Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Trip to Heinz

I went to the game last Thursday night anticipating a blow out. Of course, the Bengals managed to disappoint--rather than losing easily so I could get drunk without having to focus on the game--they turned in another agonizing loss. The defense, despite not being able to put significant pressure on the QB, actually played pretty well. They need to work on their contain a little, but they really didn't over pursue as much as they usually do against the Steelers and were pretty effective at stopping the run and jamming the passing lanes. Offensively, of course, the game was painful. Fitz was effective on short timing routes, but in obvious passing situations, the protection was poor and Fitz was off. He also suffered from Glen Holt's apparent inability to catch. The running game--almost non-existent. The Steelers special teams were the only thing that made our offense worth watching--we always had good field position.

Overall, I had fun--tailgated from about 6-8, got a few beers, shots of whiskey, jambalaya, and hamburgers in me before the game. Didn't get razzed too much for my Bengals jersey. One of the good things about being a Bengals fan this year is that you pose no real threat to the Steelers, so they kind of see it as a joke. Also, I wasn't the only Bengals fan at the game--


In fact, I met some nice fellows from Dayton who are going to Eagles concert on Saturday.

My tickets were good--40 yard line, 4th row upper dec
k--as one may be able to tell from this field shot--



And the Pittsburgh Steeler fans were in rare form, this guy fell asleep in the second quarter, woke in the third quarter, yelled "Boo!" then went back asleep.



And here are a couple of my buddies--



Overall a good time, but I would have loved to see a W.

Read more!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reflections on the Election and Transformation

I got my opportunity to vote for Barack Obama a second time and I did and he won. For someone who routinely votes for losers, this alone makes Barack Obama’s election a moment to remember. It is relatively obvious the significance of the first black president in the United States, even if he isn’t an “American Black.” The notion that a person of color, regardless of their specific background, has risen to the highest office in the land is truly a historical moment.

Although many of the criticisms of Barack Obama as being more “celebrity” than political candidate may have some truth, in general, I don’t him being any more different than most politicians that aspire to high office. Image often trumps reality—the difference is that Obama’s image is divergent from the conventional images of Presidential candidates. Wealthy candidates from elite backgrounds like the Bush’s carefully craft “folksy” images—nothing new. Of course, McCain’s “selfless war hero” is another standard image. For Obama, his image is of a black man who transcends race--a post-racial president in a country where the spectre of race still weighs upon us like a nightmare. This, combined with his youth appeal, savvy use of the internet, and ability to invoke high ideals, has garnered him “rock star” status.

Of course, celebrity status is often a fleeting thing. Obama’s honeymoon will not last long and may not even survive until January 20th. At which point, Obama will have to find ways to address the many problems he is inheriting, hopefully to do so in a way that helps “main street” as he has promised, helps to preserve and expand civil liberties and economic opportunity, and in a manner that will hold his nascent political coalition together. No small challenge.

Obama’s campaign has promised “change”—exactly what that means, of course, is nebulous. Obama’s plans have been relatively specific, however, executing them is a different matter. And of course, “change” isn’t always good. Many Americans have been living through a change over the past 20 years, a change that was meant longer hours, lower pay, shrinking savings, greater debt and endless war.

Obama has also promised to be a “uniter.” This typically implies that he will “reach across the aisle” and bring Republicans into his administration and attempt to work with Republican Congressional leaders. Although the former seems likely, at least in the short term, the latter I am less sure about. Part of the problem is that being both a “uniter” and an advocate for change may be mutually irreconcilable. If one examines the truly transformative Presidents, “unity” was not their strong suit. Lincoln and Roosevelt created just as many enemies as friends. The challenge is the balancing act between the two. Moreover, “breaking with the past” must mean breaking with the neo-conservative/neo-liberal dichotomy if it is to mean anything—reaching out to Republicans—even moderates, isn’t going to achieve that.

The media has labeled the election of Obama as “transformational.” It truly is in the cultural sense—an African American president is significant because of the long history of racial oppression and antagonism in the United States. And although many, particularly on the right, have argued that Obama’s election is proof that racism is dead, at best it suggests that appealing to white racial identity and fear, an American political tradition, may be waning as an effective political tactic—at least in national contests. But in order for Obama’s election to be truly transformational, the transformation must come away from Washington—it must come in the communities, churches, union halls, and civic groups that have been clamoring for change--a break with neo-conservative/neo-liberal dichotomy of the past 30 years in favor of a new American social contract.

The question is whether Obama will provide the necessary space for this transformation to occur and will support those on the ground who are trying to make those changes. Transformational Presidents historically have been associated with the ascendancy of new voting blocs that have altered the political demographics and discourse for a generation or more. Again, invoking Lincoln and Roosevelt, both were elected in time of turmoil, riding the tide of social change. Both offered themselves as pragmatic moderates, but over the course of their Presidency, became more willing to align themselves with new voting groups and grassroots organizations, even one’s considered “radical” or otherwise untouchable. Obama captured nearly two-thirds of the new voters this election, as well as two thirds of non-Black people of color. This suggests the making of a new Democratic coalition. If Obama, and more importantly his millions of young and politically active supporters, can pull this off, we may be witnessing a political realignment which will shape American politics for the next 30 years—a truly new Democratic Party governed by some sort of post-modern center-left coalition.

Read more!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Marginally Competent Office Schmuck

(Originally posted on MySpace)

As most of you know, I don't have a job. Over the summer, the university where I was employed didn't renew my contract. I was not surprised as I had more or less come to the conclusion that finishing my dissertation was not in the cards or in my heart. Over the summer, I began my job search. I did all the things that you are supposed to do. Crafted multiple versions of my resume, sent resumes for job postings, sent resumes cold, sent resumes to companies, temp agencies, recruiters, followed up with phone calls, called in favors for recommendations, applied to dream jobs, realistic jobs, and jobs for which I was over qualified.

he silence was deafening. I got one interview (which has yet to make an offer) and a sum total of three rejection letters out of dozens of resumes.

As it became clear that a professional job was not in the immediate offing, I started a job at a retail music store. The pay sucked, but it had the potential for commission. The work environment was chaotic, but tolerable, the hours were horrible, but it was pretty cool to play a $3000 Les Paul through a $1500 Egnater tube amp on my break. Once it became obvious that the "big commission check" was akin to the tears of the Virgin Mary--existing solely as a legend, but if you believe hard enough, you might just see it, if only briefly and you'll never be able to prove it afterwards—I quit.

More recently, I have placed my faith in temp agencies. After all, temp agencies are always looking for presentable people with good office skills and with potential for a permanent hire. Right? I applied with three temporary agencies over the past six weeks. All of them had me present a resume, come in for an interview and take evaluations in MS Office and typing speed. At it turns out, I am proficient (woo-hoo!) in MSWord, Excel, PowerPoint, and can type 59 words a minute (my actual scores have been 52, 57, 59—I have yet to break the 60 barrier, but I have high hopes). So I am pretty much the perfect employee. Right?

