Exploring Our Paradoxes

DDThere is a convergence of paradoxes no one seems to understand. There is an outward motion that is taking unusual turns and twists, and politicians are using these unique circumstances and unfamiliar challenges to offer and project blame.

But blame obscures our paradoxes. It’s a pretense to an easy answer that misses the real point. One main point is itself a paradox: the point that paradoxes are often missed. They are confusing and confounding. Paradoxes challenge not only our identity and legacy, the missions we have “accomplished,” the “hope” at the center of our faith and courage—and our voting—they challenge the zeitgeist we cherish—paradoxes challenge the spirit of the age. All around us, paradoxes are redefining our times. Our response is we fuss, surrender, complain or turn mean.

One major American institution, driven by greed and ego, has been taken over by its own self-created paradox: the media that is to inform us often conceals and shades from us the most important facts it purports are its reason to exist. Too often, its reporting offers no analysis. Its experts spend too much time on politics and prophecy—answering the unanswerable, “what happens next?” Seldom does it answer what happened before.

The news, intended to inform us, is a tabula rasa (an erased tablet) and instead is shaped by its thrill factor, be it warmth or fear. Warmth: YouTube pets parade through the networks; cute, cuddly, silly; American. Fear, horror: any GOP sound bite, any battlefield; any natural disaster or crime scene or courtroom.

How many networks invited or interviewed any of the 51 African heads of state who attended the historic first US-African Leaders summit, held in Washington, DC less than 3 weeks ago? How many Americans know what agreements were signed? What commitments were made for future plans? Or what these continental leaders see as their most important needs?

How many media companies have focused on the obvious in the story of ISIS (or ISIL, as the administration terms the terrorist group): who is providing its well organized and funded supply chain? Capturing battlefield weapons from fleeing regulars doesn’t supply spare parts. Nor does the mass killing of civilians provide the bullets and other armaments that continue to be readily available in abundant supply to ISIS as it fights on multiple fronts. Who keeps its trucks filled with gas, feeds its mob of killers—who trained them in military discipline and tactics—when none of these skills, experiences and capacities are a part of its leadership’s resume?

Don’t jump to the easy answer; don’t be quick to blame.

The smooth operation and steady funding points to more than Arab benefactors; to my mind, only the Russians have the ability to organize a clandestine supply chain of the size and variety ISIS requires, especially in the middle of multiple conflicts surrounded by hostile states. But how? The media appears to have no interest in knowing the “how” of this important hidden story.

And American media absolutely refuses to work its way through the paradox of race and violence, especially violence as state actions driven by group and individual attitudes, supported by law and court decisions, backed by paranoid, local communities.

Not once has the media pointed out that police brutality was an assumed routine in black communities nationwide well into the 1970s. Suspects were beaten into confessions. Police killings went unquestioned. And white youth also suffered death. In May 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds in 13 seconds, killing 4 unarmed college students at Kent State. At one point in the 1970s, in Detroit, the city with the highest incidence of police killings in the 1970s, 40 fatal police shootings resulted in only 4 misdemeanor charges.

Police killings are not only committed against black male teenagers. The elderly and mentally ill often are killed by officers sworn to protect the lives of those they serve. Yet police investigators often focus on justifying shootings by officers, rather than determining what really took place. Investigators routinely aid officers in changing stories to protect themselves. Investigators also regularly fail to interview eyewitnesses and gather evidence against the police.

America has increased the numbers of police, from 602,000 in 1992 to 794,000 in 2012; decreased the likelihood of police dying in service by 33%, as crime rates have fallen; yet, civilians killed by police were estimated at 587 for 2012. More than 5,000 civilians killed in the decade between 2002 and 2012, according to the Justice Policy Institute. That 5,000 greatly exceeds the numbers of Americans killed by terrorists in the same period.

The police have created the paradox of brute force: its very use is justified by its use. And its use is quickly becoming overuse, changing the law by attitudes to accommodate actions at the margins of law and beyond the line of justice. Unlike sports, over the line isn’t a win; it’s a loss of American freedom. It targets communities and individuals, robs segments of the population of the right to live without fear.

The paradox of those who are to protect us using their power to create a tyranny that micromanages behavior by confrontational deadly force points to the most bewildering paradox we confront. Continue reading Exploring Our Paradoxes

Conflict Violence: The President's Stand On Syria And His Nobel Speech

DDBecause I stand firmly against conflict violence, I support the President’s plan for missile strikes against Syria.

Even before the hands fly to ask why, the fingers pointing tick off the bewildering absurdity of opposing violence by supporting military intervention!

