Archive for November 17th, 2009
Tara McKelvey has a fascinating item in Boston Review on diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of particular interest was an anecdote from Paul Sullivan, an analyst in the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration.
Sullivan was working as an analyst at the Veterans Benefits Administration in Washington in early 2005 when he was called to a meeting with a top political appointee at the VA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Michael McLendon. McLendon, an intensely focused man in a neatly pressed suit, kept a Bible on his desk at the office. Sullivan explained to McLendon and the other attendees that the rise in benefits claims the VA was noticing was caused partly by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were suffering from PTSD. "That’s too many," McLendon said, then hit his hand on the table. "They are too young" to be filing claims, and they are doing it "too soon." He hit the table again. The claims, he said, are "costing us too much money," and if the veterans "believed in God and country . . . they would not come home with PTSD." At that point, he slammed his palm against the table a final time, making a loud smack. Everyone in the room fell silent.
"I was a little bit surprised," Sullivan said, recalling the incident. "In that one comment, he appeared to be a religious fundamentalist." For Sullivan, McLendon’s remarks reflected the views of many political appointees in the VA and revealed what was behind their efforts to reduce costs by restricting claims. The backlog of claims was immense, and veterans, often suffering extreme psychological stress, had to wait an average of five months for decisions on their requests.
McLendon denied the incident took place, but nevertheless told McKelvey that he believes PTSD is "a made-up term," which has "taken on a life of its own." She added that McLendon, in talking about the issue, "pounded the table with the side of his hand more than ten times, hitting it so hard that the wooden surface shook."
As Atrios put it, "It’s like the job recruitment process [in the Bush administration] involved advertising for ‘the worst people ever born in the history of the universe.’"
It’s disheartening to think that the Bush administration put some of these people in key positions of authority and responsibility in the first place.
Went a block farther. The genesis of this effort may be of some interest: I was sitting in my chair, late at night, ruminating, and it struck me that—obese and doing no exercise beyond blogging, reading, cooking, and watching movies—I was deliberately committing slow suicide. I didn’t like the sound of that at all, and decided to take action. I’m going for “spry,” and I have indeed dropped a couple of pounds, maybe more. (I won’t know for sure until I weigh on Saturday.) Besides the walking, I now fix a good lunch, cut it in half, and have half for lunch, half for dinner.
Spanish moss in Pacific Grove:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that each cat is in possession of a unique personality. If you have n cats, you will observe n different personalities.
Last evening, for example, I was reflecting that Molly is a much more demanding master than Megs. Megs is pretty much an easy-come-easy-go, what-goes-around-comes-around, you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-not-scratch-yours kind of master—lots of give and take.
But Molly wants things just so, and if they’re not, she’s in a snit. Or sometimes she’s in a snit for no reason at all—or, alternatively, demanding to be hugged right this minute. And if the phone or the laptop is why attention is not being paid—well, it’s pretty easy to bite those things into submission.
A top Republican political fund-raising and outreach firm gives convicted felons access to political donors’ credit-card information, according to three former employees.
Minnesota-based FLS Connect uses low-wage workers to make fund-raising calls for a bevy of prominent GOP clients. And many of those workers — including those responsible for processing credit-card transactions — have felony convictions, the former employees said.
In response, FLS Connect co-founder Jeff Larson, a Karl Rove protégé, told TPMmuckraker that the firm would undergo a review from an outside, independent auditor "to ensure the highest standard of confidence in our processes."
Last month, the founder of a different Republican outreach firm, Bonner & Associates, was hauled before Congress after his company sent forged letters to lawmakers on a key legislative issue. Nothing like that has come to light at FLS, but in interviews with TPMmuckraker, the former employees described a company whose business practices might come as a shock to the well-heeled Republican donors from whom it solicits money. FLS fundraisers, encouraged by supervisors to cut corners in pursuit of donations, routinely mislead potential contributors, say the former employees. And many workers in the company’s Phoenix office are ex-cons, who are paid not much more than minimum wage, lack benefits, and work in squalid conditions…
Apparently some few conservatives are not so terrified of the idea that terrorists may be in American prisons—good thing, too, because quite a few of them are. Or maybe it’s just terrorist suspects (the men in Guantánamo) who are so frightening to most of the GOP. But I applaud the outbreak of common sense. Christina Bellantoni writes at TPMDC:
Three prominent conservatives warned in a joint statement against Republican "scaremongering" on Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying the prison in Thomson, Illinois would be fine to handle them.
