December 28, 2002

Moral Clarity about Terrorism

Nicholas Kristof examines some current thinking around terrorism and how new tools and methods of warfare have outraged their targets and enemies. The central message from many academics is that this is not a 'black and white' issue with universal clarity. When is one person's description or a terrorist another's definition of a freedom fighter? When is a cause so important that any method of attack or tool of war is acceptable in the eyes of the perpetrator and sympathizers?. Though not mentioned, when is a guerilla a terrorist? When does unconventional warfare rise to the level of terrorism?

Labeling a person or group as terrorist rallies the victims of such acts and their culture, society and leadership to oppose terrorists. Hatred is kindled and widespread fear in the populace, a key objective of terrorists, is created.

President Bush uses the term 'moral clarity' to describe his and America's view of the terrorism we have experienced at the hands of the Arab perpetrators. Kristof summarizes the arguments of others who say that 'moral clarity ' is inappropriate rhetoric.

Is it fair to present the war on terrorism as a parable of good (us) versus evil (them)? Grenville Byford reflected the skeptics' view in a Foreign Affairs essay, arguing that moral clarity is more apparent than real and that "the sooner the rhetoric is retired the better." Highly nuanced intellectuals tend to poke three kinds of holes in moral clarity:

1. Terrorism is in the eyes of the beholder. President Reagan declared the African National Congress a terrorist group not long before its leader, Nelson Mandela, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile he described Jonas Savimbi, who everybody else thought of as a terrorist, as Angola's Abraham Lincoln. Oops. And speaking of our national heroes, what about our radical forebears in the American Revolution who burned the homes of British loyalists? Were they terrorists?

2. Wiping out terrorists is sometimes unhelpful. Even if we could agree on what constitutes terrorism, it's often not obvious what we should do about it. Pakistan has done more than Iraq to support terrorism (in Kashmir), but instead of invading Pakistan, Mr. Bush has quite sensibly sent aid — for bolstering President Pervez Musharraf is the best hope for ending the violence. Circumstances vary, so sometimes we kill those engaged in terrorism, and sometimes we invite them for state visits.

3. In crude military terms, terrorism often works. New methods of killing people initially provoke outrage but eventually are often accepted. Henry V used longbows at Agincourt, outraging the French. British redcoats marching in neat columns were appalled by sneaky Yankees hiding behind trees. After Guernica, aerial bombing was condemned as barbaric, and in World War II the West condemned Germany's V-1 and V-2 missiles as terror weapons.

Using the definition of terrorism "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons," I believe America is morally clear in our description and response to Al Queda and allied groups. Targeted bombings, airliners flown into buildings, ships blown up, and other such acts are immoral in a civilized world, just as the destruction of property by groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Earth First! is a terrorst act. In a civilized world, there some activity and behavior is not merely illegal, it is off-limits.

The debate of right vs. wrong, morality vs immorality, legal vs, illegal will continue. Nevertheless, America must not muddle along in a debate that creates paralysis. President Bush is right to consistently define and describe terrorism with moral clarity and to take all actions necessary to thwart terrorists who would kill and destroy our people and our security. He is also correct to denounce and oppose the Palestinian suicide bombers and organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists. Mr. Bush is careful, however, not to label Iraq and Saddam Hussein as terrorist, instead opting for different descriptors for the threat they pose, not to America or Americans directly, but to "the stability of the region" and to their "neighbors." If he had convincing evidence of direct links to Al Queda, I'm sure he would label Iraq differently. Perhaps such evidence does exist and it's a matter of when to release it.

December 26, 2002

Smoker to Accept $28 Million

This quoted article from the Burlington Free Press, December 26, 2002 displays the utter foolishness that pervades our judicial system. Attorneys who game the system in the name of justice are worse than leaches. Juries who award outrageous sums are no better. Sure, smoking causes death and disease, but that fact has been displayed on cigarette packages for decades. Here's the piece of foolishness:

Los Angeles (where else but California?) A woman with lung cancer will accept a reduced punitive damage judgment against cigarette maker Phillip Morris but will appeal a judge's decision to slash a jury's $28 billion award, her attorney said Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Warren L. Ettinger failed to properly state his reason for settling on the $28 million figure, said Michael Piuze, attorney for 64-year old Betty Bullock If Bullock did not accept the lower figure she would face a retrial of the punitive damages phase before Ettinger, Piuze said. There is no conflict in accepting the judgment and appealing the reduction, he said.

I am appalled at the absurdity of either award and the fact that the case goes on... !

