Saturday, July 29, 2006

Who Tells the Truth about Climate Change?

Keywords: climate change; oil corporations; journalism; economic interests; global warming; disinformation; David Suzuki Foundation.

Do the deceive us about ? If so, why?

I’ve always resisted the explanation of ideological opinion as based simply on one's . It seems insulting to attribute a person’s opinions to the material benefits that he would gain from persuading the general public to accept those views. I assume that few people are dishonest enough to twist the truth habitually.

Though I still avoid imputing others’ ideas to their private motivations, reality probably lies someplace in between plain yes and no. Not everyone distorts the truth for self-serving reasons, but some people do, some of the time. This happens when it comes to the explanation of . Certain corporations seem to be conducting campaigns, attempting to discredit genuine scientists and mislead the public. What kind of mind would knowingly obstruct the dissemination of knowledge about a matter so important for the future of our planet? Can alone explain such behavior? I would feel morally defeated by having to adopt such a crass interpretation of human nature. But still …

In 1988 the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environmental Programme established an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its mission was to evaluate the peer-reviewed, published so as to provide clear grounds for formulating . It has concluded that there is a consensus of scientific opinion that the climate is being affected by human activities and that most of the observed global warming over the past 50 years probably was caused by greenhouse gas increases. Likewise, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all officially recognized the overwhelming evidence in favor of this position: that human beings are modifying the climate.

Professors Naomi (see photo) and Roger , Jr. conducted a study of the scientific literature on climate change by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003. Some 75 percent of these papers explicitly endorsed the consensus position, whereas the remainder addressed such topics as methodology and took no position on the anthropogenic interpretation of climate change. “Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”

mentions this study in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, correctly concluding that there is no longer any controversy among scientists on this matter. Nevertheless, he points out that the press regularly depicts climate change as an unresolved question that, until now, has been neither established empirically nor explained. Why would the misrepresent the status of scientific knowledge on this topic?

There are two reasons. First, journalists are taught to seek for “balance” in their reporting. The best way to fulfill this norm is to find and quote someone who disagrees with the new statement that is going to be reported. If no reputable scholar happens to be available to articulate the “other opinion,” the temptation is to find someone else – almost anyone – who will do so. Hence the baseless opinions of unqualified commentators often are reported as authentic.

Second, journalists can always find spokespersons for particular material interests, just as suggested. With regard to climate change, the most obvious groups benefiting from the present state of affairs are the oil interests. And these companies, being well represented in government, are in a good position to influence the ’s policies and even the public statements that government researchers can make. For example, the New York Times reported early this year that NASA’s top climate scientist declared that his work was being by the government public affairs staff.

Chris Mooney, reporting in Mother Jones, notes that some fossil fuel companies — especially — have been funding neoconservative organizations that try to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global climate change. He cites the Center for Public Integrity to show that Exxonmobil has spent $55 million on over the past six years. In addition, certain conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research also are providing reports for the policymakers, the media, and the general public that are designed to give the appearance of authentic science. Their papers are not, however, published in refereed scientific journals and therefore lack credibility among scientific researchers. These authors (who call themselves “climate change skeptics”) seek to delay action on climate change. One writer of such material, affiliated to the libertarian Cato Institute, is , who publishes a website called Exxonmobil gave $40,000 to the Advancement of Sound Science Center, which is registered to Steven Milloy’s residential address, and another $50,000 to the Free Enterprise Action Institute, also registered to his home address. In one critique of a scientific paper, Milloy dismisses the current increases in global temperature by claiming that the represent only natural variability. Harvard oceanographer , who headed the research for that study, replied: “In order to take that position, you have to refute hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle.” I am forced to accept this discouraging conclusion: Some moneyed interests do seem to be preventing the spread of important facts that are required for the preservation of our planet.