Former Republican Congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, have teamed up to urge the Gitmo detainees be taken to the U.S.
"The scaremongering about these issues should stop," Barr, Keene and Norquist wrote.
"Civilian federal courts are the proper forum for terrorism cases," they wrote. "Civilian prisons are the safe, cost effective and appropriate venue to hold persons in federal courts."
"Likewise the federal prison system has proven itself fully capable of safely holding literally hundreds of convicted terrorists with no threat or danger to the surrounding community," they wrote. "We are confident that the government can preserve national security without resorting to sweeping and radical departures from an American constitutional tradition that has served us effectively for over two centuries."
Read the full letter here.
An email from the Center for American Progress:
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the five Guantanamo Bay detainees charged with planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be facing justice a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center buildings. In one of the "highest-profile and highest-security terrorism trials in history," Justice Department prosecutors will seek out the death penalty for the self-described mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the four others. What made Holder’s announcement so significant is that the venue will be a U.S. federal court, rather than the military commissions favored by the Bush administration. "I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years," said Holder. "The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long-established rules and procedures." The New York Times called the Attorney General’s decision "bold and principled" and the Center for American Progress’ Ken Gude said it was "a victory for the rule of law and the American system of justice." Many conservatives, however, rushed out knee-jerk statements condemning the decision, claiming that it imperils American security and won’t deliver a proper verdict. But not only are they ignoring the long-standing precedent of prosecuting terrorists in U.S. courts, they’re insulting the U.S. legal system and essentially saying that America’s laws aren’t strong enough to administer justice.
Very interesting column in Salon by Michael Lind. From the column:
… Could anything be more foreign to America’s enlightened 18th-century liberal and republican traditions than this toxic compound of collectivism, nativism, Spartan militarism and theocracy?
The very idea of a pledge of allegiance, in any form, is completely at odds with what is often called "the American Creed," inspired by the 17th-century philosopher John Locke’s theory of natural rights and government by popular consent. The concept of "allegiance" is feudal. In medieval Europe, the liegeman, or subject, pledged allegiance to his liege lord. But in Lockean America, there is no government outside of society to which the members of the society could pledge allegiance, even if they wanted to. As the scholar Mark Hulliung explains Lockean liberal theory in "The Social Contract in America: From the Revolution to the Present Age" (2007):
There is a social contract by which the people bind themselves to one another, but no subsequent political contract [between people and government]. The rulers hold power temporarily, as mere "trustees" of the people … What the people give they can take away whenever they please, because they are bound by no contract between governors and governed.
In a republic, the people should not pledge allegiance to the government; the government should pledge allegiance to the people…
A perfect shave today—not sure why. I used my brand new Koh-I-Noor boar brush, the one with the aluminum handle. The brush to its left is my other Koh-I-Noor boar brush, which I liked so much I decided to go for the pro.
I got a very good lather from the Tryphon Florida Water shaving soap, and the Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth did a fine job with a Gillette Swedish blade of several shaves. I did have to return to the soap to get more lather for the final pass, but this is the brush’s first use, after all.
And although the bottle has lost its label, that is Murray & Lanham Florida Water that I used as an aftershave. Wikipedia notes in its article on Florida Water:
Florida Water is an American version of Eau de Cologne, or Cologne Water. It has the same citrus basis as Cologne Water, but shifts the emphasis to sweet orange (rather than the lemon and neroli of the original Cologne Water), and adds spicy notes including lavender and clove. The name refers to the fabled Fountain of Youth, which was said to be located in Florida, as well as the “flowery” nature of the scent.