Up to 30 percent of Iraq vets suffer from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Pentagon. And those numbers go up with repeat deployments. So whatever may happen in the months ahead, we can expect a surge of soldiers with serious mental health needs. In the meantime, the Pentagon is gearing up for dealing with them with a series of Flash movies for VA employees based on the first documented case of Iraq-related psych issues. The patient is Gilgamesh, who, as you'll recall, was the king of Urukthe ancient land that would become modern-day Iraq. In the new version, Gilgamesh goes off to war, watches his buddy die, and comes home with an epic case of PTSD. It's a cheeky, cheesy take, but hopefully it means the Pentagon is starting to take the issue more seriously. It has a ways to go: It was reported earlier this year that 80 percent of vets with PTSD symptoms didn't get a follow-up. And some GIs who were diagnosed with the disorder were unceremoniously booted from the service.
A couple of weeks ago, the National Science Teachers Association refused a donation of copies of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, lest its factually challenged donors, such as Exxon, were offended. Now, Participant Productions, the film's distributor, is giving away 50,000 copies to teachers who sign up here. And, via BoingBoing, we learn that the guys who run the less-than-educational website, HotOrNot have pitched in $25K to help get the effort off the ground. And if you want to oggle and do good, there's always Al Gore's Hot or Not page.
A few weeks ago, I noted that global-warming denier and airport-gift shop supplier Michael Crichton had dissed Mother Jones in his latest tome. Now it looks like we got off easy. The New Republic's Michael Crowley, who had written a harsh assessment of State of Fear, has been immortalized as a poorly-endowed child rapist in Crichton's Next. Writes Crowley: "And, perhaps worse, [he] falsely branded me a pharmaceutical-industry profiteer." [Full article behind NRO sub wall.]
Over on CNN's site, punk preacher (and son of Jim and Tammy Faye) Jay Bakker offers a quick smack-down of the Religioius Right and others who mix religion and politcs:
What the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity.
While the current state of Christianity might seem normal and business-as-usual to some, most see through the judgment and hypocrisy that has permeated the church for so long. People witness this and say to themselves, "Why would I want to be a part of that?" They are turned off by Christians and eventually, to Christianity altogether. We can't even count the number of times someone has given us a weird stare or completely brushed us off when they discover we work for a church.
When I spoke with Bakker a few days ago, he said he doesn't like either party laying claim to the moral high ground. As the bumper sticker on his car reads, "God is not a Republican... Or a Democrat." Perhaps God is a registered independent.
Tonight, the Sundance Channel debuts "One Punk Under God," a documentary series that follows Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Since his parents' PTL ministry collapsed in the late '80s, Bakker hit the bottle, got a ton of tattoos, sobered up, rediscovered God, and became a preacher. He's now spreading the word from a Brooklyn storefront, but it's a distinctly different message from the one we're used to hearing from megachurches and televangelists. I recently talked to Bakker about his philosophy, his decision to become a "gay-affirming" church, and what tricks of the trade he picked up from his parents. Check it out here.