Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gun List

300,000,000       approximate number of guns owned by Americans
         31,000       approximate number of Americans killed by guns yearly
           2,793       number of children killed by guns in 2009
    4,000,000       number of NRA members
$25,000,000       minimum estimate of NRA spending on political ads and lobbying
                           in 2011-12

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Wayne LaPierre, Ex. VP of NRA
suggesting that all schools come equipped with an armed cop
IGOER (Insert GIF of Eye Roll)

Friday, December 14, 2012

question of the week

"...things like, Do we all need assault weapons?"
Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, commenting on "issues that merit discussion" when considering the possibilities for gun control legislation in his state. My husband likes to think it was tongue-in-cheek.  I'd like to think so too.  But I don't.  (This was posted a few hours before the murder of school children in Newtown, CT.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

la plus ca change

I found myself singing the first lines this morning, as I listened to reports of rioting in Cairo over the proposed new constitution.  Eerie how appropriate it is over 50 years later.
The Merry Minuet
They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain
the Whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like Anybody very much.

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man's been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lucky day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow Man

-- Sheldon Harnick (1958) in his pre-Fiddler on the Roof days -- and not Tom Lehrer

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Goin' to the chapel and?

What is it with this spate of movies about weddings that turn into disaster zones, then end with everyone dancing some ethnic version of the hokey pokey?  Is it Hollywood's way of saying that marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be?  Oh, wait. These movies aren't at all about that version of hokey pokey.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I want Molly Ringwald's publicist!

Congratulations to Molly Ringwald's agent or publicist or whomever is responsible for her being ALL OVER THE PLACE.  I mean, does anyone who has access to any news or gossip source not know that she's written a novel about a mother and her kid and has thought about mothers and kids and wants to be a writer about mothers and kids and not just pretty in pink and.... Well, I confess that I stopped listening somewhere in the middle of the first of her umpteen interviews.  But, hey, getting a book -- any book which doesn't claim to reveal all about sleazy politics or sexual predation, which Ringwald's doesn't (it appears to be a perfectly mediocre first novel) -- is a notable accomplishment.

I thought about writing a letter to the editor, but that seemed unfair since I haven't read the book and don't particularly want to.  Nor do I want to sound like sour grapes when, actually, I'm impressed and hope other publishers can learn something about marketing their books from this full court press.  Not being of the Breakfast Club gen, tho, I'm probably out of luck.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Romney is human.
This is the best PR can come up with?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

By the numbers

I've been reading Dexter Filkins piece in a recent New Yorker about future prospects for Afghanistan.  In sum: they're grim.

As they are in Iraq.

Which made me think that for everyone who was sent to conduct those wars/occupations/ counterinsurgencies/nation-building exercises -- regardless of how right or wrong they believe their actions to be -- the futility of both campaigns must be overwhelming.

In Iraq, after 7½ years and at a cost to the U.S. of at least $800 billion, 4486 American troops died and 32,223 were wounded; well over 50,152 Iraqi citizens have been killed (we didn't start keeping count until 2005), and about 4.6 million were displaced, either internally or as refugees. Today, the Iraqi government is riven, the infrastructure is shaky, and violence continues, with 977 civilians killed in sectarian clashes in 2011 alone. (Imagine if that many Americans were killed in “domestic terrorism” incidents.)  The only one of our ever-shifting goals that we accomplished there was to depose Saddam Hussein.
U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan after 13 years, and as I write this, at a cost of about $554 billion dollars, 2075 U.S. soldiers have died,15,322 have been wounded, 50,152 Afghan civilians have been killed (again, since 2005), and still, the Taliban, along with a long list of war lords, hold sway in much of the country, the government is head-swivelingly corrupt, and the only purported goal we've accomplished has been to kill Osama bin Laden, who neither came from Afghanistan, nor was killed there. 

Is the world better off without the two despots?  Probably.  Were there better, less costly ways to get rid of them? Very likely.  Did the United States corrupt itself in the process?  Undoubtedly.

It's quite an equation.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

moral injury: mad bad sad

My piece on moral injury in veterans on (a blog worth following) and picked up by a lot of other sites.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mom's the word revisted

So now momism is the political battleground de jour with the prez declaring that "being a mom is the hardest job in the world" and women who can afford it defending their "career choice" to be a "stay-at-home mom."  Pah-leeze!  Surely everyone knows that there are harder jobs out there. (President of the United States might qualify.)  And motherhood is not a career; it's a biological event -- which, BTW, many of those most outraged by the Dem. operative's dissing of Ann Romney want to make sure is moved beyond the realm of choice.

Monday, March 19, 2012

bad apples spoilers of war?

