Homeless people have shelters to go to, a common belief comforting those who don’t know better. 

Having just come from the community-based shelter where my friend and colleague Pat LaMarche works, having run shelters for 15 years myself, having seen shelters across the country for the past 9 years of my HEAR US traveling, I find myself seething at the perverted reality of what our shelter “system” is in this affluent country.

Pat’s shelter is probably average (no offense!). It’s in a middle-income borough in sort of central PA. Hundreds of similar communities dot the Keystone State. This community is quite unusual, with 3 shelters—one in a fixed site, this one which rotates to different places of worship—and a Salvation Army shelter for families. Shari Bellish, Carlisle Cares founder, fights hard to keep this meager operation going, knowing that 55 people a night will have a safe place to sleep. 

I listened as Pat answered one of many phone calls she and other staff get during the day. “I’m sorry, we’re full,” was the gist of it. The caller, a woman staying in her car. It’s below freezing tonight. Pat referred her to a neighboring community’s rotating site “shelter” program. At least she has a car, and gas is cheaper. Maybe she’ll get a spot to sleep.

Many shelters operate on paltry budgets, forcing them to creatively get around the lack of space and staff by setting hours that minimize the operations’ expenses. Pat’s shelter busses people to the night site which opens at 9:30 p.m. Everyone has to be out by 7 a.m., bussed back to this modest base so everyone can go on their way.

Imagine life for school kids—to bed by 10 if they’re lucky, up at 6:30, on a bus at 7 to go back to shelter headquarters to wash up and grab breakfast before heading out to school. Not a lot of quality time for homework, much less sleep and normalcy. The pads on the floor squeezed together don’t allow for privacy, or sleep. 

Volunteers and a skeleton staff make this emergency arrangement possible. And it’s much better than everyone cuddling up on the street. In Phoenix, the county is contemplating shutting down their overflow shelter—a bleak warehouse that offers nothing but a place on the floor for hundreds of desperate men.

Reading Bill Moyer’s post on homelessness, I found myself torn. His valid perspective is tainted by the use of wildly-delusional statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD’s official report to Congress, which determines funding for homelessness programs, was that 578,424 people were homeless last year.  

This extremely narrow enumeration hardly counts homelessness at all. It’s a one-night point-in-time count that, despite sincerely stalwart efforts by professionals and volunteers, documents a mere drop in the vast sea of people—adults and kids, oldsters and babies and those in between—with no place to go.

Case in point, the U.S. Department of Education reported that almost 1.3 million students without homes were identified in the 2013 school year, a staggering 72% increase since 2006. T America’s Youngest Outcasts reports over 2.5 million CHILDREN are homeless, not including parents or single adults. So, HUD’s report…just a tad under-representing the crisis.

I left as Pat headed down the garbage bag-lined hallway, holiday clothing donations. Folks were quietly waiting at tables. If you’d could ask, you’d hear about boredom, frustration finding housing or jobs, regrets about burned bridges and family alienation, and gratitude that at least they have some place to turn to on this cold Pennsylvania night where they’ll be safe. 

It’s perverted that they should feel grateful. It’s perverted that many communities have no shelters. It’s perverted that HUD is pushing “Housing First” with inadequate resources to help those who need it, and we’ll see the perverted action of the 114th Congress, which doesn’t begin to have a clue as to the staggering scope homeless Americans, as they likely slash spending for human needs.


From BP's catastrophe to this week's  spill in the Black Sea near the port of Tuapse, the oil industry continues its assault on the environment

The U.S. Senate has courageously just stood up to the Christian-supremacist bullies in the House of Representatives. Oh yes, the Senate has just completely ripped away from their religiously bigoted, House counterparts a would-be treasured bible-thumping bonanza of immeasurable, unconstitutional proselytization.  This erstwhile prize of legislative plunder had been specifically designed by these Congressmen and Congresswomen from the House, in nefarious collaboration with their legions of fundamentalist Christian parachurch allies, to be embedded deep within the confines of the 2015 Pentagon authorization/funding act.

Fortunately, the plan by these Christian crusader Members of the House failed. Please let me briefly explain, my friends.

For nearly a decade we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have fought night and day against the noxious trespasses of the Religious Right upon the rights of the brave men and women in our United States armed services. It’s been a bruising fight, no doubt, one filled with angry words, violent threats, as well as lies, damned lies, and hideous distortions lifted straight from the era of McCarthyism. Many of the vicious battles MRFF has engaged in have involved commanding officers, senior NCOs and chaplains operating on the assumption that it is their uncontestable and absolute right, if not their divine duty pursuant to The Great Commission (see Mark 16:15 or Matthew 28:19), to relentlessly proselytize the un-churched (or those who aren’t “the right type of Christian) and use their superior military rank as a bully pulpit from which to hammer in the "Good News". As if the unique set of pressures our servicemembers undergo isn’t enough, these fundamentalist Christian monsters have piled insult upon injury, mercilessly forcing their weaponized version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon their helpless military subordinates while hypocritically claiming to do so under the banner of “religious freedom.” However, those of us who’ve been fiercely combating this ongoing war of attrition waged by Christian extremists and triumphalists against the U.S. Constitution have received a truly surprising holiday gift of sorts. 

