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September 29, 2006
Restorative Justice for Rape?

One of my favorite blogs has posted some commentary about rape and an approach to dealing with it. In particular this posting discusses a program called Restore which involves getting the accused rapist to participate in a mediation/intervention program of restorative justice. As is often the case this has resulted in lively discussion. As restorative justice is something I am strongly in favor of (as opposed to our current unjust criminal "justice" system), I posted some commentary myself. Since I have written so little here of late I thought that I would repost most of it here.


Unlike many of the previous commentors, I think Restorative Justice (RJ) is something that should be considered in more cases, not just for probably unprovable rape, but for virtually any crime. Our criminal justice system sucks. The punishments are arbitrary and rehabilitation has practically been forgotten as a consideration. Beyond that, punishing criminals may satisfy a desire for vengence, but it really does next to nothing for victims of crime.

RJ recognizes three parties affected by crimes: the victim, society as a whole, and the perpetrator. In our current system it is hoped that taking revenge on the perpetrators through incarceration or other punishments will both rehabilitate the perpetrator and sooth the pains suffered by the victim and society. However, as I said, rehabilitation is practically forgotten and just about the only efforts being made to sooth society is pushing for longer prison terms with less opportunity for parole, basically hoping to lock 'em up and throw away the key. All this has led to is the highest incarceration rate in the world (building and staffing prisons has been one of the biggest growth industries in the USA for the last couple of decades at least).

RJ attempts to help all three parties affected by a crime. If the perpetrator can be made to recognize their culpability and feel genuine remorse then there is a genuine chance for rehabilitation, thus helping the perpetrator and making society safer. Further, demonstrating that remorse through efforts to make restitution can help to alieviate the pain which the victim suffered. Clearly, a successful RJ outcome would still not be as good as if the crime had never been committed, but is putting someone in prison for 5, 15, 50 years going to help anyone (except the prison industry)? RJ offers an alternative approach.

As for why should rapists in particular participate in this, how about setting up an alternative process through which victims can pursue relief. Rather than harping on "beyond a reasonable doubt", how about offering better avenues for civil action (I have to admit I am unfamiliar with what current civil avenues are available for victims of rape). If RJ mediation is offered as an alternative to a full civil suit concerning a rape, either through the Restore program or through other similar groups, then even people who could not be convicted of rape beyond a reasonable doubt might prefer the intervention/mediation approach of RJ to the alternative of a civil suit. If rape is the only crime for which RJ is a strongly encouraged first step before pursuing a suit then perhaps there is a need for a new court or a change to civil court procedures to allow for referring cases to RJ mediation, just as there are different courts created to deal with other specific offenses. However, if the process for pursuing redress through the civil courts included an option for choosing Restore (with agreement of all parties involved), then even someone who felt they were completely innocent might agree to RJ rather than have to defend against a full civil suit. This process would have to include allowances for if the participants are disatisfied with the outcome. That is part of why the process would need to be mediated. If the victim doesn't feel that the perpetrator's participation in remorse and restitution is acceptable then perhaps there should be an option of pursuing further court action, basically appealing the findings of the RJ mediation, but in such a case when the defendent has shown significant efforts at reconciliation through RJ then the victim would have a harder time proving the validity of their request for additional compensation. On the other hand, if the defendant felt that the RJ negotiation was requiring unreasonable demands then there should also be a way to appeal from that perspective. Of course, the way this would be handled would be affected by the different views of different judges and venues where some would be more sympathetic to the victims and others less sympathetic. In either case, an appeal from a RJ mediation should be made fairly difficult if both parties agreed going in so that the parties involved will make a serious attempt at reaching an accord.

I was first introduced to the idea of RJ through the Peacemaking program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). If anyone is interested, there is a free brochure (I haven't even looked at it myself, but I've liked their program and I found this on the PC(USA) website) available at the Presbyterian Marketplace if you search for item 7263096705. (I couldn't figure out a direct link to the item.) It is called _Restorative_Justice:_ _Toward_Nonviolence_ by the Rev. Virginia Mackey.


Posted by JoKeR at 11:11 PM
September 02, 2006
Have You Had Enough

DownWithTyranny! has written about how the song Have You Had Enough came about. DWT links to Crooks and Liars to hear the song, but the links provided didn't work for me, so I've linked to eMusic above where they are providing it as a free download. DTW says this song is a collaboration between DTW and the Squirrel Nut Zippers with vocals from Ricki Lee Jones. If you haven't figured it out yet, the question in the title is asking if you have had enough of the current administration.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:31 PM
July 15, 2006
Stabbed in the Back

Kevin Baker has written an article in Harper's Magazine. He describes a long history of the claims of betrayal of right wing leaders by their opponents. He describes how this was used to criticize Roosevelt at Yalta, Truman in Korea, the American public in Vietnam, and many others. He shows how the far right has used these accusations of betrayal to distract from their own political and ideological failures and blame their opponents for all of their own problems. His description of the 1948 election is a bit weak, IMHO, because he doesn't even mention the Dixiecrats and the resulting split in the vote which led to Truman's victory. Nor does he mention how the Dixiecrats have been welcomed into the heart of the Republican party as an essential part of the current neo-conservative leadership of the Republicans. However, his article does provide an interesting history of how the right-wing has again and again painted themselves as victims who are fighting for the right in the face of both internal and external enemies. An interesting read.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:17 PM
June 30, 2006
Gapminder

Once again, I have found what I think is a terrific link via Metafilter. This time it is a flash presentation called Gapminder which graphically shows income and health statistics about countries all over the world over a span of several years. It was created by Hans Rosling who apparently has some other videos at his site (or is that a shared site, it is apparently so overburdened by people accessing what might be his latest video that I haven't been able to get the site to respond, thus my speculation that the site is overburdened at present). I am, in fact, making this posting as much to remind myself of this information (and maybe get into the site later when it isn't so busy) as from a desire to share it with my reader (I do have one, don't I? Hello?)

Posted by JoKeR at 10:30 PM
June 23, 2006
If it talks like...

I ran across this quiz recently. I managed to get just over half of the quotes matched up correctly to the person who said them, but there really wasn't much difference between the two folks. Not that this means anything. Just saying...

Posted by JoKeR at 08:04 AM
June 18, 2006
Modern Conservatism Can't Work

Once again, I am indebted to Rob for pointing me to insightful commentary. Alan Wolfe has written an article that addresses the history of conservative politics in the USA and why the current government, dominated by the neo-con forces in the Republican party, have proven so completely inept at everything they have attempted. Well worth reading.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:56 PM
December 23, 2005
Honest Voting

There are some scary facts about the electronic voting systems in this country. This is perhaps the most important issue the American people need to act on. If our votes are not accurately counted then the corruption of our government becomes even more difficult deal with. Here are some statements about the companies and people involved in the business of electronic vote counting. This is something that all citizens should be concerned about

Distribute the following facts about voting in the United States.
Let your friends know, because their TV won't....

1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold
and ES&S.


Online Journal Evoting article by Landes

Wikipedia entry on Diebold


2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the
U.S. voting machine industry.

The link originally listed here didn't work and I couldn't find one that matched precisely, but I did find a different Common Dreams article, again by Landes, about electronic voting.
Another link to that Online Journal Evoting article by Landes.

3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.

American Free Press Private Company article
Here's that same Online Journal Evoting article by Landes, so read it already.

4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and
donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its
electoral votes to the president next year."

CBS News article
Wish TV

5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.

Mother Jones commentary
Online Journal article by Fitrakis

6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family, was
recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics
Committee.

I couldn't find the original article referenced at BlackBoxVoting.org, so I'm including a different link reporting the same issue.
Hill News report
Article from On Lisa Rein's Radar

7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's
vice-presidential candidates.

Business Week article
article in The Independent

8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts
almost 60% of all U.S. votes.

About page from ESS company
Article from Online Journal

9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any
votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the
machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.

Article from Common Dreams
Table of info about states using e-voting from IT World

10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of
which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.

Here's that Common Dreams article again.
Diebold Company page

11. Diebold is based in Ohio.

Another Diebold Company page

12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as consultants and developers to
help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in
30 states.

Article from Wired
article from the Portland Indy Media

13. Jeff Dean was Senior Vice-President of Global Election Systems when it
was bought by Diebold. Even though he had been convicted of 23 counts of
felony theft in the first degree, Jeff Dean was retained as a consultant by
Diebold and was largely responsible for programming the optical scanning software
now used in most of the United States.

Article from The Scoop from New Zealand
A collection of Hack the Vote links
PDF file telling information about the companies making electronic voting machines from Black Box Voting

14. Diebold consultant Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his
software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over
a period of 2 years.

That Hack the Vote FAQ page again
The Black Box Voting PDF file again

15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls
in Ohio.

Article from Global Exchange
Article from Cincinnati's The Enquirer

16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it! (I have not been able to find the movie that was originally referenced here. I've left the link in case someone else can figure out what they were attempting to link to. http://blackboxvoti ng.org/baxter/baxterVPR.mov)

Article from Wired
Article from MSNBC

17. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen
voting machines with no paper trail.

CBS News article

18. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and
reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.

Wired article
Yurica Report
I couldn't find the Rise4News article, but I've left the link in case someone else can find the correct reference Rise4News Extra Votes
ILCA OnLine
Article from The Scoop

19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's
brother.

The Tallahassee newspaper link was broken, but I haven't really tried to find the article they linked to, do we really need another verification that Jeb and George are brothers?
Washington Post article

20. Serious voting anomalies in Florida -- again always favoring Bush --
have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending further
investigation.

Yurica Report article
ComputerWorld article
American Free Press article
Common Dreams article
Consortium News article
US Count Votes website


NOTE: Please copy the above list and distribute freely!
LET THE FACTS BE KNOWN! Thank you!

Want a cheap, fair, reliable, and efficient alternative? It exists! Check
out the Swiss Voting System at Swiss Vote organization

DECEMBER 2004 GALLUP POLLS
1 in 5 Americans believe the elections were fraudulent. That's over 41
Million Americans. You are NOT alone!
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
Get educated. Tell your friends what's going on.
Go visit Velvet Revolution

UPDATE: I initially just copied this in from a message posted elsewhere, but I have now taken a few minutes and turned the URLs into proper links, verifying links (including fixing typos in the links) and gave more descriptive text for the links. I couldn't find what the links were attempting to connect to for a few of the links, but I believe I have noted such links with appropriate comments.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:53 AM
December 09, 2005
Illegal Detentions by US?

I don't find the fact that this administration has been keeping people imprisoned without allowing for humanitarian oversight surprising. It is a little surprising that they have actually admitted that they are doing this. They keep people in secret prisons, they argue that they should be allowed to torture prisoners, they ... I'm sorry. It is too discouraging to list the many ways that the Bush administration has betrayed our trust, their oaths to uphold the law, and their responsibilities to all citizens of this country and the world. How can anyone continue to support them?

Posted by JoKeR at 11:54 AM
December 06, 2005
Save Christmas! NOT!

The NY Times has an article about efforts to coerce stores to use "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" or whatever.

A not-so-brief excerpt:

America has a complicated history with Christmas, going back to the Puritans, who despised it. What the boycotters are doing is not defending America's Christmas traditions, but creating a new version of the holiday that fits a political agenda.

The Puritans considered Christmas un-Christian, and hoped to keep it out of America. They could not find Dec. 25 in the Bible, their sole source of religious guidance, and insisted that the date derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens' wintertime celebration. On their first Dec. 25 in the New World, in 1620, the Puritans worked on building projects and ostentatiously ignored the holiday. From 1659 to 1681 Massachusetts went further, making celebrating Christmas "by forbearing of labor, feasting or in any other way" a crime.

The concern that Christmas distracted from religious piety continued even after Puritanism waned. In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas "and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing." Throughout the 1800's, many religious leaders were still trying to hold the line. As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because "they do not accept the day as a Holy One." On the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was recognized in just 18 states.

Christmas gained popularity when it was transformed into a domestic celebration, after the publication of Clement Clarke Moore's "Visit from St. Nicholas" and Thomas Nast's Harper's Weekly drawings, which created the image of a white-bearded Santa who gave gifts to children. The new emphasis lessened religious leaders' worries that the holiday would be given over to drinking and swearing, but it introduced another concern: commercialism. By the 1920's, the retail industry had adopted Christmas as its own, sponsoring annual ceremonies to kick off the "Christmas shopping season."

