Wednesday, October 19, 2016
"[O]ne of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. ...
[T]ruthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker's own mouth."
Source: Ohio v. Reiner
, 532 U.S. 17 (2001) (per curiam) as quoted in You Have the Right to Remain Innocent
by James Duane (Little A, 2016) p. 63.
As Duane persuasively explains in his book, the 5th Amendment has steadily been hollowed-out with the support of Democrats and Republicans alike and he therefore advises readers: "Don't plead the fifth" but "Plead the sixth".
: "Innocent? Don't talk to the police
" by James Duane in the Los Angeles Times
(Aug. 26, 2015).
Labels: civil liberties, law, police repression, quotations, United States
Monday, October 03, 2016
... I can do anything I want, whenever I want, if I feel it's in the people's best interest.
Source: Character of US gov't. agent Kent Mansley in The Iron Giant
Labels: film & television, government, quotations
Marc Antony: Queens! Queens! Strip them naked as any other woman, they're no longer queens
Rufio: It is also difficult to tell the rank of a naked general. And generals without armies are naked indeed.
(1963) with Richard Burton as Mark Antony and Martin Landau as Rufio.
Labels: film & television, gender, military, quotations
If you vote for the good, evil wins.
Source: An avowed Bernie Sanders supporter (and supporter of evil) on why she's voting for Hillary Clinton.
Labels: politics, quotations, voting
In 1927, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote the infamous majority opinion in Buck v. Bell
, which gave the US Supreme Court's imprimatur to compulsory eugenic sterilization. While reading about Holmes in Adam Cohen's less-than-groundbreaking Imbeciles:
The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck
(Penguin Pr., 2016) I was surprised to learn about Holmes' ties to prominent American Zionists.
Holmes' Zionist coterie included Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, both of whom eventually became US Supreme Court Justices. According to Alison Weir, author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of how the United States was used to Create Israel
(CreateSpace, 2014), quoting Peter Grose, Brandeis and Frankfurter were both members of "an elitist secret society called the Parushim, the Hebrew word for 'Pharisees' and 'separate,' which grew out of Harvard's Menorah Society." Also according to Weir, quoting Sarah Schmidt, membership in the Parushim required candidates to give "specific assurances regarding devotion and resolution to the Zionist cause ..."
According to Cohen (p. 228), it was Brandeis who raised the money to fund Holmes' law professorship at the Harvard Law School in 1882. Cohen also reports (p. 238) that Frankfurter and Walter Lippman, co-founder of the New Republic
, formed the core of "the House of Truth", an "influential group" that "adopted Holmes" as their "progressive champion" on the Supreme Court. Once so adopted, "the pages of the New Republic
and the Harvard Law Review
began to fill up with accolades" for Holmes.
According to American Zionism: Missions and Politics
by Jeffrey Gurock, ed., (Routledge, 1998, 2013) Lippmann was among those "co-opted to leadership or special assignments for the regular and emergency Zionist organizations" Brandeis "controlled" (p. 25). When Brandeis and Chaim Weizmann
became embroiled in dispute following an international Zionist leadership conference in London in 1920, Lippmann tried to mediate (p. 66, n. 110).
Lippmann was also a key member of Col. House's "Inquiry," an unofficial post-war foreign policy planning group created to bypass the State Department. The secretive Inquiry was the brainchild of Felix Frankfurter (Godfrey Hodgson. Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
(Yale UP, 2006) p. 158).
When a journalist publicly revealed the existence of the Inquiry "A furious Wilson suspected Frankfurter" and although Lippmann tried to provide cover for Frankfurter, "Colonel House was not dissuaded. 'The Jews from every tribe have descended in force, they seem determined to break in with a jimmy if they are not let in,' House complained to the President" (Ronald Steel. Walter Lippmann and the American Century
. (Transaction Publishers, 2008) pp. 129-130).
One of the most important things that came out of the Inquiry was Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points
, which Frankfurter claimed was "drafted more or less" by Lippmann (Howard Grief. The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel Under International Law
(Mazo Publishers, 2008) p. 297). Instead of promoting Arab self-determination, the twelfth point help lay the basis for the permanent dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the splitting off of Palestine, under a pro-Zionist British mandate, from Syria, under a French mandate.
Cohen describes Zionist Harold Laski
as a mere "friend" of Holmes (pp. 245, 282). Laski was, in point of fact, Holmes' close confidant. When the extensive correspondence of the two men was published in 1953 (Harvard UP) as the Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence Of Mr. Justice Holmes And Harold J Laski, 1916-1935
, it contained a foreword by Felix Frankfurter.
It appears from Cohen's book that none of the Zionist members Holmes' "progressive claque" ever publicly criticized Buck v. Bell
although Lippmann had written a series critiquing intelligence testing in 1922. Judging from their published letters, Laski apparently said nothing privately either even though Holmes referred to the case in three letters in 1927.
For his part Brandeis voted with Holmes in the majority to allow the State of Virginia to surgically sterilize Carrie Buck against her will. About a year later, Brandeis would cite Buck v. Bell
affirmatively in his dissent in Olmstead v. United States
. Brandeis cited the case in support of an argument for expansive state power, asserting the "general limitations on the powers of Government, like those embodied in the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, do not forbid the United States or the States from meeting modern conditions by regulations which, 'a century ago, or even half a century ago, probably would have been rejected as arbitrary and oppressive.' "
Buck v. Bell
would later be cited affirmatively in Nuremberg, Germany
Karl Brandt was the chief Nazi medical officer; he was also Adolf Hitler's personal physician. Brandt's attorney introduced documents quoting extensively from the eugenics literature. He cited Harry Laughlin's 1914 proposal calling for the sterilization of fifteen million Americans, and also quoted a translation of the Buck opinion from a German text on eugenics. Other Nuremberg defendants also cited Buck, and a translation of the Holmes opinion appeared again as a defense example in the exhibit "Race Protection Laws of Other Countries."
Labels: eugenics, history, Jr., law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Zionism
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Think about -- putting into context -- somebody moves in and decides to take your house over. You know, you're going to fight for it and that's exactly what they did.
Source: US Army Staff Sergeant Kevin Rice speaking (at 5:57) in the 2014 documentary film Korengal
on Afghani resistance to US forces in the Korangal Valley. US forces maintained a presence in the "Valley of Death
" for about five years. In April 2010, US forces abandoned the outposts there
. By the time commanders decided the valley wasn't so vital
after all, forty-two American troops had died in fighting and hundreds more were wounded along with uncounted Afghani and other casualties.
|A U.S. Army soldier watches as U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets destroy "insurgent" positions with a |
bomb, after a 20-minute gun battle in Kunar province, Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, Aug. 13, 2009.
