Thursday, December 23, 2010

ah ha ha

The CIA has set up a task force to deal with WikiLeaks called, "Wikileaks Task Force". Seriously. this isn't from the Onion. The organization that will now handle classified leaks is titled (wait for it...)


Pat Robertson Wants To Legalize Pot

Wow...Pat Robertson is smarter on marijuana laws than my own Senators?? Ridiculous!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The long game...

I am trying hard to NOT be pessimistic about some things. Repeal of DADT is HUGE, and what I'm about to write should in no way diminish the significance of that.

However, watching what's happening right now, it's a bit like taking a 14 hour drive and someone saying, "I'll take the wheel" two blocks from home. Joe Solmnese being credited as "leading the fight for repeal" and Dan Choi being invited to the signing of the repeal bill only further underscore how far removed from reality the White House LGBT advisor, Valerie Jarrett, is.

Almost a decade ago, Alex Nicholson and Jarrod Chlapowski founded Servicemembers United. They went to VFW's and talked to vets, they can take credit for getting General Shalikashvili to come out in support years ago. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has, for years, been supporting and defending soldiers and service members being fired under this unjust law. Other groups, as well, which have been in this fight, deserve all the credit. I am not saying that Dan and HRC DON'T deserve credit, but the groups above--they've been doing the driving for years, and when the history books are written, I hope they are chapters, not footnotes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

a quick rundown

I'm traveling and barely online, but I did have a little time to read the following:
  1. She who-shan't-be-named ate Smores on her TV show saying,
    Where are the s'mores ingredients? This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.
    In related news, Slate developed a chart showing the spread of Type II diabetes over the last 5 years. The chart is disturbing and aptly demonstrates why we need to tackle childhood health issues, now, particularly lethargy and poor eating habits developed in youth. Of course, this would require acknowledging a problem, as well as the fact it might take combined effort to combat it. But hey, why bother when you can just be snide and ignore reality?
  2. In their continuing effort to stop things from happening, good or bad, in order to make the President look bad, Republicans are threatening to block the passage of the START Treaty because they don't like the fact Don't Ask/Don't Tell is history. Apparently, they hate the gays SO much, they hate nuclear annihilation worse. Of course not ALL republicans hate the gays or aren't afraid of nuclear annihilation worse--just enough to stop this treaty from passing. Democratic Senators working on this have successfully fought off two attempts to kill it, and believe they have the votes to pass it. Here's to hoping there's one more victory of sanity over politics before this Congress ends!
  3. Another seeming failure of the first two years of the Obama years were rectified, albeit quietly, the same day DA/DT was repealed and Republican filibustering of some 19 Federal Judges (all of whom had substantial Republican support) were finally passed.
  4. Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi and possible 2012 Presidential candidate, went on record with the Weekly Standard (William Crystal's right-wing magazine) to try and re-write history a little claiming that Citizens Counsels were pro-integration groups organized immediately after Brown v. Board of Education. Luckily, enough people around today aren't stupid enough to not notice that the exact opposite is true. Oh man, I am looking forward to the Republican debates. It'll be interesting to see how much ridiculousness they can spout between him, Palin and Romney who, while not stupid, is trying so, so hard to show he's NOT the moderate that he was.
  5. Lastly, Commandant of the Marine Coprs, General Amos, displayed the professionalism we've all come to expect of the military. While openly giving his professional opinion it was a bad time to implement repeal, now that it has been repealed, as a leader, he released the following statement:
    “I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps [Carlton Kent], will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines. On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

ask, tell....whatever floats your boat!

After the shock and jubilation yesterday, I woke up still slightly unable to believe what has happened. Texts and emails flowed between friends, gay and straight, military and otherwise, celebrating this victory. I will write a longer and more well thought out reaction as soon as I can get some time to formulate my thoughts. But until then, I would like to ask you to write your Senators again. We need to thank them for what they've done.

Congratulations America, we are closer to achieving the dream of equality and freedom for ALL!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

from the annals of WTF

The American Family Association sent out a press release and DVD with the following quote:
"One of the greatest threats to society and the church today is the [XXX]. There isn't an aspect of life that it doesn't seek to force into its own mold."
I've removed the "what" of what the great threat is so you can have fun guessing. The answer is might be surprised.
"live blogging" the Senate hearings:

Cloture invoked! More than 3/5 of Senators voted for this. Success!

SEN Menendez literally just raised his hand to get the clerks attention and then voted, "Aye". There is something amazing about watching this happen...Senators, raising their hands to cast an affirmative vote against discrimination. It's amazing

It's surreal to watch this. The Senate is so corporate...suits, pantsuits, scarves. Yet these peoples votes are incredibly important and literally change people's lives. How strange...

