"If you come to a fork in the road, take it!!"

Yogi Berra

February 5, 2012

Some Things Are Better Than Before -- 2011

In the last dozen years more than 20 women have been elected heads of their national governments in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Australia.

The Vets for Peace (at least some chapters) seek an end to all warfare.

International Laws are increasingly used to seek, have trials, decide penalties for genocidic leaders: Panama, Rwanda, Argentina, Somalia, Libya, & others.

Many younger families are creating home grown foods, keeping hens, bees, being "more Green" regarding energy use, transportation for "sustainable communities."

The current OCCUPY movement, strong among youth, challenges much of the current economic and political patterns in the USA, fostering pressure for changes.

More than 100 countries gathered at Copenhagen (earlier) and Durban this year (while 3rd world added Cochabamba). Discussions and agreements were important, but major polluters & USA failed to make any real commitments.

For the first time of records kept, USA women (%) more often than men, completed undergraduate college degrees and advanced graduate education degrees as well.

Women in the USA (middle class at least) are less reticent, even voluntarily, giving their age. (Of course, public figures include ages with other data).

American men in USA (middle class) are now reported in news to have cried, or volunteer that in private sharing or public situations that they cried.

Instant Run-Off Voting is increasingly being adopted for local and state-wide elections, widening the rangew of policies, reducing incivility in campaigns.

Since any treaties that the USA ratifies become "supreme law of the land," they can and do have relevance for application in some "domestic" law cases.

The USA is becoming much more diverse in population, adding to the descendants of Europeans, the indigenous Native Americans, and Blacks from Africa, with whites less than 50% of population.

Recent applications of the philosophy, tactics, strategies of non-violence, and results need to be widely used as in USA civil rights, North African massive population endeavors recently, Russia currently, OCCUPYING movement.

This past fall, three African women were recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. As physical and biological scientists, women have recently been awarded Nobels.

The Native Americans in the USA have finally been "awarded" the largest sum ever voted by the US Congress for "reparations" for the lands, forests, resources taken from them. Credit due: Elouise Cobell, Montana, Blackfeet.

Oregon, Washington, and Montana have approved procedures for MDs to assist terminally ill patients to die, given strict regulations.

In the "energy realm," there is a shift in the USA to make use of bicycles (Oregon and Minnesota high); smaller cars are being sought; rail-lines are being built (great rapidity in Japan, China). Local buses are being equipped to also carry bikes, wheelchair patrons, and lower their step levels. Virtually all local streets have the "curbs" curved to accomodate walking.

In the Twin Cities, the painting of murals on building walls has spread, often with a Hispanic style/content as Mexican major art.

Death sentences in the USA (No European Union countries retain it) for "criminals" are being eliminated by more states, due to errors for innocents, moral considerations, costs. Life "without parole" is questionable. Oregon governor recently said he'd allow no more, adding to MN & others who ban it.

The current "blockage" to national political progress (two major parties jammed) is encouraging the formation or addition of alternatives.

The use of plastic bags and excessive packaging are being discouraged, penalized or not, put in use in California, etc. The collection of "garbage" improves with categorized sorting.

There have been remarkable developments in medicine, in organ transplants, specific drugs, treatments, etc. Abe Maslow, former president of the American Psychological Association, survived a serious heart attack. He called the rest his "postmortem life." I've had a "postmortem life" since 2003!

January 16, 2012

More Leadership by Women for a Change!

During the past dozen years at least 20 women around the world have been elected as Presidents, Chancellors, or Prime Ministers of their nations (see below). Will their national and international leadership roles and policies differ in some ways from their "male counterparts"? E.g., will they be less inclined to initiate/accept warfare, oppress citizenry, choose to focus on different problems? Will they be more humane? Women have the capacity to feel anger, hate, fear, or empathy, as do men; but how would they differ? Given their contrasting biological functions, family roles, educations, and so on, several aspects may create contrasting responses.

