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Whether someone becomes addicted to drugs has much more to do with their childhood and their quality of life than with the drug they use or with anything in their genes. This is one of the more startling of the many revelations in the best book I've read yet this year: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari.
We've all been handed a myth. The myth goes like this: Certain drugs are so powerful that if you use them enough they will take over. They will drive you to continue using them. It turns out this is mostly false. Only 17.7 percent of cigarette smokers can stop smoking using a nicotine patch that provides the same drug. Of people who have tried crack in their lives, only 3 percent have used it in the past month and only 20 percent were ever addicted. U.S. hospitals prescribe extremely powerful opiates for pain every day, and often for long periods of time, without producing addiction. When Vancouver blocked all heroin from entering the city so successfully that the "heroin" being sold had zero actual heroin in it, the addicts' behavior didn't change. Some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were addicted to heroin, leading to terror among those anticipating their return home; but when they got home 95 percent of them within a year simply stopped. (So did the Vietnamese water buffalo population, which had started eating opium during the war.) The others soldiers had been addicts before they went and/or shared the trait most common to all addicts, including gambling addicts: an unstable or traumatic childhood.
Most people (90 percent according to the U.N.) who use drugs never get addicted, no matter what the drug, and most who do get addicted can lead normal lives if the drug is available to them; and if the drug is available to them, they will gradually stop using it.
But, wait just a minute. Scientists have proven that drugs are addictive, haven't they?
Well, a rat in a cage with absolutely nothing else in its life will choose to consume huge quantities of drugs. So if you can make your life resemble that of a rat in a cage, the scientists will be vindicated. But if you give a rat a natural place to live with other rats to do happy things with, the rat will ignore a tempting pile of "addictive" drugs.
And so will you. And so will most people. Or you'll use it in moderation. Before the War on Drugs began in 1914 (a U.S. substitute for World War I?), people bought bottles of morphine syrup, and wine and soft drinks laced with cocaine. Most never got addicted, and three-quarters of addicts held steady respectable jobs.
Is there a lesson here about not trusting scientists? Should we throw out all evidence of climate chaos? Should we dump all our vaccines into Boston Harbor? Actually, no. There's a lesson here as old as history: follow the money. Drug research is funded by a federal government that censors its own reports when they come to the same conclusions as Chasing the Scream, a government that funds only research that leaves its myths in place. Climate deniers and vaccine deniers should be listened to. We should always have open minds. But thus far they don't seem to be pushing better science that can't find funding. Rather, they're trying to replace current beliefs with beliefs that have less basis behind them. Reforming our thinking on addiction actually requires looking at the evidence being produced by dissident scientists and reformist governments, and it's pretty overwhelming.
So where does this leave our attitudes toward addicts? First we were supposed to condemn them. Then we were supposed to excuse them for having a bad gene. Now we're supposed to feel sorry for them because they have horrors they cannot face, and in most cases have had them since childhood? There's a tendency to view the "gene" explanation as the solider excuse. If 100 people drink alcohol and one of them has a gene that makes him unable to ever stop, it's hard to blame him for that. How could he have known? But what about this situation: Of 100 people, one of them has been suffering in agony for years, in part as a result of never having experienced love as a baby. That one person later becomes addicted to a drug, but that addiction is only a symptom of the real problem. Now, of course, it is utterly perverse to be inquiring into someone's brain chemistry or background before we determine whether or not to show them compassion. But I have a bit of compassion even for people who cannot resist such nonsense, and so I appeal to them now: Shouldn't we be kind to people who suffer from childhood trauma? Especially when prison makes their problem worse?
But what if we were to carry this beyond addiction to other undesirable behaviors? There are other books presenting similarly strong cases that violence, including sexual violence, and including suicide, have in very large part similar origins to those Hari finds for addiction. Of course violence must be prevented, not indulged. But it can best be reduced by improving people's lives, especially their young lives but importantly also their current lives. Bit by bit, as we have stopped discarding people of various races, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities as worthless, as we begin to accept that addiction is a temporary and non-threatening behavior rather than the permanent state of a lesser creature known as "the addict," we may move on to discarding other theories of permanence and genetic determination, including those related to violent criminals. Someday we may even outgrow the idea that war or greed or the automobile is the inevitable outcome of our genes.
Somehow blaming everything on drugs, just like taking drugs, seems much easier.
Watch Johann Hari on Democracy Now.
He'll soon be on Talk Nation Radio, so send me questions I should ask him, but read the book first.
It is rare for someone of this writer’s acquaintance to enlist in the military, although it has happened. When someone does so, his or her family usually speaks of how proud they are of them, as if the enlistee has done something to which great honor is attached. This attitude is also reflected in public opinion polls, in which much of the populace generally seems to agree that military service is good preparation for elected office.
Let us look at these two myths in a little more detail.
By John LaForge
Military recruiters must feel like Hansel and Gretel’s “wicked witch,” fattening up the children to eat them. With sexual violence, endless wars of occupation, fatalities, brain trauma, permanent disabilities and an epidemic of suicides, what they’re selling these days looks like a lot like a bad horror show.
With the chance of being sent into quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. on one hand, the likelihood of being sexually assaulted on the other¾and the specter of suicide among vets of all stripes¾you have to wonder how recruiters get anyone in the door. Newbies must not be reading the papers; all four active-duty services and five out of six reserve components met their recruiting goals in 2014, according to the Pentagon.
