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Updated: 2012-04-24T22:37:25Z

 



Message to world government: Don't govern the Internet

2012-04-24T22:37:25Z

You could think of the Aspen IDEA report published today as a letter to the head of the International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Touré, suggesting that he should reconsider his intent to put the "light touch" of government on the Internet's... You could think of the Aspen IDEA report published today as a letter to the head of the International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Touré, suggesting that he should reconsider his intent to put the "light touch" of government on the Internet's operations. M. Touré will be running a major meeting of world governments in Dubai at the end of this year. The Dubai meeting, known as WCIT 12, may have an agenda that is a light touch only if that's what you can call a grab for the jugular vein of the Internet. The issues may include a "per click" tax on international Internet traffic, individual nation state regulation identities to online activity, national encryption standards to allow government surveillance, and multinational governance of the Internet. Russia, China, India and Brazil have already suggested that the Internet must fall within the sovereign right of states to govern communications. To offer a competing view, one that has prevailed since the Internet started to become a commercial phenomenon in the early 1990s, the Aspen Institute convened the IDEA forum, with the support of the Markle Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ford Foundation, and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Starting more than two years ago, Aspen assembled 36 American and European corporations, high-level government officials from 6 countries representing 18 different agencies, and 14 representatives of civil society from the United States, Europe, India, and Brazil. As a result of many plenary meetings, working groups, and drafting sessions, the Aspen staff today proposes that instead of nation state governance for the Internet, the global medium should be managed by multistakeholder entities - groups where for profit and not for profit firms, with government attendance but not state governance, would try to solve in open debate the key technical problems that are obstacles to the global reach of the Internet. By itself, multistakeholder governance is not a new idea. It is the way the Internet has been governed. But the upcoming Dubai meeting tells us that those who advocate this approach must go beyond it to explain how that form of governance can solve the many emerging problems with the working of the common medium. I would like to offer my personal views, not those of Aspen or the Aspen team, about the implications of what the Aspen report presented today means for the problems of Internet governance and multistakeholder processes. These problems are well illustrated by events in China this month. As in the United States, 2012 is an election year in China. Unlike the United States, if China transfers power from Hu to, presumably, Xi, that would be only the second peaceful governmental succession in China in more than a century. The succession process in China consists of the elevation of two members of the 9 person Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China to positions one and two. Less than 400 people will vote on China's new leadership. That means approximately one out every three million people in China compose the electorate. The small, closed, secret process does not guarantee a smooth transition. And it is more subject to rumors because of its secrecy. Not inconsequential rumors equivalent to modern soap opera, but rumors speaking to the core questions for all concerned about the future of the world's political system. The rumor is that a faction supporting Bo instead of Xi staged some sort of coup early this April. Hu is said to have stepped in to block Bo. This subterranean political upheaval either preceded or has led to the fall of the power couple of Bo and his wife Gu, who are now implicated in the death of British national Neil Heywood last year. Despite the fact that there are more Internet users in China than in a[...]



Obama and Romney on Foreign Policy - Drawing the Contrasts

2012-04-17T16:48:24Z

The political battle lines are being drawn for the general election debate over foreign policy and national security, and you can't do much better than my fellow Democracy Arsenal blogger Michael Cohen for a guide. One key theme of Michael's... The political battle lines are being drawn for the general election debate over foreign policy and national security, and you can't do much better than my fellow Democracy Arsenal blogger Michael Cohen for a guide. One key theme of Michael's latest column for ForeignPolicy.com is what a difference it makes for a candidate to bear the responsibility of governing, or on the other hand, campaign to be commander in chief on the basis of self-serving pot shots. My only quibble regards how Romney's reed-thin foreign policy argument will fare with voters. Take Michael's analysis of Romney's potential advantage in the debate on Iran: He can simply lob rhetorical haymakers that hype up the threat of an Iranian bomb or offer Churchillian declarations about his intention to stop such efforts. For example, in an earlier GOP presidential debate, Romney said that with him as president, Iran would not get a bomb -- but that under Obama, the mullahs will join the nuclear club. How exactly this would come to pass given that the two men have almost idenctical policy prescriptions is irrelevant in a dogfight. The idea is that the particulars of policy toward Iran will go right over voters' heads. Yet I think this fight is winnable for the Obama campaign, and without asking voters to be wonkish like us. Voters don't have to know the finer points of statecraft or the details of the Iran case to know it's a lot harder than Romney makes it sound. And Iran is part of an overall foreign policy contrast between common sense pragmatism and empty bluster. Republicans have become parodies of themselves, and thus easy to parody -- as I've done in posts that boil GOP foreign policy down into Mad Libs or rules of thumb. Or take one of my favorite lines from another Michael Cohen piece: To listen to the GOP candidates on Iran is to think that an American president can use a little military force here, drop a few sanctions there, and voilà, the Iranian nuclear program will be stopped dead in its tracks. In other words, the magical thinking of the Republicans' foreign policy fantasies is an absolutely relevant campaign issue, even in a dogfight. As I was thinking about how this boils down to a strategy for the 2012 foreign policy debate, I remembered the strategy that Shadow Government's Peter Feaver offered for how to campaign against President Obama's record. Feaver separated the president's policies into two categories -- arguing that Obama has been successful when he has copied his predecessor George W. Bush and failed when he has attempted major changes. The way I see it, the Republican foreign policy argument comes in two flavors. First, there are the bald assertions that a Republicans' vague aura of toughness would whip the rest of the world into line. These arguments fail to give any plausible explanation of how this would actually work -- particularly given the Republicans' plan to resume a policy of thumbing their noses at everyone else -- meanwhile no one offers specific differences from what President Obama is already doing. Second are the genuine policy differences between President Obama and Governor Romney, and those splits involve either starting new wars (Iran) or staying mired in old ones (Iraq, Afghanistan). So there it is, the supposed magical powers of Republican bluster or war. [...]



