I am started to get a sick feeling about the "crazy vet" meme that I feel creeping into the so-called conventional wisdom and media coverage of the tragic murders of sixteen civilians, mostly children, in Afghanistan eight days ago by a soldier who walked off his base and into their homes, where he slaughtered them as they slept.
Those are not the actions of a sane, rational, stable human being.
I haven't said much about this incident since it happened, but I have been paying attention, and I am getting more than a little bit pissed off about a thread that I am hearing take root like a noxious weed.
The Pentagon is doing a masterful job of steering the narrative, in large part by tightly controlling the rate of information release, and this time they have found their cadence and it's all coming together perfectly. They are appearing cooperative and open to the media, and in return the media is doing the Pentagon's bidding and soft-promoting the idea that all the fault rests with the soldier.
He snapped. He was having financial troubles. He was having marriage difficulty. He failed the First Sergeants boards. He failed to snag a desirable billet. Without saying it out loud and in those exact words, the image emerges of a loser who saw it all slipping away and he exploded, becoming a murderous monster the likes of which the US military hasn't seen since Chivington and his Hundred Daysers and the massacre at Sand Creek.
In the stories that are reported, the fact that this was his fourth deployment is acknowledged, but that's about it. After all, in this era, four deployments isn't out of the ordinary, some soldiers have done eight or nine.
Way back in 2002, I was one of those wet blankets who kept asking the hard questions of the cheerleaders for war in Iraq. Namely, how were the personnel logistics going to work? Of course I knew the answer to that question...waivers! There's a waiver for everything when warm bodies are needed to fill BDUs and desert boots. But I had another question, too, that is at least as important as how to recruit them...who would lead them?
What has been asked of the 1% of Americans who serve in the United States military since terrorists attacked our nation on September 11, 2001 has been unprecedented, and the bargain that those who serve make with their government has been breached. They have been lied to about the reasons for starting one war and staying in another, when they repatriate and reintegrate into American society after they leave service face all manner of hurdles and obstacles to getting the help they may need and certainly deserve from an underfunded and overstretched VA. Those who stay in may have their needs denied or used against them at promotion time, so as a result, many who need help either don't get it, or they self medicate.
As I said, or military is in uncharted territory. We have never been in a war that has lasted as long as the one in Afghanistan has lasted, and we have never relied solely on a volunteer force. No one has ever been asked to deploy nine fucking times before.
Human beings have limits. We can only run so far until we hit the wall. And when we hit the wall, we can't go one step further because it's physically impossible. And when that happens, we stop. One way or another.
The blame for the actions of SSgt Bates is his and his alone. He made the decision to take his weapon and leave his base and make his name a vile curse. If the actions were fueled by alcohol, well, he made the decision to drink in a restricted area that is restricted for good fucking reasons.
But he was a part of a system that is breaking down from top to bottom, buckling under the stresses and strains of over a decade of war. Throw in the fact that recruiting standards have been compromised and leadership is lacking and the needed assistance isn't there, and we have a recipe for disaster.
And it all adds up to make it easy to blame the "crazy vet."
But here, as in every other endeavor, you would do well to remember something Mencken said..."For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
The problem we face is most definitely complex. Hell, it's systemic. And in the final analysis, the fault rests with us.
We are oh so proud of our all-volunteer force and civilian leadership...right up until something goes horribly wrong. Then the recoiling in horror starts, and the distancing begins "I don't even know anyone who is in the military, do you?" In my case, the answer is "yes." Most of the friends we served with have retired, but the next generation is represented by two nephews.
And I am just as responsible for them as I was when they were small and left in my care.
It is my responsiblilty to elect leaders who will not misuse their service. It is my responsiblilty to elect legislators who will fully fund the services they need after they serve, not just the weapons they need when their boots are on the ground. I am responsible for electing leaders who will raise taxes to raise the salaries of our enlisted personnel so that military wives don't have to use food stamps at the commisary.
There is far more to supporting the military than parades and flags and yellow ribbons on the tailgate of your SUV. It involves saccrifice and it involves a social contract with those who serve that has been voided by lies and inadequate funding of necessary services after the tours of duty are over.
And this is where we end up when the military goes to war while America goes to the mall and can't even find the countries where they're fighting on a map.
