Sunday, March 31, 2013

David Foster Wallace: This is Water Speech

(link to This is Water speech by David Foster Wallace:
                      Hal  Pepinsky,, "peacemaking" at
                                                        March 31, 2013

    That's twice for me in one Easter!  Earlier today (, I heard John R. Lewis describe his faith in the same terms I currently use to describe "peacemaking."  Now, on the npr program "To the Best of Our Knowledge" (, following rebroadcast of an interview with his sister) this Easter afternoon, I hear the late David Foster Wallace reading the part of this commencement address toward the end where he turns practical advice on worshiping care and attention rather than power, one's own achievements, or one's own body.  In his own words, Wallace has just lived on to me, a voice declaring a religiosity I share.  Anarchist that I am, I'm not used to spending a day with two independent religious worshipers.  love and peace, hal

John Lewis, my Doppelganger


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

March 31, 2013

                On this Easter Morning, listening to Krista Tippett’s interview with US Rep. John Lewis, who in the early sixties was leader of SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, for the very first time in my life, I heard my doppelganger.  Soon after Mr. Lewis began the hour saying that he was born a person of faith in being love, I began answering the host’s questions in the precise words Mr. Lewis would use in is answer.  At the end of the interview, he even said loving others meant being honest and open.  He spoke of how his love extended to loving animals, beginning with the chickens he raised and cried over at the dinner table.  He talked about how easily he cried at moments of enjoyment of love.  He stressed patience and persistence, that our role was to carry on the struggle, in the faith that in generations to come, humanity as a whole would be integrated into a loving community.  When asked how he and others in SNCC trained for nonviolent satyagraha (failure to cooperate with segregation), he spoke of studying principles of nonviolence as written by the likes of Gandhi and Thoreau, and when confronting those who would be one’s enemies as later in Selma (where Lewis was beaten unconscious), to maintain eye contact and try to smile to disarm one’s opponents.  I regularly find what I know as the force of love, and what I call peacemaking as a way of life, a way of being in all one’s relations.  But I have never before heard someone use the same words at the same moment I find myself using them to convey the faith that embodies both our lives.  If anyone has bothered trying to understand what I mean by peacemaking, check out what Mr. Lewis says about his praxis.  He talks of his thinking and speech evolving with age, and so the words he used in this week’s “On Being” program, like the words I am using to describe peacemaking, are not what they were and will probably keep changing, as each of us tries to use the language of our audiences of the moment.  For now, this is probably the only time in my life that I will ever feel comfortable saying that this person might as well be speaking for me too.  Happy Easter.  Love and peace--hal

Sunday, March 24, 2013

spring holy week greetings to you as here, to my neighbors in Rush Creek Village

I took my morning walk after breakfast and my Sunday morning worship service, listening to on 89.7 from 7-8am, just after sunrise.  It is overcast, but I can hear about 5 male cardinals singing their morning songs.  The fellow who generally greets me during the day around my front yard is facing east near the top of the oak tree at the Conlon's house across the street.  As I turn east on South Street, a flock of Canada geese flies over me headed northwest out of the valley below the school.  I pass yardsful of male robins singing as they hunt for critters in the ground.  I turn onto White Oak Place and as usual turn about retracing my steps homeward, now headed south.  A broad-winged hawk (I googled her identification) comes into sight from over the playground.  As she passes over the Mackenzies', she turns back, circles, and glides gently over my head, looking down at me as she passes, as I stand looking up at her transfixed.  It may be a rather dark and quiet morning in Rush Creek Village, but on this holy weekend celebrating the advent of the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the birds are telling me that spring is in full bloom.  Love and peace--hal

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "Peacemaking" at
519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peacemaking as Mediation as Peacemaking (PMP)

