Biological Arms Races, Biocontainment Labs, Hazards and Assessments

No one wants peace more than a soldier who’s been to war. Military men were my first heroes, my first saints. My darling Dad earned a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and a chest-full of campaign ribbons and medals. My childhood “hometowns” were Army posts scattered around the U.S., and Japan and Germany.  I went to twelve different schools before college. A civilian now, I’ve listened nostalgically for twenty years to the bugled sounds of Taps floating in my bedroom window near Ft. Detrick.


My husband and good friends working at Ft. Detrick convinced me long ago that the technicians and scientists there have the best intentions, the highest skills, admirable goals, and very conscientious safety precautions.


Unfortunately, they’ve not been able to convince me that the planned Level 3 and 4 labs will be safe in Frederick. The record shows that research lab workers, even those with the highest security clearances and the best available training, are still fallible human beings who can and do become victims of blackmail, fall in love unwisely, get into desperate financial situations, hide growing prescription and other drug problems, and develop volatile feelings about co-workers. Lab workers sometimes become blind to their own religious and political biases and bigotry, and are thus susceptible to involvement in illicit covert operations, conspiracies and cover-ups.


Sometimes they get in a hurry and make professionally embarrassing mistakes and bad decisions. Sometimes they hide evidence, fudge records and fake procedures in order to save their jobs and livelihoods, and then rationalize the risks they’re taking—escalating and exponentially complicating situations already perilous.


Also sadly, no one yet has been able to explain to me why it wouldn’t be easy, temptingly easy, to kamikaze an airplane flown from the Frederick Airport into a targeted Ft. Detrick building, or lob a well-placed rocket over the Ft. Detrick fence. Either of these unpreventable actions would very legitimately throw chaos and panic into the post, city and metropolitan area, creating unforeseen, complicated, dangerous situations.


Scientists in these labs will be genetically-engineering (from diseases with no cures), completely new, highly lethal and contagious life forms, life, life so new that no one yet understands how it works. What if a newly-mutated strain somehow finds a way to attach itself to a lab worker in some unpredictable way, some way that defeats the protections put on it, so that the lab workers carry it outside unknowingly? I plead for humility in the face of nature’s chaotic, awesome genetic power.


Furthermore, if we build the facility, we’ll scare other countries into creating their own labs, creating something like an arms race with ourselves, and increasing the threat. I can’t think why Detrick’s scientists, or the Post Commander, would welcome such dangerous projects, which only complicate, compromise and jeopardize all the other crucially important and valuable research currently being done at USAMRIID and elsewhere on post.


I know we can’t avoid all risks in today’s angry and violent world, but we can avoid adding recklessly to their sum. We can choose not to consolidate, in a metropolitan area, an unpredictable mix of risky components with an infinite potential for dangerous permutations.


I was almost raped as a young mother. A very caring policeman later sternly warned me, “Don’t be so stupid as to leave your window-shade up! You’re attracting every pervert in the county. Eventually, they’ll all make a beeline to your window!”


These labs leave the window-shades in Frederick up. Their very existence in Frederick asks, perhaps begs, for trouble, and that trouble will make its dangerous beeline straight to our area.


Before we expose huge populations to catastrophic risks with BSL 3 & 4 labs, we need to ask why. If someone does attack the U.S. with biologicals, what is the likelihood that we’ll have the right vaccine, in enough quantities, available when it is needed? Wouldn’t we have to vaccinate people before the threat reaches them? Perhaps an antidote, not a vaccine, will be needed. And how much vaccine, and when, would be considered a good solution? And who would be vaccinated? Only the government? The military? The medical community?  Who might our solution actually save?


And finally, has anyone examined the probability that these risky efforts can even be successful? We’re considering exposing huge populations to catastrophic risks. For what? If someone does attack the U.S. with biologicals, what is the likelihood that we’ll have the right vaccine, in enough quantities, available when it’s needed?


None of my concerns are even mentioned in the current USAMRIID hazard assessment, much less addressed.


What is needed is a mature, high-quality thought process developing an informed equation comparing the risks and costs of the potential biowarfare threat itself with the risks and costs of attempting to address the threat. At what point are they equal?


Merely by building such facilities, aren’t we unreasonably augmenting the threat? Aren’t we creating/driving a biological arms race with ourselves, since other threatened countries will feel it necessary to build their own labs, requiring us to expand ours again in an expensive, pointless, dangerous, ineffective, wasteful and infinite cycle?


Here is what a credible, predictive and useful BSL 3 & 4 hazard assessment might look like:


1. Estimate the cost of the planned response to perceived Biological Warfare (BW) threats

   –  List the possible negative events which inspired the proposed solution.

   –  Estimate the probability of each negative event occurring.

   –  Estimate the impact of each negative event, if it occurred.

   –  Estimate the risk (the probability of occurrence times impact) of each negative event.

   –  Estimate the expected cost associated with these possible negative events (some sort of group probability—a statistician would be required.)

   –  Estimate the actual costs of responding to perceived BW threats (labs, people, security, maintenance, upgrades, social, political, other costs…)

   –  Add actual and expected costs.


2. Estimate the benefits of the suggested solution (which is essentially a list of the costs of the negative events that would happen to the U.S. as a result of the perceived BW activities of other countries, assuming that the U.S. does nothing to ward off such possibilities.)


3. List the additional possible negative events that could happen to the U.S. as a result of other countries’ feeling threatened by our new labs and then building similar BW efforts, including the costs of expanding the U.S. response to these rising threats.


