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Inslee Running For Washington Governor, Supports Full Marriage Equality June 29, 2011

Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01) announced his candidacy for Governor of the State of Washington in Seattle Monday, and Your Erstwhile Reporter was present.

The candidacy was announced with a speech that focused on “process improvements” and the invocation of new technology jobs as an economic engine for job growth (and in fact the event took place at the headquarters of a company that has developed seed-derived biofuels that have been used to power military and commercial aircraft).

But that’s not the part that’s going to be the most interesting for the civil-rights supportive reader.

The most interesting part is that Inslee was quick to offer his support for full marriage equality in the State of Washington, should he find himself elected.

So before we get to the good stuff, let’s do a bit of historical review.

The Congressman has compiled a mixed record on issues that matter to the LBGT community during his time in Congress, and most of it can be considered supportive. He did vote to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal, and he co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, which made it out of the House Oversight and Government Committee, only to die in the House Judiciary Committee. (The bill would have provided same-sex partners access to the spousal benefits of their Federal employee family members.)

An additional bill, HR 1024, would have given same-sex couples an expectation of equal treatment during immigration proceedings; this was also cosponsored by Inslee. (It also died in committee.)

However…when it came time in 2009 to try to repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, the House got a bill together (HR 3567) that Inslee was not willing to cosponsor; it died, again, in House Judiciary.

Now here’s where I get a bit suspicious: a similar bill was introduced in the 112th Congress, on March 16, 2011, and of the 115 co-sponsors, virtually all signed on before April 6th. There are 5 who signed on later…including Congressman Inslee, who was one of two co-sponsors who all signed up on June 15th, which was just 12 days before his announcement.

The historical review complete, let’s talk about Monday.

I walked into the after-announcement “press availability” just in time to record this exchange:

REPORTER: “Congressman, would you address two social issues that are in the headlines these days? One, where do you stand on gay marriage, two, where do you stand on the legalization of marijuana?”

INSLEE: “Thanks for your easy question, sir, uh. Um, so I believe in marriage equality, and the reason I believe in that is that uh, I’ve been married for 38 years, and I fundamentally believe that no government, and no politician should deny any of my fellow Washingtonians the right to have what I have, which is a stable, committed, you know, meaningful relationship. So I’m gonna support, uh, the legalization of that equality in the State of Washington. And when we do that, uh, we will do it to make sure in a way that no religious organization doesn’t have the right to have their own definition for their own purposes, under their belief of spirituality. This is a situation where we can have both equality, which is a quintessential Washington value. And I said I love the State, one of the reasons I love the State of Washington is we have been leaders in equality in so many different ways; this is another place where I think Washington should lead.

Uh, marijuana, there are two things I know we should do for sure. Number one, we have got to get the intention of the voters of the State of Washington to be honored, which does allow the use of medical marijuana in the State of Washington…and right now, that intent of the voters is being frustrated by the Federal government, which is threatening the Federal–uh, State government any time you try to enforce the will of the people. So we need some changes to frankly, get the Federal government off our backs when it comes to the ability of Washingtonians to have access to medical marijuana.

Second, I believe that we should stop wasting so much of our resources in our criminal justice system associweated–associated with mari–marijuana, particularly personal use of marijuana. This is something that is really does not bring value or–or reduce significant levels of crime, and we need to reprioritize our law enforcement away from chasing folks who are involved in–in marijuana; we got enough problems in our criminal justice system, I’m aware of that, I guess in part because my daughter-in-law is a forensic scientist at the crime lab I’ve got a sense of the challenges. Law enforcement’s strapped; they got a lot of problems to deal with.

As far as total decriminalization, I’m not there yet at this moment. I’m a parent, I’m just not comfortable right now, uh, and that’s my position.”

OK, so that’s a pretty interesting story, and we could leave it right there – but there is one extra bonus to the thing that is so good, so deeply ironic…that you may remember the ending of this story long after you forget the lead:

I got a parking ticket, I did, attending the event, issued by a Parking Enforcement Officer with an amazingly appropriate name…and that ticket was issued to me for a violation that occurred one block over from Harrison Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood …which means I showed up to watch the leading Democratic contender for Governor in 2012 announce his candidacy…and when it was all over, Officer J. Hell had issued me a ticket on Republican Street.

And all that proves the truth of what I’m always saying:

Some days you don’t even have to write jokes.
You just have to harvest ‘em.

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DADT Update: The Service Chiefs Report, The Republicans Fret April 11, 2011

There’s been a great deal of concern around here about the effort to prepare the US military for the full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and I’ve had a few words of my own regarding how long the process might take.

There was a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday that had all four Services represented; with one exception these were the same Service Chiefs that were testifying last December when the bill to set the repeal process in motion was still a piece of prospective legislation.

At that time there was concern that the “combat arms” of the Marines and the Army were going to be impacted in a negative way by the transition to “open service”; the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Army’s Chief of Staff were the most outspoken in confirming that such concerns exist within the Pentagon as well.

We now have more information to report—including the increasing desperation of some of our Republican friends—and if you ask me, I think things might be better than we thought.

The Governments of the States Parties to this Constitution on behalf of their peoples declare:

That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed;

That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war…

–From the Constitution of the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, And Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

So let me start with the good news; I’ll do that by telling you what I though would happen, compared to what the Service Chiefs are now saying is going to happen:

My guess was that, due to all the process involved, we could be looking at a full year for implementation, and if the Services felt that they had to rotate all the overseas deployed forces back to the USA before they could complete training, you could easily be looking at 18 months.

That, as it turns out, was wildly inaccurate.

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Peter W. Chiarelli, reported Thursday that his Service might be able to report they’re ready to certify by May 15th of this year; to make that happen they are going to train the troops overseas and at home, both at the same time, and they wanted us to know that they’ve already completed much of the “train the trainer” work already. They also expect to certify after about 50% of the training is complete instead of waiting for 100%, and that’s because the leadership believes they’ll know of any implementation problems that are likely to crop up by then.

