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Who said protests don’t work? And war crimes trials of Bush & cronies

Posted on May 30th, 2008 in General,Politics,War by Robert Miller

This is two stories wrapped into one: their common thread is the value of protesting and the dogged pursuit of the truth.
First Story: There is a widespread feeling among those that march or protest, that their efforts don’t really matter, that things continue to move in the same direction with or without their protests. But, in fact, protests do work, it’s just many protesters, especially those new to the effort, would like to see an instantaneous victory which seldom happens (but see the Bristol story below). Yet, protesting is powerful. The Vietnam war was unraveled by massive protests. Lyndon Johnson decided against running for the presidency in 1968, after hearing daily chants of "hey hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today." The largest protest in history, the protest against the invasion of Iraq, reached an estimated world wide level of 30 million, including a spirited protest at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. True, Bush decided to invade Iraq anyway, but the magnitude of the pre-war protest forced Bush to zip across Iraq rapidly into Baghdad so he could declare a quick victory ("mission accomplished"), which forced him to cut short the wider bombing levels and destruction that he contemplated. In that case, protests saved some of the destruction of Iraq and it saved lives, both American and Iraqi. At least in the short run. But the news of protest success is always handled in such a way that protesters can’t easily see the impact of their efforts: Fox news labels them as those that want to cut and run. In that case, go read Michael Schwartz’s article in TomDispatch on the Loss of an Imperial Dream , where you can learn more about the impact of protesting and the disintegration of the neocons and the Bush presidency.

Are female soldiers being treated fairly by the VA?

Posted on May 25th, 2008 in Health,Politics,War by Robert Miller

Thus far, we have deployed 180,000 women soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although women are banned from direct participation in combat roles, they share many of the same problems as other soldiers and face many of the same risks, including roadside bombs; it is the responsibility of the Veterans Administration (VA) to treat them, just as they have treated male soldiers. But, for the VA, the responsibility to treat large numbers of female veterans is new and they are experiencing growing pains in dealing with some of the special problems women bring to the VA when compared to men. As one worker pointed out, the VA may eventually be doing as many pap smears as prostate exams. But the VA, like the National Institutes of Health, has been slow to adjust to the fact that women do not respond to stress or disease like men do and their needs may be very different from the VA’s long-standing policies about qualifications for treatment and the relevance of their experience in war. We don’t seem to acknowledge that sometime in the future if not the present, these women will want to have children and there is abundant evidence to show that stress in a pregnant woman is associated with a higher incidence of delivery problems and fetal health issues. So, it is important to look at women soldiers with the understanding that any stress-related problems can have serious consequences for the long-term welfare of their children and the entire family (not that this isn’t true for the male, who might even pass something on to his offspring epigeneticaly). Is their stress level going to disadvantage them as the future mothers of future Americans? We are going to face a huge increase in treating and caring for the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, if Cheney gets his way, we might soon start adding the victims from our war with Iran to that list.

Creationism in the Classroom: a pox on America

Posted on May 22nd, 2008 in Evolution,Science by Robert Miller

As we struggle in America to implement improvements in our teaching and classroom material, we constantly confront non-educational issues like religious indoctrination and teaching creationism as if it were a serious alternative to science. Evolution is at the core of understanding biology and the behavioral connections between non-human primates and humans and ants and termites and humans and just about everything else. How else can we study the detailed synaptic mechanisms of neurotransmitter release in a fruit fly and then turn around and directly apply those results, molecule for molecule, gene for gene, to a human? What creationism has created is one of the most scientifically illiterate countries in the Western World; we are next to last place among 44 Western democracies, only ahead of Turkey on simple questions about evolution; it is alarming to all of us that overcoming this non-blissful state of ignorance is one of the never-ending confrontations in America. We already have too many propaganda stories in our schools, such as American history, so, I suppose you might argue what’s one more, such as the Biblical interpretation of the creation of man and the earth on which we live? Thus, we have to give credit to creationism–it did create something.

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