4. Using the list produced in step #3, proceed with the steps described in #1 above to determine the benefits of the planned solution.


5. After completing steps #3 and #4 above, we would have an informed decision-makers’ estimate of the costs and benefits of the planned response to the perceived BW threats.


6.  Evaluate the assumption that the planned solution to the perceived BW threats would actually be effective, (i.e., what is the likelihood of the US having an appropriate and effective vaccine or antidote ready when it was actually needed during a BW event? Etc.)


7. As a final step, do a sensitivity analysis.  Determine how much the result of the cost/benefit analysis above would change as a result of changes in the assumptions used to create it.


8. At what point does the risk of the threat itself equal the risk of trying to address the threat?


Essentially, we need to develop an equation, a model, which will allow decision-makers to make a practical and informed comparison weighing and comparing the risks and costs of the BW threat itself to the risks and costs of addressing the threat. A mature, high-quality thought process comparing the risks with the solution would allow for decision-makers’ discussions, and even some disagreement about the assumptions and decisions, but at least all involved would be assured that all issues were addressed in a systematic way.


Sometimes the “costs” in the above equation would be expressed in terms of dollars, sometimes in terms of human life, sometimes in terms of political costs, i.e., international opinion, good faith, trust, health, environmental costs, social costs, risks of increased anger, terrorism, war, etc. A complete list of costs and risks would of course also include the cost of the additional threats which will inevitably emerge as a result of the U.S. building such a facility to address the perceived threats. The list of expected monetary costs should thus include the costs of building the facilities, securing them, running them, maintaining them, and upgrading them again and again as response-threats spiral. Do we really want to start this death-spiral?





A Very Good Save-the-World Software Development Idea. Please Help Yourself! :-)

Will some brilliant programmer please step up and design a google-type software program that can linguistically analyze and determine a speaker/writer’s cooperative tone and intent?


Your new program could identify and distinguish among those writers/speakers whose communications promote a sense of division, partisanship, negativity, polarization, blame, attack, incivility, rudeness, destructiveness, unfriendly competition, bickering and hate—and those promoting a sense of positivity, creativity, life-affirmation, support, harmony, acceptance, forgiveness, productivity, civility, courtesy, equality of opportunity, caring, cooperation and unity.


Your software could have endless useful and profitable applications. For immediate profitability, please consider using your product for security purposes, to helpfully ward off unfriendly attacks and attackers (of whatever kind) upon individuals and enterprises (of whatever kind.)


Imagine leaders young and old in every field vying for their communications to be screened and certified via your software. Why not simultaneously award a “Truth-bearer” (or some other such logo) “gold seal of approval” identifying individuals and organizations as positive communicators, healers, light-bearers?


Your prestigious and desirable software “accreditation” could motivate many people to investigate and understand the important distinctions between peaceful and contentious communication purposes, and to recognize and encourage humanity-unifying goals as non-threatening and potentially beneficial to all earthlings, while discouraging communications with adversarial, hostile ends. Your software would also surely stoke national dialogue, while heightening awareness about the many distinct (although often confusingly-disguised) differences between helpful and harmful human communications. Your software would take care not to exclude any gentle, friendly, cooperative practitioner of any ideology, religion, political party, nation, organization, affiliation, etc.


One important goal of your software would be to educate. Hopefully, everyone would eventually become enlightened enough to merit universal inclusivity (by acting as good, positive communicators) according to your accrediting software, which might also be developed Wikipedically, or perhaps Amazon-style—i.e., open-sourced, by inviting motivated reviewers and voters opportunities not only to build your site, but also to offer feedback opportunities and provide needed talent to shape and debug upgrades and develop next-generation software.


Recipients of your approving nods (such as Nobel prize winners and mild-mannered third-graders) could proudly display and announce their cherished new affiliation and certification on their websites, on Facebook, business cards, in TV commercials and advertising, on coffee cups, tee-shirts, shopping bags….


Additionally, your software could assist web surfers to more-judiciously select helpfully-screened websites, products and opinions as the very ones they will most benefit from investigating. Perhaps your software could also eventually include a function which would recognize and refute inappropriate co-opters of your symbol of acceptance and stamp of approval—an iterative process that would call out abusers while encouraging more awareness and discussion.


Your software will stimulate lively dialogue; increase the impact and number of creative, thought-provoking, and controversial-but-civil exchanges; reduce (by virtue of indifference and neglect) the quantity and influence of divisive communications arising anywhere in the world; universally improve facility in verbal and mental processing of complexities, innuendo and nuances; and inspire us all to pull together cooperatively to resolve our common personal, local and global problems.


While you're programming, please give extra points for humor?


And if you're not a programmer, but merely a earthlinged, godlinged promosapient like me, please pass this idea on to any similarly-inclined programming/software folk or foundations, or to whomever might be interested!


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace




















































































Wake Up, Rush Limbaugh, and Do Something For America With All Those Smarts

I originally titled this piece, “Rush Limbaugh is a Dangerous Destructive Simplistic Fear-Based Hateful Ignorant Terrifying Lying Demagogic Blowhard.”  But I like Rush Limbaugh, if not what he says, so I changed the title.


Some of the things I like best about Rush Limbaugh are:  his work ethic, his perseverence, his vulnerability, his gentleness, his good mind and his facility with words and ideas, his patriotism, and his loving spirit. Despite overwhelming evidence that his narrow worldview is way too confining for his large heart and fine intelligence, he seems fiercely determined so far to force unruly facts into his too-small mental paradigms, in order that he may continue to be safely “right” about whatever he's said up until now.