Religious leaders objected strongly. The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out. A 1931 Times roundup of Christmas sermons reported a common theme: "the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism." A 1953 Methodist sermon broadcast on NBC - typical of countless such sermons - lamented that Christmas had become a "profit-seeking period." This ethic found popular expression in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." In the 1965 TV special, Charlie Brown ignores Lucy's advice to "get the biggest aluminum tree you can find" and her assertion that Christmas is "a big commercial racket," and finds a more spiritual way to observe the day.

This year's Christmas "defenders" are not just tolerating commercialization - they're insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians' objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign's leaders insist this is a new phenomenon - a "liberal plot," in Mr. Gibson's words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was "an infringement on their rights as Americans."

Other non-Christians have long expressed similar concerns. For decades, companies have replaced "Christmas parties" with "holiday parties," schools have adopted "winter breaks" instead of "Christmas breaks," and TV stations and stores have used phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" out of respect for the nation's religious diversity.

The Christmas that Mr. O'Reilly and his allies are promoting - one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers - fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

It does not, however, appear to be catching on with the public. That may be because most Americans do not recognize this commercialized, mean-spirited Christmas as their own. Of course, it's not even clear the campaign's leaders really believe in it. Just a few days ago, Fox News's online store was promoting its "Holiday Collection" for shoppers. Among the items offered to put under a "holiday tree" was "The O'Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament." After bloggers pointed this out, Fox changed the "holidays" to "Christmases."
More Articles in Opinion >


OK, so I quoted nearly the whole thing. I just don't want to have a useless post if the link dies.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:58 PM
November 19, 2005
No easy answers

Scout posted about a friend who unexpectedly, perhaps foolishly, has become pregnant. I wrote a comment there and found myself spending so much time composing it I decided to make a post of what I've written. No new, sage wisdom to be found here. But I felt that stating my position is a reasonable thing to do. Note that I've edited the text which I copied from my comment a bit to make it fit as part of my blog and perhaps edit it some from when I first posted it, but I think the basic thoughts are the same.

This is where the rubber hits the road in the choice/abortion debate. It is not equivilent to some other medical procedure like getting stitches or getting a cavity filled.

At the same time, in the early stages it is foolish to say that this developing fetus is fully human (IMHO). A large percentage of conceived embryos abort naturally and only the most extreme of the pro-life crowd would argue for naming/baptising/burying the remains from every miscarried pregnancy (and I'm sorry if referring to the embryo/zygot/whatever as "remains" is offensive, I just am not certain what a good, sensitive word to use for this situation would be). The person in the situation of facing an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is the only one who really can understand what they are going through because each person is different and there is no easy answer. Abortion will end the prenancy (not completely without risk, but as long as it is legal it is possible to minimize that risk) and solve all sorts of complications. On the other hand, I do believe that there are many women who have had abortions and felt guilt about that the rest of their lives. Even the pregnant woman cannot be certain how she will feel in later years about the decision she makes, whether she chooses abortion or not.

Nick, one of the guest posters at Alas A Blog, has written about the roller coaster of physical trials she has experienced in her pregnancy and how deciding to keep a baby instead of choosing to abort does not mean a simple, few months of a bit of weight gain (though I have been unable to find the post I remember in which she addressed this quite directly). Pregnancy carries a lot of risks as well. Pregnancy is probably one of the most physically demanding things a person could ever do, not even considering the emotional considerations.

I don't envy your friend. She is facing a difficult choice and there is not a choice which is obviously right which will make everything ok and without consequence. To a certain extent it is pointless to try and heap guilt on her and say it is her own fault (and you didn't say whether their contraception failed or they had decided not to use it, so there may even be an argument for diminished guilt if she had taken measures to protect against this and they just didn't work, aside from the argument you've already made that having a relationship with this guy in the first place was a bad idea). I do hope that this helps her to make better choices in the future so she doesn't find herself in this situation again. It is precisely because this is such a difficult situation to deal with that I fully support keeping abortion legal. It is hard to imagine a law which could restrict abortions without leaving many women in situations where they would feel they still had to abort, despite whatever legal consequences there would be. Thus, making laws to restrict abortions just makes the decisions facing pregnant women that much more complex.

I wish your friend well, whatever her choice. I hope that you will continue to be her friend and support her. It sounds like she needs one very much, even if she doesn't listen to your words of wisdom. I'll be reading to see if you give us any updates on her decisions.

So, nothing really original. I doubt my opionions here surprise anyone who has read much of what I've written. I do agree that the best goal we should, as a society, be seeking in regards to abortion is that it should be safe, legal, and rare. That rarity should come because unwanted pregnancies are rare due to good health education, including sex education. But when a woman decides to abort her pregnancy she should not have roadblocks put in her way, especially not by that half of the population who will never have to face this decision, of whom I am one.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:46 AM
November 14, 2005
Moving backwards

It seems to me that this administration is doing everything it can to undo all of the protections that have been developed over the last 70 years. Jimmy Carter has publicly stated in a column published by the Los Angeles Times that he is disturbed and embarrassed by the actions taken by this president and his cronies. I hope that more people will pull their heads out of the sand and recognize that they have been sold a bill of goods by these jerks who are raping the world for the private gain of themselves and their friends.

Posted by JoKeR at 05:57 PM
October 18, 2005
Adding Emphasis

Once again, Rob has offered what seems to me to be clear insights into the political situation in this country. He has done this in four articles (1, 2, 3, and 4) which I urge you to read in their entirety. However, in order to prevent this from being simply a set of links, allow me to try to summarize some of what he has said.

In the first part he identifies three major factors that will have an important impact on how America and the world is likely to develop: globalization, aging world population, and accelerating technological innovation. He discusses what makes these factors important and how they might affect our changing world.

In the next three articles he takes each one of these factors and explores possible responses which could be offered for each of these factors which could be publicly popular and effective in keeping America competitive in the world market in the decades to come. As a Democrat he hopes that his party will adopt his framework (or something similar) in order to reverse the recent trends towards domination by Republican strategists. However, more than simply hoping for a resurgence of Democratic strength, he hopes that these policy suggestions will be used by someone else if the Democrats continue to follow their current weak strategies which have allowed the Republican consolidation of power. The problems are too real and too important to simply follow party politics when solutions are urgently needed.

I doubt that his suggestions are likely to be heeded by the current Democratic leadership. Even if his ideas gain some traction I'm not sure that they will be enough to fully address the problems this country and the world faces. The first two comments on the first of the four articles mention two items which I'm not sure he has adequately addressed: environmental degradation and increasing competition for oil/energy resources. Even so, I think he presents some sound ideas which I hope will receive wider distribution (hopefully much wider than just my own small, but wonderful, group of readers).

Again, I urge you to read all four parts.


UPDATE: Rob has added a follow up post to his series which links to several other articles of related interest.

Posted by JoKeR at 08:00 AM
September 20, 2005
Health Coverage

I responded to an article asking about the advantages and disadvantages of national health care over at Center for Faith in Politics. The article references the fact that the average cost of health insurance in this country now exceeds the money earned by a full-time minimum wage worker and was written by Thomas Martin. Note that this cost is only for the insurance. It still doesn't include the co-pays and deductables involved in actually getting some health care services. And that insurance cost is even before taxes. Granted, the tax rate at that low income level isn't much, but there is still the cut for social security and most places in this country have sales taxes so that presumably some part of the minimum wage earner's income would be taken by taxes.

The initial comment I posted drew an energetic response from Dick Clark, clearly a libertarian. For whatever reason, I've now responded to two of his comments with two more comments of my own. If you have an interest in some of my thoughts on national health care coverage you could check it out. Be warned, he uses "a priori" arguments and I admit I resorted to pejoratives such as "theoretical." I don't know why I engage in such exchanges, but sometimes I do.

UPDATE 9/20/2005: A third round of exchanges between Mr. Clark and myself has occurred. Sometimes it is hard to resist a good argument. For all that I completely disagree with him, I will grant that he has generally been quite civil, more so than I sometimes, I'm afraid.

Posted by JoKeR at 03:37 AM
September 06, 2005
Being poor

Read. Via Body and Soul.

Posted by JoKeR at 06:30 PM
September 03, 2005
The next few months in New Orleans

This is uncharted territory for the USA. We have helped people at home and around the world, but never in my memory have we experienced the kind of complete disruption that has happened in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Relief agencies are finally delivering food and water to people who have been stranded in New Orleans, but the major effort is still mostly a matter of assessing the damage and emergency aid rather than begining the rebuilding.

While other areas were hit very hard by Katrina, such as Gulfport, MS which was in the direct path of the hurricane, no other place, to my knowledge, has had to deal with the followon disasters which have hit the Big Easy. The flooding caused by the levees breaking means that it will be weeks at least before the water can be drained so that reconstruction can begin. Roads and other infrastructure cannot be repaired while they remain underwater.

Even once the water is drained, what next? Despite the devastation, there are scattered parts of the city which were on higher ground that have managed to weather the storm. Even now I've read of reports of folks returning to homes where that is possible. But how can living there be sustained? With no electricity and other vital services including water, gas, phone service, etc. still not working, will the early returners be able to stay if there are no stores from which to buy supplies, there are no utilities to support their homes, there are no businesses in which to work?

Clearly the recovery will not be an all or nothing operation. Some areas which were not hit as hard will recover more quickly than those areas which have not yet even been drained. But how well will the areas which begin to return to a semlance of normality be able to function? Will the people who happen to live in those areas also happen to have someplace to work? Will the businesses in those areas still have employees who can operate the businesses? I can easily imagine stores that are ready to reopen, except their employees have not been able to return to the city as well as citizens who return only to find they have no place to work or shop.

In some ways, this will be like the building of a new city. The growth will have to feed on itself. Homes need to be rebuilt/restored so that people have places to live. Stores need to be reopened so that residents have sources of food and other necessities. Businesses need to resume operation so that the citizens have places to work. As some of this gets started then more residents can return which will increase the viability of the stores and enable businesses to ramp up to fuller operations, which in turn will provide incentives for more citizens to return. This is not SimCity, this is Real City.

But how long will it take to reach the point where the resumption of normal activities will gather steam to the point where the city will start to feel like it is not just an empty shell? How many buildings will simply have to be demolished as unsalvagable after the extensive damage inflicted by the storm and the flooding? How quickly will order be restored so that the rebuilding efforts can get underway without danger from scattered looters and other trouble makers? How many people will simply opt not to return so that previously viable businesses no longer have the customer base to support them?

The reconstruction efforts themselves will be the beginning point as buildings are rebuilt or demolished for new construction using insurance reimbursements and government funds. But how is this directed? The ports and oil refineries are essential for the continuing smooth operation of the business of the country, but the work on those cannot proceed without parallel work on the infrastructure that supports the enegy and other needs of those operations as well as the homes and businesses needed by the returning residents who will operate them.

New Orleans could emerge as one of the great modern cities in the country as Munich did after WWII when it was rebuilt almost completely after suffering devasting attacks during that maelstrom. But who is ready to decide when old structures are to be replaced by completely new buildings and when they should simply be restored? Planning across the city needs to address this or a patchwork quilt of old, perhaps even historic, buildings are rebuilt without regard for new construction which might be incompatible with the old buildings. I can imagine a raised structure being the new street level of New Orleans just as Atlanta now has a surface which is actually high off the ground where railways and subways run underneath, but the visible buildings are located with main floors on the elevated level instead of at ground level. But if people want to restore some buildings in their original foundations (assuming that there are some which are salvagable) while others want to demolish adjacent structures to build a new elevated infrastructure, who is ready to make the call on which way the city should go?

The coming months and years are going to see a very different New Orleans rising to fulfill the needs of that part of the country. The refineries and port activities are too important not to rebuild, which means that associated support businesses and residences also must be built. But unless the rebuilding is done with an eye to how to better handle the next catastrophic hurricane, then the efforts made in the near future could wind up being a collosal waste. Let us all hope that leaders who can envision this new New Orleans will act for the good of the future and not just the short term needs of individuals and corporations without a coordinated plan.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:41 PM
October 08, 2004
Voting

I found the following in a group on Faith Groups (formerly Ecunet). I thought it was worthwhile reading for all of us, not just women, and so I'm posting it here.

From: "Christiane Westhelle" Subject: FW: What we take for granted...

A short history lesson on the privilege of voting...

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic."

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down
her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am
ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. "One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie," she said. "What would those women think of the way I use--or
don't use--my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn." The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her "all over again."

HBO will run the movie periodically before releasing it on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. The doctor
admonished the men:

"Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."


Please pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women

Search www.hbo.com for air times.