It would be very helpful if CSPAN would caption the Aye/Nay votes when they're said because it's very difficult to hear

I couldn't hear Collins vote!

Cloture vote now. Is this really happening??

McCain-Today is a very sad day. Sites the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Lieberman-removing discrimination isn't liberal or conservative, it's American. He also included sexual orientation in the list of protected classes...a step forward politically if not legally.

CSPAN live streaming goes down...NOOOOO! (also, my computer clock is off by fifteen minutes or so)

Murkowski just voted "Aye" on the DREAM Act...I was surprised.

I was just thinking, it probably won't happen, but imagine if the R's DID filibusted DADT repeal. We should let them...think of all the ridiculous things they'd say in that period of time that we'd all get to hear. Imagine hours...days...of crazy homophobia. It'd be amazing to have them bring it all out on the floor, quite literally.

Cloture on DREAM Act now...kinda cool how the lady calls out each Senator by name, and I got oddly excited when I heard, "Ms. Boxer"

Reid--people who suggest that the DREAM Act would mean you only have to sign up for two years haven't read the bill, plus, you can't enlist for only two years anyway, so it would have to be longer than that. Good point.

Harry Reid is talking about the DREAM Act now. It's really, really sad that this bill will go down due to politics when it is good legislation.

"We have a gay guy in the unit, he's big and he's mean and he kills bad guys." I love the fact that this is in an official military document AND the Senate records now.

Harry Reid--"Hearing the Republican leader talk about what we're doing 'procedurally' elicits a big yawn" good call. After all the procedural crap the R's have done for the last two years it's ridiculous to suggest that D's aren't playing by the rules. And now he's talking about how the R's keep moving the goal posts. He may be boring, but at least now he's not pulling his punches and calling it like it is.

Mitch McConnell now brings up the lack of testimony from the Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps and Army. Seriously? When did that become an issue?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

random musings

A quick read before I graduate the career course:
  1. A bunch of billionaires say "F-U Ayn Rand!" and pledge to give away half their money before they die.
  2. Jan Brewer and what people are now calling "Brewercare" prove that government doesn't have to care for people at all. Cuts to Arizona's Medicare have left people who can't afford organ transplants to die. No, seriously, they're just letting them die.
  3. House Democrats throw a wrench into the works trying to get get tax cuts passed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tea Party friends...

I am reading the news and trying to digest what happened with the Tax Cuts and a question popped into my head as I try to sort through who believes what, and where I stand. And so, I ask my Tea Party friends--is the Tea Party anti-deficit, anti-tax or both?

I don't intend this to be a "gotcha" question. It is a serious question that I am unsure of how to answer myself. Or, is it unintentionally a "gotcha" question in that there is no good answer? So, to my friends who are Tea-Partiers...and there are quite a few of you, please respond, as I would like insight into the mindset that I cannot myself fathom.

Today in Religious Crazy...

Oh, you thought I could go a day without pinpointing the crazy around us? Well think again!

As always, Michelle Bachmann and friends come out swinging for the fences attempting to hit a grand-slam of ridiculous penning a letter claiming Obama doesn't say "God" enough. In it, the Congressional Prayer Caucus (yes, there is a publicly funded Caucus of Congressmen who focus on bringing more prayer into our lives) argue that his focus on E Pluribis Unim isn't rightly Christ Centered for our Nation and claim he is removing a "cornerstone" of our foundation. To prove this, they point to our national motto and pledge of allegiance, both of which assumed the word "God" in the fifties--apparently judicial opinions handed down in the fifties such as desegregation and equal rights are judicial activism while congress passing a law to change words reflects upon our "foundation".

And in case you were thinking, "you know...there just isn't enough Christian leadership in Texas" there is now a movement to oust the Republican House Speaker not because he's not conservative enough, but because he's Jewish. That's right folks. House Republican Strauss, who is currently the speaker, is facing an ouster because, according to John Cook, a member of the Republican Executive Committee,
I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They're the people that do the best jobs over all.

Of course, to the average American, this reeks of bigotry, but Mr. Cook, like most bigots, trots out the best "I'm not a bigot" line he could think of, saying about Jews (who he is NOT bigoted against):
They're some of my best friends. I'm not bigoted at all.

Well...good thing THAT's settled!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

random(ly awesome)

CBS just released the top 25 colleges based upon Professors. Guess who's number two! Go Army!!

Where did Navy fare? sad. Didn't break the top 25. Air Force didn't break top ten, but hey...only one can be the best, right!?

