Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Steven Lee Myers pleasures himself (if no one else) in print

Can someone please ask New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers to write with both hands out of his pants? The thought of a woman and bombs creates such a frenzy, he forgets he's supposed to be a reporter throughout "Iraq Arrests Women Tied to Bombings."

Or maybe it's just continuing the paper's practice of trying cases in print. Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall did that, remember? Told you all the US soldiers were innocent in the incident as their Article 32 hearing approached. Of course the Article 32 hearing begged to differ and they were all later convicted in court-martials. Possibly reporters should stick to journalism and not attempt to practice a profession they have no training in?

Myers threw out all the basics (well, he had only one thing in his hands and -- small, medium or big -- it kept him preoccupied) such as "innocent until proven guilty" for a legal justice system and such as skepticism being the hallmark of journalism. The Iraqi puppet government says a woman is guilty? Then she's guilty. No need for a trial.

She went by the code name "the mother of believers," Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi confessed. Ms. Jassim recruited women to join extremists in Diyala Province, escorting them to a farm for training and ultimately to their targets.
Speaking stiffly in a crude police video, Ms. Jassim recounted the fate of a woman she called only Um Huda, whom she had led to a neighborhood bank that served as her rendezvous point. "When I was talking to her, she was not answering or looking at me," Ms. Jassim said. "She was mumbling verses of the Koran."

Was she now!!!! Myers article offers the below photo of the 'confession'.

What an idiot Steven Lee Myers is. What a disgrace to his profession.

I hope he did get a cheap thrill out of the topic because then at least he enjoyed it. No one else did. Justice didn't enjoy it. Journalism didn't. Here's Tina Susman's "Woman accused of recruiting female suicide bombers held in Iraq" ( Los Angeles Times):

There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.
Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region.
Hammond said attacks in the his area of command had dropped 80% since June 2007, part of a nationwide decrease in violence that was highlighted by the peaceful voting for new governing councils in 14 provinces.

Suspected. Video could not be independently verified. All points Steven Lee Myers can't be bothered with. What a social hit he would have been in Salem back in 1692. No doubt he would be partying at Gallows Hill. Steven Lee Myers, the Cotton Mather of 2009.

Andre Shepherd is in the news today. Dropping back to the November 27th snapshot to jog memories:

Meanwhile in Germany a US soldier is seeking aslyum. Andreas Buerger (Reuters) reports 31-year-old Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd self-checked out of the military in 2007 and is now seeking sancturay in Germany where he held a press conference today and declared: "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders."

The December 2nd snapshot quoted the following from James Ewinger's Cleveland Plain Dealer article:

Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.

Today AP's Patrick McGroarty reports on Shepherd noting that he "was among 71 Army soldiers to desert European bases in 2008, but he is the first known to have sought asylum in Germany." *Andre's* case is heard today by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and he will be stressing "a 2004 European Union directive that established basic guidelines for refugee status within the 27-nation bloc. Soldiers who face punishment for refusing to commit a war crime or serve in an unlawful conflict are to be granted that status, the directive says."

The Military Counseling Network blog notes this video:

Click here for MCN's website.

Meanwhile there's an attempt to tar and feather one of the researchers of the 2006 Lancet Study into Iraqi deaths. From Gary Langer's "Nondisclosure Cited in Iraq Casualties Study" (ABC News):

In a highly unusual rebuke, the American Association for Public Opinion Research said this morning that the author of a widely debated survey on "excess deaths" in Iraq had violated its code of professional ethics by refusing to disclose details of his work.

A rebuke? "Violated its code of professional ethics"? Langer appears to leave out a few details. From AP:

Tim Parsons, a spokesman for the school said: "We are disappointed AAPOR has chosen to find Dr. Burnham in violation of the organization's ethics code. However, neither Dr. Burnham nor the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are members of AAPOR."

Neither he nor Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are members of the organization 'rebuking' them, the organization that says Burnahm "violated its professional code of ethics". It's a bit difficult to vote a code of ethics you never took a pledge to because you do not belong to the organization.

It should further be noted that the 'rebuke' itself violates the organization's code of ethics which states, "We shall not cite our membership in the Association as evidence of professional competence, since the Association does not so certify any persons or organizations." So, to be clear, I rebuke the the American Association for Public Opinion Research and find them to be in violation of their own ethic guidelines.

Finally, Pru notes "Sexuality and the system" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

To mark the beginning of LGBT History Month, Colin Wilson explores the roots of gay oppression

It seems hard to imagine that people’s personal lives were different in the past. Family, friendship and sexuality seem deep-rooted and part of our personalities.

Yet they have changed over the centuries. Back in 1600, “family” could refer to the people who lived with you, whether you were related to them or not. In richer households that included servants.

Men who were close friends – at least, wealthy men – kissed and embraced each other.

They might share a bed, swear vows of friendship or even be buried together. None of this implied a sexual relationship.

No one believed that humanity was divided between gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight people. Sex between men – sodomy – was a terrible sin. But anyone might be tempted to commit it, just as anyone might commit murder or adultery.

Sodomy was harshly punished. Sodomites were hanged in England, and burned at the stake elsewhere in Europe. But this was rare – years passed without any prosecutions.

The sodomite was conceived of as a monstrous creature, a bogey-man. Sodomy was much more than a sexual crime. It was associated with treason, Catholicism, foreign countries – a general rejection of accepted English values.

This is all very different from today. Clearly family, friendship and sexuality differ between cultures and across times, rather than being fixed by human biology. Historians sometimes describe them as “socially constructed”.

This phrase is particularly associated with the French historian and writer Michel Foucault. It’s often assumed that Foucault was the first historian to trace historical changes in sexuality.

Yet Karl Marx’s collaborator Frederick Engels reached similar conclusions over 100 years ago. His book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State was first published in 1884.

