Dear Glenn:

Today I posted a blog entry about Jane Hamsher at 1:30 pm, EST. Then I went to the dentist for a 3 hour session. I came back to find Jane Hamsher acting like Jane Hamsher. Rather than respond to anything in my post, she resorted to another round of goofy attacks on me. This time it was for attacking you on a day when you had just entered hospital with what is, apparently, a very serious illness.  .

As my post was 8700 words, a reasonable person would be right in assuming I was editing all morning, and not reading any blogs or other news, so I was of course not aware of your condition.  In fact, my entire stream was unaware of it until Jane tweeted about it.

As my post wasn't really about you, but merely discussed you in a few places (and actually commended you), I doubt I would have withheld it anyway. But I might have added a note at the top to acknowledge your situation. I am quite confident that you know that my complaint is about some of your work, and not remotely about you personally. 

I hope you are getting the best care available.  I wish you well, and a very speedy recovery.


As you may have heard…

I wrote a blog post last week… and Jane Hamsher, founder and lead blogger at (FDL), and often considered to be a leading progressive voice got rather upset with me.  It was a level of anger that led her to make a rather ugly spectacle of herself, and one that may result in history never quite seeing her as having quite the same stature that a dwindling number of people still feel she deserves. To explain just what happened properly, I need to lay down some back story that is key to why I care about her, or any of this.  Once again, I warn you that I am not a journalist, nor even a regular blogger. I'm barely even a writer with much competence, but I work hard enough to fool a few friends of my mother's. I apologize for the length of this, but I don't want to be accused on telling this without sufficient exhibits to back up some of my more serious points and complaints.

The integrity of our mass media affects us all… every day

Think way back to 2005, when Fox News had a camera position permanently stationed next to Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry as he kept a vigil outside Terri Schiavo's hospital room. Was it their point to show viewers any real breaking news value? Or was it to provide a media platform for Terry's moral posturings to be repeated again and again by a national Republican propaganda news channel intent on stirring up a populist political feeding frenzy of biblical proportions? Most liberals would say the latter.

And when Sean Hannity stood outside her hospital, interviewing people day after day, asking for random opinions on Schiavo's condition and treatment, was he there mostly because those opinions would help educate Fox News viewers about her condition? Or was it all to foment emotional support among his conservative viewers, many of whom dutifully descended on the hospital, creating a three ring mega-spectacle, replete with signs, banners, global broadcast networks, and almost everything but a human cannonball act?  Most liberals would insist that, here too, it was the latter.

Finally, in 2002, in a front-page story, NY Times's correspondent, Judith Miller wrote a story about aluminum tubes bound for Iraq, quoting unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts," as well as "Bush officials," who said that aluminum tubes bound for Iraq were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and which could almost certainly support a nuclear weapons program. Most liberals today know this agenda-rich reporting by Ms. Miller, who since went on to a cushy job at a right wing think tank, was an absolutely key pretext in the Bush administration's propaganda campaign to gin-up support for the Iraq war.  It was also a complete fantasy.

In all three cases, the motives of the people involved, their back stories, the veracity and the motives of the reporters, the actual facts presented, and way in which the rest of the mainstream media and most political spheres reacted to, and interacted with them, were all forensically crucial to any larger understanding of just what was being portrayed to viewers or readers.  The media behind the story was as much a part of the story as the story itself.

The American left has come to expect this superficial, emotion-based, fact-free manipulation of news events or cause célèbres from the likes of Fox News and the right wing media machine. Sadly, while the right are certainly the most reliable and shameless offenders of such practices, it's not hard to find ample number of similar examples on the left. The glowing weekly coverage of Cindy Sheehan's anti-war protests, for one example, or the instantly overblown portrayals of Jared Loughner as a crazed right wing gunman within just hours of his attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The chemistry of these events can often seem just a bit too manipulated, and it's never surprising when the ingredients explode into a new media maelstrom that commands the whole world's attention.  We all know that most of today's media is a big business. But when the business of media, or the careers of its pundits and practitioners become far more important than the public interest and the veracity of a free press that was meant to protect it, we draw ever closer to a precipice at the edge of an abyss from which ethical journalism may never re-emerge. Some media experts fear we went over that edge years ago, while others think we're just inching ever closer to it. Regardless of which is true, most would agree that as a vulnerable culture, on the brink of a runaway plutocracy (or worse), we really don't want to know what lay beyond the ledge. It scares most thinking people. It really scares me.  So…

last week, I wrote a blog post…

I wrote it out of a creeping respect for my escalating fear of that dark and scary chasm. It was a long post that began by describing the back story of a Twitter attack on me and Miami Herald columnist Joy Ann Reid, by the acclaimed blogger, Glenn Greenwald of, because I had had the audacity to suggest on Twitter that much of the global outcry about accused Wikileaker, Bradley Manning, was coming mostly from sensational stories of his, or Jane Hamsher's FDL site.

When Jane Hamsher attacks, people listen (but feel uncomfortable about it).

I had been expecting a second attack from Glenn Greenwald, probably pouring more words on me than the entire world once churned out after the sinking of the Lusitania. I'm told Glenn had the flu, so perhaps he will still be sending u-boats my way. But I still got hit. In Greenwald's place, came a series of Twitter air strikes from Jane Hamsher and her supporters, replete with fact-free, ad hominem attacks, spurious assertion, straw men, and fallacious attribution.  It was the argument tactic often called "throwing everything at the wall to see what might stick," and it was the only time I'd ever seen a notable liberal do this to another liberal (outside of a political campaign). This mugging was so detached from facts, reality, or ethical anchors, that it was clear to all but her staunchest supporters that Ms Hamsher's moral ship may have finally broken free of its tenuous moorings, capsized in a vicious rip current, and was sliding on down toward Titanic town.

Most of her attacks, from her own first tweets, through her many retweets of supporter assaults, to her final follow-up attack just yesterday morning, can be conveniently seen in this Chirpstory compendium linked below. Only the extraneous tweets from her (or my) supporters have been redacted (these attacks went on for hours, so the compression was essential). If anyone doubts the faithfulness of this account, there were merely about 50,000 witnesses you can ask about it :)

Click Here For The Chirpstory Archive

As you can see here, Jane was tossing out any kind of unfounded assertion she'd come across, evidently drawing heavily from both the left and right's contribution to Twitter's #p2 hashtag stream. It was evident that she was going for broke at the crazy crap table when she accused me of "working for a GOP operative." And what did she offer as proof of this charge against one of Twitter's more aggressive progressives when it comes to verbally punishing Republicans, conservatives, and assorted crypto-fascists, or their assorted media stooges?  That my only Republican friend since high school, @leslieSanchez, a habitual networker and long-time Twitter friend, had once tried to socially-impress Jane (whom she barely knew), while standing at a coat check line at a Washington, DC social event. Leslie had proudly proclaimed that "@Shoq's a friend of mine."  Anyone that knows Leslie knows that this is the vintage Sanchez style, seeking out any common ground other than situational Spanish.

As Leslie explains it, Jane immediately moved from socially cordial to pit bull mode: "well that's just not his name."  Leslie said, "yeah, you're right, his name isn't @shoq. It's "(another of my many aliases)."  As Jane girded for a far larger fight, Leslie, wisely set off to hail a cab. Having many friends who have seen Jane unravel in social settings, this accounting felt more than plausible to me.

And it's true. Leslie and I may have had as many as two dozen phone calls over two and a half years. She invited me to her book party where, very illiberally, I sucked down deliciously free white chocolate martinis.  Hiding behind one of my many pseudonyms (I have over 13 in circulation at last count), I schmoozed up a storm, often tweaking and taking notes on Republican guests like Liz Mair and Kevin McFadden. (They didn't know who I was, but I knew them.) I think I even pocketed some giant strawberries to take home to Wallenda, my long haired feline copy editor.

I was also seen in her company in June, 2009, at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City, where I also met Ana Marie Cox, Rachel Sklar, Dan Froomkin, Josh Silver, Scott Rosenberg, Jay Rosen, David Corn, Frank Rich, Micah Sifry, and many other notables and all around nice folk. Unlike Jane, some of them with the full skinny on me have been gracious enough (or uninterested enough) to respect my wish for anonymity. But Jane, in an apparently desperate bid to discredit me over a single blog post, starts to brazenly and with nary a justifiable reason that anyone could see, broadcast what she was told was my real name.