Not being a subcriber to HBO I guess I'll have to wait for its video release to see this. Still, the message reminding people of the importance of voting seems worth passing on.

Posted by JoKeR at 03:24 AM
September 19, 2004
Comments about Positive Liberty

Ampersand has once again provided multiple interesting links. The links that prompted me to comment were those to Positive Liberty. Jason at PL often provides well thought-out articles that are worth reading. However, I found the set of articles identified by Ampersand (one, two, three) not to be up to his usual standard.

In this series of articles Jason argues that there are basically three types of political arguments:

[Jason] suggested that three types of arguments tend to dominate American political discourse today. Almost invariably, we justify our political thoughts based either on the will of the majority; or on some theory of justice, understood as a proper apportionment of reward and punishment; or on pluralism, the idea that life is somehow better (though not necessarily more just) when a country permits many different modes of life to exist simultaneously, whether or not the majority of citizens find those practices particularly moral or well-suited to themselves.

He goes on to discuss some political topics, analyzing them with regard to these three basic types of arguments and why they are or are not effective or appropriate. Unfortunately, I disagree with his descriptions of the three types of arguments and his rejection of other types of arguments.

First he declares that democratic ideas of majority rules are not related to justice. I would argue that justice is the foundation of democratic processes. It was in response to the injustice of being ruled without having any say in how that governance should be done that led to the revolt which established this country. We have certainly gotten many things wrong and don't have as fair a system as might be possible, but it was an attempt at creating a just system.

Clearly, part of the purpose behind the rule of law is to protect the rights of some against others, usually the weak against the strong since the strong can often direct events to their own advantage. Still, the rights of the strong must also be protected, as in enforcing collection of legitimate debts. The reason, it seems to me, that people submit to the authority of government is because they accept the social contract which is the basis of a large group of people living together. I think that this is something which libertarians, especially Libertarians, seem to lose sight of.

The idea of majority rule is just because it gives those who are ruled a say in how they are ruled. If someone is abusing their authority then they can be voted out. People are willing to submit to leadership by someone they didn't choose because they hope to be able to have a chance later for someone who better represents their views to be elected. If Jason can suggest a form of government in which people who have different goals and motivations can live together fairly that is more just than one based on majority rule, I'd like to hear about it.

Jason defines his second type of politcal argument as one based on justice. I think that he defines this too narrowly as "a proper apportionment of reward and punishment." Justice, as I see it, encompases fairness as well as reward and punishment. If two people have conflicting demands for a limited resource, then finding a just accomodation between them would involve considering their different claims, how they are each affected by the outcome of the decision, as well as how society might be affected by the decision. Again, this comes back to the social contract by which we agree to be governed. Just because someone can do something with "their property" doesn't mean it is fair to everyone else involved, which includes neighbors and potential future generations.

As for his politcal argument type of "pluralism," this argument now carries weight because it is an outgrowth of and response to injustices of the past. Thus, the arguments that it is better for there to be a reasonable representation of men and women as well as different ethnic groups is in response to previous repressions of people who were not white men which is still a factor in our modern world. As for his later arguments against various environmental arguments as being based on pluralism as some weirdly indefinable benefit of having multiple varieties of animals and plants which considers the imagined thoughts and desires of animals while planing actions, I will say that there may well be a fringe group of environmentalists taking this tack, but I think that the majority of people who are concerned about environmental issues are more concerned about the continued viability of life and quality of life on the planet which we all share. There are multiple examples of ecological disasters caused by people's ill-considered actions. Avoiding future disasters of a similar nature is clearly an issue of justice for those who will follow after and must live with the consequences of our actions.

In his third article Jason dismisses fascism as a different type of political argument with this statement:

In a comment to an earlier post, Paul suggested that fascism--the doctrine that the strong must rule over the weak--was an exception to this three-part system. I believe that he is correct, although fascism is only a minor current in American politics today.

I don't understand where this definition of fascism came from. Perhaps he was thinking of Nazism as being justified by the theoretical superiority of the Aryan race. However, definitions of fascism that I've seen such as this one from the Wikipedia don't match what Jason and Paul mentioned:

The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that

-exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual,
-uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition,
-engages in severe economic and social regimentation, and
-espouses nationalism and sometimes racism (ethnic nationalism).

I would say that many of these features are frighteningly present in our current administration. If you cannot see elements of this in many of the actions of Bush's government then you're not paying attention.

It is difficult to comment on some of Jason's specific statements since I reject much of the basis. However, I feel motivated to point out a few things.

Jason made a facetious argument about rock music being the most popular music therefore only rock music should be played on radio stations as a reflection of the will of the majority. However, even the link he provides to back up his claim that rock music is the most popular shows that less than 25% of the population prefers rock music. Using this plurality as an example of the absurdity of majority rule is simply nonsensical. Further, this example is used to foster his argument that the FCC should be eliminated because they are trying to do a similar type of censorship based on majority preference for non-obscene broadcasts. I might be willing to entertain an argument that the restrictions put on broadcasters need to be changed, but I don't believe that the FCC should be abolished. The electro-magnetic spectrum (EMS) is a limited resource which should be available to all. There has to be some mechanism for ensuring that competing interests do not interfere with each other by using conflicting technologies. I think that many changes need to be made in the way our EMS is managed, but eliminating all government involvement does not seem to me to be a reasonable response. Jason quotes from the Ayn Rand Institute concerning this:

Broadcasters should not have to plead to the authorities for annual licenses, any more than a homeowner should have to beg for an annual license to use the patch of land he has developed.

I believe that most people do have to make an annual petition to continue to use the land they have developed. This is called property taxes. It is part of the social contract I've mentioned before. We agree to this because of the recognition that these taxes help support the society of which we are a part, and thus it is appropriate for those making use of these societal resouces on a temporarily exclusive basis to pay something for that privilege. I say temporary because even wholly owned property will be turned over to some other entity (whether an heir, the state, or someone else) when the owner dies.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:47 PM
September 16, 2004
South has risen again

In a guest column in the AJC Zell Miller details some evidence that the South has been a critical factor in presidential elections for many years. He argues that it is because the Democratic party has abandoned the South that southern voters have turned to the Republican party. Despite my disgust with Zell's support of Bush and the Republicans, I find myself in agreement with him on this point.

When the Republicans emerged on the national scene by electing Lincoln it was clear that the South would not support Republicans for a long time. The GOP were seen as oppressors, sending carpet baggers to undermine southern traditions and institutions. As the southern whites reasserted themselves after Reconstruction they were solidly Democratic.

The Democrats embraced this support since they had clearly lost a lot of clout with Lincoln leading the country in winning the Civil War. Eventually the Democrats emerged as the party of the "little people," supporting FDR which led to an extended period of Democratic dominance nationally. During this time the Dems had to accomodate the South in order maintain the national majority from which they derived their political power. The Republicans were not able to elect another president until Eisenhower, who could have been elected by either party due to his popularity as a war hero. But before that happened the Democrats had a falling out with the South as shown by Strom Thurman's campaign for president under the banner of the Dixiecrat party. That third party candidacy helped Truman get elected, since the Republicans would have won if they'd been able to get the southern states to support their candidate instead of running independently. As Zell indicated, the south was acting as the king makers, with their support being essential to win unless they withdrew from the race by voting in isolation. Again, as Zell said, Truman was the last Democrat to be elected president without carrying the South.

With the defeat of the Dixiecrats many of its prominent members, having already left the Democratic party, switched to the Republican party. The Republicans, having been kept out of the White House for decades, embraced the "New South," doing much to appease their new members in order to have a chance to regain prominence. Meanwhile, the Democrats, having already cut some of their ties with the South, were willing to go along with the Republicans on civil rights legislation which the Dems had been opposing in order to appease the South. Thus this critical piece of legislation was able to pass because of the transition of the South from Democratic control to Republican leanings.

The transition has taken decades, because even with the GOP courting the South there were enough yellow dog Democrats that most southern governors, senators, and other elected officials continued to be Democratic even as the South occasionally voted for Republican presidential candidates. When the South did vote for a Democratic presidential candidate it was, to a large extent and as Zell pointed out, because the candidates were from the South.

Now the transition is nearly complete. Two years ago several state legislators in Georgia switched to the Republican party as soon as the first Republican governor since Reconstruction was elected. It is expected that the Republicans' hold on the state legislature will be solidified with this election.

Before the Dixiecrats the Republicans had pushed for civil rights legislation because they knew that if they could enfranchise the southern black voters they could probably be counted on to vote for the party of Lincoln. However, when the Dixiecrats were embraced by the Republicans, the new black voters in the South became overwhelmingly Democratic. In part this was because you had to vote Democratic to be a factor in politics because most elections were decided in the primaries with the Republicans only able to offer token opposition. I think a more important factor was that southern blacks noted the courting of the southern white vote by Republicans as much as the whites did. In a corallary to the maxim that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," southern blacks could tell that "the friend of my enemy is my enemy." Thus as the Republicans have played to the bigoted southern voters they have cemented the blacks to the Democratic party.

What I think has caught the Republican party off guard is that their courting of the South has worked too well. The South has not been content to simply do whatever the Republicans wanted as they rabidly turned on their former party. Instead they have jockeyed for powerful positions in return for delivering their states. This can be seen in the positions of Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and others in Congress. More than this, the South, specifically the Republicans from Texas, have managed to set the agenda for the Republican party. Rather than being the docile helpmates I suspect the Republicans hoped for, the southern Republicans have become the armed kidnappers who have come in and demanded that the original "owners" of the Republican party play by the new southern rules or be cut down. Thus, the party of Lincoln has become dominated by the heirs of the people that Lincoln defeated in the Civil War.

So I agree with Zell. The Democrats deserted the South. Instead they took the moral path, voting for civil rights rather than continuing to support the Jim Crow laws of the South. Meanwhile, the Republicans have deserted their principles in order to woo the southern states. As the song says, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." The New South isn't all that different from the Old South. It is just that they have found a new puppet to dance to their tune.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:17 AM
September 15, 2004
It is happening here

Bob Harris who frequently posts at Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World blog posted this commentary after his return from a month long trip to the Middle East. His vacation from current media left him shocked by the report of civilian deaths in Iraq when he came home. More shocking than the deaths themselves was the indifferent report by the news media. In fact, in order to make the news interesting, the focus of the reports was that a reporter was one of those killed in the attack. Bob's reaction should be what we should expect from all people of conscience, both here in the USA and elsewhere. Read the whole thing.

In the old analogy of the frog being killed by slowly heating the water in which it sits until it is boiled without ever jumping out, Bob's posting clarifies that the water is being heated around us and we, as Americans, are becoming de-sensitized to things that should shock us. It is exactly this type of numbed reaction to reports of (what is the best adjective here: "unfortunate"? "improper"? "unacceptable"? "illegal"? "evil"?) actions directed by our government in our names which makes it easier for even more attrocious acts to be done without the public objecting.

I honestly believe that we are in a situation similar to Germany around 1936. Hitler has been in power for a few years and is proud of the changes he has made around his country even as people there and elsewhere were concerned about what was developing there. If Bush is re-elected, I fear that we might well move towards the type of world domination by force that Hitler attempted as well as increased suppression of opposition forces at home. Despite the overwhelming military force which the USA currently has (comparable in many ways to the unstoppable forces Hitler had built up), I believe that ultimately the world and Americans of conscience would put a halt to the oppression and domination which Bush is attempting. However, the millions of people which would be hurt or killed by this before the neo-cons are stopped has the potential to be a tragedy at least as great as the evil wrought by Hitler.

We have an opportunity to stop Bush now by voting him out of office in November. The neo-cons will be easier to stop now than they will be in the four years following this election. Let us get out now rather than waiting to see how much hotter the water will get.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:45 PM
September 10, 2004
Why do people believe Bush?

Paul Krugman again clearly states the problem with Bush.

It's the dishonesty, stupid. The real issue in the National Guard story isn't what George W. Bush did three decades ago. It's the recent pattern of lies: his assertions that he fulfilled his obligations when he obviously didn't, the White House's repeated claims that it had released all of the relevant documents when it hadn't.

It's the same pattern of dishonesty, this time involving personal matters that the public can easily understand, that some of us have long seen on policy issues, from global warming to the war in Iraq.

Mr. Krugman then goes into more detail about Bush's dishonesty when it comes to economic issues. I will not presume to improve upon his analysis.

