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Pentagon Reacts To Heavy Fire Over DADT Survey

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Editor’s note:

This guest post by Scott Wooledge was originally published at Daily Kos Saturday and is published here with his permission. Scott writes at the Daily Kos under the handle Clarknt67.

 title= Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United


Friday, gay and lesbian advocates took sharp aim at the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” survey the Pentagon finally made available on Wednesday to 400,000 troops. Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United said:

“It is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations going out about any other minority group in the military.”

Many more media outlets, LGBT and not, and advocacy groups agreed, questioning a wide range of the survey’s language, framing and subjects. The Pentagon quickly switched to damage control, hastily convening a press conference to address those concerns.

Nicholson released a statement to the press:

“This expensive survey stokes the fires of homophobia by its very design and will only make the Pentagon’s responsibility to subdue homophobia as part of this inevitable policy change even harder.”

Nicholson and others criticized the use of the word “homosexual,” which has been shown in polling to inhibit support for LGBT issues when used instead of “gay and lesbian.” [psychodrew also says the APA now discourages use of ‘homosexual’ in publications.] From a recent CBS poll on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which tested this by polling the same question using both terms:

 title=Nicholson’s accompanying memo (pdf) also closely examined specific areas and language his organization felt exhibited framing bias, and push-poll tactics. They called out this question as representative of a handful of others:

If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are assigned to share a room, berth or field tent with someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian Service member, which are you most likely to do? Mark 1.

1. Take no action

2. Discuss how we expect each other to behave and conduct ourselves while sharing a room, berth or field tent

3. Talk to a chaplain, mentor, or leader about how to handle the situation

4. Talk to a leader to see if I have other options

5. Something else

6. Don’t know

Nicholson explains:

The real atrocity in these questions, which are some of the worse in the entire survey, lies in the answer choices, especially “Discuss how we expect each other to behave and conduct ourselves while sharing a room, berth, or field tent.” The fact that this is even an answer choice legitimizes the completely irrational assumption or fear that gays and lesbians need to be “talked to” about their behavior and conduct, lest they misbehave by default. Also the suggestion that someone may need to “talk to a chaplain, mentor, or leader about how to handle the situation” is highly offensive. No survey would ever be allowed to get away with suggesting or implying such things about any other minority.

 title=Attempting to mitigate damage to the study’s credibility, a press conference was held Friday afternoon by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. The spokesman expressed that the Pentagon was “discouraged” that the questions were leaked and had hoped they’d remain confidential. He conceded the questionnaire is not scientific. He did, however, defend the survey against the criticism of bias and homophobia, calling it “nonsense” and saying, “This is the work of an incredibly respected, professional survey organization.” The organization in question being Westat Corporation which has been paid a reportedly $4.5 million dollars to conduct the survey on behalf of the Pentagon.

Morrell called the media coverage of this story “inflammatory.” Though less impassioned in its rhetorical choices than Nicholson, Salon also posted a piece that took swipes at the not-to-subtle homophobic framing bias throughout the survey. Morrell singled out the outlet out for criticism, taking particular umbrage at their choice of  headline:

“Pentagon asks troops how gross it would be to shower with a gay person”

Megan Carpenter writing for Talking Points Memo (Pentagon Survey On Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Now Available: Raises Questions About Pentagon Priorities) deftly points out that of the 103 question survey there are endless questions that work from the pretext of problems associated with repealing the policy, and assume resistance. There are, however, no questions that addressed the potential ill-effects of the policy itself. None explore what effect discrimination that targets troops for investigation and harassment might have on morale and unit cohesion.

Morrell was confronted by Chris Geidner of MetroWeekly on that exact point:

His only response when asked by Metro Weekly why there appeared to be no questions regarding the current impact of DADT and DADT-related discharges on troops’ morale and unit cohesion was, “I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a good explanation. We’ll try to get it for you. I don’t know.

Mike Riley writing in the Denver Post, reports active duty gay service members he spoke with are skeptical about what is the true goal of the study:

“The survey is going to be turned into a weapon to show how it’s going to affect morale,” said an active-duty Air Force officer and a member of Citizens For Repeal, which represents several hundred gays and lesbians now in the ranks, many of them from the military’s elite service academies.

