NYC Jumps on Censorship Bandwagon

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

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Make no mistake. I hate the n-word. I just hate censorship more.

New York's resolution is not binding and merely calls on residents to stop using the slur. Leaders of the nation's largest city also hope to set an example.

Other municipalities have already passed similar measures in a debate that rose to a fever pitch late last year after "Seinfeld" actor Michael Richards spewed the word repeatedly at a comedy club in Los Angeles.

At New York's City Hall, supporters cheered passage of the resolution, with many of them wearing pins featuring a single white "N" with a slash through it.

Hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow Walker said blacks need to stop using the word so "we can elevate our minds to a better future."

Others argue that use of the word by blacks is empowering, that reclaiming a slur and giving it a new meaning takes away its punch. Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, for example, said he would not stop using the word, and did not see anything inappropriate about blacks using it within their own circles.

But in the uproar over Richards' outburst, black leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and California Rep. Maxine Waters said it is impossible to paper over the epithet's origins and ugly history of humiliating blacks. They challenged the public and the entertainment industry to stop using the epithet.

And can we please take poor Michael Richards out of the stockade. That he has become the emblem for racism is, well... deeply indicative of the real problem.

I absolutely believed Michael Richards when he said he was not a racist. I think that's why he upset people so much. He reminded us all of what lurks in our deep subconscious, in that dark place right next to our fears. A friend of mine calls them "isms." My friend is a gay man who speaks of his own subconscious homophobia. He points out that these are inculcated attitudes that we ideologically and intellectually deplore. They can snap to the surface when we're triggered, as Richards was, by aggressive heckling.

What's worse. Richards's meltdown -- explained beautifully by Elayne Boosler -- or this:

State Senators Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson are considered key black political leaders in South Carolina because they backed John Edwards in 2004 and managed to hand Edwards 37 percent of the vote in a state where half the primary voters are black.

For those of you who don't understand why we keep harping on early primaries, it's simple. If a presidential candidate wins an early primary state -- like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- deep-pocket donors keep funding their campaigns.

The losing candidates are well on their way to becoming also-rans.

So you tell me why Ford and Jackson found it necessary to tell reporters that they were driving Miss Hillary so early in the game.

"It's a slim possibility for [Obama] to get the nomination, but then everybody else is doomed," Ford told a reporter with the Associated Press on Tuesday.

"Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything," he said. "I'm a gambling man. I love Obama," Ford said. "But I'm not going to kill myself."

This, from a man who claims in his bio that from 1966 to 1972, at the height of the civil rights movement, he was arrested 73 times as a staff member with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


Here's a tip. One has tangible consequences.

Anyone who thinks we can unwrite our "isms," or thoughtcrimes, by excising a word from the lexicon is naive. We would do better to grab hold of teachable moments, like Richards's outburst, and open a real dialog. Anything less is just sticking our fingers in our ears and going, "la, la, la, la!"

Crazy Pills: Ruminations on Sy Hersh

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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Will the Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief never tire of hiding behind our troops? Follow the pretzel logic if you will. We must attack Iran in order to "protect our troops."

At Rice’s Senate appearance in January, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, of Delaware, pointedly asked her whether the U.S. planned to cross the Iranian or the Syrian border in the course of a pursuit. “Obviously, the President isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,” Rice said, adding, “I do think that everyone will understand that—the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.”

That's right. We must set Iran on fire, while our troops are sitting ducks in Iraq, in order to protect them. We must exhaust what's left of our military supplies and hardware in order to protect them. I fail to see how destroying our military readiness protects the troops or the country, for that matter.

This is where the rhetoric meets the road and shreds on contact. Protect the troops?! How does not giving them adequate body armor and up-armored vehicles protect them? How does warehousing our injured heroes in fetid squalor, complete with vermin and black mold protect them? How does an overburdened, underfunded VA protect the troops? How does announcing cuts in veteran's health care, while they are busy dodging bullets and IEDs protect them? How does leaving them penniless and homeless protect them?

The Bush Administration gave up any authority to talk about "protecting the troops" when they put them in the most wrong-headed war in American history and allowed comments like this to issue from their cabinet:

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

For this Administration to talk about "protecting the troops" is as Orwellian as their entire "war is peace" strategy. Sometimes I think their overarching strategy is to short-circuit the collective psyche of the American public with cognitive dissonance. They'll just keep bombarding us with illogic until we shut down like the Mudd's androids. Reading this latest from Sy Hersh, I am left feeling, once again, like I'm taking crazy pills.

"The Redirection" may be the most mind-melting expose of the Bush agenda yet. As near as I can tell, the goal is simply to make the Middle East as unstable as possible; just knocking over as many dominoes as they can to see if they form a pattern. That's certainly what it looks like, as they progress with their impossible plans for attacking Iran. According to Hersh they themselves made this attack necessary by destroying the only viable check on Iran: Iraq. To paraphrase Colin Powell: They Broke it. We bought it.

It's pretty clear to those of us who scrolled through the PNAC papers back in the day, that Iran was always in their sights. That Iraq is in a shambles, Afghanistan is erupting, and our military is nearly broken, doesn't even slow the Bush juggernaut down. They have so little respect for our cognitive abilities that they don't even bother to update their sales pitch. There are weapons of mass destruction! They're over here. No they're over here. Did I say that? Look over here.

Make no mistake. We are in no way prepared to attack Iran. And that's why the generals are balking.

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

The most damning part of Seymour Hersh's newest piece of investigative journalism was highlighted over at Think Progress with video and transcript of Hersh's interview with Wolf Blitzer. Put simply the Bush Administration is funding terrorists. I seem to remember something about the Patriot Act making that explicitly illegal. I wonder if they'll be prosecuted. I won't hold my breath. Bush probably exempted himself from the Patriot Act with a signing statement.

Yes. We are fighting a "war on terror" by funding terrorists.

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.


Why Blogging for Hire is a Bad Idea

Monday, February 26, 2007

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Blogger Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise explains how she dodged the bullet that found its mark in Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan. Her article in Salon should be required reading for bloggers as they define their roles in the political arena. At some point you have to decide if you're going to be a citizen journalist or a publicist, because you can't be both.

Just ask Armstrong Williams how well it works to mix the worlds of political commentary and payola, even if you believe in the cause you're being paid to espouse. There's a reason he didn't disclose that he was a paid operative. It would have made his appeals seem as disingenuous as Howard Sterne's pitches for Snapple. And by failing to reveal it, he found himself discredited and scandalized.

Interviewed for a job by an operative from the John Edwards campaign, Beyerstein asked all the right questions of herself and "Bob." Questions the Edwards campaign should have considered a little more carefully before wading into that minefield.

As we walked, Bob downloaded his vision: The whole Edwards campaign was going to be a decentralized grass-roots operation.

"Elizabeth Edwards gets it," he said with unabashed admiration.

We settled into the back of a small, brightly lit shawarma joint and ordered baklava. After this heartfelt pitch, Bob asked me if I was interested in blogging for the Edwards campaign.

I was dazzled by Edwards' speech, Bob's vision and the sense that I might be on the verge of the big time. I wanted to jump on the bus, but I knew I couldn't.

"I'm probably not ... the person you want," I said, finally. "I mean, I'm on the record saying that abortion is good and that all drugs should be legalized, including heroin. Don't you think that might be a little embarrassing for the campaign?"

Bob assured me that my controversial posts weren't a problem as far as the campaign was concerned. They were familiar with my work. And Bob did seem to know my writing. I didn't get the impression he was a daily reader, but it was obvious he had been reading the blog for a while.

