Friday, September 30, 2011

Rewarding ineptitude of criminal proportions

The Master of Pembroke College (U Cambridge), my temporary home, is Sir Richard Dearlove, head of SIS (commonly known as MI6) during the invasion of Iraq.  It never ceases to amaze me how these people—either so grossly incompetent that they shouldn’t be allowed to shovel dog you-know-what, or else so criminal that they should be behind bars—get rewarded with plum (albeit fairly meaningless) posts. Institutionalised corruption at its finest.

Dearlove maintained total silence during the Blair Government’s successful bid to hoodwink the public and a supine Parliament into a disastrous and bloody war through outright lies and the mangling and stretching of intelligence beyond what any responsible person would recognise as justifiable.  He allowed his agency to be either misrepresented (bespeaking negligence) or else accurately represented (bespeaking malice) as delivering its stamp of approval on the Government’s ill-judged, immoral policy. 

Dearlove and his people allowed the Government to fabricate a rationale for war, dismantle the evidence at hand and reassemble it, all out of order, to present a Frankensteinian justification for a massive invasion of Iraq.

He retired after the war began.  Months after the bombs had been dropped, after Iraqi casualties were running well into the tens of thousands, after Iraq’s infrastructure was being dismantled by the coalition, but before those casualties spiralled even higher, and before the coalition forces fully realised what kind of a mess they had created.  He was succeeded, of course, by John Scarlett, another intelligence professional who had colluded with the Blair Government in a catastrophic war and an incredible betrayal of public trust. 

And during subsequent investigations, reviews and inquiries, Dearlove has been quick to declare his dismay at the way the Blair Government handled intelligence.  But of course he let the intelligence services be turned into a highly-politicised arm of that Government.  And he wasn’t willing to share his dismay early enough to save the lives of hundreds of British soldiers, thousands of American ones, or over one-hundred thousand Iraqis.  Only to save his own skin. 

Dearlove’s disingenuity, his incompetence, his spinelessness have all contributed to the immorality of our politics, the imperilling of our people and interests, and the killing of tens and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East.  I hope that his conscience troubles him, because neither the British press, the British Parliament or British Law has seen fit to make him or anyone else accountable for the catastrophe that was our invasion of Iraq.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Remaking California: Review

As some of you will know, I’ve been raving about Mark Paul and Joe Mathews’ California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It.  An excellent supplement to their detailed account of California’s structural problems and solutions-heavy contribution to often-vacuous debates about our state’s future is Remaking California: Reclaiming the Public Good, edited by R Jeffrey Lustig.

Part-way through the volume, which features contributions from the likes of Mark Paul, Dan Walters (Sacramento Bee Capitol Correspondent), and former California Librarian Kevin Starr, I realised one of Remaking California’s prime contributions:  if Paul and Mathews explain to us what it is we might do if we’re seriously interested in the kind of structural reform that would make our state governable, Lustig and his contributors discuss how this might happen.  And the how raises some sobering questions about whether any of this is possible.

California Crackup was a better and more hopeful read.  It was written with one narrative voice, by two scholars who are, to all appearances, in nearly complete agreement with one another (or at least they settled in agreement on their key points for the purposes of their publication).  It ends on a hopeful note with the recommendation of a detailed set of solutions. 

Remaking California, on the other hand, is less cohesive volume.  The contributors don’t always agree with one another (some say we need a major overhaul, others say that piecemeal reform is better, others rejoin that piecemeal reform got us to our sorry state).  Each tends to re-invent the wheel at the beginning of their chapter by outlining the state’s major problems, wasting space that could have been devoted to fleshing out their ideas.  Some chapters are good at explaining the background to their topic (and the book serves as a good primer for aspects of California’s governance), others assume too much knowledge (that on water in the state).

But the premise is strikingly idealistic.  Contributors largely identify the same ills and the same basic solutions:  reform to the electoral system, to our form of governance, to budgeting and taxation—with an aim to injecting them with a badly-needed dose of democracy.  And the how of it, to their way of thinking, is in the form of a Constitutional Convention (our last was in 1879, although there were major reforms to the constitution in 1911 and in the 1930s).  The book emerged at the tail end of a year (2010) in which many hoped that measures to call such a Convention would be on the ballot (barring an initiative to empower voters to call a Convention, two-thirds of our legislators would have to agree to one).  No such measures materialised.

California’s public, which as Barry Keene puts it, “tie the hands of legislative representatives by initiatives, then complain that legislators are acting as if their hands are tied, then punish them by tying their hands tighter” (224), hardly seems up to the task, no one knows how delegates would be chosen, and there are a thousand dark alleys and check-points along the way at which special interests (economic and party-political alike) could drag any proposals that emerge from the scrum a Convention promises to be aside and beat them to death.


The issue of the Convention aside, contributors make a number of worthwhile points. 
Most effectively, Witko, Lustig and Schmidt point out that ours is a state blighted by Minority Rule twice over.  Most obviously, we are governed by a legislative minority.  Less obvious is the danger inherent in the ridiculously low election turnouts.  White Californians make up some 40% of the state’s population and two-thirds of those who cast their votes.  Hispanic and Asian-American voters are seriously under-represented. 

We can’t just blow this off by saying, “Oh, people can choose not to vote, and it’s their own fault if they’re adversely affected by what happens”.  Lustig identifies the “public good”, as central to our Pacific Republic’s politics.  If that public good isn’t guarded, we aren’t doing our job.  If people feel unable to participate meaningfully, disenfranchised by skewed single-member districts elected through plurality systems, as though their concerns aren’t even a part of the political conversation, that is a problem for all of us.

Minority Rule is exacerbated by the economic inequality that is growing so severe as to, combined with the increasingly low rates of participation in democracy (which bespeaks a dangerous alienation), in the view some, transform us from citizens to subjects.

Lustig identifies the deregulation and the privatisation which have been occurring since the1980s (although as Governor, Ronald Reagan presided over very considerable tax increases that were necessary to eliminate state deficits after Proposition 13 destroyed the enormous surplus accumulated by a much younger Jerry Brown) as central to the diminishment of the public good (16).  These trends impair the ability of our state government—the most accountable set of institutions around, which are focussed on our well-being—to perform.  As multiple contributors point out, California doesn’t even have a proper industrial, energy or jobs program.  Indeed—how could we?  Our government has been stripped of its ability to make meaningful change in our state.