Riley does include a point of optimism for LGB troops, which still underscores the folly of this $4.5 million push-poll:

The officer said he had already seen several chain e-mails mocking the survey’s language and questions. He also said several groups asked to provide input on the survey before it was released but were turned down.

“It’s being made fun of,” the officer said. “The reaction to the survey from the troop level is showing how out of touch leadership is from the subject.”

In a follow up report on the press conference, TPM’s Carpenter wrote:

When quizzed about the development of the survey questions, Morrell admitted that they didn’t consult with advocacy groups about the design of the survey, leaving that to the professionals at Westat, the private contractor who developed the questions in consultation with the Pentagon and working group.

Why LGBT servicemembers advocacy groups were not consulted is a mystery. Certainly Joint Chief Mike Mullen’s attention was drawn by Senator Claire McCaskill as far back as February about the problems incumbent on getting an LGBT perspective on this issue. From the DADT Senate hearings:

McCaskill: “Here’s my problem, we now have established we have gays and lesbian Americans serving in the military, that they are not broadly causing any broad disciplinary or moral problems, that we welcome their service.

The issue is not whether or not we have gays and lesbians serving in the military, it’s whether or not we talk about it. So, how are you going to get their input in this survey?”

Mullen: “Well, actually, I mean, my take on that is…, hang on a second… [long pause] um… It think we would have to look very carefully at how we would do that.”

Mullen may have “looked very carefully at it,” but it’s clear the Working Group has failed miserably to address this issue with an inclusive eye.

While the standing policy of DADT presents a serious impediment to including LGB perspective, the Veteran community is rich with people who have had one boot in each world who are under no obligation to be silent. But, despite requests to be forwarded an advance copy of the survey, Westat and the Pentagon declined to bring leading LGBT/DADT advocacy group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network into the fold, declining the opportunity to use of their consulting expertise. Likewise, Citizens for Repeal reports requests to review the questionnaire in advance of its release were refused by the Pentagon.

From the Servicemembers United statement (PDF):

Servicemembers United received several confidential reports during the drafting and revision of this survey that the survey was potentially being skewed in an unfavorable direction through flawed design. Servicemembers United raised these concerns with the Comprehensive Review Working Group on multiple occasions and repeatedly asked to view and provide feedback on the survey while it was being drafted.

The opportunity to lend our extensive experience and expertise in talking about this issue with conservative audiences, including active duty troops, was denied. A request to the Comprehensive Review Working Group to view a copy of the survey question after the survey had been released was also denied.

Even the usually upbeat Human Rights Campaign Fund, who showed such enthusiasm for the compromise and repeal process just months ago, is described as having a “tepid support” for the survey in the Washington Post:

“While surveying the troops on an issue like this is problematic from the start and the questions exhibit clear bias, the fact remains that this study exists,” said HRC spokesman Michael Cole. “We urge the department to analyze the results with an understanding of the inherent bias in the questions and use it as a tool to implement open service quickly and smoothly.”

Good faith has been extended to the Pentagon by these groups, on behalf of all LGB servicemembers. It is a shame the Pentagon is not meeting good faith with good faith.

 title=

Corporal Brett Edward Stout was a Russian cryptologic linguist and weapons marksmanship intstructor. In 2002, he was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps. Portrait from Proud to Serve, a photography project by Brooklyn photographer, Jo Ann Santangelo. She is currently planning a tour to photograph more LGBT Veterans, learn more.

Update 1: If you’d like to see the survey for yourself, it is linked here (PDF). Thanks to Mother of Zeus for that suggestion.

Update 2: Repeal advocate and posterboy Lt. Dan Choi weighed in on Twitter last night offering this:

Pentagon #DADT survey is a putrid stain on the morality of America. History will not forgive.

Don’t mince words, tell us how you really feel, Lt.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Bright-Red, Ear-Splitting Alarm Bell’: Former Top GOP Congressman Blasted for ‘Normalization’ of Fascism (Video)

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Trey Gowdy, the former top Republican U.S. Congressman from South Carolina, head of the powerful Oversight Committee who chaired the House Select Committee investigating Hillary Clinton and the attack in Benghazi, is under fire this week for what some see as normalizing fascism.

