02 March 2008


"Now, wait a minute," I imagine you readers objecting, "aren't the people who accept the theory of abrupt climate change the good guys?" But they're in denial too; they're just in denial about a different set of propositions, social propositions rather than climatological ones. There's so much denial about that maybe there's a super-thin chance that world society will be able to survive abrupt climate change.

First off, there's the denial that abrupt climate change is happening. That's the denial you hear from the so-called "deniers" -- do a Google search on "global cooling" and you'll see them out in force. The cult newspaper Washington Times told the public late last year that "Al Gore says global warming is a planetary emergency. It is difficult to see how this can be so when record low temperatures are being set all over the world." Fox News (!) grants us a recent soundbite showing evidence of global cooling. Only in winter! The explanation is obvious: as the polar icecaps melt, you're going to see cold winters in many places, because the south-moving icecaps will dump lots of snow on temperate areas. We'll be back to "global warming" by August. Fun fun fun!

But then there's the "accepter" position -- not only is abrupt climate change real, it's understated in the IPCC report. There are plenty of diaries on DailyKos.com that discuss this, but then there's the article in last week's Salon magazine authored by Joseph Romm, famous of ClimateProgress.org and Gristmill.

Apparently the IPCC is itself in denial about abrupt climate change. Romm shows how the models used by the IPCC consistently underestimate the danger to which Earth's ecosystems are exposed by increases in CO2 levels. There's no "consensus" on abrupt climate change, because abrupt climate change is a matter reducible to hard scientific fact. As Romm argues:

In fact, science doesn't work by consensus of opinion. Science is in many respects the exact opposite of decision by consensus. General opinion at one point might have been that the sun goes around the Earth, or that time was an absolute quantity, but scientific theory supported by observations overturned that flawed worldview.

The deniers, Romm argues, use the idea of "consensus" to dispute the thesis of human-caused abrupt climate change, when said thesis isn't based upon consensus at all, but rather upon the collection of reports driven by scientific method.

This is where Romm's endorsement of the IPCC report ends. The hard scientific facts are, Romm argues, far worse than the "consensus" represented by the most recent IPCC report.

First, the basics, from page 2:

Scientists have come to understand that "forcings" (natural and human-made) explain most of the changes in our climate and temperature both in recent decades and over the past millions of years. The primary human-made forcings are the heat-trapping greenhouse gases we generate, particularly carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas. The natural forcings include fluctuations in the intensity of sunlight (which can increase or decrease warming), and major volcanoes that inject huge volumes of gases and aerosol particles into the stratosphere (which tend to block sunlight and cause cooling).

So, with 85 million barrels of crude oil and untold amounts of raw coal and natural gas being burned into Earth's atmosphere every day, what kind of forcing can we expect? Well, this one is human-caused, and:

Thanks to humans, carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been for millions of years. Even more worrisome, carbon dioxide emissions are rising 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

If the "Earth's climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts to even small nudges," what will happen to people foolish enough to keep punching it in the face?

So here's where the denial comes in. The people who are punching Earth's climate "in the face" are not foolish. They're global society's economically privileged classes, and they burn so much carbon because that's what it takes to have the luxuries of the American Way of Life.

When Romm suggests on page 1 that the deniers are wrong in their attitude toward science, he's missing the impact of science upon society.

Consensus of opinion is also dismissed as groupthink. In a December article ignorantly titled "The Science of Gore's Nobel: What If Everyone Believes in Global Warmism Only Because Everyone Believes in Global Warmism?" Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote:

What if the heads being counted to certify an alleged "consensus" arrived at their positions by counting heads?

It may seem strange that scientists would participate in such a phenomenon. It shouldn't. Scientists are human; they do not wait for proof. Many devote their professional lives to seeking evidence for hypotheses, especially well-funded hypotheses, they've chosen to believe.

Less surprising is the readiness of many prominent journalists to embrace the role of enforcer of an orthodoxy simply because it is the orthodoxy. For them, a consensus apparently suffices as proof of itself.

