Poor whites are being conned—Leonard Pitts Jr.—Miami Herald

More excellent commentary from Leonard Pitts Jr. on race in America:

It’s just that, if the headline here is that Obama was rejected by whites on the basis of race, I submit that’s not the whole truth. Pollsters say he was actually rejected on the basis of race by whites who lack college degrees and whose household income is less than $50,000 a year. In other words, he was rejected by the poor and the less educated.

Which is a desription that fits many in Appalachia — and also a vast swath of African America. So for me, the story here isn’t simply the old, familiar tale of the nation’s stark racial divide, but also another tale, just as old, less often remarked, of how the white poor and the black poor have long been kept at one another’s throats as a means of keeping them from looking too closely or clearly at the ways both are maniuplated by the forces of money and power.

This reminds me of an incident at a platoon party while I was a Marine. Music is, of course, a big part of culture, and can often be a flashpoint for disagreements. At this party, we were rotating through the preferred genres and were in the midst of a R&B (not rap or hip hop, but R&B and soul) section when one of the young Marines said, “How long are we gonna have to listen to this nigger music?” loud enough for at least a quarter of the platoon to hear. Stupid move. One of the black sergeants grabbed him and began to explain to him (in what I thought was a really restrained way) the error of his ways; a black staff sargeant grabbed his corporal buddy who had been agreeing with the sentiment and chewed him out. Both the young Marine and the corporal were from Appalachia. Neither really seemed to grasp that the characterization was racist; they just wanted to make everyone else suffer through more bad country music.

If it’s that difficult for Marines, who live, work, train and play together, who must depend on one another, who may be asked to fight and die as comrades in arms, who are required to follow orders and respect fellow Marines regardless of color, can harbor such ignorance and veiled hate, it’s no wonder that regular people have a tough time with it? Especially in Appalachia and the Deep South (my home), where it is especially ingrained. But that’s not to say “don’t hope, don’t work, don’t try to change things”—it is, instead, a recognition of the challenges we face.

The white poor have been victims of a con job going back at least as far as the Civil War, when poor white men were used as cannon fodder for the right of rich white men — I repeat: rich white men — to keep slaves. They were told they fought for state’s rights.

My point is that race has often been used as a means of distracting and diverting the white poor. They had little in life, nor any realistic expectation of having more.

But the one thing they did have — or so the con went — was whiteness itself. Which meant they had someone to be better than. Someone to look down upon.

This, even though they did menial work under menial conditions, earned menial pay, sent their kids to menial schools, were subject to menial indignities, made do with menial health care and lived menial lives hemmed in by want, ignorance and hunger.

Exactly like those they had been taught they were better than. Exactly like those they had been taught to look down upon.

There are those in positions of political power who can and should be held to answer for the meanness and narrowness of poor people’s lives. But they can’t and won’t so long as those who should be standing together to demand those answers are kept busy fighting one another over superficialities of color and culture.

dd

The Traveling Taps Brigade—William Wan—Washington Post

There is a shortage of military buglers (and trumpeters) for playing Taps at veterans’ funerals. Volunteers have stepped up to fill the gap. Please visit Bugles Across America and give to help ensure that veterans receive the honors they are due. And if you play the bugle, trumpet, or flugelhorn and can play Taps, consider volunteering.

Honoring Our Veterans—Bill Moyers and Michael Winship—Bill Moyers Journal

From Bill Moyers Journal:

Honoring Our Veterans

In
honor of Memorial Day, JOURNAL writers Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
wrote the following essay on how to best honor our veterans.

Memorial Day

We honor our war dead this Memorial Day weekend. The greatest
respect we could pay them would be to pledge no more wars for erroneous
and misleading reasons; no more killing and wounding except for the
defense of our country and our freedoms.

We also could honor our dead by caring for the living, and do better at it than we are right now.

There has been a flurry of allegations concerning neglect,
malpractice and corner cutting at the Veterans Administration
especially for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder –
PTSD – or major depression, brought on by combat.

A report released by the Rand Corporation last month indicates that
approximately 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer PTSD or
major depression. That’s one of every five military men and women who
have served over there.

Last Friday’s Washington Post reported the contents of an e-mail
sent to staff at a VA hospital in Temple, Texas. A psychologist wrote,
“Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans,
I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD
straight out.” She further suggested that a diagnosis of a less serious
Adjustment Disorder be made instead, especially as she and her
colleagues “really don’t… have time to do the extensive testing that
should be done to determine PTSD.”

Now PTSD is not a diagnosis arrived at without careful, thorough
examination. But to possibly misdiagnose such a volatile and harmful
disorder for the sake of saving time or money is reprehensible.

Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake immediately said the
psychologist’s statement had been “repudiated at the highest level of
our health care organization.” Nonetheless, there’s plenty of other
evidence to raise concern.

The rate of attempted and successful suicides is so scary, the head
of the VA’s mental health division, Dr. Ira Katz, wondered in a
February e-mail how it should be spun. “Shh!” he wrote. “Our suicide
prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts
per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this
something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of
release before someone stumbles on it?”

