Friday, October 12, 2007

Don't Back Down!

I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about what's happening vis a vis our government but this just blows me away:

In Boulder, two days ago, a rosy-cheeked thirtysomething mother of two small children, in soft yoga velours, started to tear up when she said to me: `I want to take action but I am so scared. I look at my kids and I am scared. How do you deal with fear? Is it safer for them if I act or stay quiet? I don’t want to get on a list.’ In DC, before that, a beefy, handsome civil servant, a government department head — probably a Republican — confides in a lowered voice that he is scared to sign the new ID requirement for all government employees, that exposes all his most personal information to the State — but he is scared not to sign it: `If I don’t, I lose my job, my house. It’s like the German National ID card,’ he said quietly. This morning in Denver I talked for almost an hour to a brave, much-decorated high-level military leader who is not only on the watch list for his criticism of the administration — his family is now on the list. He has undertaken many dangerous combat missions in his service to his country over the course of his career, but his voice cracks when he talks about the possibility that he is exposing his children to harassment.

"Jim Spencer, a former columnist for the Denver Post who has been critical of the Bush administration, told me today that I could use his name: he is on the watch list. An attorney contacts me to say that she told her colleagues at the Justice Department not to torture a detainee; she says she then faced a criminal investigation, a professional referral, saw her emails deleted — and now she is on the watch list. I was told last night that a leader of Code Pink, the anti-war women’s action group, was refused entry to Canada. I hear from a tech guy who works for the airlines — again, probably a Republican — that once you are on the list you never get off. Someone else says that his friend opened his luggage to find a letter from the TSA saying that they did not appreciate his reading material. Before I go into the security lines, I find myself editing my possessions. In New York’s LaGuardia, I reluctantly found myself putting a hardcover copy of Tara McKelvey’s excellent Monstering, an expose of CIA interrogation practices, in a garbage can before I get in the security line; it is based on classified information. This morning at my hotel, before going to the airport, I threw away a very nice black T-shirt that said `We Will Not be Silenced’ — with an Arabic translation — that someone had given me, along with a copy of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo."

This is part of a BLOG post on Firedoglake written by Naomi Wolf, well known feminist author. I'm not sure what to do with it so I'm looking to you for advice.

Please click on the title of this post and read the full account, then post your thoughts here; tell us what to do with this information. Should we act on it? How? And perhaps even more important, how does it make you feel? If you believe this is information that should be shared widely I invite you to forward it to friends and family. If our republic is at risk, the more people who know it the better. Speak out! Don't Back Down!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

$400 nets you a computer and one for a needy child

This is the coolest opportunity you're likely to have this year to do some good and get a unique payback. For $400 you can buy a new XO laptop for a needy child and get one for yourself.

TerraPass's Adam Stein writes today about the new XO laptop you've probably seen on television or read about recently. Designed solely for internet use it operates on solar power and is intended to benefit needy children in other countries; even countries where people don't have electricity. I know, I know, you're saying, But what about water damage? And sand or dirt damage? The manufacturers have thought of all that.

But let's just by-pass my sales pitch and go directly to the horses mouth. Click on the title to this post and read Adam's short column. Then click on the link near the bottom of the column and watch a short video blog by David Pogue of the NY Times. He shows you the laptop and demonstrates its near indestructibility. He also explains that
for a two week period in November you can buy one and get one for yourself for $400; get a tax break and ensure that a child in a developing nation has access to an education. Such a deal!

While you're at it check out TerraPass. They're the folks who invest in alternative energy. I buy carbon offsets for my car and air travel from them every year (you may have seen the sticker on my car). It's an amazingly inexpensive way to neutralize your carbon use, help protect the planet, and feel good about it. What's not to like?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Lesbian Servicemember Murdered in Afghanistan?

Editor and Publisher Magazine is reporting this week that a woman serving in Afghanistan may have been murdered because she was a lesbian.

The military first reported that Ciara Durkin, 30, (of Boston MA) who served in the National Guard, had died “in action,” then revealed that she was killed in a “noncombat” incident that was being investigated."

E&P continues, "
Her family was told that she had been killed by a single gunshot near a church. They are charging that the military has been dragging its feet in giving them more details. They reject any chance of suicide and suspect friendly fire or murder.

"A new twist emerged today in a Boston Globe article: Her family says she had told them to push for an investigation if anything ever happened to her. She was in a finance unit and may have found some improprieties, according to a story in the Patriot-Ledger, which also disclosed that her family had notified the military about her concerns about her safety three weeks ago."

The Globe reported that the family wondered if, as a lesbian, she may have been targeted. E&P reports, "She did say to us that she had concerns about things she was seeing when she was over there," her sister, Fiona Canavan, told WGBH-TV in Boston. "She told us if anything happened to her, that we were to investigate it."

Does any of this sound familiar? Does Pat Tillman's name come to mind? I'm not suggesting that Pat Tillman was gay but that our government is perfectly capable of covering up murder in order to avoid scrutiny of its conduct of the war.

If Ciara Durkin was murdered it may have been because she had uncovered wrongdoing or because she was a lesbian. But we must rely on the Dept of Defense's honesty to find out and if the Pat Tillman case is any indication of how things are being done today we will never know. At least Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy have demanded an investigation.

Continuing the E&P report, "
The Globe article observed: “(Sen.) Kerry said the Durkin family desperately needs answers to three questions: Why has the Army not responded to the Durkin family's request for an independent autopsy? Why, after not responding to the family's request for an independent autopsy, did the Army fail to contact the Durkin family with the Army's autopsy results? The family was told to be available to receive a phone call between 1 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 1, and the Army never called. Why has the Army refused to make Durkin's will and paperwork available to her family, so they can respect her wishes as they plan her funeral and burial?”

A Boston Patriot Ledger editorial declares, "
The initial reports of Ciara Durkin’s death in Afghanistan are a byproduct of the Bush administration’s wrongheaded intent to shape the public perception of this fight and the war in Iraq."

The circumstances of Ciara Durkin's death should be made public and any improprieties dealt with post haste. If the motive in her death was sexual orientation
it raises questions regarding the impact of Gen. Peter Pace's homophobic statements and provides further ammunition (pun intended) to kill Don't Ask Don't Tell. If she was killed because of shenanigans she had uncovered it signals the depth of corruption pervading the DOD and begs for a full investigation of our Afghanistan operation.

Ciara Durkin's family and all Americans need and deserve to know who/what caused her death. Anything less will signal that the DOD is more interested in covering its ass than in protecting its own soldiers.