tonight's post is a roundtable. we cover a lot of topics so enjoy.
Rebecca: I am Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and we're doing another roundtable -- another outside of Third Estate Sunday Review roundtable. With us for the roundtable are Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Trina of Trina's Kitchen and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix will be joining us but first we have Ann and why don't you introduce yourself.
Ann: Hello. I'm Ann Wil -- let me start over. I'm married to Cedric Wilson, I'm Ann Wilson.
Kat: I'm laughing because I get it.
Ann: Exactly, I didn't want people to think I'm the rock star Ann Wilson and then be let down as they read on. But I can sing a pretty good "Crazy On You."
Rebecca: "Crazy On You" is a song recorded by the rock group Heart whose lead singer is Ann Wilson. But that's a different Ann Wilson.
Ann: Very different. I'm African-American, no one would mistake us for twins. But I do know a lot of Heart songs and have their best of and live album -- got 'em both in college when I signed up with BMG Music Club.
Kat: I know we need to be serious but I'll ask the question on the minds of everyone who has ever signed up with BMG and/or Columbia House: Did you leave owing a fee?
Ann: Absolutely! This was college. You move pretty much every other semester. You take your middle name and your last name and your a new person signing up for the free CDs all over again. I'm more financially responsible now. But, yes, I left owing BMG money and I never bought the CDs from Columbia House I was supposed to either.
Rebecca: Outside of the newsletters, this is your online introduction. Cedric and you got married at the end of the year and did you want to add anything to that?
Ann: We didn't plan it. I felt really awful because we didn't invite a lot of people. What happened was that both of my grandparents had come up for Christmas as had my great grandmother who is, well, old. We had planned, Cedric and I, a June wedding which is what everyone wants, I know. But my parents were telling me that the trip up for Christmas was a lot on one set of grandparents -- the other lives in the next city over -- and it was really rough on my great grandmother. So I mentioned that to Cedric and he asked if I wanted to go ahead and move the wedding up? I honestly wasn't thinking or hinting about that. But when he said it, it made perfect sense. Our big wedding flew out the door and I wore a nice white formal dress but it wasn't a wedding gown. I couldn't find -- in that short a time -- a wedding dress I liked so my mother reminded me about a really nice white dress I liked. We'd seen it together and I honestly wanted to buy it for a party but then we looked at the price and I said, "There's no way I'm spending that on a party dress."
Betty: But for the dress on your big day, the price was just right.
Ann: Absolutely! And it's a beautiful dress, it's silk and I do plan on wearing it to parties. Everybody knows the story, I should say that for anyone who doesn't read the newsletters. I've bored everyone with wedding talk and wedding pictures in Polly's Brew.
Ruth: We were not bored reading and seeing the photos and we are not bored now. Explain how quickly you and Cedric pulled this off.
Ann: It was the night before when I mentioned to him about my great-grandmother's health and he asked if I wanted to move it up. We got married in his church. There was something planned at my church. It was a very small wedding pulled together quickly. And we had gorgeous flowers -- thank you to Rebecca, Elaine, Ava and C.I. who apparently bought out every florist in our city. Rebecca, Ruth, Trina, Marcia, Stan, Wally, Ty, Jim, Dona, Jess, Ava, Kat and C.I. were there. Betty, Elaine and Mike couldn't make it and they weren't the only ones. On my side, two of my best friends couldn't make it because they were with their families for the Christmas vacation. I hope it's okay to point this out, Wally was going to be a groom's men but ended up being Cedric's best man.
Wally: But there was no time to throw him a proper bachelors party.
Ava: So Wally took him out for wings and who knows what at dinner. I mean this really was rush, rush. And that was okay because I really did just want to get married in front of both sets of my grandparents and my great-grandmother. There was a rehearsal at the church, actually, and our ceremony started at nine. It was rush rush and it ended up so wonderful. I love our photos. And there again, thank you, Kat. We didn't plan it. So Kat's there and she sees we don't have a photographer -- there wasn't time -- so she ends up doing all the photos and they are wonderful. I'm probably babbling. But it really ended up so beautiful and Cedric and I didn't think that. We thought we'd hae a simple ceremony and it ended up being so nice. Again, thank you to Kat for the photos, thank you to Rebecca, Elaine, Ava and C.I. for the flowers. I don't mean a few flowers. I mean they flooded the church with flowers. White roses, white carnations -- Elaine had called to congratulate Cedric and me and she asked him what our color scheme was going to be. He hands me his cell and I'm explaining to her that we're just tossing this together. I said my dress was white so I guessed that was our scheme. We had flowers in baskets, we had flowers in vases, we had flowers around windows and up and down the aisle. And Kat's taking my photo in the entry hall right before I'm about to walk down the aisle and she says, "No music?" That's really what it was like, we didn't have time to plan. We were just going to exchange our vows -- that was our plan -- in front of family. So Kat yells for C.I. who comes running over and Kat says, "They don't have an organist." C.I. says, "Okay, you got it now. Just the wedding march or anything else." And I said, "Well, it's probably corny and you probably don't know it but Luther Vandross did this song called 'Close To You' and it's an old song that a lot of other --" and C.I. nods and says, "No problem." So we finish up the photos while C.I.'s playing "Close To You."
Trina: It was a very lovely ceremony and you were a beautiful bride. Tell about your great-grandmother.
Ann: She doesn't believe that it wasn't planned all along. She thinks we were trying to save her money on a new dress, trying to make sure she didn't go about and buy something new just for the wedding. She kept saying, "Annie, I know you had this planned." Everything just came together. With a lot of hard work, I know. I mean all the guests I named at the wedding from this community were making sure that the flowers were here and there, that the candles were this and it was just wonderful. And Cedric's pastor did a wonderful job with the vows. I mentioned Wally was a grooms men so let me note Ruth was a brides maid. Poor Ruth. I'd found a sub for my matron of honor but two of my best friends had to cancel because they just couldn't get a flight -- I don't know how you managed it -- but Ruth was the first person walking up to me and I was starting to freak, wedding day jitters and she comes up and congratulates me and wishes me well and I grab her hands while she's doing it -- in a death grip, I'm sure -- and I'm nodding to her and saying, "Yes, yes, yes, I need another bride's maid!" Ruth says, "We'll find you one." I said, "I need one right now!" I was freaking. Ruth said, "Then I'm her." And I hugged her and thanked her and, if I didn't mention it, this is when I met Ruth.
Marcia: We made it out because C.I., Elaine, Rebecca and Ava charted flights. My concern right now is that we do know the story. And because we know the story we know to fill in any details that are missing. We'll do that automatically. So I'm just wondering if everything got covered?
Ann: Good question. My dad did the wedding video. My aunty goes to Cedric church and I had been there once a year, every year for over 20 years.
Ruth: And you had never met Cedric.
Ann: No. I'd seen him but we had never spoken. It's not a mega church, but it is a large congregation. I'm sure he had smiled and nodded at me because he does that with any visitor. But we had never spoken. Now my aunty just goes to church on Sunday morning, she skips Sunday school, so if we'd come earlier for that, Cedric and I might have spoken.
Betty: That is just so strange because there are other periods and places where your paths crossed.
Ann: High school. He was two years ahead of me. But my parents were strict and I didn't date until senior year so there was no point in paying attention to older guys prior to that. It was all I could do to convince them that the boys my age were study partners.
Betty: And were they?
Ann: Noooo. They were my early dates, they were my practice dates. So I'm going to hand off to Cedric now.
Rebecca: Okay, thank you, Ann. Jim will have a fit that I got her for this roundtable instead of Third.
Ava: Which is probably why Cedric arranged it that way.
Rebecca: I'm sure.
Cedric: And I'm not telling.
Rebecca: So Cedric is with us now. You heard what your wife was saying? Did you want to add anything?
Cedric: I heard some of it. But I don't have anything to add. That's her story. It was her big day. Actually I will add a thank you to everyone who was able to make it. And to everyone for making it look so wonderful.
Rebecca: Ann's sweet and she was so beautiful in her wedding dress. Okay, we wanted to give her a chance to speak and, if she wants, she can come back on. Our topics are Iraq, feminism and who knows what else. Oh, rush transcript. There will be typos, deal with it. One other topic, actually, movies. Stan does a Friday post on movies each week and since he's participating in the roundtable, that won't happen. So Stan, tell us a movie to see or skip?
