Resilience is The New Black

From Naked Capitalism:

by May 9, 2015

Yves here. One does not have to look hard to discern the troubling message of this post: that people are no longer motivated by appeals to broader, more abstract values, that what motivates them are more narrow, survival-oriented approaches.

While it’s always a bit dangerous to challenge someone on what he considers to be his his home turf, I wonder whether Dr. Nelson Lebo III’s abandonment of the notion of sustainability has less to do with that idea not being as motivating as he had hoped, versus the march from triumph to triumph of disposable products and planned obsolescence. It’s far more work than it used to be to buck that trend, and most people are ever more time stressed. But people also fall prey to conformity. Do you really need a new phone every two years? Or to churn your other devices as often as you do? People are horrified to see how antique my cell phone is, and I find their disapproval comical.

But Lebo’s reading is based on a sense that individuals are pulling in their focus to me, mine, and my family. It’s reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend who is the ex-wife of a billionaire, now living modestly and teaching calculus as an adjunct at a local college. She said:

I can’t get concerned any more about tragedies. We have billions of people living on this planet who are going to die because it can’t support them. I used to care about people dying in Guatemala but now I think that saving lives now means more deaths later. I know it sounds selfish but I’ve decided to care about science and my family and not much else.

I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

This is another essay from our friend Dr. Nelson Lebo III in New Zealand. Nelson is a certified expert in everything to do with resilience, especially how to build a home and a community designed to withstand disasters, be they natural or man-made, an earthquake or Baltimore. Aware that he may rub quite a few people the wrong way, he explains here why he has shifted from seeing what he does in the context of sustainability, to that of resilience. There’s something profoundly dark in that shift, but it’s not all bad.

Nelson Lebo III: Sustainability is so 2007. Those were the heady days before the Global Financial Crisis, before $2-plus/litre petrol here in New Zealand, before the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, before the Christchurch earthquakes, before the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)…the list continues.

Since 2008, informed conversations on the economy, the environment, and energy have shifted from ‘sustainability’ to ‘resilience’. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this shift, but I’ll focus on just two: undeniable trends and a loss of faith. Let me explain.

Since 2008, most of the pre-existing trends in income inequality, extreme weather events and energy price volatility have ramped up. Sustainability is about halting and reversing these trends, but there is essentially no evidence of that type of progress, and in fact the data shows the opposite.

Plenty of quantitative data exists for the last seven years to document these accelerated trends, the most obvious is the continually widening gap between rich and poor everyone else. The second wave of commentary on the Baltimore riots (after the superficiality of the mainstream media) has been about the lack of economic activity and opportunity in many of the largely African-American neighbourhoods.

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Inside Amy Schumer – The Universe – Uncensored

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How university trigger warnings will backfire: Does Fox News need any more ammunition against the humanities?

From Salon:

Greek and Roman myths are violent and ugly, sure. But apologizing for art — especially the classics — is a bad idea

Friday, May 15, 2015

A band of enraged women tear a young king limb from limb. An eagle eats the liver – over and over again — of a god, chained to a mountain, who was foolish enough to help out human beings. A distraught king lays his own mother and rips out his own eyes. Rapes happen nearly as often as the sun rises. The wife of an emperor poisons her rivals. Another emperor has sex with one of his sisters and pimps out the others. And on and on.

 If you read ancient myths, plays, or histories this is the kind of thing that comes up again and again. (Some of the operas or television adaptations – see “I, Claudius” — made of this stuff is even gnarlier or more graphic.) If you’ve had an old-fashioned kind of liberal arts education – the kind where you either chose or were forced to take “western civ” class heavy on Euripides, Ovid and other Greek and Roman classics – these are mostly images you already know. In a lot of American high schools, you probably read the Oedipus plays and maybe the Yeats poem “Leda and the Swan.” You probably studied mythology – though probably a version as sanitized as the softened-up Grimms tales you were offered – in elementary school.

But these days, it seems, this stuff needs special handling. Four students at Columbia University – the school that pioneered the core curriculum based around the classics – wrote in the college paper:

Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

People on the political left and the hipster-and-hip-hop side of the spectrum – Thurston Moore, Chuck D – flipped their lids when Tipper Gore’s PMRC tried to put warning labels on albums with sex and violence. Musicians, music fans and liberals in general defended the rights of rockers like Marilyn Manson and rappers like 2 Live Crew to rhyme about whatever they wanted. It was all about freedom of speech back then.