WRONG! I went to my fourth interview today at a temp agency—lets call it PenisPower. I got the interview after sending in my resume, having a brief phone interview, and doing some online evaluations (no, I did not break 60 wpm, however you'll be glad to know I remain "proficient" otherwise). Although I spent almost two hours jumping through these various hoops, the interview lasted all of 15 minutes—that is how long it took the placement coordinator to tactfully inform me that she didn't feel comfortable sending me on any available jobs because I was too good for PenisPower. Although I appreciated her honesty, I was stunned. I explained to her that placing me on a job that was "beneath me" was a ménage a trois of wins because I get a job, the client gets a solid employee which they could easily hire and move up, and PenisPower gets the reputation of placing the most rock solid penises in the right spot. Moreover, without sounding desperate, I used the phrase "I need a job" more than John McCain uses the word "maverick."

She coyly smiled, no doubt dazzled by my logic, but then quickly reassured me that "in today's job market companies aren't looking for people like you." I am not exactly sure what that means—assuming "people like you" are people who meet or exceed the qualifications for a specific job, take the time to go through the various weeding out procedures, and travel 45 minutes to show up 10 minutes early to a 15 minute interview—what kind of people are they looking for?

At this juncture, I briefly thought I may have to return to the music shop and plead for my job back. However, the conversation would most likely go like this—

Goffchile: Hey, I have had second thoughts about quitting, I really love it here, I miss the low pay, hearing botched versions of "Enter Sandman" and "Eruption" 20 times a day, the Dollar Store Beef Jerky, and working every minute of every weekend---and I know I will hit commission soon. Can you find it in your big rock 'n' roll hearts to rehire me?

Manager: Good to see you dude. Dude, I know we said that you were re-hirable, but based on your performance, we can't bring you back, dude.

Goffchile: Performance? What was wrong with my performance?

Manager: Dude, do you realize that in your first month, you were tenth in sales out of a staff of thirty and outsold established veterans and even manager dudes? Do you realize that in the first two weeks of October, you moved up to sixth, passing four other dudes? We simply can't tolerate that.

Goffchile: But isn't a good thing that I was outselling veterans with established customers?

Manager: Duuuuuuude, no! That sort of competence is unacceptable. Your too good for us. Don't you know we have worked hard to establish ourselves as the Wal-Mart of the music business—we aren't gonna mess that up by hiring dudes with potential like you.

Goffchile: (Puts fist through Marshall stack and runs out the door)

Manger: Dude, wait! You vandalized equipment—maybe we can use you after all!

Apparently, I have fucked up seriously. Being proficient (meaning qualified) makes you over qualified for jobs. Having an impressive resume is a bad thing. Being able to type, spell, and put a sentence together makes you un-hirable.

Therefore, I am beginning a sociological experiment for which I am enlisting the aid of my friends. Most folks inflate their resumes, I want to deflate mine faster than the McCain's post-convention bounce. I am creating an alter-ego which I am calling "marginally competent office schmuck." I am going create an entire resume, back story, and persona that will allow me to get a job ASAP. What I need is some aid in how to do this. I am absolutely serious about this! I want my resume to scream "marginally competent office schmuck."

So here is my question, "What are the things that most people would avoid having on their resume, but which 'MCOS' wouldn't mind or see as a badge of honor?"

A few ideas so far—

A few well placed misspellings. Nothing horrible, but just commonly misspelled words like "recieve." (any other words come to mind)

Multiple colleges, no degrees (need some help with the colleges that scream "marginal competence"—University of Phoenix?)

Bouncing from job to job—suggestions?

"Bad jobs"—any job that you have had which you would be to embarrassed to put on a resume but which "MCOS" wouldn't think twice about

Anything else?

Keep in mind, the purpose is it get job—but a job which my resume suggests I am not qualified.

I may also need "former supervisors" and "references." Volunteer and I will let you know what to do.

Sinceerely,

MCOS

Read more!

The Heart of Darkness--A Bengals Fan in Pittsburgh

(Previously posted on CincyJungle)

Due to my crazy work schedule, this was the first game I have actually been able to watch. Since I only have read of the horror and not seen it, I'll post some thoughts.

I watched it in typical surroundings (for me), in the home of a Pittsburgh Steelers fan with my Bengals jersey on (Who Dey!). This week was particularly interesting because the guy who was hosting was my buddy Tom, the head chef for Heinz Field (thanks Tom--the omelets, wings, and shrimp were great!). I tried to convince him to poison Rooney's food, but he wasn't in to it.

As far as the game went, obviously the Bengals are awful across the board. To pick out the negatives would take a while, so I want to highlight some positives. Although the offense was anemic, when Benson got going, he actually looked decent. He hit the whole quick and hard and delivered blows to get extra yardage. He may be a guy we should consider resigning. I don't see him as bell-cow, but he could be a good between the tackles/situational back. Benson and a healthy Watson complemented by a mid-round draft pick could make a decent RBBC next year. Obviously, with no real deep passing threat and a weak running game, it isn't difficult to defend against the Bengals--given that, Fitz had his moments. His biggest problem is the incessant pass rush and his "happy feet" in the pocket. Given the weak pass protection, some of that is understandable, but sometimes he would be better off just standing in the pocket and throwing rather than running. He just can't read the defenses adequately to find the open guy.

I see what people are saying about the defense. They looked a lot better. Although there is no excuse for giving up 38 points--a lot of it can be attributed to the offense's inability to sustain a drive (beyond the last drive of the first half ). The secondary, aside from Pope's blown coverage and Joseph's fourth quarter breakdown, looked decent. The lack of pass rush was disconcerting, but if we had a decent pass rush, our secondary could be a strong group. The front seven came up big several times in short yardage situations, which was heartening. In the fourth quarter, they clearly broke down---partially from exhaustion--partially from lack of will in a game they weren't going to win.

Caldwell looked really good on kick returns and I hope they get both him and Simpson in the mix more often.

Although Pittsburgh fans are typically a very (over) confident bunch, at the end of the first half, I noticed a little perspiration on the brow--it could have been a splash from the Iron City Beer--but I am going with sweat. The rational centers of my brain knew the Bengals probably wouldn't win, but after the closing drive of the first half--my heart lifted, because it seemed like they were actually playing as a team on both sides of the ball. I stayed quiet, however--Pavlovian conditioning from the Bengals pathetic record against the Steelers--but inside I was chanting WHO DEY!

Of course, in a manner that I could have scripted from watching too many years of Bengals football, Cincy unraveled in the second half--with Hines Ward's blow on Rivers being the symbolic moment of the game---physical Steelers football blindsiding the Bengals once again.

The Bengals are a bad football team (newsflash!). But I don't think they are nearly as bad as their record indicates. The rest of the season could be rough. If they decide to sit Palmer, we may be lucky to win a game. This is an eventuality for which I am prepared.

What's really upsetting is that I am depending on the Bengal's front office to correct the myriad of problems.

The horror! The horror!

Read more!

Why no posts goffchile?

As my minions of readers may have noticed, I haven't posted in a while. I started off blogging as a way to keep up my writing skills, post some ideas, and perhaps get some discussions going. The first two things were successful, the latter not so much on this site, but I do post regularly on others. However, I did stop abruptly. The reason I stopped was because I lost my job. And although that in theory should give my tons of time to post, it in fact placed me in a funk like no other.