Stan: I'm trying to think. There's a film I didn't care for but I think we're considering doing that as a feature, looking at a director, at Third in the near future. I know, I'll do What A Way To Go. That films stars Shirley MacLaine and a host of other people. Robert Mitchum, Dick Van Dyke, Dean Martin and Paul Newman. The story is that Shirley MacLaine falls in love with a guy, marries him and he dies. She ends up very wealthy. At the beginning, Dean Martin is the wealthy guy in town who wants to marry her but she's not interested in him. She picks Dick Van Dyke who has no business ambition but ends up insulted for her and himself when Dean Martin makes fun of their house. He becomes a huge success after that. It's a comedy and during part of each section, she pictures the marriage as a movie. She and Dick are a silent comedy, she and Newman are a French film, she and Mitchum are a technicolor, big Hollywood movie, and she and Gene Kelly -- who I forgot to mention -- are a movie musical. Shirley was really great in that, by the way. The sequence with Gene Kelly. They are dancing on a ship and, if you see it, you'll really be amazed. I don't mean because she can dance because I think most people know she sings and dances. But that she danced so well. I think she was the best dancing partner Gene Kelly had.
Betty: I'm interested in seeing it just based on the movie musical -- spoof? Is it a spoof?
Betty: Does it hold up?
Stan: In places. The Paris bit is the weakest. It's filmed and lit well and Shirley looks really great in flowing wig and this dress for the bulk of it that's really just existing to show off her legs. But Paul Newman never really plays a character. He's too showy. There's this scene where he meets her and they're in his cab and he's eating a banana. That scene's supposed to be about them, setting them up, and he's trying to Method it all with the banana and it just makes him look self-obsessed and you think, "Shirley, you should get out of the cab and run." But the Robert Mitchum stuff is great and Gene Kelly really is good. Dick Van Dyke actually has the hardest male role -- I think -- because he's got to play a young kid -- he's the first husband and Shirley's right out of school and he went to school with her so he's got to be young. And he has no business ambition and could seem lazy -- the way Dean Martin thinks he is -- but Dick Van Dyke really makes the role come alive. And Dean Martin is just perfect for the role he plays. If they'd had anyone other than Paul Newman for the Paris section -- even the monkey in Paris is a character you care about more than Newman -- it would have worked better. And it's got a really great look. Shirley's great in all the sequences.
Elaine: If you're seeing Shirley MacLaine films -- I know you recently saw Sweet Charity -- I would recommend The Yellow Rolls Royce which is probably not on DVD but was always one of my favorite Shirley MacLaine films.
Stan: I'll make a point to look for that -- on DVD and videotape. I really am enjoying her films.
Rebecca: Woman Times Seven is another one of her films to check out. We're at the half-way mark. I agreed to a time limit. And so we're going to move into -- let's go into feminism. There's a big to do that a number of us have received e-mails on. Are we doing links?
Betty: No. And I'd prefer no names. I'm not in the mood to advance anyone who can't do a damn thing for any member of this community.
Rebecca: Okay -- and I don't disgaree with you, Betty -- the Groper, Barack's speech writer is dating a woman who did some cheese cake photos for a men's magazine. The way it was handled online has led to a debate over whether she was being shamed, whether she was being called out unfairly, whether she was being held to a different standard, etc. A man wrote about it most famously or infamously and he got yelled at online and it was a lot of messy.
Betty: Which happens a lot -- and I'm not referring to him but where he posted -- it happens a lot there. I'll stay quiet for now.
Ava: I'm looking at C.I. who is shrugging. Kat?
Kat: I don't know this story.
Ava: Kat, C.I., Wally and I are on the road talking about Iraq. We don't know about this. We haven't read any of it. I'm assuming the groper is the PIG Jon Favreau. Not the actor-director-writer, but the Favreau who writes Barack's speeches.
Marcia: Well, first off, the guy. I know this story. He sets himself up for a lot of his problems by the way he writes. In this case, it wasn't the way he wrote in the post that was inviting -- though he outraged some with just the post -- it was his comments in reply to comments. Which really seemed to come from the fact that he was genuinely hurt. And it's true that he rejected the move to engage in the comments but maybe he didn't want to engage? If I disagree with someone, I'm not going to want to engage. So I can see that.
Cedric: I understand what Marcia's saying and can see her points and agree with them. But I would draw one line of difference. For me that would be when he went to Violet Socks' site -- I think Betty's fine with my mentioning her --
Betty: Yes and with her getting a link.
Cedric: Okay, so when he went there, you know, you do have to engage. She's got her own following and when you're coming over there, you need to engage or you don't need to be hanging out there. Now I can see how he'd feel piled on but, honestly, his non-responses invited it.
Wally: Just to be clear on what Cedric's talking about because I do know about this -- Cedric and I discussed it on the phone repeatedly this week. But we wondered if he didn't feel -- and he had reason to feel that way from some comments -- that his right to be a feminist was being questioned. And questioned beyond the flare up but for all time.
Ruth: I understand that and I agree he might have been thinking that. There was a woman who wanted to know if he looked at or bought pornography and she just would not let that go. To her, it was her personal litmus test. And that can be her personal litmus test, but it is not going to be everyone's. I just felt like -- my opinion -- he was being asked to jump through a hoop to prove something and it was not one hoop, it was a thousand and one.
Marcia: And like Ruth said, that was one woman's personal litmus test. I didn't see a problem with the photos of the girlfriend in her underwear. They were meant to be sexy photos and they were marketed to a men's magazine but, I'm a lesbian, I found the photos attractive. The woman wasn't naked and, if she had been, I did wonder if we were getting into prude territory with some of the remarks.
C.I.: Okay I'm looking at the photos right now. It's one photo. Is that right? I don't have time to read whatever's been written about the woman and I'm not in the mood to. I've posed nude. I'm not going to judge this woman and I'm not understanding why we are judging her to begin with? Because of who she's dating? What am I missing here? Did she make some sexist statement or excuse homophobia?
Wally: No, it's just that she's dating the Groper.
C.I.: The Groper refers to Jon Favreau who acted like a pig with a cardboard of Hillary Clinton in what was, at best, boorish behavior and, at worst, simulated gang-rape. I don't care for Favreau, I will never defend him. But I'm not understanding what this has to do with the woman? It's not even as if they're in a longterm relationship because I know for a fact Favreau was seeing several women as late as this fall. So I mean, I don't get it. Lynn Cheney is open season for some because she's married to Dick and has been for many years. She has her own problems to make her open season but most people don't know anything about her other than she's Dick's wife. So they go after her for that reason alone. And that may or may not be fair but the two are life partners with a long history of being that. This woman in her underwear, she's dating a guy. Apparently . Who knows? Gossip doesn't make it true. But he might be one of several guys she's dating, she might be one of many women he's seeing. I'm not understanding where she is responsible for his actions -- good or bad -- or where she's a reflection on his actions. Now people can write whatever they want and express themselves however they want. But unless I'm missing something I don't even want her name mentioned in this because I don't see how she's an issue or at all pertinent at this time to a discussion. Others can and should do what they want but I'm just not interested.
Elaine: I'm going to agree with C.I. here. This isn't anything to do with this woman. She posed in her underwear -- in designer underwear, it was a fashion shoot, it's not her personal underwear. Do people know anything about photo shoots? I know C.I. will say, "No." I've heard her say it plenty of times. But, the photo you see in the magazine or wherever, that's not necessarily the one the model or photographer planned. It's the one that turned out best. The one that sells. I mean, Carly Simon's infamous Playing Possum cover, she didn't plan for that to be the shot. The photographer didn't. It ended up being the best photo on the roll. It was shocking to some people and even got the album banned in some stores -- I believe all the Sears stores. If she were crawling on the floor or sucking on pearls or something, maybe I'd see someone's point. But, as I understand, she was doing TV then or about to be, and this is nothing more than the cheesecake photos Hollywood's always turned out. And though Katharine Hepburn always lied about it, even she had to do some early on. Are we ashamed of our bodies now? I don't get it. I don't think you can make the woman in the photo -- that image, I don't want to pretend that an image is a person -- into a portrait of weakness. She's got an adult expression. She's not exhibiting fear.
Wally: One of the points people raised in comments all over the net was where the photo appeared: a men's magazine.
Elaine: I'm sure the magazine has a lot of photos that run it. Are we holding all the photos to the same standard? I'm sure the men in the magazine are fully clothed. Or we running blog posts questioning whether they are hiding their bodies and if so why? You say a men's magzine and not "a nudie magazine"? If you told me the photo ran in Playboy, I wouldn't care. It wouldn't make a difference. Some outlets? Yeah, it would make a difference. Outlets that promote violence against women would outrage me.