Rush Limbaugh is afraid (as are we all) of being “wrong,” and also of not-knowing, when the truth is, the more one knows, the more one knows one doesn't know. What I do know about Rush is that he means well, and that he wants very much to believe that what he's doing will work for him and for America and Americans. Certainly his past approaches have made him rich. They've also left him feeling very much alone in an angry, frightened, adoring, clueless crowd.


Like many Americans, I recognize and share many of Rush Limbaugh's values, frustrations, concerns and goals. However, unlike his largely blue-collar and sincerely patriotic audience, I know that Limbaugh's anger, like all anger, is just an attempt to make someone else feel guilty. We all want someone to blame for our troubles. Unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh has no clue of how America got where we are, who got us here, and how we can go about resolving our problems.


Rush Limbaugh has not run for office because his worldview is unsophisticated and black-and-white, and thus, quite indefensible. He thinks that understanding history, governance and current events ought to be simple and straightforward, something anyone can do. Unfortunately for him, his famously-pronounced perspectives do not hold up to confontation or questioning or facts-that-don't-fit (most of them), which is why he avoids debate, interviews, or news conferences, and why he pretends to be proudly above such conflicts, covering up his insecurities with bluster and bombast. Conservative leaders who are fearful of repudiating Limbaugh at least hope to profit from the destructive, hate-filled, fear-based, uninformed, frightening, distorted, polarized, demagogic polemics Limbaugh offers his audiences.


Because Limbaugh effectively isolates himself from dialogue and discussion, he gets away with handing out thousands of blatant distortions to millions of unsophisticated, gullible, poorly-informed citizens who share his frustrations and anger and patriotic values, and so take in his opinions like mother’s milk, embracing without question his assumptions and conclusions as their own. Millions trust Limbaugh–an uneducated, unpolished man they identify as “like themselves”–to explain politics and current events to them. Having little experience or understanding to question what Limbaugh says, and being unwilling to take the time to seek balance by exposing themselves to the many varied and alternative viewpoints they would hear, say, on C-Span, Limbaugh's audiences find it more convenient to “take” their political opinions straight from Limbaugh, especially since he can spin complicated issues into simple-sounding, clever, funny one-liners easy to remember and repeat, making them feel instantly knowledgeable, at least until someone who actually knows what they're talking about challenges them.


What Limbaugh “sells” are memorable, simplistic untruths and distortions. Thus, he is the most dangerous man in America today. He proudly believes that he's a danger to liberals and liberals ideas, but sadly, quite without realizing it, Limbaugh is undermining American rights, freedoms and his own deepest American values. Every day, Limbaugh takes the breaking news of the day and, using innuendo and ambiguity, frightens and indoctrinates millions of Americans into violent, angry, bigoted responses to those changing events. Rush Limbaugh would be broken-hearted to realize that he himself is a (non-violent) terrorist, who crudely uses his own cleverness, quick mind, dramatic abilities and appealing voice to incite conflict, fear, division and hatred, and to relentlessly urge his fellow Americans to do what he himself doesn't dare to do–that is, act out his feelings of helplessness, rage and frustration.


I am hoping Rush Limbaugh will soon wake up and realize the harm he's doing to his country and to his fellow Americans, not to mention brothers and sisters around the world. I'm also hoping that someone will find a way to, democratically and constitutionally curb Limbaugh's destructive influence. Our country's problems are too great to allow such a flagrantly divisive influence to go unanswered.


Others like Limbaugh will be far less damaging when we all decide to support uniform, nationally- and internationally-comparable education standards here. A significant part of the “Limbaugh problem” in America is our very poorly educated and often unskilled citizenry. You may have noticed that in Canada, with its superior, more-uniform education system, demagogic radio blowhards have considerably less influence.


C'mon, Rush. Take a risk. Be as big and brave and smart as you've convinced yourself, and others, and even me, into believing that you really are–but so far, with little good and considerable harm to show for it. Take a leap into the real world, and see what opportunities await you here. You'll be among real friends, smart friends, like you, but also knowledgeable and fearless and openly loving friends, like the “you” that you haven't yet let come out to play. You're rich as Croesus, Rush. It's time to be brave. C'mon over, Rush. I promise you, you'll like it here.

U.S. Right-Wing Extremists Say “Bring It On” To Terrorists

From the looks of the many recent letters to newspapers, U.S. right-wing extremists plan to win back the presidency in 2012 by politiely offering voters a false dichotomy: we citizens will “be forced” to choose between safety and good government—i.e., “Since Bush protected us from terrorist attacks, if there is an attack on Obama’s watch, it will be Obama’s fault, so we'll have to fire him—regardless of his achievements for the people.”


The truth is, terrorist attacks are quite likely nowadays, being relatively cheap, easy to carry out, and hard to prevent; examples of such atrocities are 9/11 (which occurred on Bush’s watch), the London train bombings, and the Mumbai attacks.


Obama will defend our borders, go after terrorists, and work with all nations to confront and ameliorate the conditions which produce terrorism—lawlessness, violent cultures, lack of opportunity, political oppression and repression, poverty, inequality, easily-available weapons, and ongoing conflicts. But Obama’s job has not been made easier by Bush's disastrous economic legacy, nor by his ill-advised Iraq war, Guantanamo, and his record of torture, all of which have left Obama with an Al Qaeda far bigger, stronger, richer, and more dedicated than Bush ever inherited from Clinton.