As for the controversy about the Vietnam-era records of the two main presidential candidates, Kevin Drum (speaking about some of the recently found documents concerning Bush's service) sums up my feelings well (via Josh Marshall):

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

Again, the problem is not that Bush was not demonstrating a vigorous commitment to national service in the '70s, it is that he and his handlers are continuing to lie about it and so much else. This dishonesty can be seen in virtually everything this administration does. From environmental deceptions (the "Clean Air" initiative) to economic issues (see Krugman above) to military matters (touting that we must support our service people while cutting hazard duty pay, veterans benefits, medical benifits for military dependents, and educational support for military families, etc.) and on and on.

Why is it so difficult for people who support Bush to see the lies and recognize that they have been deceived?

Posted by JoKeR at 01:42 PM
July 28, 2004
The Emperor IS Clothed!

I've been watching a lot of the Democratic National Convention this week. I have found many of the speeches very moving. What has surprised me is some of the responses in the letters column of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I won't link here because I doubt the link will survive more than a day or two. But comments like


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's full-color, Page One photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton -- the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of politics -- ruined a good cup of coffee for me. Picturing them was asking too much of readers, some of whom are Republicans or independents, so early in the day.

This Boston experiment in despair by America's leftist/socialist party -- parading tired old liberal political warhorses as inspiration -- is not going to work.

from Felton Hudson and this


[Carter's] embracing of the vitriolic left disgusts many of us who voted for him long ago.

from David Hanson are just baffling to me. Somehow the leaders saying things that I found inspiring are offending others.

It seems to me that some people who support Bush are completely unwilling to hear other ideas. It reminds me of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes where some con men convince people to say that they can see non-existent clothes in order to maintain their self-important reputations. Today, however, supporters of our current administration seem to be trying to shout down those who try to point out that the Emperor has no clothes, continuing to insist that he IS clothed and anyone who disagrees is ignorant and wrong.

Is there anything that anyone can say which will enable these people to see that there is a chance that they are wrong and that there might be other options?

Posted by JoKeR at 09:57 PM
June 16, 2004
Who to blame?

One thing that keeps bothering me is the argument about whether or not the handful of "bad eggs" are the only ones responsible for the abuses at Abu-Ghraib. Thousands of images have surfaced, but that does not mean that thousands were abused (I'm trying to say "abused" instead of "tortured" as I'm really trying to be calm while I discuss this) since some of the victims could have been in multiple pictures. It also doesn't necessarily mean that others were directly involved in the abuses (unless the images include more authority figures than the handful being prosecuted). However, I think that the circumstances don't allow for a credible defense of the idea that that handful is solely responsible for everything that happened.

Let me present different scenarios. I doubt that any of these are accurate and that the truth is somewhere between these extremes. However, I cannot imagine a scenario which does not lead to the conclusion that others share responsibility.

First, imagine that the handful are the sole perpetrators of this abuse. They acted on their own, without the knowledge or approval of anyone else. They were so arrogant that they photographed or videoed every single abusive action that they perpetrated, documentary evidence which the authorities have now somehow acquired. These abusers repeatedly pulled prisoners away from where prying eyes could see, abused their victims while carefully documenting the abuses for their own later enjoyment, and then returned the prisoners to their routine incarcerations.

The unlikely possibility that the abusers were so incredibly clever that they were able to carry out these abuses without being detected beggars the imagination. Research has shown that when people are put into captor/captive relationships there is a very strong tendancy for the guards to become extremely authoritarian and the prisoners to become uncooperative. To believe that the abusers responded in a predictable way when unobserved while maintaining a proper, professional appearance at other times just doesn't make sense.

Furthermore, why would anyone think that the images that have surfaced constitute the totality of abuses? For the sake of this hypothetical scenario I suggested that the abusers recorded all of their abuses so that we can believe that we are fully aware of the extent of the abuse and that we have fully resolved it. This is so unlikely as to be laughable.

For this to have gone undetected for so many months, especially with organizations like the IRC and Amnesty International reporting that abuse was taking place, is an indication that the administrators of Abu-Ghraib were negligent in their duty for allowing such unmonitored activities and for not responding when complaints were voiced. This is the minimum culpability I can imagine for those in authority over the guards and prisoners at Abu-Ghraib, and it is so far fetched that it is only in this context of conjecture that I can even talk about this possibility.

Let us imagine a second scenario. Again, in this set up we have every single act of abuse documented. However, this time this documentation was not done out of a perverse desire for recording gleeful abuse. Instead, in this scenario the abuses are documented because of strict guidelines about who should be abused, how the abuse should be done, and the need for careful documentation to demonstrate that the abuse was carried out according to the rules.

In the best case of this scenario we can imagine that at all other times the prisoners were treated appropriately and it was only during "abcess" (instead of recreational recess time, this would be abusive abcess time) that any abuse occurred. Again, the likelyhood of this scenario is extremely slim. I think it has a greater chance of actually happening in some situation than the first scenario I presented because it at least provides a rationale for the extensive documentation and has the advantage of assuring that only authorized abuse occurred, with no tolerance for freelance abuse. This possibility also helps to explain how so many images were so quickly assembled for presentation before Congress once investigations were begun.

However, with this scenario the culpability of the prison authorities rises dramatically. Not only were they aware of the abuse (again, in this hypothetical scenario), they approved and directed the abuse. I very much doubt that this scenario reflects the reality of Abu-Ghraib, but I present it in an attempt to demonstrate a possible way that this abusive situation could be considered as fully understood with little likelyhood that there were abuses which have gone undetected.

I think that the likeliest scenario is somewhere in between the two extremes I have presented. I suspect that the abuse is much more widespread than the documented abuses as shown in the images which have been found. I suspect that many more people were involved. I suspect that these abuses were part of an overall environment where the prisoners were rarely accorded any respect or consideration. I suspect that the abuse was at least tolerated by at least some of the administrators of the prison. I imagine there were some in the administrative structure who were genuinely ignorant of the abuses taking place, but I think that the entire administration is guilty of negligence in their oversite at a minimum, ranging on up to complicity in an organized campaign of abuse.

I take no joy in this analysis. I believe this is one of the likely consequences of going to war. The abuses suffered by the prisoners and the psychological damage suffered by the guards by participating in the abuse will have ramifications for years to come, in the personal lives of those involved at least and likely in the larger context of the military, governments, and the global community.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:17 PM
May 20, 2003
Safer?

How is it that the Director of Homeland Security can say the nation is "significantly safer than we were 20 months ago" and at the same time government officials are announcing that the U.S. government will raise its terror alert status to "high" from "elevated" because of a renewed risk of terrorist attack in the United States. What does this mean? We are safer than when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked without our military being able to respond immediately? Does this mean that even though we are not as safe as we were last week when the terror alert level was yellow (since it is now going to be orange), it is still better than it was when we were ignoring terrorist threats? The Bush administration continues to do the same amazing job in leading this country in the wrong direction.

Posted by JoKeR at 03:30 PM
April 21, 2003
National passtime?

Thanks to jeanne d'arc for pointing me to this amusing, truly sad, and sadly true bit of animation.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:56 AM
Fog of Peace

I don't usually post links to articles in which I am not vitally interested. Usually I link to articles which I agree with and want to use in order to support the positions I have taken. Sometimes I link to articles which mock the positions taken by those with whom I disagree.

However, this article deals with a topic which I am neither expert in or passionate about. In it the author argues for the continued reliance on the backbone of our defenses, the infantry, as opposed to depending entirely on new technology such as ever larger bombs. I don't think we should be spending so much time, money, lives, and other resources on making war in the first place.

However, there is one paragraph that stood out when I read it as demonstrating the almost impossible (for me) to understand mindset of some of the pro-war folk. In arguring in support of the infantry in the face of the Washington lobbyists and chickenhawks who want more shiny new toys, Ralph Peters writes:

Before the clarity of this war is distorted by the fog of peace, we need to take stock of what actually happened.

"The fog of peace." This man is worried that we will become so befuddled by peace in our lives that we won't be able to think clearly.

Personally I don't believe he has anything to worry about. The chances of peace breaking out all over while the Bush administration is continuing it's push for war (is the next target officially Syria, yet?) are slim and none. Even if we can depose Bush eventually, this world is so violent that there is little likelyhood of even a single day going by without there being some wartime activity somewhere on our ever-shrinking globe.

"The fog of peace." Sheesh. How can anyone even talk to people like that?

Posted by JoKeR at 12:27 AM
April 12, 2003
Apparently not finished after all

Well, a few days ago I wrote about the apparent end of the war with the fall of Baghdad. Now it would seem that the cheers for the end of Sadaam's reign might have been premature. With near anarchy in Baghdad and fighting continuing this is hardly what I would call a peaceful end to the war. I continue to pray for a restoration of order in Iraq, but I suspect that there will continue to be at least isolated cases of resistance as long as the US is there.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:19 PM
April 10, 2003
War over?

As I said, the best we can hope for once we started the war is for a quick finish. I don't know if less than a month is short enough to qualify as a good outcome from a bad start, but I hope that the fall of Baghdad marks a dramatic reduction in the violence that has rocked Iraq under the heel of the US military. With more than 100 US casualties and an unknown number of Iraqi dead (I've seen a British estimate of 13,000+), the cost has not been negligible. I worry that, with the official opposition dispersed, terrorist attacks on the occupying forces will be used by anti-American forces. It would be naive to assume that the entire population of Iraq is ready to acquiesce and cooperate with their conquering "liberators."

The US continues to be in a situation where our government must be closely watched in hopes of getting them to do the right thing. In my mind, that "right thing" would be a serious commitment to working to rebuild Iraq from both the destruction of our latest attack as well as the effects of the decade-long sanctions. This must be done while moving as quickly as possible to recognize an Iraqi authority who can be accepted by the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, our record as seen by our efforts at establishing a stable situation in Afghanistan is not encouraging.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:24 PM
April 07, 2003
McGovern Speaks on War

In The Reason Why George McGovern speaks his mind on the regime of George II and the invasion of Iraq. The opening paragraph sets the tone:

Thanks to the most crudely partisan decision in the history of the Supreme Court, the nation has been given a President of painfully limited wisdom and compassion and lacking any sense of the nation's true greatness. Appearing to enjoy his role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces above all other functions of his office, and unchecked by a seemingly timid Congress, a compliant Supreme Court, a largely subservient press and a corrupt corporate plutocracy, George W. Bush has set the nation on a course for one-man rule.

He mentions that he has been unable to get these views aired in outlets such as The Washington Post and he is grateful to The Nation for giving him a platform to speak in its April 21, 2003 issue. I am grateful to my friend Fred Anderson on Ecunet for bringing this to my attention.

Posted by JoKeR at 11:36 AM
April 05, 2003
The Failure of War

In The Failure of War from YES! Magazine Wendell Berry writes about the condradictions inherant in waging war for the sake of peace. While I am less comfortable with his denunciation of abortion along with war, capital punishment, and other forms of violence, he presents a good argument for the absurdity of our policies of pursuing peace by means of violence.

I am reminded by this article of the statement which I have seen attributed to Albert Einstein that you cannot simultaneously prepare for peace and war. Also of the line from the song by Holly Near: "Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?"

I am again grateful to Dale for pointing me to this link.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:33 AM
March 28, 2003
The argument for war

Here is a fictionalized but all too real discussion between a peacenik and a warmonger on why we should go to war with Iraq now. I find the constantly changing explanations/excuses of the warmonger to be exactly the type of things I've been seeing from the pro-war faction for some time. Needless to say, I am unconvinced that it was or is necessary to fight Iraq at this time.

Posted by JoKeR at 11:34 PM
March 27, 2003
What to do during the war

Even before reading this post by jeanne d'arc I was concerned about what should be done now that the war has started.

It goes without saying that it is proper to hope and pray that our military personnel are kept as safe as possible and brought home as soon as possible. They are serving their country at great risk to themselves and deserve our respect and support. I think that it is just as important to remember the Iraqi people, hoping and praying for their safety as well. Even so, trusting that God will manage to make some lemonade out of the huge pile of lemons which Bush & Co. have made does little to help us understand what actions we should take.

I was further prompted to write by some comments I received recently. I decided that I liked part of what I wrote there in response and that I wanted to pull those remarks out where there was a possibility that one or two others might see it.

While I was adamently opposed to the war before it started (and still believe that it was unnecessary, illegal, and a bad idea all around), now that it has started I'm not sure what the best thing to do would be. I have an image of someone reaching into a hornet's nest in order to get something and then being unable to decide whether it is better to leave their hand inside the nest where it is getting stung or withdraw the hand which will unblock the opening allowing the hornets to attack other areas than just the hand. Having made a bad decision, there are no good choices for backing away even though it might not be good to stay. I just wish we had an administration that could look beyond their own selfish interests (OK, I admit they also consider their friends' interests, even if they don't give a rat's ass about anyone else's) when making decisions which affect so many people.