December 25, 2002

Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will

While the Times editorializes the hope that is Christmas in the secular context and only partially quotes the familiar biblical promise in its context:
The purest expression of that seasonal hope has always been universal peace. The familiar phrase is "Peace on Earth" — so familiar, in fact, at this time of year that it seems like mere metaphor as you sing it while harking to herald angels. And perhaps that metaphorical quality, that sense of near-impossibility, is what we were meant to hear in the gospel when, in the words of the King James Version, the angels proclaimed, "Peace on earth, good will toward men."

The truth as stated in Lk 2:14 of the KJV is: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The Times neglects "Glory to God" in favor of a secular spin perhaps to satisfy those for whom Christmas is a Holiday rather than a Holy Day. The New International Version of the bible translates Lk 2:14 this way: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

First, the Glory belongs to God and, second, peace is bestowed by God on men, perhaps only to those of good will. This peace that Christians live in (or not) is an internal peace born of salvation from the babe, the Christ , the only son of God who came to dwell among us. But his peace comes because He came to die for the sin of the world, personal and corporate, that we may have resurrection life.

The peace of the world, in the secular sense, is a hope, as the Times suggests, but true peace as bestowed by God is found only through the Savior whose birth we Christians celebrate at a season of the year that is linked with the solstice rituals of ancient paganism. In unbelief there is no peace. Acceptance of the Truth brings peace to one person at a time.

December 23, 2002

Racism and Rabble Rousing

The black 'promotion' organizations have decided to feast on the Republican Party after Trent Lott's demise as Senate Majority Leader. This blatant political attack by all the major black rights organizations and leaders will not serve them well because Americans are smarter than to believe the rhetoric of people like Jackson, Sharpton and Mfume. These self-aggrandizing 'leaders' are so blatantly racist themselves they are blinded to the fact that neither the Republican nor Democratic parties are racist. These black rabble rousers lack perspective and really desire to build their own power base and careers using any incident to promote themselves.

People should recall particularly the backgrounds of Sharpton (Tawana Brawley debacle) and Jackson (out-of-wedlock children, taking up th e cause of blatant violent rioters in Illinois, shaking down large corporations). These men are not to be trusted and do not speak for racial harmony. They shoul dbe confronted on their motives and actions.

December 18, 2002

Obituary for Common Sense

Our complex society is rapidly losing one of our most valuable throttles of human irrationality.

We mourn the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense. Common Sense lived a long life, but died in the United States from heart failure on the brink of the new millennium.

No one really knows how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He selflessly devoted his life to service in schools, hospitals, homes, and factories. He helped folks get jobs done without fanfare and foolishness.

For decades, petty rules, silly laws, and frivolous lawsuits held no
power over Common Sense. He was credited with cultivating such valued lessons as to know when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, and that life isn't always fair.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adults are in charge, not the kids), and it's okay to come in second. A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the Technological Revolution, Common Sense survived cultural and educational trends including body piercing, "whole" language, and "new math."

But his health declined when he became infected with the "If-it-only-helps-one-person-it's-worth-it" virus. In recent decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of well intentioned, but overbearing regulations. He watched in pain as good people became ruled by self-seeking lawyers.

His health rapidly deteriorated when schools endlessly implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, a teen suspended for taking a swig of mouthwash after lunch and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student and reportedly worsening his condition. It declined even further when schools had to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, but could not inform the parent when a female student was pregnant or wanted an abortion.

Finally, Common Sense lost his will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, criminals received better treatment than victims, and federal judges stuck their noses into everything from the Boy Scouts to professional sports. Finally, when a woman too stupid to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, was awarded a huge settlement, Common Sense threw in the towel.

As the end neared, Common Sense drifted in and out of logic, but was kept informed of developments regarding questionable regulations such as those for low flow toilets, rocking chairs a multitude of children's toys, and stepladders.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by two stepbrothers: My Rights, and Ima Whiner.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

(author unknown)

December 7, 2002

The Future of the Arab World

Below are the opening paragraphs from a recent UN report, Arab Human Development Report 2002, a report which Thomas Friedman frequently refernecess and is included in his editorial today in the NY Times. I have great respect for Mr. Friedman and generally agree with his views on the Middle East dilemma. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to at least engage this report for myself. I have read only the first paragraphs of the 180 pages.

