Friday, June 27, 2014

President Obama and the Central American Child Refugees

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
June 27, 2014

                In a television interview yesterday, I heard President Obama declare that Central American refugee children will be returned home, and literally advise children’s parents to learn to keep them at home.  How cold.  Many of the children have no parents; they have been killed notably in the Honduran war zone.  No more “give me your poor, your huddled masses (of children no less) yearning to breathe free.”  Worse, the CIA was the major drugs for arms operator that devolved into continuing open warfare in Central America.  The United States has been the dominant warrior in the region since the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954.  And now our president pens up and proposes to deport children fleeing from the war zone we created.
                Today the president is asking Congress to appropriate a half billion dollars to further arm “the moderates” in Syria.  And refuses to halt the reign of drone terror in the name of fighting terrorism.
                When it comes to international relations, I’m thinking this president will go down in history as heartless.  It’s a sad thought.            Love and peace, hal

Sunday, June 8, 2014

President Kennedy's Call for Peace


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

June 8, 2014


            My heartfelt thanks to David Ratcliffe for providing a video and text of the commencement address President John F. Kennedy gave on peace at American University, June 10, 1963.  It is said that President Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam and substantially shut down military production had he survived and been re-elected.  My political idealism died with his assassination.  What a breath of fresh air it is to hear how conscious he asks his fellow Americans to be of our own role in pursuing the ultimate objective of full nuclear disarmament and pledge of non-interference in other nations’ internal conflicts, calling for mutual respect between Russians and the people of the US, including admiration for Russians’ recovery from war devastation.  He called for an end to threats.  He called for re-investment in addressing poverty and in education.  How different that is from US increases in troop deployments in Eastern Europe, from President Obama’s chiding European governments for decreasing rather than increasing military expenditure, from his threat of “further sanctions” should Russia not comply with US demands for Russian withdrawal of troops and arms support.  How different the political posture of my country might be today, if a succession of like-minded leaders in the US:  JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, had not been shot down.

            On the bright side, the self-consciousness of our role as a country in making peace rather than perpetuating international warfare is a living presence in the US, as represented by the commemoration Dave Ratcliffe announces below.  It is a part of our national character that bullets cannot kill and that a president’s actions cannot fully determine.  I invite readers to hear again the speech linked in the message below.  Thanks again, Dave.  Love and peace, hal:


From: Dave Ratcliffe []
Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2014 2:11 PM
Subject: John Judge audio appearance at upcoming June 10 American University Address commemoration

Dear All,

 On June 10, John Judge will make an appearance by audio at American University in Washington, DC .  On that day, at noon, supporters of the Coalition on Political Assassinations and the Museum of Hidden History will gather to commemorate the 51st anniversary of a groundbreaking speech made by President John F. Kennedy, and also to honor the life and work of John Judge. The event will feature an audio recording of John reading a portion of President Kennedy's speech.

The American University speech, titled A Strategy of Peace, was a commencement address delivered by President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 1963. In the speech, Kennedy announced his agreement to negotiations "toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty" (which resulted in the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty) and also announced, for the purpose of showing "good faith and solemn convictions," his decision to unilaterally suspend all US atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as long as all other nations would do the same. The speech was unusual in its peaceful outreach to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and is remembered as one of Kennedy’s finest and most important speeches. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

 The first appendix of Marty Schotz's  History Will Not Absolve Us is the text of the address.  That text has been extended to reflect the words actually spoken by President Kennedy along with a film viewer and audio player at the top of the file.  (A server redirect is at <>.)

An indication of the yearning for peace people in the U.S. had following the terrifying days of the Cuban missile crisis was that the first occurrence of applause in President Kennedy’s speech was his announcement that “high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty.” Kennedy began the next sentence, “Our hope must be tempered” and had to pause for 8 seconds to let the audience applause subside before continuing. Applause caused the President to pause a second time (again for 8 seconds) after stating in the following paragraph that the U.S. “does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so.” (First at 22:04 and second at 22:37 min:sec in the audio and video recordings provided with the transcript of JFK’s address.)

There is a plaque at American University (see image above) which commemorates President Kennedy's speech.  It is at the southern end of Reeves Field, which you can see on the left edge of this map of the campus: <>. Please join Randy Benson and others in front of the plaque at noon on June 10 for this annual event.



Friday, June 6, 2014

the drug war, a theater of the absurd


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

June 6, 2014


                My home state of Ohio is launching a war on heroin.  A senior legislator is heard to call on the US government further to strengthen the border with Mexico, and on the Mexican government to eradicate poppy fields.

                In Switzerland, habitual heroin users go to clinics to be maintained.  Opiates are not toxic.  The body balances its pharmacological equivalent, endorphins, with a blocker that athletes who stop training notice as aches and pains.  Heroin is the most potent opiate.  A sudden increase in dosage can shut down the respiratory system, can kill.

The danger of pure heroin is not that it is poison; the body digests it as it does a biological equivalent, the endorphins.  And a person, who as in Switzerland maintains a balance between heroin and the blockers, is fully functional.  I hear a judge in Dayton, Ohio, tell a radio interviewer confirm how often people who run out of prescriptions for powerful, goodness knows how toxic, patent medicines like Oxycontin and Percocet, because heroin is cheaper.  It is not only cheaper, as a biological rather than pharmaceutical agent, safer than artificial prescription painkillers.  As to a weaker opiate, codeine, requiring a prescription in the US, Tylonel with codeine is available over the counter in Canada.  At the other end of the painkilling chain, Tylenol is toxic to the liver, while willow bark, in the form of aspirin.

