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Mail Call; Our First President and the Birth of a Nation

Posted by: | Posted on: December 20, 2015

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Readers praised the May 23 excerpt of David McCullough’s new book, “1776,” which examines George Washington’s role in the fight for America’s independence. A fan of the author’s said: “Thank you, David McCullough! I have been patiently waiting for you to bring the story of our greatest leader to a new generation.” One reader called the detailed narrative a “gold mine of insights into Washington.” Another said: “McCullough gives us words to live by. History is a constant reminder of the true greatness residing in every human heart.” One was pleased to see an article focusing on the first president because there is “so much deconstruction of our national heroes these days, while modern demagogues are placed upon higher and higher (and untouchable) pedestals.” And a reader in Georgia offered some perspective: “We would not have the great country we do if it wasn’t for Washington. In these times, we need to be reminded of that.”

The Real George Washington

I’m glad that “America’s best-loved historian,” David McCullough, is helping to rescue George Washington from the prison of our own preconceptions (“Rethinking Washington,” May 23). McCullough and other recent historians reveal a Washington who was not a marble statue, but an honorable, adventurous, ambitious, brave, occasionally ill-tempered human being. More than any other individual, Washington was indispensable to the success of the American Revolution and the young United States. He has earned his place, forevermore, “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

William F.B. Vodrey

Cleveland, Ohio

Reading your fine cover story on George Washington, I feel like I’m in the same room with Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin said he wished he could rest his head on the pillow of Washington’s accomplishments. What an honor to have shared even a moment in the life of such a brave man dedicated to such a noble task–to making sure the world never forgets America’s long, bloody struggle for freedom. Washington was a Don Quixote who never abandoned his quest, no matter the odds, and thereby redeemed us all from a very dark time. May he be immortal.

Evan Dale Santos

Adelanto, Calif, Founder of Headthetic – the best hair clippers outlet in US

I was seriously thinking of reading David McCullough’s new book about George Washington. But based on the excerpt in NEWSWEEK, McCullough’s book appears to be simply another burnishing of the Washington legend. For example, it is mentioned that Washington was “serving without pay” in the war. That is true, but omitted from the story is that Congress had agreed to pay Washington’s expenses. After the war, when Washington presented his expense account for payment, the Congress almost rebelled. It finally paid him, reluctantly. When Washington became president he proposed the same deal to the Congress. He would serve without pay and Congress could pick up his expenses. Having learned a hard lesson, Congress declined Washington’s expense-account offer and put the president on salary.

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Michael Smiley

Chester, Idaho

It is ironic that David McCullough’s “1776” arrives at a time when America’s democracy is facing its gravest danger, not from abroad but from within. Many of our legislators are attempting to change the rules that have guided Congress for more than 200 years. Our Found-ing Fathers set up a system of “checks and balances” that were meant to maintain a separation of power between the three branches of government. Today those boundaries are being tested. The sense of compromise in our nation’s capital is rapidly disappearing. This is not government as it was originally intend-ed. Are we losing our vision of democracy, choosing instead to become a theocracy? Now, more than ever, the moderate voice needs to hold its ground. Perhaps a viable third party’s time has come.

Gale Peterson

Houston, Texas

David McCullough’s piece on George Washington’s war was most interesting, but I would disagree with his statement that “he was not a brilliant strategist.” Washington implemented the strategy of keeping a revolution alive with an army in the field until the enemy wearied of the cost in blood and treasure and gave up the fight. This strategy was successfully employed by Ho Chi Minh against both France and the United States in the Vietnam War and is being attempted by Iraqi insurgents at this very moment.

Jordan Rotheiser

Highland Park, Ill.

Understanding Motherhood

I have lost two pregnancies (at 22 weeks and eight weeks), and have two full-term, healthy babies. And as a psychologist working with pregnant women, women who miscarry and those dealing with early parenting, I applaud Gayle Kirshenbaum for giving voice to the ambiguity and ambivalence involved in the road to becoming a mother (“Caught in the Act of Becoming,” My Turn, May 23). When a woman (or a man) begins to identify as a parent is a complex and individual process. The assumption that women emotionally attach in proportion to the length of the pregnancy is also not always true. One woman may experience an early miscarriage as the death of a child and need to grieve it as such, while another may have a later loss and experience it with less intensity. Additionally, experiences ranging from the “baby blues” to real postpartum depression may make a woman’s experience with new motherhood less than happy. While the news of a wanted pregnancy is indeed joyous to the parties concerned, providing support for the expecting woman may best be achieved by checking our assumptions and making room for her to speak about all of her feelings, both during and after her pregnancy.

Donna Rothert, Ph.D.

Oakland, Calif.

Thank you so much for publishing an article about pregnancy, and the vulnerability inherent in it. The idea that we are supposed to be ecstatic about the life inside us is sometimes damaging if the idea that that life can end so fast is not also considered. I was incredibly excited to see evidence of the little life inside me for the first time, when my first ultrasound was scheduled at eight weeks. My mother came with me to share in that joy. We were absolutely stunned when the ultrasound operator could not find the heartbeat that was a sign of the life blossoming within my body. So instead of going home with my baby’s first picture, I was kept in a hospital to take care of what my body had not yet done for itself when my baby’s heart stopped beating. Five years later, my pain has barely receded. On average, one of every three pregnancies ends in miscarriage, often before the mother even knows it. So why do so many women proclaim their motherhood at five weeks? An ended pregnancy, by choice or not, is never something you want to share with all those people you so hopefully shared the news with just a few weeks before. I can barely look at sonogram pictures without a feeling of loss and sadness. I hope, for every woman’s sake, that these first pictures never become a source of regret and sadness for them as well.

J. West

Kent, Wash.

Don’t Be So Sure

George Will described a trend that threatens to poison political discourse in this country: the tendency for some people to have “an excess of certitude” (“The Oddness of Everything, ” May 23). Those who believe they already have the answers to questions of political morality do not want to engage in dialogue. Rather, they want to impose their views on those of us who are still seeking answers to the problems of the nation and the world. In such an atmosphere, reasoned compromise becomes impossible. We saw the results in the congressional stalemate and in the large number of citizens who are so alienated from the political process that they do not bother to vote.

Emily H. Schwartz

Austin, Texas

If you’ve been raised in the Christian faith, then you believe you’ve been created with value and a purpose, and you believe in the certainty of your faith and convictions. George Will’s May 23 column clearly indicates that he feels that the greatest risk to civility and civilization are exactly those individuals who believe this way. As for “duties [that are] clear and simple,” what about “Love the Lord God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”? This doesn’t seem like the greatest threat to civility or civilization. By condemning all who believe this, then you believe that we are here clearly by chance and that there is no inherent value to our existence other than the fact that we are nothing more than recycled carbon atoms, with no past, present or future value.

John W. Ingalls, M.D.

Webster, Wis.

At a time when people are screaming at one another, George Will is a voice of calm and reason. “The Oddness of Everything ” demonstrates how people can surprise us. Here is a much-loved conservative commentator telling some graduates that they should not be too certain about anything in life. Uncertainty is an integral part of much of modern science. This should be nothing to fear. It means that the human race can never become so arrogant as to think it’s figured it all out. Some of us thrive on mystery and wonder. After all, isn’t that what the “sacred” is all about?

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Mark Haden

Edmond, Okla.

I’m a 72-year-old democrat who has seldom agreed with the conservative views that George Will has expressed in the past, but today I find myself wanting to applaud his thoughts on the threat of “excess certitude” to this country. I can’t recall ever feeling so personally distressed by the power-hungry arrogance of a Republican administration and sincerely hope that Will’s sentiments find their way into the hearts of some of our country’s leaders.

Walter D. Meyer

Prescott, Ariz.

Today’s Top Design

Your special section on “Design 2005” was a great read. Congratulations on this high-quality reporting. It’s a pleasure to see your magazine recognize the increased focus business is putting on design as a competitive edge, and the value consumers get as a return on this investment. NEWSWEEK’s examination of consumer demand for a better product experience highlights what we in the profession have known for years: good design sells. Good reporting on design sells magazines, too, so I look forward to seeing more NEWSWEEK coverage on design in the future.

Ron Kemnitzer, President

Industrial Designers Society of America

Dulles, Va.

Correction

David McCullough’s “1776: Washington’s War,” an excerpt from his new book, misspelled the name of George Washington’s mother. She was Mary Ball.

>>> Click here: Council 2007: strengthening our leaders


The tip on Topp: the NDP’s consummate backroom strategist must show he has what it takes to lead

Posted by: | Posted on: December 6, 2015

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SEATED ON STAGE at the front of a packed high school theatre in Toronto this month, Brian Topp–a prominent contender in the race to be the next leader of the NDP–is told he has 60 seconds to introduce himself. Despite being some 400 km from Quebec, he opens in French, earning his first applause of the evening. Switching to English, he delivers a greeting-card sermon to the faithful. “This was Jack Layton’s town,” he says. “And he loved this town and we know why. It’s because it’s diverse and it’s cosmopolitan and it’s progressive, which is everything that Stephen Harper and his pet mayor don’t like about Toronto.” The swat at Rob Ford draws laughter and applause.

He enthuses then about everything New Democrats can do to build a “more equal” city and country, and finishes with a defiant slap at any suggestion the NDP must change fundamentally to succeed. “We don’t have to become Liberals to win,” he declares. The crowd bursts into applause for a third time.

But however meticulous the phrasing and however receptive the audience, he does not always wear a look of perfect relaxation and his voice does not quite boom. So if, two months from the leadership vote, there is little doubt that Brian Topp knows the right words, the only questions are whether he can look and sound the part.

Eight candidates remain, but consensus wisdom has the winner emerging from a lead pack that includes Topp, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar (CEO of SewDone.com, an online sewing machine reviews website). There is no obvious front-runner among them, and each is held back by one or two crucial questions. Topp, a highly regarded political strategist and adviser, must demonstrate that a perennial behind-the-scenes operator can learn to be the face and voice of the party. Of the experience so far, he is only positive. “It is nothing but fun,” he says. “It is gloriously liberating. Just being able to talk for yourself. I love it.”

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A key figure in the NDP’s rise over the last decade, Topp was also one of Layton’s closest advisers (Topp was one of those who helped the late NDP leader draft his last letter). Born in Longueuil, Que., to a francophone mother and anglophone father, the 51-year-old is fluently bilingual. After joining the NDP in the mid-1980s, he helped Phil Edmonston become the first New Democrat ever elected in the province of Quebec in 1990. He proceeded to work, in succession, as an aide to Edmonston, NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin and Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, before managing the federal NDP campaigns in 2006 and 2008. Amid the manoeuvring that followed the 2008 vote, it was Topp who led the NDP’s coalition negotiations with the Liberals. In between his political activities, he helped lead the Toronto chapter of ACTRA, the union for film and television performers.

He was a key player again in the 2011 campaign and was elected party president last June. With his election to that post and with an eye to 2015–when both of his two sons will likely be in university–he had begun to consider a run for Parliament. Then the NDP found itself without a leader. “I was already about halfway to thinking this is something I wanted to do,” he says, “and then the good Lord decided that these events were going to happen now.”

