Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frankness and Diplomacy

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 30, 2010
In the sixties as overt war broke out in Vietnam, there was a Washington-inspired cliché that if we knew all the secret things the president knew, we would understand why we had to increase troop levels to 500,000. At the time, my super-politically attuned mother, the one who still lives in Worthington, repeatedly pronounced that if all state secrets were suddenly revealed, it would make no difference in the Cold War or international politics generally. Now WikiLeakia offers us a test of her proposition.
I had a top secret clearance for my eight-week adventure as the summer 1967 intern in East Asian legal affairs in the US state dept. I concluded that my mother was right. The one top secret I was ceremoniously made privy to was the fact that we already had troops and bombs bursting on the ground in Cambodia, three years before the white house let us know that the bombing had started. I also learned that heads of state in Laos and Cambodia had agreed that while they would loudly condemn air attacks in their countries, they secretly had agreed to US security measures on their territory.
“Frank” remains a diplomatic term of art for saying and doing politically inappropriate, publicly illegal or unacceptable things under cover of security classification. I think my mom was and remains dead right. We are better off when frank diplomacy comes out of the closet. Frankness is, in my experience and in the leaks we now read, in my opinion a cover for public lies and manipulation.
When I appealed college rejection of my tenure and promotion in 1980 and 1983, I was not allowed to see anything colleagues or outside evaluators had said about me. I spearheaded an effort that eventually led the iuBloomington faculty council to rule that no candidate for promotion or tenure could even waive the right of inspection of what was said about them. Meanwhile, I was assured at highest campus administrative levels would impair the frankness of evaluations. Times changed.
Peacemaking rests on the synergy of honest, open exchange of information.
One week during my state dept internship state sec Dean Rusk us ten legal interns up to his penthouse suite for drinks on a Friday afternoon. He asked us how he could appeal to youth to support this Vietnam “war to end all wars.” I suggested that he might allow foreign office officers to respond to inquiries in the name of their individual positions—e.g., assistant secretary of state for east asian legal affairs—instead of having every message/letter/cable going out of Foggy Bottom have to be “cleared” with signatures from so many bureaucrats as to justify the fact that EVERY MESSAGE FROM THE STATE DEPT GOES OUT UNDER THE SIGNATURE OF THE SECRETARY, AND EVERY MESSAGE FROM ABROAD IN THE NAME OF THE AMBASSADOR.
From the first manuscript I reviewed for publication in the early seventies, I have requested that authors know who I am and how to reach me. I recommend rejection of mss on many occasions. I see no reason why we can’t be openly and frankly critical without being secretive and deceitful. My mama was right. The latest WikiLeaks indicate to me just how irresponsible and ill informed diplomacy becomes when frankness is classified. Love and peace--hal