In essence, the drug war is a battle to relegate users who can afford it to patented concoctions from drug producers, in a futile effort to demonize a therapeutic, naturally occurring medicinal life form that wars cannot destroy.

Then there’s cocaine and crack.  My thanks go to Travis Linnemann on a punishment and social control website, for posting a copy of a 1914 New York Times front page story demonizing “Negro Cocaine Fiends” in the Deep South, at .  I weigh this against several trips my wife and I made to visit our daughter when she was an agricultural Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia.  When I tried chewing coca before climbing a hill with my suitcase in Cochabamba, I found that indeed I wasn’t winded.  Without a second thought, I picked up a box of coca tea bags at the airport on the way home, good for digestion.  Cocaine became distilled from coca leaves in the nineteenth century because the unrefrigerated coca leaves got moldy onboard ships bringing them to the States.  As traced by Alfred Lindesmith in his books on opiate addiction and the law, following the Civil War, morphine became touted as a cure for alcoholism, cocaine became substituted as a cure for morphine addiction (and Pope Leopold carried a flask of cocaine-infused red wine on his belt), and finally, heroin injection kits were sold to cure addiction to all its predecessors.

Doctors liberally prescribe Ritalin even to children to keep them in their seats at school; in my schoolchild years it was Dexedrine, widely used by air force pilots to stay awake.

Marijuana use is now being legalized across the country, even as drug courts for adults and children spring up to widen the net of drug warfare.  Drug warfare as we know it in my country simply favors doctors’ prescription of corporately owned designer drugs over medicine mother nature provides.  Across the spectrum, to me, the war on drugs is a theater of the absurd.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Crime" is the problem


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

June 2, 2014


                With its Task Force Report on Assessment, directed by Lloyd Ohlin, in 1967, the obsession with making “complete” police reporting of 6, then 7 “index offenses” and “clearance rates” by arrest look politically correct took full force, as monitored by the Law Enforcement Administration—the point at which the US Justice Department assumed control of criminological research funding in the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control Act.  That same year, Jerome Skolnick published Justice Without Trial, dividing police forces into three styles, one of which Skolnick found in small middle-class communities, the “service” style.  There the police were servants of their residents’ needs; there law enforcement and crime reporting was minimized.  Sadly, 46 years later, I see the same obsession among us criminologists regardless of political persuasion, critical or not.  Across the political and methodological spectrum, in research as in policy, references to policing have become defined as “law enforcement.”

                My own study of crime reporting began with my dissertation on how Minneapolis police responded to calls for service with offense reports in 1972, and was concluded in my study of police crime recording in Sheffield, UK, where I concluded that it was time for a moratorium on counting crime and criminality.  Anyone interested in my varied career studying crime and criminality measurements can find them in the list of publications at the end of page proofs of my Peacemaking” 2006 book, online at .  Since retirement in 2009, in my peacemaking blog, I have commented on the flurry of exposes of NYPD crime statistics manipulations: keeping “crime” down, filling arrest quotas.

                My frustration with the widespread use of crime and criminality figures as indicators of “evidence based” “best practices” has been compounded by my involvement, from 1992 until my retirement, in custody cases and with survivors of intergenerational satanic and pagan “ritual abuse,” in conjunction with my feminist justice seminar on children’s rights and safety, with mothers of sexually assaulted children in child custody cases, to survivors of cults that performed human sacrifices.  Alone among criminologists as I seem to be, I believe that adult sexual assaults on children including murder are a more unrestrainedly, personally violent class of ourselves than poor young men of color.  And most certainly to me, adult violence against children is at once subdued and omnipresent.  We who invest in nlaw enforcement against personal violence overlook the worst and most widespread personal violence. I have just come back from one of my favorite conferences, the annual meeting of the Justice Studies Association.  From its inception, JSA has been dedicated in part to promoting “restorative justice.”  Decades ago, I found myself proposing mechanisms for patrol officers and citizens to agree on what kinds of information about job performance went into the officers’ personnel files.  Now, I find the greatest inspiration in the ways communities are promoting circles to address all manner of community concerns, including among victims of violence and those who have hurt them.  It is rather astonishing that for all the ways and places circles are used to agree on social issues, I find no mention of using circles to adjust police-citizen relations and priorities.

                All it would take is to allow officers time on duty to join community circles in their districts, not as the focus of discussion, but to become connected with a variety of community residents and actors, to discover what they could contribute to a sense of personal safety, and contribute to fill community needs.  In this oral tradition what circle members do and expect is a continuing re-evaluation process in itself that no evaluation record can hope to capture in counts of crimes and criminals to fight.  When promotion is under consideration, letters of recommendation and commendation can become a prime measure of job performance.

For all the concern these days over mass incarceration, it is the police who provide the entry point by the arrests they make.  The current statistical system favors police forces who make more arrests.  While some argue that lower crime figures mean that fewer people should be fed into the prison-industrial complex, champions of law enforcement can argue that crime is down because more offenders are being taken off the streets.  All are fighting a chimera—certified crimes by certified criminals—in the name of promoting public safety.

The practical issue is not how much violence we can count, and how many offenders we can call to account, but how we learn what our social problems are, and how we organize ourselves to respond to them.  Policing stands alone in the criminal justice system for not employing circle decision-making.  May policing become a matter of community involvement rather than a matter of law enforcement.  For practitioners, policy-makers and researchers as a whole, fixation on “crime” is our major problem.  Love and peace, hal