Will Yale's Alumni Save Liberal Education?

2012-04-11T19:02:59Z

Hoping to head off alumni resistance to the brand-new "Yale-National University of Singapore" college that the Yale Corporation has created somewhat stealthily in collaboration with the government of that authoritarian city-state, Association of Yale Alumni chairman Michael Madison has inadvertently... Hoping to head off alumni resistance to the brand-new "Yale-National University of Singapore" college that the Yale Corporation has created somewhat stealthily in collaboration with the government of that authoritarian city-state, Association of Yale Alumni chairman Michael Madison has inadvertently demonstrated one of the ways Yale College is being transformed from a crucible of civic-republican leadership, grounded in liberal education, into a global career-networking center and cultural galleria for a new elite that answers to no polity or moral code: STATEMENT OF THE OFFICERS OF THE AYA BOARD OF GOVERNORS, Michael Madison, Chair of the Board "All Yale-NUS College graduates will be warmly welcomed as a part of the Yale alumni community. They will also be invited to participate in general alumni events and programs. They will not, however, be voting in the elections for Alumni Fellows to the Yale Corporation since the University by-laws limit voting to those with Yale degrees." All that counts here is that Yale-NUS graduates will get a "warm" welcome when they impress their business clients over dinner at the elegant Yale Club of New York and when, grateful for this access of grace, they respond to Yale's fundraising appeals. This sad gambit hastens the Yale Corporation's selling of Yale's name and pedagogical talents to Singapore without the Yale faculty's actually deciding on it, owing to the provision that the new venture's graduates won't actually get bona fide Yale degrees. What they will get is Yale's name and aura on their resumes and even diplomas. And like the regime in Singapore, this will infect and inflect the university's nature and mission. On its face, the strategy seems consonant with neoliberalism's noble promise to transcend narrow nationalism and war with commerce and, through commerce, with global democracy -- an old, fond hope of "enlightened" global elites since long before there was a Davos. Unfortunately, as I've argued a bit heatedly, it subordinates liberal education to corporatism in ways that doom the latter. It also ignores the warnings not only of leftist and liberal thinkers and a few right-wing isolationists, as defenders of Yale's Singapore folly keep trying to suggest, but, even more so, of thinkers whom honorable conservatives invoke (Allan Bloom, Samuel Huntington, John Gray, Harvey Mansfield). They've insisted that universities stand farther apart from both markets and states than the Yale Corporation or Yale President Richard Levin, a neoliberal economist, show any sign of understanding. Just how blind they've been in blundering into Singapore is sketched by a Malaysian with strong ties to neighboring Singapore, Shaun Tan, a graduate student in New Haven, and, devastatingly, by Michael Montesano, Yale '83, who lives and works in Singapore and knows the moves in this game. It would not be xenophobic or moralistic to call the game off. Yale is already commendably cosmopolitan, its undergraduates increasingly diverse in national as well as ethno-racial and religious terms, though not yet adequately in socio-economic ones -- a problem that's side-stepped, and indeed almost denied, by putting so much energy into Singapore. Alumni of liberal arts colleges would be well-justified to remind their alma maters' new pharoahs that diversity wouldn't have been achieved at all had not the old colleges nurtured the tough, civic-republican (and, yes, American) virtues that aided the civil rights movement. That nurturing is being eviscerated subtly but palpably by administrators' neo-liberal grand strategies, which presume that the world is flat and "connected," not that it has abysses which only a liberal education can plumb[...]