Even our political parties are increasingly powerless.  Unable to afford the spiralling costs of fighting elections, they turn to what Dan Walters calls the Third House—lobbyists—and sell their souls accordingly.  Not only will parties be making promises and concessions, and allowing their policies to be shaped by unaccountable, irresponsible monied interests, they also lose control over their own message, given that much advertising, marketing and framing of candidates and their platforms is undertaken by surrogates who operate outside of the semi-accountability imposed on those formally involved in the political arena.

Not only is there a gap in wealth, there is a gap in commitment to sustaining our civic and social system.  In California, the older generation which dominates the actual voting public is essentially violating the social contract, dispensing with the public good, and trashing the public space that they or their parents voted into being during the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

What is striking is how the democratic reforms suggested would be good for people everywhere—those on the political left and right alike stand to be more effectively represented, and to be able to choose representatives who better reflect their political views (and the advent of more parties might even make for less total polarisation).  Multimember districts with representatives elected through Proportional Representation, for example, would benefit those on the right as much if not more than those on the left in the sense that in huge swathes of California, Democratic-dominated districts leave multiple political minorities un-represented in their locality (see pages 176-182 for examples of how representation would be enhanced).

But in other respects, Republicans are grossly overrepresented thanks to supermajority requirements.  True...theirs is a destructive dominance of our state politics, and their power lies in the negative—the ability to say ‘No’—but so is their political program, so it’s a match made in heaven, or possibly somewhere warmer. 


The Epilogue contains short contributions—ranging in length from one paragraph to three pages—from a range of Californians (an attorney, a former State Archivist, authors, teachers and school administrators, academics and an historian). 

Some contributions are thought-provoking.  Ernest Callenbach writes about how public campaign financing could remake our politics.  Rodney Kingsnorth points out that part of our crime problem stems from our state’s method of appointing judges.  Gary Snyder talks about the need to foster a sense of place, potentially rooted in watersheds and bioregions.  And William Vollman suggests a lottery system through which we send high schoolers off to experience the Capitol, to understand the urgency of politics, and how politics have ramifications for our daily lives far beyond the pettiness of campaign commercials and editorials.  There are even suggestions that we should look at a parliamentary system, given the failure of “checks and balances” to provide secure governance.

Kevin Starr’s contribution was one of those which was disappointing in its myopia and mis-reading of the problem.  The noted historian and former State Librarian called for the return of cross-filing, which once allowed any candidate to run in any primary (or indeed, in many of them), and which heavily favoured incumbency and political ‘centrism’ (whatever that is).  Cross-filing, Starr believes, would pull us all towards the centre.

But the problem is not passion and partisanship—as is often suggested—but rather paralysis.  And passion and partisanship do not, as the likes of Kevin Starr, Dan Walters and George Skelton often suggest, induce paralysis—the fault is with a broken system, a faulty structure.  Another way of thinking about it...the problem isn’t the Tea Party (I wish the organised political left could match their mobilisation in passion and numbers), it’s that a small and unrepresentative group (as in California’s legislature) is empowered by an arcane an un-democratic system, and by the backing of minority monied interests, in order that they virtually run our country and state by default.

There is nothing wrong with believing something passionately, arguing for your beliefs fiercely, and standing steadfastly for those beliefs.  Uprooting ideology, which with a basis in material conditions is the impetus behind all passion and meaningful change, is not the answer.  We want a reinvigorated politics, as Paul and Mathews and Lustig argue, not the neutered version that the scions of conventional opinion who are the Capitol Correspondents for the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times call for.


The strangest omission of Remaking California  was the absence of any serious discussion about what we consider to be the Public Good, how we define this, how we defend it, and why it should be at the forefront of any political debate.  I suspect that the absence is due to the contributors all taking it for granted.

But it’s precisely the point that in our contemporary political world, nothing can be taken for granted.  The modern Republican Party, and many of its supporters, would fiercely contest the notion of the public good.  These are the people, after all, who are probably the first in human history to take the question of taxation and revenue, universally conceived as an instrument in the political toolkit—to be used to achieve a set of morally-defined aims—and transform it into an end in itself. 

This is the party that cheers when its candidates talk about executing hundreds of people or letting the uninsured die, boos a gay serviceman, and evinces a noxious and racist worldview where the question of immigration is concerned.  The Republicans and their supporters are busy having a serious debate that will have scary consequences.  But although they might be having it right here amongst us, they are debating a fantasy world, in which the government plots to steal its citizens freedoms by ensuring them healthcare, in which cleaning up water and air and fining the polluters whose run-off costs lives and ruins health is an infringement on personal freedom, in which the middle- and working-classes are threatened by taxes on people raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars, in which a public university system that educates 3.6 million of our citizens, preparing them to participate in and remake our work-force and economy imperils our well-being... 

This bizarre narrative, utterly alien to the experiences of people in our state and country, might be worked out on Planet Zarg, but it will play out here in the United States and in California—the dismantling of the public sphere, and all of the protections for those weakest, poorest and most vulnerable among us, together with the destruction of any meaningful ties that make it possible for people in West Oakland and Walnut Creek, Santa Ana and Irvine, Modesto and Marin, to live an associational life and think of each other as citizens and partners in a common endeavour. 

We desperately need the kind of reform that the contributors to Remaking California discuss, but we need to be prepared to have a simultaneous conversation about the basic principles of democratic, associational and public life. 

I have serious doubts as to whether a Constitutional Convention could be called.  And if it were called, the selection of delegates and the drawing up of a serious agenda pose real hurdles.  And if we cleared those, it would remain to be seen whether delegates could summon the better angels that so elude voters and elected representatives in our current state of mind and hammer out transformative proposals.  And if, by some miracle, we got that far, we would still have the ratification process to overcome...

