Monday, August 31, 2009

Decarceration: congratulatory letter to editor of Durango Herald

My wife Jill and I have been in Durango visiting our only children, Katy and Christian, and our granddaughter, Mila, this weekend. As luck would have it your story on dismissals came out while I’m in town. I have just retired after 39 years professing criminal justice. My son-in-law Christian is a prosecutor here in town.
I am known as co-founder of a “school of criminology” called “peacemaking” criminology. I consider myself a longtime recovering lawyer and have since become a volunteer mediator. It is refreshing to read, and learn from Christian, what is happening in criminal justice in Durango these days.
I am rather proud of what Christian’s “team,” as he calls his office staff as a group, are accomplishing. La Platte County is the only place I know where government growth in expenditures on jailing is being kept down with no sacrifice to, and probably enhancement of, public security.
I have made a career-long study of what crime statistics mean. La Platte County is telling a unique story of making a jurisdiction safer by keeping more defendants and convicts hooked up in the community, and for once not just automatically filling a new jail or prison instead.
I hope help is given to those to those in your county whose jobs depend on jailing, employing them to apply their own skills and knowledge toward building community safety in more and more innovative ways. Criminal justice workers’ dedication to public service is a community asset regardless of their job descriptions. I know from time with police especially how many unrecognized ways criminal justice workers quietly serve their communities.
From all I have learned, prosecutors in La Platte County remain committed to removing dangerous people from the community, and equally to building on ways offenders work out safe lawful ways to remain with their families and friends without having to be locked up. One remaining fact nationwide: most prosecutions are a waste of taxpayer money, and I commend this county for its law enforcement fiscal responsibility. I’ll follow your journey with great interest.
Regards, Hal Pepinsky

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nuclear Proliferation

Hal Pepinsky
August 25, 2009
It’s a slow news day in the U.S. nation’s capital. Congress and the president are on vacation.
What then does a Washington based radio news network, NPR, do to fill the space? The last couple of days I woke up with “Morning Edition” that no military options were ruled out with Iran and that the US govt (USG in State Dept parlance) was concerned about Burma/Myanmar’s nuclear threat.
I’m bothered that attention on which nation state might get a nuclear bomb is an escape valve, what Freud called “projection,” of the hazardous waste problem the U.S. has on its own hands. Nerve gas stockpiles aside, the U.S. has thousands of nuclear bombs still in inventory.
I believe that I were threatened by Euro-American occupation of my homeland, I would regard Western campaigns against nuclear proliferation as one more example of colonialist exceptionalism: It’s not about me. It’s about your trying to be like me (i.e., immune from invasion because a national government can take a few hundred thousand of “your people” out if you dare to extinguish me and mine from history.
In particular, the idea that possessors of nuclear bombs (warheads, call them what you will) I deny that we in my country have any moral standing to preach to nations about possessing enough of a nuclear threat to say—if you take me out I take many of you with me. Our continuing position as having thousands of nuclear bombs (as against guerrilla “ied”s) in our military arsenal is simply a case of what people in my Midwestern region of the U.S. call the pot calling the kettle black.
If we want others to let go of firepower, may my people take the lead. Love and peace--hal

Monday, August 24, 2009

National Health Care Cooperative Option

Hal Pepinsky
August 24, 2009
In a 1984 book, Myths That Cause Crime that I wrote with Paul Jesilow, we offered a range of proposals for building public safety through democratization of public life. One proposal was to give tax credits to subsidize worker/patient owned cooperatives. Members would elect a board from among themselves, who in turn would hire management and staff. Each member would have one vote. Staff would be salaried. Profits and deficits to be recovered by increases in membership fees would be evenly distributed among members. The co-op would in turn contract coverage for larger services such as hospitalization. Thus would primary medical care be democratized. This would avoid the problem Adam Smith warned against, of allowing the invisible hand of the free market to be overtaken by oligopolization of for-profit corporations whom the state licensed to limit their liability for wrongdoing to the amount they and absentee strangers invested in the business. Quite a sweet government deal for limiting liability by incorporation. Investors have the luxury of walking away whenever it suits their personal interests, which sometimes gets known as corruption or more timidly, influence peddling.
Now comes North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad to propose subsidizing health care cooperatives as a compromise between a public option and no change. Brilliant, just what I advocated in 1984. But now I see a problem I didn’t see then, the problem of transportability.
There is nothing wrong and everything right about local staff/patient local ownership of health care delivery. That is the kind of substitute I want in place of placing my primary care in the hands of private or public gatekeepers. But in the United States, the poorest among us especially move far and wide. If coops remain purely local (there being no more reason to put them out of business than other private insurers), the problem arises of what happens when you leave the area covered by the co-op.
I propose that a national co-op be established where all member fees and profit/loss shares would be constant regardless of where one lived. Once registered locally, one would be entitled to vote for and be on the local board. Wherever you lived or worked, under this plan you would be entitled to whatever co-op services were available elsewhere.
Sure, I’m just dreaming, I’m being utopian. Still, my vision of an ideal gives me a framework for evaluating strengths and weaknesses of various proposals. This morning on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Cokie Roberts introduced the radio public to the idea that getting any compromise “reform” through Congress will open the door to doing greater things. Okay. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep a clear eye on the way in principle I think daily life, including our health care, might conceivably be democratized. Who knows what parts of the whole we might have the wisdom to put into practice as time passes. Love and peace--hal

