Thursday, November 01, 2007

Other Items

This week on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio this week (Friday in most markets):

When the federal government ended its 60-plus years of price support to tobacco farmers in 2004, Virginians were hit particularly hard. On Friday, November 2 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to the mountainous farmlands of Appalachia to meet farmers who've attempted the difficult switch from tobacco to increasingly popular organic produce.
Among those profiled is restaurant owner Steven Hopp who, along with his wife -- acclaimed author Barbara Kingsolver -- spent a year living off the land.
Social entrepreneur Anthony Flaccavento founded an Enterprising Idea called "Appalachian Sustainable Development" to help local farmers and markets make the transition not just to organic, but to local organic.
Can local farmers change course and crops and still survive in a shifting economy?
Also on the show, David Brancaccio interviews prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben about his "National Day of Climate Action" on November 3, and what we can all do to fight global warming.
At NOW Online, read an excerpt from Hopp and Kingsolver's new book, and learn ways to become a "locavore" - someone who buys from her own community. Also, find out where your college alma mater ranks on a sustainability report card.

Now we're turning to the topic that never seems to be far from the headlines these days, Blackwater. Aram Roston's "Did Blackwater sneak silencers into Iraq?" (NBC News) charts the latest bad news for the mercenary group:

Federal agents are investigating allegations that the Blackwater USA security firm illegally exported dozens of firearms sound suppressors -- commonly known as silencers -- to Iraq and other countries for use by company operatives, sources close to the investigation tell NBC News. Investigators from various federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the State Department and the Commerce Department, are digging into the allegations that the company exported the silencers without getting necessary export approval, according to law enforcement sources, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity. The sources said the investigation is part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations.

File Emily Watson under just another apathetic student today. No, she's not apathetic. But the 'trend story' that students were apathetic was never reality -- just something a lot of desk jockeys trotted out the way their ancestors did, the way their ancestors did . . . From Watson's "No blood on our watch" (UT's The Daily Texan):

In order to incite great social change, the public must know what is truly happening at home and abroad in its society. The Associated Press reported this week that the projected death toll for October - 36 - is the lowest in 19 months, almost half of last month's casualties. But who are we, as citizens and journalists, to say that the casualties of the Iraq war, at only 36, are the lowest they have been in 19 months? Only one casualty in a month is not a feat - it still means that one life has been lost. Let's stop speaking in numbers and death tolls and start looking at what really happens when a nation is at war. The federal government prohibits the publishing of any photographs of dead soldiers' coffins. Perhaps that's how they want to keep it: We can see the numbers of coffins, but not the coffins themselves. If death isn't real to the American public, then the war is just something that whispers its way into the nightly news or that creeps quietly into the RSS feeds of our blogs. We turn a blind eye to the soldiers walking the halls of America's Veterans Affairs hospitals. College-aged women and men return from war less their legs, arms, eyes or ears, hoping to one day be normal again.

And who goes? Karen DeYoung's "Envoys Resist Forced Iraq Duty" (Washington Post, noted by Martha) explores the latest in resistance:

When a bomb goes off on the battlefield, people don't run away just in time like they do in the movies; real people get hurt. The only way to give these soldiers and their grieving families and friends justice is to show everyone the atrocities they have endured. We need footage of the fighting in Iraq scrolling across our cell phones and laptops. We need true accounts of what a war is, not more numbers. Over a month ago, Blackwater contractors working in Iraq alledgedly killed 17 Iraqis, but we never saw images of the damage. Only now has our government imposed greater oversight on the company's operations, yet we may have acted faster were we more aware. Uneasy U.S. diplomats yesterday challenged senior State Department officials in unusually blunt terms over a decision to order some of them to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or risk losing their jobs. At a town hall meeting in the department's main auditorium attended by hundreds of Foreign Service officers, some of them criticized fundamental aspects of State's personnel policies in Iraq. They took issue with the size of the embassy -- the biggest in U.S. history -- and the inadequate training they received before being sent to serve in a war zone. One woman said she returned from a tour in Basra with post-traumatic stress disorder only to find that the State Department would not authorize medical treatment. Yesterday's internal dissension came amid rising public doubts about diplomatic progress in Iraq and congressional inquiries into the department's spending on the embassy and its management of private security contractors. Some participants asked how diplomacy could be practiced when the embassy itself, inside the fortified Green Zone, is under frequent fire and officials can travel outside only under heavy guard. Service in Iraq is "a potential death sentence," said one man who identified himself as a 46-year Foreign Service veteran. "Any other embassy in the world would be closed by now," he said to sustained applause.

Meanwhile Pamela E. Walck's "Former soldier writes book on conscientious objector experiences" details the latest book by a war resister:

Kevin Benderman spends his days driving a big rig loaded with automotive parts and his nights living at his Hinesville home.
It's a long way from his days as a solider with the 3rd Infantry Division working on Bradley Fighting Vehicles. And it's a far cry from the brig, or military prison, at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he spent 13 months after a military court convicted him of what the military calls "missing movement" in July 2005.
Benderman is still appealing the ruling.
It was a legal decision that took away the 2003 Iraqi war veteran's military career and his pay, and it stripped him of his rank from sergeant to private.
In the 14 months since his release, Benderman said, he has learned a lot and doesn't regret his decision in December 2004 to start the process of seeking an honorable discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector.
That move ultimately led to his time in the brig.
Now the soldier-turned-civilian is sharing his experiences in a book, "Letters from Fort Lewis Brig: A Matter of Conscience," released in October by Lyons Press.
"The book was put together from some of the writing I did while I was locked up," he said, "and some of the things Monica (my wife) put together while I was locked up."
So far, the response has been mixed.
"I've heard a lot of people are very interested in it," he said. "And on the other hand, I heard of one (anti-war) group that thinks it's a bad book but won't even read it."