It seems unlikely...a utopian pipe-dream.  But our politics cannot, after all, sink much lower than they are today, and if they remain at these levels they will do incalculable damage to our society.  So maybe, in spite of its implausibility, it would be the kind of dramatic, participatory (if done right), idealistic endeavour that, with the aid of new technology (over one and one-quarter centuries after the last Convention, after all!), would capture people’s imaginations, bring us back to basic principles, and star the kind of conversation that could save our state.  Maybe even thinking about how California—that Shangri-La on the Pacific, as a Berkeley librarian recently put it to me—could pull off the ultimate experiment in twenty-first century state-building would do us some good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Peak District

Grindsbrook Clough
Cambridge was feeling claustrophobic, so I got on the train last week-end to head up to the Peak District, Britain’s first National Park, which lies along the Hope Valley railway line between Manchester and Sheffield.  English trains, if you’ve never been on one, tend to be deathly quiet, and the passengers on this one were grumpy since most of us had our departure delayed by an hour courtesy of Cross Country.

But the sour demeanours on the train vanished at the sound of a clatter at the end of the car.  “The tea trolley”, grinned an elderly woman (who moments before looked like she would have taken the leg off of anyone who dared disturb her peace), and everyone began fussing and rubbing their hands together in childlike anticipation.  Not a one of them bought anything—the idea of refreshment was apparently quite enough.

The pastoral landscape near Jacob's Ladder embodies a tradition of multi-use parks
At Leicester I boarded a train for Sheffield, and from there took the train to Manchester that runs through the Hope Valley.  It went into a tunnel, and emerged into a much different world, with hills (something sadly nonexistent in Cambridge), fields, fells and fresh air.  I spent the afternoon and evening wandering the ridge across the valley from the hostel outside of Edale. 

Returning from the beautiful walk, I opened the door of the hostel and was literally hit by a wall of noise.  The source?  Sixty-five 7-8-year-olds.  Dinner, needless to say, was a less-than-peaceful affair, until the head teacher stood and bawled out some command like a drill sergeant.  The little noise-making machines formed ranks and ran howling from the room, off to their night hike.  Undoubtedly their teachers were hoping that a few of them would take an untimely tumble off the ridge.  The resulting silence was only momentary.  One of the staff, inexplicably, began singing Christmas carols.
Nonetheless, the Peak District retains the element of solitude associated with nature
The next morning, armed against the inclement weather that never materialised, I set off up the slopes for Kinder Scout itself.

The path wound through increasingly steep moorland, over which ran a crystal clear stream.  The arm of the valley narrowed and pushed upwards until at last it flattened out, on top of the world, dark, open moor stretching away to either side.  This was the site, from my perspective, of one of the most important battles of the twentieth century, fought in 1932 when rebellious ramblers stormed Kinder Scout in the face of stiff resistance from armed gamekeepers.  Their persistence marked a critical moment in the struggle for the Right to Roam, which now permits us little people to access the moors, mountains and meadows across Britain.
...and even feels remote

British National Parks are very different from their North American counterparts, and reflect not only a very different historical and social experience (most land is in private hands and is being utilised for cultivation or stock ranging), but a tradition of multi-use (which has been both negotiated during the second half of the twentieth-century while also pre-dating the enclosure trend during the early modern period).  So you are never as isolated as when in the heart of one of the large National or State Parks of the U.S. (though atop Kinder Scout, no village or human structure in sight, the solitude is real), and there is no functioning concept of wilderness.

Or eerie, as around the Wool Packs on Kinder Scout
I was fortunate in my weather, and in the emptiness of the paths that led across the high peak, past strange rocky outcroppings and around mirror-like tarns.

Suddenly, a few hundred yards ahead, I saw another hiker pinned against a rock by a small bird that was circling him intently.  I descended into a gully, and when I came up, man and bird were gone.  “Curious”, I thought.  Then, suddenly, the bird exploded from the heather and dashed out into the path emitting an awful squawking sound—which could be roughly translated from Grouse-ese as “You shall not pass!”  Running towards me, the bird seemed to grow with each step until it was as large as an ostrich.  This was getting too much like a Monty Python skit for my liking, so I took to my heels.   But because my knee was acting up, I couldn’t run, and instead performed some unsightly manoeuvre whereby I hurled myself forward on my right leg while swinging my left leg furiously to avoid catching it on anything that would impede my humiliating flight.  I lurched along for 40 yards and looked back to see that the Red Grouse had given up the chase.  Thankfully no one had been around to see my rout.

This wasn’t my only brush with the dangerous fauna of the British countryside.  On my way up to Hollins Cross I found my way barred by a massive bull, which eyed me contemptuously.  I crept as unobtrusively as I could manage around him, and found myself ankle deep in mud.  As though sensing that I was at a disadvantage, the brute lunged towards me, and I threw myself to higher ground, which involved landing in the remains of his dinner from the night before, and went on my undignified way.  And then there was the horse in Winnats Pass that tried to eat my arm...
This, on OS Map OL 1...

...turns into this, the Vale of Edale...
Of course, it would be almost impossible to traverse these areas without the aid of the beautiful Ordnance Survey Maps (the Explorer Map, at 1:25 000 scale, is perfect for the Peak District, the northern half of which can be found on the OL 1).  As Rachel Hewitt points out in her recent book on the Ordnance Survey (Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, Granta Books 2010), the series was first developed to allow the British military to find its way through the Scottish Highlands in the wake of the early-eighteenth century Jacobite Risings. 
...and this...
...into this, Kinder Scout
I’m always eager (yes, I’m a nerd) to plot a potential hike on an OS map and then see what the landscape, illustrated by contours, symbols and lines on the map, looks like as it is transformed by the breath of the wind, the hint of rain, the smells of plants and animals and the almost inevitably beautiful vistas. However much character the maps embody (and Hewitt's account of their creation gives you real appreciation for the labours that went into their making, over a period of decades and even centuries), they are only fully fleshed out when rested against a cairn atop a hill, when you're able to see the countryside they represent spread out before you.


As with many landscapes in Britain’s countryside, that of the Peak District is one that has been profoundly shaped by human hands and which, nonetheless, retains areas (like those on Kinder Scout, or on the edges of the Vale of Edale) which feel deeply quiet, rural and peaceful.  

More peaceful, that is, than my last night in the hostel, which was periodically interrupted as the guy in the bunk above mine lurched upright and shouted, "I told you!"  "I've got it!" and various other phrases which were rather less germane outside of his dreams than within them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Empires and the Right (though not together)

I just finished reading two very different books this evening, each of which deserves a little blurb.  I realise, given their disparity, that what I’m supposed to do is find some very clever basis for a comparison, and make that the foundation for some witty observation about how the world works, but instead I’ll just review them separately.


