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Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 08:03 AM PDT
Why I haven't (and after today, won't) commented on the Bergdahl affair
My cousin, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, lost his life unexpectedly several years ago. He was not on active duty when he died and that somehow made his death even more confounding. His older brother was stationed in Iraq when it happened, fuming at the contractors who did a terrible job of the same work that he did for a lot more money and quite a bit less skill, and his younger brother, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the same time but remained tight-lipped about any of his feelings regarding anything related to his duty, were granted leave to attend the funeral.
My late cousin and I were never particularly close, but his oldest brother and I were for many years because I was only a year older than him and that's how cousins roll. We used to spend many summer days at grandma and grandpa's house playing "army" in their backyard. I don't attach any special significance to that in this context: that's what kids did when I was a little girl. Maybe they still do, I don't know.
What I do know is that when we were pretending to be soldiers way back when, war was not something that had any special meaning to it. It was something that happened in the past, not something that happens today. It was something we don't do because it's not a good thing.
But the myth of the soldier, the bravado and sheer toughness, is too much to not mimic and want to become when one is young and impressionable. Hell, I carried a Commando doll with me for a few years, dreaming of one day becoming as awesome as Arnold Schwarzenegger, confident that by the time I grew up women would be just as studly as men were allowed to be.
Anyway, before my cousin's death I was a faithful reader and recommender of the IGTNT series, but I haven't clicked on one of those diaries since that day.
Now, I want to be clear that I admire and respect the writers of that series and I know that it was borne of and has been continued for noble reasons.
But what happened the day that I got the news was a gut-wrenching experience. There was a WYFP diary posted later that night, and I commented that my fucking problem was that my cousin had died.
I posted the comment, shed a few more tears, and then stopped.
It immediately felt wrong to me that I had posted about it here, on this site, a specifically partisan/political site. I asked for the comment to be hidden and, to this day, that is (to my knowledge) the only comment I've ever made that was hidden.
I didn't want to exploit to his death and I immediately regretted that I had spoken of it here.
I have shared a lot of my inner life on this site, but that was a line I could not cross. Or rather, it was a line I DID cross and then wanted to take it back. So I did.
Since that day many years ago I have not clicked on a single IGTNT diary. It just feels wrong to me even though I know that every person writing those tributes is doing it for noble reasons.
The Wood River Valley, Bowe Bergdahl's home, is a beautiful place. I can't describe it to anyone who has never been in a high-elevation Idaho valley - it's just beautiful.
I spend a great deal of time there. It's my home away from home.... Actually, it's my home away from my NOT home. Since leaving Boise I don't want to be an Idahoan and when that feeling zaps my soul, I go to Ketchum, which is just a ten minute drive from Hailey, which is Bergdahl's hometown.
Where Bowe is concerned, time stood still there. The yellow ribbons have not moved since the day he was captured. The signs have not come down. The people have not become less passionate. A drive down the main road shows many pictures of Bowe and they have for over five years.
No one around here forgot Bowe.
The rest of the US seemed to have amnesia.
Not just about Bowe, but about the war. The sacrifice. The loss.
The price we pay for sending our young men and women to foreign countries and telling them to do something that they can never accomplish with the resources we give them.
None of these things are abstract here. They are all very real, and they are all embodied in the form of one young man who has been held captive for five very long years.
As you might expect, the media is swarming. Everyone who is anyone in "journalism" is there or has been there, and they are shoving a camera and/or microphone in every local's face about Bowe.
But no one cares about the political football it has become. One local woman, with a camera in her face, said bluntly that we're not going to worry or fight about the politics. We're just going to celebrate that Bowe is finally coming home.
And that woman speaks for me, and for every Idahoan that I know.
There is a weird, bipolar dichotomy that Americans have when it comes to our solders. On the one hand, we revere them and consider them sacred.