: "My Worst Nightmare and the Korengal Valley
" from the On Violence
Labels: Afghanistan, film & television, military, quotations, War
Sunday, September 11, 2016
In 2001, Congress designated
September 11th as "Patriot Day". In honor of the day here are some thoughts from one American statesman on patriotism,
war, and civil liberties:
The true patriot … rejects the notion that patriotism
means obedience to the state. Unquestioned loyalty to
the state is especially demanded in times of war. Lack
of support for a war policy is said to be unpatriotic. …
Yet, it is dissent from government policies that defines
the true patriot and champion of liberty ... we must not
forget that the true patriot is the one who protests in
spite of the consequences …
We are continually being reminded that 9/11 has
Unfortunately, the policy that needed most to be
changed, that is, our policy of foreign interventionism,
has only been expanded …
The record since September 11th is dismal. Respect for liberty has rapidly deteriorated. Many of the new laws passed after 9/11 had, in fact, been proposed long before that attack. The political atmosphere after that attack simply made it more possible to pass such legislation. The fear generated by 9/11 became an opportunity for those seeking to promote the power of the state domestically, just as it served to falsely justify the long-planned invasion of Iraq …
Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the war are not supporting the troops. The cliché 'Support the Troops' is incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the policy, no matter how flawed it may be.
Unsound policy can never help the troops. Keeping the troops out of harm's way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way of protecting the troops. With this understanding, just who can claim the title of 'patriot'?
Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for which we will be held responsible, or the liberties of all Americans become so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done. Time is short, but our course of action should be clear. Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required. Each of us must choose which course of action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.
But let it not be said that we did nothing …
Source: US Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas). "Patriotism
." Congressional Record
153:84 (May 22, 2007; 110th US Congress) pp. H5609-H5612.
Labels: 9/11, freedom, military, patriotism, quotations, Ron Paul, terrorism, United States, War
Monday, August 08, 2016
US resident and Turkish expatriate Fethullah Gülen has been
fingered as a coup plotter by the Turkish regime. It's hard to
know exactly who was behind the events in Turkey earlier this
month but Gülen certainly has an interesting background. In 2012,
when Gülen was still reckoned as an ally of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
he was discussed at length in a New Yorker
Erdoğan. Citing the work of indicted Turkish journalist Ahmet
, author Dexter
Gülen is considered one of Erdoğan’s most powerful allies but
is reviled and feared by much of Turkey’s population. Born in
either 1938 or 1941—publications distributed by his organization
cite both dates—Gülen fled to the United States in 1999, as
Turkish authorities were preparing to arrest him, for “trying to
undermine the secular system.” He now lives in Saylorsburg,
Pennsylvania, in the Poconos, and has emerged as the leader of
one of the world’s most important Islamic orders, surpassed only
by the Muslim Brotherhood in its reach and influence. His public
message, in the books and glossy pamphlets his acolytes
distribute, is almost entirely apolitical, but his critics
suspect that his ambitions are deeply political.
Gülen’s followers operate a network of schools in a hundred and
thirty countries. They also run a network of for-profit
college-prep courses, which some Turks say earns tens of
millions of dollars in annual revenue. (A prominent Gülenist in
Turkey told me that the courses were not that profitable.)
Turkish businessmen donate money to build Gülenist schools in
countries whose markets they are trying to enter, and the
schools serve as beachheads of good will. According to the
movement’s followers, Turkish businessmen who are Gülenists
often make deals with one another, sometimes in Turkey,
sometimes in faraway lands that have nonexistent or weak
governments. In person, Gülenists often come across as amalgams
of Dale Carnegie and Christian missionaries: clean-cut, polite,
and relentlessly cheerful.
In Turkey, Gülen’s followers own the newspaper Zaman and
the TV channel Samanyolu, which editorialize on behalf of the
A.K. Party and the Ergenekon prosecutions. (While Erdoğan
himself is not believed to be a Gülenist, President Gül is said
to be one, as are several other senior members of the
government.) Gülen is thought to have between two and three
million followers in Turkey, including as many as sixty members
of parliament—about ten per cent of the total.
The Gülenists insist that the organization is too diffuse to
function as a political movement. But many Turks say that the
Gülenists have ambitions and that these may or may not include
Erdoğan. A former member of parliament who was once a confidant
of Erdoğan’s told me that, in 1999, he met Gülen in
Pennsylvania. Gülen, he said, told him that he had a
twenty-five-year plan to take control of the Turkish state, and
that this would be accomplished by a group of followers he
referred to as “the Golden Generation.” “There isn’t any
question that Gülen wants political power,” the former
legislator told me. (A spokesman for Gülen denied that he had
ever advocated “regime change.”)
The most widely held perception in Turkey is that the Gülenists
have taken control of the Turkish National Police—and that they
are behind the arrests in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases.
James Jeffrey, a former Ambassador to Turkey, wrote in a cable
to Washington, revealed by WikiLeaks, that at least part of that
proposition appeared to be true: “The assertion that the T.N.P.
is controlled by the Gülenists is impossible to confirm, but we
have found no one who disputes it.”
Gülen has cultivated some powerful friends in the United States.
When U.S. officials were trying to expel him to face criminal
charges in Turkey, he was able to call on Graham Fuller, a
former senior official in the C.I.A., to help him remain. When
he applied for permanent residency, Morton Abramowitz, another
former Ambassador to Turkey, wrote a letter on his behalf.
Fuller’s relationship with Gülen, in particular, has prompted
conspiracy theories in Turkey about the C.I.A.’s involvement in
also teamed up with neo-con Eric
, another Jewish former US ambassador to Turkey, to rise to
Gülen's defense in 2014 in a Washington
. In 2013, The
Economist also took note
of a possible Israeli
dimension in the Gülen-Erdoğan split: "A source of enduring
speculation is why Mr Erdogan has chosen this moment to go after
the Gulenists. The most likely answer is that Mr Erdogan wanted
them to show their hand well before the presidential elections. An
increasingly paranoid prime minister is said to believe that a
'Gulen-Israel axis' is bent on unseating him. His suspicions were
fuelled by Mr Gulen’s very public criticism of Turkey’s rupture
with Israel in 2010."
Earlier this month, just days after the attempted coup, Raphael
Ahren wrote a piece
in the Times of Israel
mentioning Gülen at length.
[Efrat] Aviv, who teaches at Bar-Ilan’s Middle Eastern
studies department and is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies, has done extensive research into the moderate
Islamic Gülen movement and its connection to Israel and the global
In an article
she published in Turkish Policy Quarterly six years ago, she
researched Fethullah Gülen’s interfaith outreach, which included
meetings with several Jewish groups both in Turkey and the US.
“Gülen sees great importance in disseminating tolerance because of
the fact that the world is a global village, and it is imperative
to lay the foundation for communication without making
distinctions between Christians, Jews, Atheists or Buddhists,” she
“Because of this approach, of perceiving dialogue as both a
religious and a moral-national-social obligation, Gülen met with
countless leaders and key people from the three religions during
the 1990s. He met with Jewish leaders, both secular and religious,
inside and outside of Turkey, in order to promote dialogue between
Judaism and Islam.”
In the late 1990s, the reclusive imam met at least twice with
senior delegations from the Anti-Defamation League, which at the
time was headed by Abraham Foxman, according to Aviv.
“Gülen talked about his moderation regarding Islam, the Jews,
Israel, and expressed reasonable and non-extremist views,” Kenneth
Jacobson, who currently serves as the ADL’s deputy national
director, recalled in 2005 about his first personal encounter with
Gülen in New Jersey. “It was a very good meeting, very friendly.”
Jacobson’s second meeting with Gülen took place in 1998 at Gülen’s
initiative — and at his Istanbul residence — and was also attended
by then-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations Leon Levy, Aviv writes.