It turns out that sometimes miracles DO happen, and not just on 34th Street but on Capitol Hill, too.

In what we can only describe as an amazing early holiday present for servicemembers, Constitutional loyalists, and those who value the separation of Church and State, an obscure, but extremely detrimental amendment to the House-passed H.R. 4435 version of the bill “miraculously” disappeared from the final version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (FY2015 NDAA). If the House had its way, next year’s Federal roadmap for America's armed forces would have included the following painfully ugly provision designated as "Section 525” in the Hoped-for House version:

“…if called upon to lead a prayer outside of a religious service, a military chaplain may close the prayer according to the traditions, expressions and religious exercises of the endorsing faith group.”

One needn’t rack one’s brains to read between the lines and see where such a course may lead. For those of you imagining a chaplain shouting “Takbir!” with Quran in hand followed by nervous soldiers chanting “Allah Akbar,” think again. No doubt about it, Section 525 would have amounted to a precious, blank check for every wannabe missionary comprising the sectarian Dominionist/fundamentalist Christian fifth column in the U.S. military. Hordes of these religious predators unfortunately can be found lurking throughout the ranks of the military chaplaincy. In fact, it’s an open secret that the military chaplaincy hardly matches the diverse cross-section of faith (and non-faith) groups represented in our armed forces. Instead the chaplaincy has been transformed largely into a clearing-house for evangelizing zealous zombies. For these chaplains, the military isn’t a place for Constitutionally mandated pluralism, religious respect and mutual tolerance. On the contrary, these missionizing maniacs see their government-paid chaplaincies as an inexhaustibly fruitful proselytizing venue and unlimited, open season “mission field”. Thus, a chaplain would be permitted to end all MANDATORY military gatherings with such standard patriarchal, monotheistic benedictions as “Thank you Father God for your blessings upon us in Jesus’ name, amen.” Or any other seething sectarian permutations of the same such as “I pray that our troops assembled here today come to understand that they must utterly surrender themselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before they die or ELSE.” Cue the “burning in hell for all eternity” music.

As I have said many times in many places for many years, in the U.S. armed forces you may have mandatory formations and you may have religious formations but you CANNOT have mandatory, religious formations.

Luckily for us, the United States Senate took the side of the U.S. Constitution, its construing Federal and state case law in conjunction with DoD directives, instructions and regulations. Further, the Senate obviously and carefully considered U.S. national security as well as the compelling governmental interest in optimizing the unit cohesion, mission readiness, good order, morale, and discipline of our valued armed forces members. 

In the end, it turned out that not only could the Lame Duck Senate fly, but upon taking wing it was able – just barely – to avoid the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian buckshot being fired in its direction. 

And for that proud and rare occasion, we should all be truly thankful.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. "€œMikey"€ Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra"€ Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"€ (2006, St. Martin'€™s Press) and "€œNo Snowflake in an Avalanche"€ (2012, Vireo).

Earlier this month, in the sparsely populated Kentucky county that’s home to Bowling Green, officials voted to convert the place into a right-to-work (for less) sinkhole.

The county officials did it at the bidding of big corporations. They certainly didn’t do it for their Warren County constituents because employees in right-to-work (for less) states get smaller paychecks than those in states that support the right to unionize. They did it at the demand of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, both of which are corporate owned and operated.

They did it despite the fact that there’s no evidence they have any legal authority to create an anti-union bastion on the county level, which means they’ve subjected the residents of Warren County to substantial costs for a legal battle that Warren is likely to lose.

Moving right-to-work (for less) from the state to the county level is the latest tactic in the relentless campaign by CEOs and corporations to reverse gains made by workers in the 1930s New Deal. With laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress slightly moved toward workers the lopsided balance of power that heavily favors corporations. Over the next several decades, the middle class thrived and income inequality decreased substantially. Now, however, income inequality is back up to the point where it was in the robber baron days because CEOs and corporations have stuck their fat thumbs back on the scale.

The FLSA created the 40-hour work week by mandating time-and-a-half pay beginning at the 41st hour worked. Before the law, managers could force employees to labor 50, 60 even 70 hours a week at no extra pay. During the Great Depression, bosses could fire those who dared complain and easily replace them. Corporations had all the power. FLSA gave a little of that muscle to workers by enabling them to demand extra pay for extra work. As a bonus, FLSA encouraged businesses to hire rather than pay overtime, which increased employment.

The NLRA provided workers with a pathway to unionize. It established standards for employees to form a union at a workplace and for employers to recognize that union as the collective bargaining agent for the workers. Before the NLRA, Pinkertons, police and national guardsmen all too frequently killed striking workers. After the NLRA, unions multiplied, and collective bargaining achieved better wages, benefits and pensions for workers.

But from the day these laws passed, corporations and lackey groups like ALEC and the Heritage Foundation fought to reverse them. They wanted all power and wealth to remain with the one percent.

They invented right-to-work (for less) laws to do that. When a majority of workers at a factory vote to be represented by a union, federal law requires the union to work for all of them, to negotiate agreements that cover all of them, to file grievances for any worker wronged by management. That costs money. And that’s what union dues pay for.

What right-to-work (for less) laws say is that workers who receive these benefits don’t have to pay for them. Federal law requires unions to continue representing workers who are freeloaders. Unions may even have to pay to hire lawyers to represent freeloaders in grievances. That handicaps the union and strengthens the corporation.