Yet a Dept. of Veterans Affairs study released Feb. 1, 2013 found veterans killing themselves at a rate of 22 a day. After interviewing Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, Stars and Stripes made this rosy conflation Dec. 15: “Suicides have not dropped off the radar, despite increased focus on combating sexual assault.” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told the Washington Post last Nov. 7, “I don’t think we’ve hit the top yet on suicides.”
Among members of the Reserves and National Guard, suicides climbed eight percent between 2012 and 2013. Since 2001, more active-duty US troops have killed themselves than have been killed in Afghanistan, the Washington Post said. Last April, the AP reported that suicides in the Army National Guard and Reserve in 2013 “exceeded the number of active-duty soldiers who took their own lives, according to the Army.”
Stars and Stripes said the suicide rate among Marines and soldiers was particularly high, with those on active-duty suffering about 23 deaths per 100,000 service members in 2013, compared with 12.5 suicides per 100,000 overall in the US public in 2012¾as calculated by the Centers for Disease Control. The suicide rate among sailors also has increased this year, the CDC found.
Even if you never saw combat
An Army study of almost a million soldiers published last March reported not only that suicides among soldiers who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, but that the rate for those who never spent time in war zones almost tripled over the same five years. While many expected military suicide to decline after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were cut back, it has not happened, the Washington Post found.
Sexual assault still growing
Meanwhile, the “increased focus on combating sexual assault” has been declared a short-term failure. A 1,100-page Pentagon report released Dec. 4 found that reports of sexual assault in the military increased some eight percent in 2014, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), responded to the news saying, “I think this report shows a failure by the chain of command.” Sen. Gillibrand has fought to remove jurisdiction in sexual assault cases from commanding officers.
Spinning the findings as if increased reports of assault were positive, Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel had trouble finding the words. He said, “After last year’s unprecedented 50 percent increase in reports of sexual assault, the rate has continued to go up. That’s actually good news.” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, said the results showed “great progress,” but admitted, “We still have work to do on curbing retaliation against victims.”
The study found 62 percent of female survivors said they’d suffered retaliation, mostly from military colleagues or peers. Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps Captain and director of the Service Women’s Action Network, told the New York Times, “[T]he climate within the military is still a dangerous one for victims of sex crimes.” SWAN.org notes, “A culture of victim-blaming, lack of accountability, and toxic command climates is pervasive throughout the U.S. Armed Forces, preventing survivors from reporting incidents and perpetrators from being properly disciplined.”
One example is the light treatment given Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair last June after he pleaded guilty to maltreatment and adultery. As with most sexual assault cases, Sinclair’s lawyers spent months retaliating, re-victimizing and attacking the credibility of the accuser, an Army captain. Sinclair was sentenced to a rank reduction, full retirement benefits and a $20,000 fine, although he faced a possible life sentence and registration as a sex offender. The captain alleged that Sinclair had threatened to kill her if she disclosed their relationship.
For help regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence in the military, contact Protect Our Defenders at <email@example.com>; the S.W.A.N., at 646-569-5200; or the Veteran’s Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255. For help regarding though of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255.
-- John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.
Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English. "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.
For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on. Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to "Make sure he's dead.")
A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills. "Get me a kill" soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team. Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who'd never threatened them didn't seem to damage that treatment.
"Drop-weapon" has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim. "We're just the ones who got caught," says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film. He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: "We're training you from the day you join to the day you're out to kill. Your job is to kill. You're infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?"
Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison. Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner. It's a question worthy of consideration. The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don't seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true. What were the soldiers doing in these people's villages to begin with?
That's the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves. They'd been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training. This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation. You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first. These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.
They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder. They openly recount their conversations in the film. They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren't "tracked," they'd pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game.
And they did as planned. And they were welcomed back to the "FOB" as heroes. And they did it again. And again.
The film does not tell the whole story. It focuses on Spc. Adam Winfield, his parents, and his court proceedings back in the United States. Winfield told his father on a Facebook chat, early on, what was happening. Winfield was afraid to talk to anyone in his chain of command, and in fact the mere possibility that he might resulted in death threats to him. His father, however, tried every way he could to get anyone in the U.S. Army to listen. No one would.
And then Winfield was present for another set-up and murder. He says he fired his gun away from the victim. He says that if he had shot the two U.S. soldiers, Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, the Army would have shown him "no mercy."
Then Stoner (was it his name that tipped the balance?) turned in Gibbs and others for smoking hash in his room. So they beat him and threatened to kill him. Then he told about the body parts being passed around. The Army locked up Gibbs and Morlock. Stoner was labeled a whistleblower, which he says is worse than a murderer. If he had the chance again, he says, he would say nothing.
Winfield found he could breathe, after months of fearing murder from his own "side."
And then Winfield was, himself, charged with first-degree murder. We see his horror. We see his parents' heartbreak. We go back to see his childhood. He read history books about American war heroes, his dad says. The possibility of changing those books is not explicitly raised. He ends up with a plea bargain and a sentence of three years in prison, for supposedly having done nothing to stop a murder. At one point he's offered the option of pleading guilty to "cowardice," despite every other member of his unit and chain of command right up to the President having outdone him in that regard.
"War is dirty," says Winfield. "It's not how they portray it in movies." It is, however, more or less, from a certain angle, how they've portrayed it in this movie, which ought to be shown in U.S. schools as a warning.
