The Common Good

Econ for Pentagon Dummies

Sojomail - August 6, 2003

Quote of the Week Paul Hawken: Our ecological problem
P.O.V. Econ for Pentagon Dummies
Building a Movement Hunting for Bambi shuts down
By the Numbers The Bush administration's top 40 lies about war and terrorism
Soul Works Remembering Hiroshima
On the Ground Liberia: Civilians caught in the crossfire
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Web Scene Social entrepreneurs apply here: The Acumen Fund | All we are saying, is give health a chance

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"We know how to transform this world to reduce our impact on nature by several fold, how to provide meaningful, dignified living-wage jobs for all who seek them, and how to feed, clothe, and house every person on earth. What we don't know is how to remove those in power, those whose ignorance of biology is matched only by their indifference to human suffering. This is a political issue. It is not an ecological problem."

- Paul Hawken, from a speech at the Bioneers
conference in Oct. 2002

P.O.V. ^top
Econ for Pentagon Dummies (or, When Free-Market Fundamentalism Gets out of Hand)
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Clean FilmsRemember how, after 9/11, there were fears that terrorist networks had profited from atrocity by short-selling airline stocks? Well, the Pentagon doesn't. Its recent plan - scuttled only after public outcry - was to set up a futures trading office in which investors could bet on coups and political assassinations in the Middle East (and possibly missile attacks by North Korea). This appalling arrangement was supposed to help intelligence officials predict the future, using the allegedly uncanny foreign-affairs wisdom of stock traders. The planners were blind not only to diplomacy and taste, but also to the risks of giving investors a financial stake in assassinations.

Perhaps it's not surprising that basic principles of economics are foreign to Pentagon employees - including free-market poster boy (cum Iran-Contra liar) John Poindexter, whose Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed the futures-trading scheme in concert with (surprise!) two private companies. Unfortunately, the bizarre belief that free markets alone will right all wrongs is widespread in our society. The Bush administration, for example, is pushing federal agencies to outsource up to 425,000 federal jobs to the lowest bidder, threatening diversity, pools of expertise, and worker benefits. So it's worth stating, for the record, what free markets can and can't do.

Markets can, if governments set the ground rules right, transmute self-interested behavior on the part of individuals and corporations into greater efficiency of production, and (often) economic growth. This is justly recognized as a positive thing.

However, without reasonable ground rules, that invisible hand of the marketplace tends to slap around society at large. Without a professional police force, some businessmen think it in their best interest to become mafiosos, as is the case in Russia. Without regulation, stock markets take excessive risks that lead to 1929-like crashes. Without prosecution (and with a culture that focuses on short-term stock prices), CEOs are tempted to lie to investors.

It gets worse: Without campaign finance reform and watchdog groups, businesses have an incentive to buy legislators and line up at the corporate welfare trough. Without people who speak up for the disenfranchised, some wealthy individuals try to influence government to shift the tax burden to the poor, who pay large percentages of their incomes to sales and Social Security taxes, and who are not eligible for the recently passed child tax credit.

Without anti-trust enforcement (and the U.S. today is almost without anti-trust enforcement), businesses often find it profitable to eliminate the competition and become autocratic monopolies, in the media or elsewhere. Without a civil society voice in trade agreements, businesses in powerful countries may try to circumvent environmental or labor laws, or may push their way into weaker countries' markets without returning the favor (just ask a Third World farmer unable to compete with subsidized U.S. grain).

On a basic level, although businesses can and should be better educated about their long-term interests (as Sojourners' David Batstone so often argues in this space), the free market is not the best part of society to plan for the long-term good of society. And, of course, businesses have no innate incentive to care for the least powerful among us. Public discourse, and public policy, are the places for these things. This is why the U.S., like every other industrialized country (and many developing countries prior to IMF strictures), has free, socialized elementary and high school education. Does it run perfectly? No. But without it, we'd be damning the children of the poor to even less opportunity, as well as dooming the businesses of tomorrow to an unprepared workforce.