Monday, November 22, 2010

Valuing Life

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 22, 2010
I remember walking across the Diag on my college campus in Ann Arbor late in the morning of November 22, 1963. I was right beside Angell Hall, the social science classroom building. The journalism department was on the second floor. When I heard people saying that the president had been shot, I joined others at the teletype machines in the second-floor corridor to receive ap news that the president had died.
I had volunteered to campaign for JFK; at his death at the age of 46 or 47, I lost all faith that any political hero could save me. The assassinations of MLK and RFK as I graduated law school only confirmed the communist anarchism that I continue to embrace, now under the heading of peacemaking. Still, President Kennedy, I grieve the loss of your leadership. Simultaneously, I celebrate that moment at which I moved from one of my lives in my lifetime to another.
Jill and I had Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at my mom’s nursing home. It is a small enough home not to need to be bureaucratic, and the staff there who freely exchange roles in something like yesterday’s dinner are a pleasure to watch with each other and to befriend myself, as in the singalongs I do with the home’s administrator, Kristine. The way nurses and aides give care is amazingly loving, patient and good-humored. I have been in many nursing homes, and this is the homiest nursing home I have known. My mom is extraordinarily lucky to be there now that she has run out of money to be cared for at home, and I feel privileged literally to be so close to her as our chronological time together draws to a close. Still…
I wonder what many of the residents I get to know are living for. Granted, I hope that if I end up there myself, I’ll try to pass my declining years appreciative of all of the love I have received and still grateful for the many, many lives—like Walter Mitty—that I have already enjoyed in my relations in a single lifetime.
I concur that life is precious, and that the prospect of individual bodily death is the ultimate fear we fear itself. We also live in a place and time in fear for our lives, individually and collectively, in fear for the very survival of humanity.
Humanity will survive in various forms far beyond our power to predict (thanks to Honest Abe for his Gettysburg Address). Meanwhile, global human population will stop exploding, and decline, and wherever we are, regardless of our passion for fairness, openness and justice, those who turn out to have less power will by definition die first and with most public suffering.
This leads me to my personal social control strategy. It is axiomatic to me that any strategy by which I get value and valued in my relations is a matter of HOW I relate especially in my daily relations rather than of what laws to enact and enforce. I figure that ultimately, the only thing I know about what works to enhance human life is what leads the people in my daily life to value our lives together. So if at the age of 91 my mom happens to land in a nursing home, I most value the quality of our relationships there. As in the kind of local food security programs Jill’s and my child Katy works, I believe that sharing knowledge of how we share power in local lives offers the best hope for the force of humanity to overcome human mutual destruction.
Today the BBC carries an interview with NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, where he claims that children in Kabul are, on the whole, safer than children in London and New York, and certainly never homeless. A human rights rebuttal notes lack of formal education and 25% child mortality before the age of 5 (a figure I heard in Tanzania when I lived there in 1990). It led me to wonder about those I have met who have suffered torture, and periods of not knowing where they would sleep or eat, throughout long chronological lives.
I for one have numerous conversations with my nearest and dearest over the issue of how each of us conquers our fears of death, and ultimately, of personal loss. For my part, I believe that my life was as rich, and in its own way valued and applied as in my relationships, by the time I reached the age when JFK was killed. For decades I have tried to reassure my wife and child that if I die tomorrow, there is no need to mourn for my loss. I do get scared that some disease might get detected that would bring pressure for me to live on—as for grandchildren—for loved ones’ sake. Not so long ago, I horrified a doctor by saying that I didn’t want a colonoscopy because if I turned out to have cancer, I wanted it to be stage four so that my family would go along with palliative care, assuming I don’t just happily drop dead. It has been a good life. The adventure continues. To me the challenge is to resist my fear of dying by celebrating the moments I continue to celebrate and enjoy on this Thanksgiving. To me, at any moment, it’s the quality of my relations that counts rather than the quantity of time I spend in this body. To all my friends who may read this, know how much you enrich my lives in a single lifetime. Love and peace--hal

Friday, November 19, 2010

message to the BBC re their take on NATO and Afghanistan

Today the BBC asks whether Afghanis are up to the task of taking over the war from their foreign occupiers. Why not ask how ready NATO is to concede that their Euro-American occupation of Afghanistan was a lost cause from the outset, practically and morally? If we in the NATO world faced that question, Afghanistan indeed might become a war to end all wars of foreign invasion.

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com, 209 St. Pierre St., Worthington, OH 43085-2262, 1-614-433-7386

Thursday, November 18, 2010

rejection of my npr post on Ghailani

As I look at their rules, the rule I broke was against framing an npr story:

Hal Pepinsky (ProfessorHal) wrote:

An NPR moderator has removed this comment because it does not adhere to the discussion guidelines

Thursday, November 18, 2010 4:21:04 PM

on the verdict re Ahmed Ghailani

Hal Pepinsky (ProfessorHal) wrote:

How come the acquittal of this defendant on all but one charge(conspiracy, aka prosecutorial cheap shot)isn't framed by npr as a failure of Guantanomo detention without due process in the first place? NPR is all backwards. How come this doesn't amount to an indictment of the fiscal and political expense of thinking that "terrorism" justifies a national campaign to increase the national debt for false displays of national security and prison-industrial/military excess, which only in its sloppiness turns people into enemies of my U.S. people. I think Guantanamo politics on both sides of the political aisle is another manifestation of the state protection/corporate invested protection racket. National/homeland protection rhetoric only erodes national security. I feel as though I'm hearing rationales for Nazi religious and xenophobia from the thirties. Shame on us for not using this verdict to question the very patriotic-act enterprise that 9/11 fed in my homeland. love and peace--Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu pepinsky.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010 4:21:04 PM

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Lifetime Achievement Means to Me--a message of thanks

