Batch's Blog

Nathanial Batchelder (click image to read news and views from Peace House OK's Director, Nathaniel Batchelder)

What’s a billion?

Next time you hear people use the word ‘billion’ casually, think about how our government spends money.

Put a billion into perspective:

– A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

– A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

– A billion hours ago our ancestors lived in the Stone Age.

– A billion days ago nothing walked on the earth on two feet.

– A billion dollars ago – – in U.S. spending – – was only
8 hours and 20 minutes ago.


To me, the REAL issues are SPENDING PRIORITIES and FUNDING SOURCES.

The current Administration & Congress inherited a SURPLUS that they have transformed into our current national debt of MORE THAN $10 TRILLION (that’s $10 thousand billion).

To fund the hugely famous Bush Tax Cuts, the USA BORROWED MONEY to pay for tax cuts benefiting primarily the wealthy, and STILL BORROWS MONEY to pay for the Iraq War, the first U.S. war in history during which taxes were NOT raised to pay for it (the U.S. still borrows between one and two Billion Dollars a Day … indebtedness to China, Japan, and others willing to carry our “notes.”)

This is “BORROW AND SPEND” Government … stealing the future from people who must pay down the debt, including children too young to vote.

Good spending is spending to build and repair INFRASTRUCTURE (roads, bridges, railroads, public buildings, libraries, schools, mental health facilities, etc.) This always has a huge pay-back to society, lasting many decades (Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall was built in 1935 by WPA under the Franklin Roosevelt years … look what it has done for our city!)

Good spending improves PEOPLE’s capacity to educate themselves, to become economically self-sufficient, to be healthy, to become contributors, is always a good investment with long-term pay-back. (After my military service, I enjoyed “G.I. Bill” assistance for college and beyond … I remain grateful today.)

Spending to regulate and reduce environmental degradation, to improve energy efficiencies, to reduce pollution and harmful atmospheric gases makes for a better world for ourselves and future generations (only one Earth, right?)

NATIONAL ELECTIONS ARE TUESDAY, NOV. 4th.
I pray for a huge turn-out and heavy VOTING for a CHANGE.

Nathaniel Batchelder, The Peace House Oklahoma City
www.peacehouseok.org

Pass this on to energize voters and
encourage registration of new voters.
(Voter Registration is free, and registration
forms are available at most “tag agencies”
and all County Election Boards.)

Could these be the most important elections in U.S. history?
It’s now May 31st: JUST FIVE MONTHS TO GO.
Spark dialogue. Speak to friends and associates.
Let’s keep the ball rolling.

Computer balloting must be abolished

Computer Voting Guarantees Waiting Lines
With computer voting, only as many voters can vote as their are machines. If 40 voters are waiting to use six machines, 34 must watch and wait their turn. Stories are legion of insufficient machines provided to low-income polling stations, and people waiting hours to vote.

Oklahoma voters never wait to vote because every voter has their own paper (card) ballot, to be filled in with a special pen. 40 voters can vote simultaneously. When finished, each voter feeds their card ballot through an optical scanning machine (just ONE machine at each polling place needed) which counts the votes in a second, and drops the ballot into a locked box. Simple. Fast. Secure. Recountable.

Computer Voting Disenfranchises the Computer Illiterate
Voting is already intimidating: most voters don’t know all the candidates, and nobody understands the “state questions” who has not been briefed in advance. Low income voters and everyone nervous around computers face the additional stress of using touch-screen technology. There are supposed to be advisors and trainers, but this may be even more embarrassing. No doubt, many computer illitarate simply stay home. Since computer voting machines are so much more expensive than Oklahoma’s card ballot system, one wonders if frightening the computer-illiterate and causing long lines is part of the purpose of computer balloting.

Computer Voting Leaves No “Paper Ballot” For Recounts
Advocates of computer balloting say that adding printers will solve the problem, but this adds even more expense, while printers can jam and run out of paper. Will the voter sign the ballot? How can the voter be sure the ballot recorded what they indicated on the screen? Computer voting injects a level of uncertainty and lack of confidence into the voting system which should be a day of pride and hope for voters.

Computer Voting Machines Can Be “Hacked”
Universities and others have proven that it is easy and quick to unlock computer voting systems, insert chips that change the program, and thus skew the election results. Stories of wild and impossible vote counts from computer systems elevate voters fears that their votes will not be fairly counted. Election results which vary dramatically from professional “exit polls” also contribute to apprehensions that computer voting can be “rigged.”