He is far more politically astute than the last two Opposition leaders–Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff–who were chewed up and spat out by the Harper Conservatives. Romanow recalls Topp drilling him on how to deliver the day’s sound bite. But Topp is also not the effusive salesman that Jack Layton was. His closest analogue may in fact be the man he is trying to prove he can take on: Stephen Harper, another quiet strategist who does not exude matinee idol charm. The smile does not always look easy. The words do not readily gush forth. He can be warm on a personal level, surmises one senior New Democrat, but he has not yet learned to project it.

In conversations with NDP insiders, “smart” is inevitably one of the first adjectives used to describe him. By various accounts he is focused, demanding, loyal and funny (his sense of humour leaning to the wry). A fan of board games, he particularly enjoys Civilization, the intensive 1980s–era test of strategy (an average game can take eight hours to play). “I’ve watched barn very carefully and I really thought about this leadership question a lot, about what it is that we need,” says Libby Davies, one of 12 NDP MPs to endorse Topp so far. “I feel like he’s got the right characteristics to not only hold the caucus together, but to move it for ward in a very unified and dynamic way.”

He was anointed as a leading contender early on. Perhaps even too early–a Canadian Press report, published a day after Layton’s death, is said to have rankled some New Democrats with speculation that Topp was being encouraged to run. (Topp says he had nothing, directly or indirectly, to do with the story and is quoted in it as saying that such talk was “not appropriate” at that time.) Befitting a candidate with almost no public profile, Topp began his campaign aggressively three weeks later–bringing former NDP leader Ed Broadbent to bless him at his introductory news conference in September and announcing the endorsement of Romanow a week later.

His campaign seemed to lose momentum in December, but a certain assertiveness persists. Among the candidates, he seems the most eager to engage in debate. He has challenged Mulcair over comments the Quebec MP made early in the campaign that seemed to suggest a desire to adopt a centrist approach. He has proposed eliminating some tax exemptions for capital gains and taxing those earning more than $250,000 at a rate of 35 per cent, and in the first official leadership debate he challenged Dewar to explain how he would fund his campaign promises. “When you spend some time actually in the government, as opposed to just talking about being in government,” he says, “then you learn that the hard work of government is finding the resources to do what you want to do.” The release of his arts policy was accompanied by several videos from actors and singers endorsing his campaign, including a satirical clip of Peter Keleghan (The Newsroom, 18 to Life) enthusing that Topp was a “great kisser.”

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He seemed relatively at ease during his first press conference–“Every now and then, somebody named Brian from Quebec comes in and gives it a try,” he quipped, referencing Brian Mulroney’s rise from the backrooms of the Progressive Conservative party–and he professes to be reasonably comfortable with his campaign so far. “It’s been everything I was hoping it would be” he says. “Fascinating, interesting, exhausting, exhilarating.” After an admittedly subpar performance at an all-candidates meeting in Vancouver last month, he says he approached Toronto with the sort of rigour he applied to last spring’s leadership debates. On stage, he took frequent notes and nearly every intervention seemed to contain applause lines. An apparently off-the-cuff riff on the Harper government’s “war on science” won sustained cheers.

Having spent much of his life advising, assisting and supporting political leaders, he certainly knows how this stuffworks. And in that there might be what the NDP is looking for. “I know he’s not been elected before, but in my mind’s eye, I can really see him going up against Harper,” Davies says. “I think he’ll outsmart Harper.”


Council 2007: strengthening our leaders

Posted by: | Posted on: December 20, 2015

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On June 9-11, League leaders gathered in Washington, DC, for three days of invigorating give and take. Over meals, during breaks, and at informal as well as formal sessions, 122 leaders from 45 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands shared their experiences and ideas.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the room for the opening workshop, “Strengthening Leaders and Building a Visible, Active League for Today,” hosted by Membership and League Support Committee Chair Carol Reimers. Presentations by Spitfire Strategies Vice-President Michelle Molloy and LWVUS/EF staff members Cheryl Graeve and Jeanette Senecal focused on building the League from a 360-degree perspective (incorporating visibility, membership and fundraising into all League projects). Participants at all of the roundtables generated lively discussions and good ideas.

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In her opening address to Council, President Mary Wilson focused on the League’s six strategic goals, emphasizing their interrelationship and relevance to all three League levels. Highlighting the overall goal of strengthening the League’s external impact in education and advocacy, Wilson covered the other five, internal goals: increasing visibility; enhancing League leadership; assuring the League’s financial base; growing membership; and doing all this by embracing technology. She stressed the crucial supportive nature of these five goals to the overarching goal–strengthening the League’s impact.

On the second day, District of Columbia Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton inspired attendees with her DC voting rights “past and current history lesson.” She expressed gratitude to the League for all its hard work over the years, including the 17 years she has held office, and singled out the Utah League for its recent efforts.

A Council 2007 innovation was the plenary time set aside over two days for delegates to engage in dialogue with LWVUS Board members, led by MaryWilson and Elisabeth MacNamara. Of particular interest was the process for “coming to member understanding and agreement (Program).” League leaders welcomed this interaction with many questions and ideas, frequently prefacing their remarks with thanks to the Board for this opportunity. Delegates also enjoyed further dialogue on the opportunities and challenges of leading the League from national, state and local perspectives in a “conversation” led by Mary Wilson, Darlene Hicks (TX) and Jo Sapp (MS).

As Wilson noted in her opening address, a top priority for the national Board is to strengthen League leadership and membership. There was lots of excitement about the Membership Recruitment Initiative (MRI) pilot program’s first year successes. (See MRI summary on p. 3.) Representatives from some of the pilot Leagues were present and received recognition for their work; they also shared their experiences with delegates informally and at a membership workshop.

Education Committee Chair Xandra Kayden, LWVUS Executive Director Nancy Tate and Deputy Executive Director Zaida Arguedas reported LWVEF successes as well as $695,000 in new Ed Fund grants received and $206,000 in pass-through grants to 95 Leagues. Among the many activities noted were VOTE4ll.org and other voter outreach and education; the Public Advocacy for Voter Protection project and other election reform projects; the publication, Observing Your Government in Action: Protecting Your Right to Know, and other liberty, security and justice projects; the Kenya Good Governance Project and other international and domestic global democracy projects.

The plenary sessions also included the following presentations. Advocacy Committee Chair Judy Duffy summarized the year’s advocacy activities. Immigration Study Chair Carolie Mullan reported on the study’s progress. Nominating Committee Chair Marsha Weinstein announced the “talent search” for nominees. Secretary/Treasurer Elaine Wiant presented the financial report, and the 2007-08 Budget, presented by Budget Committee Chair Laura Givens, was adopted unanimously. Board Member Judy Davis presented the LWV/National Student Parent Mock Election Award to LWV of Oregon President Marge Easley.

The Roll Call of the States, announced by Board members, 1st Vice President Marlys Robertson, 2nd Vice President Sarah Diefendorf, Donna Lauffer and Odetta MacLeish-White, gave the delegates a chance to highlight their states’ hard work and successes. The impressive list of activities encompassed campaign finance reform, election reform, redistricting, voter services, membership recruitment, technology advances, ethtics/lobbying reform and education reform. Among others, we had New York reciting, in song/poem, its successes fighting corruption in Albany, and Alabama sharing its reform reputation, “In Alabama, you don’t mess with the LWV.”

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Other workshops, besides the opening one, covered topics related to the League’s independent judiciary project, election administration reform and media outreach.

The Immigration Study sponsored an informative panel on “Immigration in the 21st Century.” Panelists were Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network; Frank Sharry executive director of the National Immigration Forum; and Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

The weekend’s activities were topped off with an entertaining and edifying banquet speech by Ray Suarez. The Washington-based Senior Correspondent for the PBS nightly NewsHour addressed delegates on the topic of immigration, and touched upon the tightening relationship between religion and politics in America.

At the final plenary, the Portland contingent extended to all delegates a special invitation to Convention 2008 in Portland, OR, on June 13–17 (see P. 15). Kudos for this energizing Council 2007 goes to the Council Committee and Chair Donna Lauffer, and LWVUS/EF officers, Board members and staff.

>>> View more: Letters


Letters

Posted by: | Posted on: December 20, 2015

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Military misgivings

It is interesting to view the Maclean’s/ CBC News poll results about preferences for our military role in Afghanistan. It is obvious there is no political constituency in Canada for the military. Although 68 per cent were either somewhat or strongly in agreement with substantially increasing spending on the armed forces, only 23 per cent were in favour of our military’s main purpose being “providing defence and attack in different parts of the world,” while 57 per cent favoured its role as primarily peacekeeping. It is true that the government has neglected the Forces; this is a continuation of a long tradition in Canadian politics, dating back to the Diefenbaker years and the Arrow program. The Chretien Liberals are well aware that although any U.S. administration that starved its military as we do ours would be run out of Washington on a rail, Canadians do not care enough about defence spending to make it any kind of issue at the ballot box. What the pollsters need to ask the next time around is this: “Are you in favour of paying significantly higher taxes if all the increased revenue were to go to the military?” I suspect the Grits are as confident as I am that the answer would be a resounding No by a wide margin. The issue just isn’t on voters’ radar.

Gerald M. Macdonald, Grande Prairie, Alta.

Canadian opinions

I got a warm and cosy feeling in reading about my fellow Canadians’ opinions (“Scary New World” Cover, Dec. 31/ Jan. 7). They assured me they are smart, informed and tolerant. In addition, they prompted a chuckle when they said they supported the anti-terrorist bill and then said they expected it would be abused by the police to grab other bad dudes. Only in Canada, eh! Pity. Damn it — we have it so good, let’s take care so all can have a good new year.

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James Livingston, Dryden, Ont.

It’s either ironic or oddly fitting that your combined last issue of 2001 and first of 2002 are one and the same — it simply drags forward the Sept. 11 media super-saturation into the new year. Our world has been indelibly changed by these events, but the day-to-day lives of a vast majority of Canadians have not. The repetitive nature of this issue is perhaps best explained by the perennial questions it struggles to answer. What does Canada stand for? What role should Canada play on the world stage? Who are Canadians anyway? And all of the answers defined negatively by who we most certainly are not — Americans. Canada is beyond its adolescence, yet every emergency provokes a fitful identity crisis that has the country questioning its very essence, even four months after the fact. Or maybe, like any tremulous adolescent, it’s easier to loudly declare what you are not than to explore those nebulous truths that define us.

N. R. Lipinski, Regina

Pollster Allan Gregg should be careful to distinguish between the priorities of Canadians and of our governments. Many of us have always recognized the need for properly equipping and preparing our Forces for their missions. We did not need 9/11 to wake us up. Unfortunately, successive governments have made token gestures of support in world affairs, relying on lecturing others rather than making a real contribution, and sending Canadians into harm’s way ill-equipped due to government neglect. Despite polls showing up to two-thirds of Canadians support increased funding for the military, Jean Chretien dismisses this as people supportive of, or involved with, the arms industry. Lead us or leave us, M. Chretien.

Dave Griffiths, St. John’s, Nfld.