       A U.S. soldier leaves his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night and murders 16 people asleep in their homes. This, the pundits tell us, may be the tipping point which ends a seemingly endless occupation.  Of course, there's also the bunch of Korans tossed in a pile at an air base to be burned and the photos Marines took of themselves peeing on what appear to be dead Afghans.  Not a good run for the military that calls itself the most highly trained in the world.
       That this string of debacles is tipping the scales won't come as a surprise to the antiwar soldiers who have been talking all along about the breakdown of the military.  A Vietnam veteran I know says the guy going ballistic is the sort of thing that should be caught by the chain of command before it happens, but  you can't fight a war without the bodies to fight it, long distance drones notwithstanding.  So what do you do when the whole damn thing is broken? Resistance takes many forms and I'm not convinced that fucking up isn't one of them.  (Murder may be too -- a repulsive thought -- but it's not an antiwar tactic.) 
              It didn't take long for those who frame such things to get to work promoting the idea that the murderous soldier (not to be confused with the soldiers who kill civilians by mistake -- intentions matter, right?) "snapped" after too many tours and injuries and the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion.  So he's an anomaly, albeit within a stressed-out military, a good sort who went bad in a war that has gone on too long.  A "bad apple" whose "atrocity" is easily distinguished from the rest of the night raids in Iraq and Afghanistan and whose victims (notice how quickly they disappeared from American news reporting) can be separated out from the "collateral damage" of war.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Then they came for the Muslms

So now the NYPD is tracking Muslim college students way outside of their jurisdiction.  Not that it would be any better if they restricted their tracking of people going about their law- abiding lives within the NYPD's jurisdiction.  Why doesn't this domestic surveillance set off major alarms?  If I may quote myself: People who believe they are surrounded by enemies will accept strict defensive measures.  I'd like to update that to "strict repressive measures."   And refer back to the previous post.

Monday, February 13, 2012

First they came for the terrorists?

The FBI has put out a request for information to the tech industry about developing software which would let them spy on all social media.  The RFI is looking for "Open Source and social media alert, mapping and analysis application solution," but not a proposal -- yet.  Apparently, the government can already follow Twitter and Facebook posts outside the U.S., but in the ever-expanding surveillance galaxy, that's no longer enough.  (See my article in In These Times for some background.)  Cops need to be able to suss out "pre-crime" in the cybersphere to keep us all very safe. 

Well, I don't post anything of concern or interest on Facebook or Twitter, so I don't have anything to worry about, right?  Except for that dire & much-cited warning of the theologian Martin Niemoller:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."

Saturday, February 11, 2012


     Okay, anyone who believes that no one in a position to comment knew that the SS logo proudly displayed by a Marine sniper unit in Aghanistan had something to do with the Nazis, raise you hand.
     Right.  I thought so.  Let's move on.
     I don't believe that the guys in this unit necessarily share the tenets of Nazism.  In the photo that's causing the uproar, they look pretty young and may be ignorant of that era of history, though that's disconcerting in itself.   What I do believe is that they knew they were in the business of state-sponsored killing and wanted to honor themselves for that.  Marines enlist for a variety of reasons, but from the first minutes of boot camp, they know that they haven't signed up for a school outing. They may hope to make the world a better place, but what they're trained for is killing efficiently, without debate or second guessing.  Even Marines who don't relish that role know they may have to do it -- and by the time they finish their intensive and, I'm told, often tedious training, they're probably ready to put some of it into practice.  So this hand-wringing over association with a rightly vilified group of state-sponsored killers strikes me as yet one more instance of honoring image over reality.  I mean, what do we think snipers of any nationality do in Afghanistan? 
     Then there's the note, buried a few grafs in, that the photo had appeared on the blog of "a military weapons company."  For branding?  As a selling point and if so, selling what?  Nazi logos?  Or was there "no malicious intent" at that company either?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Occupy the brand

Read today a progressive opinonator writing that the Occupy movement is "a PR war."  Of course the political movement de jour would be all about brand recognition.  Why did I not recognize that immediately? And the occupiers have been successful in that, since I and everyone else seems unable to write a headline without riffing on "occupy."  Not to mention the very good 99% slogan.  So allow me to suggest another: The revolution will not be televised; it will be branded.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Who's watching the watchers? or From my paranoia file

My story on government surveillance of political protest from In These Times

Canaries in the Data Mines
by Nan Levinson
posted 1/5/12
"We’re going to have a little chat,” the plain-clothed officer said to Susan Barney as he fastened handcuffs around her wrists and led her from the cell at the Boston police station, where she was being held with three other political activists. It was January 2009, and they had been arrested after refusing to move from the lobby of the building that houses the Israeli consulate while taking part in a “die-in” to protest Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

This is odd, Barney thought. She had been arrested for civil disobedience several times and never before had the police wanted to chat.

Barney was led to a small room where the officer joined three other men around a table. They introduced themselves–she remembers someone from the Boston Police Department (BPD) and another from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)–and then began questioning her about her political activities and associations. Barney, schooled in civil disobedience and keenly aware of her rights, turned her back to the table and refused to answer, but not before one of her interrogators said, “I’m sure you recognize us. We come to all your protests.” She didn’t recognize them at the time, but now reports that two of them have shown up regularly at subsequent protests, including Occupy Boston.

The Boston police had not been masking their surveillance of political actions; sometimes they were literally in the face of the protesters with their cameras. Nor was it surprising that the police were feeding information to BRIC, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of 72 state and urban “fusion centers” set up a few years after 9/11 to encourage intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies. But the more Barney and her fellow activists that day–Ridgely Fuller, Richard Hess and Patrick Keaney–thought about it, the more they wondered what happened to those reports of what they considered their constitutionally protected right to dissent. 
continued at: