ever tried to discourage the prosecutors from testifying before Congress. He said that he was directed by McNulty to tell the fired U.S. attorneys that the Department of Justice did not have a formal position as to whether they should testify.
At least one member of Congress has questioned whether the phone calls might constitute obstruction of justice.
Elston said that McNulty directed him to place calls to fired U.S. attorneys Paul Charlton of Arizona, Bud Cummins of Arkansas, and John McKay of Seattle, all of whom said they felt pressured to keep quiet. Elston also placed a call to federal prosecutor Kevin Ryan of San Francisco, as directed, but did not speak to him. The calls were placed between January and March of this year - before details about the political motivations for the firings became public.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee made public formal correspondence from three fired prosecutors who said they thought that Elston was trying to intimidate them into keeping quiet.
In an interview with National Journal, McKay, reacting to Elston's disclosure that McNulty directed him to make the calls, said, "Because [Elston] was the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, I always assumed that the phone call was authorized and directed by the DAG. If Elston is telling the truth, it is all the more troubling."
McKay, who was the first of the prosecutors whom Elston called, described Elston's message to him: "The attorney general was not going to disclose that I or the other U.S. attorneys were fired or forced to resign.... 'We have no intention of naming people.'"
McKay said that Elston never specifically suggested an explicit quid pro quo whereby Justice officials would not say that McKay had been fired for cause or poor performance if McKay did not talk to the media or Congress about his firing. However, McKay said, "a reasonable person would have felt both offended and threatened" by Elston's call.
McKay said that the message he took away from the conversation was, "If you remain silent, we will not out you as someone who was forced to resign."
McKay said that he made contemporaneous notes of his conversation with Elston, and dated them - something, he said, that was not his ordinary practice. He did so because of his concerns about what Elston was telling him, according to McKay.
Charlton said he got a similar phone call from Elston on the same day. In formal response to written questions posed to him by the House Judiciary Committee, Charlton said, "I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general's."
Cummins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, at which time a contemporaneous e-mail he wrote within an hour of his phone call with Elston was released. In the e-mail, which he sent to five of his fellow prosecutors, Cummins said that the "essence of [Elston's] message" was that if any of the fired U.S. attorneys had pressed their case in the media or before Congress, senior aides to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might "feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off" and accuse the prosecutors of ineptitude or poor management.
Cummins also wrote in his e-mail that Elston had called him because he was upset about comments Cummins had made in the press about his firing. "[Justice officials] feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us," Cummins said in the e-mail to his fellow prosecutors. "I also made it a point to tell him that all of us have turned down multiple invitations to testify. He reacted quite a bit to the idea of anyone voluntarily testifying, and it seemed clear that they would see this as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation."
McKay, one of the prosecutors who got the e-mail, said: "[Cummins] wanted to send a message to all of us. We got that message, loud and clear: If you talk to the press or go to Congress, the Department of Justice will not consider you a friend. I considered it an act of intimidation."
In his interview with congressional investigators, Elston said that he called Cummins and the other U.S. attorneys "at the deputy attorney general's direction" and "to reassure them that the attorney general was not going to name names."
Elston said that McNulty only wanted him to tell Cummins that the department had no position on whether he should testify: "[McNulty] also told me to be very careful when I called Bud back and to make it very clear to him the Department of Justice had no position on whether he testified or not. And that he could testify if he wanted to, or not testify. It was entirely up to him.
"And that conversation sticks in my mind because the deputy attorney general was very earnest and being very careful. And having no experience on Capitol Hill... I followed his instruction."
Congressional investigators asked Elston about an e-mail in which Gonzales's then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, wrote to other Justice Department officials that he did not think it was a good idea for Cummins to testify. Elston also told investigators, "The deputy attorney general [McNulty], I think, concurred with that."