I am dismayed that in these opening paragraphs, the report pounces on Israel's occupation of "Arab lands," neglecting to point out that the lands captured were the result of Arab wars to drive Israel into the sea. I am further bothered by the fact that the opening portion of this report fails to mention the spiritual underpinnings of the Arab dilemma and the Arab-Israeli-Christian morass. Perhaps the report later deals with this, but not to engage such a critical issue upfront suggests that a secular writer is not capable of understanding the true nature of the conflict in the Middle East.

My inital readings make me wary of Mr. Friedman's conclusions. My wariness is further sensitized to what the United Nations has to say... on almost anything. It's true that much of the Arab world is bacward and held in represssion by a belief and values system that refuses to accommodate the modern world. In an age of "mass destruction" and terrorists willing to make it happen, a critical, unbiased light shown on the problem is crucial.

From the Atlantic to the Gulf, people--women, men and children--are the real wealth and hope of Arab countries. Policies for development and growth in the Arab region must focus on freeing people from deprivation, in all its forms, and expanding their choices. Over the last five decades, remarkable progress has been achieved in advancing human development and reducing poverty. However, much still needs to be done to address the backlog of deprivation and imbalance.

Looking forward, much also needs to be done in order to empower the people of the Arab region to participate fully in the world of
the twenty-first century. Globalization and accelerating technological advances have opened doors to unprecedented opportunities, but they have also posed a new risk: that of being left behind as the rate of change accelerates, often outpacing state capacity.

Development is being reinvented by new markets (e.g., foreign exchange and capital markets, new tools (e.g., the Internet and cellular
phones, new actors (e.g., non-governmental organizations, the European Union and World Trade Organization) and new rules(e.g., multilateral agreements on trade, services and intellectual property).


Entering the new millennium, people in Arab countries face two intertwined sets of challenges to peace and to development. The first
set has been made ever more conspicuous and pressing after the tragic events of 11 September 2001. These are the challenges to
the pursuit of freedom from fear. Regional and external factors intersect in this realm of peace and security. The second set of challenges is equally important if not more critical. It encompasses challenges to the achievement of freedom from want. These are the challenges faced by people and governments, states and societies as they attempt to advance human development. These challenges are fundamental, not only for their instrumental significance to development and growth but also for their intrinsic value. Equity, knowledge and the freedom and human rights integral to good governance matter for their own sake as well as for their critical role as enablers of development. They are both means and ends. They are central to both the process and the state of human development. Some key aspects of both sets of challenges are highlighted below.


Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab lands is one of the most pervasive obstacles to security and progress in the region geographically (since it affects the entire region), temporally (extending over decades) and developmentally (impacting nearly all aspects of human development and human security, directly for millions and indirectly for others). The human cost extends beyond the considerable loss of lives and livelihoods of direct victims. If human development is the process of enlarging choices, if it implies that people must influence the processes that shape their lives, and if it means the full enjoyment of human rights, then nothing stifles that noble vision of
development more than subjecting a people to foreign occupation.
Firstly, for Palestinians, occupation and the policies that support it, stunt their ability to grow in every conceivable way. The confiscation of Palestinian land, constraining their access to their water and other natural resources, the imposition of obstacles to the free movement of people and goods, and structural impediments to employment and economic self-management all combine to thwart the emergence of a viable economy and a secure independent state. Moreover, the expansion of illegal settlements, the frequent use of excessive force against Palestinians and the denial of their most basic human rights further circumscribe their potential to build human development. The plight of Palestinian refugees living in other countries is a further manifestation of development disfigured by occupation.

Secondly, occupation casts a pall across the political and economic life of the entire region. Among neighbouring countries, some continue to suffer themselves from Israeli occupation of parts of their lands, subjecting those people directly affected to tremendous suffering, and imposing development challenges on the rest. In most Arab states, occupation dominates national policy priorities, creates large humanitarian challenges for those receiving refugees and motivates the diversion of public investment in human development towards military spending. By symbolizing a felt and constant external threat, occupation has damaging side effects: it provides both a cause and an excuse for distorting the development agenda, disrupting national priorities and retarding political development. At certain junctures it can serve to solidify the public against an outside aggressor and justify curbing dissent at a time when de mocratic transition requires greater pluralism in society and more public debate on national development policies. In all these ways, occupation freezes growth, prosperity and freedom in the Arab world.


