Saturday, July 10, 2010

DOD: coddling bigots more important than good order & discipline

The Department of Defense has surveyed 400,000 military personnel about... the survey is supposed to provide data to make an informed decision about how to handle gays and lesbians serving in the military. See Pentagon Slams Critics Of Don't Ask Don't Tell Survey by Megan Carpentier (Talking Points Memo).

The organizations and activists who favor gays and lesbians being able to openly serve in the military are miffed. They have Congress on their side. Nominally, President Barack Obama is on their side. There was no need for data to justifying discrimination. It was merely put into policy and criminal law.

I'm a former military officer. I have long favored (like before Bill Clinton was elected in 1992) gays and lesbians being allowed to openly serve in the military.

I find the principle of surveying military personnel un-military.

If Congress changes the law and the President of the United States says gays and lesbians should be allowed to openly serve, I expect everyone from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the newest recruit to respond, "Aye, aye, sir."

The idea that there are people who can't serve with out gays and lesbians in 2010 is absurd. Anybody who has that big a problem with gays should be discharged.

And surveying military personnel just seems... wrong.

If the military feels the need to survey some group, it should survey potential recruits. Will allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve reduce the number of people willing to enlist?

Northwest Indiana Times publishes lies as "letters to the editor"

I get the Northwest Indiana Times daily.

It's a good local paper, if a bit heavy on homicides.

The editorial page is Right Wing and aligned with the GOP. That's the right of the publishers.

But I question the choice of letters to the editor. Thursday and Friday NWI Times published letters suspicious of the Obama administration pilfering money from the spill response fund to compensate BP's victims.

WTF? Do Democrats have to send letters to the editor to explain how stupid it is to accuse someone of diverting money that hasn't arrived. And billions in cash went missing in Iraq. (See 60 Minutes (Daniel Schorn).) You think these Right Wing kooks got incensed over real money that was really stolen?

The NWI Times editors help launder Right Wing nonsense as being credible by publishing letters to the editor.

This has the effect of forcing Democrats/liberals/progressives to spend energy rebutting nonsense rather than advocating for good policies.

I suspect this is deliberate. Democrats have control of Congress and POTUS. And Republican allied media can't win the argument for Republican policies, but they can throw sand in the machine of government and public discourse.

Here's the pullout quote in today's paper:
While the government prints more money, inflation continues to lower the standard of living for the middle class.

Do I need to write a letter to explain that inflation is not just low by historical measures, it's non-existent (minus the tiny bit of annual inflation built into the system)?

Here's some quotes from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.

If the letter is factually inaccurate it should not be published.

9500 Liberty showing at Piper's Alley: go see it

Last night (Friday, July 9) I saw the documentary 9500 Liberty with a few friends who are political activists at Piper's Alley. Eric Byler, the director, took questions from the audience.

Byler, a film maker, and his girlfriend Annabel Park, began making video of a controversy unfolding around them.

Greg Letiecq, publisher of the blog Black Velvet Bruce Li, built an audience by publishing anti-Latino and anti-immigrant entries. Politicians saw the potential to convert BVBL's audience into a political movement by enacting an ordinance that required police to check immigration status of people they suspected of not being citizens or legal aliens.

Byler and Park published the video on You Tube as the events unfolded.

The film 9500 Liberty uses these clips to tell a complete story. Roger Ebert (Sun-Times) gave the film 3 1/2 stars.

This extended trailer makes most of the points made in the movie. However, I think most people will find seeing the film rewarding after seeing the trailer. The story engages the audience emotionally.

The arch of the story is much like films and stories about the McCarthy era. Opportunistic Right Wing politicians used red-baiting to heighten fears and then used the fears to energize supporters and bludgeon opponents.

At the end of these films and movies a heroic character stands up to the excesses of McCarthyism and everybody realizes the whole thing was unreasonable and everyone lives happily ever after. (Example: The Majestic)

In the discussion, Byler said he expected the story to end when the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a hearing on the law. When Linda Chavez challenged the politicians who enacted the ordinance to explain what data they had connecting illegal immigration to crime. The politicians responded that they measured the perception of the community based on emails and contacts by constituents. Obviously, the perception was nurtured by Letiecq's blog.