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Empathy Works

“Empathy Works, Obedience Doesn’t”
Hal Pepinsky
August 23, 2009
“Empathy Works, Obedience Doesn’t” is the title of an article cum chapter (search pepinsky at ) I wrote in the late nineties. There I conclude in personal relations that while remorse is unreliable as an indicator of future safety (as in domestic violence), empathy is reliable. Empathy is displayed by talking more about the feelings of the other than one talks about what one oneself, as by remorse. In that piece, I recount how concern for my feelings and well-being even of guest lecturers of mine who have killed have taught me when relations are safe. Empathy works for me.
I have come to believe in the idea chaos theorists call scaling. What works and doesn’t in building trust and security in our personal and professional relations is precisely what works and doesn’t out to the boundaries of human relations. I postulate that. I start from that premise.
From the McCarthy period when I grew to political consciousness on, I have been focused for whatever childhood reason on international affairs. The sanctimony and hypocrisy of predominant public and private messages in tandem, the historically ignorant cultural sense of cultural superiority, in North America’s case in the grand British colonial tradition, remains deeply troubling, if no longer personally guilt inducing.
I have recently had occasions to be reminded of something I was taught to say to every childhood taunt: Everything you say to me comes back and sticks on you. So it is with Freud’s projection and displacement. It happens all the time. One way or another, our enemies, our terrorists, our criminals, our parasites, are “them” or “those people,” never ourselves. Let’s face it, so goes the world.
Apology helps. Whether it becomes a part of empathy or remorse is optional. For myself for now, I’d like to devote this blog post to apologizing to US victims of U.S. imperialism and attendant cultural imperialism sincerely and without remorse, by imagining what victims of my own people might be feeling.
To offer an example or two, if I were living in Iraq or Afghanistan and bombs and missiles from foreigners were descending on my community at night, I imagine that I would seek local advice and protection from those who were being shot at.
If you disrespected, let alone vilified me and I had thousands of nuclear bombs, isn’t it rational for me to feel safer against whatever plans I have for you if you believed I could at least get one good shot off if you used nuclear weapons (of which you have thousands) against me?
I hope you get the point. Oh the games we play against interest. May our ears turn from blame-gaming to how we ourselves come across. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ritual Abuse and Mind Control Conference

Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today (SMART)
Hal Pepinsky
August 19, 2009
This past weekend I attended the 12th SMART Conference on Ritual Abuse and Mind Control (known as ra/mc), held every year since 1998 outside Hartford, Connecticut, organized by ra/mc survivor Neil Brick (see his SMART website ). Ra/mc survivors, their supporters, therapists and survivor advocates like me attend and participate. Survivors tell me that this is the safest conference they have known.
When the conference began, the focus was on describing the torture that these survivors of childhood torture had endured, of the trauma it had left, and on processes of recovery. Recently and especially this year, the focus has turned to healing and recovery. It is indeed heartening to see people in a setting where basic patterns of torture are known and taken for granted enough that emphasis among speakers is now on sharing various stories of what works and doesn’t in recovering from what the UN Commission on the Status of Women has recognized as a form of human trafficking in women and children especially, the name embodied in the title of a website by those who have gone to the UN have entitled .
Since 1993, beginning in a seminar on feminist justice focusing on children’s rights and safety I taught until retirement last December, I have become immersed in learning what survivors especially have to teach me and my students about this form of violence, and of how many victims manage to escape cults and government/military experimentation and exploitation and heal remarkably. The torture they have experienced, commonly from infancy to adulthood, is as horrifyingly prolonged and painful as any personal violence I have encountered in four decades as a criminologists. The courage and capacity of survivors I have met to transcend that violence, and to form safe trustworthy subsequent relationships, is truly inspiring.
I have told my own story of discovery and learning many times in many places. Just google Hal Pepinsky and you will find more than enough accounts without my repeating my story here (although I remain happy to talk further with anyone who cares to contact me privately or publicly). Suffice it here for now to say that I have concluded that in my own country for starters, it must be the exceptional community of any size that does not include at least one multi-generational cult, including people otherwise known as pillars of the community who have perfect families, where among other things periodic rituals of human sacrifice and cannibalism are practiced. I believe that this organized murder has magnitudes more victims than all known serial murderers combined. I further believe that the bulk of human trafficking, as in child prostitution and pornography out of these cults, includes far more U.S. than foreign children in my own country. Fortunes are made here; politicians photographed as in bed with cult children are also subject to political manipulation. It is very hard to find therapists, institutions including hospitals and all manner of religious organizations, where people are willing to believe children who try to disclose and escape, or if they believe, don’t turn out to be cult-involved themselves. As a child advocate and believer who first visited my seminar in 1993 put it, “If you believe that this stuff really happens, it will turn your world upside down.” I understand if friends and colleagues don’t want to go there. I had to climb out of clinical depression myself when I discovered two well-established outdoor ritual sites in my own neighborhood in 1996. I also decided that if I were to call myself a criminologist, I could not turn away from what I was seeing, hearing, and reading.
I have met no other criminologist who believes in organized ritual torture intergenerationally, and under cover of government and the military activity particularly, as I do. As far as I know, I am the only educator anywhere in the world who has made a point of bringing more than one survivor to the classroom and to professional conferences. I know of only one survivor, Jeanette Westbrook (you can google her story too), who has succeeded in having her major assailant, her father, prosecuted for his violence. Her father, just back from high-level visits with Eastern European officials, died suddenly at home (of natural causes, no autopsy) when the order came to extradite him back to Kentucky from Ohio on charges of three counts of felony rape. Even in that case, Jeanette and her allies in law enforcement decided it would be hard to get a jury to believe the bizarre ritual violence that had been inflicted on Jeanette and countless other victims.
And so I don’t expect law enforcement or civil litigation to get very far in nailing well-placed perpetrators. But as in SMART conferences, I have discovered that year by year, more and more victims and survivors discover that they are not alone, and that, in each other’s company especially, they can find validation, security, and paths out of the violence and into recovery. I have also concluded that a major reason cults carry on their business is that so many members figure that there is no way out, or indeed die or get institutionalized if they try. I figure that the more that we outsiders accept the reality of the lives they have lived and offer them those trapped in the violence sanctuary and hope, the faster we can decimate the ranks of organized ritual torturers. Strangely enough, my encounters with organized personal violence greater than any violence I had previously even imagined, have strengthened my conviction that peacemaking is a more effective response to violence (beyond immediate self-defense) than counter-violence. I thank my survivor friends and teachers for having taught me immensely about myself and my relations. Love and peace--hal