1. Women bear, give birth, nurse and provide the major nurturing of babies and children in their younger years. Women generally, single or married, may identify with, exhibit greater sympathy for children (their own and those around the world) more so than many men may experience. Leading one's nation will be influenced by the humaneness, sensitivity, empathy, experience, especially for those less privileged in their societies.

2. Women generally are physically less powerful than men in size, weight, height, speed, musculature. Thus in man-woman relationships girls learn from their mothers and other women more effective behaviors than physical force to achieve their own objectives, even partially. However, in a more equalitarian society, boys and girls should be reared to employ non-violent techniques -- communication, compromise, "conflict resolution methods." Such skills are needed by persons in high positions of leadership especially.

3. Research has revealed that women in our society want to see their academic and professional training, more so than men, connected to aiding poeple. Men far outnumber women in the USA in science, technology, engineering, math, medicine, environmental studies, social sciences, professional education. Thus, women leading a nation, or for those in our society eager to aid other populations, those choices prepare them for dealing with basic human needs, at home or abroad. (E.g., Doctors without Borders, Madre, Earth Justice).

4. A current major national and international concern with serious consequences for young women, is the "trafficking", often even "enslavement", of them. (The fall 2011 issue of the WILPF Peace and Freedom, pp. 17-20, elaborates what can only be briefly included here.) Making women into international "commodities", close to slavery often, presents serious problems, as does domestic prostitution in many nations. How would women and men officials deal with these highly significant, generally illegal, abuses of women? How high on their agendas? What progress to be instituted?

5. Though women may now more often secure leadership roles in governments, their influence on law-making and court decisions depend also on the ratio of men to women in powerful positions. E.g., after its tragic "tribal war", Rwanda's new government regulations stipulate a quota for women in its legislative body. With 40 they rank first proportionally followed by the Scandinavian countries. (The USA is "way down" the roster.) Legislatures are apt to be somewhat different when men-women proportions change, and for civic peace and effective governing, they need each other.

6. There is an increasing belief among American scholars, peace advocates, and officials that our "foreign aid" to other countries has been too often directed to the male leaders, who frequently turned out to be corrupt. Thus, the diverse needs of the common folk were met minimally, if at all. The endeavors are increasingly to work with the women in communities.

List of women in high leadership roles in recent years (extensive but not exhaustive), compiled by Don Irish, with help from Michael K. O'Sullivan and Siobhan DiZio, Hamline University:

Argentina: Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, President, 2007. Nilda Garre, Ambassador to Venezuela, first woman Defense Minister, 2005. First Latin American woman re-elected President, October 2011.

Australia: Julia Gillard, first woman Prime Minister, 2010.

Bahrain: Sheikiha Haya Rashad Al Khalifa, President, U.N. General Assembly, June 9, 2006.

Brasil: Dilma Van Rousseif, President, 2011.

Chile: Michelle Bachelet, President, 2006 (fourth Latin American woman to be elected President).

Costa Rica: Laura Chinchilla Miranda, President, May 8, 2010.

Denmark: Helle Thorning Schmidt, 2011.

France: Christine Lagarde, first woman Director, International Monetary Fund, 2011.

Germany: Angela Merkel, Chancellor, since October 22, 2005.

Ghana: Joyce Bamford-Addo, first woman speaker of Parliament, January 7, 2009.

Greece: Dora Lakoyannis, Ahens mayor, then first woman Foreign Minister

Guyana: Janet Jagan, elected President, 1997; resigned due to ill health two years later.

Iceland: Jonanne Siguroardottir, 2009.

Indonesia: Megawati Sukarnoputri, President, 2001.

Iran: Shirin Ebadi, First Iranian, First Muslim, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003.

Ireland: Mary Robinson, President, 1990-1997, then U.N. Human Rights Role.

Jamaica: Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister, 2006.

Kuwait: Massouma al Mubarak, first woman Cabinet Member, Minister of Planning and Administration Development, 2005.

Liberia: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President 2006, First African woman "Head of State," one month after women given right to vote. 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Lithuania: Dalia Grybauskaite, President, 2009.

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi, preeminent leader in Burma movement for recovery of democracy. Nobel Peace Prize. Years spent in "house arrest."

