April 07, 2008


Caption: This man went down by the riverside but didn't know when to quit.

On the fifth anniversary of President Bush's unnecessary war in Iraq, like thousands of other Americans, I attended an anti-war gathering. It was a good event. The previously threatening skies cleared up and the weather was warm. At one point, someone sang "Down by the Riverside."

As you no doubt recall, Gentle Reader, the chorus says "I ain't gonna study war no more." It's catchy, easy to sing and easy to plunk out on a guitar for those so inclined.

The only problem is this: if you take it at face value and think about it, it's really bad advice for people who want to make the world less violent and more just.

I've ridden this hobby horse before here, but here goes again. I suspect that many people involved in peace or anti-war movements have felt this way: war and violence are bad and therefore not to be studied. That may be Reason # 59385 that such movements haven't exactly set the woods on fire (metaphorically speaking).

Again, can you imagine what the current state of medicine or public health would be if people didn't study diseases and injuries because they are "bad"?

That is one of two kinds of popular magical thinking. It involves ignoring things we think are bad and don't like. The other kind, as in The Secret, a New Age idea taken up by Oprah a while back, holds that if we think about things we want, we just might get them.

(Note: the second of these is preferred by the animals at Goat Rope Farm. When they want something they stare at it--and sometimes it works.)

Both kinds of magical thinking have their problems, but at least the second one might actually work every once in a while. At least if you think something is possible you might be more aware of opportunities for making it happen. But ignoring unpleasant realities has a much worse track record.

One of the best chances we have for reducing violence, warfare, killing and the conditions that contribute to them is to try to learn as much as we can about them and creatively apply that knowledge as we seek their reduction and--one can dream--eventual elimination.

BREAKING THE BANK.James Surowiecki, financial writer for the New Yorker, has some interesting things to say about the credit crisis and ill-advised changes in bankruptcy laws.

JOBS TANK. Dean Baker analyses federal data on the drop in employment here.

STRESSED OUT. The stress of repeated tours of duty in Iraq is causing concern in the Army.

OH GOOD. Blackwater got its Iraq contract renewed. That should win some hearts and minds.

EVERY MOUNTAIN SHALL BE BROUGHT DOWN. The United Mine Workers of America may be open to the long term goal of ending mountaintop removal, according to this article by Ken Ward.

COURT FIASCO. Here's the Wall Street Journal legal blog on the Blankenship/Benjamin WV supreme court mess. Also, check out ABC News today. At last word, they were planning on showing the video of a scuffle between a reporter and supreme court I mean Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

CHIP. Here's an op-ed by yours truly on the need to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program.



Mr. Chinchilla said...

Right on, El Cabrero! In order to survive in a human world, I had to learn how to think like a human.

Now if I could only figure out a way to deal without the opposable thumbs. . . .

El Cabrero said...

Thinking like a human isn't always a plus, is it?

Thanks for dropping by!