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just Say No

Hal Pepinsky
August 13, 2009
When I heard protesters outside President Obama’s New Hampshire town meeting earlier this week shouting “just say no!” they carried me back to Nancy Reagan’s project as First Lady in the eighties. I’m wired like this. I may be losing my memory for names or words, but I remain wired to connect things said and done here and now to things said and done before. In this instance, I presume that the same approach to politics that spawned Ms. Reagan’s war on drugs has spawned protests against health care reform. I’m not blaming Ms. Reagan for her campaign; I assume she was a loyal wife doing what her handlers told her to do. Call me cynical. I assume by a process of survival of the politically hottest even those who qualify to become president largely do as they are told. I have great respect for President Obama as a personal, thoughtful, honest intellect. When I look at how he caves to generals on warfare, I see yet another president who qualifies for office because he will not question military advice. If you place him beside a Dennis Kucinich for example, Mr. Obama qualifies to be president in part because of his foreign-policy naiveté. I imagine that by the time he got to law school, he received and as law review editor accepted the postulate that any lawyer worth his or her salt could become an expert on any issue in 48 hours. What that capacity to digest information at hand leaves out is room for historical perspective, notably on whether we are repeating doomed historical precedents. I have already written about doomed U.S. military hegemony. Now I turn to the limitations of opposition generally and the war on drugs, as in opium production in Afghanistan, in particular.
I also hear one of the people feeding lines to health care reform protesters cite labor organizer Saul Alinsky as inspiration for his campaign. Indeed, Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky wrote what became a bible even to law-school graduate Chicago community organizer Barack Obama himself.
I oppose oppositional politics. There was a time in my alternative social control systems class when I used to put up labels for me that I did and did not accept. I put left and right on one axis on the blackboard, and then at right angles from the center of that line drew a line that ended in anarchism—living among one another as though no one deserved to be the boss of anyone else. In the Confucian pantheon descending from ruler to ruled thence to father and son…, friend to friend is at the bottom of the list. That’s where Dao/Taoist Laoze and I dwell, in the land where bosses survive (as in Laoze’s time in China’s two millennia ago Warring States Period) by letting go of power long enough listen to their subordinates. After a couple of decades or so as an anarchist criminal justice professor, I believe that I came to enjoy increasing student stimulation and support as I learned to listen to my students.
It is refreshing to have a U.S. president who displays this gift himself. But we cannot expect any father figure (whether man , woman, or body) to grant or legislate our security. One reason I gave up litigation for mediation is that mediation gets you, in another Harvard lawyer Roger Fisher’s terms, that “getting to yes” means getting off oppositional political positions toward negotiating interests. A psychiatrist friend I recently visited branded me oppositional. I plead guilty of being constitutionally opposed to political opposition. Just saying no and zero tolerance just plain make no sense in getting down to negotiating interests.
The draconian Rockefeller drug law had just taken effect when I joined the criminal justice faculty for four years at the State University of New York at Albany in 1972. President Nixon declared the first formal war national war on drugs since Prohibition in 1973. Once it was thrown in my criminal justice face that drug enforcement had become the major contributor to the growth of the crime control industry, growth in jail and prison populations included, I became an avid student of the history of U.S. drug control efforts. And so here, and surely in future posts, I comment on absurdities of drug prohibition. Among other things it has been my Walter Mitty lot to experience, I have qualified for free expert testimony on an array of issues, including drug control issues. My primary research has been to prepare to face two or three hundred South Central Indiana students who typically included local law enforcement. I offer readers these credentials.
Drug control is huge. In this post, I’ll just lay down several conclusions I’ve reached on the subject for comment and discussion:
1. Drug wars only multiply illicit drug production, trafficking, and addiction.
2. The same U.S. govt that promises to curb opium production in Afghanistan set up the production system ca 1980 to fund a covert war against the Soviet Union.
3. As in Switzerland, those with opiate including heroin habits can safely and non-toxically be maintained, so what’s the fuss about?
4. Ideally, the government should take the public health lead by continuing to certify what’s in what we ingest, inhale and inject, and then let us make our own decisions about our own bodies.
5. Today’s npr “Morning Edition” report on how freely one can get medical marijuana in California indicates how simply that by lifting federal law enforcement off the backs of states which allow medical use, we can regain control of our own minds, hearts, and bodies.

How about rising above opposing talking points in drug control, healthcare, and military deployment debates?
Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where the Bureaucrats Are

Hal Pepinsky
August 11, 2009
At one pole in the current U.S. health care debate is the assertion that a “public option” would take away our health care choices and instead have bureaucrats decide the care we get. So what’s a bureaucrat?
The term “bureaucracy” was coined by a German lawyer/economist/sociologist, Max Weber, at the turn of the last century. One way of legitimizing decisions was traditional: this is how things have been done. Another was charismatic, like the “yes we can” spirit that swept Barack Obama into the White House. The third way allowed that people could deliberately choose new rules to go by: setting down written rules which the true bureaucrat would literally, mechanically apply…kind of like the sentencing judge who tells a defendant, “This hurts me more than it hurts you, but the law requires…”
“Bureaucratic” is an attitude. Whenever we fall back on doing what we have to do, implicitly on what “society” or anything or anyone else tells us to do, we adopt a bureaucratic attitude. We tend to have such a short sense of history that there is virtually no difference these days between a traditionalist and a bureaucratic mindset.
Then there is the charismatic attitude. We all have both attitudes inside ourselves competing for our attention. Will we do what “society” tells us to do, or what our conscience or sense of compassion—our heart—dictates? All religious and political traditions recognize this dialectic between being driven by fear (doing what we have to do), and being driven by compassion (giving way to empathy). The charismatic attitude is literally one of moving where your spirit tells you to go, on the premise that all rules are meant to have exceptions based on the circumstances at hand. To me, the art and science of transforming personal and structural violence into a peacemaking process is one of introducing choice into situations where people are doing what they think they have to do.
Bureaucratism happens in every private and public human relationship. The most basic bureaucratism I encounter is parents acting on their duty to teach their children right from wrong, by reward and by chastisement, as against nurturing compassion by focusing on giving and openly appreciating empathy. It constantly amazes me how bureaucratically we generally relate in my militarized country in our daily lives.
Horrifying tales of health insurance rescission are one example among many of heartless denials of coverage by private bureaucrats. I think being for profit makes health care more bureaucratic than being not-for-profit as in a health care collective or governmental. It offends my common intelligence to have a public option to private insurance so branded.
Alas, I have become used to encountering political disinformation, public and private, in my national life. My reflex in public pronouncements is that if a spokesperson has to say it, it is probably blaming someone else for one’s own issues.
In victim-offender mediation especially, I have learned that framing issues is fundamental to whether discourse becomes locked in positions, or as Roger Fisher put it, we move from position to negotiating real interests. I fault all protagonists in the health care debate for using slogans like “government bureaucrat” and invectives against evil insurance companies and news media, for framing the debate in debaters’ terms, for getting us to a place where honest and open negotiation of our collective welfare is suppressed.
One further irony on resistance to the government’s offering its own health insurance alternative beyond Medicare: the claim that competition with a public insurance option would drive private competitors out of business. Wrap your mind around this defense of keeping the market for health insurance free folks! Love and peace--hal