Like I said, the problems are systemic, but the ultimate responsibility rests with us. That whole "of, by and for the people" thing carries a **lot** of awesome responsibility, and I am starting to doubt that we are worthy of the mantle if we can't manage to meet our responsibilities to those who put their very lives on the line for us.
Read The Full Article:
Say what you will about Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Commentator Accountability Project, it’s definitely keeping some members of the religious right up at nights. Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel Action – and a person[...]
Read The Full Article:
"Hey, if you guys let me get away with it, I'll keep on lying forever." (Brian Synder/Reuters)
Remember when President Obama slammed Mitt Romney for proposing to eliminate all federal taxes on millionaires? And do you remember how media outlets everywhere took President Obama's statement and reported it as fact, putting it in headlines without noting that Mitt Romney had never proposed any such thing?
Of course you don't remember that, because President Obama never made such an absurd allegation, and if he had, he'd been been pilloried for it. But now that Mitt Romney is doing something similar?falsely accusing President Obama of pledging to raise gas prices?newsrooms are silent about Mitt's mendacity.
Yesterday, Romney said:
BAIER: Governor, obviously, volatility in the Middle East affects oil prices. Do you believe President Obama is to blame for high gas prices?If Romney wants to blame President Obama for gas prices, that's one thing. He can make an argument and try to convince people he's right. (Of course, it's worth pointing out that after Super Tuesday he said the president "can't precisely set the price" of gas and subsequently said President Obama was only responsible "in part" for the price of gas. It's also worth pointing out that gas prices are still lower than they were in July of 2008 and are increasing despite record domestic oil production.)
ROMNEY: Well, there's no question. But when he ran for office, he said he wanted to see gasoline price go up.
But Romney isn't making an argument about the impact of President Obama's policies, Romney is flatly accusing the president of making a pledge he never made, and of working to achieve a goal that he never supported. That's called lying, and as Greg Sargent has repeatedly argued about similar examples, Romney should be called on the carpet for it. But he hasn't been. And that's a problem, because of there's one thing that Mitt Romney has demonstrated he's good at, it's lying. As long as he can get away with doing it with impunity, he will. And why shouldn't he? Political ambition is good, right?
The job market is starting to look a little better for one select group of young people, the Los Angeles Times' Larry Gordon reports. The National Association of Colleges and Employers and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute project hiring of new college graduates to rise 9.5 percent and 7 percent, respectively, this year, and:
Unemployment among college graduates up to age 24 dropped from 9.8% in February 2011 to 8.1% last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that is well above the 4.6% in 2008. February's unemployment rate for the same ages with just a high school diploma was 22.5%.College students who have watched their friends struggle to find work after graduation are responding by intensifying their pre-graduation job searches and being more willing to move for work, career counselors suggest. But the most flexible and intense search possible can only be successful if there are jobs, and right now, the improved hiring atmosphere is such that a campus job fair at Cal State Long Beach:
[...] attracted more than 90 potential employers, about 50% more than last year. About 5,000 students, many of whom had swapped their T-shirts and sandals for a more formal look, handed out resumes...The fact that more than 90 potential employers and about 5,000 students are anecdotal evidence of good news is anecdotal evidence of just how bad things have been. But that is the story of so many parts of our economy right now?finally, there are signs of improvement, but even for the groups benefiting from that improvement, like college graduates, better still isn't good enough. And too many groups are being left behind.
We?re asking people to join us by signing our online petition to support healthcare reform: ?I support the Affordable Care Act in Pennsylvania because no government or corporation should deny my rights to quality, affordable health care.?We are partnering with dozens of organizations to host educational and celebratory actions that are targeted at Pennsylvania citizens who will benefit from the law.From a trip to the White House on Friday by 150 Pennsylvanians organized by Keystone Progress, to events organized by PennAction in Bucks County and the NEPA Area Labor Federation, our members and allies are spreading the word about the Affordable Care Act and the many benefits it provides.Our message throughout the week is that #HealthCareWorks, and we?ll be using the stories of real people to educate their peers about the benefits of the law. Follow us on Twitter at @KnowYourCarePA? Health care works for women, children, seniors ? everyone. More than 86 million Americans received preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies for free in 2011.
