Sunday, August 29, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
And they say no work gets done while employees are using the internet! Sheesh. What cynics!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. President Truman's decision to use a weapon of mass destruction will forever be debated -- for good reason.
Although it ended the war before an invasion of mainland Japan was necessary, and doubtless prevented thousands of American casualties, the use of nuclear weapons on civilians to end the war must forever be challenged rigorously by ordinary people, who have the most at stake in this ethical debate.
Most Americans -- and many historians -- feel the use of excessive force to end the war was justified because of Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. Nearly 3,000 American lives were lost on that "day of infamy" and their sacrifice to the nation should always be honored and remembered. Americans were no longer isolationists after Pearl Harbor. It drew us all, willingly, into the war.
Nevertheless, it is hard to justify Truman's decision from the perspective of hindsight (Truman did not have the luxury of this perspective; he justified his decision as a way to bring the troops home). It is also hard to justify the decision from a moral perspective. As heinous as the attack on Pearl Harbor was, the Japanese targeted a military naval base. The victims of the attack were military personnel.
The Truman administration claimed on the day the first atomic bomb was used that Hiroshima was a military target. There was a small base with 30,000 Japanese soldiers there. But the city contained more than 300,000 civilians, so 90 percent of its total population were non-combatants. They were people like us. Yes, they had an emotional stake in whether Japan won or lost the war, but they were not actively threatening the United States. They were residents of a foreign city at war with America. They had reason to expect they would be safe from the fighting.
Other political leaders during World War II had already crossed the moral threshold of bombing cities and, therefore, civilians. Churchhill and Hitler were using incendiary cluster bombs on cities years before Hiroshima was destroyed. But those smaller bombs, designed to cause fires, could be aimed at specific military targets. They weren't always accurate -- there was nearly always the accidental loss of civilian life, what came to be known as "collateral damage." But they did not indiscriminately kill tens of thousands of innocent women and children.
There were plenty of other options to end the second World War quickly. A diplomatic option would have allowed the Japanese to keep their emperor as a figurehead leader, in the same sense the British look to their queen as a symbolic leader of the nation. Or Truman might have waited for the Russians to start the land invasion. They were rushing across China to come to help finish the Japanese on the day the bomb was dropped.
Therein lies one of the most distressing aspect of this debate: that Truman's decision to use inappropriate nuclear force wasn't really designed to end the war at all. That his intention was to "send a message to the Soviets." Such a show of force, he hoped, would help establish the United States as the preeminent world power in the post-war years and give us the upper hand in future negotiations with the Russians.
This was a fatal miscalculation that has had horrendous ramifications for the world in the last 65 years. Because the United States used nuclear force to destroy two Japanese cities, the Soviets had no choice but to try to develop their own nuclear weapons as quickly as possible. They had lived through invasions on their homeland by the armies of Napoleon and Hitler. They vowed to do all they could to prevent being held subservient to another world power.
Pandora's Box was open. There would be no way to stop nuclear proliferation or the arms race from escalating.
All humankind has a stake in stopping the production of nuclear weapons. But Americans, especially, should take stock in this day because we have more than any other nation in the world and we continue to spend billions of tax dollars in the research and development of these heinous weapons that could end human existence on our planet if they were ever used.
More than 200,000 Japanese civilians died between August 6th and August 9th in 1945 by weapons that were developed and dropped by our country. America remains the only nation that has ever used nuclear weapons. We should all work to make sure they remain a part of history, not a part of our military defense strategy.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
If you have a youngster at home who may be interested in learning a band instrument, this is a quick, easy and highly entertaining way to introduce him to the best and the brightest young musicians who play brass and drums. Expect to be blown away. Drum corps is a combination of music, dance and athleticism: it's one of the most rigorous cardio-vascular workouts you will ever see. Watching them perform will change the way you feel about marching bands.
Tonight's drum corps gig in West Chester is a prelude to the Drum Corp International's Eastern finals, scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday evenings in J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown, Pa., where seedings for the finals next weekend in Indianapolis will take place. It's a good time to see some of the top drum corps in the nation because they are close to peak performance and seeing a world class drum corps performing at peak performance inspires awe.
