Blogs 2004-2007, Part  II

 Kenneth Cauthen

Copyright ©  Kenneth Cauthen  2004-2007. All Rights Reserved

    Current Events, Ethics, and Society

June 5, 2007
Our National Foolishness about Gas Prices
Gas prices are not too high. They are too low. To get perspective, we have just now reached the real price of gas (inflation adjusted) that we had back in 1981 at its historical high point. People have been focused on the nominal price at the pump and have forgotten how that relates to total income now and in the past. High gas prices throughout recent decades would have long ago been integrated into personal spending, and the economy as a whole would have been fine.

We should have put a big tax on gas 25 or 30 years ago, and we would not be in the mess we are in now. That money could have financed health care for all and provided other benefits for the poor and the general welfare, encouraged mass transit, and financed the search for alternative fuels, and on and on.

Low gas prices have encouraged big, powerful, cars with low MPG, has made the government and the auto industry complacent about increasing fuel efficiency and the quest for alternative energy sources, has polluted the environment, increased global warming, increased our dependence on hostile or repressive governments like Saudi Arabia.

The problem with democracy -- ours anyway -- is that it does not deal well with the future. Our citizens are too focused on immediate gratification and self-interest. They respond best to the problems of the present that affect them personally. To ask them to take future generations into account is a tough assignment. This presentism is eagerly aided and abetted by politicians running for office whose time span is limited by the next election. We respond best to big issues in times of crisis when the signs of coming disasters cannot be avoided.

My own senior Senator Chuck Schumer is once more beating the drums against the high profits of oil companies, but he has no solutions that can be translated into legislation that will work and hence sounds demagogic. Oil companies are not chief among sinners but have profit margins only slightly above the industry average.

"By percentage of total revenue, banking is consistently the most profitable industry in America, followed closely by the drug industry."
The Washington Post, October 28, 2005.

This is not at to deny that oil companies, like other large corporations, seek to employ strategies that increase their profits. I am no defender of big business but a severe critic. But let us analyze by the facts and not by the gut. Oil companies make huge profits in dollar terms, but they are huge companies. Profit margin is a better indicator.

By now -- had we acted wisely in the past -- we would have cars that get 100 MPH and alternative fuels that would be easing our way beyond the carbon age.

The question is when things get bad enough to force us to act to avoid imminent disaster, whether we will have enough time and sufficient resources to avert global climate catastrophes, and international conflict and chaos as all the big polluters --like us, China, and India -- continue to evade their responsibility and engage in futile blame games.

Of course, given our past foolishness, the poor who are dependent on gas to get to work are suffering and need  relief. I have no sympathy for the affluent and their huge SUV's who surround me and block the view from my fuel-efficient Prius every time I park in public places. I get my revenge when they take their GGG's (Gargantuan Gas Guzzlers) to the gas station and cry, while I laugh all the way to the bank in my Prius – up to 50 MPG in the city.

And, yes, I am an anti-establishment, green, tree-hugging, politically radical elitist. But I also worry about the future of my grandchildren and the poor everywhere now and their grandchildren.

See also the piece below dated Wednesday, 21 April 2004.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Memorial Day: Conflicting Moods
Memorial Day uneasily juxtaposes two conflicting moods. For many it is a time of travel, entertainment, vacation, tasting the outdoor life, and generally having fun. Yet it is a somber occasion for all reflective Americans as we remember those who have lost their lives in all the many wars of the past and present. In 2007 outrage is the only appropriate sentiment. It would have been fitting to have hundreds of thousands of people –  yea millions–  in cities and towns across the nation expressing their intense anger at the tragic catastrophe in Iraq. The heartbreaking story of a young woman prostrate at her fiance's grave in deep, inconsolable grief epitomizes the situation –  the needless loss of life in a war so unjustified and so badly managed that no way out exists that will not produce more death, destruction, and mangled bodies in an atmosphere of terror.

Yet we seem strangely complacent in the face of this horror. Perhaps it is because the burden of loss is directly experienced by the few families immediately affected by the shattered bodies and minds and the increasing number of dead soldiers returned to their sorrowing loved one. Meanwhile, the rest of us go on with our lives essentially untouched. There is something badly wrong with a picture in which the human costs of war are not shared by us all. That only compounds the awful debacle of the Iraq mess.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Sorry State of Public Discourse
No good solution exists for Iraq, illegal immigration through Mexico, and abortion. Good means benefitting nearly everyone and hurting few or none, serving mostly worthwhile purposes and having few or no negatives. We have to search for the least bad policy or the best of available, workable ones. Yet who in public life clamoring for our votes is saying this? Many proposals are out there, but their sponsors see only the good in them and either don't know or don't say out loud what counts against it.

Which public voice is saying, 'Taking everything into account, by and large, generally speaking, this is the best available practical option even though it is not very good, it is the best we can do under the circumstances." Yet this is closer to the truth than all the confident claims that exaggerate the benefits and underplay the downside of whatever policy is being advocated.

Will people not hear or accept the notion that some problems are complex, ambiguous, and difficult, that only proximate solutions are available that try to achieve as much good and avoid as much that is bad that is possible under the circumstances? I don't know. Apparently our leaders think they won't, or they themselves don't know any better and are simply ignorant, naive, or purely opportunistic,  e., look for the greatest political gain that they can milk out of the situation.

I have written in other blogs on this site of the particulars of Iraq, illegal immigration from out southern border, and abortion. Here let me say that each of these requires an "emergency" answer,"  i. e., a response to a dire situation that arises because something has gone wrong. Something went wrong in Iraq when we invaded and before, but now that we are in the tragic, catastrophic mess, we have to do the best we can. That probably means violence, chaos, and disorder if we leave, and more needless, futile loss of lives, perhaps a protracted civil war, if we stay. The only solution to the illegal entry of immigrants through Mexico is to make living conditions decent in their own countries so they can stay home and prosper instead of risking their lives to work for meager wages under exploitative conditions here employed by people who want an endless supply of cheap labor who will not complain about harsh working conditions due to their desperation. The only solution to the abortion issue is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Meanwhile, we live with the simplicities and shallowness that mark our public conversations because nobody wants to present the hard choices, ambiguities, and complexities inherent in problems. And isn't this because so many people want unambiguous certainties from their leaders? Or do they? And would they hear the hard truth if their leaders would talk straight to them instead of seeking advantages when their opponents dare to mention how difficult, complicated, and ambiguous choices really are when reality is confronted without blinking?

Friday, May 18, 2007
It Matters How You Say It
My local paper occasionally has an opinion piece by Cal Thomas, who once was a vice-president of the Moral Majority. When I read him, I do so to get my adrenalin going for the day, since I usually find that his ideas range from the noxious to the nauseous. A recent contribution illustrates how something is said itself may distort the meaning and reality of what is being described. He notes the outrage of religious conservative at "liberal intrusions into their sacred traditions" since the 1960's, offering the outlawing of state-sponsored prayer in public school and the legalization of abortion as examples. One might rephrase this thought by speaking of conservative anxiety and hostility arising out of cultural nostalgia for the values, laws, customs, and mores of the 1950's that were changing in law and practice.

He also opines that long ago most liberal theologians had baptized the earthly agenda of the Democratic Party instead of preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. That too could be said another way. I would urge, for example, that liberals were in favor of racial justice, the equal rights of women, gays, and lesbians in law and practice, the freedom of women to choose an abortion, more economic opportunities and equality for the poor, and the like and found that the Democratic Party offered the best available-- though not perfect -- practical instrument for advancing these goals.
The language we use to express our values provides an opportunity to insert our biases in ways that introduce distortions of the factual reality into our social philosophy under the guise of merely stating our moral and political convictions. The applies to all parties in the conversation -- conservatives, liberals, and others alike. This is just another example of how original sin distorts the truth and deceives the innocent.

So let the reader be aware of what they are reading and writers of what they are writing.

Friday, February 23, 2007
Logic Lesson for Today
Since the virus that causes cervical cancer is spread by sexual intercourse, requiring young girls to be given the vaccine that prevents the disease might encourage them to have sex, so it would be better risking them getting cancer than having sex.

Making condoms readily available could prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STD's, but it might encourage teenagers to have sex, so it would be better to risk unwanted pregnancy or disease than having sex.

Clean needle exchange can reduce the spread of HIV among drug users, but it might encourage more drug use, so it is better to let them use dirty needles that could spread HIV.

Using seat belts can save lives but might encourage teenagers to drive fast or carelessly, so it is better to forbid their use and risk having them killed or seriously injured.

Thus endeth the logic lesson for today. So all the liberals who want girls and women to be safe from cervical cancer, from unwanted pregnancies , and from sexually spread diseases, who want drug users protected from the spread of HIV, and who want kids to be safer by using self belts take note and learn some logic.

Friday, January 26, 2007
Bush and Iraq
My latest theory on Iraq is that if Bush cannot bring the war to a "successful" conclusion soon, his stubborn obstinacy will lead him one way or another to keep troops fighting there until the end of his term. Then he will leave the mess to the next President to deal with. If his policies are pursued to some sort of final "victory," he will regard this as vindication after all. If his policies are repudiated and the troops brought home quickly, then he will blame his successor for the failure, since his own right course was not followed to conclusion.

His dogged determination to pursue this disastrous, tragic war on and on in the face of almost total repudiation by the American people and growing numbers in Congress is a sad spectacle indeed. Is it ego? Stupidity? Blind adherence to his own dogmas in spite of the facts? Whatever it is, the armed forces there and their families back home are paying a heavy price for his folly along with countless thousands of Iraqis.