Neocons Celebrate: We Got MJ Rosenberg, We'll Get You

2012-04-10T18:29:42Z

The right-wing "pro-Israel" lobby has taken off its mask. In the wake of my departure from Media Matters, it is in a celebratory mood. In one article and column after another, the Israel-is-always-right types cannot contain their feeling of triumph.... The right-wing "pro-Israel" lobby has taken off its mask. In the wake of my departure from Media Matters, it is in a celebratory mood. In one article and column after another, the Israel-is-always-right types cannot contain their feeling of triumph. There are dozens of these articles. Here is one of the most blatant from the Jerusalem Post today that features the most famous enforcer of the Likud line in America, Alan Dershowitz. But the others are pretty much the same and generally go something like this: We got MJ, the anti-Semitic self-hating Jew, the Israel hater who calls people like us Israel Firsters, which is a blood libel. We got MJ, the liar, who talks about the power of the lobby and echoes the Walt-Mearsheimer canard that those who criticize Israeli policies will be targeted by this so-called lobby and fired or defeated at the polls. But we showed him. We got Media Matters to dump him him and his voice will not be heard again. No longer will he be able to argue that the lobby works to get people fired. In other words, their exuberance about my leaving MMFA made the lobby crowd forget their oft-repeated line that they do not seek to intimidate critics of Israel into silence. Of course, they do. I am not going to respond to the lie that I was fired by MMFA. The people saying this are the same people who say I was fired from AIPAC. Neither is true. I have only been fired once. In 1987, the American Jewish Committee fired me for defending Israel's role in the Iran/Contra affair (this was before the AJC became both Likud and Islamophobic under CEO David Harris). In 1987, I wrote an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Israel wasn't the guilty party, the U.S. was. That got me fired, although as a token of appreciation, I was taken to breakfast by Israel's ambassador to the United States, Meir Rossene. He told me that if it was up to him, Israel would give me an award for writing the piece, even though I knew that I'd be fired for it. But I am not going to belabor the point as to whether I left Media Matters voluntarily or not. Besides, it doesn't make a difference to the larger question. Why are the "pro-Israel" fanatics claiming victory after consistently asserting that they neither get people fired nor withhold contributions from candidates and Members of Congress for criticizing Israel? Has their happiness over my departure caused them to forget the script? Then there is the "Israel Firster" issue, which particularly irked the right, especially"liberal Democrat" Alan Dershowitz. Here is what the famous OJ Simpson lawyer had to say about me leaving Media Matters in Daily Caller: "Rosenberg was an extremist," Dershowitz told the Daily Caller. "He didn't engage in careful, nuanced critiques of Israel, which is fine. He engaged in hyperbole, name-calling. He just hated, hated, hated, with a passion, almost an eroticized passion of anything associated with Israel. He was like a spurned lover -- irrational." "So it's an enormous improvement for Media Matters," he said. Dershowitz, you may recall, was so upset about my use of the term, Israel Firster, that he denounced me in a full page ad that a bunch of GOP operatives, led by William Kristol, took out in the New York Times. That must have cost a hundred thousand dollars or so, demonstrating the importance the right attaches to going after critics of Netanyahu and those who suggest that American Likudniks are not primarily motivated by devotion to America. In an interview at the time the ad was published, Dershowitz said that he was both a liberal and a Democrat but that unless Media Matters fired me, he would spread the word against ... President Obama (on the grounds that Media Matters is close to the president[...]






"Harvard Faculty Lounge" v. "Fox News Green Room"

2012-04-09T00:05:21Z

Among the idiotic things about this "Harvard faculty lounge" nonsense is the fact that President Obama wasn't on the faculty; he was a student. But never mind all that. If Republicans want to highlight a location with a supposedly warped...

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Among the idiotic things about this "Harvard faculty lounge" nonsense is the fact that President Obama wasn't on the faculty; he was a student. But never mind all that. If Republicans want to highlight a location with a supposedly warped picture of the world, two can play that game.

I don't know about you, but I don't want a president who takes his ideas from the Fox News green room. People who've spent too much time in the Fox News green room believe that wealth trickles down from the corporations-who-are-people. But in the real world, only the rich have gotten richer. In the Fox News green room they think America can whip other nations into line with bluster and brute force. It isn't so easy in the real world, where "the enemy gets a vote," as they say in the military.

I could go on, but better yet, you try it with your own favorite reality-defying Republican talking point.



