Friday, December 31, 2010

New year's celebration of wiki leaks

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 31, 2010
No one questions that WikiLeaks are genuine, i.e., honest trustworthy. The controversy is over whether the public ought to know what diplomats and military are honestly reporting among themselves. It’s a question of whether the government ought to be allowed to lie to the people, of whether that threatens national security or supports it.
On my third try, I had a faculty who wholeheartedly supported my tenure. The college committee turned me down. I remember coming home to tell Jill the news that I would not become the next chair of the department, but would have to fight to keep my job. Happily, a colleague set me up with her senior husband who walked me through a successful appeal in 1980. Three years later, on appeal while I was in Sheffleid, England on my first sabbatical, I had counseled enough other candidates from dossier preparation through grievances and appeals that a majority of the campus promotion committee voted to give me tenure primarily for service.
I knew I had solid department support for tenure, but not even the chair could see the outside letters the college dean had solicited, let alone his letter of transmittal of the committee’s written recommendations to the campus level. I requested a meeting with the dean. He was very sympathetic and gave me what in writing would have amounted to a paragraph synopsis of the tenure committee’s report. I remain grateful to Howard Spicker for teaching me that the key to appeal was documentation of how my work had been cited, explaining that if my teaching evaluations were low (in evaluations more than one student called me a Communist agent), I was teaching controversial subjects, basically documenting every public activity.
When I got tenure in 1980, ten percent of the Bloomington faculty belonged to a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. I joined and set up a “promotion and tenure counseling service” to help candidates prepare (or prepare to prepare) their dossiers, and to be their advocates when they appealed being turned down. I was elected to the campus faculty counsel, where I spurred an AFT campaign to open promotion and tenure records to candidates’ inspection. As union local president in 1981, I had a friendly local representative pass on a question to the state attorney general as to whether university financial records were public. The press called me to tell me the ag was on my side. I called him to thank him and he (a Republican) wondered why I thought I needed to ask such a no-brainer. In 1984, the general assembly amended the public records law to grant state employees full access to their own records. For several years, the campus faculty council permitted promotion and tenure candidates to waive access to their records, then repealed the experiment. I count these openings of information as my crowning academic service achievements in my 33 years at Indiana u.
I was on good terms with administrators at the time. I lobbied them for opening p&t records. I specifically remember the campus academic dean’s assurance that confidentially of outside letters and even college recommendations was necessary to keep evaluations honest. Bullshit. For one thing, I knew that asking my name and contact info to journal editors be passed on to authors had/has never inhibited my criticism. Being known to authors has encouraged me to make even my emphatic rejections responsible and constructive. Talking about people behind their backs promotes backbiting and distortion. It promotes covering what you are really doing and feeling in distortion and outright deceit. WikiLeaks draws our attention to the fact that in international affairs, as at home, at work (including academe), confidentiality of social business corrupts our relations at all social levels. Forcing a child to keep secrets about his or her relations with an adult is the essence of child abuse traumatization. At all levels, saying things behind people’s backs about them that you will not say to their face erodes the foundation of trustbuilding and maintenance of trust: open honesty.
My year as AFT local president, I had a slogan that still works for me: Fairness, Openness, Equity, FOE for short. This is the attitude that seems to work for me and mine.
WikiLeaks has revealed that US foreign policy is largely a matter of making fun and degradation of foreigners including publicly proclaimed important allies. The main threat of wiki leaks is not that adversaries find out low-level stuff they probably already have long since know. It is that the US government’s own people stop believing in government spin like, hey, we are winning the war in Afghanistan with the support of our Pakistani brothers.
Fact remains that the US is the world’s leading abuser of power. Fact remains that the greater our abuse by secrecy, the more we all are led further astray from one another. Hope remains that we can study and learn from the openness and honesty of leaks like wiki’s. Love and peace, and happy new year--hal

Thursday, December 30, 2010

more on being retired

It happened again more than once when Jill and I were in Durango with our (grand)children over Christmas: I was asked what I was doing in retirement. Now back home in Worthington, here is my answer as of this moment: I enjoy liberation from having to do any thing l&p hal