I think it is important to remember that this administration is clearly going to try to continue with their empire building and homeland supressing and that we must be ready to oppose these new actions.

In the meantime, I think that the best end to this illegal war would be a quick surrender by Iraq. I don't have any reason to believe that this will occur.

If a protracted and deadly war does develop, I just hope that more people will finally recognize that Bush is taking us down the wrong road and will be less supportive so that we can have a chance to get some better leaders when the elections roll around. Less support for Bush might even help to minimize the damage he does to the world and to our country if more congress critters see that their political future is better served by not goose-stepping behind our would-be emperor.

I have to admit, to my shame, that I sometimes find myself hoping for the war to go very badly so that Bush can be stopped before he manages to entrench himself in an unassailable military dictatorship, but in my saner moments I assert that I'd rather have a quick victory with minimum deaths, even if it means that Bush might look good to his brainwashed followers, rather than see huge numbers of casualties from a protracted war.

Posted by JoKeR at 05:07 PM
March 25, 2003
Our Leader Speaks

OK, it isn't exactly our leader. While this displays the type of thinking that we are expected to indulge in so that we can support this atrocious war, Bush and his henchmen are too canny to actually say these things out loud. Once you finish the instructions on the "Empathy alert" you can read through a "press conference" with Bush dodging questions and responsibility that does sound like the kind of thing Bush would say. However, I don't know that any of it is actual quotes.

Thanks to Jeanne d'Arc (this link is at the end of the post) for pointing me to it.

Posted by JoKeR at 11:45 AM
March 21, 2003
Really Engage

Well, the hope that the our military might not actually use their proposed "Shock and Awe" attack was definitly ended today. Rumsfeld and other military leaders are proclaiming that the current generation of smart weaponry will be able to effectively target so accurately that there really will be minimum civilian casualties. I pray that the loss of life will be minimised in this way, since the more sensible option of not attacking in the first place has not been chosen.

Of course, even as our troops are carrying out "Fearless Leader's" imperialist orders, our Republican leaders are acting to support our troops (NOT!). It is astonishing that anyone believes anything that politicians say these days.

Despite the fact that a swift and decisive victory would undoubtedly improve Bush's standing among many citizens of our country, that may yet be the best of many bad outcomes for this sorry exercise in chest thumping. My hope is that our international relations could then be repaired, but given Bush's clear tendency to divide instead of unite, I won't be holding my breath.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:18 PM
March 19, 2003
Engage!

I had been afraid when I got home from the church service where we prayed for peace that I would find that the war had begun. In fact, within an hour, Bush formally announced the beginning of the attack.

Contrary to the widely reported plans for a "Shock and Awe" attack, only some small attacks have been made so far (small? cruise missles, B52s, and stealth fighters, nothing serious). The news commentators have been saying that this initial attack is just a feint with the heavier attack which Bush promised to begin within a short time.

Of course, in order to make sure that things go smoothly, dissent must be suppressed. Furthermore, the fact that an open attack has begun means that the USA can expect to be attacked in turn.

Of course, responsibility for innocent Iraqis injured or killed by our attack will be attributed to Saddam since he could have prevented the attack by surrendering preemptively. Also, Saddam will be blamed for any attacks on our installations since it isn't right to blame us since he made us attack him (is saying "she made me hit her" a defense for a wife beater?). I fully expect that any problems which occur as a result of or in response to Bush launching this war will be laid at the feet of Saddam, even after he is deposed or killed.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:53 PM
March 17, 2003
Candlelight vigil

After our Lenten bible study at church we took candles and had a brief candlelight vigil on the hillside in front of the church. I will be curious to see if the newspapers even notice thousands of people across the country participating in these services. Of course, Bush will deliberately ignore it, just as he has ignored every protest for peace for the last year. If he deigns to comment at all I expect he will condemn it as supporting Saddam.

The latest news reports I've seen indicate that Bush intends to go to war with Iraq with or without UN approval.

He claims that Monday is the last day to see "whether or not diplomacy can work." This distorted view of the current stand off in the UN demonstrates how out of touch with reality Bush is. I think that most of the world would view a diplomatic solution to the current crisis as one which would allow us to accomplish the objective of disarming Iraq, either with or without "regime change," without having to go to war. However, it is clear that what Bush would consider "diplomacy working" is that he would get approval to go to war, otherwise he will go to war without appoval. This is right in line with his views on bipartisan politics. It is bipartisan if he gets what he wants. It is partisan politics if anyone opposes what he wants.

What a maroon. (With apologies to Bugs.)

Posted by JoKeR at 12:49 AM
March 14, 2003
We are waging peace

Lois Ann Wolff on Ecunet sent the following note which she received from Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians. She said that she thinks it's wonderful and I have to agree.

Waging Peace

Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, now Chancellor emeritus of the University of Peace in Costa Rica was one of the people who witnessed the founding of the U.N. and has worked in support of or inside the U.N. ever since. Recently he was in San Francisco to be honored for his service to the world through the U.N. and through his writings and teachings for peace. At age eighty, Dr. Muller surprised, even stunned, many in the audience that day with his most positive assessment of where the world stands now regarding war and peace.

I was there at the gathering and I myself was stunned by his remarks. What he said turned my head around and offered me a new way to see what is going on in the world. My synopsis of his remarks is below:

"I'm so honored to be here," he said. "I'm so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I'm so moved by what's going on in our world today."

Dr. Muller proceeded to say, "Never before in the history of the world has there been a global, visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war".

The whole world is in now having this critical and historic dialogue--listening to all kinds of points of view and positions about going to war or not going to war. In a huge global public conversation the world is asking-"Is war legitimate? Is it illegitimate? Is there enough evidence to warrant an attack? Is there not enough evidence to warrant an attack? What will be the consequences? The costs? What will happen after a war? How will this set off other conflicts? What might be peaceful alternatives? What kind of negotiations are we not thinking of? What are the real intentions for declaring war?"

All of this, he noted, is taking place in the context of the United Nations Security Council, the body that was established in 1949 for exactly this purpose. He pointed out that it has taken us more than fifty years to realize that function, the real function of the U.N. And at this moment in history-- the United Nations is at the center of the stage. It is the place where these conversations are happening, and it has become in these last months and weeks, the most powerful governing body on earth, the most powerful container for the world's effort to wage peace rather than war. Dr. Muller was almost in tears in recognition of the fulfillment of this dream.

"We are not at war," he kept saying. We, the world community, are WAGING peace. It is difficult, hard work. It is constant and we must not let up. It is working and it is an historic milestone of immense proportions.. It has never happened before-never in human history-and it is happening now-every day every hour-waging peace through a global conversation. He pointed out that the conversation questioning the validity of going to war has gone on for hours, days, weeks, months and now more than a year, and it may go on and on. "We're in peacetime," he kept saying. "Yes, troops are being moved. Yes, warheads are being lined up. Yes, the aggressor is angry and upset and spending a billion dollars a day preparing to attack. But not one shot has been fired. Not one life has been lost. There is no war. It's all a conversation."

It is tense, it is tough, it is challenging, AND we are in the most significant and potent global conversation and public dialogue in the history of the world. This has not happened before on this scale ever before-not before WWI or WWII, not before Vietnam or Korea, this is new and it is a stunning new era of Global listening, speaking, and responsibility.

In the process, he pointed out, new alliances are being formed. Russia and China on the same side of an issue is an unprecedented outcome. France and Germany working together to wake up the world to a new way of seeing the situation. The largest peace demonstrations in the history of the world are taking place--and we are not at war! Most peace demonstrations in recent history took place when a war was already waging, sometimes for years, as in the case of Vietnam.

"So this," he said, "is a miracle. This is what "waging peace " looks like."

No matter what happens, history will record that this is a new era, and that the 21st century has been initiated with the world in a global dialogue looking deeply, profoundly and responsibly as a global community at the legitimacy of the actions of a nation that is desperate to go to war.

Through these global peace-waging efforts, the leaders of that nation are being engaged in further dialogue, forcing them to rethink, and allowing all nations to participate in the serious and horrific decision to go to war or not.

Dr. Muller also made reference to a recent New York Times article that pointed out that up until now there has been just one superpower-the United States, and that that has created a kind of blindness in the vision of the U.S. But now, Dr. Muller asserts, there are two superpowers: the United States and the merging, surging voice of the people of the world.

All around the world, people are waging peace. To Robert Muller, one of the great advocates of the United Nations, it is nothing short of a miracle and it is working.

I will point out that his comments about how "not one shot has been fired. Not one life has been lost. There is no war. It's all a conversation." is not exactly accurate. It is my understanding that there are shots being fired in the no-fly zones most every day and I doubt that there have been no deaths, but the current engagements are miniscule in comparison to what we can anticipate if Bush begins his attack. I found it very encouraging to hear this different perspective on the current debate from such a respected proponent of peace.

Posted by JoKeR at 07:27 AM
March 10, 2003
How did Hitler do it?

Gus Nussdorfer on Ecunet noted the following quoted material:

August 31, 1939 -- The Final Day of Peace in Europe. "From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" William L. Shirer, Simon and Schuster, 1990


"In Berlin ... a foreign observer could watch the way the press, under Goebbels' expert direction, was swindling the gullible German people. For six years, since the Nazi 'co-ordination' of the daily newspapers, which had meant the destruction of a free press, the citizens had been cut off from the truth of what was going on in the world...

"[Shirer wrote in his diary] Whereas all the rest of the world considers that the peace is about to be broken by Germany, that it is Germany that is threatening to attack Poland ... here in Germany, in the world the local newspapers create, the very reverse is maintained ... What the Nazipapers are proclaiming is this: that it is Poland which is disturbing the peace of Europe; Poland which is threatening Germany with armed invasion... (563)

.. . . . .
"As darkness settled over Europe on the evening of August 31, 1939, and a million and a half German troops began moving forward to their final positions on the Polish border for the jump-off at dawn, all that remained for Hitler to do was to perpetrate some propaganda trickery to prepare the German people for the shock of aggressive war.

"The people were in need of the treatment which Hitler, abetted by Goebbels and Himmler, had become so expert in applying. I had been about in the streets of Berlin, talking with the ordinary people, and that morning noted in my diary: 'Everybody against the war. People talking openly. How can a country go into a major war with a population so dead against it?' Despite all my experience in the Third Reich I asked such a naive question! Hitler knew the answer very well. Had he not the week before on his Bavarian mountaintop promised the generals that he would 'give a propagandist reason for starting the war' and admonished them not to 'mind whether it was plausible or not'? 'The victor,' he had told them, 'will not be asked afterward whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war it is not right that matters, but victory." (593)."

Any lessons here for today?


Posted by JoKeR at 09:32 AM
Bush's Long Range Plan

Bernard Weiner of The Crisis Papers has written a Letter to Grandkids in which he explains how the country came to be involved in a war in Iraq. It paints a chilling picture of hard-right extremists who have been working for decades to establish world wide domination by the USA and who are close to achieving just that. It ties together the political activities of the hard-right starting from the origins of our country and continues on through the attacks on Clinton's presidency, the current wars, and on to the eventual dismantling of social programs here at home

Unfortunately, the analysis he presents sounds all too believable. This is the first time I've noticed The Crisis Papers web site, but it certainly appears to be worth checking out and supporting.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:10 AM
March 07, 2003
Does everyone hate the USA yet?

Nicholas D. Kristof has a column in the NYT today discussing some of the problems arising from Bush's push for war with Iraq. I especially like the final two paragraphs:

As one savvy official observed, occupying Baghdad comes at an "unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships." Another expert put it this way: "We should not march into Baghdad. . . . To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero . . . assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerrilla war. It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability."

Those comments may overemphasize the risks, but they are from top-notch analysts whose judgments I respect. The first comment was made by Colin Powell in a Foreign Affairs essay in 1992; the second is in "A World Transformed," a 1998 book by the first President Bush.

Thanks to Charles Henderson on Ecunet for providing the link.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:49 PM
February 28, 2003
Un-American foreign Policies

Thanks to jeanne d'arc for pointing me to this NYT report which quotes a U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation. When someone who has spent a career advocating for the USA at high political levels around the world, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, finds that the current Administration is deviating so dramatically from the traditions and values of US interests, maybe it can get the attention of some of the lock-step (or should that be goose-step) followers of Dubya. We can only hope.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:53 PM
February 27, 2003
Official credibility gap

Democrats from the House Appropriations Committee have posted a list of some of Bush's broken promises concerning what he says in public and what he is actually willing to put in the budget. Why isn't this getting more press?