The logic, we assume is that if somehow she could "out" my true name and identity, it would forever change anything that I'd just written about her, or somehow bully me into never trying something like that again. I guess this post proves that she failed on both counts.  The fact that she was only using one of my many monikers, which has been in the wild for months (since another blogger, angry at me for disliking her style of blogging, saw fit to distribute it), seemed to be of very little concern. Jane Hamsher had decided to put on this show as a take-no-prisoners combatant who would use someone's private identity as a weapon, no matter what relevance it did or didn't have. Nor did it seem to matter to her what message this really ugly act would telegraph to thousands of her many anonymous blog visitors, some of whom might actually value their privacy. I doubt they will enjoy wondering if Jane would "out" them if they ever made Jane mad.

The real mission of Jane's Twitter assault force, was of course, to merely cast doubt on my character and credibility, hoping this would also discredit my words. Sort of like what the right wing does almost any time any messenger brings any bad news about their stories or agenda. Whether Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Shirley Sherrod, or anyone else on the left, if they don't like what you're saying, they attack your character first, last, and always. If the platform is big enough, as in the case of Fox News, they can say it so often that it can take on the appearance of being true all too swiftly.  And of course, Jane Hamsher's FDL blog has a pretty big following, so she obviously assumed she could make the same tactics work in the micro-blogging world of Twitter.

Her miscalculation was not realizing that in her world, I am in fact, "no one." But on Twitter, I may be an anonymous cat, but I am a rather Twitter-enabled  kitty with a fairly large and supportive base of progressive friends whom I value greatly (and whom I'd like to think value me back).  A large number of those friends counter-attacked her with a ferocity she was not expecting; one that sent a few hundred thousand tweets or retweets, and probably much of her reputation deep into hyper tweet-space where they will live on public and private hard drives, forever.

Jane can't seem to walk away from a runaway fail

The swift and punishing response to her graceless attack would have given a rationally thinking person a clue that things were going poorly, and they might want to back off and get off Twitter for awhile until things cooled. Instead, she stuck with her plan and doggedly repeated her random, unsupportable charges again and again over almost a 24 hour period.

As she pressed on with wave after weird wave of almost comical insults and allegations, her limp attacks seemed to keep failing on multiple levels. Whether attacking my wish to assist my mother, trying to out my real-life identity, or implying I worked for Manning's enemies, almost nothing would stick because she brought virtually no evidence with her this day. She had nothing but empty statements about whatever she seemed to think might embarrass or discredit me. They were statements of the "nothing to see here" sort that Twitter people see other Twitter people toss out at one another every day. They know that if you can't back it up, it's just noise aimed at your own choir that no one else will be too interested in, and it just looks like all kinds of lame if you keep trying to make them.

By the time @LeslieSanchez finally popped up to openly contradict Jane in front of thousands, it was already clear that Jane was simply unable, or emotionally unwilling to stop herself. She was a runaway train, and only that hard thump at the far side of her weird little railroad to nowhere was going to stop her. That is, if she didn't come right off the rails before the got there. And then, she did just that…

Her lowest moment, after the "GOP operative" ploy flopped, was her confusing a true story of me moving 1000 miles from Washington, to live nearer to my mother, who, approaching 84, lived alone in Florida. She characterized this as "living with your mother."  Even if that were true, which it isn't, or I'd be eating a lot better, no one was grasping why this 51 year old woman was casting aspersion on a desire to care for one's aging parent. Had she no sense of proportion, if not decency? Was any criticism of her work so unbearable that it was worth unleashing such a comment, likely to achieve little beyond making her about 3 feet tall, even in the eyes of her most loyal supporters?  Was this the formidable "pro-left" leader," as the media, and even the White House has called her? If so, the professional part was not in evidence this day.

Apparently, it was worth it to her, as she made no attempt to apologize or soften it before thousands of people. Her failure to do that was another sign that her judgment has been grossly overrated by a lot of people over the years. But then, it is that very same judgment that led me to post my criticism in the first place.  If she wasn't considered an important voice on the left, I'd be giddy over someone making such an atomic asshat of themselves in public. But since she still does have that reputation in many quarters, I don't think it helpful to progressivism that any leading liberal's reputation be dashed to pieces in front of thousands—and potentially—even millions of people.

So what does Jane Hamsher fear from me?

Why all this overreaction to some honest criticism of her blogging? Why not just put on some big girl pants, and start responding to the specifics of my complaints?  After all, as she said, I am just one more anonymous, middle-aged man who nobody fears. Why would she make such a spectacle of herself because of the views of someone that nobody feared?

I can only speculate. While I am not the first to note that Jane lives in a fact-free zone where only she decides what is real or important, I may be one of the few people on Twitter who isn't afraid of her exaggerated reputation, nor disposed to wear one of those faux-friendly masks that so many liberals seem to don whenever they engage her. It's just not news to anyone in the progressive community that many liberals just can't stand Jane Hamsher.  And why should they?  She has a nasty back story from her Hollywood days, has publicly urinated on everyone that ever mattered in her career, has no original ideas, nor any genuine interest in anything but power-politics. She uses her cancer-survivor status as a weapon, and routinely uses her gender as cover when any male counter-attacks her for whatever vitriol she's just spewed.  Jane wields the perpetual victim strategy nearly as often as the rapaciously loathsome Michelle Malkin, and the insufferably vapid Sarah Palin.

Mutual friends have amused me with their definition of Jane as as "attention monger trapped in a fame monger's body."  She's fascinated by her own narratives, and obsessed with maintaining an appearance that every one of her causes are vital to a progressive future. But she only cares about facts that support whatever personal and/or political agenda she has in any given week. Her political philosophy consists mostly of liberalism's more trite platitudes and cliches, which she delivers with a strained sincerity that works well enough to convince a percentage of the progressive public that she can actually discuss a real political idea that isn't conflated with some recent FDL marketing agenda, or her apparent ambition to be a TV star.

Privately, many of her star bloggers are sick of being linked to her growing reputation as Jihad Jane, the rhetorical terrorist who will blow up anyone or anything to win whatever struggle she's in.  And if you agree with any of that, she or her supporters will say, then "you must be really jealous of her, or you're just an authority loving Obamabot. And by the way, if you're not with us, you must be with the terrorists… or the plutocrats.. or whatever!"

While I never enjoy seeing a liberal come unglued in public, I think this meltdown may have served a higher purpose: it has revealed something people need to know about this woman, who has been career climbing by distracting liberals for years with obsessively hawked stories that almost always have a common thread: to find fault with the Obama administration (or whatever she disagrees with).  Ask most liberals not directly connected to her site of their opinion of her, and they range from "strident," to "angry, delusional, unethical, a Republican cloaking herself in neo-liberalism," or just "downright nasty." Her reputation has become toxic to any but those supporters who bought her act long ago, and will just never admit they got ripped.

Since her attacks, I've been educated by others that Hamsher, like Glenn Greenwald, has often tried these bullying tactics with them, too. But, they say, it's not done with the same manic enthusiasm that just made her look so bad to my Twitter stream. But still, it was similar, and when she's done, she pumps the air with her fist, declares each  flurry of tweets to be a rhetorical win, and then exits as fast as she can, letting her loyal minions bat clean-up for her.  It's all done with a smug and arrogant swagger that suggests that she feels virtually impervious to bad press.  Perhaps this time, however, he was just a bit more agitated than usual because my previous blog post drew some blood.

Perhaps I make Jane feel vulnerable?

Jane's swagger suggests to me that her default assumption is that the folks at @MSNBC, and especially Lawrence O'Donnell's producers, just don't really care about any of her Twitter behavior, nor her stiff (some say creepy) TV countenance. Nor do they care about her shaky veracity or her plunging credibility as a spokes-zombie for left causes. Many feel that the higher-ups, the often conservative-leaning media executives, welcome her for her eager willingness to side with some of the left's most despicable enemies, and come out in public to bash the Obama administration with whatever ammunition someone provided that day. She rarely seems to care if the ammo comes from the left or the right. For the media brass, this makes good TV, while at the same time, helps to advance their longer term regulatory interests, while still actively marketing their product to a progressive audience.