Yet this is only part of the story, for there is evidence that some other companies, including Shell, Texado, British Petroleum, Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler, have been converted and now recognize the importance of climate change. Even such business publications as The Economist are calling for action to combat global warming. Bart Mongoven, writing for Stratfor on July 27, claims that it is misleading to depict the cleavage of opinion about climate change nowadays as a split between “industry versus environmentalists.” Times have changed, and the various players have come to hold more complex positions that must be reported accurately. “Industry's view of the science behind public policy has changed markedly in recent years,” writes Mongoven. Moreover, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Most skeptics no longer deny that climate change is happening, but instead argue that the cost of taking action is too high — or even worse, that it is too late to take action. All of these arguments are false and are rejected by the scientific community at large.”

Panels of journalists and scientists held a meeting in Washington on July 25 to discuss the mainstream reporting of the issue. Both groups agreed that the “the greatest shortcoming has been in persistent portrayals of the issue as one of contentious scientific debate: In reality, the assembled scientists said, man-made climate change is generally accepted throughout the scientific community as a reality.” According to Mongoven, the are now struggling to change their portrayal of climate issue, especially since business interests are now changing their tune, and since policy decisions are being deregulated and therefore are more often being made by the general public. It is increasingly important for the public to become better informed, and this will require for the news media to change the way they report issues. Journalists must focus more on the technical, rather than the political aspects. However, in doing so,

“a news outlet runs the risk of boring the public and losing sales. On the other hand, a shift in this direction also could dramatically increase the media's relevance in the policymaking process."

But nobody promised that it would be easy to report undesired news. We all — not just rich industrialists — have a tendency to block out whatever we don't want to hear. But the calling of journalism is honorable and necessary, so please bring it on, fellows. We need to hear the truth.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Democratizing the Corporation

Keywords: Milton Friedman; Duff Conacher; Democracy Watch; shareholder activism; corporate social responsibility; democratizing corporations.

It was, unsurprisingly, Milton Friedman who declared most baldly that business has no social responsibilities, for “only people can have responsibilities.” The , customers, or employees of a corporation can spend their own money on a particular social cause if they wish to do so, but its executive must not spend their money in a different way than they would have chosen. If he does this, “he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds should be spent, on the other.” Decisions about taxation should not be made by a corporate manager, but by government.

But Friedman was writing in 1970, and matters have changed since then. It seems no longer self-evident today that the unique proper objective of commercial corporations is to amass profits for their shareholders. Whether or not the people have come to believe more deeply in democracy, they do seem to recognize now the environmental and social consequences of corporate decisions. Socialists are no longer the only ones who want to hold these organizations more responsible for their actions and accountable to the public. One obvious change is the increased number of people who are committed to “” — mostly in mutual funds that avoid the stocks of irresponsible firms.

Also, Bart Mongoven, writing for Strategic Forecasting, reports that the 2006 mainstream corporate meeting season had begun, and that has increased dramatically since 2001. ("Shareholder Activism: A View From the Plateau," Stratfor, June 1, 2006.) Such activists are requiring fund managers to justify the votes that they cast with their proxies. Moreover, far more votes in annual meetings nowadays are favoring shareholder proposals and opposing management’s position.

“During the past five years, the number of shareholder resolutions that have received more than 20 percent support has increased dramatically. Further, the number receiving relatively high levels of support (5 to 15 percent) increased even more.”

As a result, the executives are increasingly often negotiating agreements with activists in private before these meetings, with the result that resolutions are dropped without ever coming to the floor. Rival companies have to follow suit or “be branded as laggards by activists.”

Mongoven attributes these changes largely to the increasing participation of large pension funds in shareholder activist campaigns. These policies are usually made by politicians who say they are promoting the interests of the public over the corporation. Mongoven predicts that the next battleground by activists will be their effort to politicize mainstream mutual funds.