I found this bitchen website to waste some time on. The kid does a lot of interesting info-graphics and random charts. One of my favorites was a US map of missed connections from Craigslist based upon where the individual who posted saw his (or her) missed connection. Notice--Californians spot people in 24 Hr. Fitness...the Dakotas? Wal Mart.

Lastly, the Badger Herald posted a list of names of students who are scalping their tickets to the Rose Bowl. I just thought that was funny. My first season as a genuinely invested football fan, I can understand the anger...but a "special place in hell"? How about a special place in heaven? Scalpers could stand right outside the gate, seeing everyone go in and have to wait, eternally, so close to heaven, but unable to enter.

Monday, December 06, 2010

If I told you that a state had amended its Constitution to specifically deny your religion from possibly being recognized by the courts AND that it had changed the name of a state sponsored parade that celebrated one of your holidays from being specifically religious to one that is just a "Holiday Parade", which would you say is more discriminatory?

Well, if you're from Oklahoma, the parade name change is "like Christianity is the one to take the boot" while amending the Constitution is just good politics. SEN Inhofe, the Senior Senator from Oklahoma and erstwhile crazy has refused to participate in the parade now that it is no longer the "Christmas Parade of Lights" but instead the "Holiday Parade of Lights". Grethen Carlson goes out of her way to make him sound less bigoted in the interview posted below, but unfortunately, Inhofe has been known to open his mouth outside the revered halls of FOX News and has said the following as well:
I for one, I know it’s not politically correct to say it, but I belief in racial and ethnic profiling. I think if you’re looking at people getting on an airplane, and you have X amount of resources to get into it, you need to get at the targets. …

When you hear that not all Middle Easterners or Muslims between the ages of 20 and 35 are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the ages of 20 and 35, that’s by and large true.

Lest you think this is a flash in the pan, Inhofe also attempted to block the nomination of a Federal Judge for being a "secret muslim" because he wrote in an opinion that legally, invoking "Allah" instead of "God" did not count as sectarian prayer. (As someone who speaks Arabic, I can vouch--Allah just means God.)

In closing (wow, worst segue ever), there is no "War on Christmas" and Christians are not a persecuted minority in America. Every Winter we go through this charade that if the Government or people aren't actively promoting Christianity, then there is somehow a war on them. Get over it. Christians in Iraq? They are persecuted. Bahia's in Iran? They are persecuted. Christians in Oklahoma? They are decidedly NOT persecuted.

the virtues of the flip flop

A lot of people say that we should enact a Constitutional Amendment enacting term limits on Representatives and Senators. This is an idea that I have always been against. I've argued that it's something that makes us feel like we're "doing something" versus actually helping.
The argument for it (in its shortest form) is that power corrupts and thus, professional politicians become corrupt (even if they aren't when they start). So, limiting the amount of time they can spend in the office would keep them from being corrupt and make them more accountable to their constituents.

I argue that having term limits would do nothing toward eliminating corruption. In fact, I could see how doing so would INCREASE corruption. Serving in the House or Senate might no longer seem like an end in itself, but a stepping stone toward something more presitigious and rewarding (monetarily so).

Having someone who has served for a long time allows him or her to use the "long lens of history". They can say to their chamber, "we've been here before and done this before." Yes, students of history can say so as well, from an academic perspective, but there is no substitution for experience. I often use SEN Byrd as the exemplar of this. He is the longest serving Senator in the history of our Senate and his views changed over time. He flip-flopped.

I also argue that having long serving Senators and Congressmen actually helps because they have the long lens on history. I use SEN Byrd as someone who shows how, over time, having someone who has "been there and done that" helps. His speech pre-Iraq was absolutely moving. The link is here if the video doesn't transfer over.

SEN Byrd changed on a lot of fronts over the years, going from a KKK member and opposition of the Civil Rights Act (remember when politicians actually HAD to filibuster, and not just threaten with one??) to someone who championed Civil Rights and Health Care. Now, after his death, a Constituent is releasing a letter that SEN Byrd wrote him regarding repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell. In it, the Senator, six days before his death, supports repeal.

Over the years he was in the Senate, he was able to see many things change, and he himself changed. Imagine now, if he could stand on the floor and say, "I was there..." He could say he was there before don't ask was implemented and how he was afraid it would ruin the Army. He could say why they implemented it. He could say he was wrong, and it's time to implement now. He could stand against McCain's intransigence on the issue and say, "I've changed. America has changed. It's time the military changes."