C.I.: What it reminds me of is a photo Sherry Lansing posed for years and years ago when she was attempting to have an acting career. She ended up being an incredible producer and running the studio -- the one Summer Redstone has now ruined. That photo -- from years before -- surfaced or resurfaced. And there was an attempt on the part of some to shame her for the photo. My attitude was, "Sherry, you look incredible in that photo from forty years ago. Don't let it get to you." And some people wanted it to get to her -- and Sherry is well loved and was loved then -- but some people had nothing better to do than turn some photo into reason to cluck or snark. It wasn't an issue. Except for, "You look really good in that photo. You should be really proud." I am fully aware of objectifying and the male gaze. I'm also aware that any woman attempting to work in the entertainment industry is going to be expected to look her best and is going to be expected to pose for photos that someone will find sexy. Now Cheryl Ladd put it so well in the 70s and I'm going to paraphrase her here, "If someone finds me sexy, I'm flattered. If someone thinks of me as a sex object, that's a different thing." Cheryl Ladd was never a sex object and that had to do with how she carried herself as well as her use of a warm humor. And I see something similar in this photo. I see an attractive woman with what appears to be a healthy sense of humor, I'm judging by her facial expression. She's not a heroin waif or a woman in danger. It's a good picture. And I want to make another point: What are we saying she's deserved or had coming? That's a really important question to ask.
Elaine: I agree with that. If, heaven forbid, Favreau hits her, are we going to say, "Well, hey, she posed for that photo." It's a photo. She was attempting to get attention for an entertainment career. Betty Grable, Lana Turner, do the people so outraged by these photos, the ones clucking, have any idea of the photos that have come before? I'm not talking about pornography. I'm talking about studio photos of actresses.
Cedric: Well, where Wally and I went in terms of the photos was is she supposed to be ashamed? She works in some minor function in the White House. What should be -- at best -- something she laughs at for a day with co-workers -- in a, 'Yeah, I posed for that." -- is it suddenly supposed to require her to walk through the White House with a scarlet letter on? And I was asking Wally, "Do you see it as really sexual? Because I don't."
Wally: And I really didn't either. She's an attractive woman. But -- Marcia, how about you?
Marcia: I went with attractive and "nice photos." But, no. And, I mean, I've seen Kim Basinger in some much more explicit photos -- and I don't mean stills from 9 1/2 Weeks. And I went to -- I'm sure C.I.'s thinking this too and Betty as well but I'll say it -- I went to Vanessa Williams. I thought, "This is like when Vanessa was supposed to be shamed." For the nude photos. And now there are non-nude photos and a woman's supposed to be shamed? Geez, what's next. A woman in a two piece suit but with a glint in her eye?
Cedric: But you can understand the guy writing the post?
Marcia: I can. Ruth and I didn't agree with it but we could understand why he wrote it and could see it as a way to start a conversation. But that would require engagment. We didn't think that because we didn't agree with him he wasn't a feminist.
Ruth: And we were careful, when we discussed it, to ask, "If a woman had written it, would we ask, 'Is she really a feminist?'" There seemed to be a desire to say, "Ha! You are not a feminist!" And with few exceptions -- I am thinking of some of his phrases -- I have always found him to be foward thinking and never felt the need to ask, "Do you look at pornography?"
Marcia: That question really bothered me because I do have lesbian videos. Porn. Videos made for women featuring women. Am I not a feminist? And I am attracted women. I'm not going to hold that against a man that they are also attracted to women. There was a prude element. I mean, right now in Oregon, there's a sex scandal with a mayor, male, who had a consentual affair with a male. The mayor was in his 40s, the male was 18 or over. It was legal. And there's this prudish movement a foot that reminds me of the whole "Monica Lewinsky was a child!" nonsense. Monica Lewinsky was an adult, a grown woman.
Ruth: Marcia and I came to the decision that while we disagreed with him, he was offering a feminist view. Not the. To steal from Ava and C.I., "a feminist view."
Ava: And I think that's the consensus. C.I. has stated anyone can say whatever but explained why she doesn't have a problem with the photos. And by the way, I am firmly in Elaine and C.I.'s camp.
Rebecca: Okay. We're going to move to Iraq and I need people to speak quickly because we've got a limited amount of time. I'm not going to say, "___ needs to speak more," because I think everyone's speaking and I know Iraq is the big topic to everyone so some of you were waiting for this. Wait on Iraq. Trina had some stuff.
Trina: Yeah, there was a hearing on sexual assault in the military this week. You can see C.I.'s Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "When I tried to smoke a banana," C.I.'s Thursday's "Iraq snapshot," Ruth's "Laura Watterson's testimony and its meaning," Kat's "Laura Watterson's testimony," C.I.'s "What gets covered, what doesn't" and C.I.'s Friday "Iraq snapshot." I actually had many topics on this but I'll try to boil it down to a statement, I guess. I just am appalled that the press didn't cover the hearing. I'm outraged that they ignored it and then, come Friday morning, wanted to go on and on about military suicides. One was judged important, one was ignored. It wasn't based on numbers since there are more sexual assaults than suicides. And, to be really honest, I'm kind of offended that so much time was spent on some photos. I don't see any problem with the photos that woman posed for in the previous topic but I do see a problem with that having taken up our 'feminist' bloggers this week when they did not have time to write about military sexual assault.
Rebecca: That's a valid point. I'm resetting the timer so that this topic gets as much attention. If anyone needs to bail, feel free. And I'm going to toss to Ava and Wally on this for set up. Ava,, C.I., Kat and Wally attended Wednesday's hearing. Kat and C.I. have their sites where they can -- and have -- written about it. We haven't heard from Wally and Ava on this so I'm going to toss to them on the set up.
Wally: Ava's pointing at me to start. It was early morning Wednesday. It's the US House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Susan Davis of California chairs the hearing. The first panel had more members of Congress present. They had to vote. They actually had to leave shortly after opening statements of the first panel, they came back, then they had to leave again and then the second panel started. The first panel was Laura Watterson who was a surivor. She was sexually assaulted in 2001. There were three members of the military who work with victims on the first panel. The second panel was two Dept of Defense people and someone who is bascially a contract employee of DoD from time to time. Laura Watterson's testimony and responses to questions made the hearing. I'll toss to Ava.
Ava: C.I.'s captured the best exchanges in the snapshot. So Davis has gotten credit, as has Loretta Sanchez and Niki Tsongas. Republican males went out of their way to be cozy with what I would call the compromised witnesses. Let's kick it off, let's kick this disccusion off with Tsongas' issue regarding the unreported assaults. The restricted reporting option. C.I. addressed that at length today but to give a brief overview, the military created that category when forced to address sexual assaults. This category allows victims to speak but there is no prosecution or notification for law enforcement or commanders.
Betty: I'll go first. Niki Tsongas made the point that when there is no follow up -- beyond alleged therapy -- then a rapist is left loose in the community and that's putting an entire community at risk. I agree with that completely. If I'm raped and we're all on a base and I do the restricted option, that means my rapist can move on to Ava or Kat or Marcia or Ruth or Wally or Cedric. I thought C.I.'s comments were dead on in today's snapshot.
C.I.: Just to be clear, I had multiple input from victims advocates and sexual assault workers. I have built upon everything they've offered. So credit them and not me.
Cedric: On the restricted, one thing that rang true to me in the snapshot today is C.I. saying, 'Okay, I've been raped and I don't want to use the unrestricted option where my assailant gets charged. I want to do restricted.' As C.I. points out, if that's her attitude, she's more likely to go off base to ensure her privacy. What that option really seems is a way to surpress cases, legal complaints, criminal complaints. And I saw nothing -- correct me Ava or Wally if something happened at the hearing and didn't get included by C.I., Kat or Ruth -- but I saw nothing that indicated there was a check on this 'novel' policy.
Wally: No, there was no check. That was the point today in the snapshot regarding Walter Reed. If you'd asked the ones running Walter Reed if there were problems with the care, they would have said "No." So why is Congress asking the people running the program if there are problems?
Trina: That's what really bothered me about the hearing. There were 7 witnesses. Only 1 was not working for the DoD. Everyone else fell under the Pentagon including the guy from California whose organization collaborates with the Pentagon frequently. Everyone answering was self-reporting and it was in their interest to present their own selves as qualified and working. I was very disappointed and bothered by that. Checks and balances is not Pauline runs the program so our check on her is having her tell us how the program is doing. There was no independent measure and the thing wasn't just weighted in favor of the DoD, it tilted over to it. Does anyone want to say anything on that before I move over to another aspect?