Posted by JoKeR at 08:26 AM
February 26, 2003
Today's the day

Make those calls!

Posted by JoKeR at 08:07 AM
February 24, 2003
Anti-Bush posters

My wife sent me this link. Once you click on a poster to see it up close you can step through all of the posters with scroll buttons. Very impressive.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:58 PM
Too many people to ignore

Thanks to DavidI for these pictures of War Protests Around the World on Feb 15, 2003. Thanks to Joho for bringing them to my attention.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:42 AM
February 22, 2003
Bush's Martial Plan

Paul Krugman once again offers insight into Bush's nearsighted plans for Iraq after the war. The only thing that is hard to understand is why anyone believes anything that Bush or most anyone else in his administration says. Thanks to Jeanne d'Arc for pointing it out.

Posted by JoKeR at 01:03 AM
February 20, 2003
Byrd criticizes Senate

Susan J O'Shea brought this article to my attention in a meeting on Ecunet.

Senator Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia had some scathing remarks for the Senate in a Senate Floor Speech on Wednesday, February 12, 2003.

In his opening paragraphs he says:

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences.
On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every
American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully
silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the
nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own
uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the
editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of
the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.

He goes on to point out many failures of the current administration. I find myself in agreement with everything he said in his speech.

It is nice to see that there is still someone in the Senate with a backbone. If I were Byrd, I'd be very careful when flying in chartered planes. In fact, he'd better be careful at all times.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:43 PM
February 19, 2003
I call myself a liberal

They Call Me a Liberal, too.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:03 AM
February 03, 2003
Columbia - Death Trap?

Thanks to Josh Marshall for a pointer to this article from The Washington Monthly Online. It is dated from April, 1980 and discusses many of the problems with the development of the shuttle: technical, political, and economic. Of course, this was all before the first shuttle was even launched. The fragility of the tiles and the lack of choices if they fail is one of the problems the article mentions. Very worthwhile reading.

I noticed that the proposed schedule for shuttle usage was that they would be used for about 100 flights each over a 10 year period. In actuality they have only been used for about 100 flights for all shuttles combined, but over a 20 year period. While the scaling back of the frequency of the flights means that they have not been used as heavily as originally planned, the fact that they have been used for twice as long as originally planned indicates to me that my previous post about the shuttles being relatively ancient technology is not out of line with their own planning from the beginning.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:11 PM
December 24, 2002
Inevitable war?

I am seeing more and more frequent references to the inevitability of a war with Iraq. I wonder if this isn't something of a self-fulling prophesy. If we see it as inevitable then there is not much reason to protest against the war. After all, it's inevitable.

I, for one, don't believe it is inevitable. George Bush will in no way be able to say before, during, or after any such war that it was inevitable and there was nothing he could do. The push for war has been deliberate and calculated. If war does expand beyond the current no-fly zone incursions (bad enough in themselves) it will be because Bush has been aggresively pushing for this to happen. Every thing I see reported from the administration is about how dangerous Hussein is, how he's not cooperating, and discounting any reports from the weapons inspectors or other news sources which report anything contrary to the war agenda.

When the inspectors made a surprise visit to one of the presidential palaces the reports I heard were that they were given free access and not restricted in any way. Wouldn't it have been a good diplomatic gesture to indicate that this was encouraging and that we were happy to see the Iraqi government cooperating? Has anyone seen any such comments from anyone in the administration? All I've seen in the way of comments from the administration are how incomplete their information is, every response from the Iraqis is inadequate, and we must all continue to keep up the pressure in order to effect regime change.

What do those of you in this meeting make of the reports that Blix's complaints that he is not being given intelligence data which would indicate where he should search for the suspected weapons of mass destruction? It seems to me like a game of "Hot/Cold" where the person who is it walks around trying to find something and the other players who know what and where the looked for object is indicate that they are getting warmer (closer) or colder (farther away). It is perfectly understandable that if the Iraqis are hiding anything they wouldn't indicate the right places to look. But if the Bush administration does, in fact, have hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction as they claim, why don't they give some indication as to where to look? How can the game be played if no one will indicate if the searchers are getting warmer or colder? Random searching is almost certain to fail. What are we talking about here? Maybe a few dozen inspectors at most in a country that's more than twice the size of Idaho? They certainly aren't likely to trip on such weapons accidentally.

Has anyone seen any indication from the administration that any of them see any possibility of resolution of our issues with the Iraqis other than war? If so I would certainly appreciate a pointer to it.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:51 AM
December 10, 2002
RNC spinning history

Dwight Meredith at P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism writes about many interesting topics. Especially interesting was this collection of links to various articles about Republican spin doctors and their toadies in the press. I particularly liked this one from The Daily Howler which tells the story of how the reports of Gore claiming he invented the internet got started. Both of these sites impress me as featuring quality writing and reporting. Both references are already a week old, but I only just got around to reading them. There is just too much information available to be able to keep up with it all, despite the Bush administration's best efforts at keeping secrets (another great P.L.A. post).

Posted by JoKeR at 03:47 PM
December 08, 2002
Bushisms reveal mental problems?

In an article in The Toronto Star Murray Whyte writes that Mark Crispin Miller has noticed a disturbing pattern in Bush's frequent problems with speaking coherently.

In researching a book about Bushisms which was intended to be funny, Miller noticed that Bush sometimes is able to speak quite clearly and without grammatical problems, but other times cannot seem to remember simple, common phrases. He is able to speak clearly when he is talking about war, retribution, or other punitive, violent topics. On the other hand, "It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes." It is when Bush is speaking about topics that make him uneasy or with which he is uncomfortable that he has trouble speaking.

He comments specifically about the famous gaff involving the phrase "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." What Bush actuall said when he tried to use this phrase was:

"Fool me once, shame ... shame on ... you." Long, uncomfortable pause. "Fool me Ś can't get fooled again!"

Miller compares this to an episode of Happy Days where the Fonz has to say "I'm sorry" and is unable to. This plays for laughs in a sitcom. If Bush cannot say "Shame on me" because he cannot imagine any shame ever attaching to himself, then this could indicate some underlying, unrealistic understandings of himself and his abilities.

As I've seen people make comparisons between Dubya and Hitler, there has always been a sense that the similarities in their actions and rises to power were purely coincidental. If Bush's misstatements are truly an indication of a sociopathic personality, as Miller suggests, then the comparisons seem much more frightening to me.

Posted by JoKeR at 01:30 AM
December 05, 2002
Policy disagreements

Lately I haven't been very active in posting anything here. I guess I'm feeling like a deer in the headlights. There are so many problems with what the government is doing and is planning that I don't know which way to turn. In an online discussion on Ecunet I recently posted the following partial list of some of the things the Bush administration is doing which concern me:

- A homeland security department (not necesarily a bad idea in and of itself as that could help to avoid data getting lost between agencies) that is only accepted by Dubya if it reduces the labor union and civil service protections of the employees. Those protections were put in place over the years because of previous abuses. Having a monumental investigative department with fewer protections for whistle-blowers and people who resist inappropriate investigations (such as investigations of MLK and others in the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s) makes for a scary prospect.

- Working on developing a national energy policy by consulting only with energy company officials who are his pals (many of whom were shortly thereafter found with their hands in their corporate tills) and no conservation groups who might have presented alternate views.

- Asking civilians to spy on their neighbors in the TIPS program.

- Tax breaks for the wealthy while the government goes broke. People decry the "tax and spend" Democrats, but I think I prefer that to the "borrow and spend" Republicans.

- A national database of incredible size including virtually all consumer transactions in the name of national security. (This was tacked onto the Homeland Security bill and has now been signed into law.)

- Aggressive steps to lead us into a war with Iraq which both the CIA and the military leaders are wary of, ignoring another "Axis of Evil" country, N. Korea, which admits working on developing WMD, while focusing on Iraq with no apparent reason for the preference beyond wanting Iraq's oil while N. Korea has no such comparable wealth to plunder.

- Calling for bi-partisanship, but accepting only acquiescence. Any time Bush is thwarted in his ambitions he denounces his opponents, stating they are soft on terrorism or don't care about American security and saying it is purely partisanship. He applauds "bi-partisanship" when Democrats go along with his plans (until someone more compliant runs against them, at which point they are no longer worthy of office). When has Bush offered to accept compromises in order to get most of what he wants. It is his way or the highway, and with the Republicans in charge of both houses, he is likely to get his way almost all the time.

- Increasingly conservative judicial appointments (for life) who support anti-abortion forces, fewer restrictions on police power, greater freedom to use capital punishment, etc.

- Fewer environmental controls with potential for environmental damage that will last for decades or longer.

- I've seen members of Congress and the Cabinet quoted as saying that they are considering changing the law that says military forces cannot be used for domestic law enforcement. That's just what we need, our military taking action against our own citizens.

- I've even seen reports of discussions of reviving the draft.

This is not all of the reasons I oppose Bush. The fact that he cannot speak clearly and correctly without a script (often, not even with a script) just makes him the butt of jokes. It is the actions he is taking that make me oppose him.

Posted by JoKeR at 03:24 PM
Dubya the Liberal?!

Ted Rall has once again written an insightful and inciteful article about Dubya. Ted actually calls Bush a Liberal!

Rall lists point by point how Bush's policies have abandonded the historical policies of the conservatives (fiscal responsibility, small government, preserve and protect that which we currently have) and has embraced the worst traits with which liberals are identified (meddling government, big government, interferring with international politics). Thus Bush embodies the worst of both sides without the advantages of either.

Posted by JoKeR at 03:12 PM
November 14, 2002
Commonweal Institute

Wow! IssuesGuy at Seeing The Forest wrote some terrific articles about the Commonweal Institute and the work it is doing to counter the right-wing think tanks that have orchestrated the current rise to power of the most extreme right-wing government we've had in many years.

He first of all indicates that he prefers to call the current right-wing nuts who are in charge "regressives" instead of "conservatives." These guys have hijacked the term "conservatives" from the true conservatives who have a long tradition of responsible leadership.

He then goes on to describe the decades-long campaign by the Heritage Foundation and others to orchestrate the current rise to power of their cronies and puppets. This is documented in part in David Brock's book "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative."

He says the Commonweal Institute is envisioned as a moderate and progressive response to the Heritage Foundation. I'll be spending some time over the next few days reading some more at their web site.

If half of the claims made about the orchestrated take-over of the government by the extreme right are true, then things are scarier than I thought. If the Commonweal Institute proves to be an effective counter to that movement, then things could be looking up.

Posted by JoKeR at 11:14 AM
November 08, 2002
Moving on

It has been a few days since the election and I don't want to let the disappointing results totally dominate my thoughts or moods. It is clear that the coming two years will bear close watching as Dubya and company push their extreme right-wing agenda. Let us hope that people find that they don't like what they see and respond to calls for something very different in 2004. I don't see much being offered by the Democrats as an alternative so maybe there will finally arise a new party to challenge the existing lumbering dinosaur parties in a significant way. Or perhaps the Dems will find a new voice which can lead us into a brighter future. I just hope that change occurs before the GOP puts out the lights on the whole world as they push harder and harder for war in order to line their own pockets.

Posted by JoKeR at 01:47 PM
November 04, 2002
Dubya's dirty trickster

Wayne Madsen writes about Dubya's dirty trick master Karl Rove in this article. It is a frightening and discouraging presentation about the methods used by politicians to get and stay in power.

Remember! Regime change begins at home. Vote!

Posted by JoKeR at 11:49 AM
Anyone surprised by this?

According to this British article the Iraqi National Congress is already meeting with US oil industry executives in order to negotiate leases on Iraq's oil fields to take effect after the INC has been put into power by former oil-executive George W. Bush. Of course, these new leases would be in place of any arrangements which Iraq currently has with France, Russia, or anyone else in anticipation of eventual lifting of sanctions.

Posted by JoKeR at 11:26 AM
October 28, 2002
Reform Iraq as was done in Japan?

John Dower, author of a Pulitzer Prize winning book about rebuilding Japan after World War II has written an article in the New York Times (possible free registration required) contrasting the situation in Japan after WWII with what should be anticipated if the USA attacks and occupies Iraq. The short summary is that the situations are extremely different and Iraq would be unlikely to resemble the way Japan recovered.

A key difference is the fact that Japan's infrastructure, including its bureaucracy, was largely intact after the war. This is unlikely to be the case in a defeated Iraq.