"That's you, that's not John Edwards," he said.

To her credit she wasn't just concerned about how her more incendiary ideas might impact John Edwards. She considered how being on the payroll of a political campaign would affect her as an independent blogger and a readership that counts on her independence.

I asked if I would have to quit blogging at Majikthise in order to take the job with Edwards. My blog means more to me than any job I've ever had. After three years of hard work, I finally have a platform from which to express ideas that won't get a hearing in the established media, let alone in mainstream Democratic politics. So the prospect of giving up my untrammeled freedom to blog press releases for John Edwards gave me pause. Still, I assumed Bob would say it was a necessity.

I was wrong. Bob promised that I wouldn't have to give up my personal blog. He added that I probably wouldn't have much time left for personal blogging, since everyone was working 18-hour days on the campaign. But, he noted, he hadn't given up his own blog, and neither had another member of the Edwards Internet team.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. A bunch of Internet staffers with private blogs sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. . . .
And aside from the risks to the campaign, I wasn't sure this arrangement would be healthy for my blog. With this responsibility weighing on my mind, how could I continue to deliver the independent perspective that my readers value? If I were suddenly on a candidate's payroll, yet still posting my own "independent" thoughts on Majikthise, what would my longtime readers think? Would they still trust me? Should they? Full disclosure wasn't going to solve the problem of divided loyalties. [emphasis mine]

She explained these concerns to "Bob" who it appears did not get it.

I tried to suggest that the campaign might not want high-profile bloggers. I thought it might be better off hiring a well-connected political operative with good connections in the blogosphere. . . .
If you hire these larger-than-life personalities to blog for John Edwards, they'll have to stop espousing many of the radical policy positions and unconventional values that made them popular in the first place.

Fans will also know when a John Edwards message conflicts with the bloggers' own record on an issue. Big-name bloggers hired by campaigns will be accused of "selling out" and open themselves up to accusations of hypocrisy from both sides. [emphasis mine]

Beyerstein ultimately took a pass, trying instead for a photography job, which would have allowed her to cover the campaign, without giving up her independent voice as a blogger. The Edwards campaign moved on to Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, and the rest is history.

Beyerstein hits on the central conundrum that makes the idea of paying grassroots supporters oxymoronic.

The Edwards campaign wants decentralized people-powered politics. Ironically, by hiring well-known bloggers to manage a destination Web site, it was actually centralizing and micromanaging.

If political campaigns want so badly to court the netroots, they should put a little more energy into listening to the ideas and concerns of left wing bloggers, not paying to put words in their mouths.

WMD Deja Vu

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I spent a good bit of yesterday attempting to digest the mountain of new information on just how incompetent and dangerous the Bush Administration is and how close we are too complete and utter catastrophe. These people are to geopolitics what a monkey with a sledgehammer is to a glass factory.

I knew this bit sounded familiar:

Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

Hmmm... Where have I heard that before... Oh right.

In fact, the U.S. claim that Iraq is developing missiles that could hit its neighbors – or U.S. troops in the region, or even Israel – is just one of the claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific or ambiguous U.S. leads that they've begun to express that anger privately in no uncertain terms.

U.N. sources have told CBS News that American tips have lead to one dead end after another.

  • Example: satellite photographs purporting to show new research buildings at Iraqi nuclear sites. When the U.N. went into the new buildings they found "nothing."

  • Example: Saddam's presidential palaces, where the inspectors went with specific coordinates supplied by the U.S. on where to look for incriminating evidence. Again, they found "nothing."

  • Example: Interviews with scientists about the aluminum tubes the U.S. says Iraq has imported for enriching uranium, but which the Iraqis say are for making rockets. Given the size and specification of the tubes, the U.N. calls the "Iraqi alibi air tight."

  • Note the date of the CBS story: Feb. 20, 2003. That's right folks. It was publicly known that the "aluminum tubes" meme was bullshit before we forced the UN to withdraw the inspectors and commenced to shocking and awing. But I digress.

    These folks not only sing the same song over and over. They don't even change the arrangement.

    The Style Ghetto

    Saturday, February 24, 2007

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    My husband has a habit of emailing me articles without links. I like to source everything. And of course if I want to blog it, I really need that link. Today he sent me an article on a grassroots mother's organization, taking on big issues like the "mommy wage gap." It was in the New York Times... but where in the New York Times? Not on the front page. Not in US. Not in Politics. Not in Business... Why of course. It's in the Style section.

    The article profiles MomsRising.org, co-founded by Joan Blades of MoveOn.org fame, and co-author of "The Motherhood Manifesto." In it, a group of mothers gather to watch the documentary of the same name.

    The mothers all held jobs outside the home (pastry chef, singer in a band, lawyer, hairstylist, nanny) and many had flexible schedules to make it easier to care for their children. Like hundreds of others who have gathered over the last nine months, they huddled around a television to view “The Motherhood Manifesto,” a documentary about the obstacles still facing working mothers, including many of those in the room.

    “I’m home with a 2-year-old, so there may be an interruption,” said Ms. Clark, 35, a social worker with two children and a three-day-a-week office job, as she recounted the viewing party the next day and talked about how she related to the mothers in the movie. Like them, she said, her financial situation felt precarious. She wasn’t sure she could count on keeping her part-time position next fall.

    “These are issues I’m aware of and feel strongly about,” she said of the movie’s focus on subjects like universal child care, maternity and paternity leave, and workplace discrimination against mothers. That is why she joined MomsRising.org, the mother’s advocacy organization that made the documentary. “It’s a great opportunity to connect with friends — mothers — and together have a chance to change things,” she said.

    So what has this to do with fashion and style? Hell if I know. The style section can be kind of catch all. In some papers there's a Lifestyle section. That would make a modicum of sense. But if you don't know it, the marginalization of all things female into the fashion or home & garden genres is as old as the hills and apparently shows no sign of changing. Not at the paper of record, at any rate.

    I remember years ago reading something by Gloria Steinem -- I don't remember which book or article it was -- in which she recalled the early days of Ms. She described the travails of trying to find advertisers who understood that Ms. was not a typical women's "feature" magazine. Cosmetics companies were constantly complaining about content that did not support their product. The women in their pages just weren't glamorous enough. Ms. simply had no niche. It was for a female audience, but it wasn't about home-making and it wasn't about fashion and beauty. It didn't fill the space between ads with quizzes about your sex appeal. It was about issues. Women just weren't supposed to care about issues. We were supposed to care about make-up and cleaning products. Got it? Make-up. Cleaning products.

    It's a good article. I recommend it. Although the giant Ralph Lauren video fashion show embed is a trifle distracting. Here's another snippet:

    Using data and personal stories of mothers who have been discriminated against in the workplace, the film emphasizes that mothers are less likely to be hired, will make less money, and are more scrutinized for wrongdoing than either single women or men. The reason it cites: There are not enough family-friendly policies in place to help parents.

    The seeds for MomsRising were planted in 2004, when Ms. Blades read a book about women and politics by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, 36, a married mother of two. Ms. Blades, 51, said she was astonished to find that many younger women didn’t identify with feminism and by the data showing vast disparities in incomes between mothers and fathers, with single mothers faring particularly badly.

    And another:

    At many house parties, the issue that has generated the most discussion is something that activists call “maternal profiling.” That is using information about a woman’s status as a parent to make managerial decisions, like whether to hire her and how much to pay her.