And it’s a big part of the reason that employees in right-to-work (for less) states earn less. They lack bargaining power.

In the case of Kentucky, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation and other anti-worker groups resorted to seeking anti-worker legislation from counties when they failed in November to secure a Republican majority in the House of Representatives to provide it on the state level. They’re pushing this new scheme even though federal law gives right-to-work (for less)  legislative authority to states and territories, but not to counties

The anti-worker groups formed a new organization to help persuade counties to pass the laws. It’s called Protect My Check. Its purpose is to defend the compensation of CEOs. Right-to-work (for less) legislation means fewer dollars in workers’ paychecks and more in CEOs’, so clearly the role Protect My Check is to pad CEO pay.

Similarly, CEOs are grabbing for themselves the overtime pay that workers once received. Workers are laboring more and more hours, and fewer and fewer of them are getting paid overtime. That’s because the level at which federal law requires overtime pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation. It’s $23,660 a year. An employer who claims fry cooks are supervisors and sets salaries at one dollar more ­– $23,661 – doesn’t have to pay time and a half for 10, 20, even 30 hours worked above 40.

In 1975, Republican Gerald Ford raised the threshold significantly to account for inflation, making 65 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. Now, only 12 percent qualify. Studies by the Economic Policy Institute have shown that if the threshold had kept pace with inflation since then, it would be $50,440 a year – more than twice the current level.

In the meantime, corporate demands for overtime work have increased. A Gallup poll of workers in August found 60 percent laboring more than 45 hours a week. Sixteen percent said they worked more than 60 hours.

Last spring, President Obama proposed raising the wage under which corporations would have to pay overtime. Immediately, anti-worker groups protested. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said, for example, “If they push through something to make a certain class of workers more expensive, something will happen to adjust.” He suggested that would be pay cuts or layoffs.

A certain class of workers has grown extraordinarily more expensive. That is CEOs. The pay for the top 1 percent rose 31.4 percent in the three years from 2009 to 2012, according to research by Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Income for the bottom 99 percent of workers was stagnant, rising only 0.4 percent.

Cato’s Mitchell is right. A certain class of workers is more expensive, and the thing that happened is that 99 percent of workers are suffering for it.

President Obama is trying to rebalance this gross inequality by raising the overtime threshold. But to more permanently tip the scales closer toward equality for workers, he should take measures to support workers’ right to form unions and collectively bargain for a fair share of the profits derived from the sweat of their brows.

Two New York police officers were killed on Saturday. This is an unfortunate happening.

Spokespeople for the New York City police have responded in a predictable way by using the deaths of two officers as a means to delegitimize public concerns about police thuggery and murder in the aftermath of the public strangling of Eric Garner and the execution by cop of Michael Brown.

The Police Benevolence Association said this about the shootings in New York:

The head of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association in New Jersey said that the shooting of the officers was “spurred on by so much recent hatred aimed at officers everywhere.”

“Our society stands safer because of the sacrifices officers make everyday, but the hatred that has grown over the past few weeks in this country has gone unchecked by many elected leaders,” the official, Patrick Colligan, said in a statement posted on Facebook.

A declaration of war against people of color in New York has also been issued:
A statement purporting to be from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the biggest police union, blamed Mr. de Blasio for the shootings.

“The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies,” read the statement, “and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”

The statement instructed officers to forward it to colleagues, and it spread instantly through the department.

Threats of thuggery and retaliation have also been made against publicly elected officials:

The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, blamed the mayor for the shootings as he addressed officers outside Woodhull Hospital after the bodies of Officer Liu and Officer Ramos were borne away.

“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day,” Mr. Lynch said.

“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”

Now is a time of grieving, Mr. Lynch said. “We’ll mourn for our city and we’ll mourn for our brothers,” he said. “We’ll straighten our shoulders, we’ll stiffen our backs and we’ll wipe our tears.”

But he warned, “When those funerals are over, we’ll raise our heads and those that allowed this to go on will be held accountable.”

Social media has responded with the hashtag "#NYPDLIVESMATTER". This is a direct affront and effort to undermine the slogan "Black Lives Matter" and its affirmation of the value of black peoples' lives.

NYPDLIVESMATTER is a perverse and grotesque statement, one that assumes a lie and false assumption: of course the lives of police "matter"; there is an entire legal, social, and political apparatus to protect the police, and that empowers them to kill innocent people of color without consequences.

Moreover, that NYPDLIVESMATTER is positioned as a response to "Black Lives Matter" demonstrates how "law and order", white racial resentment, and white supremacy are deeply intertwined and almost inseparable in the (White) American political imagination.

America's police were and remain a deeply racist social institution. NYPDLIVESMATTER is a claim and assertion against the justice claims of black Americans. For White America, Right-wing authoritarians, the unthinking mass of the American public, and cop fetishists this is a zero sum process: the possessive investment in Whiteness mandates that one cannot accept how the lives of police are no more valuable and worthy than the lives of African-Americans.

White supremacy and white privilege also demand accountability from "black leadership" and those others who have spoken out against police brutality, crafting broken logic where somehow the protests against police brutality are responsible for the killing of two police in Brooklyn.