Another is that the Japenese Emperor accepted the defeat and the Japanese people continued to follow the Emperor's guidance in accepting the defeat. It can hardly be imagined that Hussein will willingly order his followers and the citizens of the country to accept imposed governance by the USA.

Another significant factor to consider is the uneasiness of the Middle East in general compared with the calm isolation of Japan in the years immediately following WWII.

Still another is the lack of significant natural resources in Japan which kept potential carpet-bagger style predators from pouncing, which is a sharp contrast with the enormous oil reserves possessed by Iraq.

It is an insightful article comparing how a carefully planned and successful rebuilding program in Japan is unlikely to be a useful guide for how to rebuild a war torn Iraq.

Posted by JoKeR at 01:29 PM
October 22, 2002
Louisville Seminary Statement

The following statement was sent to me in case I could help to distribute it. I am posting it here in case any of my readers might be interested.

The Wages of War:
A Statement Adopted by the Seminary Council of
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

October 21, 2002


Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, as a teaching arm of the Church, strives to ´┐Żequip the saints for the work of ministry´┐Ż (Ephesians 4:12) and to interpret the gospel in an ever-changing world. The mission we are given requires us to attend to the signs of the times, to read carefully cultural trends, and to be ready at all times to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). As members of this Seminary community, we have prayerfully reflected on the national moral crisis with which we are now confronted. We have heard with concern the many calls from President Bush and the current U.S. administration for unilateral military action to preempt a perceived threat from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. We have been troubled to find that the seemingly inexorable movement toward war has been slowed hardly at all by the few prominent voices urging our leaders to take more time for critical moral reflection. But we are not dispirited, and with confidence in God we offer this message of concern and hope.

The futility of war

We are concerned that the policies pursued by the Bush administration and endorsed by the recent votes in Congress suggest that terrorism won on September 11, 2001. Beyond killing nearly three thousand people and destroying treasured national landmarks the terrorists also redefined our normative rules of engagement. They changed the way we, as Americans, think about responding to evil in our world.

The magnitude of our loss on September 11 illumined our vulnerability to terrorism and quickened our resolve to eliminate perceived threats before they result in further loss. Our anxious concern for safety is understandable. Our plan to achieve safety through unilateral action and preemption reveals that the events of 9-11 were truly cataclysmic in scope. The violent upheaval of that day not only wreaked unprecedented devastation for us but also caused a fundamental shift in our estimate of an appropriate response.

The terrorists win when we lose hope in the efficacy of diplomacy, cooperation, and multilateral action. The Bush foreign policy is premised on the assumption that violence is the only meaningful, appropriate, and effective response to violence´┐Żand that an escalation of violence is the best way to demonstrate our might and resolve. But the biblical witness and our Christian faith suggest that we delude ourselves when we presume that military force will stifle the hatred that fuels attacks on America and the West. A violent response, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, begets the very thing it seeks to destroy. That is why God calls us to a more excellent way. When Jesus says ´┐ŻNo more´┐Ż to the impulse of his disciples to attack their adversaries (Luke 22:51), he embodies for us an alternative path. Is it conceivable that such a path might yet influence the moral deliberations of our leaders?

In what ways are the actions toward Iraq weighed by the current U.S. administration distinguished from the actions radical Islamists have taken against America? While we believe that there are significant differences, we are concerned about the apparent similarities. Those antagonists without superior military power use low-tech measures to destroy a World Trade Center. Those antagonists with superior military power use high-tech measures to change regimes. That both have agreed to adjudicate the conflict through strike and counter-strike ensures that the conflict will both escalate and draw other parties into frenzied reaction or smolder for generations. The events of 9-11 have subjected us to a tyranny of perpetual violence and stifled our moral imagination.

The terrorists win when we come to share their idolatrous self-identification with the will of God. Their rationale for violence seems to have become our rationale for violence, namely, an impassioned contention that we alone embody righteousness and they embody evil.

The danger of idolatry

The Bush administration´┐Żs relentless pursuit of its goal of regime change through war has elicited charges of arrogance from most of our global neighbors. Arrogance, in theological terms, is pride; and pride is an expression of idolatry´┐Żthe unwillingness to distinguish our own perceptions and desires from the vision and the will of God (Isaiah 2:8-17). When our leaders ignore the pleas of voices from the Muslim and Arab world not to invade Iraq, when virtually all our closest allies are cautioning us against a premature and wrong-headed military intervention against a sovereign nation, we must ask: Have we alone seen matters rightly? Do we alone possess the moral authority to be God´┐Żs sword against injustice? Representing God is a dangerous business and the sword that is claimed in God´┐Żs name cuts both ways (Isaiah 13-14, 34:1-7).

We are concerned that the blind determination of our leaders to pursue their policy goals may rob our neighbors´┐Żfriend and foe´┐Żof their humanity. Pride and self-righteousness can easily seduce us into a way of seeing in which we conclude that both antagonists and inconvenient others are easily dismissible parties to the weighty deliberations of war. It matters little what they think who fail to see matters rightly. Be they friend or foe, if they do not see what we see then they do not see clearly. And if they do not see clearly then we acknowledge no compelling moral or legal obligation to consult with them or to act in concert with them. A lack of mutual and careful consideration in matters of joint concern is but the first step on the slippery slope of dehumanization. If we are for God, then those who oppose us or who fail to take our side are not for God. We need not hear their counsel. If they are part of an axis of evil then to hear them is to invite only a devil´┐Żs snare of allegation, recrimination, and prevarication. We dehumanize those persons to whom we deny a meaningful voice.

Idolatry has political consequences. We glorify our nation; our cause is an unquestioningly righteous one. We dehumanize our adversaries; their claim against us is a patently false one. Warfare, then, becomes a simply conceived matter. Yet we are blind to the true costs of war.

The costliness of war

A calculus of the costliness of war must account, minimally, for human, political, and moral costs.

i.Human cost

If the first casualty of war is a loss of innocence then the second casualty is a loss of life. The language of modern warfare obscures this cost. Our war language bespeaks surgical precision, localized anesthetics, and noninvasive procedures. We speak of ´┐Żdual-use targets,´┐Ż ´┐Żsmart bombs,´┐Ż and ´┐Żcollateral damage,´┐Ż but these terms belie the troubling truth of the matter: sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, soldiers and civilians, young and old are going to die. They will die because they went to work or to school or to shop on a fateful day. They will die because they lived near a bridge or a power station or a tall building that was deemed to be a crucial target. They will die because they boarded the wrong bus or plane. They will die needlessly because they are the enemy and our cause is a righteous one. They will die regrettably in a proximate and temporary measure to redress an intractable problem of contentious self-interest. They will die because we choose war. Ironically, we will die as well because the enemies we make today will not simply prostrate themselves before the altar of American might. They will take their revenge on us tomorrow. And so it goes.

ii.Political cost

When events began spinning out of control in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy issued a stern warning that should caution us today as we discern our role and responsibilities toward Iraq: ´┐Żthe situation may get out of control with irreversible consequences.´┐Ż Indeed, newly declassified documents reveal that we came terribly close to a nuclear war in the western hemisphere in October of that year when ´┐Ż a U.S. Navy destroyer dropping depth charges almost accidentally hit the hull of a Soviet submarine carrying a nuclear warhead.´┐Ż i Today, we sail in equally perilous waters atop highly contentious and combustible interests in the Middle East. As we drop our political depth charges on Iraq, let us be mindful that even an accidental miscue can precipitate a chain of events leading to outcomes no less severe in scope and intensity than those we narrowly avoided forty years ago.

The burning political question of the hour is not whether we will rally to the cause of defeating genocidal regimes around the world. The question before us is how we will respond to the political challenges imposed by our fundamental commitments to personal liberty and social justice. A corollary question that is beyond the scope of this appeal but that merits our careful consideration nonetheless is which genocidal challenges to liberty and justice appear on our political radar screen and command our immediate attention.

To pursue a course of independent action, in self-imposed isolation from the shared commitments of our allies and deaf to the impassioned critique of our enemies, is to court further political crisis in the region and solicit aggressive reaction from those adversaries who decry the United States as an international Goliath. An alternate choice, however, is available to us: a choice that builds upon the best of our democratic ideals. Democracy demands the participation of the many as a restraint against the tyranny of the powerful few. To pursue a course of mutual action response, in concert with our allies and responsible to the criticism of our adversaries, is to cull meaningful opportunity from a minefield of lesser political options.

A course of mutual action response is not merely a euphemism for a kinder and gentler form of cold warfare. It is a political blueprint for managing international crises that is drawn on the template of international diplomacy, law, and consensus. The wisdom of this response is borne out in the testimony of General Wesley Clark, U.S.A. (Ret.), Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (1997-2000): ´┐Żthrough greater legal, judicial, and police coordination, we need to make the international environment more seamless for us than it is for the international terrorists we seek.´┐Ż ii At the crossroads of either multilateral or unilateral response, we are concerned that the appeal of unilateral response, a mirage of political expediency and regional control, will lead only to greater peril.

iii.Moral cost

The moral cost of warfare is measured in half-truths and squandered opportunities. Reinhold Niebuhr was on to something when he wrote, ´┐Żthe selfishness of nations is proverbial.´┐Ż iii We deceive ourselves if we expect that our actions in the world are motivated more by altruism than by self-interest; if we expect that our moral judgment is less partial and our moral vision is less myopic than the judgment and vision of other peoples with whom we share the world; if we expect that the moral justification for our political position on Iraq is free from the taint of hypocrisy; or if we expect that national interest has not already compromised our moral authority in the world. We are not less sinful as a people than the people against whom we would wage war. All people fall short of the glory of God.

We have an opportunity to choose a better way. It is a way less traveled. The well-traveled way squanders opportunities for a more stable international order. The way less traveled presents a genuine opportunity to build community.

If the terrorists succeeded at redefining the normative rules of engagement, leading us headlong into hopelessness, unilateral action, preemption, and an endless cycle of violence and retaliation, we are hopeful that we can realize new and vital forms of the justice and peace that God intends for humanity. We do not claim the sufficiency of this hope for securing global justice, only its necessity.

Where do we go from here?

One of the widely touted responses to the perceived threat from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein proceeds from a Christian tradition of justifiable war theory. The idea that war can be justified has roots in early Christian thought, going back to the writings of Augustine, and has been reworked since then in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and many other Christian authors. A current formulation of justifiable war theory, adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), holds six principlesiv:
All other means to the morally just solution of conflict must be exhausted before resort to arms can be regarded as legitimate.
War can be just only if employed to defend a stable order or morally preferable cause against threats of destruction or the rise of injustice.
Such a war must be carried out with the right attitudes.
A just war must be explicitly declared by a legitimate authority.
A just war may be conducted only by military means that promise a reasonable attainment of the moral and political objectives being sought.
The just war theory has also entailed selective immunity for certain parts of the population, particularly for non-combatants.

If we, as a nation, accept that war against Iraq is a case of just war, then the Bush administration has more public work to do in making that case on principled grounds. It is not at all clear that the conditions for a just war against Iraq have been met.

We, as members of the Louisville Seminary community, question the premise that a vigorous and principled war can be an instrument of a lasting peace. If war is necessary, surely it must be a last resort and not a preemptive strike.

The biblical tradition tells us that humans are created for community, each a part of a larger whole (Genesis 1:27). Sin tempts us to imagine that we are not really bound up with others; that we are not simply a part of God´┐Żs creation but the favored part of God´┐Żs creation; that we alone are entrusted with the divine authority to change regimes at will. But the Bible also tells us that God does not abandon us to our sin, but calls us into a community of justice and righteousness. Christians believe that God commissions the church to tell this story of God´┐Żs call. As The Confession of 1967 of the Presbyterian Church (USA) puts it, ´┐ŻGod´┐Żs reconciliation in Jesus Christ is the ground of the peace, justice, and freedom among nations which all powers of government are called to serve and defend. The church, in its own life, is called to practice the forgiveness of enemies and to commend to the nations as practical politics the search for cooperation and peace. This search requires that the nations pursue fresh and responsible relations across every line of conflict, even at risk to national security, to reduce areas of strife and to broaden international understanding.´┐Żv

Our hope, as a Seminary and as a teaching arm of the Church, is that America will hear the story the Church has to tell and that it will pursue a just peace and not a just war. Just peace is not a stopgap measure to restrain the flow of evil after events have spun out of control. It is a community building process grounded in mutuality, reciprocity, and the arduous work of cooperation to achieve social justice. The wisdom of just peace is in the centrality it accords to justice. Truly, there will not be peace without justice. International justice is not gained by unilateral military action to rid the world of evil. That idea did not work for the terrorists. It will not work for us. Instead, let us choose to build justice in concert with our neighbors, open to the criticism of the adversaries, with candor and confidence that God holds tomorrow.

