The Common Good

Nuclear Denial

Sojomail - June 5, 2002


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++++++++++++++++++++++++ 5-June-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++++++++ Nuclear Denial ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Progress report

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Nuclear denial

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Why the _______s Hate the _______s

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Interview with filmmaker John Sayles

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *What's at stake in the welfare bill

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *The middle of wisdom...

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *The suicide bombers: Why do they do it?

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Where the U.S. gets its oil

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *When kids count

 R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
     *News from Siberia: Jesus is back!

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 W e b s c e n e
     *Rent A Priest...1-800-PRIEST-9
     *What's going on down the Hill?


Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Progress is nothing but the victory of
laughter over dogma."

            - Benjamin DeCasseres
              U.S. writer (1893-1961)


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Nuclear denial 

by Jim Wallis

Last night I took a break with some good friends and went to 
see the hot new movie "The Sum Of All Fears."

It's about a neo-Nazi group that is able to construct and then 
detonate a small nuclear bomb at a Super Bowl game - in an attempt 
to provoke full-scale nuclear war between the United States and 
Russia. I won't reveal how the young CIA agent Jack Ryan (Ben 
Affleck) saves the day, but I was struck by how easily the top 
U.S. and Russian leaders were able to contemplate the unthinkable 
option of nuclear attacks against each other - yet it is an 
entirely believable prospect in today's perilous international 

Sunday's New York Times carried a chilling description of the 
current showdown between India and Pakistan, in an article 
titled "Nuclear Denial." More than one million troops are 
massed along a contested border in Kashmir, backed by artillery, 
tanks, and fighter jets. Daily shelling from both sides is 
increasing as are the resulting casualties. Fifteen thousand 
people living in the war zone have already fled their homes.  
The leaders of both nations have traded threatening speeches, 
while the leaders of other countries are desperately pressing 
the bitter adversaries to stand down. 

Tragically, it is the kind of crisis that happens far too 
often around the world. But what makes this one different 
is that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. Yet 
neither seems to grasp what that means, and neither has 
disavowed the possible use of their weapons of mass 
destruction. India, with far more troops, has said it will 
not use nuclear weapons first, but has reserved the right 
to retaliate.  Pakistan has said it will not initiate a 
war, but will defend itself if attacked. The incredible 
dangers of miscalculation are frighteningly like those 
in the Tom Clancy movie. 

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw noted in a speech 
last week that "The current tension and the buildup of 
military forces in Kashmir could all too easily spiral 
out of control into a conventional and then a nuclear 
conflict of a kind we have never seen before." Straw 
described the result of such a conflict as "death, 
destruction, disease and economic collapse..." that  
would affect the entire globe. 

The long-standing dispute over Kashmir escalated after 
attacks inside India by Islamic militants based in Pakistan, 
including one against the Indian Parliament. India claims 
that Pakistan supports the violence against innocent 
civilians, or at least isn't doing enough to stop them.  
And it claims that, like the U.S., it has the right to 
protect itself militarily against terrorism. 

But India and Pakistan are not the only countries practicing 
nuclear denial. The Bush administration's new Nuclear Posture 
Review contemplates the first use of nuclear weapons, 
integrates them into conventional military strategies, and 
reduces restraints against their use in its "war against 
terrorism."  And in the president's graduation speech at 
West Point Military Academy this week, he spoke of possible 
"preemptive action."  Why are we surprised if other countries 
make the same claims? 

What these national leaders fail to comprehend is that 
nuclear weapons are themselves the ultimate terrorism. So 
indiscriminate in their destruction, they are in a 
completely different military and moral category from other 
weapons. The devastation nuclear bombs would cause erases 
all distinctions between military and civilian casualties. 

News sources have reported on a U.S. Defense Intelligence 
Agency assessment of India and Pakistan's nuclear capabilities.  
That study concluded that a full-scale nuclear exchange 
between the two could kill as many as 12 million people and 
injure 7 million more. It's a nightmare scenario with 
completely unforeseeable consequences for that region and 
the rest of the world. What are they thinking? 

