The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
A new study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and AARP showed that coffee drinkers are likely to live longer.  Lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute says, “There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking.”The study included more than 400,000 people and found that “Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13 percent.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The world has changed, but the current arsenal carries the baggage of the cold war. There is the baggage of significant numbers in reserve. There is the baggage of a nuclear stockpile beyond our needs. What is it we’re really trying to deter?” - Gen. James E. Cartwright, retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the United States’ nuclear forces, calling for a drastic reduction in the number of nuclear warheads. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
In the current controversy between the Vatican and U.S. religious women, a short history showing that it’s nothing new. Professor emerita of history Anne M. Butler tells the story:In the 19th century, Catholic nuns literally built the church in the American West, braving hardship and grueling circumstances to establish missions, set up classrooms and lead lives of calm in a chaotic world marked by corruption, criminality and illness. Their determination in the face of a male hierarchy that, then as now, frequently exploited and disdained them was a demonstration of their resilient faith in a church struggling to adapt itself to change.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
In his successful run for president of France, one of Francois Hollande’s campaign promises was to withdraw all French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Now that he’s taken office, he’s discovering that was easier to promise than it will be to accomplish.Military specialists are advising him that it is “next to impossible to transport all combat troops and their equipment back to France by the end of the year.” A number of other countries, faced with opposition at home to their war involvement, are also interested in speeding up withdrawals. It should make for interesting discussions at this weekends' NATO Summit.   
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
In his inaugural address today, new French President Francois Hollande called for a European pact for growth to balance out German-driven austerity measures."I will propose to our partners a pact that will tie the necessary reduction of our public debt to the indispensable stimulation of our economies." But, according to Spiegel Online,Europeans hoping that mounting international opposition will make [Chancellor Merkel] drop her austerity plan to save the euro -- a policy that is causing so much pain in ailing economies like Greece and Spain -- are likely to be disappointed, say analysts in Germany.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 19 weeks ago
Quote of the day."The church is supposed to be the lobbyist of the poor, and the church has given up on its calling and resigned itself to a powerless position. We've sort of forgotten that for a long time. These are some of the signs that we're stepping up. We need to reclaim that heritage." Shanta Premawardhana, president of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago, on clergy engaging people of faith in conversations during the upcoming NATO Summit about why they should work to end poverty, world hunger and war.(Chicago Tribune)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Gen. John Allen, the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, is reorienting the military mission in Afghanistan. As U.S. troops leave, Afghan troops must take the lead.Faced with an order from President Obama to withdraw 23,000 troops by the end of the summer, and the prospect of further reductions next year, Allen is hastily transforming the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. Instead of trying to continue large U.S. counterinsurgency operations for as long as he can, he is accelerating a handover of responsibility to Afghan security forces. He plans to order American and NATO troops to push Afghans into the lead across much of the country this summer, even in insurgent-ridden places that had not been candidates for an early transfer.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Quote of the Day. “Distrustful souls see only darkness burdening the face of the earth. We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.” - Pope John XXIII, quoted by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in “I’m not quitting the church. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Quote of the day "It seems that on Mother's Day, moms say, 'Let's all go to church.' But on Father's Day, dads say, 'I'm going to go play golf.'" - Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, on a new poll showing Mother’s Day is third in church attendance after Christmas and Easter. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "SNAP participation at farmers' markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers - a win-win for agriculture and local communities." - Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, on the growing number of farmers markets now able to accept food stamps. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
For those of us whose mothers have gone to be with God, Mother’s Day is a poignant reminder of loss. It’s a day of prayer, reflection and thanksgiving for our mothers, for the love and nurture we received from them. And it can also still be a day of gift-giving, now in their memory rather than to them.Some years ago I met the founder of what has become one of my favorite ministries. Bridge of Hope is a national ministry, now with affiliates it serves in seven states. Its model of service is to develop a partnership between a church-based mentoring group, professional staff, and a homeless or at-risk single mother and her children. The goal is to empower women to achieve housing, financial stability through employment, friendship and support, personal growth and wholeness. It’s an inspiring example of how the combination of loving, nurturing support coupled with material assistance can change lives.  
