Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two plugs

Check out the latest on my Peace Journalism page and our Peace Jouralism Facebook group.

Something to offend everyone

From the Parkville Luminary

Today we offer some quick hitters, vignettes, we call them in the business. This installment has been deliberately written as obnoxiously as possible, with a goal of offending nearly everyone. Keep score along with me, please.

1. I know I’m a left wing tree hugging hippie, but seriously, have you seen that event at the Olympics where they ski and shoot at targets? Biathlon is as silly as it is borderline barbaric. By all means, let’s do all we can to glorify guns.

Hand grenade throwing also takes skill (and strength), so why not integrate it into some winter sport, perhaps figure skating? At least the exploding grenades would wake me up, since figure skating is as interesting as watching paint dry. And that’s even taking into consideration the fact that it features attractive women in skimpy costumes. I will say this—any sport is better than the one where the women prance around and wave ribbons in the air, making faux designs and patterns. This is a sport?

(Offended scorecard: Gun nuts, figure skaters and those who love them, feminists (the skimpy costumes crack), and rhythmic gymnasts and their fan (yes, fan).

2. Regarding yesterday’s scheduled public debate on health care, let’s not hold our breath for anything of substance to come out of this. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that the Republicans would rather see the country go up in flames than do anything that might make Obama look even somewhat good. The Republicans have made it clear that they could care less about those without health insurance, and they are nothing more than shills for the insurance industry. Please explain to me how anyone of good conscience could vote Republican.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are whiny, ineffectual hypocrites. They had super majorities in both houses, and frittered that all away. It’s clear they can’t govern. It’s also clear that the American people resent the dirty back-door dealing that was employed in the process of formulating a health care bill. Yes, this is Washington business as usual, but that’s not much of an excuse. Please explain to me how anyone of good conscience could vote Democratic.

As for you, Mr. President, despite the bricks thrown your way, I still hold out hope for you and your administration. But my patience is wearing thin. Eliminating don’t ask, don’t tell is a good start. Your next step should be to dismantle Dick Cheney’s immoral national security apparatus.

(Offended scorecard: Democrats, Republicans, gay-haters, Dick Cheney and his fan.)

3. Hurray for the Missouri Public Service Commission. This is not a mis-print.

The PSC recently sliced half off a rate hike request from Missouri Gas Energy, reducing a $32 million dollar request to $16 million. This move contrasts starkly to the PSC’s usual modus operandi, which is to acquiesce to almost any rate hike request coming from utilities.

This news is especially interesting for customers of Missouri American Water, which is looking to raise our water rates again—this time by a whopping 28%. If approved, the average 8,000 gallon per month user would see their bill jump $15.36 a month, or more than $180 a year. The PSC already approved rate increases for Missouri American Water the last two years. Last year, the company had asked for a 50% rate hike, but had to settle for 28% increase. In 2007, they snagged a 21% rate hike. This rate hike is wholly unwarranted. MoAm Water’s parent company saw its profits increase 4% to $91.6 million the third quarter in 2009, or 52 cents a share compared to the third quarter of 2008. Revenue increased 1% to $680 million. MoAm doesn’t need any more of our money.

Perhaps the new backbone shown by PSC will continue to grow, and the commission will do the right thing and turn down MoAm’s outrageous request as well.

(Offended scorecard: MGE and its fan, Missouri American Water and its fan, those who prefer higher utility bills).

Our new-found fondness for calculated offensiveness continues next week with a dissertation on religion: “Whose God is the real God?”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cultural imperialism, gay rights, Peace Journalism and Uganda

Also--posted at the end of this piece--comments about the Uganda gay rights issue posted at the online site of a Ugandan newspaper

From the Parkville Luminary

You’re in the grocery store, and see a mom violently smack her kid. Do you say something?

Along the same lines, as an American, when you see injustice overseas, do you have an obligation to speak up? Or, in the act of speaking up, are you practicing cultural imperialism?

These weighty and difficult questions have been on the minds of my students lately in my Peace Journalism class at Park University.

