Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peacemaking and Violence in Healthcare Reform

PEACEMAKING AND VIOLENCE IN THE HEALTHCARE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 24, 2009
I have my utopian visions. I wish that we had single-payer medical care, with all medical personnel on salary, all medical facilities not for profit, and all higher education including medical training free of charge. Although I’ve never been quite sure what political labels mean, I am aware that much of what I wish for places me with “progressives,” “the left,” and makes me “liberal” (or worse).
Early this Christmas Eve morning the U.S. Senate passed a healthcare bill. It has been a messy process. The next step for legislators is to try to reconcile the Senate bill with the House bill. Who knows what new healthcare law, if any, will emerge.
In this the Northern Hemisphere’s season of rebirth, I have been reflecting on my own position, and indeed on the posture I have taken on my “peacemaking” blog. The bulk of my posts have been critical, notwithstanding my posture as one who would learn how to build positive human relations in the face of violence. Last night as I lay in bed to go to sleep, I was struck with the irony that despite my frustration with many of the provisions in the Senate bill, it is a product of the very peacemaking process I advocate as an antidote to violence.
To me, violence is attachment to or fixation on substantive outcome in our relations. In my own relations, notably in the classroom and in victim-offender mediation, I have celebrated surprise, as in what issues are addressed and as in mediation, in outcomes I could not have anticipated. I have noted that when political battles have been won in my favor, backlash (or in CIA-speak “blowback”) has swamped gains I have celebrated. Notably, a consequence of U.S. surrender in Vietnam and degradation and humiliation of President Nixon resulted, I believe, in draconian sentencing laws domestically in the late seventies, and in the landslide victory and worship of a bellicose, corporate-profit-worshiping and re-election of the Reagan administration. Humiliate your political opponents, kill and terrorize your “terrorists,” and they will come back to bite you.
In the face of that historical reality, of what happens in the wake of what Marx called political rather than human emancipation, I remind myself that political like military victory does not pay. I remind myself that in any political process, from response to disagreements with my students or victim-offender differences, the most gratifying responses to entrenched positions are in Roger Fisher’s words “getting to yes!” as participants in political/military processes move from position to negotiating interests a step at a time.
So it is for me now with healthcare legislation. If people can no longer be denied insurance or have it taken away on grounds that they are poor insurance risks, that is to me real, unanticipated progress. While President Obama hedges on campaign promises for a public health insurance option, I find myself concluding, with him, that his approach may do more to resolve healthcare violence in the United States than the Clinton position of trying to dictate law to members of Congress. As I have so often preached, as in the classroom, peacemaking is a process, not an outcome. In life there is no peace, only stepping away from entrenched political positions.
I do not consider myself a Democrat any more than I consider myself a liberal, but I do consider the position of Republicans in Congress to constitute violence, attachment to outcome, in extremis. I guess that makes me about as partisan as Joe Liberman, Ben Nelson, and Bernie Sanders.
For all the negativity I have posted at pepinsky.blogspot.com, in this holiday season, I celebrate the capacity of U.S. senators under a Democratic umbrella to shift from position to interest, negotiating beyond political impasse. I remind myself: trust the process, not the result. Merry Christmas. Love and peace--hal

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bernie Sanders and Evo Morales: my heroes

Every now and then a truly independent, personally morally responsible, person rises to national political office. Today's democracy.org broadcast from Copenhagen starts with portions of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introducing his single-payer amendment to the health care bill, prophesying that sometime after he is gone, the social good will prevail over the imperative for corporate growth. That was followed by Amy Goodman's interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales--their second democracynow.org exclusive interview at least.
Jill and I visited our Katy three times in Bolivia while she was was an agricultural volunteer in the Peace Corps, and so I pay particular attention to news from that country.
Twice now in Goodman's interviews, I have found myself feeling that here in Mr. Morales is the peacemaking leader I dream of. I encourage readers to see this interview of his, where he concludes that getting better is our primary threat to getting well with our mother earth. Wow Mr. President! Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Climate Thought for the Day

The Alliance of Small Island States is the canary in the mining of mother earth's fuel for human combustion. Love and peace, Hal

Monday, December 14, 2009

Going Home

THANKS FROM A RETIREE TO MY WELCOMERS BACK HOME IN INDIANA
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 14, 2009
In a blog before going back to my Bloomington home of the last 33 years, I wrote “on retirement.” I drove to Bloomington December 6, primarily to celebrate Vinod Krishnadas Thichempully’s dissertation defense, but also to get back in touch with the office staff I so treasure to this day, and to be with students in all three sections of a course on alternative social control systems designed by colleague Ellen Dwyer 34 years ago, which I picked up in 1977.
I can drive to Bloomington in fewer than four hours, and so I expect to pay more return visits. Jill and I closed on our Indiana home of 32 years July 20, and caravanned back to our Ohio home. I write here in holiday appreciation of the welcome I received on my first return, and of what it means to this old man to accommodate to changing homes. I must say I was surprised by my own reactions. On one hand, I felt truly loved and appreciated. On the other hand, I quickly recognized that Bloomington is no longer my home, let alone my business.
The highlight of my return was engaging with students in all three sections of the alternative social control systems class. Any single class is but an episode in anyone’s daily life. In my visits, conversations ranged from deferential, through exploratory, to confrontational: in all cases to me stimulating, both in learning what twenty-somethings are talking about, and in giving me chances to reflect on what I have learned about social control by telling stories to future generations without simply talking to myself. Bloomington, I will always love you. You bring me alive in retirement, just a few hours’ drive from Worthington. All best wishes as our region of mother earth emerges into spring.
Countless are the essays and poems on homecoming. For what it’s worth, this is how homecoming felt to me. Thanks to everyone for your hospitality. Love and peace--hal

Friday, December 11, 2009

Climate Control and Copenhagen

CLIMATE DEVELOPMENT AND COPENHAGEN
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 11, 2009
Democracynow.org is the only U.S. media outlet to be broadcasting from Copenhagen during the U.N.-sponsored attempt to replace Kyoto with another climate treaty. Check out their free archive of daily broadcasts. Today’s feature was the global grassroots alternative to the UN conference: Klima (“climate” in Danish) Forum 2009. The series of reports from groups ended with the Ecuadoran president of the global group, “No Soil for Oil, No Hole for Coal.” Check out Democracy Now!’s reporting. Protestors this time want to block the pretense of international agreement on how to stop poisoning the planet for human consumption.
In my first essay on this blog last July, I argued that “growth” is inherently unsustainable. Growth remains the primary global force for human self-destruction. The imperative for growth is the human attitude that in practice most threatens the capacity of planet earth to support human life.
I’m thinking that the greatest contributor to laying waste on mother earth is transportation. How many thousands of miles does it take to produce the computer I am writing on, let along the fresh berries from Chile I eat for breakfast? How many people around me laid off have lost jobs dependent on it being cheaper for me to shop globally than locally? And in my country, the greater part of lost jobs is of people paid to sell imported goods.
I don’t know how to get from consuming globally toward consuming locally, but the movement represented in Copenhagen just now by Klima Forum 2009 and attendant protests convinces me that local commerce is the best antidote I can imagine to the global human footprint of global commerce. We cannot grow forever. Love and peace--hal