Hal Pepinsky,,, 209 St. Pierre St., Worthington, OH 43085-2262, 1-614-433-7386

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

murders throughout Iraq less than murder rate in Columbus, Ohio

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 30, 2010
I’m listening to the BBC report from “the most respected source” on civilians murdered each day throughout Iraq on average, 10 Iraqis are killed by an average of two bombs. I live in a suburb of Columbus, where on average about 10 residents are killed each month. Iraq’s civilian murder victimization rate is a little less than the rate in my neighboring city—11 per 100,000 vs. 13 per hundred thousand residents. So why isn’t my adjoining city openly recognized as much to be as great in Columbus as that justifying continuing US occupation of Iraq? Why is military funding protected while Columbus has had to raise its city income tax to avoid laying off their police?
The post-Vietnam US military-industrial complex went into gear when the Soviet empire collapsed, beginning with the invasion of Iraq timed to coincide with the Super Bowl. As the Project for a New American Century hoped for in its proclamation in 1999, we had a new Pearl Harbor occur on 9/11 (911, what a public relations coup) to launch the all-encompassing war on terror. It’s enough to give military industrialists wet dreams. The second sons of English property owners founded their nation in military-industrialism, including what Southerners who favored as secession essentially as a war by Northern textile mill owners to get Washington to maintain trade barriers with London. Political legitimacy for continuing and expanding conquest from those who lived in North America to post-WWI global military occupation and aggression, this nation’s existence and growth rests on the expansion of continuing warfare. The growth of the military-industrial complex collapsed in the Soviet Union in 1990. Twenty years later I can only wonder how the US winner of that contest will deal with the unaffordability of its own military burden. Our own wealthier corporations are already well along in disinvesting in US enterprise. US corporations who have received the benefit of government “stimulation” have on the whole invested the bulk of their bounty in laying off US workers and creating jobs abroad. We are headed in the same direction as Ireland and Greece: to having our world’s greatest indebtedness relative to income make even the Chinese government sell off its US treasury bonds. An irony of any growth of economic insecurity for all makes the rich make others suffer all the more to take and hoard what they can harder than ever. That is, as Jeffrey Reiman has labeled the phenomenon in the US, the rich get richer and the poor get prison.
Domestic and foreign US wars are symbiotic, and over time, synergistic. As the Soviet empire was collapsing in the late eighties, there was a great deal of scholarly/journalistic attention to how to undergo military-economic conversion. Simultaneously, expansion of the US prison-industrial complex began with a presidential crime commission and establishment of a justice department funding apparatus in 1968 as LBJ’s parting gasp, and in 1970 in New York with the Rockefeller Drug Law, ensuing proliferation of Nixon’s war on crime as he fell from grace and the US withdrew from Vietnam in disgrace. Since 911, private prisons have become gold on Wall Street. Imagine how I felt on these issues when leading challengers of the existing military industrial order, JFK, MLK and RFK, were shot down. JFK was my last political hero.
When I became one in the seventies, there was a standing joke among US criminologists that if we solved the crime problem, we would be out of business. At my first American Society of Criminology conference in 1968 (as luck would have it at the Southern Hotel in Columbus), I was one of 125 registrants. Now there are thousands. War and law enforcement remain the safest and most lucrative way to invest in the US economy.
From Nixon’s 1972 bid for re-election by declaring a war on crime (superseding his predecessor’s war on poverty), domestic police tactics have become global training grounds for what today is labeled anti-terrorism and counter insurgency (which government labels are parroted in Washington/New York/London journalism). I believe that in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are learning lessons that have led Columbus a dangerous a place to live as in Iraq, in both places, some neighborhoods are safer than others. Our neighborhoods and theirs suffer equally from Anglo-European foreign occupation. In all kinds of ways, we promote organized homicide (e.g., secular, gang-organized) resistance to foreign occupation, which disproportionately kills resident young men and women), by “growing” our military prowess as success.
Wars on gangs and drugs and insurgents and terrorists are self-destructive by whatever name. In the process, the richest are odds on to fall last as they fall hardest. When you think of insecurity in Iraq or Afghanistan, I invite you to think of insecurity in Columbus, Ohio, and about how we got here. To my friends around the world, I apologize for the toll we are taking as the US empire collapses. Here at home, the more softly and locally we can channel our losses and fears into locally owned and operated enterprise, the more security I believe that all of us in concert are set to weather our storm. Love and peace in the new year as we take stock of the old--hal