This apparent cover-up prompted the House Veterans Committee to
hold hearings earlier this month. Congressman Bob Filner, committee
chairman, questioned Dr. Katz and Veterans Affairs Secretary Peake.
“What we see is a pattern that reveals a culture of bureaucracy,”
Filner angrily said. “The pattern is deny, deny, deny and when that
fails, it’s cover up, cover up, cover up — there is clear evidence of a
bureaucratic cover-up here…

Rep. Filner raised the question of criminal negligence. “We should
all be angry about what has gone on here,” he declared. “This is a
matter of life and death for the veterans that we are responsible for
and I think there was criminal negligence in the way this was handled.
If we do not admit, assume or know, then the problem will continue and
people will die. If that’s not criminal negligence, I don’t know what
is.”

Secretary Peake said, “I can appreciate that the number of 1000
suicide attempts a month might be shocking but in a system as large as
ours… and consistent with the literature, we might well expect a larger
number of attempts than that.”

The front page of Sunday’s Houston Chronicle
featured an in-depth study of just one of the suicides — Bronze Star
recipient Nils Aron Andersson of the 82nd Airborne Division. “A victim
of the war within,” reads the Chronicle headline.

Andersson returned home from two tours in Iraq and was reassigned
to duty as an Army recruiter. “Did he come back different?” his father
asked. “I don’t think there’s anybody who goes over there and fights on
the front lines who ever comes back the same.”

In March 2007, Andersson sat behind the wheel of his new Ford pick
up – less than 24 hours after his wedding – and fired a single round
from a .22 caliber semi-automatic into his right temple. He was 25
years old.

“I don’t think Aron let the Army down,” his father said. “I think
the Army let him down. I think the care wasn’t there that he really
needed.”

Only about half of those service members diagnosed with PTSD or
depression have sought treatment and about half of those received what
the RAND study describes as “minimally adequate treatment.” Minimally
adequate treatment for what could be a matter of life and death.

Once upon a time, kids asked their fathers, “What did you do in the
war, daddy?” It’s a question the next generation could ask all of us
who stood by as our government invaded Iraq to start a war whose
purpose and rationale keep shifting and whose end is nowhere in sight,
and who look now with nonchalance upon the unseen scars of those who
are fighting it.

Pundits long on rhetoric, short on the facts—Leonard Pitts Jr.—Miami Herald

On the Kevin James smackdown, Leonard Pitts Jr. opines that James’ ignorance of Neville Chamberlain’s sin combined with his willingness to do something so mindless we shouldn’t insult parrots by calling it that is the most apt description of the “regression of conservatism since the age of Reagan.” (How many people think it’s funny that the Gipper’s time could well be the apex of American conservative thought? That he’s the Pericles of the movement?)
Some will say it’s unfair to paint thoughtful conservatives with the
same brush one uses to tar this blowhard. I would suggest the very need
to use that modifier speaks volumes. There was once a day when
conservatism was driven by principles: smaller government,
less-intrusive government, strong national defense, fiscal sobriety.
But in the years since that day, the putative heirs to Reagan have
trampled not just those principles, but also principle itself.

The
ideology that wanted small government now presides over expanded
government, the one that wanted less intrusion now seeks to regulate
bedroom behavior, the one that demanded strong national defense has run
the military into the ground, the one that championed fiscal sobriety
turned a $236 billion budget surplus into a $400 billion deficit. And
if thoughtful conservatives see the disconnect, if they have the
intellectual integrity to find it shameful, the newsflash is,
thoughtful conservatives no longer predominate their ideology.

No, that honor goes to unthoughtful conservatives, the loud, proudly
ignorant voices of talk radio, books and television of which Kevin
James is now the poster child. Matthews kept asking him to explain the
sins of Neville Chamberlain and he kept crying, ”appeasement!
appeasement!” clinging to the words like a drowning man to a raft.

That’s
what people like him do. They are geniuses at rhetoric (”War on
Christmas,” anyone?) that rouses the rabble and lets them feel
aggrieved, while simultaneously having the intellectual heft of cotton
balls. But they can no more step beyond that rhetoric than Gilligan
could step off his island. There is no there there.

As usual for Pitts, simply brilliant.

Our Data, Ourselves—Bruce Schneier

In the information age, we all have a data shadow.

With these words, Bruce Schneier opens an almost poetic call to action for people to recognize their data, its vulnerability and the need to take back control of that data from those who amass it, control it and peruse it almost at will. He admits it will be a long, hard slog, and that it would be easy to do nothing, but I think that it’s not only worth the effort, but it may be the paramount struggle in civil liberties this millennium.

The Cynic and Senator Obama — Esquire — Charles Pierce

There is one point in the stump speech, however, that catches the cynic up short every time. It comes near to the end, when Obama talks about cynics. Obama says that cynics believe they are smarter than everyone else. The cynic thinks he’s wrong. The cynic doesn’t think he’s wiser or more clever or more politically attuned than anyone else. It’s just that he fears that, every morning, he’ll discover that his country has done something to deface itself further, that something else he thought solid will tremble and quake and fall to ruin, that his fellow citizens will sell more of their birthright for some silver that they can forge into shackles. He has come to believe that the worst thing a citizen of the United States of America can believe is that his country will not do something simply because it’s wrong. It would be a mistake for anyone — but especially for a presidential candidate — to believe that the cynic thinks himself wise or safe or liberated. In 2008, the cynic is more modest. He considers himself merely adequate to the times.

Just one of many wonderful passages from Charles Pierce’s article in Esquire. Go, go and read the whole thing!