Still, these changes are far from revolutionary challenges to capitalism. In fact, although I have more faith than most of my friends that the free market is generally a beneficial economic system, I would like to see deeper changes making corporations significantly more democratic. I would favor legislation requiring the board of directors of every sizeable corporation to include members chosen from lists of candidates named by the following four constituencies: their consumers and customers; their employees; environmental organizations; and civil society groups concerned with health and community well-being. The remainder of the board would, as now, represent shareholders, but their decisions and plans should be transparent, so that the various constituencies can hold their representatives accountable.

Once such reforms are introduced, I will not object to the profit-making orientation of corporations. has served the world well — at least when compared to all other modern economic systems that are on offer. All around the world, it raises standards of living and for humankind. It just needs an infusion of democracy.

I am not the only person who thinks along these lines, but most of the others seek more modest reforms than the ones I’ve suggested here. For example, Duff Conacher’s Canadian organization, Democracy Watch, published a paper in 1994 called “Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.” It noted that

“the overall impact of corporate negligence on Canadians and Canadian communities far outweighs the impact of individual negligence…. are the third leading cause of death in Canada… Unsafe and usually illegal working conditions … cause more deaths in a month than all the mass murderers combined do in a decade. … As far as consumer fraud is concerned, the RCMP Commercial Crime Section estimates losses by Canadian victims in 1992 at $574 million. Others have put the figure at $4 billion…”

The paper calls for a world “where individual citizens, in their roles as voters, taxpayers, workers, consumers and shareholders, have the right through democratic community and government decision-making processes to determine and to limit the rights and activities of corporate “citizens” and have the right to hold corporate “citizens” accountable for their activities.”

Democracy Watch proposes setting up a corporate crime registry, giving citizens the right to prosecute corporate crime.

“Government subsidies of environmentally harmful activities of corporations could be ended, and government could pledge to purchase products and services only from socially responsible companies… Corporations could also be removed from the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, thereby reclaiming it as the Charter of HUMAN Rights and Freedoms. Finally, there are international campaign strategies to create an international social responsibility framework for transnational corporations (TNCs). These include strengthening international codes of conduct for TNCs and the enforcement of these codes, and ensuring that TNCs can’t shift blame or profits from country to country to avoid liability and taxes.”

This document is remarkably far-reaching, offering fully four pages, single-spaced, of specific recommendations for the reform of our corporate economy. Many of these are quite visionary. However, when it comes to democratizing the corporation, Conacher’s (see photo) proposals are more conventional than my own. He would

“Require that directors be assigned to various constituencies such as consumer protection, environmental protection, law compliance and political relations and that committees be set up within the board with special responsibilities to oversee company obligations in these areas and areas such as auditing and nominating of directors.”

That’s a good start — but I would go further. Where Conacher would work with a board of directors comprising only shareholders, assigning each of them a specific domain of social responsibility, I would like to see some real accountability in the system. I think people who represent their specific constituencies and can be held accountable to them should occupy these powerful roles. These delegates will probably never outnumber the directors representing shareholder interests — nor would I want them to — but I’d like for them to have genuine power and represent the social concerns of workers, consumers, and environmentalists.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saving the Democrats

Keywords: liberalism; Democratic Party; Robert Wright; free markets; international law; multilateralism; zero-sum game; Falun Gong; international governance.

The hottest game in town among would-be pundits is to find ways of reviving in the United States. By “liberalism” they mean the , although there have been plenty of Democrats lately who can only be called conservative.

The most persuasive of these pundits is , whose op ed piece appeared in the New York Times this past Sunday, July 16: “An American Foreign Policy that Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With.” I didn’t quite fall in love with it, but it gave me pause, making me wonder how far one should bend in an exercise of political compromise.

Wright calls his compromise a new paradigm: “.” The progressive part goes me no trouble; it’s the “realism” that puts me on guard. And rightly so, for he acknowledges that his compromise would annoy some interest groups, including my own. As he describes , it involves the belief that the purpose of is to serve . I can think of some global, human interests that might properly take priority over national ones. However, let us see what exactly he has in mind.