Friday, January 26, 2007
Bush, Israel, Iran -- the Ultimate Folly
According to a report on Scarborough Country on MSNBC Israel is urging the US to attack Iran so they won't have to. It pains me to criticize Israel. The history of Jewish suffering often at the hands of nations that are predominantly Christian is an indelible stain on humanity. But if this report is true, it is sadly unfortunate.

Nicholas Kristof argues that there are strong reform forces in Iran that we ought to cultivate. He notes that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not wield the ultimate power anyway. For Bush to go to war with Iran would be the ultimate folly.

Monday, December 18, 2006
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
Dick Cheney said that Rumsfeld was the greatest Secretary of Defense of all time. And Bush fired him? George, how could you?

Monday, October 30, 2006
Controlling the Nuclear Genie
The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. Does anyone know how to put the genie back in the bottle? Does anyone believe that in the long run Iran, North Korea, other states, and radical terrorist groups can be prevented from getting the bomb and the means to deliver it if they are determined to have it? We must do whatever we can to slow the proliferation, but we are entering a new nuclear age with unknown dangers and no certain solutions.

If only nation-states get nuclear capability, perhaps a resurrected or continuing form of MAD (mutually assured destruction) would work once more as it did when the USA and the USSR confronted each other with missiles aimed at vital targets. Nations have territories with vulnerable cities. They have leaders with instincts of self-preservation for themselves and their homelands and with fears of self-destruction. But how do you retaliate against a terrorist group with a network of leaders scattered widely? When that is compounded with a suicide mentality that cannot be deterred by threats of death, we have a new menace unlike anything we have known in the past. If terrorists are willing to sacrifice their own existence, they may have no qualms against destroying thousands, even millions, of people regarded as enemies of God and Islam.

Islam has rules of war deep in its history that in some respects is like the just war tradition in Christianity. In particular, it forbids the killing of non-combatants, especially women, children, and other Muslims. It requires good cause and has norms of proportionality that limit the destruction that can be wreaked on enemies. But under the novel conditions of the modern world, one can find scholars who are modifying that tradition to cover suicide killings. One can be sure that warrant can be found by learned scholars and lesser intellects for any horror, any form of jihad, that may be perpetrated if it achieves ends sufficient to justify the means

The underlying problem is deep hatred of the United States and its friends that cannot be easily ameliorated. Contrary to zealots who see us as morally pure and attribute the unprovoked perfidy of others to their own self-generated evil, we have contributed to the rise of anti-American feelings by what we have done and not simply by what we are as shining lights of virtue and innocence.

To focus on the Middle East (North Korea requires a different analysis), two major events may be specified. The first is the unwavering, one-sided support of Israel against the Palestinians. The second is the role of the US in overthrowing the democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran in 1953. We should add to this the presence of American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries, not to mention US support of Arab regimes considered by the extremists to be corrupt. This is not to deny the reality of internal psychological-cultural factors that may have generated feelings of jealousy, inferiority, humiliation, and hostility in face of the fact that Islam, once a leading force in the advance of civilization, has in recent centuries been in the backwaters of scientific and cultural creativity, as well as military power, as compared to the Judeo-Christian nations.

In the background is the fact that the United States is the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon against another nation. To this should be added the fact that to Muslim eyes it is sheer hypocrisy for the nations that now have nuclear weapons to assume the right of preventing others from acquiring what they already have. This includes Israel, who everybody knows has a nuclear capability, although they do not admit to it. By what logic do we presume to tell others they cannot have what we have? As a matter of practical necessity and realism, it may be necessary to prevent proliferation when we can, but we should not fail to see how all this looks to Muslim eyes. How do we answer their question: If we can't have them, why don't you get rid of yours?

It may be that history will work itself out without a nuclear conflagration and lead to a world free of these horrible weapons. It is clear, however, that for the foreseeable future we will live in a dangerous world faced with novel challenges.

If you are having trouble staying awake after you go to bed at night, read an article by Noah Feldman, "Islam, Terror, and the Second Nuclear Age," in the New York, Time Magazine, (October 29, 2006), 50ff. Feldman lays out the issues and provides instructive historical background.

Sunday, September 17, 2006
The Trilemma of Democrats
If Democrats have no alternative to the disastrous Bush policies in Iraq, there is no reason to prefer them over Republicans. If they do offer a proposal, it can easily be shot full of holes.

Behind this dilemma lies the fact that the Bush Administration has created such a debacle in Iraq that there is no good way out. All plans are full of hazards. Americans are divided right down the middle on whether to stay or to go. This reflects the fact that neither way looks hopeful. Any course chosen now will have dangers of unknown character and proportions. We have to find the least bad way, and that most certainly does not include continuing the present course which has brought us to the present morass.

Here is where the third element enters to create not merely a dilemma but a trilemma: for Democrats to suggest that no good option is available to get us out of the mess opens them to the charge of practicing the politics of despair.

What, then, are they to do? There is no way to escape fully the trilemma, but it can be approached in the least damaging fashion. The main point is that the Democrats should offer as the first step not a plan but a procedure for finding the best way forward. It follows that Democrats need to concentrate at the moment on the morass into which the Bush policies have landed us. Objections should be met by pointing out forcefully and repeatedly how ridiculous it is to criticize Democrats for their inability to provide an unambiguous way out a mess Bush has created that it is so disastrous that only imperfect alternatives are possible.

It follows from this that the blunders of Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, and company have totally disqualified them from being in charge of the future. In support are the following:

1. It was a mistake to go to war in Iraq. A majority of Americans have believed this for some time.

2. The war has been conducted badly with tragic results. Look at the evidence on the ground in Iraq. The situation is bad and getting worse.

3. The war in Iraq and the war on terror are not the same, as much as the Bush crowd would have us believe that it is.. The war in Iraq has made the terror problem worse not better. The intelligence community has confirmed what reporters on the ground have long known -- the Iraq war has produced more jihadists and created more hatred for America around the world.

4. The Bush Administration is so bound to its fallacious dogmas and to a defensive posture that cannot admit to anything but minor tactical errors that it is incapable of finding the new directions that are necessary.

Hence, the Bush agenda must be thoroughly discredited so new leaders can seek the best way out of a bad situation. That would take the form of seeking a bipartisan solution with input from citizens representing diverse opinions. Other vital parties in the area and in Europe must be invited to help find a productive way forward. No solution will be perfect, so it must have wide support moving toward a consensus to the extent that is possible. A bipartisan proposal would mean that both parties would have to accept the blame for any failures that occur.

Friday, August 04, 2006
Middle East Again
I once heard a story about a man who was exorcized of a demon, and, you know what, seven demons came back.

As of August 4, 2006, the Middle East is in dire straits. What shall we do? In the Hezbollah-Israeli war there are two options: an immediate cease fire or a cease fire only after Israel has rendered Hezbollah impotent. One of these is bad, the other worse. The problem is we don't know which is which.

An immediate cease fire leaves Hezbollah to fight another day so the process will just repeat itself, since Hezbollah is not likely to accept any proposal that guarantees that they quit attacking Israel.

A cease fire after Hezbollah has been decisively defeated means that Arab hostility and hatred of the USA and Israel will grow worse throughout the region, making the prospects of peace even more dim.

In that other war, we are between Iraq and a hard place. There are two options. We can leave or we can stay. One of them is bad, the other worse. The problem is we don 't know which is which.

If we go now, the situation may deteriorate beyond any hope of redemption any time soon. If we stay, the situation may deteriorate beyond any hope of redemption any time soon. In either case a civil war may plunge Iraq into an indeterminate future of chaos and violence.

The problem is that the current situation in both cases has roots in a past that cannot be recovered. In the case of Iraq, it was a mistake for the US to invade to take down Saddam. Now we live with the consequences of that egregious blunder, and all proposed solutions now are fraught with great danger.

In the case of the Israel-Palestine-Arab conflict, the problem goes back to 1947 and 1948 with the expulsion of 700,00 Palestinians from territory now occupied by Israel exacerbated by the later expansion of Israel beyond the 1967 borders.

These past events have created a situation in which we face only options that are bad and worse, and we don't even know which is which, since we don't what the future would bring if one possibility is actualized rather than the other.

Sometimes it is better to live with one demon than to cast it out with the result that it and six relatives come back and take up residence. The problem is we don't know when to attempt exorcism and when not to.

Saturday, July 22, 2006
Was Israel a Tragic Mistake?
"The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Richard Cohen, The Washington Post (Tuesday, July 18, 2006, p. A19.

This idea was startling when I read it, and it still is. But is Cohen right? A strong case can be made for the thesis, but what was the alternative given the history of Jewish suffering? Jews deserve and need a home somewhere and somehow as a refuge from the hatred and violence shown them, frequently in lands dominated by Christians. Jewish suffering over many centuries is one of history's great tragedies.

The history of the formation of the state of Israel is long and complex, but it involved the settlement of a territory occupied mostly by other people, primarily Arab Muslims. As best I can tell, Jews went from about 1% of the population or less in 1881 to about 33% in 1947, owning about 6% of the land, although disputes rage about exact figures. Resentment and hostility among Arab occupants and surrounding Arab nations were immediate and severe and have not ceased to this day. The expulsion of about 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 and the expansion of Israel especially in 1967 further inflamed the passions of those expelled and dominated by Israel until this very day. Looking back, the present state of things should not surprise us.