John Darwin (no, not the one in the canoe) appears to be at that career-stage where writing the “Big Book” is a must.  His last one, After Tamerlane: the Global History of Empire, certainly has a large target.  It would be hard to find a bigger one, but he has a try in The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System, 1830-1970

This is clearly Darwin’s bid for a place in the sun, or more accurately a place in the pantheon of historians of the British Empire.  But oops, that’s Darwin’s point...this thing is too complex, too variegated, too much of an administrative mess for the term ‘empire’ to do it proper justice (then why put ‘Empire’ in the title?, asks the smart-aleck  Because it sells).  It’s the novelty of a British ‘world system’ that Darwin is banking on catapulting him up to rest amongst the likes of Robinson and Gallagher, Cain and Hopkins.

But like Christopher Bayly’s (that’s Sir Christopher, to us mere mortals) recent The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780-1914, Darwin’s weighty tome doesn’t quite take him to the stars (though if he stood on it, he’d get pretty close).  Impressive in its detail, sweep, archive and grasp of the finer points of the economics of British imperialism, the book feels a little vague, a little fuzzy, and a little holey in other respects.

For one thing, I’m still not quite sure why 1830 is the best moment to begin the story of this world system.  Because assuming that many of the ideas, economies, geographies and players exist and interact prior to the early nineteenth century, and that (as Darwin acknowledges) they were talking about this British system, an account of origins might have been helpful.  But it also might have disrupted Darwin’s almost-too-neat schema.

His basic argument is that there were four parts to this system (which neatly encompasses formal and informal empires, the mass of protectorates, crown colonies, mandates and assorted territories): Britain proper, the Indian subcontinent, a ‘commercial republic’ (including the City of London, the merchant marine and other commercial enterprise), and the Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland and Ireland).  So long as each of these—through ties of sentiment, commerce and various forms of persuasion—remained in place, the British World System held.  But as India ground inexorably towards Independence, as the Dominions gravitated towards the United States or apartheid, and as Britain’s economic supremacy was eroded by war efforts, sterling crises and indebtedness, the system came crashing down—or slipped apart at least.

And that’s fine, though not terribly novel.  The bird’s-eye-view focussed a little much on high-politics and diplomatic machinations (making it seem too intently focussed on Britain itself at times, though at others I wondered where the suffragettes, trades unions and veterans had got to—there’s precious little on cultural history here), and not enough on ideologies (like liberalism) or local developments (though a book that did all of that could be turned over to NASA as a cheap route to the moon. 

My biggest beef is that the book is reasonably (if uncontroversially) good on the “why”, but not so good on the “how”.  Maybe it’s just an expectation raised by the use of the word “system”, but I thought that there was too little said about the character of the system, its politics, how it functioned at a bureaucratic level.  And if there’s something systematic about how this British World worked, that calls for closer attention to how it played out on the ground in the Empire—a closer study of British governance in Uganda (networking with missionaries, the Kabaka, traders, local agriculturalists), or on trading practises in the Shanghai concession (the manoeuvrings between companies, home government, the Chinese government in Beijing, European rivals), for example, would yield more insight into the ‘system’ than a book which up reading like a fairly conventional (and also comprehensive) history of Empire book-ended by some interesting thoughts.

John Darwin.  The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.


Laura Kalman’s Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980 is less comforting, given that it’s about the emergence rather than the demise of one of history’s Bad Things.  It is an account of U.S. politics which, though it occasionally reads like a Bob Woodward book, positions the second half of the 1970s as a critical period in its own right. 

This book makes for fascinating reading for any number of reasons.  Occasionally, it reads like a “Nothing New Under the Sun” tract, and having finished it, it boggles my mind that anyone who lived through this period could complain that partisanship, paralysis and political gridlock are a twenty-first century novelty (unless the Reagan Years were as amnesia-inducing to the public as they were to him).  All the hyperbolic language of the conservative wing of the Republican Party was honed if not developed during that decade—one part Nixonian ruthlessness, one part social-conservative hatred for those who they considered degenerate leftists.

Those leftists are, curiously, somewhat absent.  Kalman says at the outset that her focus is on Washington, D.C., but she does much more justice to the various right-wing lobbies than to any of those on the political left—in part, perhaps, because her theme is the rise of that Right.  Nevertheless, it leads her into some generalisations, suggesting, for instance, that Nixon inspired the environmentalism of the 1970s, ignoring the enormous grassroots development and the coherence of the environmental lobby from the ‘60s onwards. 

But if there are strong continuities, and if many of the characters or at least their types look familiar, Kalman’s central contention is that this half-decade marks the making of our contemporary politics—the New Politics of the title.  These years saw the drifting and manoeuvring of blocks, ideologies and interests into the groupings that we know today. 

For someone with a fairly feeble grasp of U.S. history and politics, other aspects of the book are revealing.  Jimmy Carter comes off as being every bit as cynical and manipulative as the rest of them, a far cry from the holy-man-of-the-left status that he carries with him today.  I come away from this read seeing his major contribution as the recognition of the problem posed by our energy consumption, and the attempt (however mangled, poll-driven and ultimately unsuccessful) to address the sustainability of our way of life—an ‘era of limits’ theme Kalman says he stole from one Jerry Brown after the 38-year-old Governor of California gave him a brief run for his money in western primaries.

One of the saddest legacies of these years, therefore, must be the conscious, deliberate decision on the part of the Republican Party to take the socially irresponsible course—when people had been told that their consumption habits were growing untenable, were damaging the collective good, and would have serious consequences for the environment and for society—of undercutting that message and promising people that they could have it all, encouraging greed, and taking the anti-science route still bemoaned today by some (Jon Huntsman, for example).

She also suggests, mischievously, that voters’ initial assessment of Ronald Reagan in the ‘70s—as a somewhat stupid man in an empty suit—might have been a rare instance of intuition on their part.

He was little more, Kalman intimates while puzzling over today’s Republican Party’s obsession with the man who disappointed them so badly, than a political scarecrow, stuffed with all the debris the crazies in the New Republican Party dragged down from their attic; an empty vessel filled up with the hopes of the neo-conservatives, the dreams of the anti-gay, anti-working woman, anti-abortion, anti-environment social conservatives, and the aspirations of those who thought they heard the smack of a firm fist in his ripostes at the hapless Carter.