And what in the world are U.S. leaders thinking when they 
contemplate the use - even the initiation - of nuclear weapons 
in the "war on terrorism"? It's past time to wake up from 
our nuclear denial. It's time for sanity to counter such 
irresponsible nuclear posturing and brinkmanship, in South 
Asia or in Washington, D.C. It's especially time to hear 
from the religious community about the moral and practical 
necessity of disavowing and dismantling nuclear weapons. 
If we don't speak and act boldly, we may not have Jack 
Ryan around to save us.


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Why the _______s Hate the _______s

by Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz

A guide to ethnic and religious strife through all human history:

1. They stole our _______!

2. At the Battle of _______ in the _______ century, they used unfair tactics
to defeat us. We cannot rest until the souls of our dead are avenged.

3. Their religion is absurd. Offensive, really. Did you know they actually
believe __________? And they won't be happy until EVERYBODY believes it!

4. While it's not "politically correct" to say so, science has proven them
to be _______. 

Find 11 more "good reasons" to hate the _______s at:


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C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Interview with filmmaker John Sayles

by Aimee Shieh

John Sayles has directed "Eight Men Out," "Matewan,"
"Lone Star," and scores of other independent films
while writing scripts for other films like "Apollo 13"
and "The Quick and the Dead."

*How have you managed to succeed as a screenwriter
for hire within the Hollywood system and as a filmmaker
independent of that system?

JS: In a way, I think the two complement each other. I
still make a living as a screenwriter for hire, but my
patience is increased by the fact that the money I've
made writing screenplays for other people allows me to
go off and do my own thing.

*Your films often examine American regional cultures.
What makes this country such a compelling subject?

JS: There's this idea that you can govern people and
yet they can retain some of their own culture and their
own way of thinking. But it doesn't always work, and
it's a really interesting dynamic that not many
countries have had to face.

*Are your interests born out of a sense of nostalgia,
or is your aim to demystify contemporary stigmas?

JS: I'm very interested in American historical myths,
but you have to reexamine them once in a while and
include some people who were left out the first time.
There's a reason why certain stories become iconic -
people choose them because they satisfy some need. But
you have to say, Wait a minute, that isn't exactly
what happened. Let's look at what did and see if we
can pull things out that are more relevant today.


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
What's at stake in the welfare bill

by Nathan Wilson

On August 22, 1996, then-President Bill Clinton signed a 
revolutionary welfare reform bill, the Personal 
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. 
While the legislation had its critics within and outside 
Congress, in the end it passed with a larger bipartisan 
majority than that which enacted Medicare in 1965. By 
October 1, 2002, Congress must pass and the president must
sign legislation renewing many of the major provisions 
in the law.

The 1996 welfare reform law and its reauthorization this year 
is the most substantial change in social policy in well over 
30 years. It will instantly impact the lives of millions of 
poor children, women, and men and will shape the long-term 
possibilities for low-wage workers to make work pay. As well, 
any social policy communicates a message about the 
commitments of our country.

The Senate soon will be voting on its bill. After it passes, 
a conference committee consisting of a few members of the 
Senate and the House will be formed to work out the differences 
between the Senate bill and the more regressive bill passed by 
the House in May. (You can find out which members of the House 
and Senate are on the conference committee by visiting Of course, even if neither of your 
senators nor representative are on the committee, they 
still should hear your values and perspectives about our 
nation's obligations to all people, including the poor).

With the impending elections in November, the conference 
committee likely will seek as much agreement as possible 
before the August recess and then have staff fight out the 
remaining differences while their bosses are back home 
campaigning. Then Congress will vote in early September.

What this means for us is that while time is short, your 
senators and representatives and their staffs should be 
ready to talk and ready to listen. Now is the time to 
remind them that successful welfare legislation should 
provide sufficient child-care funding so parents don't 
have to choose between being good workers and being good 
parents, enough flexibility and funding for families to get 
the education and training they need to advance in the 
workplace, and benefits for all taxpayers, including legal 

Specifically, ask your legislator to support four simple 
and winnable ideas: 

1. Define acceptable "work" in the law to include efforts 
to improve employment skills through education or vocational 
training for at least 24 months. 

2. Invest in the quality and availability of child care for 
low-wage workers by substantially increasing the Child Care 
and Development Block Grant.

3. Base the amount of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy 
Families) block grants to states on the number of poor 
children per state.

