band annie's Weblog

I have a parallel blog in French at


November 24, 2013

Stoic week 2013

NEWS: You can now download the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook.
NB: It’s essential you complete ALL the correct questionnaires before and after Stoic Week – see below!

Please try to read it this weekend and prepare yourself for Stoic Week!

Registration: Before midnight (wherever you are) on Monday the 25th, please complete all the following pre-study questionnaires before reading the Handbook (doing so really helps us to gather an evidence base for how effective Stoicism might be):

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)

Please use your email address or you can also adopt a pseudonym (which can be virtually anything, though not something which someone else might also use, eg. ‘Seneca’), when filling out this questionnaires. The email address is preferable so that we can get in touch in a few months time to ask about the long-term effect of Stoic practices.

During the week: Read the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook, follow the daily exercises, and explore the suggested key Stoic theme each day.

To support your practice of Stoicism, please also use the following audio-visual resources, which are referenced in different parts of the Handbook.

There will also be articles uploaded daily to read on the blog during the week about different ways Stoicism is still used today, as well as the Stoicism Today magazine 2013 (released soon) for extra-reading.

You might also consider blogging about the week and make video diaries (and let @Stoic Week know on twitter), writing in with an idea for a guest piece on the Stoicism Today blog, and posting each day your reflections on this blog about how that day’s practices are going for you. Basically get in touch and we will share what you are doing!

After the week: At the end of the week, please fill out the same surveys, with the same email or pseudonym. Please use these links for the post-study questionnaires:

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)
  5. Additional overall feedback survey on Stoic Week

The statistical analysis of Stoic Week 2013 will be published early in the New Year. We will contact participants who have provided their email address a few months after Stoic Week to ask about the long-term impact.

More about Stoic Week…

Live Like A Stoic Week is happening for the second year. It will be taking place from November 25 to December 1. Everyone who is interested in Stoicism, or who practices it today, is encouraged to take part, get involved in an event or activity, and help spread the word.

Last year, Stoic Week attracted participants in schools, universities and philosophy clubs around the world, and generated articles in the Guardian, Independent, The Philosopher’s Magazine and the Huffington Post. We want to make this year’s Stoic Week even bigger.

How you can get involved:

We’d love it if, once again, Stoic Week events take place all over the world. This could be as simple as organizing a discussion on Stoicism in your local cafe or pub. It could mean local clubs, schools or philosophy departments organizing a debate on a Stoic question or theme, such as ‘can philosophy be a form of therapy?’ or ‘is virtue sufficient for happiness?’ If you’re a teacher or a lecturer, you might get your class to discuss Stoicism and to consider some of the Stoics’ practical techniques for changing our emotions.

We’re organizing a public event in London on Saturday November 30, ‘Stoicism for Everyday Life’. You can find more details here on the event’s website, and book. Places are filling up quickly, so book early so as to avoid disappointment.

It would be great if any bloggers interested in Stoicism used the week as an opportunity to share their own experience of Stoicism. Has it helped you? Do you think it has relevance in modern life? Which ideas or exercises have you found particularly helpful? Write a blog post or make a YouTube video, and be sure to mention Stoic Week and to help spread the word. Send Patrick Ussher or another project member the link, and we’ll share it with our followers.

You can also get involved in our annual study of the practical effects of Stoic techniques and ethics. This year, the handbook will be constructed as a ‘Journey into Stoicism’, which each day focusing on a key Stoic idea and exercises to go with it.  If taking part, fill in the Stoic questionnaire we provide, and send it back to us. You might also want to share your experience more informally via a blog or YouTube video.

To read about the team behind Stoicism Today, click here.


The face of young Israel: Palestinians shouldn’t be in the Knesset, or in relationships with Jews

                    on October 14, 2013 166

Last month, I went to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in West Jerusalem to interview Israelis, and spent half an hour sitting with three teenagers. After a few minutes, they allowed me to turn on my video camera. Max Blumenthal was with me, and I believe the exchange bears out the themes of Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath: that building and sustaining a Jewish state in defiance of most of the indigenous population has endowed young Israelis with fiercely militant, Jewish-supremacist ideas.

Specifically, the teenagers say that young Jews should not date Palestinians and that Palestinians should not have representation in the Knesset, because these inclusions undermine the Jewish character of the state. And the Jewish people need Israel to survive.

