New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Possibility of Escape

March 20, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Kathy Kelly, Politics

Finding Humane Ways to Cope…

by Kathy Kelly

“That is also us, the possibility of us, if the wonderful accident of our birth had taken place elsewhere: you could be the refugee, I could be the torturer. To face that truth is also our burden. After all, each of us has been the bystander, the reasonable person who just happens not to hear, not to speak, not to see those people, the invisible ones, those who live on the other side of the border.” – Karen Connelly, The Lizard Cage

escapeIt was a little over two weeks ago that Marlo entered Atwood Hall, here in Lexington federal prison. Nearly all the women here are nonviolent offenders. When I first saw Marlo, her eyes seemed glued to the tiled floors as she shuffled along hallways. I guessed her age to be 25 or so. A few days later, she came to a choir rehearsal. She was still shy, but she looked up and offered a quiet smile when she joined the soprano section. The next time our choir gathered, Marlo raised her hand before we ended our rehearsal. “I got something to say,” she said, as she stood. “When I first came here, I can tell all of you now, I was terrified. Just plain terrified. I have 70 months, and I felt so scared.” The intake process for this, her introduction to the prison system, had badly frightened her, but before sundown that same day, a second intake process had occurred, with several inmates finding her, reassuring her, and getting her beyond that first panic. Read the rest of this entry →

Blueprint to End War

March 16, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

Excerpt from A Global Security System: An Alternative to War

provided by David Swanson

In On Violence, Hannah Arendt wrote that the reason warfare is still with us is not a death wish of our species nor some instinct of aggression, “. . .but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.” The Alternative Global Security System we describe here is the substitute.

2015_0311globj_The goal of this document is to gather into one place, in the briefest form possible, everything one needs to know to work toward an end to war by replacing it with an Alternative Global Security System in contrast to the failed system of national security.

For nearly all of recorded history we have studied war and how to win it, but war has become ever more destructive and now threatens whole populations and planetary ecosystems with annihilation in a nuclear holocaust. Short of that, it brings “conventional” destruction unimaginable only a generation ago, while looming global economic and environmental crises go unattended. Unwilling to give in to such a negative end to our human story, we have begun to react in positive ways. We have begun to study war with a new purpose: to end it by replacing it with a system of conflict management that will result, at the very least, in a minimal peace. This document is a blueprint for ending war. It is not a plan for an ideal utopia. It is a summary of the work of many, based on many years of experience and analysis by people striving to understand why, when almost everyone wants peace we still have wars; and on the work of countless people who have real-world political experience in nonviolent struggle as a substitute for war. Many of these people have come together to create World Beyond War. Read the rest of this entry →

Inside Peace

February 26, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Current Events, Robert C. Koehler

Film Festival Highlights Struggles, Possibilities for Prisoners

by Robert C. Koehler

As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

POEfilmThis is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists –declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them.

This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge. Read the rest of this entry →

Front Page Rule

February 20, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Kathy Kelly, Politics

Planting Seeds of Peace Through Protest

by Kathy Kelly

After a week here in FMC Lexington Satellite camp, a federal prison in Kentucky, I started catching up on national and international news via back issues of USA Today available in the prison library, and an “In Brief” item, on p. 2A stopdronesof the Jan. 30 weekend edition, caught my eye. It briefly described a protest in Washington, D.C., in which members of the antiwar group “Code Pink” interrupted a U.S. Senate Armed Services budget hearing chaired by Senator John McCain. The protesters approached a witness table where Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and George Schulz were seated. One of their signs called Henry Kissinger a war criminal. “McCain,” the article continued, “blurted out, ‘Get out of here, you low-life scum.'”

At mail call, a week ago, I received Richard Clarke’s novel, The Sting of the Drone, (May 2014, St. Martin’s Press), about characters involved in developing and launching drone attacks. I’m in prison for protesting drone warfare, so a kind friend ordered it for me. The author, a former “National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism,” worked for 30 years inside the U.S. government but seems to have greater respect than some within government for concerned people outside of it. He seems also to feel some respect for people outside our borders. Read the rest of this entry →

Everyday Horrors

February 19, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Victoria Law

New Book Shines Light on Routine Dysfunctions of Prison System

by Victoria Law

If you asked people who have spent years inside prison to write noir set inside prisons, what stories would they tell? In what ways would they reflect their own experiences? What would they say that might be missed by writers who have never spent a year inside a prison cell?

prison noirWith fifteen stories from writers in eight different states, Prison Noir gives readers an opportunity to find out. Each perspective is different and, while some offer different takes on similar themes, nothing is repetitive. The anthology’s first two stories, for instance, offer both a sharp contrast in prison relationships and a damning indictment of prison conditions.

Christopher M. Stephens’s “Shuffle” starts when Al, in his mid-sixties, returns from the shower and finds a cellmate making himself comfortable in the eight-by-ten-foot solitary confinement cell after eleven years alone.

Al despised the BOP’s [Bureau of Prisons’] policy of squeezing two men in a cell in the SHU [Special Housing Unit]. The old days were gone, the days when segregation meant single cells — true solitary confinement. As the prisons filled to overflowing and budgets tightened, the feds needed to get the most bang for their bucks. If that meant cramming two grown men crammed into a space designed for one, so be it. Read the rest of this entry →

The Shift

February 10, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Kathy Kelly, Politics

Helping Each Other Do Easier Time

by Kathy Kelly

“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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam

kkellyHere in Lexington federal prison, Atwood Hall defies the normal Bureau of Prisons fixation on gleaming floors and spotless surfaces. Creaky, rusty, full of peeling paint, chipped tiles, and leaky plumbing, Atwood just won’t pass muster.

But of the four federal prisons I’ve lived in, this particular “unit” may be the most conducive to mental health. Generally, the Bureau of Prisons system pushes guards to value buffed floors more than the people buffing the floors, walking the floors. Here, the atmosphere seems less uptight, albeit tinged with resigned acceptance that everyone is more or less “stuck” in what one prisoner described as “the armpit of the system.” Read the rest of this entry →

Common Cause

January 29, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Healing the Criminal Justice System

by Robert C. Koehler

“It’d be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County.” Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as “Chiraq.”

commoncauseThe speaker is Elena Quintana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County’s dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we’re doing isn’t working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color. Read the rest of this entry →