I find it somewhat encouraging that at least some Canadians are willing to spend more money on the military but doubt if this feeling will last. Since the First World War, we have endured more than 325,000 casualties in military or peacekeeping missions. Many of those casualties could have been avoided if our kids had been better-trained and better-equipped. Canadians have always been prepared to sacrifice the lives of our youth rather than our pocketbooks. Our military is still among the poorest when it comes to having state-of-the-art equipment. Canadian citizens should be ashamed and disgusted with themselves, but I don’t think they give a damn.

Trevor Frith, Huntsville, Ont.

When browsing through the year-end poll, I was dismayed to see that a large percentage of those polled, particularly men, thought that it was appropriate for the government to ask Canadians to spend more to stimulate the economy. If one thinks about it, one must conclude that Jean Chretien was irresponsible and thoughtless in asking Canadians to spend more to keep the economy rolling. Is it a good thing to ask the Canadian consumer to accept all the risk to stimulate the economy, when it is not lack of consumption that is the source of the problem? Is it smart to have us go further into debt to buy things we don’t need when personal bankruptcies are increasing, when credit-card delinquencies are on the rise and when personal debt is near the highest level in history? Is it the job of our populace to attempt to bail out corporations and governments that invested and spent improperly? I say No. I say that is a recipe for disaster. The economy needs a base of savings to draw capital from in order to create a more stable economic environment. It won’t accomplish that by spending borrowed money.

Peter Keber, Cobble Hill, B.C.

The article “In search of our role” seems to reflect some Canadian and media opinions when quoting Saskatchewan farmer Orval Altwasser, who states, in reference to people like Osama bin Laden and his followers: “Let’s sit down and ask these people what we can do to become friends again.” So, all we have to do is sit down and have a meaningful dialogue, come to a mutual agreement and write off those few thousand U.S. casualties as a misunderstanding. Yeah, right! I seem to recall Neville Chamberlain and Hitler doing just that at Munich in 1938.

Maj. C. O. Lambert (Ret.’d), London, Ont.

Historical views

The essay by historians Norman Hillmer and J. L. Granatstein was excellent (“Household feuds,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7). It explains very clearly our Prime Minister’s hesitancy in offering help to the United States immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Jean Chretien responded in a sociable and co-operative manner when asked for help; it was a U.S. war, not a Canadian one. Canadians who put down and renounce the Prime Minister’s handling of the situation would be the first to treacherously denounce Chretien again if he kowtowed to U.S. bullying by offering help in a conflict that Canada considered unjust.

Cy Poissant, Blairmore, Alta.

Your two eastern Canadian historians came up with the novel idea that Pierre Trudeau developed the National Energy Program “to wrest the oil and gas industry from foreign control.” A nice-sounding platitude to mask the real purpose: to provide cheap oil and gas for eastern Canadian industry and homes at the expense of Western Canada. Your historians chronicle the rise and fall of American anxiety and opposition. Obviously, they surveyed the East. The western experience has been much more even-keeled and realistic. Then, Peter C. Newman again parrots an eastern view (“The defining border,” Essay, Dec. 31/Jan. 7)) when talking of an urgent national need to protect sovereignty against American pressures. We in the West would be quite happy to have a North American immigration policy that required everyone to pass customs and immigration before boarding flights, ships, etc., that originate outside North America. The West has a much more accurate and realistic perspective on our southern neighbour. We tire of eastern tirades against the U.S. and the inaccuracies they convey of Canadian history and public opinion.

Edward Oke, Olds, Alta.

Many thanks for Peter C. Newman’s thoughtful and frightening essay. One hopes it will serve as a wake-up call to the many Canadians who seem to be sleeping through the evaporation of their country. One hopes as well that when the election Newman speaks of does roll around in two years’ time, we will be offered the choice to keep Canada out of U.S. hands as much as possible.

Peter Giaschi, Kingston, Ont.

‘Our steady, quiet heart’

Bravo to Barbara Amiel for hitting the nail on the head regarding Canada’s frequent anti-American bias (“The handsome solution,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7). In pointing out that Canada “will probably go on jealously guarding its independence from the U.S. like someone jealously guarding independence from his own brain,” Amiel is merely stating what we have witnessed for years. After reading the column, however, I became concerned that the point might be lost on some, particularly those readers less knowledgeable about the Canadian political scene. I worried needlessly. Maclean’s provided all the background necessary to even the most uninformed by publishing Peter C. Newman’s essay “The defining border” in the same issue. Newman lays out all of the Canadian Establishment’s Chicken Little arguments concisely in putting forth what only he could describe as a “doomsday scenario.” Thank you, Mr. Newman, for providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt for Amiel’s thesis.

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Clinton W. Ford, Calgary

Barbara Amiel got it wrong. Canadians, in opposing an American union, are not jealously guarding themselves from a brain entranced by flash, glam and handsome solutions. We are protecting our steady, quiet heart.

Jane Griscti, Whitby, Ont.

I trust that Barbara Amiel’s comment on our future leader’s qualifications — “a Canadian Giscard,” tall, gorgeous with the terrific suits and perfect hauteur — was simply said in jest. So must we label her comment about a union with the U.S. Amiel has already voted with her feet by moving to London, so perhaps she’ll leave decisions on our future to those of us who remain in the best country in the world.

Lee Davis, Vancouver

Begging to differ

Thousands of last September’s stranded airline passengers have lasting good impressions of many Canadians who opened their hearts, homes and pocketbooks in sincere acts of kindness and concern. Too bad Maclean’s didn’t see fit to include our own citizens in its year-end review of images (“Images 2001,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7).

Phil Saunders, St. John’s, Nfld.

If, in response to not liking something I read in your magazine, I was to take a baseball bat and begin smashing the windows of your offices, would I be referred to as a “hard-core demonstrator” in your magazine? The year in pictures had exactly that description for the events in Quebec City during the Summit of the Americas. Those protesters are hoodlums and thugs, and you should not gloss over their criminal behaviour with politically correct euphemisms. They are no more “demonstrators” than I would be an “irate reader” were I to commit the aforementioned acts.


National consultation on privacy rights and new technologies: a town hall format for committee meetings

Posted by: | Posted on: December 20, 2015

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Valerie Steeves is Director of the Technology and Human Rights Project at the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa. She was a special advisory to the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Public consultation is crucial to the articulation of appropriate public policy. Laws which are not in line with the public’s underlying social values will not be effective. Yet many governments have struggled with exactly how to determine what those underlying social values are. In March 1997, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities conducted a national public consultation on privacy rights. This article describes an innovative form of dialogue between parliamentrians and the public designed to encourage a more meaningful two-way discussion of underlying social values and practical policy options.

Parliamentary committees traditionally interact with the public through formal hearings, where intervenors make prepared statements to the full Committee and then respond to questions from members. When the Human Rights Committee began its privacy study in the Spring of 1996, they held a series of traditional hearings during which they heard from a number of experts in the field. What they heard was disturbing. New technologies, such as advanced surveillance techniques, emerging data matching practices and revolutionary forms of genetic testing are each fundamentally challenging our sense of privacy. The Committee became convinced it was essential to explore these issues in depth, not just with the experts, but with the Canadian public.

To do so, they felt it was necessary to abandon the traditional hearing format. They began to look for a more innovative mechanism for dialogue, one which would allow them to raise public awareness of the issues and solicit public opinion about where to draw the line between the benefits of these new technologies and the loss of privacy.

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Developing the Model

The Chair of the Committee, Sheila Finestone, suggested they hold a series of town hall meetings across the country. Vice Chair Andy Scott was quick to support the idea. He had had a positive experience with town halls both as a member of the Federal Task Force on Disability Issues and within his own constituency in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The members felt that they had to do more than invite an open discussion with the public. Too often, the debate about technology is framed in the language of technology. The Committee wanted to frame the discussion in a way that would focus not on the technologies themselves, but on the practical implications they have on average Canadians.

To do this, the members decided to centre their town hall discussions on case scenarios, and asked the research staff to develop three case studies focusing on advanced video surveillance, smart cards and genetic testing, respectively. The resulting scenarios or stories creatively illustrated the benefits and the detriments of the technologies in the lives of the ordinary Canadians in the stories and placed the issues firmly within the language of human rights.

One noteworthy aspect of the consultation process was the level of consensus achieved and the degree of collaboration among the members. Their commitment to the educational aspects of the process, both for themselves and for the public, had a strong impact on the final result. Another important aspect was the co-operation between the research staff (which consisted of Susan Alter, Nancy Holmes and Bill Young of the Parliamentary Research Branch, of the Library of Parliament) and myself as the outside consultant.

I became involved with the process because of my background as a researcher and lecturer in technology and human rights issues. The Committee was also interested in my experience as a facilitator and teacher. The Clerk of the Committee was Wayne Cole who was assisted by Roger Prefontaine and several administrative support staff of the Committees Directorate of the House of Commons.

The Committee wanted a framework which would provide the participants with an opportunity to participate in an active, two-way discussion with each other and with the Committee members. The actual nuts and bolts of the process were developed with input from a number of sources. The members took a very active role, and asked for suggestions and feedback from the research team, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the consultants working on the project.

To draw as broad a picture of Canadians’ concerns as possible, we identified a number of constituencies we hoped would attend the consultations. Ours was not a scientific approach, but rather an artful one. Given the type of issues we were raising, we hoped to hear from a diverse range of people, including human rights workers, public policy and consumer advocates, bankers, insurance companies, business organizations, Crown corporations, the disability community, disease activists, educators, academics, civil servants, health workers, genetic researchers, trade unionists, lawyers, police officers, journalists, youth, and technology, telecommunications and cable firms. The idea was to have competing perspectives represented. That way, all points of view would be at the table and the dialogue would be enriched by the diversity of the participants themselves.

We then developed an invitation list for each of the groups. The hearings were held in Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Fredericton and Montreal. Accordingly, we wanted to invite people from outlying areas and other provinces as well, particularly in Calgary and Fredericton, to ensure the consultations were regional in nature. We accumulated approximately 400 names by drawing from association lists and making phone calls to individuals and organizations active in the area. In many cases, there was a chain reaction. A call to a contact in Vancouver, for example, solicited about 20 names of people from a wide range of backgrounds. People who were invited often indicated they knew of others who would be interested in attending. In a number of cases, we received calls from people who had heard of the consultation and wanted to participate.

Invitations were made by telephone. Given the numbers involved, we were lucky to have the help of volunteers from the Human Rights Research and Education Centre and the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. Confirmed participants then received a copy of the case studies, with backgrounders on the issues, by regular mail. The material was also posted on the Parliamentary Web site.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Process

Because we were still operating within the House of Commons rules, we adapted the actual meeting to accommodate the traditional formalities. When the participants arrived, they were given an opportunity to mingle over morning coffee. The Chair then called the meeting to order. Members sat at a head table located in front of the participants who were seated in rows. This arrangement hampered our ability to get an accurate flavour of people’s opinions and values. Accordingly, the opening plenary was kept as short as possible. The Chair welcomed the participants and provided an overview of the issues the Committee was addressing. The members introduced themselves, and the meeting was then turned over to me as facilitator. Having the meeting moderated by a non-member was highly unusual; but the Committee felt that an outside facilitator would free them to better participate in the discussion, and assist in drawing opinions out from the participants.