It helps our country to have a long view of history, and sometimes (my opinion), it helps to have individuals who can pull on their own experiences and memories to "flip flop"--in the case of SEN Byrd, for equality.

dating realities in graphic form

I found the following chart on the Internet which graphically demonstrates how people move from dating to marriage. I found the chart rather interesting in a humorous way, and then realized that it demonstrates aptly how different the life of the chart is from that of someone who is gay or lesbian within the military. I took my awesome, army honed power-point skills and re-did the chart with those realities in mind. Below the chart, which I re-did, is the breakdown, point by point, of how I viewed the changes.

The Changes:

  1. The "first date" to "hook-up" proportions are all off. LGBT members of the military don't have the opportunity nor the time for first dates, and often are too scared to take them. Online hookups are far more prevalent. I'd have made the arrows even more skewed toward hook-up, but my powerpoint skills are lacking. Moreover, for the LBGT community, they aren't totally separate things. So, I'd have broken the proportion of hook-up/combo/first date down as 40/40/20.
  2. Due to the above, the portion you lose to un-attracted or embarrassed goes down (since the hook ups are generally less driven by alcohol and well vetted by the Internet).
  3. The largest arrow are those who are lost opportunities due to invisibility. You meet someone, you go out, and then you ignore each other because you're scared or one or both of you are so far in the closet a second date never happens. This is the part that sucks.
  4. On the other side, the biggest difference is when you like someone, but you move away. Military members who are LGBT have no recourse to stay together once they meet. That benefit, which is afforded their straight counterparts, is not offered. So, let's say hypothetically you're stationed for three years at Fort Hood and meet someone awesome in Austin. You have a year to meet and woo, and then you deploy. If you make it through that, you've got another year together, max, before you are then moved elsewhere. So, assuming you meet someone the FIRST DAY you get to Fort Hood, and that you immediately begin dating, you have a total of two years together physically before you have to move...and that's really best-case scenario.
  5. Down below we have the arrow that leads to marriage for straight service members. Here, I've just put a big red question mark because...well...even if you're lucky enough to live in one of the states which allows for marriage, this is still denied service members.

So, the best case scenario, if one can overcome DA/DT, overcome multiple deployments, overcome multiple moves and the realities of living in the might get to live together for a while.

choice versus freedom

When I was at West Point, I gave tours to parents while their kids were following cadets around. On my last tour, my godmother was able to visit West Point and take the tour herself. She stood in the back of the group as I razzle-dazzled the prospective, doting parents. I was an odd candidate to give tours because I was more likely to have quite the Academy than to graduate to begin with, so to sell it to others was ironic, to say the least.

At the library bronze panels while giving the last tour, I opened the floor to questions. We had only one thing left to see, the lunch parade, and I had several minutes to kill. One of the parents raised her hand and asked, "You said you weren't sure as a Sophomore if you wanted to stay, but that you eventually chose to stay. In retrospect, are you glad you decided to stay?"

It was a question I had not asked myself yet. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I hadn't. I thought for a moment and a smile broke out across my face. I replied that, yes, in all honesty, I was not only glad I stayed, but that it had been the best decision I'd made in my life.

My friend was asking me about his girlfriend, and if he should stay with her or not, and I used my West Point example above to explain to him that sometimes, when you constantly think of what else COULD be, you're never happy with what IS. I couldn't fully explain what I was thinking, however, and sounded ridiculously like I was telling him to "settle".

Last night, I was out with my old boss, Andrea, and told her I had begun to see someone here in Tucson. I told her that we weren't "dating" because I was leaving Tucson so soon, and she joked that the same thing happened when I was in Austin--that right before I left, I met someone. I said that it's probably not an unrelated phenomenon, and that because I was leaving, my guard is down and I'm more willing to let someone in.

This morning I stumbled upon this article, which examines the disconnect between happiness and choices. I'm going to have to study more, but one of the best quotes, which says what I had tried to articulate to my friend better than I, is:
we’re encouraged to think relationships are about making the right choice, when actually they’re about making a commitment.

In essence, the author argues that by limiting our choices, we are actually able to be happier, focusing on what we have, instead of upon what could have been. In my experience, this is definitely true in dating and in life. As I move forward, trying to decide what to do with myself (Law School? State Department? Stay Army?) I am going to try to remember this. While my choices are nearly infinite and have lasting implications, there is no ONE right decision. There are many good fits, and it is simply up to me to choose one, and make the best of that. This self-advice goes for life decisions and relationships.

(Also, if any of you read Andrew Sullivan, you may notice a lot of cross posting. He's my favorite blogger.)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Introducing Qatar 2022's First Five Stadiums!

Well, it's clear that when we can't afford high speed rail, children's school lunches or basically anything else, we're out of competition for a while when it comes to awesome and amazing civic architecture. When you don't, however, have to worry about providing for your citizens, then you can build quite amazing things (think China's birds nest stadium). Qatar just won the 2022 World's Cup and the stadiums they're proposing are nothing short of stunning! Check out the video below.