Computer Voting Must Be Abolished.
Because computer voting systems: cost so much more than systems using a card-ballot with optical scanner; guarantee voter waiting lines; disenfranchise computer-illiterate voters; leave no reliable paper ballot for recounts; and can be “hacked” to skew election results.

COMPUTER BALLOTING MUST BE ABOLISHED. It’s inherent draw-backs and human challenges cannot be solved.

Computer voting is an inappropriate use of high-technology machinery for what should be a simple and personal candidate selection system contributing to election results in which voters have high confidence and faith.

Nathaniel Batchelder, Director the Peace House Oklahoma City

Day of Reckoning: Tuesday, November 7th

by Nathaniel Batchelder

Americans voting this fall must elect Members of Congress who will support legislation in the common good and general interest of all, especially addressing economic and environmental sustainability. The challenges are urgent and daunting:

On the first Earth Day, in 1972, many of us learned that, with only 6% of the world’s population, the US consumes some 25% of all resources turned to human use, and produces some 40% of the wastes needing appropriate disposal. Despite thousands of articles and books since then, the US has mostly ignored its opportunity to demonstrate to the world that comfortable lives could also be environmentally sustainable. The American love of bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger meals, and extravagant consumption as signs of “success” attest to a “me first” value system oblivious to the implications for humanity and Nature. Champions of consumption without reflection include Rush Limbaugh and other national talk-show hosts who daily ridicule environmentalism or any concern beyond one’s desire for more. Our national media are complicit, failing to consistently report environmental losses to Americans, while benefiting from advertising campaigns celebrating consumption.

Thirty years of implementing tax and trade policies favorable to corporate interests and the rich have resulted in an explosion of wealth among a minority of Americans. Meanwhile, working households historically supported by a single wage-earner have become two-job, three-job, or four-job households. The exodus of tens of millions of US jobs to El Salvador, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China is the result of global trade treaties passed by Congress during two Clinton and three Bush administrations. Activist organizations tried to sound the alarm, and to get riders on the treaties protecting workers’ rights and environmental rights, but Congress said, No, these are trade treaties.

The stock market “boom” of the late ‘90s turned out to be a cancer of deregulated industries, particularly Enron and World-Com, whose abuses turned billions of dollars of stock-holdings into worthless paper. The irony of policies profiting primarily those on the top rungs of the economic ladder is that they contain the seeds of their own destruction. America’s Great Depression came about when warehouses were full but people had too little money to buy. Current policies are creating the same conditions, all made worse by the War in Iraq, the annual deficit of some $400 billion, and the push for even more tax cuts. A stark reckoning approaches.

Lifting environmental sustainability to political importance will call for a national popular movement with a voice government cannot ignore. Saving the US economy will require federal control of banking and finance, and “Franklin Roosevelt” solutions putting millions to work fixing and building the infrastructure needed to support a healthy economy: roads, bridges, railroads, canals, schools, power stations, public buildings, health clinics and the like. A national commitment to universal public education and universal public health care would create jobs in those industries and improve the economic prospects of the 80% of Americans whose salaries support the economy. Call it “trickle up” economics.

Conservatives currently controlling both houses of Congress and the White House were elected by wealthy and corporate elites voting their pocketbooks and people attracted to conservative attacks on homosexuals and reproductive freedoms. Neither group appears much concerned about the economic future of 80% of Americans, or the environmental future of our planet.

Affinity Groups for Social Action

It is not situations that are hopeless, but rather people who feel hopeless because events have left them discouraged or disempowered. Yes, these are tough times, politically and economically … all the more reason for us “peace activists” to review and renew our sources of hope. Actions DO make a difference, as all of us can attest. What is very difficult – even impossible – is to take action, consistently, by oneself. We must BELONG to groups which inspire action, facilitate action, and support us as we take actions. What is also challenging is take actions which are effective in bringing about social change.

At the Peace House, we encourage everyone to join an existing group taking regular action for change … or start one. By taking regular action in concert with others in small affinity groups, we can feel a part of the larger movement for social change that motivates and inspires all of us. To me, taking action is the antidote to feeling hopeless. I must decide what actions to take, and I must decide “how much is enough.” Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone will find a way to take regular effective action for social change, our collective “somethings” will make it happen.

Indeed, at the Peace House we want to identify and communicate with affinity groups willing to affiliate with us. Contact us to list your group as an affinity groups affiliated with the Peace House. Perhaps we can offer advice, tips, suggestions, and alerts.

Batch presents a program titled “Healing the Break Between Citizens and Government” which addresses these issues and encourages affinity action groups. Imagine the impact if 100 such groups around the state were aligned in monthly actions for justice and peace. (Call the Peace House 405-524-5577 if interested in hearing more about this idea.)

