Tag Archives: military

Crimes Against Family: What do Bill Cosby and the United States Military have in Common?

28 Nov

I’m sure I watched I Spy a time or three back in the day, but I didn’t watch it regularly. I DID watch The Cosby Show regularly. My all time favorite bit was when the dad and the kids lip synched a Ray Charles song – “The night time, is the right time” – for mother, with little Rudy being particularly delicious. I also appreciated the fact that Cosby would have jazz musicians on the show. His father-in-law was played by a jazz musician, singer Joe Williams. He had Dizzy Gillespie on one show and, much to my delight, he had Frank Foster on another. I’d studied improvisation with Foster when he taught at UB (that is, the State University of New York at Buffalo).

As much as I am a fan of anyone – which isn’t all that much, fandom isn’t how I roll – I was a fan of Cosby’s. I was a bit startled when he started coming down hard on the lifeways of some poor black folks. Understand him, yes. But it seemed a bit harsh, especially in the overall ecology of racial attitudes and discussion. Is that how Cliff Huxtable would speak?

And then he was accused of rape. I don’t recall precisely when I first heard about that, but it was awhile ago, well before the current round of accusations. Was it before or after he’d become Mr. Public Morality? I don’t recall. The accusation certainly didn’t seem consistent with the behavior of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. Cliff, of course, was just a fiction, a part Cosby played. But we do tend to identify performers with the parts they play, as though that’s what they are like in real life.

Of course, I know that Cliff was just a role. As a performer myself I’m keenly aware of the difference between one’s performance persona and one’s “real” self. Give me a trumpet and put me on stage with at kick-ass rhythm section and I’m Mister Confident Superhero Sex God John the Conqueror, but in real life I’m shy, reserved, and ridiculously intellectual, though leavened with a bit of wit. So I never actually believed that Cosby played himself when playing Heathcliff, but nonetheless, Heathcliff became my default for Bill Cosby himself.

The upshot: those accusations were dissonant. At this point I don’t recall what I thought of those accusations back then. I’m pretty sure my initial reaction would have been denial. I’m also sure that I thought about it beyond that initial denial. Mostly likely I just put the accusations on a mental shelf without either denying or affirming them in my mind.

That’s not possible now. There are too many accusations. I think he did it. Continue reading


Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart – NYTimes.com

27 May

For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform.

In sharp contrast, so many officers have sons and daughters serving that they speak, with pride and anxiety, about war as a “family business.” Here are the makings of a self-perpetuating military caste, sharply segregated from the larger society and with its enlisted ranks disproportionately recruited from the disadvantaged. History suggests that such scenarios don’t end well.

via Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart – NYTimes.com.

War is Betrayal: The 1% lures the 99% into doing the fighting

16 Jul

The poor embrace the military because every other cul-de-sac in their lives breaks their spirit and their dignity. Pick up Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or James Jones’s From Here to Eternity. Read Henry IV. Turn to the Iliad. The allure of combat is a trap, a ploy, an old, dirty game of deception in which the powerful, who do not go to war, promise a mirage to those who do.

I saw this in my own family. At the age of ten I was given a scholarship to a top New England boarding school. I spent my adolescence in the schizophrenic embrace of the wealthy, on the playing fields and in the dorms and classrooms that condition boys and girls for privilege, and came back to my working-class relations in the depressed former mill towns in Maine. I traveled between two universes: one where everyone got chance after chance after chance, where connections and money and influence almost guaranteed that you would not fail; the other where no one ever got a second try. I learned at an early age that when the poor fall no one picks them up, while the rich stumble and trip their way to the top.

Those I knew in prep school did not seek out the military and were not sought by it. But in the impoverished enclaves of central Maine, where I had relatives living in trailers, nearly everyone was a veteran.

When soldiers return home: Continue reading

Let’s Draft Our Kids – NYTimes.com

11 Jul

An interesting proposal. But I’d like it better if it was coupled with a commitment to NO MORE WAR.

A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

That is, the fighting would be done by those who volunteer to do it.

Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

via Let’s Draft Our Kids – NYTimes.com.

Obama’s Afghanistan Disaster – James Kitfield – International – The Atlantic

23 Mar

“War is hell” is no mere clilche.

The U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of Korans in Afghanistan triggered a backlash that left almost 40 dead, including six American service members, culminating in this week’s horrific killing of 16 Afghan civilians–allegedly by a U.S. soldier. These events may or may not represent a milestone in the Afghan war. Having stared into the abyss of the recent riots over the Koran burnings, both governments have stepped back and attempted to calm matters. What already seems clear, however, is that real life is defying the Obama administration’s determined portrayal of a war that is winding down toward a negotiated settlement and a relatively smooth transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2013.

via Obama’s Afghanistan Disaster – James Kitfield – International – The Atlantic.