During the interview with investigators, Elston also said that in his February 20 phone call to Cummins it was the prosecutor who expressed a desire to remain loyal to the department and to not testify. "[Cummins] said a number of things, but one of them was, 'I still want to be on the team, and I don't have any hard feelings,'" Elston testified. "'I would like to be a federal judge someday, and I didn't think the Democrats are going to nominate me.'"
In an interview, Robert Driscoll, Elston's attorney, said that the U.S. attorneys might have been mistaken in their accounts of their phone calls with his client. "From the information I have seen, none of the fired U.S. attorneys quote Mike as making any type of explicit threats, and each one focuses more on their interpretation of the conversation than [on] what Mike actually said. Their interpretations appear in some instances to be unjustified, based on their own descriptions."
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse disp'ted the notion that Elston's phone calls to the fired prosecutors could have been viewed as an attempt to keep them from testifying before Congress. At the time the first phone calls were made in January, Roehrkasse said, the issue of the prosecutors' dismissals had attracted so little attention that it would have been highly unlikely that any of prosecutors would have thought that they might be called upon to appear before Congress.
The stakes are high for McNulty if key members of Congress or investigators believe that he directed Elston to discourage any of the U.S. attorneys from testifying.
At the March 6 Senate Judiciary hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Cummins and three others U.S. attorneys what they would have done in their capacity as federal prosecutors had they learned that an interested party in one of their investigations had tried to discourage a witness from providing information or testifying. All four said that they would have investigated the matter to determine a possible obstruction of justice.
"Mr. Cummins, let me ask you first. I'd like to ask you to put your U.S. attorney hat back on," Whitehouse said. "You're still in office, and think of a significant grand jury investigation that you led as United States attorney in your district. And consider that a significant witness in that grand jury investigation has just come into your office to relate to you that prior to his grand jury testimony he was approached about his testimony and [told]... essentially exactly the words that Mr. Elston approached you. What would your next step be as United States attorney?"
Cummins responded: "We take intimidation of witnesses very seriously in the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney's office, so we would be very proactive in that situation."
Attempting to moderate his statement, he added: "I would qualify that by saying that at the time this discussion was had, we weren't under a subpoena; the idea of testifying was just kind of a theoretical idea out there. And I would say to the extent we talked about testimony at all, it was the idea that running out and volunteering to be part of this would not be viewed charitably by the people that it would affect."
Whitehouse pressed Cummins: "But if that sort of approach had been made to a witness in an active proceeding that you were leading, and you were extremely proactive about it, that would lead you where?"
"Well, we'd certainly investigate it and see if a crime had occurred."
"And the crime would be?"
Cummins responded: "Obstruction of justice. I think there are several statutes that might be implicated - but obstruction of justice."
Whitehouse posed the same question to John McKay, the fired U.S. attorney from Washington state.
McKay responded: "I would be discussing it with the assigned prosecutor and federal agents."
"With regard to?"
"With regard to possible obstruction of justice."
Whitehouse next put the question to David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico:
Iglesias replied: "Same answer, sir. I would contact the career [assistant U.S. attorney] and probably the FBI and talk about what's the evidence we have to maybe move forward on an obstruction investigation.
Finally, Whitehouse looked toward Carol Lam, the fired U.S. attorney from San Diego.
She answered without hesitation: "Fundamentally the same answer: witness intimidation."
Rove Still In the Mix
How Rove Shaped Testimony on Prosecutor Firings
By Michael Isikoff
Thursday 03 May 2007
Two months ago, he helped coach Justice Department officials on how to testify about the US attorneys’ firings. Was that a harmless part of his job, or an inappropriate attempt to mislead Congress?
Deputy chief of staff Karl Rove participated in a hastily called meeting at the White House two months ago. The subject: The firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year. The purpose: to coach a top Justice Department official heading to Capitol Hill to testify on the prosecutorial purge on what he should say.