But not by itself. This movie does not give us the stories of the murder victims and their families. Imagine the power of a movie that included what this one does plus that! The opportunity is repeatedly and intentionally lost by Western film makers over and over again. Nor does the film give us the stories of the victims and families of supposedly legitimate murders. Imagine the drama of trying to distinguish the suffering of those killed fighting a foreign occupation from the suffering of those killed not fighting a foreign occupation, and the power of the inevitable failure of that effort! Imagine a movie that accurately conveyed the immense scale of the killing in these one-sided slaughters of the poor by the most technologically advanced killing machine ever devised!
From the angle that this film takes, however, critical questions are thrust upon us, including: Why imprison the killers? Will it deter others? Will atrocity-free-war finally be created before we've destroyed the earth as a habitable place? Would it not be easier to shut down the military and end the wars? The deterrence I'm most interested in is that of people like Winfield's parents who allowed him to join the military before he was 18, to demonstrate their confidence in him. I think this movie might deter some parents from making that same choice.
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
By Dave Lindorff
Remarkably, the U.S. Army War College has published a report (PDF) that makes an overwhelming case against enlisting in the U.S. Army. The report, called "Civilian Organizational Inhibitors to U.S. Army Recruiting and the Road Ahead," identifies counter-recruitment organizations that effectively discourage young people from joining the military.
This is the highest honor the Army could give these groups, including Quaker House, the Mennonite Central Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist. Activists often disbelieve in the effectiveness of their own work until the government admits it explicitly. Well, here is that admission. And counter-recruitment activists really do seem to appreciate it.
No doubt someone quickly sent the report along to the NSA and the FBI. The report is, in fact, a few years old, and we have seen the government infiltrating at least some of the organizations named in it during the past few years.
But who really should be reading this excellent report is potential recruits. In laying out the arguments of the counter-recruitment groups and then trying to refute them, the report's author, Lieutenant Colonel Todd M. Jacobus, makes their case persuasively and his own weakly in the extreme. I'm not sure if this is intentional subterfuge, drug-induced self-parody, or just intellectual debility. Regardless, the government will have new appreciation for its standard disclaimer that says the views expressed are the author's alone.
"Hundreds of organizations throughout our Country [sic] have a negative influence on our recruiting efforts, using techniques and strategies that frequently depict professional military recruiters in an ill light, disillusion influencers and dissuade potential applicants from looking into military service as a viable option."
The typical Army reaction to any such challenge is, Jacobus says, to cut and run:
"Too often, the tactic of our recruiting force when engaged by a hostile force, is to break contact, and re-focus efforts and resources where those hostile to military recruitment are less likely to be confronted, and therefore where success is more likely."
Jacobus calls the Army "all-volunteer" before noting the absurdity of that claim:
"The manner in which the Quaker House illustrates their support for their Quaker ideals is by endeavoring to hurt our Army's recruiting and retention efforts by: 1. providing reference material to potential Soldiers and centers of influence that negatively portrays the military recruiter and the enlistment process; 2. counseling enlistees in the delayed entry program on how they can terminate their enlistment; 3. counseling Soldiers on active duty on how to adjudicate their situation when they are in an unexcused absence or absent without leave status; 4. counseling to Soldiers on how they can quickly adjudicate a conscientious objector status with the Army; 5. providing expertise to Soldiers on discharge procedures and regulations."
Surely a volunteer service would not require such elaborate assistance for someone attempting to stop volunteering.
Jacobus presents the arguments of counter-recruiters at some length and never counters most of them in any way at all:
"Quaker House publishes and widely distributes a document entitled, 'Meet Sgt. Abe, the Honest Recruiter'. This pamphlet emphasizes that the applicant needs to thoroughly read and understand the enlistment contract before signing the document. The pamphlet draws attention to the fact that the Army can at will extend an enlistment indefinitely, that 'Recruiters make "sweet promises" that the Army is not required to deliver'. The pamphlet draws attention to the fact that serving in the Army is 'not a normal job', and that 'you can be sent to war'. The final few pages give our impressionable applicant some 'things to think about', included in this list is that 'much military training is NOT useful in civilian jobs'; that 'many Vets suffer LONG-TERM physical and psychological damage: PTSD, "Gulf War Syndrome"', that 'Women in the military face a HIGH RISK of sexual harassment and rape'; that 'military life is hard on families with higher rates of domestic abuse and divorce', that 'there are long delays in getting veterans benefits'; that 'dozens of Soldiers are killed and hundreds are wounded every month'. Finally, Sgt Abe warns the potential Soldier to, 'think HARD before you sign – your life could be at stake.'"
In addition, a Mennonite Central Committee flyer
"highlights the fact that most students enlist in order for education benefits, and suggests that a student will NOT get the amount of money promised by their recruiter. The flier emphasizes that these students will be trained and expected to kill on the field of battle, and that the guidance counselor should ensure that there is an understanding of this expectation. The Mennonite Central Committee highlights on their 'ask a veteran' web site link the very negative opinions of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. All of the individuals highlighted regret having served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and provide a variety of reasons. These reasons include the following: serving in the military is incompatible with following Jesus; basic training is de-humanizing; the military trains soldiers to hate entire groups of people; soldiers do not show sadness in removing evil, but instead rejoice in the opportunity to kill; the military makes every effort to rob what is inside a person; people for whom we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan do not want us there; I came to the determination that love is stronger than fear, hate, suffering, and death. The veteran testimonials ranged from their description of the sincere sorrow that followed the death of a comrade to the frustrations of not being able to do more for a soldier in need. In all cases they describe how they eventually came to see our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places as illegal, and against their convictions."