Aside from ardently looking for another job, I have been basically too depressed to read, write, or do any of the things that typically give me much joy. Recently, I have tried to get back to posting on various sites and have become determined to begin posting here. I have lot of good ideas, but it will take some time to get back up and going. Obviously, with the election upon us, I want to get caught up on that. Also, football season is here--so I am going to try to get some posts out on that topic.

As far as the job hunt goes, it has been one of the most horrible and confidence shattering experiences of my life. I have a satirical piece which I will post on that subject as well. I am sure there will be more reflection on unemployment as well.

And if anybody hears about a great job, let me know!

Read more!

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin--RIP

I saw George Carlin when I was in high school and he immediately became my favorite stand up comedian. He died yesterday. I am drinking one to you today George. A few of his skits courtesy of Youtube:












His comedic genius speaks for itself--you gave me a lot of good laughs and made me think. Thanks George.

Read more!

Monday, June 9, 2008

On the Turntable: The Black Keys, Attack and Release

Thought that riff rock was dead? Well think again. The Black Keys recent effort, Attack and Release, brings that 70s rock sound back with a flair. Reminiscent of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, and Robin Trower, the Black Keys weave together driving rhythms with catchy, yet simple melodies—the formula that gave birth to a multitude of rock anthems.

The Black Keys are an Akron based duo comprised of Dan Auerbach (guitars and vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). Attack and Release was produced by Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillas). According to the band website, the record was largely recorded in a "haunted house that hadn't been updated since 1973." Attack and Release is definitely haunted by the spectre of early 1970s hard rock.

“Strange Times” is the most radio friendly song and gets airplay on my local independent station. It features a simple driving riff and a melodic chorus. “I Got Mine” sound like it could have come off of Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs release. "The Same Old Thing," which features a flute in the background, could easily be mistaken for an early Jethro Tull song. Although the elements of 70s rock anthems are present, there are no gratuitously long guitar solos as few of the song are longer than four or five minutes. I have not seen them live, but can’t help but wonder if that situation is remedied on stage. Nonetheless, the Black Keys have put together a nice, listenable, rock album. And oh yeah, Disco Sucks.

Read more!

Why I Love Baseball

I was recently asked to blog at the NL Central blog, part of a new sportsblog network. This prompted me to reflect on why I love sports so much, in particular the sport of baseball. To many non-sports fans, I am sure watching professional athletics seems like a great waste of time. It is a form of entertainment, a distraction, no different from any other TV show, movie, or other hobby. Why do folks spend so much time and energy discussing and debating sports? I can’t speak for others, but I can speak for myself.

I grew up in a very athletically oriented household. My father played basketball (briefly) at Indiana University and was a Green Bay Packer fan during their great years in the 1960s. Sports were always important to him and it reflected in our household.
Both my sister and I were strongly encouraged to play organized sports. As a young person, I played baseball, soccer, basketball, football, and ran track for community and school teams. I was never the best, but I was usually good enough to start and had my share of the thrill of victory. Additionally, I picked up golf and volleyball along the way. Sports were a family event and one in which we could all participate in some way.

Watching sports was also important. As one might expect, we were huge Indiana University fans, and became Reds and Bengals fans. We even hit a few Cincinnati Stingers games. As with many households, sports are a gendered affair, not so when I was growing up.
I would put both my mother and my sister (as well as many of the female members of my extended family) up against any guy in a contest of sports knowledge. It was a powerful force of bonding in my family.

Part of it was just the culture of our family. But as I grew older, I became increasingly aware that sports was one way in which folks debate issues of right and wrong, morality, and instruct their children in issues of basic fairness. It is an oft stated cliché that sports “build character” whether they do or don’t, I don’t know, b
ut they are certainly a cultural form through which cultural values are transmitted—for better or worse. Although I can’t recount all the lessons I learned from sports, generally, it taught me about commitment, teamwork, cooperation. On the negative side, it showed me how bullies can take advantage of the weak. Although one can take many lessons from these experiences, I always viewed sports as an arena of competition, but one in which there are agreed upon rules. It also taught me there is little joy in winning if you cheat; and that after the game is over, your opponent is not your enemy and can be your friend. In different ways, I apply these lessons to my life.

Baseball in particular has a special place in my heart. Much of it is due to its cultural significance to America. Baseball is one of America’s oldest organized professional sports. Loosely based on Britain’s cricket, the game took on a life of its own in the US. Because it requires a large space to play, baseball has always had a rural heartland feel to it—the smell of the grass, the smell of the hot dogs, the feel of the sun on your face, the crack of the bat, and the taste of a ice cold beer. Growing up in Cincinnati, it was easy to become enthralled with baseball. We had the first professional team—something the city is very proud of and in the 1970s fielded one of the best teams ever.

Although baseball if often considered a “traditional sport,” I have thought that this
isn’t really correct. It is true that baseball has been around for a long time, but it has been hardly “traditional” in its practice. Baseball’s rules have been constantly in flux, attempting to accommodate fans tastes. Through the 1890s to the 1920s, baseball changed the rules about foul strikes, the definition of an error, the design of the ball, and the location of the fences to help promote run scoring. Baseball racially integrated itself in 1947, a risky move to say the least, seven years before Brown v. Board and seventeen years before the civil rights act. Rule changes continued through the 1960s—altering the elevation of the mound and introducing designated hitters. Most recently, baseball has increasingly become a truly international sport—I just looked at my fantasy team and over half the guys are either Hispanic or Japanese. Although one can debate the effects of these upon the game (and in the case of integration, society), it is hard to argue that baseball is reluctant to change with the times.

Of course, baseball is hardly without its problems. Recently, changing with the times has been all that great. Baseball has become a mega-business, like most entertainment industries. The biggest stars are paid gratuitous salaries, teams charge astronomical amounts of money for tickets, food, and paraphernalia, and often hold hostage their fan base for new stadiums and sweetheart deals regarding taxes. These problems seem particularly acute in baseball. Baseball has led the way with the corporate sponsorship of stadiums, has no salary cap, and has become increasingly uncompetitive because of it—the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This trend has led many baseball fans to become more interested in local semi-pro teams (Go Washington!)

Even with all these problems, there are few things that compare than a day at the ball park. Baseball still retains its Americana feel and somehow no hot dog tastes any better, no beer is any colder than one from the ballpark.


Read more!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NFL Owners Void NFLPA Contract--Mike Brown Vindicated?

Mike Florio and Mark Crunette have both argued that the recent decision of NFL owners to void the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is vindication of Mike Brown. Brown, along with the Bills owner Ralph Wilson, opposed the current contract which imposes a salary cap but requires teams to pay 60% of their revenues to the players and that allows players to secure signing bonuses (guaranteed money) over the term of the contract. Recently, more owners have chaffed at the arrangement—the main rub being the 60% allotment to the players. Owners claim that this percentage is too high and hurts their “ability to invest.” Other issues include the inability of teams to recoup signing bonuses if a player refuses or is unable to complete their contract.

