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December 2004 (Volume 56, Number 7)

December 2004 (Volume 56, Number 7)

Notes from the Editors

New Political Science, a journal associated with the Caucus for a New Political Science, has devoted its entire September 2004 number to “The Politics of Empire, Terror and Hegemony.” The quality of the contributions to this special issue, some of them by MR and MR Press authors, including David Gibbs, Sheila Collins, Edward Greer, and William Robinson, is remarkable. In particular, Greer’s essay on the use of torture by the United States in the “Global War on Terror” uncovers facts that no one can afford to ignore. The deep impression that this essay and the reporting on U.S. acts of torture by Mike Tanner, writing for the New York Review of Books (October 7, 2004), have had on our own thinking is evident in this month’s Review of the Month… | more |

Empire of Barbarism

“A new age of barbarism is upon us.” These were the opening words of an editorial in the September 20, 2004, issue of Business Week clearly designed to stoke the flames of anti-terrorist hysteria. Pointing to the murder of schoolchildren in Russia, women and children killed on buses in Israel, the beheading of American, Turkish, and Nepalese workers in Iraq, and the killing of hundreds on a Spanish commuter train and hundreds more in Bali, Business Week declared: “America, Europe, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, and governments everywhere are under attack by Islamic extremists. These terrorists have but one demand—the destruction of modern secular society.” Western civilization was portrayed as standing in opposition to the barbarians, who desire to destroy what is assumed to be the pinnacle of social evolution.… | more |

The New Israel

With the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin on November 4, 1995, a long interval of relative openness, liberalization, and attempts at peace and normal relations with the Arab world came to an end. By assassinating Rabin the Israeli right not only seized political power—including inside the Labor Party—but also drove the last nail in the coffin of a certain kind of Israel. That Israel gave way to a new kind of country, with its own particular values and, in the end, a new constitutional framework and set of institutions. How was the transformation to this new Israel accomplished? … | more |

Capital Punishment Update

Following a short hiatus in the 1970s, capital punishment has regained its position as the most reactionary social policy in America. In the Supreme Court case of Furman v. Georgia, the Court ruled that the death penalty, as it had been practiced prior to 1972, was unconstitutional and effectively placed a legal moratorium on executions in the United States. Four years later, that same Court accepted minor statutory reforms and reinstituted the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia. Placing these landmark court decisions in historical perspective and reviewing subsequent developments reveal the political dimensions of capital punishment in the United States during the last fifty years… | more |

War Moon

Janet E. Aalfs , poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts (2003–2005), is the author of Reach (Perugia Press, 1999) and Red(self-published, 2001). She won first prize in the 2004 Boston Herald poetry contest judged by Alice Quinn of the New Yorker.… | more |

Havoc, Inc.: Running Amok with Uncle Sam

Larry Everest, Oil, Power and Empire: Iraq and The U.S. Global Agenda (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004), 391 pages, paperback $19.95.

The Second World War is seen as the worst disaster in history; what is barely understood is that after the war the United States was the only nation with significant economic and military power and that, tragically, the stage had been set for an immeasurably worse chain of disasters—of which the Iraqi war is neither the last nor the worst, unless “We the People” make this our country.… | more |

Black Radical Enigma

Amiri Baraka, The Essence of Reparations (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 44 pages, paper $15.00.
Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America and Other Poems (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 57 pages, paper $15.00.
Jerry Gafio Watts, Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual (New York: New York University, 2001), 604 pages, cloth $50.00.
Harry T. Elam, Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2001), 208 pages, cloth $55.00, paper $20.95.
Komozi Woodard, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1999), 352 pages, $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

At seventy years of age, Amiri Baraka is no stranger to controversy. From his pioneering stage plays to his legendary journalistic assaults on mainstream black politicians and former allies alike, Baraka has often inhabited the space between trenchant critique, radical honesty, and venomous rhetoric. His 2002 appointment as poet laureate of New Jersey and the subsequent demands for his resignation by everyone from then-Governor James McGreevy to Elie Wiesel again placed Baraka in the limelight. This latest firestorm stemmed from his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which reminds us of America’s history of domestic anti-black terrorism but also alludes to the cyberspace conspiracy theory alleging Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon possessed prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks and forewarned Jewish employees at the World Trade Center… | more |

Washed Up on Long Island: Urban Renewal at the Beach

Lawrence Kaplan and Carol P. Kaplan, Between Ocean and City: The Transformation of Rockaway, New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 237 pages, paper $37.50.