The Jewish population of Israel expanded by pushing other inhabitants aside -- the same process by which European whites settled the United States. The difference is that Israel is surrounded by Arab and Muslim nations whose enmity has been unrelenting. The wars that ensued and continue to this very day. have filled the land with blood and tears. Was there a better way to find a place for Jews desperate to escape the pogroms in Russia and persecution elsewhere in Europe, including Nazi Germany? I don't know. Was the project of finding a national home for Jews in Palestine justified in spite of all the hatred, violence, and killing in that troubled land since 1881, when the movement of Jews to Palestine began to increase to escape the persecution they faced in Europe, I am not sure. Whether the process could have been managed at any point in ways that would produce tolerable peace with justice for Palestinians and security of Israel is a question I cannot answer.

The fact remains that Israel exists whether Israel has a right to exist or whether its existence since 1948 is a good thing or was even the best alternative for Jews seeking a place where they could live in peace and prosper. We have "two communities of suffering" (Edward Said) who must deal with each somehow. Right now the prospect does not seem bright, but history if full of surprises, and even this dark moment may conceive new possibilities and hopes we cannot imagine. We can say that the best way forward would be for each community to feel and appreciate the suffering of the other as a preface to mutual accommodations and compromises enabling tolerable conditions of existence for both.

Lacking that and beyond that, the international community must bring pressure on Israel to accept the 1967 borders (with some accommodations benefitting both) as a basis for final resolution. With that established, it could absolutely be insisted that Palestinians cease their violence, and sufficient economic and military pressure put on them to guarantee this outcome. The right of return for the living Palestinians and their descendants of those expelled in 1948 may have to be abandoned but with compensation for their loss.

Some way has to be found to deal with "the Demographic Problem: in the case that Israel withdraws to the '67 border, the Jewish people will not have a Jewish state; the remaining 1.3 million Palestinians within Israel, which currently represent 20% of the Israeli population and will represent twice this amount in the next 20 years, will create a bi-national state within Israel. Instead of two states for two nations, there will be two states for one nation -- the Palestinians."

An alternative has been proposed by shifting the borders so that the maximum number of Palestinians and a maximum number of Israelis will be present in each state.*

This all may be dreaming, and Benny Morris may be right: In the end one must conquer the other and render the vanquished totally impotent to resist the will of the victor.**

Sober reflection on Cohen's suggestion that Israel was a mistake could have salutary effects for both sides in moderating passions and leading to fruitful negotiations to create a livable future, given that the past is what it is and cannot be changed.
* "Today there are many Palestinian settlements within the '67 Israeli border and many Jewish settlements on the Palestinian side. We propose a territory exchange by moving the border so that the maximum number of Palestinian settlements will remain on the Palestinian side and the maximum number of Jewish settlements will remain on the Jewish side, with an exchange rate of 1:1. All this will be done without moving a single person from their home. The only thing that will be moved is the border.

The territory exchange only refers to a 240 square kilometer strip of land along the border but will allow 500,000 Palestinians to not remain a minority in Israel any longer. These Palestinians will remain in their homes, on their land, part of their nation and in their own state. This exchange will minimize the number of Jewish settlers forced to evict their homes, with neither the Palestinians nor the Jews having to lose any territory. This is a win-win situation for both parties."

** Check out the interview with Benny Morris, the eminent Israeli "new historian" who has documented the history of Israeli horrors in expelling the Palestinians in 1948. Morris is absolutely chilling. He argues that Ben Gurion should have thoroughly completed the expulsion of Palestinians at the time and thinks things might have in the long run been better. Theoretically, he favors a two-state solution but believes that Israel must absolutely wall off Israel in the present from the barbarian Arabs who want to annihilate Jews and destroy the state of Israel. After all, America was possible only by the destruction of Native Americans. Sometimes worthy ends, he says, justify terrible means. He thinks in the end one must dominate the other completely if the endless conflict is to cease.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Maldistributed Power and Impossible Justice
We cannot achieve the common good with costs and benefits equitably distributed for many reasons -- lack of leadership and vision, defects in our democratic processes, ignorance, inertia, apathy, and the like. But a major factor lies in the fact that the realities of power and the requirements of justice do not always coincide. Where there is political power unchecked, it will be used to achieve selfish, limited ends that offend justice and thwart the general welfare. It is part of the phenomenon of original sin -- without which we cannot understand what goes on in this world.

Groups with effective power, money, organization, and intense commitment can often get what they want but that justice and the larger good forbid. The intense commitment is very important here. The majority that could prevent this domination are either apathetic, ignorant, or not deeply enough disturbed or lack the required organization and leadership. With potential opposition diluted, the strong, the aggressive, the wealthy, and the well organized get their way all too often. Some examples, please.

We cannot have a reasonable policy toward Cuba because of the power of fanatical anti-Castro Cubans in Florida who hold an effective balance of power in a state that both Democrats and Republicans desperately need in a presidential year. Both countries are thereby harmed.

We have a policy highly favorable to Israel and detrimental to Palestinians because of the effective power of the Israeli lobbies aided by right-wing evangelical Protestants with a peculiar and dangerous view of Scripture. Justice is offended, peace is made less likely, Arab and Muslim hostility to America is increased. The possibility of terrorism and opposition to American interests is enhanced

We cannot have a sane energy policy because of the power of the big oil and automobile companies and others. Thus we neglect alternative energy sources, drive needlessly inefficient vehicles that waste gas, contribute excessively to global warming, and otherwise put our future in jeopardy.

We have needlessly expensive drugs that are not as safe as they could be because of the power of the big pharmaceutical companies in influencing legislation and the FDA to suit their narrow ends rather than the common good.

We cannot have a rational policy on gun control because of the power of the National Rifle Association with its members, money, and fanatical outlook.

We have a terrible prescription drug policy for seniors because of the power of the drug companies and the insurance companies. Note that they were able to prevent Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices -- a shameful offense against tax payers and common sense.

We cannot have universal health care because of the power of the insurance companies and drug companies. A one-payer plan that universalizes Medicare would be more efficient, less costly, and produce better care.

We cannot find a middle way on abortion because two opposing sides take absolute positions and refuse to compromise, and they are sufficiently well organized and funded to prevent an outcome that would end the stalemate.

We cannot control urban sprawl, air pollution, long commutes, and the like partly because of the power of real estate developers and highway contractors aided by the inordinate love of the automobile and the desire to escape the city. Little that is effective is done until the air is too polluted to breathe, and long commutes and traffic jams become utterly intolerable.

We cannot have a healthy agricultural policy because of the power of giant agribusinesses and the farm lobby and farm-state legislators. Hugh subsidies are paid to rice, corn, wheat, and other growers that enable the big agribusiness corporations to flood other countries with cheap products and devastate their farmers. One rice cooperative (Riceland Foods Inc., Stuttgart, AR) was paid more than $500,000,000, i.  e., more than a half billion dollars, between 1995-2004). Much of this subsidy money goes not to modest family farmers but to the wealthy. Charles Schwab of the investment group and his family received $564,000 in federal price supports for rice in 2000. The man is reputedly worth more than four billion dollars.

We have a miserable fiscal policy that produces massive tax cuts that go mainly to those at the top, especially those at the very top, that produces an enormous deficit that future generations must deal with, and that reduce revenues that could be used to benefit the middle and lower income classes. All this is rationalized by a dubious ideology that such policies increase investment and ultimately benefit us all, as if more equitable alternatives were not available that would be equally or more efficacious. The intense commitment of a powerful few prevails over average citizens who either ignore or passively acquiesce in this arrangement and others that result in a redistribution of income and wealth and income to those at the top at the expense of those at the lower middle and bottom. Sometimes this travesty is tolerated by non-affluent voters who are getting other gains, e. g., support of conservative values, from those in power more important to them and not intolerably offensive to or even in agreement with their own ideologies and values.

Perhaps this is sufficient to make the point. Groups deeply committed to causes and interests organize and add dollars to their passion in ways that elect and control those who will serve their interests. They pay close attention to every development that affects their concerns and exert pressure and money immediately in carefully chosen ways to maximum benefits. Meanwhile, the mass of citizens let it happen by their ignorance and apathy, by not being directly affected in ways that arouse their anger and swing their votes. The political system is rigged against effective opposition from people and parties that would upset these nice arrangements.

Beyond that gerrymandering of election districts, the power of incumbency, and other defects in the democratic process either aid or cannot prevent the domination of the government by narrow interests with the organization and money to get their way. Thus justice is not done, and the few benefit at the expense of the many, and, as always, the rich prosper, and the poor are neglected.

Even if we had a perfectly functioning democracy in which each person and group had power and means sufficient to protect their interests but not enough to oppress others, we would still have to deal with the values of the citizenry that may tilt the nation toward policies repressive of minorities and the poor and that are detrimental to the full flowering of freedom, equality, and the welfare of all.

As a white Baptist, I am particularly dismayed that the majority of white Protestants have a history in recent decades of voting for the Republican candidate for President, election after election. If you want to know the political, social, and cultural outlook of Christians, ask first about their zip codes not about how passionate they are about Jesus. I will quit now before I get even more depressed.

Friday, May 26, 2006
Can Anything Be Done About it?
Several respondents to my previous pessimistic blog (Wednesday, May 24, 2006, “Maldistributed Power and Impossible Justice”) about the state of our country that is in the hands of rich, powerful interests who get their way to the detriment of justice, the general welfare, and world peace challenged me to suggest something positive that could be done. Fair enough!

The realistic answer is that in the short run there is not much we can do that will fundamentally matter. The system is too rigged in favor of the prevailing powers. The background preconditions for radical change do not exist:

(1) deep and fundamental dissatisfaction felt by the masses of people accompanied by aggressive anger and desire for change,

(2)a clear sense of what is wrong and of what and who is responsible for the calamity,

(3)the presence of an available alternative consisting of a transforming vision communicated by able charismatic leaders with organizational skills and with a positive program containing major goals and specific means to achieve them.

