Monday, April 29, 2013

Let all who care about the US reputation for justice take heed

...of force-fed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo before the president lets them begin to die, today at newshour that closes with Willie Nelson on the reputation of the US government he encounters abroad.  Love and peace--hal

Thursday, April 25, 2013

rules for everyday peacemaking


Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at

April 25, 2013


                I recently responded to someone who asked me to recommend a punishment for some offense.  I repeated my mantra that I prefer building trust and safety to punitive responses to anything.  My short reiteration of why I don’t think punishment works was persuasive, and so followed the question: what system would I implement instead of punishment?


                Again, my answer related to involvement in any category of violence at any level.  I thank Cameron Kobielski at Gannon University for provoking a response I’ve never put quite this succinctly before, to myself let alone to anyone else.  I wrote Cameron:


I used to try designing things.  I'll also attach my first book.  You can see that I end up writing "model" laws for controlling crime.  Compare that to the approach I take in the draft I forgot to attach last time.  I no longer believe in laying down "best practices."  If you feel you want what I say I want, and you're somewhere, anywhere, in the system, make up a way to divert people from trying to decide on giving "consequences" and refocus them on dealing with the consequences, the fears, the threats, the losses, the need to set terms for rebuilding trust among concerned parties...All you have to remember is that simple "attitude" toward whatever conflict you're involved in, not only at work, but at home, internationally, anywhere.  If that's your attitude, you'll be obeying two rules especially with those (a) most critically hurt as in victims, and (b) those who most offend or threaten you: no name calling, and no interruptions.  The aim is to make it safe for people to say face to face (or as between prisoner and faraway victim, by whatever contact is safely, openly available, through any mediator trusted by all, perhaps a letter from a prisoner to a victim's lawyer) what they are feeling, hurts and fears, remorse, till it gets out enough that folks turn to talking about what steps each might take to satisfy others that one is doing one's own part to walk away okay with things.  That little bit is all it takes to turn cool a heating social climate, up to and including how all wars begin to end.


Thanks Cameron—love and peace--hal


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Crime and Conflict: a study of law and society (1976)

NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that dropbox material cannot be made publicly viewable.  Anyone who wants a copy of this pdf file may simply ask me to send it as an email attachment--hal

CRIME AND CONFLICT: A Study of Law and Society (1976)
Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at
April 20, 2013

                I just discovered that I hold the copyright on my first book, first published in London by Martin Robertson in their “law in society” series, then in the US by Academic Press, New York.  In this book, the lawyer in me played social engineer, to deal with the state-licensed violence I called “appropriation,” in a critique of the rule of law grounded in Maoist theory and practice.  I have scanned the book (pdf file just over 3mb), and put it in my dropbox at .
                I’m still learningJ.  Love and peace--hal

Friday, April 19, 2013

to a friend in Boston

and on another world in here--so sorry

There was a time (1996 to be exact) when I was clinically depressed by discovering that there was probable ongoing intergenerational human sacrifice going on on property my primary physician then co-owned, and scared as warning signs against pursuing the issue were laid around my house.  That's when personal violence hit closest to home for me.  Since then, I have sat through trauma I wouldn't have imagined as in custody cases where I have testified, and known survivors of even the unimaginable who have survived and found stronger parts of themselves and gratitude for the security they do enjoy over time.  I learned in victim offender mediation that everyone traumatized by unexpected violence wants first to know WHY?!  And that is what we are struggling with.  I tune in now and then to see whether there is (let alone will ever be) the beginning of an answer (none yet that I see).  Otherwise my national news is turned off (fortuitously, since my local npr stations are both having their spring fund drives).

The way y'all in the Boston area are caring for one another, led by first responders (as with 11 of 33 volunteer firefighters in a suburb of Waco on the eve of the anniversary of what I believe to have been a federal execution, ala drone strikes, on the Branch Davidians, atf footage of which I used to show in class) who were immediately killed and gravely wounded, professional and civilian alike.  The "other world" I see at this almost too fortuitous double tragedy is that we will begin to celebrate the heroism of those of us who care for us in the midst of the neglected infrastructure epitomized by the non-union Texas labor force and plant that exploded with a much bigger blast than two guys managed at the marathon finish line.  In (un)natural disasters like this, I'm hoping, and wishfully perhaps noticing, that our priorities are shifting from economic growth and military supremacy to noticing and attending to our own victims, our own selves.