Now some investigators are saying that Rove’s attendance at the meeting shows that the president’s chief political advisor may have been involved in an attempt to mislead Congress—one more reason they are demanding to see his emails and force him to testify under oath
At the March 5, 2007 meeting, White House aides, including counsel Fred Fielding and deputy counsel William Kelley, sought to shape testimony that principal associate deputy attorney general William Moscella was to give the next day before the House Judiciary Committee.
Although the existence of the White House meeting had been previously disclosed by the Justice Department, Rove’s attendance at the strategy session was not—until both Moscella and deputy attorney general Paul McNulty talked about it in confidential testimony with congressional investigators last week. Portions of their testimony were read to Newsweek by a Democratic aide who asked not to be identified talking about private matters.
According to McNulty’s account, Rove came late to the meeting and left early. But while he was there he spoke up and echoed a point that was made by the other White House aides: The Justice Department needed to provide specific reasons why it terminated the eight prosecutors in order to rebut Democratic charges that the firings were politically motivated. The point Rove and other White House officials made is “you all need to explain what you did and why you did it,” McNulty told the investigators.
The problem, according to the Democratic aide, is that Rove and Kelley never told Moscella about the White House’s own role in pushing to have some U.S. attorneys fired in the first place. Moscella followed the coaching by Rove and others—and made no mention of White House involvement in the firings during his March 6, 2007 testimony to House Judiciary. “They let Moscella come up here without telling him the full story,” said the Democratic staffer.
Moscella at one point even appeared to specifically deny that Rove pushed to have one of his former aides, Timothy Griffin, installed at a top job at Justice. “I don’t know that he played any role,” Moscella said when asked by one committee member what Rove played in recommending Griffin to Justice. Since then, the Justice Department turned over to Congress a department email that showed Griffin was installed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas because it was viewed as “important” to Rove and then White House counsel Harriet Miers.
A White House spokesman dismissed the significance of the March meeting, saying it was not surprising that a deputy White House chief of staff like Rove would participate in internal discussions about the firings of presidential appointees. “It’s perfectly natural that he would be there,” said deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. Asked specifically whether Rove had withheld pertinent information to Moscella, and therefore participated in an attempt to mislead Congress, Fratto replied: “The White House’s role was very limited. I'm not commenting about any meetings. If the Committee wants to learn about it, they can accept our offer” to permit Rove and other White House aides to be privately questioned by Capitol Hill investigators. (Democratic leaders on the House and Senate Judiciary Committee have both rejected that offer, saying they want Rove and other White House officials to testify in public and under oath.)
At his March 6 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Moscella followed the advice of Rove and others and for the first time talked about specific “performance-related” problems that purportedly led to the prosecutors being dismissed. Moscella’s comments about the “deficiencies” of particular U.S. attorneys—such as their failure to provide “effective leadership” or follow the policy priorities of the Justice Department—infuriated the U.S. attorneys, prompting them to publicly defend themselves against what they saw as an arbitrary and highly politicized process.
At least three participants in the March 5 meeting—Rove, Kelley and Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—were aware of the White House role in pushing to have U.S. attorneys fired, according to another Justice Department official who attended the meeting but asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. But the subject of the White House role in the firings never came up, the official said, because at that point, it had not become a prime focus of congressional interest. "Quite frankly, those weren’t the questions that Congress was asking at that point," said the official.
Since then, the subject has moved front and center, as has interest in Rove’s role. Justice Department emails show that it was Rove in January 2005 who first inquired about whether the department planned to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys or just some of them. Later testimony has revealed that last fall he passed along complaints about some prosecutors—including fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias—to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoeanaed the Justice Department to turn over all emails in its possession from Rove—including his computer hard drive, which was turned over to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in the CIA leak case. The new disclosure about his participation in the March 5 strategy session is likely to fuel the committee’s determination to keep the heat on.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Stop REAL ID!
Submit comments to the Dept. of Homeland Security by May 8th!
A broad coalition of organizations across the United States is urging the public to submit comments rejecting the illegal national identification system created under the Department of Homeland Security's REAL ID program.