Misplaced norms of group accountability for people of color as viewed through the White Gaze are a fixture of white privilege. There is no reciprocity: the supporters of "Black Lives Matter" stand in sympathy with the two police killed in Brooklyn; police and their spokespeople rarely if ever stand in unity with the victims of police violence, thuggery, abuse, and murder.

If the colorline was a sporting event, the spectators are rooting for their respective teams with police on one side and black folks on the other. NYPDLIVESMATTER is cheerleading for a lack of accountability and preemptive violence by the police against African-Americans. Here, the rhetorical evasion in post racial, colorblind discourse will be the lazy out that "we support the police against "criminals" and "thugs" with "race having nothing to do about any of this!"

The obvious is also transparent as "criminals" and "thugs" are stand-ins for "blacks" and "nigger" in the post civil rights era racial discourse.

It is also important to note how NYPDLIVESMATTER exists within the same public discourse as language like "anti-police bigotry":

See this explanation from the Johnson County Law Center for example:

Why would anyone single out people of a certain profession and try to discredit or vilify that entire group?

Such wide-sweeping generalizations about blacks, jews, gays, or other minority groups are typically not tolerated. Yet, when people make bigoted unfounded statements about the policenobody seems to mind.

Like all bigotry, a few anecdotal stories are offered to support the vilification of a certain group. Those who buy into the hatred, soak up any additional data that supports their new found belief system, and ignore anything that challenges their world view.

It seems like just about every week we’re confronted with some new story of police brutality, incompetence, fraud, or other scandal. Most recently it’s been reported that police in North Carolina gunned down an unarmed man who was simply approaching them to request assistance at the scene of an auto accident. (Source: CNN) Another recent incident, in New York City, involved police shooting at an unarmed man in a crowd. They hit innocent bystanders instead. (Source: New York Post) Blended in with current news are reminders of past tragedies, like the story mentioned above of 20 police officers in Toronto who shot and killed a teenager with a penknife.

Let’s say there’s a police-induced tragedy each week. That’s 52 police-related tragedies per year out of about 800,000 officers who are serving. That’s an extremely small number of people making mistakes.* Yet, it’s not the perception we’re left with after following popular media.

Ultimately, we should all do our best to prevent the kind of thinking that demonizes any group of people based on the acts of only a few. Keep that number of 800,000 in mind. Each time you hear of a police officer who’s been convicted of corruption or some other scandal, remember there are another 800,000 good police who are ethically, faithfully, and compassionately serving their communities.

These are common rhetorical moves by the Right-wing in the United States. From "reverse racism" to "equality of opportunity" and "colorblindness", American conservatives have shamelessly, dishonestly--and to great effect--appropriated the language of progressives and liberals to work against the very goal of a more just society that the latter have struggled and died to advance.

Police are the direct hand and face of Power in the United States.

As such, they are the enforcers of the Racial State whose purpose is to feed bodies into the gaping maw of the new Jim and Jane Crow's prisons and jails. The notion that police are "victims" of "bigotry" is an absurd one. While their morality may in fact be stained, enforcers of power, by definition, are not victims of Power.

Contemporary America is a society that is sick with torture, white victimology, gross wealth inequality, and other illnesses that together have created a culture of delusions and lies. Plain spoken truths by people of conscience are a partial antidote.

I will attempt to offer one here: the lives of the police are no more valuable than those of Eric Garner or any other human being.

Human rights trump the "unique", particular, and somehow imagined as "special" lives of the police. We are all human beings with universal rights. The public good will be much better served when the police as a social institution (many of whose members feel empowered to violate the rights of non-whites, the poor, the mentally ill, and those others who society has marginalized) internalize and act upon such a basic and foundational principle.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Deb Kory

I first wrote about psychologists and torture for Tikkun in 2007 when I was working toward my doctorate in clinical psychology and all hell was breaking loose around revelations that psychologists were involved in torture at Guantánamo Bay and other CIA black sites. I had just started writing my dissertation, which sought to explore the history and social forces that led to such insanity in the profession I was immersing so much time, money, and energy into making my vocation.

I frankly had hoped the whole issue would be resolved by now - the perpetrators would be in prison, the system would be reformed so that it could never happen again, psychologists would have organized and taken a powerful stand against this misuse of power in their name. Yet here we are, ten years after the first revelations of torture appeared in the media, my dissertation long since bound in obscurity in my school's library, and not only are the revelations still coming, there is only now the first hint of a real investigation into the specific role psychologists played in this process.

But as psychologist Steven Reisner states in his new piece in Slate, there would be no torture without psychologists. Also, just this morning there was a very informative and comprehensive segment on Democracy Now! featuring both Steven Reisner and Alfred McCoy, whose book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror provided the original road map to many of the issues I covered in my dissertation. I was at the 2007 American Psychological Association (APA) Conference in San Francisco shown in this segment, where psychologists made a desperate plea to the APA to put an end to these practices, while military officers in full camo fatigues stood menacingly around the room and Col. Larry James (chief psychologist at Guantánamo) made the case that "if you remove psychologists from these facilities, people will die."

I'm obviously not going to be able to dive deeply into this issue for purposes of this blog, but I want to offer a few key points for you to keep in mind as the discourse around this recedes out of public consciousness and we all go back to business as usual.