This feeds into Kalman’s final point (and, one feels, a presentist one): the period of 1974-1980 was marked by a serious void in leadership into which stepped an un-principled right-winger.  Possessing zero substance, no novel ideas of his own, he nonetheless taught the Republican Party a lesson that they’ve learned well and taken very much to heart: “In politics, appearances matter more than reality.  Moreover, legends can be useful” (366).  1980 marked the official launch of the New Republican Party, and their permanent divergence from reality, empiricism and the logic of governance.

And the Right had its revenge on the Great Leader who disappointed it, by turning him into one of the world’s more ill-used corpses, dragged, grinning that vacant grin, up from the dead every four years to rally the Real Americans to The Cause.

Laura Kalman.  Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980.  New York: W W Norton & Company, 2010.

Rick Perry, the death penalty and Palestine

The saving grace of Rick Perry’s run for the presidency, if indeed we must fine one, might be that his willingness to make use of the death penalty even in cases where a substantial body of evidence points towards innocence, and the willingness of right-wing audiences to applaud state-sanctioned killings might be bringing back the death penalty debate. 

It will be too late for Troy Davis who will be murdered by the State of Georgia—yes, I use that word deliberately, but what else can you call it when a justice system kills a man while ignoring evidence?—this evening, barring a Supreme Court intervention.  I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances, but surely even its proponents must recognise the logical and juridical frailty of a system which can press on with an execution in the face of massive evidence suggesting that Davis was wrongly accused. 

Some years back I joined Berkeley School District teachers and other CAFL people in reading and scoring students’ district writing assessments (boy, do I remember writing those like it was yesterday!).  The topic was the death penalty. 

Of those I read, only about 25% were “for” the death penalty at the beginning of their essay, and about half of them had talked themselves out of it by the time they were through.  You could tell which students were just reciting talking points they’d read or heard somewhere (sometimes in a somewhat garbled fashion—“we shouldn’t have the death penalty because it’s killing all of our black people”), and which came from the heart: “what if we’re wrong, and they’re innocent?”, “how can it ever be right to kill another person?”, “we shouldn’t play God”, “how is killing someone going to bring back the people they killed?”, and “is killing someone really justice?”.

These aren’t the kids of the Cal professors or the Green-activists who populate Berkeley in the imaginations of many Americans.  They are kids whose dads, moms and older siblings have often seen the rougher side of justice and the wrong side of the law.  They are kids who already know what it’s like to be profiled, harassed and written off, who’ve slept in stairwells, watched friends and cousins get killed, sometimes because they did something wrong, sometimes for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and always because they were born in the wrong place in the wrong time in the wrong society—one which promotes the casualisation of labour, the cutting off of educational opportunities, and an economic structure which widens rather than bridges wealth disparity.  These are kids who by the time they’re 10 or 12 aren’t really kids any more, because the innocence that is supposed to characterise childhood has been bludgeoned to death by unemployment numbers that were high and opportunities that were scarce long before our current economic crisis hit the more affluent inhabitants of “Main Street”.

But they’re also kids who’ve kept coming to school, and who use their experiences to contextualise the political issues in front of them, from whom we can learn more than we’d care to admit. 


But if Rick Perry has unwittingly brought the death penalty centre-stage (even if only momentarily), we should be less thankful to him for his ridiculous (if typical for his party) contributions to the debate about long-overdue Palestinian statehood.

“The Obama policy of moral equivalency”, Perry argued yesterday, “which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a dangerous insult.  There is no middle ground between our allies who seek their destruction”.  He went on: “America should not be ambivalent between the terrorist tactics of Hamas and the security tactics of the legitimate and free state of Israel.  By proposing ‘indirect’ talks through the U.S. rather than between Palestinian leaders and Israel, this administration encouraged Palestinians to shun direct talks”.

Standard Republican fare.  The same people who tell us to listen to our generals—who describe to us the necessity of negotiating with the Taliban (people we’ve labelled “terrorists”)—when it is convenient, reject the same rational strategy here.  Moreover, Perry simply doesn’t make sense: if there’s no middle ground, why should we be promoting direct talks at all?  If it’s so black and white and there’s no moral equivalency, why talk?  This inconsistency suggests that he’s just reading AIPAC talking points.

More troubling still is the ignorance behind the attack on “moral equivalency” and the “terrorist tactics” versus “security tactics”.  Those “legitimate” “security attacks” killed nine people on an aid convoy last summer, one of whom was a U.S. citizen.  The same tactics have Gaza in a vicious hammerlock, subjecting its populous to a blockade and creating manifestly inhumane conditions.  The country behind those tactics came into being by launching terrorist attacks against the internationally-recognised trustee of Palestine in the 1930s and ‘40s.  These tactics pushed 80% of Gazans below the poverty line, and killed nearly 1,000 non-combatants.

The “direct talks” that Perry wants have been failing steadily for decades, both because Israel negotiates from a position of vastly superior military strength and with a total lack of interest in the success of negotiations, and because the unconditional backing which the U.S. has given to Israel (thanks to people like Perry) allows that country to walk away from the table without fear of the consequences.

Perry’s contributions to this debate demonstrate that he is ill-informed about the current status of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, profoundly ignorant of the conflict’s history, and totally illogical and immoral in his approach to U.S. involvement in the region.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The U.S. prepares to thwart Palestinians once again

I was listening to the BBC last night, and I heard Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, explaining to a BBC interviewer why the U.S. is preparing to veto a Palestinian request to the Security for full membership for a Palestinian state. 

We all know that Israel isn’t keen on this passing, to say the least.  The Israeli government has promised “harsh and grave consequences”, and added its hopes “that common sense will prevail in all decisions taken in order to allow co-existence and progress with negotiations”.  Israel is essentially asking Palestinians to accept the existing unequal relationship in which one party lives the existence of second-class, colonised citizens.  Some of these people live in siege-like conditions, blockaded, periodically bombed, their infrastructure destroyed by Israeli military campaigns.  And negotiations have stalled and broken down so often over so many years that it is hard to imagine that Israel is negotiating in good faith. 

