June 29th, 2007

Book Cover

Good Morning!

The Supreme Court makes another decision, and I post the NY Times comment here.  The NY Times also publishes another opinion,  an op-ed contributor who says the decision is fine and needed for these times,  and the point is to make all schools excellent.  Well, we aren't seeing that happen, and the original intent was to integrate, to know each other, to interact.


Resegregation Now

Published: June 29, 2007

The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered the nation’s schools to integrate. Yesterday, the court switched sides and told two cities that they cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together. It was a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.

Since 1954, the Supreme Court has been the nation’s driving force for integration. Its orders required segregated buses and public buildings, parks and playgrounds to open up to all Americans. It wasn’t always easy: governors, senators and angry mobs talked of massive resistance. But the court never wavered, and in many of the most important cases it spoke unanimously.

Yesterday, the court’s radical new majority turned its back on that proud tradition in a 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts. It has been some time since the court, which has grown more conservative by the year, did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the majority’s fifth vote, reined in the ruling somewhat by signing only part of the majority opinion and writing separately to underscore that some limited programs that take race into account are still acceptable. But it is unclear how much room his analysis will leave, in practice, for school districts to promote integration. His unwillingness to uphold Seattle’s and Louisville’s relatively modest plans is certainly a discouraging sign.

In an eloquent dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer explained just how sharp a break the decision is with history. The Supreme Court has often ordered schools to use race-conscious remedies, and it has unanimously held that deciding to make assignments based on race “to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society” is “within the broad discretionary powers of school authorities.”

Chief Justice Roberts, who assured the Senate at his confirmation hearings that he respected precedent, and Brown in particular, eagerly set these precedents aside. The right wing of the court also tossed aside two other principles they claim to hold dear. Their campaign for “federalism,” or scaling back federal power so states and localities have more authority, argued for upholding the Seattle and Louisville, Ky., programs. So did their supposed opposition to “judicial activism.” This decision is the height of activism: federal judges relying on the Constitution to tell elected local officials what to do.

The nation is getting more diverse, but by many measures public schools are becoming more segregated. More than one in six black children now attend schools that are 99 to 100 percent minority. This resegregation is likely to get appreciably worse as a result of the court’s ruling.

There should be no mistaking just how radical this decision is. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said it was his “firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.” He also noted the “cruel irony” of the court relying on Brown v. Board of Education while robbing that landmark ruling of much of its force and spirit. The citizens of Louisville and Seattle, and the rest of the nation, can ponder the majority’s kind words about Brown as they get to work today making their schools, and their cities, more segregated.

Book Cover


Steve was on a conference call this morning, so Jane and I could not speak before we began writing.  She found silence and I struggled too.  It is important to see how much we connect with and through the sounds and vibrations of our voices and breath.  We emailed and it is not the same.   May your day be filled with vocal exchange.

My neighbor has now decided to have some trees cut, so I am with the sound of chainsaws and falling logs.  I left the house for my own tree work, but will allow this background music to support this day, since work for me today is mainly here.

My Morning Poem.

The Night Before Full


Did you notice the moon last night

on its low, short arc across the southern sky.

It skims low like a well-thrown frisbee

while the summer sun lobs in a long, high arc.

I water outside, encouraging the plants

to bloom in this side-ways moonlight,

suggest they follow an inner lark

not known before this noctural bark

yowled in the veins of the heart.  


Book Cover

Jane's poem of the morning!

Jane and I email communicated.  It was enough to break open her silence.

Here is her poem for today!!


I crossed the bridge at night
moving from darkness to darkness across darkness.
It could have been water below or the bones of a canyon
its heart eaten out by a river.
The moon watched over my shoulder  
listened to my breathing. As long as that span was
it was shorter, colder than the arc of my hand
meeting the unknown hand of another after the music
had rained on us.

Book Cover

Thomas Jefferson!

"Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."
- Former US President Thomas Jefferson

Book Cover

another morning poem -

On the Bridge in  Moonlight


The moon and bridge join hands

in arcing across water, air, and land.

I reach within the pool that forms

when I complete

the rounds.


sliced like trunks of trees,

steps like stones,

connected, then, apart.



Book Cover

Eat, Pray, Love!

In Elizabeth Gilbert'sbook Eat, Pray, Love, she writes of the origins of Italian, a language she loves.