How sad that the WSJ and CNBC have so little conception of what science really is, especially since scientific advances drive so much of the economy. If that's what Jenkins thinks science is, one would assume he is equally skeptical of flossing, antibiotics and even boarding an airplane.

For privileged thinkers like Jenkins, see, scientific advances are good only when they do "drive so much of the economy." Abrupt climate change doesn't drive the economy. Thus Jenkins disputs its science as mere "orthodoxy."

The social realities currently being denied by the climate change accepters are granted a new vividness by a recent New York Times article. The idea that scientific knowledge is going to drive humanity to deal with abrupt climate change out of ethical responsibility is disputed in today's online New York Times: John Tierney's "Global Warming Paradox." Tierney argues:

If only the masses could understand the science of global warming, they’d be alarmed, right? Wrong, according to the surprising results of a survey of Americans published in the journal Risk Analysis by researchers at Texas A&M University.

Their findings?

After asking a national sample of more than 1,000 Americans how much they knew about global warming and how they felt about it, the researchers report that respondents who are better-informed about global warming “both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming.” Another unexpected result: “Respondents who showed a great deal of confidence that scientists understand global warming and climate change showed significantly less concern for the risks of global warming than did those who have lower trust in scientists.”

There's the faith in science, that the scientists will somehow work out a solution, but then the Risk Science paper's authors also come up with this one:

Global warming is an extreme collective action dilemma, with the actions of one person having a negligible effect in the aggregate. Informed persons appear to realize this objective fact.

So this is why "global warming knowledge" does not spur people to action. But this isn't an objective fact: it's just commonly-accepted ideology. The actions of one person on "global warming" can have a rather dramatic effect in the aggregate, by increasing the effectiveness of modes of collective action which solve the problem. One-person actions on "global warming" are only ineffective when reduced to the "50 things you can do to save the world" model of social action, in which the world is ostensibly "saved" while the social structure remains the same. The Risk Science logic is status quo logic, and until climate scientists have the ganas to challenge it, they themselves will continue to be ineffective.

And is it meaningful to ask whether the scientists will be able to save us in the end, like the race of superbeings we expect them to be. The current, faddish response to abrupt climate change is all about technology; more technology will allow us to stop consuming so much fossil fuel. This is in fact a rather unlikely hypothesis. More probably, under the current economic system, more technology will merely increase the sphere of the privileged class which uses said technology, increasing the overall appetite for energy, thus also for fossil-fuel energy. Please see two articles where an appropriate social model is sketched: Capitalism's environmental crisis: is technology the answer?", in which the matter of Jevons' Paradox is explained, and "The Pentagon and Climate Change", which takes a look at the crucial question here: which social system will allow us best to cope with abrupt climate change?

To put it bluntly: all of the "alternative energy" we can afford, whether it be through individual expenditure or through government crash programs, will do nothing to prevent one barrel of oil from being pumped out of the ground and burned. There is only one way to keep the oil from being burned, and that is by keeping the oil in the ground. Thus we should imagine a pending international treaty to stop pumping oil, stop mining oil, stop taking natural gas out of the ground. But no such thing is occurring; and this is because fossil fuels will remain profitable. In fact, it seems safer to say that fossil fuels will become more profitable with their shortage, as reports of record oil company profits under shortage conditions have been a commonplace since the embargoes of the 1970s.

I suppose it will become a commonplace topic of abrupt climate change to discuss "carbon sequestration," but at present, the term "carbon sequestration" seems to be part of the public relations strategy by which "clean coal" is presented as an environmental strategy. (Do see the critique in Treehugger.) In short, it's greenwash. What comes to mind is Josee Johnston's critique of the discourse of "sustainability," as presented in the anthology "Nature's Revenge":

What the case of a "sustainable" mining industry reveals is how the sustainability discourse works to maintain and legitimize an overall system goal of economic growth. Once a few minor adjustments are made to account for the most noxious externalities, such as untreated sulphur dioxide emissions, the global economy can feel free to grow exponentially. Here the sustainable-development discourse works to facilitate commodification and capital accumulation by mandating sustainable profits over the long term. (45)

So we can have all of the capitalists speaking sweet and pure sustainability discourse, but, as Joel Kovel points out in the new edition of The Enemy of Nature, there are fractions of capital which have a specific financial interest in the destruction of Earth's ecosystems, in urbanization and carbon-burning and overfishing and so on. No sweet words will overcome that fact, I argue.