New Zealand: Helen Clark, Prime Minister, 1999.

Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister, 1988-1990; 1993-1996. Was assassinated, 2007.

Phillipines: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President, 2001.

Slovakia: Iveta Radicova, Prime Minister.

Thailand: Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister, 2011.

Ukraine: Yulla Tymoshenko, Prime Minister, January-September, 2005; December 2007-2010. Imprisoned by male competitor (contended to be "political" reasons -- U.N. critique), October 2011.

Two of the women have disappointed me recently. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has granted permission for USA military bases (Liberia) when till then none of the African nations were willing; and the USA African command was staioned in Europe. And Julia Gillard has agreed for USA Marines to have military presence in Australia. Both are aiding the imperial USA foreign policies.

July 12, 2011

Celebrate or Ruminate?

Memorial Day and Armistice Day are widely observed in the USA. Small towns, big cities. Walls listing military war dead. Cemetery walks. Gun salutes. Flags flying. National anthems sung before each game. Many "red-white-and-blue" speeches. Allusions to "saving democracy" by war. Radios, TV and films flash in the themes. Families line the curbs and watch the uniforms pass by. The "patriotic" organizations are represented, though the "Vets for Peace" have sometimes been excluded. What is being celebrated? remembered? contemplated? analyzed?

Certainly, those who returned from war in bags or whose lives will be always handicapped by serious injuries, often lacking the promised adequate medical care, merit our genuine concern and aid. Some children now lack a parent; a marriage loses a spouse, sadly continues with an empty heart. Yet, every person in the world's variety should be recognized as precious! We, the dominant power, suffer much less than those overwhelmed with grief under very meagre circumstances and extensive destruction.

Are lives given or taken in warfare? Perhaps a few military recruits are "gung ho" to kill opponents; but, most wish to live and their lives are not given, but taken from them by the decisions of their nation's leaders! The few "terrorists" who do consciously give their lives are more personally courageous than their opponents in secret rooms pushing buttons to send drones to kill many more. Modern warfare enables those with high-tech equipment to kill more people from higher altitudes, with less feelings of personal responsibility. And tallies of casualties for our nation's warfare bring greater proportions of military deaths for those less educated or unable to find employment; and for Hispanics, Blacks, poorer whites from Southern states, and those from our "colonies" (e.g. Puerto Rico). Something to celebrate?

We now are seemingly involved in perpetual warfare. About half of the U.S. "discretionary" budget is allotted to war-related endeavors! Yet our leaders seem unable to find $$ to provide health care, fine education, energy needs, roads and other structural needs for our citizens. War aids virtually only weapon manufacturers, who benefit continually. War can be very profitable for some! Very few of our administrators have the courage to change our priorities.

We are the wealthiest nation, and cannot provide the essentials for our own people, due to the drainage of constant war and preparations for assumed conflicts. It's reported also that we have about 700 military bases in at least 130 countries. How many foreign military bases are there in our country, impinging on our sovereignty? (None that I know). With our bases placed around the world, conflicts anywhere are then deemed threats to our security! What about their security and freedom of action?

Perhaps we need to utilize our "Memorial Days" with the Canadian term of "Remembrance" and shift to build for future peace with nonviolence!

The monstrous casualties and extensive "collateral damages" across the world need to end. Let's have gatherings that focus on our world's future without war! The "demonstrations in the streets" can carry signs that stress the truth that "War is obsolete," causing more damages than can be gained. WAR IS OBSOLETE! Think of the world's children! END OUR IMPERIAL FOREIGN POLICIES! CLOSE THE 700 BASES! INVEST OUR RESOURCES!

February 13, 2011

Why Their Goals Need Not Be Our Goals

Recent headlines:

In hockey, some fights happen off the ice.” Star Tribune, 1/26/11; “In Basketball, Danger of Head Trauma.” New York Times, 9/11/10; “Despite Law, Town Finds Concussion Dangers Lurk.” New York Times, 9/23/10; “Favre has recovered,” Star Tribune, 12/27/10; “Football is violent, but does it have to be mean-spirited, too?” New York Times, 1/24/11; “Aggressive thoughts, may linger long after violent game turned off” Star Tribune. 11/3/10; “Is it ‘common sense’ to keep violent games from kids?” Star Tribune, 9/3/10; “Political Heavy Hitters take on College Bowls”, New York Times. 1/10/11; “Auburn is first in one Ranking (NCAA football team) and 85th in another (academic level of team), New York Times, 1/6/2011.