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A Small But Solid Victory for Liberal Education

2012-04-11T05:14:27Z

Just as the Tunisian vendor who sparked the Arab Spring was provoked not only by one bureaucratic or police affront but also by a long train of abuses, petty and large, that had alienated many Tunisians from the government, so... Just as the Tunisian vendor who sparked the Arab Spring was provoked not only by one bureaucratic or police affront but also by a long train of abuses, petty and large, that had alienated many Tunisians from the government, so the Yale professors who passed a resolution decisively (100 to 69) over their President Richard Levin's objection, in his presence, on April 5 were prompted by a lot more than the resolution's explicit concern about abuses of academic freedom, civil liberties, and human rights by the government of Singapore, with whose National University Levin and the Yale Corporation have contracted to set up an undergraduate college bearing Yale's name. The faculty made clear that it was expressing the larger concerns summarized two days before in a Yale Daily News column by Yale's Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Seyla Benhabib, the resolution's author (and my wife; this is a blog commentary, not only a report; I provide the links to other accounts below). Those concerns were reiterated so explicitly in the two-and-a-half-hour-long, closed-door meeting itself that everyone there understood the resolution's passage as a vote of "no confidence" in the growing corporatization and centralization of governance and liberal education at Yale. Levin and administration loyalists left the room silently as dozens of people congratulated professors Christopher Miller, Michael Fischer, Jill Campbell, Joel Rosenbaum, Mimi Yiengpruksawan, and others, including Victor Bers, the classicist who has really been the William Lloyd Garrison of this movement from the start. Although the Yale-NUS project, signed two years ago without the Yale faculty deliberating or deciding on it, will proceed, things won't be the same at Yale itself now that its company of scholars, or collegium, has rebuked the Yale Corporation for usurping its pedagogical and civic independence. Let other universities' administrations and faculties take note. Without such independence, liberal education has merely the instrumental uses that Singapore's government seeks in its rush to become a global-capitalist entrepot. The professors were rebuking the administration not just for lending their name and pedagogical mission to something concocted by the university's Davos men, but, as I have described elsewhere, for instituting bureaucratic procedures and decrees right in New Haven that reduce the company of scholars to a roster of corporate employees, and (as I've argued elsewhere,) for developing a network of lavishly funded institutes and centers -- nunneries for failed, aging neoconservatives and Vulcan warriors who contribute nothing to scholarship and overawe undergraduates by telling war stories and showing how to fight their last wars, complete with career-counseling and recruitment services. Now that the resolution has passed, the spin has begun. Yale's Tories -- who tried but failed to eviscerate the measure with amendments during the meeting -- are claiming that its passage indicates that faculty have accepted and even approved Yale's venture in Singapore simply by acknowledging its existence. The new Yale-NUS college train has left the station, according to this spin, and while some dissidents may have hoped to derail it by dancing a self-righteous dance of protest, those who understand how the world really works will now get on with doing that work. But one of the reasons for the Yale faculty's revolt is that those who claim to know how the world works have dragged us all through debacle after debacle, from Iraq through the 2008 meltdown and beyond, and then have tried to put a nice face on it. This has happened nowhere mo[...]



Republican Foreign Policy Boiled Down for You

2012-04-04T19:59:27Z

Some simple rules of thumb: 1. Extent US must pursue missile defense: As far as conceivable 2. How much it matters whether the conceivable technology is actually workable: Not very 3. How much we should spend on the military: More...

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Some simple rules of thumb:

1. Extent US must pursue missile defense: As far as conceivable

2. How much it matters whether the conceivable technology is actually workable: Not very

3. How much we should spend on the military: More (definitely more than Democrats, or the military themselves, say)

4. Degree to which we should adjust to concerns of non-allies: Zero

5. Number of allies you need to focus on: One (three, at most)

6. How long US troops should be kept in Iraq and Afghanistan: Longer than Obama says

7. Hypocrisy involved in screaming about high gas prices and attacking Iran at the same time

7. Relevance of past Republican presidents' nuclear arms treaties and reductions to today's GOP: What nuclear reductions?

8. Connection between America's own actions and what we expect from others: Non-existent

9. Nature of American exceptionalism: Perfection - the focus of awesomeness in the modern world

Extent that above tenets exaggerate / caricature: You be the judge



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The Showdown Over Liberal Education at Yale