Hal Pepinsky, skype name halpep,, “peacemaking” at
March 20, 2013
                I am often asked what I do now that I am a career state university criminal justice faculty retiree.  Today, I conceived my new formal, tax deductible, organization of one.  I hereby declare Peacemaking as Mediation as Peacemaking, also known as PMP, to be my “retired professor” “occupation” under the Internal Revenue Code.   My income comes from my book royalties, which mostly from Criminology as Peacemaking royalties generally amounts to around a hundred dollars a year.  My major expenses at the moment are a couple of monthly contributions to friends’ prison personal accounts.  My remaining time is free.  I do no social networking, I monitor only the email account listed on each of my “peacemaking” blog entries, as here above.  I do have Facebook and Google accounts for emergency use.  I am generally, promptly available one on one or with groups, by internet, or by scheduling skype time together.  If you don’t already know me, I’d suggest starting by googling my name or checking out my blog, and several “books” of mine that are at  Call me a sounding board, coach, a trainer, a workshop facilitator, a teacher, a mediator, a friend with time on his hands, whatever, if you think I might be useful, ask, or just plain be in touch.
                The business I am inaugurating today is inspired by a Fayetteville State University criminal justice class on mediation, taught by Mike DeValve (, whom I met via the critical criminology listserv.  Fayetteville State is historically black.  Mike, a practicing Buddhist, offers the course for academic credit to some forty students whom he starts by training as mediators, has already had all of them mediate solo, and two state-certified, at the Cumberland County, North Carolina, Dispute Resolution Center, a non-profit, democratically managed corporation with a small staff, otherwise all volunteer, which is contracted with the county district court to provide all mediation services including its one mediation moneymaker, Medicaid claims.  Mike, securely tenured on the FSU cj faculty, sits on the center’s board, and also volunteers as a trainer and (co-)mediator.  As I told folks there, they have at last given me a real-life example of privatizing peacemaking alternatives exclusively through community owned and operated not-for-profit enterprises.  This morning, we skyped in his 10-10:50 class.  Mike could get my picture projected, and point his laptop camera at the class, but the only audio was through his laptop, which he sat and stood with, translating students I could see but not hear back to me, and me back to them, as we discussed 3 cases they had just mediated.  I was reminded of times at the U of Warsaw in Poland, where friends have translated Polish-English for me.  As any reader of this blog post can see, I learned bundles from the experience.  So thanks to all the folks at the center and in the department, students and Mike included, who have among other things inspired this retirement business model.  Love and peace--hal

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In recognition of International Women's Day tomorrow, watch this

What a gift on the eve of International Women's Day.  I had wondered what had made Romanians so want to obliterate the Ceausecus.  Now I know.

This is the most thoroughly carried out multigenerational eugenics program I have ever encountered, Romanian Decree 770 of 1966.  This Brave New World makes the struggle for women's reproductive rights against anti-abortionists seem pretty tame.  I will not forget the disappearance of the frogs, and in this case, I actually find myself appreciating the wisdom of the death penalty.  Will surprises never end.  Thanks again Adrian.  I'll check out your other links in due course.  l&p hal

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "Peacemaking" at
 519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

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Sent: Thursday, March 07, 2013 1:00 PM
Subject: Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 49, Issue 10

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Today's Topics:

   1. Interesting documentaries (Adrian Andreescu)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2013 04:34:17 -0800 (PST)
From: Adrian Andreescu
Subject: [Ahs-talk] Interesting documentaries
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You might find of some interest a Romanian documentary made
freely available by Florin Iepan, the director of the movie:


Children of the Decree - Full Movie


Also, a documentary about placebo phenomena and its many
aspects is available here:


Placebo: Cracking the Code (Video)


You can download them with programs like YouTube Downloader?



Other academic materials that might be of interest to you:


Free articles Wiley ? International Women?s Day


Transpersonal studies


Foucault studies





Adrian Andreescu


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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

follow-up to March 3 post

(a follow-up to “Mindful of What?” posted March 3)
Hal Pepinsky,, ”peacemaking” at
March 6, 2013
                I’m thinking that the kind of meditation that involves paying attention to one’s breath is a form of self-absorption, while a peacemaking attitude entails becoming unselfconscious.  What say anyone?  Love and peace--hal

"We know that..."