Friday, December 4, 2009

On Wishful Thinking About A President

TESTS OF OUR FAITH IN OUR FATHER
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 4, 2009
I was carried away by President Obama’s election. I allowed myself to hope that this charismatic, well-spoken young black man who promised so many wonderful words would live up to his promises. The president’s take on Afghanistan December 1 at West Point has finally brought me back to reality. Somehow, I had no illusions about President Clinton when he took office; he was slickly and purely expedient from the beginning of his campaign, when he made a point of being in the Arkansas governor’s house the night an effectively lobotomized black man was executed. I am chagrined to say that Barack Obama took me in. I shed tears of celebration as he announced his victory in Lincoln Park. I allowed myself to feel that yes we can! had become yes we will! If only wishing it were so could make it so.
Barack Obama’s considerable gifts as a listener/organizer opened his path to the White House. Now as president he uses the same gifts to listen and organize to win political battles in Washington. He works for consensus, wherever the least common denominator of consensus happens to emerge. I shake my head in wonder at myself for even thinking of taking a position on whether to vote for health care reform. WHAT reform? Is it going to be reform as in Afghanistan, where all the thinking is inside the Washington political box?
I won’t beat on all the ways that President Obama shows primary concern for winning battles against Congressional Republicans with his Senate ally Harry Reid. The bottom line is that what qualifies people for US national political office is how well they get with the political flow of gaining and holding votes, from congressional committee votes to votes in presidential elections. Anyone who has not cornered the market on political expediency will scarcely gain national office of any sort (how many Kuciniches, Sanderses and Feingolds are there in Congress at any time?), let alone be considered seriously “presidential.” President Obama has thus far passed the presidential test, spectacularly so. He does so by standing behind his advisers rather than in front of them.
On reflection, the anger and disappointment I felt when I saw the president looking his tv audience in the eyes from the West Point podium was really displaced anger and disappointment at myself, for believing that any father in Washington could significantly reframe political discourse. No president will fix things. I think Barack Obama knew that when he organized on the streets of South Chicago. Now he uses old ways to deal with powerbrokers instead of powerless people. In retrospect, I’m not surprised he follows his political habit of suspending what he believes as he mediates what others’ believe.
And so once again I have given up hope that a president will save us from ourselves. I’m grieving, but I think I’m about back to limiting my political aspirations to changes in political culture that spring of their own accord from the political ground up. Mr. President, I give you credit for working really hard at your job. I just think you’ve arrived at the wrong place to use your political skill to accomplish real change. But then, who was I to imagine that any father in Washington could save us. Love and peace, hal
TESTS OF OUR FAITH IN OUR FATHER
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 4, 2009
I was carried away by President Obama’s election. I allowed myself to hope that this charismatic, well-spoken young black man who promised so many wonderful words would live up to his promises. The president’s take on Afghanistan December 1 at West Point has finally brought me back to reality. Somehow, I had no illusions about President Clinton when he took office; he was slickly and purely expedient from the beginning of his campaign, when he made a point of being in the Arkansas governor’s house the night an effectively lobotomized black man was executed. I am chagrined to say that Barack Obama took me in. I shed tears of celebration as he announced his victory in Lincoln Park. I allowed myself to feel that yes we can! had become yes we will! If only wishing it were so could make it so.
Barack Obama’s considerable gifts as a listener/organizer opened his path to the White House. Now as president he uses the same gifts to listen and organize to win political battles in Washington. He works for consensus, wherever the least common denominator of consensus happens to emerge. I shake my head in wonder at myself for even thinking of taking a position on whether to vote for health care reform. WHAT reform? Is it going to be reform as in Afghanistan, where all the thinking is inside the Washington political box?
I won’t beat on all the ways that President Obama shows primary concern for winning battles against Congressional Republicans with his Senate ally Harry Reid. The bottom line is that what qualifies people for US national political office is how well they get with the political flow of gaining and holding votes, from congressional committee votes to votes in presidential elections. Anyone who has not cornered the market on political expediency will scarcely gain national office of any sort (how many Kuciniches, Sanderses and Feingolds are there in Congress at any time?), let alone be considered seriously “presidential.” President Obama has thus far passed the presidential test, spectacularly so. He does so by standing behind his advisers rather than in front of them.
On reflection, the anger and disappointment I felt when I saw the president looking his tv audience in the eyes from the West Point podium was really displaced anger and disappointment at myself, for believing that any father in Washington could significantly reframe political discourse. No president will fix things. I think Barack Obama knew that when he organized on the streets of South Chicago. Now he uses old ways to deal with powerbrokers instead of powerless people. In retrospect, I’m not surprised he follows his political habit of suspending what he believes as he mediates what others’ believe.
And so once again I have given up hope that a president will save us from ourselves. I’m grieving, but I think I’m about back to limiting my political aspirations to changes in political culture that spring of their own accord from the political ground up. Mr. President, I give you credit for working really hard at your job. I just think you’ve arrived at the wrong place to use your political skill to accomplish real change. But then, who was I to imagine that any father in Washington could save us. Love and peace, hal

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Retirement

QUALITY VS. QUANTITY OF LIFE
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 30, 2009
Suddenly in retirement, I have time on my hands. Whenever I run into folks who haven’t seen me since retirement, I keep getting asked what I do with my day and what my retirement plans are.
Since a 1987 article on “Violence as Unresponsiveness,” I have postulated that entropy or heat or friction in social relations increases as participants become fixated on achieving substantive goals. I postulate that peacemaking entailing participants’ letting go of attachments to outcome. I have found that as I have managed to let go of goal attachment in my own relations, my life has become enriched. For instance, I have by chance moved in with my wife in the town where my mom still lives in a house I grew up in. That would not have happened had I not been prepared to move wherever Jill worked when I retired, and had she not applied for a job she thought was beyond her reach but applied anyway. I have come to believe that serendipity happens in the spaces where I leave outcomes of my human encounters to chance. That is counter-intuitive especially to those who like me have aimed to become lawyers. Hence, hard as it is for some of my friends to think I really mean it, I am as determined as ever to keep my planning to a minimum. I’m lucky: I am able after 11 years once again able to live with my closest companion, close to my surviving parent, in economic security.
I pick up the concern from friends that with all my free time, I am at risk of dying of drug-enhanced loneliness. I appreciate their concern. I’m sure they are asking me about their worst fears for their own retired futures. I recently saw a guy I had gone to grad school with who is around 70. He told me he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he gave up professing criminal justice. I recognize the fear. For any concerned friend who reads this, know that I’m not lonely and relatively contented and secure as I write.
As I anticipated retirement, I reached the conclusion that a moment in a lifetime can make the meaning of one’s life as one faces death more meaningful than having lived honorably, in and by the service of others, for over a hundred years. I reached this conclusion during roughly a decade from 1991 when my late friend Mable introduced me to singing with her in nursing homes, and in the accompanying funerals she took me to. At the time I made a particular point of telling Jill and our Katy how blessed I felt by my life with them, and that I was prepared to face death already having lived, as I put it to them, many lives in a lifetime. I now respond to pressure to do something by telling myself that I have already accomplished more than enough, and have nothing left to prove. Now I face more lives as long as life continues for me. What do I do with all that freedom? Good question
Over Thanksgiving I spent time with old dear friends, one a psychiatrist and the other a clinical psychologist. Asked to explain my daily planning, I got away unchallenged by them with saying that I am in part accommodating my own autism. For years before retirement let alone now, I have enjoyed the privilege of having just one or two significant social encounters a day with days in between with nothin’ to do where Jill and I can now hang out and take some time out together, our own Sabbath. As an only child of two working parents, I became habituated to alone time. I learned to adapt by playing with parts of myself in fantasy, which I think is why multiple personalities seem so obvious and natural to me. I figure that we all have multiple parts or personalities. Autism is one of mine.
When I have a single event to contemplate as in thinking about--as against planning--an upcoming class, inside my head I keep rolling over ideas about how I might introduce discussion, of what responses I might expect, and about how I might account for why in terms of the rest of the course I ask this question. I allow time to myself after the event to reflect on what has been said there, and to begin thinking about our next single event together. Some years ago by this practice I lost my need to plan what in particular would come out of my mouth, let alone be on powerpoint, until the moment I start each class. Occasionally, something someone says minutes before I start class shifts my direction.
I’m here to tell you that after years of following this practice in all my public speaking, it works for me and audiences, and IT IS INTENSE for me. It is rewarding in retrospect rather than draining, but it takes a lot of energy, and in the encounter, concentration. I can’t wait to get away by myself to let events of the immediate past float through me in a form of meditation, of concentration not on what will happen, but on digesting what has happened, often tremendously meaningful and fulfilling in its own right—inspiration for upcoming encounters of all kinds.
When circumstances make me deal with multiple “important” encounters in daily life, as in monitoring e-mail and texting, I simply become distracted. I am a functioning autistic. I can make decisions readily without much thought. But I can’t concentrate, and I lose time contemplating and concentrating on making any encounter more than routinely meaningful. There comes a point in my encounters when the volume in my head has reached a point where I tune out and go off into my own space if I have a chance. I had the good luck to have a job for more than half my life that allowed me to concentrate and largely do my own things in between significant encounters. I have learned that a single class can become a more meaningful moment in my own understanding of the world than accumulating a lifetime of lectures could possibly have done.
All our life circumstances are unique, my own included. It is against all I believe to offer any else recipes for life. I acknowledge as here that the experience, feelings and beliefs of others sharpens my own understanding of myself and of how to explain myself to others. But I am flat out proposing that one fact about ageing and retirement applies to all of us: As life progresses, memories of moments you have lived will far outweigh the quantity of time and effort you have spent there. I can no longer measure the value of life by the number of years a body survives. I see my own life as a visit with relatives. I’d just as soon leave this body when the visit is going well, rather than concentrating on what it takes to extend my years in my body.
I am of a generation when many of us are trying to manage lives of surviving ninetyish parents. I think the great untalked-about elephant in health care expenditure debate is our fixation on maximizing our own life spans costs more. My worst end-of-life nightmare is spending my last bodily years dedicated to doing whatever it takes to live longer at great expense to others. The biggest contributor to growth in health care expense is our fixation on prolonging human lives, as though time alive equals the value of a life lived.
Since moving to Central Ohio, I have introduced myself in a number of ways to groups or people I might hook up with here. I have been pushy enough to put people here off I’m sure. I imagine myself having become a fisherman throwing out lines and waiting for bites in return. My time is too valuable for me to fill it for filling’s sake. Serendipity will out. I remain blessed. Love and peace--hal

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Exam questions on Marx and crime

RE: Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 9, Issue 118
Pepinsky, Harold E.

Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 3:52 PM
To: ahs-talk@prismatix.com
Attachments:



How about this Marx question: Marx called the criminal class the "lumpenproletariat." To him, convicts were social scum who had no human rights. Was Marx correct? l&p hal
________________________________________
From: ahs-talk-bounces@prismatix.com [ahs-talk-bounces@prismatix.com] On Behalf Of ahs-talk-request@prismatix.com [ahs-talk-request@prismatix.com]
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 11:52 AM
To: ahs-talk@prismatix.com
Subject: Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 9, Issue 118

Send Ahs-talk mailing list submissions to
ahs-talk@prismatix.com

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
http://prismatix.com/mailman/listinfo/ahs-talk_prismatix.com
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
ahs-talk-request@prismatix.com

You can reach the person managing the list at
ahs-talk-owner@prismatix.com

When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of Ahs-talk digest..."