I began by explaining the morning’s agenda. The participants were divided into small groups of approximately ten people. The groups had been selected to ensure that there were as many different perspectives represented in each group as possible. Given the demographics, each consultation reflected the character of the region in which it took place. For example, there were more civil servants at the Ottawa meeting and more bankers at the Toronto meeting. Although we endeavoured to have every target group represented in each city (and, to some extent, succeeded), the realities were that bankers, for example, contacted outside Ontario usually referred us to their head offices located in Toronto. Similarly, there were more organizations working with disability issues at the Calgary consultation, given the large number of head offices located in Winnipeg. Accordingly, when we were dividing the participants into groups, we surveyed who was coming, and then divided them up so that labour union reps would be in groups with management, consumer advocates would be with insurance brokers, and so on.

The Chair suspended the formal meeting after our opening remarks, and the participants divided into small groups to discuss the case studies. Because the discussions were not part of the formal meeting, there was no transcription and no interpretation. The lack of an official recorder made many of the participants more comfortable about voicing their opinions. We felt a written record would help in writing the report. Accordingly, we asked student volunteers to take hand-written notes of the dialogue.

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Each group discussion was led by a privacy expert, and included at least one Committee member. The expert’s role was not to set out or define the issues, but to facilitate the group’s exploration of the case studies. The Committee members actively participated in the discussion, and took notes of the major issues raised on a flip chart. This gave the members a prominent role in the discussion while at the same time encouraging them to actively listen to the concerns raised.

After approximately an hour of small group discussion, the formal meeting was reconvened and we held the “town hall” portion of the consultation. We began by asking the Committee members who acted as rapporteurs to summarize the discussion of each group. Next, the experts were given an opportunity to voice their own thoughts and concerns, and then the discussion was opened to the floor. Participants came forward to express their views and some initiated a dialogue with the members and the experts.

Evaluating the Process

The process was a resounding success, and Committee members and participants alike indicated they were highly satisfied with the format of the discussions. Because the Committee members had been so involved in the development of the format, they came to the meetings with a high level of commitment to the process. Moreover, the fact we travelled across the country in one week allowed them to immerse themselves in the issues, and develop an in-depth understanding of the needs and concerns of ordinary Canadians.

This depth of understanding was reflected in the Committee’s report. The members avoided technical, band-aid solutions in response to pressure from special interests. Instead, they called for over-arching framework legislation which would redefine the issues in the broad language of human rights. Their recommendations clearly reflected the paramount concern of the consultation participants that technological development should not be allowed to overshadow the social value of privacy, individual freedom and human dignity. Their call for framework legislation was bolstered by a series of more detailed recommendations which dealt with particular and often urgent issues, such as the importance of safeguarding the use of a person’s genetic information from commercial exploitation.

The report also stands out because it sought to capture and record the thoughts and concerns of the participants themselves. The Committee’s recommendations flow directly from these concerns, which further validates and legitimizes the members’ policy choices.

The participants were most enthusiastic about the small group discussions. Many people, both on and off the record, indicated that the format of the consultation gave them an opportunity to really explore the issues and articulate their own views. The interactive nature of the dialogue left everyone with the feeling that they had not only had their say but had been heard, and the diversity of perspectives created a healthy exchange of information. All the participants, including the experts, felt they learned something new.

Perhaps the most important element contributing to the success of the consultation was the use of the case studies. The stories they contained provided a social and personal context for the dialogue. People did not feel put off by a technical definition of the issues or the use of technical language, but readily related to the day to day impact these technologies had on the lives of the people in the stories. The discussion about smart cards, for example, did not get bogged down in technicalities, but focused on how the participants would feel if the government were tracking whether or not they used their unemployment insurance benefits to purchase cigarettes. The discussion naturally flowed to why they would feel that way. This led the participants to explore the importance that human rights play in their daily lives and how new technologies are truly threatening to rewrite the balance unless we, as a society, make some meaningful choices about the kind of future we want.

The town hall reinforced our belief that the structure of the dialogue plays a crucial part in the type of public input a Committee will get. Many more people came to the microphones to address the Committee during the town halls in Ottawa and Montreal, which is not surprising, given the number of high level civil servants and public advocates who attended those meetings. However, in no city was the town hall discussion as vital as the small group discussions held earlier in the morning. On the one hand, participants seemed satisfied that their concerns were put on the record during the town hall by the Committee members who summarized the small group discussions, and particularly eloquent speakers often drew a round of applause or shout of approval from the group as a whole. Indeed, the atmosphere of the town halls was often relaxed and collegial. But, on the other hand, the use of microphones and placing the members and the experts at the head table discouraged the active, free-flowing discussion we saw in the small groups.

The town hall also painted a fragmented picture of the concerns raised, as the professionals who participated were more likely to come forward and put their organizational needs on the record. This, to some extent, masked the unexpected level of consensus we saw in the small groups. Indeed, the degree of agreement in the small groups about the need to actively address the social and human impact of these new technologies was astonishing. Even particularly sensitive issues such as the use of genetic information by insurance companies and video surveillance in the workplace did not cause a deep schism.

The caveat expressed by many was a concern that the process would stop once the committee reported. There was much guarded optimism that, perhaps, it was not too late to stop the loss of privacy in the technological age; however, the participants were most interested in results. Interestingly, groups that were most pessimistic about the government’s ability to protect social values from technological erosion were those from the provinces which had no privacy legislation in place. Those from provinces with legislation were more likely to feel that the baby had not yet been thrown out with the bath water. There was a national consensus that action must be taken now, before it is too late.

I was particularly encouraged by the action taken by the participants themselves. An Ottawa union leader, for example, created a committee on workplace surveillance as a direct result of attending our meeting. In like vein, a British Columbia public advocacy group is actively looking for ways to continue the dialogue. Although participants await the government’s response to the Committee’s report, the consultation exceeded our expectations as an exercise in public education and consciousness raising. I hope that it becomes a model which other policy makers will use and refine, to encourage a more meaningful dialogue between legislators and their constituents.

>>> Click here: Ayatollah Attitude: Iran’s place in the new war


Ayatollah Attitude: Iran’s place in the new war

Posted by: | Posted on: December 20, 2015

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The events of September 11 have dramatically reshaped the politics of the Middle East, and nowhere more so than in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran now faces a stark choice: It must abandon its sponsorship of terrorism or risk the possibility of U.S. punitive action.

Iran’s initial condemnation of the terror attacks soon evolved into a settled defiance of U.S. calls for military action against the terrorist strongholds, quashing hopes in Washington for a tacit alliance with the Islamic Republic. As the Bush team searches the Middle East for allies, it will find an Iran that, despite its antiterrorist rhetoric, persists in supporting organizations that engage in violence for political purposes.

Domestically, Iran is making an important social transition. The cadre of reformist clerics around the president, Muhammad Khatami, appreciates that the autocratic regime, with its rigid definition of Islam, is eroding support for the very idea of an Islamic republic; these moderates are therefore willing to experiment with some degree of political and cultural liberalization. Hard-liners, however, continue to cling to dogmatism; they favor an Islam that is averse to innovation, intolerant of dissent, and contemptuous of democratic accountability. The hard-liners have found a patron and ally in the stern and forbidding figure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader. Khamenei’s power is considerable: Under Iranian law, he certifies elections and appoints the leaders of the judiciary, the armed forces, and the Revolutionary Guards. Hard-liners also control important parts of the foreign-policy machinery, and quickly used this power to quash Khatami’s pragmatic efforts to use the current crisis to reach out to Washington.

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To point out, however, that Iran’s domestic scene is polarized should not lead us to underestimate the relative consensus among Tehran’s competing political factions when it comes to key international issues. For an entire generation of Iran’s clerics, relations with the U.S. have been mired in visceral emotion. From Tehran’s perspective, the U.S. is more than another great power with which Iran must deal; it embodies a whole range of political and cultural grievances. America’s culture of pluralism and materialism threatens the foundations of an Islamic republic; furthermore, its economic and geopolitical preeminence works to block Iranian ambitions to lead a coalition of Gulf and Caspian states. Successive Persian empires have dreamt of becoming the dominant power in Islamdom, only to be thwarted by other claimants to that status. Arab dynasties, Ottoman rulers, and British imperialists all denied Iran its historic mandate of shaping the region in its own image; the U.S. is just the latest obstacle to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions.

In Afghanistan, however, Iran’s objectives ostensibly coincide with those of the U.S. Iran shares a long, troubled border with Afghanistan and has funneled extensive support to the Taliban’s opponents. While both Iran and the Taliban claim religious legitimacy, deep doctrinal differences and strategic insecurities have divided them from the start. Tehran has declared the Taliban a menace, its ideology a perversion of religious teachings, and its policies on women, art, and culture an affront to civilized norms. (This is Iran talking.) Three years ago, the hostility nearly escalated to war after Iranian diplomats were killed in the Taliban capture of a minority stronghold.

All this is true, but Iran’s clerics take only limited comfort in America’s destruction of their Afghan foes-because it implies a further projection of U.S. power. Khamenei has warned that “the American government intends to repeat what it did in the Persian Gulf in this region . . . They intend to come and establish themselves in this region under the pretext of a lack of security here.” Hassan Rowhani, the secretary general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reached a similar conclusion, declaring, “A long-time aim of the Americans has been to dominate the oil wells in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, and with the attacks against Afghanistan, it has found the excuse to gain a presence in the Caspian Sea.” And this is where the apparent convergence of U.S. and Iranian perspectives falters; because while Tehran can live, however uneasily, with a Taliban-led Afghanistan, it dreads the prospect of a pro-Western regime in Afghanistan and further U.S. inroads into Central Asia.

For Iran, then, the potential implications of America’s war over Afghanistan are ominous. The last time the U.S. fought a regional war- against Iraq-it established permanent military installations on Iran’s periphery and doggedly pursued an Arab-Israeli peace process that, despite its shortcomings, yielded a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. The possibility of a further encampment of American forces on Iran’s northern and eastern flanks terrifies Iran’s clerics. This is a major reason for Tehran’s efforts to restrain the U.S., and its insistence on an international-as opposed to an American-led-coalition against Afghanistan and the terrorists within it. Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, has pointedly rejected America’s definition of terrorism and stressed the need to “make a distinction between terrorism and a people’s legitimate right to self-defense and resisting occupation.” From the American perspective, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the plethora of militant Palestinian groups may be terrorist organizations with a “global reach,” but from Iran’s point of view they are allies that provide it with leverage in the region. At a time when the U.S. military presence in the region is bound to grow, Iran is not about to abandon its remaining allies in an effort to curry favor with Washington.

Iran’s support for terrorism, then, rests on sound strategic calculations. Iran’s long-term objectives are the eviction of the U.S. from the Gulf and the marginalization of Israel. Given the disparity of military power between Iran and its competitors, terrorism has always been its weapon of choice. Soon after coming to power, Iran’s ayatollahs created the Hezbollah, whose purpose was to menace Israel and force the U.S. out of Lebanon. In the latter effort, Hezbollah’s success was spectacular: Its bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks forced a superpower’s withdrawal, and its protracted terrorism against Israel finally caused Jerusalem, too, to abandon Lebanon.