We will not see fundamental change of the sort that is required in the absence of a major crisis like that of the great depression that took us from Coolidge and Hoover to Roosevelt in less than a decade. This crisis will create the possibility of a revitalized democracy and economic order that serves all the people. But it will also create the possibility of a fascism based on blood and soil led by demagogues who can identify the evil sources of our troubles internally and externally which must be destroyed. Oh, probably a third way will have us muddling through so that the outcome is not much better, just led by different villains.

In the meantime, we can hope for modest progress around the edges and some incremental gains that will indeed make things better for many and even for us all in some respects. These gains can be of great importance and should not be underestimated or demeaned. This is where the churches and humanitarian organizations fit in. I have worked in both, and positive changes at the margins was all we accomplished at best or even attempted. Churches whose membership include the dominant classes in the culture will not foment revolution -- and that includes Roman Catholics and most Protestants. Zip code is the primary clue to social outlook not church membership. If you find a factor that points to religion, e. g., that most active church people were the ones who voted heavily for Bush, then look for the socio-economic-cultural makeup of those congregations.

The Democratic Party is the best hope for modest improvements, but it is a pitifully weak instrument of justice. The present leadership is anything but inspiring, e. g., Howard Dean. The DP is too beholden to big money and powerful lobby groups, just like the Republicans are. The DP is dominated by a variety of interest groups, each with its own agenda that it single mindedly presses. The DP has lost touch with many ordinary working-class Americans and average citizens who rightly suspect the party of Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson is rife with cultural elitism epitomized by that man of the people, that down to earth Joe Sixpack, John Kerry and his French wines and windsurfing. The DP is too beholden to the Israeli lobby to offer hope for Middle East Peace. I give you Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Harry Reid, among many others, who vote the Israeli lobby line as examples. Check it out.

When the Democratic Party championed civil right, and the feminist and gay rights movement along with abortion, gun control, etc. -- God bless them for it, it lost contact with many white working class folks, especially males, and conservative religious people, who, since they were doing well enough economically and many prospering, decided to vote their cultural values rather than their narrow economic interests. Democrats have not found a way to get them back without alienating major parts of its base. So Republicans have taken over. Still the DP is the best we have.

This is enough for now. I invite comments, alternatives, refutations, screams of protest, and bouquets of roses (I like the really red ones.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006Tuesday
Can't Anybody Get it Right on Immigration?
With respect primarily to Mexicans and others further south, conservatives are divided between xenophobic opposition to all them foreigners who don't look like us, despoil our communities, and speak Spanish, on the one hand, and business types who think that an ever increasing pool of unskilled workers means cheap labor costs, on the other hand. Liberals are all over the place. The multiculturalists think diversity is swell -- let a thousand varieties of flowers bloom -- and are blind to the negative side that may involve loss of cultural unity with accompanying conflict and violence between economic, cultural, and ethnic subgroups. This group includes some progressive Christians who are filled with compassion who think you can leap from love straight to generous social policies without having to take into account all the complexities, ambiguities, conflicts of just interests, and all the difficulties involved in reaching solutions with proximate justice for all affected. Naive idealists think you can have a compassionate policy toward poor immigrants but like the naive multiculturalists are oblivious to the unavoidable side effects, like dragging down the wages of all workers, who may be divided into competing ethnic, racial, and cultural groups whose conflicts may escalate into violence.

Politicians are subject to all the above groups, interests, and values that vary with their region, party, and money sources. They seek for some winning electoral strategy that maximizes support in dollars and votes.

Nearly everyone, including some of the loudest and most obnoxious, risks oversimplifying the issue based on ignorance, self-interest, ideological preferences, and so on and champion solutions as if the truth they see is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Disinterested theorists and others, including a few politicians, who seek the common good find that no one policy benefits all equally and that the good shared in common is only a small piece of the pie. Pessimists and skeptics like me conclude we must settle for the least bad policy and hope that the struggle of power between all the competing interests will somehow yield something workable and not entirely unjust.

More detailed analysis with more specifics can be found in previous postings.

Thursday, 27 April 2006
Immigration and Troubles Ahead?
Whatever immigration policy is adopted at the moment can be dealt with. More important is what present trends suggest for the future. If the 10-12 million immigrants of illegal status are put on the road to become citizens, in another few years, will there be 10-12 million more and later 10-12 million more? If the answer is negative, how do we propose to keep them out in humane ways? We can and ought to liberalize legal ways for immigrants south of the border to come to the United State, but will it ever be enough to prevent others from coming in droves illegally?

A lot of these questions are speculative, but they are worth raising in order to give us perspective on what we are doing. One of the main issues is whether large numbers of Mexicans and other Latinos will continue to assimilate into American society, culture, and values. Or as their numbers increase, will they create enclaves in which the desire to perpetuate their own culture will become stronger?

Small groups who retain their own ways of life can be incorporated without great problems, but will large numbers intensify the desire to have little Mexicos in Los Angeles and other cities? Will there be a growing desire to sing the national anthem in Spanish, create a two-language nation like Canada, and fly the Mexican flag? A nation is enriched by diversity, but it also needs symbols of cultural unity like flags, language, a national anthem sung in the original language, and well as a core of common values.

Immigrants from the south are largely Roman Catholic and many share the views of the church on abortion, sex, women, divorce, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the like. Would the hierarchy be as favorable to immigration from the South if 90% of them were liberal Protestants on these issues? I don't know; I just wonder. Would ever-increasing numbers of social conservatives retard the progress we have made so painfully and slowly in these areas? Should those of us who are liberal Protestants be concerned about the possibility of adding so many more votes to reactionary policies? Will Hispanics tend more to the Republicans (on social-cultural issues) or Democrats (on economic issues)? Is it not important from the point of view of progressive and liberal folks like me what the answer is?

Would ever-increasing numbers exert an ever greater downward drag on already low wages for immigrants and unskilled Americans already here? One op-ed piece on May 2 commented on the spectacle of immigrant workers protesting in behalf of even lower wages, for that is what will happen in the pool of available workers becomes ever larger.

The worst case scenario might have the following elements:

1. Large enclaves of immigrants form in the big cities and elsewhere who become increasingly militant and resistant to assimilation while making growing demands on government on economic and cultural matters.

2. A backlash occurs among non-Hispanic whites that resists signs of increasingly militant demands for the Mexicanization of American society.

3. Tension moving toward violent conflict emerges between Hispanic and African American groups over jobs, falling wages, and cultural matters.

4. Riots with accompanying violence break out in cities with large numbers of alienated Mexicans and other Hispanics, resulting in burning cities reminiscent of the civil rights era.

If that sound outlandish, recall that tendencies in all these directions were much in evidence in the May 1, 2006, demonstrations, protests, and work stoppages. Mexican flags were much in evidence, and more would have been had not leaders warned against the bad public relations it would engender. Some are all ready in singing the national anthem in Spanish. Voices could be heard saying, "Los Angeles is ours," "we want a new America," "illegal immigrants from Mexico are not illegal, just back on native land," "we have the right to be here," and the like. All this hints that much more activism could be expected in the future. African American groups are already forming in opposition to Spanish culturalization and the competition with blacks over jobs. White militancy is evidence in posses forming on the southern border to keep immigrants out.

Whether this indicates that serious trouble is ahead, I don't know. It would be foolish to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

I speak here not so much of what is right and good as of troubling signs and realistic possibilities as European nations are learning how their liberal policies have created enclaves of alienated Muslims shut off from economic opportunity and at odds with the majority culture on matters of free speech, religion, morals, and the like. Granted the differences with the situation here are significant, it does not mean the similarities harbor no troubles for us.

Thursday, 27 April 2006
Immigration: Problem Without a Solution
Immigration at the present, at least with respect to Mexico and countries to the south, is a problem without a good solution. It is complex with many facets and subtexts. What commends itself in some respects is distasteful in others. What helps some groups hurts other groups.

Let us first dispose of some simplistic items. It is said that immigrants take jobs Americans don't want. That is true only if you add "at current wages." And it is not true even then, since Americans in fact do hold most of the kinds of low-paying jobs that unskilled immigrants take.

Signs proclaim that no human being is illegal, refuting a claim nobody is making and ignoring the intended meaning that an illegal immigrant is one who is here illegally not that this human being is illegal, whatever that could possibly imply.

It is also said that we are a nation of immigrants, so we should continue be receptive to others who want to share the same benefits our ancestors found in coming here. Fine, but it neglects two things: all humans beings living today, or nearly all, have ancestors who came from somewhere else, and we have to deal with new immigrants under the conditions that prevail here and now and not at some previous time.

To tackle the problem itself, there is little doubt that adding immigrant workers who will work for very low pay drags down the wages of those already here. If employers can hire workers at a dollar less per hour than they are now paying, it stands to reason they will do so employers who benefit in this way are favorable to a large influx of potential workers from the South who can be hired at low wages.

Let us add some complicating factors. Allowing free immigration from Mexico provides a safety valve for the Mexican government and reduces the pressure to improve conditions for their own workers. An author who has studied the problem for years claims that the Mexican government is being cynical. They are happy to have these impoverished people leave and don't want them back.

Mexico has a harsh, punitive policy toward immigrants entering from their southern borders but wants the US to be generous to immigrants from Mexico -- the old double standard issue.