[One couple said they went to see a fight, and a hockey game appeared! Referees are seen to stand near players’ fist fights, tolerating them, without their prompt dismissal from the ice.]

Granted, such news items, though increasingly present, do not represent all the daily “Sport” news. However, we are a violent country domestically and world-wide—[abundance of guns in private hands, gang warfare, murders, domestic violence, movies and TV features, seemingly eternal warfare, failures to resolve disagreements non-violently; catering in sports to the “hit them again harder“ audiences. Personal dueling lost its appeal after US Treasurer Alexander Hamilton’s death in 1804. Professional boxing is less common now, but “extreme wrestling” and other “extreme sports”, are increasingly prevalent. No physical endeavors, based on “intent” to seriously injure one’s opponent, should be categorized as a “sport.” [When the terms of the Minnesota Boxing Commission expired several years ago the then Governor Pawlenty nominated new members. I wrote asking him to withdraw the appointments and terminate the Commission. No response].

My professor of physiology in grad school was Dr. Arthur Steinhaus. One of his research interests involved professional boxers. He well documented that “the more often” and “the harder the hit to the head, hemorrhages in the brain developed and caused further damage. Although brutality as an intent is viewed as “illegal” in hockey, football, even basketball, the “Take him out” aggressive attitude is present in these American-style “combats”. The disabling of opponents becomes a “goal”. Kick the football between the goal posts, throw the basketball through the hoop, put the puck past the goalie. Win the game using the best players, utilizing whatever “rough actions” are needed to win, while the rest sit on the bench. Such behaviors should not be involved in winning.

1) Ideally, every student (child, teens, young adults) should be provided health education, age-appropriate, as an integral segment of a diverse curriculum for life-involving all individuals. Those with physical handicaps and others with varied needs should be helped. Honest and accurate presentations should be made regarding reproduction information. Though not legally required, participation should be expected, for the concern is not a “mere elective” interest.

2) To provide such a significant segment to education related to physical skills will require “professional training”, not just employing “coaches” whose main concern is “winning games”. A “professional” staff could make the role pertinent to other fields of learning that have relevance—e.g. Muscle functions, physics; blood constituents—biology and nutrition; music and art, dancing, other cultural games—Native American lacrosse; disease and injuries—physiology; rest and sleep—biology and so on—related to other pertinent sports.

3) “Coaches”, whose focus understandably is “winning”, tend to involve the best players, leaving the less skilled sitting on the bench (e.g., basketball, football, and soccer). Even injured team players may be kept in the game, producing life-long injuries to those players (e.g. Brett Favre). The other players should not be ignored. They have invested their time and energies also. Even in childrens’ games “being the last one chosen” with a team does not produce self-confidence or value.

4) Activities should regularly involve both boys/girls, young women and men, family generations games, good for breaking barriers, showing interest, practicing equality, becoming accustomed to playing for its own sake. Many activities can be shared in family reunions, camper gatherings—volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, badminton, swimming, and so forth. Many facilities are available in schools or in communities.

5) Schools that now maintain football teams should terminate them and switch to soccer. Thereby there would be fewer and lesser injuries, due to fewer contacts in a powerful manner, more healthy running. Soccer is a game more adaptable in numbers of players and simpler clothing.

6) Academic schooling might have “different sports” during the school year—related to gyms, pools, courts availability. A different combination of sports might be offered in alternate “semesters” so the students could experience playing different skill patterns (e.g. each semester a game) thereby experiencing eight game patterns for four years in high school.