The postwar fate of Rockaway, Queens, may well have been sealed when it was swept into the great consolidation of towns and boroughs that became New York City in 1898. An eleven-mile-long pencil-thin peninsula, Rockaway faces Jamaica Bay along one flank and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Blessed by its natural resources and fairly isolated from the stresses of city life, it enjoyed a very long run as “New York City’s favorite beach resort” with day-trippers pouring into Jacob Riis Park by the tens of thousands. But by the end of the 1940s, its glory days were fading, and it was on the way to becoming an exclusively year-round community… | more |

Scarcity of What and for Whom?

Michael Perelman, The Perverse Economy: The Impact of Markets on People and the Environment (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 224 pages, hardcover $55.00.

There is no shortage of opinion within the circles of policy and punditry that the free market is, or ought to become, the new Atlas. The dominant discourse holds that the weight of the world, and its scourges from poverty to pollution, can only be borne and transcended through utter reliance on the market. Michael Perelman’s latest book confronts this position head on, arguing that far from providing a basis for sustainability and health, markets provide and respond to incentives which impoverish, dehumanize, mutilate, and kill workers, and which are leading us further into ecological ruin. Perelman scrutinizes a number of pillars of conventional economic theory, assessing them under the light of their implications for people and the environment, and emerges with an argument that economic theory justifies an unjustifiable system. This requires two separate points. First, the market produces disastrous results for workers and for nature. Second, economics as a profession has consistently functioned to obscure and apologize for those results… | more |

Notes from the Editors, November 2004

» Notes from the Editors

What was the principal motive for the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Few informed observers now believe that it was to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Months before the war in December 2002 we wrote in these pages: “Iraq today probably does not possess functional chemical and biological war capabilities since these were effectively destroyed during the UN inspection process in 1991–1998.” In early October 2004 Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s top weapons inspector, officially confirmed in a 918-page report delivered to two Congressional committees that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion. All such “capabilities,” his report indicated, had been destroyed or had simply “decayed” as a result of the 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent UN weapons inspection process. Of course even if it had been shown that Iraq had such weapons prior to the war this would not have justified the U.S. invasion, since numerous countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have weapons of mass destruction with the United States as the world leader in the possession (and use) of such weapons.… | more |

Ecology, Capitalism, and the Socialization of Nature: An Interview with John Bellamy Foster

DENNIS SORON: Many environmentalists came away from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 with a great deal of optimism, believing that the cause of global environmental reform had finally been seriously placed on the political agenda. Today, with environmental conditions continuing to worsen and governments refusing to take effective action, it seems that little of this optimism remains. Why did the hopes spawned at Rio turn out to be so misplaced?… | more |

U.S. Imperialism, Europe, and the Middle East

The analysis proposed here regarding the role of Europe and the Middle East in the global imperialist strategy of the United States is set in a general historical vision of capitalist expansion that I have developed elsewhere. In this view capitalism has always been, since its inception, by nature, a polarizing system, that is, imperialist. This polarization-the concurrent construction of dominant centers and dominated peripheries, and their reproduction deepening in each stage-is inherent in the process of accumulation of capital operating on a global scale… | more |

After the Referendum: Venezuela Faces New Challenges

With President Hugo Chávez’s victory in the August 15 referendum, the Venezuelan opposition suffered the third great defeat in its struggle to end his government. The unprecedented recall referendum ratified Chávez’s presidency by a margin of two million votes and was declared valid unanimously by the hundreds of international observers who scrutinized it… | more |

The Greening of Venezuela

With all the hullabaloo about Chávez’s alleged authoritarianism, opposition strikes and demonstrations, and a possible recall referendum, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing constructive is being done in Venezuela and that the nation’s energies are entirely absorbed by political mud-slinging. Indeed, that’s just what the corporate media would like you to think… | more |