4. Enable legal immigrants, who work hard 
and pay taxes, and their children to receive TANF, 
Medicaid, and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) 
when in need so they can contribute to society.

In short, if the goal of the 1996 law was to get people 
off welfare, then the goal of reauthorization must be to 
help people stay off of welfare and achieve long-term 

Many of the families left on welfare are working hard to 
make it on their own. Our officeholders should give those 
families the support and tools they need to keep a decent 
job and work their way off the system permanently.

Rev. Nathan Wilson is the director of public policy for 
Call to Renewal (


S o u l   W o r k s
The middle of wisdom...

Who is wise? One who learns from all.
                - The Talmud


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Suicide bombers...why do they do it?

There are lots of Western and Israeli terrorism experts 
and political pundits out there who can explain the
motivations of the suicide bombings. Ever wonder how
the Palestinians who support this strategy - or at
least see it as necessary - view it? Go to these


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Where the U.S. gets its oil

Domestic          41%
Canada            9%
Saudi Arabia      8.5%
Venezuela         8%
Mexico            7%
Iraq              4%
Nigeria           4%

*Source: Wall Street Journal

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H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
When kids count

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the 2002
"Kids Count Data Book." This year's book specifically
looks at low-income working families, their difficulties
in making ends meet and caring for their kids, and what
it takes to help them gain financial and family success.
It includes state-by-state profiles with data on child
well-being, education, the economic condition of families,
child health, and children in low-income working families.

This annual resource of state-specific and national data
on children's well-being can be useful for work on TANF 
reauthorization. To access the Kids Count database,
go to:


R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
News from Siberia: Jesus is back!

by Ian Traynor

Sergei Torop was a traffic cop in the small Russian
town of Minusinsk until 1989, when he announced that
he was the son of God. Now he commands a following of
thousands and rules over a large swath of the Siberian

To read the entire feature article, go to:,4273,4420273,00.html


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B o o m e r a n g

Alex Araujo writes from Washington state:

Batstone's commentary in last week's SojoMail - "Work
On the Tipping Point" - on the work of Brazilian Sebastião
Salgado caught my eye. I am a transplanted Brazilian.

A recurring theme in America regarding work is "choice."
Americans are encouraged to find the job that best fits
their goals and gifts. I have seen several friends and
acquaintances that think little before quitting
employment because they just don't like what they do, or
dislike the supervisor, or some other personal preference.
Some didn't even know yet what else they were going to do.

Only an affluent society affords that kind of freedom to
choose, including the choice of not working rather than
doing something unpleasant. I used to nod approvingly
whenever I heard that from teachers, career counselors,
and friends. At the same time I felt a certain discomfort
whose cause did not come to me until some time later: It
turns out that I am much too much aware that choosing
one's job is a luxury of only a few, even in America.
Like the illusive ideal of the slim fashion model, this
idea of work as fashion is not available to most Americans.
Most people have no choice but to do what they can to
make ends meet. I have traveled extensively and this fact
is overwhelmingly true in most of the rest of the world.


Leonard Campbell writes from Center Harbor, New Hampshire:

Re: Batstone's "Work at the Tipping Point"

The tipping point is here, with me.  I can do with what
God has gifted me.

Forgive me for not doing what I could have done.
Forgive me for doing more than what I should have done.
Help me to act justly.


Bob Douglas writes from St. Paul, Minnesota:

Although Batstone did not mention it in his article, you
don't have to go to Sydney, Australia, or wait for the
photo essay to come to a city near you to view Salgado's
work. You can view many of his images online
at this excellent website:


Tom Boughan writes from Cowan, Tennessee:

I read with interest the article in last week's SojoMail
about various reactions of Christians on the Mideast. I
saw a thing about Women Aglow coming there to support
Israel. They took pictures of themselves near Israeli tanks 
and blessing the tanks! How strange! Reminds me of St.
Augustine blessing spears of Roman soldiers before they
fought the barbarians.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*Rent A Priest...1-800-PRIEST-9

This is not a joke Web site. The home page offers an
option for "how you can affect change in light of the
pedophilia scandal...." It is a very informative link
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*What's going on down the Hill?

Find out how the business of U.S. government gets done.
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