Let me get this straight. These owners, who are upset at their inability to invest, are the same owners that periodically hold their fan base hostage, claiming that if the public doesn’t come up with some money (typically in the form of higher consumption taxes) for the construction of a new stadium that they are going to move their team to a new city. These are the same owners that have invented “seat license fees” and sell more and more seats to corporations in the form of luxury boxes. Is it any wonder I feel no sympathy for the owners? Once owners actually take responsibility for building their own stadiums and stop gouging the fans, I will listen—but of course I will charge an “ear fee.”

Moreover, the current CBA has worked pretty well. Revenues are up. Fan interest is up. Attendance is up. For both owners and players, these are good things. You could make a pretty strong case that in the past 15 years, football has surpassed baseball as “America’s pastime.” The current CBA has facilitated this by creating greater parity and a relatively predictable career path for most players. It is pretty much win-win.

If anything, I would argue that the players are getting the short end of the stick, at least compared to baseball players. In reality, all football contracts are one year deals, any player can lose his job at anytime. And given football’s short career span, many players have to face that reality. The players have two points of leverage—the signing bonus, and the refusal to play. The owners want to take those away, and seem willing to risk the salary cap to do it. And be certain, if the salary cap disappears, it is never coming back.

Florio snidely blames players for signing “bad contracts.” But it isn’t the players junking the current CBA, it’s the owners. Perhaps the owners are the ones who keep signing “bad contracts” and are forced to live with them—or at least forced to live with the public relations nightmares they create.

The good news is that the NFLPA and the owners have until 2009 to negotiate a new contract. But if negotiations fail and we get a capless season followed by a strike , will Mike Brown be vindicated?


Read more!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mugged by Reality: Neocons, Paleocons and other Cons

A former class mate jokingly asked me, “What is the difference between a Trotskyist and Stalinist?” I said “What?” He responded “Stalinists have power.” Granted it is not very funny, but leftists are rarely known for their sense of humor. Nevertheless, it does speak to a certain truth about the relationship between ideology and power. Ideologies are historical constructs, and contested ones at that. This is what makes them a slippery phenomenon. Moreover, ideological labels are often misleading, making them even more ambiguous. For political reasons, individuals may conceal their true ideological leanings, and their opponents may try to make their ideology a “bad word.” Ideologies are therefore products of conflict. Typically, they are born in opposition to an established order, compete with other oppositional ideologies, evolve as the order evolves, and then either fade into oblivion or become the “New Order.” American conservatism is no different and is the subject of this piece.

What is Conservatism?

That is a damn good question. European conservatism owes much to the legacy of Edmund Burke and the remnants of the ancien regime. In reaction to the excesses of the Jacobin period of the French Revolution, Burke argued that classical liberalism and the democratic impulse is best tempered by traditional forms of authority—aristocratic privilege, the church, and the patriarchal family rooted in community. Burke was not an advocate of feudalism, but he believed that these the remnants of feudal authority provided stability and counter-balanced the revolutionary aspects of liberalism and democracy. England’s constitutional monarchy and established church are examples of Burkean conservatism in action.

Needless to say, these traditional values garnered little sympathy in the United States. The American Revolution ended the rule of kings, did not establish a church, and the westward movement and steady flow of immigrants assured that the United States would be an evolving and multi-cultural country—and one not prone to Burkean conservatism. Louis Hartz, in the Liberal Tradition in America, argued that there is only one legitimate political tradition in the United States—Lockean liberalism. So much so that Americans are “irrational” liberals, liberalism is so naturalized that we fail to even recognize it.

So what is an American conservative to do? Historically, the buckets of American conservatism have drawn from three wells. The American tradition lacks a king, but it does have a constitution—and many conservatives hold the constitution up as the “King”—the mystical authority which knows all. The closest thing to King under the constitution is the executive, and therefore, conservatives have often placed a great deal of emphasis on the executive branch. Although the strict constitutionalist argument gets traction from time to time, the problem is that the constitution is a political document, making it an imperfect text, created by imperfect humans in a revolutionary moment. Moreover, the document is probably more liberal than conservative and is constantly evolving—therefore it doesn’t make a very good “traditional authority.” The second well has been a homegrown American elitism. John Adams made the case for the “natural aristocracy,” an elite few who rise because of birth, grace, skill or happenstance. Adams watered down Burkeanism rebuked “titles” but reflected a deep distrust of the leveling impulses of democracy. Not surprisingly, this weak brand of conservatism never had a broad of an appeal beyond elite sectors. The final well is racism, xenophobia, and sexism. The US was founded as a slave nation, a settler nation, and an immigrant nation—structuring racial, ethnic, and cultural antagonism into our social realty and making white supremacy, religious intolerance, and anti-immigrant sentiment almost constant features of our society. This latter well has proven to be more fruitful in mobilizing public opinion around tradition based conservatism. Simply identify the socio-cultural traits of an extant group as being “foreign” (too Catholic, Irish, Jewish, Black, Indian) and have at it. On this point, Hartz, as with many political analysts, too readily dismiss or ignore an unsavory aspect of American society and its relationship to political conservatism. According to Rogers Smith in Civic Ideals, the US legal code has been replete with ascriptive laws, suggesting a persistent (and ugly) anti-liberal tradition. When conservatism has been its most powerful, it has rested upon this xenophobic base.

Therefore, American conservatism has always struggled to cobble together a sustainable political coalition, which, in part, accounts for its factionalism. John Dean in Conservatives Without Conscience identifies 10 strains of conservatism in the current period. In the earlier twentieth century, conservatives were split not only among class, cultural, and regional lines, but along party lines—some voting Republican, some refighting the Civil War. In the 1950s, the potential for a workable coalition began to develop around opposition to the New Deal and Cold War anti-communism. Nevertheless, the cultural, class, regional, and party divisions remained. Which party would be the new conservative party? Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and Barry Goldwater all tried to answer this question, but it would not be until the Reagan Revolution that conservatives would have their day (and their party).

Neo-Conservatism

The rise of Reaganism coincided with the rise of neoconservatism. The term neo-conservative, like so many ideological labels is a loaded one. One can take it to mean a “new conservative”—someone who had been something else but has moved into the conservative camp. In this respect, many rank and file Republicans fit the definition of “neocon”—they supported the liberal economic policies of the New Deal Order, until those policies seemed to fail and then they jumped ship. It can also mean a new type of conservatism, markedly different from the old. This latter point is much more contentious.

Paleoconservatives and other traditional conservatives claim that neo-conservatism is a foreign animal, imported by Trotskyists and liberals who changed conservatism from what it once was. Many liberals accept this. Robert Kennedy Jr., in his afterword of Barry Goldwater’s reissued Conscience of a Conservative, argues that today’s conservatives have perverted the goals of Goldwater conservatism. Liberal radio talk show hosts like Rhandi Rhodes are also amenable to distinguishing between “true” conservatives and neocons. How much justification there is for this distinction is highly debatable.

So what is neoconservatism? The consensus among both it critics and its adherents is that is “neo” translates into “new” in both the aforementioned ways. The godfather of neoconservatism is Irving Kristol. As a young man he was a Trotskyist, later a social democrat, then a liberal, and finally a conservative. According to Kristol, it took him half his life to realize he was “a conservative all along.”