“We met, and it was another pleasant encounter. We were given
gifts,” Jacobson recalled, adding that Gülen reiterated his
message of moderation. “He presented himself as someone that cares
about moderation in Turkey and cares about a moderate Islam and as
someone interested in good relations with Israel and the Jews.”
In 1998, Gülen met with Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu
Bakshi Doron in Istanbul, a televised visit that came about at
the initiative of the cultural attaché in the Israeli consulate.
“This was the first time that a chief rabbi came on an official
visit from Israel to Turkey, and the second visit of a chief
rabbi in a Muslim country,” according to Aviv.
Israel’s consul-general to Istanbul at the time, Eli Shaked,
participated in the meeting.
“The Israeli Foreign Ministry thought that a meeting with Gülen
could help quell the hatred and resistance to Israel and/or
Jews, and therefore they authorized it,” Aviv wrote.
More recently, Alon Goshen-Gottstein, also writing
in the Times of Israel
Israelis consider the Mavi Marmara a watershed point in
Israeli-Turkish relations, despite gradual difficulties that had
set in the relationship up to that point. Israel has recently
patched things up with Turkey, more or less. But one
relationship was permanently damaged and the Mavi Marmara played
a major part in its unraveling. This is the relationship of
Prime Minister, now President, Erdogan and Gulen. The two had
been close in terms of political collaboration, even though
Gulen was all the while in the United States and even though he
does not represent a political party but a broad social and
educational movement. When asked by a journalist about the Mavi
Marmara and the Gaza flotilla, Gulen condemned the initiative,
arguing for Israel’s sovereignty and urging that support for
Gaza ought to be channeled through the state authority ...
He also recognizes Israel, enough to have distanced himself from
Erdogan’s position on Gaza and the flotilla ... I believe Israel owes a debt of gratitude to a principled
Muslim voice that recognized its sovereignty, at severe cost.
Given Fethullah Gülen's pro-Israel bona fides
is it any
wonder that his star seems to be rising in the West and the New
has given him a platform for him to profess
his innocence and to critique Erdoğan as "an autocrat who is
turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against
constitutional government"? You can read Gülen's
on the Mavi
in the Wall Street Journal
P.S. Gülen also likes
Labels: Islam, Israel, Turkey, United States
Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president but he still continues to inspire false hope in some folks on the matter of Palestine-Israel. Sanders' retrograde positions on Palestine-Israel should not be surprising. He is, after all, an old kibbutznik. Like Noam Chomsky
, Sanders was involved with the Stalinist Hashomer Hatzair
The Hashomer Hatzair was also "active
in the Haganah, the underground army of the Jewish community in
Together with the other kibbutz federations, its
members formed the nucleus of the Palmach, which served as the
shock troops in the war for Israel's independence."
and his wife
worked at the Jews-only Kibbutz
near Haifa. Kibbutz
Sha'ar Ha'amakim was built
on land inhabited by Palestinians
for generations but Zionist Jews made a deal with the infamous Sursuk
, absentee landlords in Beirut, to sell
under the fellaheen
Sanders has also
aligned himself with a rabid religious Zionist
, the late Rabbi
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
, and his Chabad movement.
According to Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Baruch Goldstein,
perpetrator of the 1994 Hebron massacre was also affiliated with
Chabad (see page 61 and chap. 6 in Jewish Fundamentalism in
Chabad is also known for erecting giant
menorahs on public property during Hanukkah and Sanders
helped out with that, too
. In County
of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union
, the case Sanders
, the US Supreme Court decided that a nativity scene had to go but a menorah was okay.
The foundations of Sanders' socialism (and Jewish identity) are
troubling to say the least. If Sanders had publicly and fully
repudiated his ties to Stalinism, the violent, Jewish supremacist
Hashomer Hatzair/kibbutz movement, and Schneerson and Chabad or at
least denounced their most problematic aspects then that would one
thing. As far as I know Sanders has done nothing of the sort.
Labels: Israel, Palestine, politics
Sunday, July 24, 2016
The above advertisement was published
in the American Rifleman
in November 1940.
Labels: guns, history
Some acts, most people would agree, are intrinsically wrong and evil. Murder is one such case. Therefore, it makes a certain amount of sense for the government to have laws against murder. It makes sense not because anyone thinks making murder a crime will stop all murders but because it probably has some ex ante
preventive effect and, more importantly, a law expedites punishment and that usually has an, albeit limited, ex post
Fewer people would agree that gun ownership is intrinsically wrong and evil and I am not one of them. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of any gun law that makes much sense. The folly of gun control was highlighted once again in Munich, Germany where Ali Sonboly killed nine people with a gun recently. Although as the Telegraph (UK) notes
, "Germany has relatively tough gun laws and there is no way the teen could legally have obtained the gun in his own country" the government there is calling for "EU-wide gun controls".
Here's the real kicker from the Telegraph
A 2014 police inquiry found there are 5.6 [million] legally owned weapons in Germany — including shotguns and hunting rifles — but estimated there are four times as many illegal weapons in the country. Just five per cent of guns recovered from crime scenes were legally held with a license.
In other words, 95% of guns used by criminals in Germany were illegal. So, just who are the German authorities most likely to disarm? Hint: It's not the criminals. Sure, some criminals might be momentarily inconvenienced but at what expense to otherwise law-abiding Germans? You can be sure, too, the black market will expand to fill any void created by the new gun laws.
Perhaps, the German government should just make the country a gun-free zone. Have a look at the photo below to see how well that worked out last year in Chattanooga
: "Will Obama call for truck control after Nice attack
Labels: civil liberties, crime, critical thinking, guns
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The video above is from a 2006 ABC News 20/20
segment entitled "A Self-Made Man
". Norah Vincent's experiences as "Ned" were the basis of her book Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man
Labels: gender, video
Sunday, July 17, 2016
... anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn't read enough books.
Source: Character of Noreen in Saga
(Image Comics, 2016) vol. 6, chap. 34 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn.
Labels: art and literature, critical thinking, quotations
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Where there is greatness, great government or power ... error is also great.
Source: Character of Pontius Pilate in William Wyler's film Ben-Hur
Labels: anarchism, film & television, government, quotations
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Creative Maladjustment Week
is July 7 - July 14. Here is a bit about the event from cmweek.org:
Philosophy and Principles
"There are some things in our world to which I'm proud to be maladjusted
." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who are the Creatively Maladjusted?
- Critical thinkers: The creatively maladjusted focus on a problematic area of society (something to which people of good will simply can't be adjusted) with critical thought, examining the history of a bad idea, its branchings and consequences — the better to weed it out, roots and all.
- Architects of alternatives: Not merely content with tearing down an existing structure, the creatively maladjusted offer alternatives and are willing to demonstrate those alternatives with good cheer and positivity in public places. They believe that loving and loud public action is the foundation of a true non-violent revolution.
- Believers in humanity: Most importantly of all, the creatively maladjusted resist the pressure to dehumanize any and all of their fellow men. They believe in the inherent uniqueness and worth of every individual and demonstrate this belief in every action they take.
Creative maladjustment is a natural human response to oppression, an organic and highly adaptable way to oppose injustice.
What are they creatively maladjusted to?
The Creatively Maladjusted are active on a variety of important societal issues, including:
• Racial equality • Religious tolerance • Economic fairness • Peace • Ecological sustainability and energy security • Individual liberty • Fighting psychiatric profiling and human rights abuses in the mental health system • Transparent and corruption-free government • Community and family values
The creatively maladjusted are incredibly diverse in the societal problems they aim to solve, but they are united in their opposition to the basis of all oppression: "man's inhumanity to man."