So let's understand free markets, and praise them for the many things they can do. And, above all, let's dispense with the idolatrous belief that the market will automatically cure all ills - whether the Pentagon's intelligence shortcomings, or the well-being of the poor at home or abroad.

Elizabeth Palmberg is editorial assistant at Sojourners.


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Hunting for Bambi shuts down

Good's a media release from the city of Las Vegas:

"Hunting for Bambi, a business that claims it will videotape men who pay $10,000 to hunt and shoot naked women with paintballs, is a hoax, according to a thorough city of Las Vegas investigation of the business licensing division....

Michael Burdick was cited [recently] by the city of Las Vegas for a violation of the Municipal Code.... Burdick was cited for advertising, promoting, and offering for sale paintball activity videos, paintball hunts, and merchandise....

Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, who called for the investigation, stated, 'We have jail space and judges who take this type of conduct seriously in the city of Las Vegas.'"


SojoMail readers bombarded the office of Mayor Goodman with letters this past week. We can't reprint all of the excellent letters SojoMail readers sent, but here are two that illustrate the unexpected allies that can come together to energize an effective grassroots effort:

Dear Mayor Goodman:

Hunting for Bambi and Real Men Outdoor Productions have done a great deal more than embarrass Las Vegas. They have raised international outrage and we intend that this practice be stopped and Real Men Outdoor Productions be put out of business. Millions of consumers will gladly move from complaining about this situation to an active and energetic boycott of Las Vegas.

Those of us close enough to make Las Vegas a regular weekend jaunt could just as easily stop off at Harrah's or Reno or many other delightful locales where we do not have to fear the dangerous misogyny of this company nor its fraudulent business practices. We as a group will not be seen in the streets of Las Vegas until Real Men Outdoor Productions is shut down. We are many. We love Las Vegas. Help us out here. Cancel the license and set the fine. Make it clear to all companies that practice in your city that perpetration of fraud, the selling of violence against women as sport, and the enticement to rape and murder will not be tolerated....

Norla Antinoro
Gamers For Responsible Gaming
Tucson, Arizona


Dear Mayor Goodman,

At a time when women all over the world are participating in nonviolent movements to win human rights and democracy from authoritarian regimes such as the one just deposed in Iraq, it ill behooves an internationally known American city such as Las Vegas to tolerate or excuse the activities of a company such as Real Men Outdoor Productions, which purveys images of women as victims of violent action. If Las Vegas cannot find a way to act constitutionally against a company that traffics in presenting women as targets for predators rather than people with dignity, how can you - or our fellow Americans - stand persuasively for human rights for all people?

Jack DuVall
Director of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration's top 40 lies about war and terrorism

by Steve Perry

1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq from 9/11 onward.

To see #2 through #40, link to:

Remembering Hiroshima
by Johann Christoph Arnold

It is easy to demonize a leader like Emperor Hirohito, and to fight him to the bitter end in the name of freedom and truth. It is harder to face the fact that the demons unleashed by war can grip any heart, if given room. World War II had its own set of villains. Today we have Saddam, Osama, and Kim Jong Il. But lest we point the finger at them - and forget that others are pointing back - let us consider something Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once observed about evil. He says that the line separating it from good does not pass "through states, classes, and political parties" but "right through every human heart." He goes on: "It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it in your own heart."

Even if time has erased much of the terror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the shadow of the bomb still lies over our world. Greed, lust for power and recognition, national and racial hatreds still destroy countless lives every year. These forces are at work in every human, and so we must battle them first and foremost in ourselves.

Before long, the true magnitude of Hiroshima's horrors will be forgotten for good. Or will it?

For more of Arnold's column, see

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Liberia: Civilians caught in the crossfire

At press time, the first soldiers of a West African peacekeeping force have arrived in Liberia, where they will attempt to stop the rampant violence as Liberia's bloody civil war, which has claimed some 200,000 lives, assaults the capital city of Monrovia. Offshore, 2,300 U.S. Marines are waiting on three ships, but it seems likely that virtually none of them will be sent onshore; as Tad Daley argues in the current issue of Sojourners, this is part of a larger, shameful pattern in which the U.S. has consistently ignored civilian pleas for help in stopping atrocities in Africa. [See Daley's article at].