That's my rationalization and I'm stickin' to it:-)

damping the flames of rage inside myself

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at
April 19, 2013

                A couple of days back, a dear correspondent of mine told me he was reading the biography of Martin Speer, and had concluded that there were mitigating circumstances in his crimes against humanity that should have merited a lower prison sentence.  Today, as he responded to my objections to the very “game” of sentencing, I found his message telling me that he had only been playing a game himself.  My first paragraph of response was unusually blunt: I charged him with making the “game” I knew more socially acceptable.  And then, because I specially care not to hurt his feelings, I added a paragraph.  I told my friend I was copying it for my blog.  It is my response to those who believe that a peacemaker like me must just love everybody.  I may love every life, but I don’t necessarily love what comes out of it.  To any reader, I want you to know that I remain as pissed at the waste I know as human violence as I have been for as long as I have been a conscious political being.  My paragraph to my friend offers some of the fuel that I have learned to accept will never stop being supplied to the violence I hate:

Please take this statement in the spirit in which I offer it, as I rarely do to anyone to anyone personally I am not being pretty intimate with.  I'm not immune from anger.  I feel deep anger at how in moments of violent hubris, as in the triple US assassinations of the 60s--JFK, MLK, RFK.  I have the oversized JFK button I got volunteering for him, my last political prince, when I was 16, on the shelf over the beds in the guest house. JFK was probably going to take a serious shot at dismantling the military-industrial complex in his second term, and to withdraw from Vietnam.  MLK was arousing resistance to US govt violence that swelled across race, class, and region.  RFK led the white nation in mourning the death of MLK when he announced the death at a presidential political rally in the black section of Indianapolis, preventing a riot.  I was so shaken up by the death of RFK (I was tuned live to his CA victory celebration when he was shot) that I forgot that I had my ethics interview for the OH bar exam the next morning (which ironically was D-Day, June 6).  I called to apologize and reschedule.  The receptionist was annoyed but obliging.  On election night 1968, I was at Republican headquarters by the invitation of a 3rd-yr law classmate.  All my idealism about organizing politically to make a better, more peaceful world here in the US pretty much collapsed when it turned out that old Red baiter, opportunist Nixon was the political prize it only took 3 bullets to win.  But I couldn't stop the conviction my parents had drummed in to me repeatedly in childhood--aggression begets aggression.  Rev. Bill Breeden gave me a way out of political resistance when he by example (only 1 to do time for Iran-Contra for "converting" the Poindexter st sign in Odon, Indiana, see Zinn, 587-88) when he told the alt. soc. control systems class about "guerrilla peacefare" as a way of life.  So I channel my anger and really do feel pretty relaxed and happily alive, but my anger runs long and deep.
                And may the humble yet indestructible force of love that JFK, MLK and RFK continue to represent in my own life be with us.  Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Little Rock Reed (ed.), The American Indian in the White Man's Prisons (1993) available as email attachment

     with many thanks to webmaster Ken Mentor--l&p hal

                                                a free email attachment on request
  Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "peacemaking" at
                                                               April 17, 2013

  From inside the Ohio state prison in Lucasville, Little Rock Reed organized the Native North American section of the Fifth International Conference on Penal Abolition that I organized in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1991.  This book is introduced and ended by the late Ojibway elder and Canadian Art Solomon, who opened ICOPA 5 with a blessing, and includes words from Oohwah Nah Chasing Bear, who gave the closing blessing.  I shared many moments of Little Rock's intense life from 1991 through staying with him while he was on a session I organized on American Indian prisoners' rights at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences meeting in Albuquerque, a year before he sadly killed himself.  I have scanned the book, and asked that it be placed for free access at the website of the Critical Criminology Division of the American Society of Criminology,, to honor Rock's memory and that the world might have this unparalleled work.  The pdf attachment is 10mb, although a webmaster who received it reported that my message came to 20mb.  I will gladly send it on request.
   I wrote an endorsement that appeared on the back cover/last page of the book:

"'America' needs to read this book. It is as compelling as Peter Matthiessen' s In the
Spirit of Crazy Horse, Vine Deloria's God is Red and Custer Died for Your Sins, and Churchill
and Vander Wall's Agents of Repression. The American Indian in the White Man's Prisons: A
Story of Genocide is the most comprehensive documentation of human rights abuses in this
country that I have ever seen ..•. •
Deborah Garlin
Human/Indian rights attorney activist,
author, former legal research and
writing professor