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
The U.S. Catholic Bishops weighed in on the budget again yesterday. A letter signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and sent to Members of the House of Representatives repeated the “moral criteria” by which they assess the budget:1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the lives and dignity of “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.After specifically noting the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and the Social Services Block Grant; the bishops concluded,“…the Catholic bishops join other faith leaders and people of good will urging you to protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable families by putting a circle of protection around these essential programs and to refrain from cutting programs that serve them.” 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) was defeated for renomination yesterday in the Indiana Republican primary.  During 35 years in the Senate, Lugar had built a reputation as a conservative, but one who was willing to work across the aisle, especially on issues of foreign policy and nuclear non-proliferation. That willingness became a major attack point for his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who pledged to end attempts at bipartisanship by pushing a more conservative agenda. “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view,” he said this morning.Lugar’s concession statement was unyielding:"If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook."Here are a few of today’s reactions. 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance …” - Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) after losing the Indiana Republican primary to a Tea Party-backed opponent. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
From the heart of Bluegrass, songs about (and by) mothers.Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and family, "Can the Circle Be Unbroken?"
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 20 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Our most important goal is to empower and liberate undocumented students, so we can come out of the shadows." - Jessica Lee, 20, an undocumented Bryn Mawr student from South Korea and co-founder of Students for Undocumented Dreams & Decision Equity Now, on efforts to make tuition at private colleges affordable. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
How many more times do we have to read a story like this one?The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.  The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday.If it is the U.S. intention to win over the Afghan people, this is exactly how not to do it.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “This project is encouraging nutrition and sustainability, community building and engagement in the larger food justice movement. I’ve seen it all along as another doorway to the work we do here.” Pastor Alan Sherouse of Metro Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan on the church’s rooftop neighborhood garden. (Associated Baptist Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Glenn Kessler, writer of the Washington Post Factchecker column, issues a challenge to President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney:"With the presidential election looming in exactly six months, I would like to issue a challenge to you both: Give at least one campaign speech, on a substantive policy issue, lasting at least 15 minutes, that does not contain a single factual error or misstatement. That means no sugar-coating of your record, no exaggerated claims about your opponent’s record, and no assertions that are technically true but lack crucial context."I’m not holding my breath for the challenge to be accepted.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The Amazon is Brazil’s No. 1 priority from a strategic viewpoint, given its importance to humanity as a source of water, biodiversity and food production." - Gen. Eduardo Dias da Costa Villas Boas, chief of the Brazilian Amazon Military Command, on Brazil deploying troops to the Amazon rain forest in an operation aimed at cracking down on drug smuggling, gold mining, and illegal deforestation. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
May 4, 1970 -- 42 years ago today -- was the day protesting the war in Vietnam became serious.On April 30, 1970 President Nixon had announced an invasion of Cambodia, seeking to destroy North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front operations in the border area. Protests spontaneously broke out at universities all over the country. On May 4, National Guardsmen fired on a group of protesting students at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four and wounding nine. Jeff Miller, Allison Krause, Bill Schroeder, and Sandy Scheuer became casualties of the war. A presidential commission later concluded that the shooting was "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The C.I.A. needs to answer for this. And they need to stop it.” - David Wright, the Pakistan country manager for Save the Children, on the recruitment of aid workers as intelligence operatives. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Those who try to dam back the most universal of games are wasting their time. … Those who think Cuba will renounce baseball, the white globule with seams flowing through our veins, are seeing crocodiles in their soup.” - Michel Contreras, Cuban sportswriter, on why soccer will not replace baseball in Cuba. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Presidents Obama and Karzai have signed in Kabul a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries.The Associated Press reports:“The partnership spells out the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, covering security, economics and governance. The deal is limited in scope and essentially gives both sides political cover: Afghanistan is guaranteed its sovereignty and promised it won't be abandoned, while the U.S. gets to end its combat mission in the long and unpopular war but keep a foothold in the country. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending. But it does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan after the war ends…”“At a signing ceremony in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, Obama said the agreement paves the way for 'a future of peace’ while allowing the United States to ‘wind down this war.’ Karzai said his countrymen ‘will never forget’ the help of U.S. forces over the past decade.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
The anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of U.S. troops has reawakened the political controversy over the use of torture. In an opinion piece today, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, says it wouldn’t have happened without torture. He writes of an al-Qaeda operative captured in 2004, who was “taken to a secret CIA prison – or ‘black site’ – where he was subjected to some ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
President Barack Obama landed in Afghanistan this afternoon on an unannounced trip.  He will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement pledging U.S. support for Afghanistan for a decade after 2014 when the U.S. combat role is set to end.Obama will then deliver a live, televised speech to the American people on live television at 7:30 this evening (Tuesday). He is expected to give an update on Afghan withdrawal plans.Update—5 p.m.Presidents Obama and Karzai have signed in Kabul a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries.The Associated Press reports:“The partnership spells out the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, covering security, economics and governance. The deal is limited in scope and essentially gives both sides political cover: Afghanistan is guaranteed its sovereignty and promised it won't be abandoned, while the U.S. gets to end its combat mission in the long and unpopular war but keep a foothold in the country. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending. But it does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan after the war ends…”“At a signing ceremony in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, Obama said the agreement paves the way for 'a future of peace’ while allowing the United States to ‘wind down this war.’ Karzai said his countrymen ‘will never forget’ the help of U.S. forces over the past decade.”