We must do something, then; abrupt climate change will happen anyway, but we can keep it from getting worse. What's to do? As I've pointed out, the world economic structure is what keeps "carbon pollution" in place. Maintaining one's status in the world economy requires "carbon pollution"; the economic infrastructure is set up to grant privileges to those with individual mobility, thus the car economy and, at the top, the "jet set." The "free market" brings consumers the benefits of wage labor as collected around the world, and transports them to corporate stores like WalMart via the benefits of a global fossil-fueled transportation network, available all the more with those with good jobs and the money to pay. More technology will only push this fossil-fueled economy onto classes which are not currently so privileged to "enjoy" car ownership and its economic benefits; that 40% of the world which currently lives on less than $2/ day.

As I suggested above, an agreement to cap the oil wells and abandon the coal mines would keep from exacerbating global warming. We could embark on a global program to gradually end the exploitation of fossil fuels. The resultant energy shortages would motivate deep, broad programs in "alternative energy." But such a measure would require that the world get off of the capitalist plan; otherwise there would be too much of a temptation to go back to full exploitation of fossil fuels for the sake of "economic progress."

Getting off of the capitalist plan will also be necessary for the creation of an economy dedicated to the "means of subsistence." Our world society promotes the capitalist economy by claiming that capitalist production caters to "demand" -- this is the propagandistic function of mainstream economics, its promotion of the "laws of supply and demand." But, in reality, capitalist production caters to "effective demand," demand backed by money; and so what we have with global capitalism is an insane production system designed to chase an out-of-control money system. This after all, is the point of The Politics of Money, which I reviewed last month.

I suppose we could each, individually, become "voluntarily poor," forgoing the benefits of car ownership and other benefits of fossil-fuel burning. But such a measure is unlikely to be adopted at a general level; what would work at a more general level would be a campaign to promote a sea-change in modes of self-creation: from capitalist discipline to ecological discipline, as I suggested in my second diary on DailyKos.com .

Labels: , ,

27 January 2008


Poll numbers are up; Obama's not so great-looking right now, given his financial backing, but he could surprise us... high poll numbers are a good sign, as negative campaign advertising tends to reduce public interest in elections...




New Security Beat

Contextual article:

The Pentagon and Climate Change...

My DKos abrupt climate change diaries:

My diary on Mark Lynas' SIX DEGREES: an important read

My diary on Mark Lynas' HIGH TIDE: journalistic ethnography

My diary on Saral Sarkar's ECO-SOCIALISM OR ECO-CAPITALISM?: now the mainstream in eco-socialist vision

Labels: ,

09 December 2007


And, no, not a fundamentalist "Christian" party to split the Right, but rather a new party to stand for the future...

The Green Party used to be promising, in that direction. Now it looks like a ball and chain. Let's look at its faults:

1) the fact that the various informal systems of economic and political patronage that characterize American economic/political life have all been arranged to benefit Democrats and exclude Greens.

2) The Green Party's custom of holding "beauty contest" primaries -- you can vote all you want, for instance, for the seven candidates running for President next year, but the real decision will be made at the convention in Chicago in June.

3) The Green Party's concentration among middle-class white voters in boutique cities, which has a chance of being remedied this year.

4) The Green Party's habit of pursuing "consensus" and "supermajority" decision making systems at political conventions, which grants inordinate power to those who are holding up consensus.

5) The fact that the mass media, having been stripped of any real obligations to the public through the crumbling of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan, is not even obliged to tell the public of the Green Party's existence.

and, last but not least:

6) The fact that the above non-system has allowed the Green Party to be dominated by "gatekeepers," well-meaning people (Mike Feinstein, Phil Huckelberry, Jody Haug, and so on) whose job it is to make sure that all serious proposals go through them first.