And for whatever reason, this strategy seems to still be working for her.  Unless Comcast, MSNBC's new owner, takes an early control over programming, and jettisons the offensive legacy baggage like Hamsher, @MSNBC will probably go right on using her, just not caring much about her growing reputation as an opportunistic, bomb throwing polemicist who takes extravagant liberties with facts as she leaps from one sensational story to the next, almost always associating them with one fundraising drive after another.

And all those funding drives…

may very well be the reason that Jane is so upset with me. Since I have been fearless about calling her out, perhaps she fears that I just won't shut up, and that I will keep talking about all that damn money, continuing to remind readers that despite her blithering about progressive values, she's mostly running two very successful businesses; FDL and her advertising network, Common Sense Media. Both enterprises are highly vulnerable to conflict of interest charges, especially considering how often Jane conducts various fundraising drives for something or other. Oh yes, how she hates it when people talk about that damn money.

And she should be more than a little nervous, because few of her readers really know just how the professional fundraising game is really played, or how many magical accounting tricks get used to conceal expenses or other fiduciary mechanics which might appear questionable, even when legitimate.

Yes, yes, yes, of course all those funding drives are always tied to non-profits.  But in the fine print of many of them one can almost always find a convenient disclaimer that some funds raised will be used for, among other things, "speaker fees, events, communications, advocacy, etc.." Just the "event" expenses can cover for anything from promotion, travel and entertainment expenses, to simple hair and make-up fees. As written on an FDL contribution page

The Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund is a new public advocacy effort for Bradley Manning that will organize events, issue press releases, recruit spokespeople to speak out on Bradley’s behalf, and assemble researchers and witnesses to help with Bradley’s case.

Anyone care to place any bets on who gets fees as a "spokesperson?" To be fair, this fiscal smokescreen is common in many left and right political efforts, but it almost always roughly translates to: "Oh, by the way, it's not unlikely that some amount of money—or even a lot of money— will probably go to FDL and/or Jane Hamsher or her designees, for whatever perfectly legal administrative costs, personal services fees, or other expenses will not fail too many smell tests."

FDL claims the Manning funds are being passed to a bona fide, tax-exempt non-profit called the "Institute for Media Analysis." While this group is legitimate, and has worked with Democracy Now (in some capacity that I couldn't determine), the "contact" for this charitable effort, is one "Trever Fitzgibbon," who, curiously enough, became an FDL blogger only on January 25th, 2011, posting a few minor articles about Manning, almost as if this would validate an ongoing interest in the case. Hmm. Now why would Trevor want to suddenly pop up as an FDL blogger? It ain't like his career needs the exposure.

Fitzgibbon is a well known professional media consultant who founded "Fitzgibbon Media," a very successful firm which almost exclusively farms opportunities arising from progressive celebrities, causes, interests and liberal organizations including Health Care for America Now, Moveon,org, Bruce Springsteen, etc.. We can assume the firm—and it's founder—are handsomely compensated for their efforts.

And perhaps because he has such experience and clout, and knows how to drive efforts that produce the really big bucks, Fitzgibbon has slipped into the FDL blogging stream to help ramp up the visibility of…

A second "advocacy fund" for Bradley Manning?

On their contributions page for this "fund," Hamsher's FDL doesn't seem to feel obligated to point out that nearly $160,000 dollars has already been raised by another, far more established public advocacy and defense fund run by "Courage to Resist." That effort is clearly stating that much of the tax-deductible contributions are for advocacy efforts, while a separate stream of non tax-deductible money goes directly into a trust established by David Coombs (Manning's attorney) for actual legal costs. This group, which has Michael Moore and Daniel Ellsberg on its advisory board, has a long and proven track record at raising money for similar causes to Manning's.

But back to FDL's contributions page.  Note the very misleading words in the page title, "Donate to the Bradley Manning Advocacy fund: make a tax-deductible contribution for the public defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning." Here, the word "defense" has a slightly ambiguous—if not an overtly misleading—implication. And then further down the page, we find the following copy:

We think this fund to advocate for Bradley is deserving of your support. 100% of contributions to this fund will be used to pay expenses related to the advocacy and defense of Bradley Manning. (Bold emphasis theirs. Underline, mine.)

Only their lawyers can say for sure, but it certainly appears to me that the wording suggests that most of the funds will be used for advocacy related purposes.  Yet the wording, first ambiguously, and then unambiguously, suggests that at least some monies will go toward Manning's legal defense costs. They are clearly designing their copy to aim it straight for those good Samaritans who would want to help out with Manning's legal fees, while minimizing any questions that might arise about what else the money could be used for.

Regardless of the real or inadvertent intent in FDL's wording, a careful observer still can't help but wonder, "why the duplication of fund raising efforts at all?" If such famous people like Moore and Ellsberg are already raising money for public advocacy and defense, wouldn't a consolidated effort make far more sense? But then, of course, Hamsher wouldn't have any control over the use or accounting of that other fund, and thus, not have a very easy time billing it for any expenses that she, David House, or FDL staff or associates might wish to recover from it. But these matters are above my pay grade. I will leave such questions to the real journalists to ask Ms. Hamsher. I'm just some anonymous man who lives with his mother.

These kinds of fiduciary details, and adequately disclosing them (or the appearance of adequately disclosing them), have often seemed problematic for Hamsher. Especially those oh so tricky political action committees.  The legendary Rogers Cadenhead has famously told much of that story, and far better than I ever could.

But back to Bradley Manning

Jane was late to the WikiLeaks story. Glenn Greenwald had been milking it for many months. They both started focusing on Manning's treatment in December of 2010 (though he'd been in pre-trial detainment for many months).  But only recently, as far as I can tell, has Glenn admitted openly to be writing a book on this very topic of prisoner treatment.  Isn't that convenient?  After a full month or more of drumming up interest in Manning's treatment, Greenwald only now mentions this fact here in the very same post where he attacks Joy Ann Reid (Miami Herald) and me:

When I wrote about Manning last month, I noted that "the U.S. is one of the world's most prolific practitioners of prolonged solitary confinement" and at least 25,000 prisoners in America were subjected to it, and then wrote: "Prolonged solitary confinement is inhumane, horrendous and gratuitous even when applied to those convicted of heinous crimes."  Fourth, I just finished writing a soon-to-be-released book on America's two-tiered justice system that devotes substantial attention — including an entire long chapter — on the way in which America's Prison State is profoundly oppressive based on race and class lines, with a focus on the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. [emphasis his]

Isn't that curious? Only in the fine print, prompted by a blog post of mine calling into question all this froth they have whipped up about Manning's treatment, does he clearly admit that a) a lot of people are in this kind of confinement, and 2) he's been working on a book including a "long chapter" (read: major sensational selling point) about people like Bradley Manning in just such confinements.

Again, I leave it to others to ask whether a book so closely connected to a human rights case which both of them have been raising a huge international ruckus over, should be labeled a clear and rather distasteful conflict of interest.  But to his credit, at least Greenwald points out the fact, which will help to mitigate any future claims of such conflict.  I don't think it's an accident that he did it now, while someone (me), is so clearly implying such unsightly appearances already exist.  But at least he does disclose, and that's far more than what Jane Hamsher has bothered to do with her aforementioned dual funding drives, and other things I am going to get into farther down this page.

So does the mainstream media notice such things?

Not that you'd notice.  But neither do they look very hard for them. The trend seems to be that if you can point to a well known blog, and cite some free content, your boss at the New York Times, Washington Post or @MSNBC will probably be just fine with whatever you point to. After all, you're a trained journalist, right?  You KNOW how to spot unethical references, conflicts of interest, questionable sources, and dubious or second-rate expert testimony, and that sort of thing, right?

That was always the assumption I had growing up. That journalists were always extra cautious about misleading readers with hyperbole, misstatements, questionable sources, and most of all, they were always diligent about disclosing conflicts of interest, or possibly unethical relationships.

Has Jane Hamsher been forthright about ethical disclosures?