Friday, December 17, 2010

Making a Difference

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 17, 2010
It occurs to me that in a thank-you message to those about a recent talk, I was arrogant when I claimed appreciation for feeling that I had made a significant difference for the better in the lives of a couple of people at the talks in particular whom I asked to be thanked, one for telling me how much she had valued listening to me, another for spending a good chunk of time after the talk just following up in conversation. How dare I presume to know that they really got something significant out of my presence? How egotistical can I be?
Years ago students above all taught me just to say thanks to apparently heartfelt expressions of appreciations for times we had spent together. Such genuine appreciation has by now become my primary measure of the value of my human existence. I have long since learned not to demur but to say heartfelt thanks.
I recently received a lifetime professional award. Truth be told, the sentiments expressed at the award ceremony meant the world to this retired guy. The sentiments expressed by the two people at my recent talk meant no less. The pleasure and validation I get out of making a difference for the better in other people’s lives comes in small ways in everyday encounters. There is no aha I’ve made it moment to my sense of earthly salvation. I mourn the many times I see people who have done so much in their lives still struggling to get THE recognition that any single accomplishment in their lives justifies their early existence. The very idea that the significant differences we make in one another’s lives have to “solve” human problems in order to count in the cosmic scheme of things saddens me, not only for others, but for the toll this quest for salvation and validation takes in human lives.
I have no inkling as to whether those two people at the talk did anything more significant as a result of our encounter than honestly appreciate the moment and tell me so. For my sense of self-worth and belonging, those moments were nonetheless as precious as living moments get for me, and sustain me. As we turn the winter solstice moment on my part of the planet, I feel renewed and give thanks in this season of renewal. It only took little moments of other people giving me their time for me to feel as love as loved gets. Love and peace--hal

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Death and Taxes

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 16, 2010
At the age of 91, my mom’s body is deteriorating. So is her earthly connection to those her bodily self has known.
I’m just 26 years younger. Always have been in this my own corporeal lifetime. My mother was born to die. She bore me to die. I can attest that her life has been rich; I am grateful for our lives together.
I was born to die. That’s our lot. In human earth time, some of us have a few minutes in human company. Others live up to and over a century. All living individuals, from bacteria to whales to redwoods, are born to die. So I ask myself, why fight it?
I have chosen not to fight to prolong my bodily existence. I will certainly die some time, I hope suddenly but hey, that’s not up to me. I had minor rectal surgery to close up a fistula recently, and told the surgeon at first meeting, I don’t want a colonoscopy because if I have colon cancer, I want it to be stage 4 by the time I get my diagnosis. That way, I won’t get hassled by doctors and nearest-and-dearest if I opt for purely palliative—pain reductive—care. Given that my body has stood by my social toll on it all these years, why not let my body rest as painlessly as possible? I just give thanks to a body that has carried me through so many human lives in a single lifetime. I will not go out fighting to keep this body alive. I feel that my body deserves a more grateful, celebratory exit. That is my life and the death it entails.
While in my body, I hold heaven and hell on earth to be my sacred trust—to distinguish the two and share in the urge to give love of life precedence over urges to destroy life to save it…heaven and hell as I was born to live and die experiencing joy and suffering among my own kinds.
It is axiomatic to me that measures that make rich people richer at poor people’s expense are human hell at its fieriest. I was born in the USA, the global center of rich living off backs of poorer and poorer people at a global height. In my country, what is now called Wall Street collapsed in 1929. President Franklin Roosevelt pushed the Social Security Act through Congress in 1935. The idea that government would guarantee the money you put into a pension fund has been under attack since, the first time I remember being when Richard Nixon took office. Bush II’s first economic initiative in 1991 was to allow people to invest in Wall Street instead of in a government-guaranteed pension fund. Imagine if workers had converted their government social security funds into private hedge funds.
9/11 gave Bush an out from a sure-fire loss on convincing to adopt his privatization of national pension funds. In the current compromise between President Obama and Mitch McConnell, what workers have invested in a supposedly federally guaranteed pension fund has become subject to the same compromise that governs stock prices—economic expediency on the backs of the most socially vulnerable. And in the agreement, the haves get to pass on more of their corner of wealth on to their own chosen heirs. Wealth continues to become more concentrated at the expense of personal and social security. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