Teenagers and college students these days live in a world drenched in sex and violence; if they have cable connection or a cell phone they’re exposed to a vastly harsher and more profane world than the X’ers and Boomers or Silents who either eagerly read or slept their way through their Western civ requirements. Why start protecting students from Ovid in a TMZ world?

So it’s not just the wrong way to go – it’s awful PR for those of us who think literature and the liberal arts matter. You are giving the reactionaries at Fox News – who hardly seem invested in Sophocles or Suetonius – a cannon’s worth of ammo against the “political correct” campus left. And you are treating some of the greatest, most resonant, and, yes, most painful work in the history of humanity as something we need to apologize for.

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The end of religion as we know it: Why churches can no longer hide the truth

From Salon:

“Caught in the Pulpit” author Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency

Saturday, May 16, 2015

If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.

 Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Dennett spoke recently with The Cubit about institutional transparency, the parallels between religious and atheistic fundamentalism, and the future of religion.

You describe non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” Why does this group hold such significance for understanding the future of religion?

I think that we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, thanks to the new transparency brought about by social media and the internet. It used to be a lot easier to keep secrets than it is now.

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

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Must We Alienate Our Women Allies?

Not my headline. I don’t identify as trans. or as a transwoman with or without hyphen. I think the Transgender Borg ideology is total bullshit.  I didn’t have sex reassignment surgery to be a transwoman.  When I came out I came out as a woman and the end goal was to be a female bodied woman.

I think gender is a social construct as describe by Simone de Beauvoir in the late 1940s not as defined and described by Judy Butler of the impenetrable lannguage and made up words of the post-modern era.

I grew up a working class woman heavily influenced by the hippie and later 1970s era dykes.  I’m a female identified, woman identified woman.  I don’t do some things now due to physical limitations and not because of sex/gender roles.

Gender, gender, gender is as much a way to oppress women as anything concocted by Phyllis Schlafly.  The transgender movement’s attacks on feminism are as oppressive and anti-woman as anything the MRAs ever cooked up.

When I became a feminist there was a concern that women who had been born transsexual would co-opt the women’s movement and make it all about them.  we were different in tose days we gave priority to being women not transgender, which wasn’t in common usage.

I am tired of all the Trans-Games of things like “cis”.

I stand with women, I put women first.  I put the interests of women ahead of those of transgender identified people.

From Huffington Post:


There has been a long history of tension between lesbian trans women and lesbian cis women, manifested in the battles over admission to and inclusion at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, as well as admissions to women’s colleges. In some ways it’s to be expected, as an understanding of gender identity has taken a long time to even begin to permeate through society as a whole, let alone gay society. It is also no surprise that cisgender lesbian women, who see themselves through the prism of sexual orientation, don’t easily “get” trans women, who are rooted in the experience of a gender identity that is different from the one assumed at birth. Those lesbians usually don’t feel any challenge to their fundamental sense of self as women — that is, until one of their own decides to transition to male or to partner up with a trans woman. It’s at that moment that the deeper issues of identity as female force their way into consciousness. I will admit to envying my cis lesbian friends who are so comfortable just being women who love women and seldom feel the challenge anymore from an ignorant hatred that refuses to see them as women simply because they are gay.

Those battles, which unfortunately persist, are bad enough, but now there is a movement among certain young trans persons and allies to confront the class of straight cis women as well. I first noticed this trend last year when a group challenged local Texas NARAL and Planned Parenthood groups for using “women” in their marketing, claiming that that language excluded trans men. I’ve learned that the public debate began a year earlier, when Laura Rankin posted an op-ed on stating a need to reframe the battle for abortion rights. This year some women at Mt. Holyoke College decided to cease performing The Vagina Monologues because they felt that the play was no longer inclusive, and because they inferred, wrongly, that the playwright, Eve Ensler, is transphobic. Now the battle has made it into the mainstream leftist media in an article by Katha Pollitt, and the trans activists are misreading her words and creating a problem where there isn’t one.

Ms. Pollitt makes her point succinctly and compassionately, with no evidence of prejudice:

I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong — it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” (Like many of the people I interviewed for this column, she asked to remain anonymous.) Maybe in ten years, it will seem perfectly natural to me to talk about abortion in a gender-neutral way. Right now, though, it feels as if abortion language is becoming a bit like French, where one man in a group of no matter how many women means “elles” becomes “ils.”