Labels: critical thinking, culture, psychology
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Police officer: "Hey Major. How is the war on terror going?"
Major Thomas Egan, USAF: "Kind of like your war on drugs."
Source: Good Kill
(2015) by Andrew Niccol.
: " 'Good Kill' Asks, 'Why Do We Wear Our Flight Suits, Sir?'
Labels: crime, drones, film & television, War
The post below is by Artesian Royalty and is reposted from
In conversations about US wars I often encounter puzzlement when raising the issue of the widespread lack of moral courage
among US troops and their officers in failing to refuse to carry out, prevent, or punish some unethical action
or failing to refuse, for example, to participate in an unjust, undeclared war initiated on false pretenses.
People seem to tend to equate courage in a military context with
physical courage—the willingness to hazard life and limb in battle or
some other dangerous situation. I've encountered this reaction among
life-long civilians and veterans. When I was on active duty, I found it
among other military personnel who seemed to think that contractual
obligation, obedience, or—to put it generously—duty trumped the requirements of moral consideration
I recently read something by Ulysses S. Grant invoking the concept.
Grant is speaking, circa 1879, about "moral courage" in a military
context decades before the formulation of, for example, the Nüremberg principles
. Here is what he said
I know the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War.
I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very
strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more
wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so
at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough
to resign. I had taken an oath to serve eight years, unless sooner
discharged, and I considered my supreme duty was to my flag. I had a
horror of the Mexican War, and I have always believed that it was on our
part most unjust. The wickedness was ... in the conduct of our
government in declaring war. ... We had no claim on Mexico. Texas had no
claim beyond the Nueces River, and yet we pushed on to the Rio Grande
and crossed it. I am always ashamed of my country when I think of that
Grant served as a junior officer in the war and was twice promoted in
recognition of his bravery in battle. He cites his oath of service and
devotion to "duty" in explanation of his failure to resign rather than
help wage an unjust war. Despite this, Grant clearly laments and faults
himself for having insufficient "moral courage".
The Mexican American War, along with his opposition to slavery, inspired Henry David Thoreau to pen his famous essay "Civil Disobedience
". Grant and Thoreau both remind us that civil obedience
is, perhaps, a greater threat to life and liberty than civil disobedience.
*Quoted in John Russell Young. Around the World with General Grant
. Vol. II. (New York: American News Co., 1879) pp. 447-448.
: "Green Berets: Who's the Coward?
Labels: history, Mexico, military, politics, quotations, United States, War
Saturday, June 18, 2016
We have to hear again and again who God is for us and what God has done on our behalf. We must free each other from bondage through our confession and forgiveness.
I think this is why we at House for All Sinners and Saints sometimes say that we are religious but not spiritual.
Spiritual feels individual and escapist. But to be
religious (despite all the negative associations with that word) is to be human in the midst of other humans who are as equally messed up and obnoxious and foreign as ourselves.
Source: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People
(Convergent Books, 2015) p. 170 (emphasis in original).
Labels: Christianity, quotations, religion
Monday, June 13, 2016
I wish people would promote policies that truly address the real threat we face, instead of ones that promote bigotry and prejudice. It's extremely disturbing to see people take advantage of a national tragedy to score political points or to make a profit at the expense of dividing our nation. I do believe that gun ownership is seen as a central part of American identity for a large group of people, and so by excluding Muslims from that, it reinforces the idea of Muslims as the "other." And that's a big problem. Owning guns is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution either protects all of us or none of us. Our position is that you can't let our enemies win by allowing us to divide ourselves as Americans.
Source: Hassan Shibly as quoted in "This Is What It's Like to Be a Muslim-American Gun Owner
" on The Trace
, July 29, 2015.
See also: "Blood, faith unite Muslims, LGBT and others after rampage
" by Bethany Rodgers in the Orlando Sentinel
, June 12, 2016.
Labels: civil liberties, guns, Islam
Pink Pistols Saddened by Attack on Orlando Club
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Philadelphia, PA) June 12, 2016: Early Sunday, around 2AM Eastern Time, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was attacked by an armed individual. Approximately 20 persons were killed and over double that wounded when the attacker, whom police have identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old from Fort Pierce, FL, pushed his way into the club and opened fire on patrons. Weapons carried by Mateen are reported as an "assault-type" rifle
, a handgun, and a suspected explosive device. UPDATE: Reports are that the death toll is around 50, with over 50 more wounded.
"It appears he was organized and well-prepared," said Orlando Police Chief John Mina at a news conference on Sunday. Additionally, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said "This is an incident … that we certainly classify as a domestic terror incident." Authorities say the FBI is involved. Preliminary information reveals that Omar Mateen's family is from Afghanistan, though Omar may have been born in the United States. His family is reported to be distraught at the actions and loss of their son.
Gwendolyn Patton, First Speaker of the Pink Pistols, an international GLBT self-defense organization, warns people not to jump immediately to the assailant’s guns as the object of blame, but to concentrate instead on Mateen's violent acts. "The Pink Pistols gives condolences to all family and friends of those killed and injured at Pulse," began Patton. "This is exactly the kind of heinous act that justifies our existence. At such a time of tragedy, let us not reach for the low-hanging fruit of blaming the killer's guns. Let us stay focused on the fact that someone hated gay people so much they were ready to kill or injure so many. A human being did this. The human being's tools are unimportant when compared to the bleakness of that person's soul. I say again, GUNS did not do this. A human being did this, a dead human being. Our job now is not to demonize the man's tools, but to condemn his acts and work to prevent such acts in the future."
Patton's concerns are that knee-jerk gun-control efforts may make preventing future events harder rather than easier, as only the law-abiding potential victims will be affected by such laws. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to foresee such an event,” continues Patton, "But if they cannot be prevented, then they must be stopped as fast as someone tries to start them."
Some bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are difficult to protect because many states forbid the carrying of weapons where alcohol is served
, but that just as one might have a designated driver who stays sober, one might have a designated carrier with a concealed-carry permit who goes armed and does not drink. "It's sad that we must consider such things, but when there are persons out there who mean us harm, we must find ways to protect ourselves within the law." Patton concludes.
The Pink Pistols is an international organization dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community. Chapters may be found across the United States and Canada. Though the Pink Pistols is for the GLBTQ community, it is not solely composed of the GLBTQ community, and all are welcome to join.
Gwendolyn S. Patton
First Speaker, Pink Pistols International
Ph: (610) 879-2364
Labels: crime, guns, LGBT, violence
Sunday, May 29, 2016
About 25 years ago I was a computer technical assistant at a large public university. I remember then being struck and puzzled by the cult-like loyalty
of my boss and two of my co-workers to Apple and its products. The Macintosh GUI was superior to what Microsoft had on offer at the time but the devotion to Apple
exceeded what such a difference could rationally command.
Having recently watched Alex Gibney's excellent documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
I now have much greater insight as to why so many Apple consumers have invested themselves
into the products of a huge multinational profit-making entity. Steve Jobs and his PR team deliberately and deftly branded Apple as a countercultural corporation
(an oxymoron, to be sure) and the siren call of this manipulative marketing
(a redundacy, to be sure) seduced tens of millions and helped changed society for the worse
Labels: culture, film & television, psychology, technology, video
There are some real flaws
in this film but it's still well worth watching.
