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If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are assigned to share a room, berth or field tent with someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian Service member, which are you most likely to do?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

Dem Wants Probe Into Allegations of Congress Members Drinking During Contempt Hearing

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House Oversight Republicans held a contempt of Congress hearing for Attorney General Merrick Garland while lawmakers allegedly were drinking alcohol and acting “pretty ugly” during Thursday night’s proceedings. Now, they are the ones accused of behavior “embarrassing to our institution” by Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who wants an investigation.

“Members of the panel ultimately advanced a contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland on a party-line vote, but the far more striking takeaway was the personal attacks and theatrics lobbed between lawmakers in both parties — as Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) struggled unsuccessfully to gain control for more than an hour,” Politico reported Friday, adding: “both Republicans and Democrats acknowledged some members had been drinking that evening.”

Who was drinking remains a secret.

“A House Republican described the hearing as ’embarrassing’ and ‘a four -alarm dumpster fire,'” Axios reported. “The session quickly devolved into chaos, with Democrats blasting the GOP for postponing the hearing so several members could visit former President Trump’s trial and Republicans heckling them in response.”

One Democrat during the hearing spoke up.

READ MORE: Why Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag Story Just Fell Apart

Ranking Member Raskin “said it was ’embarrassing to our institution’ and that he ‘constantly’ instructs his members to maintain a ‘high level of dignity and respect and decorum.'”

“We have some members in the room who are drinking inside the hearing room … who are not on this committee,” alleged Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM).

The Hill adds that Congressman Raskin said, “I didn’t see the drinking,” and that “the gentlelady from New Mexico, Melanie Stansbury raised it, she said there are members drinking in the room, and that’s something that is worth investigating if there was in fact drinking taking place.”

One unnamed House Republican told Axios, “This place is so stupid.”

The evening’s events quickly took a bad turn when U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), violating decorum, interrupted Ranking Member Raskin barely 30 seconds into his remarks.

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

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OPINION

Why Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag Story Just Fell Apart

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Justice Samuel Alito’s defense for why there was a “Stop the Steal” flag flying at his Alexandria, Virginia home three days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, ten days after the January 6, 2021 insurrection, just fell apart.

The entire justification for a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice with lifetime tenure who refuses to recuse himself from cases including ones related to the 2020 election, which ethics experts and U.S. Senators say he is obligated to do so, is a dispute with a neighbor, according to The New York Times‘ original reporting, and a Fox News reporter.

Critics say his defense doesn’t justify flying a U.S. flag upside down, a symbol of the Stop the Steal movement used by insurrectionists.

In brief, Fox News’ Shannon Bream reports Justice Alito “told me a neighbor on their street had a ‘F— Trump’ sign that was within 50 feet of where children await the school bus in Jan 21. Mrs. Alito brought this up with the neighbor.”

“According to Justice Alito, things escalated and the neighbor put up a sign personally addressing Mrs. Alito and blaming her for the Jan 6th attacks,” Bream wrote. She added Alito “says he and his wife were walking in the neighborhood and there were words between Mrs. Alito and a male at the home with the sign. Alito says the man engaged in vulgar language, ‘including the c-word’,” which prompted Mrs. Alito to hang the American flag upside down as the insurrections did on January 6.

RELATED: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

Court watchers and critics have called into question Alito’s judgment. Senate Democratic Judiciary Chairman Dick Durban has called for the Justice to recuse himself from all cases related to the 2020 presidential election, NBC News is reporting.

Critics are asking if Justice and/or Mrs. Alito’s response to an alleged dispute with neighbors was appropriate, but now Justice Alito’s telling of events is being called into question entirely.

Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), says no school children would have been waiting for school buses at the time the Alito’s flag was photographed upside down, because schools had moved to virtual learning during the COVID pandemic at that time in the area the Alitos reside.

Further calling into question Justice Alito’s claims, CNN’s Holmes Lybrand, a former fact-checker for The Weekly Standard, reports none of the Alitos’ neighbors remember the alleged dispute the justice recounted.