The reasons for his move rightward are complex, but are relatively well documented in his work Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Ideal. Kristol was always a virulent opponent of Stalinized Communism and critical supporter of the Cold War because of it. In the 1940s, Kristol became frustrated with Marxism, primarily because he did not think that it “worked” as ideology. His primary reason for this was his experience as a Trotskyist and, later, in the military. What the Trotskyists were selling the working class was not buying, which raised questions about the working class’s ability to engage in the type of revolution that Marx predicted. His suspicion of the working class’s revolutionary potential was confirmed while he was in the Army, where he discovered that a lot of his working class compatriots were “thugs,” and he found the authority of the Army to be refreshing.

In the 1950s, Kristol became influenced by the writings of John Burnham and Friedrich Hayek. He saw the “managerial revolution,” the ascendency of the “New (middle-administrative) class” around him and it alarmed him. This development alone, however, wasn’t sufficient for him to completely break with the Left. The emergence of the “New Left” was. The Cultural rebellion of the 1960s, “free love,” drug culture, rejection of traditional cultural forms and mores, compelled Kristol to totally reevaluate his analysis of capitalism.

Kristol, heavily influenced by the writings of Leo Strauss, came to see capitalist democracy as the best system available for humanity. But, it was also an imperfect system, which tended to sow the seeds of its own destruction. In contrast to Marx, Kristol did not see the working class as the gravediggers of capitalism. According to Kristol, the working class is reflexively bourgeois because bourgeois society has allowed the working class to steadily improve its economic position. This was the brilliance of Keynesian liberalism and internationalism; it provided the solution to class struggle in the form of economic growth and material abundance. The problem group is the “New Class”—or at least the portion Kristol calls “intellectuals.” These folks work in “helping professions,” universities and the arts (as opposed being business managers or accountants). Although these folks are privileged, they feel no attachment to the system that grants these privileges, and thus are prone to criticism and forming political opposition.

For Kristol, the problem of the dissident intellectual traces its origins to the very nature of capitalism. Capitalist democracy has historically demonstrated its success to “deliver the goods.” But this materialist success is not sufficient. Enduring civilizations of the past have also satiated the spirit of the people. Typically, they have done this through religion. The raison d’être of a given society is a means to a greater (often otherworldly) end for the people. For capitalism, material abundance is means to an unknown end—thus the cultural malaise, ennui, decadence, and rebellion.

If the crisis of capitalism is primarily cultural and spiritual, then it calls for cultural and spiritual responses. In the 1970s and 1980s, the neoconservatives joined with traditional and cultural conservatives in opposition to the excesses of liberalism and the New Left in their call for a return to traditional (religious) values and for economic policies that would solve the economic crisis of the 1970s through economic growth. Kristol and other neoconservatives spared no ink attacking environmentalists, feminists, and multiculturalists—often red baiting them—as enemies of American democracy. They also developed very close relationships with neo-evangelicals and other social conservatives who criticized New Deal policies for their cultural effects (out of wedlock births, welfare dependency, family breakdown). And thus, the Reagan Revolution.

Paleocons, “True” Conservatives, and other Variants

One of the ironies of paleoconservatism is that it is newer than its neoconservative kin. The term neoconservatism was coined in the early 1970s by Michael Harrington, critiquing the move rightward of former leftists. Kristol accepted the label in 1979, on the eve of the Reagan Revolution. Paleoconservatism is a product of the late-1980s. Originally the term referred to southern agrarians, hard line Catholic anti-communists and older Republicans associated with William F. Buckley and the National Review. The term took on a new meaning after the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall took away one of the uniting factors of the conservative coalition (anti-communism) and eight years of Reaganomics made conservatism the new ideology of power, raising questions about what “anti-statist conservatives” do with the state at their disposal.

Although there are number of key figures in the paleoconservative movement, few are better known than Pat Buchanan. Buchanan, a staunchly Catholic anti-communist, was political strategist for the Nixon Administration and helped to develop the social conservative revolt against the Democrats. An equally devout Cold Warrior, he was a firm supporter of the Reagan administration. Subsequently, he ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1992 and 1996. Although a lifelong Republican, he ran on the Reform Party ticket in 2000, doing abysmally (which probably helped Bush win), then rejoined the Republican Party.

Buchanan's paleoconservatism is distinguished by its strident criticism of neoconservatism. According to Buchanan, in Where the Right Went Wrong, neocons have “subverted” the Reagan revolution. They are “leftists” and Jews who are using conservatism to forward an agenda antithetical to actual conservatives. He is particularly critical of neoconservatives aggressive foreign policy organized around “democracy promotion,” their free trade policies, and their apparent tolerance of illegal immigration.

So what are the differences between paleocons and neo-cons? Let’s start with what is not different. Both neocons and paleocons claim Ronald Reagan; both are convinced that the radical Left has taken over the Democratic Party (I wish!); both are opposed to recent cultural changes including the tolerance of homosexuality, feminism, abortion, multiculturalism; both support “traditional” family values;, neither believe in “coddling” criminals and welfare moms; both are pro-capitalist and pro-corporate; both support a strong US military; and neither dispute the United States proper role is the preeminent economic and military power in the world. So what is the problem?

Historically, American politics have been characterized by ethnic, religious and regional conflict, so there is no reason to think that conservatism would be any different. Paleocons are dived regionally, between latter day southern partisans and northern social/cultural conservatives. Paleocons also tend to be xenophobes. As neocons are often Jewish, the ascendency of the neocons could prove that the World Jewish Conspiracy has finally seized the most powerful nation in the world. Additionally, many northern paleocons are Catholic, producing a nice little Catholic-Jewish rivalry. And finally, most theocons are protestant and side with the Jews rather than the Catholics (so much for not getting involved in internecine European religious conflicts). At least part of the problem can be explained by these differences.

There are some significant differences that go beyond ethno-religious-regional conflict. There are significant tactical differences between neocons and paleocons. Neocons believe that it is in the best interest of the United States to promote democracy overseas based on the theory that democracies (if properly run by pro-US elites) are the least likely forms of government to degenerate into totalitarianism and aggression. Therefore, if the United States has to be aggressive (and manipulative of its own people) to achieve that end, it is worth it. Paleocons, like Buchanan, disagree. They see democracy promotion, particularly among non-European peoples, as a fools errand for two reasons: first because it won’t work, some people simply aren’t up to the task of democracy and trying to impose democracy will only legitimize jihadism and other radical anti-American ideologies; secondly, because if it does work, there is a strong chance these democracies will produce anti-American governments. Both approaches are aggressively nationalistic, but express their nationalism differently.