Here are some thoughts from Marie Scheffers, who grew up in Buchanan, Liberia, where her parents worked with Liberian church leaders. Scheffers is currently an aid worker in Rwanda:

When you listen to news of war, the one word you hope never to hear is the name of the town in which you grew up. I'm deeply worried about the people I left in Buchanan, Liberia, the last time I was there.

I want to know if Denua, who is now three and a half, is still alive. Her mother loved her so much that she tried to get me to take Denua to the United States with me so that the little girl would never have to know war. In 2000, when I last sat with her, the war was just beginning again.

I also want to know about Reverend Karnga. The head of the Christian Education Foundation of Liberia and a close family friend, he was shot in the head on Monday, July 28, randomly struck by a female rebel soldier shooting through the door of his office. A rebel commander agreed, by phone to the United States, to have him taken to the hospital - but no one knows whether he got there, or whether he is alive or dead.

As has happened often in the war in Liberia, the people of Buchanan have fled into the jungle, driven from their homes by the latest rebel group to fight, loot, and kill their way across the country.

The church leaders in Buchanan were weary even before the newest round of fighting. They have been working through the Christian Education Foundation of Liberia to staff health clinics, train pastors, and run a high school for more than 20 years. Beginning in 1989, when the war in Liberia began, they have lost everything - medical supplies, typewriters, vehicles, members' lives - many times. One leader told me, "There was fighting in Buchanan in 1990, in 1992, in 1995. Each time we ran and each time we came back to nothing. We came back, but if the fighting comes again, we cannot come back. We are too tired."

The people in Buchanan are not trapped in a tightening circle of constant fighting as are the civilians in Monrovia. Instead, like most of the country, they are caught in the cross-fire between rebel and government troops as the fighting sweeps back and forth across the nation. They have the disadvantage of living near the last port that President Taylor's troops controlled and one that the nearest rebel group wanted. Their only advantage is having forest into which to flee. They are suffering. Diseases, hunger, fear, and fighting pursue them.

The church will come back to Buchanan when the people come back. Diminished in number, more weary than ever, it will come back. The CEFL will work again. This time. But someday, the church leaders will reach the end; they will not be able to continue. Church leaders they are, but they are also human.

Please pray for the people of Buchanan, Monrovia, and the rest of Liberia. And please call President Bush to urge him to send U.S. Marines onshore into Liberia. The last time West African peacekeepers were in Liberia, in the early 1990s, it took them seven years to create any sort of peace, and they were known for their human rights abuses as well. It is troubling that the current West African mission has been granted broad immunity from war crimes prosecutions by a U.S.-pushed resolution in the U.N. last Friday.

Call President Bush at (202) 456-1111 and urge him to send Marines onshore in answer to the repeated pleas of the civilians of Liberia.

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SojoMail readers hit reply

Pastor Lynda Hadley, a U.C.C. pastor serving two churches in Vermont, writes:

Thanks to David Batstone's good words concerning women as the object of violence. More good men need to speak out like this. I believe that would have a real effect. Now, I'm not speaking of men who would "defend" poor little women! I'm talking about good men who see women as entirely equal with men and are willing to defend that position "to the death," as it were.

I also think it is worth looking at the female prostitutes who are engaged in this "paintball" enterprise. Who is working with them as an advocate and resource to help them get connected with legitimate ways of making a living? The women in this particular case are once again being viewed as "victims" and that is not a helpful stance for women. Women need to be equal partners in this society, and until that happens, then I'm afraid we will continue to see all kinds of violence against women, both overt and covert.