Conclusion

Keep your eyes on the prize, America, and hold on to the freedom that God alone has provided to break our bondage to cycles of perpetual conflict that follow from interest against interest (Galatians 5:1). Of course we will not end conflict in the world, but we can choose to respond to global conflict and international threats in a manner that does not merely recapitulate age-old patterns of violent action and violent reaction. Let us not esteem warfare as the moral heirloom we bequeath to our children and grandchildren. Let not the deep psychological wounds to our national ego that we suffered in the aftermath of September 11th tempt us to cloak vengeance in the language of unilateral action. The wages of war are legion. The promise of peace is eternal. The choice is ours.

-----------------------------------

i:This statement was adopted by a unanimous vote of the Seminary Council on October 21, 2002. It was written by an ad hoc committee of Seminary faculty and students.

Robert Kennedy, quoted in ´┐ŻSoviet sub almost fired nuke in missile crisis,´┐Ż by Anita Snow, Associated Press, in The Courier-Journal, Sunday, October 13, 2002, page A11.
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ii: General Wesley Clark, ´┐ŻAn Army of One?´┐Ż in The Washington Monthly, volume 34, number 9, September 2002, page 22.
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iii: Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, New York: Charles Scribner´┐Żs Sons, 1932, page 84.
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iv: Ronald Stone and Dana Wilbanks, editors, The Peacemaking Struggle: Militarism and Resistance. New York: University Press of America, 1985, page 191. This volume contains essays prepared for the Advisory Council on Church and Society of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
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v: The Confession of 1967, 9.45, in Book of Confessions: Study Edition, Louisville, Kentucky: Geneva Press, 1996, page 328.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:28 PM
October 19, 2002
Bush a "dry drunk"?

Katherine van Wormer writes in CounterPunch that Dubya is exhibiting the symptoms of a "dry drunk." That is, an alcoholic who has quit drinking but is still feeling the effects of years of alcohol abuse. Thanks to Paul Smith for directing me to this article in a message on EcuNet.

Posted by JoKeR at 09:10 PM
October 18, 2002
What are we not being told?

In a New York Times article (free, but you might need to register) Paul Krugman discusses the Bush administration's frequent refusal to discuss topics which might (probably would) put them in a bad light in the public view. He focuses primarily on Bush's hocus-pocus logic concerning his tax cut plan, but notes that it is applicable to other Bush initiatives such as his push for a war on Iraq.

Posted by JoKeR at 12:18 PM
October 13, 2002
Columbia Seminary - War on Iraq

My wife, Mary Martha, a member of the staff of Columbia Theological Seminary (CTS), forwarded the following to me. It is a statement of concern about the push to war on Iraq which was circulated on the CTS campus and signed by many of the faculty and others there. It is my understanding that this can be distributed freely and so I am making it available here.

******UPDATE******

The earlier version was a pre-release which contained some typos. I have now updated it from a release received this morning about 11:00am, 10/14/2002.

******RE-UPDATE******

Well, I've been told that this is now the final version. I hope this is the final update.

A Public Testimony on War With Iraq

With Questions, Answers, and an Invitation to Dialogue and Action


To all who seek to discern God´┐Żs will in morally complex times. Peace and grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.

With increasing anxiety, some of us at Columbia Theological Seminary have watched as the United States moves ever closer to renewing war against Iraq. All wars, no matter how justified they may seem to some, are matters of deepest concern and they warrant open and frank conversation and debate taken on with a deep sense of moral gravity.

Over the past several weeks, we the undersigned have engaged in just these types of debates´┐Żsome formal, others occasional or informal. We have come to them with different perspectives, theological convictions, backgrounds, plans, and questions. Some among us favor the just war tradition; others believe in non-violent resistance. Some have either served or will serve in the military; others are opposed to military engagement on principle. Some come sure of their answers; others seek clarity and reserve judgment.

We share neither the mind nor the will of God. We realize that ours are not the only opinions that warrant hearing within the church or the academy, but as Christian scholars and students, we believe our opinions are worth hearing. We confess that we are morally implicated in this war both by our actions and our inaction, but as Christians we believe that our guilt ought not remove us from the conversation, for by that standard, all would be silenced. As members of a learning community, we believe we are called to speak. We do not believe that our questions and answers are perfect. However, we testify that we are called to be Christian stewards of the questions to which we have been led. And so we struggle both to ask the right questions and to seek thoughtful and faithful answers. Based on our shared theological convictions, these are our questions and our answers:

First, in a culture that seems to favor war, the church and its members must remind both themselves and the larger culture that the presumption of the Christian faith is always toward peace. Human beings were not created for war and, in the end, God will ´┐Żmake wars cease to the end of the earth.´┐Ż (Psalm 46: 9). Those among us who see war as occasionally necessary nonetheless recognize that any act of war must be gravely and repeatedly justified against the more basic claim that, where possible, alternatives to war are morally preferable. We asked ourselves the question, ´┐ŻHave our national leaders adequately prioritized and pursued all the available alternatives to open war with Iraq?´┐Ż We answered that we do not believe that our national leaders have adequately prioritized and pursued these alternatives.

Second, even in the most carefully conducted wars, far too many innocent persons suffer death and hardship. War makes victims. And while we recognize that there has been only one truly innocent victim in human history, we also believe that on the cross, that victim´┐ŻJesus Christ´┐Żacted on behalf of human beings who sin, suffer, and die´┐Żand in so doing, took upon himself our sin, suffering, and death. We asked ourselves, ´┐ŻHave our elected leaders explored or pursued adequately the implications of war against Iraq and the widespread suffering that will result not only from war but from the results of war?´┐Ż We answered that we do not believe that such exploration has been adequate against the backdrop of horrible suffering.

Third, a policy of preemptive and unilateral action flouts current international laws, including those that have been agreed upon and promoted by the U.S. in the past. Respect for the law springs from our recognition that God´┐Żs sovereignty extends through law such that sin might be restrained, righteousness might be promoted, and community might flourish. We asked ourselves, ´┐ŻHas our nation fully undertaken multinational action with other nations to address enforceable inspections of Iraq´┐Żs alleged store of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons through enforcing present or new resolutions by the United Nations Security Council?´┐Ż and ´┐ŻHave our elected leaders made a compelling case either for preemptive action or for unilateral or near-unilateral action against Iraq?´┐Ż We concluded that this is not the case. Current willingness to disregard international law in favor of unilateral action confuses might with right and can inhibit the development of the very types of national and international communities through which justice might be more actively and profitably pursued. Nor do we believe that a compelling case for preemptive action or for unilateral or near-unilateral action against Iraq has been made.

Finally, pursuing the security of persons in the United States at the expense of basic human freedoms, including the right to life of those who have done nothing to provoke attack, is not only an unreasonable and unwise goal, but has the potential to stand in conflict with the good news of a gospel made manifest in Jesus Christ´┐Żs life, death, and resurrection. Our security does not and cannot rest in our own efforts´┐Żeven our best efforts´┐Żfor all such efforts are doomed to failure. Instead, our security rests in the hands of a God strong enough to defeat death and loving enough to return to those who condemned him, offering salvation instead of condemnation. We asked ourselves, ´┐ŻCan we gain the type of security our national administration suggests it can deliver to us through war?´┐Ż ´┐ŻAnd if so, ought we desire it?´┐Ż We believe that the answers to both questions are No.

We welcome both additional and countervailing testimony. However, we also wish to be both clear and public about our current position: While we acknowledge that Iraq´┐Żs actions are cause for grave concern and need international response, we believe that war against Iraq is a dangerously misguided activity. It disregards morally preferable alternatives, ignores probable dangerous and destructive consequences and implications, and leads to the unnecessary death and suffering of those whom Christ so valued as to give his own life. We do not believe that Iraqi tragedy will be healed by the means our elected officials advocate and we do not support a project so out of step with both our country´┐Żs best aspirations and the gospel´┐Żs deepest call for our lives.

We pledge to treat this issue as an occasion for deep and passionate theological, moral, political, and pastoral inquiry. As individuals, we will continue to attend to current events in a careful and critical way. As citizens, we will continue to call and write our elected officials. As scholars, we will continue to educate ourselves in how the Christian tradition´┐Żand the Reformed tradition, in particular´┐Żunderstands war and peace. As pastors and lay leaders, we will continue to pray and to work with churches, families, and persons struggling with the implications of war for their lives. As Christian scholars and students, we will continue to make this work pertinent for and accessible to the church. And as Christians, we will continue to profess our faith in a just God who brings peace; a righteous God who reconciles; a holy God who shares unmerited love.

Sisters and brothers, we ask you to join us by carefully and prayerfully considering these issues, by studying the Scriptures and exploring the wealth of theological insights from our shared tradition, by opening your churches to be locations of debate and discovery, and by adding your own voices to this crucial national conversation. In a time of anger and despair, the church can and ought to be a place of peace and hope. May God make it so.

Sincerely,

Walter Brueggemann
Charles L. Campbell
Carlos F. Cardoza Orlandi
R. Leon Carroll
Erskine Clarke
Charles B. Cousar
Ronald Hecker Cram
Dent C. Davis
Richard S. Dietrich
Mark Douglas
Margit Ernst
Anna Carter Florence
David Forney
Shirley Guthrie
William Harkins
E. Elizabeth Johnson
Julie A. Johnson
C. Benton Kline, Jr.
Emmanuel Y. Lartey
Sharon L. Mook
Kathleen O'Connor
Marcia Y. Riggs
Stanley P. Saunders
Haruko Nawata Ward
Jim Watkins
Brian A. Wren
Christine Roy Yoder


Andy Acton
Ben Acton
Ann Clay Adams
Dedera Nesmith Baker
Jonathan Ball
Jean E. Beedoe
Cindy Benz
Shelaine Bird
Manikka L. Bowman
William Scott Calkins
Betsy Cameron
Dana Campbell
Bert K. Carmichael
Ernestine Cole
Michael Copeland
Shelia A. Council
Sue. W. Crannell
Jacquelyn Cumberlander
MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Robin S. Dietrich
Eric R. Dillenbeck
Michael Ducheneau
Karen R. Dukes
Shannon Edgerton
Kally Elliot
Sarah F. Erickson
Betsy Taylor Flory
Liz Barrington Forney
Clay Fouse
Alice Schaap Freeman
John Gicheru
Jane Gleim
Mark Gray
Larry M. Griffin
Phil Hagen
J. Kirkland Hall
Davis Hankins
Mary Alice Haynie
Stuart C. Higginbotham
Gillian M. Houghton
E. Cader Howard, Jr.
David Hyers
Andy James
Julie Jensen
James Joyner
Bettina Kilburn
Michael D. Kirby
Kendal Land
Jonathan P. Larson
Griselda Lartey
Shelli Latham
Kim LeVert
Sandra McDonald
Kari McFarland
Kate McGregor Mosley
Andy Meyers
Karen Miller
Joseph G. Moore
Marcia Moore
Linda C. Morningstar
Laurel Nelson
Dorothy Nevill
Mary E. Newberg
Shannon O'Leary
Elizabeth Parker
Pen Peery
Teri C. Peterson
Katie B. Preston
Clayton Rascoe
Tyesha Rice
Kathryn E. Richmond
Sue A. Riggle
Mary Martha Riviere
Pat Roper
Linda Sabo
Matt Schlageter
William H. Searight
Jeremy Kyle Segar
Rebekah Shaffer
Kenneth W. Sikes
Susan Smith
Elizabeth Soileau
Don Stephens
Amy D. Summers-Minette
Susan Takis
Laurie Taylor
Jannan Thomas
Clay Thomas
Casey Thompson
Chris Tuttle
Lindsey Wade
Rhonda Weary
Edward R. Wegele
Barry Welch
Wendy Yow

Posted by JoKeR at 10:42 PM
October 11, 2002
The Supremes fancy foot work

Once again, I like what Ted Rall has to say, this time about the U.S. Supreme Court deciding that it does not have authority over state voting squables after all.

Posted by JoKeR at 02:48 PM
October 10, 2002
An Empire by any other name...

Jay Bookman writes in the AJC a response to Donald Kagen's article about whether America is moving to establish an American empire. Bookman does a good job of exposing the doublespeak being practiced by Kagen.

Posted by JoKeR at 10:34 AM