Just going over a month of FDL's stuff, my impression was that, like with the advocacy fund, things just get stated, but the reader is forced to probe the veracity of what is said themselves. Hamsher feels very little obligation to document anything that might call into question the truthfulness, analysis or urgency of things she uses to whip up emotional support for her ginned-up causes, or donations to her various funding drives.

Examples of this abound, but while looking over the history of FDL's Manning coverage, I came across this rather…

Egregious example of an ethics fail:

On January 21st, Jane Hamsher writes:

Dr. Jeff Kaye, who works with torture victims, wrote about the potential effects of Manning’s extended suicide watch/POI.  He says that extended isolation is “a technique well-known to break down individuals.”  But when the Brig Commander moved Manning to suicide risk/MAX custody, his conditions grew even more extreme…

Four days later, on January 25th, Jane also writes:

Dr. Jeffrey Kaye of Survivors International, a San Francisco-based torture victims center, describes the effect of severe solitary confinement: * Solitary confinement is an assault on the body and psyche of an individual…Over time, isolation produces a particular well-known syndrome which is akin to that of an organic brain disorder, or delirium….

Manning Supporter, Glenn Greenwald had also cited Dr. Kaye:

"locking up someone who has not presented any kind of threat to other prisoners and who has not been convicted of a crime for months on end in solitary confinement under tight restrictions is torture."  The psychologist and torture specialist Jeffrey Kaye made the same argument.

Well that's some pretty serious stuff, right?

You betcha. And this Dr. Jeff Kaye guy sure sounds pretty knowledgeable about solitary confinement, torture, and related subjects, right? I mean, surely a prosperous blog like Firedoglake, making the claim that the U.S. Government and its United States Marine Corp. might be inhumanely abusing a detainee, would want to provide highly competent and unimpeachable sources before going so far out on a limb, right?

I mean, were it me, and I were looking to pull from the pool of experts to make my case that Manning was exhibiting signs of extreme abuse or torture resulting from what I was claiming to be "solitary confinement" (itself a lie.. I mean…  "misnomer"), I might go with credentialed experts recognized by every major human rights and civil liberties group in America. Professional experts like:

Dr. Terry Kupers is a Board-certified psychiatrist, Institute Professor at The Wright Institute, a member of Human Rights Watch, and author of Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It. He has served as an expert witness and monitor in class action litigation about conditions of confinement such as supermax isolation. He was named “Exemplary Psychiatrist” by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in 2005.

Dr. Stuart Grassian is a Board-certified psychiatrist and former faculty member of the Harvard Medical School. He has served as an expert witness in numerous lawsuits addressing solitary confinement, and his conclusions have been cited in a number of federal court decisions.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo has been on the faculty at Yale, New York University, Columbia University, and Stanford University, where he has been a professor since 1968. Though Zimbardo is the author of more than 400 professional publications and 50 books, he is perhaps most known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which studied the physical and psychological effects of power and examined how otherwise “good” people can turn “evil” when placed in certain situations.

Each of these acclaimed experts have, in detail far too long to list here, professional, peer-reviewed journal articles and other scholarly activities and testimony all over the Internet, as found in countless academic bibliographies covering these very subjects of our interest, i.e., the nature and possible effects of extreme confinement on the human body, mind, and so forth.

But why have such acclaimed experts…

…who might not support the FDL thesis that Manning is being treated so inhumanely, or at least provide a far more serious and credible academic standing for the hyperbolic emotional claims that that they've been making for weeks, when you can have you own "in house" expert, such as Dr.Jeffrey Kaye?

Each time Jane or other FDL bloggers (and Greenwald) refer to Kaye, they always seem to fail to point out that he's not merely a long-standing FDL blogger, but also that he's made a career out of making sensational claims about prison life, torture, solitary confinement, etc. all over the Internet.

What do we know about Dr. Kaye, which might be relative to understanding his stature and credibility in helping Hamsher and Greenwald to portray Bradley Manning as a torture victim?  I mean, after all, this "expert's" cred would be crucial, since much of their torture narrative relies on the second-hand anecdotal observations of another recent FDL blogger, the now storied "friend of friends of Bradley Manning," Mr. David M. House.

I will have more to say on Mr. House in a future post. You would think such a key figure would be thoroughly vetted by anyone using him as the basis of these sensational charges of human rights abuse.  But again, that's the real media's job. I'm just an anonymous nobody that lives with his mom.

But for now, let's get back to…

Background on Dr. Jeffrey Kaye:

  • He's a Ph.D who maintains a family therapy practice in San Francisco that, according to his resume, "worked with individuals and couples with psychological, emotional and relational problems for over twelve years."
  • As a hobby or sideline, it appears that he's also spent much of the past decade focused on the Guantanamo detainees, and has blogged aggressively on related pet subjects for his own blog called "Invictus," as well as Alternet,, DailyKos/Valtin, Jason Leopold's ThePublicRecord, and finally, again as Valtin on (Do you get the sense yet that Dr. Kaye is fairly accomplished at finding claims of torture almost as frequently as he manages to create sensational blog posts about them?)
  • On January 27th, 2008, he resigned from the American Psychological Association, because he was disgusted with their "complicity" with the U.S. Government's practice of torturing inmates. However, this has not stopped him from continuing to cite his membership on his resume, despite that page's last modified date being July 8th, 2009.
  • He is a local member of Survivors International (SI) conducting psychological evaluations and offering psychotherapy for refugees applying for political asylum in the United States.

But more germane… than any of these other activities and interests, which generally seem to pigeonhole him as another Greenwald-esque, U.S. Government hating champion for truth and justice, Kaye is also a member of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), a group dedicated to advocacy for a broad spectrum of war and human rights related issues.

At this point, it should come as no surprise—after all these cozy and incestuous relationships between FDL, Greenwald, Kaye, and his association with another always-angry-at-Obama crusader, Truthout's Jason Leopold*, who has openly battled with many of his own history of ethical problems—that PsySR, of which Dr. Kaye is an active member, is the very same organization that quite ceremoniously, and with great fanfare from Hamsher and FDL, wrote an "Open Letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates," strenuously objecting to Manning's method of confinement.

*Note: Leopold  leapt into my Twitter fray with Hamsher, using a gratuitous snark that suggested I had some army of sock puppets who were defending me. (This is one of the most common—and lamest—allegations one hears on Twitter, and many other places on the web). It was clearly meant to set off yet another round of conflagrations that he's contrived with me, each and every time I make any critical statements about FDL or some of its notable bloggers. I didn't really have a theory about why he was taking up their defense until Jeff Kaye popped off to defend him to me. It was their combined mouthing-off in public that actually led me to the breadcrumbs about Kaye, and his connections to FDL and Leopold, that actually got this post off to the races.

Of course, as Hamsher knew, this letter would be seized on by sympathetic parties on the left as just one more potential embarrassment to the Obama administration (in their ongoing Obama tortures Manning narrative), so this grave sounding letter magically found its way—quick as a swiftboat—to that bastion of ethical purity, the DrudgeReport.

Yet despite this huge click bait posting at Drudge, only Raw Story, Tehran Times, and a few other papers or blogs seemed to have even picked it up. Possibly, I speculate, because they looked at the group, at Kaye, or the wording of the letter, and decided that it was pretty much as I have now somewhat famously alleged: just one more semi-scripted rehashing of the same Greenwald/Hamsher mistreatment/torture narrative. A narrative which was effectively copy-and-paste "it be torture" cud that was regurgitated by Amnesty International (AI), and others, as I'd pointed out to Greenwald on Twitter, thus igniting my previous blog post, and thus, also in part, to this one.

Anyone familiar with the history of AI, knows that they, like most similar groups, will rarely miss a chance to follow up an allegation of a reported human rights abuse, especially in a case as exciting and global as the incredible Wikileaks caper. Their mission statement demands it, and their credibility and funding depend upon it.

Now, to his credit, when Jeff Kaye cites the letter himself on FDL, he appears to have a more ethical bent than Hamsher ever does, when he does in fact disclose that:

"I have been a paying member of PsySR, though I have not participated in any organizational activities, nor am I a member of any of their committees."