Pollitt points out that the critical issue today is access, and there seems to be little disagreement about that fact. She then goes on to point out the political impact of the demanded change:

The real damage of abolishing “women” in abortion contexts, though, is to our political analysis. What happens to Dr. Tiller’s motto, “Trust Women”? There was a whole feminist philosophy expressed in those two words: women are competent moral actors and they, not men, clergy or the state, are the experts on their own lives, and should be the ones to decide how to shape them. It is because abortion gives power specifically to women that it was criminalized. How did Selina Meyer put it on Veep? If men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM.

That’s the politics from a cis woman’s point of view. From a trans woman’s point of view, I see one more misguided attempt at providing inclusion that has the inevitable consequence of alienating millions of women who are or could be our allies, as we dilute their campaign while focusing solely on ourselves. No pregnant trans man has been denied access, according to reports; the problem lies with trans men feeling excluded by the language. Well, it’s not always about you or me. There are much bigger issues involved here, and demanding that the language that speaks to and empowers tens of millions of women should be neutralized so as not to offend a handful of trans men is unfair.

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The Big Picture: Expand Social Security with Robert Reich

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

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The Founder Of Mother’s Day Hated What The Holiday Became

From Huffington Post:


The founder of Mother’s Day wouldn’t have wanted you to buy those flowers for mom. Or that card. Or those chocolates. In all likelihood, she wouldn’t have wanted you to celebrate the holiday at all.

The fact that we will collectively spend nearly $20 billion on moms this year probably would have caused Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, to throw her lunch on the floor like she reportedly did in the early 1900s, when she found out that a department store in Philadelphia was offering a Mother’s Day special, according to Mental Floss.

Jarvis — a West Virginia woman who didn’t even have children of her own, according to — came up with the idea for a Mother’s Day holiday, organizing the first celebration at a Methodist church in 1908. Annoyed that most American holidays were dedicated to honoring male achievements, Jarvis started a letter-writing campaign to make it a national holiday, involving wearing a white carnation, visiting your mother and maybe going to church.

Her campaign worked, but not in the way she hoped: She never wanted Mother’s Day to be the commercial holiday it quickly came to be. (Although maybe she should have thought twice about getting financing for the first celebration from the owner of Wanamaker’s, a major department store at the time.)

Soon after Congress made Mother’s Day an official holiday in 1914, Jarvis was actively campaigning against it, leveling harsh criticism against florists, candy makers, greeting-card companies and anyone else looking to make a buck off the holiday.

A 1924 story published in the Miami Daily News and Metropolis detailed Jarvis’s distaste for what Mother’s Day had become. It pretty much comes down to this:

Consumerism stinks.

“Commercialization of Mother’s Day is growing every year,” says she. “Since the movement has spread to all parts of the world, many things have tried to attach themselves because of its success.”

Florists are the worst.

“The red carnation has no connection with Mother’s Day. Yet florists have spread the idea that it should be worn for mother who has passed away. This has boosted the sale of red carnations.”

Candy makers are also the worst.

“Confectioners put a white ribbon on a box of candy and advance the price just because it’s Mother’s Day,” she charges. “There is no connection between candy and this day. It is pure commercialization.”

Greeting card makers are terrible (as are lazy kids who just send pre-written cards):

“The sending of a wire is not sufficient. Write a letter to your mother. No person is too busy to do this. Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card or telegram.”

So there you have it. Straight from the founder of Mother’s Day herself.

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There’s a Reason Gay Marriage Is Winning, While Abortion Rights Are Losing

From The Nation:

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Mother’s Day Edition


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Texas attack shows how US protects free speech – no matter how offensive

From The Guardian UK:

Critics say Pamela Geller’s event was provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech – but protections afforded by the first amendment are unique

in New York
Wednesday 6 May 2015

The fatal shootings in Garland, Texas, of two extremist gunmen as they attacked an anti-Islamist meeting was a vivid reminder of the virtually unique protections afforded by the US constitution to free speech, no matter how hate-filled or provocative, according to prominent first amendment experts.

In many countries across Europe and around the world, Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who organized the event in Garland, might have fallen foul of hate speech laws such as the UK’s 1986 public order act or article 266(b) of Denmark’s criminal code.

Coming just two months after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, commenters the world over have said Geller’s decision to stage the Texas cartoon competition – participants were invited to draw the prophet Muhammad, with a top prize of $10,000 – was clearly provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech.

Geller herself has a long history of inflammatory acts toward the Muslim community.

