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An On V Update to Old Ideas: Obama and Whistleblowers, Checking the Mental Health Block and Robocop Edition

(To check out other “On V Updates to Old Ideas”, please click here.)

President Obama (Maybe?) Listens to On Violence

Unfortunately, congress just can’t seem to pass the comprehensive Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which extends protection to national security and intelligence workers. While On V may not make endorsements of candidates, we enthusiastically endorse that legislation. To fill the gap, President Obama (finally) used a Presidential directive to extend protections to federal whistleblowers working in national security or intelligence, a move praised by the ACLU, the Secrecy News blog, and now us.

Update to Checking the Mental Health Box

Grim news came out of the Army earlier this summer. According to CBS News, “Suicides among active-duty soldiers in July more than doubled from June, accelerating a trend throughout the military this year.” Until the military stops checking the mental health box--we’ve written about it before here and here--these suicides will continue. Worse, the suicide epidemic among veterans is largely ignored because the VA has no chance at accurately figuring out how bad the problem is.

Update to the Statistics Behind Terrorism

Steve Coll, writing about the Sikh Temple Shooting in Oak Creek, Minnesota last August, referred to a new joint project between the New America Foundation and Syracuse University to put all terrorism cases in America in context.

No surprise, but fundamentalists are behind most of the attacks. Not Muslim fundamentalists, but right-wing Americans, often motivated by racist attitudes. The research also shows that, unsurprisingly, terrorism is much less of a threat than un-politically motivated violence. As we’ve said before, the statistics behind terrorism don’t match either the public’s understanding or the government’s funding.

Omni-Consumer Products Keeps Supplying Our Police
   
Eric C and I are always a pinch disappointed when our favorite posts don’t grab the twittersphere by storm. One of our favorite movies growing up was Robocop. (Because eight year olds love robot cops.) As grown ups, we love Robocop because of what it has to say/predicted about the rise of drones and the militarization of police forces across America.

Check out this Wired post from June to see how many police departments across the country have decided to become armies. In August, Blackfive’s Uncle Jimbo used the phrase “taking advantage of military programs to Robocop themselves” about the same idea.

And yeah, based on images taken from the set, we think the new armor looks terrible, though other, newer images give us some hope.

Update to the Lone Survivor Film

Longtime readers know that we called Luttrell and Robinson’s memoir the worst since 9/11. We even wrote a post asking Universal to stop production on it. While Universal did ultimately decide to drop out of financing the Lone Survivor film, it still plans to distribute it. But the film pushes on, having cast Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and others to play the SEALs.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.

Maybe the Military is Just Liberal...

Though she didn’t know it, Rosa Brooks dismantled our entire “Our Communist Military” series, by writing about how the military is actually...liberal?

She makes the case by arguing that the beloved Military Times poll (cited by On Violence here) skews its results by surveying:

“voluntary responses to surveys sent by email to subscribers -- and, as the editors note, a disproportionate number of the respondents are white, male, and older than average. What's more, many polls fail to differentiate between career military personnel and short-timers, or between officers and enlisted personnel.”

And then this:

“Dempsey's most interesting finding, perhaps, is that self-selected political labels are extremely poor predictors of servicemembers' actual views on social, political, and economic issues. Regardless of how they label themselves to pollsters, for instance, officers' views on issues ranging from abortion to government spending on social programs tend, on the whole, to be moderate to liberal, while the views of enlisted soldiers tend to skew liberal.”

Does this change anything for us? Yes and no. Having recently studied random sampling in business school, I can’t argue with her logic. To see the most biased sample ever, read about the 1936 Literary Digest poll of ten million people. She is also right that, taken as a whole, the Army’s enlisted men tend to reflect the country they serve. However, we still believe that the military’s officers skew overwhelmingly conservative. And they tend to be the people who respond to these surveys.

Her main point, though, that “political labels are extremely poor predictor’s of servicemembers’ actual views on social, political and economic issues” could sum up the point of our series. Too many partisans in America hold viewpoints they don’t actually practice.

two comments

I love the blog, great work. Small point though, the temple shooting was (Oak Creek, Wisconsin). Thanks, and please keep at it.


@ EricF – Thanks for the heads up, I fixed the mistake.