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 15, 2010
That’s about as heavy a question as one faces on retirement. The fact that people in the critical crim div of asc are giving me an award for my own lifetime achievement gives me pause, and does me genuine honor. I think the best respect I can give them back is to send a message about how I view my own achievement. Pardon me if I wax a little philosophical. I have a span of nine hours today when I don’t have to speak to another human being. I am cloistered. I want to tell those who have given me this award what lifetime achievement happens to mean to me.
One lesson life has so far taught me is that what works for me today will change tomorrow. That is why, so long ago, I began my recovery from elite legal training by renouncing the premise that I could solve any social problem by engineering. My mentor Richard Quinney helped me turn my focus to the quality of my day-to-day interactions, of how they offered me and my daily relations a greater sense of security, trust and safety or not. I have come to forgive myself for having no solutions to human problems, no recipes for success. Instead, I have come to believe that my own social security is (miraculously?) enhanced by attending to the quality of my relations moment by moment. I call this a peacemaking attitude. My best evidence is that it has worked for me and for so many others I have known. As my Norwegian mentor Birgit Brock-Utne has written, I don’t want to increase anyone’s share of the pie; I think greater personal and social security turns out to rest on changing the power-over-others recipe of the social pie.
This morning I was listening to BBC Newshour, where they had a segment on what to do about cyber-bullying, announcing a UK-centered global internet march for getting to the heart of what causes the phenomenon, as though to make schoolchildren safer. The poster child of this demonstration had hanged himself at 15. All his family knew of his being other than a happy socially successful child came from threats they found on his computer of his being beaten up the next day at school or at home if he decided to stay there. The poignant thing to me is the media’s attempt to help this child’s surviving brother profile bullies. It would be standard in bullying cases to speculate that such a child would be gay. I’m thinking that a more likely hypothesis that this young guy had failed to pay for an illicit drug deal at school, and couldn’t bring himself to tell his family how successful he was in reality an illicit drug user. Who knows? Whatever was happening, the most salient feature of the story to me is that his surviving family managed to believe that he was a perfectly happy person until he hanged himself. I am reminded of the enormous pressure on parents and children to make sure that children make their parents and siblings look good.
How many times as now does Walt Kelley aka “Pogo’s” voice sound in my head. Once again, we have met the enemy and the enemy is US. How can we remove barriers that make us keep deeply shameful secrets from our nearest and dearest relations? That is the question I keep asking myself as with growing intensity, elite journalists like those in the BBC keep trying to push interviewees into identifying and classifying enemies to fight in order to solve our problems. It’s a tragedy.
Luckily for me, I chanced upon someone 37 years ago. As I have repeatedly told Jill, I decided to call that relationship the center of my human universe. Happily, no matter how many other things change, I am secure with her and our own immediate relations. I think that focus on how to build trustworthy relations in one’s most immediate relations is the best path I have to commend to anyone in these times of profound global insecurity. To the critcrim folks, thanks so much for this evidence that my life has value to others as it does to me. Love and peace--hal

Saturday, November 13, 2010

fiscal insanity

Gambling at the Currency Table
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 13, 2010
I’m listening to the BBC on currency contention. Gold now sells for $1400 an ounce. Will it rise to $2000. The IMF says gold is an undependable hedge against currency inflation. So…what currency to invest in? The US fed has bet $600 billion against the dollar. As a result, US banks will lend abroad rather than at home. Democracynow.org was the first to point this elemental economic logic out. Now the BBC notices. Maybe even NPR will catch on.
I’m a devout Muslim when it comes to the immorality of speculating on making money out of having money. It is obscene that we in the US hear daily quotes from stock markets, which President George W. Bush wanted us seniors to bet on in lieu of contributing to our social security pensions. Our fixation on how to make money out of realigning global exports and imports is equally obscene. And so I strive to live locally, familially, independently as I can from global fiscal insanity. Love and peace--hal

Monday, November 8, 2010

critical criminology lifetime achievement award

Michael (Coyle), please forward this message to division members. Thanks for your enthusiasm.

Many thanks for this award. I am deeply moved by the sincerity of those who put my name forward and of those who have urged me to make a special trip to San Francisco to receive this recognition.
I feel closely linked to the critical criminology division. When I was appointed then elected token radical on the ASC Executive Board in the early eighties, my primary mission was to get the board to adopt rules that would allow members to create their own divisions. A few years later, I allowed myself to be on the ballot as chair of this division, and found out on the way from the airport to the convention hotel that I was it. Brian MacLean, first editor of the division newsletter, gave me space for a column that I labeled “views from the throne.” Brian drew a toilet seat beside the column. My time as chair was a disaster. I was nearly impeached. While as a prepubescent used to sit on the toilet in my bathroom imagining giving orders in the Oval Office (no kidding), I figure that the only formal office I was ever fit to hold was professor.
Beyond my family, my students and personal collegial friends stand out for making this old man feel his professional life has been worthwhile. I know that some of them will speak at the reception where I receive the award. I will let them speak for themselves. Again, to those who have urged me to make a last-minute plane reservation to San Francisco, and especially to Chris Magno who called to offer me a free room together, you flatter me at this moment most of all.
Again, thanks so very much for this award. I expect to be at ASC next year. Be in touch. Love and peace--Hal