However, the end of 9500 Liberty is more like the typical anti-McCarthyism film. Eventually the residents of the county apprehend that the ordinance is bad policy for a variety of reasons. An indigenous coalition emerges that overturns the most noxious part of the ordinance. Even the two politicians who championed the ordinance as part of their re-election campaigns vote to gut the meat from their own ordinance.

Local activism

I have attended a large number of meetings of local government, especially school board meetings.

9500 Liberty captures the tension of local deliberations. The dead time (closed session) and redundant testimony is edited to capture the vibe accurately and remove the other stuff.

Many people have brought video equipment to local meetings, but few have the time and expertise to edit the video into something snappy.

I suspect that in the future, having video equipment and having the software, equipment and skill to edit video will be a bigger part of local activism.

When I discussed this point with Byler, he expressed interest in writing a book about using video at part of local activism.

Byler is the co-founder of the Coffee Party Movement.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free & Equal debate: Illinois candidates for governor

Photo: Scott Lee Cohen, Lex Green, Michael White, Christina Tobin, Rich Whitney, William "Dock" Walls, III

Free & Equal and a number of Chicago State University student organizations sponsored a debate for Illinois' candidates for governor. The debate was held at the Cordell Reed Student Union Building on Thursday, July 8, 2010 from 7-9 PM. It was also broadcast online on Free & Equal's website. The debate was attended by about 70 people.

The following candidates attended (in order of seating from left to right) Rich Whitney (Green), Lex Green (Libertarian), Michael White (Constitution), William “Dock” Walls III (independent) and Scott Lee Cohen (independent). According to Christina Tobin, the Free & Equal moderator, Pat Quinn (Democrat) and Bill Brady (Republican) were also invited, but chose not to participate.

I am going to write a series of entries on this candidate forum.

I. Questions/issues
II. How do the candidate fit into the 2010 election?
III. Each individual candidate
IV. Follow-up questions

I hope that the candidates will obtain the video from Free & Equal and edit into digestible chunks. I once posted the entire video of a candidate forum on Proviso Probe. There just isn't much audience for watching an hour or more of video of a candidate forum.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

amend the Constitution on pensions?

Last night I was discussing the generational unfairness of public sector jobs and public sector pensions.

Younger workers are taxed to pay for generous retirement benefits for public sector employees that the younger workers couldn't get if they were among the few to get public sectors jobs.

My friend Dan noted that because the Illinois Constitution requires taxpayers to honor pension guarantees, the public sector workers and their unions could behave irresponsibly when politicians borrowed from pension funds. The workers and the unions figured they had an ironclad guarantee they would be paid.

But what if the U.S. Constitution was amended?

"No one shall be taxed to pay for pensions that are more generous than s/he would be eligible to receive."

Rush performed in Chicago tonight

On the way in and out of Chicago on the South Shore on Monday, I encountered people attending the Rush concert. The woman next to me gave it good reviews. She was happy she got comped an upgrade.

Various people have criticized Rush for having pretentious lyrics.

I have a soft spot for "Closer to the Heart" because when I was at the U.S. Naval Academy there was a midshipman band that played a good version of the song.
And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the heart

The sentiment that people with power should work to make society more human centric seems an admirable sentiment.

Although, if you want to see the preachy pretentiousness, it's there.
Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new reality
Closer to the heart

You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart

I blog therefore I am

In the past, when I blogged I focused on something specific, like Proviso Township or Rod Blagojevich.

Of course, I had the discretion to discuss other matters because they were interesting to me. But I tried to keep faith with my readers who came to read about the topic of the blog.

I have a mind that thinks about many subjects.

I want to discuss some of my ideas to get them out there. And sometimes I just want to write about something so I can stop thinking about it.

This blog will cover what's on my mind.