One reason so many immigrants from Mexico will risk everything to get in is that Mexican farmers have been devastated by the subsidies paid to American farmers to grow corn, thus undermining the prices of a major Mexican crop. NAFTA has been hurt many poor Mexicans badly, pitting the interests of poor Mexican farmers against rich agribusiness interests in the United States. Guess who wins.

Both parties in Congress try to figure out how to get the Hispanic vote, so that self-interest rather than the common good tends to dominate.

Turning to solutions, all have drawbacks. To treat the millions of illegal immigrants already here the same as those who are pursuing a legal track would not be fair. To deport them is all but impossible as well as cruel. Any penalty or punishment administered them would only add further hurt to vulnerable people. Building a wall or fence sufficient to keep out all trespassers would be expensive as well as inappropriate given our national values. Completely open or completely closed borders is either impossible or bad policy.

The best solution, of course, would be to make the countries who are supplying unskilled immigrants so attractive that few would want to leave. That will not occur in the near future. Lacking that we have to search for the least bad answer. Practically speaking, the issue will be settled in a political battle in which all interested parties seek the best deal for themselves. Maybe that will, or maybe it won't, produce the least bad solution. In any case, it is what we will have to live with it. One could wish for an outcome that will require everybody to bear the burden imposed by a generous immigration policy and better wages for everybody at the bottom. This burden could be either higher taxes or prices on goods involving immigrant labor, if not job or pay loss.

One final note with two parts can be added. One is that liberals should be cautious about proposing policies that will cost them nothing but require others to take the loss. Middle class and upper class folks and professional people would not have their jobs threatened or their pay cut by a generous policies toward unskilled immigrants in large numbers. So let them be modest in their idealism. I speak in particular to Christians who would go unharmed.

The other point is some Christians want to leap from principles of love and compassion right to generous policies toward unskilled immigrants. I am suggesting that love needs to be mediated through principles of justice that take into account all the complexities involved and the differential gains and losses suffered by various groups. The hope is to arrive at some form of proximate justice that will also have a practical chance of enactment in the power struggle between different self-interested parties vying for what benefits them most.

Elements of tragedy pervade the situation. Skulls of Latinos are scattered in the Arizona desert in border areas testifying to the failure of some immigrants to make it to safety and a job. Would-be immigrants include honest people who want to work make a better life for themselves and their families, a few gang members, criminals, and perhaps now and then a potential terrorist.

I saw on TV a young man who had just entered the country illegally. In all earnestness he said, "I didn't come here to hurt anybody. I just want to work and help my family." One TV show followed a deported immigrant back to his village. The squalor, poverty, and desperation were heartbreaking. The young son was willing to risk his life to come to the United States to work and help his family. Christians will be moved by compassion for such people and be willing to sacrifice in order to help them, but they will not do so without counting the costs involved for everybody and trying to see to it that everyone shares the costs entailed by their loving kindness.

Friday, November 25, 2005
Believing What We Want To
The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski set forth the Law of the Infinite Cornucopia, which notes that no shortage exists of reasons to bolster whatever theory anyone wants to believe.

In the previous entry I quoted two good people who effortlessly turned a tentative, disputable scientific finding into a dogmatic certainty that was favorable to the outlook of each. They could not know the truth because it is not yet known, but they spoke as if they were already in possession of it. They were not lying in the sense of deliberately misrepresenting things, but they made claims that betrayed nothing of the uncertainty in the actual situation. One of them may be proven right or more right in the end, but the outcome is not known at the present.

This is one example of a widespread phenomenon. A president announced that the possession of weapons of mass destruction by a reckless, cruel dictator justified a preemptive strike lest we be suddenly attacked. The claim we now know was false, but the harm has been done. Precious lives have been needlessly lost, billions of dollars wasted. Now we find ourselves in a situation that permits no easy resolution, and the nation is bitterly divided.

Did he lie deliberately to justify a move he intended to make on some real or pretended premise anyway? Was he honestly misled by faulty but sincere intelligence? Did he interpret the available information in the way most favorable to his purposes? He claimed to know more than he did and was shown to be mistaken.

Where does honest ignorance end and willing, complicit conviction begin? When does sincere belief in the presence of uncertainty take on an element of deceit that produces truth claims held with unjustifiable certainty? To what extent does desire turn a objective possibility into a subjective reality, a hypothesis into a firm belief communicated as a certain truth? Does wanting it to be true make it seem so real that we cannot deny it? Somewhere in these murky areas in where much of our public discourse transpires.

How much credit should be given to the massive tax cuts mainly benefitting the ultra-rich for whatever economic upturn we have experienced? Tax cutters and their supporters know for sure.
Not much say many reputable economists. We may safely surmise that to some extent political dogma turns what must remain an economic uncertainty -- given the complexity involved -- into a indubitable truth.

Environmentalists know that global warming is attributable in a major way to human activity. Polluters and their defenders know that the phenomenon -- to the extent real at all -- is due mainly to natural cycles.

Since this is a blog and not a book, I will cease, only urging that other instances of the tendency to believe with more certainty than is warranted what we want to believe can be readily found all about us in public and private life.

Thursday, November 24, 2005
The Abortion Pill and Original Sin
Recent reports indicate there may be a danger of a fatal infection after taking the abortion pill. The question has not been settled scientifically yet, but advance reactions were almost as predictable as the rising of the sun in the East. This from The New York Times, November 23, 2005:

"Wendy Wright, executive vice president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, said that the latest news about deaths involving Mifeprex proved that the drug was unsafe. Ms. Wright also speculated that more women were dying after using the drug but that their deaths were going unreported.
. . .
Dr. Scott J. Spear, chairman of the national medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest provider of abortions, said there was no evidence that the vaginal administration of misoprostol increased the risks of bacterial infections."

Hmmmmmm. An anti-abortion group thinks that the uncertain, tentative, problematic report proves that the abortion pill is unsafe, while a group that thinks abortion is a moral option for women is sure that it is safe.

What shall we make of this? Nothing contributes to understanding more than the doctrine of original sin. Here it means that individuals and groups tend to favor interpretations favorable to their own ideology or self-interests.

Note that the doctrine of OS applies to everybody, everybody. These are not evil people. They are people who believe their cause is right and good. Yet both leap on an uncertainty, an unsettled question, with certain conclusions supportive of their beliefs.

What is so clearly illustrated here could be demonstrated in a thousand cases where uncertainties become certainties favorable to interests and outlooks.

So next time you confront conflicting interpretations of this sort, remember the old doctrine of original sin. Hardly anything is more helpful in providing understanding of current events, and it is the easiest of all religious doctrines to practice.

Thursday, November 03, 2005
We Need Universal Health Care: A One-Payer System
Data released today by the Census Bureau show that the number of uninsured Americans stood at 45.8 million in 2004, an increase of 800,000 people over the number uninsured in 2003 (45.0 million). The number of uninsured Americans was at an all-time high in 2004.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The aims of a good health care system can be easily stated. We want the best care we can afford efficiently delivered in a system that covers everyone and allows as much freedom of choice for doctors and patients as possible.

Dependence on the free market works fine for those who have enough money to afford it but is disastrous for the poor. The notion that supply and demand will guarantee efficiency, high quality, and low cost while maximizing freedom has fundamental flaws.

We need to go further away from a market system not toward it. No alternative is perfect, but we can do much better than we are doing now. I urge a one-payer system something like that now found in Canada and that is approved overwhelmingly both by Canadian citizens and doctors. The plan would be paid for by progressive taxation that would secure a level of quality care that was as high as possible given all our other social goals and values.

Some compromise would have be made between medical needs and expanding costs in relation to the availability of resources that always remain finite even in a rich country. This is not socialized medicine in which medical professions are paid by the government but socialized insurance. The advantages are:

1. It would be universal. It covers everyone regardless of income, pre-existing conditions, or employment status.

2. It would be comprehensive. It includes treatment by doctors and hospitals for all necessary medical services including prescription drugs, mental health, dental problems, and long-term nursing home care.

3. It would be efficient.  Enormous savings would result in the reduction of administrative costs by having one uniform system of accounting. Because of the volume involved, the government as sole administrator could put constraints on costs of supplies and services. Money that now goes into investor profits could be used to treat sick people.

4. It would produce outcomes on the whole that are better than we get with the present system. The Canadian system supports this claim, although cross-country comparisons are hazardous.

5. It would preserve a great deal of freedom for doctors and patients. Patients could choose their own doctors and hospitals. Doctors could prescribe tests, treatments, and drugs with no greater constraints than now operate through HMOs, other insurance plans, and the ability of the patient to pay.

A universal health plan would, of course, not be free from problems, complications, and frustrations. Upward cost pressures will occur as they do now due to the creation of new and expensive drugs and technologies, the rising demand for them, and the increasing number of the elderly. We could expect fraud, abuse, and waste but not necessarily any more than we already have, except for the fact that some people seem to delight especially in cheating the government. Bureaucratic procedures and decisions would drive us nuts as they do now with HMO’s and other insurance plans. Some restriction of services would be necessary, but we have rationing at the present based on income. Limitations in the one-payer system ideally would be based on rational considerations relating to cost constraints that would not discriminate against the poor.

(This material is taken from my book, The Ethics of Belief (Lima: CSS Publishing Co., 2001), vol. 2, 119-24. )

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Wedding Announcements as Social Commentary
Engagement announcements are an interesting sociological study. They convey a great deal more information than the details about the event itself and the participants. My interest here is in the relationship of religion to class, Each gives a clue to the other,

For example, if the bride, according to the announcement in The New York Times, is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence and is the daughter of the chief surgeon at a prestigious hospital and the groom is a graduate of Princeton and both his parents are lawyers in one of the biggest law firms in the East, then it is not likely that the happy couple observed their nuptial ceremony in the Independent Bible-Believing Gospel Tabernacle. If the article appears in a small Southern town paper and the bridge and groom of graduates of the local high school and if she works at Wal-Mart and he drives a bread truck, one would not be surprised to learn that they are to be married in an Assembly of God or Congregational Holiness church.