The most outspoken opponent of the change in December, Marine Commandant General James Amos, says that he’s seeing far fewer problems than he expected, and he believes the move to open service won’t have any serious impact on his force.

Here’s how the Defense Department reported Amos’ testimony:

A department [of Defense] survey last year showed that about 60 percent of Marines in combat units had concerns about the repeal, Amos noted, but those concerns seem to be waning. The general visited with Marines in Afghanistan over Christmas and spoke with their commander this morning on the issue, he said.

“I’m looking specifically for issues that might arise out of Tier 1 and Tier 2 and, frankly, we just haven’t seen it,” Amos said. “There hasn’t been the recalcitrant push back, the anxiety about it” from forces in the field.

Amos said the Marines’ commander told him, “’Quite honestly, they’re focused on the enemy.’”

The Navy says they expect to complete their Tier 3 training (the final phase of training) as soon as the end of June; Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead told the Committee that he foresees no problem achieving a successful transition to open service.

(A quick note to the reader: I have been known to write satirical stories with crazy made-up character names, but the actual name of the actual Admiral who is tasked with leading the Navy into the era of open service is actually…Roughead. Some may consider this to be evidence of Intelligent Design; I continue to disbelieve.)

Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, who also seemed to suggest, back in December, that trouble might be waiting on the road ahead, seemed far more confident this week; it looks like the Air Force might have Tier 3 training wrapped up by the July 4th holiday.

The Service Chiefs also announced that those who have been discharged under DADT will be eligible to petition to return to the military.

There is today a mechanism in place within the Defense Department to consider the petitions of those who voluntarily leave the military and wish to reapply; that system looks at what jobs are available, and, if it meets the needs of the Services, a job offer is extended to the applicant. (The individual might not return at the same grade or rank they held when leaving, however, and that would also depend on the military’s interpretation of what best fits military “force structure” requirements.)

At the hearing the Committee members were told that those who were discharged under DADT could reapply under the same rules that exist today for those who leave voluntarily; the same system that’s in place today will “work” those applications.

There was some not unexpected bad news: Republican Members of the House are just so over the top on objecting to this one that it’s ridiculous and funny and maddening and just awful, all at once.

There was begging (“if there was just some way the Service Chiefs could convince the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs not to certify, then we could all be saved” was the gist of that one), and fake expertise (“when I served we were all afraid of ‘em, and I can’t believe today’s troops still aren’t” is the rough outline of how that argument went and California’s Duncan Hunter was an example of one Congressman who fit into that “genre”); there was even an offer to do another survey so we can “do what the troops really want” (I can save y’all the time and trouble: what they really want…is to get the hell out of Afghanistan).

If the Grim Weeper had been in the room, I’m sure he would have had a big ol’ blubbery cry over the tragedy that’s befallen the Nation on this somber occasion—and it’s a good thing he wasn’t, because I have no doubt such a display would have once again caused Tonstant Weader to fwow up, just like that time back at Pooh Corner.

Among the Republicans there was a lot of preoccupation with the potential for men, in combat, in those close, confined, spaces…men who are depending on each other, night and day…to be subject to the advances of other strong, powerful, muscular, men in a variety of manly uniforms—I mean, as far as I can tell, there are Republicans who see this as some kind of eventual “Livin’ La Vida Loca” kind of situation, only, you know, a bit more butch, and I would love to know what in the world they think life aboard a Ballistic Missile Submarine or on a Forward Operating Base in Southeastern Afghanistan is really like?

Oddly enough, the predominantly male Committee didn’t seem as concerned about the possibility of female same-sex relationships impacting military readiness and unit cohesion in a negative way; if anyone has a guess as to why that might be the case I’m sure I’d love to hear it.

The military, to their credit, did a lot of pushing back against the Republicans. For example, at one point there were questions as to whether this would cause an unacceptable number of troops to leave the all-volunteer military. The response: right now the real problem is that as we withdraw from Iraq and troopers come home to a bad economy, too few want to leave.

They also spent a lot of time pointing out that “standards of conduct” already exist to manage sexual contacts and harassing behaviors between opposite-gendered persons, and that those very same rules will be used to manage issues of conduct in a same-sex context.

Risk mitigation is suddenly very important for some Republicans, and they do not want to repeal if there is any risk at all that the move could impact combat readiness or pose a hazard to the force.

That line of logic led to one of the most stupid questions I have ever heard asked in a hearing, ever, in decades of actually paying attention, and it came from Republican Vicky Hartzler (MO-04).

What she was trying to do was to show that the Generals would not want to recommend policies that add to the risk facing the troops. What she had been told was that the future risks of open service were as yet unknown (hard to know today with 100% certainty what the future holds), but that, based on progress made so far, the risks seemed to be low and that mitigations seemed to be in place for currently identified potential problems.

But what she asked the commanding officers of four military services was…wait for it…whether they had ever recommended sending their troops into heightened risk environments?

They actually all kind of seemed a bit stunned by the question—but they kept their poker faces—and then they reminded her that sending troops into combat is actually a bit of a high-risk activity.

The deer then jumped out of the way of the headlights, and the hearing resumed.

Look, folks, I am not passing along any news when I tell you that DADT still scares the loose buttons off a bunch of suits in Washington and that they still want to have this out anyplace they can—but it is news to find out that they are ahead of where they could have been over at the Pentagon, and that all the Service Chiefs do really seem to be on board, at least publicly, and that they are all reporting fewer problems than they expected as this process moves forward.

In a tough week it’s nice to report good news, and I think this qualifies—and if things continue at this pace, we could see certification and full open service before Labor Day.

Now I know we don’t usually give Labor Day presents, and to make it worse, we’re hard to shop for…but if there’s one thing everyone loves to get, it’s a More Perfect Union—and I bet once we try it on, there’s no way it’s going back.

 

On Asking And Telling, Or, 115,000 LBGT Troops? How Many Is That, Exactly? December 2, 2010

I took a couple of weeks off, as Thanksgiving and snow came around (a subject we’ll address in a day or so), but we are all again occupied as lots of things we’ve been talking about either will or won’t come to pass, and it seems like all that’s happening all at once.