2012-04-07T17:54:15Z

The stampede (or is it a gold rush?) abroad by dozens of American universities to plant their flags, brand names and, some of them claim, the seeds of liberal education and democracy was starting to seem thoughtless and chaotic... The stampede (or is it a gold rush?) abroad by dozens of American universities to plant their flags, brand names and, some of them claim, the seeds of liberal education and democracy was starting to seem thoughtless and chaotic by any serious pedagogical or political measure, even before Yale made its own bizarre entry in 2010. But now I wonder if globe-trotting faculty and administrators at other universities are laughing or crying about Yale President Richard Levin's not-quite-public, not-quite online statement of last Sunday. "A Yale lecturer raised questions in a recent commentary about Yale trustee involvement with the Government of Singapore," Levin's statement begins -- it was sent to only some faculty and is posted on a limited-access website -- and I, too, don't know whether to laugh or cry about the rest of his statement, for I am the man, if it be so, as 'tis, whose" recent commentary" (a version of which ran here in TPMCafe) was Levin's pretext. The rest of his message is a tortuous lawyer's account of the trustees' opportune recusements or timely resignations from Singapore's Government Investment Corporation or from the Yale Corporation, to avoid any appearance of personal and pedagogical conflicts of interest. But this is a venture that Yale should never have undertaken even if all its legal i's are dotted and t's crossed. Let other universities learn and beware. My column also ran in openDemocracy.net, a London-based website whose editors and readers know a thing or two about the former crown colony of Singapore and more still about universities -- the London School of Economics and Warwick University -- that have carried their "cosmopolitan" ambitions too far. In 2005 Britain's prestigious it has had an historic, bracing, often beneficent influence on the American republic and civil society and on its counterparts the world over. That's a complex and intriguing story that goes to the heart of America's own contradictions, not to mention liberal democracy's. Suffice it to say here that Yale's past contributions to it are being parodied and sullied by this effort to establish a "Yale-National University of Singapore College" for undergraduates. If the project is irreversible, so is the folly of putting so eggs in the basket of an illegitimate and unsustainable regime. Columbia has opened a terrifyingly poignant, prescient essay in 2001 -- "like ships caught in the same current, some more obviously helpless than others, some steering across or against the wind, but all drifting toward certain destruction on the lee shore." It's one thing for New York University Law School to set up a law center in Singapore, or Duke University a medical school and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology an engineering program there, all of these transmitting delimited skill sets to Singaporean graduate students. It's quite another to try to carry a college's deepest mission, liberal education, to another country's young people by collaborating with a regime as extensively and yet naively as Yale has done. Such an undertaking should mobilize a lot more wisdom, expertise, and "soft power" than anyone on the Yale Corporation or among its selected faculty operatives has exhibited, outside of bromidic declarations about East-West syntheses. And Yale has ignored its own Southeast Asia experts, at least one of whom, James Scott, has been scathingly critical of the project and of how Yale has promoted it. Worse, Singapore is paying all the costs of constructing and staffing the new college, and who pays the piper inevitably calls the tune. The new institution is expected[...]



New Law in WI Keeps People From Voting - Me, for Instance

2012-04-02T21:49:57Z

After not being allowed to vote this morning, I want to report from the Wisconsin front lines of the draconian voting laws that Republicans have been pushing through state legislatures across the country. For all the focus on stringent requirements...

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After not being allowed to vote this morning, I want to report from the Wisconsin front lines of the draconian voting laws that Republicans have been pushing through state legislatures across the country. For all the focus on stringent requirements to show ID in order to vote, these are not the only measures that impose new limits on voting. States are also curtailing provisions for early voting prior to election day.

Which brings me to my own story. Aside from tomorrow's Wisconsin presidential primary, there are important local elections in my main home community of Stevens Point. I say "main home" because the office where I work is 300 miles away in Eastern Iowa. With this commute, I am normally out of town during the work week. The recent trend -- more accurately "until-recent" -- of expanded early voting has helped make sure I can vote despite my nomadic lifestyle. For election days when I'm not home, the clerk's office at city hall has served as my polling place.

Until this morning, that is. Before heading to Iowa, I stopped off at city hall when it opened at 7:30 and found out that it was too late to vote. The staff told me that state law now closed off my chance to vote on the day before the election. Anyone who's followed these voter laws knows that their stated purpose of protecting against voter fraud -- which no one has been able to document -- is just a cover story for trying to skew turnout toward the more affluent. The restrictions on early voting strain the credibility of so-called "ballot integrity" even more than the ID requirements. Someone please tell me exactly how it guards against fraud to stop me from voting on Monday morning, rather than Tuesday morning.