    They are particularly moved by the story of Kiki Peppard, a Pennsylvania woman who, 12 years ago, was refused office jobs after employers found out she was a single mother of two. Ms. Peppard is a rallying point for many women, who are led by the film to believe — mistakenly — that such discrimination is legal. According to two experts in workplace law, it is not.

    But many studies indicate that, legal or not, a woman’s status as a mother hurts her at work.

    In one study, to be published next month in the American Journal of Sociology, Cornell researchers sent out résumés and cover letters to real employers for hypothetical job applicants. All had the same credentials, but the packages included subtle cues to indicate that some of the applicants were parents. (For example, a résumé might note that an applicant was an officer in a parent-teacher association.)

    The goal was to find out if employers are less likely to pursue an interview if they find out that a candidate is a parent, said Shelley Correll, an associate professor of sociology at Cornell, who helped conduct the study. And the answer was “yes for mothers, no for fathers.”

    Casualties of Rape

    Friday, February 23, 2007

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    I am the history of rape
    I am the history of the rejection of who I am
    I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
    my self
    I am the history of battery assault and limitless
    armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
    and my body and my soul and
    whether it's about walking out at night
    or whether it's about the love that I feel or
    whether it's about the sanctity of my vagina or
    the sanctity of my national boundaries
    or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
    of each and every desire
    that I know from my personal and indiosyncratic
    and indisputably single and singular heart
    I have been raped

    -- Poem About My Rights by June Jordan (excerpt)

    I went to see "Casualties of War" in the theater, when it first came out. I didn't know that much about it. I liked Michael J. Fox. He was so adorable in "Family Ties." And I was fascinated by Vietnam history. I probably should have read some reviews, but I hate spoilers. So I was totally unprepared.

    I try to avoid movies with sexual violence because I am a survivor of sexual assault; multiple sexual assaults actually. So I was unprepared. Images of rape... sometimes I go numb... sometimes I just curl up in a fetal ball and shake...

    This morning I read that Sgt. Paul E. Cortez was sentenced to 100 years in prison. It's not enough. I wrote about this here; about how Paul Cortez and his buddies raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl. A sociopath named Steven Green, who raped and killed the girl and set her on fire -- and killed her entire family -- was conveniently discharged by the Army a short time later and is now a problem for a civilian court. Whatever sentence he gets it won't be enough. Both Cortez and Spc. James Barker plead out and got their sentences of 100 years and 90 years respectively, with a possibility of parole. Me? I wanted to see them all sentenced to the maximum penalty under the UCMJ; death.

    Some years ago I was staying with some friends in a beach house. It was a summer rental packed with people I barely knew. Flipping through channels one night one of those guys I barely knew stumbled on "Casualties of War." Can we watch something else? I asked. I like this movie, he replied. My voice felt so small all of a sudden. Can we please change the channel? I squeaked. So quiet. So invisible. He didn't hear me. Or maybe he didn't care.

    So I bolted. I ran to the beach. My boyfriend found me there, curled up in the sand like a fetal ball...

    Rape as metaphor. War as rape. Sean Penn grabbing his crotch, proclaiming "This is a weapon." It seems almost poetic somehow. For a moment it all makes sense. But the truth is not so clean.

    In the movie, like in this most recent case of life imitating art, the girl was murdered. And I feel a sense of relief that she is dead. It seems almost merciful. Rape is worse than death. Soul murder.

    A Still Tongue Makes a Happy Life

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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    Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak
    is to narrow the range of thought?

    In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible,
    because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept
    that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word,
    with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings
    rubbed out and forgotten.

    -- George Orwell's "1984"


    What if we could make hate disappear by eliminating offensive words and limiting discourse? Would that be possible? Would it be ethical?

    Such questions arise when looking at a national trend in legislation to ban a racial slur.

    PATERSON, New Jersey (1010 WINS) -- Paterson has joined a nationwide effort to get people to stop using the n-word by passing a resolution to abolish the racial slur.

    The resolution is symbolic, though, carrying no penalties. Council Anthony Davis, the sponsor of the bill, says the word is negative and young people need to stop using it. Councilman-at-large Jeffrey Jones voted for the resolution, but says that it has no legs because there is no one to police it.

    Paterson is following in the footsteps of Irvington, which passed a similar resolution earlier this month. Other places are also considering a ban. But some people don't think it will change anything.

    Paterson resident Lamont Adams says using the word is part of how he associates with his friends.


    And it arises again in the blogosphere, where a battle is raging over free speech. As I wrote some time ago:

    Web sites are private property not "free speech zones." Site owners do not have to respect First Amendment protections. That much is a fact. But you'd think that some of these site owners would display enough self-awareness not be total hypocrites; criticizing Bush for silencing dissent one minute, silencing their own dissenters the next. Unfortunately each site develops its own culture and its own taboos, which are enforced not only by the management but by self-appointed enforcers of societal norms. The result is that most of these sites ultimately become stifling environments and self-reinforcing echo-chambers of group-think.




    Exhibit A: The Daily Kos. A few days ago, Hunter put out the latest encyclical on conduct and penalties for kossacks. It's a humdinger. Here are some of my favorite bits.

    Autobanning

    Through the ratings system, the community has been given the tools to, in most cases, police itself. Users who consistently bring good arguments, well thought out discussions, or simply happy doses of humor will be rewarded with "recommendations" from other site users: those that engage in offensive, disruptive, or forbidden behavior will find themselves "troll rated".

    If a user constantly engages in disruptive behavior over a certain period of time, such that the community repeatedly trollrates the comments of that user, it may trigger an automatic banning of the user known as autobanning. This is the tool given to the community to police itself, and should be taken very seriously.

    Autobanning is an entirely automated process -- there is no human intervention. The exact number of trollratings needed in a certain period of time to trigger autoban has not been publicly stated, but the algorithm, generally speaking, is calibrated to be very, very lenient -- you have to be very much an ass, for a prolonged period of time, before it will kick in. A mere bad mood in a comment thread or two won't do it, except in extraordinary cases. A prolonged history of trollrated comments will.

    For that reason, you don't really have to worry that trollrating a single offensive post by an otherwise productive community member will get them banned: that doesn't happen. Five or ten such comments from that user, though, and they begin to be on thin ice indeed. If you are having a bad night, as a commenter, and find yourself being repeatedly troll-rated, stop what you are doing. This is considered a social IQ test: if you fail, and get autobanned, don't expect much sympathy.





    One of the things the founding fathers understood was that mob rule poses as much of a threat to the free flow of ideas as oppressive government. The autobanning policy is like handing kossacks cyber torches and pitchforks. Many have been slammed with troll ratings and even banned, not for aggressive or "trollish" behavior, but for stating divergent views. As Booman observes in Hunter's thread:

    Hunter

    the problem I see can be clearly seen in this thread.

    There is a kind of mob mentality that has taken over. Someone writes something controversial, like saying soldiers should refuse to serve in Iraq, and they don't get respect, they don't get rebuttals...

    They just get blasted with meanness, and snark, and troll-ratings, and recipes.

    It's out of control, IMO.


    More banning offenses from Hunter:

    Misrepresenting your identity. It is perfectly acceptable to remain pseudonymous on the site, meaning that you wish to provide no personally identifying information about yourself. This is fine and accepted practice: many users may have reasons why they do not want their political opinions widely known in their workplace, for example. What is not acceptable, however, is lying about your identity. You may not pretend to be someone else, claim to be a race or gender or class or nationality you are not, lie about your military service, or background, or otherwise misrepresent yourself. You may refrain from talking about those aspects of your life, but you may not misrepresent them in an attempt to bolster your pseudonymous credibility or otherwise mislead other community members.