Wright asserts (and considerable evidence would seem to support him) that , now spreading across the world because they are productive, require , which in turn tends to foster . (He immediately refers to in connection with this theory, claiming that the Chinese regime cannot repress the expression of personal beliefs altogether because that would halt their economic growth.) Following that logic, a corollary follows: that it makes no sense to invade countries and impose democracy. Since it is bound to arise anyway over time, the appropriate policy is wait patiently while carrying on normal economic relations with the repressive regime. Wright argues that the whose lives could be improved by any outside intervention are too few to make it sensible to support them. By refraining from promoting democracy in repressive states, the Democrats might actually help democracy more in the long run, while also increasing their appeal to “realist” American voters. Such a possible trade-off appalls me and most other idealists, for it is unprincipled to ignore the plight of people who suffer from political abuse.

Still, I have to concede that economic freedom, despite all the faults attributed to the market system by leftists, does tend to bring political freedom over time. I won’t deny that, though the corollary that Wright derives from it gives me the creeps. He fully recognizes that a “strong Democratic emphasis on economic engagement always threatens to alienate liberal human rights activists…”

Still, he proposes a second innovation that would compensate for the concessions that we activists would have to make: an expansion of institutions of – a necessary change that runs absolutely counter to recent ideology. The president, having experienced failures in his , may be moving in that very direction himself in relation to Iran and North Korea — but certainly not far enough. Wright would make this an important principle of his “progressive realism” — that

“the national interest can be served by constraints on America’s behavior when they constrain other nations as well. This logic covers the spectrum of international governance, from global warming (we’ll cut carbon dioxide emissions if you will) to war (we’ll refrain from it if you will).”

A wiser president would see, according to Wright, that the national interests actually align with global interests. International governance actually benefits the country. Since domestic security depends on popular sentiment abroad toward America, it is vital that the United States be seen as a good global citizen, “respecting and norms and sensing the needs of neighbors.” That doesn’t entail being the world’s army. As Wright rejoices: “We can at least be thankful that history, be intertwining the fates of peoples, is bringing national interest closer to moral ideals.”

Well, this is a tempting picture he’s drawn — so tempting that as an idealist I might even consider selling out the victims of repressive regimes in the short term, in exchange for an equivalently painful concession by the realists: the acceptance of a system of international governance within the . It would be a painful, even shameful trade-off, but a case can be made for it.

Still, I do not know of any Democratic candidate who could plausibly merge these two perspectives into a unified platform, nor can I believe that “realists” (who have always banked on American primacy) would suddenly recognize the value of international institutions of governance. More likely, we liberals will continue to support) however ineffectually) democratic dissent in dictatorships, while most conservatives will continue to regard America’s global dominance as the necessary for their security and national well being.

Besides, I have two empirical questions. Is it really true that the world is becoming less of a zero-sum game? I think international cooperation has always been beneficial; that’s not new. Maybe it’s just more obvious today because the can obviously be handled only with global agreements, not just by separate states.

And is it really so that we’d get more concessions from conservatives if we liberals agreed not to speak on behalf of repressed groups such as the in China (see photo) or the in the occupied territories? I don’t think so. Maybe it is true that, over time, economic pressures will bring democracy to the whole world. I can accept that. But in the meantime, basic decency requires humanitarian concern from us all.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Amplifying Rebecca Wigod's Fine Review

Keywords: blame; criminal justice; restorative justice; recidivism; television dramas.

Rebecca Wigod did a swell job reviewing my book, Two Aspirins and a Comedy, in today’s (Saturday’s) Vancouver Sun. Not only was it a pleasant review, but also it was fair and accurate. Bless her.

Of course, there are always ideas that an author would like to add, even to the best of reviews, and this morning I have an opportunity to do so – at least here on my blog. Joy Kogawa and I returned to Toronto yesterday, and I’ve had a good sleep after my delightful one-month-long . Now I can begin to catch up with my blogging.