Gowdy appeared on a Fox News‘ “hard news” program Monday, hosted by anchor Bret Baier, and decried how some media outlets described Italy’s election of Giorgia Meloni, a neo-fascist, who will be their new prime minister.

Meloni is also a Christian nationalist who has praised the founder of Italian fascism, dictator Benito Mussolini. She holds far right views, including opposition to abortion, any legal rights for LGBTQ people including marriage and adoption, and is seen as xenophobic and opposed to the European Union.

During the campaign Meloni at a rally “thundered,” as the AP reported, “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology.”

READ MORE: Critics Blast Top US Conservative Think Tank President for Applauding Italy’s Election of ‘Neo-Fascist’ Prime Minister

The Fox News panel denounced the U.S. media labeling Meloni as “far right.”

“I guess what I’m wondering is,” Gowdy, an attorney and former federal prosecutor said, “if you’re winning elections, if you are what the people want, at what point does that become the center? Who gets to say what is far right, or what is hard right?”

What Gowdy neglected to note is Italy does not have a two-party system like the U.S., so Meloni won with just a quarter of the vote. And regardless of popularity, political positions are categorized by positions on a scale, including far and center.

On social media Gowdy was highly criticized.

“How could the Nazis do the things they did? How could rational decent Germans just stand by and watch as fascism rose to power to began to murder millions? How? This is how,” retired U.S. military intelligence officer Jim Wright, who runs a popular Twitter account, wrote in response to the clip.

READ MORE: Embattled Trump-Appointed DHS Inspector Was Given Phones of Secret Service Agents in July, Raising ‘New Questions’: Report

Quoting Gowdy questioning “who gets to say?” Wright added, “Who gets to say what’s wrong? Who gets to condemn the rise of fascism?”

“Who gets to condemn hate and intolerance and the violence of these goddamn goons? I DO. YOU DO. WE ALL DO. That’s who,” he continued.

Yale University professor of philosophy Jason Stanley slammed the media’s lackluster response to the election of a neo-fascist while the American right applauded the news.

“The burst of incredible enthusiasm for an Italian fascist leader on the American right is being ignored by the liberal media, which as usual is missing the forest and reporting on some trees,” he tweeted, in response to the clip of Gowdy’s remarks.

(NCRM did report on the right’s response to the election of the neo-fascist prime minister on Monday, highlighting criticism of the praise of the neo-fascist by the head of The Heritage Foundation, which is ranked the third most influential think tank in America.)

Media Matters for America’s Kat Abu, who posted the video, commented, “Think of any far-right or fascist regime. Now think of how many of its citizens justified these beliefs during the regime’s rise to power. This tweet is a bright-red, ear-splitting alarm bell and I am begging everyone to listen to it.”

READ MORE: Fox News Host Claims ‘Whites Are a Minority in California’ So Dems Want ‘On-Ramp’ for Undocumented Immigrants to Vote

Willamette University Professor of History Seth Cotlar observed: “This might be an appropriate time to recall that the 2nd KKK in the 1920s had around 4 million members nationwide. In some localities the majority of white men joined the organization. They described themselves as ‘patriotic Christian Americans’ who supported law and order.”

Esquire’ Jack Holmes, pointing to the clip said, “these are the same people who blast Joe Biden, who won 7 million more citizens’ votes than his opponent, as an out-of-touch far-left extremist.”

Reuters Global News Desk editor Gerry Doyle mocked Gowdy, asking, “truly, whomst among us can say whether fascism is bad or good.”

Novelist Jason Miller, appearing to mock Gowdy’s famous hairstyles, tweeted, “Fascist Supercuts here is really giving away the game.”

Journalist Tim Mullaney corrected Gowdy: “Call me crazy, former Congressman. Six million Jews later, we can confidently say the German People got it wrong.”