"This book is excellent. It was written collectively by brothers and sisters inside the
prisons, and from their hearts. It is a painfully loud cry for justice. My friend, Bishop
Remi Deroo, wrote a book a few years ago called Cries of Victims, Voice of God, which would
be a good subtitle for this one. The American Indian in the White Man's Prisons: A Story of
Genocide is a book that has been needed for a long, long time, and now it is done.•
Arthur Solomon, Anishnabe
Traditional Elder/Spiritual Leader
author, and prisoners' rights activist

"This book is wonderful, POWERFUL! ...
. .. The writers in this volume, most of whom are present or former Native American prisoners
and spiritual leaders, are masters at portraying the pain and suffering of their people
through the written word. They are spread out in so many networks and so routinely
transferred across prisons and prison systems as 'security risks,' that by legal mail and any
other available means, they have among them a knowledge of prison conditions in North America
far surpassing any other news network or body of literature I have seen. They are pressing
the federal and state governments on a variety of issues such as having nuclear waste dumped
on treaty grounds; and the prison awareness of these writers is matched by their global
awareness of the confrontation between fundamentalist white Christian North America, and
indigenous spiritualism. As we enter the second quincentennial of white European invasion of
the Americas, the first peoples are united as never before on what is at stake for themselves
and for mother earth in this basically religious struggle.
Nowhere on this continent is the battle ground bloodier and more raw than in u.s. prisons,
in 'control units' for activist prisoners in particular. Indian activists are routinely
receiving extended imprisonment, getting beaten and assassinated in prisons across the United
States and Canada for no good reason. Here for the first time, Standing Deer Wilson himself
describes how he agreed to help the fads assassinate American Indian Movement leader and
political prisoner Leonard Peltier. Miraculously, both of them live today. That is not true
of many of their brothers and sisters. If you think George Orwell's ~984 is bad, wait until
you read The American Indian in the. White Man's Prisons: A Story of Genocide.
The most remarkable and revealing part of this clash is that Indian prisoners are asking
only to establish culturally relevant rehabilitation programs designed by and for their own
people (if their suggestions in this book were to be taken seriously by policy makers, I
believe the recidivism rates across the U.S. would decrease significantly for all racial and
ethnic groups -- their suggestions are a substantial constructive response to the prison
crisis); and they ask to be allowed visits with their spiritual advisors ('ministers' we
Anglos call them) and to celebrate worship in their own way. They may, like Peltier and
Standing Deer, go on a prolonged hunger strike to obtain these rights; they may go to courts
and legislatures; but perhaps most exaspe.ratingly to their keepers, they are concertedly nonviolent
and open. The strong ones among them, like these writers, follow a moral code so
demanding, and remain serenely themselves in their commitment so steadfastly, as to terrify
their keepers. To understand this terror of the keepers is to understand how we outside
prison walls continue to accept the attempted genocide of the indigenous spirituality in
ourselves, to say nothing of those who would live by it in our midst.
It is true I come to this book as one whose career in teaching and research takes me to
prisoners and into their worlds, but this book is not only for criminologists, it is for nonnative
peoples across the face of this continent, and indeed on behalf of aboriginal rights
Harold E. Pepinsky
Chair, Division on Critical Criminology, American Society of Criminology

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Consciousness and Mysticism

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at
April 14, 2013

                Only in my 69th year have I discovered that for all the advances in telemetry, no one has yet succeeded in measuring or physically mapping the mind’s contents, in particular the contents we are aware of (let alone the subconscious).  No one has yet physically detected the substance of consciousness, or so it is said everywhere I’ve been reading lately about mind and spirit.

                My ethical fallback is that I make my own conscious in self my ultimate epistemological test, my ultimate test of whether to accept what others’ accounts of what they fear, want, and feel.  What part of me has noticed that impulse, such as the impulse to kill or to wash out and refill the contents of someone else’s brain or their own?  What set that feeling off in me?  Under what circumstances would I go with that part of myself?  What else might be going on?

                In a process that my mother used to call my practicing therapy without a license, a process I basically call learning through friendship and empathy.  I act on hypotheses about what might be driving what someone is telling me, and look for confirmation in responses I receive for clues as to whether I get it.  As hypotheses are confirmed, I add to my internal database of stories both of when impulses to violence and impulses to make peace have been allowed free flow.   Stories of violence end in greater separation, division, anger, fear among parties than the parties enter the story having had.  Stories of triggering episodes of transformation of violence end in displays of relaxation and cooperation, sometimes to the point of enjoyment.  I find that these latter stories are quieter in my awareness and others’, but it is from them that I distill common factors like taking time to balance listening with talking.