Today we’ll take on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT); this because the Pentagon’s top leadership just came out and reported that revocation of the policy, following a period of preparation, would be their preferred way to go.

There will be lots of others who will take on the question of what’s right and wrong here, and exactly how implementation might occur; my interest is, instead, to focus on one little fact that makes all teh rest of the conversation a lot more relevant.

That is the fact that about 70,000 LBGT troops serve in the military today, DADT notwithstanding, and, that if it wasn’t for DADT, almost 45,000 more troops would be serving that aren’t today.

And that one little fact leads to today’s Great Big Question: exactly how much military would 115,000 troops be, exactly?

“Dad, if I were you, I wouldn’t tell that story. Now I have no doubt that there might be a lot of truth in it, but you know how funny these people are. You know you always used to tell us when we were children: “Never smarten up a chump.”

–“Victoria Whipsnade”, to her father, “Larson E. Whipsnade”, in W.C. Field’s You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

As we so often do, let’s set a stage: we use the 115,000 figure because we have the academic work of UCLA’s Gary J. Gates informing our estimate, and that estimate was updated in May of 2010.

A stage having been set, let’s move on to painting some pictures:

These days the Army organizes themselves around Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), and a BCT might normally be assigned somewhere between 2500 and 4000 soldiers, and 115,000 troops could equal more than 30 BCTs.

It appears that more or less 12 BCTs and two more Combat Aviation Brigades are on the ground in Iraq today, which works out to about 49,000 troops in total…and that means 115,000 LBGT troopers could theoretically fill every billet in Iraq, and then replace themselves after a year, with about 15,000 left over.

The Navy is organized around Carrier Strike Groups, which each consist of one of the 12 aircraft carriers now in service and the additional ships they require to complete their missions.

Those aircraft carriers require crew to operate the ship’s basic equipment, Marines who provide security and other functions, additional crew to operate the “Air Wing”, which is the organization on board responsible for flight operations, and, because carriers also serve as the “traveling headquarters” for the Admiral who is commanding the Strike Group, a few more crew to serve as the Admiral’s personal staff.

Add it all up, and a carrier can have a crew of almost 6,000 on board…and that means there are enough LBGT forces available to occupy every bunk on every carrier in the Navy, from the actual bed in the Admirals’ Cabin all the way down to the “stacks of racks” way down belowdecks for the ordinary Sailors and Marines.

Even beyond that, there would be enough people left over to crew every one of the Navy’s 100 or so submarines—and you’d still have about 30,000 sailors left over to maintain the ships and their associated aircraft when they return to port.

The Air Force, as with the other Services, is composed of components drawn from Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard forces. As it turns out, the entire Air National Guard is 106,700 strong. Our 115,000 LBGT troopers could fill every one of those slots—and that would still leave enough personnel to completely fill the Air Force’s pilot training schools for seven years after that.

The Marine Corps’ fighting forces are designed to work with the Navy to combine a variety of capabilities into self-sustained “over the beach” units that can, if required, take and hold beaches, ports, or airfields, or build a base of their own and hold it, until a larger force can come in and expand the foothold, so to speak. (The Corps refers to one of these units as a “Marine Expeditionary Force”, or an MEF.)

To provide this capability worldwide, the Corps maintains three MEFs, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast, and one stationed in the Pacific, based in the Hawaiian Islands and Guam.

115,000 Marines would equal almost half of the entire Corps, Active Duty and Reserve, and that’s more troops than two of the MEFs combined, which might typically comprise 45,000 Marines each, more or less…which means if the LBGT Marines needed to, they could most assuredly take and hold some serious real estate, more or less anywhere in the world—and if they ran into trouble, they could send back home for another 25,000 LBGT troops to help make their point.

So there you go: the next time someone’s talking about how much national security might be threatened if we change DADT, you can tell them that there’s a cost to national security from keeping DADT as well.

How much of a cost? If you pulled those 115,000 potentially affected troops from the Army, DADT could cost us two Iraqs worth of troops, with 15,000 reinforcements left over, and if it was just the Navy, it could affect enough sailors to crew every aircraft carrier and submarine and 30,000 more besides.

If you removed that many personnel from the Air Force it would affect more people than the entire Air National Guard and seven years’ worth of new pilots combined—or, if you prefer to look at it through the prism of a eagle, globe, and anchor, it could be enough LBGT Marines to take and hold darn near anything, from the halls of Montezuma, to at least somewhere near the shores of Tripoli.

I don’t want to pay that price, and apparently the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t either…so hey, John Mc Cain…why don’t we just get over this imaginary Great Big Deal and move on to some real ones?

 

On Asking Experts, Part Two, Or, What’s An LBGT Voter To Do? October 26, 2010

It’s been a few days now since we began a conversation that addresses the issue of how frustrated some number of LBGT voters are with the Democratic Party this cycle; this because they find themselves either frustrated at the lack of progress on the civil rights issues that matter to them, or because they see both the Democratic and Republican Parties as unreliable partners in the struggle to assure equal rights for all.

In an effort to practice some actual journalism, I assembled a version of an online “focus group” at The Bilerico Project (“daily adventures in LBGTQ”), with the goal of gathering some opinions on this subject in the actual words of those frustrated voters.

Part One of this story focused on “stating the problem”, and today we’ll take on Part Two: in this environment, with Election Day staring us in the face, what is an LBGT voter to do?

As before, there are a variety of opinions, including a very informative comment I was able to obtain from a genuine Member of Congress, Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and that means until the very end you won’t hear much from me, except to help “set the stage” for the comments that follow.

A monk asked Ma-tsu [Baso]:
What is Buddha?
Ma-tsu replied: “The mind is Buddha”

A monk asked Ma-tsu:
What is Buddha?
Ma-tsu replied: “The mind is not Buddha”

–From the book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

We’ll begin today’s discussion with a housekeeping note: in order to keep the story moving in a linear fashion, from one topic to the next, in some instances I edited portions of multiple comments from the same person into one comment. I also edited some comments for length.