Today's Topics:

1. correction re the previous. (QUACK WRAPAQUACK)
2. Marx question contest (GEORGE SNEDEKER)
3. Re: Marx question contest (llevitt)
4. Re: Marx question contest (Dolgon, Corey)
5. Re: Marx question contest (llevitt)


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

Message: 1
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 19:18:19 +0000
From: QUACK WRAPAQUACK
Subject: [Ahs-talk] correction re the previous.
To:
Message-ID:
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"



Forget it.
Too old a posting, too confused a Pigle ,- greetings to Paula.
P.




_________________________________________________________________
Keep your friends updated?even when you?re not signed in.
http://www.microsoft.com/middleeast/windows/windowslive/see-it-in-action/social-network-basics.aspx?ocid=PID23461::T:WLMTAGL:ON:WL:en-xm:SI_SB_5:092010
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL:

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

Message: 2
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 22:51:50 -0500
From: "GEORGE SNEDEKER"
Subject: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest
To: "Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology"

Message-ID: <000601ca6b27$1f6ca1b0$2f01a8c0@dell>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

I was wondering if anyone has a good essay question or questions on Marx social theory that works well with students. I'm not sure why but I find that my students do better on Durkheim than Marx. I'm not sure if this is because I do a better job of teaching them Durkheim or if it is because Emile is simpler to understand or if it is because Durkheim's approach to society fits more easily into the students' conception of society. No class struggle and all. Solidarity for ever! But for the moment I'm looking for questions on Marx that students can answer. You can send your favorite Marx questions to me offline unless you think they would generate an interest for the list members. We could have a contest to see who can come up with the best Marx question.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL:

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

Message: 3
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 11:25:30 -0500
From: "llevitt"
Subject: Re: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest
To: "Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology"

Message-ID: <1672D74772284F45B2473CCBC1644D0F@LLEVITT>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

How about: Why is there a statue of Karl Marx in a park in London?
----- Original Message -----
From: GEORGE SNEDEKER
To: Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 10:51 PM
Subject: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest


I was wondering if anyone has a good essay question or questions on Marx social theory that works well with students. I'm not sure why but I find that my students do better on Durkheim than Marx. I'm not sure if this is because I do a better job of teaching them Durkheim or if it is because Emile is simpler to understand or if it is because Durkheim's approach to society fits more easily into the students' conception of society. No class struggle and all. Solidarity for ever! But for the moment I'm looking for questions on Marx that students can answer. You can send your favorite Marx questions to me offline unless you think they would generate an interest for the list members. We could have a contest to see who can come up with the best Marx question.



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


_______________________________________________
Ahs-talk mailing list
Ahs-talk@prismatix.com
http://prismatix.com/mailman/listinfo/ahs-talk_prismatix.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL:

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

Message: 4
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 11:23:21 -0500
From: "Dolgon, Corey"
Subject: Re: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest
To: "Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology"

Message-ID:
<39FF21238D0C26469861A35B37EB9F9D015A987F@exchem3.worcester.local>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

don't know how others feel about this but i like to get at how sociologists can differ greatly on some things and just slightly on others while all the time using similar terminology. for instance. i usually ask students to compare and contrast durkheim and mark on the division of labor and alienation. Then, I ask them to explain how both understand solidarity as a remedy of sorts for alienation, but again, very differently. I find by doing this, they are able to understand the important distinctions in emphasis and theoretical or philosophical difference without getting into simplistic understandings of durkheim as simple functionalist--which as rick eckstein keeps pointing out at ahs meetings--he wasn't/isn't--and marx as a vulger economistic guy.

________________________________

From: ahs-talk-bounces@prismatix.com on behalf of GEORGE SNEDEKER
Sent: Sat 11/21/2009 10:51 PM
To: Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology
Subject: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest


I was wondering if anyone has a good essay question or questions on Marx social theory that works well with students. I'm not sure why but I find that my students do better on Durkheim than Marx. I'm not sure if this is because I do a better job of teaching them Durkheim or if it is because Emile is simpler to understand or if it is because Durkheim's approach to society fits more easily into the students' conception of society. No class struggle and all. Solidarity for ever! But for the moment I'm looking for questions on Marx that students can answer. You can send your favorite Marx questions to me offline unless you think they would generate an interest for the list members. We could have a contest to see who can come up with the best Marx question.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/ms-tnef
Size: 4269 bytes
Desc: not available
URL:

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

Message: 5
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 11:52:36 -0500
From: "llevitt"
Subject: Re: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest
To: "Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology"

Message-ID:
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

The question is not a gag. To answer requires providing some British and personal history, some digging into why the statue was wanted, by whom, whether there was controversy about it, who the sculptor was, how long it took to actually reach fruition and why . . . etc. etc. Personally, I am tired of abstract comparisons of the theories of famous (white) men; the statue is real and a sociological fact.
----- Original Message -----
From: Dolgon, Corey
To: Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 11:23 AM
Subject: Re: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest


don't know how others feel about this but i like to get at how sociologists can differ greatly on some things and just slightly on others while all the time using similar terminology. for instance. i usually ask students to compare and contrast durkheim and mark on the division of labor and alienation. Then, I ask them to explain how both understand solidarity as a remedy of sorts for alienation, but again, very differently. I find by doing this, they are able to understand the important distinctions in emphasis and theoretical or philosophical difference without getting into simplistic understandings of durkheim as simple functionalist--which as rick eckstein keeps pointing out at ahs meetings--he wasn't/isn't--and marx as a vulger economistic guy.

________________________________

From: ahs-talk-bounces@prismatix.com on behalf of GEORGE SNEDEKER
Sent: Sat 11/21/2009 10:51 PM
To: Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology
Subject: [Ahs-talk] Marx question contest


I was wondering if anyone has a good essay question or questions on Marx social theory that works well with students. I'm not sure why but I find that my students do better on Durkheim than Marx. I'm not sure if this is because I do a better job of teaching them Durkheim or if it is because Emile is simpler to understand or if it is because Durkheim's approach to society fits more easily into the students' conception of society. No class struggle and all. Solidarity for ever! But for the moment I'm looking for questions on Marx that students can answer. You can send your favorite Marx questions to me offline unless you think they would generate an interest for the list members. We could have a contest to see who can come up with the best Marx question.




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


_______________________________________________
Ahs-talk mailing list
Ahs-talk@prismatix.com
http://prismatix.com/mailman/listinfo/ahs-talk_prismatix.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL:

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

_______________________________________________
Ahs-talk mailing list
Ahs-talk@prismatix.com
http://prismatix.com/mailman/listinfo/ahs-talk_prismatix.com


End of Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 9, Issue 118
****************************************







Paging and Bottom Toolbar

Connected to Microsoft Exchange

Friday, November 20, 2009

Poor President Karzai

POOR PRESIDENT KARZAI
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 20, 2009
Yesterday Hamid Karzai signed on for five more years as Afghani president. I felt for him as I heard NPR and BBC descriptions of the ceremony: in a zone surrounded by armored protection, the bulk of the first three rows in the audience consisting foreign dignitaries led by Hillary Clinton and the rest by warlords of old, the abject pledge of the new president to take apart “corruption” in his own political family to maintain enough Euro-American support to stay alive in the Afghan presidential palace.
I was born months before WWII ended. When I was 16 I moved for a year with my parents to Trondheim, Norway. A neighbor and professional host of my parents, Einar Thorsrud, founder of the Norwegian Institute for Industrial Democracy, had spent years in the mountains as a partisan fighter against German occupation. When Germany surrendered, 50 Norwegian collaborators were sentenced to death, and half of them were executed before Norwegians had had enough. The first hanged was Vidkund Quisling, whom the Germans made Norwegian chief executive after King Olav had fled to England before the invaders could get their hands on him. Einar Thorsrud was a specialist in open grassroots democratization who showed us pictures of his hideouts in the mountains, and who shortly before his death from cancer, took Jill and me to the occupation museum in Oslo, at the foot of the fort that guarded the harbor in times past. I carry this experience of my youth in my viscera as I think about President Karzai’s plight.
President Karzai was a Pashtun war hero. He was also US trained and sponsored into the presidency. Karzai is a logical candidate for being considered a Quisling by Afghanis who suffer US bombardment. I also imagine that he wishes that he had turned down this career opportunity.
How Anglo-American news media scramble to keep hope alive that the war in Afghanistan that must be won (“loss is not an option”) is winnable (as though winning is an option). A visit by my daughter Katy this weekend brings to mind what she said at the age of 7 or so when we sat in the bedroom watching the big battle scene in the movie “Patton”: What a mess! Love and peace--hal

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dealing with the Tragedy of the Commons

