Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Uncle Meat Variations by Frank Zappa

Frank and company play Uncle Meat Variations on Beat Club, in 1968.

This exquisite footage of Maestro at his visionary, neoclassical best is dedicated to Roberto, Kona, dbcsez, darkblack, Mekaniktom)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

To The Pigheaded, Everything Looks Like Pork

Despite what you may have read and heard for the past, oh, several decades, Phyllis Schlafly wants you to know that American women are actually doing fine--there's no violence perpetrated against them at all, so move along, nothing to see here:

The WHO report asserts that one in three of the world's women, in some countries as many as 70 percent, experience violence in their lifetime, usually from their own partner, which is the rationale for calling it domestic violence. I'm surprised feminists don't claim 100 percent, because "violence" is broadly defined to include nonphysical "psychological and economic" actions.


You can bet that a primary purpose of International Violence Against Women Act money will be to lobby the U.S. Senate for ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women so that its U.N. monitoring committee can force U.S. compliance with feminist goals. That agenda includes everything from requiring unlimited abortion rights to rewriting schoolbooks to eliminate so-called "stereotypes" and gender-specific references.

Wow, Phyllis, paranoid much?

Curious as to what the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women could possibly have to do with unlimited abortion rights and schoolbook rewritings--indeed, with the dreaded "forced compliance with feminist goals" (more radical agendas emanating from the famous Feminazi Cooter, I bet!)--I decided to go to the source and read for myself what the United Nations is going on about as it begins the 51st session of the UN’s women’s commission this week (my bolds):

Much work remains to be done before goals of gender equality – and their resulting positive impact on primary-school enrolment, maternal mortality rates and women’s economic independence – are reached, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General told the opening of the 51st session of the UN’s women’s commission today.

“Most egregiously, violence against women and girls remains pervasive – perpetrated by family members, strangers and agents of the State in all regions of the world, in the public and private spheres, in peacetime and during conflict,” warned Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, the highest-ranking woman in the Organization.


“Let me…encourage the Commission to take bold steps to improve the lives of girls everywhere,” said Ms. Migiro, herself a mother of two girls. Several girls have been invited to share their experiences with the Commission during its session at UN Headquarters.

In 2005, Member States found that, at the 10-year mark of the landmark 2005 Beijing Platform for Action, an extensive blueprint for promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls, the goal of fully protecting girls had not been realized. Girls remained at high risk of being sexually abused and sexually exploited and trafficked for commercial purposes.


“Ending this pandemic will require our individual and collective commitment,” Ms. Migiro said, listing several possible ways to solve the problem. “It will require us to create an environment where such violence is not tolerated; to work for the full implementation of existing legal norms and policies; to make focused efforts to prosecute and punish perpetrators; to dedicate sufficient resources; and to fully involve men and boys in changing stereotypical attitudes and behaviour.

No mention of altering schoolbooks and building rows of abortion clinics. There are, however, plenty of initiatives in the UN's proposals that deserve the support of every nation, including the United States.

Schlafly, like all good conservative talking-point-spewers, wants people to worry about all the money--feminist pork, as she terms it--that America will be pouring into this dreadful, heartless effort to improve the lives of women and girls all over the world. And she points out that many of the countries who are discussing it have--*gasp*--horrible women's rights records themselves, as though that should disqualify them from trying to work toward gender equality:

All these countries are eligible to sit on the convention's monitoring committee of 23 "experts" who monitor "progress" and order compliance. All U.N. projects to improve the lot of women follow the feminist model: Break up the family, force women into the work force, and send kids to day care.

Again with the paranoia! This time, Schlafly invokes the dreaded break-up-the-family and force-women-to-work anti-feminism chestnuts. As if Schlafly herself were not a working woman. As if mothers all over the world were not, by definition, working like maniacs, whether it's in an office, a house, a field, or a battlefield.

Then, Schlafly's pièce de résistance (warning: swallow your coffee before reading):

U.S. women are the most privileged class of people on the face of the earth. That's because we are the beneficiaries of the Judeo-Christian civilization, including the requirement in the Ten Commandments to honor mothers and the Christian religion that honors the Virgin Mary and respects women.

Ah, no. U.S. women may be among the luckiest women on earth, but they're certainly not the most privileged class of people to walk on its surface. According to the US Census Bureau, women in America are hampered by higher poverty rates and lower earnings than men. And, according to the National Organization for Women, women here are 10 times more likely than men to be victimized by someone known to them, and young women, women who are separated, divorced or single, low-income women and African-American women are the victims of violence and sexual assault in even more disproportionate numbers, as are gay women and men.

And as for this "privilege" of American women having come about courtesy of the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of American culture (not, as Schlafly implies, law), I'd remind her that both religions, along with some other ones, too, were practiced in the country for quite a long while before American women were even afforded the same right to vote as men--in 1920--and that this came about not through theocratic mandate, but rather, because the nation's feminists fought, and fought hard, for it.

Just as the nation's feminists today will continue to fight, and fight hard, for the rights of women and girls both here and abroad. To sneeringly belittle such efforts--to call them feminist pork--when there are towering slaughterhousefuls of Republican-supplied pork currently filling the coffers of war profiteers and disappearing by the billions--by the ton!--in Iraq...well, I'd say such anti-woman nastiness was unbecoming of a lady, but I suppose one has to consider the source.

Also at Shakes' place.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunshine, Cigar Boxes, And Semi-Automatics

The first thing I noticed about this country was the abundance of neon that sprouted along her streets. There wasn't a big Welcome To The Land of Opportunity sign on the wall in the Customs and Immigration enclosure at Miami International Airport, but once we headed into the city (today, it's more likely someone would head through Miami on his way to one of its supersprawled suburbs, neighborhoods, or sub-cities), I couldn't take my eyes off the vivid garden of commerce that grew all around, its long-stemmed offers of hamburgers and pizza and twenty-eight flavors all reaching toward the searing sunlight.

I tasted this new place America through a car window, with my eyes. We would live here now, here in this very bright hothouse with its asphalt floors and headache colors. I would eat and sleep here; one day, I would be all grown up and work here. It was at once thrilling and terrifying.

While in high school (population: 4,500), I was no different than most immigrants--or, for that matter, most high school students, native-born and otherwise--in that I held a number of part-time jobs. I babysat, of course. I sold nail polish and lipstick at a tiny discount drug store on U.S. 1. I rang up piles of forty-nine-cent undies and two-dollar plastic bracelets at one of the many department stores that stood along the same highway, competing for the same customers.

