Chas +3

I’m watching Rachael interview Andrea Michell on MSNBC and wondering why the ‘Foreign Affairs Correspondent’ for NBC News is based in Washington, as opposed to say, London or Beijing?

Torture of a Child: Two Views

This story (via Andrew Sullivan) hasn’t gotten much attention here in the US, none at all at the national level, and the way the episode was reported by the local paper may have allot to do with that.This is how the story was reported in the Tacoima News Tribune:

Anger over alphabet ends in arrest

A man is accused of holding his 4-year-old daughter’s head under the water in the kitchen sink at their Yelm home Sunday night because she would not recite the alphabet, according to police and court papers.

The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a charge of second-degree assault of a child against Joshua Ryan Tabor, 27, on Tuesday. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 16.

According to court records:

Yelm police responded to a disturbance Sunday night after Tabor’s girlfriend reported that Tabor, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier, “was irate, intoxicated and walking around the neighborhood with his Kevlar helmet threatening to break windows.”

Tabor’s girlfriend told Yelm police that Tabor beats his 4-year-old daughter and that the child’s back was covered in bruises. The girlfriend reported that the 4-year-old had locked herself in a closet because she was afraid of her father.

The girlfriend also reported that when the child wets herself, Tabor “makes her sit in the urine-soaked clothes” until he gives her permission to change.

The girl spoke to a Yelm officer, and he observed that she “had severe bruising on her entire back,” along with scratch marks and bruising on her neck, throat, chin, arms, legs and buttocks.

She “was asked how she got the bruises and she replied ‘Daddy did it.’”

Asked how or why it happened, the child would not reply, then said, “I don’t know why he did it.”

Tabor spoke to a Yelm police officer and said that he and his girlfriend had “held her down on the counter and submerged her head into the water three or four times until the water came around her forehead and jawline.” He said that she was face-up when her head was in the water. He added that they gave this punishment for the 4-year-old “refusing to say her letters.”

Tabor told police that his daughter is afraid of water “and was squirming around trying to get away from the water. Joshua did not act as though he felt there was anything wrong with this form of punishment.”

[emphasis mine]

As it happens, there is in fact a name for holding someone inverted and dunking their head under water – it’s called waterboardingHere is how the story was reported by the Daily Mail, a British newspaper.  Keep in mind that, while sensationalized, the story calls torture for what it is, and moreover this is the way the story is being broadcast outside our shores:

U.S. soldier ‘waterboarded his own daughter, 4, because she couldn’t recite alphabet’

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry.

As his daughter ‘squirmed’ to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline.

Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

Tabor, a soldier at the Lewis-McChord base in Tacoma, Washington, was arrested after being seen walking around his neighbourhood wearing a Kevlar military helmet and threatening to break windows.

Truly, truly only a fucked up human would do this to his own daughter, but I wonder where he learned how to waterboard someone?  I’m not saying he definitely learned it in the service, and the Mail notes that Tabor’s service records haven’t been released, but I think it’s interesting that he also used humiliation tactics as punishment too, making her “sit in the urine-soaked clothes” until he gives her permission to change.”  I also wonder very much if this story would be getting more attention if the reporting newspaper had been a bit more honest about the particular technique this soldier used to ‘punish’ his little girl.

Food Policy and Lib v Con Perspectives

The comments in a Balloon Juice thread illustrate the divide in thinking one often encounters when debating conservatives: the problems they see have liberal fixes, but because they don’t see the same world we do so it never occurs to them how overlapping our problems and solutions are. The subject of the thread, by way of an unfortunate remark by DougJ, turned to welfare recipients and commenter Michael D said:

Actually, I live in an area where there a lot of “Young Bucks” (and Does) – both black and white – who use their Georgia EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards to buy the most insane things ever. T-Bone steaks included – although less things like that than potato chips, Coke, donuts, and general junk food that no one should be buying in any quantity when they have to use “the system.” I shop in a VERY poor area of Atlanta, and to see what is on the grocery carts of some people makes me want to scream.

Now, this is boilerplate southern conservative stuff, although as Lt. Gov Bauer showed us this week the usual conservative solution is to stop feeding the “stray animals.” But Michael D’s observations do at least bring up the question of how much welfare abuse and fraud really occurs, and whether  it is even a fair question to ask if using government money to buy unhealthy food is something we should worry about, given the idea that, as Steven Colbert put it last night, we have “reached the biological limit” in national obesity.  Naturally in a thread at BJ, a true liberal steps up:

What really should be happening is that fresh and frozen veggies and fruit should be encouraged or required somehow. Card technology is pretty smart these days. Seems like a percentage of the monthly allotment could be required to be used for health foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Donuts and other crappy foods shouldn’t be completely disallowed, but perhaps a penalty or restriction on the amount spent on them should be enforced. You only get $15/month to spend on crappy sweet stuff. You choose how it’s spent – or something like that.