In Peace Journalism class, we talk about what we as journalists can do to create an atmosphere conducive to peace. We’ve discussed situations worldwide, but particularly in places where I’ve taught Peace Journalism like Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia, and Uganda, where I will be teaching for six months beginning in July. Part of our discussion has centered on matters of societal development and social justice, since both are prerequisites to peace. Social justice has been on the front burner lately in class because of the anti-homosexuality bill that has been proposed in Uganda.

In Uganda, a bill is being considered by parliament that would impose life sentences on anyone who engages in homosexual sex. In addition, the bill would create a new crime, aggravated homosexuality, which would dish out death sentences to anyone infected with HIV who has sex with someone of the same gender. (, 12-12-09). There are currently anti-homosexual bills on the books in Uganda. However, the proposed law broadens and clarifies the definition of the offense. The proposal also punishes those who knowingly shield or hide homosexuals from the law.

Among Ugandans I’ve talked to, there is little doubt that some version of the bill will pass, though it’s questionable whether the death penalty provision will survive a barrage of international criticism.

From a human rights standpoint, and a human decency standpoint, it’s clear that this proposed legislation is abhorrent and immoral, a perfect example of religious extremism run amuck. Outside of Uganda, there doesn’t seem to be much disagreement on this point.

The question for my students is this: should we as peace journalists intervene in an attempt to stop this hateful legislation? Should we stand up for those who don’t have a voice, for the powerless among us in society?

Among some Ugandan journalists, the answer has been an unequivocal yes. Rodney Muhumuza, a writer for Uganda’s leading daily newspaper and former Alfred Friendly Fellow at the Kansas City Star, recently wrote a provocative profile titled, “The story of a young Ugandan gay couple.” In the story, he sympathetically profiled a lesbian couple, and their struggles, fears, and anger over the law. The story was clearly meant to showcase their humanity, and to build sympathy for the cause of equal rights.

The students agreed that Muhumuza’s article was necessary, and indeed, an important component of his ethical responsibility. But is the situation different if that sort of rabble-rousing comes from outside? I asked the class, should I, as an American and a Peace Journalism instructor, speak out against the anti-gay legislation? Or, should I train Ugandan journalists to stand up for human rights of homosexuals or any other oppressed minority?

The answer to the second question is clear. As a trainer, I won’t hesitate to teach my Ugandan journalist students that human rights and justice are important components to peace. However, regarding whether I should speak out against homophobia when I return to Uganda, I’m not sure. While I strongly believe that this anti-homosexual legislation is evil, I also try to respect indigenous cultures wherever I travel. Even if I didn’t respect other cultures, lecturing others about their values isn’t an effective way of getting ones’ message across. So, does that mean that I must avert my eyes to obvious injustice just because that injustice is imbedded in another culture? That’s a question my students are helping me work my way through.

I have until July to decide if, and how, I broach the subject of homophobia when I return to Uganda.

Comments--from Daily Monitor (Kampala, Uganda) website:


Bill Jones said at 12/12/2009, 13:01
I pray for the safety of these women, the safety of the gay citizens of Uganda, and in fact, the entire world population. That the Ugandan Government is proposing to commit genocide in the name of God has serious, life-long, immeasurable ramifications for the entire world and each and every inhabitant of it.

I pray that we may someday rise above our desire to condemn and hate each other and instead learn the singular lesson that God placed us here to discover.

And that is to learn to love on another as He loves us. Is that not why he created us in such variant forms? To learn to cast off our prejudices and judgments in exchange for the enlightenment that includes the knowledge that we are all one and the same?

God would never condone this immoral treatment of His Gay & Lesbian creations and every living human being on Earth knows this.

Otim said at 12/13/2009, 06:24
I am working in Iraq and am very happy with the Government of what they are going to do about gay and lesbian.People of Uganda should first of all remember our MOTTO FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY,if all Ugandan are christian,the Bible forbid Same sex.let the Donor nation stayed with their help not to impost our Nation with there evil acts.The GOD we serve and we as Ugandan we working hard so that we remain clean in God.Uganda go ahead never allow gay and lesbian in our country keep our culture not western culture and we remain African! foreve!!!.