Betty: The Walter Reed example was the perfect illustration -- and I loved C.I.'s line about do we need to hope Dana Priest and Anne Hull start investigating? Because the investigating, the verifying, that's Congress' job. And what Congress did on Wednesday was say, "We'll take your word for it." Who is verifying that the women and men chosing restricted feel they are being treated appropriately and are not being encouraged to choose that option by their 'helpers'? Where is the check on that? Again, Walter Reed supervisors would have told you, "We're doing a great job."
Stan: I was really bothered by that as well. How do we know something's being done? Because the people getting the money and administering the programs say so? Oh, okay, let's give 'em some more money. Anybody going to check on them or are we just going to keep taking their word for it. And what Laura Watterson, okay? She was sexually assaulted in 2001. Does Congress really think that if they'd asked her commanders in 2001, "So is there an assault you didn't address?" that the commanders would have said, "Yes, there is. Let's talk about that."? I don't see it happening.
Kat: There was a moment involving Maria Lauterbach during the second panel. Some man asked about her. Maybe a Republican. And the Mary Kay lookalike --
Kat: "Doctor" Whitley. Doctor Whitley revealed that the Marines weren't doing anything on the case, weren't going to, because they allegedly felt that they might compromise the civilian case. I don't buy that but for any thinking, "Look, right there. The Congress man couldn't get an answer from the Pentagon and there was Whitley offering information," she didn't offer it that way. She realized, after she started speaking, that he hadn't been told anything she was talking about. The remarks she made were things she thought he had already been told. If he'd made it clear at the start that he had been told nothing -- not just that he was having trouble getting answers -- what would she have told him? We don't know. But she herself, once she realizes it, starts saying she thought he knew this already. So the one time she was at all useful, it was only because she was telling him what she though he had already been told.
Marcia: Before Trina moves on, I want to go back to -- I'm going to blow off what Kat just said completely, sorry, Kat -- I want to go back to the issue Tsongas was raising one more time. It is important that victims get treatment. But the safety of the community is important as well. Now let's say Cedric has the mumps. And Elaine's a doctor, so let's say Elaine treats him. And that's it. Elaine doesn't do anything else. Then I get the mumps and Ruth gets them and Betty gets them. And I'm furious and I'm saying, "How did I get the mumps?" I find out that Cedric had them. "Why wasn't I told?" A rapist is not going to just rape once. And same story, I find out Cedric was raped or Ruth or Betty by the guy who later rapes me, I will be all in their face about how their silence put me at risk.
Now if Elaine had said, "We got mumps" early on, I wouldn't have had mumps. But Cedric wanted 'restricted reporting' and now the entire community's at risk. I don't know if people can follow that.
Trina: I follow you completely. Okay, here's my thing. I don't want that hearing to happen again. I never again want to see that many people 'testifying' who, if they tell some bad truths, might hurt their own income versus only one person who is not connected to DoD. I never want to see that kind of 'balance' again. It's inexcusable. Do we have another second?
Rebecca: We do. I extended this portion.
Trina: Well I'd like for us to discuss Loretta Sanchez' suggestion and questioning.
Ruth: Now I enjoyed reading about that. US House Rep Loretta Sanchez asked the first panel some questions. She spoke of how commanders could be evalauted -- in their performance reviews -- on how they handled sexual assaults. They could be graded on it and it would include input from the victim of the sexual assault. If you didn't pass, you didn't get promoted.
Stan: And Laura Watterson was all for the idea.
Ava: That's in the snapshots but I'll add that if you'd heard her voice when she was asked, you would know she was really pleased with the idea.
Wally: But she was one of four witnesses. The other three worked for the Air Force, the Navy and the Army. They weren't so thrilled. Air Force was up first and he was just an idiot. You would be punishing people, he insisted.
Cedric: Like it's not part of the commander's job? They're responsible for everything. They're responsible for seeing that things are addressed. So, yeah, it should be on their job performance review. And, Rebecca and everybody, I do have to go. I'm sorry.
Rebecca: That's cool. We extended. Don't worry about it.
Wally: I"ll post this at your site when we get done.
Cedric: Thanks, Wally. Night everybody.
Rebecca: And there was the click. By the way, Betty's participating from California, she's on the West Coast, at C.I.'s in fact. The rest of us are all at Trina's. Cedric was participating by phone as well. Okay, the point Cedric was making was that it is the commander's job to see that sexual assaults are addressed. We're speaking of it being included in the performance reviews -- which was Loretta Sanchez' suggestion.
Trina: Well the Air Force person --
C.I.: Capt Daniel Katka.
Trina: Thank you, Katka also said that if it was included in the performance review it might force changes but it wouldnt' be for the right reason and the commanders wouldn't geniunely care about military sexual assault. Was anyone else gagging on that?
Elaine: First off, he came across as completely unfit to treat sexual assault. He came across as someone who's probably been told he's a good listener many times in his life but there was nothing in his testimony that ever indicated he was fit to be a SARC -- a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. But, as Trina's pointing out, who the hell cares why a commander changes? You want him or her to change. Now maybe Katka thinks the military can take forty or more years -- and that's a generous estimate -- to work on changing the culture that exists, but that's not helping anyone today.
Betty: I would agree with you. Who cares why you're doing your job all the sudden? In this case, the fact that you're doing it matters more than why. So you're only doing it because you know you won't get promoted if you don't? I believe there are many job duties that people perform only because they want to be promoted. And change comes from the top in the military. It's chain of command. So make the higher ups nervous about sexual assault, nervous enough that they start taking it seriously, and the attitude of taking it seriously will drift downward.
Trina: If anyone else had a point they needed to make, that's great but those were all the points I had that I wanted addressed.
Rebecca: Okay. Kat, how about you close it out for us since you have been writing about it -- as have Ruth and C.I.
Kat: Like Trina said, we don't need another hearing where we have to take the word of the Defense Dept. We need some supervision and Congress sitting there and listenign to the Pentagon self-report doesn't cut it as supervision. The culture needs to be confronted. Until it is, there will be no changes. It was amazing to see the panic when Sanchez raised the issue of the performance review. I think -- I'm basing this on what I saw during the hearing and the answer given -- I think the man with the Army would have supported it -- as he did -- regardless. But I did think the woman from the Navy went along with Sanchez' suggestion only because she saw what a jerk the Air Force guy had come off as. I could be wrong but that's my opinion. In terms of the way Congress conducted themselves in the hearing, I give high marks. We'd gone to two hearings the day before and one of them, the Senate Armed Services Committee, was a nightmare as everyone rushed to joke and have 'fun' discussing Iraq and Afghanistan. It was disgusting. I would also note that Susan Davis started her hearing on Wednesday by introducing the members of the subcommittee who were present. She always runs a better hearing than many of her colleagues. We've sat in on hearings she's chaired before.
Rebecca: So now we're on Iraq and how fitting that Kat mentioned the Senate Armed Services Committee because its chair, Carl Levin, is in the snaphsot today. Levin declared Friday that there is "wiggle room" in Barack's 16-month withdrawal of combat forces. They would only, Levin argues, need to do 80% by 16 months. Who wants to grab?
Wally: Let me start off and then I'll probably shut up after. People think, and Marcia and I were on the road during this talking to people, explaining why we were supporting Hillary, people think Barack promised to pull all US troops out of Iraq in 16 months of being elected. That's not what he 'promised.' What he said was "combat troops." And that's "wiggle room," to use Levin's phrase, too because it allows him to reclassify people. Now C.I.'s been told repeatedly by people at the White House that the number of troops that would stay behind if the 16-month option was put through would be 70,000 US troops. I want to be sure we're clear on that because a lot of people voted for Barack thinking he was saying all US troops out. That's not what he was saying. And he may not live up to it anyway. Samantha Power said he wasn't bound by it if he got elected, that it was just campaign talk. Now I'll shut up.
Stan: I think Wally did a great job setting that up. 16 months is pathetic. All US troops could be out of Iraq in Barack's first 100 days. The idea that we have to wait 16 months and then only half of them would be out is ridiculous. The fact that we're hearing from Carl Levin -- who has already pissed me off this month -- that 16 months isn't 16 months just demonstrates how unserious the Democrats in Congress and the White House are about Iraq.
Betty: When I read that, I thought, "And where will the pressure come?" Where? I mean the bulk of the left long ago forgot how to stand up to anyone. They refuse to stand up to Barack. He'll get away with this. And they'll have a million excuses for why he 'had to' do it.