None of these facts matter, however, to faithless demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, who trust in lies, fear—and a timely terrorist attack—to rescue themselves and their ilk from present ignominy.         




I welcome your comments! Please send them to . Thank you! Nancy Pace 🙂         


Ps. I am working on a memoir of my years as the military brat daughter of a highly-decorated war hero (and career officer)–about the implications of those experiences for me, my family, other military families, my country and the world in general, and about my difficult transition to peace activism.


I will return to full-time blogging as soon as ever I can, and until then, I know I will keep blogging sporadically because sometimes I simply cannot not write about reactions I have to things I read in the newspaper, like the above commentary….


I love blogging, and will post again soon…. Thank you for your patience to all my readers! 🙂

Covering Obama: A Cautionary Note to Journalists and Historians

Journalists who recently told the election tale in terms of a superior candidate emerging victorious over an inferior one risked a barrage of criticism from rightist pundits. And indeed, the salutations of the world’s moral and political leaders, and the tears of admirers everywhere, have crowned Barack Obama a peerless light-bearer, while John McCain, partly for the sake of a contrasting story line, has been cast in the evil emperor role.


Truly, it would be as misguided for liberal-leaning journalists to indelibly identify Obama as a permanent force for good, as for right-leaning journalists to gnash their teeth to nubs over their White Knight’s defeat by the evil Antichrist, because what keeps journalists working is their sure-handed avoidance of any final pronouncements on the rapidly-changing nature of the people and human institutions in the scene before them, in favor of reporting in medias res exactly what just happened.


In this particular case, what just happened was that a famously-esteemed public servant, John McCain, too often gave in to cynicism; attacked his until-recently unknown opponent; promoted fear; and acted the part of convenient tool of greedy and foolish party opportunists narrowly serving the interests of America’s wealthiest citizens.


What just happened was that voters rightly associated John McCain’s candidacy with the failed policies of today’s Republican Party, the party of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Rove, and Hadley, who, together with Hannity, Limbaugh and their ilk, duped two highly-electable, ideologically “authentic” rock stars, Bush II and McCain, into fatuously selling, with fatal consequences to large swaths of Americans and Iraqis, a vacuous, greed-based ideology.


What just happened was that a Republican presidential campaign aligned itself with policies promoting U.S. hegemony; a dominion of haves over have-nots; a belief in the inevitability of a divided world; militarized solutions to political conflicts; and a continuation of institutionalized bigotry, hatred, ignorance and poverty as the optimal path to safety and prosperity.


Journalists legitimately pointed out that there were clear differences between the two candidates and their campaigns—two very different approaches to governing, two distinct philosophies, two methodologies, two visions.


Journalists rightly explained how and why most world citizens came together to embrace and applaud the more hopeful candidate and reject the more cynical one.


To be sure, John McCain is neither the devil nor the evil emperor. He is, however, a believer in the aggressive, violent, chauvinistic ideology of the Bush regime which preceded him. George W. Bush isn’t the devil either, but he did quite naively become falsely persuaded that his only choice was to unleash hell in the Middle East, thereby adding greatly to the sum of human suffering and injustices in the false hope of thus preventing some.


Many high-minded journalists very professionally told a story of how, in this one glorious instance, Americans courageously elected a man advocating diplomacy, global problem-solving, an end to class warfare, relief for the planet, a search for common interests and solutions, the education of all children everywhere in the necessary skills, ideals and values of citizenship and productivity, and a belief in working together to lift mankind up instead of tearing it down.


Barack’s victory was a victory of hope, love, and faith over cynicism, despair, and vengeance. Journalists telling his election story just exactly as it unfolded were right to tell the truth that for a brief shining moment, America once again welcomed the possibility of a promising new king ready and eager to reign wisely and well from a diverse, compassionate and representative roundtable.


At the risk of grievously mixing regal metaphors:  Make it so.




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An End to Holocausts, Hiroshimas and 9/11s?

Two survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb recently came to my fair city to share their stories and plead for an end to nuclear weapons. I now am more persuaded than ever that powerful leaders who order the bombing of civilian populations are as misguided and ineffective in furthering their causes as are terrorists who set off suicide bombs in crowded marketplaces.


In the past, I believed that bombing civilian targets was sometimes necessary to end war and save lives, but now I see that Americans would never accept such a double standard if nuclear bombs were dropped on our cities.


We only ever have two choices in any personal or global conflict: We can choose never to give up trying to find positive solutions, or we can claim to have no choice but to accept negative ones. We can opt for unity, or we can retreat into defensive separateness. We can bravely reach out to come together as one—one couple, one family, one organization, one polity, one world—or we can retreat from the hard work of reaching agreement.


Proponents of “just wars” assure us that violence sometimes offers quicker, surer ways to prevent injustices and insure the survival of the “right” side. Yet this same moral argument is proffered equally fervently by terrorists, who also believe in the “rightness” of their causes. To both of these, I contend that to be “right,” whether individually or nationally, is to be in continuously valiant struggle to live up to the highest, most positive, peaceful, loving universal humanitarian ideals and values.


Sadly, many of us excuse our double standards and immoral choices, both at home and abroad, because “we’re right.”  But we’re not “right,” regardless of our politics, religion, or history, unless we, our families, friends, organizations and nation resolve our conflicts generously, cooperatively, and non-violently. If our solutions to human conflict are violent, harmful and hurtful, we are no longer “right.”