James atukunda said at 12/13/2009, 09:13
I think the death penalty is too harsh. I suggest they demarcate an island in L. Victoria where all the gays should be confined and provided with all the basic needs and rehabilitation. Let them live there enjoy and multiply, if they can.

Hamza said at 12/13/2009, 15:20
Whats with the hatred of gays? What have they ever done to you on a personal level? There are child molesters that are both gay and not gay, there are also several perverts that are both gay and not. Leave them alone so long as its consentual sex between people above 18.

VA said at 12/13/2009, 17:30
Homosexuality is a social problem not a human right because it is not a natural phenomenon. Naturally sex is between two opposite sex partners. These two lesbians (Kalende and her friend) have social problems. Already Kalende has agreed that people question her gender. She has resorted to homosexuality because she failed to get a man because of her appearance. She needs counseling. The same thing in US with MSNBC presenter Rachel Medow. She has a manly figure thus became a lesbian.

Brian said at 12/14/2009, 01:25
When will the ignorant realize that homosexuals are born gay? Do you honestly believe that a person, with the threat of being an outcast and potentially killed, would choose to be gay in your society? Straight men, could you imagine denying your attraction to women and beginning a relationship with another man, just to rebel against society? You can't. Because gays are gay because that is how they were born.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Check out the peace journalism group on facebook. Anyone can join!! Type peace journalism in the search bar, or go to:!/group.php?gid=170638403613&ref=ts

Surviging Snowmageddon

From the Parkville Luminary

I love that shot in the movie “Independence Day” when the evil aliens are attacking Washington, and the president zooms away in Air Force One just in the nick of time as flames from the attack kiss the tail fins of the plane.

That was me last weekend, except substitute snow and ice for flames. Also, I’m not the president, and our commuter jet bore little resemblance to Air Force One.

Yes, I am a survivor of last weekend’s blizzard in Washington, D.C. I heard one TV announcer call it “snowmageddon”. (And you think Kansas City weathercasters are overly dramatic!) I was on one of the last flights out of Reagan-National Airport before disaster struck.

Murmurs about the impending doom began upon my arrival for a meeting of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Collaborative on Thursday morning. Our goal: to discuss how to internationalize our campuses and thus enhance the learning experience for our students. We had heard the two feet of snow forecast, but didn’t really believe it, or, as macho international travelers, cavalierly dismissed the potential for mayhem. After all, this was a truly cosmopolitan gathering (yours truly excluded) of international educators and travelers. I’m pretty well traveled, but my adventures pale in comparison to the participants at this conference.

Given this peer group, panicking about snowageddon would have looked uncool (to the max!), given that the attendees had coolly braved everything from wars to earthquakes to salmonella to abominable snowmen (ironic!).

Thus, as the conference unfolded, I made it my task from a strictly sociological perspective to check for any small signs of panic or even concern among this seasoned group. On day one, Thursday, the day before the blizzard, everyone was calm and collected as we learned about how to set up an Internet class with students and professors from another country. (I’m going to try this). However, when the conference officials announced that the meeting would be extended into Thursday evening so that it could end five hours early on Friday, I began to see cracks in the armor of some participants.

On Friday, or D-day, a much smaller group assembled to hear a terrific speaker talk about technology and its implications for educators. I didn’t see anyone sweat, but almost everyone could be seen nervously glancing at their Blackberrys, checking weather information and flight schedules. Of course, I did not succumb to this temptation, since my Blackberry is still in the planning stages, as in I’m planning to get one when I can afford it, which at this rate will be when I’m 83.

It goes without saying that Friday’s intrepid ACE conference attendees were the toughest of the tough, the true survivors who summoned the grit and commitment to brave the weather and attend the seminar. Also, some of those attending on Friday may have had cancelled flights and no where else to go, while others may have had afternoon flights that allowed them to attend the Friday morning session. Nonetheless, we were tough.