Lincoln Project senior advisor Jeff Timmer, paraphrasing Gowdy, tweeted: “‘If the people want Nazis, we should give them Nazis. And be happy about it.’ – Trey Gowdy, sort of.”

Monique Camarra, a researcher/analyst on Russian capture, influence and information warfare in Italy and Europe, and co-host of the Kremlin File warned the clip is “Normalisation.”

Scholar of fascism, authoritarians, and propaganda, NYU professor of history Ruth Ben-Ghiat, possibly stunned, responded with merely one word: “what.”

Watch Trey Gowdy below or at this link.

 

 

 

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News

Embattled Trump-Appointed DHS Inspector Was Given Phones of Secret Service Agents in July, Raising ‘New Questions’: Report

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Senior Secret Service leadership confiscated the cell phones of 24 agents and handed them over to the embattled Trump-appointed Inspector General of the Dept. of Homeland Security as he was launching his criminal investigation into the deleted text message scandal. The Secret Service, DHS, and former Trump officials at the Pentagon have been under fire after the IG, Joseph Cuffari, belatedly revealed texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, had been deleted.

“The agency handed over the phones ‘shortly after’ a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office,” NBC News reports.

“The revelation that Cuffari’s office has had access to the phones since late July or August raises new questions about the progress of his criminal investigation into the missing text messages and what, if anything, the public may be able to learn about communications between agents on Jan. 6, 2021,” NBC adds.

READ MORE: Trump-Installed DHS Inspector General Who Ignored Text Deletions Violated ‘Prohibition on Unethical Conduct’: Report

Cuffari reportedly learned in December of 2021 that the cell phones of Secret Service agents directly involved in protective operations on the day of the insurrection, had been wiped and text messages deleted. He did not report this to Congress until July of 2022, despite his staff taking action.

CNN, however, has reported Cuffari actually learned of the deleted texts in May of 2021, which if accurate would mean he waited more than a year to inform Congress. Nor did he inform the National Archives, which is required by law to retain those records.

Cuffari has been seen by some as covering for Trump loyalists. His own staff is calling for his firing.

“Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog staff recently called on President Joe Biden to remove their boss, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, according to a blistering letter obtained by the Project On Government Oversight,” POGO reported last week. “‘The highest priorities of an inspector general are integrity and independence,’ states the letter. ‘IG Cuffari and his inner circle of senior leaders have fallen short in these areas time and time again.'”

READ MORE: ‘Coverup of Treason’: Trump-Appointed IG, Under Investigation, Knew of Missing Secret Service and DHS Texts Far Earlier

In April of 2021 The Washington Post reported Cuffari “blocked investigations proposed by career staff last year to scrutinize the [Secret Service’s] handling of the George Floyd protests in Lafayette Square and the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, according to documents and people with knowledge of his decisions.”

Noted political scientist Norman Ornstein, who sits on the POGO board, in late July called the situation a “coverup of treason.”

POGO, he wrote, “has been calling for a long time for the resignation of DHS IG Joseph Cuffari. He sat on the information of missing texts from the top DHS ‘acting’ officials, put there by Trump to do his bidding. Stinks to high heaven. Coverup of treason.”

 

 

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DOJ Demands Return of Emails Peter Navarro Sent From Private Account for Government Business

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The Department of Justice is seeking a court order to compel Peter Navarro to return government documents he took after leaving the Trump administration.

Investigators are seeking the return of emails he sent while working on the White House coronavirus response, which they say were sent from a private account for government business to discuss ventilators, activating National Guard units, and the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, reported CNN.

“There is no genuine dispute of fact that Dr. Navarro used at least one unofficial email account to conduct official business, that those records are the property of the United States, and that Dr. Navarro has refused to return the records to the United States. Indeed, his counsel has expressly admitted as much,” wrote Justice Department lawyers.

“Because Dr. Navarro remains in possession of property that belongs to the United States,” the lawyers added, “this Court should issue a writ of replevin requiring Dr. Navarro to return what he wrongfully continues to possess.”

READ MORE: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his home to avoid being served with subpoena, court record says

The National Archives discovered the emails were missing after the DOJ sued Navarro earlier this year in a records dispute related to a House investigation.

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