Ironically, both neocons and paleocons look for inspiration from liberal Cold War foreign policy, they just draw different lessons. Palecons yearn for the day when supporting overseas dictatorships was considered acceptable, so long as the bastards were “our bastards.” Neocons are more sympathetic to Free Trade (IMF, World Bank) policies because they see it as a way to foster capitalist development overseas and also as a way to subsidize the lifestyle of working class Americans, muting potential class conflict. Paleocons oppose free trade because they see it as subsidizing the growth of potential enemies like China. Also, protectionism allows for a semi-autarchic economic structure which they see as the key to national power (I think it’s called “capitalism in one country”). Both are hostile to the UN, but for different reasons. Paleocons see it as a nascent World Government threatening to undermine American liberty, neocons see it as too weak to sufficiently aid the US in its foreign policy goals.

Domestically, there are also some significant differences. Paleocons are aficionados of the small government, anti-New Deal, rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s. This is a popular theme among many conservatives because it serves many purposes. Racists see “Big government” as the originator of “forced integration,” intrusive civil rights laws, and similar evils which might produce miscegenation. Right Wing Libertarians see the “government as regulator” as the opening wedge of an anti-capitalist totalitarianism. Some paleocons rewrite the history of the Revolutionary Era, with the anti-Federalists winning, and proceed to argue that the Founders intended a states rights government (the constitution as King argument, even if it is the wrong constitution). Although neocons are were critical of the New Deal and Great Society policies for their social and cultural affects, they don’t have anything against “big government” per se. Kristol viewed the welfare state as a given—the task is not to abolish it, but to remold it in a conservative manner. Therefore, neocons have allies among paleocons in their calls to “defund the left,” but less so in their attempt to “fund the right” (although theocons take to it like Judas takes to pieces of silver).

Some of the more subtle differences are more tactical nature, but may reveal deeper differences of philosophy. Irving Kristol and other neoconservatives were self consciously trying to make conservatism an ideology capable of ruling—to “modernize” it. Kristol’s critique of Goldwater and other 1950s/60s conservatives was that their rhetoric was entirely negative—against the New Deal, against the Great Society, against integration, against communism. According to Kristol, what conservatives needed was an affirmative philosophy, one which was prepared for the responsibilities of power. The first step was accepting the things you cannot change--the existence of “big government.” David Stockman in The Triumph of Politics discussed how many free market ideologues learned the hard way that opposing “big government” was just a slogan for most conservatives and it’s a lot easier to be against government handouts to someone else’s district than your own. The second step was articulating a moral vision of capitalism. George Gilder helped to popularize Reaganomics by drawing connections between “free market” economics and moral behavior in his book Wealth and Poverty, forging a powerful political alliance between neocons and theocons.

Neocons view issue driven social conservatism as part of a larger strategy to maintain conservative hegemony, leaving them open to criticism from paleocons and other conservatives that don’t take issues like abortion, affirmative action, or immigration seriously. In many respects, it has to do with tactical priorities. Is overturning Roe v. Wade worth it if it undermines the prospect of a long term conservative majority? Is gutting a popular “big government” program like Social Security a politically sound idea if it causes a federal budget crisis? The neocon answer to these questions is “no” based on the theory that such fights would be bloodier than Fallujah and the risk is greater than the gain, whereas many other conservatives would say “that is why we elected you.”

Another interesting distinction between conservatives is made by John Dean. Dean divides conservatism into two camps—authoritarian conservatives (which includes neocons, paleocons, and theocons) and “true conservatives.” Dean defines true conservatives as those who look to the wisdom of the past for guidance and move forward with great caution and prudence. True conservatives are much more interested in encouraging individual freedom while retaining social order than using social and cultural mores to control people’s behavior. Dean sees this as the true legacy of Barry Goldwater. The conservative movement, however, was hijacked, not just by neocons, but also by the “mean spirited,” Gingrich social conservatives of the 1990s. The latter group (which also includes “mediacons” like Coulter and Limbaugh) has little respect for the institutions of government and were willing to lie, cheat, and engage in character assassination for political gain. (Note: Dean has a very interesting chapter on the relationship between authoritarian personalities and conservatism, essentially arguing that conservatives are much more likely to have authoritarian traits than leftists).

Whither Conservatism?

Trotskyists have had a hard road to hoe. Expelled from the only country they deemed a legitimate workers state, always criticized because they never led a successful revolution (what that is supposed to mean coming from a Stalinist, I never understood), and destined to exist in a self-imposed sectarian exile at the margins of the working class movement. In the US, “inverted” (Straussian) Trotskyism has risen from the ashes in the form of neoconservatism. In a strange way, neoconservatives use Marx to defeat Marxism—Marx called religion the opiate of the people because it diverted them from the immediate tasks of class struggle; therefore, neocons sell opium, not only in the form of religion, but high sounding rhetoric about democracy promotion and the moral virtues of capitalism. Now, internationalism means a worldwide American Empire, and the permanent revolution is a permanent conservative majority. In America, the internationalists won and the nationalistic paleocons suffer in internal exile—supporting the Reagan revolution, but not its fruits.

Irving Kristol once described neocons as liberals “mugged by reality.” We may be witnessing a similar mugging. The Republicans’ efforts to create a permanent conservative majority in a country which, historically, has a limited conservative tradition has required creating a conservative tradition where there is none; cobbling together of various political segments of society under the banner of “conservatism.” That this coalition has proven to be more unwieldy than anticipated should not be shocking given the nature of American politics, rife with ethnic, regional, and class conflicts. Many self-described conservatives are now faced with a significant level of “buyers remorse”—they bought into the anti-liberal rhetoric of Wallace, Reagan, Buchanan, Kristol, and many others, only to discover that they all they had in common was a label. Big government is still here, now it subsidizes big business, holds our schools hostage, starts ill-advised overseas wars, and seems hell bent to regulate more aspects of our life, including our moral decision making.

Winning over paleocons into a left-liberal coalition will probably be an exercise in futility. I don’t see Pat Buchanan or many of his cohorts jumping ship anytime soon. “True” conservatives of the Dean variety, are more hopeful, and I actually have some optimism on the theocon front, but is it sufficient? My hope lies less in intellectuals and pundits and more with average folks who bought into the Reagan revolution, remain Republican by default, but after watching their sons and jobs being shipped overseas and only getting higher gas prices in return, are in desperate need of an alternative.

According to most opinion polls, more American self-identify as conservative than liberal, testimony to the power of propaganda and the ability of the New Right to create a “conservative tradition” where such a tradition has been historically weak. However, if you look at issues, Americans are much more liberal than ideological labels reveal, which suggests that today’s conservatism has yet to develop deep roots—in fact, most Americans have been “liberals all along.” The challenge for a liberal-left coalition is to embrace the strong liberal tradition that exists in this country; marry it to issues of social justice, and to reach out to the disenchanted “man on the street conservatives” who have been mugged by reality.









Bibliography

Buchanan, P. (2004). Where the Right Went Wrong. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.

Dean, J. (2006). Conservatives Without Conscience. New York: Penguin Group.

Drury, S. (1997). Leo Strauss and the American Right. New York: St. Martin's.

Gilder, G. (1993). Wealth and Poverty. Oakland, CA: ICS Press.

Hartz, L. (1955). The Liberal Tradition in America. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Kennedy Jr., R. F. (2007). Afterword. In B. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kristol, I. (1995). Neonconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. New York: Free Press.