Day one of the Don't Ask/Don't Tell hearings are over. As expected, Republican Senators tried hard to find reasons to keep the ban in place, doing back-flips and somersaults trying to simultaneously say that 1. troops opinions should take precedence 2. the report on troops opinions isn't their real opinion and 3. the troops opinions do not amount to a referendum.

These three things are irreconcilable. It's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole using not a hammer, but only a broken Philips head screwdriver. They tried hiding behind civilian leadership, that failed. They tried hiding behind military leaders, that failed. They tried hiding behind soldiers, that failed. Now, they're hiding behind their perceived (although proven inaccurate) beliefs about what Soldiers WOULD believe, if asked properly leading questions.

SEN McCain was his usual self, ignoring the issue at hand. After arguing he wouldn't have enough time to question SEC Gates, who then agreed to stay and extra half an hour, he then used one of his six minutes of questioning to talk about Wikileaks.

McCain focuses on the statistic which shows a majority of combat troops thinks that repeal might harm troops, while ignoring the statistic which simultaneously shows that the same troops who HAVE worked with a "known gay or lesbian" believe knowing about them was beneficial to unit cohesion. To quote Mark Twain, "There are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics."

SEN Wickers, of Mississippi, asked why Soldiers weren't asked IF the repeal should happen. As usual, Gates came back with an awesome response demonstrating his wisdom and his humility:
With respect to polling the services, you know, I didn't spend a career in the military, but I've read a lot of history. I can't think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the American armed forces on a policy issue.

Are you going to ask them if they want 15-month tours? Are you going to ask them if they want to be part of the surge in Iraq? That's not the way our civilian-led military has ever worked in our entire history. The "should" question needs to be decided by the Congress or the courts, as far as I'm concerned.

SEN Graham then spoke, and said,
We're not asking for you to turn the war into a referendum -- would you like to go to Afghanistan and fight? That's never going to be asked of the service. You do what you're told. But this is a change -- a pretty significant change.
Effectively arguing that going to War is less disruptive than integrating open service into the military.

Now, I'm sorry, but I have a lot of friends in the military, Gay, Straight, Bi and even Trans, but none of them, NOT ONE, has been the cause of death or injury to my other friends. War, however, has killed, has injured and has permanently damaged my friends. This whole debate has become a farce. In an attempt to keep the military from being "disrupted" due to this change, the civilians who make the decision (Congress) have done nothing but disrupt our leadership. For the last nine months, the Commander of Forces in the European Theatre, GEN Hamm, has been interviewing people about their opinions and fears of showing, of sleeping, of picnicking (no, seriously, that was a question) with gays and lesbians. After the report, which shows NO ONE CARES, these Republican obstructionists are STILL calling for more hearings, more questions, more polls, more disruption because they cannot accept that gays and lesbians are no big deal and simply American, like everyone else.

Allowing equal service is not about special rights, nor is it about anything other than Americans who want to be, to use a book title and quote from President Roosevelt, Absolutely American. This obstruction is FAR more detrimental to service and allowing us to "get on with the mission" than someone bringing his boyfriend to a company party. We will, very quickly, look back on today and tomorrows hearings not as a turning point to be proud of, but a moment of farce and ridiculousness the American people are above.


When is a Jesus imagine in a museum bad and, quote, "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians"?

The Mission of San Louis Rey in Oceanside has a crucifix I will always remember. It has a human jaw and teeth. The knees of Jesus are broken and bleeding and the hair seems real--stringy, sweaty and matted down. It is the Jesus of blood-porn, not the risen Jesus or Jesus triumphant, it is the most definite and concrete example of the Christ suffering I have ever seen.

The theology I was taught growing up is that when one feels defeated, pained, punished, rejected or alone, he should "offer it to Christ"--it is called redemptive suffering. When my father was dying, and had to wear diapers and my mom had to wipe his ass and dress his open sores, he was often reminded of this by my more religious relatives.

Much like my father, many people who died in the eighties during the AIDS epidemic at its worst. We left those suffering to die, unwilling to help them or touch them, worried we would catch it ourselves. President Reagan would say nothing as his communications director, Pat Buchannan, said AIDS was "God's revenge upon gay men." In the end, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died before Reagan would say anything about it.

An artist (Wojnarowicz) who lost his lover to AIDS and who himself had HIV, put together a video art piece. In it, he attempts to stitch his own lips together, sew a loaf of bread together and other various metaphorical ways to demonstrate to the viewer how difficult it was for him to put his life back together--to find hope and solace--when his life was falling apart and he and his entire peer group were literally dying and left to their own suffering. Part of it involves a crucifix, on the floor, with ants crawling over it as he yells, "unclean".