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
News flash:  The U.S. is using remotely piloted drones for targeted killing strikes against suspected terrorists. If you don’t think that’s news, you’re right. For years, it’s been the worst kept secret in Washington, but a speech yesterday by White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan was the first official acknowledgement of the program. He insisted that it is consistent with U.S. and international law, even while admitting that civilians have been killed.The news report noted,  "Brennan’s speech was also noteworthy, however, for what he withheld. He did not disclose how many people have been killed, list all the locations where armed drones are being flown or mention the administration’s increasing reliance on “signature” strikes, which allow the CIA to fire missiles even when it doesn’t know the identities of those who could be killed".While this policy of targeted assassination should be ended immediately, the admission that it exists is an important step toward an important public debate.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Peter Bergen, a director of the New America Foundation, writes: “The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.”And he adds up the evidence of the past four years:"Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden."These actions, allegedly against the “threat of terrorism,” are reminiscent of the so-called Reagan Doctrine against the “threat of communism” in the early-to-mid 1980s.  We’re still paying the price for the use of covert operations to attack insurgents, while supporting repressive and corrupt governments in that era. The Mujaheddin who were armed and trained to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan are now the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighting the U.S. occupation.  The price of the last four years is yet to be seen, but history suggests it will be substantial. 
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 21 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “If Republicans can’t support his right-leaning approach to the DREAM Act, then they can kiss the Latino vote — and their chances of seeing the inside of the White House — goodbye for a generation. If Democrats refuse to work with him then they open themselves up to accusations of favoring partisan politics over bipartisan legislative progress.” - Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration reform organization America’s Voice, speaking of Sen. Mario Rubio’s proposal to help children of illegal immigrants gain a more-permanent legal status. (Politico)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "When stresses in the home increase because of unemployment and other hardships, domestic violence increases. We see it on the street." - Scott Thomson, police chief in Camden, NJ, on a national survey of law enforcement agencies finding more domestic violence related to the economy. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
Quote of the day.“I call them my brothers and sisters because they are a genetic link to the same ones my ancestors hunted.” - Tote Gray Hawk, 54, a Sioux, speaking of 60 bison moved from Yellowstone National Park to northeast Montana’s Ft. Peck Reservation.(New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "For years, we dreamed of America, but now that dream is no good. There are no jobs and too many problems. We don't want to go." - Pedro Morales, 18, of Jalisco, Mexico, explaining why immigration to the U.S. has stalled. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
The future of Arizona’s immigration law, and by extension the laws in a number of other states modeled on it, was argued before the Supreme Court this morning. While it’s always dangerous to read too much into the questioning during the oral argument, early news reports indicate that the justices were sympathetic  to the provision allowing police officers to check the immigration status of people who are arrested or otherwise detained.According to the Associated Press: "Liberal and conservative justices reacted skeptically to the Obama administration's argument that the state exceeded its authority when it made the records check, and another provision allowing suspected illegal immigrants to be arrested without a warrant, part of the Arizona law aimed at driving illegal immigrants elsewhere."The Court’s decision is expected in June, and could become an important issue in the presidential election campaign.Key stories are HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "It’s risky for the teachers and it’s risky for the students, but these underground schools show the thirst people have for education under the Taliban." - Shukriya Barakzai, an Afghani parliamentarian who ran her own underground school when the Taliban held power in the 1990s, speaking of the recent growth in underground school networks for girls. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 22 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "I freeze. I have no idea where to even start with this. Part of me feels like I''m way too old to be flying by the seat of my pants like that." Paige Worthy, Chicago, has held at least six jobs since graduating from college in 2005, and is getting by with an unstable income and sporadic spending habits. Studies show that a majority of young people in the U.S. have poor financial literacy. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Charles Colson, former aide to President Richard Nixon and founder of Prison Fellowship, passed away Saturday at the age of 80. His death came as a result of complications of a brain hemorrhage. Many news stories this weekend emphasized Colson’s role in the Watergate scandal of the mid-1970s, in which he led Nixon’s efforts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg following the release of the Pentagon Papers on U.S. decision making during the Vietnam war. As a result of those activities, he pled guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in prison. Shortly before going to prison, Colson had a religious conversion to Christianity. And that led to the more important part of his life.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
