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Hell Mixed with Futility

By Robert C. Koehler Oh, the normalcy of militarism! Our annual financial hemorrhage to this complex menagerie of institutions — from the Pentagon to Homeland Security to the Nuclear Security Administration to the CIA and its secret expenditures — must not be seriously questioned in the corridors of Congress, even though, all things considered, it […]

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War Crimes and National Security

By Robert C. Koehler How dare she question the sanctity of American militarism? As national security adviser John Bolton declared last fall, the International Criminal Court constitutes “an assault on the constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the United States.” That’s you and me that Bolton is speaking about, and the […]

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Challenging the Status Quo in 2020

By Robert C. Koehler Reparations for slavery? Upending militarism and waging peace? Taking climate change seriously? Getting carbon out of the atmosphere and fossil fuel money out of the EPA? Valuing healing over punishment in our disastrous criminal justice system? Ending mass incarceration? Bringing all this up — and much, much more — in a […]

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Our Wounded Planet

By Robert C. Koehler Should we save the planet or kill the enemy? Perhaps no question more succinctly separates the past from the future, or so it occurred to me after I read Rebecca Solnit’s stunning observation in a recent essay: that the mass murders in Christchurch, N.Z. on March 15 occurred on the same […]

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Putting Our Better Angels to Work

By Robert C. Koehler Nationalists — white or otherwise — need “invasions” on a regular basis in order to stay revved up and equal to the cause. Thus: “We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history,” the New Zealand killer (whose name I will not mention, honoring the precedent set […]

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Artificial Morality

By Robert C. Koehler Artificial Intelligence is one thing. Artificial morality is another. It may sound something like this: “First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.” The words are those of Microsoft […]

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Re-Inhabiting Planet Earth

By Robert C. Koehler “I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the Earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.” These words of Manhattan Project physicist Emilio Segre, quoted by Richard Rhodes in his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, […]

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Are You Black, White or Human?

By Robert C. Koehler Some of my best friends are colored. All of them are, actually. And so I introduce you to Lowell Thompson, artist — indeed, psycho-realist, as he calls himself — recovering ad man and “colored person.” He’s also, you might say, the king of irreverence and political incorrectness, but this is only […]

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The Music That’s in All of Us

By Robert C. Koehler And suddenly the music burst through the borders. This was in May of 1999, in a city in the Netherlands called Alkmaar. Laura Hassler, an American woman who had been living in the Netherlands for many years by then — who was a choir director and, in essence, the “town musician,” […]

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Jim Crow Jumps into the Game

By Robert C. Koehler History in blackface slaps the present moment awake. What? The governor put that picture on his yearbook page? In 1984? The wave of outrage, the demand for his resignation — from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s own party, the Democrats — can’t be dismissed with a shrug and an apology. His career […]

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Disarmament, Not Low-Yield Nukes

By Robert C. Koehler Seven-plus decades ago, as humanity was ensnarled in a monstrous world war, its instinct to win — to dominate others above all else — achieved ultimate manifestation: the capacity to annihilate all life on Planet Earth. Nuclear weapons are, you might say, the logical outcome of the 10,000-year journey of civilization: […]

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King’s Vision Is Still Defiant

By Robert C. Koehler Mike Pence, in his attempt the other day to commandeer the spirit of Martin Luther King to shill for his boss’s agenda, unintentionally did so much more. He brought the enormity of King’s vision back into national awareness, where it shattered the Trump Wall of Fear just as resoundingly as it […]

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What About Open Borders?

By Robert C. Koehler There are things that go unquestioned in the national discussion. Because this is a country wrapped in fear and self-importance, the basic, unchallenged premise determining how we behave, how we spend our money, is that we need to protect ourselves . . . from The Enemy. There’s always an enemy lurking […]

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A Green Future Is One Without War

By Robert C. Koehler Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future. President Trump is […]

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A Loose Cannon for Peace?

By Robert C. Koehler Circle the wagons! Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. No, can’t do that! […]

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Yemen: Our Future?

By Robert C. Koehler “They must kill and continue to kill, strange as it may seem, in order not to know that they are killing.” — Rene Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World Socially sanctioned killing is called war. The word “war” may be the most powerful word in human history, because […]

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Border Security

By Robert C. Koehler It’s the phrase “border security” that freezes my soul every time I hear it uttered, every time I see it in print — so simplistically obvious, the equivalent of keeping your door locked. Did you ever have your cellphone swiped? If you’re careless about this, you’ll pay the price. “This is […]

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The Lost and the Entitled

By Robert C. Koehler When I popped open the old laptop, the Geek Squad guy said maybe I should dust it off. He slid a canister of Endust toward me. “Spray the cloth,” he said, “not the machine.” I started choking on my sense of humiliation. This poor baby was covered with dust. How could […]

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The Demonic Suction Tube

By Robert C. Koehler Suddenly America’s political cauldron bubbles with hope and possibility — not just because the Democrats have won races across the country, but because voters pushed back in record numbers against the forces of Trump and racism and the long-standing lies of entrenched wealth. Now the work begins: to hold our political […]

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The New Abnormal

By Robert C. Koehler Thousand Oaks, California: a city torn apart by wildfire and gunfire. Both are unnatural disasters. “This is the new abnormal,” Gov. Jerry Brown said this week at a press conference, talking about global warming and the three voracious fires that are tearing up his state, one of them — the Camp […]

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The Issues That Won’t Go Away

By Robert C. Koehler How much real change manifested itself in the 2018 midterms? How deeply does the outcome reflect the American soul? Apparently, about 113 million Americans, basically half the electorate, felt compelled to vote in the midterms, revved up either by intense opposition to or support for Donald Trump. This is a lot […]

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Mass Murder and American History

By Robert C. Koehler “Screw your optics, I’m going in.” This is bigger than hate, this latest mass shooting, last weekend, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which, oh my God, 11 more innocent souls died at the hands of a home-grown terrorist. The president’s anti-immigrant tweets may have been in grotesque […]

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Why Do Only Some Lives Matter?

By Robert C. Koehler What would it take for everyone’s life to matter as much as Jamal Khashoggi’s? I ask this question over at the edge of the news, looking for a doorway into the human conscience. Consider: “The U.S. sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended […]

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Climate Change and Collective Salvation

By Robert C. Koehler In the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, as white male privilege reclaims its desperate grip on our future, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report comes out, informing us that we haven’t got much future left in which to avoid . . . I mean implement . . . […]

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From Carswell to Kavanaugh

By Robert C. Koehler These words did in G. Harrold Carswell nearly five decades ago: “I am Southern by ancestry, birth, training, inclination, belief and practice. And I believe that segregation of the races is proper and the only practical and correct way of life in our states. I have always so believed and I […]

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