7) Some skills, physical endeavors may fit seasonal differences when schools are not in session—biking, hiking, track, tennis, swimming can be done during family vacations or with use of community facilities [One learns that biking a given trail twice or more, or climbing the same mountain twice or more—that it is not the same trail or mountain.]

8) Eliminating involvement with football, soccer, or basketball leagues would reduce time spent in practice, eliminate travel needs, and would be less expensive. Dropping “championship playing” during the evenings of school years would release more time for student studies or sleep needed. [No wonder that Japan and other countries have exceeded our American students in diverse tests.]

9) Developing commitment to active lives, having balance and priorities for each life step, will tend to differ. [As an instructor I was often asked by a male student to be excused from tests due to a conflict with football practice. I am unaware of any players asking the coach to excuse them from football practice because there was a sociology test scheduled at the same time!]

10) Public schools should not directly serve as “feeders” for professional sports. Specialties that require high level training can be sought through privately employed “coaches” for each form of “play”.

11) Public schools should not be agents for commercial interests—ads on stadium walls, stickers on students’ lockers, Channel One’s presentation of their interpretation of news for classes with TVs given by the corporation. Money can be used as leverage to affect scholarly programs.

In summary, the goal of public schools should prepare students for life-long, age-appropriate, health regimens, creating guides regarding diet, exercise, rest, and years of recreation. [In ancient Rome, the coliseum held crowds for “bread and circuses” or lions and Christians while modern Americans gather in many stadiums for “beer and football”.]

Which goals are more important for the human race in the long run?

November 28, 2010

Why the Golden Mean is Fatal

The “Golden Mean” is not now a common expression. However, adherence to it has grave implications for our current and forthcoming problems regarding climate change. Colleague and friend, Prof. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, contends that this decade is the most important decade in human history. Some citizens remain unconvinced that such can be the case. The rest of us, hopefully an increasing majority, accept the data and predictions of most scientists in diverse fields regarding climate change. We need to be a creative and committed population to react to the forthcoming crises with effectiveness and a sense of urgency.

Why is a “Golden Mean” very inadequate, even fatal in results? The term refers to a “happy medium”, a “safe, comfortable position”, overall a compromise result, but not fully satisfying to any of those involved. Paul Wellstone, colleague and former Minnesota Senator, recognized, as do I, that perfection is not of this world. Yet compromises to get some legislation passed, fail to deal adequately with issues. However, Wellstone contended that if one gets a part of their goal, without violating their values or ethics, then the small gain remains “progress.”

However, our history has many examples of long-term indecision about basic problems. Our staunch American women who organized in the 1800’s to secure their right to vote, the “suffrage movement”, experienced arrests, jail terms, beatings, and opprobrium from the majority. After a century of struggle, they gained the right to vote in 1920 (the 19th Amendment, Constitution). Yet our women still have not full legal equality with men. [Uruguay passed their Equal Rights legislation in 1948. Their sky hasn’t fallen!]

A similar, but much longer example pertains to our African American constituency, beginning with the Constitution about 1789, to eliminate slavery in this country. The 15th Amendment (1870) granted the right, but was ignored. Not until President Johnson did “Blacks” gain a firm right to vote, secured and implemented in 1965. The Native Americans were granted the right to vote in 1924! These classic movements finally achieved their goals after decades of penalties for the activists and long deprivation of the rights of these citizens that could have been, should have been instituted initially. The “Golden Mean” of compromise, delay, and argument withheld rights due them. These equal civil rights were delayed by the dominant power of the whites and males who catered to a “majority view”. The Congresspersons, judges, and executives held the power. The standard was maintaining a “Golden Mean” but it had a lot of lead in it!

A recent, current example has been the struggle for provision of full health care for our populace. However, the final legislation included something for virtually everyone, but did not implement legislation that gave the best, most economic, full population coverage, with single-payer health service. A very complicated legislation result makes the provisions difficult for even very literate citizens to comprehend. The influential pharmaceutical companies, private health care agencies, and others that sought financial profit, “won the day.” [A wag once said that a camel was a horse put together by a committee!]