The schedule will include Carolina Crown, the Cadets and the Phantom Regiment, winners of the DCI finals two years ago. Missing from the program tonight will be the current leader in the DCI standings, the Blue Devils. Likewise, my own favorite corps, the Bluecoats, will not be performing.
Monday, August 2, 2010
West Chester University's Larry Davidson, a professor of history who specializes in Middle East issues, has taken on a new role this summer: one that is earning him a national reputation as a political pundit.
Since early June, Davidson has published six columns for the Reader Supported News, one of the internet's most highly regarded independent new services, an off-shoot of Truthout.org. His columns provide the sort of thoughtful political analysis that has been missing from the nation's newspapers for the past 10 years. His writing voice is acerbic and provocative; his columns are thoroughly researched, highly readable and based on a historical perspective that makes them hard to refute. In just two months time, his columns for RSN have become a must read for politically progressive thinkers.
One published today is about a 29-year U.S. citizen named Ray Knaeble who has been working for ITT Systems, Inc. in Kuwait since 2006. Knaeble was put on the nation's "no fly list" because he recently converted to Islam and has started a blog to try to convince Americans that Islam is misunderstood by Americans and misrepresented in the American press. Knaeble's central premise is that -- like all of the world's primary religions -- Islam preaches peace. (Read it here: http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion/42-42/2569-the-fate-of-americas-justice-system).
Of particular interest to me as a professor of journalism is Davidson's perspective on mass media in America and his assertion that media has abandoned its traditional role as a watchdog of politically powerful elites -- especially multi-national corporations and the people who run them.
In a column published on July 25 ("Free Speech Takes a Hit") Davidson writes about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a federal law that "defined any interaction with members of groups designated as 'terroist' by the United States government as 'material support' for criminal activies. Punishment can include a prison sentence of 15 years." The case was about an organizxation called the Humanitarian Law Project, had been teaching members of a Turkish group to have their grievances heard through accepted United Nations channels. Read his column here: http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion/42-42/2506-free-speech-takes-a-hit-from-washington)
Davidson writes: "For the present, the First Amendment is an emasculated facade behind which the government operates to severely limit what the Amendment is designed to protect....this emasculation has been going on for almost a decade and the Court has now confirmed the 'legality' of the process. This part of the Patriot Act has already been used to harass and destroy a number of benign Muslim charities, nonviolent supporters of Palestian rights and even the American lawyers of individuals charged with terrorism.
"One of the important factors that makes possible this history of assaults on free speech is that most U.S. citizens do not care that they occur, or welcome them. This accounts for the remarkably sparse media coverage of the Court's decision and the almost total lack of public concern... For the majority within a democracy, the legal right guaranteeing freedom of speech is only an abstraction. On a daily basis most citizens are not conscious of either the existence of or the need for such a right...the speech of such a majority is by definition normative speech, and as such is not felt to be in need of protection."
On July 10th, in a column entitled "The Right-Wing Thought Police" Davidson asserts that the nation's right wing is "achieving its long-standing goal of becoming America's thought police". Conservative outbursts threaten the careers of American journalists who contradict any part of theiconversative political agenda. How do they get away with propagating such slander?
1) Americans are apolitical, they don't care about left or right politics because it doesn't seem to have much to do with their local lives.
2) This audience does not live in an apolitical media enviornment. "There are no 'objective media' much less a 'liberal' one," he writes. Media outlets are two kinds: "a) overtly conservative because they are owned by right-wing ideologues who are interested in inserting their ultra-conserative worldview into the heads of their audience (the Murdoch/Fox news bunch) or b) they are 'politically neutral' media operations (often owned by bigger businesses liek Westinghouse and Disney) whose foremost interest is making a profit (CNN and its ilk)."
3) Since the end of World War II, leftist ideas have become "demonized almost out of existence and since 9/11 the 'commies' have been transformed into Muslims. These simplistic stereotypes set the parameters for correct and patriotic thinking...and they are delivered to you at different levels of intensity by both the conservative and 'neutral' media systems. No matter how apolitical one might be in one's daily local life, these notions are in the media air. You take them in almost by osmosis. They mess with your mind without you realizing it." Read the entire column here: http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion/42-42/2402-right-wing-thought-police-an-analysis
Anyone who is interested in getting a dose of reality, written with clarity, wisdom and panache, should be on the lookout for Lawrence Davidson's column.