On the other, (or more likely because of that), we expect them to be perfect. Strong, determined. Unwavering in the face of adversity, strife, or fucking bullets shooting towards them.
I like to think that I don't understand that mentality, but the truth is that I understand it so well that I am beyond words.
Bowe grew frustrated with the war; he sent an email to his parents expressing frustration to which his father replied, "OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE."
No one knows what happened after that, and beware anyone who tells you that they do.
I am not getting into the nitty gritty about it because there are some things I know to be true:
The world is always a better place when we trust people to follow their own conscience.
We send men and women off to war and expect them to be perfect and then have a meltdown when they're not.
Guess what? They can't be, they never were prepared to be, and if you demand that of someone else then you need to be in a perfect, stone-free house when you insist that they should be.
Why don't we simply trust the young men and women that we send off to war?
We trust them to defend our freedom, yet don't trust them to make a conscience decision about what they feel is right and wrong.
Some gleefully send them off to war and slap a magnet on their car and call themselves patriots, yet the moment one of our supposed heroes shows any inkling of a conscience they back off and say, "He's not worthy to wear the uniform."
Bowe was worthy of the uniform when he was willing to die for you, so he fucking A is worthy of it now.
The fact is that there is a REAL flesh and blood American that was held captive for a very long time.
This is the reality. This is the truth.
A young man spent five years held captive and he's not a hero, he's not a turncoat, he's not a demon, he's not a hashtag, AND HE'S NOT A POLITICAL FOOTBALL.
He's a young man that went off to war thinking that he'd be able to make the world a better place by doing so.
He was captured, then he was freed. All the rest of it is just noise.
And all that matters is that he is coming home.
That's it. That's all.
After all these years, Bowe is finally coming home.
Everyone would do well to let him fucking adjust before casting him as a hero or villain.
All of it will come out in due time.
For many of us, this is not political.
We've been carrying him with us for a long time while the rest of the world moved on, and it's incredibly frustrating to watch everyone else play politics with it when, until just recently, it seemed no one even knew his name.
Posted by FourScore | Sun Jun 8, 2014, 06:44 PM (15 replies)
Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 06:05 AM PDT
FBI investigating threats against Bergdahl's parents
by Christian Dem in NC
Bowe Bergdahl's parents haven't been seen in public since the Rose Garden ceremony announcing that he had been freed. Now we know why. Apparently Bob and Jani Bergdahl have received death threats--and they've been serious enough to trigger an FBI investigation.
The FBI is investigating threats against the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the latest development in a case that has put the spotlight on the circumstances surrounding his capture in Afghanistan and release by the Taliban.
"We are working jointly with our state and local partners and taking each threat seriously," FBI Special Agent William Facer told CNN in an e-mail on Saturday.
Facer declined to detail the nature and severity of the threats, and a military spokesperson for the Bergdahls declined to comment.
That may also explain why Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho canceled a planned welcome-home parade.
I'm shaking with anger as I write this. At this point, it is grossly irresponsible to say Bergdahl is a deserter. But even if he was a deserter, death threats--whether against him or his parents--are completely unacceptable. Whoever is responsible for this is a bleepity-bleeping coward who needs to go to jail for a long, long time.
Posted by FourScore | Sun Jun 8, 2014, 12:38 PM (3 replies)
Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 12:14 PM PDT
What you haven't read about Benghazi
On April 18, 1983, a suicide truck bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killing sixty-three people including 17 Americans; on Oct. 23, 1983, a second suicide bomber struck in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. Marines. The congressional investigation ordered by Speaker “Tip” O’Neill recommended major security improvements.
Eighteen months later, on Sept. 20, 1984, a third attack occurred in Beirut, killing 24 people at the U.S. Embassy.
It turned out that the security measures Congress directed had not been completed. Ronald Reagan’s explanation was a version of, well, stuff happens: “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”
In the interim, five more people were killed in the Dec. 12, 1983, attack on the American Embassy in Kuwait.
