Last week, the Public Religion Research Institute published a study showing that Americans want their fellow citizens to think they are more religiously observant than they really are. When asked by a live human being on the telephone how often they attend religious services, respondents were more likely to say they attend frequently. When filling out a self-administered online survey, by contrast, they were more likely to admit that they do not.
Surprising? Not terribly. But this may be: Liberals were more likely to exaggerate their religious attendance than conservatives. Liberals attend services
Why does this matter? Because it’s more evidence that the claim that liberals are waging a “war on religion” is absurd. You can hardly listen to a GOP presidential hopeful or flip on Fox News without hearing the charge. In 2012, Rick Perry promised that if elected he’d “end Obama’s war on religion.” Bobby Jindal recently warned that “the American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war” against “a group of like-minded [liberal] elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed.” Ann Coulter explains, “Liberals hate religion because politics is a religion substitute for liberals and they can’t stand the competition.”
Notice the claim. It’s not merely that liberals are not religious themselves. It’s that they disdain people who are, and this disdain creates a cultural stigma (and a legal barrier) to religious observance. “Bigotry against evangelical Christians is the last acceptable form of bigotry in the country,” Ralph Reed said recently. Continue reading “Myth of war on religion”
Many U.S. universities were built on slave money.
Harvard, Princeton, Brown, William and Mary, and Emory are a few names on the list, as discussed in an article in yesterday’s New York Times reviewing Craig Steven Wilder’s new book: Ebony and Ivory: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities:
When Craig Steven Wilder first began digging around in university archives in 2002 for material linking universities to slavery, he recalled recently, he was “a little bashful” about what he was looking for. “Ebony and Ivy,” by Mr. Wilder, cites this ad for the sale of slaves by a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. “I would say, ‘I’m interested in 18th-century education,’ or something general like that,” Mr. Wilder said. But as he told the archivists more, they would bring out ledgers, letters and other documents.
“They’d push them across the table and say, ‘You might want to take a peek at this,’ ” he said. “It was often really great material that was cataloged in ways that was hard to find.” Now, more than a decade later, Mr. Wilder, a history professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a new book, “Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities,” which argues provocatively that the nation’s early colleges, alongside church and state, were “the third pillar of a civilization based on bondage.”He also has a lot more company in the archives. Since 2003, when Ruth Simmons, then the president of Brown University, announced a headline-grabbing initiative to investigate that university’s ties to slavery, scholars at William and Mary, Harvard, Emory, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and elsewhere have completed their own studies. Continue reading “Academia built on slavery”
Primitive society was not driven by war, scientists believe.
Researchers from Abo Academy University in Finland say that violence in early human communities was driven by personal conflicts rather than large-scale battles, reports an article today posted by the BBC from a recent study. “Findings suggest that war is not an innate part of human nature, but rather a behaviour that we have adopted more recently.
“Patrik Soderberg, an author of the study, said: “This research questions the idea that war was ever-present in our ancestral past. It paints another picture where the quarrels and aggression were primarily about interpersonal motives instead of groups fighting against each other.” The research team based their findings on isolated tribes from around the world that had been studied over the last century Cut off from modern life and surviving off wild plants and animals, these groups live like the hunter gatherers of thousands of years ago.
“They are the kind of societies that don’t really rely on agriculture or domestic animals – they are primitive societies,” explained Mr Soderberg.”About 12,000 years ago, we assume all humans were living in this kind of society, and that these kind of societies made up about for about 90% of our evolutionary path.”Using the modern tribes as an analogy for earlier society, the researchers looked at cases where violent deaths had been documented. They found 148 such deaths but very few were caused by war. “Most of these incidents of lethal aggression were what we call homicides, a few were feuds and only the minority could be labelled as war,” Mr Soderberg said. Continue reading “War is not innate”
The light went on in my head during a debate over PTSD nomenclature last year.
Then-president of the American Psychiatric Association, John Oldham, was chairing a session entitled Combat-Related PTSD: Injury or Disorder? Today’s Time Magazine carries a no-nonsense article about what PTSD is, exactly.
“A stellar panel of trauma experts — retired generals, senior researchers and key framers of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — debated whether the term, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be changed to post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).
“Supporters of the change to “injury” argued that it might help overcome the stigma that many military members and veterans associate with seeking treatment for PTSD. Service members aren’t happy to report “a disorder” but might be willing to admit an injury. Those in opposition argued that “injury” is too imprecise a term for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. As I sat through the heated session, it struck me that they were also implying that the term, disorder, is somehow “more scientific” and, therefore, “more psychiatric.” Continue reading “PTSD explained”
In his new book America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth?, Henry A. Giroux exposes the apostles of education “reform” who mistake corporatizing the classroom for preparing young people for a robust, productive democracy. Giroux is interviewed in TruthOut, as briefly excerpted below:
Leslie Thatcher for Truthout: You have authored over 50 books, all of which deal with education in one form or another and most of which deal with the problems of youth; how would you define the specific focus of America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth?