1. This was not the case of a "few bad apples" defaming the good name of our profession. The CIA and the psychology profession have been tight since the beginning of the Cold War, when hysteria about communism led the CIA to begin hiring psychologists to perform research on "mind control." At the time it was believed that, Manchurian-Candidate style, the whole United States would be hypnotized into communism (it was even believed the Soviets had bought the world's supply of LSD and were planning to drop acid on the entire U.S. population) and it was important that the U.S. be able to preempt that terrible fate by developing mind-control mastery of our own. Huge Defense Department contracts started rolling out for researchers, who soon became known as "behavioral scientists." Seriously, google "CIA and LSD" - it will blow your mind.

2. The most notorious of all the research programs commissioned by the CIA was known as MKULTRA. The CIA sent scouts out to APA conferences to find the best and the brightest to study mass mind control and individual coercion. The twenty-five-year program included research on unwitting participants, prisoners of war in Vietnam, and an unknown number of deaths around the world. The Kubark Counter Intelligence Interrogation Manual, a distillation of all of this research, formed the basis of training programs adopted all through Latin America, and guided the CIA's training of the secret police in Iran and the Philippines. The most famous of these training programs, the School of the Americas, has alone trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers who have tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and made refugees of hundreds of thousands of people throughout Central and South America.

3. With professional psychology emerging out of war, 15 percent of psychology internship programs and 40 percent of post-doc programs funded by the Veteran's Administration, and over sixty years of Department of Defense funded research, the psychology profession has a long history of financial embeddedness within and indebtedness to the American military.

4. The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association both condemned participation in any kind of "coercive interrogations" (not just enhanced interrogations) at Guantánamo and other black sites, which left psychologists in a power vacuum. Psychologists, some of us at least, get very excited about power, since we are, among the sciences, considered a "soft science." In giving the Bush administration an assurance that these enhanced interrogation techniques were based in "good science" (in actuality all experts agree that torture is excellent for producing false confessions), and that they were necessary to avoid further terrorist attacks, psychologists provided the legitimacy the administration needed to subvert both constitutional and international law around the detention of prisoners of war and their treatment therein.

5. Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, the rich, idiot psychologists who "reverse-engineered" torture tactics to employ on "detainees" of the War on Terror are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There were other psychologists involved in torturing prisoners and, what's worse, the American Psychological Association actively covered it up with their much-maligned APA PENS Task Force (six of the ten task force members had close ties to the Department of Defense, and five of those six had direct experience with coercive interrogations at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq or other CIA black sites). There has been no serious investigation into the actions of these psychologists until the recent revelations in Pulitzer-prize winning reporter James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. Risen, who had access to hundreds of previously undisclosed emails involving senior APA staff reports that the APA "worked assiduously to protect the psychologists ... involved in the torture program."

6. Just a reminder: Most of the people swooped up into custody and sent to CIA black sites were completely innocent. These roundups included farmers, cooks, taxi drivers - in short, anyone who had been "turned in" for the large bounty (as much as $5,000 per head) that the U.S. promised to Afghan informants. I'm linking here to an article reported on Fox News about revelations by Bush's Republican former chief of staff to Colin Powell so you know this is not Lefty propaganda. Their lives have been ruined. Here's a short video about one kid, Fahd Ghazy, seventeen when he was kidnapped, now thirty, who has been trapped at Guantanamo for thirteen years despite being "cleared" to return to Yemen in 2007. Notice the kindness and humanity of his family and the sweet life he used to have.

7. Not a single person involved in the torture program, from psychologists on up to folks in the Bush administration, has been prosecuted. Oh, except for the CIA whistleblower who revealed the existence of the torture program. He's in prison.

8. No safeguards have been put in place in the American Psychological Association's ethics code to keep this from happening again. They have made several good sounding statements, but no actual changes have been made. As Steven Reisner states, "In 2008, a group of APA members appealed to the entire membership in a referendum to prohibit psychologists from participating in any operation that violates the Geneva Conventions or the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The referendum passed overwhelmingly and in February 2009 was made APA official policy by the member-run council. Yet to date, APA leadership refuses to implement the referendum, claiming the APA cannot determine when U.S. national security policy violates international law; the APA holds to this position even in the face of judgments rendered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, for example, as to the illegal status of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay."

9. It's just us chickens, folks. No one else is going to make this right for us, and the same handful of vocal psychologists have been out on the frontlines for the last eight years, doing their best to sound the alarm. We therapists are all busy, I know, and we're doing our best to help individuals transcend and heal from the pain of their lives and find joy and meaning. But the very people who accredit our institutions of learning (you know how everyone goes to APA-accredited schools and gets APA-accredited internships?) supported an illegal and immoral program of torture because... power and money. That and an atmosphere of fear after September 11 that, generally speaking, is extremely hard to resist unless our guidelines, punishments, and incentives (to be instruments of healing) are clear as the bright blue sky.