Now, to attend to the current paramount challenge that faces all humanity; men and women and children of every race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, rich and poor. Together we face the challenges of great climate change and its consequences. The climate clocks are “ticking”. “Tipping points” are occurring. Productive lands can become deserts. Island nations or shoreline cities can be flooded, creating millions of refugees. Glaciers are melting as are the Arctic/Antarctic ice shelves. Many plants and animal species may become extinct. And so on. Yet, many of our corporate economic and other interests prefer to put the “Gold” first and “fiddle while Rome burns.” Many of the climate changes may be irreversible. Friend and colleague, Senator Wellstone, believed that without a strong sense of urgency and coordinated planning around the world, the best result possible for our children of the future will be less worse for them (and all other living creatures) than it would have been if we had not acted during these available years. Actions planned for 2050 generally are too late!

Former Czech Republic President, Vaclav Havel, provides us a humbling perspective about our place in the universe:”…we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger for the end of the world….We need not fear for our planet. It was here before us and most likely will be here after us.” Thus, wholesale “genocide” can be the product of our delayed and insufficient action.

During World War II, the USA marshaled much of its spirit and resources so that “success” was possible. Lester Brown, in his Chapter 10, “Can We Mobilize Fast Enough?” indicated:

The choice is ours, yours and mine. We can stay with business as usual, and preside over an economy that continues to destroy the natural resources until it destroys itself, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that changes direction, moving the world into a path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come. (p. 268). **

Scientists have provided us with Knowledge beyond the symptoms and what needs to be done, the WHY we need to act. The denial by some citizens must not be permitted to jeopardize us all.

In his 1/6/1942 address to the American public, President Roosevelt announced goals of producing 45,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, and several thousand ships. Sale of new cars was banned for almost three years. Highway construction was halted. Tires, gasoline, fuel oil, and sugar were all rationed, beginning that year. As a result, 229,600 aircraft were produced; more than 5,000 ships were added to the merchant fleet, and the other goals were greatly exceeded. A sense of urgency existed and the people met the challenge. [Summary from Brown, Chapter 10 “Can We Mobilize Fast Enough?” (page 260-261]**

As with healthcare legislation, we can anticipate that agribusiness, coal, oil, and other economic forces will exert all their influence to prevent Congress from taking actions that will be necessary to address the climate change issues. Also, with half of our Congressional discretionary budget, acted upon each session, now assigned to “war-related endeavor, we are not in Roosevelt’s situation. Thus, to deal adequately with climate change we must end warfare as a policy for dealing with international problems. War must be seen as obsolete. The “military-industrial complex” will also block how we must use our resources. Humanity will then lose to warfare. If we organize ourselves for warfare why can we not take actions necessary for peace? We need to advance the techniques of nonviolent ways to resolve our international challenges.

Nonviolence must become a way of life. We are well able to create our own Armageddon! The major world religions—Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, as well as Humanists and surviving indigenous cultures, all have bases for peace. The sooner we change our orientations, the less likely conflict will occur.

We need to create a civilization based on different assumptions and practices! Population size needs to be reduced. We need to create “transitional communities”, closer to the earth, respecting it, decentralize our major cities, recycle all products possible, grow and rely on foods grown locally, change our principal sources of energy, protect our natural resources and the wildlife therein, broaden mass transit, educate from childhood up, the essentials of nonviolent conflict resolution, create a civilization that does not rely on violence internally and abroad. We have much learning to surmount. Can we look into the wonderful, eager, caring faces of our children and grandchildren,--and subsequent generations,--and at least be able to say WE TRIED to keep a world friendly to you!

To return to the initial theme: a half-hearted, compromised, piece-meal, endeavor will NOT bring peace or save all the wonders of diverse cultures and people. Are we able and ready for this “long haul”, taking roads not previously traveled? Will young couples decide to have children, and if so, how many, when the world their children and their grandchildren’s children soon will probably be in a very different and difficult world, greatly altered from the one we are now experiencing? We who are now living can provide the answer.

**Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilization to Save Civilization. New York: Earth Policy Institute and W.W. Norton & Company, 2009. [President of the Institute.] pp. 260-261, 268.