You get the idea. Folks in the upper middle class and highly educated in elite schools might well say their vows in an Episcopal or Presbyterian church if they are Protestants, although it would not be shocking to see them identified as Unitarians.

Middle class people are well distributed in the main line Protestant denominations, but if they are in the lower half, they might well be Baptists or Methodists. In the South, however, where there are more Baptists than people, you will find all classes represented in the many churches large and small that occupy much real estate in the states of the old Confederacy. Affluent couples from rich families wouldn't be out of place at a well-groomed large Baptist church in the nearer suburbs, say Buckhead, if they are in the Atlanta region.

I will not belabor the point. It is elementary sociology of religion first imprinted in my mind by H. Richard Niebuhr's The Social Sources of Denominationalism. Just don't let anyone tell you that the denominations are to be distinguished only or primarily by their doctrinal differences. You can learn a lot by reading wedding announcements.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Katrina and Racism
John (One-Note) Leo, cultural critic for US News and World Report, is usually from about one-third to one-half right. He has only one theme which he belabors every week ad nauseam -- the excesses of cultural liberalism. In one of his recent diatribes he took aim at observers who found blatant racism in the government response to Katrina. He quoted some of the usual suspects who find racism everywhere and who love to be in front of microphones and cameras. Leo attempts to refute the charge with some success since some liberals make themselves such an easy target. We will grant him the usual partial grasp of the whole truth that we can usually find in his columns.

I tried to be hard-headed on these matters and to remain skeptical of everything until I am persuaded by what I can find out based on evidence and critical analysis. The catastrophe was so massive with so many levels of government involved offering so much opportunity for bureaucratic bungling, ineptitude, squabbling, and turf wars, and with so much complexity involved in a quick mobilizing of rescue efforts that much of the delay and ineffectiveness can be found somewhere in this vicinity. In these tangled, complicated matters most anything you say will be partly true. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is hard to come by, especially when emotion and ideology cloud perceptions. Class issues were certainly front and center, since those who did most of the suffering were poor.  Either they could not afford to evacuate or lived in the most vulnerable areas.

Was there also racism that was conspicuous, overt, and deliberate? If so, the evidence needs to be presented, and maybe it will be forthcoming in time. In any case, the catastrophe unveiled in a vivid way ugly facts of race and class that have produced outrageous poverty in this rich land that prides itself on its virtue. These inequalities are a disgrace and a scandal for which we, beginning with the President, should be ashamed and say so right out loud. It is not that solutions are lacking. The political and moral will is not there. Maybe this will be a nudge in the direction of creating an outraged conscience that will result in effective change, but the pessimist in me doubts it.

FEMA has been accused of being derelict in its duty in past disasters.
Charles Perrow wrote this about previous instances of bungling by FEMA:

    Hurricane Hugo in 1989 prompted US Senator Fritz Hollings to declare that FEMA was "the sorriest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses I've ever known." (1024) The next year when disasters hit California, Representative Norman Y. Mineta of California, declared that FEMA "could screw up a two car parade." When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 the primitive communications system of the agency forced it to buy Radio Shack walkie-talkies in last minute preparations, while the state of the art one FEMA had paid for remained unavailable.

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, help was slow in coming as well as inept and the victims were mostly white. No criticism of FEMA in New Orleans exceeds the ferocity of the wrath directed toward it after that catastrophe.

On the other hand, evidence is not lacking that in 1992 and in other situations racism was clearly present. A friend of mine who was close to some of them gives his own personal testimony:

“During my time with the NCC (National Council of Churches) as an Associate Director for Public Policy, and before that with the Progressive National Baptists, I was heavily involved with what's call "Environmental Racism" throughout the country, particularly in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" which is a 90 or so mile strip loaded with carcinogens running from the capital to New Orleans. And a guess what group suffered the most?
We worked with the a host of groups and witnessed firsthand the abject, grinding poverty in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, particularly the latter city.

I was also working as a disaster relief coordinator, raising funds and distributing services after hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, and the Oklahoma City bombing, and floods in Louisiana. In each of those cases there was conspicuous, systematic disregard for Black citizens. For example, after Hugo, Charleston, S.C., recovered really quickly;. McCullough County next door has permanently dislocated African Americans. Hugo was in '89.

  Let's face it, Ken, Black citizens are still reeling from the effects of the post-Civil War era for which we've never recovered, e.g., poverty and control and institutionalized disregard for minority social well-being, etc”.  Archie LeMone

The larger truth that Leo totally missed or ignored has to do with the historical and cultural background to the fact that large numbers of the suffering victims of Katrina were poor and mostly black. If by the racism in the situation we mean that federal officials took note of the fact that most of the misery following Katrina was being experienced by black folks and thought, "Heck, we can take our time here; they are black and don't vote for Republicans anyway," we need to see the specific evidence. If by racism we mean the long and sorry history by which African Americans have been discriminated against, ignored, and left in poverty over many decades, yes, the charge is valid.

Don't count of John Leo to make a major point of that. It is too easy to blast excessive charges of racism and hit the mark on the surface while hiding a far more important truth that only more careful analysis can uncover.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Palestinian Violence and Pro-Israel Bias
Much of the condemnation of Palestinian violence against Israel assumes the moral equality of the contending parties. Palestinians, the argument goes, must cease all violence against Israel before meaningful progress can be made toward peace through dialogue. That demand would be justified if the two sides started on a level playing field, but that is not the case. What is forgotten is that Israel is an occupying power, an invader.

Let Israel withdraw to some equivalence of the 1967 borders. Then violence on either side against the other can be rightfully condemned on an equal basis. Until then the demand for the cessation of Palestinian violence against Israel is a moral posture neglectful of relevant facts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Suicide Bombers and Simplistic Explanations
What motivates the Muslim suicide bombers? Is it their religion? Is it historical, social, and psychological factors like unemployment, fear, resentment, shame, humiliation, hopelessness, social chaos, limited options in new, strange, and threatening environments? Do the actions of the United States and other Western powers in the world in the imperialistic past and self-interested present, especially our one- sided support of Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Arab countries, and our dogged determination to maintain access to oil in the Mideast have anything to do with it? Or is it evil choices made by some individuals in the name of distorted values and extremist religion?

The answer is yes, all of the above, and probably more that requires more knowledge than we have. It is not just the Muslim religion alone, or social and psychological factors generated by the local environment alone, or personal choice unconditioned by history, culture, social location or religion but some complicated combination of all and more working itself out in a variety of configurations in different people but leading to volatile, violent, tragic outcomes for them and others. We need to focus on the Muslim religion in a particular historical, cultural context under certain psychological and social conditions eliciting personal decisions that lead to terrorist acts.  Efforts to reduce terrorism must work at all these levels and include all these dimensions.

We cannot avoid the religious dimension by simply repeating the mantra that Muslim means "peace" or "jihad" means personal struggle against internal evil. We cannot escape by saying naively that the Muslim religion doesn't really teach that. There are elements in the Koran and in Muslim history that can be appropriated to justify in their minds their terrorist acts. Similarly Christian Klu Klux Klansmen and Nazis could quote Scripture and employ Christian symbols to support their racist violence. We could refer to the Book of Joshua and Esther 9 as precedents for most any kind of aggression in the name of God we wanted to imagine. Remember the rural Georgia dictum: "You can prove anything by the Bible," and forget all the obscure, thick books by German scholars on hermeneutics.

It is futile in the short run to argue about what the Bible or the Koran or Christianity or Muslim faith really stands for historically if properly understood. These traditions finally mean in practical, experiential terms what somebody here and now believes them to mean, imply, and require. Actual beliefs and practices are what count not some idealized essence of the Koran or the Bible created by scholars and historians. What they "really teach" is operationally a useless category in the immediate situation and in any situation unless somebody's mind is changed in the process.

Social and psychological factors arising out of a particular ensemble of destructive environmental factors do shape and condition minds and lead to destructive behavior. Personal decision and commitment to live, believe, and act a certain way under these social conditions while professing a particular religious faith complete the pattern.

Is it a matter of religion? Yes. It is a matter of environment and culture? Certainly. Does individual choice play a role. Of course. Is it hard to put all this together with more to get a universal, simple explanation? Absolutely. We should resist simplistic explanations, especially those that serve the self-interest or ideology of those putting them forth, e. g., presidents, preachers, politicians, professors, pundits, and prostitutes, to risk redundancy.

Religion, History, Culture, and Choice -- all are involved in various ways and degrees in different individuals in the production of terrorists who blow up buildings, buses, trains, and people. We neglect any of them at our peril. Propagandists -- politicians, religious dogmatists, pundits, e. g. -- with their own ideologies and agendas are quick to offer trite nostrums. We must resist and condemn them and demand comprehensive analysis and realistic responses if we want to put an end to terrorism while there is still time.

Thursday, May 05, 2005
Saving Social Security
All of Bush's proposals so far are bad. His economic plutocrats will not permit any good ones because raising taxes is by definition bad. They claim it would not be good for the economy. The real reason is that it would cost them some money.