The Democratic Party myth about all this is that the Green Party can't win because of the American electoral system, and that the Greens had better get used to it, and get back in the habit of voting for the "lesser of two evils" candidates. Yeah, right. Nonsense. The Green Party can't win because it has fallen into the mold of the standard US "fringe" party.

Now, maybe Cynthia McKinney can break through that mold, and, after having curried favor with all the GPUS gatekeepers, bring a lot of new, exciting people into the Green Party. But her webpage reveals a way-too-brief pitch for "give us money," to which the average reader will ask, "why?"

None of the other candidates have much besides shoestring-budget webpages, 'cept, of course, that eternal scapegoat Ralph Nader, who still gets attack diaries on DailyKos.com seven years after his supposed "spoiler" effort in Florida (you know, the one in which the Supreme Court elected the President?).

The Democratic Party has the culture of a political party that could realize some important truths about the world, chained to a series of myths about political life that justify acquiescence to the status quo. It's an exasperating combination. The problem is that the Democratic Party is so vast that there are more committed ecosocialists in the DP than there are in the Green Party. Hard to believe, eh?

In the California primary this year, I'm voting for Dennis Kucinich for President. The effort this year seems to be a lot better than the one in 2004. Ignore all the Ron Paul gossip. Something has to give, and it has to be within the ranks of the vast Democratic Party. If Dennis starts to win states maybe I'll remain a Democrat. If not, I'll be re-registering Green. But either the Green Party gets its much-needed overhaul, or something else has to form. It has to.

Labels: ,

26 November 2007

25 November 2007


Step one: Go to your local farmer's market at closing time.

Step two: Ask the farmers to give you their unwanted vegetables and fruits, and put them in your vehicle.

Step three: Take the vegetables/fruit to your local food bank (when it is open). Park outside of the food bank premises and give the vegetables/fruit to whomever will take them away.

There you go. Hunger activism, quick and easy!

Organizational inspiration/ affiliation: Food Not Bombs.


22 November 2007


Here it is. It comes in three parts:

1) a "reality-based" political agenda for the future.

2) a discussion of the pragmatics (relation of discourse to hearers/readers) of political agendas

3) a critique of a successful politician's agenda.

Part one: A Reality-Based Political Agenda:

All candidates are capable of free will.

Perhaps they will use this free will to recognize the real physical condition we're in. If this actually happens, expect:

1) a recognition that bourgeois government is entirely inappropriate to a time in history (now) when everyone must pull together to save Earth's ecosystems from abrupt climate change and several other ecosystemic disasters

2) an attempt to pull together to deal with this situation in a way that climate scientists would recognize as legitimate, which would begin with three measures:

2a) a complete reordering of the global economy for the sake of insuring minimum living standards for all of humanity

2b) a solid, binding international agreement to keep fossil fuels in the ground

2c) a devolution of power to local levels across the globe to relieve the human race of international (and class-based) economic dependencies

2a) would entail:

3) scrapping the current global economic order and replacing it with an economic order based on permacultural principles

2c) would be part of:

4) a phasing-out of capitalist economic relations, i.e. social classes in Marx's sense of the term, as will be necessary to create the social relations necessary to coordinate people to be part of this program

which would entail

4a) a phasing-in of non-authoritarian relations throughout all human societies, from child-rearing to education to "defense."

and don't forget

5) a massive employment problem in the service of planetary reforestation w/ emphasis upon edible fruit trees

toward the end specified in 6):

6) a global, ecologically sustainable society

Now, all of them, even the Republican ones, have the capacity of free will, so that any time they want they can come to their senses and adopt a program that looks something like this. But, to do so, they'd have to scrap their allegiance to neoliberalism, they'd have to abandon the quid pro quo assumptions that underlie the corrupt world of campaign contributions, they'd have to stop pretending that "alternative energy" is the solution to abrupt climate change, they'd have to abandon their capitalist ideological outlooks, and so on: in short, they'd have to abandon the fakery and pretense that the mass media requires of them in order to grant them more than six minutes of debate time in the first instance.