Under George W. Bush, sixty people died at U.S. missions overseas, including 16 U.S. diplomats, from attacks at Kolkata (Calcutta), Islamabad, Istanbul, Tashkent, Damascus, Saudi Arabia, and two each in Sana’a and Karachi. There were no Congressional investigations.
There have been 521 attacks on U.S. missions abroad since 1970 — roughly one per month — according to State Department figures. Of the 500 Americans who died in dangerous parts of the world in recent decades — plus 4,500 Americans who died in Bush’s Iraq fiasco — Republicans seem obsessed only about the four victims who died in Benghazi, Libya: eight congressional committees have already conducted thirteen hearings.
House Speaker John Boehner has convened yet another investigation — a “trial” the chairman called it — to determine whether violent protests were “rooted in an Internet video, not a failure of policy,” as administration talking points declared. The video in question was “The Innocence of Muslims,” made by an Egyptian Christian extremist in California. One Republican after another has declared the explanation a lie.
An Internet search shows photos of riots or demonstrations in Cairo, Gaza City, Kashmir, Kuwait, Istanbul, Mombasa, Jakarta, Doha, Khartoum, Dhaka, Yemen, Iraq, India, Tunisia, Teheran, Kabul, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan, and many other cities around 9/11. Maps posted by the Atlantic and others show dozens of protests around the world that night.
The New York Daily News said “The Muslim-mocking clip caused violent protests across the Arab world and may have been the impetus for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi;” the International Business Times reported that “As many as 19 people have been killed in Pakistan amid violent protests over anti-Muslim film ‘Innocence of Muslims’”; Sky News reported that 60 were injured in Peshawar and over a hundred in Karachi; France shut down its embassies in 20 countries because of protests; over a dozen were injured in Bangladesh; the BBC reported over 100 people were injured in Cairo due to “protests against an anti-Islam film.”
Reuters reported that seven Egyptian Christians were sentenced to death in absentia for their role in “The Innocence of Muslims;” and, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Muslims to wage holy war against the U.S. and Israel over the “The Innocence of Muslims.”
A January 2014 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) also suggested that the attacks were influenced by violent protests against an inflammatory video, and cited demonstrations in Cairo and approximately 40 other cities that night. Besides Benghazi, there were attacks on U.S. missions in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.
Adding to the frenzy about Benghazi was Fox News’ bogus claim that the military was told to “stand down” during the attack. That and other conspiracy theories were broadcast in more than 1,100 segments by Fox about Benghazi last year, according to Nexis.
The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, concluded there is “no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.” Separately, a Pentagon statement said that “U.S. military forces could not have arrived in time to mount a rescue of those Americans who were killed and injured.”
The Benghazi hysteria is being stirred up by Republicans for political purposes. The National Republican Congressional Committee has boasted that its Clinton/Benghazi fundraising page was the most successful in its history.
Several Republicans claim they have enough votes to impeach Obama, except they can’t find any evidence of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” despite their scandal-mongering over “Fast and Furious” and the IRS. Now they are betting on Benghazi.
But Benghazi was a tragedy perpetrated by jihadists in Libya, not by Obama, Clinton or diplomats in the State Department.
Posted by FourScore | Sat Jun 7, 2014, 10:35 PM (3 replies)
Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 04:45 PM PDT
Rolling Stone Has Just Republished Michael Hastings' Feature On Bowe Bergdahl, And It's A Must-Read
Are you interested in the inside story on Bowe Bergdahl? As Marcy Wheeler just brought this to our attention in the past hour, checkout the “definitive first account” on Bergdahl from deceased Rolling Stone investigative journalist Michael Hastings (R.I.P.), published on June 7th, 2012. Republished today by the magazine over at their website, as Marcy notes, it really is a “prophetic” must-read.