    "Outing" other site users. If a user wishes to protect their pseudonymity, and has not freely provided information which would unmask or otherwise undermine that pseudonymity, then you may not reveal private, personal information about that user that might allow others to subsequently identify them. Period. For that matter, you may not do it on another site either, if you wish to participate here: we take pseudonymity concerns very seriously.


    So you can't misrepresent yourself, buuuuut... no one can point out that you are misrepresenting yourself. So you're pretty safe to flout that rule. Full disclosure: I was banned ostensibly for outing someone who was misrepresenting himself. Of course the punch-line is that I didn't out him. I simply pointed out that he had outed and exposed himself as a fraud repeatedly in his own writing. I suppose it's a fine point.

    Now this is a fun one:

    Consistently rating up the posts of users who are themselves engaging in inappropriate behaviors, thus thwarting the moderation efforts of more responsible community members. More on this below.

    Think about that for a moment. Even supporting unpopular ideas, without writing a word, is a potentially bannable offense. As 5hearts of My Left Wing learned when she chose to support the "wrong" side in a disagreement.

    I would love to know by what algorithm this happy message gets vomited out:

    You've Been Warned...
    2007-02-12 20:00:55
    Please stop rating up other users' fights in the comment threads. MLW and Booman fights should be left on MLW and Booman, not encouraged.
    I understand the above warning (posting is no longer allowed until this is acknowledged).

    I clicked on pyhrro's username (a link under a comment of his) at dKos and up it popped....




    Which brings me to Exhibit B: My Left Wing. Proprietor Maryscott O'Connor astonished and impressed me the other day when she threw down the gauntlet on this issue, and came down hard on the side of free speech and thought. It was a brave move and she has opened herself up to widespread criticism from the enforcers of social norms. More astonishing still, she opened the floor for debate on that third rail issue, verboten on most liberal websites; the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Her diary on this and the heated debate it engendered can be found here.

    Maryscott has ripped the scab off a festering wound in the blogosphere, and exposed a level of denial and hypocrisy that has astonished even me. The passion amongst a surprising number of site members for the suppression of ideas and the banning of dissenters, I find chilling. The idea that evil ideas, thoughtcrimes if you will, can somehow be stemmed by limiting discourse has found many takers. Dhonig for, instance, has written one of the most wrong-headed diaries I've ever read... and that's saying something.

    Okay, so now on to the subject itself, why it is not just a matter of free speech, and why hate should be banned.

    First, it is a mere aphorism that ugliness is cleansed by the light of day. And really, this is the theme for the rest of the diary. Some have argued that we should not shun the haters, but hear them, for by putting out their opinions they expose those opinions to "the light of day," where some magical process will cleanse them, or at least we will know them by the nature of their words. Unfortunately, this involves a utopian view of human nature, rather than a realistic observation.

    Hate is ugly. Even the haters, if alone, know deep in their soulless little lizard brains that there might be something shameful about their point of view. They mostly keep it to themselves, huddling in the subterranean hovel of hatred. They suspect, perhaps even fear, that (a) they might not be right, and (b) their point of view might not be acceptable. But what happens when they come out, and their hate receives anything less than complete rejection, including rejection of the person and their presence forever? They get the message that somehow what they said was okay.


    Their "soulless little lizard brains"... Now, where have I heard that kind of dehumanizing rhetoric used to describe a group of people before... Oh right!

    In dhonig's cartoon world, only evil ideas can be viral. Rebuttals to them cannot. Discourse has no real capacity to enlighten, so certain ideas must be denied a forum. This is, of course, demonstrably false. Even in my own lifetime I have watched public opinion morph on race and civil rights, gay rights, and, yes, Jews. Racism, homophobia, and antisemitism are decidedly out of vogue; out of the mainstream, if you will. And much of what has changed these views is that we have seen the ugliness of hate with our own eyes, giving full form to social undercurrents, and rejected it. Full-blown "haters" are in the minority. As I pointed out to dhonig, David Duke, who he himself invokes in his diary as an example of hate run amok, has been rejected by voters repeatedly. Why? Because his odious views are a matter of public record. Something that would not be the case were it not for a First Amendment that protects his right to spew racial hatred.

    From Nonpartisan we learn that Jews are a special group, deserving of total protection from offensive ideas. Blacks are not because not enough of them have been killed.

    Have six million of them been murdered in a single generation? (0.00 / 0)
    No. So...no.

    Vague terms? How about this: If you think what you're about to say could in any way be offensive to a Jewish person, or could even be CONSTRUED as being offensive to a Jewish person, DON'T SAY IT.

    Similar to the grounds of civil discourse in society, huh? If you persist in violating these norms in civil society, then you get shunned and maybe fired. If you do so in blogtopia*, then you should be banned.

    *coined by Skippy.

    Well. I'm speechless.




    Note: Both The Prisoner and Orwell's 1984 are availaible in the bookstore.

    The Death of the Warrior King

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Comments: (0)

    Odin Calling up the Fire, circa 1914

    Buy at AllPosters.com


    Let us do a postmortem on the archetype of the warrior king. We shall have no more great leaders, tested in the cauldron of battle. Today's leaders let the peasantry do all the fighting and the dying for the advancement of their empires. We live in an age of coddled boy kings, who avoid service in "Champagne Units" and mock the valor of inconvenient heroes.

    Pity the Prince who wishes to fight alongside his men.

    Newspapers are filling their pages about the security headache that a war zone assignment for Harry — who is third in line to the throne — could bring for the British army.

    "Harry's always wanted to be treated as an ordinary soldier," the Daily Mail quoted an unidentified army source as saying. "He's not an ordinary soldier, of course."

    When Harry, 22, left Sandhurst Military Academy last year, he became a second lieutenant and joined the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry. At the time, the defense ministry said he could possibly be deployed to Iraq, but that there might be situations when the presence of a member of the royal family could increase the risk for his comrades.

    Harry himself was having none of it.

    "There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst, and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," he said in a television interview to mark his 21st birthday.

    The warrior king mythos is mocked when the Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief plays lets pretend with a caricature of our original warrior President. It is surely dead when he can say things like this with a straight face.

    "It's hard for me living in this beautiful White House to give you an assessment, a first hand assessment. I haven't been there. You have, I haven't. But I do talk to people who are and people whose judgment I trust and they would not qualify it as that. There are others who think it is."

    The warrior king was defined by his scars. The leader of the free world cannot even look upon the scars of others.

    Military amputee uninvited from Bush event because the press would see him with no legs

    May these people fry in hell. (This a portion of a much larger, second part of the expose in the Washington Post on Monday.)

    Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

    David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row.

    " 'Are you telling me that I can't go to the ceremony 'cause I'm an amputee?' " David recalled asking. "She said, 'No, I'm saying you need to wear pants.' "

    David told the case worker, "I'm not ashamed of what I did, and y'all shouldn't be neither." When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.

    Bow your head in memory of the warrior king. He is no more.

    Pretend President

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Comments: (1)

    "I feel right at home here.
    After all, this is the home of the first George W."


    I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

    And Dubya's shtick goes on:

    "I thank President Washington for welcoming us today. He doesn't look a day over 275 years old."

    Ba dum bum.

    Whose idea was the Washington impersonator? Was this a Presidential address or a mattress sale?