“I spoke with some of Justice Alito’s neighbors who said they remember the American flag being flown upside-down at his home but didn’t recall any neighborhood drama surrounding it,” Lyband reports. “Each neighbor I spoke with reiterated multiple times how kind and well-liked the Alitos are.”

In its report that broke the story, The New York Times noted, “The half-dozen neighbors who saw the flag, or knew of it, requested anonymity because they said they did not want to add to the contentiousness on the block and feared reprisal.”

READ MORE: Trump Appears to Violate Gag Order After Judge Threatened ‘Incarceration’

 

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OPINION

Alito Tells Fox News Story Behind His Home’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag but Critics Unconvinced

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Editor’s note: The spelling of Fox News host Shannon Bream’s last name has been corrected.

Justice Samuel Alito on Friday appeared to compound concerns over the bombshell New York Times report revealing a flag associated with the January 6 insurrection and the “Stop the Steal” movement was flying at his house just before Joe Biden was inaugurated and while the Supreme Court was reviewing a 2020 election case.

Alito, whose far-right positions including writing the majority opinion in the Supreme Court case overturning Roe v. Wade, have infuriated and frustrated the left, once again has found himself the subject of apprehension over his impartiality and grasp of ethical norms.

In a rare move, the embattled justice, who now faces strong calls for his ouster, spoke immediately to the news media to address those issues, and revealed the story behind the decision to fly the “Stop the Steal” flag at his home.

Confirming again it was his wife who put the flag up, Alito seemed neither remorseful nor cognizant of the great ethical and credibility violation that act represented.

RELATED: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

“I spoke directly with Justice #Alito about the flag story in the NYT,” Fox News host Shannon Bream reported late Friday morning via social media. “In addition to what’s in the story, he told me a neighbor on their street had a ‘F— Trump’ sign that was within 50 feet of where children await the school bus in Jan 21. Mrs. Alito brought this up with the neighbor.”

“According to Justice Alito, things escalated and the neighbor put up a sign personally addressing Mrs. Alito and blaming her for the Jan 6th attacks,” Bream continued.

“Justice Alito says he and his wife were walking in the neighborhood and there were words between Mrs. Alito and a male at the home with the sign. Alito says the man engaged in vulgar language, ‘including the c-word’,” she wrote. “Following that exchange, Mrs. Alito was distraught and hung the flag upside down ‘for a short time’. Justice Alito says some neighbors on his street are ‘very political’ and acknowledges it was a very heated time in January 2021.”

The Bulwark’s Bill Kristol chastised Bream, noting she got Alito’s side of the story without “trying to see how it compares with the accounts and recollections of others involved. If only the anchor had the resources of a ‘news’ channel to seek out the truth!”

Some critics responding to Bream’s report say Alito’s explanation doesn’t make their perception of his actions — or his wife’s – any more reasonable.

Former George W. Bush administration official Christian Vanderbrouk commented, “Sam Alito is unapologetic for desecrating an American symbol as part of a neighborhood feud.”

READ MORE: Why Are One in Five GOP Voters Still Voting for Nikki Haley Over Donald Trump?

“Interesting claims by Alito,” attorney Robert J. DeNault remarked. “Not sure it’s reasonable to think any person would react to a neighbor disagreeing — even crassly or rudely — over Trump by hanging an American flag upside down. Does not feel credible to contend Alito’s upside flag was divorced from MAGA symbolism.”

“Alito speaks to Fox about New York Times report, continues to attribute it to his wife, but does not explain why his wife’s reaction to a ‘fuck Trump’ sign and being insulted was to hang an American flag upside down in the days after Jan. 6.” observed CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere. “Suburban neighborhood disputes happen all the time – over lawn care, noisy children, Christmas lights… all sorts of things. Not many instances of an escalated response being a now very politicized symbol of military distress.”

“Friendly reminder the entire GOP and Fox News is screaming on practically a daily basis that Judge Merchan needs to recuse because of the work his adult daughter separately does,” national security attorney Brad Moss offered. “But yeah, this is no biggie.”

READ MORE: ‘Long History of Playing Games’: Biden Campaign Shuts Down Trump’s Tantrum

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