New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Revisiting Reentry

January 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Politics, Victoria Law

New Books Explore the Challenges of Coming Home from Prison

by Victoria Law

“Reno hadn’t wanted to stay in prison, but she wasn’t ready for the streets. Wasn’t half the way she remembered.” — Sin Soracco, Edge City

California’s prison system has continually made news this past year. Over 30,000 people rocked its prison system with a mass hunger strike that lasted nearly 60 days.  News about coerced sterilizations in its women’s prisons shocked and outraged prisoner rights and reproductive justice activists, leading to legislative hearings. At least two prison sites were found to be toxic. People sentenced under California’s Three Strikes continue to languish in prison and the numbers of prisoners aged 55 or older have increased by over 500% between 1990 and 2009. To top it off, Governor Brown continues to resist the 2011 Supreme Court order to decrease prison overcrowding.  (more…)

Suspending Disbelief

November 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson

‘God Made Me an Atheist…’

by David Swanson

Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists is a curious and ultimately very valuable book.

It’s curious because it doesn’t make much of a case — or at least not the sort of case I would have liked — for why we should create atheists.

It’s valuable because, if you believe we’d be better off with more atheists, this is a remarkable tool for accomplishing that goal.

I don’t view sloppy thinking as a great evil in itself.  It doesn’t offend me the way hunger and lack of medicine and Hellfire missiles offend me.  So, I look for the argument — which I think can be made — that sloppy thinking has serious results, or that belief in a god leads to a lack of responsibility, or that belief in eternal life diminishes efforts to improve real lives.  This book does not focus on those arguments.

Boghossian points to abstinence-only sex-ed, bans on same-sex marriage, teaching Creationism, corporal punishment in schools, and other offenses in the United States, as well as pointing to various more-severe abuses by the Taliban, as the undesirable results of theism.  But, with the possible exception of Creationism, these things could continue without theism or be ended while maintaining theism. (more…)

Looking Backwards

September 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

On Taking a ‘Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize’ 

by David Swanson

Jody Williams’ new book is called My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, and it’s a remarkable story by a remarkable person.  It’s also a very well-told autobiography, including in the early childhood chapters in which there are few hints of the activism to come.

One could read this book and come away thinking, “Anyone really could win the Nobel Peace Prize” — if people in fact told their children they could do that instead of telling them they could be president, and if one was thinking of Nobel peace laureates as saintly beings.  In a certain sense, of course, anyone can win the Nobel Peace Prize, as it’s often given to good people who have nothing to do with peace, and at other times it’s given to warmongers.  To win the Nobel Peace Prize and deserve it, as Williams did — that’s another story.  That requires not saintliness, but activism.

Activism is usually 99% perspiration and the dedication that drives it, just like genius.  But in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, and of the sort of rapid success it honors when applied in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s will, the perspiration is 49%.  The other 50% is timing.  The activists who recruited Williams to lead the campaign to ban landmines had the timing perfect. (more…)

Lifting the Tent Flap

September 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: John L. Murphy, Politics

Exploring the Impact and Legacy of the Occupy Movement

by John L. Murphy

At the outset, I asked myself: “Why a subtitled ‘apocalypse’?” It derives from “the lifting of a veil,” so when a fresh revelation appears it transforms the past as well as the present; then there’s no going back, only forward. Fresh from finishing a study of attempts to verify the divine presence, God in Proof (2012), Nathan Schneider, jittery and curious, reports “notes” from the revelations emanating from Occupy Wall Street in the late summer of 2011. Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse (University of California Press, 2013) investigates an energy more tangible than most theology — yet sharing the spirited, mass appeal of what may elude those less fervent.

Idealistic enough to cheer on the Occupy protests, realistic enough to catalogue their failures, Schneider brings the same alert witness and affable analysis that his book on belief featured. As with any cabal of devotees, Occupy began with commitment by a spellbound few. Zuccotti Park, rechristened by the encampment with its pre-corporate name as Liberty Square, “was a place especially conducive to those of us with obsessive tendencies, who like to be consumed in a given interest or project to the exclusion of all else. There, the god of ordinary life was dead, resurrected in the business of self-reliance.” (more…)

Tenacious Spirit

September 19, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Winslow Myers

New Book Spotlights the Life and Work of Dag Hammarskjöld

by Winslow Myers

Roger Lipsey has produced a magisterially comprehensive portrait of the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, in his 2013 book Hammarskjöld: A Life. Lipsey’s achievement is all the more remarkable because at first glance Hammarskjöld appears to be, in the combination of his monastic bachelor dedication to his role and his veiled diplomatic tact, a uniquely unknowable person.

As Secretary-General, what kept him steadily moving forward against the gale-force winds of chaos, violence, and cynical double-dealing by governments was his systematic subjugation of individual will to a fervent wish to be used by God. Brought up in Swedish Protestant Christianity, a deep reader of the Christian mystics, Hammarskjöldnot only valued, but actually lived, what he called “stillness,” a creative discipline that enabled him to stay flexibly creative in the welter of such events as the Suez crisis of 1956, when he was one of the first to initiate the exhausting process of shuttle diplomacy.

The working heart of Lipsey’s approach is to subtly tie the entries in “Markings,” Hammarskjöld’s spiritual poetry, a number of which are specifically dated, to the stream of acute international crises in which Hammarskjöld was crucially involved, including the battle for Congolese independence, during which he lost his life in a plane crash — a crash that may not have been accidental. (more…)

Extreme Whether

July 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Ecology

New Play Highlights Challenges of Climate Change 

by David Swanson

When my dad, Neil, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

Extreme WhetherSo, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible — and getting arrested for it — in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred.… In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders.… And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.” (more…)

It’s the Ownership

July 11, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Economy, Politics

New Book Highlights What We Must Do

by David Swanson

If you’re like me you’ve read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.

The best such collection I’ve found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do?  This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws.  First the inspiring examples:

Workers own and run factories in Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Amarillo, and many other cities.  Labor unions that once opposed worker ownership, including the Steelworkers and several others, now create worker-owned companies.  Forty percent of Americans are members of cooperatives, including credit unions.  People moved hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, from large banks to credit unions and small banks in 2011 and 2012.  (That should continue!)  Then there are community development corporations and land trusts, alive and thriving.  There are even corporations redesigned, and labeled B Corps, chartered under new laws in 12 states to allow them to legally pursue the social good as well as profits. (more…)


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