A provocative piece this morning from Akiva Eldar, chief political columnist and an editorial writer for Haaretz. He describes the weakness of the Israeli government when faced with non-violent protest:“They say the Israel Air Force can carry out a pinpoint strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, yet the Israel Defense Forces loses its cool when confronted by a small group of bicyclists armed solely with cameras. The Shin Bet security service knows how to locate terrorists and assassinate them, but has no clue how to cope with nonviolent civil disobedience.” After recounting all of the futile efforts at diplomacy and negotiations by the Palestinians in their suits and ties, Eldar advises:“If Abbas was really so fed up he would replace his tie with a kaffiyeh and lead the masses in a protest march. The Oslo Accords have turned the Palestine Liberation Organization into the mechanism for maintaining the Israeli occupation. It's about time the Oslo generation of Palestinians admits the failure of the diplomatic option, hangs up its suits, weans itself from the pathetic honor it has accorded itself, and takes to the streets.”I can hear Gandhi and Dr. King cheering.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Most people were spanked when they were kids, and they think that's the proper way to discipline. They make the erroneous correlation that spanking equals good discipline and if a child isn't behaving, he must not have been spanked enough -- that's fallacious." George Holden, a Southern Methodist University psychology professor, is chairman of the 2011 Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
The U.S. and European allies in the so-called “Friends of Syria” took another step down the slope toward military intervention this week. In a Paris conference, the talk was tough, especially from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.The Washington Post began its story, “The United States, France and 13 other nations demanded Thursday that Syria immediately cease military operations against rebel forces and allow unfettered deployment of U.N. observers, suggesting that use of force will be considered if Damascus fails to comply.”It continued by quoting Sec. Clinton making the suggestion more concrete: “I think we have to do more to take stronger action against the Assad regime,” she said. “We need to start moving very urgently in the Security Council for a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, including travel, financial sanctions, an arms embargo and the pressure that that will give us on the regime to push for compliance with Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.”The New York Times added that “Mrs. Clinton said the United States was increasing its nonmilitary aid. Other countries may be doing more with military training. But ‘we are expanding our communications, logistics and other support for the Syrian opposition,’ she said.”One might think that after Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we have learned that military intervention usually does not solve the problems it purports to, and in fact, many times exacerbates them. Yet with expanded drone strikes in Yemen, the continuing threat of attacks on Iran, and the growing war talk on Syria, we seem to have learned nothing. Stay tuned for the next war.Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day.“I don’t want to overemphasize my Catholicism here. But I know my religion. I know religions in general. In the New Testament, the one place where Jesus talks about the death penalty, he says, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ When I’ve reflected on the death penalty, the reality is I frequently ponder that passage.” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, who will soon sign a bill abolishing the death penalty in the state.(Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
It seems that drones have become the administration’s favorite form of warfare. There’s no danger to American troops, just unmanned aircraft killing from the skies. They’ve been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. The campaign in Yemen has so far relied on targeting specific individuals in an attempt to distinguish between al Qaeda leaders and Yemeni insurgents. But the CIA is now seeking to expand the campaign by asking for authority to launch strikes without knowing the identities of those being attacked. They call it “signature strikes,” choosing targets based on suspicious behavior. This, the CIA claims, involved putting together multiple intelligence reports to arrive at “signatures” of al-Qaeda activity based on vehicles, facilities, communications equipment and patterns of behavior.Assassinating specific individuals (and often their wives, children and other people who happen to be with them) is bad enough. Attacks based on “signatures” of suspicious behavior is worse. Is a group of people gathering in a house an al Qaeda meeting, or a wedding? Is a truck convoy carrying weapons, or goods to market? It seems to me that if approved, it’s a policy change that will result in more civilian casualties and more questions about the use of drones.Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