Nevertheless, consider this. The upper limit on incomes subject to payroll taxes today is $90,000. In 1981, 90 percent of the total income earned in wages and salaries was subject to the payroll tax. Income has shifted to those with higher incomes. The result is that only 85% of such income is liable to to the payroll tax today. Hiking the level to 90% again would require that the upper limits would have to be $138,000. This would take care of about 1/3 of the 75-year gap between tax revenues and benefit payments. See the February 18, 2005 on-line edition of The Christian Science Monitor. See:

Removing the cap altogether would completely do even more. Why should there be a cap? Low income people pay on all their earnings. Rich folks should too.

We also need a wealth tax and to preserve the estate tax. Finally, we need to roll back the massive tax cuts for the rich that are already sending the deficit soaring out of sight. The justification for raising taxes on wealth and high incomes is simple. The production of income and wealth is a social process. No one can earn money without the functioning of an economic system that requires everyone -- those who clean the bathrooms and the offices of the rich -- as well as the talent and hard work of rich people. The notion that market forces distribute income and wealth in accordance with justice or rationality is absurd, a myth. Consider the fact, e. g., that professional athletes who earn 10 million dollars a year would gladly play for 5 or 2 million, if that is all they could get. Most of them could not earn nearly that much apart from their athletic skills. Nobel prize-winning economists could make the case technically for everything I have said. It is ideology and selfish interest that are at the base of the rejection of such ideas, not economic fact or logic.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Assessing Public Discourse in America Today
Here is the way public issues are discussed in our time. A question in dispute arises. Two opposing groups form at the extremes. They are loud, deeply committed, activist in temperament and practice, eager participants in politics and public debate.  Each claims to have the full and complete truth without qualification.  Each side demonizes their opposite number.  Each denies the moral legitimacy and rationality of the other, while expressing bafflement that anyone could be so blind to the obvious facts and values involved.

Exaggerated? Of course, but who can deny that a point has been made, recognized by all who are alert to what is going on. It is not difficult to find single issue absolutists and extremists about some issue. They frequently have their opposite numbers:

Extremist advocates of unrestricted gun possession for everyone contend with gun control fanatics. The National Rife Association will not tolerate even the most reasonable restrictions, seeing in the mildest of measures a fatal threat to the rights of hunters, sportsmen, target shooters, and even a dagger in the Constitution, democracy, and civilization itself. Gun control advocates tend to exaggerate the importance of the issue, and I wonder if some of them have an elitist bias against hunters and rural folk generally, suspecting they are culturally handicapped, throwbacks to a former era.

Free choice zealots vie in unrelenting fashion with anti-abortion zealots. The former ignore, evade, or downplay the fact that a fetus is a potential person, while the latter assert categorically that from the point of conception on an actual person already exists -- an affront to science, philosophy and reason generally.

Christian fundamentalists attack Muslim fundamentalists.

The American Civil Liberties Union tends to absolutize individual freedom and rights to the neglect of social good. I am a member because I think we need an extremist organization like this, although I cringe at some of the repugnant positions and parties they defend.

Israeli and Palestinian extremists will apparently fight to the death rather than compromise or recognize any validity in their opponents' claims. Actually, Israelis and Palestinians form "two communities of suffering" (Edward Said) whose compassion for the other could surely find a road to peace with approximate justice for all.

The list could go on. A little humility, respect for the integrity of the other side, and a recognition of human finitude and fallibility would do wonders to lift the level of public discourse. So would a recognition that we (all of us, no exceptions) are prone to reason from a limited, often self-centered, selfish, perspective.

Is there any hope for improvement? Not much. Why? Go back to the first paragraph.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Final Reflections on the Terri Schiavo Case
Now that the hysteria over the Terri Schiavo case has subsided, some final reflections may be in order. It is at heart a simple matter involving only three items. 1. The background is that law and practice for the last decade and more have established the right of patients to control their own medical treatment, to refuse it or to stop it at their will. When the patient is unable to do so, properly instructed proxies may act in their behalf. 2. Florida law provides that the spouses, not the parents of patients, may speak for them when the patient is unable. 3. Florida courts found factually that the husband Michael correct represented his wife's wishes in this case. That is all there is to the case, and the courts at every level, including the Supreme Court of the United States, repeatedly reaffirmed this.

It is unfortunate and a tragedy that the family was divided and became the source of the great uproar, generated largely by the need of cable news stations to fill time 24.7. The drama was ready made for exploitation on all hands, from the media to the fanatics. For TV it was wonderful for ratings: visual, dramatic, emotional, involved conflict, winners and losers, and plenty of people informed and uninformed, wise and foolish, hysterical and rational, eager to claim camera time.

Michael was tragically made the bad guy and had to endure all kinds of lies and irrelevant and factually absurd charges, and the courts sustained him every time. He was deeply in love in with his wife and never ceased to be. He cared for her lovingly and tenderly until the last hour, cradling her in his arms as she died. He sought the companionship of another woman after medical experts had convinced him that the Terri he loved so much was gone and would not come back ever. He maintained that Terri would have approved what he did.

I have some experience here. I cared for my wife after we were divorced and I was remarried until the day she died in a hospice. I sat and held her hand every day during her last days, and we tenderly confessed our love for each other. I was in her room along with our children the day she died and went to the pharmacy to get a prescription the nurses wanted to ease her pain.  Eloise would have told you plainly that she trusted me more than anyone on earth -- along with our children -- to take care of her. I was close by and assumed responsibility down to the last detail of planning her funeral, taking the dress she was buried in to the cleaners, and putting a monument on her grave. Michael, I know how you felt. I applaud Michael for having the courage in the face of all the trashing and court suits he faced to insure that his wife's wishes were carried out.

Terri's parents and relatives, on the other hand, were in a state of deep denial for years. Had it not been for the fuss they raised, the case would never come to public attention. Note, the only reason this case claimed national attention was because of the family dispute over her care. Ventilators and feeding tubes are removed from hopelessly ill patients every day in this country by the will of patients or their authorized proxies. They do so by law and standard medical practice and in ways compatible with compassion and love. As a parent, I share the agony of the parents and siblings. But Michael was on the right side of this issue, and the courts rightly confirmed this over and over.

The Congress to its disgrace tried to interfere in areas where they have no business. Most Republican were exploiting the issue politically, and most of the Democrats were moral cowards hiding in caves. Both parties were out of touch with large majorities of the American people who had the good sense to see the issue in a humane way and wanted the Congress to do something about Social Security, Medicare, and health insurance for those without and stay out of the sick room. If members of Congress were ignorant of law and current practice, they should have informed themselves. I don't doubt that some had genuine convictions on the issue, but families not Congress should settle these issues.

Sunday, April 03, 2005
Outrages of the Terri Schiavo Case
With some exceptions the media have not served the public interest well in the Schiavo case. Most newspaper and TV reports leave you with the impression that the questions raised sprang to life out of nowhere with the conflict now dominating the news. This is far from the truth.  Ethicist have debated end of life matters for many years. A long history of law and practice precedes the current controversies. Two significant cases mark major turn turning points. The Supreme Court of New Jersey granted the parents of Karen Ann Quinlan permission to remove a respirator (1975), and the Supreme Court of the United States allowed the parents of Nancy Cruzan to remove a feeding tube (1990). In 1990 Congress passed the Patient Self-Determination Act. Since then the right of patients or proxies to refuse or demand withdrawal of any kind of life-sustaining treatment or equipment has not been in question. Well established in law and practice, feeding tubes and respirators are removed without question all over the country daily when legitimate conditions are met. It would be helpful to the public debate if only these elementary facts were repeated by news sources as often as the video tapes showing Terri Schiavo in her bed. Viewing them, many lay people and even doctors in Congress have drawn erroneous conclusions about her mental state. Since doctors know better than to diagnose at the distance without having examined a patent, we must assume that the congressional doctors become authorities for political rather than medical reasons. Instead of consistently making clear the historical context, the media have focused on the immediate sensational aspects – the family conflict, who is winning and losing the battle, the protestors, and the zealots who offer much heat but not much light. At best they have attempted to define some medical terminology but have largely failed in illuminating the basic legal and moral issues that are in dispute. The event is perfect for TV. It is visual, dramatic, emotional, and involves conflict, winners and losers. The actions of Gov. Bush, the Florida legislature, President Bush and the Congress were outrageous. They have no business intruding into these intimate family matters where legal and moral guidelines are already in place. The Republicans in Congress are dominated by ruthless zealots, and most Democrats have been moral cowards. Only the state and federal judiciaries have acted with any dignity. When it is over, there will be many losers and no winners, except possibly Terri Schiavo if she is allowed to die in peace. It is a shame the media are not doing a better job of informing rather than just aggravating the public debate.

Friday, June 04, 2004
Faith Based Human Charities and Services
The issue of government support for faith-based human services is full of complications, dangers, ambiguities, and subtleties. The beauty of religiously-oriented social ministries is the potential for dealing with people as whole selves, i.  e., giving them food for the soul as well as for the body. But this very unity poses the problem of how it is Constitutionally licit for the government to enable the providing of secular bread without funding sectarian religion. If, on the other hand, the delivery of goods and services to the needy is totally divorced from the religious dimension, in what meaningful sense is it any longer faith-based, apart from merely being sponsored by a religious group? Why shouldn't the government fund a church soup kitchen if all that is dispensed is soup? Because, we say, what the church would spend on soup can now be spent on the church bus. But maybe they would just serve more soup. Maybe the soup itself is a witness to the faith behind it, but if it is, is that not a sponsorship of religion? Would the government discriminate against some religious groups? Would giving government money to churches tend to dull the prophetic urge to be critical of the state? Would the government require conformity to certain rules that would restrict church autonomy? What is a religious group? What does faith-based mean? Can we think our way through this thicket without falling into confusion?