10. Psychologists, psychotherapists, and anyone professing to have an interest in the psyche, which is the Greek word for soul, simply have no business being anywhere near torture, either in spirit or law. Given that things have only gotten worse politically and economically over the last decade, with violent extremism at an all-time high, there is nothing to keep this from happening again. Get educated. Get involved. Join me in starting a task force of the Network of Spiritual Progressives for psychologists and psychotherapists to work on social justice and healing the planet (email me at: debkory@gmail.com if you are interested)! Join Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Email me about your organization, or one that you know about that is doing awesome work out in the world - I want to know about it! Sign this petition calling for a special, independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute (if there is sufficient evidence) any former officials involved in torture. If you are not a psychologist, spread the word to psychologists you know and, everyone, be sure to teach this history. The dark side of the profession needs to be known, made conscious, and integrated into our training curricula that is otherwise filled with so much self-congratulatory "expertise."

I will argue in various ways in upcoming blogs that psychotherapy is fundamentally about love. It is through love that we connect and heal one another and is, in my humble opinion, what is being referred to when we talk about the "therapeutic alliance," or refer to the ineffable healing process in therapy that scientists just can't quantify, try as they might. But we therapists mustn't be content to keep our love confined to the therapeutic hour or the individuals with whom we work. Just because our work with clients is private and confidential doesn't mean that we must live private and confidential lives. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." As a group we tend to be conflict-averse and we're used to holding a great deal of space for complexity, can imagine the inner lives of perpetrators and victims alike, and have trained ourselves to reflect instead of react. In this way we have a great deal to offer the suffering world, but we must step out of the confines of our cozy offices and actually find one another first. Otherwise we are just passing each other in life's hallway for a quick pee break between sessions.

And for any of you brave souls who would like to know more about the dark side of the psychology profession and its role in torturing people the world over, feel free to request a copy of my dissertation. I'm hoping to turn it into a book and your interest will help motivate me!


Deb Kory, PsyD, is a psychologist in private practice in Berkeley, CA and works as content manager for Psychotherapy.net. She was formerly managing editor of Tikkun and has written for Tikkun, the Huffington Post, and Alternet. She currently writes a blog, Bad Therapy, at Psychotherapy.net. A longer version of this blog can be found at Psychotherapy.net.

Photo Credit: Deb Kory

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Ragland with Arthur Romano

We stood there on South Florissant in Ferguson almost two weeks ago. As a friend and I walked through the crowds gathered there, all waiting for the grand jury outcome, the feeling was beyond tense. We heard voices, some declaring there would be no indictment and others hoping that the right thing would be done and there would be a trial. Then a path opened through the crowd and Michael Brown's mother appeared a few feet away from me making her way past us, escorted by family members. They guided her to a podium set up in the street in front of what seemed like waves of people between her and the Ferguson police station. She briefly paused and glanced over to the police station as if to make sure they would hear her words and said, "...they don't care...they think it's a joke..." She stood there, hurt and visibly angry, tears streaming down her face.

That moment when we learned of the non-indictment, the reasons why we protest became solidified in my mind and heart in a way they had not before. The protests reflect a community disenchanted with the status quo of (in)justice in the U.S. with what seems like the frequent inability to see black and brown people as worthy of the dignity of which all humans are equally deserving.

The protest chants, many created by young people from Ferguson and beyond make visible deep knowledge that is often hidden to many who do not face the daily indignities that young African Americans endure. We often chant "Black Lives Matter" and "the Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell." We affirm what we know when we chant: that the dignity of our lives that grounds and sustains us is too often undermined and assaulted by a deep system of inequality. Yet, the fact that the words "Black Lives Matter" have to be said reflects a social, cultural, and political system that is either largely blind or in deep denial, yet complicit in a multi-generational process of structural racism that is violent toward People of Color.

The far-reaching impacts of this inequality were not necessarily recounted in detail that night when Michael Brown's mother spoke to us. The truth is there is too much to tell in a single night but the lives of many people bear an often hidden testimonial in this country that lies just beneath the surface. I believe there is something healing in openly expressing this righteous indignation in response to injustice in the presence of others, in making what is hidden seen with national and international support. I know this first hand since I grew up in Baden in North St. Louis, less than five miles from Ferguson. I was taught to be fearful of police because of experiences that shaped my life and the lives of my family and friends. I grew up knowing my uncle was badly beaten by police because he was wrongly accused of stealing a jar of jam. That was a sign of things to come as my entire life I navigated through Ferguson and areas like it with a foreboding sense that the absurd was possible because of my color, that whether I lived or died could be decided without any sense of justice or accountability.

Many African American youth of this generation are rightly angered by this situation and we need to listen to them if we are going to find a lasting solution to these problems. Political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal describes a kind of psychic energy expressed in music that often conveys a sense of little hope:

"the music arises from a generation that feels, with some justice, that they have been betrayed by those who have come before them. That they are, at best, tolerated in schools, feared on the streets and almost inevitably destined for the hell holes of prison."

While it is important to acknowledge the anger and paralyzing numbness that comes from this relentless institutional oppression, the fact that so many young people are expressing themselves and demanding that the system be changed shows how deeply people do care and opens up pathways for change.

A New Generation

The protests in response to murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many others and the inability to indict the police that killed them, offers an opportunity to understand where we are in history. Youth, already aware of their conditions, are proclaiming their humanity and their commitment to changing the status quo through protest and in so doing are challenging us to think through each of our contributions as well. This truth-telling as heard in the protest chants excavates the shared knowledge of past movements for liberation, not in a nostalgic sense but with a fierce urgency to shed light on the devastating effects of structural racism today. The protests engage us in the conflict, removing the comfortable moral high ground that too often obscures our complicity. This is powerful work as this sustained direct action--faith in action--reveals and dramatizes the injustice that is too often portrayed as normal outside of the escalated conflict's context. As a result, it makes us all uncomfortable and pushes us to consider how we can make a higher-level commitment to racial and economic justice in our work and in our lives.

Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

Let's head back to Ferguson on the night of the grand jury announcement. Within minutes of the news of the non-indictment, police donned in expensive new riot gear appeared and pushed forward trying to disperse the crowd. That night as we came to grips with the decision, we lacked a supportive space for mourning or reflection on the part of the authorities. Instead we were met with a fear of protestors and a hunger amongst the media for some broken windows and destruction of property to report. They missed the importance of creating spaces for people to grieve and be heard, and the need for deeper conversation about justice and accountability.

As the police closed in, the words of a chant that has inspired this movement from the beginning, clearly cut through the cold air that night, "the whole damn system is guilty as hell." I believe this chant voices the knowledge that spans generations: the experience of a militarized response to protests is not just a product of this moment, but of a inherited system that seeks to silence truth telling about inequality through the use of violent force. It is important that we do not miss this opportunity for sustained truth telling, to see that the protests are not simply blaming or trying to displace responsibility, but acknowledging work that needs to be done while the world is listening. What we see now is a shift from moments of resistance to a movement working to change systems that create this inequity. The broader picture of disproportionate imprisonment and inequitable education leading many to the criminalization, underemployment, and criminal mistreatment that Black people (and People of Color) in this country face is a stark reminder that we do not have the same moral values as white Americans. This statement does not invalidate the suffering many Whites living in poverty experience or that so many people in this country face oppression, but instead reinforces the need to demand structural change for the American system of procedural justice whenever it fails to address the dignity of all of its citizens.

What's next?

There is urgent need for a transparent, democratic, and peaceful process that invites the American community more widely to begin sharing their stories and listening to the experiences of others within a Truth-Telling Process. In a context in which the formal legal system so often fails the most vulnerable and where exploitation is woven into the social and economic structure of the nation, community-lead truth-telling processes provides a foundation for greater justice. Truth and reconciliation emphasize radical listening and acting with victims in finding solutions to these problems. Truth and Reconciliation processes do not have to be lead by outside experts and can take a variety of forms depending on the needs and capacity of each community.

While listening is an important component of these processes it is not by itself enough and these processes need to be grounded in a core commitment to identify forms of action that restore and rebuild whenever harm has been done. This process must address the recent murders of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Vonderrick Myers, Kajieme Powell, Tamir Rice and the continuous onslaught of police shootings of black and brown people that have resulted in wide-spread disenchantment with the militarized police and official response to protests and their supporting institutions and communities. While there have been many attempts to separate each of the murders suggesting that they are isolated and not connected to race and class, there is a broader picture of disproportionate criminalization and educational and economic discrimination that corresponds with the police violence that we need sustained commitment to transforming.

This is why we are emphasizing that reconciliation requires justice, both in the narrow sense of accountability for officers and departments that are engaged in discriminatory practices and violence and in addressing the wider conditions that often rob people of dignity and opportunities to thrive. At this point in the movement many of us are asking how might we move toward a break from this cycle of direct and structural violence in a way that supports communities in taking the lead on this long-term work?

The Center for Educational Equity with the Peace and Justice Studies Association and many other local organizations are calling for a nation-wide process of Truth-telling. This process uses a truth and reconciliation framework to call on victims of police violence, their families and communities to document their perspective as evidence for structural change characterized by community initiated programs, and having local legislation adopt international human rights standards so local police become subject to standards that require them to recognize and respect the human dignity of the residents they serve.

In St. Louis the Center for Educational Equity with the Peace and Justice Studies Association are using a truth and reconciliation framework to begin a truth-telling process. The project involves the following:

1. Building interest for process through editorials, living room conversations, structured intragroup dialogue and video experiences on thetruthtellingproject.org

2. Coalition building with local and national organizations

3. Begin Truth-Telling in early 2015 using international human right testimony/deposition where local victims share and others are invited to St. Louis to testify, as well as other communities simultaneously holding independent non-government truth-telling hearings

4. Giving voice to histories and experiences of police violence, examining their structural causes and developing legislation and community programs based on these knowledge garnered from these processes.

5. A reconciliation process that involves national conversations on racism and police violence once structural change is underway

This is an exciting moment of awakening and the protests are a sign of the impending necessity for our entire society to embrace a creative solution that involves the acknowledgement of our equal moral value and worth. We learned from the civil rights movement that racism and hate couldn't be legislated out of the hearts and minds of people. The education and human connection that truth-telling and reconciliation inspires has that possibility to deepen changes in attitudes and beliefs about the necessity for greater social and economic equality and to connect the personal and the political in communities across this country.


David Ragland, PhD is a North St. Louis Native and Visiting Professor of Education at Bucknell University. He is on the national board of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and is the United Nations Representative for the International Peace Research Association.