"Neoconservatism." (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2008, from Wikipedia.com

"Paleoconservative." (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2008, from Conservapedia.com

"Pat Buchanan." (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2008, from Wikipedia.com

Smith, R. (1997). Civic Ideals. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Stelzer, I. (2004). The Neocon Reader. New York: Grove Press.

Stockman, D. (1987). The Triumph of Politics. New York: Avon Books.

Read more!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blogging on Blogging

UPDATE: Deadspin vs. Bissinger on Costas

DeadSpin

After blogging now for about 10 months, I have started to reflect on it more as a new medium. I primarily do it to help sort through my own ideas and trot them out for folks to read if they choose. Nevertheless, the more I read others blogs, it makes me wonder where this medium is going. How significant is the blogosphere? Do bloggers matter? How are they changing journalism? Recently, I have come across a couple of interesting articles discussing the blogging phenomenon in different contexts. One was in the NYTimes, one on the sports blog, CincyJungle, and one on the political blog, Art of the Possible. The consensus is that there is definitely a rising tension between the mainstream media and bloggers, and it cuts across many interests and aspects of life. The rise of blogging has opened a number of questions. Are bloggers journalists? Are they poseurs and wannabees? What about paid journalists who also blog? Who owns the video and audio produced by a particular news source? Should bloggers have access to press conferences just like reporters? Is the line blurring between professional and non-professional media? Is this permanent, or will a new hierarchy develop? What about journalistic integrity and objectivity?



These are many thorny issues raised by the information age and the proliferation of computers, hand held video and audio recording devices, and the expansion of internet access. As I have argued before, there is a tendency for bloggers to overestimate their own significance. Largely because bloggers spend a lot of time reading each others blogs, getting in blogging wars, and competing for the blogger readership. In other words, blogging is extremely important to other bloggers and their circle of readers and regular posters, but it isn’t clear how important it is to the rest of the world. Of course, there also tends to be a significant class divide between bloggers and the general public. Becoming a blogger assumes a certain income, lifestyle, and education which does not necessarily make it the democratizing force it is often considered. It may challenge the existing media structure in some ways, but in many ways it leaves it quite in tact.

It is clear, however, that among the "educated" class, blogging has become more important as a means of disseminating information and opinion. I first noticed this in 2004 during the Presidential election when Air America radio began to regularly interview bloggers and cite blogs during many of their shows. At the time, I wasn’t even sure what a blog was—but obviously bloggers opinions seemed to matter to someone. In past years, I have seen a similar phenomenon in music and sports. Multiple times I have been solicited to write music reviews on my blog to help publicize a particular band (I have yet to do this, I am not opposed to doing it, I just thought it was an odd thing). Also, sports blogging has exploded as an alternative way to get information and opinion about sports and offering many alternative perceptions of sporting activity.

The blogs that seem to be the most successful are collective endeavors. They are either part of a larger blog network (SB Nation is a good example, but there are many others) or they are collectively run, with multiple writers helping to keep the blog up to date, and relevant. The best case scenario is to be both. Although these blogs aren’t run by “professionals,” most are quite professionally run, meaning they look nice, have high quality posts, and try to avoid ad hominem attacks (at least at other posters)which are so prevalent in many discussion forums.

The biggest tension between bloggers, the mainstream media, and major commercial organizations is over “who owns the news?” The media’s case is that they have invested millions in equipment, technicians, and staff to produce video and interviews and that therefore, they own the information they produce. Large commercial enterprises like Major League Baseball make similar arguments. We pay the players and produce the games, therefore we own the images (and even electronic representations) of those games and have the right to limit use. Networks make similar claims about political debates and programming. The counter argument is that once the information is out in “public space,” it becomes public and you can’t really stop someone from discussing, debating, or presenting this information. And if organizations like Major League Baseball expressly limit the use of images and audio, are bloggers and the main stream media bound by the same rules?

Another issue often raised is that of objectivity. Supposedly journalists are supposed to be objective. It is true that most professional journalists are trained to write—well-- like journalists—which means they are trained to write poorly. I once did a stint as a sports reporter for the Indiana Daily Student and I learned the hard way—write like each sentence could stand alone or be the last in the article to ease editing, sloppy constructions like passive voice are fine and often preferable, let the facts tell the story, etc. This creates the illusion of objectivity because the writer seems more detached and, and half the time, the reader can’t tell what is going on or who is doing what to whom. Although this may contribute to some level of objectivity, it is pretty well established that the media is hardly bias free, with the biggest biases coming from the nature of the medium itself (big, profit making corporations).

Supposedly, on the other end of the spectrum are the bloggers. Although many bloggers claim objectivity, it is almost impossible to state with a straight face that they are objective. Many are worse writers than their professional counterparts. And, thankfully, many bloggers don’t even make the pretense. The notion of objectivity is even more ridiculous when it comes to sports. Few sports reporters are remotely objective—in fact their jobs hinge on not being objective (gotta support the team!). Therefore the loss of “objectivity” (or at least the pretense) is really a small one indeed.

The main stream media has largely reacted to theses challenges by trying to roll with them as best they can. They seem to know that, like it or not, the internet is here to stay so you might as well get used to it. Therefore many reporters have also created blogs and larger newspapers also allow discussion of articles. By the same token, their websites have become increasingly advertisement laden and include many “premium sections” where one has to pay to get access. Entertainment organizations like Major League Baseball have tried to stem the tide as much as possible—using legal measures to control access to information as much as possible under threat of lawsuits and copyright infringement. The music industry as done a little of both. Many smaller, lesser known groups, find the freedom of the internet to be a great way to circumvent the big label monopoly and directly market to their fan base. Big labels have tried to clamp down on the internet as much as possible through legal machinations. Who will win the struggle isn’t clear, however, the distinct possibility exists that major media and entertainment industries may end up self-marginalizing their activities—particularly if they become too draconian--giving more space to alternative forms of media to develop.

Exactly how all of this is going to play out is anyone's guess. One thing that is clear is that the way people get information is being restructured, with man new voices entering the din. This has some libratory potential as the medium of the internet allows for more multi-directional discussion and allows folks to circumvent the conventional “opinion shaping” media. It also raises serious long-term questions about ownership of news and entertainment. It seems like the tendency is towards making news and entertainment more decentralized and even more subservient to public demand than in the past. With some notable exceptions, however, I have found the blogosphere to be less than impressive. Call me old school, but I still believe that the internet format is problematic and that books are still the best way to learn—but that is just me.

Read more!

Bengals draft

Well the NFL draft has come and gone. Reflecting on my earlier predictions and frustrations, I actually did pretty good in deciphering the Bengals’ emphasis and general trends. The only thing I really missed out on was I predicted the Bengals would take a running back early--instead they took a WR. Here are some post draft thoughts--


1. Keith Rivers (OLB)—One can complain that the Bengals didn’t trade up for Ellis, but one can’t complain about Rivers. He’s a solid linebacker that can play every position and has a reasonable chance to be a Day 1 starter. Good pick.

2. Jerome Simpson (WR)—A possession receiver that could start off as a #3 and may be Houshmandzadeh’s heir to the #2 spot. The Bengals need a new crop of receivers, however, I can’t help but think they reached for this one. They must have seen something they liked—hope it pays off.