The disclaimer out of the way, let’s start the conversation with Zoe Brain, who sums up Part One rather neatly in one comment that absolutely did not have to be edited together:

We had a Dem super-majority in the Senate.
We had a Dem majority in the House.
We had a Dem president.

It wasn’t enough. We need more. So let’s use the only weapons we have for behaviour modification; our money and our votes, to make sure that the next time this can possibly happen, around 2020 (though 2028 is more likely), we won’t have a repeat performance.

Andrew W responds with a bit of legislative “nuance”…and in doing so, he makes the point that looking beyond Democrats for solutions may be the way to go:

A “Democratic Super Majority” is different than an LGBT-Majority. We have never had an LGBT super majority. In the current US Senate we have only 56 votes. After November we will have 51 or 52 votes.

Stop saying “Democrats.” It misses the point. Our challenge is to find 60 US Senators that support our equality.

SoFloMo makes a similar point:

Perhaps we have become too comfortable surrounding ourselves with other gay folks and straight allies. We’re terrified of losing the only friends we’ve had in politics, so we cling to them despite the abuse.

We need to encourage one another turn our outrage into concrete action. Just feeling bad won’t do any good.

Here’s some more from Andrew W:

We spend way to much talking about the “Religious Right,” bigotry exists in anyone that accepts the traditional Christian belief that we are wrong. That’s 70% of Black voters and they are primarily Democrats…

… We need people as our allies, not organizations. We need to educate, enlighten and enroll our neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. Two-thirds will support our equality – especially if we leave religion and politics out of the conversation. Both religion and politics divide people – we just want to ask people to stand for one thing, our equality.

Try it out over the next week. You’ll be surprised.

So let’s get to the big issue: vote, or don’t?

Here’s Bill Perdue’s take on the question…

On Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010…vote left or cast your protest vote by sitting it out (barring important referenda, propositions or initiatives).

The only good vote is a protest vote. In a system run by competing gangs of like minded hustlers voting is not important except as a way of validating that system….

…It’s a fool’s errand to believe that participation in a rigged electoral system is the way to change. It’s the road to perpetual lesserevilism, betrayal and defeat.

Elections can be used to organize and educate movements in struggle but elections don’t bring change except in the sense that they (rarely) ratify changes forced by mass actions in the streets, workplaces and barracks. Those are the kind of battles we can win and those are the kind of battles that produce fundamental, permanent change as opposed to hopey-changey.

…followed by Andrew W:

While “mass demonstrations” may sound appealing or possibly effective, they aren’t going to happen. The biggest crowd in D.C. is likely to be for two cable-tv comedians at the end of this month.

Polling data indicates the religious grip on “beliefs” (including the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong) is weakening. Of all those that define themselves as “religious” only about one-third are “literalists” and I would suggest their beliefs are virtually unchangeable. I’m not suggesting we try to change those minds, but rather we marginalize them by enrolling the other two-thirds. Most of them will put equality before religion.

The other dynamic is age – we are much more likely to get support from those under the age of 40 because they are less religious.

We need the young people that put Obama in office to turn out on November 2nd. Unfortunately, many in this audience have heard the GetEQUAL [a pro-civil rights group] narrative that “Obama didn’t keep his promises.” Young people are likely to believe that “we’re angry” and not vote…

GrrrlRomeo has some thoughts as well:

The second thing I’d tell them is don’t think of it as voting for Democrats, think of it as voting against conservatives. Look, anti-gay Christian conservatives have no problem holding their noses and voting for a Republican just to vote against gays or abortion.

I’m sorry that people were under the impression that we could really get this stuff done in 2 years. There are 420 bills backed up in the Senate. It’s obvious to me that the Republicans were doing everything they could just to make the Democrats fail so that the progressive base would throw one of our predictable tantrums and not turn out.

I do understand. I was with the Green Party in 1996 and 2000 as I was unable to forgive Clinton. But whatever Obama hasn’t done…he has not done anything so unforgivable as Clinton signing DOMA [the Federal Defense of Marriage Act].

More on the subject, from symbiote

I would tell a frustrated gay voter this: Own it! You vote. You make your choices. You allow yourself to be lied to, over and over, in a repetition of craving. It is time to look for candidates who support equality for all, and vote for them–even if they don’t win. It is a natural consequence of change that the first people for whom we vote will lose.

But if continue to vote for people solely on the idea that they are “electable,” then we will never build support for candidates that share our views, and thus, we ourselves destroy their “electability.”

Andrew W opines further on what a voter should expect from a politician—and what they shouldn’t:

… After reflection, I would add this: tell this “democratic voter” that there is no “promise” in politics, only “hope.” As in life there are no “guarantees.” All we can do or expect is our best efforts. The idea that politicians have “let us down” is not the exception, it is the rule. We should learn from that. We should understand we cannot “hire” politicians to save us – we need to do it ourselves.

Politicians are motivated by their constituents beliefs – it is what gets them elected. That is OUR job – changing minds. Instead of expecting politicians to handle the job, we should simply do it ourselves. We’ve spent 40 years betting on politics and we have little to show for it. That should make all of us think twice about continuing to believe “somebody else” will save us. Our equality is our responsibility…

… Our only political hope is targeting a few States where public opinion could change enough to turn the tide. Senators will either reflect the views of their constituents or they will be replaced. We need to change those views.

An additional question I had for the “focus group” was what you say to voters who do not differentiate between “the Democrats” or “Congress” and supportive and unsupportive legislators?

Here’s what Tim W’s thinking:

I would tell them the same thing I have said many other times. If the Democrat is a true ally in actions and not in words then they deserve our vote. If not I will be voting for someone who is. We are where we are because the Democrats feel we have no where else to turn to. The politics of fear that we aren’t as bad as the Republicans doesn’t cut it anymore…So the old scare tactics don’t work. Democrats need to be held responsible for their actions.
We definitely should not be giving money to the DNC [Democratic National Committee], DSCC [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee], OFA [Organizing for America, the Barack Obama campaign’s “legacy” organization], or the newest branch of the Democratic Party the HRC [Human Rights Campaign, a pro-civil rights group]. That money is being wasted to elect the Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincolns of the world. Give money to candidates that are pro-gay be it Dem, Rep, or Green.