Ruth: In 2004 and 2005, the peace movement was telling us that we had to stop the illegal war. They stopped telling us that once the Democrats got control of both houses of Congress in the November 2006 elections. Since that day, CODESTINK, MoveOn, and all the rest of the liars have made one excuse after another as to why we need to be 'patient.'
Trina: Has anyone checked out the Socialist Worker -- US one? My father did when he saw the snapshot. Instead of calling Barack out, there's this cheesy write-up, this feel good bulls**t about John Nichols and Matthew Rothschild and others talking about the 'new day dawning' and John Nichols insisting we're all Socialists now and it's just such garbage and so offensive. It's not Socialism, it's satellite Communism, beamed in from somewhere else to give us all our marching orders. I am so sick of these liars. I am so sick of these cowards. And I'll include Coward Zinn on that list.
Elaine: I am so with you, Trina, big, huge disgrace.
Trina: Howard's the big talker from my town. And we're all supposed to worship his strong voice and how he stands up and blah, blah, f**king blah. Howard Zinn is either in the early stages of senility or he's just a damn fool coward. Regardless, I don't have time for him and strongly urge him to seek a more private profile because he obviously has nothing of value to offer. Even Noam Chomsky is now calling Barack out on a regular basis. But Coward's silent. To watch a hometown hero self-destruct in public is very embarrassing.
Ruth: To steal from Marcia's site title, I am sick of it. I am so sick of the stupid. People today do not realize that Barack is not JFK nor do they realize the very real work we had to do in order to get the US out of Vietnam. They do not realize anything. Ron Jacobs, whom I usually enjoy reading, had a revisonary tale about George McGovern.
C.I.: I have to speak now. Ruth showed me that today and, Ron, you're wonderful but you don't know what you're talking about. I haven't read that book by Lance -- Lance Selfa -- and maybe you got that wrong impressionf rom Lance's book. But no one -- other than the right-wing -- would praise McGovern on abortion. That was one of the many issues that left battle scars in Miami. McGovern sent out Shirley MacLaine -- among others -- to sell that to women, to sell his cave on that issue. Gloria Steinem was so angry she was in tears. The women who were in Miami have the scars, am I right, Elaine?
Elaine: Yeah, we have scars. I haven't read Lance Selfa's book either. But Ron Jacobs is way off and it may be the book or it may be him. But McGovern said anything to get the nomination and, as feminist saw in Miami, he rushed to move away from his promises before accepting the nomination. Don't claim outside pressure. McGovern did what he wanted to do. And he was always a sexist little pig. I had to wear a jacket around him because he couldn't stop staring at my damn breasts. I was far from the only woman who had that experience. And I'll be damned if that loser is turned into a hero. He couldn't beat Nixon. He was a loser. He ran a lousy general election campaign. Instead of Watergate making so many argue, "You could have had McGovern," which did happen in the post-Watergate period, it should have made us furious with McGovern for the lousy campaign he ran that allowed that crook to remain in the White House.
Rebecca: That crook is Tricky Dick. And, yes, McGovern was obsessed with boobies. I have very large breasts, as I love to point out. Unlike Elaine, I never wore a jacket and I didn't wear a bra either and McGovern's eyes were about to glaze over. Okay, Ava, Iraq?
Ava: Well we're still doing what we were doing. We're going around and speaking to groups about it, we're keeping our focus on it. And there are people in every group who are surprised for various reasons. One example true in some groups is that they honestly -- and I'm not making fun of them, this is what the media leads you to believe -- thought US forces immediately out of Iraq was a done deal to the presidential election. When they grasp that, their anger quickly turns to supposed 'leaders' who they feel are not doing their jobs. And there's a general disgust with Barack over his silence throughout the slaughter in Gaza --
Betty: He couldn't speak because he wasn't president! Though, as Rebecca pointed out, that didn't stop him from meeting with the president of Mexico.
Ava: Exactly. And people notice that or the stimulus or how he would do any presidential thing -- before taking the oath -- that he wanted to. He just used that lie to get out of calling out the slaughter. And his refusal to do that has put his image into question. His image was never reality but it is now seriously in question. And that happened before he was sworn in.
Stan: Here's who I blame. Or here's some of who, because it's a long list. I blame Amy Goodman and Norman Solomon and all the others who are supposed to be journalists and sold out their ethics and hooked their wagons to Barack. You own it, you're responsible. You could have supported a real candidate for peace, you didn't want that. He's your boyfriend, dance with him. You put him into power, you are responsible. Before the election, I was calling the illegal war out, during the election I was, and after it I am. I have been consistent. Our so-called professional and alternative journalists cannot make the same claim.
Rebecca: So if you were to predict --
C.I.: Wait. I'm going to pull a Trina here. To me that's a waste of time. We've had a serious discussion and now we're going to be gas bags offering predictions? No. I think it ends with Stan and Ava's comments. It's not pretty? Oh well, as Cedric would say. The illegal war's not pretty. It's ongoing. There's no bow to tie around it.
Rebecca: Fair enough. On that note we'll end and we thank Ann for joining us. You'll see this up at the sites of all who participated.
let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'
Friday, January 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, provincial elections loom, Blackwater gets its walking papers from the US State Dept, Carl Levin declares the 'withdrawal' of US 'combat' troops from Iraq can wait, and more.
Yesterday on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Couric continued her look (link has text and audio) at domestic violence within the military.
Katie Couric: The United States has now been fighting two wars for nearly eight years and the strain on service men and women is enormous. The Army reported today that at least 128 took their lives last year alone -- the most since they began keeping records three decades ago. But sometimes soldiers direct their anger at others. Case-in-point, cases of assault against wives and girlfriends are on the rise and critics say the Army isn't doing enough about it. As you're about to see in this CBS News investigation, the results can be tragic. Sgt. James Pitts was a decorated soldier, part of the early ground offensive that stormed Baghdad. He had spent a year serving with a combat engineer group providing Army operational support. It wasn't long before the horrors of war became his daily reality.
Sgt James Pitts: The only thing you could predict was that you were going to get attacked. The worst part about it is smelling -- smelling dead bodies because it lingers forever.
Katie Couric: The terrifiying images began to take a toll.
James Pitts: Mortars you hear the 'phupt!' and that's it.
Katie Couric: Pitts started abusing prescription drugs as a way to escape and reached out to his command for help. He says they did nothing. When it was time to come home, he hoped the joy of seeing his wife and nine-year-old son would make everything better.
Footage of Tara Pitts speaking: I'm just overwhelmed. Excited and relieved.
Katie Couric: But the excitement and relief didn't last. He was drinking heavily, experiencing flashbacks having nightmares.
James Pitts: I can't sleep. I can't get the war out of my head. I've got my wife saying she doesn't love me anymore. I got no one in the military I can trust.
Katie Couric: Family members say that despite some obvious problems, no one in the Army required or even encouraged he get psychological help. According to this police report obtained by CBS News, Pitts was "increasingly agitated" and had threatened to "put a bullet" through his wife's head. Afraid for her life, Tara Pitts obtained a restraining order and notified his command who promised to help. But that help never came. A week later, Pitts murdered his wife, drowning her in a bathtub. They'd had a fight and her screams, he says, set him off.
James Pitts: It reminded me of those screams of fear with the mortars and stuff. . . . I grabbed her and she bumped her head bad. And when I looked down, she was under the water.
Katie Couric: He was sentenced to 20 years without parole. Pitts feels betrayed by an Army that once applauded his bravery.
James Pitts: Not only did they turn their back on me, not only did they talk me out of counseling -- four times -- but then they flew in from other units to testify against me.
Katie Couric: Lynn McCollum is the Army Director of Family Affairs.
Katie Couric: Doesn't it make you angry to hear these stories about wives who are being killed by soldiers who are actually calling out for help.
Lynn McCollum: There's a tremendous amount of, um, effort going in to provide, um, that safety network and assistance for those folks and it's very um frustrating and disturbing when we don't reach everyone.
Katie Couric: The numbers are alarming. Over the last decade there have been nearly 90 domestic homicides and 25,000 substantiated cases of domestic violence at US military installations. When we looked at the small town of Killeen, Texas, home of Fort Hood, we found another disturbing trend: Of the 2,500 domestic cases reported to police last year, half of them involved military personnel. The Army has developed a battle-mind training program to help soldiers transition back into life at home. Most agree that all the systems and services that the military may offer are only as effective as the people willing to use them. Only then will double tragedies like the case of James and Tara Pitts be prevented.
James Pitts: This war took my family from me I've lost everything. Everything that I thought I was, everything that I had lived for for a decade. Gone. Gone. Everything.
