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“Cruel Sanctimony”: Bugnut So-Called Reporter Makes Mental Health A Political Issue

I cannot write this the way I want. Doing so would invade the privacy of too many people. But I can’t be silent, either.

Last week, you see, President Obama spoke before a conference of mental-health advocates at the White House. It is necessary, he said, to remove the stigma of mental illness and make sure “people aren’t suffering in silence,” that they know they are not alone, but are supported by the rest of us as they face this challenge.

It would seem a plain vanilla thing to say. But in this endless era of smash-mouth politics, nothing is plain vanilla anymore.

So one Neil Munro, a “reporter” for the right-wing Daily Caller website, duly took exception. Under the headline, “Obama urges public to use government mental-health programs,” Munro in essence accused mental health professionals of making up illnesses. “In recent decades,” he wrote, “the professionals have broadened the definition from severe, distinct and rare ailments, such as schizophrenia and compulsive behavior, to include a much wider set of personal troubles. Those broader problems include stress and sadness, which are medically dubbed ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ by professionals.”

Munro was having none of that. “Americans,” he wrote, “have typically responded to stress and sadness by urging stoicism, hard work, marriage, prayer and personal initiative. …”

In other words, we were self-reliant. We toughed it out. And if I could write this the way I want, I would tell you in detail about a friend who was self-reliant. She toughed it out. Right up until she shot herself.

If I could write this the way I want, I would gather people I know who suffer from the types of diseases Munro finds “real” — dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia — and I’d let them describe for you the stigma that attaches even to those sicknesses. The notion that mental illness — any mental illness — should be toughed out is asinine. Would you tough out diabetes? Would you tough out cancer?

It is a statistical matter of fact (one in five of us suffers mental illness in any given year, said the president) that this touches many of us. So I suspect I am not the only one who has stories he cannot tell and names he cannot call. On behalf of those unnamed people, our family members and friends who daily struggle with crippling disorders they did not cause and do not deserve, let us call Munro’s writing what it is: cruel sanctimony.

If his name sounds familiar, it is because last year, he made news for heckling the president during a Rose Garden address. Though ostensibly a “reporter,” Munro was shown in photographs with his hands in his pockets and neither notepad nor tape recorder in evidence.

Which made it hard to see how he was “reporting,” and suggested he was less a member of the Fourth Estate than another ideologue playing dress-up, a fresh emblem of political divisions so broad they can no longer be bridged. So broad that even things we once all agreed upon — for example: reporters don’t heckle presidents during speeches — can no longer be taken for granted.

But what the ideologue play-acting at journalism either does not know, or does not care, is that this is not a game. There is a real-life consequence to spreading ignorance about matters of health. As the military deals with record suicide rates, one shudders to think of the soldier, afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, who will read Munro’s scribblings and feel affirmed in his belief that seeking help is somehow unmanly. As our parks fill with the homeless mentally ill, one sighs at the thought of some daughter reading this and believing her dad chose to be that way.

These are our people, said the president, and we should support them. Self-evident truth. Plain vanilla.

And Lord have mercy. Even that’s controversial now.

 

By: Leonard Pitts Jr., The National Memo, June 10, 2013

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Because It’ll Be Different This Time”: Lindsey Graham Calls For American Boots On The Ground In Syria

I often think these people do this kind of thing just to get under our skin. Here’s Lindsey Graham, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, speaking to Foreign Policy magazine:

Graham told The Cable in an interview Tuesday that whether or not the attack can be confirmed as the first use of chemical weapons in the 24-month Syrian civil war, the United States must devise and implement a plan to secure Syrian chemical weapons sites and deploy U.S. troops to do it if necessary.

“My biggest fear beyond an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is the chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists and Americans need to lead on this issue. We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners [or] if nothing else by ourselves,” Graham said.

Asked if he would support sending U.S. troops inside Syria for the mission, Graham said yes.

“Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground. There is no substitute for securing these weapons,” he said. “I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the region. But I’m here to say, if the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”

Evidently it was not chemical weapons, but I’m sure that won’t stop ol’ Lindsey. “I don’t care what it takes.”

Does making these comments take more or less gall than Rummy with that tweet this morning? Can you believe he tweeted: “10 yrs ago began the long, difficult work of liberating 25 mil Iraqis. All who played a role in history deserve our respect & appreciation.”

Wow. The one silver lining of this Rand Paul ascension is that he would put these kooks out of business. Although I already see that they’re getting to him. Madness. So little has changed really.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“About Those Real Problems”:The Odd Republican Preoccupation With White House Tours

Someone’s going to have to explain this one to me.

Fox News Host Eric Bolling on Thursday offered to pay for one week’s worth of White House tours after the administration temporarily suspended them due to cutbacks under sequestration. “If I can get the White House doors open, I will pick up the tab,” Bolling said on the Fox show “The Five.”

Soon after, Fox News’ Sean Hannity offered to also “pay for a week” of White House tours out of his own pocket.