That was noted by Mia who wondered who the group was and whether it was us? I have no idea who the group is but we did read it for a book discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review. As Jim noted in his note to the readers at the time (and in "No book discussion this week") we had no problem with Kevin's contribution which is letters we'd already read (they'd appeared online). If we'd published the discussion of the book it would have torn it apart. I will note here that no one needs to talk about the First Amendment when they don't understand it -- and in the discussion, I asked where the book's editor was -- because the Constitution is not concerned with whether noise from an assembly hurts someone's sensibilities or mars someone's day. Stick to a reflecting pool far from the madding crowd and don't attend a protest. Someone's confused the First Amendment with local laws and zoning issues. Intended or not -- and we debated this in the discussion -- there is a piss on every one portion to the book (this is not Kevin Benderman's writing) and nothing is ever good enough. 'Leaders' of the peace movement (whomever that is supposed to be) give support, but not enough. Or they promise support but not enough. People (rank and file?) offer support, but not enough. Or not the kind that is needed. Or their statements of support are judged offensive. Oh, the tragedy! Oh, the horror! Someone telling you they support you and yet they don't support you the way you want them to! Oh, how awful! If only words could be put into other people's mouths!

Which is why we really don't cover that war resister here. I'd long heard from friends in the mainstream media that nothing is ever good for the wife of, that you will get non-stop complaints. So we've noted Kevin Benderman here but I've never bothered to cover him the way other war resisters have been. I don't have time for the crap others have told me about, the endless complaints, the endless notes. As with the peace movement, nothing the press ever writes is good enough. Even having avoided the topic of her husband, that hasn't prevented the attempting to pass "notes" to me on my coverage of other war resisters. As with her grasp of the Constitution, Monica Benderman's grasp of the cases of other war resisters is problematic. When her complaints (which did not come into this site) were relayed back to me, I checked with the attorney on the case immediately. I was told that Benderman's grasp of the legal issues were incorrect. Now it's really none of Monica Benderman's damn business the legal argument any other war resister puts forward. But if she wants to write how it's not legally sound (it was legally sound), post a piece with your name on it. Don't use back channels to pass me notes. But nothing is ever good enough for her.

That's what friends in the mainstream who covered her husband told me and why we avoided her here other than to note her -- never to comment on her. Put up her own words and she can't complain. Or so I thought. Instead, she decides that she knows better than a war resister and his attorney what the law is and how the argument should be presented and not only does she know better but she needs to pass on her "notes" to improve coverage here.

Back to the book. Monica wants the world to know Kevin's a patriot. He's a true American. He's not like others. You know, those people who go AWOL.

If her goal was to piss off everyone, congratulations. In one way or another, her section of the book (the bulk of the book and the bulk of the new material) will do just that.

Reading the book, I thought, "I've never seen so little awareness in so many words." There's no understanding of the young people who enlist. (Her husband and she are in the middle years.) Kevin Benderman did a brave thing. (Monica Benderman has shown tremendous bravery then and since but not in that book.) But his bravery doesn't mean others have not shown bravery on their own journeys and the bravery of a full grown adult really isn't the same as what we might reasonably expect of an 18 or 19-year-old.

And I'm sorry, a child draws you a picture, you're life's not so damn busy you can't respond. That picture didn't just fly across the country to your home on a breeze. A child goes to the trouble of drawing you a picture and/or writing a letter, you get off your lazy ass and get a response out to them. You did not think, "Well, I'm planning to write a book . . . I'll note the children in that!" You asked for public support, you sought it out, children took the time to send their love, you damn well reply. An adult, not such a big deal. But children? You damn well make sure they get a reply to every single thing they send or (more likely) got a parent or adult to send for them.

Back to the reality of the book -- which is that she cites Kevin Benderman. You're either Kevin Benderman or you're not worthy. War resisters, someone serving. For all the talk of wanting to explore and open up, the point is there is only one road and it is Kevin's road. If you didn't take it, you're unworthy. If you didn't take it, don't speak out. If you didn't take it, follow the leader (the Bendermans). At some point, all the complaints (which also come from within the movement, it's not just the press complaining) tend to indicate the problem isn't with everyone else.

Kat will have no problem with my noting her biggest objection was in seeing what she thought was a strong woman repeatedly glorify the 'boys' and the military. That was embarrassing. A strong woman playing Peggy Noonan. I could go on (our book discussion did). However, we did read the book. That's why we were offended. This won't make it into the snapshot because too many who repost it have noted they will strip out any line on it. The book itself we won't provide a link to at this site because Elaine and I both apologized in the discussion to those who'd ordered the book. (When the discussion didn't go up, Elaine and I wrote the two or three members who had problems with the publisher.) If you're interested in it, get it from Amazon, a bookstore or something else. Whether the publisher's aware that the delivery charges -- which you pay for -- demands that the book be delivered from nine to five or not, I have no idea. I'm talking to Jim and Ava (we're on the road) and they're saying, "Let's post the discussion." It's typed. We did it forever ago. The draft is saved. We were being kind but if there's any confusion as to whether or not we read that book, well, hold on.

Okay, it's just gone up. "1 Book, 10 Minutes" and it's billed as "November 4, 2007." We're considering it one of the features for this weekend. As Jim noted last night filling in for Rebecca, we all are hoping for a much smoother writing edition.

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