3. Pat Sims (DT)—The Bengals needed a DT really bad and Sims is a good choice. We were lucky he was still available, and this is a value pick. He could make it into the rotation his rookie year given the weakness of the D-line.

4. Andre Caldwell (WR)--A great value pick. I suspect the Bengals weren’t planning on taking another receiver this quickly, but Caldwell was too good to pass up this late. Could develop into our next deep threat and possibly a return man.

5. Anthony Collins (OT)—Another great value pick. Fits well with the Bengals penchant for drafting massive offensive linemen and then developing them into effective pass protectors. The Bengals have some question marks on their line in the future and Collins could develop into a nice replacement for Levi Jones or Willie Anderson.

6. Jason Shirley (DT)—This was a questionable pick. The Bengals needed another DT, but I think they reached for a guy with a lot of off field troubles. Shirley is a massive physical specimen with great athletic ability. I am all for second chances, but just thought they went to early.

7. Corey Lynch (S)—A solid pick. At worst, Lynch should make a nice special teams player, and could possibly develop into a strong safety. Seems to have good intangibles with playmaker ability. The Bengals secondary keeps looking better.

8. Matt Sherry (TE)—I don’t like this pick. Although Sherry’s stock was rising due to his workouts, I can’t help but think that this guy would have lasted until round 7. Secondly, I am not that certain we needed to draft a TE. Could develop into a nice H-back, but probably not an every down TE.

9. Angelo Craig (DE/OLB)—A ‘tweener who could serve as a situational DE or OLB. If he makes the team, he should add depth and make a nice special teams player.

10. Michael Urrutia (WR)—I wasn’t surprised by this pick because I read that the Bengals were giving this guy a private workout and all indicators suggested the Bengals coveted a tall WR (he’s 6’ 5’’—230lbs). If he makes the team, he could develop into our #3 option of the future.

Summary—
The theme of this draft was “Carson Palmer needs targets and protection.” The Bengals picked up 3 receivers and one pass catching TE plus an offensive lineman for the future. In the "meat market" that is the draft, the Bengals are clearly restocking their stables—a smart move with C. Johnson balking at training camp and Housh in the last year of his contract. We did not get a running back—which suggests that the Bengals are confident with the current situation—I hope they are right, but I expect to see a one or two FA RBs invited to camp. If Perry and Rudi aren’t looking good by June 1-- Shaun Alexander? The Bengals D-line still needs attention. Although Sims has the tools to develop into a nice starter, I am still concerned about our front four. We didn’t pick up a true DE, which leaves us a little thin. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple college FAs signed at DE. With the addition of Rivers, the reinstatement of Thurman, and our free agent signings, our LB corps is looking a little more solid and our secondary is going to be pretty good. We still need to find our nickel back of the future and I still would like to have a little more quality depth at LB, but things are improving.

In general, the draft was a good one, but as with most drafts its impact won’t be known for a couple of years. Rivers is the only player which I see as an immediate starter. Either Simpson or Caldwell could play key roles, particularly if Chad sits. Sims, hopefully, will see increasing play time over the course of the season.

Read more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Baracking the Vote

I cast my ballot for Barack Obama today. Hopefully, the first of two. It was relatively uneventful. I showed up at the polls around 8:30 am. The polls were moderately busy, although my district was less so. They guy right in front of me was a Republican, which threw the poll worker into a bit of a tizzy. There aren’t many Republicans in my area and there was really no reason for a Republican to vote because their local nominees are rarely contested and everyone knows they are losing in November anyway. And of course, McCain already has the presidential nomination. Suprisingly, there were a lot of Ron Paul signs out, and I saw someone trying to get people to vote for Paul anyway--a development which I found somewhat heartening—wouldn’t it be something if Paul won Pennsylvania?

My area (first borough outside Pittsburgh) seems pretty split between Clinton and Obama with perhaps a slight edge to Obama. This is largely judging by the yard signs and the conversations I have had. The local Obama HQ is about a half a mile from my house, which might contribute to the appearance that Obama is doing well. Where I work (in the city proper), it is more pro-Obama and the further you go in the city, the stronger the Obama support is-—the further out, it gets more mixed. It seems like urban folks, regardless of race or gender really like Obama. Clinton does well in the suburbs.

I have to admit it has been exciting to see so many people taking an active interest in a primary. Conventional wisdom has suggested that this is a bad thing (divisive) for the Democrats. I tend to disagree. The level of mobilization and interest is high and I suspect that this will carry through to November. Although the campaign’s have exchanged barbs, neither has been particularly dirty and, from what I have gathered, registration is up and participation is high—which bodes well. It makes me think that the Democrats should think about restructuring their primaries to a more condensed (two month) period, and have them later (March-April) in staggered elections, making each primary all the more important, keeping the grassroots mobilized.

What I won’t miss is the phone calls. We have had no fewer than five phone calls a day for about a week now. Campaign volunteers from Obama and Clinton and plus local politicians have called incessantly. What is funny is the nature of the phone calls themselves. They aren’t very persistent—a Clinton supporter called me and asked if I would support Hillary, I said I was voting for Obama and she said “Ok,” and hung up. What? No sales job? Michelle Obama called several times as well—recorded of course—but I appreciated the effort. The phone call I was looking forward to, but which never came, was Rev. Jeremiah Wright damning Hillary Clinton—now that would have been something. I also got called by Quinnipac for the first time in my life. I have never been polled before (it wasn’t as painful as it sounds). Then, I got called again by Quinnipac to survey me on the quality of the survey they gave me—I said “thumbs up.”

The reasons for my support of Obama are quite simple. I am a strong opponent of the DLC wing of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton long ago hitched her star to the pro-corporate Democrats, and they have done more damage than good to the party. Obama isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it is more likely that organized labor, African Americans, and the poor will have a voice through him than through Clinton. Hillary decided a long time ago which side she is on—Obama is still up for grabs. This isn’t to say I have any illusions about him. I would have much preferred Dennis Kucinich or even John Edwards. Obama is an unknown quantity—but at a certain level I find that more “hopeful” than Clinton.

Read more!

Friday, April 4, 2008

April 4, 1967--Where are the hottest places in Hell?

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King gave the following speech at Riverside Church in New York. It is still worth a listen and just as relevant. One year later, he was assassinated. Text of the speech below. The link is to RealNews. Thank you Brother Martin.








MLK: Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence
A Year to the day before his assassination, King gave this speech at the Riverside Church in New York

Friday April 4th, 2008

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellowed [sic] Americans, *who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision.* There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath --
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1954** [sic]; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence *in 1954* -- in 1945 *rather* -- after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China -- for whom the Vietnamese have no great love -- but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States' influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. *Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies.* What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call "VC" or "communists"? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the North" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than *eight hundred, or rather,* eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

*I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: *Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing...part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile... meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

*As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors.* These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.



A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

*This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations.* These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. *We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.*

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word" (unquote).

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message -- of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,

In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong

Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.


And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.

If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Read more!