Arthur Romano, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the School of Conflict Resolution and Analysis at George Mason University. He is a scholar-practitioner whose research and applied interests include youth social justice leadership, global educational movements and educational responses to transforming violence and poverty.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

This has been a good year for marriage rights for the LGBT community in the United States. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act - an unfortunate legacy of the Clinton administration - a tide of legal decisions has washed away state bans on marriage equality. At this moment, thirty-five states offer full access to marriage for same-sex couples, covering nearly two-thirds of the country's population. Five more states are poised on the brink, and the high court has refused to even take up appeals from the forces of bigotry.

Yet while marriage is an important right that carries many benefits, opening the nuptial doors hardly signals the eradication of homophobia or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that offer marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). And all of the five that are likely to have marriage equality soon (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods. Again, we have a labyrinthine system for LGBT individuals to navigate with a level of risk that can result in loss of income, housing, healthcare, and consequently further targets in their communities.

Knowing which rights are protected and conveyed by one's home state and which are denied is confusing at best and potentially hazardous. Adding in the layer of rights and benefits provided by the federal government - and the risks associated with claiming them - makes it even harder. People of color, the poor, the disabled, and other targeted and marginalized communities are hit even harder. The intersections of oppression make this confusing, dangerous situation just one more set of barriers standing in the way of equity.

Homophobia and misogyny share deep roots in our culture, which targets and punishes any variance from so-called traditional gender roles and expression - demonstrating again how the varying forms of discrimination intersect. This overlap is also an opportunity, however, as many LGBT employees are using a 1989 sex discrimination case to fight for their rights. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins held that it was unlawful to discriminate against a person based on how well they fit social norms of gender expression. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has agreed in several cases that firing a gay or lesbian employee for not being "appropriately" masculine or feminine violates this protection.

Using this case to fight against employment discrimination of gays and lesbians illustrates how interwoven the threads of discrimination are in our country. Sadly, it is another example of how hard it is to fight for equality and equity. People with limited access to legal resources and without the time and money to fight long battles while struggling to survive cannot take advantage of these nuanced arguments - especially when those battles are not always successful. Our nation desperately needs a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that prohibits workplace and accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Even though the Senate has passed such a law, the Republican-held House has refused to take it up. With the shift in congressional power moving far to the right, it is unlikely that there will be any action toward equity in the near future. President Obama has used his legal authority to provide some protection, making discrimination in employment illegal for government contractors. That's a great step and demonstrates his commitment, but it also creates one more confusing set of piecemeal rules. Until the law of the land - ALL the land - provides equal rights and protections, the LGBT community is caught in a web of confusing contradictions, a tangle of rights and risks.


Michael Hulshof-Schmidt teaches at the Portland State University School of Social Work. He is also the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, a company that provides workshops on racial equity and how to stand in solidarity with targeted populations. Follow this link to read more of his work.

Photo credit: Creative Commons / Center for American Progress

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There is no admittance at Craig Watts' Perdue contract chicken farm in Fairmont, North Carolina. Nor is Watts allowed to open the barns to admit air or sunlight. But, fed up with the abuse to farmers, consumers and animals he has tolerated for too long, Watts allowed cameras into his barns so the public could see what Perdue calls "humane." It is "not as advertised" says Watts, an understatement.


There is such a gap between Perdue's slick marketing and the reality, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof devoted a whole column to the video, released this month by Compassion in World Farming, a 47-year-old international group.


Many people have seen undercover footage of modern chicken farming which the big chicken brands always claim is inaccurate, staged and not representative of true operations. This is possibly the first time a legitimate video from an authorized Perdue producer has surfaced and can’t be readily dismissed. The video not only indicts Perdue who is clearly marketing sick and dying chickens to the public, it indicts the government which inexplicably allows Perdue to call its birds USDA Process-Verified and "humanely raised."


Who is Craig Watts? He is a 48-year-old chicken farmer who had his fill of the human and animal conditions Perdue permits, Leah Garcés, US Director of Compassion in World Farming, told me in an interview. Farmers like Watts are close to "indentured servants," says Garcés, 71 percent of them living at the poverty level. Watts, who has three children and is married to a school teacher, procured his $400,000 a year contract only to end up making a minimum wage. He has no control over the health of the birds he receives from Perdue or the way he is required to treat and raise them. His "take" as a Perdue contact farmer is 5 cents a pound per bird.



And it gets worse. Working in the sealed and packed chicken barns with their high concentrations of ammonia has compromised his lungs and given him respiratory problems, says Garcés. Besides Watts, there is only one worker caring for the entire flock of 120,000 chickens, housed 30,000 to a barn on the North Carolina Perdue operation.


Over the months Garcés worked with Watts, she says they became unlikely friends because both would like to give chickens "a better life" and both are appalled at Perdue's large-scale deception. Perdue birds, bound for the dinner table, are shown in the video to have raw, bloody stomachs because their legs are too weak to support them and they wallow in the fetid litter. They are panting, barely able to breathe and clearly suffering as Watts admits. They are nobody's idea of a good meal, a healthy animal or humane farming.


Will Watts lose his contract with Perdue after speaking out? Possibly says Garcés but he may become a leader among poultry farmers no longer willing to tolerate the human, animal and food consumer abuse that is today's modern chicken farming. "We are passed rewind," says Watts about current chicken production "this has gone too far."


For more information about the Perdue expose, go to http://www.ciwf.com/