America's Last Prisoner of War
Rolling Stone Magazine
June 7, 2012 8:00AM
Three years ago, a 23-year-old soldier walked off his base in Afghanistan and into the hands of the Taliban. Now he’s a crucial pawn in negotiations to end the war. Will the Pentagon leave a man behind?
In June 2012, fearless Rolling Stone contributing edtior Michael Hastings wrote the definitive first account of Bowe Bergdahl — the young American soldier who was captured by the Taliban and became the last American prisoner of war. Hastings, the journalist who brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal in these pages, died in a car accident one year later. Bergdahl was freed this weekend. Hastings' incredible story is available in full here:
…In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?
Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.
Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost…
…By 11:37 a.m., a Predator drone was on station, monitoring the area with a call sign of VOODOO. At 2:10 p.m., a Pathfinder and a team of tracking dogs arrived at the small outpost. Five minutes later, another Predator drone began circling the area. At 2:42, Guardrail – an electronic intercept plane run by the same clandestine Army agency that killed Pablo Escobar – captured low-level voice intercepts picked up from radio or cellphone traffic. An American soldier with a camera was reportedly looking for someone who spoke English.
The search quickly escalated. No one knew whether Bowe was a deserter,¬ a prisoner or a casualty. At that point he was simply listed as DUSTWUN – short for "Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown." But either way, the Army wanted him back, fast….
…Officially, Bowe remains a soldier in good standing in the United States Army. He has continued to receive promotions over the past three years, based on his time in uniform, and he now holds the rank of sergeant. Unofficially, however, his status within the military is sharply contested. According to officials familiar with the internal debate, there are those in both Congress and the Pentagon who view Bowe as a deserter, and perhaps even a traitor. As with everything in Washington these days, the sharp political discord has complicated efforts to secure his release.
"The Hill is giving State and the White House shit," says one senior administration source. "The political consequences¬ are being used as leverage in the policy debate."...
..."Frankly, we don't give a shit why he left," says one White House official. "He's an American soldier. We want to bring him home"…
Posted by FourScore | Tue Jun 3, 2014, 05:38 AM (3 replies)
Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 10:14 AM PDT
Sixth-graders bill education officials for time spent as standardized test guinea pigs
by Laura Clawson
Will Education Secretary Arne Duncan respond to the sixth-graders' petition?
After students in two sixth-grade math classes spent a week's worth of class time field-testing a new standardized test, they're demanding payment for their time. The Ipswich, Massachusetts, students have sent a letter to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, and the group developing the test, asking for that payment.
The students were randomly chosen to try out the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test. That meant spending 150 minutes in March and 180 minutes in May taking a trial test rather than being taught math. After hearing another teacher joke that they should be paid for that time, students approached their math teacher, Alan Laroche:
"The kids proceeded to tell me that PARCC is going to be making money from the test, so they should get paid as guinea pigs for helping them out in creating this test," said Laroche. "So I said, ‘OK, if that’s the case and you guys feel strongly then there are venues and things you can do to voice your opinion, and one would be to write a letter and have some support behind that letter with petition."
"I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything," said Beaulieu. "It was as if we said, ‘Oh we can do it for free.’"
Beaulieu used his math skills in the letter, determining that the two classes would collectively earn $1,628 at minimum wage for their 330 minutes of work. He then went on to figure out how many school supplies that amount could buy: 22 new Big Ideas MATH Common Core Student Edition Green textbooks or 8,689 Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils.
"Even better, this could buy our school 175,000 sheets of 8 ½" by 11" paper, and 270 TI-108 calculators," Beaulieu wrote.
Students and administrators signed on to a petition, and Laroche sent the request off to Duncan, Malone, and PARCC. They're waiting for a response.
These kids are effectively drawing attention to the amount of time students are spending on testing; that this test was just a trial compounds the injury of 330 minutes out of two months of school being spent on testing. And the call for pencils, paper, or calculators as payment for the time spent taking the test highlights how, as money has been poured into testing, schools have often been starved of the basic supplies of education, with teachers forced to spend significant amounts of their salaries on things needed in the classroom.