“We know that we can’t be Jewish anywhere else,” says one.

And all this as a guitarist picks out rock tunes in the background, including Tom Petty’s Free Falling.

The three teenagers are religious nationalists, but they say their attitudes are widely shared; and polls have indicated that 50 percent or more of Israelis have similar attitudes toward Palestinians.

The forceful young man on the right who is going into the army soon is named Matanya. He’s 19. The girl on the left in the Justin Bieber tshirt is Shiran, 18. The girl in the middle is 17, and named Shoham.

As the video is very long, I’m supplying a partial transcript below.

Matanya begins by explaining why it is necessary to act in Syria, and why the old are reluctant to do so. “Younger people have fire in their eyes” and are willing to die for their “ideals.” Matanya says he is willing to serve in Syria, whatever the risk.

“We have to do something. Something serious.”

The three agree that Arabs are not ready for democracy. “They don’t have the mentality for democracy like we do,” Matanya says. All humanity is moving toward democracy, but Arab political culture is particularly resistant to it.

Shiran says that she can relate to the uprisings of the Arab Spring. “The Jews always had pain in their history so you can understand being oppressed.”

I ask Matanya about the American belief that the occupation is the problem.

“I say that’s nonsense… I know they say that. It’s not true, because 40 years ago when we had the borders of ’67, still the Arabs want to kill us and want us not to be here anymore…They don’t want us here period.”

Is there an occupation? Max asks.

“In my opinion, No. because we were here before the Arabs.”

Shiran adds that Arabs and Jews could have coexisted but Arabs chose not to, beginning in 1948. “They could have a state right next to us. They didn’t want it from the start. Now the [Israeli] people don’t want it either because of the way they treated the Jews in the last few years.”

Matanya explains that Islam doesn’t permit a Jewish state. “If they want peace, of course we will give them peace. Our religion is all for it… [Judaism] says specifically that we should treat nicely the people who are not from our people. [i.e., the stranger]”

I ask the young people my favorite question of young Jews: Isn’t it better that Israel cease to be a Jewish state than that one more young person die for it to be such a thing? “Am I wrong to say that?”

Shiran says a binational state is a utopian idea. “It’s possible but it can’t be, because the Arab don’t want it.” And neither do the Jews. “The Jews need a place to be where they are not oppressed, a place where they can be Jewish.”

Matanya is more authoritative.

“This country has to stay Jewish for a few reasons. First of all, we saw what happens when there is no Jewish country. I am sure about it, if there’s not a Jewish country, there will be another Holocaust…. Our religion is true, I believe in all my heart that it’s true. This nation has been existing for the longest time in history. I think there’s something true about our religion. You see that something real is happening here.

“We know that we can’t be Jewish anywhere else. We know that Jewish people are forgetting their resource and wherever they come from in other countries, and we know there’s going to be another Holocaust if we’re not here.”

I ask if his attitude is representative. He says, “Most of the older people think exactly like me. That’s why they stay here and they want the country to stay Jewish.”

I say that during the civil rights movement, black and white people sometimes fell in love with one another, and in some parts of the country, that was considered bad. How do they look on love across religious/racial lines?

“We’re religious so religious people are not allowed to do it,” Shoham says.

Shiran says it’s not just religious people. “In girls’ schools, they tell you, teach you about how– I’m not saying that all the Palestinians are bad… they tell you how dangerous it can be.”

Shoham explains the danger. “It’s a different culture. They live in different places.” And sometimes when Israeli women marry Palestinians, they move to their villages. “It’s a different way of living And Israelis people are not used to it.”

“Oppressive,” Shiran says.

“Primitive,” Matanya says. “They treat women very primitively. I would not want… a girl I know to marry some Palestinian guy. Not because he’s bad. But because of the way they treat….”

I ask how much they would do to stop such a pairing.

Shiran: “I would try very hard to stop it.… I’m not saying that they all live that way but still– you’re Jewish, you shouldn’t marry a non-Jew… even if [that person is] a very good person, you don’t know what their family would think, friends would think. Also because You should try and raise your kids Jewish. Not religious– Jewish.”

Max then asks if their schools warn them about these dangers.

Shiran: “Yeah they do. Because it’s very important… Not in a way that Arabs are bad. They don’t wash your brain.”