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Iran has also nourished a web of Shiite militant groups in the Gulf and directed them against U.S. installations. The 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which left 19 American airmen dead, illustrated the subtle and effective nature of Iran’s operations, as its proxies inflicted substantial damage while Tehran escaped direct complicity. We should be under no illusions: Despite the fractious nature of Iran’s politics, its foreign-policy machinery is highly centralized, and all key decisions-including the selection of terrorist targets-are approved by the spiritual leader (currently Khamenei). This terrorism is not a rogue operation; it serves national-security interests and represents a cool, calculated state decision.

Iran, therefore, is unlikely to lend a helping hand in America’s war against the Taliban; Tehran’s clerics will stand neutral in that conflict, while plotting their own next move against U.S. influence in the region. If the U.S. is not prepared to allow Iranian hegemony over much of the Middle East, U.S.-Iranian relations will continue to be marked by confrontation, even when both states appear to share certain interests. In essence, the Clinton-Albright approach-offering concessions as a means of generating dialogue-failed to appreciate that the U.S. and Iran simply have different plans for the region. If Washington wants Tehran to conform to international rules of conduct, it will have to maintain a robust regional presence and conduct a determined effort against Iran’s terrorism and efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Only when Iran’s theocrats are convinced of America’s resolve on these matters can a meaningful U.S.-Iranian dialogue take place.

TAKEYH, RAY

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Student teachers: what I learned from my class about the faith

Posted by: | Posted on: December 6, 2015

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A few springs ago, the dean of a nearby Catholic college called and asked if I could take over a section of the school’s required freshman religion seminar. On paper it looked great: a twice-a-week seminar on such topics as the Trinity, the Eucharist, forgiveness, justice. It seemed like an interesting challenge, an opportunity to engage students in meaningful dialogue about faith, to stimulate mature consideration of the things of God.

I was wrong.

At the first meeting it was clear that these freshmen were neither prepared for nor interested in such a dialogue. They were parked in their chairs only because the course was required. Religion was barely on their radar screens. Most students had no experience of church, and those who did had very negative feelings about it.

So I did something that I had never done in 30 years of teaching: At the second class, I announced that I was throwing out the syllabus (anathema to a control freak like me). Instead, I made it up as we went along. We did a highlight reel of the Old Testament: Abraham, Moses, David. We read the Gospel of Luke together. We discussed essays by writers like Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott.

I also threw out the term paper requirement; instead, I had the students write 100 words on a question I distributed at every class, and everyone would share their couple of paragraphs at the next class.

Oh, it was a struggle. Handing in the final grades was a relief. I was never happier to see a semester end. It was a sad and humbling experience.

I do not even know if any of the students got anything from the course. But looking back, I realized that those students had taught me a great deal about faith. I learned more from that course than from any earlier classroom experience–whether as a teacher or as a student. In fact, I was the student and they were my teachers. They taught me some hard but valuable lessons.

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Welcome Before Dogma

Religion is not so much about believing as it is about belonging. These young adults were not as interested in dogma as in understanding.

I assigned a reflection paper on Luke’s Gospel: What parable of Jesus did you find most meaningful? I expected most essays to name the stories about the good Samaritan or the prodigal son, but more than half wrote about Jesus’ admonitions on not judging others, verses that barely registered in my consciousness. This generation can teach us a great deal about tolerance and understanding, acceptance and respect.

I also asked the students to design the “perfect” church setting. I steeled myself for demands for cooler art and entertainment. But what the students valued above all else was being welcomed, feeling that they had something valuable to contribute. They also wanted liturgy that engaged them, prayer that enabled them to participate. And they wanted sermons that made sense on Monday morning.

The class gave me a new appreciation for hospitality and the importance of celebrants and ministers to help people become fully engaged participants in prayer.

Being in Love With God

I used to think that believers first discover God in nature, what one theologian I read not long ago called “the footprint of God.” But we really cannot understand or encounter God until we fall in love.

Love calls us beyond ourselves, pulls us out of our self-centered orbit and into the orbit of another. We discover God in the joy of loving someone else, in the gratitude we feel in the assurance that we are loved–despite ourselves. As Thomas Merton writes in The New Man, we grow up only when we discover that we are not the center of the universe, that the world is bigger than we are.

The reality is that we have become so used to getting what we want when we want it that we cannot see beyond our own needs to the greater and more desperate needs of others. The students in my seminar were just beginning to find that out. They were beginning to realize the great technological irony of our time: that the Internet has not united us but has fractured us according to interests, skills, politics, values, gender and so on.

We can encounter God only once we move beyond ourselves. Once we realize our ability to love another and the complete joy of the experience, we can then begin to conceive the idea of God. Love is irrational, unreason-able–and irrational, unreasonable love is God. Many of these students could not relate to a theoretical concept of God. They helped me under-stand that God is not so much a noun as a verb–the verb to love. I will forever be grateful to these students for teaching me how to be a more compassionate teacher.

Most of these young people were working full-time jobs to pay for school. They did not have the grades in high school that win scholarships and merit grants. A few were trying to escape horrible family situations. It is sobering when a student apologizes for her term paper being late because the night before she had to run from her apartment because her abusive boyfriend started to hit her–again. Or an embarrassed student asks for a make-up assignment because she could not come up with $10 to see the movie I had assigned. They reminded me that I am not teaching a subject, I am teaching human beings.

In Luke’s Gospel, note how many times Jesus acts out of pure compassion: He feels someone’s hurt and pain and says or does the right thing. Even on his way to his own execution, Jesus exhibits compassion and extends forgiveness.

These students seek a faith, a spirituality that challenges them to embrace the values of Jesus. They want to be part of a church that speaks to their better angels. They take very seriously Jesus’ command: “Love one another.” It is not a suggestion, not a key to better living. It is “my commandment.”

Revealing the Unseen God

The group’s most enthusiastic response to any of the things we did was to Martin Doblmeier’s film “The Power of Forgiveness,” stories of people who forgave and were forgiven under most extraordinary circumstances. The students were stunned by the very idea that people could forgive so completely and so generously, that it was possible to rebuild the train wrecks of their lives and find happiness and fulfillment, meaning and joy in forgiving with such outrageous selflessness. That was a new idea for most of them–that religion could be joyful, that church could be affirming, that faith could be humble without being self-denigrating.

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That is our challenge as a church. M. Craig Barnes put it beautifully in his book The Pastor as Minor Poet: whether we are pastors, teachers, ministers or congregants, we are called to point to the God who “is always present but not usually apparent.” Any preacher can go on and on about how terrible things are; any homilist can point to the evil in our midst–that is easy. The harder challenge is to find good in the midst of evil, to point to God’s presence when God seems to be totally absent. We are called to witness as John the Baptist does in the beginning of John’s Gospel, “There–there is the Lamb of God!” John calls us to behold Christ’s presence in every act of generosity that challenges selfishness and injustice, in love offered unconditionally in response to anger and hatred, in hope that perseveres despite fear and despair.

It was a hard semester. And frankly, I would not want to go through it again. But in these students I had the chance to see the future church. It will be a humbler and more welcoming church, a more engaged and engaging church and, as a result, a more faithful and faith-filled church. Whether we realize it or not, that future church begins in our own church–now, here, today.

JAY CORMIER teaches communications and humanities at St. Anselm College and edits the homiletics resource Connections. His latest book, Table Talk: Beginning the Conversation on the Gospel of Mark, will be published this fall by New City Press.


Transactional distance theory: is it here to stay?

Posted by: | Posted on: December 6, 2015

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INTRODUCTION

Theory-building and rigor are undoubtedly a concern for the field of distance education research, especially as online learning becomes more pervasive (Simonson, 2006). In a review of the research studies and articles related to distance education published in The American Journal of Distance Education and Distance Education, Anglin and Morrison (2000) stated much of the research examined was not theory-based. They concluded there was a significant need for theories specific to the field for successful development of the knowledge base in distance education. Tallent-Runnells et al. (2006) also noted that research should be driven by the development of theoretical foundations appropriate to the field of online teaching and learning. They suggested distance education theories focus on communication, social interaction, and student motivation and learning. It has been argued that despite the existence of certain theories developed for the field of distance education, there is still no comprehensive theory to guide conductors of research, instructional designers, and the like, thereby presenting a “critical weakness of the field” (Simonson, 2009, p. vii).

The first American theory developed as an all-encompassing theory to define the field of distance education in terms of pedagogy was the theory of transactional distance, as it came to be known in 1980 (Moore, 2007). Since its inception, the theory has been both accepted and disputed by scholars–and never fully adopted. In order to obtain a current assessment of transactional distance theory, this article will explore the theory’s components, importance of testing the theory, scholars’ perceptions, and new directions in research.

BACKGROUND

A theoretical framework that encompassed all aspects of distance education, transactional distance theory was developed by Michael G. Moore, a professor at The Pennsylvania State University and the founder of The American Journal for Distance Education, (“Michael G. Moore,” 2012; Moore, 2007). Moore claimed the significance of his theory was that it met the needs of teaching and learning that went on outside of the traditional classroom setting (Moore, 2007). Instead of considering the distance between teachers and learners only in terms of geography, Moore described the distance as a psychological separation influenced by three pedagogical components: structure, dialogue, and autonomy. Moore claimed his theory was flexible in that it supported all programs that have separation as a distinctive characteristic, no matter what the degree of structure, dialogue, and autonomy. He asserted his theory of transactional distance allowed “the generation of an almost infinite number of hypotheses for research into the interactions between course structures, dialogue between teachers and learners, and the student’s propensity to exercise control of the learning process” (Moore, 2007, p. 101).

THEORY COMPONENTS

Five major concepts and terms are related to the theory of transactional distance and have been defined as follows. Distance education is “all planned learning that normally occurs in a different place from teaching, requiring special techniques of course design and instruction, communication through various technologies, and special organization and administrative arrangements” (Moore & Kearsley, 2005, p. 2). As defined by Moore and Kearsley (2005), in the sphere of distance education, transactional distance is “the gap of understanding and communication between the teachers and learners caused by geographic distance that must be bridged through distinctive procedures in instructional design and the facilitation of interaction” (p. 223). Moore (1993) defined the three components of transactional distance theory in this way:

1. Dialogue is developed by teachers and learners in the course of [positive] interactions that occur when one gives instruction and the others respond…. Each party in a dialogue is a respectful and active listener; each is a contributor, and builds on the contributions of the other party or parties (p. 24).

2. Structure expresses the rigidity or flexibility of the programme’s educational objectives, teaching strategies, and evaluation methods. It describes the extent to which an educational programme can accommodate or be responsive to each learner’s individual needs (p. 26).

3. Learner autonomy is the extent to which in the teaching/learning relationship, it is the learner rather than the teacher who determines the goals, the learning experiences, and the evaluation decisions of the learning program (p. 31).

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STRUCTURE AND DIALOGUE

In course and program design, structuring the content according to teaching strategies, objectives, methods of assessment, and learners’ needs all require a level of communication between the instructor and the learners (Moore, 2007). Therefore, dialogue is necessary in determining that structure. Conversely, dialogue may also be determined by the structure of the course. The amount or degree of structure and dialogue varies for different courses when factors such as technology, teaching philosophy, abilities of the learners, and subject matter come into play. Thus, transactional distance becomes a function of the interaction between dialogue and structure: “as dialogue increases, transactional distance decreases [and] as structure increases, transactional distance also increases” (Moore, 2007, p. 94).