my critcrim lifetime award, thanks Chris

Hal Pepinsky,,, 209 St. Pierre St., Worthington, OH 43085-2262, 1-614-433-7386
From: Christopher Magno []
Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 9:30 AM
To: Pepinsky, Harold E.;; Bantin, Philip Charles
Subject: Hal youtube video links

Hello Hal

I finally uploaded the videos. These are the video links:



Christopher Magno
Ph.D. Student
Department of Criminal Justice
Indiana University, Bloomington

"Nobody can say how he shall die, but everybody must decide how and for what he shall live." Jose Rizal

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Hal Pepinsky,,
December 14, 2010
The death of Richard Holbrook and ensuing media eulogies set me to reflecting on what diplomacy means to me. Holbrook was five years older than I. He became a steadily rising star in the US foreign service when I was in college dreaming of a foreign service career. Richard Holbrook, rest in peace. Your passion for diplomacy has been manifest, and in Dayton, you brought bloodshed to a halt in the former Yugoslavia. Wow!
The eulogies I hear get me back in touch with what the career diplomacy I dreamed of meant to me. I dreamed of going with sweet reason. Now, looking back on language I now use, I believe that I dreamed of gaining empathy in the midst of armed conflict. I have labeled “empathy” the foundation of peacemaking discourse. As I hear Holbrook’s life’s work dissected, I am thinking of a new way of saying what empathy means to me.
It was said of Richard Holbrook that his preeminent interest implied putting pragmatism and compromise ahead of academic moral principles of right and wrong. I share that attitude. For me then, the test of whether I am empathic is how well I convey to the speakers that I have put myself in their places, as in dealing with having a family member killed by a drone-launched missile. Where my country or person is involved, I gauge empathy by how much my reaction to what happens to US/me shows that me behavior, by word or other deed, responds so that I/we respond to those with whom we have issues while suspending retorts. It is not a matter of sympathy, as in “I hear you” or “I feel your pain,” but whether I/we can act as though what others think of us honestly have gotten through to us…as in, I respect your position, I am sorry for any pain I may have caused, do I get it?, what might I do next to reassure you that I am less of a problem for you. Tell me.
In my experience, this is how empathy transforms war/command-and-obedience into building trust, from violence into mutual understanding. Love and peace--hal

