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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crean of the Crop

The Indiana Hoosiers comfirmed today that they hired Tom Crean, formerly of Marquette, to coach the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team. The hire comes as something of a suprise, but a pleaseant one. After missing out on Washington State's Tony Bennett (my preferred choice), Indiana quickly inked Crean to an 8 year contract. What does this mean for the future of Hoosier Basketball?


The good news is that Crean appears to be a good fit for Indiana. He is the classic "hard working white guy" that the Hoosier nation so loves. He runs an aggressive half-court defense designed to force turnovers, something which Knight aficianados will appreciate. He also has a lot of expereince coaching the Big Ten (as an assistant at MSU) and in tournement play with Marquette. He seems to be a strong recruiter and should benefit from Indiana's reputation as being a top notch program.

Crean has his work cut out for him however. After years of stability under Knight, the program is bordering on disarray. The Alumni's veto of Mike Davis damaged recruiting and the program--resulting in his ouster and the hiring of Kelvin Sampson. Although the Sampson is a good coach and liked by his players, in retrospect, the hire looks atrocious. Obviously, many of the current players are angry at the situation. Two starters have been kicked off the team for rules violations, one will probably go pro, and two others are graduating--leaving Crean with little. Regardless of Crean's ability, Hoosier fans need to be prepared from lean years under Crean.

The whole situation is a shame, particularly for the players who are currently on the team. Personally, I think Athletic Director Greenspan needs to go to, as this debacle occured unders his watch--but that is me.

That being said, I do think it is a good hire and I just hope that Crean knows what he is getting in to.



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