An effective Affinity Group for Social Action has certain characteristics:
– meets at a regular time and place;
– has 5 to 12 members, one being the convener or facilitator;
– probably offers refreshments and/or snacks;
– shares identity with some larger group or groups;
– takes actions coordinated with a larger group: “action alerts;”
– develops accountability or “check in” systems on actions;
– develops measures of “success” based on actions taken;
– is intentional about fun as well as doing work.

It could be the “Social Justice Committee” at a house of worship, or a living room group which someone initiates.

Actions should focus on a “power center” in position to bring about the desired social change. Examples of power centers include the US Congress, large corporations, the media, religious denominations, the World Bank …. etc. etc. Actions are most often communications such as letters, calls, or faxes. Effective communications are short and specific: the action request should come first, and be crystal clear and achievable. If possible, follow-up communications are desirable to speak with someone who saw your request … or may need another copy of it. The squeaky wheel gets more grease. Emails are good if there is already a relationship with the person receiving the email. Congress members must receive thousands of emails, which may or may not get read. I like letters and calls.

The coming national elections in 2008 offer a huge opportunity to take action for social change. All US Reps are up for election every two years. US Senators are up for election every six years (Senator Jim Inhofe is up for election in November, 2008, and is challenged by State Senator Andrew Rice).

Whatever your issues or your candidates, social change requires more from us than that we “care,” and read lots of books and articles. Our passion for social change must be FELT by those in position to bring change about.

All the great social change movements – the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights – required struggle. Now we must struggle to bring the USA back on track … to become a nation working in concert with other nations for environmental sustainability, the elimination of the worst poverty and disease, for human rights and civil rights, for an economic sufficiency for all families, and for peace.

Hate Crimes Legislation Valuable

Clarification is needed to explain why hate crimes deserve special prosecution when some would argue that a crime is a crime, so why give special treatment to some groups.

All violent crimes are heinous but hate crimes are different. They target not only an individual but the entire population the individual represents. Hate crimes send a message to a population that it is in danger of similar acts of violence and hate.

Hate-crime laws emerged out of America’s outrage at the actions of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and others whose pleasure was to terrorize people they found unacceptable.

Our American sense of fairness is assaulted when someone of a particular religion or race is a target of hate violence simply because of who he or she is. Hate crime legislation communicates to the haters that society does not tolerate this behavior. Most Americans support national and state laws calling for prosecution of hate crimes.

It is a misunderstanding that such laws give special justice to certain groups. Many will recall the race riots in south central Los Angeles years ago and the appalling image on live TV of a white truck driver pulled from his vehicle and hit in the head with a chunk of concrete by a black man. Few will remember that the attacker was prosecuted under California’s hate-crimes law for his violence against the white driver. The language “on account of race” protects people of all races, just as “on account of religion” protects people of all religions.

Others ask how can we possibly interpret the perpetrator’s motivation? That issue is addressed every day in murder cases when prosecutors ask juries to determine whether a death was manslaughter or rises to the intention of first-degree or second-degree murder. The prosecution and sentence hinge on decisions about motivation.

Most hate crimes involve beatings or other acts of violence short of murder. A fistfight in a bar may be a crime but not a hate crime. Beating up someone because of race and writing racial epithets on their unconscious body would be a hate crime.

Violence against homosexuals has its own name as a sport called gay bashing. Police and prosecutors have, until recently, largely ignored violence against homosexuals. Indeed, historically, the police themselves have participated in violent raids on gay clubs to harass and intimidate gays.

Waking up to the injustice of hate violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, responsible citizens petition to have sexual orientation added to existing hate crime laws. Some 80 percent of Americans support adding sexual orientation to laws on the books.

Today’s opposition to hate-crime laws is new, appearing to be a tactic to avoid including language protecting people “regardless of sexual orientation.” Let the opponents be reminded that this language would also protect heterosexuals from marauding gangs of violent homosexuals.

Plunder

The arrival of Columbus in this hemisphere 500 years ago was not the beginning of exploitation in the world. Indeed exploitation and destruction of other cultures has yet to be recognized as evil. For many, the images of historic conquests, rape and pillage, connote swash-buckling adventures of courageous figures. Vikings, explorers and adventurers arriving at “new and foreign shores” are roles Hollywood has given to Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston , and Errol Flynn.

For the people who lived in this hemisphere, and Africans brought later, October 12, 1492 is a date that lives in infamy.

We hardly dare learn the truth of acts perpetrated by Europeans who justified “Manifest Destiny” as a right, even a duty to God. The heathens were subdued, converted to Christianity, swept aside, or put to work for the expansion and wealth of the dominant race.