I continued to work at these Miami-based McJobs, as they'd appropriately be termed today, even after I started college at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The aforementioned department store was kind enough to hire me for the duration of my two-week Christmas break, putting me behind the gift-wrap desk with a pair of scissors and several hubcap-sized rolls of ribbon.

As for the rewards for my labor, I spent the most obvious ones--all those light-blue or green paychecks with their attached breakdowns of what was deducted and why--within weeks (and sometimes days) of having earned them. But the long-lasting remunerations, the real gold I'd still have my hands on all these years later, were the exposure to, and immersion in, the real, unvarnished modi operandi of free enterprise. And nowhere was that immersion technique more intensely, colorfully, or memorably realized than at my first serious (read: moneymaking) job in America: as a server at The Uprising (not its real name), a members-only nightclub that in a few years would be widely rumored to be the inspiration behind the Champagne-soaked, bullet-strewn playground of Scarface fame, The Babylon.

I was halfway through my junior year and tired of living in a tiny dorm room; if I earned enough money while living at home in Miami for a semester, I reasoned, I could afford my share of a real, honest-to-goodness apartment when I returned to Gainesville later that spring. I applied at The Uprising one rainy afternoon.

"And you are how old?" asked Freddie, one of the club's two evening managers.

"Nineteen," I replied.

"Why do you want to work here? I mean, you don't have to lie and say you want to make a career out of serving dinner. I know you won't be here in ten years," he said. "I just like to hear what's in people's heads."

I felt a little thrown, as I'd already prepared a pat statement in my head, something to the effect of, I see myself eventually moving from food and liquor service to marketing, helping The Uprising become one of Miami's premier hotspots...which, of course, it already was.

"I'm a student. I'd like to live in a nicer place when I'm in school, and I'm here because I understand that if I work hard, I can make a lot of money," I said. When in doubt, dazzle them with honesty.

"You will need to take a lie-detector test," said Freddie. "If that comes back okay, you can start next Monday night."


It was raining again when I drove to an office park in north Miami and parked my apple-green Volkswagen in front of a neon sign that read Miami Security Associates, Inc. in loopy script. There were no windows in the building, only an enormous metal door that hurt my knuckles when I knocked on it. A blond man in a white oxford shirt and jeans led me in and offered me a seat next to the contraption that, for the next hour, would judge my truthfulness.

"I'm Kevin. Ever taken one of these?" he asked. "It's kind of fun, really. Doesn't hurt." He began winding cables around my waist and taping wires to my fingertips. "I'll ask you some routine stuff to establish your reactions, and then we'll go through the stuff that The Uprising wants, and then you'll go home. Okay?"

Kevin started by asking for my name. The machine reminded me of a seismograph, with its chugging paper-tape and hovering pens. Apparently, my own name made me nervous, as the simple act of saying it out loud while tethered to a machine resulted in wild ink zig-zags.

"It's cool, it's cool," he mumbled. There were more questions, lots of boring ones. Where was I born, how old was I, what was my middle name, what was my favorite ice-cream? And, had I ever stolen anything?

I replied with a question: "Do you mean from a person?" I was stalling, in a sense, because I hadn't ever stolen anything from a store, not even the proverbial pack of gum, but I might have, at some point in my past, inadvertently brought home the gym clothes of another classmate; this would technically be stealing. And I wanted to acknowledge this, lest the machine unleash its deep insight into my thieving self, its red zig-zags proclaiming me a liar on the spot.

"Not stolen from a store, no, and never stolen anything from anyone on purpose," I added. "I'm really honest. Really."

"Don't worry, I can tell," said Kevin, and we both laughed. "Ever take drugs?"

"Um..." I stalled again.

"Okay, not booze or pot, I mean hard stuff like heroin, coke..."

"No," I answered, as relieved to be moving past that question as most college students would be. "No, no."

"What about firearms--do you own one?"

"No," I said, wondering what firearms could possibly have to do with the serving of cocktails and lobster to wealthy Miamians.

"Ever smuggled anything into the country?"


"Ever got a speeding ticket?"


"What is your favorite kind of candy?"


Servers at The Uprising, all of whom were female, were expected to show up for work in semi-formal evening attire with some sort of dress hat pinned to their heads so as to distinguish them from the club's similarly-dressed guests. And since it was 1980, "evening attire" often meant some variation of disco-wear, like the sparkly black spandex jeans and purple-feathered chapeau worn by Lena, my mentor for the first week. Lena showed me around the little work area where some of the girls were already chopping lemons, pouring cream into tiny pitchers, and constructing cherry-and-pineapple garnishes for the night's cocktails.

"When you get here, you can start in on anything that needs doing," she said. "Once the guests start arriving, there's never any time, so we try to get it out of the way now."

Lena showed me around the club. It was smaller and cozier than I'd imagined, more like a dark living room than a restaurant. Certainly its leather-flanked nooks and caves were considerably more low-key than the descriptions I'd heard, all of which entailed blinding lights, deafening disco music, and money flowing as freely and sweetly as twenty-one-year-old Scotch--a place where a good waitress or bartender can make serious money in no time flat. I looked around for a moment and wondered about that: was it all just rumor and hyperbole, as was so often the case with so much in Miami?

By seven that evening, though, the club had found its vibe, as it would, and did, every night of the week. Couples began to pour in, lights dimmed, and corks popped. Soon the music started, and within minutes, the Plexiglas dance floor that was wedged into the room's northeast corner came alive with color, its neon arteries flashing beneath and keeping time. Lena led me to one of the larger nooks, where one of her regular customers was being seated.

"That's Alberto," she said. "We will take very good care of him."

Alberto was a heavy-set Cuban man with a dark beard; he was accompanied by three giggling, short-skirted women and a serious-faced male friend. Lena kissed everyone hello and pulled a fourth chair over from a nearby table, offering it to one of the women. Alberto's friend stood back, positioning himself against the wall; he would not sit down for the rest of the evening. His name was Jorge, apparently. He would not make eye contact with, nor speak to, anyone other than his boss.

With Lena's help, I opened and poured bottle after bottle of Dom Pérignon; I served Ceasar salads and filets mignon and enormous Maine lobsters erupting crabmeat and brandied cream; and I brought several glasses of Johnny Walker Black on the rocks from the bar, where I'd already made friends with Sam, an art student at Florida International and a fellow Monty Python wonk.

"Alberto's here again, huh?" he said when I requested the third such cocktail. "Though pretty much everyone drinks this, you'll find. But it's Monday, and there aren't too many people who can put away this much Scotch on a weeknight." He drained the bottle and slipped its nozzle onto a new, full one. "You'll have fun here. You'll make good money."

