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“Already In The Line Of Fire”: Predictable Republican Response To Women’s Roles In The Military

The conservative reaction to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that the military would abolish its arbitrary restriction against women serving in positions defined as “combat roles” is predictable but a bit behind the times. As Adam Serwer at Mojo quickly pointed out, a lot of women are already placing themselves in the line of fire without technically being in a combat role. Check out Serwer’s response to the Daily Caller‘s Tucker Carlson, who has been prominent among opponents of the rule change:

Carlson is a political journalist, so he might be expected to know that there is a woman US Army veteran amputee named Tammy Duckworth currently serving in Congress. Duckworth, who represents Illinois’ 8th congressional district, lost her legs after an attack brought down the helicopter she was piloting in Baghdad.

But this development is actually a bit older than you might think. Back in 2002, on the brink of the second Iraq War, in a Washington Monthly article, Phillip Carter predicted thousands of women would serve in de facto combat roles in Iraq, based on earlier experience:

Since the Gulf victory in 1991, a series of largely unnoticed policy changes have opened new opportunities for women to fight alongside, and even to lead, front-line troops. The Navy and Air Force, with some fanfare, allowed women into the cockpits of fighters and bombers. But less well known is how vastly the Army has expanded the role of women in ground-combat operations. Today, women command combat military police companies, fly Apache helicopters, work as tactical intelligence analysts, and even serve in certain artillery units–jobs that would have been unthinkable for them a decade ago. In any war in Iraq, these changes could put thousands of women in the midst of battle, far more than at any time in American history.

Carter, like Serwer, notes that having combat roles officially opened will be extremely helpful to women who want a professional career in the armed services, since combat experience is often crucial to promotion opportunities. And in any event, elimination of the gender barrier does not mean women unqualified for combat roles will assume them, any more than unqualified men, a point Serwer makes:

Most men cannot meet the necessary mental and physical requirements for service in combat. Any woman who can meet those standards should not be denied the opportunity because of an arbitrary gender restriction. Moreover, removing the restriction is not about celebrating militarism. The military has long been a path for historically disfavored groups to claim the full benefits of citizenship. Justifying discrimination against blacks, gays and lesbians, or women becomes much more difficult when they’re giving their lives for their country.

Perhaps that’s an underlying motive for conservatives deploring the change: it helps give discrimination a bad name!


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Ignorant Inquisitors”: Capitol Hill’s Angry Little Men Keep Making Hillary Clinton Bigger

Anyone truly concerned about the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad – and that should include every American – has fresh reason for fury over last September’s disaster in Benghazi and its aftermath. But the target of public anger should not be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose conduct has been exemplary ever since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his brave colleagues lost their lives last September. Far more deserving of scorn are the likes of Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and all the other grandstanding, conspiracy-mongering, ill-informed politicians who questioned her Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Four months after the tragedy occurred, Republicans on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee still seem to be obsessed with the talking points provided to UN Ambassador Susan Rice before she appeared on television to discuss the incident. According to Republican folklore, unsupported by facts, the Obama White House engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the true nature of the terrorist attack by mischaracterizing it as a “demonstration.” The continuing focus on that trivial issue – long since explained by Rice herself, as well as retired General David Petraeus and others, under oath – understandably provoked an exasperated Clinton to scold Johnson, one of the dimmer idols of the Tea Party.

When the Wisconsin Republican began to harp on this topic yet again – interrupting her answer, after stupidly asserting that Clinton could have resolved any questions about the attack with “a very simple phone call” to the burned-out Benghazi compound – she responded sharply:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because there was a protest or was it because there were guys who went out for a walk one night who decided they would kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.

No doubt Clinton’s utterly sane retort will undergo dishonest editing, in the style of James O’Keefe, to make her sound cavalier or arrogant. But it is the Republicans in Congress whose attitude toward the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen comrades has seemed cynical and false, ever since they first sought to exploit the incident politically during the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, having historically supported reductions in federal spending on diplomatic security, they have done nothing useful so far to enhance the safety of Americans serving abroad. Worse still, their questions to Clinton indicate that very few of them, even at this late date, have bothered to learn the basic facts surrounding the Benghazi incident.

By contrast, Clinton has assumed responsibility in a meaningful way ever since September 11 – which is to say that she has taken action to ensure a serious response. As required by law, she empowered an independent investigation, which resulted in dozens of recommendations for improved security and held several high-ranking State Department officials to account for the lapses in Libya. It is worth noting that Thomas Pickering, the distinguished former diplomat who led the probe, fixed culpability for the security flaws at Benghazi at “the assistant secretary level,” rather than with Clinton herself. Nobody in Washington understands the workings of the U.S. foreign service better than Pickering, who served in top positions under both presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Certainly not Johnson or Paul, who rather comically asserted that “if [he] were president,” he would have fired Clinton. Always hard to imagine, a Paul presidency seemed even more remote when he quizzed her about obscure right-wing conspiracy theories involving Syria, Turkey, and Libya.

