You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 20, 2008.
So why aren’t we hearing this term despite soaring food and energy prices combined with the highest unemployment we’ve seen in years? Check out my Googling hits. Most of them are foreign news sources, and I don’t even recognize the American sources which means they’re probably too small to have gotten the memo. Call me paranoid, but I suspect it’s because in it’s desperate need to appease right wingers accusing them of liberal bias, they don’t want to report on the economy in such as way that it might evoke associations with Jimmy Carter’s economy. Stagflation would have to be explained, and that would be the natural illustration.
It might also be a product of the perennial obsession with the media to avoid reporting in such a way as to reduce confidence in the economy. But it’s becoming pretty embarrassing as their experts fall over themselves to spin numbers in such a way as to avoid bad news. They’re having a hard enough time getting the word “recession” out of their mouths. “Stagflation” would send them over the top.
Redwood ACLU Expresses Concern Over Planned
Police Tactics At Redwood Park “4/20 Protest”
At the regular monthly meeting of the Redwood Chapter, ACLU Board of Directors on Tuesday, local civil rights leaders expressed concern over proposed police tactics to be used against nonviolent demonstrators at the annual “4/20 protest” at Redwood Park in Arcata this Sunday.
In particular, Board members were alarmed by media reports quoting Arcata Police Department captain Tom Chapman, who allegedly is planning vehicle barricades around Redwood Park to block access to the public on April 20, even though no permits have been filed to require such an action.
“No one is contesting the reasonable enforcement of parking restrictions, much less preventing drivers from operating vehicles while they’re under the influence,” said Redwood ACLU chair Christina Allbright. “But the planned presence of barricades, command posts and a massive influx of out-of-town law enforcement officers begs the question of what is an appropriate level of response to an essentially nonviolent demonstration.”
This latest escalation of police tactics comes on the heels of the recent filing of the Arcata Police Review Act of 2008 by Redwood ACLU vice chair and Arcata attorney Greg Allen, which would establish an independent civilian-run police review commission for the APD. The official Title and Summary is due back from Arcata’s City Attorney this week, to be followed by signature-gathering efforts aimed at putting the measure on the ballot for Arcata voters in November.
“These recent statements constitute a pre-emptive declaration of war by the APD against peaceful protesters who want to see changes in how our society treats the use of cannabis,” Allen said. “Especially considering the City’s plans to increase sales taxes, how is the cost of this over-reaction justified in terms of benefit to public safety?”
In addition to asking for the presence of Independent Observers at the protest, the Redwood ACLU also voted unanimously to direct one of its Boardmembers, local attorney Peter Martin, to submit a Public Records Act request to the City of Arcata to discover how much the law enforcement actions associated with the “4/20 protest” would cost, including all overtime paid out to APD personnel and any outside police agencies. Boardmembers also wanted to know why restroom facility access was “cordoned off,” as stated in recent media reports.
“This could be a case of entrapment, when you deny access to restroom facilities, and then threaten people with arrest when nature calls,” said Redwood ACLU board member Minerva Williams.
For more information, call the new ACLU Hotline at 707-442-4419.
A friend of mine (and a fellow local blogger) spent some time in the Bayshore Mall recently. He hadn’t spent much time there before, but he had some tasks to accomplish. He says, “it brought out all of the uncomfortable elitism in me,” and went on to say that what we find in the malls now are like cheap carbon copies of a past time of quality (the statement evoked in me the image from Brazil where brightly colored gruel is served in restaurants with a picture of the food it’s supposed to represent). As manufacturing continues to die its slow death in this country, China has picked up on the worst of market system – the marketing of cheap crap where quantity has completely eclipsed quality, with the effect that quality is no longer affordable.
The result in China has been the ascendancy of something resembling a “middle class” where the revolution of decades past has not been defeated, but rather appropriated by capitalism in its most raw form. Companies are fleeing not just the US, but even ironically places like Taiwan because the “Peoples Republic” offers freedom from independent unions, child labor laws, worker safety laws, and environmental regulations. It has increased economic standards of living profoundly, at the expense of much of the rest of the world and the percentage of workers victimized on a scale unmatched by Upton Sinclair’s worst nightmare. The dissent is limited because this new market system flourishes under a despotic regime which has shown that it will crack down brutally to guarantee its offerings.
But with all oppression comes resistance. It’s comparable to the laws of physics about actions and reactions. And with an increase in affluence comes the time to think and reflect on values and inconsistencies between those values and the underlying reality. Intellectuals.
Somebody e-mailed this link to me. It’s a New York Times article of months ago about one such intellectual. Here are some portions to wet your appetite. It’s a long article, but the reading time will be well spent. It’s about a member of a group of people uniquely positioned to make a profound global difference, and in some ways may represent the best shot at retaining any sort of vitality of the inevitable consolidation of global economy and culture.