Hal Pepinsky,,
March 6, 2013
                I just turned off yet another talk-show guest who was preaching that we use “evidence-based” “best practices” that reflected what “we know.”  Here I go, taking sides again:  I cringe every time I hear someone start a pronouncement with “we know that…”
                The guest I turned off was castigating doctors and nurses for continuing doing things “the way they’ve always been done” instead of following the latest best practices.  She did reinforce my conviction not to give a doctor permission to do or give me anything I don’t understand and want.  I stick my good old criminological ways all the time, and I can’t imagine any research finding convincing me that there is such a thing as anybody’s best crime prevention practice that I am going to recommend be adopted anywhere on the strength of someone else’s “best evidence” that purports to explain results elsewhere, using someone else’s evaluation protocol.
                “We know that…” is a problem for me at two levels.  First, like US Democrats now calling themselves “blue,” it is an Americanization of the royal “we.”  That is, some self-referent group of “experts” now claims the authority of God and King with respect to where “our” evidence leads.  Worse, the use of the first-person plural signifies that “they” speak for me too—for what I’d better accept or do, or else demonstrate that I don’t know what I’m doing.
                I won’t claim credit for the thought reform program my parents jointly put me through when I came home from college spouting newfound wisdom:  “You don’t KNOW that Harold, you just THINK that it is true.”  At the outset, this came with mini-lectures on epistemology.  And so, by the time I began to write for professional publication, I only felt qualified to use the first person as my sole authority for all of my “research” pronouncements.  I’m less obsessive about it.  I’ll make flat-out declarations without no attributions, but I persist in making clear that I am never speaking for anyone but myself.  That has among other things made co-authorship something I rarely let myself be talked into.  My most recent co-authorships have been dialogues.  This is my methodological position, another exception to my rule of not taking sides.
                At another level, the peacemaking process of social construction I favor entails people assuming responsibility for creating their own programs.   One example of the difference:  When I was invited to conduct a workshop on mediation in a Trinidadian prison, the usual approach would have been to get a group of people to go through one or more role plays that I myself made up.  Instead, I proposed first that the workshop include parties who were likely to be in dispute (prisoners and officers).  This runs counter to the normal assumption that mediation between people with unequal power just carries oppression one step further.  Like the Navajo for instance, I see peacemaking as a way to confront and transform the entropy of power differences into the synergy of cooperation.  Second, I asked that the scenario we role-played be the creature of the people I was training, involving what they knew (I use the term advisedly) to be ongoing serious issues among themselves.  If participants do on applying what they learned in the workshop, I know of no wrong way for them to try, as long as they learn from the process.  For all I know, with no formal mechanism, guards and prisoners may already be applying ways of talking and listening they experienced in one or both of the workshops in individual encounters, on the spot.  Whatever they do, I want them to own it, not just follow anyone else’s system including what I might dream up for them.
                By contrast, in its pure form, ritualized application of best practices amounts to totalitarianism.  As Thomas Kuhn proposed in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, “we” go slavishly conforming our rules of “best evidence” to paradigms of how to control change until somehow we become fatigued enough by persistent failure to give trying to replicate old results.  I’m more than tired enough of “we know that…” statements already.  May the growth of we-knowingness follow the way of the economic growth paradigm overall.  Meanwhile, I expect I’ll pause now and again to indulge in catharses like this blog post.  Love and peace--hal