This admittedly pie-in-the-sky liberal answer does in effect address many of the food issues that liberals like to talk about, such as the overindulgence in corn which massive subsidies and sugar tariff controls enforce.  Addressing obesity in this country would need a comprehensive solution, involving restructuring our farm subsidies to, yes, considering whether a government “food pyramid” type nutrition structure should be a mandated part of the food stamp program. Which leads to the punch line:

see, if you complain about people eating all sorts of bad stuff, you’re a liberal. if you complain about people on foodstamps eating all sorts of bad stuff, you’re a conservative.

Which obviously gets Quote Of The Day.

Palin and the GOP: Character gets in the way of Plot

DougJ excerpts a couple of passages from Douthout and Judith Warner and draws the conclusion that they are still missing the point that she is a griffter and a boob, and should move on. Doug’s right, of course, but he’s also missing the process of whats going on.

For the last 30 years the GOP have been absolute masters at packaging a national figure in symbol and myth as a way of connecting to the collective American narrative.  Sometimes they are spectacularly successful, as with Reagan, an actor quite willing to project every quality the GOP storytellers wrote for him, and other times not so much, as with Fred Thompson, another actor who could not quite fit into the role as written,  no matter how long he had been rehearsing for the part.

For it’s part, the GOP and conservatism in general has devolved to the point where they believe their own stories at such a core level that they spend all their time arguing from this fictional perspective.  Douthat really thinks, because he and everyone around him does also, that liberals see leaders as symbolic constructs – the sum of their public image. That’s why the GOP thought they had a winning story by  attacking liberals for turning Obama into a cult idol.  Actual Democrats for the most part did no such thing, of course, but because they build their own political leaders to appeal to such symbolic shorthand, attacking Obama in from this angle at least resonated with the commentariat, and for sure resonated with the GOP prols.

Let me just interject at this point a bit of awe from one storyteller to another at the ability of the GOP to spin narrative over the last 10 years.  It’s been like watching Shakespeare or perhaps Pynchon unfold a masterpiece that counts the entire world as bit players and chorus. The masterful thing has not been so much their ability at misdirection and the use of McGuffins to confuse the audience, though that  is impressive, but the way they have been able to direct the timing of the revelation of plot points to maximize effect. Timing has been everything, and the GOP has been able to use the rhythm of elections to take us from act to act for decades.  Everything, from the rise of GW Bush, to the start of the Iraq war, to the release of the pictures of Abu Gharab, was pushed with an eye towards the larger narrative.  Even the obfuscation and foot dragging on Guantanamo was designed to push that arc to the next iteration of the cast.  And with an stage-managing operation like the one Rove ran at the White House, disseminating the plot points to the retail storytellers was a simple task.

So the problems for Palin, and the reason for so much jibber and jabber among the media class, are one) there is no longer a central clearing house for GOP-narrative plot points, and two) Palin herself seems to be running a con on the cons.  After her on-book introduction at the convention, she has gone decidedly off-book and has turned out to be quite the improviser.  The problem for the audience is that we’re a bit confused at this point because the character-as-written doesn’t seem to mesh up with where the actress wants to take the part.  Douthat is absolutely correct, we do see Palin as a  “distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity,” but the list of pathologies continues: liar, self-promoter, power-hungry, manipulator, in a word, sociopath. We come to these conclusions not because we always portray our political enemies in such ways, but because there really is a great gulf between the character we were introduced to, and the one we see on stage now.

Douthat and Warner may are clearly groping around in the usual places for story beats and character development (setting up tension with liberals is always a reliable first act), their problem is that this particular actress has her own method, and seems determined to make the show all about herself. Palin has broken the trust of the audience, and I doubt very much they will pick up the thread again soon, except to watch her crash and burn.  We do love a good cautionary tale.

The Con of Rath

Back in the Smokin’ Toads days of the early 90’s, I ran into a lot of hippies and characters at the Electric Studio that had plenty of entertaining and/or ridiculous conspiracies and such to talk about (I actually possess the entire xeroxed tract laying out the case that the Moon Shot was staged).  One well-known Venice character was always obsessed with the latest health-fad of the day, and I remember hearing about the whole “high-dose vitamins cure cancer” con back then. Jefferey would corner a hapless stoner on the couch and go on and on about the researcher “from the Linus Pauling Institute” who had not only discovered that vitamins cure heart disease, but that they cured cancer better than chemotherapy. Of course, the “pharmaceutical companies” wanted to quash this information, but Matthias Rath was willing to sell you a bunch of life saving high-dose  vitamins.  I’m sure there was a high-colonic or a detox regimen in there somewhere too.