Labels: film & television, violence, War
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X, was born on this date in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.
I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
Source: Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz a.k.a. Malcolm X as quoted in The Autobiography of Malcolm X
(Grove Press, 1965) p. 366.
Labels: Malcolm X, quotations
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
By the time a man
[sic] gets to be presidential material he's been bought ten times over
Source: Gore Vidal
, Nov. 18, 1974, as quoted in America in Quotations
) by Bahman Dehgan, ed., p. 177, entry 3138.
: Ambrose Bierce's definitions of "politics
" and "vote
Labels: politics, quotations
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
Source: Gravity's Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, 2000) p. 255.
Labels: art and literature, critical thinking, quotations
Sunday, May 01, 2016
A standing Army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the Liberties of the People. Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a Body distinct from the rest of the Citizens. They have their Arms always in their hands. Their Rules and their Discipline is severe. They soon become attachd to their officers and disposd to yield implicit Obedience to their Commands. Such a Power should be watchd with a jealous Eye ... Men who have been long subject to military Laws and inured to military Customs and Habits, may lose the Spirit and Feeling of Citizens. And even Citizens, having been used to admire the Heroism which the Commanders of their own Army have displayd, and to look up to them as their Saviors may be prevaild upon to surrender to them those Rights for the protection of which against Invaders they had employd and paid them. We have seen too much of this Disposition among some of our Countrymen.
Source: Samuel Adams, "Founding Father" and American revolutionary, in his letter to James Warren (January 7, 1776) in the Warren-Adams Letters: Being Chiefly a Correspondence Among John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Warren
, Vol. 1, 1743-1777, (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1917) pp. 197-198.
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded ... War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Source: James Madison, "Father of the US Constitution" and 4th US President, from his pamphlet entitled Political Observations
(April 20, 1795) in the Selected Writings of James Madison
(Hackett, 2006) p. 236.
: "John Adams on the Military Threat
Labels: freedom, history, James Madison, militarism, military, quotations, United States, US Founding Fathers, War
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
And I know that it's dangerous to judge
But man you've gotta find the truth
And when you find that truth don't budge
Until the truth you found begins to change
And it does I know, I know
When you love the truth enough
You start to tell it all the time
When it gets you into trouble
You discover you don't mind
'Cause if good is finally gonna trump
Then man you've gotta take stock
And you've gotta take your lumps
Or else they trickle down
Into someone else's cup below
Source: "People" by David Bazan on the Strange Negotiations
Labels: culture, music, truth, video
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Tom Hurndall died on this date in 2004, nine months after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper. As If Americans Knew
Tom was a
student and photographer who traveled to Gaza in 2003. On April 11, he
watched as children playing nearby suddenly came under Israeli rifle
fire. Most of the children fled, but three of them, aged four to
seven, froze with fear. Tom rushed one to safety. When he returned for
two little girls, an Israeli sniper shot him in the head. Despite the
urgency, Israeli officials delayed his transport to specialized
medical care for over two and a half hours. Tom remained in a
vegetative state until his death 9 months later.
Since Hurndall's killer, Taysir Hayb, was not a Jew but an Israeli Bedouin he was actually held accountable for the killing—sort of. Hayb was released from prison
after serving just five years.
Labels: crime, Israel, Palestine
Friday, January 08, 2016
There are many ways to deceive—one is the lie by omission. Critics of Islamic militants often use this tactic. One common example is to highlight suicide attacks and then to strip the acts of their larger context and ascribe purely or mostly carnal motives to the attackers.
One prime example of this is the "Martyrs rewarded with 72 Virgins
" trope. The most effective lies often have a kernel of truth and that is the case here but the hadith at issue says
That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head - and its gems are better than the world and what is in it - he is married to seventy two wives along Al-Huril-'Ayn of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives."
Here's a different translation
of that passage:
It was reported in the hadeeth of al-Miqdaam ibn Ma'di Karb that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
"The martyr (shaheed) has seven blessings from Allaah: he is forgiven from the moment his blood is first shed; he will be shown his place in Paradise; he will be spared the trial of the grave; and he will be secure on the Day of the Greatest Terror (the Day of Judgement); there will be placed on his head a crown of dignity, one ruby of which is better than this world and all that is in it; he will be married to seventy-two of al-hoor al-'iyn; and he will be permitted to intercede for seventy of his relatives."
In English, Al-Huril-'Ayn/al-hoor al-'iyn
is the term usually transliterated as "houris
" and translated as "virgins". At least two more things are worth pointing out: First, it's not transparently evident that the marriage depicted in Paradise is a physical one consummated sexually. By analogy, the New Testament describes the Church—the collective body of believers—as the virginal Bride of Christ (see e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:2
and Ephesians 5:22-32
). Second, there is reason to believe that this alleged motivation is exaggerated or even fabricated
To be clear, it may very well be that the 72 houris
are widely understood by Muslims as a carnal reward for the shahid
in Paradise. Muslims are no less capable than Jews or Christians of ignorance or dissimulation in defense of their faith. In any case, the Western media have generally chosen to decontextualize the (rather infrequent) act of the Muslim suicide bomber and to emphasize a salacious explanation to the detriment, in my opinion, of all except those want to add fuel to the fires of conflict. For a discussion of the larger context of suicide attacks I recommend Jacqueline Rose's "Deadly Embrace
" in the London Review of Books
Labels: Christianity, critical thinking, Islam, media, religion, resistance, violence
[Khomeini] would always claim, was "the religion of militant individuals who are committed to faith and justice. It is the religion of those who desire freedom and independence. It is the school of those who struggle against imperialism."
Source: Ayatollah Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini (from Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist
) as quoted in Fields of Blood
by Karen Armstrong (New York: Knopf, 2014) p. 332.
Labels: Empire, Iran, Islam, Karen Armstrong, quotations, religion, resistance
Sunday, November 29, 2015
I first joined Veterans For Peace well over a decade ago. As I explained earlier
, one of the main reasons I recently gave up on VFP was because it finally became clear that the VFP national leadership was dead set against involving the group in the kind of broad-based effort that will be required for an effective peace movement in the US. On the contrary, their misguided idea of "broad-based" is to work with Lefties of all types and virtually no one else in pursuit of a statist, Left-Liberal agenda along with all the violence inherent in that. I cannot say that the tiny VFP rank-and-file affirmatively endorses this program as much as they acquiesce in it.
Fortunately, not everyone on the Left is as short-sighted as the leaders of VFP. Last spring Yes!
magazine ran an interesting article entitled "Can the Left and Right Unite to End Corporate Rule? An Interview with Ralph Nader and Daniel McCarthy
". It may be too little, too late but it is a hopeful sign nevertheless. Below are a two excerpts from the interview.
Ralph Nader: Well, liberalism and conservatism, in various ways, have been hijacked by corporatism.
Liberalism in the 18th and 19th centuries was the classic philosophy aimed at restraining arbitrary government power—then often exercised by kings and emperors. Civil liberties were the foundation of freedom of speech and due process of law, which became part of our Constitution.
Fast forward, you now have corporate liberals— like the Clintons—and you have the corporatists who call themselves conservatives throughout Congress. They're all pushing corporate welfare and bailouts for banks.