CBS News notes that the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE, that LovelsRespect.org (ofr Teen Dating Abuse) is 1-866-331-9474 and they recommend the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Military One Source as resources.
For our second panel, we're pleased to have two witnesses from the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and one from the California Coaliton Against Sexual Assault. Dr. Kaye Whitley is the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office -- what we all have been say SAPRO -- she holds a doctorate in counseling and human development. I also believe that this is her first appearance before our subcommittee. Welcome. and also from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office is Teresa Scalzo. Ms Scalzo is the senior policy advisor for the Office and is a former director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. Her purpose here today is to provide her subject matter expertise on the Department of Defense's policy of restrective reporting. And finally we were supposed to have Suzanne Brown-McBride, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault; however, Mother Nature was rooting against her and she wasn't able to fly into DC last night. But we're very fortunate to have Robert Coombs who did manage to arrive before the bad weather. Mr. Combs is the public affairs director for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Mr. Combs will offer Ms. Brown-McBride's testimony and will be available for questioning.
That's US House Rep Susan Davis, chair of the House Armered Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee which met Wedensday. Davis asked the three witnesses to share their "response to what you've heard today." And the response told you just how firmly the culture of denial was.
Dept of Defense's Kaye Whitley: I, too, want to thank Ms. Watterson because we all know, all of us who work with victims, that this is a really difficult thing to do. We also think she's a perfect example of why we needed our policy and why we needed our program. I do have some concerns because I felt when we were talking about the new program she thinks that there are still some things out there that are still going wrong through her work with victim advocates so I have offered to work with her to see if I can get some more concrete examples of what's happening to some of the victims and where it's happening so that we can follow up on it. [. . .]
Dept of Defense Teresa Scalzo: I have nothing additional to add to what Dr. Whitley said.
Dept of Defense contract labor from time to time Robert Coombs: Yes, well, first and foremost I want to acknowledge that I come here as a victim advocate, from my core, that's where I operate I happen to have a professional background in working in media and policy and so when I'm working with folks like the Dept of Defense, I have very little interest in defending the problems that they've had but rather seeking solutions. We've had a fantastic collaboration with the SAPRO office in particular after working with them for -- since about 2006, have met with
And we'll cut the little suck up off right there. What a difference the second panel could have made were they not all DoD or working with DoD. A point that ten victims rights advocates made when I e-mailed them copies of a transcript to the second panel. Why -- the biggest question they had -- were no civilians on the second panel? And they didn't count Coombs as civilian when the Coalition works with DoD. It's cute that Whitley wants to 'follow up on' what she should have already been aware of.
The second panel was garbage but when you put garbage before a committee that's what you're going to get. Three liars lying. Three liars pretending they give a damn about the victims and not even able to pull that off. Scalzo was asked to explain a restricted reporting option:
The Department has two reporting options: restricted reporting and unrestrictived reporting. Restricted reporting is quite simply confidential reporting where command and law enforcement are not involved. It was quite controversial and very novel when it was first created and it wasn't introduced until six months after our policy was initially passed. In the military it's a culture where commanders need to know and they do know everything that's going on underneath them. It was difficult to construct a system where we could protect victims privacy but give them just a little bit of information, Jane Doe information, non-identifying information, if you will that would enable them to keep the community safe.
That's garbage. First off, allowing a restricted reporting option means anyone wanting to keep something under the radar would recommend that to a victim. Second of all, who the hell does that help? The victim? If you and I are in the Army and you rape me and I don't want to press charges out of fear, shame or any other emotion, I'm not taking my issue anywhere on base. If I get help, I'm going to a civilian therapist off base.
This is nonsense. It does not help the victim, it is not about helping the victim. And to hear those ridiculous panelists speak was to want to scream -- especially the smug little Scalzo with her, "I have nothing additional to add to what Dr. Whitley said."
Here's reality -- and we'll stick with rape for this example. If I was in the Army and raped, my assailant wasn't 'sampling.' It's not as if he woke up that day and thought, "Hmm? I wonder if I would enjoy raping a woman?" And it's not as if -- as statistics demonstrate -- I will be his only victim.
Restricted Reporting is as offensive as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's telling victims that there are two options and one is we don't say anything.
Again, I'm raped, I don't want anyone to know, I'm not talking my rape anywhere on base, I'm finding a civilian therapist (if I talk to anyone) and I'm doing that because I don't want anyone to know. There is no benefit to restricted reporting -- not for the victim and not for the community. If I'm choosing Restricted Reporting and you and I still have to work together, what benefit do I have? If you're my rapist and we work together, we're still working together. We're still side-by-side. Where is the benefit for the victim?
There is no benefit to anyone but the military command benefits from this -- even if the community itself doesn't. A point US House Rep Niki Tsongas seemed to grasp when she quoted the number 1,896 Restricted Reports back to Whitley and pointed out, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." A base, which Whitley refuses to acknowledge, is a closed environment. She can yammer on all she wants about every detail but she's not acknowledging that there is no benefit to allowing 1,896 assaulters to walk around freely. "It renders," Whitley wanted you to know "a military woman unready and it just tears a unit apart." Whitley might try explaining what rape does to any woman because she seems to be under the impression that she's able to 'fix' victims and do so quickly. You kind of picture her with a hammer in one hand and a pick in the other saying, "Lobotomy gets 'em home!" As Niki Tsongas noted, "The question I have, and I think that's a worthy goal for the victim, on the other hand, we do have new women coming into the military who have no real understanding of the threat that might exist [ . . .] at the same time, we have many young people coming into the services who we want to protect." Whitley said not to word "hopefully" because when they enter the military they get a sexual assault training. Really? That's helping reduce what numbers because that sexual assault training has been going on for years and all studies indicate the number of rapes in the military has risen. Besides, Whitley wanted you to know, even if the report is unrestricted, "it's very difficult to get victims to stay with" militiary "justice." Of course it is. The civilian court system punishes rape. Military 'justice' has yet to demonstrate it does so consistently. No, that didn't address what Tsongas was asking about. Tsongas was asking about the larger community -- with its steady influx -- being protected from rapists and assailants and Whitley avoided the issue completely except to offer a lot of lame excuses.
And, important point, that panel and the first panel -- with the exception of Laura Watterson -- was garbage.
What happened was people in the military told Congress (on the first panel), there's no problem. And then came the second panel of the military and their civilian partner telling Congress there was no problem.
Golly, do you think maybe Walter Reed Army Medical Center was "not a problem" if Congress had asked the military? Do we need Dana Priest and Anne Hull to go around speaking with victims and asking for what happened?
What you had with every witness other than Laura Watterson was someone who really wasn't vested in honesty -- they were vested in protecting the DoD.
So maybe they minimized just a little -- as far as they know -- or maybe they minimized big time. But they were not honest and the second panel was nothing but defensive excuses.
As Susan Davis explained at the start of the hearing, there will be other hearings on this issue. When those hearing take place, the subcommittee needs to ensure that their witnesses are at least balanced. Laura Watterson was a wonderful witness who ripped her own heart apart to share what she went through. Out of seven witnesses, she was the only civilian. (She had earlier been in the military.) The make up had better a lot better.
Robert Coombs f--king lied. I'm furious with that asshole. "From the perspective of victim rights advocates ---" Uh, no, restricted reporting is not favored. And I polled in California and out of California last night. Robert Coombs, you lied to Congress or you so stupid that these 'voices' agreeing with you are in your damn head. At your "core," you're nothing but a PR hack acting as a front man for the boss in the Pentagon. If you're too stupid to grasp that, then you're a PR hack and an idiot.
Here's another issue for the subcommittee to consider. What the hell was with the genders of the witnesses? Seven witnesses. Three were men? I didn't realize that was the statistical equation for the military -- that for every four women raped or assaulted, three men were raped or assaulted. (Because that's not the statistic. Men are assaulted and raped, I'm not disputing that. I'm saying that the witnesses were non-reflective in every manner.)
What is needed in the next panel hearing is a civilian with no ties to the Defense Dept for each Defense Dept witness. It should be a civilian who has a record of not being afraid to disagree or call out the US military's 'treatment' programs.
By not having that, the subcommittee allowed the Navy to agree with the Army to agree with the Air Force to agree with two Defense Dept employees and one DoD contract. Six people lined up against Laura Watterson. That is exactly what happened.
Laura Watterson showed bravery. Six little lackeys demonstrated the definition of "toady." Congress wants to evaluate how the programs are improving or not?
You're not going to get that evaluation from a DoD echo chamber. And, if nothing else, after Walter Reed, one would think Congress would grasp that on their own.