Slowly, details are coming out as we overcome our resistance to know. In this, we define who we are. If we cannot ever fully acknowledge the sins committed, the hearts broken, the cultures wrecked, at least we can seek ways to say to the survivors, “I am sorry for what my ancestors did to yours. I am sorry for the continuing racism I have not yet expunged from my own heart. In memory of your ancestors, who suffered so much, let us work together to rid the world of the exploitation and plundering, which continue today.”

Are we ready to look under that rug, to find the dirt of racism, exploitation, pillage and conquest which continue today TO OUR OWN PRIVILEGED SPECIAL BENEFIT? Are we ready to know who sews our shirts in Guatemala, who picks our fruit in Mexico and California, our coffee in Columbia, who mines our copper in Chile, who assembles our NIKE’s in Indonesia?

William Sloane Coffin said justice is giving back to people what belongs to them. In the case of the indigenous people of this hemisphere, that is quite impossible. What we can do, in memory of those who suffered and died, and suffer and die today, is to join hands with all the survivors, indigenous, African, Asian, all, and pledge ourselves to end plunder here. At least we can use these lessons to being 500 years characterized by passion for justice, human dignity, and a deep love of diversity and peace. For the dead, we owe this much, and more.

How It’s Really Like Vietnam, Mr. President

September 1, 2007
Oklahoma Peace Strategy Newspaper

As one who lived through the Vietnam era, there are not many things said about that war that make me more angry than for someone to say “we just should have stayed to win—the only thing we did wrong was to leave too soon.” It’s not something you hear many people say anymore—it has been widely discredited. But last week President Bush, for the first time acknowledging any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, decided it was safe to repeat this in front of an audience of veterans, who were predisposed to applaud it. It was reassuring to hear the Sunday morning news/talk shows soundly trouncing President Bush’s assertion. Not only did the pols and pundits pan this idea but one news show stated they could not find a single historian to agree with this assessment.

I was a young woman at the time of Vietnam. We lost 55,000+ of our precious brothers, husbands, lovers, and classmates to that war. As with the Iraq war, it was not “getting out” that was the problem, it was the deeply flawed values and assumptions of the leadership in our country that led us to “getting in” in the first place. Here are some other ways the two are similar:

Then we were supposedly “fighting global communism;” today we are fighting global radical Islamists. In both instances, it was more about maintaining the prerogatives of global commerce than it was about democratic ideals.

Those who have lost loved ones were, and are, placed in the position of painfully assessing whether their dear one died for anything worthwhile at all. They died in service to their country. Some of them had a deep sense of duty; others just wanted help with a college education. And their country played fast and loose with their lives, as though it wasn’t really important to call on their willingness to serve as a precious resource to be used only in the most unavoidable of circumstances.

The country squandered then and is squandering now vast amounts of resources badly needed at home and around the globe. If this country had spent all the money it has thrown at this war in helping every Islamic country around the globe with food, water, medicine, and infrastructure instead of spending it on warfare, we would be safer than we are now. The only problem with this approach is that it would not “feed the monster” of the industrial-military complex.

There are indeed many vets who still believe we could have won the Vietnam war if we had “stayed the course.” (President Bush loves this phrase applied to the current war.) Many vets and their families need to believe this in order for their service to have been worth what it cost them. I knew a Vietnam vet who was on his way to killing himself with alcohol—every time he got drunk, he relived being a platoon leader who was assigned the task of capturing a particular hill. At the cost of all his men but one and himself, he did. Then a few days later it was deemed not important enough to keep holding. He was never able to recover or regain his balance. I have worked with many vets, some in drug and alcohol treatment programs, and the ones who seem to have regained their lives are the ones who are able to let go of the need for our country to be right and instead use the rest of their lives to give their own meaning to that experience. It seems apparent that the mental health cost for our current vets will also be lifelong and the services they are being and will be provided will be woefully inadequate as they have been in the past.

At the time of Vietnam, it took several years for a majority of the country to “get it” and oppose the war, although activists were opposing it from the outset. When it finally ended, 74% of the American people opposed that war. Unfortunately it has also taken a long time for a majority of the general public to oppose the Iraq war. At the time of any crisis, it is always tempting to do more of what one was already doing but with even more energy instead of ceasing to do those things that caused the crisis. But the old adage ‘when you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging’ applies. Instead of renewing our commitment to an already demonstrably failed policy, we need STOP DOING IT. Then we need to evaluate how we got and get ourselves into these situations in the first place so we can prevent them in the future. Write a letter today.

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