It'll be interesting to see if the students get a meaningful response.
Posted by FourScore | Tue Jun 3, 2014, 05:08 AM (6 replies)
Climate consensus blog badge
John Oliver's viral video: the best climate debate you'll ever see
The new HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver recently made a mockery of media false balance in its climate science coverage. Oliver was interviewed on the science podcast Inquiring Minds last week, and host Chris Mooney voiced my feelings exactly:
"I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I've been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words; what they said was that there's no debate over global warming, so to have these 'balanced' 1-on-1 TV debates is just preposterous."
Citing the 97% expert consensus result from a paper my colleagues and I published last year, John Oliver illustrated what a statistically representative climate change debate would look like, to great comic effect. A video of the show has gone viral, with over 2.8 million views. You can view it below (warning: the video includes some profane language).
In the show, Oliver made several key points:
Humanity's response to global warming has so far been a massive risk-management failure, or as Oliver put it, "we've all proven that we cannot be trusted with the future tense."
Public skepticism about global warming is irrelevant. As Neil deGrasse Tyson says, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
The body of scientific evidence supports human-caused global warming: 97% of peer-reviewed scientific papers taking a position on the subject over the past 20 years are in agreement about this.
The media nevertheless continues to treat the subject as a 'debate', often with 1 person representing the 97% consensus and 1 person representing the less than 3% fringe minority.
The 'debate' should center on what to do about climate change; it's not about the science.
MORE AT (with links): http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/may/23/john-oliver-best-climate-debate-ever
Posted by FourScore | Wed May 28, 2014, 01:44 PM (2 replies)
Mon May 19, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT
Cartoon: Guns everywhere
by Tom Tomorrow
Posted by FourScore | Mon May 19, 2014, 10:29 AM (9 replies)
Sat May 10, 2014 at 04:08 PM PDT
Breaking w/Caution: Nigerian Girls Potentially Located by U.S. Marines
NOTE: I caution against over exuberance until major media confirms this. Still, it seemed noteworthy. The original appearance seems to be on the website of the Vanguard, which is supposedly a credible and influential paper in Nigeria. I did check and found the reporters -- Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru and Victoria Ojeme-Abuja -- appear to actually be reporters in Nigeria. We do know according to SecState Kerry the Marines are already on the ground, along with some from the UK. I am putting the diary back up for the purposes of comments as people find information. I will continue to update as I can what I can. Let's all hope for a positive outcome where these girls are returned home.
News has started to come out from top tier news sites in Nigeria, such as the Vanguard claiming U.S. Marines have found and arrested several Boko Haram leaders, and have located the missing girls in the forest still within the borders of Nigeria.
Military sources have stated that a combined team of security agents in the field and back up communications and satellite imagery specialists have located the missing girls inside the dreaded Sambisa forest.
The United States marines were also said to have used communications equipment to intercept a mobile phone call from a Boko Haram informant to insurgents giving them information on the movement of the marines and Nigerian security forces. The informant is said to have been arrested in Maiduguri and handed over to security officials.
Another Nigerian source reports:
There were indications yesterday that the 230 female students abducted by Boko Haram terrorists from the Government Girls' Secondary School, GGSS, Chibok, Borno State, have been sited at the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, by the Special Forces of the United States Marines.
The news is being picked up by numerous Nigerian news sites, but they each seem to point back to the Vanguard report. Other sources include The Herald in Nigeria. The news has not yet been verified by American or western media that I have yet found.
If true, it would be significant and a huge break if the girls are still within Nigeria, as it will make their rescue simpler. The expected rescue will be a joint efforts with other western troops.
The United States marines are expected to lead rescue efforts in conjunction with other special forces from France, the United Kingdom and ofcourse local troops to retrieve the girls and return them to their families.
Things are fluid and conflicting, another African source posted 3 hours ago the following.