    Worse, actually. Bush used the occasion of Presidents Day to co-opt General George Washington's warrior cred to sell his own ill-conceived, tragically mismanaged war. With a fife and drum soundtrack, no less.

    Before and after Bush's speech, recorded music by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps blared through loudspeakers. Organizers of the event said the fife and drum corps had planned to perform live, but decided against it Sunday night because of expected temperatures in the 20s that could have damaged their historic instruments.

    And period costumes:

    Joined by his wife Laura, with a military honor guard wearing Revolutionary War uniforms standing at attention, Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of the first American president on the Presidents Day holiday to mark Washington's birth 275 years ago.

    You have to hand it to the Bush White House. They know how to dress a set. But it may take more than a bit of stagecraft to successfully conflate the Revolutionary War and the amorphous War on Terra.

    "Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," said Bush, standing in front of Washington's home and above a mostly frozen Potomac River.

    "And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone.". . .
    "On the field of battle, Washington's forces were facing a mighty empire, and the odds against them were overwhelming. The ragged Continental Army lost more battles than it won, suffered waves of desertions, and stood on the brink of disaster many times. Yet George Washington's calm hand and determination kept the cause of independence and the principles of our Declaration alive."

    That he does not see the irony. General Washington led a rag-tag militia against an imperial army and prevailed against seemingly insurmountable odds. George W. Bush has taken the most lavishly funded professional military in history and bogged it down in an un-winnable war against a rag-tag rebel insurgency.

    Perhaps that's because George Washington was a brilliant tactician and soldier who fought beside his men; who led by example and never asked his men to do that which he would not himself do. George W. Bush sat out the war of his generation in a stateside post in the National Guard, and couldn't even show up for that.

    But to Bush, donning a flight suit for a photo-op and spouting endless bombast makes him a warrior. He is a pale imitation of a soldier and paler imitation of a President. But appearance is reality for this entire Administration. So they trot out a fake George Washington, play dress-up, and try to use the beginning of this great experiment to justify its ignominious end.

    Soj: Clearly Decompensating

    Sunday, February 18, 2007

    Comments: (31)

    I think it just got a whole lot harder to ignore that Soj is... how say... nuts:

    Don't ever underestimate these fuckers. They are fucking vicious. If one of them shows up where I am in the United States I will fucking shoot them. And I'm a pacifist. I'll be in Europe in about 30 days and good luck finding me there, fuckers.

    I don't have a problem with someone disagreeing with me and you sure don't have to like me (or Boo or anyone else). But when you take it to the "next level" and start endangering totally innocent people, that's when it goes too far. These "paparazzi" are freaking psychos.

    The difference between Boo and Britney Spears is she has the BUCKS to hire bodyguards etc. Freaking loons. It's just a fucking blog you freaks!

    Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

    by soj on Sat Feb 17th, 2007 at 10:20:31 PM EST

    But first, the back story. Some stuff happened on Booman Tribune. A lot of former tribbers moved over here. Bla bla bla... This part's pretty boring... Anyway, move forward to the last couple of days, when someone called Arcturus launched a broadside attack on Booman, insisting that he's racist. I read the diary in question when it went up. It's not racist. Just kind of a lazy, poorly thought out explanation of Mexico's shocking poverty. I've been to Mexico. It does create some cognitive dissonance. (Supersoling does a capable job of explaining what's wrong with Booman's reasoning on the thread for the Arcturus diary.) Booman responded to the unfair criticism here. It's a conflagration but not a terribly compelling one... until you get to Soj. Leave it to Soj to take an ordinary flame war straight through the looking glass.

    My opinions on Soj are well documented and got me banned from Daily Kos. But he has been outdoing himself lately. I've never understood the popularity of Soj's blogging. In addition to being a fraud, a manipulator, and a panhandler, his worst sin is his lack of talent. To paraphrase Truman Capote: That's not writing, it's regurgitating.

    Lately Soj's writing seems to have taken a turn for the worse. From the incoherent and pointless; a diary analogizing every act of rebellion in American history to modern-day terrorists. Jesus. To the completely freaking bizarre; a conspiracy diary just this side of David Icke that promises endlessly to become very, very scary, but never does.

    And now he's threatening Booman's critics with lethal force. More bizarre, Soj seems to think they're after him and announces that he will be heading back to Europe; much as he did when those "crazy ex-cons" were out to get him. Always a good idea to give the heads up on your general location when you go into hiding.

    His allusion to Britney Spears is a little Freudian. They're both narcissistic non-talents having very public break-downs. Somebody get the net.

    Do You Believe in the One Big Sign?

    Comments: (1)

    Poor Mitt Romney; barely out of the gate and already being heckled for his religion.

    About 800 people packed Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center in this retirement community of 65,000. It was standing-room only.

    But what got the crowd roaring wasn't a pitch for safe offshore oil drilling or health care. It was his religion. If he were to win the White House, Romney would become America's first Mormon president.

    A man stood amid the crowd and called Romney "a pretender" who doesn't know "the Lord."

    The crowd booed the man from the room, and Romney responded: "First of all, I believe in God."

    You can't possibly run for President unless you believe in God!! When do I get to vote for the atheist candidate? I'm not one, but I would find that a lot easier to swallow, than all the posturing and bickering over doctrine.

    Mormonism is a little odd, I'll grant you. But is it any more outrageous to believe that Joseph Smith received the golden plates of Mormon revelation from the angel Moroni, than to believe that God handed Moses the Ten Commandments. Why? Because it happened more recently?

    Alright. The bullet-proof underwear is weird as hell... and seems a bit unsanitary. But is it so much stranger than saying a rosary?

    Religion by its very nature is irrational, so as long as "faith" is a litmus test in politics we're going to have to accept some wacky ideas in our leaders.

    That said, I'm unlikely to ever vote for a Mormon. Not because I think their religion is cuckoo, but because they tend to be extremely conservative. I'll read just about anything by Orson Scott Card, because he's probably one of the greatest writers in the English language, but I want him far, far away from the political arena. Mormon. Great writer. Whack-job. And, yes, I even read "Saints" his historical fiction on the early Mormon Church. God. The man could write about the composition of plywood and create a compelling narrative.

    Call me old-fashioned. I still believe in the Jeffersonian wall. But rational discourse is just so 18th Century.

    Salon On Blogger Ethics

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Comments: (0)

    Salon's Joan Walsh has written a smart, even-tempered piece that is certain to piss a lot of bloggers off.

    When the blog-friendly Edwards campaign -- the candidate's wife Elizabeth has reportedly blogged on lefty sites under an assumed name -- hired Marcotte from Pandagon and McEwan from Shakespeare's Sister, it was hailed as a victory for the blogosphere. Thus preventing their firing, or denying it had ever happened, became crucial for building "the movement," as MyDD's Chris Bowers so often describes his blog colleagues' goal.

    But what is "the movement," and what are its goals? Is it correcting, challenging, augmenting and maybe someday replacing the staid, arrogant, sometimes corrupt, rarely courageous titans of the mainstream media? Or is it replacing a tired and politically timid field of Democratic consultants with a new generation of cyberspace kingmakers? Of course, there's room for both in the liberal blogosphere. But can individual bloggers do both? Does it mark me as an old-media dinosaur to even ask that question?

    Well if it does, Joan, we are nibbling the tops of the same trees, because I've been asking the same questions for some time.

    Maybe I'm the one who's naive, but the whole episode made me wonder: What does it mean if liberal bloggers aren't warriors for the truth, but rather for candidates? What does it mean for media, and what does it mean for politics?