So I had heard. But thus far, Lena and I had waited on exactly one party.

By three in the morning, though, I'd served a few other tables and opened another half-dozen bottles of Champagne. Alberto and his crew were beginning to look restless, but they hadn't asked for the check. I was certain it would be outrageous, well into the hundreds of dollars; Lena informed me that the two grand Alberto spent that night was nothing compared to some of his weekend expenditures, indeed, nothing compared to the bankrolls through which some of the club's other guests regularly burned.

"Now we take care of everyone," she said, dividing up the piles of bills we'd been stashing in a cigar box all night. We tipped Sam, because he always made our guests' drinks first, even when there were a dozen young bucks standing at the bar, wanting their Scotch. We slipped a few dollars to Ernie, the souffle chef. We took care of Joe, our busboy.

"Gracias, ladies. You okay? You look tired," he said.

"Oh yes, very tired, thank you. My feet..."

"Foot rubs tomorrow, then," said Joe. I wasn't sure if I'd be back tomorrow; I was, however, fairly certain that my parents wouldn't approve of my new, late-night schedule.


It wasn't hard to find interesting headwear if you knew where to look; like several of my college friends, I was pretty adept at combing local thrift stores and estate sales and coming up with things of interest, in this case, little cocktail hats to wear to work. The evening outfits themselves were problematic, though. They had to meet a certain subjective standard of allure and sexiness as set forth by the club's assistant manager (and style arbiter) Michelle, but they also had to be demure enough that I could walk out to my car without causing my father to demand Where on earth, What on earth? thus necessitating high-heel removals, makeup-scrubbings, cleavage-coverups, and other time-consuming wardrobe revisions.

January blew into February, by which point I had figured out where all the cash was coming from. Certainly I knew where it was going, at least, I knew where my small fraction of it was going. I had my own cigar box, now, given to me by Rafael The Wine Guy at the end of my third night.

"Para las propinas," he said. For the tips. I had just given him his propina. Later I'd see Sam, then Joe.

On an average night, my propinas added up to about $250 (the purchasing power of which, in '06 dollars, is roughly $600). But there weren't too many average nights at The Uprising. More often than not, the club was a scene in every sense of the word.

"You own a gun?" said Tommy, the bouncer who came in on Friday and Satuday nights. It seemed everyone wanted to know if I was armed, though I've yet to arrive at a definitive reason as to why people asked me that so often, preferring to pass it off as small-talk, Miami style, since talking about the ever-steamy, always-blistering heat had probably fallen out of fashion decades ago.

"No. Do you?"

"Don't need one," he said, moving his eyes leftward to alert me to yet another bodyguard walking in ahead of his employer.

"I guess not. Do you ever have to, you know, get tough with anyone?"

"Sure. Oh, sure. Not too often, but it happens."


Miami being Miami, its strange treatment of time being something else altogether, the weekend dinner hour extended past midnight, overlapping the disco hour that had started around nine. This meant you had be good at weaving nimbly through the twisting crush of tightly-packed suits and spandex dresses, holding trays of food aloft and warning people in as loud a voice as you could muster:

"HOT food! Caliente, caliente, coming through!"

One night, I attempted to carry two heavy platters of Fettucine Alfredo across the room, stretching both arms overhead--a determined lady Atlas in a black velvet beret. One of the rowdier guests, a wobblingly drunk young man, decided to challenge my efforts.

"¡Que tetas mas ricas!" he said, groping at the fitted black bodysuit that had somehow escaped parental notice when I left home earlier, grabbing hold of my chest like a toddler trying to steady himself. What nice tits! I suppose I could have resorted to the time-honored self-defense move of kicking him in the groin. But I didn't: my reflexes called my hands into action first, despite the twin Vesuviuses of pasta they currently held. Pasta that was abundant and sticky--at once face-framing and suit-ruining--but thankfully not scalding hot. In a moment, Tommy was there, lifting the man by his armpits and hauling him over to the staircase, where he would begin his rolling, bumping descent toward the ground floor lobby, trailing bits of fettucine as he went.

I would have to explain to my table that their entrees were slightly delayed. But everything would be okay: I'd been tutoring Joe in Spanish, and he was friends with the pasta chef, who'd see to it that my re-order was done immediately. And I'd throw a few bucks at the dessert chef, who'd slip me a couple of chocolate mousses off-ticket, A little something from me to make up for the delay, Sir. Would you and Madame care for some bubbly to enjoy with the mousse? I highly recommend the Perrier Jouët...

The Uprising's guests were fascinating, some of them almost indescribably so. There were the big bosses like Alberto, obviously--they always had their bodyguards with them and usually traveled with at least two female companions (and usually more). There were the party-girls, cocaine-fueled and thus chatty and fidgety, more interested in dancing and running to the ladies' rooms than having conversations with their dates, who may or may not have been their boyfriends, at least not every night. There were older Miami couples decked out in the finery of another era; they'd been dining at sunset, ordering Negronis and Manhattans beforehand and Sanka afterwards, long before the new waves of riches washed into Miami (and they usually left before the thumping din of Michael Jackson started up and obliterated conversation). And standing around everywhere were the bodyguards themselves, young men of generally sound mind and body, invariably armed (perhaps the big bumps on their lower backs made sitting down uncomfortable).

Then there were the performers. There were interpretive dancers, a handsome French couple who performed on Saturday nights. She was usually topless; he was usually accompanied by a large python. And there was a petite and impressively dexterous gentleman known only as Flaming Coffee: if your guests wanted something extra-special for dessert, you'd have the hostess call him down (he lived in the hotel above the club), and Mr. Coffee would arrive, wearing four-inch-long rhinestone earrings and one of the many lamé djellabahs he owned. He'd set up a little gilt table and proceed to pour hot streams of coffee and liquor back and forth between two cups, eventually igniting them and creating an indoor fireworks display that would probably be illegal today (and, like much else at the club, probably was then).


I put off resigning from my job at The Uprising until the last possible moment, mainly because I felt guilty for leaving when I'd been given such a high-paying opportunity despite my youth and inexperience (and clean polygraph). Furthermore, in just three months, this job had granted me experience, the range and magnitude and usefulness of which would only begin to sink in years later. I had learned how to multi-task and work in a noisy, pressurized environment; I had learned how to make souffle from Ernie, the lovely elderly African chef; I'd learned that not all wines were sickly-sweet, and indeed, that most of the good ones were anything but; I could mix every cocktail under the sun; I'd mastered the art of eavesdropping in English while speaking in Spanish; I'd sung Feliz Cumpleaños often enough to have deep-sixed my persistent stage fright once and for all; I'd learned the value of reciprocal back-scratching, both in the literal and figurative sense.

