Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blog purge in Vermont

If you read my posts here you've probably also seen Green Mountain Daily, a blog I write for with other Vermont Democratic activists.

If you haven't been there I recommend it to you, not only because of the great writing on a variety of topics, but also because of the threat to freedom of speech that has been unleashed on us in the past week. It's a long story, but the short version is that Green Mountain Daily founder John Odum has been blogging about the racist, neo-Confederate ties of Second Vermont Republic, a fringe group pursuing Vermont secession. They have struck back by sending out wild and unfounded press releases, specifically targeting John's work, and John's employer has responded by presenting him with an ultimatim: your political life or your job.

You can get a full rundown of these events at Green Mountain Daily, but I'll just say you should read all about it, and then think about what it means when citizen journalists are silenced because of the content of their writings.

Cathy Resmer covers the VHRC purge of GMD founder and former blogger John Odum here.

Cathy says: I'm sorry to see him go, especially in this way. He says GMD will continue without him.

Exactly right, Cathy. We feel the loss here, but we're going to keep it up.

From the extreme right (I hope she doesn't object to that description), She's Right blogger Charity Tensel also covers this story, describing the loss this way: This is a great loss for political blogging. Odum's thoughtful posts and comments kept GMD in the realm of sensible discussion. He was an anchor, a rock, keeping the blog focused on remaining relevant and holding it back from slipping into the realm of radicalism.

Philip Baruth has the same story, along with a photo of John (I'm not sure we've ever posted photos of him here.)

Philip: The Vermont blogosphere is still very much in its infancy, and it depends on a handful of sites for its signature feel. Green Mountain Daily has been, and will remain, one of those deep-anchor sites. And although others have contributed greatly, GMD is John Odum's brain child, and his love child, and its success is in large part his success.

We also have this link from Reason and Brimstone.

If you're a regular reader of these pages you know about this story, but it's obvious now that this decision is going beyond the world of Green Mountain Daily.

When you read about attacks on journalism, and particular citizen journalism of the kind we practice here, you don't necessarily think about relatively enlightened places like Vermont. Now we know that we cannot afford to be complacent.

Thank you all for your support.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Can somebody tell me why this crook is still in Congress?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Support our troops?

It really pisses me off when I hear the Republicans talk about supporting the troops. They clearly believe that the only way to support the troops is to vote to send more of them over to get shot or bombed to pieces, but you wouldn't think that to hear them talk.

Anyway, this week we have two excellent examples of what "support our troops" means to them. One has been all over the TV and papers: it's what happens to you if you get badly hurt in Iraq and are cast on the mercy of Uncle Sam for your medical care.

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

Do you really think these guys deserve to be living in mold, stained carpets, and mouse droppings? I don't. If we're going to send them over there to get shot up for nothing, the least, and I mean the absolute least, we can do for them is to give them decent care when they get back. They had a general on McNeil-Lehrer tonight talking about it and he kept saying how the medical care they receive is excellent. So fucking what? Let him live with the rats and cockroaches and then he can tell us about how good his doctor is.

But it's not just what happens to them when they get back, it's also what happens while they're over there.

There used to be a military punishment in which soldiers were sent into battle unarmed. Pretty barbaric practice, eh?

Well, what do you call what we're doing? Remember a long time ago, like two or three years, when there was this big controversy about making our soldiers ride around in Humvees that were not adequately armored to protect them? And people were getting killed for lack of armor, or "rednecking" their vehicles, salvaging junk from old busted Humvees to make do? Well, it's happening again.

The Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from particularly lethal weapons linked to Iran and known as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFP) -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.

Edit: February 24--David Corn and James Pinkerton discuss Bush's failure to support our troops here.

So tell me: who's supporting the troops? The people who are sending them over there, ill-equipped and neglecting them when they get back, or the people who are trying to bring them home safely?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pot, meet kettle

You probably remember before and after the invasion of Afghanistan, one of the justifications for the invasion was the way the Islamic extremists who ran the place oppressed women. The claim was made that they prevented girls and women from engaging in community life, kept them from education, and generally oppressed them.

I basically agreed with all of these claims. It happens that these same claims apply equally to Saudi Arabia (our friends, remember?) and probably a lot of other Arab or Muslim countries. Is the subjugation of women inherent in Islam? I haven't studied Islam systematically enough to say so for sure, but there seems to be a tremendous overlap between Islamic rule and oppression of women. I don't know if it's religious or cultural, but it seems to be a genuine phenomenon.

Good thing we have one shining beacon in the Middle East, one country we can count on to uphold the liberal Western values of sexual equality, freedom, and respect for the individual that we value so highly in the United States. Yes, our friend and client, Israel.

It's just that there may be just a tiny problem there, too. This story from NPR details what Israel's homegrown Committees for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are doing to women there. Literally forcing them to ride on the back of the bus and beating them if they don't, hounding them from the streets when they dare to go out in public, and decreeing that they should not be educated beyond high school.