As one commentator says here, better than I:
The irony is that Wojnarowicz's reading of his piece puts it smack in the middle of the great tradition of using images of Christ to speak about the suffering of all mankind. There is a long, respectable history of showing hideously grisly images of Jesus - 17th-century sculptures in the National Gallery's recent show of Spanish sacred art could not have been more gory or distressing - and Wojnarowicz's video is nothing more than a relatively tepid reworking of that imagery, in modern terms.

So, when is a grisly or other than ascendant Christ inappropriate and "designed to offend" as Phil Donahue and future House Majority Leader Boehner think? Apparently it's when the suffering of Christ is meaningful to gay men. In which case, instead of being art, and worthwhile, it is offensive and now pulled from the Smithsonian's showing in the National Portrait Gallery. In an exhibition which hopes to show how gay and lesbian Americans have shown their own experiences and truth through portraiture over the course of our history, when the artist's self-understanding involves Christianity, it is "offensive".

The ridiculousness of this argument is clear, and the offense we should all take at the censorship of Art by the United States Government cannot be overstated. But this is indicative of a general truth--that bigotry against LGBT Americans exists and it is not caused by religious belief, but is justified post facto by religion. If that were not the case, then Donahue and others would see that his man, in his suffering, related to Christ Suffering. Instead of being offended by his piece of Art, they would relate to him. But, because they have pre-held bigotry against gays and lesbians, the fact this man believes what they believe is offensive.

Watch the video here and explore the exhibit here.

Silence = Death. The threat of AIDS and HIV is still real, and the effects are just as traumatic. The suffering we, as a people, helped perpetuate in our recent past should never be forgotten lest we repeat our mistakes. Today, the day after World AIDS Day, we have our government, again, trying to silence the voice of the suffering and marginalized. While our Soldiers and other service members fight and die in Iraq and elsewhere to spread "freedom and democracy", here on our own shores, the government is silencing voices.

I had the opportunity once to sit down and talk to Brigadere General LeBouf, the first non-West Point Graduate and first female department Head of West Point's Department of Physical Education (Master of the Sword). I asked her how it was that she dealt with integrating herself into a culture and institution which not only didn't want her, but thought that her very presence was detrimental to the organization itself. What she told me has always stuck with me.

She said that at any event, she finds the oldest graduate she can and introduces herself. She said that after a night spent talking, at least one of the Old Grads would find her, shake her hand, and say, "While I thought that you would be detrimental to the organization, now that I've met you I can see that you have the best in mind for Cadets and are just like everyone else." She did this, she said, because (and this is the quotation I remember verbatim and will always carry forward):
It is easy to hate an idea, but difficult to hate a person. Sometimes, it's up to us to be the person that is that idea.

The reason we are having this argument about repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell isn't because politicians are scared the military cannot integrate gays and lesbians, but because they know that when the military does, gays and lesbians will no longer be an easy to hate idea, but gays and lesbians will be Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who are fighting and dying for our country. They will no longer be able to demonize and ostracize as "other".

THIS is why these politicians are against integration, and anyone who says otherwise is simply lying to themselves and to the country.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sen Hendon on Civil Unions

This guy is great. He, finally, just says straight up what no one else seems to be saying. It's about fairness, and those against it are either hypocritical or bigoted. My poor transcription as I listen:
The hypocracy dripping in this chamber right now...we know what you do at night!'s not about pensions, you just don't like certain folk!...I'm a Baptist, saved and sanctified, dipped in the Holy Water when I was 12 yrs old. I'm gonna go to Heaven, but I'm gonna vote for this bill! It ain't gonna send me to hell and it ain't gonna send you to hell either...God didn't send lightning down to destroy [other states with gay marriage] and he ain't gonna do it to Illinois!...I respect those who not gonna say anything more than those who are gonna get up and try to make this about something else. We should pass this bill and get it over with. It's not gonna destroy America. It's not gonna destroy this State. It's just fairness y'all...just fairness.
Sometimes, when I read about politics, I think back to Iraq, or to little children. You see, Iraqis (when you work with them) are a lot like little children. They don't see past the immediate. There is little to no long term planning. Politicians, it seems, are quite the same.

To give an example, Congressman Sensenbrenner, of Wisconson, is the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Global Warming. Republicans have, since taking over the house, decided to kill the Committee altogether. I find it rather remarkable that a group which continually says it has no voice or input into "Pelosi's San Francisco Agenda" would kill a Committee of which its ranking member says:
while I was initially skeptical of the select committee's mission, it ultimately provided a forum for bipartisan debate, and an opportunity for House Republicans to share a different view on the pressing energy and environment issues that we currently face.
but hey...who needs a Committee in which they have a voice, in which compromise happens and in which the future is mapped when you can score short-term political points by killing it, right?