"You are going back to school?" Alberto was holding one of my hands in two of his. "I'm so sad! You must come back!"

"I might, I might...I have to take classes through the summer and fall, but maybe I'll be back this time next year," I said, knowing that this was most likely untrue, and that I probably wouldn't see him again.

"I like you, I always like you, my friend," said Alberto. "Here, my number at home and at the office. You keep, and you ever need help--any reason, anything--you call me. Okay?"

I took Alberto's card and put it in my pocket.

(Also at Ezra's place.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

PTSD: Treating The Numbers, Not The Soldiers

According to the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs--as its information page reads this morning, at least--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as:

An anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. A traumatic event is a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time.

Insofar as the government's asserts, some 60% of men and 50% of women (overall, both military and civilian) experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Assuming, of course, that all traumatic events are reported or somehow noted--which of course they aren't--one can still be forgiven for being alarmed that such a staggeringly high number of human beings are at risk for developing PTSD. And of course, many human beings do heal on their own, handling trauma in ways that don't threaten the safety and well-being of themselves and those around them; they work through the shock, terror, grief, flashbacks, and sense of needing to be on guard at all times, and with time and support, they return to a point where they can sleep a reasonably normal length of time without waking from re-enactment nightmares or go to a noisy, crowded place without feeling overcome by irrational waves of fear or violent urges.

For far too many who've witnessed war's indescribable tragedies firsthand, though, the notion of healing is itself a phantom concept, a dream. From The Real Cost Of War (currently at Playboy Online):

Burgoyne had been brought into the hospital by one of the other soldiers in his unit after he had been found doubled over in his bunk, having tried to kill himself with an overdose of antidepressants. The attempted suicide, plus the lack of expression in his eyes and his "rapid cycling behavior" from rage to grief and back to rage, were the symptoms of a dangerously ill man. Koroll sensed he was looking at a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder, the clinical term for someone who continues to experience trauma long after the event has passed. This reexperiencing of the original event can take the form of insomnia, flashbacks, paranoia, panic attacks, emotional numbness and violent outbursts.

These symptoms are treatable, Koroll knew. If he could transfer Burgoyne to a safe, comforting environment, the young man might be restored over time to full health and capacity. That meant getting the soldier out of the dusty chaos of the Kuwaiti Army base, where he was temporarily stationed after a bloody tour in Iraq, and sending him to a hospital in Germany where he could rest on clean white sheets in a quiet room in a first-class psychiatric facility.

It was Koroll's job as the on-duty nurse to make the decision about whether to evacuate Burgoyne. He was ready to do it based on what he'd seen. But he needed to ask one final question before he could order the evac in good conscience.

"So," Koroll said, "right now, at this moment, do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others?"

Burgoyne, he remembers, looked up through those flat, vacant eyes and said quite clearly, "Yeah. Yeah, I do."

Koroll picked up the soldier's chart and wrote in a clear hand, "Evac."


As it turns out, Burgoyne had not been evacuated to Germany as Koroll had ordered. According to Koroll, a colonel in Burgoyne's command pressured the hospital to allow Burgoyne to return to America with his unit, the Third Infantry Division, which was to be one of the first units lionized for its heroism in leading the fight north to Baghdad. "He's a hero. He should be with his men" is how Koroll remembers the explanation coming down to him. After he returned to Georgia, Burgoyne, according to his mother, spent a few minutes in an Army hospital, spoke briefly to an Army psychiatrist and then was released from medical supervision. Exactly two days later Burgoyne attacked a fellow soldier in the woods near Fort Benning, Georgia, killing him with 32 stab wounds from a three-inch blade and then burning his body with lighter fluid, because, as he explained at his subsequent murder trial, "that's how we disposed of bodies in Iraq."

Sadly, this story is not unique, but rather, is representative of the frighteningly under-reported problem of PTSD. More troubling than the fact that this serious anxiety disorder--and its devastating effects and costs--is shamefully under-reported in the media is the reality that it is all too often underreported within the Unites States military. Underreported, minimized, ignored, misdiagnosed, and, most frighteningly, untreated (my bolds).

Given the inevitability of psychological scarring in intense, prolonged conflicts, it is odd that the two bureaucracies most responsible for the mental health of American troops -- the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense -- have taken steps to downplay the psychological toll of the war. According to sources I spoke to in the Pentagon and former officials in the VA, DOD and VA doctors are being pressured to limit diagnoses of PTSD in order to save the military money and manpower. The DOD's official medical policy toward PTSD was recently amended to include new criteria making it a virtual certainty that many soldiers who exhibit symptoms of the disease will not be diagnosed. And the VA itself has been quietly working to arrive at new, stricter formulations of PTSD -- contradicting those of the American Psychiatric Association -- that would allow the agency to diagnose far fewer cases.

"Some people would argue that it's malicious and intentional, but to me it's a reflection of the military mind-set," says Steve Robinson, a 20-year veteran of the Special Forces who recently became a full-time policy advocate. "The Department of Defense is not a health care provider. It couldn't do the right thing if it wanted to because of how much money it would cost and how many doctors it would take. It's a matter of capacity. The number of people seeking care versus the number of doctors available to provide that care nationwide across the whole armed services is out of whack."

In the four years since Koroll's diagnosis of the young soldier was ignored, the anti-PTSD-diagnosis movement (for lack of a better phrase) within the military has grown, as evidenced by, among other things, the hard numbers. The Department of Defense (DOD) reports diagnosing approximately 2,000 cases of PTSD a year, but according to a study by Army researchers that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, PTSD rates are between 10 and 15 percent for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan; this translates to PTSD cases numbering between 13,000 and 20,000. (The study also notes, disturbingly, that only 23-40% of those veterans diagnosed with anxiety disorders and other psychological afflictions even seek treatement.) And according to figures obtained after repeated requests by Playboy, the evacuation rates for PTSD-afflicted soldiers--for example, those from January to July 2006, showing only 716 soldiers evacuated from Iraq for PTSD--fall well below the predictions of statistical models. As reporter Mark Boal notes:

If the military diagnosed even half the cases in Iraq and Afghanistan that are thought to exist, the evacuation figures would be closer to 5,000 a year.