As Joan Walsh observed in Salon, those irate and ignorant inquisitors on Capitol Hill appeared small and peevish in their confrontation with Clinton, a woman whose serious, diligent, tireless approach to public service has armed her with an enduring popularity at least three times greater than her Republican adversaries in Congress. Their feeble attempts to cut her down, echoed by the usual loudmouths on radio and cable television, only make her bigger.

If they persist, she probably will be president someday.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Elephant Doesn’t Exist”: Guns And The Tyranny Of Extreme Rhetoric

Let’s say you’re making lunch in the kitchen while your kids play in the living room. When you come in with their mid-day meal, the place is a disaster. You look at them. They look at you. And before you know it they’re blurting out something like “the elephant did it!”

Now, I suppose there’s something to be said for that argument. It takes a quick wit. Or at least a keen sense of mammalogy. But it’s got one fundamental flaw: There is no elephant. And you know that’s true no matter how hard they argue otherwise.

These days, some on the right have seized on an invisible elephant all their own. They’ve named him Tyranny, and to hear them tell it, he’s big, he’s scary, and he’s tearing up the place. The problem, of course, is that he doesn’t exist—but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to convince the rest of us that he does.

Their latest effort came in the form of a Scott Rasmussen poll that found “65 percent See Gun Rights As Protection Against Tyranny.” If it’s true, that’s quite a finding. It means most of us believe that our government may descend into tyranny and that guns are the right way to protect ourselves from that eventuality.

Of course, there’s good reason to doubt Rasmussen: His polls reliably lean to the right. But for the sake of argument let’s take his findings on their face. How should we reconcile them with the great many other polls that suggest broadening support for gun control? The 55 percent in a CNN/Time poll who say gun controls should be tightened. The 58 percent in an ABC/Washington Post poll who back an assault weapons ban. The 63 percent in a CBS/New York Times poll who support banning high capacity magazines. The 78 percent in the same poll who favor creating a database to track all gun sales in the United States.

If you take the Rasmussen poll on the one hand and all the other polls on the other, it can only mean that there are many millions of us who somehow believe both that Americans need guns to protect ourselves from a government that may turn tyrannical and that we should make it harder for Americans to get guns. This is a, ahem, nuance that Rasmussen fails to address.

And then of course, there’s this: According to a recent Pew survey, only 33 percent of Americans have a gun in their home at all. If so many of us really think that tyranny looms and that guns are our protection but so few of us actually own them…well, we must be a pretty self-destructive lot.

As it happens, there was another poll in the field at around the same time as Rasmussen’s that was about the same issue, and conducted by a similarly conservative pollster—Wenzel Strategies (the pollster for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, among others). Wenzel asked respondents whether they believed the Second Amendment “exists to allow Americans to have small arms for hunting and self-protection” or “to give Americans the ability to defend themselves against government if it becomes tyrannical?” The results? Forty-seven percent said it’s just for hunting and self-protection. A whopping 8 percent said it’s just to defend against tyranny. And 40 percent said all of the above.

In other words, two polls that can be relied on to skew right, but on the question of tyranny and guns, Rasmussen’s big majority turns into Wenzel’s minority. And a less partisan researcher would presumably find that support is actually significantly lower than is suggested in both.

None of this, however, put the brakes on the Rasmussen poll among the conservative press and punditry. Breitbart, NewsMax, FreedomWorks, etc. all quickly linked to or posted stories like the one Katie Pavlich authored at reporting that “an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the Second Amendment and gun rights are necessary to protect against tyranny.”

Look, I don’t put any more stock in Wenzel than I do Rasmussen. In my view, they both poll in the service of ideology rather than in an effort to uncover actual attitudes and beliefs. (Wenzel used his findings, for example, to suggest that we are more at risk of tyrannical takeover precisely because we don’t think it’s going to happen. Sigh.) And I have no doubt that there are those who actually believe that tyranny is in the offing. But the fact is, most of us, regardless of our political or ideological stripe, don’t believe that. We know the difference between our government and that of other countries in world, between Saddam Hussein and John Boehner. The former subjected Iraqis to years of death squads and oppression. That’s a tyrant. The latter’s subjected Americans to years of weepy incompetence. That’s irritating.

That doesn’t make the tyrannists’ rhetoric any less insidious, however. In asking us to conceive of an America that is profoundly different from the one in which we actually live they seek to conform our public policy to threats that exist only in some kind of make-believe place. When they are successful, the mainstreaming of lunatic ideas (like: We live under the threat of tyranny) makes possible ever more extreme policies (like: We all must have the right to semi-automatic weapons). And when we let that happen, nightmares of a very different kind than those conjured up by the ideologues really do come true.

When you take the invisible elephant out of your living room, you can clearly see what caused the mess (your kids.) And when you take the false threat of tyranny out of the equation, the case against assault weapons is pretty clear too (we don’t need them).