I never gave this stuff another thought until I read this newly released chapter from Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science.” Besides the point that someone as vile as Rath is allowed into any kind of polite company, is the damage that the supposed “universal, God-given morals” that religious followers are always pointing to can actually do to real humans when it inserts itself between science and a cure. Rath is not pushing religion, of course, but the magical thinking that is at the core of his appeal is the same thinking that causes us to do this:

Development charities funded by US Christian groups refuse to engage with birth control, and any suggestion of abortion, even in countries where being in control of your own fertility could mean the difference between success and failure in life, is met with a cold, pious stare. These impractical moral principles are so deeply entrenched that Pepfar, the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has insisted that every recipient of international aid money must sign a declaration expressly promising not to have any involvement with sex workers.

Sex workers are a major vector of AIDS transmission, and so are dirty needles – yet politians under the spell of magical thinkers who only want to condem and proscribe behaviour continue to insist that we not direct resources to combatting disease at these points.  This is absurd.

The people in Goldacre’s article allow millions to waste away of AIDS, but at least we can understand the greed at the heart of their deception.  Those who campaign against condoms or needle-exchanges, for instance, have no such excuse or motivation.

Go read the article.

Rep. Doogan, Meet Constitution

Turns out Alaska Rep Mike Dugan’s theory about the need for transparency in public debate is, shall we say, a bit wrong.  Via comments at The Mudflats, it turns out that the Supreme Court has definitely ruled on this sort of thing, notably in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, the Court said:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society”

One of Doogan’s contentions is that anonymous blogging is akin to wearing a hood at a KKK rally, so it’s also rather ironic that the part of the Civil Rights Act that covers this stuff traces it roots back to the Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871. I don’t know for a fact, but my hunch is that this was designed to go after any civil officials that aided the Klan, such as local Sheriff’s, etc:

Section 1983 of title 42 of the US Code provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

This would seem to indicate that when Rep. Doogan used his official website in his capacity as State Congressmen he not only violated her First Amendment rights under the Constitution, but he also opened himself up to a civil lawsuit.  This in addition to any other State laws he may have violated in denying a constituent their rights (some indicated this may be a violation of the state Constitution as well).

This one has exploded across the blogosphere, and from the look of the Mudflats front page, into the political realm of the state legislature as well.

Nevermind etiquette – I’m thinking Rep. Doogan wishes he’d learned a bit more about internet traditions about now.

This Really Burns My Buns

Via Hilzoy I learned today that State Rep. Mike Doogan (D) of Alaska decided on his own that bloggers don’t have a right to privacy and anonymity, and so he outed an Alaska blogger at Mudflats.

Here is a copy of the email I just sent to Rep. Doogan:

“Would You Have Outed Thomas Paine Too?”

Since at least 1775, when Paine published “Common Sense” anonymously, there has been a tradition in this country to honor the words in a political argument, rather than the name of the person who wrote it.  Have you forgotten this, sir? Why on earth would you decide to violate someone’s privacy in such a despicable way?

As AKMuck said in her post regarding this matter:

“I might be a state employee. I might not want my children to get grief at school. I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am. My family might not want to talk to me anymore. I might alienate my best friend. Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window. My spouse might work for the Palin administration. Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work. Or none of those things may be true.”

Did you consider any of these things before you decided to publish her name?  No, you didn’t. You just decided that your “own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name.”  Well, I’m sure I’m not the first to point out that your theory sucks.  And there is a long list of patriots, including Paine and Ben Franklin, who think it sucks to.

You owe AKMuckraker an apology. Dickhead.

I’m sure my name is attached to the email, and if he figures out how to follow trackbacks, that means he’ll be able to out me too.  Not that it would be all that hard to for a determined person to figure out anyway, given all the clues and links to other blogs that do have my name on it.  I don’t happen to have a politically sensitive job, nor do I have children that might be affected should I write something offensive or controversial.  Nor do I have many readers, so even if I did, no one would notice.

The point is, a blogger/citizen has a right to maintain anonymity should they want it.  Our patriot forefathers thought so too.  If you feel like it, write Mr Doogan and let him know just how wrong his “theory” is.

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