The focus of this book is on the growing economic, political and cultural gap that has emerged in the United States between political leaders elected to govern and the citizenry whom they represent. It is also about the pernicious gap between ruling financial and corporate elites and the rest of society and how it has intensified the growth of a political and cultural landscape that is as anti-intellectual and devoid of a culture of questioning as it is authoritarian. I argue in this book that the deepening political, economic and moral deficit in America is inextricably connected to an education deficit, which is currently impacting young people most of all by starving them of both the economic resources and the formative educational experiences required to help them develop into knowledgeable and engaged citizens. The book begins with the premise that the crisis of schooling cannot be disconnected from the economic crisis – fueled by endless wars, a bloated military-industrial complex, and vast disparities in wealth and income. I argue throughout the book that as the United States proceeds headlong on a reckless course of civic illiteracy, which serves to legitimate and bolster a malignant gap in income, wealth and power, the end point is sure to entail the destruction of current and future possibilities for developing the educational institutions and formative culture that advance the imperatives of justice and democracy. Continue reading “Giroux: The War on Youth”
Who knew there was a potato war and that poor kids and their moms were the victims?
According to current numbers, Americans eat (or attempt to eat) 112 pounds of potatoes per capita last year. But lately, according to NPR today, “the potato industry has been playing the part of jilted lover and taking its heartache to Congress.
“The National Potato Council is saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture “discriminates” against fresh, white potatoes. Huh?
“Back in 2007, the USDA ruled that women and children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, couldn’t buy potatoes with the program’s vouchers. Instead, the nearly 9 million WIC participants, who have to be poor and at risk of under- or malnutrition to enroll in the program, are given a monthly benefit ($10 for women and $6 for children) to buy any fruit or vegetable except white potatoes.
“This month, industry groups persuaded some members of the House Appropriations Committee to introduce an amendment to change that — by permitting states the option to include potatoes in their WIC programs. The potato lobby is also hoping to change the final WIC rule on what foods are eligible for the WIC benefit. USDA is taking comments on it until June 29. Continue reading “Women, children, and potatoes”
The prosecution of Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks’ source inside the U.S. Army, will be pulling out all the stops when it calls to the stand a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit that assassinated Osama bin Laden – writes Chase Madar in today’s edition of Le Monde: ” The SEAL (in partial disguise, as his identity is secret) is expected to tell the military judge that classified documents leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks were found on bin Laden’s laptop. That will, in turn, be offered as proof not that bin Laden had internet access like two billion other earthlings, but that Manning has “aided the enemy,” a capital offense.
“Think of it as courtroom cartoon theater: the heroic slayer of the jihadi super-villain testifying against the ultimate bad soldier, a five-foot-two-inch gay man facing 22 charges in military court and accused of the biggest security breach in U.S. history.
“But let’s be clear on one thing: Manning, the young Army intelligence analyst who leaked thousands of public documents and passed them on to WikiLeaks, has done far more for U.S. national security than SEAL Team 6. Continue reading “Dystopian secrecy leads to mindless war”
For well over a decade now the United States has been “a nation at war.” Does that war have a name? This question is posed in today’s edition of Le Monde: “It did at the outset. After 9/11, George W. Bush’s administration
wasted no time in announcing that the U.S. was engaged in a Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT. With few dissenters, the media quickly embraced the term. The GWOT promised to be a gargantuan, transformative enterprise. The conflict begun on 9/11 would define the age. In neoconservative circles, it was known as World War IV.
“Upon succeeding to the presidency in 2009, however, Barack Obama without fanfare junked Bush’s formulation (as he did again in a speech at the National Defense University last week). Yet if the appellation went away, the conflict itself, shorn of identifying marks, continued.
“Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much so.
“Names bestow meaning. When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about. To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others. Let me provide a few illustrations. With rare exceptions, Americans today characterize the horrendous fraternal bloodletting of 1861-1865 as the Civil War. Yet not many decades ago, diehard supporters of the Lost Cause insisted on referring to that conflict as the War Between the States or the War for Southern Independence (or even the War of Northern Aggression). The South may have gone down in defeat, but the purposes for which Southerners had fought — preserving a distinctive way of life and the principle of states’ rights — had been worthy, even noble. So at least they professed to believe, with their preferred names for the war reflecting that belief.Schoolbooks tell us that the Spanish-American War began in April 1898 and ended in August of that same year. The name and dates fit nicely with a widespread inclination from President William McKinley’s day to our own to frame U.S. intervention in Cuba as an altruistic effort to liberate that island from Spanish oppression. Continue reading “The nameless war”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is being criticized for the shortfall in care for almost a million veterans who can’t get timely compensation and have been waiting hundreds of days for help, often to no avail, reports NPR today.
