Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Other Items (Glen Ford on Democracy Now!)

Army Sgt. Darren Manzella figured that stating he was gay on national television would surely get him booted from the military under the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But Manzella has heard nothing in the three weeks since he told CBS' 60 Minutes that his fellow soldiers knew he was gay and the program aired a home video that showed him kissing a former boyfriend.
"I thought I would at least be asked about the segment or approached and told I shouldn't speak to the media again," says Manzella, 30, a medic who recently returned from Kuwait and plans to hold a news conference today in Washington to discuss the military's silence.

Marcia notes the above from Andrea Stone's "Gays Come Out, but Stay in Military" (USA Today via AOL News). Marcia headlines her e-mail, "Another failure for little media." She's right. And had indymedia shown even a tiny interest in war resisters, they would have been able to lead on this story. Flashing back to an October snapshot:

Another member of the US military who went to Canada has gone public. Ariel Troster (Capital Xtra) reports on Bethany "Skyler" James, a 19-years-old and out lesbian, who drove to Canada with "her friend Jeremy Daniel (also a soldier)". Troster reports James didn't plan to hide who she was but hoped to keep low key until "I was ridiculded daily by the other soldiers and even received hate letters," leading James to be out -- "even hanging a rainbow flag in her room at the military base, despite a rule which prohibits anyone who 'demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts' from serving in the US army." Troster observes, "You would think that by disclosing her identity, Skyler would have received a 'get out of the army free' card. By outing herself, she was clearing contravening regulations in a way that should have earned her a discharge. But according to Skyler, it isn't that easy. The US military is so desperate to enlist more troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most blatant homosexual conduct -- leaving people like Skyler to endure the double injustice of fighting in wars they don't agree with, while also being subjected to harassment and intimidation from their fellow soldiers."

James wasn't reluctant to tell her story. It's just that independent media in America wasn't interested. They could have scooped big media on the story of the kill teams if they'd shown interest in James Burmeister but that apparently required too much work.

Lucy notes Jackie Jones' "Waging War, Making Peace, Part Three: What Policing the World Costs Us -- and the Military" (

Military records show that Army prosecutions of desertion and other unauthorized absences have risen substantially, the International Herald Tribune reported last spring. The aim of the prosecutions is deter servicemen and women who hope to avoid going -- or returning -- to Iraq or Afghanistan.
From 2002 through 2006, according to the IHT, the average annual rate of Army desertion prosecutions tripled, from 2 percent to 6 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but in fiscal 2006, 3,198 soldiers deserted. In the first quarter of fiscal 2007, 871 soldiers bailed, a rate if it remained on pace, would have resulted in close to 3,500 desertions, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.
The major presidential candidates are walking a tightrope between keeping the military large and strong, but also finding ways to make America less of a Bigfoot in foreign countries. It’s a tricky place to be when voters are increasingly less enamored of the country’s wartime situation, yet are concerned about keeping the nation safe.
And in the midst of this, the military is trying to recruit volunteers and keep officers and soldiers from leaving the fold after their tours of duty are up.
"For the first time I can remember in my 31 years, all of the presidential hopefuls are talking about making the military larger," said Capt. Sean A. Gibbs, who is nearing the end of his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Duncan Campbell profiles attorney Leonard Weinglass in "'Society has become more punitive'" (Guardian of London):