Next, they point to the absolute foolishness of supporting any war or war event for any reason. They wag and say we have no business there. They point to a long short list of all the bad things that can happen as outcomes—escalation of the conflict, within and outside of borders, breaches of international relations, harmful economic exchanges, increased threats across the world, the blood-smeared bodies pointing to America not as a moral protector but as a bully, acting on its own whim, ignoring—and inflaming—the world’s outrage.

Before that contorted outrage is a mask of stoic indifference. A moral blindness hides behinds that outrage, a moral position that can only be challenged and met by military actions.

Its challenge is to end conflict violence. Conflict violence is a political form with its own goal and means. For several decades, conflict violence has been growing, and has come to be a central strategy in civil warfare and insurgencies.

Broadly, conflict violence has as its purpose the destabilization of the society or the state by direct attack on non-combat civilians.

Conflict violence has three components: it deliberately targets civilians, often whole villages and towns, most frequently women and children; it uses the bloodiest atrocities to carry out wanton killing (in Nigeria, just this summer, army trucks delivered stacks of dead bodies in the dark of night to a regional hospital for disposal, removing the dead from their ancestral homes and overwhelming the hospital); conflict violence is employed as a tactical and strategic end in itself. And conflict violence is protected by national borders—the rule of sovereignty that says states are not allowed to intervene in the internal affairs of others states.

Conflict violence is the most important moral, social, and military issue of violence around the globe. It cuts across ideological and religious lines and locales. It includes plunder and rape; its extreme is genocide. And so far, it’s avoided a reset. It receives mere news mentions, and gathers attention from underfunded organizations and an occasional, toothless UN resolution.

It is virtually unstoppable. It hides behind the sanctity of borders—the sacrosanct invention of the modern nation-state. Two women have been elected Presidents of African countries (Sierra Leone, Malawi) in part on platforms to try to bring it under control in their countries.

It’s a horror story, but it is meticulously planned and systemically carried out by stealth operations and denied always by governments. It is more egregious than terror.

Conflict Violence Across the Globe

Within its borders, a neighbor to the south, Guatemala, experienced raids on 626 villages that killed 200,000 Ixil Mayans in state-sponsored violence between 1966 to 1990. It took 30 years for the cases against a former president to be brought to trial for military-ordered mass deaths between 1982 and 1983. Last May, his conviction was overturned. His lawyer accused the Indians of lying to gain settlement money. Continue reading Conflict Violence: Obama, Syria and the Nobel Speech

Presidential Petitions

DDRep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) wants to impeach the president for unhappiness. “A question I get a lot, ‘If everybody is so unhappy with the president, why don’t you impeach him?’” Farenthold said at a town hall meeting Saturday, as seen in a YouTube video. He went on: “I’ll give you a real frank answer about that. If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, we would probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it.”

According to Politico, Farenthold’s odds-making on a hypothetical impeachment of a President whose high crime seems to be the misery of his opponents came after a woman presented Farenthaold with a folder that she says contains proof that Obama’s birth certificate was faked.

Farenthold does not stand alone on impeachment. A White House petition calling for impeachment gathered 49,890 signatures (from all 50 states!), enough for an official response; it demands the President submit himself to impeachment and lists a bill of particulars!

I’m not sure a constitutional mechanism exists for Presidents to submit themselves to impeachment. That indeed would break a longstanding precedent and take the nation into uncharted waters, maybe even precipitate a constitutional crisis—actually demonstrating the indifference and ineptness that the President’s foes are fond of citing. They listed several examples in the petition:

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

We request that Barack Obama be impeached for the following reasons.

1. He proclaimed war in libya without getting congress approval first. Article I, Section 8- Only congress can approve to start war.

2. Obamacare is unconstitutional. Forcing US citizens to get health insurance whether they want it or not.

3. Obama disrespects our Constitution calling it flawed and trying to change it even after taking this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

4. Appointing agency “czars” without Senate approval.

The White House has also received a petition in Chinese characters (without translation) that has 169 signatures. It addresses human rights. But back to the demand for President Obama’s self-offered impeachment, here’s the White House plain language response. No bureaucratic platitudes or empty promises, no commitment to investigate the matter further, or to appoint a special fact finder, or hold a conference on the matter, it nevertheless applauds democracy and gives a pat on the back to the administration:

The Short Answer is No, but Keep Reading

By The White House

Believe it are not, petitions like the one you signed are one of the reasons we think We the People is such a valuable tool. There are few resources that do more to help us engage directly with people about the issues that matter to them — especially people who disagree with us.

So let us use this opportunity to set the record straight:

President Obama didn’t declare a war in Libya — and the limited military mission he did order was in keeping with decades of historic precedent.

The Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — and they upheld the law.

The President has deep respect and appreciation for the Constitution — he studied it in law school, he taught students about its principles as a professor, and as a lawmaker and now as President, he’s carried out its precepts.

And let’s be clear, many of those who have been called “czars” have in fact been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as prescribed by federal law, and others hold policy jobs that have existed in Administrations stretching back decades.

So the short answer is that we won’t be calling for the President’s impeachment — and given the fact that you made your appeal to the White House itself, we doubt you were holding your breath waiting for our support.

Here’s the important thing, though. Even though this request isn’t going to happen, we want you to walk away from this process with knowledge that we’re doing our best to listen — even to our harshest critics.

The key is that we can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s the kind of public dialogue Americans deserve.

President Obama has said time and time again that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. And he’s repeatedly asked that all Americans — those who agree with him, as well as those who don’t — do their part to get involved with their democracy.

That’s why the White House has created a host of new tools and channels to help concerned citizens hear from us, and more importantly, to help President Obama hear directly from you. And the fact you signed this petition means you’ve already found at least one of them.

The White House has also received are six interconnected petitions to stop white genocide. My favorite (but I have not signed!) is the sixth: Continue reading Presidential Petitions

An Epidemic of Untreatable Illogic

One of my favorite diseases—and I say favorite because it has a great moral associated with its diagnosis—is an old, discredited but useful look at how the views of power filtered down to popular medicine, a disease named drapetomonia. Ever hear of it? It was one of the first illnesses to have a very clear ethnic identity—it only affected blacks. It was also one of the first specific mental health diagnoses. Declared an epidemic among its target population, shortly after being discovered by a Georgian physician in 1851, its treatment protocols involved harsh whippings and restraints in chains.

Today, it is one of the few discredited diseases reemerging as one of the false equivalencies that increasingly characterize American views of politics–and global warming, evolution, education, economic growth, race, and religion. I see a new strain of the disease emerging, and clearly we have no cure, or even treatment or care for it.

My old favorite, drapetomonia, was a response to a social condition, slavery, and was diagnosed as the condition that made slaves run away. Flee toward freedom. Hide in the woods, outside of civil authority, living in a place of fear. The new equivalency has jumped the old ethnic bounds. But it sees itself as flying toward freedom. Leaving behind civil authority—and also living in a place of fear. The new strain is tied to the older drapetomonia by its implied inability to accept reality, but it is characterized by far greater frequencies of delusions. The old and the new, the up and the down have been with us since the beginning. As the poet W. H. Auden said, “the situation of our time surrounds us like a baffling crime.” But this new strain forgets why the old strain was discredited, lost its potency and went bust: it described a wrong reality; it was a projection of its own delusions.

So, too, today, in the new, unnamed strain is the double circle of logic whose answers assume the truth of its assertions. My favorite example this week was a radio interview with Virginia’s Attorney General, whose radio host pointed out that the President did not win the red states where a photo ID law was in place or early voting was drastically restricted, and the wins and loses of those states alone were sufficient to point to clear evidence of a pattern of widespread Democratic fraud being rampant throughout the country. Well, Barack Obama didn’t win those same red states last time either, in 2008, before restrictions of early voting or photo ID laws were enacted. And he won all of the states he won before, without a single reputable complaint of fraud, except in the mouths of talk show hosts and elected officials whose delusions are a double circle. Continue reading An Epidemic of Untreatable Illogic

Digging Deeper: The Chief of the Profession of Arms

One of the President’s most important appointments is his selection of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a nation that spends as much on its annual military budget as the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, even without command authority, wields immense power at home and around the globe. He (and one day, she!) is the highest ranking military officer in the uniformed military forces. Yet we hear surprisingly little about the Chairman’s responsibilities, his vision of the present and future, his skill set, or his qualities as a person. In fact, given that the US is still actively engaged in armed combat in Asia, and edging closer to potential conflicts, how many readers know the name of the Chair? Moreover, what is his philosophy of war?

Whether you are committed to world peace or the use of military force as blunt force diplomacy, whether you think the beret is a bad idea for head gear, or the new assault rifles are ineffective and poorly made, that military spouses are marginalized, that health care for returning veterans is criminally inadequate, the person with direct responsibility for shaping the plans that direct our forces is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

The new Chairman had only served for three months as the Army’s Chief. He had a Master’s degree in English from Duke. He taught English at West Point. His early combat and field assignments were in the modern cavalry; he served with armored divisions. Most recently, before becoming the Army’s Chief, he directed the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. His selection was something of a surprise. He was not on the early radar of those who create lists and speculate. Continue reading Digging Deeper: The Chief of the Profession of Arms