Monday, August 10, 2009

Honorable Surrender

Honorable Surrender

Hal Pepinsky

August 10, 2009

There were ten legal interns in the U.S. State Department in the summer of 1967. I was the one assigned to East Asian legal affairs. Each week we ten would have lunch with a senior State Department figure. When press secretary Robert McCloskey joined us, one of our number asked him how the department reconciled U.S. Vietnam policy with the seeming 40 percent or so of department employees disagreed with that policy.

The following week, on the Friday we were to have a picnic at the legal adviser’s place, we were first ushered up to the secretary’s private office at 5 pm. Secretary Rusk offered us drinks of our choice and had one himself. We were there, said Dean Rusk, because he wanted to know how to appeal to youth on Vietnam. I suggested that if the public knew how freely Vietnam policy was debated within the department, the public would have more respect for the policy that emerged. One way to do this would be to have employees respond to requests for response on their own authority, rather than endlessly clearing responses to go out in the name of the entire department. That idea was a nonstarterJ.

Mr. Rusk stated his case for escalating the war in Vietnam, by that time to 500,000 troops on the ground: We must never repeat the mistake that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin made with Chancellor Adolf Hitler in 1938; he appeased Hitler by saying that the UK would take no military action is Hitler order German troops to occupy a German border region, the Sudetens, now a part of the Czech Republic. Just as we had infiltrated, then openly invaded Southeast Asia, as a commitment to “collective self defense” under article 57 of the UN Charter, it was now incumbent on us not to appease global Communism. If only the US government could stick it out:

“Vietnam will be the war to end all wars,” he concluded.

In 1975 when the US lost the first war in centuries of Anglo-American military expansion, and when a president resigned from office in disgrace, I hoped public recognition that war doesn’t pay anymore would rise up. Oh my, how wrong I was.

That was the first time I realized what a mistake it is to gloat over and build victory upon victory. When people are losing, as people across classes are now doing economically and politically, in a nation whose sense of security rests on raw power to kill on orders from some form of political father (as in Washington), losers have resentment. The generosity of the Marshall Plan in Europe and a General MacArthur’s patronage in Japan embraced losers as partners. That’s the last time, as far as I can see, that the US made more friends than enemies by fighting wars. Even Ho Chi=minh was our ally until Cold War hysteria overtook US covert as well as overt military politics in the mid-fifties.

In 1980 I was a guest of the Taiwanese government for a conference on law in Mainland China. This was a year after President Carter had recognized China in Beijing. The only reason I was invited was that I had US credentials and publications on Chinese law. Overwhelmingly, the rest were CIA, and Pentagon folks including a raft of private consultants from Tufts University. They hated Jimmy Carter, and were determined to get him out of office. They, along with sabotage of the economy by the Federal Reserve , and the stubbornness of a Naval commander turned president who could not simply apologize to Iranians for having launched a coup to drive the democratically elected prime minister, who was trying to nationalize BP oilfields on the Soviet border, out of office to be replaced with a king, a Shah, and have the CIA set him up with one brutal intelligence service…turned into landslide victory for Reaganomics and military/prison buildup and adventures.