David Lott writes from Washington, D.C.:

David Batstone's columns on "Hunting for Bambi" have missed the point - or, at least, come to the point too late. It shouldn't take an outrageous fraud as the one he describes to draw out attention to the issue of violence toward women. I recently learned about a woman who was abducted less than a block from my home by a group of men in a car, taken to a school, and raped in a stairwell. This shocking event never made the Washington Post when it happened; it was only made known to the public in the "Crime Report" column a month after the fact. Yet "Hunting for Bambi" grabs the headlines, not the women who are routinely raped and abused daily, whether within their homes, in commercial transactions, on the job. Sadly, in expressing his shock and disgust over this, Batstone was unfortunately also suckered in by the titillation factor, when he could have much more forcefully made the point about violence against women by focusing on those everyday occurrences to which we are blind or ignorant. I think rather than spend my energy writing to the mayor of Las Vegas, I'll spend my time writing to the mayor of Washington, D.C., and other local officials who are responsible for keeping the streets of our city safe for women.


Jenny Peters writes from Chicago, Illinois:

I am so proud of Sojourners for taking on violence against woman. We need to be doing tangible actions. It's too easy to say that the problems of violence are systemic, or that we need to change the way society thinks of gender and power. Hunting for Bambi symbolizes the abuses of the sex industry, and the Sojo campaign inspires us to speak up and say, "Enough."


Jeanie McGowan, minister at the First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Missouri, writes:

After reading David Batstone's heart-wrenching article about violence against women, I felt compelled to let readers know about a new assault against this far-too prevalent abuse. Southern Living at Home, a relatively new direct sales company, sponsored by "Southern Living" magazine, has just announced a new project they are supporting with funding. "Cut it Out!-Salons Against Abuse" is a project in connection with beauty salons all across the nation. The reason for using the beauty salon as a launching pad is that women (and men) talk to their hair stylists, often revealing intimate things they would never tell anyone else. Clairol and Southern Living at Home are providing training for hair stylists - how to listen without offering advice, and also how to give people information about rape and abuse crisis centers and other potential helpful and safe places they might turn to. Posters will be placed in the salons' restrooms that offer this haven. The program is just getting started, but I was encouraged that something so simple might be provided by a logical resource like a hair salon!


Susan Hesse writes from Endicott, New York:

Wandalee Kabira seems unaware of the existence of systemic forms of oppression. In fact, women do have a gun held to their (collective) heads. The "gun" is women's lower social/economic status as a group. The myth that only our individual choices affect our lives is prevalent, but it is, nonetheless, a myth. If it were true, we would not see women and people of color being disproportionately poor and less powerful. As surely as males take their male privilege with them everywhere they go, females take their lack of privilege with them everywhere. If Wandalee and others want to end the Bambi hunts, they will acknowledge the industrialized sexism driving such enterprises. Most of all, they will understand that there is no "free choice" for females in societies in which: Their labor is undervalued (unpaid or underpaid); they are disproportionately responsible for preserving marriages and providing for the care and survival of children; they are disproportionately impoverished by divorce and unpaid child support; and they have a one in two chance of experiencing domestic violence and a one in four chance of experiencing sexual assault during their lifetimes. Instead of asking why women "choose" sex industry jobs, scrutinize an economic system that pays some women more money to disrobe or perform in porn than to perform surgery.


Marlene Keller writes from Mesa, Arizona: Regarding David Batstone's mission to attempt forcing legislation on Nevada to stop the "game" between customers paying $10,000 to hunt prostitutes and shoot them with a paintgun, I see many a flaw. In the first place, legislation of morality has never, and will never, work; neither has prohibition of anything.... As abhorrent as the "game" might be to me, far be it for me to judge or interfere with it. Until every woman on the planet has developed the self-esteem and self-respect to reject the notion of being a prostitute, we will have prostitution and games will be played and all the legislation in the world won't stop it. It will merely serve to push it underground as it always has, and to further weaken the strength of state governments against the federal government. And that only serves to allow the federal government to exert more and more control over all of our lives by elimination of our civil rights - a process that is well under way in succeeding to install the police state complete with the gestapo goon squads we see running rampant on our streets shooting citizens with impunity. Oh, yes - and it will serve to run the price of the "game" up to perhaps $20,000.