The main point I’d like to add to Rebecca’s account of my book is the importance of television in shaping our culture. To be sure, it also reflects the culture, and can hardly be changed radically in directions that viewers are not ready to go. However, I do believe there are certain changes that could be introduced and accepted readily. In particular, I think audiences would be glad to shift away from this and the habit of constantly . People want to be engrossed in stories, and the cheapest, simplest, and least intelligent way of holding their attention is to get them involved in the pursuit of wrongdoers. A bad guy commits a crime (usually a violent one) and must be captured and or even exterminated. This repetitive formula evidently works as a theme of entertainment, for the most popular TV shows today rely on it consistently. But the public could become engaged in a different game just as readily — the apprehension of a wrongdoer, followed by an exploration, not just of the unfortunate history that led him into crime (we get quite a few of those stories already), but also the search for ways of to his victims and to himself, by inducing him to fulfill his appropriate role in society.

There have been whole periods of history and whole societies that lacked any formal system of criminal justice. Instead, the wise members of the community conferred among themselves and with the , and then confronted the face-to-face, demanding that he acknowledge and make amends for the harm he had done. They meted out punishment, which might include restitution, and they held their ground until the wrongdoer was finally re-integrated into society as a reputable member. Native Canadian groups today have the legal right to use their traditional methods of , which seems to be more effective in than the usual formal legal approach. I know a woman lawyer who runs for youth in a Toronto district known for its roughness (see photo), and she swears that it helps the participants by giving them an opportunity to talk about their offences and their unmet needs. Similar processes could be demonstrated in television stories, pointing out possible solutions instead of simply glorifying the process of incarcerating wrongdoers, as if there were no further problems still awaiting society after their release from jail.

The whole focus on is misplaced, or at least over-emphasized. There are more ways of getting thrills and excitement than just by assigning for mistakes. The search for constructive solutions is plenty challenging, too, and it will benefit us all by making us recognize the humanity of those who make harmful mistakes. After all, we belong in that category ourselves, whether or not we have ever lost our jobs or custody of our children or our public reputation because of the dumb things we have all done. Not only more mercy is required in this society, but more wisdom too. And television can contribute to that wisdom. I hope to see a new social movement arise that will recognize the and call on scriptwriters and producers to stimulate a finer world by writing gripping, challenging, that suggest new to old problems.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Send Your E-mail Addresses

I'm in a bookstore/internet cafe in Saginaw, Michigan, still on my book tour with Joy Kogawa. I apoogize because I cannot keep up with the blog-writing while on the road. In a few days we'll be home and I'll try to focus.

However, I want to take this occasion to point out something you may not realize: The blogger program that I use does not allow anyone to reply to a comment that you post to my entries. Furthermore, I have lost the e-mail addresses of some friends -- notably Tim Boychuk -- who have been entering welcome comments, so I cannot get back to you personally, as I would like to do. If you want a reply, please send me your email addresses, either in the body of your comments or as a private email to me. Since I am busy, it may take a while, but at least I'll have the capacity to reply.

Good wishes from Michigan, which has an amazing amount of wilderness territory in its northern areas.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hey, Randy of Yorkton!

Keywords: Yorkton; Lilith; Milton

(see photo) and I are on a road trip from Vancouver to Toronto. As for me, I’m entering the final week of a month-long tour. I left Toronto on June 17 and expect to return on July 14. The first week was in the United States with Lynette Schlichting. Then I stayed in Vancouver at the until July 2, when Joy and I took off through Canada, stopping at to give talks or sign books. We’re in Brandon, Manitoba now, preparing to check out of our motel.