DEALING WITH THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 16, 2009
In retirement I have rejoined a single listserv where I post my blogs and engage in lively discussion on many issues—ahs-talk@prismatix.com. The sponsor is the Association for Humanist Sociology (humanistsoc.org), which met last week in New Orleans.
Olaf Krassnitzky and I have been sending each other a flurry of messages on that listserv. I don’t know Olaf personally, but it is a treat to engage with him online. In his latest message he asked why no one had responded to his question on how to deal with the tragedy of the commons in international relations. I told him I thought that good question deserved a serious response, so here it is, and thank you Olaf. Funny you should ask:
My browsers’ home page is www.iub.edu, Indiana University, Bloomington. There I see a picture of Elinor Ostrom at the university press conference the day she received the Nobel Prize in Economics. I am one among countless people in Bloomington and from around the planet who have been warmly welcomed and embraced as participants in weekly seminars at Lin and Vincent’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. I remember when in her presentations Lin began focusing on the tragedy of the commons. At her press conference Lin said that this had been the focus since her doctoral research under Vincent’s mentorship on control of water resources in the Los Angeles area. Field research under the auspices of the Workshop focused on isolating and documenting exceptions to the tragedy of the commons. In the press conference, Lin summarized these exceptions as social arenas in which people thought in terms of “the next seven generations.”
The research she did on policing, primarily with Roger Parks, found that police performance and community satisfaction were enhanced as police administration became decentralized; the tragedy of the commons abated as police power devolved.
Olaf, I share your focus and Lin’s on how to transcend the tragedy of the commons. I share with her as a would-be educator a quest to discover and share stories of how people actually manage to negotiate and cooperate. It happens all the time. I share Lin’s conclusion that in the long run, human synergy transforms violent confrontation by trickling up rather by being administered from any top down. To use my old buddy Rev. Bill Breeden’s term, mine and Lin’s have become a matter of learning and sharing the art of guerrilla peacefare. Thanks for asking Olaf. Love and peace, Hal

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Corruption, Conspiracy, and Solutions

CORRUPTION, CONSPIRACY, SOLUTIONS
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 15, 2009
If I believed that social problems could be solved by law’n’order, I would organize to ban certain concepts from human discourse. Among these would be corruption, conspiracy, and solutions. Like criminality, we use these words to define those whom we blame for our problems. When I was in grad school, my theoretical physicist uncle Ray Pepinsky, the inventor of x-ray chrystallography, taught me to call research findings that have no practical significance “trivial.” And so I say that distinctions between those we identify as corrupt conspirators and ourselves as problem solvers, are trivial. I pick corruption, conspiracy and solutions as examples here of the larger point that whatever categories we apply to separate “them” from “us”-- the harder we try to identify who is really whom--the harder we drive ourselves into mutual destruction.
Categories in mainstream rhetoric like corruption, conspiracy and solutions frame political discourse. As US sociologist W.I. Thomas put it, things that are defined as real are real in their consequences.
Where corruption is framed as why we can’t win a war, I think about people I meet who tell me their parents taught them right from wrong, and who volunteer to go into harm’s way to defend their family and their nation, which is what I was told led to official appointments of relatives in Tanzania for instance. Here in my own country I have never met a contested official decision that depended upon the facts at hand, rather than by considerations of who the person before them was. Is the disproportion of people of color in US cages a tribute to a dispassionate justice process? Is the privatization of prisons and military services worldwide incorruptible? I don’t have to be Hamid Karzai to see US hypocrisy, as the diplomatic euphemism goes at the highest levels. I ask whether people across Afghanistan and into Pakistan aren’t threatened defenseless by terror from air as deadly as the launching of v-rockets on London? How come our president isn’t going to memorial services for innocent women and children killed by US firepower in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq? Who then is the heartless, politically uncorrupted party in these situations?
“Conspiracy” literally means breathing together. It doesn’t matter where political deals are made—at the traffic stop, on the golf course, at an ASEAN meeting, wherever—aren’t they all conspiratorial, meaning: I’ll keep our secret if you keep it too, behind official and business scenes? Beyond the trivial finger-pointing business of who bigger and lesser conspirators are (aka the blame game), the only practical antithesis I can see to corruption is not keeping relations that affect other people secret. In a word, that’s called honesty (these days aka “transparency”).
Pure math problems have solutions, human problems do not. My definition of violence is the force of substantive goal fixation in any human relationship from the personal to the global. I began pepinsky.blogspot.com with a diatribe against fixation on growth. The harder we try to make people come around and do what it takes to accomplish a social goal, the bigger the inertial reaction, aka backlash or in CIA-talk blowback. I just blogged on how death-penalty opponents’ efforts to get state legislatures to offer life without parole as an alternative to a death sentence backfired. Life without parole has proliferated into sentencing teenagers to life without parole for having committed in one instance an armed robbery.
To avoid goal fixation, I pursue a process, peacemaking, rather than an end state, peace. (Like James Jones, I think I know how to achieve peace in short order; we just kill ourselves.) In that process, transformations from violent toward momentary settlement of differences rest, as Roger Fisher put it, on getting to yes! by moving from position to interest. In the victim-offender mediation program I was in back in Bloomington, a basic rule was “no name-calling.” I wish we would cut the name-calling crud when it comes to putting “them” in their place. I keep coming back to Walt Kelly’s swamp possum character Pogo’s routine conclusion: We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.
As a criminologist learning from prisoners I early on concluded that for the most part, there but for the grace of god go I. I don’t think calling people corrupt or conspiratorial, or proposing how to solve other people’s problems, helps us get over…and when we do, to avoid becoming complacent and instead remaining open to airing and negotiating our differences rather than trying to stomp them out. L&p hal

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Corruption in Afghanistan

Corruption in Afghanistan
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 12, 2009
Corruption is the growing excuse for US withdrawal (pardon the sexual allusion) from Afghanistan. The US ambassador to Kabul, formerly a general in charge of US troops there, sent a memo to his president advising against sending more troops to that war, which was leaked today, reportedly saying the Afghan government was hopelessly corrupt. The current general in charge who filed an earlier leaked report had recommended a “surge” of 40,000 troops, and according to BBC sources is furious at the ambassador’s leaked memo.
Corruption is a ten-letter word for what?
There are all kinds of ways to calculate personal gain from official behavior. What is in it for example for the economic future of the Afghan president, the general, the ambassador, and all those who have staked their future and the future of their families on loyalty?
I have come to believe that our passion to point fingers at the criminality/corruption of others is a projection of the corruption we tolerate and support among ourselves. Does it make a difference to those who are harmed and deceived whether government actors benefit in prospective private-sector employment and retirement, in one’s duty to take care of the social security of extended family, or in subsisting day to day? I don’t think so. What hurts about corruption is lying about what we are doing in the name of serving one another. This is a problem I concentrated on when I was in Tanzania in 1990 (Corruption, Bribery and Patriarchy in Tanzania, Crime, Law, and Social Change 17: 25-57, 1992).
For starters, I ask this question about US corruption: What prompted a government to tolerate two violations of federal law, namely the leaking of two classified reports to the president by a general and then by an ambassador? Could it possibly be…corruption? In terms of practical consequences, I’d say these secret games for political gain are more hurtful than the president of Afghanistan could ever accomplish. He can’t order up 40,000 more troops without recruiting people dedicated to blowing away him and those who stand with him. The US government’s power of life and death overwhelms his.
Openness about one’s own motives is the best one has to offer to make peace with one’s antagonists. Let’s be honest here in the US. The historical political juggernaut that drove superpower US forces to invade Afghanistan was a blind capitulation to US political expediency; any president who didn’t lash out at someone after 911 was politically suicidal. I think of all the cluster bomblets that bit of political expediency for private gain laid on children in Afghan family plots. Has US political and media dialogue not gotten corrupted into defending and escalating investment in an indefensible massively homicidal political reflex?
If we in my country were not corrupted, I think it obvious that we would apologize to everyone we occupy militarily worldwide for our Anglo history of colonialism, would withdraw and would negotiate reparations. But of course we are too heavily invested in our own good-old-boy corrupt ways to be different from Afghanis. I’d like us to get off the corruption issue and face whether US attempts to colonize other parts of the planet aren’t doomed to failure, and assume responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Life Without Parole

Life Without Parole
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
Armistice Day 2009
Two days ago the US supreme court heard oral arguments on whether sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes other than murder is cruel and unusual punishment. Since I figure punishment is cruel and unusual in human relations period, I have no arguments to make to the court on this occasion.
I DO note the irony of proliferation of imposition of life without parole. Death penalty abolitionists originally proposed life without parole as a legally cheaper alternative to the death penalty, pointing out that if life without parole were offered US residents in polls as an option to execution, support for the death penalty dropped to a minority. Defense counsel were led to encourage their capital clients to plead to life without parole; those sentences proliferated faster than the decline in death sentences.
Now that life without parole has become established as a “humane” alternative to our basic desires to kill the bastards, legislatures have raised punishment for all manner of offenses to that limit, and have, as in Florida in 77 cases, extended the limit to juveniles.
Punitive excess like leniency is always subject to political reversal. Executive clemency and pardon can end any life sentence, and perhaps as time passes, political pressure will increase resort to this legal option. Meanwhile, life without parole has blown back among its proponents who aspired to lighten sanctions against convicted offenders.
In my recovery as a lawyer, I have learned to beware legal victory. Victory is always subject to reversal. Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day

11.11.11
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu , pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 10, 2009

I figured it was a good omen when I chose November 11 for a second Ohio chiropractic routine adjustment and the receptionist suggested 11 am appointment. 11.11.11. On November 11, 1918, at 11 am local time, an armistice—a cease fire—took effect. All weapons fire ceased. World War I ended. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. When I grew up, the holiday was called Armistice Day. That’s the way I think of 11.11.11, as the moment a world war ended.
Then there was August 11, 1945, when the Japanese emperor’s military representatives unconditionally surrendered on a US aircraft carrier.
That national myth of military victory, of ending wars, persists in my country. But it can’t happen. In 1967 I heard Secretary of State Dean Rusk call Vietnam a war to end all wars. Today, wars can only be negotiated, grievance by grievance. There is no end, only acknowledgment that the ending of international wars ended the year I was born. Victory, and the moral arrogance that goes with it, r.i.p. May all our adjustments to today’s military reality work as well as the adjustment my chiropractor makes promises to do for my bodily integrity. Love and peace--hal

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hold your breath

I couldn't help asking this question on the humanist sociology discussion list, something I keep thinking about when I ask myself what I stand for as a human incarnate:

a little help with a question please?
Pepinsky, Harold E.

Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 4:31 PM
To: ahs-talk@prismatix.com
Attachments:



Human life on earth's surface has more than tripled in my lifetime. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. What is the contribution of increase of human exhalation to greenhouse emissions? What does carbon accumulation matter for me or you as a human being anyway? So what? l&p hal

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Self-Destruction in Pakistan and Afghanistan

SELF-DESTRUCTION IN PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 1, 2009
Pakistani and US military actions endanger themselves and their own people. I do not celebrate that Pakistani/Coalition/Afghani actions escalate the toll we bear for their preoccupation with conquering the enemy.
I think of the first long song I sang with granddaughter a year ago when she was born: “The old lady who swallowed the fly.”
For her: [Mila, sweetie, may you get off the political train toward trying to identify and take out “the bad guys,” and enjoy the love your own mom and dad give you so wholeheartedly. I hope you come to understand that escalating wars to avoid surrender only makes it harder to tell your enemies from those with whom folks like you and me are committed, as in my case with you, from life until one of dies first (almost certainly me long before you, and how wonderful to know you while we are alive together)]…[for mom and dad, please keep this for Mila’s records.]
What is the Pakistani military thinking!? As refugees pour out from in front of your military offensive, how many new “militant” sympathizers can you fail to imagine cross behind your lines? Then they hook up with other earlier angry refugee members and assorted cousins and such, and you have created a new, interconnected but in terms of when and where to strike next, free to act independently or coordinate attacks, fraternal organization and defender of the homeland and its allies.
Up through World War II, you could win a war because your enemy was headed by an emperor or president or chancellor or prime minister or general. Someone was clearly in charge; someone could surrender and all his followers would lay down their arms. The UN Charter reflected the fantasy that henceforth, “the war to end all wars” having concluded, the five biggest national winners of WWII would be empowered to take care of any really serious threat of war. They would tell their colonial or national subordinates to get in line if need be, and the only wars left to fight would be those all five permanent members of the security council agreement to authorize force for. No member nation could otherwise launch an armed attack except in self-defense under Art. 57(under which, as “collective self-defense,” the US government justified its escalating invasion of the former French Indochina). How many times has the US government, by this or that bending of the rules, overtly and covertly, made a lie of the US Constitution’s injunction that “Congress shall declare war” and that as a treaty, the UN Charter ranks beside the Constitution as “the supreme law of the land.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. No one has to give consequences for bad choices on any side in contemporary struggle; karma is at work. There is no justice in the logic that what goes around comes around. Afghani and Pakistani civilians, predominantly women and children, suffer most in any war I have heard about, including for instance the women and children of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, by which the US achieved victory—celebrating that in major confrontations we killed so many more of “them”---primarily civilian non-combatant women and children—that got killed in return. Now drones are the US ultimate weapon: kill while never risking being killed back. Never mind how many women and children around the national enemies you target in the house your kid on a joystick blows up when he drops the bomb or launches the missile. Equally to the point, what responsibility do we as a nation accept for taking care of people who drop these bombs from rooms in Virginia and Colorado, and can’t talk with anyone when they go home that they have blown up households of people they never knew, day by day? Apparently, US policy is to bar no holds on political assassination by us, while decrying “terrorist” threats against our own leaders. Hey, it’s only a drone, not a terrorist.
These days I’m a little pessimistic. We and our military allies concertedly kill and destroy other peoples “on the ground” and don’t recognize the pleas we hear from people who live in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Please, outsiders, leave us to work out our own feuds and whatever among ourselves; please leave us alone; please leave us in peace. I only wish…
Meanwhile, bombs go off in urban centers in our two countries. The Chinese Communists were the first in the post-WWII era to show that indigenous guerrilla warfare wears down and ultimately outlasts superpower-sponsored attempts at domination. I hear that many urban Pakistanis, like students at the National Islamic University bombed last week, blame the primary foreign patron, us. How many friends and family do they nurture resentment among, behind military lines in Pakistan and my country? Why is our military risking our own lives further by waging offenses that can conquer nothing? I’m not an insider. I don’t know, but I’m discouraged to see how steadfastly my government and others persist in growing resort to military firepower. L&p hal

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beyond Debate

BEYOND DEBATE
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 25, 2009
One listserv I’ve become particularly involved with since retirement is that of the Association of Humanist Sociology. I’ve been posting my blogs there and getting many thoughtful responses.
Since I last posted a blog, a discussion has arisen over who’s right and wrong in the Holy Land. Below, I wrote a response to the considerable and diverse traffic in this exchange. I’m hoping it helps explain what I mean by the importance to me of paradigm shift in criminology:

From: Pepinsky, Harold E.
Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 12:47 PM
To: ahs-talk@prismatix.com
Subject: RE: Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 8, Issue 79

To me, because the progress of human relations (cooling or heating) has taken over my fruitless quests to define harm, etc. as behavior, I find I as to my own behavior, I can invoke no higher authority for my actions than to try to account for how I feel and act as I do. In honest exchanges of beliefs about right and wrong like this one, I find myself asking what if anything leads folks in the discussion to move from justification to empathy--trying to find a way of showing an antagonist that without being patronizing, one is recognizing and respecting the passion with which an opposing position is being argued.
To be honest, I've only sampled this particular discussion, and so I have no business coming in as an outsider telling y'all how to get your acts together. As I continue to look at the digests, I'm wondering how folks involved feel about how I frame the issue...as a would-be peacemaker. l&p hal

Sunday, October 18, 2009

When Baboons Stop Fighting

WHEN BABOONS STOP FIGHTING
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 18, 2009

I just heard a WNYC Radio Lab segment on “new baboons.” Stanford med’s Robert Sapolsky reports that a group of a typically aggressive/warlike species changed in six days in a way that has lasted for twenty years in the group.
What happened was that the males fought to bring home the bacon and assorted treats from a new human treasure to fight over, a human waste dump. All the guys who brought that food home, and presumably their women and children, got tuberculosis from meat there and died horrible deaths within six weeks of consumption.
Within six days, Sapolsky et al. recorded that newborn males were grooming like females, and haven’t reverted since; suddenly male capacity for gentleness prevails with female sexual preference.
I’m committed to the view that changing course in social relations is the quickest way to change the course of all our relations. We are well aware that species are becoming extinct many times over in a single human lifetime. In the case of these baboons, the women whom tuberculosis spared must have been those who had had to settle for male losers. Suddenly, all the bully families were gone. Women no longer had to hook up with bullies to feed themselves and their children. Of course the gene pool didn’t shift much in a single generation. It isn’t about genes alone, it’s about how empires and all rise and fall under environmental circumstance.
Darwin concluded that the species and ecosystems that survived most are the most diverse, so that what wiped out one vulnerable group (in this case the meanest most powerful baboon bullies on that particular turf) gave rise to women’s appreciation that “effeminate” boys and men were a lot more pleasant to live with than life with the bullies had been. So why go back?
I don’t know where violence starts in any case. My old friend Bill Breeden has put it this way to students we taught together: We are born with the human nature of pooping in our diapers. We learn that we get along a lot better when we change. Sounds like these baboons to me.
We learn that life without pooping in our pants if we can help it is more pleasant that incontinence. So is life without bullies.
Back in the early seventies when I started teaching about social control and race for instance, geneticists I read and assigned recognized that nature and nurture are interactive. Thus, any point of entry into body function or choice is theoretically capable of proving equally effective in what is at all times at once a totally genetic, biological, psychological, social, economic, political problem. In a word, this is holism.
I was disappointed that both Sapolsky and Wrangham got off on a new technically driven genetics discourse that once more insists on separating nature from nurture. Baboons have shown themselves capable of making peace with violence, with differences as negligible in DNA as those among black, brown, yellow and red humans. I conclude that we all find social harmony and security preferable to aggression when aggression fails to keep up with evolving human circumstances. We just need to find and exploit opportunities to act accordingly—a process Bill Breeden calls guerrilla peacefare. Love and peace--hal