Five states and several members of Congress have rejected the scheme, which creates a massive national ID system without adequate security or privacy safeguards, which makes it more difficult and costly for people to get licenses, and which makes it easier for identity thieves to access the personal data of 245 million license and cardholders nationwide.
To take action and submit comments against this fundamentally flawed national ID system, click here!
Comments are due by 5pm EST on May 8, 2007.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
A Global Democratic Movement Is About to Pop
By Paul Hawken
May 2, 2007
I have given nearly one thousand talks about the environment in the past fifteen years, and after every speech a smaller crowd gathered to talk, ask questions, and exchange business cards. The people offering their cards were working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more.
They were from the nonprofit and nongovernmental world, also known as civil society.
They looked after rivers and bays, educated consumers about sustainable agriculture, retrofitted houses with solar panels, lobbied state legislatures about pollution, fought against corporate-weighted trade policies, worked to green inner cities, or taught children about the environment. Quite simply, they were trying to safeguard nature and ensure justice.
After being on the road for a week or two, I would return with a couple hundred cards stuffed into various pockets. I would lay them out on the table in my kitchen, read the names, look at the logos, envisage the missions, and marvel at what groups do on behalf of others. Later, I would put them into drawers or paper bags, keepsakes of the journey. I couldn't throw them away.
Over the years the cards mounted into the thousands, and whenever I glanced at the bags in my closet, I kept coming back to one question: did anyone know how many groups there were? At first, this was a matter of curiosity, but it slowly grew into a hunch that something larger was afoot, a significant social movement that was eluding the radar of mainstream culture.
I began to count. I looked at government records for different countries and, using various methods to approximate the number of environmental and social justice groups from tax census data, I initially estimated that there were thirty thousand environmental organizations strung around the globe; when I added social justice and indigenous organizations, the number exceeded one hundred thousand. I then researched past social movements to see if there were any equal in scale and scope, but I couldn't find anything.
The more I probed, the more I unearthed, and the numbers continued to climb.
In trying to pick up a stone, I found the exposed tip of a geological formation. I discovered lists, indexes, and small databases specific to certain sectors or geographic areas, but no set of data came close to describing the movement's breadth. Extrapolating from the records being accessed, I realized that the initial estimate of a hundred thousand organizations was off by at least a factor of ten. I now believe there are over one million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two.
By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn't work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with.
I sought a name for it, but there isn't one.
Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic.
Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?
After spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of these organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of history, no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye.
What does meet the eye is compelling: tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
Clayton Thomas-Muller speaks to a community gathering of the Cree nation about waste sites on their native land in Northern Alberta, toxic lakes so big you can see them from outer space. Shi Lihong, founder of Wild China Films, makes documentaries with her husband on migrants displaced by construction of large dams. Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, a member of the Maya-Kaqchikel people, fights for full accountability for tens of thousands of people killed by death squads in Guatemala. Rodrigo Baggio retrieves discarded computers from New York, London, and Toronto and installs them in the favelas of Brazil, where he and his staff teach computer skills to poor children.
Biologist Janine Benyus speaks to twelve hundred executives at a business forum in Queensland about biologically inspired industrial development. Paul Sykes, a volunteer for the National Audubon Society, completes his fifty-second Christmas Bird Count in Little Creek, Virginia, joining fifty thousand other people who tally 70 million birds on one day. Sumita Dasgupta leads students, engineers, journalists, farmers, and Adivasis (tribal people) on a ten-day trek through Gujarat exploring the rebirth of ancient rainwater harvesting and catchment systems that bring life back to drought-prone areas of India. Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, who exposed links between the genocidal policies of former president Charles Taylor and illegal logging in Liberia, now creates certified, sustainable timber policies.
These eight, who may never meet and know one another, are part of a coalescence comprising hundreds of thousands of organizations with no center, codified beliefs, or charismatic leader.