For their part, military officials deny any attempt to minimize or underplay the impact and magnitude of the situation. This despite published forecasts that the cost of America's current involvement in the Middle East will soar beyond even the stratospherically high numbers around which most of us have just begun to wrap our heads; this despite officials having gone on record with--and been roundly criticized for--statements like that of Pentagon undersecretary David Chu, in a January 25, 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan badly straining its forces, the Pentagon is facing an awkward problem: Military retirees and their families are absorbing billions of dollars that military leaders would rather use to help troops fighting today.

Congress, pressured by veterans groups, has in recent years boosted military pensions, health insurance and benefits for widows of retirees. Internal Pentagon documents forecast that the lawmakers' generosity since 1999 will force the federal government to find about $100 billion over the next six years to cover the new benefits.

"The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation's ability to defend itself," says David Chu, the Pentagon's undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

As I read the profoundly upsetting Playboy article referenced throughout this post, I thought about my freshman economics class at Florida, which was taught by one very entertaining and sharp-witted professor named Dr. Denslow. "Guns and butter," he said one day, actually plunking a box of unsalted butter sticks alongside a plastic toy grenade-launcher on his lecturn. "Guns and butter. The money stays the same, so how are you going to spend it--on guns, or on butter?"

Bombs or bodies? Mines or minds? Futilities or futures?

(Also at Ezra's place.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bogus Pomp Plays Tonight

If you're a Zappa fan living anywhere near the central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to hop in your car and head over to the St. Pete Garage Bar in St. Petersburg (of course) tonight for an acoustic show by the brilliant Bogus Pomp, featuring Jerry Outaw. From what I've been able to determine, the show begins at 8:00pm, but I would call the venue (727.553.9212) to verify that, since I've seen different times and even dates (!) posted at various spots around the Web.

On the other hand, if you're far, far away from our sunny corner of the world--or, like me, simply knocked for six by a nasty, take-no-prisoners variant of the flu--you'll have to be content with a video snippet. Let's see if I can find something good...ah-HA! Check out this one, in which Jerry accompanies The Persuasions for an acapella version of My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama. It's wonderful.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sono Anche Spartacus

I am Spartacus. Via BlueGal and Driftglass, and in support of Shakes. If you have a blog, stand with us and be Spartacus too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Church, State, Freedom and Hate

In order to be elected to the office of President in this country, it seems, one must at the very least profess to be a Christian (if not actually believe in one's heart of hearts, as I suspect is the case with some politicians) and at that, one needs to be a member of one of the subtypes of Christianity deemed "mainstream" and therefore acceptable.

It matters not if one actually implements the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Old Testament in one's life. I would point to those presidents whose decidedly un-Christian acts are varied and many. Regardless of whether we're talking about adultery, state-sanctioned murder (capital punishment and bombing/invading a sovereign state come immediately to mind), lying, coveting neighbors' goods (oil), and so on, ad infinitum--as long as one professes allegiance to the Almighty, one's words are more important than one's actual deeds.

It was always my understanding that the Founding Fathers set out to establish a government that was separate from religion, one that was required by its very Constitution to remain so. More than two centuries later, though, the majority religion continues to dominate politics, most saliently, the process of getting elected president.

This is not progress.

I fully support the right of every single human being to believe and worship as he or she sees fit. But the teaching of one religion does not belong in our public schools, and the interpretations of religious text by some--even if "some" happens to be a majority--do not belong in our government at any level.

When these interpretations--and that's exactly what they are: interpretations--of the Bible are used to shape policy, we are in big trouble. That is why so many of us have spoken out--we don't want government telling us what we should believe and how we should run our private, personal lives or how we should use our private, personal bodies. Not because we "hate" religion, but because we revere freedom.

Which was the point of getting away from England's church-state imbroglios in the first place, wasn't it? Or are we going to continue to allow extremists to attack the very heart and soul of that which gave rise to this country--freedom?

America is young--a gangly teenager in World-years--and it's for that reason alone that I have hope she will mature and evolve. There's always hope. One has to cling to that.

In comments at Ezra's place ; also at Shakes, Pushing Rope.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ah, Don't Feed The Trolls

Allow Frank Zappa to do it for you:

Maybe you should stay with yo' mama--
She could do your laundry 'n' cook for you.

Maybe you should stay with yo' mama;

You're really kinda stupid 'n ugly too.

And you should never smoke in pajamas:

You might start a fire 'n' burn yer face.

Maybe you'll return to Managua--

You could go unnoticed in such a place.

More Like Corporassionate

Marie-Antoinette says: Mais non, the world is MINE!

You can't make this stuff up (my bolds):

Okay, his interviewer said mildly, but what he'd really wanted to know was how (George W.) Bush Republicans would be defined, and what images the phrase "Bush Republican" might summon for future generations.

And suddenly, it was 2000 again; Mr. Bush did not mention 9/11 or the global war on terror, Iraq or Afghanistan, Saddam or bin Laden: "Compassionate conservatism" was his legacy, he declared, and referred to the faith-based initiatives we haven't heard much about in subsequent years. "I made a name by being compassionate."

(To learn more about this cornerstone of the Bush years, I referred to the White House website, where I learned that key accomplishments in this area in 2006 include a pilot program that houses 141 homeless veterans in Chicago. Additionally, North Dakota became the first state to fully implement an extended web-based service referral system, and centers for faith-based and community initiatives hosted 110 grant-writing workshops around the country.)

A new Bush-inspired adjective is herewith submitted by litbrit for your approval:

Corporassionate [adj.] Having or showing compassion for, or being sympathetic toward, large corporations, esp. those with histories of making huge campaign contributions and/or supplying one with amenities. i.e. use of corporate jet, golfing trips, gambling parties, donuts and prostitutes.

(via Melinda Henneberger at HuffPo)

Also at Shakes' place.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

On The Cooler Shades Of Escape

"Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The old man will get us through" they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!" . . .

"Not so fast! You're driving too fast!" said Mrs. Mitty. "What are you driving so fast for?"

"Hmm?" said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. "You were up to fifty-five," she said. "You know I don't like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five." Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind.

From The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber.

Fiction is where I go to escape. And because this mode of mind-transport is wildly affordable, considering the distance it sometimes takes you, I'll gladly hop on board a short story or novella given the slightest excuse; when time permits, which is far less often than I'd like, I'll set our for the longer journeys offered by novels and epics and series. Long or short, though, if the story is going to succeed in transporting me from the chaos and vicissitudes of a given day to a thoroughly engrossing parallel narrative, the visuals and voiceovers of which I'll be supplying myself, it absolutely has to be more interesting and dynamic--or, at least, more elegantly scripted and suffused with enlightenment--than any real-life drama unfolding around me.