A strict and purist position on these matters is impossible in practical terms. Many lines have to be drawn in shades of gray. We have to do a lot of British "muddling through." Those who look for absolutely clear prescriptions requiring no delicate balancing acts are doomed to perpetual frustration. Or they may be tempted to resort to desperate efforts to find purity of doctrine by suppressing legitimate elements in the total ensemble of principles that govern the nation.

Saturday, May 01, 2004
Sharon's Ultimate Goal and Interim Maneuvering
With respect to Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, the fundamental question here is, as always, whether his ultimate intent is to do to the Palestinians what we did to Native Americans – beat them into helpless submission in isolated territories. Avi Shlaim, renowned Oxford University historian thinks it is: “His real agenda is to .. . smash the Palestinians into the ground, and to extinguish hope for independence and statehood.” (The Observer, April 14, 2002) Hence we have to distinguish between his tactical maneuvering for pragmatic purposes and his ultimate goal. Shlaim compiles the evidence in his book, The Iron Wall.

Friday, April 23, 2004
The Scorpion and the Turtle: The Middle East and Despair
The best approximate justice possible should be sought for the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. It would help enormously if the United States could say outright that Israel is an oppressor and an occupying power. Unfortunately political realities make it impossible to acknowledge that what the United States did to Native Americans, Israel has done twice in Palestine. The Book of Joshua tells the first story, and the second occurred mainly in 1948 and 1967. Israel insists that the Palestinians must stop the violence before progress can be made toward a Palestinian state. But this assumes that Israel and the Palestinians start as moral equals, forgetting that Israel is an unjust occupier of Palestinian territory. Irresponsibility is exclusive to neither party. The political process is driven by the extremists on both sides, robbing moderates of a prevailing influence. Reasonable, fair-minded Israelis and Palestinians are sick of the suffering and want peace in a practical settlement that will please no one completely but will partially redeem the tragedy of the Middle East.

Is there any hope? The scorpion asked the turtle for a ride across the stream, saying “I cannot swim.” The turtle refused out of fear of being stung by the scorpion. “Don’t be silly,” said the scorpion. “If I sting you, we will both die.” So the turtle gave the scorpion a ride. In mid-stream, the scorpion stung the turtle on the neck. “Now we will both die. Why did you do that,” said the turtle in despair. Replied the scorpion, “Well, that’s the Middle East for you.”

Wednesday, 21 April 2004
Gas Tax So Sensible It Has No Chance.
The one dollar a gallon gas tax proposed by Andrew Sullivan (Time, April 19, 2004,104) is so eminently wise and has so many medium and long-term benefits for the country that it will be soundly ignored, denounced, and screamed at by the Congress, the President, and the bulk of the American public because of our short-sightedness, self-centeredness, and shallow thinking. I would, however, propose a gradual increment of ten cents a gallon over time and maybe consider a fifty cent maximum at the moment to reduce the economic shock.

Hey, there's a war on. What about a little sacrifice on everybody's part instead of placing the burden on middle and lower middle class, low income folks and minorities who fight our wars, shed blood, and die -- often for the foolish schemes of our leaders whose own children get MBA's and law degrees in classes with the offspring of the wealthy instead of dying in battle? Maybe a draft with a minimum of non-health exemptions might sober us up to the costs of war. Just a thought.

Friday, April 23, 2004
Quasi-Acerbic Oddities
Shame on CBS for showing pictures of the dying Princess Diana. But is it not hypocritical for the British tabloids that hounded her for years to be outraged at this violation of her dignity?

The ads for Levitra are getting so explicit they border on the scandalous. Poor Levitra, it has no advantage over Viagra and cannot claim to work for thirty-six hours like Cialis. So what can Levitra do but get more sexy, since everybody knows, sex sells.

Give President Bush credit for setting aside more wetlands, but is it not ironic, not to say annoying, to have him speak on Earth Day -- he who has done everything possible to benefit corporate polluters by trimming back on environmental controls?

Of course, the Bush Administration does not want us to see pictures of coffins containing dead soldiers. It would spoil the illusion they want to foster that this war is almost painless, nearly costless, calling for no sacrifice for non-military families and allowing for generous tax cuts for the wealthy.

What is it with us Americans that we get so upset over Janet Jackson's momentary "wardrobe malfunction" and are so complacent, so accepting, of the constant, pervasive, gross, gratuitous violence in movies, video games, and on TV?  Why are we so offended by the nano-second sighting of a female breast and so oblivious to the dangers associated with the easy access to guns?

Why are so many Democrats so enthusiastic about a possible presidential run for Hillary Clinton given that she is increasingly a hawk close to Bush on Iraq and military matters? (New York Times, April 23, 2004)

The Bush record at home and abroad should allow Kerry to toss grenades into the President's candidacy. Am I the only one who thinks Kerry keeps throwing cotton balls? Is Kevin Phillips right that Kerry is not capable -- in substance and style -- of going for the jugular, partly because he is himself such a part of the wealthy corporate class whose play-house needs upsetting?

Monday, 1 May 2006
Pharmaceutical Companies' Love Affair with Patients
I am getting a little tired of hearing drug companies on TV proclaim how much they love patients and put them first. Au contraire, profit is the end; patient satisfaction is the means. The prosecution offers three points in evidence:

1. If they love patients so much, why do they spend so much money in ads to persuade them to suggest their newest and most expensive drugs to their doctors instead of older and cheaper alternatives that work about as well?

2. Why do they spend so much money wining, dining, and plying doctors with gifts persuading them to prescribe the aforementioned newer, more expensive drugs instead of cheaper alternatives?

3. Why do they do everything within their power to keep their patents from expiring in order to prevent much cheaper generics from coming on the market?

The prosecution rests.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Hamas, Reason, and Justice
A Hamas leader, when asked if they would renounce violence and accept the right of Israel to exist now that they were in power, said, "Let Israel retreat to their 1967 borders, and then we will discuss that." This is a reasonable position and one that has justice on its side. The usual assumption of most discussions of this question in this country assumes that the Palestinians should be strict pacifists and accept whatever they can get at the bargaining table. This conveniently forgets that Israel is an intruder, an occupying power, an oppressor.

Let the United States demand that the Israelis live within their 1967 borders, and then we can demand that Hamas renounce violence and accept the right of Israel to exist.

Will this happen? No, of course not, because the political situation in this country will not allow it. Right wing Christians and the Jewish lobby will not allow it. So the tragedy will continue.

By the way, could we please get past two other obstacles? Let us hear no more that Yassir Arafat was offered the best deal the Palestinians could hope for when Clinton was president and turned it down. The situation was much more complicated than that.

Let us hear no more that God gave Israel all this land centuries ago and therefore it is theirs forever. Anybody who argues that should also argue that we should give the Indians back all the land we took from them since 1492.

"Short of forcibly expunging the Arab presence from every inch of soil currently controlled by Israel, the dilemma facing Israel today is the same as it was in June 1967, when the aging David Ben-Gurion advised his fellow countrymen against remaining in the conquered territories. A historic victory can wreak almost as much havoc as a historic defeat. In Abba Eban's words, "The exercise of permanent rule over a foreign nation can only be defended by an ideology and rhetoric of self-worship and exclusiveness that are incompatible with the ethical legacy of prophetic Judaism and classical Zionism." The risk that Israel runs today is that for many of its most vocal defenders, Zionism has become such an "ideology and rhetoric of self-worship and exclusiveness" and not much more. In that case, Israel's brilliant victory of June 1967, already a classic in the annals of pre-emptive defensive warfare, will have borne bitter fruits for the losers and the
winners alike."
Tony Judt, "After Victory," The New Republic (June 29, 2002)

For other essays in theology and ethics, see my web homepage:
There you will find links to numerous other essays.  I invite  comments, refutations, and "Amens."

Please remove * in my e-mail address before sending. The * was added to thwart spammers. Thank you.
My E-Mail Address
Presently, the following essays on theological and ethical topics are available:
About the Author
A List of my Books
Pope John Paul II: Blessing and Curse to the World
 Outrages of the Schiavo Case
Final Reflections on the Terri Schiavo Case
Liberal Church as Impotent Political Force
 Interpreting the Bible Today
 The Authority of the Bible
 Using the Bible with Integrity
 Theology as Religious Belief
 What I Believe
 Natural Law and Moral Relativism
 What is Truth -- and Does it Matter?
 A Doctrine of God (Short Version)
 A Doctrine of God (Long Version)
Trinity: God, Christ, Spirit
 God as Masculine and Feminine
 Theodicy: the Problem of Evil
 Theodicy: A Heterodox Alternative
 The Many Faces of Evil
 A Contemporary Christology
 Christ and Christians:
A Critique of Nieburhr's Christ and Culture
 The Incompatibility of Christianity and Civilization.
Christian Ethics
Process Christian Ethics
The Ethics of Belief
Relativism, Morality, Belief
Relating Jesus to Jefferson
 Liberation Themes in Country Music
 Liberation Themes in White Southerners
Southern Tragedy
Capital Punishment
Physician Assisted Suicide
Prescription Drugs and the Little Red Hen
  Bio-Ethical Decision Making
Drug Policy
Homosexuality: Same Sex Love is OK
Theology and Ecology
Religion and Politics
Science and Theology
Church and State
A Short Biographical Sketch
For an updated version of Mother Goose for the modern age, visit
Mother Goose Goes Electronic
Having a Web site is becoming a family enterprise. First to have a Page was my son.
The latest entry is that of my son-in-law and daughter.
Ric Brown
Nancy Cauthen

These sites are very different, but both are creative,imaginative
productions. They would welcome a visit.
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