Shoham clarifies, “They’re talking about family and it’s like– they warn you about not marrying an abusive husband. So it’s like they’re also talking about not marrying a non-Jewish man.”

Matanya ties this into ideas of nationality. “We know that we’re not responsible only for ourselves, but for our whole country and also for the Jewish people. So any action you take you have to think about that.”

I say, I know lots of Jews in the U.S. and half of my friends are married to non-Jews. Is that what Matanya means when he sees Jews falling away?

“Yes. I think that’s the way that the Jewish vanish. If all the Jews will do that, there won’t be Jewish people anymore, and we want to keep the Jewish people running for a lot more generations.”

Near the end now, and I ask about tribal beliefs that Jews are smarter. The teenagers don’t buy this. But they do say that Israelis have more get-up-and-go.

Matanya says, “We push harder, we go further, we’re not afraid. You don’t see it in a lot of places in the world. In the US you live very calmly, you don’t have a lot of pressure. Not like here. Here you have life and death situations. In every area of living, from high tech to army…. We come to a place where no one ever succeeded in doing anything with those lands, and we made them great lands with a lot of crops.”

Shiran: “We work harder, we don’t give up.”

Max says, “How come the Jews aren’t smart enough to get out of this situation of endless war?”

I don’t think the answers make a lot of sense, though Matanya emphasizes, “We don’t come to kill. We come to save life, not to take life. We have no intention of taking anyone’s life.”

I say that these young people seem to want to renew the Zionist dream, and Matanya agrees.

Then I ask about strong leaders.

Matanya says, “I’m not sure we have a lot of them now. But I’m sure there’s going to come new blood.”

Shiran says that the leaders have been “letting us down.” She seems to mean in the economy.

Max asks if Ariel Sharon was strong.

Shiran says, “We don’t like him.”

Matanya: “He did a lot of very good things for the Israeli people. He gave his whole life for our security. But at the end of his life he made a big mistake, a very big mistake.” He refers to the removal of settlers from Gaza in 2005.

“So, no further pullouts of settlers?” Max asks.

“For sure. Ever,” Matanya says.

I then ask Matanya about visiting him in the Knesset 50 years from now, and will there be peace?

“I pray with all my heart that there will be peace, but anyway we’ll keep going.” He says that Arabs will be free to live here peacefully, with liberty and have the best life they can have, better than in neighboring Arab countries.

“But in my opinion they should not have political figures in our Knesset.

“In other words, they should not have Arab members in the Knesset?” Max says.

“Ideally, yeah. We will. For sure, the Jewish people will take care of the Arabs, they will get what they have to get, the food, the liberty, they can work wherever they want, but if we want to keep our country Jewish and Israeli and in peace, we have to take control of what is happening.”

Shiran: “The way they treat us is exactly the way their leaders treat them. Something has to be done.”

Max. “So Haneen Zoabi has to get out of the Knesset.”

Matanya: “No doubt. She has to get out. She is a representative of the Israeli nation, and she goes on the Marmara, that was completely against the country, it was a betrayal…. I think the only way there will be peace is if she won’t be there, and we’ll be there.”

But what rights will Palestinians have? I ask. And must they leave?

Matanya says, they can stay where they live. “We’re not going to take the lands.. but we’re not going to give any of our lands and we will expend what we can expend because it’s our country.” Arabs have the right to live here, but the refugees cannot return. “That won’t happen. But they can stay on the land, we will have control of the country, and they can live here peacefully, and happily, with all the rights.”


Federal Bureau of Prisons Details Plans for Limited “Audit” of Solitary Confinement Practices

A cell at ADX Florence federal supermax, where individuals may spend years or decades in extreme solitary confinement.

A cell at ADX Florence federal supermax, where individuals may spend years or decades in extreme solitary confinement.

Last week, representatives of six nonprofit organizations critical of solitary confinement met in a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., with the team hired to conduct an internal audit of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ controversial “segregation” policies.

The idea for an audit came out of Senator Dick Durbin’s June 2012 Senate hearing on solitary confinement, where BOP director Charles Samuels was grilled on the federal prison system’s use of solitary, especially on prisoners with mental illness. Further criticism emerged from media coverage, lawsuits, and a scathing report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that the BOP did not know whether its use of “segregated housing” had any impact on prison safety, how it affected the individuals who endure it, or how much it all cost American taxpayers.