Yesterday in we hand-sold books at a Coles store in a mall. The high point was a conversation with a brilliant high school senior named (I think) Randy, and his smart mother. Joy had strolled away from our table in the mall to look at clothing when Randy came up and commented on the title of one of her books: . He asked me whether this was Lilith of the or of . I was astonished. Soon the conversation turned to my book, and he expressed wariness about the suggestive power of television. His mother soon appeared, and they assimilated our own discussion into an ongoing dispute between themselves as to whether Randy should pursue education beyond that required for his chosen profession, that of a therapeutic masseur. He thinks he can study on his own without university courses. He feels religiously called to help people and believes he can do so only on a one-to-one basis. I expressed the view that affecting one person at a time is not enough; it needs to be one-to-many, by or disseminating benefits to whomever comes across the document or cultural product. But he pointed out, rightly, that everything depends on the reception of the product by the individual. Many people will not pay attention. True, enough, but if you reach enough people, some of them will benefit.

Joy came back to the table and was, in her turn, taken with young Randy. We talked about his intelligence and visionary commitment for a long time after we had left. He wanted our e-mail addresses and I gave him my card, but Joy said she couldn’t promise to answer him. Later she regretted that, so I said I’d hail him through my blog. Randy, come back! Joy does want to talk with you.

She also thinks that is not good enough for Randy’s talents. I said not to worry, for he will change direction a dozen times before he’s settled. He’s the most promising young mind either of us has come across in years. But he’s sure it’s too late to save the world and he’s not an activist but a traditional (maybe even fundamentalist) Christian. The end of our civilization can no longer be avoided, he says. His mother remonstrated that he had a responsibility nonetheless to keep trying. He seemed to think that the only way of being useful is to make people feel better as they meet the doom that awaits most of us. What an outlook! He didn’t deny that there was a responsibility to keep trying, but he clearly didn’t have any faith that it would do any good.

Our trip has gone amazingly smoothly, so far. Joy is the better navigator, but I have contributed a few times by consulting the compass when both of us were turned around.

On the prairies there are amazing yellow fields of some crop we cannot identify, plus luminous puffy clouds, an occasional dead skunk, and lots of odd containers that are probably the modern version of the . They are metal, with cone-shaped tops and bottoms. I expected to see fields of wheat. Maybe some of these fields actually are wheat, but if so they are still short, green plants. There’s no corn, as I expected.

We are getting to know each other pretty well. Our current conversation is about the significant males in our lives. I told her about Jimmy Tomlinson, the sweet little boy I loved in the fourth grade. She told me of a grade school classmate who had remained important in her imagination long afterward. She had written poetry to him after they had grown up, in a phase of what she now calls craziness. We will go on taking turns today, telling each other about the men we have loved – both real lovers and unconsummated crushes, which evidently are more numerous for both of us and probably for most women in general.

Yesterday I had an e-mail exchange with Linda, a New Yorker who wants to exchange apartments with me in late August. I accepted with pleasure. Now I’m planning to be in Manhattan from August 25 to 30, visiting bookstores, as on this trip. It’s far from profitable, but some things are more important than money. Having a chance to talk with people about my book feels useful.

Now it’s time to check out and visit another store. Randy, you have my e-mail and I’ll give your messages to Joy, who promises to respond.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Blix, Ignatieff, and Spirit in Vancouver

Keywords: Hans Blix; Jennifer Simons; Weapons of Mass Destructions Commission; third option for Afghanistan; Community of Democracies; fair trade; Michael Lerner, Dieter Heinrich, Walter Dorn.

hosted an elegant luncheon for the charming the other day, as well as about 150 other people. (See his photo.) It was Blix’s birthday, so we sang to him. He said that when he was younger he thought new ideas were essential, but as he grows older he has concluded that experience is even more important. I’m sure he didn’t mean for us to conclude that the Report of the , which he had chaired and which was published on that day, lacked new ideas. Still, if it makes any new proposals, they are not conspicuous. This is to be expected. All the proposals for eliminating weapons of mass destruction have been bruited about for a decade or more, yet they have to be re-stated continually with fresh emphasis, as if they had just been invented. Blix recalled that , the Swedish foreign minister, had recruited him for work on these issues before she was shot dead by a madman. She, like Blix himself, had believed that the key to eliminating such weapons is to make all nations regard them as unnecessary.