But there was never any question of the Muhammad event being barred, leading US constitutional scholars say, for the simple reason that the first amendment offers an almost watertight protection of public speech.

Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe said the Garland attack illustrated a major difference in free speech law between the US and almost every other country in the world.

“Most other nations recognize a category of hateful speech that is likely to trigger outrage and even retaliation, but the first amendment has for many decades been interpreted to allow speakers like Pamela Geller to spread their disturbing messages to the world at large,” Tribe said.

While some aspects of US constitutional law are ambiguous or blurry, the first amendment is crystal clear on this issue. The government is prohibited from punishing hate speech or language that might incite lawlessness unless the words are specifically and deliberately directed at a particular target and likely imminently to trigger violence.

Given all the legal hurdles that a prosecution would have to clear in order to be successful, actions to block public events or censor hate-filled publications are virtually extinct in modern America. Legal scholars such as Tribe date the ascendancy of the first amendment in this area to the 1969 case of Brandenburg v Ohio in which a Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted under Ohio law for holding a rally with participants in full Klan regalia parading around burning crosses and vowing “revengeance” against the N-word and Jews.

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Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Sunday, April 26, 2015

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.

Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.

What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel.

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.

A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it or leave it.

Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.

Although jobs are coming back from the depths of the Great Recession, the portion of the labor force actually working remains lower than it’s been in over thirty years – before vast numbers of middle-class wives and mothers entered paid work.

Which is why corporations can get away with firing workers without warning, replacing full-time jobs with part-time and contract work, and cutting wages. Most working people have no alternative.

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Texas Police Kill Gunmen at Exhibit Featuring Cartoons of Muhammad

From The New York Times:

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Neil Gaiman stands up for Charlie Hebdo: “For f**k’s sake, they drew somebody and they shot them, and you don’t get to do that”

From Salon:

Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel on why comics are so controversial — and why they must be defended

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When six writers withdrew in protest from PEN American Center’s annual fundraising gala last week, they set off a long and lively discussion of free expression and its limits. At issue is the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award that PEN is tonight bestowing on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, eight of whose staff members were killed, along with four other people, when gunmen sent by the militant Islamist group al-Qaida in Yemen assaulted their offices earlier this year. The dissenting six were soon joined by more than 200 other PEN members, who signed a letter objecting to “enthusiastically rewarding” the magazine because they consider its cartoons of the prophet Mohammed to be offensive to Muslims.

But those six writers also left six empty chairs at the event, chairs ordinarily occupied by well-known literary figures who serve as “table hosts.” Over the weekend, six other writers stepped forward to fill those seats. They include journalist George Packer, “Reading Lolita in Tehran” author Azar Mafisi and Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese-born French author who will present the award to Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief.

The other three are all celebrated comics artists: Art Spiegelman, Neil Gaiman and Alison Bechdel. Spiegelman, author of the legendary graphic novel “Maus,” had read that some PEN members had floated the idea of standing up and turning their backs when the award was presented, or hissing. “I thought, that’s obscene,” he said on the telephone yesterday. “I talked to a few friends, and Alison and Neil Gaiman were able and willing to come. Matt Groening [creator of “The Simpsons”] tried to come but he was in production this week. I thought it would be great to have someone to shout out, ‘Cartoonists’ lives matter!’ when the award is being given if anybody dared hiss it.”

Cartoonists tend to stick together because they have to; as Gaiman points out, their work is disproportionately singled out for suppression both abroad and in the U.S., while at the same time often regarded as not “serious” enough to deserve a full-throttle defense. “I spent 12 years on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund,” Gaiman told me, “for which I was fighting on a daily basis to keep people who had written, drawn, published, sold or owned comics out of prison and from losing their livelihood for having drawn something that upset somebody.”

Cartoonists are particularly vulnerable when addressing Islam, as some (but not all) Muslims believe that it is sacrilegious to depict their prophet visually in any way. This is not a threat limited to Europe. Earlier this year, CNN reported that the Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris is still in hiding, four years after she attracted death threats for drawing non-satirical images of Mohammed on a teacup and thimble and domino. Her name recently appeared on the most-wanted list of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire.

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Hillary Clinton Calls For ‘Toppling’ The 1 Percent

From Huffington Post:


Hillary Clinton believes that strengthening the middle class and alleviating income inequality will require “toppling” the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, according to a New York Times profile published on Tuesday.

The Times article quoted a host of Clinton confidants characterizing Clinton’s economic policy record as a populist agenda akin to that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). That includes a view that the ongoing accumulation of massive wealth at the top of the spectrum is holding back the broader economy.