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Norwegian peace prize

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 13, 2010
Montreal aside, my wife Jill’s and my deepest friendships outside the US are with Norwegians. Collectively and individually, I owe a great debt to Norwegians for inspiring my faith that imperial cultures can transform into relatively peaceful societies. The children of Vikings stopped sending combat troops abroad in 1821 (although I wonder about their role in NATO in Afghanistan), and a generation later, dropped their incarceration rate from that of the US in 1960 by two-thirds at a level it pretty much sustains. The 17th of May is independence day (from Denmark—into the union with Sweden) featuring children’s parades from local schools to the King’s Palace…no guns.
My mother taught me that Alfred Nobel was the Swedish inventor of dynamite who dedicated his personal fortune to promoting peace. Ironically, as Norway became independent of Sweden’s sovereign foreign policy at the turn of the last century, the only Nobel Prize to be awarded outside Sweden was garnered—as a matter of national policy—to Oslo. The hall in which THE peace prize is given is in the centuries old original University of Oslo building, a block or two down the hill from the King Harald’s palace, on a promenade that ends at the Norwegian parliament building. The Norwegian peace research institute is (or at least was) just a couple of blocks and a few toward the parliament close to the end of the Oslofjord.
When I first lived in Norway in 1961-62, its population was about 4 million. When I returned in 1986 the population was nearing 4.5 million. Today its population is 4.8 million. Its reputation for peacekeeping (beginning in Cyprus) and peacemaking (as in giving the peace prize, or in being the home of the founding UN secretary general) is legend. Norway has gained amazing attention and respect as a peacemaker. The peace prize gains more worldwide media and political notice worldwide by far than any of the prizes awarded in Nobel’s native Sweden.
Being idolized as a purely peaceful society carries its risks, especially at global levels of political expression. I cringed as I listened to former Norwegian prime minister, present chair of the committee that selects the peace prize laureate, demanding (to standing applause) that the Chinese government release Liu Xiaobo, a year after awarding the prize to President Obama, who continues to cave to generals wanting to escalate bloodshed on two war fronts.
My political hero on this as on many occasions is Bolivian president Evo Morales. spent the week in Cancun at the UN climate change conference that NPR only reported last Saturday after the conference was over. played a segment of a press conference at which Morales explained why his was one country that declined an invitation to the Oslo peace prize ceremonies. How can his country, among peoples including those in China that have been imperialistically, culturally denigrated, honor an award that last year was given to the leading political figure in colonization of the Americas?
I had an overblown romance with Maoist Chinese law that lasted through the awful upheaval in lives of many Chinese during the Cultural Revolution. And so for instance I am familiar with the premise in Chinese law that police are duty bound to make arrests only when suspects are already proven guilty, and that courts are duty bound to rspect that premise. When in law school I specialized in studying Chinese law, the dominant theme of my education was that we Western bearers of the rule of law had to teach the Communist barbarians how to respect human rights and due process.
What Evo knows, and I know, and the Chinese know, is that Western legalism and international relations and colonization are built on hypocrisy. As the US wikileaks are showing, US diplomacy rests on duplicity. So is domestic politics. How on earth can my nation, with a quarter of the world’s prisoners who overwhelmingly have gone through humiliating guilty plea rituals just to get out of jail regardless of evidence, whose prison budgets are bankrupting states and local governments, whose prisoners are there because they are too young, brown and black to resist, condemn a country that was essentially colonized in the opium wars of the mid-nineteenth century?
Nobody deserves prison for speech. But it happens all the time, as for some in Guantanamo Bay even for things that were said about them, never mind whether they themselves said or did anything. Heck, there are people on national networks and in politics today saying that Julian Assange ought to be killed for telling true stories about US politics because the truth threatens national security. So when the Chinese legal system pronounces Liu Xiaobo a hazard because with US backing he wants Western legal knowledge/wisdom to prevail in China, I see it as just one national failure to deal with its own issues compounded by pointing fingers at someone else. I see in the Nobel peace committee’s awards in recent years as implicit sanctimony that we white folks in the global north know what the law literally means. I found Jagland’s interpretation of the Chinese constitution as literally true embarrassing, all the more so by the ahistorical, acomparative, airtime he was given.
Norwegian friends have commented to me that if I believe that Norway itself is less violent than for instance the US, I just don’t know Norwegians well enough. In my friend Per Ole Johansen’s book Oss Selv Naermest (roughly means “closest to home”), he documents that in the midst of Norway’s heroic resistance to German occupation in WWII, it was the Norwegian police who rounded up Jews for the Germans to send to extermination. I find this honesty refreshing, in contrast to the way this year’s Nobel peace prize was awarded. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Imagine Honesty

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 1, 2010
Honesty is the bedrock of trust in any relationship. Secrecy in our relations is the bedrock of deceit, separation, enmity. In my relations with victims and survivors of private childhood sexual terror and torture beginning almost 20 years ago, I concluded that the essence of child abuse in any culture at any time is forcing a child to keep secret what an adult does with the child. Keeping secrets, that’s our social problem. I dream of a world where US diplomats would not say behind any foreign informant’s back or without the informant’s consent what the informant would not feel free to disclose her-/himself. This is a simple rule of maintaining trust in all human relations whatever the level.
To me, the current wikileaks pile on evidence that keeping secrets from the people promotes a culture of blindness to corruption of power by one’s own secret circle. May international diplomacy come to rest on open rather than on covert understanding and accountability. Open, trustworthy, credible honesty is the bedrock of peacemaking at all social levels. Love and peace--hal