Huzzah! At last, someone at FDL has pointed out that Dr. Kaye might have some connections worth pointing out to its readers!  Even if it would mean very little without all the other dot's I have connected for readers herein, at least he tried. But further research into Dr. Kaye reveals still more questions. While his disclosure may have seemed technically accurate, Kaye doesn't appear to be quite as isolated from this organization as his disclaimer implies. For example, he recently is cited his being featured in the forthcoming documentary, Doctors of the Dark Side, which, according to it's website:

"exposes the scandal behind the torture scandal — how psychologists and physicians devised, supervised and covered up the torture of detainees in U.S. controlled military prisons.” Both PsySR and Jeffrey Kaye (with a link to his FDL profile) are both listed as resources to “learn more about Doctors and Torture” (on the site's tab labeled "On Doctors and Torture."

Ok, fine, two references in such near proximity might just be a coincidence, but also connected to this this film in which Kaye is featured?  Dr.José Quiroga is the Medical Director of the Program for Victims of Torture, and serves on the Executive Committee and is Vice-President of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Denmark. He is also is or was, according to this source, the treasurer of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Dr. Quiroga is shown on the Doctors of the Dark Side website being interviewed for the documentary.

Color me skeptical, but it hardly seems these two anti-torture advocates, both members of PsySR, just happened to be connected to this film independently of their association with PsySR. But I'm just an anonymous nobody who lives with his mom.

Kaye has been used to validate claims of Manning's "abuse."

…and for all or most of Hamsher's allegations that Manning's Maximum Custody Detention with Prevention of Injury (POI) status added, and at least one of Greenwald's similar charges. And it seems pretty clear that  Kaye has been at best, a poorly disclosed member of Team Manning (he'd blogged with FDL for almost two years prior), and at worst, a very modestly-credentialed source posited as an expert witness who has been making internationally echoed charges based on little more than his opinion of what a complete lay person with an unknown history with the subject had reported in his "observations" of Bradley Manning.

This fail is additionally compounded by Dr. Kaye's own admission that he did so anecdotally, and without first-hand contact with the subject, nor having the benefit of any instruments such evaluations would require. He writes:

"…having spoken to David House, I have been considering Manning’s situation and the effects upon his likely mental and emotional status. While an accurate assessment of a person would mean direct access to them, and the application of psychometrically valid psychological instruments, experience allows me to make some general statements." (emphasis mine).

And thus, with this one disclaimer, placed just once in an opening blog paragraph, we clearly see that Ms Hamsher and Team Manning have whipped up all this hysteria about the Obama Administration and the United States Marine Corp. "torturing" Bradley Manning, all pretty much based on Dr. Kaye, FDL's house expert's entirely speculative account, offered without any empirical data whatever.

From this flimsy, overblown, and undocumented opinion from a family counselor who moonlights as an anti-torture advocate, and who has spent more than a decade chasing after torture claims of a far more serious nature than this Maximum Custody Detention case, we are now where we are.  The Obama Administration gets constant Manning flak and distractingly redundant questions it must answer again and again, the media gets free content for their blogs which seem like a cover band singing country versions of anything Wikileaks, Salon and FDL get lots of web site traffic, David House gets on TV and invited to all those swank parties Jane Hamsher attends, and Bradley Manning may or may not get a few dollars for his defense fund.

In May, Pfc.Manning will probably be tried, convicted, and sent away for a long time (perhaps as long as 50 years).  And I won't be surprised to learn, a decade or so from now, Jane, David, Glenn and the good doctor Kaye will have only visited Bradley once after his conviction. Probably to get his signature on a book proposal, movie deal, or licensing rights for the Bradley Manning's House of Pain video game series, with a 3D action figure tie-in.

Once again, let me state for the record that I have no opinion on Bradley Manning's guilt or innocence. I say he will probably be convicted only because most people accused of espionage acts often are. I also have no opinion on whether Maximum Custody detention is a form of abuse or torture, nor whether the military is correct when it says it is often required in espionage cases, even for people awaiting trial. I only know that it's been used for much of our history, in one form or another, and I wouldn't mind if it was aggressively researched and debated out in the open, and ultimately abolished. Toward that end, some of this attention will certainly be a good thing.  But I also think it's simply convenient to use this allegation in the Manning case, alone, when tens of thousands are held in the same conditions, and the motive for doing so has much less to do with Manning, and far more to do with Wikileaks, and the people milking such a sensational story for all that it's worth.  And it is that reality, a part of the very nature of today's mass media, and its role in controlling—or reshaping—our nation, that is my paramount concern.

And so it goes

To me, FDL, and to a lesser extent, Glenn Greenwald, have not been reporting fairly about facts of the Bradley Manning story. They are telling only the facts conducive to their agenda; those that further embarrass the Obama Administration they openly despise, and which advance the career trajectories of Greenwald and Hamsher.  It's an obvious motive, and many insiders and their critics know it's true. These are very ambitious New Media entrepreneurs, with more political clout than they should have, who are preying on the emotions of the civil libertarian hearts in their audience in the same manipulative manner that Fox News often sells their agenda.

They are standing outside Bradley Schiavo's hospital room, knowing she cannot really tell us much, and urging everyone to take up arms to save her life.  They know that thousands will do that based on nothing more than their rhetorical flourishes added to some flimsy reporting of a case which they are now all too much a part of.

As much as Greenwald and Hamsher would both seem to think that my writing and complaints have been all about them, the fact is, they are merely examples of a larger point I wanted to make. And that is my greater concern about how our completely flaccid media sits back and allows these few people to grow a story so very large, with little vetting by the people who cover the media and the topics like Manning. Why is it my job to do this? Why do I have to educate a famous blog about the traditions of disclosure which might have alerted more people to an appearance of a conflict of interest when FDL was citing their in-house torture expert as the validation for a sensational, globally covered allegation against the United States military and the Obama Administration.

Had people asked questions early on, when Greenwald and Kaye first started to lean heavily on the "this is just torture" allegation, more experts might have stepped in to have honest debate about it, and then journalists could have made sense of their various positions with careful and thorough reporting. Had that happened, a lot of wasted time, ink, bytes, and honest emotion would have been spared.  Time and emotion that might have been spent on many of the other big stories of the past 8 weeks, and Team Manning would have been seen as merely a valuable opportunity to open up the public's eyes to what are certainly very real and probably excessive Maximum Custody Detention policies in our jails and prisons.

The bitch of it is…

I share many concerns with some FDL bloggers, and certainly Greenwald.  I really don't believe Hamsher has any convictions at all, so discussing her goals and motives would sound a bit disingenuous and silly. Greenwald, on the other hand, has a keen insight into the 2-tiered system we live in, one for the rich, and one for everyone else, and that is always worth talking about.  But Glenn never seems to bring forth any solutions, or even frameworks for finding any. Like Chris Hedges, he seems to wallow in the mechanics of this deepening plutocratic morass, and rarely seems very interested in finding, nor even discussing solutions that might change our nation's course. Perhaps he just lacks imagination, I don't really know him well enough to speculate. I just know he's famous for argument, but nearly invisible when it comes to action.

I believe he's missing a golden opportunity to help out by joining others (including me), by attacking the plutocracy much more effectively, using one of the very weapons the founders had intended for us to use: the free press.  But not by using his previous strategy of going after every "symptom" of that plutocratic disease (Obama, Wall St.. etc..), but rather, by focusing on how the elite so often willfully manipulate our system, often by distracting us with endless verbiage and rhetorical noise that leads us directly away from seeing the core mechanics of how they, and their corporate right and religious conservative partners, are holding sway over our media, government, public discourse, and elections.

In my view, Greenwald, Hamsher, and others on the left have served their agenda quite nicely in recent years, by sometimes creating such distractions in the first place, but more often by relentlessly pumping up their noise level to the point where any other messages or movements get washed away in a sea of directionless decibels. And this just allows the Shadow Elites who push the buttons of our plutocracy to thrive and grow ever stronger. While they could be very helpful to progressives finding meaningful ways of fighting back against these elites, I don't see Team Manning as part of any solutions, presently. But they are very much part of the problem.