I need my Mitty moments as much as the next person, and reading fiction has provided me with the neuronal armature for many a hastily-built, sanity-preserving fantasy. I also feel for the Walters of the world, in no small part because I am one myself.

Finding such stories--ones that engage your empathy, ones that fuel your imagination--is easier said than done, however, even when you know exactly what title you're seeking. In the large chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, literary fiction--particularly novels by authors who are new, or who, despite their magic ways with words, might be described as terminally or even marginally obscure--seems to be banished to the uppermost, furthermost shelves. While you'll see a few of the classics in prominent piles here and there, and the odd newly-published work of literary fiction will sometimes enjoy a short stay on one of the tables in the middle aisle, it's a fair bet that when the next drop-shipment of diet tomes or Chick Lit arrives, those books belonging to the more complicated and untidy (and fuchsia-free) category of Literary Fiction--or, as Oscar the Grouch would say, anything dirty or dingy or dusty; anything ragged or rotten or rusty--will invariably get whisked away to one of the wall units in the back.

As a respected literary agent recently told me, "In the past year, we've only sold one literary fiction manuscript."

This is awfully discouraging for someone who loves a good story, more so when she aspires to write and publish one herself. A work of literary fiction can sometimes take years to form in your mind and make its way onto the page, and the process of imagining, writing, and assembling a story is at once thrilling and exhausting. Always, it's a gestation, an enormous investment of mind and soul. You dream big dreams for your creation. You don't want it to stay in its incubator indefinitely; you want to see it strong and healthy, running around in the sunshine and making friends.

And if you're realistic, you know you're facing a battle steeper than any library ladder. Because, as columnist Maureen Dowd lamented this week, publishers have decided that girls just want to read fun:

Suddenly I was swimming in pink. I turned frantically from display table to display table, but I couldn’t find a novel without a pink cover. I was accosted by a sisterhood of cartoon women, sexy string beans in minis and stilettos, fashionably dashing about book covers with the requisite urban props — lattes, books, purses, shopping bags, guns and, most critically, a diamond ring.

Was it a Valentine’s Day special?

No, I realized with growing alarm, chick lit was no longer a niche. It had staged a coup of the literature shelves.

Chick Lit, it seems, is the new Beach Read. Certainly Florida's airports have been filled with such offerings for years, the idea being that you buy your beach read on the way to baggage claim and try not to read the whole thing on your way to the hotel.

Years ago, I purchased, and finished in its entirety, the novel Bridget Jones's Diary while waiting to take a flight to New York. The book was indeed funny here and there, and its heroine was perfectly agreeable, weighted down with all the expected flaws as she was. Still, I was hoping for the kind of story that takes your very awareness into custody, that obliterates superficial travel-related annoyances like claustrophobia and olfactory overload. But I wasn't transported, I wasn't engaged, and I felt little empathy for the lovelorn Bridget because the narrative followed such well-traveled paths--pink ones, if you will--and I sensed all along that my participation as image-generator and voiceover had been as carefully, tritely scripted as the narrative itself. And as most sugary things tend to do, it left me feeling sticky, self-indulgent, and oddly empty. Not empathetic, enlightened, and possessed of greater social acumen--things that, according to a recent University of Toronto, Department of Psychology study entitled Bookworms Versus Nerds, correlate positively with the reading of fiction:

Comprehending characters in a narrative fiction appears to parallel the comprehension of peers in the actual world, while the comprehension of expository non-fiction shares no such parallels. Frequent fiction readers may thus bolster or maintain their social abilities unlike frequent readers of non-fiction. Lifetime exposure to fiction and non-fiction texts was examined along with performance on empathy/social-acumen measures. In general, fiction print-exposure positively predicted measures of social ability, while non-fiction print-exposure was a negative predictor. The tendency to become absorbed in a story also predicted empathy scores.

This would appear to be a sound conclusion, though you could argue that empathetic, socially-engaged people might be more likely to prefer, and seek out, fiction in the first place.

As to the issue of Chick Lit, or Beach Reads 2: The Pinkening, I can only offer my own subjective observations. Which is to say, when I'm stuck in horrible traffic and the boys are waging internecine feuds in the back seat of the Good Ship Entropy, my escape fantasies tend to resemble a scene in a John LeCarre spy thriller. Or an ethereal dream sequence from another place and time, à la Amy Tan; a shocking moral conundrum set forth by Margaret Atwood for me to solve; a bitingly funny passage from one of Martin Amis's efforts to recite in the brain for the sheer semantic pleasure of it. Now there's the stuff of true escape: literary fiction.

To publishers everywhere, I'll say this: I'm certainly not going to fantasize about shopping or dark, handsome men, the former of which seems too much like the near-daily hunting and gathering of groceries I have to do anyway; the latter of which, having got me into this mess to begin with, will more likely than anything trigger a real-life fight-or-flight response in my brain stem.

Also at Ezra's place.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Heavenly Bank Account

Have I ever mentioned that I am a huge fan of Frank Zappa? Well, let me get that out of the way right now: Frank Zappa was a capital-G Genius. I promise you, as the years pass, more and more people will recognize his extraordinary talent as a musician, composer, and social critic. And, like me, they will wish he was still here among us to offer his incisive and witty take on matters political and religious (to name just a few of Frank's, ah, areas of interest).

Surprisingly few Americans have ever heard Frank's work beyond the handful of songs that made it onto mainstream radio, like the 1982 hit Valley Girl. But the man left a body of stunning music behind him--music that, more often than not, defies categorization; music that traverses from rock to jazz to classical, sometimes within the same piece--and it was on Frank's virtuoso compositions that many brilliant artists cut their teeth. Guitar wizard Steven Vai and drummer Terry Bozzio spring immediately to mind.

And oh, what fun Frank would have today. It's highly likely he'd have some sort of presence in the blogosphere (can you imagine?!), and he'd undoubtedly have plenty to say about the current free speech and church/state issues swirling around a certain candidate and the progressive, pro-women views of his recently hired bloggers.

Come to think of it, Frank was always a forward-thinker. You know what? This 1981 Zappa song actually crystallizes things quite nicely (be sure to listen carefully to the lyrics).

There's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over...

Cheers, Frank.

Lessons Of A Losing Streak

In his Op-Ed at the International Tribune yesterday, former CIA official Milt Bearden (Pakistan 1986-89) makes an excellent point about the wars of the past century, namely, that the countries who started all the major ones wound up losing them. Herewith, the piece in its entirety (bolds mine):

WASHINGTON: As the drumbeat for war with Iran grows more insistent, the search for a "casus belli" compelling enough to calm a newly assertive Congress and convince an increasingly questioning American public intensifies. Themes of justification for such a war fluctuate between fears of a nuclear-armed Tehran and the "smoking gun" of Iranian involvement in America's misadventure in Iraq.