Our justly historically proud and idealistic nation now controls most of the world’s nuclear weapons (making us by far the greatest weapons proliferator and threat to others around the world) yet we see no problem with that, because, after all, “we’re ‘right’.” We even justify a nuclear attack upon Iran, fearing that they may develop, use or proliferate such weapons—because we’re “right.” As the Bruce Ivins / anthrax case and the Air Force’s case of “misplaced” nuclear warheads have taught us, even well-intentioned weapons research and maintenance can be too easily sabotaged. Deadly bioweapons and nuclear devices quickly fall prey not only to human greed and guile, but also to weakness, illness, error, and confusion about the politically “right” thing to do. All this, while fueling ever more danger, fear, more arms races, and more likelihood of proliferation.


During the twentieth century, every peaceful, diplomatic effort that has ever received anything like the openhanded financial and political backing which war receives has been successful. Such political compromises, however frustrating and dissatisfying they may feel at the time, always seem presciently wise and politically courageous in retrospect.


Wars cannot prevent catastrophes; war itself is a catastrophe, as attested by all those whose lives are touched by war. Soldiers and soldiers’ families are always catastrophically exploited by war. Ninety percent of the victims of war are civilians. We who so proudly march into war have no idea what future injustices those wars will inevitably loose upon innocents on all sides.


The belief that war can prevent injustices is a powerful, well-funded myth. War may prevent a few specific, immediate injustices, but it always creates many more unpredicted and terrible ones. Tragically, we let every generation forget that, whether or fight or not, some great injustices inevitably are suffered, and some people die. Millions of Jews and other innocents died in WWII despite gargantuan war efforts on all sides, and many more died because of them. In wartime as in peacetime, countries come together and apart, tyrants rise and fall. The price of liberty—and its best guarantor—is never war, but eternal, active, courageous, peaceful vigilance. For what does freedom mean, if not the freedom to live and let others livein peace? Our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—a right shared by all peoples everywhere—rests inevitably upon others’ good will.


War cannot keep us safe. War cannot prevent human injustices. Even under the best of circumstances, human nature being what is it and human conflicts being inevitable, life will always be fragile, difficult, and uncertain. In today’s (and tomorrow’s) fast-shrinking, intricately intertwined, and insanely violent world, life on earth itself is at risk.


The only moral choice about nuclear weapons that any nation has in today’s increasingly complex and violent world is to take the courageous lead in disarming. Such a decision is no different than any of the other difficult moral decisions we make every day. They all come down to one of two choices: whether to live positively or negatively, hopefully or cynically, bravely or fearfully, in faith or in despair.


Regardless of the size and nature of the conflict, whether personal or political, local or global, we can always choose cooperation over competition, unity over division, hope over cynicism, brotherhood over partisanship, and forgiveness over vengeance.


We can always choose faith, hope and love over fear, defensiveness, and retribution. We can choose whether to add to the sum of injustices by fearfully arming ourselves enough to destroy our beautiful blue planet many times over, mistreating our neighbors as they mistreat us, or we can support only peaceful leaders everywhere, seek compromises, listen to all viewpoints, and steadfastly reject that greatest injustice and attack upon freedom, which is war itself.


I’m not brave enough to be a total pacifist; I would defend my family, friends and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors, and maybe I’m wrong in this. But such scenarios are far less likely if we elect peaceful leaders who maintain strong local militias, and then spend the rest of our so-called “defense” budget redressing local, national and international injustices, and supporting great projects dear to the hearts of our so-called “enemies.” Everyone knows that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him a friend.


Albert Einstein famously warned us that no nation on earth can simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. Certainly, maintaining the mightiest military force in the history of the world has not prevented us from being continually embroiled in wars.


We are all conditioned to believe that being “right” about ourselves, our politics, traditions and religions, is more important than living and letting others live in peace. We have to be “right” about so many things—about who the bad guys are, who started it, who was at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government or religion is superior….


The truth is, in this confusing world, it’s difficult to find agreement even amongst our best friends and those most “like” us, about what life is all about—what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the greatest scholars realize that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. This is why, in every conflict, humility, acceptance, mutual respect, support, and yes, forgiveness, are the wisest guides to being “right.”


Some day, they will give a war and no one will come. Each of us will either continue to insist upon being “right” and in control (both illusions in this multicultural nuclear age) or hold ourselves to that highest universal standard, the Golden Rule, which treats all others kindly as we would wish to be treated. When more and more of us make this shift to respect and support for human life everywhere, we will enter a more harmonious age.


In this age of climate change and peak oil, the great work of peaceful global transformation is urgent. Wars over oil already rage in Iraq, Darfur, and Georgia, and other global scarcities such as water threaten increasing conflict. Our mother Earth is sick and reaching crisis. Einstein famously predicted, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


Fortunately, researchers have learned a lot about how to resolve human conflicts peacefully. Amish and Quaker Christians and other historically peaceful communities have shown us that peaceful cultures are possible, and now, across the globe, great moral leaders demonstrate the proven arts and skills of peaceful conflict resolution. It’s time we learned what they know, and time to spread that knowledge around.


Hatred begets more hatred; this is immutable law. Until we lead the global paradigm shift away from division and toward brotherhood, exploiting the potential of our great institutions and media in the service of peace and justice, we and our progeny will increasingly be at risk for more crime, more injustices, wars and terrorism, more Holocausts, 9/11s, Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Neither love nor fear are simple, obvious or guaranteed approaches to resolving human conflict, but at this late date, only one has any chance of succeeding.


Please send your comments to Thank you!








Ironman (the Movie) Offers Good Entertainment and Good Politics

It's hard to find an action movie that both my husband and I think is wonderful, but Ironman has proven once again that it can be done. I loved the characters, humor, romance and politics in Ironman, and my husband especially enjoyed the heroism, computers, robotics, stunts, jets and action. The whole theatre, filled with middle/high-schoolers and adults, cheered and clapped when the movie ended. Amazingly enough, we hadn’t even been exploited or insulted by stupid politics, graphic sex, or gratuitous violence masquerading as entertainment….
You can tell that the whole world is changing when a big-box-office action movie has as its major theme the evils of war profiteering and global weapons proliferation. Ironman simultaneously entertained and enlightened the whole crowd. Multi-faceted Robert Downey Jr. and classy Gwyneth Paltrow were at their most charming.
Ironman is a sweet, funny, exciting, well-made, fast-paced action movie I recommend to all who enjoy high-quality movie-making in this genre….

(Please send your comments to and I'll post them here. Thanks. 🙂

Are Hiroshima and 9/11 Morally Equivalent? Obama and Wright Disagree.

Barack Obama recently disagreed with Jeremiah Wright’s statements equating America’s wartime efforts with terrorism. Wright had cited biblical passages wherein God condemns (damns) anyone who deliberately kills innocents, whether at Hiroshima or at Ground Zero (9/11).
Although I support Obama’s candidacy wholeheartedly, I disagree with him here, preferring Reverend Wright’s logic. With Wright, I see no moral difference between a weak, fallible organization (or individual) setting off a suicide bomb in a marketplace, and a big, powerful, fallible nation dropping an atomic bomb on a civilian population—except, of course, that powerful nations have more options. Both warriors and terrorists say they’re fighting for survival, and both often choose strategies which collaterally harm innocents over diplomacy and other alternatives because they think such violence a quicker, surer way to attain their goals.
Both soldiers and terrorists justify deliberately killing innocents by the rightness of their causes—the only difference being, of course, that powerful nations have access to huge armies and limitless lethal technologies, while less-powerful groups have weak armies, few weapons and little money. That’s why terrorists, hoping to maximize their impact, focus international media attention on their unaddressed grievances (and harass their oppressors) by strapping on cheap explosives.
Soldiers and terrorists alike feel they are forced into doing the bad things they do to prevent further injustices. Yet this argument for “just war”—that sometimes violence is necessary to prevent greater injustices and harm—is also a perfectly reasonable argument for terrorism.
Mind you, I don’t buy either argument. Positive, peaceful alternatives often work, if one only accepts that compromises, though disappointing, are never final and are changeable later, regardless of the unsavory present trade-offs necessary to prevent further catastrophes.
War doesn’t prevent injustices. War itself is always a grievous injustice to all involved in it. Most soldiers and their families are catastrophically exploited by war. 90% of the victims of war are civilians. Unfortunately, when citizens manipulated into vindictive indignation over present and past injustices march into wars, they rarely consider all the many future injustices which that war will inevitably inflict on both sides.
Whether or not we act violently, injustices occur. Whether we fight wars or rise up together in peaceful protest, some people will suffer unjustly, some will die. The Jews died in the Holocaust despite the war effort and perhaps also because of it. Europe is now united; tyrants come and go. No matter whether we choose peace, terrorism, or war, we cannot prevent all injustices. But we can avoid adding to their sum by accepting compromises, listening to all sides, and steadfastly rejecting the gravest injustice of all—war itself.
I’m not a pacifist. I would defend my family and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors—a scenario far less likely to happen if my government maintains strong local militias and promotes international good will by working for international justice and against war. I certainly would not travel to another country and throw my weight around, except as part of a globally-mandated UN peacekeeping force.
Violent solutions to conflicts, whether war or terrorism, always make problems more intractable in the long run. Violence sometimes seems appealing in the short-term, but not when both sides of the story are heard. Over time, just as in families, violent solutions stoke anger, resentment and vengefulness, and prevent and postpone just and lasting resolutions and peace.
Although there are always two sides to every conflict, loyal combatants often resist hearing out the ‘other’ side. Powerful greedy nations that initiate wars of conquest against weaker forces often refuse to negotiate with their enemies. Why negotiate when you can get what you want through attrition, slaughter and unconditional surrender?
When wars end, war-weary citizens on both sides, hearing the stories of the victims who bore the tragic consequences of the stubbornness, greed, ignorance, intolerance, hubris, vengefulness, anger and megalomania behind all wars and terrorism, finally realize that it was never the courageous, idealistic grandchildren they sent out to kill each other who were most to blame, but rather the safe, rich, hard-headed old leaders on both sides who failed to keep the peace.
Too often, we prefer being “right” to living and letting others live in peace. We think we have to be right about so many things—about who’s the bad guy, who started it, who’s at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government is superior, whose religion is true, who is weird and strange and cultish and backward and disgusting, who gets to be in control, who gets to be the one with the gold who makes all the rules….
The truth is that nobody yet has a clear picture of what human life is all about, what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the leading scholars agree that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. In every conflict, humility, acceptance and mutual respect are the wisest guides.
When we insist on being ‘right’ rather than making the compromises necessary to live together in peace, we are making the choice of terrorism/war over freedom. What is freedom, if not the freedom to live one’s life and pursue one’s dreams in peace?
Someday, they will give a war and no one will come. This will happen when we stop worrying about being right and in total control (both are foolish illusions in this nuclear age) and instead, hold ourselves accountable to the highest universal standards of treating all others as we would like to be treated, respecting and supporting human life everywhere. When this happens, we will enter a more peaceful, harmonious age.
We will, that is, if some of us are still here. The work of global peaceful transformation is so urgent. As Einstein famously predicted, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Since we can no longer completely control nuclear weapons, we must work now to transform ourselves and our own violent cultures into cultures of peace. Amish, Quaker and Buddhist families alike learn and teach gentleness successfully; they all enjoy unselfish, peaceful cultures. Why shouldn’t the rest of us learn, too?
Cultures change whenever individuals learn peaceful ways of dealing with their own personal conflicts, and then optimize their cultural institutions to educate others about harmonious relations, diplomacy, and global justice. Institutions such as public media (the airwaves and the internet) as well as private media, educational systems, charitable foundations, political and service organizations, private corporations, public agencies, and international cooperatives can all be exploited to promote peace.
People are realizing that war and terrorism are mirrors of each other. They are merely two forms of culturally-acceptable (in certain circles) violence we inflict on one another. Until more cultural leaders make the paradigm shift away from both war and terrorism—and the rest follow—we and all our children everywhere will be increasingly at risk for more injustices, more wars, more terrorism, more Holocausts, more Hiroshimas….
Someday, Barack too will see that this is true.