Victims rights advocates I spoke with helped shape the above with their comments and input. (I delayed the snapshot to give two -- who didn't have time last night -- the time today to add their input.)
The subcomittee needs to do a better job with witnesses. That said, the members of the subcommittee were professional -- on both sides of the aisle and Davis and Sanchez especially did strong work.
We'll again note Laura Watterson's testimony because (a) it was important, (b) it was powerful and (c) she was willing to destroy herself before the subcommittee to get the truth out.
Laura Watterson: I'll just start off. This is very difficult. I don't usually come out of my bedroom so coming all the way to DC is a little, well, freaking me out. But however uncomfortable I may be, I think it is more important that I be here instead of worrying about my own problems because this really needs to be done. [. . .]
When I entered the Air Force, I seriously considered making it a career for myself. I wanted to travel and I wanted to have a stable life and career. After I was assaulted, I no longer trusted anyone on base and my career was no longer an option for me. Because of my MST and PTSD that resulted from it, I was forced to move in with my mother at the age of thirty because I could not take care of myself, keep a job or feel safe even in my own apartment. I lived on cereal and microwaveable dinners so I did not end up causing a fire because I forgot that I was cooking something. I was so depressed that I actually quit smoking because the task of actually picking up a cigarette and lighting it was just too much. Of course, my doctors were happy about that but . . .
I had crying fits that were so powerful I could not even get my head off of wherever it landed because of exhaustion. One time my head landed in my shoe. And it would leave me hoarse for three days from crying so hard. I have gained over sixty pounds and I would go into violent rages. One time I ransacked the house to find every present I had ever given my mother, smashed them to bits and dumped them on her bed. I would swear at her and throw things at her as if I had Tourette Syndrome. Any attempt at communication with me, I would just flip her off. This behavior was . . . I had never treated my mother like this before. I didn't understand why this was happening and it ruined my self-esteem that much further.
I have missed most family functions since being in the Air Force because I am unable to be around many people -- especially people who are asking a lot of personal questions like "Oh, how is life? What are you up to? What are you doing?" That kind of brings the family celebration down a little. It has been only recently that I would even leave my bedroom. I used to have very good credit. And I was very proud of that. Because of not being able to pay my bills because I could not keep a job -- just recently I had an attempt to have my wages garnished. I was too afraid to wear anything at all 'inviting'. I.e. I would wear men's clothing, usually in all black and several sizes too big. I didn't want anyone to find me approachable. I'm afraid of being assaulted again. I used to have my hair and make up and nails match every day, no matter what I was wearing, for years. Now, with the exception of today, I would only wear chapstick and stick my hair up in a bun. And I rarely, if ever, painted my nails. I don't have the energy to look good due to depression. I have had meltdowns in the super market because if I saw someone -- especially if it was a man -- I knew they were stalking me and I would run from the grocery store.
My marriage to a man who I am still friends with ended due to my PTSD symptoms. I didn't realize why I was acting the way I was and neither did he. Nonetheless, it ruined our marriage. That's probably the hardest part [crying], excuse me.
I began . . . I began therapy at the VA because I had lost everything as a result. I began to see patterns and realized that I needed to get my life back. I realize that there are many other people who need to be helped to get back on track as well and that is also why I am a Veteran Advocate myself -- out of my bedroom and out of my own pocket.
Part of my wellness is testifying today, forcing me to get out and do things that are challenging because they're more important. I'll leave here today but hopefully my message will not leave. If I had a caring SARC representative I believe I would not have ended up in the mess that I have ended up in. I was never given a representative when I called to have some assistance. No one came. It got to the point that I called the 15th Air Force Commander who was in charge of the entire western half of the United States and whose name was also in all of the sexual assault booklets, leaflets and --
Since basic training, we'd all been taught the same thing. I trusted in that. I also trusted because I had friends before I went in, "Aren't you afraid after the sexual harassment, the whole Tail-hook thing?" I was like, "No. With all this media why would they -- they must be really careful about it now."
The 15th Air Force Commander said, "Well why don't you just keep this on base, have them take care of it?" They wouldn't. I reported it as I was supposed to -- to my supervisor, as well as his. They said it would be taken care of and I trusted that.
Two weeks later, I was at work and everyone was asked to stand up because there was going to be a pinning-on ceremony.
That pinning-on ceremony was for the man who assaulted me to now outrank me and become a supervisor. He was rewarded.
This was when I got very angry. After fighting and calling everyone I could possibly think of, my commander finally called me into his office with my supervisor who assaulted me here [call this Point A], the guy who assaulted me [Point B], my chair [Point C -- so they are seated right next to each other] and his supervisor [Point D]. So I was not even close to my supervisor, the one who should be protecting me or making me feel safe.
I was told by my commander that I needed to understand that, "Different people have different personal bubbles. For example, when you go to England, sometimes when you meet people over there and you shake their hand, they like to hold on to your hand while they're speaking and, as Americans, because we don't do that, it's uncomfortable for us." And that is how he told me that I needed to get over what had happened.
That is when I became --
I started drinking obscene amounts. Again, not knowing anything about PTSD, I started having, you know, yelling at my husband over the stupidest things and having absolute fits of rage. And, again, this is not me.
After this meeting I had with my commander, my SARC, or whatever he was called at the time, offered me therapy. I asked if it was going to be someone on base or if it was going to be civilian? He told me it was going to be from someone on base and from the treatment that I had gotten so far to try and help me there was no way I was going to trust another military member to tell them how I felt and what was going on. So when I refused help, they had me sign a waiver saying that because I refused treatment I was not going to be eligible for any VA treatment or benefits. I, of course, did not realize that that was a load of malarkey until several years later when I had to go to the VA because I couldn't handle my own life.
I was also told that punishment of my perpetrator was not my business. I think that is -- I don't know for sure what the real rule is about that now, but it is definitely the business because I trusted them in the first place to take care of it and promoting him two weeks later is not promoting it -- sorry, fixing it.
All of the evidence that had been in my files about this was sanitized. This is a normal and way too often thing that happens with files. Things that are important that would have some thing to do with a claim are taken out of your files so, when you request them, over half of your file is no longer there. So trying to fight the VA to get benefits is next to impossible because there's no proof any more -- even if you reported it to the on base police, even if you reported it to anybody who would listen, like I did, nothing. This, again, makes us trust the government even less.
I would be afraid even when the phone rang. That could make me cry. A few months ago, I was at a friend's house and her washing machine turned on and I had a panic attack from that. I don't know why. I have panic attacks all the time for the oddest reasons, I'm sure. As I get further in my treatment I will figure out why certain things trigger me.
I believe that there are some good SARCs but not enough. The SARCs need to be on top of their game. The victim is not going to seek out help. They're going to do what I did. They're going to stay in their room and drink. They're not going to trust anybody else to go help them. I also believe that a SARC should not be a dependent of a military member because the way that they would run their case may be far too influenced by their fear that if they go against the way the command is saying things should be done, that it could be detrimental to their spouse's career.
Excuse me just a second.
The SARC also needs to be able to have complete confidentiality. The things that a victim says and does with their SARC needs to be completely confidential. It is maybe a month or two ago that a victim's SARC was subpoenaed to testify against their own victim. And of course, they had no choice.
Just like you're doing now, let the MST victims be involved in the training of SARC personnel. They know how it feels, they know what needs to be changed. And commanders also need to be accountable when it comes to the rapist.
We have plenty of rules that are not worth the paper that they are printed on. For example, if somebody has done a sexual assault it is supposed to stay in their record, they are supposed to sign up as -- on the -- I'm sorry, I'm blanking on the name but whatever the civilian thing is that a sex offender has to register under, that's a rule. I've had very little -- in fact, I don't think I've ever seen that done now that I'm even doing advocacy work for people who are still in. The next base they [assailants] go to, that file does not follow them so the next command does not know it. They are put in the same situation and they know they can get away with it. I do not believe a lot of the rumors and the little two-bit ideas that most people have about "Well, it's the alcohol, well, women shouldn't be in the military, well, well, well." I believe it is due to the consistent and rewarded attitudes of misogyny. Thinking that women -- and also men -- there's plenty of men that I've worked with who have been sexually assaulted as well. They need to be able to be safe, feel like they have been taken care of and when you find out that a person who has sexually assaulted you did it at the last base, where is the safety?
I felt like I was entering the band of the brothers as their sister. I was then an outcast. Alone. And challenged on everything I did.