Bolton Winpenny offers another perspective:

I recently started publicizing the idea to stop supporting democrats that don’t support us…While I understand the risk of giving republican’s power, I don’t think we have much gain that warrants a large risk. This conversation, along with the Get Equal campaign, “We’ll Give when we Get” and other similar sentiments makes a big statement that the Democrats will hopefully listen to…Things are changing in the Republicans where they seem more interested in anti-abortion and anti-Christian than they are anti-gay…

What does work is spreading awareness and education… Shortly after LGBT Freedom Week 2010 a PA [Pennsylvania] senate subcommittee voted down 8 to 6 (tabled) a move to add “one man and one woman” into our constitution. Two years prior, the same committee, with only one member change, passed a similar bill 4 to 10…. Four votes changed after a state-wide campaign to spread awareness and education over the LGBT plight for equality.

Bill Perdue would tell you that, in some instances, you just won’t find any supportive legislators:

If they’re in unions or one of the other struggle movements they should be encouraged to break with the Democrats and move left.

Their real incentives come from corporations so we have to provide an counterbalance of mass movements and mass demonstrations to get concessions. When the profit margin hits the fan, as it does in the case of ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] and equal wages, expect no concessions.

Still another topic from the group: what’s to come after this election?

Deena has a theory:

Bielat will defeat Barney Frank and Pelosi will no longer be speaker of the house when Republicans win the majority. In one sense that will be tragic yet in another it will set the tone for 2012 when progress can be made. I think it is the best change in recent history because the house will know lip service is what it has always been — BS. Obama will also have to pay attention or he is toast in 2012.

As does Bill Perdue:

The next anti-incumbent Congress will do no better than the last anti-incumbent Congress and in 2012 the Republicans will suffer for it. They’re as rancid and rightwing as their Dem cousins and even less popular, because they don’t bother lying about it…

And now: a point of personal privilege.

I have kept my opinions out of this discussion, because it really wasn’t about me, but as we close out this conversation—and the election cycle—I am going to tell you that there was one comment that struck me as being the closest to what I might say if I was a voter in this situation; it comes from John Rutledge, and it required no editing at all:

I have been in the same angry place as the writer before and will likely be again. After all, this is personal. This is our lives.
I just read the Obama interview in the Rolling Stone. I hear a brilliant mind, fair and balanced. Possibility is alive, like never before. It is also close to passing us by with the upcoming elections. Now is not the time to indulge in wallowing. I now this fight is tough, but we just can not give up. We have to continue to push. Being resigned and cynical is only being that. It makes one useless to bring about change. So choose. Go home and bitch to whoever is willing to listen, be ineffectively righteous, or suck it up and get in the game. Grow or blow.

Finally, as I promised, we’ll wrap all this up with a comment from Congressman Patrick Murphy (PA-08), who has been absolutely supportive of advancing civil rights for LBGT citizens, despite the fact that he’s a freshman in Pennsylvania, which kind of makes him “double vulnerable”.

I managed to catch up with Murphy on a live chat at Bilerico, where I asked him what he would tell voters who see Democrats as unreliable partners and don’t recognize that some Members are more supportive than others.

We’ll close out this conversation by giving him the last word on the subject:

…Some of you have brought this up today and I couldn’t agree more. The far-right wing and hate mongerers are coming at me with everything they have because they know that if they knock me off, no member in a tough district will stick their neck out for DADT or other LGBT issues for years. I need your help to win this thing and show these guys that we won’t back down from doing what’s right.

 

On Asking Experts, Part One, Or, Do Democrats Really Understand Their LBGT Problem? October 22, 2010

Stories begat other stories, or at least they do for me; this two-part conversation came from a comment that was made after I posted a story suggesting that voting matters this time, especially if you don’t want environmental disasters like the recent Hungarian “toxic lake” that burst from its containment and polluted the Danube River happening in your neighborhood.

Long story short, we are going to be moving on to ask what, for some, is a more fundamental question: if you’re an LBGT voter, and the Democratic Party hasn’t, to put it charitably, “been all they could be” when it comes to issues like repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the Federal Defense of Marriage Act…what should you do?

Now normally I would be the one trying to develop an answer to the question, but instead, we’re going to be posing the question to a group of experts, and we’ll be letting them give the answers.

And just because you, The Valued Reader, deserve the extra effort, for Part Two we’ve trying to get you a “Special Bonus Expert” to add some input to the conversation: a Democratic Member of Congress who represents a large LBGT community.

“We were liberated not only empty-handed but left in the power of a people who resented our emancipation as an act of unjust punishment to them. They were therefore armed with a motive for doing everything in their power to render our freedom a curse rather than a blessing.”

–From The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition, Ida B. Wells, 1893

So we have our question, now we need a panel of experts.

As it happens, one of the sites to which I post is The Bilerico Project (“daily experiments in LBGTQ”), so I went to the site, posted the question (What Would You Tell A Frustrated Gay Voter?), and told the readers that I wanted to stand back and let them inform the conversation so that I could pass the message on to the larger Democratic and Progressive audience.

Most of what you’ll be reading in this two-parter will be those comments; I’ll be offering a few thoughts of my own, but my main effort will be to be “set the stage” for others.

So as we said, the big take-away here is that there is a portion of the LBGT community that feels like they have been “left behind”, if you will, by the very Democrats they helped to elect; Hannah offers an example of how that thinking manifested itself in the comments:

I don’t think many politicians really are pro-gay. Democrats will vote for gay issues, but the issue in question can’t stand alone. It needs to be attached to military spending or to credit card legislation, so that their constituents that don’t pay attention to detail will miss their pro-gay votes. When it gets there, I don’t think ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] will be a stand-alone bill. I can’t even think about how DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] will end.