Detail Posts (Excerpted from this post)

Related Posts (by Shoq)

Team Manning Attacks

Other Resources

Yesterday, I became another in a distinguished line of critics openly Twitter-flamed by the illustrious blogger, Glenn Greenwald. He took time out from the glorious weather in his home town of Rio de janeiro to hector me publicly for posting this tweet on Twitter.

It was addressed to one of my Twitter followers, who has been quite openly concerned about Wikileaks-related issues. In it, I voiced an opinion which implied that the allegations of “inhumane treatment” of Bradley Manning were mostly emanating from what has been reported (or alleged) by Greenwald's blog, or Jane Hamsher's (FDL).  From these root sources, a wide array of allegations, suspicions, protests and conspiracy theories have spread out around the globe via the Internet, the mainstream media, and an enormous army of sympathetic voices who see Wikileaks and Manning as their generation's cultural mash-up of Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the Rosenbergs, and Rubin Hurricane Carter, all rolled into one big super-sized, link-baited mega-scandal.

Greenwald is always on the lookout for Internet mentions of himself, and is wicked-fast in his responses to them. If he doesn't immediately post a comment to a critic's blog, or write some caustic diatribe on Salon, he has gone more directly after people like me on Twitter, often with a bullying tone designed to intimidate or cow, or perhaps only to impress his Twitter followers with another example of his special brand of righteous indignation about something or other. Of course, Twitter is just a fun respite from his typical day, which he more often spends eviscerating any Progressive he sees as consorting with the fascist Obama administration, or saving journalism and the free world by lambasting The Nation over a flawed TSA story, or for their Wikileaks coverage, both of which failed to measure up to his standards of something or other. While my little micro-blog (Twitter) is not even a gnat on the ass of those acclaimed publications, yesterday was my turn to be swatted at by the Rabble-Rouser from Rio.

And so, the story: I had awakened to find that Glenn responded to the tweet to my friend, and what followed was as disturbing as it was revealing.  We had an exchange that many observers found almost comical (if not a little embarrassing for him), as he bullied, badgered, and all but called me names, trying to substantiate his charge that I was asserting “falsehoods” in my tweet. What was false, in his view, was my assertion that only he and Jane Hamsher found Bradley Manning's treatment remarkable, implicitly trying to suggest that it was they who were making most of these charges, and much of the me-too media and the global civil liberties lobby were following their lead.

When I didn't immediately drop to my knees and beg forgiveness for my brash affront to his supremacy in all matters Manning, he attempted to refute my heresy by pasting links to newspapers or organizations like Amnesty International, which had done nothing but report on, or echo his charges, or pledged to "review" them.  None of the links he offered suggested anything unique about the story as it was being told and retold by Greenwald and Hamsher. Moreover, none of them said what reporting they themselves had done, what sources they had consulted, what prompted their decision to probe the case, nor even why they were interested at all. It was almost as if the Flying Spaghetti Monster himself came down to earth and enlightened these institutions about the egregious foulness afoot in the dark recesses of a U.S. military brig.  But Glenn still felt very smug and satisfied that he had called me out on my vicious falsehoods which no one but him could see.

You can see the entire exchange here,as it was favorited to my backup account:!/Shoqq/favorites  Update #1: A more complete version is here:

True to past form, Glenn rushes off to grab his formidable word whacker in order to lash out at me and Miami Herald columnist, Joy-Ann Reid, in another one of his legendary hissyfits.  His supporters have come to adore these rants for their pontifical, libertarian righteousness about all the things he despises, particularly Barack Obama, the US Government, and anyone critical of anything Glenn ever says—or how he says it.

I suspect he included me among his various matters screed not only because he knew he'd best blow some smoke over his silly Twitter spectacle, but also so that he could avail himself of yet one more opportunity to label another critic as an evil “Obama apologist,” using little more than a single tweet without much context.  Realizing that his attempt to Twitter-flame me had backfired a bit, and that my simple request for any hard evidence made him look unprepared, he was going to make the most of what the event had offered. I dared to challenge him to provide some evidence that these other accounts had originated from anything other than the world-wide attention generated from the claims of “inhumane treatment” coming from both he and FDL, and now I was going to feel his wrath.

I am just a lowly technology consultant. I'm not a journalist, and certainly not a professional writer, and neither do I play those roles on Twitter. I am just a commoner with an anonymous cat avatar, and arguably, a minor talent for mocking Republicans. I have no other stature, standing, or even one of those icky dogs in this hunt. Whether Manning is or is not being humanely treated is not within my expertise or my pay grade to know. That is for professional journalists and/or investigators to probe and decide.

My issue and complaint are over how these two bloggers—let's call them Team Manning—have made these charges week after week, and the mainstream media have done little more than take stenography from them about Manning's treatment. Go and Google “Manning and Greenwald” and you'll get 216,000 hits. Then peruse a few dozen of the stories which have appeared in the media and try to find any facts not directly attributed to Team Manning. Let me know what you find. I ask rhetorically because I've tried. It won't be much. What you will find is endless retelling of Team Manning's regular reports, harangues and condemnations, often framed as exposes, which are always aimed directly at a global news audience that they kmnow to be primed and ready to devour anything Manning and/or Wikileaks.

Among other things I am not, is a journalism professor or a media critic, but to my untrained eye, some of the Team Manning stories have seemed like such ginned-up polemics, that I can imagine serious journalists blanching at the reaching, supposition, speculations or just self-righteous moral posturing around which many of their stories revolve. Even when the facts appear to be sound, the conclusions spun from them seem painted with such an uncritical or hyperbolic brush that they come off as mere ideological joy rides on the way to a red herring eating contest. As journalism, they feel more like train wrecks.

Is Team Manning right? Is Bradley Manning, who is being held for possible espionage against these United States, being treated so badly that it rises to the level of inhumane imprisonment—or even torture? I really have no idea. But if they are, I sure don't know it from Team Manning's hyperbolic and often inflammatory reporting, nor from the worldwide echo chamber reverberating from it each day in the mainstream media. If there is any agenda behind my writing this post, beyond merely venting my spleen about what has been an excessive amount of really shoddy Wikileaks coverage from most sources in general, it is that I'd like to start a larger discussion about the many ways our media is failing us. It's a failure that happens far too often, with far too many impacts, and in too many ways that are not being adequately offset by bloggers, citizen journalists, or other alternative media. And if we don't find a way to improve this sad state of affairs, we might as well just surrender now, and let the much more media-savvy Fox Party take over. They probably will anyway.

Having voiced my pretensions toward loftier purpose, let me descend back to earth as a simple Corpizen™ who just wants some responsible reporting from our media.  With respect to Manning, that means getting more than the daily agenda-laden diatribes of two bloggers who are consistently contemptuous of the Obama administration, and work tirelessly to condemn any and all examples of its executive overreach, or any other abuses of power that they can find, allege, speculate, and most of all, furiously fulminate about.

What they do each day is not, to my mind, anything like journalism, nor even good blogging. It's pure political agenda hawking that masquerades as journalism, and it's not a whole lot different from what Fox News does all day long. They find sensational and titillating charges, rumors, or innuendo that supports or confirms their political point of view, and use their broad visibility to make as much self-promoting noise as possible.

That it drives huge traffic to their very successful websites, and promotes their careers as talking heads on the cable news shows, or pumps the coffers of their various political action committees is just an inconvenient truth we're never supposed to notice. This kind of single-focus blogging, day after day, month after month, we are to believe, is purely about truth, justice and the American way. Got that?

Alternatively, let's keep it real. With the tenacity with which Team Manning have pursued the Wikileaks/Manning saga, you might think that the Team itself would become a story for someone with a more journalist chops than I have.  Wikileaks is a global story, and Team Manning found a way to climb aboard that gravy train with relative ease.  All it took was taking up the case of Bradley Manning's supposed torture at the hands of the evil American empire.

Greenwald and Hamsher, and their readers, supporters, and assorted acolytes, collectively comprising the dedicated Team Manning syndicate, have aggressively dogged this story, using not much more—as far as I have been able to find— than the impassioned and subjective accounts of Manning's personal friend, David House, and Manning's attorney, David Coombs. Yet, day by day, both Greenwald and FDL put up deeply emotional and compelling posts asserting this or that abuse, with little more than House's or Coombs's interpretations of what some commander or jail psychologist said about this Manning condition, or that jailer's response to it. Often, I have been frustrated by the lack of documentation for some of these assertions.