Stuart Smith writes from Upper Sandusky, Ohio:

I know Las Vegas too well as I attend conferences there about every other year. My wife and I have visited vibrant Lutheran churches there and Vegas has an entire government agency and business culture aside from the "gaming" and the "entertainment" businesses, but why is there a Vegas at all? It exists as a city because of casinos and associated "entertainment." As you walk its casino districts, furtive men attempt to hand you invitations to porno and sex activity. Even the mainstream casino shows advertised appear to feature pretty significant nudity and, at least to my Midwestern tastes, lewd behavior. The Riviera has a bronze representation of the backsides of its show line on the wall outside. It's a favorite photo backdrop. The entire entertainment side of Vegas depends on the exploitation of women and their needs or desires for money. In that, I include the gaming workers, although they may disagree. The 1990s push to make the casino district more "family friendly" has died the death of unlikely ideas. This isn't even touching the legal prostitution issue in Nevada. Bottom line is, why should any judge, jury, or the public take seriously any expression of shock and outrage from Las Vegas authorities over Bambi shenanigans? Such activity is going to happen in the corrosive atmosphere they tolerate. I'd like to hear from Las Vegas Christians? What's their take on all this?


Debra Fieguth, social action ministry coordinator, diocese of Ontario, Kingston, Ontario, writes: Every December 6, Canadians pause to remember women who are/were victims of violence. It was on December 6 some 13 years ago that 14 young, intelligent female engineering students were shot down in a university classroom in Montreal. Sadly, we still have a long way to go in Canada. At the other end of the country, a pig farmer is going on trial for the murders of 15 Vancouver women, most of them sex trade workers. Another 50 are still missing, and investigators have been searching for their remains for the last year and a half. Many Canadians view these women differently from the promising engineering students. But contrary to what one of your letter writers suggests, most women don't "choose" to go into prostitution. They often end up there because they feel they have no other options left.


Rev. Richard A. Peacock, Troy First United Methodist Church in Troy, Michigan, writes:

Our partner church, Monrovia First United Methodist Church, has more than 700 people living person-to-person in its education building. They have no electricity, nor clean, running water. They collect rainwater to drink and hope that their food will hold out. The new sanctuary roof has bullet holes that allow the rain to come down. They want peacekeepers NOW.

Liberia is not Somalia. They are America's oldest African ally. There are only 25 doctors left for a population of more than 2.5 million. A higher percentage of the population has been killed in the civil war than those murdered by Saddam Hussein. As usual, it's been mostly the civilians caught in the crossfire. American ships with Marines sailed away once before. Will they do nothing again? The very least we can do is fully fund peacekeepers at a price far below what we spend each month in Iraq. Please tell President Bush and Congress that they have an excellent opportunity to make peace, justice, freedom, and democracy. Stabilizing Liberia will go a long way toward stabilizing the whole region.


Dominick J. Di Noto writes from Cloverdale, California:

Regarding Amy Sullivan's article in last week's SojoMail: The Democrats have a very good chance of winning the next presidential election even though they don't invoke the help of Jesus. Religion has no place in politics or in citizens' civil rights. Jack Kennedy didn't win because he was a Catholic, in fact it was the religious "Right" that made it known that if we had a Catholic president in office he would have to answer to the Pope, AND they couldn't have been more wrong. Yet they seem to think they have a handle on God and Jesus and everything that's written in the Bible. No ma'am, the Democrats don't need to run a campaign with religion in it at all. Speaking for myself, I'm a Christian and a Democrat but my Christianity has nothing to do with my choice of a political party!


Michael Gabriel writes from Slocan Valley, British Columbia, Canada:

I get your weekly SojoMail and absolutely love it. I anticipate its arrival with eager enthusiasm and relish it more than anything else I receive. The quality is fabulous: The articles are well written, informative, spiritually inspiring, and help me to make positive changes in the Global Village. Thank you so very much!


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:

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