The has been, by all accounts, a remarkable gathering, though I’m a poor reviewer, since I attended only a few events. Mostly I have used the interval between the coming and returning phases of my journey to rest, promote my book, and tend to my electronic equipment. As usual, the real value of a conference comes from personal conversations in bars and restaurants — schmoozing, which I’ve enjoyed a lot. Most of the official speeches have been predictable, but I’ve been surprised several times.

One surprise was recounted by , who had been on a panel promoting what she calls “the ” regarding . The audience held sharply divided opinions on this topic, with a substantial majority favoring the alternative view, “Troops Out Now!” But took a different tack, evidently supporting the third option. This astonished me, since in the parliamentary debate a few weeks ago the NDP took a “Troops Out Now” position against the government. Apparently Alexa said she had gone to Afghanistan and was convinced there that the people want and need Canadian troops, but not in a war-fighting capacity. They are required as , to protect civilians. I don’t know whether Alexa said anything else along the lines that has been proposing – an expanded Canadian effort to resolve the conflict with the warlords, , and other contending factions.

It was no surprise, but I think significant, that Walter Dorn referred harshly to , whose favored candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party constitutes, as he said, the greatest threat to peace and security in Canada at the present time. Some of us had bumped into each other on the street. Derek Paul proposed that a group from Pugwash go see him. I had just mentioned my own interaction with Ignatieff at the Munk Centre a few months ago, and Derek apparently inferred that I would be too provocative and should not be included in the delegation. On the other hand, I told Jo and Jack Santa Barbara about this discussion, as well as my dust-up with Ignatieff, and they enthusiastically approved of my efforts. I do want to participate in any new meeting. Walter had reported to us that Michael says that he is “haunted” by the difference of opinion between himself and his late father regarding military intervention. He should feel haunted. George would not vote for him, I’m sure.

Last night I ran into , whom I had not seen for a decade or more. We ate dinner together and talked a couple of hours about a wide range of topics. He pins a great deal of hope on the spread of – which I think is a wise approach. He wants to have the Community of Democracies undertake a policy of “,” and believes that would even like the idea. I doubt that – and he admitted that he isn’t sure of it either. That’s the next thing he is going to explore to find out.

One curious but enjoyable conversation with Dieter involved the relationship between spirituality and peace work. Dieter takes a Hegelian view, feeling that life is working itself out through some intelligent process, which he no longer refers to as “God.” He doesn’t like the word either because that could cover everything from auras to Ouija boards. We can do without any of those concepts, he said. I disagreed, pointing out with a little diffidence that I feel I am being led, that I have and must pay attention carefully to discern whether I am doing what I am supposed to do or not. I like ’s position – that the left keeps losing out because they have ruled out spirituality as a legitimate term in political discourse, so the only place left open to religious-minded activists is within the right, which is not shy about speaking of values.

Yet Dieter also feels that he has vocations, too – tasks that life sets for him – though he doesn’t believe in God. He believes there’s an intelligence inside the world, yes – but only inside all of life, not in the inanimate world of rocks, wind, and tides – and not an intelligence that created the universe. Okay, we’re not significantly disagreeing substantively. It’s just that I call this intelligence “God” and he doesn’t. And I’m part of it. But so are the rocks.

Dieter kept insisting that we can mess up and destroy our planet. Nothing is protecting us from that. I agree. We could do so, but if that happens, maybe it’s part of the bigger plan. Who am I to conclude otherwise? We spoke of the “farmer’s horse” story, where it’s impossible to know whether anything is good or bad, lucky or unlucky, since that judgment will depend on what will result from that event later -- but the subsequent events keep unfolding forever and ever. So one cannot know. One can only have faith or not have faith. I choose to have faith.