Bill Perdue puts it a lot more strongly:

The ‘progressive’ wing of the Democrat party is a wet noodle. It has no – zero, nada, zilch – clout or influence. It’s barely tolerated as left cover and if it gets too pushy they call the cops…

The Democrats have a long and clear history of bigotry and of doing what they have to do to appease bigots and get their votes. Democrats voted for DADT [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] and DOMA in large majorities and a Democrat bigot signed both bills.

Rank and filers and supporters are welcome to donate time and money and even attend conventions to watch their betters maneuver and scheme but they have no power.

Gina9223 picks up part of Bill’s theme and runs a bit further with it:

Between the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and HRC [Human Rights Campaign, a pro-civil rights organizing group] they both use GLBT and our struggles for gaining equal rights ONLY to generate money for their bottom line. How often have you heard or seen the some ad hack saying ‘the fight has only begun and they need your dollars now!’??? A few weeks or months go by with the assurance that they’re “doing everything possible” to secure the passing of ENDA, but they had to let that fall to give support to repeal of DOMA but they had to let that go to run after repeal of DADT. But don’t worry, they’ll come around in the bus next time to pick up our money. Just not us.

Now comes to the table Alex Blaze (who often gets stuck with the yeoman’s work of editing the things I post to Bilerico) with a bit of realpolitik:

It’s a catch-22: If Dems do fine in November they’ll learn that ignoring LGBT people was great and they should keep on doing it. If they lose big, then they’ll think that they went too far to the left and they should do even less.

One would become suspicious about the fact that there’s no situation where they become more responsive to public opinion and more queer-friendly, but we obviously can’t question the Democrats’ commitment to LGBT rights. That just wouldn’t be polite.

Andrew W expands on Gina’s point that it’s not entirely a Democratic problem:

The frustration is warranted, but instead of simply singling out Democrats for not accomplishing something they never had the votes to accomplish, what about Gay Inc. and activist groups? A significant amount of money was spent in the last 2 years and we have nothing to show for it. GetEQUAL resurrected 1960s styled civil disobedience and protest – without any measurable results and mounting evidence that we’ve simply alienated our only “friends.” HRC spent millions lobbying Congress and yet they cannot show us a single vote they “changed.”

SoFloMo is of the opinion that a big part of the problem is staring at voters in the bathroom mirror each morning:

Too often we get indignant and then throw parties where politicians and/or Gay Inc. come to collect checks after everyone has found their way to the bottom of three or four cocktails.

I’ve been to events in South Florida where the house is packed to meet a gay-friendly celebrity or the head of a national LGBT organization. But few people will turn up to canvass on behalf of local candidates who have passed laws protecting LGBT rights. Few people will work the phones to defeat candidates supported by the Christian Coalition.

So I need to keep a handle on how long stories run, and “we’ve stated the problem, so let’s come back tomorrow and address some answers” seems like a reasonable plan for splitting the story in two…so that’s what we’re going to do.

Let’s bring this Part One to a close by restating the premise: there exists some number of LBGT voters who feel they have nothing to gain by voting this time, because they perceive no available political path to achieving forward progress on civil rights issues. There’s another group who feel Democrats are not a trustworthy partner in the effort to advance civil rights, and if they show up to vote at all this time, it probably won’t be for Democratic candidates.

Just as soon as I get this posted, I’ll be assembling Part Two; with the “question now asked”, we’ll be getting to answers—and I think you’re going to be surprised at the diversity of responses.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been in touch with a currently unnamed Member of Congress who has a significant LBGT constituency over the past 24 hours, and the Press Secretary over there has indicated that they’ll try to have a response for attribution in time for Part Two.

Between now and then, try on a thought exercise and see where it takes you: put yourself in the shoes of an LBGT voter, think about this election it it’s full context, and consider what advice would make sense to you—and then, after you’ve done that, consider how you’d pass along what you’re thinking to either the Democrats or the voters we’re talking about.

 

On Organized Fearmongering Revealed, Or, “Lock Up The Kids…It’s The Gay!” August 7, 2010

The airwaves (and the print and blog waves, for that matter) are filled with the news that a Federal Judge in California has declared that State’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, which could clear the way for the resumption of same-sex weddings in the State.

Ordinarily, this would be the point where I would present to you a walkthrough of the ruling, and we’d have a fine conversation about the legal implications of what has happened.

I’m not doing that today, frankly, because the ground is already well-covered; instead, we’re going to take a look at some of the tactics that were used to pass Prop 8, as they were presented in Judge Vaughan’s opinion.

It’s an ugly story—and even more than that, it’s a reminder of why it’s tough to advance civil rights through the political process, and what you have to deal with when you’re trying to make such a thing happen.

So first things first: one of the sites where my postings are to be found is The Bilerico Project, and over there Dr. Jillian T. Weiss has gone to the time and trouble of explaining the nuts and bolts of this ruling in a very accessible way; I’d commend to all of you who are looking for that background a visit to her story.

With that out of the way, here’s what I want you to know about how Prop 8 was presented, promoted, and defended: the entire process was designed to use ignorance, fear, disinformation, and God to make same-sex couples a national threat to you and your babies—and when it came time to defend this proposition in court, those who supported Prop 8, frankly, ran away and hid, which had a lot to do with the eventual outcome of the findings of fact, and, of course, the findings of law.

(If you weren’t aware, a court’s opinion will often present as a narrative of the evidence, followed by “findings of fact”, then “findings of law”. In the appeals process, findings of fact are rarely overturned; findings of law are frequently overturned.)

The “Defendants and Defendant-intervenors” (to use the exact language of the Court) who support Prop 8 intended to call 10 expert witnesses to explain why Prop 8 fulfills some sort of rational purpose.

Some of them were “deposed” (a sort of “pre-interview” conducted under oath before trial)…and that did not go well: by the time the trial came around only two of the original 10 were actually called to testify. Of the missing eight, two had their deposition testimony offered into evidence by the Plaintiffs, who were able to use the testimony of the Defendant’s expert witnesses to show the Judge that Prop 8 deserved to be overturned.

After that process was over, here’s what the Judge had to say about the Prop 8 campaign’s tactics:

The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriage may become gay or lesbian. The reason children need to be protected from same-sex marriage was never articulated in official campaign advertisements. Nevertheless, the advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child.