Just yesterday, for example, we heard that the Military "admits" Manning was punished, and yet, the statement they claim military officials made is not even copied, nor linked for their readers to evaluate for themselves. You're on your own to evaluate the assertion. Similarly, in other stories, sensational headlines seem to mostly derive from something Coombs said someone else had said. But it always sounds really dramatic, until you parse the story for any really meaningful evidence that substantiates their claims—or reveals just why what is claimed is really all that unique or serious, beyond their grim-faced insistence that it is.

Other times, Team Manning can just take dramatic liberties with facts. Consider this story, where an FDL blogger directly quotes the U.S. Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) to support his contention that Manning is being held or treated contrary to its own Article 13, while trying to (unsuccessfully) debunk a very detailed Gawker story that challenged many of the more sensational charges made by Team Manning. The FDL blogger writes:

In fact, there is statutory authority directly on point to this effect, Article 13, UCMJ, prohibits: (1) intentional imposition of punishment on an accused before his or her guilt is established at trial; and (2) arrest or pre-trial confinement conditions that are more rigorous than necessary to ensure the accused’s presence at trial. (See: United States v. Crawford, 62 M.J. 411).”

To my reading of the context, the blogger wants to imply that any form of disciplinary or precautionary measures during his incarceration would violate Article 13. But let's now look at the verbatim text from the actual UCMJ statute:

No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.(bold emphasis mine)

For reasons not clear to me, the blogger redacts the "other than confinement" part in his summary of the statute. Why does he make this seemingly simple adjustment, I wondered? Why not let the reader see the full and unredacted statute and let them decide for themselves what it meant, especially when it's the very statute upon which many of your arguments and protestations are based upon?  Perhaps, I speculate, it is clear that the purpose of the statute is to prevent the brutal beatings and solitary confinements (of the "hole" variety), which are much closer to torture than mere segregation from other inmates, which is often necessary to ensure an inmate's safety. And by redacting the confinement part, the casual reader is less likely to focus on the specific intent of the statute, and is more likely to just dwell on how unjust it is to have any form of punishment inflicted on a pre-trial detainee, almost as if he were not actually in prison yet, and thus subject to any of the safety or disciplinary rules which applied therein. (The Military has consistently maintained that Manning's pre-trial treatment is no different than any other espionage suspect they have held in Quantico, or other brigs.)

Now, I have had 3 friends read that blog post independently, and 2 saw my point, and 1 did not. And that's part of my  point. When you selectively massage the full and unexpurgated facts, you can change the very essence of what something means or implies.  It's poor journalism and/or scholarship, and it can lead to confusion, misinformation, or suspicions of explicit or implicit manipulation. 

I have come cross other representations, distortions, or omissions on some of the other charges that Team Manning have made, and I rarely see the Team post anything that might be used to dispute, mitigate, or suggest alternative framing of their sensational allegations. Here are just a other examples:

That Manning is not a suicide risk: All they provide as evidence of this is David Coombs's statement that 3 brig experts have said he wasn't. Perhaps I missed it, but I have yet to see the actual statements of these experts in several accountings. And we know from earlier stories that other experts said he was.

Could professionals differ in their opinions? Of course. Hamsher has also maintained that despite these “countless testimonials from psychiatrists” (from the same three? Or someone else? She doesn't tell us), Manning was recently placed on a “Suicide Watch”, improperly (once). Though a single instance of such a watch hardly seems like cruel and unusual punishment anyway, even the Washington Post, perhaps more experienced at practicing journalism than Ms Hamsher, has noted yet another of those messy details conveniently omitted from her FDL account:

A Quantico spokesman, First Lt. Scott Villiard, said that he did not know why Averhart recommended the suicide watch, but that the determination was "based on input from more than one person." That included medical professionals, mental health professionals and the Marine guards who watch detainees, he said.

Averhart "has a responsibility to make sure that these detainees are safe, secure and make it to trial," Villiard said.

Does the Team Manning reporting even suggest that there might be a valid concern that a young prisoner, possibly facing a big chunk of his life behind bars, might actually be a suicide risk? Or that perhaps Military brig commanders, who deal with such questions every day, might have a legitimate concern to worry about? Nah.

And is there any cause to worry? You betcha. Just last February, in still another fact that Team Manning doesn't bother to look for, another prisoner in that very same Quantico Brig that is holding Bradley Manning committed suicide.  And military jails, like prisons of all kinds, are known to have suicides, often carried out with great creativity by inmates using everything from shredded linens as nooses, to ingesting shoelaces, to smashing their own heads into commodes. The tragic fact is, prisoners off themselves all the time. You would think that conscientious journalists—or just people interested in seeking the truth—would point out such mitigating factoids to their readers, and maybe even speculate that perhaps a brig commander actually cares that a celebrity prisoner like Bradley Manning will live to even see a trial.  You might think that, but Team Manning doesn't. To them, it's entirely inconvenient to their Obama Military Tortures Bradley Manning narrative.

That Manning conditions are harsh and unusual: this can only be claimed with the caveat that these are pre-trial conditions. As the Gawker article pointed out, this nation has a long and storied career when it comes to incarcerating people, especially in solitary confinement.  But more importantly, their story gets very much to the weaknesses of some Team Manning claims, and with a precision one wouldn't normally expect from a glorified gossip site that uses snarky, but none-the-less accurate pokes like this one:

Manning sleeps on a mattress with a built-in pillow and an uncomfortable blanket, a state of affairs that Greenwald described as a "vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets."

Now, you might ask, “what does a gossip site like Gawker know about how prisoners should be treated?” And you'd be right. So just take a look at this:

United Nation's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

After browsing the standards for yourself, go back and read some of the more sensational Team Manning accounts that you've read or heard about concerning Manning's treatment, pillows, exercise, and all the other unpleasant things that are supposedly harming his mind as they've been so frequently alleged by Team Manning.

I was hard pressed to find anything that clearly violates the requirements or spirit of the standards set therein, with the possible exception of prisoners being allowed to work—if they want to. But the UN clearly states these are only guidelines, and there are often good reasons why some things can't be done, or always done, as written. Until I know that Manning has even asked to work, and heard the brig's reasons why he's not working, I hardly think this is a very pressing concern. It's certainly not any evidence of "inhumane treatment." Claiming that it is only serves to help desensitize us to the true brutalities of genuinely inhumane incarceration.

But that hasn't slowed up Team Manning even a little bit. Without any really compelling evidence, they continually try to make as much as they can of Manning's physical situation, decrying such things as the "petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets." 

Greenwald would consider it monstrous and Redstate-y of me to point out that Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton had no pillows or swank accommodations in jail either. Never mind that's Eric Erickson has publicly rebuked me for making his early CNN days a "living hell," I just must be a sympathetic tool of those authoritarian-lovin' wingnuts if I even suggest that, historically, unappealing prison hardships are as common as the well intentioned activists who condemn them. The best of those activists would seek to do so for all prisoners, and not just one celebrity defendant who is explicitly connect to a global cause célèbre, and whom Team Manning has vigorously helped propel to a minor level of martyrdom.

You don't have to be a conservative wingnut, or watch more than 100 episodes of MSNBC's Lock-up to know that life in prison just fucking sucks. And that's why I pay my taxes, and don't punch out many Republicans that I meet on movie lines.  And all this high moral posturing that "he hasn't been convicted of anything," completely ignores the fact that a) Manning is a high-profile detainee who should expect to be guarded with a maximum eye toward his personal safety, and b) the U.S. military has never been obligated to follow many civilian rules about matters of law, justice, and confinement. (Just one more reason I loathe our warrior culture in the U.S.)

That Jane Hamsher and House were harassed and prevented from visiting Manning: this yarn, widely reported all over the world (says FDL), is really rather entertaining. Jane Hamsher and David House show up at Quantico to visit Manning and to deliver a “petition” demanding that he be treated better. A summary accounting was was posted on FDL which neatly encapsulated a so very dramatic play by play that was being live- tweeted and blogged on FDL. I was told this spontaneous event was completely unplanned, though Jane and House were both tweeting it aggressively, as were her many FDL fans, and even, I was told, an FDL publicist who was on hand for the fun (which I can't confirm, but I haven't tried, either).