“Frustration with the agency came to a head last Thursday when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was called before a closed-door meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.”We are aggressively executing a plan that we have put together to fix this decades-old problem and eliminate the backlog, as we have indicated, in 2015,” Shinseki said after the meeting.“So this is a challenge [and] we’re making tough decisions that make it possible for more people to apply for and receive benefits.
“Glenn Smith, a 28-year-old Army veteran from St. Louis, joined the military in 2004.”I joined because I loved tanks, believe it or not,” Smith tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.Smith was deployed to Iraq twice between 2006 and 2010; he spent most of four years in combat. He now has an irregular heartbeat, and attributes it to one of the many IED blasts he went through. The irregular heartbeat, discovered during a routine training exercise, led to him being discharged last spring.
“Smith described an anxiety attack in March in which “things just [closed] in” on him. It’s even happened while he was driving.”I didn’t feel like I had any release or way to break free of it,” he says. “I’ve had memories and nightmares of my experiences while I was in Iraq. Any all that just came rushing to the surface.”Smith also says he has a bad case of PTSD. His PTSD has been so debilitating, he needs help navigating the VA. He submitted his initial claim about a year ago, but still lacks regular treatment for the disorder. Continue reading “Veterans’ PTSD options are lacking”
Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history, reports todays Le Monde. “With U.S. troops gone from Iraq and the withdrawal from Afghanistan underway, it’s easy to forget that we probably still have about1,000 military bases in other peoples’ lands. This giant collection of bases receives remarkably little media attention, costs a fortune, and even when cost cutting is the subject du jour, it still seems to get a free ride.
“With so much money pouring into the Pentagon’s base world, the question is: Who’s benefiting?
“Some of the money clearly pays for things like salaries, health care, and other benefits for around one million military and Defense Department personnel and their families overseas. But after an extensive examination of government spending data and contracts, I estimate that the Pentagon has dispersed around $385 billion to private companies for work done outside the U.S. since late 2001, mainly in that baseworld. That’s nearly double the entire State Departmentbudget over the same period, and because Pentagon and government accountingpractices are so poor, the true total may be significantly higher. Continue reading “America’s 1,000 Plateaus”
“Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war,.” writes Victoria Brittain in a recent edition of Le Monde. “In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.
“In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata. I stayed in Great Britain. There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam. Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies. Continue reading “How one war on terror turned against women”
The Invisible War has done something exceptionally rare. Rather than tackling an issue that’s safely in the past, Kirby Dick and his subjects have confronted an ongoing culture of sexual violence and grotesque indifference in one of the country’s most respected institutions, reports todays Daily Beast.“And instead of being dismissed as Hollywood liberalism, or creating a temporary spike in awareness that dissipates shortly after its release, The Invisible War is helping push forward action in Congress and substantive reform in the military itself.
“It’s one thing for a movie in Oscar contention to get snared in politics, or to seek out political relevance as a way of linking a film to a larger narrative. … Since The Invisible War’s release, federal action on sexual assaults in the military has instead accelerated. On January 23, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on the investigation into Lackland Air Force Base, the site of the Air Force’s basic training: a staff sergeant stationed there was convicted of rape and sexual assault last summer, and 32 instructors are alleged to have sexually coerced or formed relationships with their students that violate military regulations. The New York Times wrote “that they are doing so is in large part a tribute to” The Invisible War, though Dick said he was frustrated that so many congressmen left the hearing to attend a vote, skipping the part of the program where assault survivors testified about their experiences.”
Full story at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/07/the-invisible-war-how-oscar-s-military-rape-documentary-might-change-everything.html
“Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States,” writes Patricia Johnstone in a thoughtful essay in CounterPunch. The article then analyses how justified war has become a preferred solution to mass extermination . . . but at what cost and in whose interests?
“Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities. Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration.
“The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, ‘A Problem from Hell’. Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide”. It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor. Continue reading “War and genocide today”
Virtual wars are getting more and more commonplace. Kids play soldiers in “Call of Duty” and actual soldiers pilot lethal drones from remote trailers in the U.S.