So where is the beacon over there?

And should I rethink my earlier statement? Is there any religion that does not stand for the subjugation of women?

Just wondering.

Vermont is Number One

Both houses of the Vermont Legislature voted today to oppose Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq, and demanding that the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq commence immediately.

Montpelier, Vermont - February 13, 2007

"Vermonters have paid enough for this war," said Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln.

Frustrated by inaction in Washington, Vermont lawmakers started debate on a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

"Enough is enough, its time to bring our troops home," said Rep. Fisher.

All the legislators who sponsored this resolution, and especially lead sponsor Mike Fisher, deserve recognition for taking this strong stand for America and for peace.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Go, Dixie Chicks!

Grammys stood up for freedom of speech tonight.

You probably remember the big fights they've had the last few years: the death threats, the boycotts, the hostility. All because they aren't big Bush fans, and had the temerity to say so.

This is from 2003:

Country stations across the United States have pulled the Chicks from playlists following reports that lead singer Natalie Maines said in a concert in London earlier this week that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

Station managers said their decisions were prompted by calls from irate listeners who thought criticism of the president was unpatriotic.

Thigs have turned around a little bit since then, but not necessarily in the world of country music. The Grammy awards are on tonight. A big, big night for commercial music of all kinds. And get this: the Dixie Chicks have won three awards, including Record of the Year for their song Not Ready to Make Nice.

Here are some of the lyrics:

I made by bed, and I sleep like a baby,

With no regrets and I don't mind saying,

It's a sad sad story

That a mother will teach her daughter

that she ought to hate a perfect stranger.

And how in the world

Can the words that I said

Send somebody so over the edge

That they'd write me a letter

Saying that I better shut up and sing

Or my life will be over

I'm not ready to make nice,

I'm not ready to back down,

I'm still mad as hell

Do you think it's wishful thinking to say that this is politics at work? I sure don't.

Reality time

Read this new analysis by William Odom in today's Post. Odom's national security credentials are well established, and he effectively demolishes both the ideas in favor of invading Iraq in the first place, and also the arguments to stay in there.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Truth squadding" the Pelosi airplane story

On All Things Considered Thursday night NPR ran a story to, as they put it, "truth squad" the story of the flap over what government plane Nancy Pelosi is going to take when she travels between Washington and San Francisco.

Here's the link to the story. Unfortunately for NPR and Pelosi, what they are promoting as a truth squad piece is mostly another he said-she said politica story.

I have a couple of concerns here. First, the report does say that the story originated with the Washington Times, but it doesn't say anything about the conservative political bias or Moonie ownership of that paper. A journalist interested in really exploring the validity of the story would have done that.

Second, the report gets one crucial fact wrong. At 2:13 into the story you can hear Andrea Seabrook say, "Pelosi's office requested that the plane be capable of flying from Washington to her San Francisco district nonstop." Okay, except this allegation is false. It was the Sergeant at Arms who requested nonstop travel capability. Here's what he said:
The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable.
For NPR to report that it was Pelosi's request is to keep the story up while pretending that they are getting through to the truth. It is true that they later play an actuality of Pelosi saying that the Sergeant at Arms made the request, but that's not the same as reporting the facts. By putting in this statement in the voice of one of the partisans, NPR conveys the impression that this is just another one of those things that is susceptible of different interpretations, depending on which side of the political aisle you're on. No. There is the truth and there is fiction, and part of the responsibility of the journalist is to distinguish them from each other.

I really like NPR. I listen to it all the time, even when Car Talk isn't on, and I'll probably listen more when VPR converts to full-time news and public affairs. Still, they should get their stories straight, especially when they claim to be the Truth Squad.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I love these guys!

Just when you thought there was nothing funny about the Global War on Terror, these guys come along.

You've heard the basic story, right? Around Boston they find these panels with blinking lights, they immediately determine they must be bombs, they spend almost a million bucks to disarm the threat, and then they catch and arrest the miscreants who planted these destructive devices.

It turns out they weren't bombs, though, they were promotions for a cartoon on TV, so rather than look stupid, they charge these two guys with intentionally causing panic. (Did you know that was a crime? Me neither, and I'm a lawyer.) Apparently they're all over the place, and nobody anywhere but Boston even looked twice at these things.

The judge clearly isn't buying it, and it does sound as though he's looking askance at the prosecutors.

The two guys seem to be living it up, and they get a link to their web page just for that. (Actually, when I just tried to go there it hung up, probably because it's too busy, but it's worth a shot.

So they get out of court, the press are all there, and their lawyer tells them what any smart lawyer would tell them: Don't talk to the press. They say, no way, we're going to talk to the press, but we'll only answer questions about 1970's hair styles.

You have to love it! "Sure, we're idiots, but what does that make you?"

Watch the video

Here's their video showing how they put the signs up. Thanks, Morgan.