But before Americans get sent off to a third war in a Muslim country, it is worth recalling that in the past century, no nation that has started a major war has ended up winning it. Moreover, in the last 50 years, no nationalist-based insurgency against a foreign occupation has lost — a lesson that I learned personally when, beginning in 1986, I found myself in Pakistan, managing the CIA effort to aid Afghan resistance fighters battling Soviet troops.

This point is best illustrated by looking at the wars the Cold War enemies waged by proxy in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

When the North Koreans attacked South Korea in June 1950, the United States found itself at war. From the outset, the North Koreans received aid from China and combat advisers from the Soviet Union. But all external players in that war — the United States, the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communists — understood that direct confrontation between them was to be avoided. When President Harry Truman's commander in Korea, General Douglas MacArthur, decided to go against the new "rules" by calling for air strikes against China in 1951, Truman refused, concerned that such action could bring the Soviet Union into the war. When MacArthur publicly criticized the president's decision, Truman fired him. America lost more than 40,000 dead in Korea in a proxy war with the Soviet Union and China.

The same rules applied in Southeast Asia, where the supply lines to the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong had their origins in China and the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that there was a Soviet or Chinese hand in American casualties, Washington never seriously considered striking back at either nation. America lost more than 58,000 killed in Vietnam in its continuing proxy battle with China and the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, the tables were turned. President Jimmy Carter ordered the CIA to provide assistance to the Afghan resistance, who were fighting Soviet forces with little more than their trusty Enfield rifles. The CIA organized a coalition that included Britain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the People's Republic of China — yes, the Chinese were only too happy this time around to provide the ordnance to kill Soviet troops instead of Americans. Literally every AK-47 round, mortar round, rocket-propelled grenade, or anti-aircraft missile fired at the Soviet forces passed through CIA's pipeline. (Nevertheless, the Soviets — aside from a few sneering threats by KGB officers I ran across in Pakistan — never seriously considered striking back at the external supporters of the Afghan resistance.)

In 1989, the Soviets gave up and withdrew from Afghanistan. They lost over 15,000 troops killed. Two years later their empire was gone.

The rules of proxy warfare that were developed during these conflicts point to another lesson, perhaps the ultimate one regarding America's rising confrontation with Iran: If there has to be war, better let the other side start it.

The Bush administration might dismiss the need to negotiate with Iran's blustering president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over Tehran's nuclear aspirations and the proxy wars it is accused of waging in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. But Washington should nevertheless remember that the modern nation of Iran traces its roots back to ancient Persia and that beneath every Iranian lies a Persian who views his country in the context of "Greater Iran." Even before Rome conquered the Western world, the lands controlled by a series of Persian empires stretched from the Caucasus to the Indus River, a cultural and sometimes political arc that not so long ago contained Iraq and Afghanistan and much, much more.

It is delusional to suggest that Iran would remain a spectator to a foreign invasion of a part of "Greater Iran." Iran's current meddling in the region is a re- asserted Persian version of America's Monroe Doctrine, which unilaterally put the world on notice that outside interference in the affairs of the American hemisphere would not be tolerated.

If the United States is to wage war with Iran it should be for sound reasons, not for some sleight of hand manipulation. Such a war, regardless of how it starts, will most certainly have a bad outcome, just as the current adventure in Iraq can have no good outcome.

The Bush administration, or the one that succeeds it, will ultimately have to start talking with Tehran. If that is inevitable, why not get on with it?

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Have A Dream, Too

Just imagining the quality and magnitude of leadership and intellect such a ticket would deliver almost makes me feel, well, greedy. Definitely hopeful.

Ah well, it's late. To sleep, perchance to dream...

(Via Bruno Giussani at HuffPo, who must be reading my mind these days.)

And It's Not Just The Tip Of The Iceberg, Sadly

The shear face of the massive B-15A iceberg stretches for 150 kms across McMurdo Sound after it broke off the Ross Ice Shelf in Antartica, 2001

This article about recent climate statistics in Britain's The Independent is terribly disheartening (though completely unsurprising):

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest levels for at least 650,000 years and this rise began with the birth of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and, in 2005, concentrations stood at 379 parts per million (ppm). This compares to a pre-industrial level of 278 ppm, and a range over the previous 650,000 years of between 180 and 300 ppm, the report says.

Present levels of carbon dioxide - which continue to rise inexorably each year - are unprecedented for the long period of geological history that scientists are able to analyse from gas samples trapped in the frozen bubbles of deep ice cores.

However, the IPCC points to a potentially more sinister development: the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beginning to accelerate. Between 1960 and 2005 the average rate at which carbon dioxide concentrations increased was 1.4 ppm per year. But when the figures are analysed more closely, it becomes apparent that there has been a recent rise in this rate of increase to 1.9 ppm per year between 1995 and 2005.

It is too early to explain this accelerating increase but one fear is that it may indicate a change in the way the Earth is responding to global warming. In other words, climate feedbacks that accelerate the rate of change may have kicked in.

The IPPC's report points out that, as the planet gets warmer, the natural ability of the land and the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere begins to get weaker.

Then there is this (bolds mine):

A terrifying leap in average global temperatures of 6.4C ­ with higher figures nearer the poles ­ could occur over the next century, according to the most authoritative report yet on global warming.

The rise, which would make agriculture, even life, almost impossible over much of the Earth, was the worst-case scenario envisaged by hundreds of scientists on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They reported yesterday on their three-year study of how temperatures are likely to rise as global warming takes hold.

The "six-degree world" might come about by 2100, the scientists said, if human society carries on with rapid economic growth and high levels of burning fossil fuels ­ coal, oil and gas ­ which emit the carbon dioxide causing the atmosphere to warm. Their worst case was worse than that suggested in the previous IPCC report, published in 2001, when the highest rise envisaged by the end of the century was 5.8C.


Besides the temperature rises it predicts, yesterday's report, released in Paris in a media scrum of more than 50 television crews, is noteworthy for the higher level of confidence with which it sets out its case. It will be seen as bringing to an end a 20-year argument about whether or not global warming is happening and whether or not human activities are its cause. These doubts have been used as an excuse for inaction, in particular by George Bush's administration.

It is "unequivocally" happening, the report says, and there is " at least a nine out of ten chance" that human action ­ principally the emission of CO2 from burning fossil fuels ­ is behind it.