CNN’s Disappointing Coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary Election Returns

I was greatly distressed to watch CNN’s coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary election returns. I tuned in when the polls closed, and listened until nearly 11 p.m. when I got disgusted and turned the TV off.


Not a single commentator mentioned the most glaringly obvious outcome, that Barack Obama, a virtual unknown a year ago, had used his time in Pennsylvania to gain from ten to fifteen percentage points on well-known local girl and party-insider Hillary Clinton, an eight-year first lady to a popular president—and thus added to his chances of winning the presidency. As in every other state Obama has campaigned in, people who get to know him, like him, vote for him, and go on to campaign for him. Not a soul on CNN’s political panel mentioned how, truly, in the general election in November, only the math will count.


No one brought up the important point that Hillary has played every card the Republicans will use against Obama later—except the overt hate-and-fear-of-black-people racist card—while principled Obama hasn’t even begun to untie the huge and readily-available bag of old Clinton family footage, quotes, votes, indiscretions, innuendo, mistakes, and general nastiness (think Kenneth Starr’s report, for starters) which anonymously-funded demagogues have no doubt already begun pawing through and honing, with anticipatory glee, to disgusting effect. Bill Clinton survived his campaigns because he was wildly appealing and charismatic. Hillary is neither, and her negative campaigning against her widely-liked and respected opponent only makes her seem smaller, meaner, scareder. Why didn’t CNN’s commentators point out how Barack has survived Hillary’s worst, while she hasn’t even begun to reckon with the evil that will come at her when the Republicans strike up their band?


Several other astonishingly clueless comments were voiced by the CNN bobbleheads-of-the-night. One callous voice commented in passing that, if super-delegates coldly overrule the will of the American people in November, “Sure, the Black people will be disappointed, but…”


“The Black people?” “Disappointed?” If representative government itself, the most sacred and fundamental premise of democracy, the promise of one-person-one-vote, is arbitrarily overturned…?


And only black people? What about Barack’s white multitudes? His youthful supporters? His devoted older ones? Rich and poor, women and men, party regulars and otherwise, Obama’s passionate followers are rapidly increasing in number, putting aside their long-held political cynicism and warming themselves at his bonfire of hope, a hope grounded in cherished American ideals and in trust in his character, vision and leadership.

CNN’s team did somehow manage to mention Hillary’s promise to “obliterate Iran” if Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear weapon. That’s just great; now two of three presidential candidates have casually threatened instant global thermonuclear war (see McCain’s earlier “bomb bomb bomb Iran”) in the Middle East. Not a single mouse-like CNN voice squeaked a word of protest. No one pointed out that Iran (unlike Israel) has no nuclear weapons, or that such an action would automatically condemn millions of innocent men, women and children to instant death, or how Hillary’s knee-jerk reactions automatically elevated Israel’s interests over America’s.

Hillary later would expound on her plan to return to the long-discredited cold war era. But why not bomb Iran all the way back to the stone age right now, as Rush Limbaugh has already argued? Obama’s thoughtful comment was, “One of the things that we've seen over the last several years is a bunch of talk using words like 'obliterate….  It doesn't actually produce good results. And so I'm not interested in saber rattling.”

Hillary’s appalling threats demonstrate only that she shares George Bush’s cowboy approaches to diplomacy, and we've seen where that will take us. Such foolishness has become increasingly evident in her other equally-rash and polarizing comments, such as her offhand public description of President Putin, Russia’s popular leader, as, “a KGB agent—by definition he doesn’t have a soul,” which offended Russians everywhere while certainly dashing any hopes Hillary might have harbored of successfully negotiating with Putin during any future presidency.

Hillary also thoughtlessly insulted China recently by advising President Bush to break his promise to China’s premiere to not boycott the Beijing Olympics. In these few careless words, Hillary Clinton managed to alienate one-fifth of the world’s people along with all their leaders, by cruelly dismissing the single project dearest to their hearts. She also displayed an astonishing lack of integrity, shocking in a Senator and inconceivable in a presidential candidate. This is the person we want representing us and running our country?

Marilyn Ferguson (The Aquarian Conspiracy) convinced me years ago that when a nation's cultural and intellectual leaders take hold of an idea (as American leaders have embraced Obama's hopeful message) then soon enough, the rest of the people will follow. Barack may be in a tough race against time, but it is clearly on his side.