Now the British are taking virtual warfare to a larger scale, with its army staging the largest virtual battle simulation yet, involving 220 soldiers. The BBC reports that
“The experiment was carried out at the Army’s Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, Wiltshire. The two-hour scenario saw soldiers on computers completing virtual missions in a fictional French town. The Army says the simulation will help it to find out which resources it needs to invest in, once it takes control of its own budget in April 2013.
“’The aim is to understand how various changes have an impact on the speed at which command can respond,’ Continue reading “British stage huge virtual war”
It was s short message. But the nation that led the U.S. into a war over “freedom” takes Twitter seriously.
“A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to two years in prison for insulting the country’s ruler on Twitter, a lawyer following the case said, as the Gulf Arab state cracks down on criticism of the authorities on social media,” reports Reuters.
“According to the verdict on Sunday, published by online newspaper Alaan, a tweet written by Rashid Saleh al-Anzi in October “stabbed the rights and powers of the Emir” Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Continue reading “Political tweet sends Kuwaiti to prison”
“Neither the George W. Bush nor Barack Obama White House ever laid out a vision for what an end to the war on terrorism would actually look like,” reports Spencer Ackerman in today’s DangerRoom. “But as Obama prepares for his second term in office, one of his top defense officials is arguing that there is an end in sight, and laying out conditions for when the U.S. will reach it.
“On the present course, there will come a tipping point,” Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, told the Oxford Union in the U.K. on Friday, Continue reading “Obama official sketches end to war on terror”
In what follows, Elspeth Cameron Ritchie discusses PTSD with a degree of nuance not always seen in mainstream journalism. Ritchie notes her ambivalence over the frequency with which the diagnosis is assigned to milirary personnel, inasmuch as other disorders can go untreated as a consequence. As she writes, “This is the last in my series of posts on the ethics of treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (the first simply outlined ethical issues for military mental-health personnel; then I wrote about the right time to send a service member back into combat; Continue reading “Diagnostic quandaries and PTSD”
Since President Obama took office in 2008, the CIA has killed 2,500 people with robotically controlled drones run by technicians housed in remote trailers. Anticipating a possible new regime in Washington, the administration accelerated work on a set of guidelines to give a new president standards and criteria for future killings. It’s worth noting, that 70 percent of the deaths have been civilian casualties, according to TruthOut (See, “Civilian Deaths From US Drone Attacks Much Higher Than Reported”
The secret drone policy under consideration was discussed in today’s Continue reading “The Obama murder manual”
It had to happen: now you can major in cyberwarfare. As reported in today’s Los Angeles Times, “stalking is part of the curriculum in the Cyber Corps, an unusual two-year program at the University of Tulsa that teaches students how to spy in cyberspace, the latest frontier in espionage.
“Students learn not only how to rifle through trash, sneak a tracking device on cars and plant false information on Facebook. They also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives.
“It may sound like a Jason Bourne movie, but the little-known program has funneled most of its graduates to the CIA and the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, which conducts America’s digital spying. Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.
“The need for stronger cyber-defense — and offense — was highlighted when Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned in an Oct. 11 speech that a “a cyber-terrorist attack could paralyze the nation,” and that America needs experts to tackle the growing threat.
“’An aggressor nation or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals,’’ Panetta said. ‘They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.’
“Panetta said the Pentagon spends more than $3 billion annually for cyber-security. ‘Our most important investment is in skilled cyber-warriors needed to conduct operations in cyberspace,’ he said.
See full story in the Los Angeles Times, “Cyber Corps program trains spies for the digital age.”
“The Israeli government said that its websites logged about 44 million hacking attempts following the bombardment of Gaza Strip since Wednesday,” says the technology site, The Droid Guy in an article today entitled “Israeli Websites Under Attack.” The essay continues:
“Yuval Steinitz, the country’s Finance Minister, said that an unnamed government website was successfully hacked only once, but it was back online after 10 minutes.
“Government websites in Israel are typically hit hundreds of times in a typical day, the Finance Ministry said. Websites related to national defense of Israel were hit the hardest although the site of the country’s president also logged 10 million hacking attempts. The Foreign Ministry site was hacked 7 million times while the prime minister’s site experienced about 3 million attempts.
“Although sources of the attacks came from around the world, most of them originated from Israel and Palestinian territories. Minister Steinitz said: ‘The ministry’s computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks. We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerized defense systems.’”
“He has reportedly instructed the ministry to use back up systems to counter the hacking attempts on government websites. Both combatants have utilized social media recently to gain support around the world. The Israeli Defense Force is using almost all social media sites while Palestinian terrorists are embracing Twitter. For complete story, see, “Israeli Websites Under Attack.”