A Veterans For Peace video, the report helpfully tells us, (in reality the video is the work of a number of organizations):
"begins with video from the United States Army Recruiting Command, where a recruiter comments that, 'just because you get deployed doesn't mean you will end up in the Middle East or Iraq' – followed quickly by an applicant saying, 'if I were to get mobilized, it wouldn't be a whole big ordeal'. These comments are quickly retorted by a Soldier who had been severely injured in an improvised explosive device in Iraq, his mother providing an overview of her son's injuries. Next, a Marine veteran of Vietnam addresses the invincibility of being a Marine ending as soon as one engages in combat, and that 'all of the myths and lies' that a recruit has been told are 'over'. This is followed by a stepmother talking about her stepson being killed in Fallujah, and the fact that he was only 19 years old when he enlisted, and therefore he could not know what he would face in Iraq. Next, there is an excerpt from a U.S. Army Recruiting Command video of a recruit talking about joining for the educational benefits. Several veterans then discuss the smoking mirrors [sic] associated with educational benefits. There is a claim that 'on average the Montgomery GI Bill will only cover 1⁄2 the cost of a public college and 1/5 the cost of a private college'. Further, they communicate a message that Soldiers in the Reserve Components of the U.S. Army are prevented from using education benefits due to repeated deployments. And, by the time a Soldier completes two and three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are in no shape to go to college. A former Reservist says that because he cannot use GI Bill benefits after being discharged that the government is not fulfilling their obligation to him. The video transitions to a recruit saying that he is joining the U.S. Army because, 'service will help me in civilian life'. This transitions immediately to a young man who served in Iraq who says, 'I'm a great killer; I know how to blow up bridges and buildings, and people, and how to dismantle mines'; this same young man says that the Army prepared him to be a custodian. Another veteran commenting that she was absolutely lost after leaving the service, and worked menial jobs for many years, and still does not have a direction. The video then transitions to a Vietnam veteran talking about his transition from Southeast Asia to his life here in the United States, and his homeless lifestyle of panhandling for three years. The video shows a statistic that 'the VA estimates on any given night 200,000 veterans are homeless'. The video includes an interview of a former Recruiter, who indicates that he was trained to cover up one-time drug offenses, and to do what it takes to enlist applicants into the service. The video shows a statistic that 'the Government Accounting Office reports 6,600 complaints of recruiting wrongdoing during a one year period.' Cindy Sheehan, whose son, SPC Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq, said that her son's recruiter told her that 'even if there was a war, he would not see combat'. She clearly communicates on the video that Recruiters will tell a recruit anything in order to get their signature on a contract. Further, this contract binds the recruit, but not the United States government. There is a comment that 'since the start of the Iraq War the Army has extended the enlistment of more than 50,000 troops through "stop loss"'."
Of course you could just watch the above video, rather than reading the play-by-play produced on your dime, but I want to make clear that Jacobus recounts all of these claims without ever refuting them. "Counter-recruiting organizations," he writes, "present as evidence Youtube videos, web page links, and newspaper articles highlighting sexual misconduct and criminal activity by Army Recruiters. Their messages highlight our Recruiters lying to applicants, encouraging applicants to lie on their medical and criminal history, promises of bonus money that never come, promises of education benefits that are grossly exaggerated, and promises of state-side duty with no likelihood for service overseas." Jacobus follows this summary of well-documented charges, just as he does several others, with vague platitudes and generalized assertions about the mental states of all Army recruiters: "Our Army's Recruiters are interested in people, have had positive experiences in our Army, and want to share these experiences, and present the same opportunities to our next generation of Soldiers." Golly gee, no kidding? All of them? You wouldn't insult our intelligence, would you, Sir?
To counter extensive evidence that the military does not prepare a lot of people for jobs, Jacobus just asserts that the military makes people leaders (with no evidence that this finds them jobs).
In other cases, Jacobus summarizes the charges against recruiters and the military, and then immediately admits that they are true:
"Counter-recruiter groups' messages implore potential Soldiers to consider that they will be trained to kill, they will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, they will live and serve in austere conditions, and they will see destruction and death of both friends and innocent people. They challenge potential Soldiers to visit a hospital and see those who suffer the effects of physical and psychological damage as a result of service in America‘s Army. Counter-recruiting organizations highlight the increasing domestic abuse and divorce rate present in Army families. Many of the issues raised by these counter-recruiting organizations are based on truths, although in a quite negative manner."
The truth is notoriously biased against positive depictions of mass-murder.
Similarly, on sexual assault, Jacobus recommends admitting it happens, but then asserting that every member of the U.S. military follows a code of ethics -- which apparently allows killing people and/or sexually assaulting your fellow ethical beings. Jacobus goes on to make a serious claim, namely that a college campus is the most dangerous place for sexual assaults, not the military. But clearly there are studies finding the opposite. And a separate question is the quality of the environment for recovering from (and seeking accountability for) sexual assault in the military versus on a college campus.
After writing as if we had limited intelligence for two-dozen pages, Jacobus present the "myth" that the military requires limited intelligence, in order to debunk it. But, of course, the military does not require limited intelligence; it requires limited independence of thought, which is only one particular type of intelligence.