Politico's Dylan Byers has written one of the fairest, most earnest reviews of another journalist's work that I've read in some time, particularly when it is about a writer who enjoys enviably high degrees of access at the White House, CIA, State Department and Pentagon. There is none of the cheap shot snark that invades too much of today's punditry.
I am referring to Byers' piece that just appeared today profiling the work of David Ignatius, who recently was given some insider access to Osama bin Laden files taken during the Navy SEAL Team 6 raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad; and in general has been a valuable lead in the journalistic corps digging out detail on the Obama administration's course that many others have been unable to do.
Just today, Ignatius continues his exclusive reporting on the bin Laden files in the Washington Post with a piece titled "A Lion in Winter." Here is an interesting excerpt from Ignatius article highlighting bin Laden's lament about al Qaeda's situation and fears about the state of his movement and the deaths of his key followers:
Bin Laden wanted to save what remained of his network by evacuating it from the free-fire zone of Pakistan's tribal areas. He noted "the importance of the exit from Waziristan of the brother leaders. .?.?. Choose distant locations to which to move them, away from aircraft photography and bombardment."
This evacuation order comes in the most revealing document I was shown, which is a voluminous 48-page directive to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who served, in effect, as bin Laden's chief of staff. Throughout this document, bin Laden pondered the likelihood that al-Qaeda had failed in its mission of jihad.
Bin Laden begins by recalling the glory days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when his al-Qaeda mujaheddin were "the vanguard and standard-bearers of the Islamic community in fighting the Crusader-Zionist alliance."
But the al-Qaeda leader turns immediately to a bitter reflection on mistakes made by his followers -- especially their killing of Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere. The result, he said, "would lead us to winning several battles while losing the war at the end." Bin Laden ruminated on the "extremely great damage" caused by these overzealous jihadists. Not only is the organization's reputation being damaged, he noted, but "tens of thousands are being arrested" in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
I was pleased to see that Sally Quinn, wife of legendary Washington Post executive editor Benjamin Bradlee and editor-in-chief and co-founder with Jon Meacham of On Faith, credits the book America and the World: Conversations on the Future of US Foreign Policy with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft as a pivot point helping to trigger Ignatius' recent three year ascent to the top of national security columnists.
Ignatius was the 'interviewer' in this book -- which I put together with then Basic Books editor (now editor at Yale University Press) William Frucht as part of the New America Foundation/Basic Books series. This book, which I think is still highly relevant to today's geostrategic challenges was selected in 2008 as among New York Times book review editor Michiko Kakutani's top ten favorite books of the year.
From Dylan Byers' article:
During the George W. Bush administration, Ignatius wrote a piece profiling the then hardly-reported-on David Addington, titled "Cheney's Cheney." He wrote this piece after an off-the-record salon dinner the New America Foundation had hosted with former top National Security Council lawyer and then Counselor to the Secretary of State John Bellinger -- in which battles between Bellinger and Addington inside the administration about the legality and course of the Bush/Cheney's anti-terror measures were beginning to surface. It was a very important article at the time as Addington had largely escaped any media interest in his activities until then.
But it is in the past three years, during the Obama administration, that Ignatius has really earned his reputation as perhaps the most important media voice in national security circles, particularly related to the Middle East.
Quinn, who says Ignatius is "at the pinnacle" of his career, believes he began to take off in 2008 with the publication of "America and the World," a book of conversations between Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft moderated by Ignatius.
Clemons, who commissioned the book, agrees and recalls the book party in Sen. John Kerry's backyard that marked a watershed moment in Ignatius's career. "When Chuck Hagel and John Kerry did the book launch for us at John Kerry's home, and Ignatius interviewed Scowcroft and Brzezinki in Kerry's backyard, it was a signal to the national security community that David Ignatius had broadened his portfolio significantly."
Ignatius is also respected among White House officials because of his nonideological approach to national security, which puts him at odds with the Post's editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt.
"Fred sees himself as a liberal interventionist, which David definitely is not," Clemons said. "David has a moral spine, but he is fundamentally a realist." (Hiatt told POLITICO he wasn't "big on labels," but acknowledged his support for a foreign policy "founded on ideals, helping those who are striving for freedom and human rights.")