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taliban reconstruction

TALIBAN RECONSTRUCTED
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu , pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 15, 2009
Secretary of State Clinton is becoming a well-nuanced public diplomat. Yesterday in a BBC interview she distinguished between Taliban who threaten Britain and the US, and Taliban whose issues are between them and the Afghan government. As sociologist W. I. Thomas put it just after WWI, “things that are defined as real are real in their consequences.” West Point’s chief researcher on terrorists was interviewed this morning to distinguish al Qaeda, good Taliban and bad Taliban.
This gambit opens two strategic possibilities: of dividing the enemy against itself (a time-honored practice of US prison management), and of dumping the chaos our invasion created by granting Afghanis the dignity of getting out of their way, and ourselves the excuse for withdrawal of having achieved our national security goals. The trial balloons are out as to the political acceptance of this version of how we withdraw from Afghanistan without losing “the” war.
I’ll accept this as progress toward peace. As Gandhi pointed out, when holders of firepower give way to non-violent refusals to obey, it is time to embrace their acts of grace, not to claim victory. I want NATO forces out of Afghanistan, the sooner with less bloodshed in the process the better.
“Terrorism” was first named as a significant threat to national security since Harry Truman’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination in 1948. I believe that the threat of terrorism has reverberated in virtually every US president’s campaign rhetoric since, notably in Jimmy Carter’s in 1976. I first recall al Qaeda being proclaimed through US intelligence as public terrorist group no. 1 just after Bill Clinton got re-elected, with Osama bin Laden named as its leader. They got re-named when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen, and again when US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed.
So by the time 9/11 rolled around, “we” already knew who the terrorists and their leader were. Within a month missiles and cluster bombs rained down on Afghanistan to get—guess who?—Bin Laden and exterminate al Qaeda. As Secretary of State Colin Powell put it at the time, treating Bin Laden as a military enemy was a lot simpler than treating him as a criminal who might have legal rights, as of due process.
We have treated al Qaeda as the US enemy no. 1 since. This construction of our enemy never made sense to me. As Bin Laden himself described the folks he was training and subsidizing, al Qaeda, literally “the base,” were modeled on Algerian national liberation resistance to the French: independent cells of three who in turn could train and give birth to other independent cells. Because al Qaeda had no head by design, it could never be defeated from above—the ultimate guerrilla force, now propagating its force worldwide. I’ll leave aside further comment on the notion that Bin Laden is the boss of it all. Al Qaeda has a life of its own, and trying to kill it has the same effect as pouring water on a grease fire.
As to indigenous Afghani groups who may embrace being “Taliban” (literally “students” of Islam), now we recognize that they are no unified military/political force either. Afghanistan has never been nationally centralized. Given the terrain alone, the same holds true for other mountainous regions like the Balkans, or Switzerland or Norway where local governments enjoy far more economic power than national counterparts. I agree with Secretary Clinton that what Afghanis work out among themselves will happen more easily when foreign occupiers are gone. Love and peace--hal

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Freedom" and the peace prize

FREEDOM AND THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 10, 2009
There’s enough lingering Norwegian in me to be astounded by the cultural blindness so uniformly reflected in US media reaction to Obama’s peace prize. All the talk, left right and whatever, I hear here is over whether Obama earned this award. Five Norwegian men, retired parliamentarians who comprise the prize selection committee, are blamed for being out of touch with reality. Well, I’m an ageing white man too. My Norwegian roots were laid my last year of secondary school, 1961-62, when I was the only non-local student in a centuries’ old “cathedral school” in Trondheim. My fellow Americans, I think you just don’t get classic Norwegian-think.
US evaluation of the merit of Obama’s award led me to look back at the intro to my first book (Crime and Conflict: A Study of Law and Society 1976), which at p. 7 reminds me:
In a very real sense, this study began more than ten years ago. During a year’s stay in Scandinavia [my psychology parents were in Trondheim on Fulbrights and a Guggenheim], a Swedish psychologist, Magnus Hedberg, questioned the present author’s definition of ‘democracy’ predicated on a system of laws that established and protected people’s right to live without interference from others, and that helped to define the duty of a citizen to work for others...’Can you conceive of a political system that represents freedom to do things and to work with others?’ he asked.
I recall that when I told Magnus that I saw no difference between the two, he smiled and assured me that I would have no trouble going back to the US.
He was wrong. I came back to the US indelibly sensitive to the difference between individualistic ideas of freedom and collective counterparts that living Scandinavian brought to my awareness. In words from the Norwegian peace prize committee, I hear a response that falls on largely, culturally tin US ears: We give Obama this award from NOT trying to gain credit for US-led international intrusion. The willingness to negotiate unconditionally (as with Iran) has paid off, although US responses I hear dismiss the significance of having open IAEA inspection of Iran’s second uranium enrichment plant. I keep hearing old-style Norwegian voices affirming: this is progress. This is enjoyment of the freedom of working WITH others. It means that achievements are by definition ours rather than US, another notch on a president’s international pistol. As I understand it, President Obama is cited by the Norwegians for subordinating personal and national glory to international cooperation. I share their sentiment.
I spent my first year in Norway in the wake of WWII, in a country that had not yet discovered oil. Ideological lines have become blurred in years since, but at the time, there was a clear Norwegian consensus that inequality was a threat to social security. “You shall not stick out” was a common watchword. Obama’s reaction to news of the prize would do this tradition proud; he was humble, self-deprecating, and appreciative of the responsibility that living up to expectations placed first and foremost on himself rather than on others. Thank you Mr. President. I like your attitude. Love and peace--hal

Friday, October 9, 2009

Norge mitt Norge--Norway my Norway, thanks for the peace prize

CELEBRATING THE NORWEGIAN PEACE PRIZE
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 9, 2009
What an irony. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee cites Barak Obama for shifting US gov discourse from unilateral to multilateral. US media response is overwhelmingly that President Obama doesn’t deserve the prize because he as yet has made no one anywhere else in the world cave to US demands…unilaterally.
Mr. Obama, I too celebrate the shift from confrontation to diplomacy that you have set in motion. I believe you are for real in doing so, and the world becomes a safer place for us all if we support the multilateralism you have repeatedly declared to be national policy. Thank you!
I consider Norway a second home, and am thus a little proud that Norwegian fellows could once again rise above picking winners and instead pick co-operators. Mr. Obama, congratulations. May your prize encourage us all to forsake being number one for working as one among nations. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

tribute to only member of congress to oppose Afghan invasion

Dear folks at democracynow.org , where I played this interview. Juan Gonzalez, I consider you a national journalistic treasure, thanks for being there.
I tried to send the message below directly to Rep Lee, but I find e-mail access to her limited to her congressional district constituents. If you have a chance to pass this along, please do. She helped remind me that my attitude isn’t insane. Thanks--hal

Worthington, Ohio, USA, 10.07.09
To US Rep Barbara, D-Cal
Dear Ms. Lee,
I’m newly retired. Professionally in criminal justice texts, I am listed as a co-founder of “peacemaking criminology” (just start with my new blog at pepinsky.blogspot.com ).
Today at democracynow.org I watched you on the capitol steps while Juan Gonzalez interviewed you.
My senatorial heroes remain Russ Feingold on international issues and Bernie Sanders on local issues; now in the House there is you. Thank you for being the only one not to have abrogated your Congressional constitutional duty not to authorize a president to go to war without a prior Congressional declaration.
Rep. Lee, thank you so much for inspiring me and countless others to carry on the tradition of voting against military aggrandizement on grounds that being Constitutional serves all our interests. Let me know wherever, however, I might be useful to a cause I believe we share, which I call “peacemaking.” Thanks again—love and peace—hal (pepinsky@indiana.edu)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A letter to Mila

I am often challenged to think about what we can do for better future for our loved ones. I have learned to expect unexpected opportunities to make a difference in relations with our children first and foremost.
My daughter Katy wrote Jill and me an invitation from our granddaughter Mila’s school—to send mail and maybe include stickers.
What more important does a grandpa have to do with free time than to think through a response. I switched the font to Times Roman 28 point and locked in capitalization. I’m hoping for penpalship; such is the luxury of retired grandparenthood.
I know how many ways I, let alone my granddaughter, am socially privileged. But in that realm above the clouds I see joy and honesty and exuberance and generosity in young lives in the making.
Nothing could be more important to me in professional writing than in having composed this text this morning l&p hal (pepinsky.blogspot.com):

209 ST. PIERRE ST.
WORTHINGTON, OH 43085-2262
OCTOBER 1, 2009
DEAR MILA AND FRIENDS,
IT’S FALL NOW. ARE LEAVES ON THE TREES OUTSIDE TURNING YELLOW AND RED IN DURANGO YET? OUR LEAVES IN WORTHINGTON ARE STILL GREEN.
KATY (MILA’S MOM) TELLS ME AND JILL (MILA’S GAMMY) THAT YOU LIKE STICKERS. I GOT SOME STICKERS OF CATS, DOGS AND HORSES. HAVE FUN WITH THEM.
IT WAS SO MUCH FUN VISITING YOUR SCHOOL AND MEETING YOU AND SINGING WITH SOME OF YOU. THANK YOU FOR THE VISIT.
MILA, THIS IS YOUR GRANDPA SAYING…I LOVE YOU.
WRITE BACK TO ME EVERYONE. I LOVE YOU ALL.
HAL

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance and Afghanistan

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND U.S. POLITICAL STRATEGY
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu
September 30, 2009