Jacobus spends remarkably few words putting up an argument in favor of enlistment. He suggests that recruiters should counter nasty talk of dying with reassurances about medical support. Of course, that medical support is the reason so many troops are surviving without arms and legs and other, um, appendages. The author also suggests that recruiters claim (without any provided basis or explanation) that the military is defensive and that it defends "freedom." That's not what top members of the U.S. military say. It's also not what the people of the world say.
Moving on into the realm of self-parody, Jacobus recommends talking about 9-11 a lot, and then a bit more, and then maybe a little extra. And he proposes expanding on that theme by depicting the world as a permanent source of irrational terrorists out to attack the United States for no reason. Why there are no anti-Norwegian terrorist networks or anti-Anybody-Else terrorist networks is never explained. The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 is presented as evidence of the permanent senseless presence of anti-U.S. terrorism in the world, with no reference to the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran's democracy and the imposition of a vicious U.S.-backed dictator from 1953 to 1979. Jacobus offers another dozen similar examples of terrorism and alleged terrorism, all completely context free. Of course, U.S. interference in people's countries cannot justify terrorism, but it goes a great distance toward explaining it. Only by pretending that militarism does not produce terrorism, can anyone continue promoting militarism as a supposed defense against terrorism.
Delving deeply into self-parody, Jacobus holds up Colin Powell (who took a laughable case for attacking Iraq to the U.N. which rejected it) as the absolute authority on honest straight talk about why the U.S. is not aggressive or imperialistic. He quotes Powell baselessly making that claim and then skipping back over 70 years of contrary evidence to claim that after World War II the United States did not "ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe." Well, except Germany. Oh, and the need for military bases in all the other countries. And let's not forget Japan and Korea.
Jacobus claims that members of the military are not disproportionately from poor backgrounds, and indeed some studies seem to back him up. And, indeed, most members of the military, when asked if they joined to "serve their country" answer yes. But three-quarters also say they joined for education benefits, which makes one wonder what the impact on recruitment would be if the United States made education free or affordable the way other nations do. And, if that happened, what would be the further effect on susceptibility to Pentagon propaganda of a populace with a higher education level?
The following, unlike Jacobus' report, is known with certainty to be a parody. I produced it.
Student Privacy Compromised by Massive Program
By Pat Elder
In late December, 2013 the Department of Defense released a database on the military's controversial Student Testing Program in 11,700 high schools across the country. An examination of the complex and contradictory dataset raises serious issues regarding student privacy and the integrity of the Student Testing Program in America's schools.
The data was released after a protracted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
By Pat Elder
The Guide to Lead Management for Air Gun Shooting produced by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), 2013, is a misleading publication that may seriously jeopardize the health of millions of high school children and staff across the nation who may come into contact with lead particulate matter as a result of inadequate supervision and maintenance of indoor firing ranges. The CMP provides mandatory training and curriculum to Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force JROTC Marksmanship Instructors. The course covers how to safely and properly conduct air rifle live firing in the nation's high schools.
This CMP publicationisbased on dated and questionable science. It minimizes the health risks associated with indoor firing ranges using air rifles and pistols.
HET exhibited gross technical incompetence
Technical aspects of the CMP guide rely on the findings of Health & Environmental Technology LLC (HET), an environmental testing firm from Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sole employee of HET is Mr. Robert Rodosevich. HET has come under scrutiny in Colorado for "gross technical incompetence in technical compliance."
HET was contracted last year by a listing Realtor to prepare a "Preliminary Assessment" of the degree of contamination of a house used as methamphetamine lab. HET came very close to giving the house a clean bill of health before properly licensed professionals were called in to conduct a thorough and legal evaluation of the highly contaminated residence.
A Colorado regulatory audit, resulting in findings of "noncompliance and regulatory misconduct" dated May 29, 2012, and performed by Forensics Applications Consulting Technologiesfound HET's work to be "fatally flawed". The audit reported, "The HET document was not prepared by an individual documented as being capable or authorized under regulation to perform such work. .The document prepared by HET exhibited gross technical incompetence in technical compliance.."
The state auditor continued, "Mr. Robert Rodosevich has violated state regulations by entirely failing to demonstrate that he has any kind of knowledge in performing the work at all." The auditor's report documented 35 violations of state regulations.
Rodosevich's message contained in the CMP's Guide may be similarly fraudulent:
From The Guide to Lead Management for Air Gun Shooting (page 7):
"The issue of whether air gun firing creates airborne lead was re- examined in 2007 tests conducted by Health & Environmental Technology (HET), a professional environmental testing firm from Colorado Springs, Colorado. These tests were conducted on an air gun range at the U. S. Olympic Shooting Center. For these tests, air samplers were placed in the breathing space of the air gun shooters while they fired and next to the target backstops. No measurable airborne lead was detected by any of these monitors during air gun firing."
Firing air rifles or air pistols at muzzle velocities prescribed for target shooting (<600 fps) does not generate any detectable air- borne lead. There is therefore no need for special ventilation systems on air gun ranges since there is no airborne lead to exhaust from the range. Normal ventilation achieved by modern HVAC systems provides more than adequate ventilation for air gun ranges."
Rodosevich says the air is safe to breathe in hundreds of high schools across the country with indoor firing ranges.