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Not That Complicated

2012-03-30T13:59:55Z

Justice Alito said that if he didn't buy a Volt, the price of Volts would go up. Where did he learn that? Yale Law School? I hope not; I was there with him and I don't remember learning that if... Justice Alito said that if he didn't buy a Volt, the price of Volts would go up. Where did he learn that? Yale Law School? I hope not; I was there with him and I don't remember learning that if demand falls, then prices go up. It's the other way around: if customers won't buy at a certain price, suppliers lower the price. It's not that complicated -- for most goods and services. The same is true of vegetables, which is what Justice Scalia cared about. Better he should eat them than make a metaphor out of them. But insurance is an exception to the normal rule of price being determined by supply and demand. That is because the price of insurance is determined by the risk pool, or in other words the likelihood of needing insurance among the group of purchasers of insurance. Insurers try to avoid selling to those who will actually need the insurance, and cause the insurer to make payments. They wish to deny insurance to those who will likely need it, or they want to charge more money for insurance to those who are likely to need it. (This was why part of Obamacare was to preclude insurers from denying insurance to those who are already sick.)So, Sam, from your old classmate, here's a tip: you meant to say, in the case of an automobile, if you don't buy it, and many other customers join you in not buying it at a certain price, the Volt maker will lower the price or discontinue selling the car at all. But in the case of health care insurance, if those who are young and healthy do not buy the insurance, and those who are old and sick or likely to be sick want to buy it, the insurers will charge the willing buyers more money. So, unlike vegetables or cars, insurance for each of us goes down in price if we all have to buy; it goes up if only the sick buy. This is a problem of collective action. It's not that complicated. If the Supreme Court declares that not everyone has to buy insurance -- if it strikes down the mandate -- then the Court will be imposing what is in effect a tax, or a burden, or a large cost increase, on all those who still want or need to buy insurance. That will be a burden for businesses that provide insurance to employees and to individuals like me who buy their own. Please do not restrict my freedom in this way, Sam. I might also mention that as a matter of constitutional law, this case is not that complicated. The requirements that we all pay taxes, buy automobile insurance, stop at stop signs, go to school, submit to the draft when there is a draft, obey environmental regulations even if global warming hurts others in the future rather than us now -- these and many other duties government can constitutionally impose on us. That is because these are all examples of acting in a way that benefits everyone, when acting purely the way one wants will hurt everyone else. The basic truth is that we live in a society where some of our actions have impact on others. Where the impact is really important (such as is the case with, for example, the destruction of the environment), government, if lawfully elected and responsive to the collective good of the country, should consider whether regulation of some of us can benefit all of us. If the regulation is a requirement to act or a requirement to refrain from action is not a distinction that makes all the difference between unconstitutional or constitutional: that's a hair splitting piece of rhetoric that misses the main point, and the main point is this -- are we talking about something important? Turns out in the case that evoked the specious Volt analogy, we are talking about the difference b[...]



Why Land Day still matters

2012-03-30T06:04:54Z

By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces... By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces gunned down six Palestinians, as they protested Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country's north to build Jewish-only settlements. The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territories, but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.On that dreadful day 36 years ago, in response to Israel's announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for "security and settlement purposes," a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur'an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations. In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded, and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but is ever-present in the country's treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens. The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to "ensure the [country's] long-term Jewish national interests." These included "the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations." Israel has been attempting to "dilute" its Palestinian population -- both Muslims and Christians -- ever since. Thirty-six years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting "population transfers" of Palestinian citizens -- code for forced displacement. Israel's adamant demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a "Jewish state" leaves them in a situation of having to inherently negate their own existence and accept the situation of inferiority in their own land. Recent efforts in the Knesset to link loyalty to citizenship threaten to target organizations and individuals who express dissent and even the revocation of citizenship, a practice unheard of in other countries. Budgets for health and education allocated by the Israeli government to the Arab sector are, per capita, a fraction of those allocated to Jewish locales. Although hundreds of new Jewish towns and settlements have been approved and built since Israel's creation, the state continues to prevent Arab towns and villages from expanding, suffocating their inhabitants and forcing new generations to leave in search[...]



Romney's Foreign Policy Fantasies: "Breathtaking Weakness?"

2012-03-28T22:38:08Z

In a blog post at the web site of Foreign Policy magazine, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney attempts to paint the Obama administration as "soft" on Russia, and on security issues more broadly. But Romney's tirade reveals more about... In a blog post at the web site of Foreign Policy magazine, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney attempts to paint the Obama administration as "soft" on Russia, and on security issues more broadly. But Romney's tirade reveals more about his own worldview than it does about President Obama's approach to foreign policy. Romney claims that the administration "granted" Russia limits on our nuclear arsenal. Apparently Romney is referring to the New START treaty, which limited deployed U.S. and Russian warheads at 1,550 while establishing a rigorous verification and monitoring regime that can serve as a foundation for further reductions in the bloated nuclear arsenals of both sides. The lesson of New START is not that we have gone too far in reducing nuclear arsenals, but that we haven't gone nearly far enough. In that context, President Obama's commitment to engage Russia on nuclear reductions during his second term is both admirable and essential. Of necessity, part of that effort will involve talking about missile defense, which Moscow, rightly or wrongly, views as a potential threat to its nuclear deterrent. Romney and his fellow anti-arms control ideologues seem to think that it's possible to negotiate without even giving lip service to the other side's deepest concerns. This puts them far out of the historical mainstream of the Republican Party, in which presidents ranging from Richard Nixon, to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush negotiated and/or signed nuclear arms control agreements with a Soviet Union that was far more heavily armed than today's Russia. Negotiating with a firm sense of our national interest, as President Obama did with the New START treaty, and will hopefully do again given the opportunity, is a sign of strength. Engaging in tough guy fantasies that will almost certainly make the world a more dangerous place is a sign of moral, political, and strategic weakness. Perhaps even "breathtaking weakness," as Mitt Romney would put it. William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, out in paperback this month from Nation Books. [...]