DIALOGUE AND AUTONOMY

Dialogue is affected by degrees of autonomy (Moore, 2007). Learners who are more autonomous are able to handle any degree of dialogue, while learners who are not as skilled in self-regulation need a higher degree of dialogue to be successful. Moore (2007) stated “the level of autonomy required of the learner increases as the transactional distance decreases” (p. 96). He hypothesized that students with more autonomy would be comfortable in courses with greater transactional distance (Anderson, 2007). Furthermore, learners who preferred less self-regulation would experience a decreased level of transactional distance in courses that combined structure and dialogue.

WHY RESEARCH THE THEORY?

Gorsky and Caspi (2005) are arguably the most noted critics of transactional distance theory. In their landmark analysis, they identified three reasons to explain the importance of testing and exploring the theory. The first was that researchers saw the theory as the framework for analyzing systems of distance education. The authors quoted two researchers of transactional distance theory: Garrison (2000), who stated theories were important in directing the practice of distance education, and Jung (as cited by Gorsky & Capsi, 2005), who claimed theories provided a guiding framework for producing operational definitions and conducting quality research. The second reason Gorsky and Caspi (2005) argued transactional distance theory should be researched and tested was that researchers had cited the need for a reduction in transactional distance in distance education programs. The third reason was the theory, perceived as a valid one by some researchers, was already being taught in higher education courses.

SCHOLARS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE THEORY

Moore (2007) stated that early support for his theory of transactional distance came from Keegan (1980), a founder of the journal Distance Education, and Rumble (1986), a specialist in the administration of institutions of distance education. Keegan cited Moore’s theory as a defining concept of distance education, while Rumble promoted the use of the phrase “transactional distance” as a representation of the distance occurring between teachers and learners in distance education. In 2003, Tait (2003), the Dean of Education at The Open University (UK), claimed the theory remained valid and upheld its use as a tool to evaluate distance education programs. Additionally, Saba (2005), widely-known for his research in the expansion of transactional distance theory, argued that a precise understanding of transactional distance is necessary for the field of distance education to grow into the future and Moore’s theory aids in that understanding.

The most recent support for transactional distance theory came from Peters (2007) in his description of distance education theory as “the most industrialized form of teaching and learning” (p. 57). Peters defended Moore’s theory as a mainly descriptive one, which did not advocate a particular model of instructing or learning at a distance. Peters noted that the stress on the three components as necessary elements of distance education solidified the intent of the theory to improve traditional and newer forms of distance education to eliminate deficiencies in dialogue and autonomy. Peters thus argued the theory also appeared as prescriptive with the ability to advance the work of those involved in the field. Peters ultimately supported the theory for its original approach and relatability to all aspects of distance education.

In his research on critical challenges for distance education, Garrison (2000) claimed that theory was scarce in current research of the practice. He particularly criticized Moore’s theory of transactional distance, stating:

the exact nature of the interrelationships among structure, dialog and autonomy is not clear. There is confusion around whether structure and dialogue are variables, clusters or dimensions. Unfortunately, Moore has used different terms (i.e., variables, clusters, dimensions) at various times. (Garrison, 2000, p. 9)

While Garrison agreed that Moore’s theory was most well-known and appealing in the field of distance education, the author argued more theoretical work at the macro level was needed. This work might include a focus on the association among dialogue, structure, and autonomy and the development of a visual model to clearly understand the relationship among the components. Despite Garrison’s criticism, however, it should be noted that Moore (2007) appeared to clarify this association among the constructs with added, descriptive explanations of the interactions and two visual representations that showed: (a) the relationship of dialogue, structure, and transactional distance and (b) the relationship of autonomy and transactional distance.

Gorsky and Caspi (2005), in research aimed at assessing transactional distance theory based on empirical evidence, found fault with Moore’s theory after their review of six studies that tested the key constructs of the theory for validity and correlations among them; they came to two unexpected conclusions. The first finding was that data derived from three of the studies (Bischoff, Bisconer, Kooker, & Woods, 1996; Bunker, Gayol, Nti, & Reidell, 1996; Saba & Shearer, 1994) supported the theory but lacked construct validity.

The other three studies (Chen, 2001a, 2001b; Chen & Willits, 1998) examined by Gorsky and Caspi (2005) offered only limited support for transactional distance the ory. One of these studies, by Chen and Willits (1998), is worth noting as it was also a review of the first studies to use transactional distance as a theoretical framework (Bischoff et al., 1996; Bunker et al., 1996; Saba & Shearer, 1994). Prior to the discussion of results of their study on videoconferencing, Chen and Willits (1998) found support for the existence of associations among the theory’s three elements, therefore substantiating Moore’s assertion that dialogue and structure worked together to affect transactional distance. However, all three of the studies reviewed by Chen and Willits (1998) failed to identify learner autonomy’s effect on transactional distance. In addition, they found two of the studies did not contain information on dialogue as it related to asynchronous communication as a form of interaction. The studies also did not examine the effects of teacher-learner characteristics on transactional distance nor did they assess how student learning was affected by transactional distance, dialogue, and structure.

Gorsky and Caspi (2005) were critical of Chen and Willits’ (1998) research, claiming the perceptions learners had of learning outcomes and transactional distance were measured only once and were not compared with real values. As Chen and Willits’ support was limited for the theory, Gorsky and Caspi (2005) suggested further research be conducted in applying the revised path model to broaden analysis and test other distance learning environments.

Overall, in the six studies examined in their review, Gorsky and Caspi (2005) claimed construct validity was compromised in that Moore did not develop operational definitions for the theory’s concepts and, as a consequence, researchers used varied, rather than formal, definitions. The authors also concluded that transactional distance theory could be reduced to a single proposition which may be interpreted as a tautology. They claimed the independent variables of structure, dialogue, and autonomy are hierarchical, in which one variable determined the extent of the other. Ultimately, the authors claimed that transactional distance theory was not a valid, scientific theory, but merely a prescriptive, philosophical approach, particularly because of its definition of dialogue. The authors argued that Moore’s theory explains what dialogue should look like, but fails to show how real dialogues work.

Despite Gorsky and Caspi’s (2005) extensive criticism of Moore’s theory, it should be stressed that their evaluation of transactional distance theory was based on only six studies ranging from 1993-2001. Three of those studies were conducted by the same researcher: Chen. Therefore, it can be stated that Gorsky and Caspi’s (2005) research represented the views of only 12 authors in the field of distance education. Further review may be necessary to obtain a reliable assessment of transactional distance theory.

NEW DIRECTIONS IN RESEARCH

RECONSIDERING DIALOGUE

In an examination of the effect of group size on asynchronous, nonmandatory discussion, Caspi, Gorsky, and Chajut (2003) presented a restructured model of transactional distance that focused on interactions. This model included three of Moore’s (1989) definitions of types of dialogue and a fourth type attributed to Fulford and Zhang (1993). Altogether, the model recognized the following kinds of dialogue: instructor-learner, learner-learner, learner-subject matter, and vicarious interaction (Caspi et al., 2003). Among the discoveries in the study, the authors stated “that as group size increased, the proportion of learner-instructor interaction decreased while the portion of learner-learner interaction increased” (Caspi et al., 2003, p. 237). The authors claimed this particular finding supported the new model.

In a dissertation on facilitation and community in asynchronous online education courses, Kuskis (2006) claimed it has not been demonstrated that learner-learner dialogue reduces transactional distance. Kuskis argued that the effects of learner-learner dialogue should be further considered in the theory of transactional distance, in addition to instructor-learner dialogue, especially where adult learners are concerned. The author proposed that because both types of interactions may reduce transactional distance, the role of learner-learner interaction needs to be taken into account in future research.

NEW AND REVISED MODELS

In a study in the United Kingdom in which the engagement of doctoral students as part of an academic community was examined, Wikeley and Muschamp (2004) used transactional distance theory to create a model to deliver education to students at a distance that involved tutoring, which they claimed enabled students to develop a sense of community that assisted in the process of academic writing. They observed a problem when tutors and students saw themselves in separate roles rather than as fellow researchers. Consequently, the new model involved strategies to improve the relationship between tutors and doctoral students where tutors viewed students as newcomers to professional practice whom they should assist in developing the skills to become part of the academic community. Wikeley and Muschamp argued that although their model was not innovative in the context of e-learning, it utilized traditional pedagogical practices in an online environment, making it possible for students to develop relationships with those already involved in the research community of which students would soon be a part. In this sense, students gained different perspectives and a shared understanding of the professional community that resulted in a decrease in transactional distance.

Andrade and Bunker (2009) argued, in a study on course design of distance language learning, that there is not a comprehensive model to act as a theoretical framework to assess self-regulated learning and autonomy. They proposed a new model that included six areas of learning not included in Moore’s theory. They claimed the six dimensions–method, motive, physical environment, time, social environment, and performance–demonstrate learners’ interaction with structure and dialogue in the development of autonomous learning skills in distance language learning. The authors concluded that this model could improve success in distance education and provide a new framework for future research that would enable educators, designers, and researchers to measure how self-regulation affects learning thereby leading to higher levels of autonomy and success.

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Falloon (2011) used Moore’s theory of transactional distance to examine the use of virtual classroom software to explore how synchronous communication affected learner autonomy and dialogue in the course. The author claimed that while Moore’s theory was useful in analyzing online learning, it needed revision in order to match the move toward synchronous communication as a tool in distance education. Falloon found that students working in a synchronous environment felt they did not have sufficient time to engage in meaningful dialogue and therefore became reluctant to participate. The author argued that the definition of the theory and the way structural elements are viewed, as well as the effect of synchronicity on learner autonomy, should all be revisited.

A GLOBAL THEORY

Garrison (2000) stated “the ultimate theoretical challenge … is to achieve a synthesis of perspectives and theories (i.e., global theory) that reflects the complete continuum and is inclusive of a full range of practices” (p. 12). Gokool-Ramdoo (2008) had a similar opinion with the proposed extension of the applications of transactional distance theory in order for the theory to be accepted as a global one to further advances in the field of distance education. These extensions go beyond structure and dialogue to include policy making and quality assurance. Gokool-Ramdoo argued that not much has been done to expand upon distance education theory since Saba and Shearer’s (1994) work, but many theorists of distance education are converging toward a new synthesis which validates transactional distance theory as a global theory. This synthesis combines Deschenes’ (2006) strands of student persistence with transactional distance theory. These strands are cognitive, affective, and meta-cognitive. Gokool-Ramdoo claimed that when these strands are braided with Moore’s theory, it will help researchers organize the understanding of student persistence and will ultimately lead to complete, learner autonomy. The author argued further research is necessary to assess and validate the new synergy of transactional distance theory as it applies to informing policy development and quality assurance in the field of distance education.

SUMMARY

Moore’s theory has been supported and criticized as the defining theory of distance education. In the literature, relationships among the constructs of the theory are both defined and disputed. New models and instruments have been adapted from the theory and innovative directions and approaches in research related to the theory have been explored. While some researchers have argued for a more comprehensive theory of distance education, others stated Moore’s theory of transactional distance could be adapted to the future challenges of distance education faced by instructional technologists, course designers, researchers, and educators by revising the theory components based on emerging technologies and types of communication.