                My test of whether I believe  the stories I tell myself about myself even in private moments, let alone of whether I accept what others say at face value, is ultimately how I would imagine feeling had the part that is inside myself were to do the same.  That for instance is how it becomes simpler for me to imagine explaining what Compstat had to do with NY police dramatically reducing even “murder” when they began clearing the streets of “suspects.”   What I can most readily driving me to be a part of the “problem” or the “solution” becomes belief that I openly proclaim as I find the occasion to do so.

                What I can both see and feel inside myself, and even talk to myself about, doing or accomplishing myself is ultimately all I ever “know” about what anything means to anyone.  I have not only recently learned that no currently prominent thinker claims to know what consciousness “is”; I have also learned that “mysticism” is a word for claiming no knowledge superior to one’s own personal understanding.  So I guess I’m a mystic.

                That also means that I notice foibles in others only because I want to distance myself inwardly, let alone outwardly, from being the kind of person who would say or do that.  Only this morning, as I was pooh-poohing things a cosmologist was saying in an interview, safe and alone at dawn, I found myself laughing at my own pomposity (a word the cosmologist applied quite appropriately, I thought, to other people) and jotted down some contradictions in myself I’ve sort of given free rein to lately:  I seek to be a leading empath.  I seek to become connected with others by setting myself apart.  And I have to keep telling myself that I don’t have to use compassion to get ahead (any more).  The cosmologist contrasted pomposity or pretense with the humility he believes a calling to science entails, including a willingness to risk making many more wrong guesses about how the world works in order to guess profoundly right on occasion.  Like me, he has reached the conclusion that all of the universe is contained with each of us, including most fearsomely perhaps all the parts of ourselves we most severely condemn in others, lest what little sense of belonging and social security “we” enjoy be taken for being “one of them” or “part of the problem rather than the solution.”  For myself, where there is a problem, I am partly part of it.  That knowledge also gives me a chance to learn, eventually perhaps, that there are certain parts of myself that have become more trouble to act out than all the stuff I got from them before, like the part that drank.  The part is there.  I have nothing against myself for having that part.  I’ve just switched to living and learning from a sober part.  It’s a lot easier when I don’t have to say that one alcoholic personality is subsumes all of me, and try to exorcise it.  Drawing on Eugene V. Debs famous line at his sentencing for seditiously counseling draft avoidance in WWI:  I only know offenders because while there remains any offender in this world, I am one.  Love and peace--hal

Friday, April 12, 2013

a US Catholic bishop


A Member of SPAN and former president of Pax Christi

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at

April 12, 2013

Today on Democracy Now!, the entire hour is devoted to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez’s interview of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, at .  Fr. Gumbleton resigned his administrative duties at the age of 76, and remains a very active member of the US Conference of Bishops.  As Jesus was a dissenting Jew, so Fr. Gumbleton has been a dissenting, politically active, peacemaking Catholic since the late sixties.  In his words, I have just heard peacemaking expressed in the language and texts of Catholic teaching.

As the hour of the interview drew to a close, Fr. Gumbleton left his hosts with his version of a Zen koan or riddle:

                He had just told Amy that when his mother, in her 80s, had surprised him by asking whether her youngest son was going to hell because he is gay, he had plainly told her that he was made in God’s image too, including the part of him that was gay.

                When Juan asked about providing contraception, Fr. Gumbleton answered simply that it was evil to kill a living fetus (which of course makes it unconscionable to him), though granting that when life begins remained disputatious and unclear.  He added that anyone contemplating killing a fetus should pray hard on it.

…a pause…he added that speaking of judging anyone else’s conscience, he as a man was in no position to judge women’s decisions...another pause…and Amy ended the show.

                Fr. Gumbleton:  Let me apply your principles to issues of aiding people in providing information about artificial contraception, let alone providing abortions, as a faithful Catholic.  I believe Carol Gilligan applied it to women’s moral development.  Gilligan noted the prevalence among women of seeing their own abortion decisions as matters of the future both of the child and of the lives of those who would provide for the child.  Life did not begin or end in the individual, but in life collectively.  It included empathy for the living prospects of a child who would survive only barely, if at all.  I agree with you, Fr. Gumbleton, that the question of when life begins and ends is unresolved, as you find it to be in the Church.  Who among us can answer for another where s/he decides life begins or ends?  I certainly haven’t pinned down when the loving soul I most care about in myself was born or died?