One of the two defense experts who did testify was David Blankenhorn; he’s the founder and president of the Institute for American Values. Here’s what the Judge had to say about that testimony:

Blankenhorn was unwilling to answer many questions directly on cross-examination and was defensive in his answers. Moreover, much of his testimony contradicted his opinions. Blankenhorn testified on cross-examination that studies show children of adoptive parents do as well or better than children of biological parents. Blankenhorn agreed that children raised by same-sex couples would benefit if their parents were permitted to marry. Blankenhorn also testified he wrote and agrees with the statement “I believe that today the principle of equal human dignity must apply to gay and lesbian persons. In that sense, insofar as we are a nation founded on this principle, we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were the day before.”

Blankenhorn’s opinions are not supported by reliable evidence or methodology and Blankenhorn failed to consider evidence contrary to his view in presenting his testimony. The court therefore finds the opinions of Blankenhorn to be unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.

Just so everyone knows…in this story, I’m editing the Judge’s opinion to remove various notes (example: “Tr 1900:13-18”) in order to make things more readable.

There were four defendants who were there by virtue of their being the “official proponents” of Prop 8 (other defendants included the Governor, State Attorney General, and certain Public Health officials and County Clerks, each in their administrative capacities); one of those was Hak-Shing William Tam, and, again, I’ll let the Judge handle this one:

Proponent Hak-Shing William Tam testified about his role in the Proposition 8 campaign. Tam spent substantial time, effort and resources campaigning for Proposition 8. As of July 2007, Tam was working with Protect Marriage to put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot. Tam testified that he is the secretary of the America Return to God Prayer Movement, which operates the website “1man1woman.net.” 1man1woman.net encouraged voters to support Proposition 8 on grounds that homosexuals are twelve times more likely to molest children, and because Proposition 8 will cause states one-by-one to fall into Satan’s hands. Tam identified NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) as the source of information about homosexuality, because he “believe[s] in what they say.”. Tam identified “the internet” as the source of information connecting same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.

(The links were not part of the original text.)

The Judge referred specifically to a letter Tam sent to the “friends” of his website during the Prop 8 fight which really shows what these folks are thinking:

“This November, San Francisco voters will vote on a ballot to ‘legalize prostitution.’ This is put forth by the SF city government, which is under the rule of homosexuals. They lose no time in pushing the gay agenda —— after legalizing same-sex marriage, they want to legalize prostitution. What will be next? On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children * * * We can’t lose this critical battle. If we lose, this will very likely happen * * * 1. Same-Sex marriage will be a permanent law in California. One by one, other states would fall into Satan’s hand. 2. Every child, when growing up, would fantasize marrying someone of the same sex. More children would become homosexuals. Even if our children is safe, our grandchildren may not. What about our children’s grandchildren? 3. Gay activists would target the big churches and request to be married by their pastors. If the church refuse, they would sue the church.” (as written)

You can gain more insight into Tam’s thinking from his own trial testimony. Again, from the opinion:

Tam supported Proposition 8 because he thinks “it is very important that our children won’t grow up to fantasize or think about, Should I marry Jane or John when I grow up? Because this is very important for Asian families, the cultural issues, the stability of the family.”

Are these the views of just one very disturbed citizen, caught up in hyperbolic campaign frenzy?

Apparently not…because here’s what the Catholic Church was saying a year after the Prop 8 vote:

Catholics for the Common Good, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, Excerpts from Vatican Document on Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions (Nov 22, 2009): There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”; “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law” and “[u]nder no circumstances can * * * be approved”; “[t]he homosexual inclination is * * * objectively disordered and homosexual practices are sins gravely contrary to chastity”; “[a]llowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children”; and “legal recognition of homosexual unions * * * would mean * * * the approval of deviant behavior.”

Plaintiff’s witnesses, without exception, were found to be credible, and among those was Dr. Gary Michael Sagura, a Stanford University Professor of Political Science:

“[T]he American public is not very fond of gays and lesbians.” Warmness scores for gays and lesbians are as much as 16 to 20 points below the average score for religious, racial and ethnic groups; over 65 percent of respondents placed gays and lesbians below the midpoint, below the score of 50, whereas a third to 45 percent did the same for other groups. When “two-thirds of all respondents are giving gays and lesbians a score below 50, that’s telling elected officials that they can say bad things about gays and lesbians, and that could be politically advantageous to them because * * * many parts of the electorate feel the same way.” Additionally, “the initiative process could be fertile ground to try to mobilize some of these voters to the polls for that cause.”

“[Proponents’ expert] Dr Young freely admits that religious hostility to homosexuals [plays] an important role in creating a social climate that’s conducive to hateful acts, to opposition to their interest in the public sphere and to prejudice and discrimination.”

“[T]he role of prejudice is profound. * * * [I]f the group is envisioned as being somehow * * * morally inferior, a threat to children, a threat to freedom, if there’s these deeply-seated beliefs, then the range of compromise is dramatically limited. It’s very difficult to engage in the give-and-take of the legislative process when I think you are an inherently bad person. That’s just not the basis for compromise and negotiation in the political process.”

As the Judge notes, all this hating has had an effect on actual crime and violence:

“[O]ver the last five years, there has actually been an increase in violence directed toward gay men and lesbians”; “gays and lesbians are representing a larger and larger portion of the number of acts of bias motivated violence” and “are far more likely to experience violence”; “73 percent of all the hate crimes committed against gays and lesbians also include an act of violence * * * we are talking about the most extreme forms of hate based violence”; the hate crimes accounted for “71 percent of all hate-motivated murders” and “[f]ifty-five percent of all hate-motivated rapes” in 2008; “There is simply no other person in society who endures the likelihood of being harmed as a consequence of their identity than a gay man or lesbian.”

So what can we make of all this?

How about this: there’s a community of people who feel that Teh Gay poses an imminent danger to their marriages, their children, and their way of life—but when it comes time to actually explain why, in a court of law…they can’t offer a bit of evidence, except to say “it’s on the Internet” or “because God told me so”.