The Soviets had set up their own client leader in Afghanistan and become heavily involved in an invasion and occupation in 1979 as well. Jimmy Carter had blocked the US team from going to the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 in retaliation.

And so I was curious amidst the CIA/Pentagon crowd in Taipei in 1980 as to what they thought Soviet prospects were in Afghanistan. I offered my own answer that Afghanistan was the Soviets’ Vietnam. Oh no, they insisted. Afghanistan was in danger of falling to Soviet military power, which for national security reasons meant the US must build up insurgent groups along the Pakistani border to wage guerrilla was. I later learned that what the CIA got off the ground and armed included the Taliban (literally “students” in Arabic who as because of physical disability could not fight themselves but could educate and organize), the Mujahideen to fight, and labs to distill opium out of poppies to fund buying weapons. (Ironically, that’s when the bulk of US opiates started coming from that region; then when the Taliban ruled out of Kabul, they on religious grounds for the first time cut poppy production by 30 percent, but c’a ete la guerre.

In 1967 while in the State Department, I had argued in policy sessions to which I was invited and in casual conversation that the Vietnamese had lived and died struggling for national autonomy for a thousand years, that the 17th parallel was artificially constructed running through the middle of one of three traditional provinces, and so, quite simply, the Vietnamese would outlast us, because they had to live with the consequences of our actions while we could choose not to do so with the consequences of theirs, so far from home. I think events have shown that I was right.

There will never again be such a thing as victory, let alone unconditional surrender, in US invasions and occupations abroad. The faster we get used to it, the fewer of us who get killed and maimed in war, the magnitudes fewer among those we invade and occupy will get killed and maimed, and the harder it will be to persuade people to join military adventures against this faraway nation. The more gracefully and generally we abandon US military presence abroad, the safer we become, among ourselves and among others.

World War II was the last time global battle lines were drawn. Once the Allies took Berlin, and once MacArthur brought the Japanese emperor to sign articles of surrender, WWII was over, just as the US Civil War had ended when Lee surrendered to Grant in 1865. Those days are gone. To begin with, Russia has not collapsed in the wake of the collapse of the US WWII adversary no. 1.

Iraqis and Afghanis and their neighbors will work out their own destinies long after Euro-American troops have finally come home. Occupiers cannot make the occupied behave as they will, especially when they occupy faraway lands. All we have to contribute to peace ourselves is swiftly to conduct—ideally total—military withdrawals (and I’m not just talking about troops the US government chooses to label “combat” forces).

I finished out secondary school in Trondheim, Norway, in 1961-62. My parents were on fellowships to study there with social psychologists. My parents’ peers of course included those who had lived in Norway during the WWII German occupation. I remember particularly a genre of story in which a German would show up in a shop or at a hotel and say that he had been in Norway during WWII and wanted to return to such a lovely country. And I remember friends showing us pictures of them holed up in the mountains to conduct guerrilla sabotage of the German war effort. Shortly before his death, partisan Einar Thorsrud took Jill and me to Oslo’s museum to war resistance. Einar and others taught me what it means to be occupied.

On reflection, I also learned from Norwegian encounters with Germans what it means to be an occupying soldier. The Germans expected to be embraced by fellow Aryans to help construct the new world order. In my classes among other places I have met many returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan point out how much they are appreciated. Appreciation depends on whether occupiers are winners or losers. When the US gives up trying to win anything in both places, I think it will come about in part because all of recognize what it means to be an occupier giving out candy to local children.

I think prevailing thinking in media and in politics still believe that winning this or that war can end all wars. This appears to be President Obama’s belief about Afghanistan. To me and I’m sure to others, personal including social security is paramount. Sadly, I conclude that infusion of more forces into Afghanistan only endangers us in two ways: traumatizing, maiming and killing our own forces, and terrorizing local people and driving more among them to arm and fight themselves in defense of lives and honor. Pretty simple stuff.

Fire bombing in Dresden and nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened German and Japanese surrender and arguably saved lives by shortening the war. Several million Norwegians were pissed off enough to sentence 50 collaborators with the Nazis, including premier Vidkund Quisling, to be hanged. Even they stopped at hanging 25. The war in northwestern Europe was over. I fear that a logic still prevails in US political/military circles that those with the biggest bombs win.

There are no front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan. Bombs and missiles are convenient weapons because they minimize risk to our troops while killing those we identify as enemies. So for instance our troops rolled into Baghdad at the culmination of Operation Shock and Awe, in which on live tv we saw one-ton missiles and 500-pound bombs rain down on Baghdad one March night in 2003, without warning.