A Letter To Congressman Waxman

2012-03-26T13:31:14Z

The following post is a letter from Reed Hundt to Congress Henry Waxman titled "Re: In re H.R. 3309. Dear Congressman Waxman: You have asked me to share my views on the Federal Communications Process Reform Act of 2012, H.R.... The following post is a letter from Reed Hundt to Congress Henry Waxman titled "Re: In re H.R. 3309. Dear Congressman Waxman: You have asked me to share my views on the Federal Communications Process Reform Act of 2012, H.R. 3309, in light of my experience as chairman of the FCC from 1993-97, and my observation of the Commission in the years since my tenure. I am gravely concerned by both the general direction and the specific details of this proposed legislation. My recommendation to the House is that it should ask each Commissioner of the current FCC for detailed comments on the language, and also should invite all previous Chairs as well as the current Chair to offer their views. With all due respect to the honorable members of the House, few know better how the FCC can produce salutary results for America than those who served as commissioners. Of course the current and former members of the Commission might well disagree, but even their differences may be illuminating. My further recommendation is that Congress should consider in more depth what problems it is trying to solve by the legislation. Everyone recognizes that the American people have lost much faith in the fairness and efficacy of the legislative process. It is sometimes said that we now have in large part a parliamentary system embedded within a Presidential form of government. There is little doubt that the current interplay among the three branches of federal government has frustrated the members of every branch, at least as much if not more than it has exasperated the American people. By contrast, for the most part, the agencies to which Congress has delegated authority, under continuing oversight, have not fallen prey to the excessive lobbying, burdensome processes, seemingly interminable decision-making, and confusing outcomes that have been decried, for example, by numerous well-regarded members upon their retirements. The exceptions, such as the documented failures of the oversight of the financial industry, have been corrected in recent Congresses, in my judgment, to the degree that has been possible. The proposed law appears likely to afflict upon the FCC the unfortunate obstacles to sensible bipartisan decision-making that plague the Congress. I am going to provide examples, but time permits me to focus on only some as opposed to all possible objections. First, the law appears intended to extend rulemaking processes both within the FCC and in the already overly long period of judicial review. Under this law, the FCC cannot move with dispatch, regardless of the urgency of a matter, from notice to a rule. Although the language of the law is itself less than clear, it appears to boil down to this: the FCC must have a very long, languorous wind-up before it can deliver any pitch. And the pitch must be telegraphed in advance by an overly specific requirement of express language in advance of obtaining comments. Moreover, the pitch has to be slow, as lawyers and lobbyists would be given unnecessarily ample time to write, doubtlessly, unnecessarily extensive briefs and make unnecessary lobbying interventions. In this respect, I am reminded of the company-bought banners that I recall greeted me at Reagan National airport during the implementation of the 1996 Telecommunications Law. These welcoming signs must have seemed to tens of thousands of other airplane passengers the portals to the stygian darkness of all that occurs inside the Bel[...]