I went to Rep. Sensenbrenner's page to see more about him, intrigued that he might be someone who works across the aisle, but alas I found out otherwise. A quick glance over his home page and I found (well, first I found out that Blogger might be dying since it's not one of the options to insta-share, but I also found) the following:
  • He is proposing a law which would allow states to return money earmarked for High Speed Rail to pay off the national debt
  • He is proposing a law which would reject Department of Transportation guidelines mandating street signs be painted in upper and lower case letters
  • He is against mandatory helmet laws
Here is a quote from his page:
This is big government imposing its will on the people. DOT bureaucrats from the top down need to realize that Americans have different priorities when it comes to transportation. My constituents don’t want to see high speed rail from Milwaukee to Madison. New street signs and motorcycle helmet laws forced upon them by the DOT just shows the arrogance of Secretary LaHood. Instead, they’d like to know how we’re going to pay for the street signs and high speed rail.
Now, what Sensenbrenner doesn't seem to see (and here is where I tie into the opening paragraph), is that all of these things are LONG TERM fixes. For example, take the street signs. What the Department of Transportation mandates is that by a certain year (I believe it's 2014 or something) all street signs should be in lower/upper case, not just upper case. The reason? Because studies show they're easier to read. The argument he makes is that this will cost money. The truth will. However, what he fails to see is that street signs are replaced every two to three years ANYWAY because of age. So, this will cost no MORE money than if it wasn't to happen. So...for no marginal cost, we can make roads safer. But of course, this is just "arrogance".

What about helmets? Sure, it's fun to ride your bike with no helmet, but who pays the costs when a biker goes down? It's most often not the biker, it's all of us. We pay in higher insurance premiums. We pay in higher taxes for more frequently used medical services and police services (smaller crashes have higher fatalities with no helmets) and we pay for the emergency room care bikers will receive if they get a traumatic brain injury.

And High Speed Rail? That one bothers me the most. Here's what he wrote on his website:
Instead of being told by bureaucrats in Washington how to allocate their resources, states need to have the flexibility and authority to prioritize how tax dollars are being spent. However, the Obama Administration’s stimulus package does not allow these stimulus funds to be reprogrammed for other worthwhile transportation projects.
So, what "worthwhile transportation projects" do you think he's talking about? You guessed it: more highways and wider roads. [As an aside, I find it ironic that there is now a love affair between Republicans and two things: Medicare and highway transportation. Medicare was abhorred by Republicans when it was first enacted, and now cutting Medicare is a typical Republican scare tactic. And highways? They ARE a federally planned transportation system which is governed by the federal government and which was designed, imposed and overseen by the federal government. I am going to have to look into it, but I imagine the same arguments now used AGAINST high speed rail were used AGAINST Eisenhower's building of the interstate system to begin with...but that was an aside...]

At a time when we're talking about reducing our dependence upon oil, creating jobs and stimulating the economy, high speed rail hits all three. It lessens our use of cars, creates an easier way to move goods to market as well as makes the job market more mobile (by making it easier to work at a distance) and creates jobs in running, operating and maintaining the railways over the years to come. It's a fiscally smart thing to do AND would help fix our currently crumbling and antiquated transportation infrastructure.

But the Congressman doesn't see past NOW, he doesn't see past the immediate. He's like the legislative equivalent of offering a child one jellybean now or a bag of them later--he doesn't see that sacrifice now will pay off later. What's worse is the frivolity with which he dismisses the Department of Transportation. It appears as though he either didn't think of what I wrote (which is rather simple) or, worse, he did think of it but ignores it to make a point. Either he is intellectually lazy, or cynical, but neither one is very helpful to the cause of improving the States.

I understand the ballooning deficit. I understand the MASSIVE debt. What I don't understand is how people can argue for dropping people from welfare, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich and opposing oversight and reform of the financial institutions which got us into this mess in the first place. Congressman Sensenbrenner may be a good guy, but his policies are short sighted and reflect a general short-sightedness by those who see nothing BUT the budget deficit. In focusing solely on this one issue, however important, at the expense of everything else, they do not seem to realize or care that short term solutions do not lead to long term fiscal responsibility. Even if the gain is short term political wins, the cost is long term insolvency and puts America on track to spin our wheels while other countries move forward.
So, despite the overwhelming support of the long awaited study on military readiness for repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, and despite the President's assurance this would happen this year, and despite the fact that fifty-seven Senators believe we should repeal now (actually, more than that, since some believe repeal is a good idea, but bad for them politically), AND despite the fact the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense say to repeal it NOW, AND despite the fact that federal judges have ruled it unconstitutional (I know... a lot of "despites" but follow me here...)it now looks as though this might not happen.