In the sixteenth century, some Italian intellectuals got together to agree on a written form of the Italian language.  They reached back two hundred years to fourteenth-century Florence to hand-pick the most beautiful of Italian dialects.  They chose "the personal language of the great Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, the language of the Divine Comedy written in 1321.   Dante "wrote his masterpiece in what he called il dolce stil nuovo,  the sweet new style of the vernacular, and he shaped that vernacular even as he was writing it, affecting is as personally as Shakespeare would completely affect Elizabethan English.  For a group of nationalist intellectuals much later in history to have sat down and decided that Dante's Italian would now be the official language of Italy would be very much as if a group of Oxford dons had sat down one day in the early nineteenth century and decided that from this point forward - everybody in England was going to speak pure Shakespeare.  And it actually worked."

"The last line of the Divine Comedy, in which Dante is faced with the vision of God Himself, is a sentiment that is still easily understandable by anyone familiar with so-called modern Italian.  Dante writes that God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light, but that He is, most of all, l'amour che move il sole e l'altre stelle ...

"The love that moves the sun and the other stars."

Ahhhh!   Live there,  in romance, love, and cascading rhythms of  heart.

Book Cover

The art of doing nothing!

The Italians are masters of il bel far niente,  the "beauty of doing nothing."

Perhaps it is an interesting motto for us all to consider today, this summer Friday before the weekend, this welcoming of a Full Moon!

Book Cover

The Long Now Foundation!

Stewart Brand reports on the talk last night at the Long Now Foundation.

Francis Fukuyama began by describing the four most significant challenges to the thesis in his famed 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man.  In the book he proposed that humanity's economic progress over the past 10,000 years was driven by the accumulation of science and technology over time.  That connection is direct and reliable.

Less direct and reliable, but very important, is the sequence from economic progress to the adoption of liberal democracy.  Political modernization accompanies economic modernization.  This is a deep force of history, the book claims.

Fukuyama describes the rise of the idea of human rights in the West as a secularization of Christian doctrine.  That led to accountability mechanisms--- "You can't have good governance without feedback loops."  Once there is a propertied middle class, they demand political participation.  The threshold for that demand appears to about $6,000 per capita per year.  It's hard to get to, but hundreds of millions of people in the world are making that climb right now.

China and Russia will be a test of his thesis, Fukuyama said.  They are getting wealthier.  If they democratize in the next twenty years, he's right.  If they remain authoritarian, he's wrong.

Fukuyama is most intrigued by a challenge that comes from his old teacher and continuing friend, Samuel Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations.  Culture can trump modernization, says Huntington--- current radical Islam is an example.  Fukuyama agrees that people at the fringe of modernization feel a sense of onslaught, and they can respond as Bolsheviks and Fascists did in the 20th century.  "A Hitler or a Bin Laden proclaims, 'I can tell you who you are.'"

A second challenge to the universalism of liberal democracy is that it does not yet work internationally.  Fukuyama agrees, noting that the major current obstacle is America's overwhelming hegemony.  He expects no solution from the UN, but an overlapping set of international institutions could eventually do the job.

A third challenge is the continuing poverty trap for so many in the world.  Fukuyama says it takes a national state with the rule of law and time to learn from mistakes before you get economic takeoff.  He sees later colonialism, done on the cheap (instead of with the patient institution building that England did in India), as a major source of the world's current failed and crippled states.

The final challenge that impresses Fukuyama is the possibility that technology may now be accelerating too fast to cure its own problems the way it has done in the past.  Climate change could be an example of that.  And Fukuyama particularly worries that biotechnology might so transform human nature that it will fragment humanity irreparably.

While he sees meaning in history, Fukuyama said it's not a matter of iron law.  Human agency counts.  History swerves on who wins a battle or an election.  We are responsible.

Two further angles on Fukuyama's thesis emerged at dinner.  One concerned how society's morality should express itself in dealing with the threat/promise of biotechnology.  Conservative Fukuyama promoted strict government regulation while the liberals (and libertarians) in the room said the market and Internet should sort it out.  Kevin Kelly asked Fukuyama, "Do you think human nature is as good as it can be?"  I proposed to Washington-based Fukuyama that he was in the midst of a classic argument between the coasts.  East Coast says, "Ready, aim, don't fire."  West Coast says, "Fire, aim, ready."

Then there's the European Union.  In his talk Fukuyama praised it as the fullest realization of his theory.  At dinner he acknowledged his concern that Europe may be headed toward permanent conflict with its growing immigrant populations, whose first allegiance continues to be to their own cultures.

                                        --Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand -- sb@gbn.org
The Long Now Foundation - http://www.longnow.org
Seminars & downloads: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/