The Israeli government’s position is that Palestinians in Gaza are “prisoners of Hamas”, and the presence of the militant political party is constantly used as an excuse by Israel, the United States and others as a barrier to substantive negotiations.  But however objectionable some of the elected Hamas’ activities might be (they are certainly not more so than those of the Israeli military), the position that they are in control of Gaza and responsible for all ills in Palestine, but also must not be party to talks, is absurd.  The Israeli government has granted Hamas all of the responsibility for conditions in Gaza without allowing them any of the power that should come with such a responsibility to take part in the solution.

Israel can persist in this moronic mode of argumentation (which, as the late-historian Tony Judt points out, is to Israel’s long-term detriment) because it has the apparently unconditional support of the United States.

On the BBC, Susan Rice argued that while the United States has “been very clear that we share the aspiration for the creation of a Palestinian state, that can only be accomplished as a practical matter through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  There’s no shortcut wherein we pass a resolution in the General Assembly or the Security Council that in the real world in fact creates a Palestinian state.  The issues that divide them—issues of borders, of security, the status of Jerusalem, of refugees, etc—can only be resolved through direct negotiations at the negotiating table, and that’s why we view the Palestinian potential drive to come to the Security Council or the General Assembly as counter-productive”.

“What they need”, she went on, “is a state and what they want is a state”.  But, she assured us, “as frustrating as the lack of progress on negotiations may be for the Palestinians, for the Israelis, for the United States and the rest of the world, there’s no shortcut”.  She suggested that a resolution in New York would actually create foster false expectations on the part of Palestinians.

The same kind of false expectations, presumably, that come each time a new round of negotiations begin, at which the Israeli government shows up at the table with the unconditional backing of the United States and the overwhelming advantage of military force—a brutal card it has proven its willingness to use time and time again.  Ambassador Rice’s response (and through her, that of President Obama) is not only disgusting, immoral and disingenuous; her characterisation of the reasons why the UN route is wrong exhibits an ignorance of history.

Because the moment in which the state of Israel emerged bears an uncanny similarity to what she describes as the impossible route for the Palestinians.  In 1947, beset by armed resistance on the part of Jewish settlers (labelled ‘terrorists’), the occupying power, Britain, threw up its hands and announced its plan to withdraw from the Mandate Territory of Palestine.  In 1948 it made good on that plan, the United Nations having moved to settle the question of Palestine.  The settlement received the approval of one party (the Jewish community), but not the other (the Palestinians).  It went ahead anyway.  In the war that followed, the new state of Israel emerged through the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

This is a perfect example (though not a happy one), of how a series of moves at the UN can drastically change the situation on the ground.  A recognition of a Palestinian nation could not, today I think, lead to a similar explosion of violence.  Instead, if it came with U.S. support, it would signal to Israel that this game of endlessly sabotaging negotiations (the Palestinian leadership has, at a few points, done the same), of refusing to negotiate with Palestinian representatives, and of presiding over an impious, unjust and destructive military occupation, is up.

I suspect that all parties could quickly overcome their unwillingness to negotiate with Hamas.  After all, Israel itself, Northern Ireland, Kenya, South Africa, and many, many other countries were led to independence and uhuru by those once labelled as terrorists.

Then, the real negotiations could begin.

But there is one other factor behind the unconditional support of the U.S. for Israel, and that is the shallow, pandering electoral calculus that the Obama Administration has, from almost day one, substituted for the clear-eyed, morally-aware agenda it promised its supporters.  The President’s most tentative criticisms of Israel have been taken as a declaration of war by the slightly unbalanced Israeli lobby in the United States, and the Democratic Party’s defeats in a New York Congressional race last week are being read as a referendum on Obama’s Middle Eastern policy.  Scenting blood, Republican Party Presidential candidates are castigating the President for imperiling Israel when, in fact, their unthinking support for that country's militancy is doing Israel incalculable harm in the long-term.

I place little hope in the willingness of the Obama administration to do the right thing here and support Abbas’ campaign at the UN.  But it should know that it cannot continue to thwart Palestinian aspirations, justice, and a lasting solution to the region’s most intractable moral, political and social problem, without some serious consequences for the people involved on the ground.

Friday, September 16, 2011

California's Public Higher Education Conversation

Higher education is, or should be, central to any conversation Californians are going to have about their priorities and their state’s future.  Partly because it, with public K-12 education, comprises a large proportion of the state’s budget.  Also because, for obvious reasons (and I’ll argue that their apparent obviousness shouldn’t prevent us repeating them every chance we get—whomever we are), it is central to our state’s well being—whether we choose to measure that well-being in conventional economic terms, or in a more sophisticated fashion that looks at people’s lives in a qualitative manner. 

And people are talking.  But they need to think hard about what they’re talking about, whom they are talking to, what good they are doing, and whether they could do better.  Because part of the problem is that these are largely separate conversations, each of which makes a series of assumptions that a more comprehensive conversation could avoid.  Each grapples with a series of problems they regard as critical, while avoiding the ‘big picture’, or assuming a series of ‘perfect world’ scenarios for that picture (for example, making specific, system- or campus-oriented policies while ignoring the funding dilemma; advocating institutional overhaul without examining people’s value systems or thinking about moral priorities). 

I can think of four big categories or spheres of this conversation: the Formal Political sphere; the Higher Education Public Policy sphere; the Political Reform sphere; and the Integrated Solutions sphere.  I’ll explain each of these and cite an example or two, but also want to point out the deliberate omission of the conversations that students and faculties on campuses are having—from my vantage point—correct me if I’m wrong—these are too disunited or dysfunctional at this stage to have a serious effect on the future of higher education.  That should change, and quickly. 

Formal Political Sphere.

Here, in our state legislative bodies and Governor’s office (to say nothing of local government), the picture is convoluted.  State politics are numerically dominated by the Democratic Party, largely friendly towards and committed to public education at all levels.  But our state’s political system means that state politics doesn’t feel all that friendly to public higher education.

In the first place, term limits, short Assembly terms, and the resulting scramble to fundraise incessantly while jumping from one political office to the next, ensure that few legislators develop the expertise necessary to understand the monstrous complexity of education-related legislation.  Moreover, a Republican Party violently opposed to the state’s accrual of revenue for public-oriented services ensures that education itself seldom gets debated: the conversation turns largely around taxation and budgeting.  What education-related legislation that does pass is generally of a tinkering nature, often occurs through initiatives, and as a result frequently has serious unintended consequences.

