FeaturedNMSU lecture series about challenges facing democracy adds new speakers
New Mexico State University’s Department of Government added two events to its colloquium series titled “Democracy in Question?” The series that reflects on local, national and global implications of recent political events, began in February and will continue with four more presentations on Tuesdays through May 2, adding two new speakers on April 11 and 18.
“We had such a great response to the first lectures in the colloquium on this topic, we have organized additional speakers,” said Neil Harvey, NMSU government professor and department head in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are fortunate to have Ambassador Vasil Sikharulidze from Georgia on campus thanks to a Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program and we have added a presentation by Nancy Baker, government professor emerita, who has published extensively on the U.S. Attorney General, the Presidency and American politics. She will talk about the checks and balances at work in the Trump presidency.”
On April 11, Ambassador Vasil Sikharulidze, who has held a number of high ranking positions in Georgia, a country bordered by Russia, Turkey and Armenia. He is currently a Fulbright Visiting Scholar with the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Sikharulidze will give a presentation titled “Modern Times, Old Transatlantic Statecraft Quests: Security, Democracy and Economic Development.”
On April 18, Nancy Baker, government professor emerita, whose research has focused on law and politics in the executive branch, will present “Checks Unbalanced: Law, Power and the Trump Presidency.”
The series continues on April 4 with a presentation by Christa Slaton and Greg Butler, both NMSU professor of government, will present “Democracy in America: Myths, Realities and Possibilities.” Slaton’s research has focused on advancing democratic governance to create more transparency and trust in government. Butler’s research has focused on the history of American political thought and culture.
On May 2, Neal Rosendorf, NMSU associate professor in government and Yosef Lapid, NMSU Regents Professor emeritus in government, will present “Rethinking Global Politics and U.S. Foreign Relations.” Rosendorf’s research interests include modern U.S. foreign relations and international relations history and policy, public diplomacy, national reputation management, international public relations and “soft power.” Lapid’s research interests include theories of international relations, identity borders and security studies in the Middle East.
All lectures will be presented from 4-5 p.m. in Breland Hall, Room 179. They are free and open to the public. For directions and parking visit: https://park.nmsu.edu/
CommentaryThe mental limits of war
By Robert C. Koehler
A Morning Consult poll winks at me from my inbox: 57 percent of Americans support more airstrikes in Syria.
My eyeballs roll. Hopelessness permeates me, especially because I’m hardly surprised, but still . . . come on. This is nuts. The poll could be about the next move in a Call of Duty video game: 57 percent of Americans say destroy the zombies.
This is American exceptionalism in action. We have the right to be perpetual spectators. We have the right to “have an opinion” about whom the military should bomb next. It means nothing, except to those on the far end of the Great American Video Game, where the results are real.
But painful reality is only news when the media says it’s news. And that means it’s only news when the bad guys perpetrate it. This is because the Orwellian context in which we live is the context of perpetual war — not the old-fashioned kind of war, which required sacrifice and the occasional glorious death of loved ones (not to mention eventual victory or defeat), but modern, abstract war, with smart bombs and spectacular video footage and not much else, except opinion polls. And Trump’s ratings go up when he tosses 59 Tomahawk missiles — about a hundred million dollars’ worth — at a Syrian airfield. Money well spent!
Just that name: Tomahawk missiles. We stole it from the “enemy” we defeated when we conquered the continent.
And even the term “perpetual war” isn’t quite accurate. It’s simply what we do: the answer to all problems. It’s where our thinking stops, at least on cable news. For instance, during MSNBC’s post-bombing coverage last week, Chris Matthews began holding forth about the 2013 poison gas attack in Syria that killed hundreds of people. At one point he mentioned “the red line that Obama talked about in terms of Assad using chemical weapons, and he crossed that line and Obama didn`t do anything. . . . Is this president willing to do something that Obama wouldn`t do?”
Matthews’ words gave me a moment’s pause, not because I felt in any way defensive of Obama, whose presidency was a continuation of the Bush wars, but because, in the wake of the 2013 chemical weapons horror, Obama chose to let Russia talk Syrian President Assad into surrendering his chemical weapons stockpile to the U.S. military. The U.S. wound up destroying 600 metric tons of Syria’s chemical weapons over a six-week period, as the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity point out.
This is not the same as “doing nothing,” unless everything except a spasm of violent action falls into that category, which of course was the implication Matthews tossed to the American public with his comment. Such words, delivered in passing with a shrug, often have more power and resonance than deliberately articulated viewpoints, because they create an assumed, default reality. They don’t open the mind — certainly not to argument and debate — but, instead, quietly set our collective mental limits. Either you bomb something or you do nothing. What do you not understand about that?
This is just one such media moment out of gazillions. As media watchdog Will Bunch wrote about the post-bombing coverage:
“. . . the military brass made sure all of the TV networks were rapidly supplied with video of the Xbox-perfect launches from Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The reddish streaks of combustible fuel gave instant light and clarity to the muddled darkness of an Arabian night, and so they played over and over again on cable TV networks thirsty for pictures to illuminate the drama and importance of President Trump’s most high-profile military adventure since taking office. . . .