In the meantime, the group who isn’t actually a threat to anybody is the group most likely to be targeted for violent attacks—because some people are just so sure they’re such a threat to our marriages, our children, and The Good Ol’ American Way.

Political compromise is not likely—and political courage isn’t either, which may be why there’s still so much “not asking” and “not telling” going on these days.

Whether this opinion is upheld or not, its deeper truths remain for all to see; I’ll close today’s discussion with a deeper truth of my own:

If you belong to a political or racial minority…or if you’re a “plain old White American”, facing the prospect of soon becoming a minority group…you better figure out, and quickly, that those same forces of prejudice you’re directing at these people can be turned against you, too (as they were, against the Chinese, not so very long ago, and as they are, against Blacks and Hispanics and Arabs, to this very day), just as soon as it’s convenient for the political needs of another.

The reason we fight prejudice isn’t just to protect the group being affected…but to protect us all from the people who will manipulate this stuff for their own use—and if you don’t think the fear of The Gay Baby Molester, and the Scary Hispanic Border Jumper, and the New Black Panthers isn’t being used by Conservatives, right now, to keep you from thinking about the problems they created as November draws nigh…well, then, Gentle Reader, you’re missing out on Politics 101.

 

On Canadian Cultural Imperialism, Or, I Explain Red Green June 8, 2010

Filed under: Culture,LGBT,Red Green — fakeconsultant @ 8:11 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

We are again having to take a short bypass on our planned writing journey; this time to a place that’s, according to their Facebook page, about 148 beer stores north of Toronto, Ontario (which, for the benefit of the less-geographically aware reader, is in Canada).

It’s a crazy place, where duct tape is more truly the coin of the realm than loonies, but we’re going to try to explain it all today…and in the effort we may even learn about a few things that really matter, like the unimportance of importance, and the kind of quality of life that comes from having a junk pile and a sense of adventure.

So grab the bug spray, Gentle Reader, because it’s time to visit Possum Lodge.

“You want to make it two inches — or, if you’re working in centimeters, make sure it’s enough centimeters for two inches.”

Red Green

Possum Lodge itself is in the remote north of Canada (right next to Possum Lake), but Lodge members live all over the place.

So how do you spot a Lodge member?

You’ll often find them out in the shed, sorting through the pile of junk, looking for a part…but you might find them at the auction, looking to buy a used police car, or out on the lake, fishing.

Lodge members typically have been with the spouse for long enough that passion has been replaced by realpolitik; that’s certainly true of Dalton Humphrey and his wife Anne-Marie (Dalton owns the “Everything Store”, by the way, and since it’s the only store this side of Port Asbestos, the prices are way too high).

A great way to understand the friendly cynicism of a Lodge member is to check out the Possum Lodge Word Game. In this episode, Red’s geeky nephew Harold is the timekeeper, and Edgar Montrose, the “local explosives expert”, is trying to say a certain word…

When today’s Lodge members were kids, they were the ones who would take things apart, just out of curiosity—and a true Lodge member won’t be able to put the thing back together exactly how it came apart…but that’s why they make what Red calls “the handyman’s secret weapon”, duct tape.

Today, jury-rigging things together in an effort to make something new isn’t just a matter of curiosity…it’s a lifestyle. Check out this example of Red rigging two cars together to make one all-wheel-drive car:

This next video is even better: you get to meet Winston Rothschild (he of the most necessary Rothschild’s Sewer and Septic Sucking Services), and you get to learn how to build a self-operated dog wash at the same time…which, in real life, almost never happens.

“Buzz” Sherwood is the local bush pilot—and the “Buzz” in his name does not refer to how low he flies. Matter of fact, with Buzz also being the local hippie and all, the nickname really refers to how high he flies, if you get my drift.

For these guys, camping can be…it’s…tell you what…just watch this:

Now if this was all there was to our little tale, it would be OK, but this has actually been the set-up for what Paul Harvey would have called “the rest…of the story”.

“I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to…I guess.”

–The Red Green Show’s “Man’s Prayer”

You see, I met Red Green about two weeks ago (to be more accurate, I met Steve Smith, who is one of the two co-creators of the Possum Lodge franchise, in his Red Green character), up at the ol’ True Value in West Seattle, and we had a most interesting conversation…and it won’t be at all what you think we might have talked about—sorry, aboot.

You see, I was recently notified by email that I’m gay, and the night before I was actually attending a meetup with some of my gay friends, and as it turned out, they, being a bit more the “dazzling urbanite” type than myself, had no idea who Red Green really was.

Right that minute, I figured I would put a story together that tried to explain Possum Lodge, not just to the gay community, but to anybody who doesn’t fully understand how a bit of indolence can be a beautiful thing.

And (with apologies in advance for the lack of sound) that’s what we’re talking about in this next video, where Red is preparing to autograph my roll of clear duct tape (and yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as clear duct tape):

So as you can see, we’re talking about all this, me and Red there, by the duct tape display, and he sorta leans over conspiratorially and tells me that he actually has a pretty substantial gay audience—and that in fact, Possum Lodge is the kind of place where nobody would really care if you were gay, and, as far as anyone can tell, a few of the members may very well be gay.

And that made a lot of sense to me, actually, because The Girlfriend and I play mini-golf with a woman who drives a pickup truck that’s just about the same age and size as Red’s “Possum Van”, and she’s constantly workin’ on stuff, which means when you go over to the house it’s often like attending a live segment of “Handyman’s Corner”…and to tell you the truth, she has that kind of not-in-a-particular-hurry personality that would probably fit right in at the Lodge…and, as it turns out, she’s gay.

So how about that for a bit of a story: an introduction to a way of life you may have observed from a distance but never understood, a chance to have a few laughs on Red, and—most surprising of all—a chance to discover that, even 148 beer stores north of Toronto, there’s a place for all kinds of folks to come together and do just about as little as possible for as long as they can get away with it…or at least until the wife finds out.

And if you ask me, that’s a pretty good message for the start of summer.