The movement grows and spreads in every city and country. Virtually every tribe, culture, language, and religion is part of it, from Mongolians to Uzbeks to Tamils. It is comprised of families in India, students in Australia, farmers in France, the landless in Brazil, the bananeras of Honduras, the "poors" of Durban, villagers in Irian Jaya, indigenous tribes of Bolivia, and housewives in Japan. Its leaders are farmers, zoologists, shoemakers, and poets.
The movement can't be divided because it is atomized -- small pieces loosely joined. It forms, gathers, and dissipates quickly. Many inside and out dismiss it as powerless, but it has been known to bring down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing.
The movement has three basic roots: the environmental and social justice movements, and indigenous cultures' resistance to globalization -- all of which are intertwining. It arises spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts, resulting in a global, classless, diverse, and embedded movement, spreading worldwide without exception. In a world grown too complex for constrictive ideologies, the very word movement may be too small, for it is the largest coming together of citizens in history.
There are research institutes, community development agencies, village- and citizen-based organizations, corporations, networks, faith-based groups, trusts, and foundations. They defend against corrupt politics and climate change, corporate predation and the death of the oceans, governmental indifference and pandemic poverty, industrial forestry and farming, depletion of soil and water.
Describing the breadth of the movement is like trying to hold the ocean in your hand. It is that large. When a part rises above the waterline, the iceberg beneath usually remains unseen. When Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize, the wire service stories didn't mention the network of six thousand different women's groups in Africa planting trees. When we hear about a chemical spill in a river, it is never mentioned that more than four thousand organizations in North America have adopted a river, creek, or stream. We read that organic agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of farming in America, Japan, Mexico, and Europe, but no connection is made to the more than three thousand organizations that educate farmers, customers, and legislators about sustainable agriculture.
This is the first time in history that a large social movement is not bound together by an "ism." What binds it together is ideas, not ideologies. This unnamed movement's big contribution is the absence of one big idea; in its stead it offers thousands of practical and useful ideas. In place of isms are processes, concerns, and compassion. The movement demonstrates a pliable, resonant, and generous side of humanity.
And it is impossible to pin down. Generalities are largely inaccurate. It is nonviolent, and grassroots; it has no bombs, armies, or helicopters. A charismatic male vertebrate is not in charge. The movement does not agree on everything nor will it ever, because that would be an ideology. But it shares a basic set of fundamental understandings about the Earth, how it functions, and the necessity of fairness and equity for all people partaking of the planet's life-giving systems.
The promise of this unnamed movement is to offer solutions to what appear to be insoluble dilemmas: poverty, global climate change, terrorism, ecological degradation, polarization of income, loss of culture. It is not burdened with a syndrome of trying to save the world; it is trying to remake the world.
There is fierceness here. There is no other explanation for the raw courage and heart seen over and again in the people who march, speak, create, resist, and build. It is the fierceness of what it means to know we are human and want to survive.
This movement is relentless and unafraid. It cannot be mollified, pacified, or suppressed. There can be no Berlin Wall moment, no treaty-signing, no morning to awaken when the superpowers agree to stand down. The movement will continue to take myriad forms. It will not rest. There will be no Marx, Alexander, or Kennedy. No book can explain it, no person can represent it, no words can encompass it, because the movement is the breathing, sentient testament of the living world.
And I believe it will prevail. I don't mean defeat, conquer, or cause harm to someone else. And I don't tender the claim in an oracular sense. I mean the thinking that informs the movement's goal -- to create a just society conducive to life on Earth -- will reign. It will soon suffuse and permeate most institutions. But before then, it will change a sufficient number of people so as to begin the reversal of centuries of frenzied self-destruction.
Inspiration is not garnered from litanies of what is flawed; it resides in humanity's willingness to restore, redress, reform, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. Healing the wounds of the Earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party. It is not a liberal or conservative activity. It is a sacred act.
Paul Hawken is an entrepreneur and social activist living in California. His article in this issue is adapted from Blessed Unrest, to be published by Viking Press and used by permission. © 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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