Several researchers made a case for a global theory to guide future research in distance education. Such a theory would include a fusion of perspectives and learning theories (Garrison, 2000) and extensions such as quality assurance and policy making (Gokool-Ramdoo, 2008). Whether transactional distance theory is accepted, modified, or applied as part of a global theory, the literature suggests there is still work to be done. Therefore, the conclusion can be made that transactional distance theory is here to stay.

REFERENCES

Anderson, B. (2007). Independent learning. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 109-122). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Andrade, M. S., & Bunker, E. L. (2009). A model for self-regulated distance language learning. Distance Education, 30(1), 47-61.

Anglin, G. J., & Morrison, G. R. (2000). An analysis of distance education research: Implications for the instructional technologist. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 1(3), 189-194.

Bischoff, W. R., Bisconer, S. W., Kooker, B. M., & Woods, L. C. (1996). Transactional distance and interactive television in the distance education of health professionals. The American Journal of Distance Education, 10(3), 4-19.

Bunker, E., Gayol, Y., Nti, N., & Reidell, P. (1996). A study of transactional distance in an international audioconferencing course. Technology and Teacher Education Annual, 40-44. Phoenix, AZ: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Caspi, A., Gorsky, P, & Chajut, E. (2003). The influence of group size on non-mandatory asynchronous instructional discussion groups. The Internet and Higher Education, 6(3), 227-240.

Chen, Y. J. (2001a). Transactional distance in World Wide Web learning environments. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 38(4), 327-338.

Chen, Y. J. (2001b). Dimensions of transactional distance in World Wide Web learning environments: A factor analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(4), 459-470.

Chen, Y., & Willits, F. (1998). A path analysis of the concepts in Moore’s theory of transactional distance in a videoconferencing learning environment. Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 51-65.

Deschenes, A. J., & Maltais, M. (2006). Formation a distance et accessibilite. Sainte Foy, PQ : TeleUniversite.

Falloon, G. (2011). Making the connection: Moore’s theory of transactional distance and its relevance to the use of a virtual classroom in postgraduate online teacher education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(3), 187-209.

Fulford, C. P., & Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8-21.

Garrison, R. (2000). Theoretical challenges for distance education in the 21st century: A shift from structural to transactional issues. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 1(1), 1-17.

Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2008). Beyond the theoretical impasse: Extending the applications of transactional distance theory. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3), 2-17.

Gorsky, P., & Caspi, A. (2005). A critical analysis of transactional distance theory. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(1), 1-11.

Keegan, D. (1980). On defining distance education. Distance Education, 1(1), 13-35.

Kuskis, O. A. (2006). Facilitation and community in asynchronous online courses: Views and practices of expert practitioners (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Moore, M. G. (1989). Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-6.

Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (pp. 22-38). London, England: Routledge.

Moore, M. G. (Ed.). (2007). The theory of transactional distance. In Handbook of distance education (pp. 89-105). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Moore, M. G. (2012). Penn State College of Education. Retrieved from http://www.ed.psu .edu/educ/adult-education/faculty/ michael-g-moore

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2005). Distance education: A systems view. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Peters, O. (2007). The most industrialized form of education. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 57-68). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Rumble, G. (1986). The planning and management of distance education. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Saba, F. (2005, August). Is distance education losing its identity? Or what should we call our field these days: Paper presented at the 22nd annual conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, University of Wisconsin-Madison, August. Retrieved from http://www.uwex .edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/ proceedings/05_1662.pdf

Saba, F., & Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36-57.

Simonson, M. (2006). Teaching courses online: A challenge for the field. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 7(4), vii-viii.

Simonson, M. (2009). Scientific rigor and distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(4), vii-viii.

Tait, A. (2003, April). Reflections on student support in open and distance learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl .org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/134/214

Tallent-Runnels, M. K., Thomas, J. A., Lan, W. Y., Cooper, S., Ahern, T. C., Shaw, S. M., & Liu, X. (2006). Teaching courses online: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research. Retrieved from http://casat.unr.edu/ docs/TallentRunnels 2006.pdf

Wikeley, F., & Muschamp, Y. (2004). Pedagogical implications of working with doctoral students at a distance. Distance Education, 25(1), 125-142.

Jacqueleen A. Reyes, Learning Solutions Program Developer, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. 4300 W. Cypress Street, Ste. 600, Tampa, FL 33607.


A ministry of healing

Posted by: | Posted on: November 26, 2015

Abstract:

The 1997 NCAN conference, at Loyola Univ. in Chicago, attracted 350 persons active various AIDS ministries. They heard a variety of presentations about improving religious and medical help for minority and women HIV/AIDS patients, and about the founding of the AIDS Quilt.

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I’m not Cured, but I’m Healed,” Patry Bentz told participants at the 10th anniversary conference of the National Catholic AIDS Network in Chicago. A middle-aged Minnesota woman who contracted AIDS from her now-deceased husband, Ms. Bentz meant that, though not cured of the disease, she felt healed in spirit by the support she has received from the church, and especially by the companionship of participants gathered for the six-day event at Loyola University Chicago. “Companions on the Journey,” in fact, was the title of this year’s gathering that ran from July 17 to July 22.

The conference brought together 350 men and women from around the country, both religious and lay. Virtually all — including persons like Ms. Bentz who are living with the disease — are engaged in various kinds of AIDS-related ministries. As the word “companions” also suggests, the themes of the plenary sessions and the workshops had much to do with community. Because of the stigma connected with AIDS, however, the lack of a strong sense of community nationwide has meant that efforts to address the pandemic in a unified and mutually supportive way have been slowed.

In the first plenary session, for example, Mindy Fullilove, M.D., associate professor of clinical psychology and public health at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, spoke of homophobia as one of the destructive forms of this stigma. Referring to a study of attitudes among black youths in San Francisco, she spoke of the youths’ view that African Americans who had contracted the disease through intravenous drug use were worthy of compassion and respect, but not those infected by homosexual activity. It was difficult for them, she said, even to imagine a black man as gay, because they believed that AIDS was a disease of gay white men. Dr. Fullilove, who is herself African-American, described attitudes of this sort as reflective of what she termed a consciousness of separateness; it must be replaced, she urged, by an acknowledgment of the interdependence of all communities.

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The absence of wholeness in the wider community and the separateness that goes with it, is also evident in the unequal access to newly developed drugs called protease inhibitors. Taken in combinations, referred to as a cocktail, they have made it possible for many people with the virus not only to live longer lives, but also to live more active lives. The drugs are very expensive, though, and consequently availability tends to be limited to the well insured or wealthy. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and physician who is assistant director of the Clinical AIDS program at Boston City College, observed that, in consequence, the virus is making increasingly deadly inroads among poor people of color — the very people with least access to the new medications. As for developing nations, he added, where just providing clean water is often a major problem, protease inhibitors are out of the question.

Moreover, although the death rate among males in the United States has begun to decline because of the protease inhibitors and more emphasis on prevention, there is a shadow side to this good news — namely, the emergence of an overly optimistic outlook. Dr. Fuller spoke critically of newspaper headlines like “When the Plague Ends” as premature and misleading. Once the public thinks that the epidemic is over, he said, it will be difficult to regain a strong interest in pursuing an end to the disease. The negative implications for fund-raising are already being felt; donations have fallen off, and there have been cuts in government funding.

Dr. Fuller also Warned that because the new drugs can in certain cases reduce the virus to undetectable levels, some who are infected may mistakenly assume that it is permanently gone and abandon needed precautions. Contributing to this misperception are magazine advertisements for the protease inhibitors. He showed slides of several that have appeared in Arts and Understanding. Healthy looking young men (all of them white) are shown engaged in physical activities as strenuous as rock climbing. Such images subtly suggest that the virus is less threatening than it really is. Even the term “cocktail,” he said, has a falsely glamorous edge to it.

Toward the end of his presentation, Dr. Fuller stressed that because there is no cure for AIDS, the first priority must still be prevention. In this regard, he voiced concern that the Catholic Church has been reluctant to engage in dialogue about the role that needle exchange and condom education programs have played in reducing the rate of infection in some parts of the world. He suggested that dialogue along these lines could be productive, and that this might best be approached through the efforts of theologians — a proposal endorsed in several of the regional meetings that took place before the end of the conference.

If insufficient attention is given to the needs of low income people of color in general who are H.I.V.-positive, so is there neglect regarding women. Most of the AIDS-related research has focused on males; and yet, while the rate of infection among men has started to drop, for women it is rising. AIDS in the United States is now the third leading cause of death among women between the ages of 25 and 44. They have consequently been among those most harmfully affected by the consciousness of separateness.

By way of underscoring this lack of attention, the conference included several presentations by women who discussed some of the steps now being taken to address the imbalance. Since many H.I.V.-positive women are mothers, one of the issues facing them concerns the need to make arrangements for the care of their children before they are incapacitated by their illness. This was the theme of a workshop entitled “Mothers with H.I.V., the Journey,” conducted by Patty Bentz and another woman from Minnesota, Mary Gherer. The focus of their workshop was a video of the same title that they have produced in conjunction with a group of H.I.V.-positive mothers. The video describes the way in which-working with case managers and attorneys — the mothers are offered an opportunity to ensure that the eventual caregivers of their children will be the ones they themselves have chosen.

Another example of emerging efforts to assist mothers with H.I.V./AIDS began two years ago in Portland, Ore. Realizing that there were no services there, the Rev. Bruce Cweikowski, who is in charge of AIDS ministries for the Archdiocese of Portland, collaborated with Sharon Kirk, a member of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, and other religious women. Together they have developed a ministry called Women’s Intercommunity AIDS Resource. Sponsored jointly by a dozen congregations, W.I.A.R. provides direct services for H.I.V.-positive women and also for their children — increasing numbers of whom are also testing positive throughout the country. It is a difficult ministry on more than the health level, because women who test positive not only struggle with the disease itself, but also with the psychological scars from their backgrounds of isolation, poverty and abuse. As to abuse, the director of W.I.A.R., Sia Lindstrom, noted that H.I.V. and abuse, both sexual and physical, tend to go hand in hand.

Besides the Practical Help provided by groups such as W.I.A.R. and videos like “Mothers With H.I.V., the Journey,” efforts of this kind perform an additional service — namely, raising consciousness about the suffering and the humanity of persons with AIDS, men and women alike. Few individuals have had a greater impact in raising consciousness on the national level than Cleve Jones, another of the main speakers. It was he who began the Names Project and the AIDS quilt. In his address, he described how the idea of the quilt originated from his attachment to a quilt his great-great-grandmother had made for him decades before. The concept began to crystalize after a 1985 commemoration of the murder of Harvey Milk, the gay activist San Francisco supervisor who had been murdered seven years before. The commemoration included placards with the names of people who had by that time died of AIDS in San Francisco. The idea continued to crystalize, and two years later quilt pieces with the names of deceased loved ones made by the friends and family were assembled and displayed for the first time on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

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The quilt struck a deep chord. As Mr. Jones observed, for ordinary men and women it quickly became not only a form of personal commemoration, but also a powerful symbol of caring for others and an unspoken plea that there be no rejection of persons with AIDS. In the first year, residents of 10 cities had an opportunity to see it, and of 16 in the following year. Now grown to an enormous size, it was last displayed in its entirety on the Monument grounds in the fall of 1996. Since its beginnings, 45 local Names chapters have been organized in different parts of the country; several panels lent by the Chicago chapter were on view at the conference.