As a communicative measure, they'd have to abandon the piecemeal debate schematic that divides everything up into "issues" so that candidates can waffle and spin their way through debates, pleasing many masters at once while doing good for no one, and while covering over their cluelessness before the one issue that matters: the future.

Part Two: The Pragmatics of Campaign Agendas

Pragmatics, of course, is a very important thing in political campaigns. When coming from politicians, words hardly mean anything outside of the context in which political support must be coaxed out of audiences. Politicians, in short, tell you what you want to hear; it is in their job description to do so.

Now, describing "what you want to hear" from a politician is no easy task; you can bet, for instance, that the science of demographics is indicated in practically everything that a successful politician says. And, of course, beyond demographics, there is the reality of what the data say -- politicians are, in the most successful cases, responding to (and building upon) public opinion.

At the same time, however, the political/pragmatic evocation of public opinion has to be tempered with a respect for money, since (after all) money must be raised to run a competitive political advertising campaign. Moreover, I would hazard the guess that the money factor has ballooned out of all proportion to the persuasiveness of the campaigns themselves, merely because competitive amounts of money (and subsequent advertising campaigns) must be raised in order to give the public impression of "electability." What this means for the rhetoric/ discourse of campaign agendas is that words must be said with financial gain in mind.

Lastly, the coercive control of the election process by "media barons" (this wording comes from a translation of Jurgen Habermas' old (1962) volume Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere must be placed into accounts. As the Columbia Journalism Review has well documented, national media are owned by corporations with specific financial interests; and these interests are unlikely to report news in a fashion that contradicts them. One is unlikely, for instance, to say bad things about nuclear weapons on NBC, whose parent company GE makes nuclear weapons. The relevance of this ownership pattern is not lost on successful candidates, who must "stage-manage" successful campaigns with the help of media barons.

Now, as for the implication that I am merely being "cynical" in suggesting that politicians are mere chameleons who will "forfeit their souls" as such in order to get elected -- well, folks who say that sort of thing have underestimated the brutality of the selection process and the importance of the final result to those who possess inordinate amounts of power to affect it. Political power is a hot commodity for those who imagine themselves "buying" it with campaign donations, as the profit margins to be gained from legislation are incalculably high.

In light of all this, we should recognize that, just as the politicians are trying to become better politicians, we should try to become better voters. However, our efforts, and the efforts of the politicians, may extend in opposite directions: while the politicians compete to be more "competitive," we may feel obliged to move in a meta-direction, discussing political issues, communicative strategies, and the political "feasibility" of the reality-based political agenda as if our positions on the issues really mattered. The politicians, in short, are not "on our side" -- WE are "on our side," and the politicians are "on THEIR side," and we should busy ourselves with the notion that "our side" must eventually prevail. This does not mean mere crass "self-interest," but rather an incorporation of what's good for humanity into "our side." We especially need to be expanding the publicly-acceptable definition of "saving the earth" so that our government may at some future point actually do such a thing.

Part Three: a discussion of a political agenda:

For purposes of convenience, I shall analyze the Web-published agenda of Hillary Clinton, as she is the front-running candidate in an election widely perceived to "go to the Democratic Party candidate." (This is not to imply any animosity toward Senator Clinton, nor is it to imply that anyone else can "do a better job." For that matter, it isn't an endorsement, either.) For purposes of brevity, the analysis will be superficial, and won't go beyond the statements of purpose. In all fairness, however, I ought to look at other statements as well: I do, however, wish to limit the length of this diary. So, as follows:

1. To end the war in Iraq.

2. To achieve universal, affordable health care.

3. To create new jobs for middle-class Americans with the right investments in modern infrastructure and in new, clean energy-efficient technologies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and combat global warming.