                The question remains:  If I figure that I am committing a deadly sin by helping someone kill a viable fetus, do I have the right to refuse?  My legal answer:  Sure, the state doesn’t force you to take taxpayer money that is granted for express public health purposes by state decree.  You don’t have to let someone of the “wrong” color sleep in your bed either; you just can’t collect money for providing the bed, even if mixing races is about as close to going to hell as your faith decrees.  Health care providers don’t have to accept any state or federal government payments, let alone tax exemptions as existing for exclusively apolitical religious purposes.  That applies to personal decisions we make all the time about what kinds of government money we do or don’t accept, just as you yourself decide, given that you comfortably can, to avoid making enough money to pay any taxes for any federal purpose because most of that money would go to war.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services isn’t telling anyone whether s/he has to accept Medicaid money.  I see no reason for those whose conscience leads them to accept or refuse government healthcare payments to pass judgment on which way each other’s consciences dictate, do you?  Love and peace--hal

Monday, April 8, 2013

state criminality as US foreign policy, 1969-1975 today focuses on yesterday's wikileak--their database of the entire set of US unclassified Kissinger records.  Amy Goodman sums up the lead interview with a message from Henry Kissinger to the foreign minister in Turkey in March 1975, which the wikileaks Icelandic investigative reporter said pretty much summed up the attitude of Kissinger's foreign policy: 

The illegal we can do immediately,  the unconstitutional will take a little longer.

That is, state crime was US foreign policy from January 20, 1969, through the administration of Nixon's chosen successor.  Pretty straightforward that.  No secret to me.  Explains my attitude toward serial homicide.  l&p hal 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"stop and frisk" and compstat

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, “peacemaking” at
April 4, 2013
                Critical criminologist Jeffrey Fagan is testifying today at the class action trial on behalf of young latino and black young men in NYC against NYPD for violation of their civil rights under the post-civil war federal law that criminalized violation of people’s constitutional rights “under color of law.”  I have just finished listening to’s live daily news hour.  Segments of the show and the entire show will be available for viewing and downloading by the time I post this blog.  At the end of the second segment, noting that today is the 45th anniversary off MLK’s assassination, she introduced the break: an excerpt of MLK delivering a speech in August 1967, on the tragedy of the predominantly white military-industrial mass bombardment driven tragedy of mostly “colored” US troops and “we see children burned to death with napalm”…Eloquent.  This break ties into the first segment, in which a Korean American UC Santa Cruz professor traces the history of the never-ended (N Korea wants it; US hasn’t given it since 1953) aerial threat to North Korea, starting with indiscriminate overflight of B-29 bombing runs killing 3.5 million North Koreans, 70% civilians, alone, through the recent joint US-S Korean military simulation of an air-led invasion of the North when the regime “topples.”  She calls for acknowledging the inevitable that North Korea will have nuclear weapons, a peace treaty, and the withdrawal of US troops from their 40 bases in the South (vs. China, which complied with the 1953 armistice agreement and withdrew its troops forthwith).  Thank goodness at least one US network is telling US history like the rest of the world feels it.  But I digress.
                The 3rd segment focuses on the trial, the most compelling part to me is a lawyer from the center for constitutional rights outlining the presentation of evidence, including testimony by a former police eyewitness that Commissioner Kelly said NYPD policy was to strike fear into black and Latino folks so they wouldn’t even think of committing crimes.  There is a lot of talk in the segment about the pressure from the top to make the numbers look good precinct by precinct.  What they don’t mention is that 20 years ago, NYPD instituted a policy designed to guarantee that arrests would go up and reported offenses including “murder” would go down.  It was called a statistical evaluation system called Compstat.  If you go to my 2001 “book”—A Criminologist’s Quest for Peace—under “peacemaking” in “Archived Papers” at, you will find my account of Compstat’s effects in chapter 1 on “living criminologically with naked emperors,” the very effects cited by the plaintiffs in this case.  Compstat reaffirmed my faith that criminologists ought to abandon trying to explain what gets counted as “crime” or “criminality.”
                The second segment in today’s show is also well worth watching, on how a not-for-profit group has moved the Associated Press to change its style manual to forbid the use of the “I” word for “immigrant” as an adjective unless it refers to acts, not to people.  All in all, this is show is outstandingly newsworthy and timely!  Love and peace--hal