If this seems familiar, it’s because the offers come on the heels of Republican outrage over the decision to scrap White House tours as a consequence of sequestration budget cuts. Apparently, the president and his team had a choice: cancel the tours or start Secret Service furloughs. They chose the former.

And the right apparently can’t stop talking about it, to the point that Fox personalities want to open their wallets to keep the tours going. By some accounts, Fox News has been more than a little preoccupied with the issue.

There may be some deeper symbolic meeting that eludes me — if there is, I’m all ears — or perhaps conservatives are vastly more attached to White House tours than I ever realized. Either way, I can’t help but wonder about the right’s priorities.

Jed Lewison noted today, for example, that the Army was forced to suspend a tuition-assistance program as a result of the sequester, but Bolling and Hannity aren’t offering to pick up the tab on this one.

Of all things for Republicans to be going nuts about, losing the White House tours is the last one. Sequestration is causing real harm to real people, whether it’s unemployed workers, children and mothers who need Head Start, or soldiers looking to enroll in the Army’s tuition assistance program.

They could make all these problems go away — including the loss of their precious tours — with the blink of an eye. All they have to do is repeal sequestration. If they just repealed the damn thing, they wouldn’t even have to raise taxes.

And if they want an equivalent amount of deficit reduction, they can get that too by replacing sequester with a combination of revenue and spending cuts. As President Obama has said more times than anybody cares to remember, his offer is still on the table. Republicans are the ones saying no, and even if White House tours are the only thing that pisses them off, they still have the option of doing something about it.

I have to admit, watching news events unfold, it’s sometimes easy to find myself saying, “Well, I bet Fox will have a field day with this one.”

But White House tours? When sequestration is causing real hardship on real people? I’m at a bit of a loss on this one.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 8, 2013

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Sequestration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“With Gratitude”: The New Greatest Generation Is Right Here Among Us

For nearly a decade I have had the privilege of teaching veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, though they have taught me more.

Most of them were Army captains and majors who had done three or four tours of duty. And here’s the most remarkable thing: Not one of these men and women complained about what we asked of them.

They have, however, occasionally objected to the shameful fact that after the first few years of hostilities, these became largely invisible conflicts. In the final stages of the Iraq war and for a long time now in Afghanistan, there has been something close to media silence even as our fellow Americans continue to fight and die.

The ongoing war barely impinges on our daily discussions, and we don’t bother to argue much about our Afghanistan policy. Mostly, we hope that President Obama can keep his promise to bring our troops home.

My Thanksgiving thoughts have often turned toward my military students at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute and to the thousands like them who have done very hard duty with little notice.

But this year, the gratitude that they inspire has been heightened, perhaps paradoxically, by the news about David Petraeus, his affair and the mess left behind. I won’t add to the mountain of Petraeus commentary, so much of which has been driven by preexisting attitudes toward Petraeus himself, the wars he led or the matter of how we should deal publicly with sexuality.

What has troubled me is how writing on all sides has aggravated the understandable but disturbing tendency to lay so much stress on the role of famous generals that we forget both the centrality of midlevel military leadership and the daily sacrifices and bravery of those in the enlisted ranks who carry out orders from on high.

There is, of course, nothing at all new about celebrity generals, and many of them truly deserved the accolades that came their way. One thinks, for example, of Ulysses S. Grant, who is enjoying a comeback among historians, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose subsequent presidency should give Republicans trying to rebuild their party some useful guidance.

But our military has been at its best when it combined two deeply American impulses, one more honored on the right, the other on the left.

We are an entrepreneurial country, and members of our officer corps do extraordinary work when they are given the freedom to think for themselves and to innovate.

We are also a democratic nation, and although the military is necessarily rank-conscious, the U.S. armed forces have traditionally nurtured an egalitarian ethos that cultivated loyalty all the way down. This is one reason reports of rather privileged living by generals are grating, even if none of us begrudges a bit of comfort for those — including people at the top — who give their lives to service.

The entrepreneurial and democratic spirits are important in battle, but they are even more important to the many noncombat tasks that we are now asking our military to undertake. Petraeus’s approach to Iraq depended upon officers who had exceptional political gifts and an ability to improvise as they worked with local leaders. As an Army major serving in Iraq wrote in a memo that was shared with me back in 2007, “We discovered that we were not fighting a military campaign but a political campaign — not too different from what a small-town mayor might do to win reelection back in the U.S.” The surge was as much about this kind of inventiveness as it was about military planning.

We can show our gratitude toward these officers and their troops in at least two ways.

First, as my MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow keeps reminding us, we need to cut through what the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America calls the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “egregious failure to process the claims of our veterans” in a timely and effective way.

And we need to recognize the contribution that this new generation of veterans can make to our nation. The character of the “Greatest Generation” that fought World War II was established not by the generals or the admirals but by the officers in the lower ranks and the millions of enlisted men and women who carried into civilian life both the skills and the sense of service and community they learned in the war years.

My students taught me that we don’t need to be nostalgic about the Greatest Generation. It’s right here among us.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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