How the Supreme Court Has Aided Government-Controlled Speech

2012-03-25T18:58:04Z

This short, troubling PBS NewsHour segment on the Chinese-government's new American TV News network, CCTV, must be causing some sleepless afternoons at the Supreme Court for conservative justices who opened the door to this with the Citizens United ruling. As... This short, troubling PBS NewsHour segment on the Chinese-government's new American TV News network, CCTV, must be causing some sleepless afternoons at the Supreme Court for conservative justices who opened the door to this with the Citizens United ruling. As I showed here at the time, the ruling expanded 100 years of bad corporate jurisprudence that equates corporations with "persons" and money with speech. It asserted that the First Amendment protects "speech," even if the speaker is not a deliberating, flesh-and-blood person, or even someone speaking for a deliberative association of many real persons, but a voice that's hired and controlled by corporate money, whose ends are predetermined before any democratic deliberation can even begin. The Court was quick to emphasize that corporations can include unions and other non-profit advocacy groups. But these have a lot less money, and constitutional freedom of speech means less still if those who do have a lot of money have the megaphones, while the rest of us have laryngitis from straining to be heard. The Court majority didn't care about that, but perhaps it will now that China has pumped so much money into CCTV "news."Citizens United was only about campaign-finance laws, of course, not about anyone's right to set up a television network. As long as our jurisprudence insists on considering business corporations legal "persons" -- and, moreover, exempts news corporations ("the press") from any restrictions whatever -- we must let China do here what Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes do with Fox News, even though both offer propaganda, not real journalism, and even though China is a lot more controlling of what anyone (including Murdoch) broadcasts in China than we are of what China (or Murdoch) broadcasts here. Few of us who oppose the century of corporate "personhood" jurisprudence (which Citizens United reaffirmed like the 13th chime of a broken clock) are calling for any government censorship whatever. But we do wonder why conservatives (and some libertarian leftists) -- who brandish the First Amendment against "censorship" every time anyone tries to put reasonable restrictions on the political "speech" of stock-driven business corporations whose managers can't deliberate as flesh-and-blood citizens do -- are so accepting of the censorship of a Chinese Communist government that sets up a corporation to employ American reporters to give us what CCTV considers "news" in idiomatic, folksy American English. Some of us even wonder why any business corporation, Australian or even American, is allowed do the same. How different, after all, is CCTV's news from the American conglomerate news we get now? Some veterans of American conglomerate networks who now work for China TV told PBS they don't see much difference. And, really, why would they? Asian state capitalism and American state capitalism are growing more alike every day. If even great American universities are being stampeded into providing "liberal education" to authoritarian, state-capitalist Asian nations on pretty much those regimes' terms, shouldn't we all be equally comfortable when China, which censors its press (see the PBS story about CCTV's interviews), reports our "news"? We shouldn't be comfortable at all. And we needn't accept it if we want to protect real journalism and real liberal education -- which are so vital to a republic and a[...]



Will Yale's Singapore Venture Advance Liberal Education or Corrupt It?

2012-03-28T17:56:09Z

Some societies in Asia may be receptive to a seed of liberal education being sown by universities such as Yale. Some might even nourish liberal education's understandings of ordered liberty and democratic deliberation better than we're doing in the United... Some societies in Asia may be receptive to a seed of liberal education being sown by universities such as Yale. Some might even nourish liberal education's understandings of ordered liberty and democratic deliberation better than we're doing in the United States. But that's precisely the problem being dodged by those who are planting campuses abroad: Americans who teach liberal education here in the U.S. need to keep it independent of well-funded conservative efforts on many campuses to conscript the classic texts into the service of "national security" agendas, and we need to keep it independent also of the global capitalization of everything, which threatens to asphyxiate the liberal education that university leaders claim they want to promote. That's my argument in the following essay, which went up on HuffingtonPost March 16 and has been racing around on campuses and through Asian Studies groups, not to mention in Singapore itself. The controversy may well become a "news" story in the next couple of weeks, but, to understand the current events, we need to understand the undercurrent events that I suggest are driving them: You could have heard a pin drop among the 150 professors -- three times more than usual -- in attendance at a closed-door, March 1 meeting of the Yale College Faculty as one of them told president Richard Levin something he didn't want to hear. The message was that his administration shouldn't have collaborated with an authoritarian, corporate city-state to establish a new college -- "Yale-National University of Singapore" -- without most of the Yale faculty's knowing of it until the basic commitments had already been signed and sealed. "You are this university's highest executive officer, and we're grateful for what you and the Yale Corporation do," the professor said. "But in political philosophy there's a living, unwritten constitution: Yale is really what we do --our research, teaching, and conferences. Without that, there is no Yale to take abroad or anywhere else. The faculty are the collegium" - a company of scholars that, to do its work well, has to stand somewhat apart from both markets and states. Liberal education probably couldn't survive without markets and states, but Levin was being reminded, in effect, that in a liberal capitalist republic like ours, markets and states can't survive without liberal education because they have to rely on citizens' upholding certain public virtues and beliefs that, as you may have noticed lately, neither markets nor the state do much to nourish or defend. A liberal state, after all, isn't supposed to judge between one way of life and another, which makes it hard to distinguish bold entrepreneurs from sleazy opportunists. And markets certainly can't draw that distinction, because their genius lies precisely in approaching consumers and investors only as narrowly self-interested actors. That leaves only good journalists and good colleges to nourish our public prospects. Which is why, even though the Yale Corporation -- a small, self-perpetuating governing body, with only a few members elected by alumni -- can do whatever it wants, the professor was right about the "living" part of a university's constitution. In 2006, for example, Harvard's governing corporation, which is like Yale's, understood that its faculty's loss of confidence in President Lawren[...]