Co-editor of China’s leading intellectual journal, Dushu (Reading), and the author of a four-volume history of Chinese thought, Wang, still in his mid-40’s, has emerged as a central figure among a group of writers and academics known collectively as the New Left. New Left intellectuals advocate a “Chinese alternative” to the neoliberal market economy, one that will guarantee the welfare of the country’s 800 million peasants left behind by recent reforms. And unlike much of China’s dissident class, which grew out of the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and consists largely of human rights and pro-democracy activists, Wang and the New Left view the Communist leadership as a likely force for change. Recent events — the purge of party leaders on anticorruption charges late last month and continuing efforts to curb market excesses — suggest that this view is neither utopian nor paradoxical. Though New Leftists have never directed government policy, their concerns are increasingly amplified by the central leadership.
In the last few years, Wang has reflected eloquently and often on what outsiders see as the central paradox of contemporary China: an authoritarian state fostering a free-market economy while espousing socialism. On this first afternoon, he barely paused for small talk before embarking on an analysis of the country’s problems. He described how the Communist Party, though officially dedicated to egalitarianism, had opened its membership to rich businessmen. Many of its local officials, he said, used their arbitrary power to become successful entrepreneurs at the expense of the rural populations they were meant to serve and joined up with real estate speculators to seize collectively owned land from peasants. (According to Chinese officials, 60 percent of land acquisitions are illegal.) The result has been an alliance of elite political and commercial interests, Wang said, that recalls similar alliances in the United States and many East Asian countries.
As he spoke about how market reforms have widened the gap between rich and poor, between rural and urban areas, smartly dressed students browsed through a highbrow collection (Leo Strauss, Jürgen Habermas), checked their e-mail and sipped their mochas. At the privately owned Thinker’s Cafe and the adjoining All Sages bookshop, Wang seemed to be famous. Students greeted him reverentially; the staff was extra attentive. Yet Wang still belongs to a minority. Recoiling from the excesses of Maoism and the failures of the old planned economy, most Chinese intellectuals, even those with no connection to the state, see the market economy as indispensable to China’s modernization and revival. Zhu Xueqin, a history professor at Shanghai University who is one of China’s best-known liberal intellectuals, told me that he wants more, not fewer, market reforms. For him, China’s present instability is caused not by economic forces but by a politically repressive regime that has prevented the emergence of a representative democracy and a constitutional government.
Wang readily acknowledges that China’s efforts at economic reform have not been without great benefits. He applauds the first phase, which lasted from 1978 to 1985, for improving agricultural output and the rural standard of living. It is the central government’s more recent obsession with creating wealth in urban areas — and its decision to hand over political authority to local party bosses, who often explicitly disregard central government directives — that has led, he said, to deep inequalities within China. The embrace of a neoliberal market economy has meant the dismantling of welfare systems, a widening income gap between rich and poor and deepening environmental crises not only in China but in the United States and other developed countries. For Wang, it is the task of intellectuals to remind the state of its old, unfulfilled obligations to peasants and workers.
Despite his invocation of socialist principles, Wang was quick to tell me that he dislikes the New Left label, even though he has used it himself. “Intellectuals reacted against ‘leftism’ in the 80’s, blaming it for all of China’s problems,” he said, “and right-wing radicals use the words ‘New Left’ to discredit us, make us look like remnants from the Maoist days.” Wang also doesn’t care to be identified with the radical intellectuals of the 60’s in America and Europe, to whom the term New Left was originally applied. Many of them, he said, had passion and slogans but very little practical politics, and not surprisingly, more than a few ended up with the neoconservatives, supporting “fantasy projects” like democracy in Iraq.
Wang prefers the term “critical intellectual” for himself and like-minded colleagues, some of whom are also part of China’s nascent activist movement in the countryside, working to alleviate rural poverty and environmental damage. Though broadly left wing, Dushu publishes writing from across the ideological spectrum. Wang’s own work draws on a broad range of Western thinkers, from the French historian Fernand Braudel to the globalization theorist Immanuel Wallerstein. “Intellectual quality is important to me,” Wang said. “I don’t want to run just any left-wing garbage.” The magazine has carried abstract debates on postcolonial theory as well as, he claims, some of the most interesting analyses in China of how the government’s urban-oriented reforms have damaged rural society. There are restrictions on what Dushu can publish, of course, and Wang is frank about them. As with all intellectual journals in mainland China, authors and editors at Dushu have to exercise a degree of self-censorship. Articles cannot directly criticize the leadership or deviate much from the official line on subjects that the Chinese government considers most sensitive — Taiwan or restive Muslim and Buddhist minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Lots more through the link. The phrase “Chinese New Left” has a Wikipedia entry as well.
Photo of Tiananmen Square protest comes from this article, marginally on topic.
Apparently the students who went to Sacramento to discuss the educational budget cuts were unable to meet with anybody. They had a meeting set up with somebody, but security slowed them down and they missed their window. Everybody was “too busy” after that.
Listen to the South Fork Student News for details.
I notice that the title of the Redwood Times article was changed on the online version. Thank the Redwood Times for that.