What we're trying to do here is go back to fundamental principles and un-hijack conservatism and liberalism. When we do that, we see that there's a convergence of support on a lot of major issues.
McCarthy: Yeah, the two parties and the bipartisan elite have had their own kind of convergence on a strategy for dominating the country, both in government and in big business.
Americans of all ideological stripes have been feeling a great deal of alienation, resentment, and anger. But it's very difficult to talk about the actual structure of government and of the economy and to explain how it is that people have been effectively disenfranchised and manipulated. It’s much easier on both the left and the right to focus on cultural issues, where you can have scapegoats and think that those are the central issues, and to ignore these more structural problems.
I think the left's embrace of identity politics in the 1960s and '70s was disastrous for the working class. It was very bad for the labor union movement, it was very bad for any number of economic issues. Which is not to say that there wasn’t a place for the civil rights movement. Of course there was. But identity-based politics went from being a necessary thing to being something that started to preclude some of the economic and other policy efforts that needed to be undertaken.
And similarly on the right. It's not just a matter of a cynical manipulation of the public by going for hot-button issues. There really was a sense among many ordinary people in the 1960s that something had gone culturally wrong in the country. Crime rates were going up, promiscuity was going up. There were changes that people found weird or disorienting. Whether or not they were right or wrong, they were unfamiliar and new, and therefore alarming.
This set of emotional complexes was turned into the so-called culture war, to the detriment of anything that would reform our economy, our self-government, or our foreign policy. Those sort of complex issues have been thrown by the wayside in favor of identity politics.
Labels: anti-war movement, identity, politics, Ralph Nader, United States, Veterans for Peace
Sunday, November 15, 2015
'We're trying to defend the empire with a force about the size of the New York City police department,' said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, said this week, "For several decades to come there is no meaningful alternative to American supremacy, as a practical matter."
Source: "Cracks in America's Armor, or America's Will?
" by David Wood, March 11, 2004. Newhouse News Service.
Labels: Empire, military, quotations, United States, War, Zbigniew Brzezinski
Most people, in fact, will not take the trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.
Source: Thucydides, Greek historian (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) in his History of the Peloponnesian War
, Rex Warner, trans., (Penguin Classics, 1972), book 1, chapter 1.
Labels: critical thinking, history, quotations, War
Sunday, November 08, 2015
"... nothing is the way I thought it was. I went to war thinking of myself as Galahad, out to free fellow human beings from the intolerable bondage of slavery. But it wasn't as simple as that. There were other, less pure issues being fought over, with little concern for the souls which would perish for nothing more grand than political greed, corruption, and conniving for power ... I saw a man with his face blown off and no mouth to scream with, and yet he screamed and could not die. I saw two brothers, and one was in blue and one was in grey, and I will not tell you which one took his saber and ran it through the other. Oh God, it was brother against brother, Cain and Abel all over again. And I was turned into Cain. What would God have to do with a nation where brothers can turn against each other with such brutality?"
-Character of Bran Maddox in A Swiftly Tilting Planet
(Crosswicks, 1978) by Madeleine L'Engle, p. 243.
"... there were many nights during the war when God withdrew from our battlefields. When the sons of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil."
-Character of Bran Maddox, p. 247.
Labels: art and literature, Madeleine L'Engle, quotations, War
Four years ago I wrote a post questioning the framing
by environmentalists of the struggle over the Keystone XL pipeline project. Last week, the Obama administration announced it would not be approving the construction of the pipeline across the border from Canada. I would say that the major factor in the decision was the steep drop in
oil prices since 2011. That, more than anything, has
paved the way to block a pipeline which, for the time being, has lost much of its financial
I also mostly agree with Bruce Huber's assessment of the decision. Huber is a professor of energy law at the University of Notre Dame and yesterday he told NPR
Well, in my view, it's not really a very big decision at all. I don't think it would even make my top 10 list of the most significant events for the environment. It's not a decision that has much of an impact on our domestic energy infrastructure. And it's, frankly, not a decision that is going to have that much of an impact on the environment either ... it simply was one of a whole mass of pipeline projects that are out there that are either underway or in the inaugural stages. And furthermore, the construction of the pipeline itself was not a major determinant in whether this oil actually comes out of the ground in northern Alberta. If you didn't want to go the pipeline route, you could transport the oil by rail, as we've been doing in great quantities out of North Dakota in recent years.
Huber goes on to comment on Bill McKibben's response to the decision
claiming: "it's clear that what he's [McKibben] referring to is the fact that this particular decision had assumed this larger symbolic importance." I don't know if McKibben would agree but I think it's true that the decision is "largely symbolic". Now don't get me wrong, symbolism is very important but only time will tell if the Keystone XL decision marks a key turning point in the campaign to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels.
: Keystone XL: A Horse Already Out of the Barn?
Labels: energy, environment, Obama, politics
War is nasty and brutish. War is no good for anyone ... but at least it's fucking real.
Source: "Brothers in Civilianland
" by Max Black
Labels: culture, philosophy, quotations, War
Sunday, November 01, 2015
[The] Qin [dynasty] had arguably developed the first secular state ideology but Shang [Yang] separated religion from politics, not because of its inherent violence but because religion was implacably humane. Religious sentiment would make a ruler too benign, which ran counter to the state's best interests. "A State that uses good people to govern the wicked will be plagued by disorder and be destroyed," Shang insisted.
Source: Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence
(New York: Knopf, 2014) pp. 96-97.
Labels: government, history, Karen Armstrong, quotations, religion
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Fundamentalism ... differs from traditionalism or orthodoxy or even a mere revivalist movement. It differs in that it is a movement in conscious, organized opposition to the disruption of those traditions and orthodoxies.
Tradition, orthodoxy, and revival exist within an ongoing, stable system. Fundamentalism exists in the midst of change. Clifford Geertz describes this difference in Islamic societies he has studied as the difference between "being held by" one's beliefs and "holding" those beliefs, between having faith and having reasons.In a culture in which there is a great deal of stability and agreement on the way life should proceed, beliefs are part of the fabric of life. To be part of one's culture and to affirm those beliefs are inseparable. In such situations, one is held by beliefs about ultimate reality. But once that culture is disturbed by change or outside intrusion or mobility, beliefs lose their taken-for-granted character. They must be consciously held.
Source: Nancy T. Ammerman, "North American Protestant Fundamentalism" in Fundamentalisms Observed
(Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1991) by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., pp. 14-15.
Labels: Christianity, Islam, quotations, religion, sociology
Monday, October 26, 2015
The ABC News video
below tells the story of Bianca and Nick, the transgender parents of two young children. As an article in the Mirror Online
explains: " 'We have the parts so we will use them,' she says. 'If we could change them we would, and they would be the other way around – but we cannot afford it and the children come first.' "
Labels: gender, human reproduction, identity, LGBT, video
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
The video below is from the Guardian (UK)
and features Palestinian perspectives that are sorely missing from most Western mainstream coverage of recent violent clashes in Palestine-Israel.
Labels: Israel, media, Palestine, resistance, video
Sunday, October 11, 2015
This film is inspired by the Valerie Plame affair
but it's not a retelling of that story. It is a sophisticated cinematic exploration of the clash between the imperatives of government and a free society.
: "L'affaire Plame
" by Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com.
Labels: civil liberties, film & television, freedom, politics, War
Not everybody is able to see me ... I'm real and most earthlings can bear very little reality.
-Character of Proginoskes in A Wind in the Door (Crosswicks, 1973) by Madeleine L'Engle, p. 81.
The temptation ... is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe ... nothing created is the center.
-Character of Proginoskes, p. 178.
When everything is nothing there will be no more war, no illness, no death. There will be no more poverty, no more pain, no more slums, no more starvation ...
-Character of Echthros-Mr. Jenkins in A Wind in the Door, p. 187.
Labels: art and literature, Madeleine L'Engle, philosophy, psychology, quotations, religion
Although the film makers have taken some historical liberties, seemingly to paint a more negative portrait of early Christianity, this is still a film very much worth seeing and not all that far from the mark.
Labels: Christianity, film & television, history, philosophy, religion and science
In the 1920s, the Cristero War took the lives of an estimated 250,000 Mexicans. When I learned this I was shocked that I had never heard of the war until I watched this remarkable film.
Labels: Christianity, film & television, history, Mexico, War
Saturday, September 26, 2015
The statement below is reposted from the chemtrailsplanet.net website. Although I am not familiar with the site and I don't buy the idea that contrails are actually chemtrails I am reposting the statement because it rings true to my own VFP experience, its authenticity has been confirmed by Gerry Genesio, and because I can't find it anywhere else.
While the concerns and positions reflected in the statement below differ somewhat from my own, there is actually a considerable overlap. Although I am not a statist
, I am a person of the Left broadly who sees VFP's utter failure to reach out to anti-war moderates and conservatives
as an indication that its leaders and members are not serious about non-violence or working to end war. They seem very serious about pursuing a broader statist, Leftist social agenda that, at best, is questionable on the merits but also sure to preserve VFP's continung marginality. It would be one thing if we had solved that whole US militarism problem
but we have not.
I also echo Genesio's concerns about the lack of transparency and democracy in VFP and the recriminations awaiting anyone who runs afoul of leadership or dogma in VFP. In my experience they are well-founded.
Why I Am Withdrawing My Lifetime Membership From Veterans for Peace
By Jerry Genesio (Website)
Ever since the Peace At Home – Peace Abroad project was introduced to the VFP rank-and-file membership at the last annual convention as a fait accompli,
I’ve been corresponding with members of VFP in an attempt to determine
if anyone could explain why this mission-changing project was never
drafted as a resolution and submitted to the entire membership for a
vote. Much less important issues certainly were. To this day I have not
received an explanation other than that the Board of Directors, in its
infinite wisdom, deemed it to be so, and that’s just not good enough. I
should add that Ken Dalton, then a member of the Board, opposed the
PAH-PA concept. In response, he was called a f***ing idiot, a racist,
and told he was not being a team player and had become “suspect”, and
these comments came from fellow Board members, as hard as that might be
to believe. In the face of such unforgiveable intolerance, Ken resigned,
and I can’t say that I blame him.
For the past seven or eight months, since
the 2014 convention, I’ve been paying close attention to the VFP
website and the activities of VFP’s national leadership circle. I’ve
complained about much that was missing from the website such as
financial reports for the past couple of years, and Board minutes since
October of last year. The financial reports finally materialized, and
most of the missing minutes have only recently been posted, but the
minutes for November and December of 2014 are still missing without
I recently saw a national roster that
indicated former national Board of Directors member Margaret Stevens’
military service had never been documented (a requirement for full
membership) and that her dues had lapsed in June of 2014 (also a
requirement for full membership), and yet she held a seat on VFP’s Board
of Directors and was certainly one of the strongest advocates of the Peace At Home – Peace Abroad
project. I was told only recently that Stevens’ military service has
been documented, but I have no idea when that might have happened, if
indeed it has. If the roster is correct, Ms. Stevens was never eligible
to be nominated for a seat on the Board of Directors, nor was she
eligible to be reimbursed for travel and accommodations associated with
VFP conventions and Board meetings during her tenure. But I have been
told her expenses were indeed covered by VFP.
Perhaps the February 2015 Board minutes
weren’t posted previously because our national leaders did not wish to
reveal how they addressed my concerns during that meeting. Every VFP
member should read them. The discussion not only questions why the Board
should feel obligated to share information with the membership, but it
gave several members, especially Tarak Kauff and Michael McPhearson, an
opportunity to express their opinions of me. Tarak said of me, “the guy
is a racist”, and McPhearson advised the Board to “let him reveal his
racism”. Simply because I dared to challenge the membership status of
Margaret Stevens during her tenure as a National Board member. Such
comments are ignorant at best, and because they have been published
perhaps libelous as well as slanderous at worst. This is the very same
syndrome that so often manifests when one criticizes Israel for any
reason: dare to do so and you are anti-Semitic.
The same roster indicates Board member
Michael Prysner’s dues lapsed on January 1, 2013. According to the
By-laws, that means he was not a full member of VFP at least through
mid-November of 2014 and therefore ineligible to serve on the Board. I
for one would like to know if expenses Prysner incurred to attend VFP
conventions and Board meetings were unlawfully reimbursed, while
Lifetime and regular dues paying members were required to pay their own
expenses. Further, I suspect that every motion he and/or Stevens’ voted
on during that period arguably could be legally challenged. On February
10, 2015, well over six weeks ago, I submitted a formal request to VFP
President Barry Ladendorf for an investigation into several of these
allegations which I was aware of at that time, but I have not yet
received a copy of any formal investigation or its conclusions. And
based on an informal e-mail response I did receive, it appears that the
entire matter might well be swept under the national office rug.
While some insist Peace At Home – Peace Abroad
is naught but a “lens”, it has become a major national office focus
without a vote of the membership. The phrase is ubiquitous within the
VFP organization. It’s even prominently displayed on the banner carried
by our national leaders at the recent Spring Rising in D.C. PAH-PA rose
to the top of VFP’s agenda in Ferguson, MO, where VFP national leaders
chose a side during the Michael Brown protests, which in and of itself
was in conflict with the spirit and intent of the VFP Statement of
Purpose. I was there when it was written and it was never intended to
embrace domestic social justice issues. Those who would amend the
statement to include domestic social justice issues should write a
proposed amendment and submit it to the full membership for a vote.
That’s what democratic principles require. And that is certainly what is
required of every issue, resolution or amendment that is not supported
by the Board.
When the VFP Statement of Purpose was
created, it was considered very unique, perhaps because VFP has always
been and until very recently still was very unique. There is not now nor
has there ever been another military veterans’ organization exactly
like it. Our focus has been unique. VFP members have been respected, if
not for their opinions, for their service, and because we have limited
our projects to activities and pursuits we know something about: the
military and war. We are not nationally recognized as an authority on
social justice issues, or the constitution, or law enforcement, or
medical indications for marijuana, or criminal psychology. In other
words, VFP cannot be all things to all people. If it continues trying to
be, I firmly believe it will become ineffective, insubstantial and
According to a report titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror'”
produced as a collaborative effort between Physicians for Social
Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and the International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the US invasion and
occupation of Iraq has thus far been responsible for the deaths of
approximately 1 million Iraqis, which is 5 percent of the total
population of that country. The report also tallies hundreds of
thousands of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The total number of
lives lost in these three countries is at least 1.3 million since the
onset of the wars that followed the terrorist attack on the World Trade
Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001.