Amazingly, there's little to substantiate or repudiate this claim regarding the air, but no one disputes the health risks associated with the accumulated lead particulate matter on the floor at the muzzle of the firearm and on the floor around the target area. For instance, many jurisdictions across the country have discontinued the use of lead ammunition at indoor police firing ranges. The high cost of non-lead ammunition is typically cited as a reason for continuing the use of lead ammunition.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, for instance, the police have switched to non-lead ammunition at the indoor firing range, but the local high schools have not. In a 2013 report, Sean Yarup, Environmental Team Leader of the Indoor Air Quality Office, Division of Maintenance of the Montgomery County Public Schools denies the possibility of elevated blood lead levels in firing range participants. The Montgomery County, Maryland report cites the study performed by HET.
The Montgomery report does cite a 2012 study by the National Research Council that found "overwhelming evidence" that 30-year-old federal standards governing lead exposure at Defense Department firing ranges and other sites aren't strict enough to protect workers from ailments associated with high blood lead levels. "In the summary section of the report, the National Research Council specifically states that the OSHA standard provides inadequate protection for DOD firing range personnel and for any other worker populations covered by the general industry standard. In other words, the study addresses occupational (worker) exposure as opposed to non-occupational exposure."
While denying the health effects on students, Montgomery officials admit the potential for worker exposure. They admit the janitors are at risk. (See the CMP guidelines on downrange cleanup below.)
Washing hands with soap and water isn't enough
After stating the air is safe to breathe, the CMP's guide states that high school children who fire lead pellet rifles in classrooms and gyms are safe from lead contamination if they wash their hands, keep open food and drink away from shooting activity, and refrain from chewing on the lead pellets.
From the CMP:
Even though all available medical evidence indicates that handling lead pellets during air gun firing does not create elevated lead levels, lead is still a toxic substance and ingesting lead into the body has a potential risk to one’s health. For this reason it is important that all air gun shooters take certain precautions while handling lead pellets.
In 1988, William L. Marcus, PhD., a researcher at the National Institute of Health, examined the issue of lead exposure for air gun shooters. He concluded that if young target shooters follow a few simple precautions, their use of lead pellets during target shooting does not constitute a health hazard. Dr. Marcus worked with shooting sports leaders to develop two simple rules that are still the basis for health guidelines that are taught to shooting coaches and shooting sports participants. Those rules are:
1) Anyone who handles air gun pellets during shooting must wash hands their hands, with soap and water, after they finish shooting.
2) No food or open beverage containers may be taken into the range and no food may be consumed on air gun ranges. It also should go without saying that pellets should never be placed in a shooter’s mouth."
The view in this 2013 document is based on 25 year-old research which has been discredited.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/
Lead fragments on the floor As stated, lead fragments are deposited on the gym or classroom floor in front of the gun muzzles and on the floor in the area around the backstops. The CMP recommends school personnel dispose of these fragments according to strict guidelines. "Lead residues on range floors can be very effectively cleaned and removed. If shooters do not move past the firing line to go downrange except as authorized, and if personnel who go downrange follow the Guidelines for Air- gun Range Design, Cleaning and Maintenance, there is no immediate health hazard to shooters or other person who remain behind the firing line." This is a big "if"and this is where people may be getting very sick. Can you imagine the janitorial staff at your high school following the procedures below every evening? (In some Maryland schools shooting ranges are set up in classrooms which are then re-converted to a normal instructional arrangement.) Last year, researchers commissioned by the Pentagon said that decades-old limits on lead exposure are inadequate to protect the health of workers on military firing ranges. Additionally, the National Academy of Science has reported that lead from ammunition fired on Army, Navy and Air Force ranges in the last five years has "frequently exceeded" those limits, "in some cases by several orders of magnitude." Sen. Ben Cardin expressed concern about the report's implications for workers at Maryland military installations with firing ranges. They're at risk," the Maryland Democrat said. "This report shows that exposure to lead from firing ranges is a health hazard, and we can do a better job of protecting the public health." Cardin, however, has not responded to concerns that several dozen firing ranges located within the state's high schools that are run by the military as part of the JROTC program, may also threaten public health. Here's a list of the necessary procedures in the CMP Guide designed to protect the health of children in high schools with shooting ranges. Can you imagine your local high school meticulously following these procedures? · Pellet traps designed to effectively contain the pellets and pellet fragments must be used. · Only authorized adult personnel who follow proper procedures should remove lead from pellet traps or target holders. · With this type of pellet trap, you must still ensure all residues fall behind the target line by carefully inspecting the areas behind and in front of the target line before establishing the range map. · Lead consisting of spent pellets or pellet fragments that is re- moved from the pellet traps is regarded as a recyclable material. After a quantity of this lead is accumulated, take it to a recycling center. · If you are working with an older range that does not have a smooth floor, consider replacing or covering the floor to achieve a smooth surface that is easier to clean. · In order to carry out recommended air gun range management procedures, range managers should have these supplies and materials available to them: · Shop or industrial vacuum cleaner and mops and disposable mop heads, · Container (bucket) with secure closure for spent pellets · Container (bucket) with secure closure for vacuum filters and mop heads · On ranges where the target system allows lead pellet residues to deposit on the floor forward of the targets, it is recommended that the range staff establish a lane (paint or tape a line) to provide a designated walking path for the coach or authorized athlete to follow while moving to the target line. · At the target line, it is recommended that the designated target changer put on disposable shoe covers before walking over any residues that may be in front of the targets. · Once targets are changed, the designated target changer should remove the disposable shoe covers before stepping onto the walking path and returning to the firing line. Shoe covers are disposable, elasticized paper · If the air gun range is in a multi-use facility where other activities will take place in the downrange area after air gun firing concludes, that area must be cleaned after every training or competition session. · After firing activities have ended, have the athletes remove shooting equipment from the firing line, ensuring that they do not step over the firing line. Using a shop vacuum, start from behind the firing line and move parallel to the firing line, carefully vacuuming from the firing line downrange for ten feet. Start again from ten feet in front of the target line and move parallel to the target line, vacuuming to the tar- get line (or beyond if there is lead pellet residue behind the target line. · Ensure that the shop vacuum’s cord, wheels and hoses do NOT drag through un-vacuumed area. Always keep the vacuum and the vacuum operator in the clean area of the range. The operator should not step on or stand in a potentially contaminated area. · Range floors that are roughly textured or porous may require mopping with tri-sodium phosphate, a buffering solution that suspends particulates long enough to be picked up by the mop.