The elephant doesn’t exist. And it’s time for us to say so.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Violent And Filled With Rage”: American Gun Violence Is An Epidemic

Just another day in gunner’s paradise…

Another day, another shooting. I would imagine if this continues, and I fear it might, that Americans will become desensitized—if they haven’t already. Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oregon, Newtown, Albuquerque, and now Houston. Of course there will be those that say, well, at least it wasn’t a massacre. Hmm…

The problem is, they’re all linked by three things: guns, violence, and rage.

We as a society have to ask ourselves, why is it that our neighbors to the north, Canada, have guns, hunt, watch the same TV shows and movies as we do—why do we have a level of violence that is simply not on par with the rest of the Western world? And if we look to the Eastern world, like Japan; they not only watch our movies, but many Japanese films and certainly video games that are much more violent. But, they don’t have the guns.

So those of us on the left propose to reduce the type of guns our society, which is obviously very violent and filled with rage—has access to. Those on the right say that won’t stop gun violence. And they’re right. It’s a piece of a much needed, comprehensive, multifacted approach to save our kids, our future, and dare I say our country, from…ourselves.

Now some on both the left and right will blame mental illness. Sorry folks, not everyone who’s violent, enraged, owns a gun, and uses it suffers from mental illness. And with the National Rifle Association and others on the right pushing back on ideas such as tougher background checks, like at gun shows. Well, I guess we’ll keep those mentally ill types pretty well armed.

And of course there are the movies, television, and video games. As someone who lives in Los Angeles and lives about 20 minutes from La La Land (a.k.a. Hollywood), let me explain something to you: Hollywood’s a business. And businesses care about one thing: money. Their bottom line. Here’s a simple, little economic principle: supply and demand. You think the movies and TV shows our kids are watching are too violent? Then stop buying tickets. If you line up en masse for those cute romantic comedies and ignore the more violent Terminator-type films, Hollywood will supply you with what you demand.

So since some say we can’t blame the guns, some say we can’t blame the people owning the guns, some say it’s the mentally ill but don’t want further controls and certainly don’t want to pay for any type of mental illness programs or hospitals or medications—since we’re the ones buying those violent video games, TV shows, and movies, what’s left?

Look in the mirror.

As the parent or a 4 and 5 year old, I notice that the way I handle my stress is the way they handle theirs. They’re imitators. So for every parent out there that’s watching Die Hard or The Godfather in front of your toddler and you think they’re too busy playing with their Elmo, think again. Their brain is absorbing that flick, frame by frame. And for those of you who knock out a wall, or perhaps your wife or girlfriend every time you get ticked off, our kids are watching.

America, we are responsible for those that died. For ignoring our culture of rage and violence far too long…and for not correcting those behaviors within ourselves. This isn’t just systemic, it’s epidemic. So what are we as a nation going to do about it?


By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, January 23, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crisis To Crisis Management”: Congress’s Continual Game of Political Chicken

The proposal from the House of Representatives to push off the debt ceiling crisis for three months came with an ironic rhetorical frame: If the Senate will, in that time frame, pass a budget, we can start facing our long-term fiscal challenges instead of managing crisis to crisis. Oh, and if they don’t pass a budget all lawmakers will stop drawing salaries.

The basic idea that crisis to crisis management is the worst form of governance for our country is right on the money: Short-term continuing resolutions and other stop-gap measures ensure inefficiency because government agencies are hamstrung by their inability to plan beyond a few months. And absolutely the Senate should present a budget that lays out a vision for how to put our country on a path towards a healthy fiscal future. But, the politics over the debt ceiling in the last three years have been a leading contributor to the culture of avoiding hard decisions in favor of incendiary rhetoric we see in Congress today.

The debt ceiling debate in the summer of 2011 spawned the so-called “super committee” and so-called “fiscal cliff.” So, in the past two years we’ve seen the creation and failure of the super committee, an underwhelming fiscal cliff deal that paired special interest tax breaks with an increase to the rates for higher income individuals, and a short delay of the looming threat of sequestration, the across the board spending cuts that were supposed to motivate the super committee—and Congress—to come together to act. In the next two months we have another opportunity to avoid the sequester and the expiration of the current continuing resolution, the bill that funded government for six months at fiscal year 2012 levels in lieu of passing actual appropriations bills. And of course a debt ceiling vote is on the horizon.

All of these crises are manufactured. Those willing to put off raising the debt ceiling to make a political point are willing to hurt our economy and our standing in the world to make that same point.

At the root of these manufactured crises are a winner-take-all approach to the disagreements between and even within the political parties. At each crisis, Democrats and Republicans demand a total victory and a grand bargain only to end up placating one another with crumbs of a bad deal and promise to revisit the issues at the next manufactured crisis. Our nation cannot afford this continual game of political chicken. We cannot afford the impact of defaulting on our debts. Policymakers need to work together and come up with reforms to spending, taxes, and entitlements. No more political theater, no more back room discussions on grand bargains. It’s time for the hard work of legislating solutions to the nation’s fiscal challenges.

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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