    As I asked here, do bloggers want be citizen journalists or publicists? Because there is a very big difference.

    Lefty bloggers congratulate themselves on being less compromised and corrupted than fancy MSM reporters; on creating a new independent realm of punditry and reporting. Do a lot of them really aspire to flack for a candidate, as well? Of course there are liberal bloggers who seem mainly about independent journalism -- Glenn Greenwald, now with Salon, comes to mind, as does Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo and Firedoglake's coverage of Plamegate -- and aren't looking to hook up with candidates. But others seem comfortable blurring the lines between independent commentary and partisan kingmaking. And while it's true that journalists have historically gone off to work for politicians, they don't keep their writing job when they go on the other payroll. Plus, their colleagues and competitors in other media organizations don't see themselves as having a stake in the former journalist's new political perch, and thus don't tend to cheer them on, or look away from exposing problems that might emerge with their new employer.

    They also don't have a perch from which to bully their readership into abandoning one candidate in favor of another, as happened when Markos flipped on Paul Hackett, in favor of his business associate Jerome Armstrong's employer Sherrod Brown, and started referring to Hackett enthusiasts as the "Hackett fedayeen."

    If anything I think Walsh has pulled her punches, but that will not stop reflexive snark like this:

    Check out this Salon editorial as an example of this turf-protection. It is all about silencing the people. As I stated before, the netroots ARE the grassroots.

    Walsh's questions are valid and worth a good mulling over by any blogger who wants to be taken seriously.

    Kos Is One But We Are Many

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Comments: (1)

    A shout out to Skippy who has included this humble blog in his amnesty program, by adding it to his blogroll. Smooches.

    And applause to Rob of Intrepid Liberal Journal for giving voice to a thought that has been rattling around my head for days.

    What Skippy has started with his program is an opportunity for all of us to grow together as a movement. I propose we visit each other's sites and either post comments or send emails to each other requesting reciprocal links. Markos is but one and we are many.

    If there is a lesson in this blogroll controversy, it's that bloggers have given over too much power to the Big Boys of Blogging. For many of us the impetus behind blogging was to take our power back from an arrogant White House. It should be clear now that we face a similar challenge with the anointed leaders of the blogosphere, as they race to close the gate behind them.

    Chris Bowers: Shackling the Blogosphere

    Comments: (0)

    I should read Chris Bowers more often. I missed this one completely. Tip of the hat to Skippy whose most excellent post on Booman Tribune (also on Skippy) isolates a possible cause for the outbreak of rampant egotism amongst the Big Boys of Blogging.

    I seldom read Bowers. I find his prose mind-numbingly dull. But with patient reading, there's just arm-loads for the amateur psychologist to plow through. After reading this last, I think he may be coming as unhinged as John McCain. More importantly, this masturbatory essay demonstrates some of the central attitudes I find most disturbing about the trends of the lefty blogosphere.

    Firstly, he reiterates his loathsome position on the Edwards campaign, which I addressed here. In short his support of any candidate is contingent on their fealty to the netroots; which he now dresses up in a lot of fancy talk about the power of movements. Positions on issues are secondary at best. Responsiveness to the supporting movements, primary. I could almost get behind this thinking -- the idea that a candidate must be willing to embrace his supporters and be a part of something bigger -- if that's what Bowers meant. He does not, for reasons that lie buried in the very convoluted second graph.

    I want to be there at the moment when history happens, when the world changes, when consciousness shifts, and when the people rise up and throw off the shackles of the elite, the status quo, and the comfortable. I have wanted that for a long time. Before that happens, I want to be an active member of the small clique, coterie or circle that identified the possibility for massive change and precipitated its manifestation. [emphasis mine]

    Meet the new tyrant. Same as the old tyrant. Bowers takes no joy in the "bottom-up" nature of political movements. His passion is for the inner circle that would pull the strings. No wonder the issues don't matter. It's really all about power.

    24's Joel Surnow: Painfully Unfunny Chicken-Hawk

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Comments: (1)



    Wow! I just watched this clip of the "Half Hour News Hour" -- Fox News Channel's foray into comedic programming, set to debut 2/18. I can't believe I'm going to say this but I think Surnow should stick to writing torture scenes. Or perhaps this show is intended as torture. If I were forced to watch this one more time, I'm pretty sure I might start babbling a confession to the Kennedy assassination.

    For starters I think it might have been a good idea to come up with at least one original concept. The title is a direct rip-off of MTV's "Half Hour Comedy Hour." The set is nearly identical to the "Daily Show." The camera work is shot for shot the same as the "Daily Show." The wardrobe looks like it was taken off the reject pile of the "Daily Show." The only thing that isn't a straight up clone of the Daily is the material. Because the "Daily Show" is... what's the word... funny.

    It's kind of like watching the "Daily Show" in Bizarro World, where everyone's sense of humor is backwards.

    Can Obama Imitate Life?

    Comments: (0)


    I'm someone else. I'm white... white... WHITE!

    -- Imitation of Life (1959)


    Some years ago I worked with a woman, of Jamaican descent, who could have been fairly described as a light-skinned black woman. She confided in me, one day, about the problem she was having with her family over her Haitian boyfriend. Her family was furious that she was dating a "black" man. This was my first acquaintance with the caste system of the West Indies. She explained to me that because her family had a good bit of "white" blood and was lighter skinned, they considered themselves of a higher social class.

    "When I look in the mirror," she told me, " I see a black woman." Thus did she dismiss her family pressure, and continue her relationship with her dark-skinned Haitian boyfriend. And good on her.

    In the midst of this insane debate over whether Obama is black enough, or white enough, to pass as human enough, he seems to have reached a similar conclusion.

    I’m not sure I decided it. Uh, I think, uh, you know, if you — if you look African-American in this society, you’re treated as an African-American, uh, and, uh, when you’re a child in particular, uh, that is how you begin to identify yourself.

    To which Rush Limbaugh brings the following inisight:

    So are we to conclude here that he didn’t define himself as black, that the way he looks does? (Sigh.) Okay. We’ve got Obama’s wife in here. We’ve got John Howard from Australia coming up, but, “I’m not sure I decided it”? Well, if you didn’t decide it, then how did it happen?

    Well, when you look like that, that’s what you are.

    Well, renounce it, then! If it’s not something you want to be, if you didn’t decide it, renounce it, become white!

    This of course follows Glenn Beck's bizarre pronouncement that he's "colorless." The entire transcript from his radio show is worth reading and can found here, but here are the salient bits:

    Yeah, I -- you know, I was driving in today, and I was seeing -- because I saw this piece with him on 60 Minutes -- and I thought to myself, he is -- he's very white in many ways. . . .

    And I thought to myself: Gee, can I even say that? Can I even say that without somebody else starting a campaign saying, "What does he mean, 'He's very white?' " He is. He's very white. . . .

    When he says -- yes. When he said, you don't notice his color, as a white guy -- and I don't know if African-Americans feel the same way -- but for whites, I think he's colorless. You don't notice that he is black. So he might as well be white, you know what I mean? . . . .

    OK, until he starts talking about race issues and he says things, like on this 60 Minutes piece last night, he said, "When I hail a cab." And I thought, "What?" And then all of a sudden, I noticed his color. . . .

    So when I say -- I mean, he's colorless -- or, for whites, he might as well be white, he's white. And yet, I guarantee you, there will be blogs today that will have me being a racist because I say that. . . .