All these accounts make it seem that two big dogs on Team Manning were being harassed and detained without provocation or cause whatever. We were told there was a little mix-up over a silly insurance card which Hamsher only had an electronic copy of. Only later, thanks to real reporters at the Washington Post, that the more serious offense was expired license plates. This even gets echoed at the bottom of the play by play by an FDL commenter:

Just can’t believe this would happen in America . . . hey, your tweets seemed to leave out the fact that your car had expired tags? Sure it was just a mistake and not a deliberate omission.

As you might expect, this was played all over the world as a dramatic event that had some meaning, but from what I've seen so far, the expired plates are downsized to some "minor traffic violation."  As the story rolls, those big bad U.S. Military bastards were preventing them for seeing Manning—the torture victim.

Never mind that House and Hamsher had both visited him before, and that no one seems to have said they couldn't come back and try again with plates that were not expired. But of course, that wouldn't sound nearly dramatic. Better to play victim and make the narrative all about the unjust harassment of Manning's valiant protectors. Could Jane have seen this coming? I mean, is showing up at one of America's most secure military bases with a great big box, but without a regular insurance card, or valid license plates, something she might have anticipated as a potential problem? It's not like the base is just another base:

Quantico is one of the largest U.S. Marine Corps bases in the world. Home to Marine Corps Combat Development Command and HMX-1 (the presidential helicopter squadron), DEA Training Academy, FBI Academy and FBI Laboratory. The base is known as the "Crossroads of the Marine Corps. Source

More importantly, it's not like Hamsher and House, having traveled all this way, did not have prior access to the information that any military person, or their families, nor anyone else that has ever visited any U.S. Base knows all too well: have your shit together.

So there we are…

Above, I've tried to list just a few of the things that have been reported by Team Manning which are just never quite as urgent or outrageous as they first seemed, once some thoughtful questions are asked, or mitigating facts are considered. Those are things good journalists are supposed to do for us before we think we need them. If a  crowd-sourced wiki were to be set-up on this subject, a few thousand people could probably pick apart most of what Team Manning has reported in the past 6 months.

And that might be useful, because the mainstream media is clearly not interested in debunking or de-sensationalizing topics like these. Knowing that Wikileaks is very big news, and very big traffic, they have no motive to vet such things. For them, Team Manning is just a factory for more free content, and a source of more links they can sprinkle around the Internet. And for the many well meaning liberals and civil libertarians all over the world who are following these stories? They seem to have very little inclination to question much of it.  Sympathetic to many of the emerging Wikileaks memes and issues, they eagerly accept what Team Manning produces as intuitive or obvious.

And what makes that so maddening to me is that I share many of the concerns of those same civil libertarians. I am deeply troubled about where our nation is heading, and many of the issues that Team Manning often touches on are very important to our free society—as long as it lasts. All the more reason why the reporting should be thorough, balanced, and as hyperbole-free as possible. These stories and their underlying facts should be as well vetted as they can be, and it really shouldn't be up to amateur fact checkers like me to police the reporting. We generally need a better process for doing that, and people like Scott Rosenberg and his Mediabugs project  are working on it. 

But in the meantime, Team Manning would do us all a much better service if they would stop making themselves or their beliefs and agendas the story quite so often, and just try and guide all of us to the salient facts as they find them, without always trying to pump-up each little emerging development as if it were the next big stop-the-presses moment. The rest of us, for our part, should be tweeting and bitching the crap out of the mainstream media until they responsibly follow up on what bubbles up from that process.

Though they have pissed me off many times, I have absolutely nothing personal against either Glenn Greenwald or Jane Hamsher. I think Glenn can be spot on target sometimes about other issues (most recently, his discussion of Clarence Thomas's ethical fails). I value his place in the many conversations we are all having about the future of America. That said, I also think he can be a comic-book-level pugnacious narcissist and bully who has a very unprofessional habit of labeling any critic of anything he says as an Obama-loving sycophant.

For the record, and for readers who don't follow my Twitter stream, I have many criticisms of Obama, even more of Democrats, and an unbridled, Chris Hedges-level fury at the corporatists who run almost every show in this country.  I simply believe the problems facing this nation require that Democrats, feeble as they may be right now, still maintain control of government so that we have even the smallest prayer of fixing any of those problems, despite the long odds. They will never be fixed by these loopy Teaparty Republicans. Period. And as long as that holds true, I will urge constructive criticism that aims to encourage Obama to move as left as he can, without turning the whole mess back over to the people who created it. I do not see the relentless administration bashing, nor the Team Manning brand of winner-take-all idealism, which there is no progressive mandate to actually achieve right now, as being even marginally helpful toward that end. And I more strongly believe that the incessant, anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-capitalist, stick-it-to-the-man style libertarian cum-nihilist wing of the Fuck Anything Or Anyone That Impedes My Personal Liberties Party, who are constantly rallying around Greenwald and Hamsher on Twitter, are hardly the people who will find solutions to our problems, and probably not support them if we ever find any.

And I do have my doubts about Hamsher's motivations, but perhaps I am just cynical over her Hollywood past, and her tendency to show up on TV whenever a chance to bash Obama or the administration pops up. And I have still not forgiven her for palling around with Grover Norquist.

Finally, I have no complaints with most of the other bloggers at Firedoglake or Salon. I try to look at each blogger's work independently. While of course, Jane has her soldiers and standard bearers at FDL, there are fine bloggers like Marcy Wheeler and Spencer Ackerman whose work on other topics has often stood apart from Hamsher's daily agenda and her steady stream of polemical angst.

I never meant this post to turn into this epic. But I don't regret writing it. Thanks for getting this far. Now I want to get back to thinking about how we might fix what's mostly wrong with America. And for me, that's not Barack Obama, Wikileaks, or the treatment of someone who violated his duty oath and is now imprisoned as an espionage suspect awaiting military due process. I am strenuously opposed to torture or human abuse in any form, and if Bradley Manning is in fact being mistreated, I would welcome responsible journalistic or legal efforts to reveal it so that it might be stopped.

I  wish Bradley Manning well. He probably did think he was doing a righteous thing, revealing something that the world needed to see. But was one more of the many unfortunate massacres of innocent civilians, which happen with every war really worth this personal sacrifice? I don't think so. As with the Phoenix project, the Bay of Bigs, the Gulf of Tonkin, Pat Tillman, and other abuses of government in wartime, these things probably would have surfaced in other ways. 

But then I'm not Bradley Manning.  But if I were he, and I really did believe what he said he believed, then I would have fully prepared myself for the criminal consequences that I would surely face before I engaged in what any service member knows is a clear and unambiguous crime against their government.

I would do it with fear. I would do it with pride. I would do it with a conviction that I had a higher purpose in life. But I would not do it without expecting a swift and severe punishment for it.


I am hardly the first to call out Greenwald and FDL for the sensational polemics they put out in pursuit of some larger political agenda; one which they seem all too eager to drape over Manning and Wikileaks. And like many of them, I expect I will shortly face yet another of Glenn's scathing word-dumps denouncing me for my vicious lies, smears, or my fascistic obsequiousness. I am sure he will again use me as an example of "how bad things are," without ever seeing himself as part of those things.

Just to give context to that precious moment, when and if it does come, here are just a few related items you can find on the web about Glenn, Jane, Team Manning, or other things I've discussed herein:

Lt. Villiard said to me that he enjoys his job, and enjoys the opportunity to be "as transparent as humanly possible" about the work of the Dept. of Defense.  He noted that the cause of transparency is harmed when journalists like Greenwald write op-eds and make misleading claims.  It diminishes trust in the relationship between reader, journalist, and the subject who is interviewed.

"You are not being tortured if you are denied access to a newspaper."

"Greenwald and the people at FDL are actually reducing our ability to call foul on real corruption. After all, if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal."

“The fact that anyone defends Obama on the grounds that he is a good person is a 'follower' who lacks the perfect intellectual purity of the Holy Greenwald and his flock”.