Lead fragments on the floor
As stated, lead fragments are deposited on the gym or classroom floor in front of the gun muzzles and on the floor in the area around the backstops. The CMP recommends school personnel dispose of these fragments according to strict guidelines. "Lead residues on range floors can be very effectively cleaned and removed. If shooters do not move past the firing line to go downrange except as authorized, and if personnel who go downrange follow the Guidelines for Air- gun Range Design, Cleaning and Maintenance, there is no immediate health hazard to shooters or other person who remain behind the firing line."
This is a big "if"and this is where people may be getting very sick. Can you imagine the janitorial staff at your high school following the procedures below every evening? (In some Maryland schools shooting ranges are set up in classrooms which are then re-converted to a normal instructional arrangement.)
Last year, researchers commissioned by the Pentagon said that decades-old limits on lead exposure are inadequate to protect the health of workers on military firing ranges. Additionally, the National Academy of Science has reported that lead from ammunition fired on Army, Navy and Air Force ranges in the last five years has "frequently exceeded" those limits, "in some cases by several orders of magnitude."
Sen. Ben Cardin expressed concern about the report's implications for workers at Maryland military installations with firing ranges. They're at risk," the Maryland Democrat said. "This report shows that exposure to lead from firing ranges is a health hazard, and we can do a better job of protecting the public health." Cardin, however, has not responded to concerns that several dozen firing ranges located within the state's high schools that are run by the military as part of the JROTC program, may also threaten public health.
Here's a list of the necessary procedures in the CMP Guide designed to protect the health of children in high schools with shooting ranges. Can you imagine your local high school meticulously following these procedures?
· Pellet traps designed to effectively contain the pellets and pellet fragments must be used.
· Only authorized adult personnel who follow proper procedures should remove lead from pellet traps or target holders.
· With this type of pellet trap, you must still ensure all residues fall behind the target line by carefully inspecting the areas behind and in front of the target line before establishing the range map.
· Lead consisting of spent pellets or pellet fragments that is re- moved from the pellet traps is regarded as a recyclable material. After a quantity of this lead is accumulated, take it to a recycling center.
· If you are working with an older range that does not have a smooth floor, consider replacing or covering the floor to achieve a smooth surface that is easier to clean.
· In order to carry out recommended air gun range management procedures, range managers should have these supplies and materials available to them:
· Shop or industrial vacuum cleaner and mops and disposable mop heads,
· Container (bucket) with secure closure for spent pellets
· Container (bucket) with secure closure for vacuum filters and mop heads
· On ranges where the target system allows lead pellet residues to deposit on the floor forward of the targets, it is recommended that the range staff establish a lane (paint or tape a line) to provide a designated walking path for the coach or authorized athlete to follow while moving to the target line.
· At the target line, it is recommended that the designated target changer put on disposable shoe covers before walking over any residues that may be in front of the targets.
· Once targets are changed, the designated target changer should remove the disposable shoe covers before stepping onto the walking path and returning to the firing line. Shoe covers are disposable, elasticized paper
· If the air gun range is in a multi-use facility where other activities will take place in the downrange area after air gun firing concludes, that area must be cleaned after every training or competition session.
· After firing activities have ended, have the athletes remove shooting equipment from the firing line, ensuring that they do not step over the firing line. Using a shop vacuum, start from behind the firing line and move parallel to the firing line, carefully vacuuming from the firing line downrange for ten feet. Start again from ten feet in front of the target line and move parallel to the target line, vacuuming to the tar- get line (or beyond if there is lead pellet residue behind the target line.
· Ensure that the shop vacuum’s cord, wheels and hoses do NOT drag through un-vacuumed area. Always keep the vacuum and the vacuum operator in the clean area of the range. The operator should not step on or stand in a potentially contaminated area.
· Range floors that are roughly textured or porous may require mopping with tri-sodium phosphate, a buffering solution that suspends particulates long enough to be picked up by the mop.
Cross-Posted from FireDogLake
On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.
By Joel Salatin
Why do we need more farmers? What is the driving force behind USDA policy? In an infuriating epiphany
I have yet to metabolize, I found out Wednesday in a private policy-generation meeting with Virginia Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Terry McCauliffe. I did and still do consider it a distinct honor for his staff to invite me as
one of the 25 dignitaries in Virginia Agriculture for this think-tank session in Richmond.