Furthermore, the reduction of all politics to budgeting, with revenue increases virtually off the table, means that there is little scope for innovation, no attention to long-term planning, and no serious conversation about where our public higher education system should be going.  In the Republican Party, there is unfortunately no discussion of how public education can contribute to the public good, because the very idea of the ‘public’ and of associational life is increasingly targeted as an evil to be excised from our body politic.

Finally, we currently have a Governor who has no philosophy as far as higher education is concerned; his predecessor, was arguably better about shielding universities from California’s economic decline, whereas Jerry Brown appears to have calculated that he can curry favour with an aggravated electorate by targeting public institutions and unions for cuts. 

This sphere is thus bereft of systematic study, devoid of concrete information and data, and because of its budget-orientation, incapable of sitting down and debating the moral premises that might underlie public higher education—or opposition to the same.

Higher Education Public Policy.

Groups like the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy put out policy documents on a regular basis, many of which read extremely presciently given even a few years’ hindsight.  Characteristically, these tackle either one facet of California’s three-tiered system (the University of California; the California State University; the California Community College), or the system as a whole.  They generally include policy prescriptions, some specific, some vague. 

IHELP, as it calls itself, for example, identifies low completion rates at all levels of the system (particularly at CCCs) as a major challenge for the state and argues that we need to re-orientate: away from addressing access barriers (the studies do not clarify whether they think these barriers have been permanently overcome—this seems unlikely—or whether the inexorable rises in fees of the past several years would cause a re-think), and towards addressing the failure of too many students to complete a degree.  The solution would involve freeing up systems and campuses to use money as they see fit (the prescriptions include more adjunct faculty, less spending on the ‘instruction’ side of the equation, fee increases for CCCs, and more spending on testing students to see that they are prepared for a given stage off their degree track, tracking students, identifying those who are at-risk, and developing programs to avert risk), in an effort to ensure student success and close doors to failure.

Some of this makes unambiguous sense.  Averting student failure (often due to external circumstances) is something we can all buy into.  But would allowing colleges to hire more adjunct faculty have the effect envisioned by IHELP (ensuring that faculties reflect student wants, course needs)?  Or would they allow institutions under pressure from the state and the public to cut corners, lead to the casualisation of labour within the system, and hurt the quality of students’ education? 

But even the bits that sound good—tracking students, intervening to help them at the first sign of difficulties, investing in personnel to do all of this—cost money.  And in a perfect would the state (and the public it represents) would be perfectly willing to pay up.  After all, IHELP and other institutions suggest, the benefits to all of us of higher education are so obvious as to be hardly worth stating.  But the public policy approach, conducted in a politics-free zone, ignores the real-world obstacles to the implementation of good policy.  Increased spending is highly unrealistic at a time when universities and colleges are being asked to retrench. 

IHELP studies repeatedly call for a state-wide plan for higher education.  That’s a lovely thought.  But how on earth—in a state where we’re lucky to get a budget each year, where agencies don’t know whether they’ll survive from one budget cycle to the next, in which revenue is structurally uncertain—can California develop such a plan or framework?

Finally there is the difficulty of the technocratic nature of the public policy approach.  One IHELP study writes that “policy discussions, to the extent they occur, reflect entrenched positions about the adequacy of state subsidies, the morality of tuition and free increases, and the efficiency of institutions” (Shared Solutions: iii).  I would argue that there’s no point in talking about policy unless we are prepared to move forward along certain agreed lines: what is the goal of public higher education, at what levels do we believe we should fund it, within what set of values should its managerial, instructional and decision-making processes operate?

I wouldn’t want to suggest that public policy institutes should throw up their hands and abandon their studies until every other problem gets solved.  They’d be waiting a long time, and doing so when they have something of incredible value to contribute to the conversation: namely, data, specifics, concrete study.  But their advice needs to be given and taken within the context in which we are operating.

Political Reform.

California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It is probably the best, most thoughtful and systematic approach I’ve seen to the structural conundrum that faces California as a polity.  Out ship of state, its authors argue, is engineered to run itself aground, and if we do not take steps to deal decisively with the structural defects belowdecks, we can’t expect to make progress on any other count (for a more detailed review, see here).  Tinkering will not do.

Education (or indeed most policy areas—health, social welfare, the environment, labour rights) does not feature specifically in most conversations about structural reform, except to provide an example here and there.  Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, for instance, suggest that Prop 98 (which guarantees education funding) is precisely not the kind of thing that should be written into a state’s constitution (rather, it should be left for statute), and has actually hurt education funding in some years.  But understanding the structural problems might allow the dust to settle and for legislators to undertake more serious consideration of how to implement policy recommendations in the arena of public higher education.

Advocates of structural reform are generally honest that theirs is only a partial solution.  Some might say that structural reform isn’t really a solution at all.  It’s merely a necessary precondition for even beginning think about solutions. 

Integrated Approach.

I’m thinking here of the approach taken by the recently-published Portrait of California.  This is an extraordinary document, worthy of your attention both because of its thoughtful rendering of our state one decade into the twenty-first century and because it is chock-full of interesting data.

But it is also noteworthy because of its ‘premise’, comparatively novel in the world of public policy (and I keep this report and its like separate from the public policy sphere discussed above because it is less concerned with specific prescriptions than with general problems, frameworks and ideas).  Portrait uses the idea of Human Development (“the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being”) alongside the Capabilities Approach (the premise is that capabilities “determine what a person can do and become”) to measure how well different people in different conditions in different parts of California are doing.  Arguing that using “a limited number of universally valued, intuitively understood ingredients for living in a freely chosen life of value—health, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living”—is a much-needed alternative to GDP-based economic measures, Portrait offers a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of what it calls the “Five Californias”.

Education occupies one-third of this report, and higher education features prominently.  And here, amongst the spheres analysed so far, we get a glimpse of the argument about fundamentals that we need to have.  This approach offers some illustration of the interlocking nature of knowledge, health and standards of living, and explains how access to knowledge is both empowering for the individual and of great value to California’s society and economy. 

It illustrates why those more worried about crime and social breakdown than social welfare and social democracy should be very concerned with ensuring equal access to equally-good education at all levels.  It explains why those who would generally argue that economic growth is more important than an equitable distribution of benefits should be thinking hard about our the future of accessible, affordable higher education.