Today's Democratic race can be characterized as a long-overdue contest between Obama’s mission to change the destructive game of American politics—a goal we can all only benefit from—and Hillary’s unprincipled insistence upon playing that old same old cynical game oh-so-cleverly. Hillary is in it to win it, and if she does—which is the most she can hope for at such an unprincipled price—then for the American people, her winning may well mean losing—our ideals, our hopes, our freedoms and maybe even our way of life. CNN could have at least hinted at these baneful implications of her supercilious campaign.


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Is Moqtada al-Sadr One of the Good Guys?

I only know what I read in the papers, and I’m nervous about speaking up for someone who is, for the moment at least, being demonized by the Bush administration, especially someone who is currently shooting back at American forces, albeit in self-defense. But I must raise the question of whether Moqtada al-Sadr might not be one of the “good guys,” a strong, spiritual leader whom world opinion should now be ecumenically supporting.


Al-Sadr is apparently a wildly popular leader of the Shiite poor, who, time and again, has demonstrated his commitment to peacefully resisting the overwhelmingly-superior military forces bent upon murdering him. Aside from his courageous refusal to relinquish the ancient homelands of his followers to invaders who would steal and exploit them, and his stubborn unwillingness to be assassinated, what has he done to deserve universal media condemnation and abandonment in the west?


Because al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership is seen by the west’s most powerful leaders as a major barrier to their hegemony in the Middle East, few journalists seem willing to raise this question. Yet several times throughout this conflict, when it has seemed temporarily expedient for the U.S. to leave al-Sadr in peace, he has urged patience and forbearance among his followers even as the wide-scale destruction of his country by foreign occupiers has continued.


Currently, American forces are attacking al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in oil-rich Basra, which is right across the border from Iran. Perhaps Mr. Cheney hopes to provoke just enough Iranian retaliation for this particular aggression to finally justify his own longed-for invasion of Iran’s oil fields? Patriots in Basra and Iran share far more in common with one another than with their American attackers; surely the Iranian government cannot be expected to indefinitely contain the passions of their red-blooded youth, currently standing passively by, watching while their brother-Shiites in Basra are being slaughtered.


Isn’t it time we reconsidered the unquestioned place we have given al-Sadr in our western pantheon of demonized enemies? He is a leader to whom the majority of Shiites in Iraq currently pledge their allegiance, one who has often turned the other cheek even while his beloved followers were being killed. Despite being repeatedly stalked, discredited, attacked, betrayed, and occasionally befriended by President Bush, his millions of followers trust him unreservedly to make their decisions for them. Shouldn’t journalists be speaking out loudly and clearly against the attacks upon him? Who are the bad guys here, and who are the good guys?


How can we expect al-Sadr’s forces to passively turn in their guns when our own country feels free to unilaterally initiate pre-emptive wars, invade, occupy and shoot up foreign country sides and villages and cities, interfere with sovereign nations’ internal affairs, drop nuclear and conventional bombs on civilian populations, disrupt livelihoods and lives, kill innocents, and stockpile armaments enough to end life on earth many times over? Al-Sadr has not invaded America. The reverse has happened.


The Bible does not say “the lamb shall lie down with the lion,” but “the lion shall lie down with the lamb.” In other words, powerful countries must first let their weaker neighbors live in peace. Our own interests, even as citizens of the mega-powerful United States, are served only when our leaders humble themselves to offer good will to all other nations, and treat all our neighbors as we would wish to be treated. It is the traditional moral duty of the military to protect the weak from those who would hurt them, not to push the weak around in order to get whatever a highly unpopular, unresponsive and unrepresentative administration wants when they want it.


The willingness to turn to violence to resolve conflicts, whether through state (military) terrorism or through civilian terrorism, turns out to be the problem itself, and not, as many have tried to persuade us, any particular ideology, ethnicity or religion. The burning question too often overlooked in every conflict is: which side is committed to accommodation, compromise and non-violent resolution of this conflict, and which side isn’t?


In the past, partisans loyally embraced only their own leaders as the “good guys,” regardless of their personal records of using violence or keeping the peace–whether Bush or bin Laden, Saddam or Arafat, Hirohito or Mao or Stalin or Cheney or Eisenhower or Hitler. In the future, we will realize that the “good guys” are those real leaders, found in homes, businesses, communities, nations, and throughout the world, who are committed to resolving difficult conflicts—which are perfectly natural and human—harmoniously and peacefully. On the other hand, those violent soldiers and suicide bombers representing belligerent aggressors and extremist zealots will in the future clearly be identified as “the bad guys” of our time.


All-out war makes sense to me only when people are cornered in their own homes, fighting for survival against overwhelming odds, as al-Sadr’s followers currently seem to be.


More and more people today are recognizing man’s inhumanity to man—whether seen in bulldozed homes, in the shattered bodies of innocent children, or in the maimed and traumatized minds and bodies of young soldiers from every land—exactly for what it is, regardless of context, and despite all the attractive ideological, ethnic, religious, and national colors and flavors violence always comes wrapped in.


Around the world, journalists, activists and average citizens are turning away from the angry diatribes of opportunistic demagogues and ideologues bent upon stirring their fellow-citizens to torture and murder, and instead, embracing the world’s highest universal values: the oneness of all mankind and the sanctity of human life.


Shouldn't we all be supporting those who are upholding these important values, and resisting the use violent solutions in the present conflict in Iraq?


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