It was a who's who of Virginia agriculture: Farm Bureau, Va. Agribusiness Council, Va. Forestry Association,
Va. Poultry Federation, Va. Cattlemen's Ass., deans from Virginia Tech and Virginia State--you get the picture.
It was the first meeting of this kind I've ever attended that offered no water. The only thing to drink were soft drinks.
Lunch was served in styrofoam clam shells--Lay's potato chips, sandwiches, potato salad and chocolate chip cookie.
It didn't look very safe to me, so I didn't partake. But I'd have liked a drink of water. In another circumstance, I might
eat this stuff, but with these folks, felt it important to make a point. Why do they all assume nobody wants water,
nobody cares about styrofoam, everybody wants potato chips and we all want industrial meat-like slabs on white bread?
But I digress. The big surprise occurred a few minutes into the meeting: US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
walked in. He was in Terry McCauliffe love-in mode. And here is what he told us: for the first time--2012-- rural America
lost population in real numbers--not as a percentage but in real numbers. It's down to 16 percent of total population.
I'm sitting there thinking he's going to say that number needs to go up so we have more people to love and
steward the landscape. More people to care for earthworms. More people to grow food and fiber. Are you ready
for the shoe to drop? The epiphany? What could the US Secretary of Agriculture, at the highest strategic planning
sessions of our land, be challenged by other leaders to change this figure, to get more people in rural America, to
encourage farming and help more farms get started? What could be the driving reason to have more farmers?
Why does he go to bed at night trying to figure out how to increase farmers? How does the President and other
cabinet members view his role as the nation's farming czar? What could be the most important contribution that
increasing farmers could offer to the nation? Better food? Better soil development? Better care for animals?
Better care for plants?
Are you ready? Here's his answer: although rural America only has 16 percent of the population, it gives
40 percent of the personnel to the military. Say what? You mean when it's all said and done, at the end of the
day, the bottom line--you know all the cliches--the whole reason for increasing farms is to provide cannon
fodder for American imperial might. He said rural kids grow up with a sense of wanting to give something back,
and if we lose that value system, we'll lose our military might.
So folks, it all boils down to American military muscle. It's not about food, healing the land, stewarding
precious soil and resources; it's all about making sure we keep a steady stream of youngsters going into the
military. This puts an amazing twist on things. You see, I think we should have many more farmers, and have
spent a lifetime trying to encourage, empower, and educate young people to go into farming. It never occurred
to me that this agenda was the key to American military power.
Lest I be misread, I am not opposed to defending family. I am not opposed to fighting for sacred causes.
I am violently opposed to non-sacred fighting and meddling in foreign countries, and building empires. The
Romans already tried that and failed.
But to think that my agenda is key to building the American military--now that's a cause for pause. I will
redouble my efforts to help folks remember why we need more farmers. It's not to provide cannon fodder for
Wall Street imperialistic agendas. It's to grow food that nourishes, land that's aesthetically and aromatically
sensually romantic, build soil, hydrate raped landscapes, and convert more solar energy into biomass than
nature would in a static state. I can think of many, many righteous and noble reasons to have more farms.
Why couldn't he have mentioned any of these? Any?
No, the reason for more farms is to make sure we get people signing up at the recruitment office. That's
the way he sees me as a farmer. Not a food producer. When the president and his cabinet have their private
conflabs, they don't see farmers as food producers, as stewards of the landscape, as resource leveragers.
No, they view us as insurance for military muscle, for American empire building and soldier hubris. Is this
outrageous? Do I have a right to be angry? Like me, this raw and bold show of the government's farming
agenda should make us all feel betrayed, belittled, and our great nation besmirched.
Perhaps, just perhaps, really good farms don't feed this military personnel pipeline. I'd like to think our
kind of farming has more righteous goals and sacred objectives. Vilsack did not separate good farmers from
bad farmers. Since we have far more bad farmers than good ones, perhaps the statistic would not hold up
if we had more farmers who viewed the earth as something to heal instead of hurt, as a partner to caress
instead of rape. That America's farms are viewed by our leaders as just another artery leading into military
might is unspeakably demeaning and disheartening.
Tragically, I don't think this view would change with a different Democrat or Republican. It's entrenched
in the establishment fraternity. Thomas Jefferson, that iconic and quintessential agrarian intellectual, said
we should have a revolution about every half century just to keep the government on its toes. I'd say we're
Now when you see those great presidentially appointed cabinet members talking, I just want you to think
about how despicable it is that behind the facade, behind the hand shaking and white papers, in the private
by-invitation-only inner circles of our country, movers and shakers know axiomatically that farms are really
important to germinate more military personnel. That no one in that room with Terry McCauliffe, none of those
Virginia farm leaders, even blinked when he said that is still hard for me to grasp. They accepted it as truth,
probably saying "Amen, brother" in their hearts. True patriots, indeed.
It'll take me awhile to get over this, and believe me, I intend to shout this from the housetops. I'll incorporate
in as many public speeches as I can because I think it speaks to the heart of food and farming. It speaks to
the heart of strength and security; which according to our leaders comes from the end of a gun, not from the
alimentary canal of an earthworm. Here's to more healthy worms.
Historical evidence, statements by military leaders of the era
show JROTC version of Hiroshima is misleading
By Pat Elder
This summer the world will pause to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most Americans are still supportive of Truman's decision despite overwhelming historical evidence the bomb had "nothing to do with the end of the war," in the words of Major General Curtis E. LeMay.