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance is well recognized among social psychologists: The more you invest in a belief system, the more elaborately you will rationalize failure, the more forcefully you will invest. One image of cognitive dissonance I have is of seniors will buckets full of change playing slot machines endlessly at Reno’s main casino. Cognitive dissonance is a tragic fact of social existence. It is not that people repeat history because they ignore it. Rather, as I learned in law school to be a mark to be a hallmark of an adversarial attorney’s skill, is to be able “to distinguish your facts.” After all, as I discussed in an earlier post on this blog, tautology is the only proof of anything. The more deeply we entrench ourselves in political positions, the more tortured and convoluted and “complex” our rationalizations of our commitments become.
US military effort in Afghanistan is now on US political center stage. Historical reality in Afghanistan shows that no one can take control of this “country.” Even the Taliban did not conquer northern provinces. How then do US forces promise to conquer the hearts and minds of the Afghani people? Who says that a government that supports opium trafficking isn’t legitimate among people in opium country? What Afghani is going to see US troops as “counter-insurgents” rather than as flat-out occupiers who have seen to it that a US-trained former Unocal board member inhabits the national presidential palace? How can we pretend that more US displays of force can improve the situation?
Senator John McCain’s words sum up the argument to increasing US forces in Afghanistan: “We can’t afford to fail.” I get this image of a small child in the store aisle saying, “I want it. But I REALLY want it! But I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY! need it!! I have to have it!!!” That’s cognitive dissonance. Wanting “it” more doesn’t make “it” happen. The sooner you face futility, the less you lose. To say that we must fight harder to win a losing fight is magical thinking.
Strategic thinking, more closely defining our military mission, compounds the problem of cognitive dissonance. We lock ourselves into a frame of reference, into Newspeak and more convoluted language, in the goal-defining process. To me in my work distinguishing peacemaking from violence, devoting ourselves to achieving strategic goals (at all costs?) inherently heats up human relations and splits them asunder, like the effect of dumping Humpty off the wall. The force we put into achieving strategic missions/goals is the essence of violence itself—not just a cause, but violence in action.
If US political history since Truman’s 1947 proclamation of the Cold War repeats itself, US forces will draw and shed considerably more blood before US withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete, as it was in Vietnam. Some among us like John McCain will persist in the belief that if “we” lost, it was (a) because “they” were corrupt and (b) because we faltered in our commitment to send in enough power to get the job done right.
Happily for all concerned, including our troops and their families, I see recognition of the futility of this war rising sooner and more pervasively (George Will?) in political discourse than in the past. Changing course in discourse is the essence of transforming a flood of violence into a course of greater peace and healing from war wounds. President Obama has already demonstrated that he is personally secure enough to apologize for mistakes in judgment, and is willing to accommodate inconvenient facts. We have that going for us, but the reflex to invest more in lost causes—from wars to health care as is—remains strong. Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Drug War Comes to Worthington, Ohio, my home town

This morning the "All Sides" talk show on WOSU radio had a set of authorities on the nature of the local heroin problem. Would you believe the timing? Last Saturday morning at 7:30 am thirteen local teenagers were busted for dealing heroin out of my hometown Worthington Square, and at the Dairy Queen at North Street and High, at the foot of the hill from my residence into town. Five of the thirteen were Worthingtonians themselves.

I was listening to a panel of law enforcement and drug treatment experts and getting exasperated, when one of the treatment folks mentioned offering methadone maintenance as an option. There was a lot of talk from law enforcement authorities on how pharmacy burglaries and robberies concentrated on synthetic opiates. I e-mailed a question: Isn't methadone a synthetic opiate? If so, how does it differ from the stuff stolen from pharmacies? A treatment authority began with "Hal is absolutely right, but..." the punchline being that the way they administer methadone you can't get high. I wrote back the message below--l&p hal:


I just retired from nearly forty years of teaching and writing about drug control. My answer to my own question about methadone is that methadone differs from other opiates in that you may need to be busted to qualify for getting it to relieve the kind of back pain, for instance, that brought no less than Rush Limbaugh to oxycontin. The back pain folks you describe weren't looking to get high; they were looking for pain relief, which if you qualify, can work with methadone.
We don't know about the toxicity of any artificial opiate, but natural opium is essentially non-toxic. People die from overdoses, like taking a bhottle of aspirin when you think you are taking one tablet. Switzerland maintains heroin addicts on...heroin itself (see the Drug Policy Alliance website). Guess what, as it may happen on methadone maintenance, users' health improves, and heroin-related crime drops to zero. Opiates and marijuana are not dangerous, drug enforcement and enforced treatment is. Hal (pepinsky.blogspot.com)

Monday, September 28, 2009

more on Obama's speech

My colleague Steve Russell sent me this message from Louie Milojevic. It is refreshing to hear this international response to Obama's speech, thanks Steve, thanks Louie:

I guess not everybody wants to lynch him....
Russell, Steve

Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 9:27 AM
To: Pepinsky, Harold E.
Attachments:



9-28-09

U-Turn at the UN? President Obama Reveals an Unconventional Approach to
Troubled World Body

By Louie Milojevic

Mr. Milojevic is a PhD Student in History at American University in
Washington D.C.

In his first address to the United Nations Barack Obama tried something
that none of his predecessors had ever contemplated; he spoke to the
General Assembly as President of the United States, and not as the
leader of the free world. Political leanings aside, American presidents
from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush have used the United Nations as a
platform from which to project national power and ensure the continuity
of the ‘American way’ in international affairs. A bedrock principle in
America’s relations with the United Nations, there has been more than
one way that presidents have pursued this goal. Some have assumed
leadership through intimidation, others by avoiding responsibility, and
there have also been optimistic presidents who placed an unreasonable
amount of political capital in the world body. President Obama’s address
reflected none of these philosophies.

Prominent critics, such as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
John Bolton, have charged that Obama’s address sponsors an idealistic
and naive foreign policy. “Hope,” of course did come into a play a few
times, it would not have been an Obama speech without it. However, this
was not solely an attempt to enhance the organization’s international
profile, as did Jimmy Carter so often during his presidency. Carter’s
public enthusiasm and respect for the United Nations improved America’s
relations with the Third World by leaps and bounds, but in the process
he lost the American voters who were more concerned with ‘stagflation’
at home. Obama faces a similar constituency today, and that is why he
emphasized early on and unequivocally that his primary responsibility is
to the American people and their interests.

That being said, Obama took a calculated political risk in laying out
his administration’s extensive efforts to prohibit the use of torture,
close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and responsibly withdraw U.S. forces
from Iraq. There was no defeatism here though, nor was there an attempt
to apologize for the Bush administration’s transgressions. Rather, Obama
urged General Assembly members to accept a collective responsibility in
solving the world’s problems. U.S. presidents have rarely entertained
such a notion, preferring instead to focus the blame elsewhere while
maintaining the righteousness of America’s cause. This mindset resulted
in much of the international deadlock that plagued UN initiatives in the
1950s and 1960s.

As President of the United States, Obama also made sure to introduce,
and not unilaterally declare, this “new era of engagement.” No
ultimatums were issued, nor were there threats of vanquishing the United
Nations into irrelevance if America’s ideas were not universally
embraced. In a stark contrast to President George W. Bush’s domineering
style, Obama assumed the familiar role of university professor, clearly
and concisely analyzing the present state of the world, advocating
common sense, and an inward and collective honesty among the delegates.

With the Bush administration as the most recent point of comparison, it
is not at all surprising that Obama’s address has been viewed as a sharp
reversal in American-UN relations. In actuality, the address suggests
more than that. At this point in his presidency Obama has managed to
retain much of his international popularity. He could easily have ridden
that wave of support to the General Assembly podium, and resumed an
American centered approach to international relations. Instead, he came
as a leader and citizen of one nation, and as a concerned parent. This
is an approach Americans have never witnessed, but it may actually make
sense.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama's gen assembly speech and its reception

PUTTING PRESIDENT OBAMA IN CHARGE:
THE CASE OF THE MISSING UN SPEECH
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky.blogspot.com
September 27, 2009

I grew up thinking that formal diplomatic dialogue (and lack thereof) was the most fundamental difference between war and peace. Later in life, I became more cynical. Over the past four US presidencies, I have come to presume that if the White House feels a need to say anything, it is because it is NOT true. Sigh…
I was excited by the intensity of White House promotion of President Obama’s September 23 first-ever-by-a-USprez lead address to this year’s New York opening of the UN General Assembly. As luck would have it, I was leaving Ft. Lauderdale from guest speaker, on “violence and peacemaking,” on September 21, International Peace Day, at Nova Southeastern U. My personal host was George Kakoti, a criminal justice prof, a British-trained Tanzanian barrister whom I hooded when he received his Ph.D. in the interdiscipline we share. Mr. Obama began his address as George drove me to the airport to return home.
It took me awhile to get the speech on the web that night. It wasn’t easy to find a simple text, until I hit on the idea of going directly to the UN General Assembly, and searching by date, which offers video too. This is the most direct way to open the text of any one of the many national addresses September 23 through yesterday. Check it out.
I was blown away by the speech from this early passage on:
In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional
division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected
world. Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.
The time has come to realize that the old habits and arguments are irrelevant to the
challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals
that they claim to pursue, and to vote – often in this body – against the interests of their
own people. They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the
time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that
bridge old divides – coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east and
west; black, white, and brown.
The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the
arguments of the 20th century into the 21st; that put off hard choices, refused to look
ahead, and failed to keep pace because we defined ourselves by what we were against
instead of what we were for. Or, we can be a generation that chooses to see the shoreline
beyond the rough waters ahead; that comes together to serve the common interests of
human beings, and finally gives meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to
this institution: the United Nations.
That is the future America wants – a future of peace and prosperity that we can only
reach if we recognize that all nations have rights, but all nations have responsibilities as
well. That is the bargain that makes this work. That must be the guiding principle of
international cooperation.

To me Obama is making a breathtaking, and I believe deeply personally sincere, offer of radical shift in US diplomatic posture. I couldn’t wait to see and hear worldwide reaction, let alone what I would hear as reaction on National Public Radio the next morning. Meanwhile, I googled for reaction to the speech, and I found no favor, only domestic vitriol about Obama’s weakness. Eagerly I awaited reports on NPR and the BBC the next morning.