But the quilt has become well known abroad as well, and one of the many moving moments of the conference occurred when Mr. Jones spoke of the first panel that had been sent to him from Africa, by a woman there whose husband died of AIDS 10 years ago. Unbeknownst to him at the beginning of his talk, the woman was present in the audience, Noerine Kaleba of Uganda. Ms. Kaleba, who is now the Community Mobilization Advisor at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland, rose to identify herself at the end of the presentation. At a later gathering she described her own story of what it means to be, as she put it living with AIDS in the family. Not only has she herself been widowed by the disease; her sister has been infected with the virus, As has the sister’s two-year-old son.

The conference’s overall theme of community as the needed antidote to the consciousness of separateness was the focus of the main liturgy, celebrated by N.C.A.N.’s episcopal moderator, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y. The homilist was Msgr. Ray East, the African-American pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Washington, D.C. Alluding to the second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, in which Paul speaks of breaking down the dividing walls of hostility, Monsignor East said that the Scriptures as a whole should “forge us into solidarity with the poorest sister or brother in the world with AIDS.” This was the clearly perceived goal of the co-workers and companions on the journey who attended the conference.

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People

Posted by: | Posted on: November 26, 2015

Full Text:

Byline: Gregg Sangillo and Sara Jerome

Hill People

The advertising and government-affairs firm R&R Partners has hired John Lopez , chief of staff to Sen. John Ensign , R-Nev., as a senior lobbyist. Lopez, 40, began working for then-Rep. Ensign in 1995. He took a leave in 1998 to work on his boss’s first Senate run, which Ensign lost in a squeaker to now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev. “It was very difficult, but it all worked out,” Lopez says. Ensign ran again in 2000, this time successfully, and Lopez was named chief of his Senate staff in 2006.

Ensign’s extramarital affair and the subsequent scandal made headlines this year, but Lopez insists that his departure has nothing to do with those problems. The senator said in a statement, “John Lopez has been a very loyal and talented aide and friend for the past 15 years.” Don Stewart , communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., adds that Lopez is “well-liked, and he has a lot of people who appreciate his efforts in the leadership office.”

A Reno, Nev., native, Lopez figured out early that he was a Republican. As a 7-year-old during the 1976 presidential race, he remembers hearing a radio ad for Gerald Ford . “I looked at [my mother] and said, ‘Mommy, if you vote for Jimmy Carter , he’ll raise your taxes.’ ”

R&R Partners, incidentally, is known for promoting the Las Vegas slogan “What happens here, stays here.” –Gregg Sangillo

Around The Agencies

New to the Health and Human Services Department is policy analyst Julie Hantman , who is an interdisciplinary scientist at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response. Hantman, 40, will focus on policies for procuring medical supplies to confront biological emergencies, such as an H1N1 flu outbreak, a bioterrorist attack, or an emerging infectious disease.

BARDA contracts with companies that manufacture vaccines and other critical supplies to ensure that the commodities are tested and ready. Because there is rarely a market for such products until disaster strikes, the government’s procurement practices “create an incentive of the most fundamental kind,” Hantman explains.

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Before joining HHS, she spent four years with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, most recently as a senior program officer for public health. During that period, she registered as a lobbyist and had frequent contact with staff members at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Vaccine Program Office, and the White House Homeland Security Council. Hantman also helped draft a statement on adult immunization that has since been endorsed by the American Medical Association. For 10 years before joining the society, she was an independent health policy consultant.

Hantman’s passion for health extends outside the policy arena: She has produced radio documentaries about the history and science of AIDS medication and the psychological effects on New Yorkers of the September 11 terrorist attacks. She also performs as a storyteller at SpeakeasyDC, the Capital Fringe Festival, and other venues. One of Hantman’s tales recounts lessons she learned as a “middle-class child of the suburbs” volunteering at needle-exchange programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. –Sara Jerome

Lobby Shops

Brenda Sulick has joined the National PACE Association as vice president for congressional affairs and advocacy. She will lobby to protect the congressionally authorized Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which coordinates the medical needs of frail senior citizens.

Sulick, 45, sees PACE as an example of successful government involvement in health care, and she wants the program to stay that way. She worries that health care reform might “inadvertently impact” PACE, which is largely financed through Medicare and Medicaid. “There could be repercussions for PACE if legislation is passed by people who aren’t aware of the PACE programs and how they function,” Sulick said.

She arrives from the Alzheimer’s Association, where she was the lead lobbyist. Before that, Sulick was an aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln , D-Ark., on the Special Aging Committee, a position supported in part by the John Heinz Senate Fellowship in Issues of the Aging. Earlier, she handled health care issues for AARP’s National Retired Teachers Association division.

Sulick isn’t pleased with the way seniors have been drawn into the hyperbole of the health care debate, citing “inaccurate and distorted messages in the media about end-of-life counseling.” Realistic discussions about “long-term care services and supports” for seniors are necessary, she says. –S.J.<p> Jennifer Dunphy , 25, a lobbyist in the Boston office of O’Neill and Associates, was promoted to director in the firm’s Washington government-relations practice. (The CEO of O’Neill and Associates is Thomas P. O’Neill III , son of former Rep. Tip O’Neill , D-Mass., the longtime House speaker.) Dunphy says that her transition from Boston to Washington has been like “a high school reunion” with Capitol Hill staffers for the Massachusetts delegation.

Before she became a lobbyist, Dunphy focused on Bay State Democratic politics. She was a finance assistant on the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign, and she stays in touch with former colleagues in the office of Sen. John Kerry , D-Mass. Dunphy was also the finance director for Massachusetts Sen. Marc Pacheco , and a campaign scheduler for Christopher Gabrieli during his failed 2006 bid for the gubernatorial nomination. She worked with Hillary Rodham Clinton ‘s 2008 presidential campaign on a finance steering committee devoted to young professionals.

Dunphy, who is concentrating on health care legislation, says she feels “less removed from the real action” now that she’s in D.C. –S.J.

Interest Groups

Promoting intercultural understanding has become a specialty for S amia Makhlouf , 27, who joined the Arab American Institute last month as a government and policy analyst. She came from the Defense Department, where, as a program manager at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, she ran diplomatic seminars for international officials. Participants — from ambassadors to lieutenant colonels — would convene to hash out problems, build understanding, and learn more about Washington’s often-perplexing operations. “It’s difficult, unless you’re involved in our government, to understand how things work,” Makhlouf said. “We would explain to them how and why the things they found frustrating happen.”

Makhlouf traveled to more than 25 countries during her Pentagon tenure. Fluent in Arabic, she helped persuade officials from nations that had no diplomatic relations with one another to engage in dialogue and dinner: At the end of each seminar, participants would contribute dishes from their homeland to a potluck meal. “These men would come without their wives and struggle in hotel kitchens to make these elaborate entrees. Sometimes it would be awful,” she said, “but we’d eat it.” Makhlouf would typically prepare favorites from her Palestinian-American upbringing, unless another participant was Palestinian. Then she would represent her American roots–whipping up peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches or pizza.

Earlier in her career, Makhlouf interned at Defense and then was director of development for the U.S. Copts Association, which promotes the interests of a Christian religious minority in Egypt.

At the AAI, Makhlouf will focus on domestic issues, seeking ways to promote civil rights and include more Arab-Americans in government, including voting. “In the Middle East, your vote sometimes doesn’t count, depending on the type of government, your gender, and which ethnic or religious group you’re part of,” she said. “Sometimes being politically active was even dangerous. Arab-Americans sometimes have that mind-set. We want to convince them you have to vote — it’s your civic duty.” –S.J.

In other news from the Arab American Institute, Nadine Wahab recently left to become communications director for the Rights Working Group, an organization that promotes civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. She is preparing to launch the group’s program on racial profiling. While at the Arab American Institute, Wahab, 33, was a producer for Viewpoint With James Zogby, a television program featuring the group’s president. The show is broadcast throughout the Middle East by Abu Dhabi Television.

Wahab, 33, who had previous experience with a video-production company in New York City, was also an early producer for the “Imagine-Life” ad campaign, which spotlighted the hardships facing Palestinians in the occupied territories. “It seems to be that a lot of people are now looking for someone who is versed in both PR and video work,” she says. Wahab has also worked for public-relations firm Keybridge Communications in Washington, and volunteered with the Network of Arab-American Professionals in New York.

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She spent the first part of her life in Egypt and Kuwait before her family moved to Northern Virginia. She graduated with a psychology degree from Virginia’s Marymount University. Even off the job, Wahab spends much of her time fighting for human rights. “A lot of my friends are organizers. I work with a lot of Palestinian organizers on the issue of peace in the Middle East,” she says. “One of the things about working and living in D.C., especially in this kind of field, is that you can’t differentiate between when you go out at night and what you do in the morning.” Wahab also enjoys Omar Offendum and other Arab-American hip-hop artists.

While she was at the AAI, a theatre organization in Venice, Calif., called the organization seeking input for developing an Arab-American character in an upcoming production. The character in the play Not Until You Know My Story was ultimately based on Wahab. When she saw the production in D.C., she got a surprise. “They really got my mannerisms. I did the entire [research] interview over the phone, and so when I saw them, I’m like, ‘How do you know that I move like that?’ ” –G.S.

Image-Makers

The Hatcher Group, a public-affairs firm, has brought in several ex-journalists to build up its Bethesda, Md., office. The latest hire is Phyllis Jordan , a former Maryland editor for The Washington Post. Jordan says she thought it was time to leave the Fourth Estate. “One of the frustrations for me in journalism was always that you could write about something that you really believed in, but you could never advocate for it. And this [job] gives me an opportunity to do that,” she says. “I don’t think I’m ready to go out and represent insurance companies. But I am ready to advocate for good causes. And everything they handle here are good causes–nonprofits and foundations.” Among the Hatcher Group’s clients are the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Center for Global Development, and the Working Poor Families Project.

One of the highlights of Jordan’s Post career was editing a story about a 12-year-old boy whose untreated tooth abscess led to his death. “When the reporter I was working with [ Mary Otto ] first started the story, the boy was alive,” Jordan recalls. “And she was doing it as a story about how for $80, they could have fixed his tooth abscess, but instead they spent $200,000 on brain surgery. And then when we were about to run the story, we called to check on something and found out that he had died. Congress jumped on it, and it became a big issue. And they put dental benefits into [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program].”

Jordan, 50, hails from Lexington, Va. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and a master’s in journalism at the University of Missouri (Columbia). Earlier in her career, she covered military matters for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she met her husband, Capt. Brian Wilson , a Navy lawyer. When Wilson’s career sent the couple to California, Jordan took a job at the Los Angeles Times as city editor for Ventura County. –G.S.

Have a tip for National Journal’s People column? Contact Gregg Sangillo or Sara Jerome at 202-739- 8400, or at people@nationaljournal.com.