Whether it’s bombs or missiles as from drones shooting at houses and such on command, our explosives are more powerful and more plentiful than theirs. Hence, the “collateral damage” to innocent civilians is more and more powerfully pinpointed and contained…It all adds up to this in the millions of Vietnamese who died as some 58,000 US forces were also killed: By use of airpower the US military intentionally kills and maims far more innocent civilians, in our case expressed in formal military terms of engagement and its mistakes, than do those the Euro-/American label terrorists. And if your own friends and relatives and selves are hiding from occupying fire, as bodies appear in your local morgue and in your street and in your family, aren’t you obliged to take up arms and even make the ultimate sacrifice for your people? Not long after the US military cluster-bombed the Afghanis in blind rage after 9/11, I read a tribal leader along the Pakistani border saying of his approach to al Qaeda, “If I kill one terrorist, I create ten.”

In law school I was taught that you throw a piano out a tenth-story window onto a crowded street, whether you legally “intend” to kill or hurt anyone doesn’t depend on whether your purpose is to threaten death and destruction, or simply to get rid of the piano. That stuck with me. The more we assert military superiority in anyone else’s home, the more intend to end up killing more innocent civilians than they do. No less than calculated suicide bombing, to those upon whom violence is visited, this constitutes some terrorist’s act of war.

I haven’t taken a poll, but I’ll bet this ranks us globally as the leading terrorist in action. Personally, I try to take opportunities to apologize to others in the world for our continuing terrorism, let alone for our habit of publicly preaching to others how to take care of their problems.

When things people heavily depend on, with drugs as with national identity, threaten to be taken away, withdrawal can get ugly. I am disappointed to have another president, whom I happen to admire, get sucked once again into Dean Rusk’s logic, in this case that the war in Afghanistan is too big to fail. I’m not afraid of opium when as in Switzerland addiction is managed as a public heath problem. I am afraid of unrelenting US addiction to establishing that our weapons are bigger than theirs. Military violence doesn’t pay, if indeed it ever did. Love and peace--Hal

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Growth is Unsustainable

Hal Pepinsky

August 9, 2009

A late mentor of mine, Leslie T. Wilkins, told of how the British humor magazine commissioned a study to explain the collapse of the Saturday Evening Post of Norman Rockwell fame. The best predictor of the death of journals was a sudden sharp increase in circulation. In economics as in the building of empire, what goes up must come down. Social growth is inherently unsustainable.

It is pretty taken for granted in the United States that for-profit corporate managers have a legal duty to shareholders to maximize profits. The reason so many people suddenly can’t afford to retire is that they gambled that if they invested with the right people in the right places like AIG and Citigroup, they could make money simply by having money. They would profit by returns on investment that vastly exceeded increases in the cost of living. Many worldly wise wealthy investors went with the pitch that returns with Bernie Medoff would bring in 14 percent a year as long as investors lived. From its earliest years, the United States has been a boom and bust economy. The longer and bigger the boom, the bigger the bust. Sadly the boom in U.S. military conquest from Plymouth Rock to occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is now going bust as well. As the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of military and penal expenses, so the United States at this moment of economic bust has peaked out on military occupation and control, in itself a historical foundation for U.S. recovery from last century’s Depression and economic growth after we won WWII. In this period of moving nowhere but downhill for the first time in this nation’s history, anger lashes out at any politically convenient target, as in name-calling going on in the current health care debate, which leaves scant room for any discussion of health care we DO want. Declining empires are volatile, globally places dangerous to themselves and to others, where efforts are redoubled at righteousness good intentions.

It is tautological, true by definition that the relative size of real profits is a measure of how much more someone gets out of economic exchange than someone else, controlling for inflation. That is, at its root, the bigger anyone’s winnings in the real for-profit game, the bigger others’ losses, however distributed, have to balance the income statement. We shouldn’t be surprised that inequality is growing when profits. That’s simple logic. Nor should we be surprised that in harder times for the rich, they take it out of the hides and lives of the poor, who always remain poorer, always predominate in prison populations and on foreign war fronts.

We cannot “grow” our way out of this problem. From eighties on, I almost felt I should have a bumper sticker reading “Consumption is the Health of the State.” We succeeded in digging ourselves, personally, corporately and governmentally (particularly militarily and in jails and prisons) a deeper and deeper hole (or mountain?) of debt.