Why? Because every single Republican Senator has said they will filibuster ANY bill that does not directly deal with the economy or extending tax-cuts. Yes, a minority of Senators has held literally EVERYTHING hostage until they can cut taxes on the rich.

"But," you ask, "aren't tax cuts a good thing?" Well, yes, to some degree. The problem is, Obama and Democrats have ALREADY said they would cut taxes...only that they won't cut them as much as Republicans want for the richest 2% of Americans. No, seriously. That's what the debate is about. Republicans want bigger tax cuts for the richest Americans than Democrats, and to get it, they're willing to keep the following items from passing:
  • Limiting nuclear weapons worldwide and encouraging stronger American oversight of Soviet missile stocks.
  • Allowing for the assimilation of currently illegal immigrants into American society through college or military service.
  • Repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell and creating a military in which equality is guaranteed to all.

That, my friends, is the cost of Republican obstructionism. These are all things that could have been passed together, but Republicans said no. Then they said if we did it separately, they would pass some of it. Then they said no. Now they're saying they'll pass NONE of it.

"But," you beg the question, "aren't the rich over-taxed as it is? And if we cut their taxes, it will create jobs, stimulate the economy and trickle down!" You see, this has been the general consensus since Reagan (who was President when I was born. I didn't know what "Reaganomics" were until later in life, but remember hearing it when I was growing up). The Congressional Budgetary Office (a non partisan group) produced a report in which they wrote:

Because businesses’ decisions on investing and hiring depend on the demand for their products, higher demand and production would lead to more investment and hiring. The size of those effects would depend largely on which households got the money. Policies that temporarily increased the after-tax income of people who are relatively well off would probably have little effect on their spending because they generally would be able finance their consumption out of their income or assets without such a change. However, policies that increased the resources of families with lower income, few assets, and poor credit would probably have a larger impact on consumption spending.

I'm no economist, but to put it in terms I understand, the problem isn't lack of money flowing about--it's lack of money at the bottom, allowing the mass of Americans to purchase stuff (demand) and thus hurting business at the top (supply of jobs etc.) A vicious cycle really. But, by cutting taxes on those on top, nothing is done to increase demand, so supply won't increase either.

To pacify the Republicans, Democrats have rolled over and said they would extend some tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent. What is that tax bracket? During the depression, it was 68%, in the sixties, it was 91%, in the seventies it was 70%, today? Guess...go's 35%. Interestingly, the richest 1% of Americans have seen incomes rise by 281% recently. That's a LOT of money.

A group of millionaires wrote an open letter to Congress asking them to raise taxes. No, seriously. It's right here.

So, where does that leave us? Republicans say to lower taxes on the richest Americans, otherwise we will not provide a stopgap to increase assimilation, we will not have equality in our military, we will not be safer from Nuclear Weapons. Priorities.

Oh, and lest you think I overstate the goals and level of obstruction of the Republicans, Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, here are his own words:

While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike...


Which US President said the following in one of the best speeches about Taxes EVER. (hint: He's tied for my second favorite President).

While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike

Secretary Robert Gates

Popes, in the past, were given the moniker of "The Great" if they were particularly transformative, powerful, prolific, or just plain old popular. There really isn't a secular version of that title, particularly in politics. We don't refer to George Washington "the Great" and our military leaders, when they reach those levels, are already Generals.

I'd like to go on record now and say, if there were a civilian leader deserving of that title, Defense Secretary Robert Gates would be he (him?). His tenure as Sec Def, which is of course ongoing and could, hypothetically, still implode, has been marked by some of the best decisions I've seen. From base closure and realignment to funding of new weapons systems and killing others, he's navigated the political waters of the most politicized (ironically "apolitical") piece of the American behemoth in a way that constantly impresses and ALWAYS puts politicians on guard. His championing of repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell has been HUGE in moving the ball forward and he continues to work to make America a more equal place.

The Wikileaks issue, which has driven plenty to gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, has been handled relatively well by the Administration, Secretary of State and now, again, Robert Gates throws his two cents in. His analysis is spot on and his understanding of how international relations works is ridiculously realistic and Realist. Instead of calling for the head of Assange (sp?) he simply admits what is true about about foreign policy--that America is powerful and THAT is why people talk to us.
But let me – let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.”

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

You're so small...