What this approach doesn’t do (in addition to dealing in policy specifics) is concern itself with what a good public education should be doing.  And this is a topic very much up for debate: some suggestions for modifications at the University of California have included a move away from the breadth of coursework that characterises our current system, the narrowing of focus for all but the ‘top’ campuses (i.e. having ‘science’ oriented campuses, while others would focus on ‘social sciences’ or ‘humanities’), differentiated short, prescriptions that not only strike a blow at the principle of universality behind the University of California, but which would play havoc with things like ‘eligibility in the local context’, and totally alter the point of what a university degree is good for (we’d see a shift from an emphasis on building and empowering citizens to the delivery of personnel for the workplace).


Finally, the locus that should be centre-stage but is currently no more than a series of mutterings that occasionally become outbursts—the debate on our college and university campuses.

First the administration.  If activists are misguided in targeting these people rather than Sacramento, there is not much good that can be said of them.  Public Policy publications have been warning for years of the impending crisis in higher education, and anyone with the barest familiarity with California’s political system, or who has opened a newspaper in the past decade should have been able to see what was coming—the combination of political, structural and economic forces that is damaging our treasured three-tier system today.  University administrators, however, apparently didn’t.  And they’ve been playing catch-up ever since, demonstrating a total inability to set an agenda, mobilise their constituencies, influence the state, or get on top of the problem in anything like a serious way.  They have been perhaps worse than irrelevant, because their speedy acquiescence to the demands of the legislature to retrench have been accompanied by an unseemly eagerness to design their systems to operate on a totally different moral premise from that on which it was designed.  Some Chancellors and Presidents (UC Berkeley’s in particular) have been willing to break ranks with the system’s other campuses and argue for special status.

Faculty, so far as I can tell, while occasionally voicing their disapproval of the state’s actions, have made no systematic or effective contribution to the conversation.  In part this stems from the lack of organisation, centralisation or thought-through methodology for reaching decision-makers, but it also seems compounded by apathy.

Small groups of commendably-motivated students unilaterally (though democratically amongst themselves) decided that university administrators should be the primary targets of those opposed to budget cuts and fee hikes, exhibiting gross ignorance of our state’s political system or else convenient blindness towards the magnitude of the problem.  They have proven effective in drawing public attention to the plight of universities and colleges, but because they aim only to influence institution administrators, their abject failure to think through how their protest tactics will be received by the wider electorate which is critical to making the necessary changes at the state-wide level appears to have sunk their efforts and might have made segments of the state more hostile to their cause.

These groups also appear to have extreme difficulty in making the transition from campus-level advocacy to the state-wide level.  This is partly, I think, due to the fact that they satisfied themselves with capturing the support of a small, politically-discrete sector of the student populations on their campuses.  It is also due, frankly, to the frequently ego-driven internal politics of the organisations in question, and their unwillingness to sacrifice power for the influence that would come for a broader, more inclusive and comprehensive campaign. 

But what these groups offer is a description of what cuts to public education are doing to campuses.  They can speak in concrete terms of how what amounts to a un-stated reform of public higher education is playing out in departments, units, colleges and libraries.  Moreover, they have developed a series of arguments, some more cogent than others, about the rights and wrongs of education policy, about why public higher education is important, and about the challenges that our current system poses to them and their families.

They (I should say ‘we’ here) offer the link between the voters and taxpayers and the too-often abstracted student.  The debate, such as it is, often discusses two supposedly-separate groups of individuals: those who are deriving all the benefits from a publicly-sponsored system of higher education on the one hand, and those who are paying for it on the other. 

But in reality, of course, they are all the same people, at different stages of their social and economic lives.  The struggling taxpayer who might resent having to make a contribution (albeit one, in a progressive tax code, in keeping with their earnings) to someone else’s higher education, having never directly benefited from the system him/herself, can take comfort from the fact that the social services network that should exist to allow them to live a decent life even when temporarily out of work, once retired, etc, is being paid for by higher earners who were the direct beneficiaries of the education system in question.  And once they’ve finished their degrees students, who are now presumed to be earning better wages, are paying into the education pot, for generations of future students.


So we have conversations that are taking place around the means (formal politics), the details (public policy), the pre-conditions (political reform), the benefits/social framework (integrated approach), the morals/impact (on-campus).  So far as I can see, they are largely separate (and I’d love to be corrected or pointed towards sites where they are being productively integrated).

For us to address the crisis in public higher education, we need to identify the purpose of such an education and its moral standing within our state’s community.  Then we can begin to think about the specific policy prescriptions that can help to get us to our goals.  Then, having ideally identified the good that such an education system can do, the moral imperative behind it, and the steps we need to take to realise its potential, we can use our budgeting and revenue tools (because whatever the increasingly irrational leaders of the Republican Party tell us, that is all they are, tools) to realise those moral goals. 

Part of the problem is with our political discourse, which seems to be increasingly based on ‘belief’ rather than evidence.  In such a context, it is crucial to think about how to use the evidence marshalled by groups like IHELP and documents like Portrait to make any impact.  How can the people and study groups and institutes behind these policy documents combine with students, faculty, administrators, political reformers, and supportive legislators to make this conversation happen?  Is it a matter of creating some unifying organisation to advocate for public higher education across the state?  A matter of creating a less-centralised but more in-touch network of distinct interests which can play to their strengths when lobbying and arguing?  Is it a matter of developing a key, signature initiative coupled with reform to grab voters’ attention? 

We need a greater sense of stake on the part of faculty, more political perspective on the part of students and public policy groups, a better-informed voter and legislature base, and a more morally-informed reform and policy lobby to make this conversation happen.  And we need it to happen soon.  Because at a time when students and their parents, rather than any version of a state collective, are increasingly bearing the costs of higher education (except at the level of the Community Colleges), the only thing public about that education is its ambition to serve Californians equally, and the possibility of rolling back the damage that has been done.

But all of us, in however small a way, need to be relentless in arguing what we too-often take for granted: the good that public higher education does, the values that it represents, and the threats it faces.  Because not all people in all communities realise those benefits directly or make the connection, in their minds, between California’s grand, idealistic experiment, and our social and economic lives and futures.