It is a supreme irony that economic so-called neo-liberalism traces its roots to Adam Smith’s 1776 book, Wealth of Nations. Smith labeled state charters for for-profit corporations the greatest threat he saw to the operation of his “invisible hand” of taking care of consumers in a free market. What made a market free to Smith was that sellers’ own reputations and entire livelihoods and assets were on the line in all transactions. Smith pointed out that corporate investors “limited” their liability, and hence could gamble with others’ lives with limited adverse consequences and without personal regard for workers or consumers. Right on, Adam. At this moment of my retirement, I am acutely aware of how much my future, including whether I die with family or alone, rests with increasing economic exchange, in kind and otherwise, which depends on my investment most of all in face-to-face relations, locally, in family, in friendships, including straight-up economic exchange, as in growing and buying food, or in exchanging services.

We in the United States have a bigger barrier to reform than do countries in Northern Europe, where the lion’s share of taxes are collected and distributed by local authorities, the equivalent of U.S. counties. Local governments get the more progressive taxes. In the US, as by proposition 13 in California, local taxing is the most regressive limited tax and the US government collects the most progressive (i.e., least politically objectionable), most tax money, a large portion of which it uses to fund a military/prison-industrial complex.

The more people can follow time-honored traditions of local exchange and investment, the more people everywhere can shield themselves from the global growth imperative. Here’s to developing real sustainability. Love and peace--hal

Saturday, August 8, 2009

welcome and intro

I closed chapter 3 of my 1986 book on peacemaking with these lines:
“At this time and place in human history, those of us who live inside the U.S. castle live in escalating despair in which we try harder than ever to make might become right. I have just read a scene in a novel in which a submarine in World War I gave a cargo boat’s crew ten minutes to get into lifeboarts and row far enough away to afoid the forthcoming vortex as the ship sank below the waves. That image (in Anne Perry’s Shoulder of the Sky) expressed the feeling of growing desperation and self-defeat I find in my country today.
“My primary question as a would-be social engineer [myself as a young lawyer] in 1973 [chap. 2 begins with a talk I gave in 1973 labeling “diversion” a feeder to greater jail and prison populations] remains:
“how might we and all humanity best avoid going down with the U.S. military industrial ship?” (see book page proofs, , free and online, p. 59).

I see that no other site on blogspot is dedicated to peacemaking, so let me be the first. I am a newly retired criminal justice professor who began full-time employment at state universities in 1970.
For more than 15 years I have been actively involved with victims and survivors of sexual assault, and at the extreme of survivors of ritual abuse (see , and to connect with folks I am closest to). Last time I checked, if you google me, you will first off encounter what I have discovered in dialogue with survivors of extreme childhood trauma in particular.
It is strangely wonderful that after my wife Jill had taken a job away from Indiana at Iowa State in 1998, she was hired three years ago to chair the women’s studies department at Ohio State. Even before we got married in 1974, Jill was correcting my sexist and avoidable use of male pronouns. And here Jill and I are, back after half a lifetime for me in Bloomington, back to Worthington, Ohio, where I entered first grade in 1951, and where my mom is the one remaining original settler in a community called Rush Creek Village, where my parents and I moved in 1957.
I HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY CONVINCED THAT PUNISHMENT/DISCIPLINE HEATS UP VIOLENCE. This conviction is why for example I have made a point of trying to circumvent buying eggs, let alone rating my students, in a process Bill Breeden (only one to do time for Iran-Contra) see Zinn’s people’s history) taught me to call “guerrilla peacefare.”
For half my life I taught a required course for criminal justice majors at IU called “alternative social control systems.” My students most of all taught me as a would-be social controller how listen.
At a friend’s about 20 years ago, I found a sign that proclaimed a “Navajo saying.” Navajo I asked said maybe a Navajo could have said that. I saw these words listed elsewhere as Native American. Origin aside, insofar as I not too distracted, I and all our relations build trust in our relations by following these four simple principles, in daily life most of all:
1. Show up.
2. Pay attention.
3. Tell the truth.
4. Don’t be attached/let go of attachment to outcome

I expect I’ll write a first entry of mine tomorrow on how self-defeating shouting down health care town meetings is, or maybe praising releasing prisoners in Ohio and California for instance…at last.
I’d like this to be a topical site on calling attention to violence and sharing ways, known or imagined, of how to transform violence into trust and security.
I promise regular monitoring of this site to respond to anyone who asks me to. I expect to write on some specific peacemaking/violence issue tomorrow. Thanks for checking in on this first and only blog by retired me.