4. To provide world-class education, from universal pre-kindergarten to affordable college for all.

5. To promote 21st century scientific research, including stem cell research.

6. To return to fiscal responsibility, move back toward a balanced budget, and safeguard Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

7. To restore competence and end cronyism in government, with a president who cares about and works for Americans who have been invisible to this administration.

8. To combat terrorism, strengthen our military, and care for our veterans.

9. To restore America's standing in the world and repair our alliances.

10. To build a more tolerant, united America, working to achieve big goals again, with a president who's ready for change and ready to lead from day one.

Let's take a look at each agenda item, from the perspective of a pragmatic analyst and from the perspective of my reality-based agenda. The resultant product should give us a notion of what rhetoric has to do to catch up with reality.

1. To end the war in Iraq. Indeed, this is a valid goal, addressing the concerns of those who have lost loved ones in Iraq. But how is it to be accomplished? Wouldn't it be clearer to have the US wash its hands of the war-making efforts in Iraq, and to broker a peace treaty between the remaining warring factions? Clinton argues for "withdrawing troops" and "phased redeployment" in other statements, but without specifics. Sometimes, however, clarity isn't the preferred option, especially if one wishes to garner the votes of differing factions on an issue. A reality-based perspective would suggest that the enormous quantity of energy consumption (and concomitant US infrastructure) required to maintain a US infrastructure in Iraq (fourteen bases and all) is a danger to the global energy economy and the orientation to abrupt climate change as well as to the Iraqi ecology and social fabric.

2. To achieve universal, affordable health care. Once again, a valid goal, and certainly a concern of Americans who pay high health-insurance premiums. But the question of how this is to be done can also be said simply. "Single payer" and "managed competition" are two-word expressions that say quite a bit as to how "universal, affordable health care" is to be achieved. A reality-based perspective would note the health-services disaster that competitive, capitalist health insurance has become.

3. To create new jobs for middle-class Americans with the right investments in modern infrastructure and in new, clean energy-efficient technologies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and combat global warming. Investments in infrastructure and energy-efficient technologies will allow individual consumers to do more with less energy. And everyone who is unemployed is looking for a job. But neither measure will reduce dependence upon "foreign oil," nor will they combat global warming. Reducing dependence upon "foreign oil" would mean actually not consuming foreign oil, and combating global warming would mean increasing the prevalence of "carbon sinks," i.e plant-life, and (more importantly) leaving fossil-fuel energy in the ground.

4. To provide world-class education, from universal pre-kindergarten to affordable college for all. Again, a noble goal without specifics. I have argued previously, from a reality-based perspective, that the decline in education can only be halted if its purpose can be ascertained. Please also see Horse Philosopher's diary on this topic.

5. To promote 21st century scientific research, including stem cell research. Indeed a valid goal, one that will address the interests of corporations doing scientific research.

6. To return to fiscal responsibility, move back toward a balanced budget, and safeguard Social Security and Medicare for future generations. Safeguarding Social Security and Medicare are certainly important goals, with potentially universal popularity. But what is "fiscal responsibility" in the age of dollar hegemony, esp. when the main problem with the economy is the threat that the shrinking of the middle class will create a crisis of overproduction?

7. To restore competence and end cronyism in government, with a president who cares about and works for Americans who have been invisible to this administration. A valid goal, one that moreover addresses widespread cynicism about government.

8. To combat terrorism, strengthen our military, and care for our veterans. Caring for veterans is indeed a valid goal. But how is "combating terrorism" to be accomplished? Do our candidates view "terrorism" as a crime, or as an act of war? And why does the military need to be "strong" in an era absent a serious military threat to the United States? This looks like an appeal to the military's financial interests, much of which will have to be curtailed in an era dedicated to ecological sustainability.

9. To restore America's standing in the world and repair our alliances. This sort of rhetoric appears to be addressed to some international business interests, which benefit from "friendly relations between nations." Business interests also benefit from US imperialism, however; so imprecise language may have to serve a function here.