Meanwhile, suicides are on the rise in the US military:

From 1977 to 2003, suicide rates in the Army closely matched the rates of suicide in the civilian population, and were even on a downward trend. But after 2004, the rates began to climb fast, outpacing the rates in civilians by 2008.

In 2007 and 2008 alone, 255 active duty soldiers committed suicide. The vast majority of the suicides since 2004 were by men; and 69 percent had seen active combat duty. Nearly half were between ages 18 and 24. And 54 percent of those who committed suicide were from among the lower ranks of enlisted personnel.

Stars and Stripes Staff Worried About Move to Military Base – NYTimes.com

3 Mar

Will Stars and Stripes lose its editorial independence if forced to relocate next to military PR operations?

An inside-the-office debate began to simmer when Pentagon officials — answering the order from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to find significant budget efficiencies — saw a way to cut $1 million a year in rent by relocating the newspaper from the National Press Building, a prestigious downtown address. The 80-member newsroom and business staff was ordered to Fort Meade, Md., where it would be housed at no cost alongside the agency that oversees official Pentagon and military media operations.

Staff members objected. And now, concerns that proximity could potentially lead to interference have reached Capitol Hill — which heightens the debate, since Stars and Stripes is subsidized with taxpayer funds but operates with a Congressional endorsement to maintain journalistic independence.

via Stars and Stripes Staff Worried About Move to Military Base – NYTimes.com.

The Rise of the Warrior Corporation: Win or Lose on the Battlefield, Big Business Always Comes Out on Top | World | AlterNet

24 Feb

Although early drone technology was already being used over North Vietnam, it’s in another sense entirely that drones have been heading into America’s future since 1973. There was an eerie logic to it: first came professional war, then privatized war, then mercenary and outsourced war — all of which made war ever more remote from most Americans. Finally, both literally and figuratively, came remote war itself.

It couldn’t be more appropriate that the Air Force prefers you not call their latest wonder weapons “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs, anymore. They would like you to use the label “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) instead. And ever more remotely piloted that vehicle is to be, until — claim believers and enthusiasts — it will pilot itself, land itself, maneuver itself, and while in the air even chose its own targets.

In this sense, think of us as moving from the citizen’s army to a roboticized, and finally robot, military — to a military that is a foreign legion in the most basic sense. In other words, we are moving toward an ever greater outsourcing of war to things that cannot protest, cannot vote with their feet (or wings), and for whom there is no “home front” or even a home at all. In a sense, we are, as we have been since 1973, heading for a form of war without anyone, citizen or otherwise, in the picture — except those on the ground, enemy and civilian alike, who will die as usual.

via The Rise of the Warrior Corporation: Win or Lose on the Battlefield, Big Business Always Comes Out on Top | World | AlterNet.

Civilian-Military Gap Grows as Fewer Americans Serve – NYTimes.com

25 Nov

A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces than at any other time since the era between World Wars I and II, a new low that has led to a growing gap between people in uniform and the civilian population, according to a new survey. …

“What we have is an armed services that’s at war and a public that’s not very engaged,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. “Typically when our nation is at war, it’s a front-burner issue for the public. But with these post-9/11 wars, which are now past the 10-year mark, the public has been paying less and less attention.”

Sounds like an argument to bring the troops home and set them to work rebuilding America.

via Civilian-Military Gap Grows as Fewer Americans Serve – NYTimes.com.

Panetta Weighs Military Cuts Once Thought Out of Bounds – NYTimes.com

6 Nov

Mr. Panetta, a former White House budget chief, acknowledged in an interview that he faced deep political pressures as he weighed cuts to Pentagon spending, which has doubled to $700 billion a year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said that meeting deficit-reduction targets might require another round of base closings, which could be highly contentious as members of Congress routinely fight to protect military deployments and jobs in their communities.

via Panetta Weighs Military Cuts Once Thought Out of Bounds – NYTimes.com.

The Pentagon’s attempt to greenwash the military – Pentagon – Salon.com

23 May

The Pentagon is America’s single largest consumer of energy. As such

…the fastest, most immediate and most efficient way for the Pentagon to mitigate the environmental crises that come from energy consumption is to simply move America away from its energy-draining policy of permanent war.

via The Pentagon’s attempt to greenwash the military – Pentagon – Salon.com.