In a meeting with economists this year, Mrs. Clinton intensely studied a chart that showed income inequality in the United States. The graph charted how real wages, adjusted for inflation, had increased exponentially for the wealthiest Americans, making the bar so steep it hardly fit on the chart.

Mrs. Clinton pointed at the top category and said the economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1 percent, according to several people who were briefed on Mrs. Clinton’s policy discussions but could not discuss private conversations for attribution.

The Clinton campaign told HuffPost they could not confirm the precise language of the quote, but did not distance themselves from its populist essence.

“No one in the room remembers this quote, and it doesn’t sound like language she’d use,” a Clinton aide emailed to HuffPost. “That said, our economy was nearly toppled in 2008 because the deck was stacked for those at the top and Hillary Clinton has said she’s running to reshuffle the deck for everyday Americans so that it doesn’t topple again and people can actually get ahead. It’s a belief at the core of her entire career fighting and at the core of this campaign.”

But while Clinton may be focusing on the wealthy, the Times article also seemed to underscore a lingering tension between some of her top advisers and Warren herself.

One anonymous Clinton adviser gave the Times a research memo championing Clinton’s career in economic policy making, while dismissing Warren as a “footnote.” Gene Sperling, a long-time economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama appeared to criticize Warren as an ineffective attack dog.

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American Psychological Association Emails Expose Direct Ties to CIA Torture Program

This is the same APA that has a history of abusing LGBT people.

Press Release

From Physicians for Human Rights:

New York, NY – 04/30/2015

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) again urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the American Psychological Association’s (APA) complicity in the CIA torture program, following a new report in today’s New York Times. Internal emails obtained by Times reporter James Risen clearly show that the APA secretly modified its ethics policy to endorse psychologist participation in torture, with the aid of CIA and White House personnel.

“This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of U.S. medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Psychologists must never use their knowledge of human behavior to harm or undermine individuals. The Justice Department must look into any crimes or violations that may have been committed. It’s equally critical for psychologists to reclaim the principles of their profession and to reassert the values of human rights in psychology.”

PHR has repeatedly called on the APA to clarify its ties to the CIA torture program and its architects, including CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell (a former APA member) and Bruce Jessen. PHR said it looked forward to the findings of an independent investigation into the APA’s collusion with the CIA expected in summer 2015. In the meantime, there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to warrant a Department of Justice investigation.

PHR first called for an investigation into APA ethics policies in 2009, after a leaked APA email listserv revealed that most members of the secret 2005 APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) had U.S. military and intelligence affiliations. Since then, additional email disclosures and related analysis – including articles by Risen – have exposed coordinated efforts by APA, CIA, and White House officials to bring key portions of APA ethics policy in line with the legal and operational needs of the George Bush-era torture program.

“By revising its ethics policies in order to align with the CIA’s torture practices, the American Psychological Association effectively endorsed psychologist participation in CIA torture,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “This supported the Bush administration’s spurious claim that brutal interrogation practices were ‘safe, effective, and legal.’ The APA’s complicity is a betrayal of the fundamental duty of all health professionals – to do no harm.”

Risen’s latest article discloses the purpose behind the changes made to the APA’s ethics policy, drawing on a new analysis by a team of independent psychological, medical, and human rights experts. The APA’s 2005 PENS Task Force policy revisions reversed a longstanding policy to specifically endorse psychologist research into and monitoring of interrogations – including defining “what constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” This language comported with the then still-classified Department of Justice “torture memos,” which concluded that certain techniques would not violate the ban on “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” if subjected to medical monitoring. Yet, at the time, the CIA Office of Medical Services objected to playing such a role. This legal indemnification strategy was therefore written into APA ethics policy, with the direct involvement of the CIA and a former behavioral science advisor for the Bush White House.

Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture of national security detainees by U.S. personnel in a series of groundbreaking reports. Dr. Stephen Soldz, lead author of the APA email analysis referenced in the New York Times article, is anti-torture advisor to PHR and has collaborated on several of the reports. PHR has repeatedly called for an end to the torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the United States, a federal investigation into the role of health professionals in the U.S. torture program, and full criminal and professional accountability for any health professionals found to have participated.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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America, Land of Opportunity, Where a Rabbi Can Be Just as much of a Bigot as the Taliban Christians

RWW News: Jonathan Cahn Warns That God Will Punish America For Legalizing Gay Marriage

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