January 2009 Links

January 31, 2009

The glass is half full (or better) according to Isaiah Poole, of the Campaign for America’s Future: “Struggles over the the administration’s economic recovery package, and the brutal snubbing Obama received from House Republicans in spite of what most progressives think were ill-advised compromises, have threatened to overshadow the sea-change that is unfolding inside the Beltway. It’s wrong to let that happen. Instead, the change should be celebrated, defended and established as a foundation for the bolder policy steps that this administration must take in the days ahead.” He lists the good things that have happenedalready due to the Obama Administration.

This story will probably (and tragically) become increasingly common in the days to come:financial crises among agencies seeking to offer aid to the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in our country. As more and more people are forced out of jobs and housing, the resources to help them get scarcer and scarcer.

Could the Obama Administration’s pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo be a first step in broader prison reform (especially in abolishing torture) in our American criminal justice system? One can dream….

Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri  Avnery shares some interesting reflections–suggesting that the Obama administration (and U.S. in general) is showing signs of inching toward a different kind of relationship with Israel that may provide some bases for hope that peace may be more possible.

What does the Super Bowl tell us about American society–and American religion in particular?

perceptive and disturbing critique of the most recent manifestation of Pope Benedict’s knee-jerk anti-modern sensibilities, manifested in part by the reinstating of a Holocaust-denying bishop John Paul II had excommunicated.

January 28, 2009

Now, I am a huge peanut butter eater (that is, I eat huge amount of peanut butter–and I am a bigger person than average). So this report of corporate disdain for public health and government collusion in such disdain that has led to a salmonella outbreak due to contaminated peanut butter makes me mad.

Nick Turse is a perceptive social and political analyst. Here is a sobering discussion of the expanding destruction wrought by our current economic crises.

Here’s a short article about an encouraging victory against agribusiness in the northeast.


January 27, 2009

There are Christian pastors, happily, who are opening fighting against the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Here is an interview with Ronald Aronson, a kinder, gentler atheist who nonetheless is seeking to make a strong case for secularism and for helping those who are not religious to affirm their stance. I blame Christian theology for this development, but it still seems sad to me.

A stirring reminder of the power of nonviolence, written in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Christine Wicker, author of the important critique of the Christian Right, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, is hosting a fascinating website that continues to gather information making the case that the power of the Christian Right is waning. She has a link there to another fascinating website, Recovering Evangelical.

January 26, 2009

The future is getting closer all the time–for instance, what about the role of robots in fighting wars?  I find it frightening. Thanks to Micheal McEvoy for alerting us to this new book, Wired For War: The Rise of Robotic Armies.

Is it possible that the damage done to the American economy by George Bush is irreparable? Are we now doomed to be transformed from one of history’s great republics to a “banana republic”? My question: if this is true, will it be all bad for the world? How much of a force for good has the American economic hegemony been?

So, how did this disastrous Bush presidency happen? Robert Parry  has some perceptive, sobering, and challenging reflections.

Mark Juergensmeyer, a former professor of mine, is acknowledged as a important chronicler of religious violence in the world. Here are some wise reflections on “the war on terror” and how it can be overcome.

Well, it looks like I share at least one hero with Barack Obama–Georgia Rep. John Lewis.

January 24, 2009

It appears that President Obama’s appointment for Secretary of Education is committed to a competitive, corporate-oriented, test-score focused, and militarized approach to education. That is very discouraging. As is Obama’s implicit endorsement of the status-quo of America’s blind support for Israel. Noam Chomsky has some sharp criticisms of this latter dynamic. William Rivers Pitt, another of my favorite commentators, points to the discouraging signs of the beginning days of Obama’s reign, but insists that they do not constitute the entire picture.

provocative op-ed piece that draws on Martin Luther King, Jr., to argue that the only way for progressives successfully to negotiate the conflicts with the Christian right is to refuse to compromise on core values and instead defeat the Right’s positions.



January 18, 2009

Two important writers on nonviolence, Taylor Branch (author of the definitive 3-volume history of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement) and Jonathan Schell (journalist extraordinaire going back to the Vietnam War and author of a great book on war’s increasing obsolescence, The Unconquerable Worldcompare notes in a most timely and perceptive double interview. Speaking of MLK, here’s a reminder that economic justice stood at the center of his concerns.

Paul Krugman is one of the most sensible pundits around–we can be grateful that he has gained such prominence with his perceptive New York Times columns, books, and now the Nobel Prize. He offers our new president some good advice.

Sad news from up north. The right-wing Canadian Harper administration is acting quickly to deport American war resisters before Parliament reconvenes later in January–upon reconvening Parliament is thought to be likely to pass legislation to support conscientious objectors seeking asylum.

If an Obama presidency is actually going to make much of a difference for the good in our society, one of the themes it must take up is support for a revitalized labor movement. One of the largest factors in the deterioration of social well-being in the United States has been the success of corporations and their political errand boys (and girls) in crushing Labor.There is some hope this can change–if Obama sticks with his campaign promises.  

According to Robert Dreyfus in The Nation, based on Obama’s choice for leadership in national security affairs, we probably don’t have much hope in significant change away from U.S. militarism. Still, as Mark Danner shows in The New York Review of Books, we are in desperate need for hope that somehow things can move from the moral abyss above which we are standing now.

January 10, 2009

Finally some good news for progressives on the Obama administration leadership front. Ray McGovern, a former CIA agent turned radical Christian, lauds the choice of Leon Panetta as the prospective head of the CIA.  Let’s hope Panetta (with Obama’s support) does get confirmed and remains true to the values he has espoused such as a strong opposition to torture.  However, don’t expect much in the way of holding Bush administration folks accountable for their crimes–the mainstream media (at least the Washington Post) is trying to see to that.

An econcomics professor from India decries how the crisis of access to food around the world has not lessened at all in recent months, only been crowded out of the headlines by the economic crises of the big capitalists.

One of the most problematic aspects of our current discussions and perceptions related to war and peace is how the term “terrorism” is used.  Here is a helpful discussion of how hypocrisy concerning terrorism is devastating–it’s from a couple of weeks ago, so the discussion of the particulars in Gaza are a bit dated, but the deeper issue remains central.

Naomi Klein argues that the time has come to treat Israel comparably to how South Africa was treated in the final years of apartheid–”boycott, divest, sanction.”

Some perceptive comments about how Obama and his team would do well to learn from Europe if they are serious about progress regarding three of the president-elect’s top priorities – energy and climate change, health care and jump-starting the economy

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