President Obama?s critics hate being labeled racists, but occasionally it?s hard to argue with the charges. Paula Smith, the owner Stickatude.com, is defending a popular bumper sticker that is igniting debate on race and spawning widespread condemnation.
?Don?t Re-Nig in 2012,? reads the sticker — a not-too-subtle play on a word that invokes one of the most repulsive racial epithets to attack the country?s first black president. Yet, Smith sees absolutely nothing wrong with it, as she told Forbes:
Ms. Smith insisted that the bumper sticker is not racist. I asked her about the ?N? word, for which ?nig? is the shortened version. ?According to the dictionary [the N word] does not mean black. It means a low down, lazy, sorry, low down person. That?s what the N word means.”
Even if one were to ignore the racial scars of left by the ?N-word? and rely solely on an academic definition, Webster?s New Collegiate Dictionary defines it as an offensive word referring to ?a black person.?
But she goes further, explaining that her website found the design on a different site in 2010 and decided to sell it herself because she ?thought it was cute.? Pressed by Forbes on whether she thought the N-word is offensive at all, she replied ?no,? explaining that she herself doesn?t use it and that she has ?helped black families.? ?And besides,? she added, ?Obama is not even black. He?s got a mixture of race. It?s his choice of what his nationality is.?
Perhaps most upsetting of all is the fact that the sticker is currently the site?s top seller. Smith says she no longer actively maintains the website, and that she thought the site was ?dead.? But in the last few days, people have been buying up the sticker at $3 apiece.
LGBT activists are pressuring the international community to punish Russian lawmakers for enacting a law in St. Petersburg that fines individuals and organizations that “promote” homosexuality to minors. The group GayRussia is asking authorities in the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, France and Germany “to impose bans on entries to these countries for Vitaly Milonov, the author of the scandalous ‘anti-gay law’ and Georgy Poltavchenko, St. Petersburg governor who adopted the law by signing the final draft.” “Milonov and Poltavchenko have disgraced Russia all over the world. They have turned our country and its ‘culture capital’ into the medieval barbaric times, what that means is that there is no place for them in the contemporary civilized countries. Milonov and Poltavchenko do not share the values of democracy, freedom and human rights. They cannot be allowed to spread their homophobic views abroad,” the group wrote in an open letter to the EU. A Russian journalist is also calling on Madonna, Mercedes-Benz, and PepsiCo to boycott St. Petersburg and cancel scheduled events, while the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory.
The big technical news out of New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren recent appearance at Columbia may be that an iPad app for the magazine is still a couple of years away. But it was his explanation for why he replaced Ethicist columnist Randy Cohen with Ariel Kaminer that caught my eye:
?There?s no science to it. We thought the Ethicist franchise ? still had some vitality to it and it?d be interesting try a different voice there. And I think there?d been a real male dominated voice. Randy?s an incredibly gifted, funny, smart guy, but he?s definitely a dude and I think a lot of his?? he trailed off. ?Is this on the record??
?Yeah,? Navasky said as Lindgren began to pick back up.
?But he definitely brought a male perspective. And not in a cheesy?he?s a fair-minded, decent guy?but we thought it?d be interesting to try a woman and see what the difference was. And it was just like we thought that?s interesting, so let?s try it.?
That curiosity is heartening. The assumption by powerful men that they can speak for all of humanity, that their opinions and views on the world are just naturally the appropriate default, isn’t just condescending?it’s boring. It’s the mark of a good editor to be looking not just for good new stories, but for good new perspectives, and to be suspicious of whatever has become the default. The Times Magazine as a whole can be kind of dudely. But if Lindgren’s operating under the assumption that dudely isn’t always better, maybe that won’t be the case forever.
January 1, 2013, can’t come soon enough for Maryland’s florists, photographers, and wedding planners, who are eagerly anticipating the extra business marriage equality will bring them. Annapolis wedding invitation designer Allison Barnhill explained, “I know there are couples out there that have been waiting for this moment and they won’t want to wait a moment longer to have their special wedding day.” The Williams Institute estimates that in the first three years after the law takes effect, Maryland same-sex couples will generate between $40 and $64 million for the state economy, in addition to whatever revenue out-of-state couples bring.