 Under a mandate from the budget resolution passed by the House in March, committees are required to cut discretionary programs to avoid the automatic cuts in military spending to take effect in January. The funds cut are to be moved from the nondefense to the defense categories in the budget. Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee produced its share by cutting $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps).Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the Committee had this response: “You can’t have a serious conversation about getting the budget under control when you take large items like defense off the table, which is really why we are here. Taking a meat-ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of working families in this country in order to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a cut this large would result in 2 million people losing benefits and the remaining 44 million having theirs reduced.  So here’s the equation, more hungry people = more weapons for war.  It’s clear and direct.Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Today is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, and the day designated as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ari Shavit, senior correspondent and editorial board member of Haaretz newspaper has some important reflections on how that remembrance is used and misused.We are being torn between those who mention Auschwitz so that Israel will be deemed innocent in every situation, and those who distance themselves from Auschwitz so that Israel will always be guilty. As a nation, we have lost the ability to experience the Holocaust both as a universal event with humanitarian significance and as a unique event with Jewish and Israeli significance. …It is our duty not to speak harshly and not to exploit it. The Holocaust was a terrifying event of insanity. The true imperative to be derived from the Holocaust is the imperative of sanity. Not to be enslaved to the past but also not to be alienated from it. To observe death, and to remember death - and to choose life.In a world that seems dominated by death – from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; to South Sudan and the Congo; this day should allow us to reflect on the 6 million Jews who died in Europe and to redouble our efforts to work for life for the millions dying or threatened with death today.Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "I needed to know that. …  Somebody needs to take care of this problem, or inform the people in this neighborhood." - Ken Shefton, Cleveland, on his discovery that the EPA had known for years that his home is a few blocks from an abandoned factory that spewed lead dust for decades. His son was recently diagnosed with having an elevated level of lead. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another. People are starting to connect the dots.” Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned a new poll that showed 69 percent of Americans believe that extreme weather was probably made worse by global warming. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
Each year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) publishes a study on the amount world governments spend on their militaries. The 2011 report was released this week, showing that all countries together spent $1.7 trillion. The Guardian has a helpful country-by-country data page and interactive map. The top 5 in the world last year, totaling $1.05 trillion, were:U. S.  - $711 billion
China - $143 billion 
Russia - $72 billionBritain - $63 billionFrance - $62 billionIn contrast, the budget for UN Peacekeeping operations for fiscal year July 2011-30 June 2012 is about $7.84 billion. That’s 0.5 percent of what the world spends on its militaries.It’s a stark example of the world’s misguided priorities.
Posted by Duane Shank 2 years 23 weeks ago
On November 21, 1967, General William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in Vietnam, delivered a speech at the National Press Club on war strategy. “We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view,” he said, and outlined a “new phase” in the war where the U.S. would:Help the Vietnamese Armed Forces to continue improving their effectiveness.Help the new Vietnamese government to respond to popular aspirations and to reduce and eliminate corruption.Help the Vietnamese strengthen their policy forces to enhance law and order.Then came what is now known as the Tet Offensive. On January 30, 1968, the National Liberation Front launched attacks against cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. It was the beginning of the end, the evidence that U.S. strategy had failed. Fast forward 45 years. U.S. strategy in Afghanistan emphasizes assisting the Afghan army and police forces to improve their effectiveness along with working to reduce corruption in the government. We hear encouraging speeches from politicians and generals. We’re told the end is in sight.