As the study has been officially endorsed by the home countries of all the scientists who took part ­ including the US ­ President Bush has nowhere left to go in his attempts to use uncertainty to prevent decisive action. Indeed, the report markedly ups the ante, and will increase pressure on leaders, from Mr Bush down, to combat it together by creating a regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.

Al Gore, sir, we need you to be our next president--now more than ever. I'll even volunteer to design a superhero jersey for you, a green one (of course) with a big CO2-with-a-slash-through-it logo. Tipper can sew you a cape, and the Nobel Prize and Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences juries will supply the accessories.

Run, Al, Run!

(Hat-tip to Michael L. in St. Pete)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Watch The Story CBS Won't (But Should) Air On The Evening News

A journalist friend passes on this email and video link from CBS reporter Lara Logan (I have located the piece on YouTube and posted it directly below). Apparently CBS would not air the piece, though it was a news report by their Senior Correspondent in Baghdad (Ms. Logan). The video details the horrific fighting taking place on Haifa Street, which at the moment is Bloodshed Central. But the story of these sectarian battles, as it turns out--and as the video clearly demonstrates--is muddier and far more worrisome than many Americans might think. For one thing, the Iraqi police are clearly torturing and murdering civilians. And an Iraqi man states at the end that he believes the Americans are to blame, surely a sentiment that is not his alone.

Ms. Logan writes:

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this is taking place every single day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS - about the story - not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.

Here is a link to the video on the CBS website.

You can email CBS here (scroll to the very bottom of the page and click Contact Us).

A courageous journalist does her job. Brava, Lara. May you stay safe while you continue to shine a light into the grim recesses of this very dark war.

Hat tip to Lisa.

UPDATE: Right on cue, right-wing bloggers are questioning the video, suggesting that CBS and/or Lara Logan obtained some of the footage from Al Qaeda itself and that to air it on the news would be tantamount to furthering anti-American propaganda. Michelle Malkin's tone is particularly vituperative (even for her); she spikes her commentary with sarcastic scare quotes and leads the post with what must be the only unflattering photograph of the attractive Ms. Logan in existence. CBS responds to Ms. Malkin et. al. on its own blog (bolds mine):

I asked CBS News Vice President Paul Friedman about the video.

"I can assure you this was not from Al-Qaeda," said Friedman, who declined to identify the source. "Whenever we can identify the source of information or video, we want to do that," he added. "There are some rare cases when we have to protect the source. In this case, we needed to do so, because it’s literally a matter of life and death."

"The fact that same video shows up in more than one place is something that happens every day," said CBS News spokeswoman Sandra Genelius. "We occasionally use video from an Al-Qaeda Web site and we identify it. In this case, we didn't get it from Al-Qaeda, so we didn't identify it as such."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kansas City Police Have Also Played Judge, Jury & Executioner

According to the lawsuit filed on Friday in Kansas City, police denying or impeding treatment of a female suspect in dire need of medical attention is not something unique to Tampa. This time, though, the woman was pregnant, and the officers ignored her nine separate pleas for help in the first five minutes after her arrest for traffic violations and outstanding city warrants and went on to ignore at least twelve more requests, despite her repeated, heart-wrenching statements (there's video at the link if you can stomach it) that she was bleeding heavily. The woman was taken to jail, and when she was finally released the next morning, she suffered a full miscarriage.

Two Kansas City police officers repeatedly ignored a pregnant woman’s claims that she was bleeding and needed medical help, a police videotape released today shows.

Sofia Salva told officers nine different times during the first five minutes of the stop that she was bleeding or wanted to go to a hospital. After the ninth request, a female officer asked: “How is that my problem?”

Salva requested help at least 12 more times during the 30-minute encounter nearly a year ago. The officers arrested her for traffic violations, including a fake temporary license tag, and outstanding city warrants.

The next morning, after finally being released, she delivered a premature baby boy who lived one minute, according to a lawsuit Salva filed Friday.

“The officers went into this with a preconceived idea of who and what they were dealing with and they were wrong,” said Salva’s attorney, Andrew Protzman. “It’s tragic.”

The lawsuit prompted police to open an internal investigation.

Are there not some sort of universal guidelines for police procedure when a suspect is herself the victim of a violent crime or is clearly and urgently in need of medical care? I would have thought it patently obvious that when someone is bleeding profusely, anyone in a position to help--like those officers who have, you know, sworn an oath to serve and protect us--should deal with that first and worry about traffic warrants later, but then, I'm just a mother who instinctively reacts to the sight of profuse fucking bleeding by seeking medical attention.

Certainly it seems only logical that the first step of due process for a suspect should be to make sure her process of staying alive doesn't get interrupted.

(via Jessica at Feministing, where a couple of the comments lead one to wonder if there are human beings out there who've never been in the terrifying position of needing emergency care.)

UPDATE: Due in no small part to the Kansas City Star's coverage of this travesty as well as the procurement of the police dashboard video, the officers involved are now suspended indefinitely with pay. The Star deserves praise for its role in bringing this horrible abuse of power to light. As their columnist Mike Hendricks noted yesterday:

How many times was it that Sofia Salva announced that she was hemorrhaging while she was being arrested at Ninth Street and Brooklyn Avenue?

Many of us won’t soon forget the answer. Twenty-one times over the course of 30 minutes, the pregnant woman told officers Melody Spencer and Kevin Schnell “I’m bleeding” and feared a miscarriage.

She asked to go to a hospital.

And yet the two officers acted as if the Sudanese native had said nothing to them about that.

They ignored her repeated requests and focused on arrest warrants out on her for minor offenses and the phony temporary license tag in her window.

Callous, cruel and indefensible.

Even more appalling was Spencer’s retort to Salva’s pleas for help:

“How is that my problem?” the officer said.

Actually, it’s not a bad question. It’s the crux of this issue.

Aren’t Kansas City police required to take seriously pleas for medical help from someone they’ve arrested?

When reporters asked that question, department officials pointed to a list of policies and procedures on the KCPD Web site.

Specifically, the second one from the top: Procedural Instruction 98-7, “Ambulance Calls and Arrests Taken to Hospitals.”

Lockhart says it’s clear.

Section C says “Officers will procure transportation for a sick or injured person when requested or appropriate.”

But that’s it.

No elaboration in a nine-page document that focuses on all the details that come after cops make the crucial decision.

None of this can justify the decisions and actions of the two Kansas City police officers whose suspensions were announced Thursday. They should have had the good sense and humanity to seek medical help for Salva. You can’t watch that video without wanting to scream, “Help her, for God’s sake.”