How can the Board possibly justify
removing VFP from its formerly enviable and unique position in the U.S.
peace movement presuming that a paradigm shift will allow it to compete and not be lost among the other 3,513 U.S. organizations that result when you search the GuideStar non-profit directory for “social justice” organizations in the U.S.? But when you search the same directory for “true costs of war”,
only seven organizations result and two of them are VFP National and
VFP Chapter 132. This is where all of VFP’s members, time and resources
are desperately needed, and this applies in particular to VFP’s national
I’m also concerned about the fact that VFP’s Executive Director Michael McPhearson is co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition which includes the New Black Panther Party. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the New Black Panther Party “a
virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have
encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers”.
It is also very troubling to me that while VFP Board members have been
standing with those protesting the killing of African-Americans by white
police officers, they have not protested or issued a statement
condemning the deliberate and related murders of two police officers in
New York and another in Ferguson, Missouri. Former National Board member
Ken Dalton asked the Board to issue such a statement following the New
York incident, but there was no response of which I am aware. On March
12, 2015, when I asked VFP President Ladendorf for a VFP response to the
Ferguson incident, he told me the Board should issue a statement
condemning the murder. That was more than a month ago but to the best of
my knowledge, no such statement has yet been made public, nor do I
expect to see one.
One of VFP’s directors, Michael Prysner, is also a leader, perhaps even the founder, of an organization called March Forward!
Their web site states that they and “Veterans for Peace
. . . are
actively building a multinational, multigenerational group of veterans
and service members who will stand up and fight back against the
injustice perpetrated by the Pentagon against our sisters and brothers
throughout the developing world, against working and poor people in the
United States, and against those still serving in the U.S. military.”
What exactly does that mean? After reading March Forward!’s
10-Point Program, also on their web site http://www.marchforward.org/10_point_program
, I am certain I don’t wish to be associated with them any more than I wish to be associated with the New Black Panther Party
Another of VFP’s national directors, Kourtney Mitchell, is on the Steering Committee of an organization called Deep Green Resistance
. As I read their website http://deepgreenresistance.org/en/
it appears that they advocate attacks on the infrastructure of
civilization in the interest of destroying civilization as we know it
today so we can begin again. I simply cannot bring VFP’s Statement of
Purpose and DGR’s philosophy together without encountering more
contradictions than anyone could possibly explain.
It has been reported in the minutes of
VFP Board meetings or teleconferences that the national leadership has
given IVAW as much as $60,000.00 in loans over the past couple of years.
And I understand these were unsecured loans, which means the funds were
knowingly placed at risk. I have a problem with VFP asking for funds to
support VFP’s work and projects and then loaning $60,000.00 of those
funds to another organization to benefit them and their work, and
accepting the possibility that those funds could be lost. The VFP
National Board of Directors is responsible for safeguarding the
organization’s assets and vested interests. Have our national leaders
become such hypocrites that they hold everyone accountable but
I have asked why VFP has seen such
instability and rapid changes at the national office over the past few
years. Several Executive Directors have come and gone without
explanation. I was told the reasons were “confidential”, which left me
wondering how VFP can celebrate people like Chelsea Manning, Edward
Snowden and Julian Assange, when it apparently has some dark secrets of
its own. Perhaps the VFP national office, or at least the membership,
could benefit from a few Wikileaks as well.
For the past few months, I have
subscribed to the vfp-all Yahoo list serve and at times I really can’t
quite believe what I’m reading, at least not in terms of how it relates
to VFP. I’ve seen insulting, angry and intolerant exchanges. Some
members claim the U.S. government is working with ISIS and the
Mafia…..Really? Just exactly what kind of conspiracy theorists is VFP
attracting these days…..how many…….and perhaps more importantly……WHY?
There was a time when VFP attracted thinkers who considered their words
carefully and never made accusations they couldn’t support with sources
generally deemed reliable. They believed that “Black Lives Matter”
because they believed “All Lives Matter” regardless of their color. They
loved no country more than their own and wanted nothing more
passionately than to correct their country’s mistakes. Unfortunately,
far too many of them have already left VFP in disappointment and
frustration. I did the same thing some time ago but recently returned
hoping to find the wrinkles had been ironed out. Instead I find the
wrinkles have become folds that are hiding new and even greater
Today I watched a video of Ben Swanson’s
interview of Gerry Condon concerning the Bowe Bergdahl controversy on
RT-TV, which is the English language U.S. satellite of Russian
Television. In it Condon was introduced as VFP’s president. He is not.
Condon claimed to know why Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan.
He does not. Condon claimed to know what motivated President Obama and
the Pentagon to bring charges against Bergdahl. He does not. And I’m not
at all sure President Obama has been involved in Bergdahl’s case in any
way other than to approve the terms for securing his freedom from
captivity by the Taliban.
Ben Swanson introduced Gerry Condon not
only as the President of VFP, but also as a deserter from the U.S.
military during the Vietnam War. The VFP Statement of Purpose is clear
about our military service:
“ We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace.”
But veterans who were deserters, draft
dodgers, or were otherwise discharged under less than honorable
conditions did not “dutifully” serve their nation in the spirit of that
phrase as it was written. I make no personal judgments, but I do not
believe veterans who served under less than honorable conditions should
campaign or be nominated for national leadership positions in VFP, for
whether right or wrong, their personal status will tarnish the
organization’s credibility in the eyes of most Americans. I believe it’s
also the reason why VFP’s recruiting efforts have not been very
successful in attracting veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars. For good
or ill, VFP derives its credibility solely from the singular claim that
its members have “dutifully served our nation”. Some, perhaps even many
members, will say they could not care less what most Americans think.
But their attitude will paralyze the progress of VFP toward achieving
its stated goals for no politician will publicly stand with us, and
without politicians standing with us in agreement, we will accomplish
very little in terms of policy reform.
I sincerely hope others will pick up the
gauntlet where I have dropped it; continuing to ask questions and
demanding answers. But I am getting on in years, my health is not what
it once was, and I don’t want to spend the years I have left swimming
against the tide in the company of people who are so busy fighting among
themselves and casting aspersions on the organization and everyone in
it that they have lost sight of the good fight altogether.
The VFP that exists today is not even
close to being the VFP that was founded in 1985. I don’t really know
what this VFP is, what it stands for, or what it hopes to accomplish.
Radical protests appear to be its raison d’etre rather than
activities like Project RENEW or the Children of War Rescue Project,
which require a lot of personal sacrifice and hard work. VFP has evolved
into something much different than it was when it began and I don’t
wish to be a part of it any longer. Perhaps, if and when VFP should ever
return to its original mission, new leaders who respect democratic
principles, openness, and the rights of those who would disagree will
invite those of us who have left to return, but until then I will march
only with those who stand in defense of the rights of ALL others. I have
been asking a lot of unsettling questions lately so I don’t doubt that
some, perhaps many, will be pleased to learn of my departure. But that
only serves to further define what VFP has become.
Founder & Past President
Veterans For Peace
“(I)n America, disagreement with the policies of the government is not evidence of lack of patriotism.” U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-ME)
Labels: anti-war movement, critical thinking, politics, Veterans for Peace