There is also the Troops to Teachers Act, so when the person who sexually assaulted a member, when they get out of the Air Force, or any Coast Guard or whatever, so they get to go be [. . .] teachers and their file does not follow them because they have not registered as a sex offender. So they get to be in schools with children as a sex offender.
If you missed Wednesday's Congressional hearing, it's covered in Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "When I tried to smoke a banana," Thursday's "Iraq snapshot," Ruth's "Laura Watterson's testimony and its meaning" and Kat's "Laura Watterson's testimony."
In Iraq, provincial elections are scheduled to take place tomorrow in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Today, as is often case lately, Kim Gamel (AP) stakes out the ground the discussion will be moving to. Gamel's reporting on Mosul -- the city that replaced Baghdad as the most violent by the end of 2008 if you measure solely by the number of deaths. "Mosul is a show down for power between Arabs and Kurds," Gamel notes of the Iraqi city dominated currently by Kurds on their council despite the fact that Kurds do not constitute the largest segment of the population. Throughout Iraq, borders and airports will close for Saturday's elections (through early the next morning and beginning on Friday) but Gamel informs that Mosul will be banning street traffic starting on Monday and the citizens have been told "to stay at home until they are ready to vote the following day."Gamel identifies the hopes of US officials: A large Sunni turn out which they believe will vest Arabs in the government and cut down on the tensions. That's only one of the tensions in Mosul; however, there's also the competition between Sunni and Kurd and Sunni's taking control of the council will increase more tensions on Sunni v. Kurd front. Earlier this week, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) became the first to grasp, "Maybe US audiences aren't all grasping what 'provincial elections' mean?" He offers that they are "the equivalent of an American state legislature" and today Gamel adds to that: "Provincial councils choose the governor and wield tremendous power at the local level. The current Kurdish-dominated council has been heavily criticized for failing to provide local services or security." Ian Fisher (New York Times) observes of the province:
And thus these elections are studded with contradictions: On one side, the prospect for fairer representation and less violence in the city. Most parties, Arab and Kurdish alike, are pledging to work together in a possible coalition government after the elections (Mr. Goran, however, has ruled out working with the candidates on the slate from al-Hudba.) On the other side, there appears to be rising suspicion between Arabs and Kurds, worsened by the widening gap, in safety and prosperity, between Iraq proper and Kurdistan.
More and more, the roads out of Mosul feel like an international boundary, with checkpoints and virtual customs stops before the Kurdish cities of Dohuk and Erbil. While Mosul is battened down and tense, Kurdistan is safe and lively, full of construction, car dealerships and nice Turkish washing machines for sale. Arabs say that, despite their holding Iraqi passports, Kurdish pesh merga troops harass them and admit them only grudgingly.
Xinhau crunches numbers to remind that there are 14,400 candidates running in the elections, 3,900 of them are women, that only 444 seats are up for grabs and that there are supposed to be "15 million eligible voters". They also see the elections as "an opinion poll on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki". al-Maliki also sees it that way. Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) adds, "He won power in 2006 as a compromise figure selected by bigger Shi'ite groups, but is hoping Saturday's election will give him his own power base. The outcome will probably be mixed. In many Shi'ite areas, the vote is still likely to expose Maliki's weakness. Across much of Iraq's southern Shi'ite heartland, his main rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), are expected to maintain their grip on provincial power with an effective political machine and overtly sectarian pitch."
This morning at the US State Dept, spokesperson Robert Wood declared, that "we have yet to receive further clarification and details in that regard from the Iraqis, but we are talking with them. To answer the question that was posed yesterday, yes, Blackwater is still providing protective services on the ground for us." Robert O'Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) revealed this afternoon that State has decided it "will not renew Blackwater Worldwide's contract for securities services in Iraq". Monte Morin (Los Angeles Times) quotes Blackwater stating that they have not heard anything and an unnamed "U.S. Embassy official" is quoted stating, "We have been informed that Blackwater's private security company operating license will not be granted. We don't have specifics about dates. We are working with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision." US House Rep Jan Schakowsky released the following statement this afternoon:
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, released the following statement today after news reports that the State Department decided not to renew Blackwater's contract in Iraq. Earlier this week, the Iraqi government denied Blackwater's request for a license to operate in Iraq. The State Department's contract with Blackwater expires in May 2009. "In October 2007, I wrote the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to terminate Blackwater's contract after its employees killed 17 innocent Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square a month earlier. Instead of terminating Blackwater's contract, the State Department renewed Blackwater's contract in April 2008. At that time, I went down to the House floor and said that the State Department was so 'dependent on private security contractors that it is willing to turn a blind eye to gross misconduct.' Under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we finally have a State Department that will no longer ignore the gross misconduct of contracting companies, like Blackwater. The State Department's decision not to renew Blackwater's contract in Iraq shows a dramatic departure from the previous administration. Instead of overriding the Iraqi government's decision to deny Blackwater a license to operate, the Obama Administration respected the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and did not renew Blackwater's contract. While the State Department;s decision will remove Blackwater from Iraq, it does nothing to stop other contracting companies from operating outside the law. Shortly, I will reintroduce my Stop Outsourcing Security Act to phase out the use of ALL private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Today's violence? China's Xinhua reports, "Three Iraqi policemen were killed by a collected bomb in a southern city, sources with Iraqi police said on Friday." The bombing took place in Diwaniyah yesterday. Sixteen people were also wounded.
In the United States today, US Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill which "would grant U.S. service members the same rights as civilians to appeal their convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court." Currently those convicted by military 'justice' can appeal up to the US Courts of Appeals for the Armed Forces and no higher. Feinstein declared, "Americans who wear the uniform of the United States should not be penalized with the loss of a basic due-process right. We need to correct this disparity, and this legislation will do exactly that." Barack Obama, the new US president, is not withdrawing troops from Iraq. He may withdraw -- as his plan was supposed to -- combat troops. On Washington Week last Friday, ABC News Martha Raddatz attempted to clarify this:
Martha Raddatz: They laid out plans or started to lay out plans for the sixteen-month withdrawal, which President Obama says he wants, or the three-year withdrawal which is the Status Of Forces Agreement that the US has gone into with the Iraqis. And they talked about the risks with each of those. Ray Odierno, who is the general in charge of Iraqi forces, said, 'If you run out in sixteen months -- if you get out in sixteen months, there are risks. The security gains could go down the tube. If you wait three years, there are other risks because you can't get forces into Afghanistan as quickly.' So President Obama made no decisions. Again, he's going to meet with Joint Chiefs next week and probably will make a military decision. But also a key there is how many troops he leaves behind. That's something we're not talking about so much, he's not talking about so much. This residual force that could be 50, 60, 70,000 troops even if he withdraws --Gwen Ifill: That's not exactly getting out of Iraq.Martha Raddatz: Not exactly getting out completely.
With that in mind, Rick Maze (Army News) reports a disturbing development today, US Senator Carl Levin has indicated Barack has "wiggle room" when it comes to withdrawing combat troops -- that Barack would be fine now with only 80% of combat troops being pulled. Let's use the 80,000 remaining number. (The White House unofficially says the number that would remain under the 16-month plan would be 70,000.) There are approximately 146,000 US troops in Iraq currently. That would mean 66,000 troops ('combat') could be withdrawn (before Levin's statement). But if only 80% of the 66,000 are withdrawn, what does that mean? If you do the math, it means there would be approximately 97,000 US troops in Iraq after Barack's "withdrawal". For point of reference, prior to the "surge" (escalation) announced by the (former) White House in January 2007, the number of US troops in Iraq was approximately 132,000. A minus of 35,000 US troops and that's what's being passed off as 'withdrawal'.
Public broadcasting notes. Bill Moyers Journal features Marilyn Young who always (to date, anyway) has something interesting worth hearing. The program airs on PBS and begins airing tonight in many markets -- check local listings on this and other PBS programs all of which begin airing tonight in many PBS markets. NOW on PBS continues it's must-watch tradition and offers:President Obama has issued a scathing critique of Wall Street following news that Wall Street employees were paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year as the financial sector melted down. What should his administration do to crack down on banks, given that some experts are suggesting an additional $1 trillion to $2 trillion may be needed to bail them out?This week, David Brancaccio sits down with financial reporter Bethany McLean -- who broke the Enron story -- to look at options on the table for stabilizing the country's financial system. Is nationalizing our banks a viable solution?Almost everyone agrees that our banks need federal money to avoid even more calamity, but how much is too much, and who's watching how they spend it?And then there's Gwen. Washington Week features Gwen, Greg Ip (The Economist), John Dickerson (Slate), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times).
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