All the reporting of the speech was of how in a single line in the speech Obama had called for firmness about Iran’s nuclear activity. Ironic, isn’t it? In the passage quoted above, Obama exhorts us to avoid as the generation who “failed to keep pace” because we “defined ourselves by what we were against instead of what we were for.” In the media frenzy over Obama’s activities this week, the only thing he is remembered for is for what he stood against.

Pardon my suspicious mind, but the timing of government events appears well, tragicomically orchestrated. On Sept 24 that the US (and now Netanyahu tells us, Israelis too) had known of the second Iranian nuclear site for 4 years. It has not been put in operation, and as such is not obliged to report the plant to anyone. On the 24th the BBC had one little segment suggesting that the Iranian govt had sent the UN a formal acknowledgment of that this apparently lawful site to pre-empt the Euro-American bomblast against their having had a second “secret” site.

I felt disheartened, that out of all that has been said diplomatically, that the self-appointed world vs. Iran would end up being the story of all that happened this week.

At moments of expression like this, I am prone to being called a conspiracy theorist. So please don’t get so put off by my sense of media/political coordination here on distracting public attention from taking care of long-term business. It was so corny for Netanyahu to appear before the US Congress at this moment to demand further support for whatever the Israeli Cabinet demands is non-negotiable about Iran, let alone anything else. I have paid attention to too many orchestrations not to suspect I’m looking at another one. How convenient.

I’ve been wrestling with my corollary belief that Obama is the most sincere and up-front president we’ve had since Jimmy Carter, and maybe before that, since Honest Abe. I also believe that his powers of listening, absorbing, and being decisive are extraordinary. I heard long ago that he is renowned for being final substantive editor of his own speeches—the more important the speech, the greater the personal attention. I believe that his UN general assembly represents as deeply heartfelt a foreign policy commitment to peacemaking as any I have encountered. I imagine Obama is as deeply personally disappointed by the silence on the major substance, carefully crafted, silence as I am, probably more so. I ask myself how this could happen to a supposedly all-powerful president. I imagine he does the same.

I imagine Obama spent hours and hours poring over that speech. I imagine his immediate aides focused on helping him and keeping distractions away. If Obama was concentrating as carefully as his speech suggests (clich├ęs are remarkably absent), he was spared time to attend to countless other international political intrigue. Anyone who preferred political/media attention to focus on an enemy rather than on what to do who collaborated in the current global spotlight on Iran and its problems for whatever reason was spared notice by a president focused on redirecting global human relations.

My sympathy for a president’s attempts to run against the prevailing current is heightened. One reason to give up on Washington fathers’ doing best for us is the limitations of one person’s attention. On coverage of this week in New York and Pittsburgh, Obama and voices from many other nations at the UN was virtually obliterated.

You might point out the general assembly speeches to your friends. Leaders worldwide are genuinely struggling for a better posterity. People speculate on how Lincoln felt when his three-minute address at Gettysburg was met with silence. I wonder about Obama here and now, but above and beyond that, I hope as time passes that people will notice how beautiful and courageous Obama’s words are on this occasion. Love and peace--hal

Friday, September 25, 2009

Iranian nuclear surprise?

Who's upstaging whom? This am the BBC broadcast the possibility that the US and Brits had long known of a second nuclear enriching facility, noted that the Iranians had notified the UN that the as yet unopened facility before the news broke, and that what NPR calls "the bigger group" to shift attention from getting together(in itself consequential) to what Obama opposed in his Gen Ass speech, namely oppositional politics. Iran is not obliged to notify the IAEA of a facility until it is in operation.
I expect posturing like this from governments. I regret when my national network goes along with their government's spin. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

blasting Obama for weakness

I'm about to go to bed and thought I'd google reaction to Obama's general assembly speech today. The leading reaction was that Obama is a wimp, an appeaser. Depends on your definition of strength and weakness. In general and in the whole in rhetorical detail, I think Barack expresses a radical shift in the direction of what I call a peacemaking attitude. The flak I'm reading just now reflects the criticism I have received over the years for being soft on crime.
I'll save more for later, but for now, in the wake of international peace day, President Obama, your words refresh me, thanks. Love and peace--hal

for video of Obama today at the UN, go to this site, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/23/obama-speech-global-commu_n_295754.html

Please pay attention to the shift in frame, as in Roger Fisher's "getting to yes" by moving "from position to interest." Amazing I think. If you didn't get it live, it's on video as at the Huffington Post and in text as at the New York Times. I think this is a mega-historical US presidential announcement. Hurray to all those who worked with this president to put together today's general assembly speech.

I'm just back from celebrating the Sept 21 international day of peace at Nova Southeastern University. Thanks y'all. I'll write more on Barack's speech in days to come. Love and peace, hal

Sunday, September 20, 2009

the 1st internet addiction recovery program in the country

In this comment posted at "On the Media," I react to their story today on internet addiction and its treatment:

According to the director and patient you interviewed today from our first internet addiction recovery program. The director tells us that behavioral addiction will become a psychiatrically certifed mental disorder in the next Amer. Pshchiatric Assoc. manual. She names gambling as a prime example. So I figure financial analysts for example qualify as mentally disordered, as do those addicted to the regimented step-by-step recovery programing regimen the recovery center enforces. I keep noticing that focus on curing others' addictions is a projection of the would-be curers' own compulsion to keep treating everyone in a category in a prescribed ritual. I also notice that the recovery program is yet another instance of failed determination to cure people's problems by spending a long (45 days in this cae) and concerted routine of erasing and re-programming people's brains.

Hal Pepinsky
pepinsky.blogspot.com
pepinsky@indiana.edu

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Struggles with Semitism

MY STRUGGLES WITH SEMITISM
Hal Pepinsky
September 18, 2009

As luck would have it the end of Ramadan and the Jewish new year coincide this weekend, just as US special envoy George Mitchell flies home with nothing to show for shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.
Let’s be honest among ourselves folks: There is nothing for leading Israeli politicians to negotiate. Israel emerged, let alone survived as a Jewish state only by brute force against local gentile residents (Palestinians were half Christian in 1948) and the indigenous residents’ local kinfolk. We Anglo Americans especially ought to recognize what it takes to overwhelm residents of color from sea to shining sea. The sad part is that those who survive political battle to qualify as leaders, including President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, have limited options, notably to resist their governments’ military expansion, except as it gets deflated, as in Vietnam for the US, and increasingly heated, as from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. When bald aggression and occupation has reached its limits, as in Iraq, Afghanistan and what’s left of Palestine, there’s nothing left to do but to cling to military aggression as long as politically possible.
Sorry, President Obama, but however well intended, notice that your peace mission (an oxymoron in itself) to the Middle East was doomed to failure from the start. Long before you came to office, it was clear that the idea of US clout over Israel is a fiction. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US government will never vote for any sanctions of any kind against Israel. Nor will we limit our country’s arms and economic support for the Israeli government. If I were in the Israeli government, I would be convinced that the US government and Palestinian Authority are ultimately wimps, and perhaps be persuaded as one might be by the idea of US Manifest Destiny to accept a Biblical prophecy about how Judea and Sumeria would be owned by Jews once again.
I’d say it’s a good bet that Israel will pretty much colonize the West Bank and Gaza, and that if peace gets worked out, it will entail a massive exodus of Palestinians from there and from refugee camps into everyday life across the Middle East. It’s not fair, but I think the process is irreversible. I hope bloodshed abates rather than spikes along the way.
Anti-Semitism has affected me personally. My mother and I lived for half a year with grandparents before my father could find university housing up north in 1945. He took the job up north because his faculty appointment at a southern university was turned down by the regents; he would have been the first Jew on the university faculty. My parents were married in my mother’s hometown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. My dad was too nearsighted to join the army, and so I was conceived a war baby in Minneapolis. I am a Confederate White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Yankee Russian Jew married to someone who received first communion as a Catholic in post-war Warsaw, whom Jewish women I dated in college told that I would be an unacceptable mate to her family because I am gentile. I recall my mother saying around the time of the creation of the Israeli state that a religiously based state was an anachronism. My parents had no organized religious affiliation. My mother assured me that Christmas was a pagan holiday. That confused background may explain my reaction to the present situation in the so-called Holy Land.
From my experience in mediation, I’d say it is time for George Mitchell and other would-be mediators to get unstuck from a debating point, in this case on how to implement the Oslo Accords. Let’s get real. Israelis have the military ascendancy, due in substantial part to US military armament. Brute force will win tactically, as on the point of whether Palestinians deserve a state of their own (a mixed blessing as I can attest) or a right of return. Those are lost causes; there’s no use in kidding ourselves otherwise. This raises larger issues for all of us.
For one thing, suppose we in the US start privately at least by recognizing that the USG voted to create the state of Israel in part because my Anglo-American kin didn’t want Jewish refugees flooding our country. That’s our issue. We have contributed to displacement from Gaza to Kashmir to Guantanamo and Bagram. If we in the US want moral authority, we ought to pitch in to help clean up the social mess by inviting “the tempest tossed” to our own shores.
Then we have a little more moral authority to call on other Arab States to assume more responsibility themselves for absorbing Palestinian refugees.
Who knows? Maybe George Mitchell is quietly working at this level too. Hope so. It’s the way to ride the current wave of change in the Middle East, I think. Love and peace--hal