    Gee! Ya think?!

    I suppose it's possible that this isn't just a preemptive shot, aimed at distracting us from his evident racism; that in fact Mr. Beck doesn't see his ruminations on whiteness as racist at all.

    What Limbaugh and Beck seem too obtuse to recognize is that the implicit message of these rants is that it is obviously preferable to be white. That Obama should take these opportunities to trade up; to pass.

    I, for one, will be glad when the media moves on to more important issues, like his wardrobe.

    Why Letting Criminals Join the Military is a Bad Idea

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Comments: (0)

    Exhibit A: Pfc. Steven D. Green, the apparent mastermind behind the gang rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, and the murderer of her parents and 5 year old sister.

    According to statements given at the hearing, the soldiers were drinking whiskey, playing cards and hitting golf balls when Green brought up the idea of going to a house near the checkpoint where they were stationed, to rape the girl.

    Barker described Green as very persistent, Bierce testified. The statements said the five soldiers -- Green, Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard -- then changed into dark clothing and covered their faces, before going to the house.

    According to Barker, Howard was the lookout and was given a radio to use if anyone approached, Bierce said. The four remaining soldiers then entered the home, at which point the statements from Barker and Cortez about what happened diverge, according to testimony.

    Barker told investigators that Cortez pushed the 14-year-old girl to the floor and made "thrusting motions" as Barker held down her hands; then they switched positions, Bierce said.

    Sometime during the assault, Barker said he heard gunshots come from the bedroom, where the girl's parents and sister had been taken, and an agitated Green emerged and said he had killed them, Bierce said.

    According to Barker, Green then put down the AK-47 he had been carrying and raped the girl, while Cortez held her down, and then picked up the gun and shot her several times, Bierce said.

    Green then went into the kitchen and, when he returned, said he had opened the propane tank and they needed to get out of the house because it was about to explode, Bierce said.

    Pfc. Green was in the Army thanks to a moral-waiver and we will probably be seeing a lot more Steven Greens, more atrocities, and an overall degradation of military values and discipline. As we learn today from the New York Times, Army waivers for criminals are up 65% as the military clamors to fill recruiting quotas.

    “The data is crystal clear; our armed forces are under incredible strain, and the only way that they can fill their recruiting quotas is by lowering their standards,” said Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. He has requested more detailed data from the Defense Department on the use of waivers.

    “By lowering standards, we are endangering the rest of our armed forces and sending the wrong message to potential recruits across the country,” Mr. Meehan said. “Our men and women in uniform represent the best and brightest in America, and we need to keep it that way.”. . .

    Mr. Belkin said the increases in moral waivers in the Army posed a problem only to the extent that the military failed to track these recruits or provide special integration training for them.

    Since more than 125,000 service members with criminal histories have joined the military in the last three years, Mr. Belkin said, “you have a sizeable population that has been incarcerated and is not used to the same cultural norms as everybody else.”

    “The chance that one of those individuals is going to commit an atrocity or disobey an order is higher,” he said. “Many of those individuals can be good soldiers, but in some cases they have special needs. The military should address those needs rather than pretending they don’t exist.”

    But ignoring an obvious problem is exactly what the Army did in the case of Pfc. Green. After granting a waiver to the high school drop-out with three criminal convictions in his history, the Army green-lighted him for duty in spite of glaring indicators of mental pathology.

    Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

    The treatment was several small doses of Seroquel a drug to regulate his mood and a directive to get some sleep, according to medical records obtained by the AP. The next day, he returned to duty in the particularly violent stretch of desert in the southern Baghdad suburbs known as the "Triangle of Death.". . .

    From interviews with people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the military to discuss the case, and from viewing the Army's medical and investigative records, the AP also has learned:

    Three months passed without Army doctors and clinicians from the Combat Stress Team having any contact with Green. He was summoned for a second examination on March 20, 2006 eight days after the killing of the family. Green was diagnosed as having an anti-social personality disorder and declared unfit for service. The process of discharging him began a week later and he was sent home.

    The Army's own investigation of Green's initial treatment, prompted by concerns he and others would use mental health problems as a defense in trial, is highly critical. Among the most salient findings from a July review of Green's treatment: "Although a safety assessment was conducted, there is no safety plan addressing how Soldier (Green) will keep from acting on his homicidal thoughts."

    Obviously there are dirtbags in the military, who have no documented criminal history that would require a waiver (Exhibits: Barker through Cortez, for instance) but these standards are and have been in place for good reason.

    John D. Hutson, dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, said the military must tread carefully in deciding which criminals to accept. There is a reason, he said, why allowing people with criminal histories into the military has long been the exception rather than the rule.

    “If you are recruiting somebody who has demonstrated some sort of antisocial behavior and then you are a putting a gun in their hands, you have to be awfully careful about what you are doing,” Mr. Hutson said. “You are not putting a hammer in their hands, or asking them to sell used cars. You are potentially asking them to kill people.”

    Cut and Run Republicans, Part 4

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Comments: (0)

    At least I think it's part 4. It's hard to keep track. The Republican abandonment of our troops is so constant, so relentless, and so total, that it's impossible to catalog their cynical maneuvers. Another day, another slap in the faces of our fighting men and women from their Commander in Chief.

    The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans' health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system.

    Bush is using the cuts, critics say, to help fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by 2012.

    After an increase sought for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.

    The numbers are so unrealistic that some critics are speculating that the White House is just doing some fancy math, to give the appearance of balancing the budget.

    In fact, even the White House doesn't seem serious about the numbers. It says the long-term budget numbers don't represent actual administration policies. Similar cuts assumed in earlier budgets have been reversed.

    The veterans cuts, said White House budget office spokesman Sean Kevelighan, "don't reflect any policy decisions. We'll revisit them when we do the (future) budgets."


    But, at the risk of parroting the GOP talking points we've been hearing all day as Congress debates Bush's surge "strategy," I have to ask. What the hell kind of message does that send to the troops who are currently doing all the fighting and dying in Bush's war? Don't they have enough to worry about, without learning that their Commander in Chief thinks their health benefits are expendable? How much are they supposed to sacrifice to maintain Bush's tax cuts for the super wealthy?

    Iraq War veteran Christopher Carbone said he wouldn't mind a decrease in his medical benefits if it meant that additional federal dollars would be used for armored Humvees on the battlefield.

    But Carbone, a survivor of an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in October 2005, couldn't help being a little jarred when he learned the Bush administration planned to cut funding for veterans' health care by 2 percent in 2009 in order to balance the federal budget by 2012.

    "It's kind of surprising," Carbone, 28, of North Haledon, said Monday. "It's one of those things that you always expect to be taken care of after everything you do."

    As it is the VA cannot meet the demands of veterans returning damaged in body and spirit; something Jonathan Schulze discovered in his hour of need.

    Jonathan Schulze was a United States Marine.

    He died earlier this month at the age of 25 -- not in Iraq, but back home, in Minnesota.

    He died of wounds received during his seven-month tour of duty in Iraq, wounds different from the ones that earned Schulze two purple hearts. This young man died of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, of wounds to the soul and not the flesh. He died because the government that was there to send him far away to fight in 2004 wasn't there for him when he got home.

    Schulze had a harrowing time in Iraq, spending time in the heated battles of Ramadi in April, 2004. While he was there, 35 Marines in his unit were killed, including 17 of them in just 48 hours of combat.