“The pundit class . . . had found their comfort zone, and the relief was palpable. Everybody knew their marks. Finally, unexpectedly but happily, they were putting on the show that they know how to produce.”
And so war consciousness, in all its simplistic glory, rules. Any uncertainty — did Assad really unleash the poison gas attack, when he had nothing to gain from doing so? — is dismissed without mention, no matter that the Syrian civil war is wickedly complex. This is just like it was in 2003, during the buildup to W’s invasion of Iraq to save the world from Saddam’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. The media’s military-sated groupthink has survived intact.
Bunch also noted: “Suddenly, cable TV’s well-paid squadron of retired generals appeared out of nowhere to bestow their blessing. (Has any network ever hired a retired peace activist as an analyst?)”
His parenthetical question is asked sardonically, of course, but the more I think about it the more my anger and frustration smolder. Our 24-7 news cycle has the plot of a B movie, with the good guy endlessly riding to the rescue with guns blazing.
Yet: “War and preparations for war accomplish nothing.” So reads a statement from Pax Christi USA. “The President’s decision to violate international law by this act of aggression, along with a lack of consultation from Congress, to launch missile attacks on Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons, adds to the years of crushing hardship experienced by the Syrian people. The solution to war is not more war. Retaliation will not bring justice or peace but only perpetuates death and injustice.”
Such an idea is not so hard to understand, but its national and geopolitical implications are overwhelmingly complex, and thus it is beyond the mental limits of the mainstream media, to the disservice of the public it serves and to the reckless endangerment of everyone’s future. In compensation, here’s another clip of the Tomahawk missile launching.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
LocalTemple Beth-El Fourth Annual Jewish Food and Folk Festival
Temple Beth-El will be holding its fourth annual Jewish Food and Folk Festival this Sunday, April 23, from 11am-3pm. The address is 3980 Sonoma Springs Avenue. The event will feature food such as knishes, pastrami sandwiches, falafel, kugel, chopped liver on bagel, as well as desserts such as chocolate babka and rugelach.
There will also be live klezmer music, vocal music from the singers of all ages from Temple, dancing with the Mesilla Valley Folk Dancers, a family fun area, bargain buys, and more. Please join us! It’s an event that offers a different experience for the Las Cruces area. If you have questions, call us at 524-3380.
EnvironmentSWEC: Prius winner, climate week, S&WCD election May 2
We have a winner!
Congratulations to Ruth Wheeler, of Placitas, NM. She is the lucky winner in SWEC’s 2017 Prius Raffle. Click here to learn more about her. We would like to thank EVERYONE who purchased a ticket in this year’s raffle. In doing so, you helped support SWEC’s work to protect and restore wildlife and wild places in the Southwest. You are all winners in our book!
Climate Week at SWEC
After the huge success of Earth Day and the March for Science over the weekend, SWEC is keeping the momentum going with a week of climate change events, culminating with the People’s Climate March, this Saturday, April 29. On Tuesday, April 25, NMSU’s Dr. Patricia Hoffman will present the Climate Reality Project, as part of our Tuesday Talk series. This presentation is the live version of former Vice President Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, and will be a great refresher of the current state of climate science. Click here for more information. Then on Friday, April 28, come by our office any time between 4 and 8pm to help make art for Saturday’s march. We have flags to paint, signs to write, and other art projects planned, all supplies provided. Click here for more information. And on Saturday, rally and march at the People’s Climate March, beginning at 10 am at Branigan Library (Picacho/Main). Please wear blue to represent water! Click here for more information or contact email@example.com.
Lobos in danger of losing federal protection
The Mexican gray wolf and other endangered species are under attack in Congress, and they need your help. Some elected officials are attaching sneaky “rider” amendments to a must-pass budget bill that would delist highly endangered Mexican wolves from Endangered Species Act protection. We are asking people to call your Senator today and throughout this week and tell them, “Endangered wolves deserved full ESA protection. Don’t support any delisting riders or other legislation that would weaken the Endangered Species Act.” Click here for Senators’ phone numbers and other information.
Important Election on May 2
If you live in the Las Cruces area, you should know that there is an important election next Tuesday, May 2 for two board seats on the Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation District. This little known entity is tasked with helping people care for our land, water and wildlife. Conservation districts in other parts of New Mexico and the U.S. have led the way in promoting rainwater harvesting, tree plantings and master naturalist programs. Click here for more information about the election and voting locations.
Not a member? Please join us! We speak for wildlife and wild places. We work to protect and restore vital habitats, like Otero Mesa, and endangered species, like the Mexican Gray Wolf. We’ve had more than 20 years of success and we cannot do it without our members. So please join us today by making a secure online donation! Call 575-522-5552 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
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