The kidnapped Chibok girls have been moved from the Sambisa forest towards the forest around Ashaka in Gombe State, a top security official has told PREMIUM TIMES.
The security official, who sought anonymity as he was not authorised to speak, also denied the rumor that some of the girls were rescued on Saturday.
He, however, said there were high hopes for the quick rescue of the girls based on the ongoing cooperation between Nigerian officials and their counterparts from the U.S. and U.K. on the rescue efforts.
“It is not true that they have been rescued yet, but we noticed and observed movement of some of the girls from the Sambisa region towards Ashaka forest in Gombe state”, said the security personnel.
I'll post additional information as soon as I find it.
2:48 PM PT: A third Nigerian source is picking up on the news. "The Nigerian Voice." I must repeat, I do not yet see this in American general media.
Posted by FourScore | Sat May 10, 2014, 08:03 PM (41 replies)
Mon May 05, 2014 at 02:42 PM PDT
Woman Sexually Assaulted by NYPD Convicted of Felony Assault
by David Harris Gershon
If you have not been following the story of Cecily McMillan, you might suspect the above headline to be either exaggerated or tasteless satire. Tragically, it is neither.
The story of McMillan is a story of police brutality and the justice system's propensity to insulate police from culpability, a story which takes place invisibly in urban centers in this country on a weekly basis. The only difference here is that McMillan, an Occupy activist who was assaulted during a police raid, gained national attention due to the cameras rolling and the high-profile nature of the event.
The assault happened on March 17, 2012, which was the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. Nonviolent activists had gathered in Zuccotti Park to mark the milestone, and that night police moved in to clear the park and make arrests. During the chaos, Officer Grantley Bovell grabbed McMillan's breast from behind, swung her around and threw her to the ground, at which point she began to have a seizure and required medical help. According to her defense, she instinctively swung her arms when her breast was grabbed. According to Bovell and the prosecution, McMillan's swinging elbow was all that mattered.
During the trial, evidence concerning the violent way in which police cleared the park that night was suppressed. In many instances, physical evidence was tossed out, and the presiding judge, Ronald Zweibel, ruled that the context of the assault had no bearing or relevance. Of course, officer testimony was accepted and relied upon to paint a picture of McMillan's brutal assault of a police officer.
Here's Molly Knefel in The Guardian:
To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan's elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned.
That hyper-selective retelling of events to the jury mirrored the broader popular narrative of OWS. The breathtaking violence displayed by the NYPD throughout Occupy Wall Street has not only been normalized, but entirely justified – so much so that it doesn't even bear mentioning...
...(Which is why) it is the protesters who are remembered as destructive and chaotic. It is Cecily McMillan who went on trial for assault but not Bovell or any of his colleagues – despite the thousands of photographs and videos providing irrefutable evidence that protesters, journalists and legal observers alike were shoved, punched, kicked, tackled, and beaten over the head.
McMillan was fortunate to have an incredible support structure, both personal and legal – and yet even she ran into the buzzsaw of police brutality and a legal system's propensity to brush such brutality under the rug. For today she was convicted of felony assault for that swinging elbow, an elbow that likely was not intended as anything more than a response to being grabbed by a stranger:
McMillan claimed that she swung her arm back instinctively only after having one of her breasts grabbed from behind while she was walking out of the park. Her lawyers showed photographs of bruising to her chest to support this. They said McMillan did not know that Bovell was a police officer, and did not intend to hurt him.
Not only has a violent police officer with a history of abuse gotten away with his crime, but a woman faces seven years in prison for reacting upon having her breast sharply grabbed from behind.
One of the two people in the park on the night of the incident was there in the interest of serving the public good, and it wasn't the one in uniform.
And that person will be serving an extended jail sentence. Because we as a nation allow this to happen. Across this country. Every single week.
Posted by FourScore | Mon May 5, 2014, 11:58 PM (18 replies)