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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

No comfort in empty words

Afghanistan, Peace, Obama's speech

Listening to the President’s speech on sending more troops to Afghanistan last night, I found myself drifting off. So many words I’ve heard before in the rhetoric of war: they no longer stir me. Instead, they fill me with unease.

Then a line calls me away from the homework to which I’ve drifted, no longer held by the expectation of hearing truth or inspiration.

Now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

All our might? 30,000 troops who are already tired and too much pressed into service are not all our might. They’re a little bit of it. Enough to keep the pot of constant war simmering, the businesses of security prospering.

Moral suasion: what is that? I’ve heard it many times before and assumed I understood. The application of fine explanations to enhance understanding of our moral beliefs, maybe. Persuasion in service of the good. I decide to look it up.  

It’s an economic term. The first definition that pops up on Google search is from Investopedia:

What Does Moral Suasion Mean?
A persuasion tactic used by an authority (i.e. Federal Reserve Board) to influence and pressure, but not force, banks into adhering to policy. Tactics used are closed-door meetings with bank directors, increased severity of inspections, appeals to community spirit, or vague threats. A good example of moral suasion is when the Fed Chairman speaks on the markets - his opinion on the overall economy can send financial markets falling or flying.

And here’s a disputed but intriguing explanation from Wikipedia:

During the mid to late 1960s, the Administration of American President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to deal with the mounting inflationary pressures by direct government influence. Wage-price guideposts were established, and the power of the Presidency was used to coerce big businesses and labor into going along with these guideposts. This approach came to be known as "jawboning" (sometimes known as "moral suasion") — an unofficial but usually quite effective technique of arm-twisting to prevent labor and businesses from getting big wage or price increases, which works essentially by the implicit threat of future Government "regulation" of their industry that would or could impair their profitability.

Not what I had in mind at all. But at least it offers a peek at what lies underneath: money.

This morning, Professor Juan Cole described the situation in Afghanistan on Wisconsin Public Radio.You can read more here.  Who we are fighting, he said, is a segment of the Pashtun. "There are no al Qaeda in Afghanistan." And yet Obama’s speech reiterated the dread words, al Qaeda, just as Bush invoked Iraq in summoning the troops in the wake of September 11, 2001.

The boogey man we fear continues to elude us, but it comforts us to think we are bringing him to his knees. Bringing anybody to their knees, it seems, will do.

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Little delivery elves and order takers downsized and outsourced?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As far as I can see, reports of economic recovery and easing of unemployment are greatly exaggerated.

I don't mean to alarm small children, but it looks like even St. Nick has downsized his operation. This year, he managed to deliver a dark chocolate orange to my younger daughter's shoe. She's 19, and St. Nick saves the bigger rewards for younger people, which is as it should be.

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Another grocery store: Aldi

Aldi, grocery stores, food

Tomorrow's the scheduled opening date for the Aldi store at 124th and Burleigh.

For reasons that aren't clear to me, Aldi stirs people's passions--not just here but in Europe. Some sputter darkly about declining neighborhoods and the kind of people who might want to shop there.

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No, Mr. President: it's not a just war

War and peace, Obama

Dear President Obama,

Reading your Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Wauwatosa, I understood the restrained response of the audience in Oslo. It is a lawyerly speech, well-crafted. But it doesn’t really address peace. Instead, it addresses the ideology of never ending war and leaves us with a sobering view of a life of constant struggle:

Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he's outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school -- because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child's dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that -- for that is the story of human progress; that's the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

This doesn’t exactly stir me, although it makes me grateful for the movements of history and accidents of fate that set me here in this place, in this position of relative safety and prosperity.

But I will follow your suggestion and look clear-eyed at what is. And Mr. President, this is not a just war. With clear eyes, I see that you have trimmed the definition of just war to suit the purposes of this war, limiting the list to “when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”

Most of the long discussion about just war has come from Catholic theologians and philosophers. But I’ll use the clear-eyed, nonsectarian definitions of the BBC to point to the ways in which the war in Afghanistan cannot be called a just war:

Six conditions must be satisfied for a war to be considered just:
1.    The war must be for a just cause.
2.    The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.
3.    The intention behind the war must be good.
4.    All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first.
5.    There must be a reasonable chance of success.
6.    The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve.

Mr. President, when was there a lawful declaration of war against Afghanistan?

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Little boxes -- and bigger ones


I’m not talking about the pretty ones under the Christmas tree.

Driving around in a car with a dead radio and CD player has raised my awareness of the world around me. Seeing the winter wonderland is nice, as long as the roads are clear and the deer stay hidden along Underwood Creek.

But I’m also noticing those ugly steel utility boxes that proliferated in yards everywhere over the last year or so. I think they are called Video-Ready Access Devices, or V-RADs. We know them as cable and AT&T U-verse boxes. And I call ‘em ugly.

A small cable box popped up in my neighbor’s front yard one morning last summer. When I got home in the afternoon, it had crossed the border into mine. Neighbor Ellen had sweet-talked the installers into moving the unsightly thing. So now it stands, vaguely green and slightly askew, in front of the forsythia that will never grow big enough to hide it. We have walnut trees that stunt the growth of any living thing around them. I wish they’d do the same with The Steel Box Thing.

I guess I should be grateful I didn’t get one of the big honkers that goes 4-6 feet as some people have.

A little research shows that it’s possible to install the boxes on utility poles and in hidden places. At least one community got AT & T to commit to paying for $1500 worth of landscaping around each of the beasts.

Apparently, it’s also possible to put them underground, which is really where they belong. Buried. Competitors (Verizon FiOS) run fiber optic technology right up to each house, not just to the middle of a neighborhood. So it’s possible these jarringly unattractive thingies will soon become obsolete.

How did we let this happen in our pretty community? Why didn’t we at least insist that they be placed in rear yards? And what, I wonder in my holiday bah humbug-y mood, is next?

If it weren’t so cold and I so lazy, I’d start a stealth campaign to wrap the damn things as presents for the holidays.

Instead, I’ll just ask you what you think. Shouldn’t Tosa have some higher standards about what gets built and placed here? Or are you okay with anything goes?

Oh, and if you want talk about the good things, about which there are so very many (not including the big and little steel boxes but including how much better a driver you can be without audio distraction), why not send your stories to Project Resolve?

Another birthday

Christmas, Birthday

Turning 60 feels a little like watching the odometer turn 100,000 miles. You figure you've got another 50,000 left. but it's going to take a lot more maintenance.

The weather Wednesday night was the same as the weather December 23rd a decade ago, when I turned 50. And as then, some 25 or so good souls braved the gathering storm to share some birthday cheer.

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Imagining a new year

New Year, Habitat for Humanity

A day or so after Christmas and driving on Underwood Creek Parkway, I saw people trying out new skis and snowshoes on the Hansen Golf Course. Nearby, kids were sledding. What a great way to start out a new year: in nature, and close by.

What a wonderful place we live in! So many opportunities to lead a wholesome, happy, life here.

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