Political upheavals, military conflicts, sanctions and embargoes have affected many economies of the region, causing declines in productivity and disrupting markets. Some countries struggling to recover from the ravages of war have emerged with substantial debts, limiting options for public expenditure. All affected countries have emerged with compounded socio-political problems that have retarded progressive moves towards liberalization and democratization. The direct impact of wars is registered in slowed growth, damaged infrastructure, social fragmentation and public-sector stagnation. Some countries have experienced hyperinflation, severe currency devaluations and curtailed foreign-currency earnings. Others have seen their standing in the international community collapse. Most affected countries have lost important human and capital resources critical for the renewal of stability and competitiveness.


There is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. The wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of Latin America and East Asia in the 1980s and Eastern Europe and much of Central Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s has barely reached the Arab States. This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development. While de jure acceptance of democracy and human rights is enshrined in constitutions, legal codes and government pronouncements, de facto implementation is often neglected and, in some cases, deliberately disregarded.

In most cases, the governance pattern is characterized by a powerful executive branch that exerts significant control over all other
branches of the state, being in some cases free from institutional checks and balances. Representative democracy is not always genuine and sometimes absent. Freedoms of expression and association are frequentlycurtailed. Obsolete norms of legitimacy prevail.


Gender inequality is the most pervasive manifestation of inequity of all kinds in any society because it typically affects half the population. There have been important quantitative improvements- There is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. Occupation freezes growth, prosperity and freedom in the Arab world...

December 5, 2002

Easy Public Access to Vermont Criminal Records

A proposal has been floated to provide easy, centralized access to all the criminal records in Vermont that are now available through VCIC.

Easy access will be a touchy issue and the Legislature will have difficulty dealing with it. Widespread sponsorship from the business community, with solid rationale about how they will use this information, will be important. Others, e.g., public defenders and various rights groups, will oppose 'easy' access in the name of privacy. We must, however, consider that a large percentage of the potential workforce is either incarcerated or in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections. At bottom, this is an economic development, workforce availability issue.

An example of how VCIC envisions this working will be helpful to all parties. Easy access today means via the Web.

The method of access from VCIC will be important and should be well thought out. If via the Web, what access controls will be in place, if any? What will be the approximate cost to access a record? How will the cost be determined? What forms of payment will be accepted? Will only paper copies be furnished? Electronic copies? Or both?

I believe Vermont's Public Records Statute specifies how costs for access to public records will be determined, at least in a paper world.

Will the present status, e.g., probation, parole, etc., of a person in the custody of Department of Corrections also be included in the 'record?' Or will that require a separate inquiry to Department of Corrections?

An example of the public furor that can arise when easy access is provided to public records that had been publicly available, but not easily so, can be found in Hamilton County, OH (Cincinnati). Controversy erupted a few months ago and this situation should be reviewed to know what can be expected.

Having said all this, perhaps one way to approach this from the business community is to assist a person/potential employee who admits to a criminal record obtain the record from VCIC to verify his/her statements on employment applications.

However, I expect many employers legitimately will want access to these public records without the person's knowledge.

This one will be dicey!

December 4, 2002

Bernie Bashes the FAHC Board

Representative Bernie Sanders, Vermont's perennial Socialist politician is at it again, attacking the governance structure of the Fletcher Allen Health Care. His rhetoric, pandering to the popular pool of emotion, is not helpful to pull the institution out of its crisis. FAHC is in a vulnerable position as Vermont's premier provider of health care in the region and Mr, Sanders smells blood and is on the attack. Unfortunately his solution is wrong.

FAHC needs intelligent, experienced leadership, both on its board and in its top management ranks, not consumer advocates, political operatives or elected least not until Vermont or the US chooses a Government managed single payer system.

FAHC's 'parent' organizations must select the best and the brightest people who will work hard to become an activist borad, rather than what appears to be a passive posture from the previous board.

There is no question that Fletcher Allen's board was asleep at the switch with respect to Mr. Boettcher's failings and obfuscation of the facts concerning the Renaissance Project. Nevertheless, the best way out of this morass is the creation of a board that is dedicated, willing to work hard, ask the relevant questions and hold management accountable for not only results, but due process.

The other principal requirement is top management that knows their stuff, can be trusted (and tested in that trust by the relevant questions by the board and the regulators.

The primary goal, which Mr. Sanders ignores in his editorial, is to preserve the quality of health care for the institution that consumes 1/3 of the health care dollars and provides a similar proportion of excellent health care to all who seek it. That's what we must preserve.

December 2, 2002

Theory Meets Reality

On the horns of a dilemma...

I think the tide will turn toward the baby Bells. The FCC and Congress are unlikely to trust the marketplace to tiny, poorly run or other local/regional providers who are in or teeter on the edge of bankruptcy