He is in London to meet British parliamentarians and raise awareness of the Cuban Five, a story that has hovered under the radar in the US. The five young Cuban men, who had infiltrated anti-Castro groups in Miami that were planning sabotage in Cuba, were convicted of espionage offences in 2001. Weinglass believes they are victims of a grave miscarriage of justice and that the courtroom acts as a barometer of a country's political health.
It was the trial of the Chicago Eight, the anti-Vietnam war protesters arrested in the wake of the riots at the Democratic party's convention in 1968, that first propelled Weinglass into the legal limelight. The defendants included Abbie "Steal This Book" Hoffman; Tom Hayden, a political activist who would later become a Democrat congressman; and Bobby Seale, who appeared in court manacled and with his mouth taped shut. The trial is the subject of a forthcoming Steven Spielberg film. A few years later, Weinglass found him self defending Daniel Ellsberg, the man who, in 1971, leaked the Pentagon papers on the hidden history of the Vietnam war, which were instrumental in the downfall of President Nixon. He has kept in touch with many of his old clients.
"Last summer, Dan Ellsberg and Tom Hayden and I were speaking at a community east of Vancouver that was founded by a group of Russians who had their way there paid by Tolstoy during the Tsar's period because they had thrown down their weapons and burned them in a ceremonial bonfire," says Weinglass. "During the Vietnam war, they welcomed American war resisters and they are still helping those [soldiers refusing to fight in the Iraq war] who are coming now."
What perplexes Weinglass is that his current case has had scant attention in the American mainstream media. "There is very little coverage except in the leftwing or Latin press. I was on Wolf Blitzer on CNN about six months ago, and I received many calls afterwards from people who were shocked to learn about it for the first time. It's inexplicable. Here you have a case, the longest trial in the US at the time it was heard, with a US admiral, the adviser to the president, Cuban generals, all testifying in a criminal trial that covered the 40-year history of US-Cuban relations and it received no press."

For more on the Cuban Five, click here.

Amy Goodman says today, "Republicans in Michigan will hold their primary on January 15th."
Will they? Yeah, they will but who else does? The Democrats. The DNC is up in arms about that primary and threatening to refuse to seat delegates from that state at the national convention (it's the same threat they're making to Florida). One would think when a state's Democratic membership says "We're standing up" that independent media would, if not support that, at least recognize it.

So to correct Democracy Now!, Michigan Republicans and Democrats will be holding their primaries next week, January 15th. Michigan and Florida refused to take marching orders from a national organization. The people of both states spoke. It's incumbent upon independent media to note that. Democracy Now! is carried a number of stations in Michigan and in Florida. If it's not important for any other reason, the program should note reality just because those two states have a large number of people who have worked very hard to get DN! on the airwaves. To be clear, the DNC did nothing to get Democracy Now! on the air. Grassroots independent media doesn't exist to make those in power feel good.

So it matters for several reasons including the truth. Repeating, Democrats and Republicans in Michigan will be holding their primaries January 15th. (And Goodman's error was noted by four Michigan community members who are already e-mailing this morning.) I haven't heard Democracy Now! yet. We'll hold this entry until I do (I trust members but don't let me be accused of criticizing something I didn't hear or read).

On the Michigan Democratic primary, Jimmy notes Ted Roelofs' "Clinton faces easier test in Michigan" (Chronicle News Service):

A squabble between state and national party officials over the state's early primary date led Obama and Edwards to withdraw their names.
Clinton faces token opposition from Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel. The other name on the ballot, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, dropped out last week.

Now there is a push by Obama and Edwards partisans to urge voters to chose "uncommitted" instead of just skipping the contest.

It's also noted in the e-mails that Hillary's win is called narrow (approximately 8,000 more votes with 96% of the precints reporting) but Dennis Kucinich's fifth place is just noted. To rectify that, Kucinich had a "narrow" fifth place "win." He received approximately 500 more votes than the sixth place winner and both received one percent of the vote. Who was sixth place? "Total Write-ins." So Kucinich managed a "narrow" fifth place upset over the write-in candidates. The Concord Monitor has the results on the front page of their websites and, again, that's only 96% of the precints reporting. We're not holding it. A friend's got it on audio and is playing it over the phone. Glen Ford is on Democracy Now! today in a debate with flow-meister Michael Eric Dyson who, since his last appearance, has gone public with his endorsement of Barack Obama. (Sidebar, remember when an awful and stereotypical film was being pimped by some White voices on the left as 'real' and 'authentic' and 'left' -- I'm sure you remember one AAR deejay who felt the need to slam Crash in order to build up that bad film -- and remember how they fell silent when the follow up demonstrated that all the director of the bad film had to traffic in was stereotypes -- like chaining women? Those White left voices probably couldn't pimp for his second bad film because they were too busy pimping for Bambi.) Glen Ford is a truth teller and one of the strongest in the nation. With Bruce Dixon and Margaret Kimberley (and others), he puts the independent in independent media at Black Agenda Report.

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