The audit team is led by Ken McGinnis, the former warden who directs correctional programs at CNA, a Virginia think tank known primarily for military contracting. CNA is beginning a one year, $498,211 contract to provide a “Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment” for the National Institute of Corrections, which is itself an arm of the Bureau of Prisons.

On November 11, McGinnis and several colleagues met with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, CURE, Vera Institute for Justice, National Association for Mental Illness, and Prison Fellowship–a group that, according to participants, hopes to function as a sort of advisory committee to the auditors. Among other things this group has asked to receive briefings as the study progresses and to provide feedback to the final report. The group does not include any formerly incarcerated people or family members of those currently held in solitary.

According to individuals who attended the meeting, McGinnis described his plans to tour several different prisons, including the government’s notorious supermax, ADX Florence in Colorado, as well as Special Housing Units (SHUs) and Special Management Units (SMUs). An overview of the audit provided by CNA states that the project will make “an operational assessment of 8 BOP special housing units that will include at a minimum 1) Florence ADX, Florence SHU and Florence SMU; 2) Either Allenwood SHU and SMU or Lewisburg SHU; 3) Three additional SMU’s are yet to be to be determined.” (For descriptions of SHUs and SMUs, see our earlier post on the subject.)

In the end run, according to McGinnis, as many as 13 units may be inspected. Teams of experts will be dispatched to these facilities over the next few months to tour the facilities, and talk with the people who run them and the prisoners held there. McGinnis did not say whether prisoners would be interviewed without corrections staff present, or given the opportunity to fill out anonymous surveys–methods that are widely considered to be the only way to get candid information from people who are currently incarcerated.

Among CNA’s tasks will be “a comprehensive review of the Bureau’s mental health assessment process.” This controversial subject has been addressed in recent lawsuits and media reports, which show that  numerous individuals with serious mental illness are being held at ADX, in violation of the BOPs own clear policy directives.

The audit will also review “the application of inmate due process rights…during duration of placement within SHU at ADX and or SMUS.” These due process rights, for the most part, consist of pro forma hearings and reviews, presided over solely by prison officials. Some critics argue that these processes lack even a semblance of fairness or independence.

The audit will pointedly not include “any inmates with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs),” which ban virtually all communications between those in prison and the outside world, and even permit monitoring of attorney-client communications. The auditors will not enter the section of ADX called H-Unit, which holds a group of the most restricted, high-security prisoners, including Ramzi Yousef (1993 World Trade Center bombings), Zacarias Moussaoui (9/11), and Ahmed Ghailani (US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania).

According to one court document, individuals in H-Unit have had their mail suspended and their phone privileges and contact with immediate family members denied. Every phone call, every piece of mail is closely monitored by the FBI–and some, according to the prisoners, is discarded, including pleas for help to attorneys. H-Unit banned prisoners from receiving books by President Obama, along with such innocuous publications as a book on world history, sports magazines, and even a magazine on crocheting. Individuals held at in the unit have been subjected to force feeding when they go on hunger strikes. (See “Voices from Solitary: Life in H-Unit, ADX Federal Supermax.”)

What is particularly unusual about H-Unit is the extent to which the FBI appears to be involved in it operation. (The FBI has no statutory authority to operate inside of federal prisons.) According to court documents, FBI agents listen in on phone conversations, read mail, and dictate punishments–even when BOP personnel object.

Solitary Watch asked Shaina Vanek, the contracting officer in charge of the study and a National Institute of Corrections spokesperson who attended the meeting, confirmed in an email: “the review of the Bureau of Prisons use of Restricted Housing excludes a review of inmates with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) and also the H unit at the ADX.  The BOP has a population of approximately 219,000, and 54 inmates have SAMs.”

While the numbers are indeed small, these individuals are subject to the most extreme, and potentially torturous, form of solitary confinement; their exclusion means that such practices will receive no review whatsoever.

According to one attendee at the November 11 meeting, McGinnis and his team seemed eager to secure “buy in” from the advocates present and to produce a report that will be accepted by them. One of the advocates was asked to represent the group in future communications, and another meeting may take place in the new year.


Blog at

Up ↑