As the seminar ended, I bravely made my way to Reagan-National Airport using an airport shuttle that took about five minutes and managed to navigate around several puddles. (It hadn’t started snowing yet). I squeezed through security, found a seat, and sat and watched the snow begin and then flourish over the next two hours while I waited for my flight to be cancelled. It wasn’t, underlining my good fortune in being able to re-book in the midst of the pandemonium. I was scheduled to leave Sunday, about the same time the snow was supposed to quit falling. One can guess my chances of actually leaving on Sunday.

As we rumbled down the now runway in the midst of a near white-out, there was probably a huge wall of snow bearing down on us, licking at our tail fins, as we escaped skyward just in the nick of time. I say probably because, of course, I couldn’t see behind us. It’s also possible that there was an abominable snowman clinging to our landing gear as we lifted off.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Check out my Peace Journalism site, and my Facebook group on Peace Journalism. (Just go into Facebook, and type peace journalism in the search box)

Isolationism is fool's gold

From the Parkville Luminary

What would post-earthquake Haiti look like today if the United States did not intervene, did not send any aid or troops, or did not send any food or doctors or medical supplies?

What would Israel’s prospects look like if it was forced to go it alone, if the United States did not provide material, military or political support?

And, how would Al Qaeda react if the U.S. decided to abandon the war against terrorism?

Indeed, the world would be a much different, and scarier, place without leadership from the United States. Yet, frighteningly, support for a new isolationism is on the rise in America.

In a recent Pew Center survey, 49% of Americans agreed with the statement that the U.S. should “mind its own business and let others get along on their own”. This was by far the highest percentage of Americans agreeing with this survey question since it was first asked in 1964. The “mind our own business” mentality was especially evident among those younger than 30, where 59 percent agreed with the isolationist sentiment. (

“The generation that fought World War II required little persuading that it was always better to fight a war in another country than to wait for one to erupt in your own,” said John Pike of “It was just self-evidently true…I’m not sure it’s true for the Twitter generation.” (KC Star, 1/10/2010).

In a related question, 44 percent said the U.S. should “go our own way” and not be concerned when other nations disagree with us. (

While the results are disheartening, they are certainly understandable. Some experts think the sentiments expressed in the poll don’t reflect isolationism as much as they do a distaste for what respondents see as America’s bullying. It’s logical to think that a good deal of the “mind our own business” sentiment has been generated by the unjustified, immoral, and costly war in Iraq.

However, the survey results cross the line from anti-bullying to true isolationism when one examines the role of the right wing tea partiers. Columnist David Brooks writes, and I agree, that the tea partiers’ isolationism is rooted in their anti-intellectualism. “The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should ‘go our own way’ has risen sharply.” (

Of course, some of the isolationist sentiment is also being generated by far left wingers who never saw a trade agreement (NAFTA, for example) or foreign intervention that they liked.

Both the right and left wingers are wrong. The world needs America’s leadership more than ever, particularly in the battle against Al Qaeda. Pakistan and Afghanistan would be instantly destabilized if the U.S. slinked home, and both countries would eventually become even safer places from which Al Qaeda could operate. Also, without a threat from the U.S., rogue states like Iran and North Korea would menace their neighbors.

Without funding from the United States, the United Nations would be unable to keep the peace, and would find it harder to deliver food, medicine, and education to the impoverished around the world. An isolationist America wouldn’t sponsor the Peace Corps, and 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers wouldn’t be deployed around the world making life better for countless thousands while demonstrating to the world the true American spirit.

Isolationism has always been fool’s gold. For proof, look no further at America’s isolation in the 1920’s, an isolation that allowed Nazism to rise, isolation that threw up few barriers to an expansionist Japanese empire. America must be globally engaged. If our interventions are intelligently conceived and morally executed, America’s security is enhanced by making the world a more stable, livable place.