    The young Marine was wounded twice in battle but returned home to rebuild his life and to cope with the things he had seen, things he had done and friends he had lost. But, by the time he was discharged from the Marines in late 2005, he was deeply troubled with images of combat and violence that he could not get out of his mind.

    According to Minnesota press reports, Schulze went to the Veterans Administration (VA) center in Minneapolis on December 14, 2006, met with a psychiatrist and was told that he could only be admitted for treatment four months later, in March.

    On January 11, 2007, accompanied by his parents, he went to the VA hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota and told people at that VA facility that he was thinking of killing himself. They told Schulze that they could not admit him as a patient and sent him on his way.

    The next day, January 12, Schulze called the VA, reiterating that he was feeling suicidal. He was told that he was number 26 on the waiting list....

    On January 16, Schulze called his family and told them that he was going to do it -- he was going to kill himself. His family called the local police, who raced to his house, kicked in his door and found him hanging from an electrical cord.

    Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.


    I fear there will be many more like Jonathan Schulze who return from increasingly harrowing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to find a failing VA, incapable of meeting their needs.


    John McCain is Losing His Mind

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    John McCain is worried about a "Tet Offensive" in Iraq, turning public opinion against the war. How many more of us have to hate it, John? We're at 62 per cent and counting.

    But McCain has a point -- or at least he would have had a point if he'd mentioned this concern before it had already long been a reality. Americans don't have much of a stomach for pointless, interminable war. We don't have endless patience with "turning the corner" or "light at the end of the tunnel" rhetoric, as bodies pile up.

    What turned the public against the Vietnam Conflict was that the aftermath of Tet gave the lie to all the rosy predictions and showed Americans just how long that tunnel could be.

    Although US public opinion polls continued to show a majority supporting involvement in the war, this support continued to deteriorate and the nation became increasingly polarized over the war.[18] President Lyndon Johnson saw his popularity fall sharply after the Offensive, and he withdrew as a candidate for re-election in March of 1968. The Tet Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of media influence and popular opinion in the pursuit of military objectives. That the Communists were able to mount a major, country-wide assault at all was a blow to U.S. hopes of winning the war rapidly, and starkly called into question General Westmoreland's earlier public reports of progress in the War. Likewise, the optimistic assessments of the Johnson administration and The Pentagon came under heavy criticism and ridicule.

    Seeing the complete collapse of the PAVN/Viet Cong offensive, the lopsided casualty ratio, the lack of a popular uprising in support of the attacks, and the failure of the attacking forces to gain and hold significant territorial assets, Westmoreland considered it an appropriate opportunity for a counteroffensive action. He put together a request for 206,000 additional troops to prosecute the war in the wake of the Offensive, a move that would have required mobilization of the U.S. Reserves.

    While this was being deliberated, the request was leaked to the press and published across three columns of the Sunday edition of The New York Times on March 10, 1968. Then-Lieutenant Colonel Dave Palmer later wrote in Summons of the Trumpet: "Looked upon erroneously but understandably by readers as a desperate move to avert defeat, news of the request for 206,000 men confirmed the suspicions of many that the result of the Tet Offensive had not been depicted accurately by the President or his spokesmen. If the Communists had suffered such a grievous setback, why would we need to increase our forces by 40 percent?"[19] [emphases mine]

    And Lyndon Johnson never even declared "Mission Accomplished" on the deck of an aircraft carrier or anything.

    You Can't Keep Good Women Down

    Monday, February 12, 2007

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    Oh how I love those ball busting, Bush baiting, 5 Grammy winning gals.

    Perhaps it's the Marine spouse in me, but I think this is my favorite. Enjoy!

    Hillary's "Lie"

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

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    A few weeks ago, I almost fell out of my chair when I heard Hilary Clinton tell Keith Olbermann that she had opposed preemptive war with Iraq at the time. Not only did she say it with a straight face, she breezed through the comment with the same light, dismissive tone she always uses when she's talking about the debacle she co-created.

    Via TPM's "Election Central," a story that gives a little more context to Hillary's apparent lie. In her interview with New Hampshire Union Leader, Hilary explains:

    “I have taken responsibility for that vote. It was based on the best assessment that I could make at the time, and it was clearly intended to demonstrate support for going to the United Nations to put inspectors into Iraq.

    “When I set forth my reasons for giving the President that authority, I said that it was not a vote for pre-emptive war,” the former first lady said.

    A Clinton campaign spokesman later noted that on the Senate floor on Oct. 10, 2002, Clinton stated that her vote for the resolution “is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for unilateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose – all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people the throughout the world.”

    She said the Bush administration forced an end to the final round of weapons inspections and invaded prematurely. The administration is responsible for the status of the war, she said, and for being “grossly misinformed” or for having “twisted the intelligence to satisfy a pre-conceived version of the facts. [emphases mine]


    I was mistaken. Hillary was not lying to Olbermann. Everything she's said was factually accurate, but it makes her neither a good Senator, nor a good Presidential candidate. Nor has she demonstrated remotely that she has taken "responsibility."

    In his self-described "polemic," "Worse than Watergate," John Dean explains in detail how the authorization granted by Congress to wage war in Iraq, was no "blank check." Rather the President subverted the will of Congress by dispensing with key conditions of that authorization.

    The heart of Dean’s argument is that the congressional authorization — far from being the "blank check" that war critics such as former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean have claimed — actually had some stringent and important conditions attached to it, and that Bush simply cast them aside.

    According to John Dean, the resolution required Bush to certify that diplomacy had failed, and that there was no longer any way other than war to resolve the "continuing threat" posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Bush also had to certify that war against Iraq was consistent with the ongoing struggle against terrorism, specifically "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Needless to say, it was Bush who walked away from the diplomatic efforts that the UN was still engaged in over Iraq’s alleged WMD. As for ties between Iraq and the terrorists of 9/11, there weren’t any, despite Bush and Cheney’s numerous insinuations to the contrary.

    So how did Bush get around these conditions? The tack he took was so cynical that Dean seems scarcely able to believe it. Included in the original authorization were a few "whereas" clauses specifying that Iraq had WMD and ties to international terrorism; the language had been inserted at the suggestion of the White House. Then, when the time came for Bush to certify that the conditions for war had been met, he simply regurgitated that same language. "Bush, like a dog chasing his tail who gets ahold of it, relied on information the White House provided Congress for its draft resolution; then he turned around and claimed that this information (his information) came from Congress," Dean writes incredulously. [emphases mine]


    So the so called "blank check" actually required good faith diplomatic efforts and proof of the key arguments the White House was using to justify war. And the White House's response was to play what Dean describes as an "absurd game" with Congress.

    Dean concludes that this is one of many egregious offenses, meriting impeachment. All that was missing was the political will to apply the law. Even with the Democrats back in control of Congress, that political will is still MIA. To Hillary, this subversion of the Constitutional process merits a tut-tut-tutting that sounds more like a mother scolding her teenager for failing to clean up his room, than an epically undermined Senator calling a criminal President to account.

    As of this writing, we have lost 3,123 troops, US, since the inception of this nightmare. The thousands of dead Iraqis will never be properly accounted for. And we appear to be careening towards yet another unjustified, illegal, military action. We need Senators and Presidential candidates who understand the seriousness of the stakes. Not politicians mouthing weaselly justifications of a vote that, fairly or not, has landed this nation in the greatest military blunder in our nation's history.

    Hillary joked recently that she's had experience dealing with "evil" and "bad" men. She has. From the vast right wing conspirators to an entire administration of audacious criminals. The punchline is that her track record on confronting that evil isn't good.