The above is from Steve Lopez' "Michael Jackson's memorial was not our proudest moment" (Los Angeles Times) and a functioning alternative media, a functioning group of watchdogs, would have been calling this crap out or are we only offended when celebrity trash is passed off as news if it's a woman. I called out the garbage that was the Anna Nicole Smith marathon. I didn't do because she was a woman or a blond. (And more and more, those little media critiques from the first half of this decade about "another missing blonde" reveal some deep seated sexism.) But for two weeks and counting, trash TV has reigned supreme and instead of being called out, it's been amplified online because, hey, we're all consumers of mindless Trash TV, right? That is our culture today, debased and disgusting.
There are funerals going on in the US, of service members killed in Iraq, as Betty pointed out last night. No stadiums are filled for them. The bumper stickers have faded, the flags attached to cars have frayed and been tossed in the trash (even though that's not how you're supposed to dispose of a flag). And who really cares because there's a chance to be a part of trash TV and mindlessly cheer it on.
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports on the increase in service members' children seeking mental health treatment in 2008, noting that the number has doubled since the start of the illegal war. Hefling notes:
Overall, the number of children and spouses of active duty personnel and Guard and Reserve troops seeking mental health care has been steadily increasing. Last year's increase in child hospitalizations coincided with the "surge" of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into Iraq to stabilize the country.
However, reasons for the treatment increases are not clear from the documents. Besides the impact of service members' repeated tours in overseas war zones - and the severe economic recession that has affected all American families - the military has been encouraging troops' family members to seek mental health help when needed.
Woo! Hoo! Brooke Shields! Professional virgin and beard! Oh, sorry. That's not the cheer for the coverage above, right? There is real news out there and it's the responsibility of adults to draw a line between reality and gossip. Not to blur the line, to draw the line.
Staying with mental illness, DeeDee Correll's "The story of the Marine who wasn't" (Los Angeles Times) reports on Rick Duncan who was not, in fact, Rick Duncan:
Retired Marine Capt. Rick Duncan carried a list of phone numbers of those in the business of helping veterans. One was for the VA clinic in Colorado Springs, and in 2008 he pressed it upon Mike Flaherty, a young Army veteran struggling with depression.
He understood, Duncan told Flaherty. He'd been to Iraq three times. Attacked in Fallouja, he'd returned home with a metal plate in his head and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Flaherty made the call and saw a counselor; in time his depression lessened. He had his friend Rick Duncan to thank.
He would not learn the truth about Duncan for a year, and when he and other veterans did, it rolled over them with the weight of a tank: Rick Duncan had never served in Iraq, had never been wounded, had never been a Marine at all. He wasn't even Rick Duncan.
As noted before, Ava and I met Rick once. We found him to be a liar immediately. Not based on his war experience which we wouldn't assume we have the skills to evaluate but based on the fact that his self-narrative did not add up on basic details (having nothing to do with Iraq or the military) and, when questioned by us about that, he immediately became flustered and attempted to obviously lie.
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) files a report on Fort Irwin's National Training Center where US State Dept staff go through simulation training (including 'bombings') to prepare for serving in Iraq:
The diplomats slept on cots and worked out of a tent on a base surrounded by re-created Iraqi villages. Each day, they strapped on flak vests over their business jackets and clambered into armored carriers to meet with local leaders, played by Iraqi immigrants. They confronted insurgent attacks, corrupt officials and sectarian rivalries.
"You can forget at times that you are in California," said Wesley Robertson, a public diplomacy officer who is trading a post in Chennai, India, for Iraq's violent Diyala province.
All four diplomats are joining Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs. These civilian-led teams, which include some military officers and representatives of other government agencies, were conceived in 2005 to help Iraq's local and provincial governments provide services, promote stability and stimulate development.
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