10. To build a more tolerant, united America, working to achieve big goals again, with a president who's ready for change and ready to lead from day one. Slogans are part of every Presidential candidate's art. This bulletin-point is certainly full of them.

To conclude: the typical complaint one reads about how this candidate or that is "unworthy" of one's vote might be read as implying that the system can select another political candidate whose positions will offer "worthiness." This is not at all necessarily so. The system may simply be programmed to select Presidential candidates who are not capable of dealing with economic and ecological realities. Our obligation is to be better voters so that our politicians will be better prompted to offer us reality-based rhetoric.

Labels: , , ,

05 October 2007


Federici, Sylvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2004.

Federici claims that the class revolts that characterized the Middle Ages were settled by significant gains made by working people after the Black Death. Working-class power was thereafter "shut down" by an elite strategy that promoted sexism, racism, and genocide between, more or less, 1450 and 1650, through the battles against heresy, the reintroduction of slavery, and the burning of "witches." In this reactionary period, Federici claims, concepts such as the mind-body distinction and self-ownership acquired canonical status, and were incorporated into the development of capitalism. The hidden history of "primitive accumulation," the violent appropriation of wealth and power in the imposition of capitalism, is portrayed here as interlocked with the histories of sexist and racist cultural imposition and bodily repression.

Eliasoph, Nina. Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy In Everyday Life. Cambridge, England: U of Cambridge P, 1998.

In this book, Nina Eliasoph relates an ethnographic study back in the '90s of popular American political attitudes. Her main concern is understanding how American apathy is produced. One predominant group, the "country" people, believe in an idyllic romanticism of community as characterized by caring, "Down Home" people. Their concerns about a wider political world of distant issues were consciously suppressed. They use a wide variety of strategies to effect this suppression: not worrying about problems they can't fix themselves, claiming not to know enough about politics, claiming that their political work is merely "self-interested," among others. Eliasoph also notices, in portions of her ethnography, communities of "cynical chic solidarity" that make fun of the "country" people while telling dark jokes about the present-day political nightmare, and genuine activists, whose activities are regularly disrupted by the news media. A must for political thinkers.

Goff, Stan. Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull, 2004.

Goff is a Vietnam vet with a revolutionary view of the US invasion of Iraq. He recognizes the contradictions in the current geopolitical and political-economic situations, and thinks he can provoke some kind of resistance against empire, military or otherwise, out of the current situation. Test yourself: do you believe in Goff's brand of optimism? This book should at least be a real eye-opener for people who think the future will be a continuation of the present and past.

Fischer, Sibylle. Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution. Durham NC: Duke UP, 2004.

Fischer argues that the Haitian revolution, and the culture of revolutionary antislavery in general, has been forgotten by patrons of Western culture precisely because the "modernity that took shape in the Western Hemisphere" did not place racial liberation on a par with nationalist idealism. If you read this book you'll learn a lot about Caribbean history, chic, updated theories of modernity, and the history of racism.

The Green Alliance requested a Walt Sheasby article. Yoshie Furuhashi has one online bibliography of Walt, I have another. Here is mine, repeated:


Here is a Walt Sheasby article on the "Peak Oil" issue that may raise some eyebrows. I've also made a copy here.

Growing the Red-Green Paradigm, an article about ecosocialism.

Corporation Capitalism: How The System Hid For A Hundred Years, an article about corporate history.

Ralph Nader and the Legacy of Revolt, an essay about "populism" and "progressivism"...

Handy Hints For Building Your Own Ralph Nader Campaign, a Nader strategy/ joke collection for 1996.

George Soros and the Rise of the Neo-Centrics -- this article is probably also on Yoshie's weblog too...

Objections to Nader, a discussion of why Nader chose not to run as a Green in 2004.

"Coming Up with a Mixture of Integrity and Diversity," a 1997 article discussing problems with the Greens.

"Third Parties '96: Birds of a Feather," an article about a conference in January of 1996.

A report on a Pittsburgh meeting which I attended with Walt...

the Manifesto for a New Green Movement, the call-to-action which wound up being the Green Alliance.