Engels’ book compared different societies – ancient Greece and Rome, and the Iroquois, a Native American people. He argued that what he called “modern individual sex love” did not exist in all historical periods.

He based his work on the earliest anthropological writings. These were cutting edge theories at the time, but they included mistakes so some details of Engels’ book are wrong.

However, his basic assertion is the same as the one made by Foucault – sexuality changes through history.

Engels goes further than this. He shows that changes in the family and sexuality are connected to the wider development of society.

For example, why are women condemned for having many sexual partners in a way that men are not?


Engels finds that monogamy is historically connected to property. A man with wealth wants his children to inherit it.

If his wife is unfaithful and has a child by another man, that “illegitimate” child will take a share of property from its rightful heirs. Sexual morality results from the wider structure of society.

As the 18th century writer Samuel Johnson put it, “Consider what importance to society the chastity of women is. Upon that all the property in the world depends.

“We hang a thief for stealing a sheep, but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep and farm and all from the right owner.”

Marxists today follow Engels’ example in linking changing attitudes towards sexuality to wider social developments. This explains the extraordinary changes in people’s sexual lives in the last 400 years.

Consider 17th century London. This was a city in rapid transformation from the medieval, feudal order to the modern, capitalist world. Thousands of young people migrated there from the countryside, escaping the traditional social controls of their villages.

In the city they worked for wages. They had a “private life” outside the working day, which for some included sexual adventures.

We start to find evidence of love and sex between men and between women. By about 1700 a subculture existed, at least for men.

They met at “molly houses”, which existed across London. Men sung and danced, kissed and had sex. Molly houses were not like gay clubs today. Many of the men impersonated women. Ceremonies were performed in which men pretended to give birth.

Some men began to justify their sexual desires. William Brown, a 43 year old furniture maker, told a court in 1726, while on trial for sodomy, that, “I did it because I thought I knew him, and I think there’s no crime in making what use I please of my own body.”

As capitalist society developed, its leading intellectuals rejected attacks on sodomites as part of medieval superstition. The French Revolution of 1789 abolished sodomy laws in 1791. The Napoleonic legal code of 1804 completely legalised sex between men and between women.

Capitalism and the Enlightenment promised a rational and tolerant approach to sexuality. Yet the 19th century was to see quite the opposite.

In England, industrialisation drove millions into immense new cities. Men, women and children all worked in mines and factories.

Economic upheavals sometimes left men at home to mind children while women went out to work. Several families might share a room.


Middle class people valued respectability and sexual restraint. In their families men went out to work while women and children stayed at home. Some commentators looked with horror at the lives of the new industrial workers.

They associated open sexuality and a lack of respectability with social disorder in general – leading perhaps to revolution.

They also raised financial worries. The economy would suffer, for example, if many workers continued to die in their teens because of poor food and housing, or lack of care at home.

In the second half of the 19th century such arguments won over the ruling class. They imposed minimal restraints on capitalism, in the hope of ensuring the long-term survival of the system.

The family was a key part of this strategy. Women were excluded from some paid work – such as in mines – and children from most of it. The sick and the old were to be looked after in respectable, working class homes – without costing the state any money.

The Victorian promotion of the family involved attacks on any kind of sexuality outside of this norm.

Prostitution, which was common at this time, faced new legal sanctions. Doctors were obsessed with stopping children from masturbating.

Sex between men and between women also faced attacks. All sex between men was criminalised in Britain in 1885 – up until then only anal sex had been illegal.

A similar law covered all of Germany after 1871. Such laws received massive publicity when they were used to prosecute author Oscar Wilde in 1895.


But they also generated immediate opposition. As early as 1864, a German campaigner called Karl Heinrich Ulrichs opposed such laws.

He argued that men had sex with other men because they were part of a minority of human beings born that way. It was wrong, he argued, to punish them for doing something that was in their nature.

Such arguments were taken up by liberal doctors and psychiatrists. They classified many different sexual behaviours – “the homosexual” was one such category. Some doctors used this new idea in courts, giving evidence that prevented people from being jailed for their sexual behaviour.

Some doctors who wrote about homosexuality also received hundreds of letters from people who felt this idea explained their lives.

In this way the idea and the reality of homosexuality developed – first among middle class people with access to medical writings, then among workers as well. Heterosexuals and bisexuals were defined later.

How does this account relate to today’s world?

The family continues to be extremely important to capitalist society. Governments save billions of pounds each year because children, sick and elderly people are looked after for free within the family.

The family is also important ideologically – New Labour is just as keen on respectable “hard-working families” as its Victorian forebears.

But there have also been huge changes in the last 40 years. Women and LGBT people have fought for liberation, and made significant gains.

Only a few right wingers now hold the Victorian view that open sexuality always undermines the family.

Now the dominant idea is that sex should underpin the loving relationships on which families are based.

Sex, gay or straight, has become to some extent acceptable. LGBT people have gained formal legal equality, including civil partnerships.

Sex has entered the mainstream – pornography is big business, and “raunch” sells everything from magazines to cars.

But this is a limited and contradictory advance. Raunch is a money-making caricature of real sex between real human beings.

Many LGBT people don’t want to make the uphill struggle towards a “respectable” family life, which is always defined by Victorian norms.

And LGBT people continue to be oppressed – facing violence, abuse, bullying in school and under-representation in the media.

Nor is there any guarantee that things will continue to improve.

We need to continue fighting for LGBT freedom and a truly liberated sexuality.

We need a society where people can decide how they want to live – not struggle to hold a family together or else feel they are a failure.

Because LGBT oppression originates from capitalist society as a whole, it can only be eliminated by destroying capitalism. The links described by Engels over 100 years ago still exist today.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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 the los angeles times
 tina susman

 the los angeles times
 tina susman