Monday, March 4, 2013

information sharing as a human right

In the Spirit of Aaron Swartz
Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
March 4, 2013
                For all I have claimed in many a recent blog post to resist taking sides, as in victim offender mediation, I do have one exception:  freedom of sharing of honest information.  This is the primary reason that leads me on principle to favor restorative justice as the term is applied across the board:  the only rules of admissibility of evidence are taking one’s turn at speaking to balance everyone’s talking and listening power, and not calling each other names.  Personal interest is the only qualification for standing.  And the parties to mediation are ideally the only ones who set limits of confidentiality.  Beyond those boundaries, information is free and beyond manipulation.  I call that “synergy,” where what (i.e., information) one’s return on what one gives is exponential.  Thus does synergy supplant the entropy, the social heat, of exchanges that on their face hurt all victims who are present.
                Today and tomorrow, instead of the usual 8am eastern time hour news broadcast, is livestreaming the two-day Freedom to Connect (FTC) annual conference, from the stage of Silver Spring, Maryland (DC suburb)’s historic town movie theater.  I watched the opening hour.  One segment included this year’s keynoter and Derek Khanna, now a fellow at Yale Law School, who was fired from the staff of a member of Congress for circulating a memo, that a recent bill to make copyrights permanent.  (At, you can click on this and the other opening interviews to see one at a time.)  Khanna cited one of the powers granted Congress under art. 1, sec. 8, that gives Congress the power:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
                As matters stand, federal law has given copyright and patent owners the power not simply to require royalties for use as one of their products as a component of another invention (thus promoting invention rather than stifling it as the writers of the Constitution intended), it is now, for instance, subject to a federal sentence of 5 years and fine of 1 million dollars to hook a US-made cell phone up to a computer and change (unlock) the settings so that the phone will take another service provider’s card (see another of the segments of the opening hour), one outcome $32 million lobbying by AT&T and Telecom.  The provision of the law, that went into effect last month, was created by the Librarian of Congress, a presidential appointee, who struck out that “exception” to ownership of broadband access that is granted by federal license.  If you think that’s outrageous, check the rest of the opening hour, or just tune in live to see how access to the internet is being monopolized.
                This year’s conference commits itself to continuing the mission of the FTC as spoken by last year’s keynoter, Aaron Swartz.  Swartz killed himself in January rather than show up for trial on federal criminal charges, for downloading more otherwise public information than a platform provider’s license allowed, even though the provider (for Harvard and MIT) did not want prosecution.  It struck me as I thought about Aaron Swartz’s suicide that it was a US political cultural equivalent of the image that comes to me of the Buddhist monk self-immolating in the middle of a Saigon thoroughfare.  Both connote despair.  This time, too, the spirit of a suicide’s despair at structural violence gives synergizes the cause he lived and died for.
                The most basic part of my anarchist thinking, a level beyond that of taking no moral sides, is that the accumulation of more property than one needs to support oneself and one’s communities, is the theft of information for one’s own profit.  In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn’s premise in his opening chapter was that the US empire was created by imposition of the English institution of the right to own land, broadened in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution to preclude taking property “without just compensation.”  Now, the most fertile ground for securing the growth of global accumulations of private capital, is the realm of cyberspace.  All this with such mass media obscurity that even this morning at the conference, not once did I hear anyone even mention antitrust laws and regulations.  What a contrast that is to the time when the Sherman Anti-trust Act was passed.
                Much as I value that Aaron Swartz’s martyrdom has brought to the service of the freedom of speech I too hold dear, martyrdom is not my own path.  But freedom of information has been sacred to me since my Mama persuaded me in the late fifties that if all the state secrets in the world were suddenly made public, we would be in no greater danger than before.  Looking back, that attitude helps as much as anything explain the divide between me, the intern, and the state department figures I talked with, including my suggestion to Secretary Rusk at his office reception for legal interns that support for US Vietnam policy would be stronger if the public knew that policy emerged from ongoing, vigorous debate among State Department professionals.  It certainly was why, from the first manuscript I received for review to this day, I write nothing to editors except what I write in the section for authors, where I include my name and contact information.  Resistance to exclusive ownership of information was what led me to take the initiative to get the attorney general to tell Indiana University that they really ought to open their financial records.  By the same token I spent the next four or five years pushing promotion and tenure candidates’ right to see what was written about them by all evaluators,  until the legislature changed the open records law to give state employees that right.  (I notice that today that right is taken for granted at public universities across the nation; the only exception I know is Iowa, which grants no such right.)  As I talked to administrators about P&T records, time and again, they told me that reviews just wouldn’t be honest if they were not confidential.  I’m sorry, but my academic parents who themselves were academic brats raised me from childhood to believe that true scientific discovery depended on honest, open sharing of data, and if that doesn’t include information that a faculty member’s academic career depends on, I do take sides:  Promises of personal confidentiality aside, groups and companies and institutions have no right in my book to own access to their information, let alone to their trade secrets.
                Since I began declaring my lack of belief in ownership of intellectual property, the comeback has been:  But without protection, many artists couldn’t afford to support themselves by doing their art.  It occurs to me that this argument carries no more weight than the argument that tax increases for those who make or own the most will stop small business owners from hiring.  Structurally, the only institution that can serve is the one Adam Smith warned against: the concentration of depersonalized, global monopolization of property, from musical downloads, to genetically engineered seeds.  And underlying the control of all forms of property is the control of the flow of information.  Love and peace--hal