Saturday, May 22, 2010

Christianist Lunacy In Texas

Having lived in Texas myself some years back, I know that there are sane, decent people throughout the state. It's unfortunate that there are not more on the Texas State Board of Education which is now dominated by far right Christianists who have an agenda of re-writing history to fit their warped religious extremism. They also seem to seek to dumb down Texas students sufficiently enough so that they will not know better than to question the voodoo version of Christianity that these folks are peddling. One irony, of course, is that while they see themselves as super patriots/Christians, their efforts to conform history to their personal extremist views are reminiscent of Soviet Russia and the true history that was lost to everyday Russians until after the fall of the communist regime. In addition, their efforts to establish their version of religious belief as the defacto official religion flies in the face of the true desires of the Founding Fathers. Here are highlights on this travesty from the Dallas Morning News:
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AUSTIN — In a landmark vote that will shape the future education of millions of Texas schoolchildren, the State Board of Education on Friday approved new curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that reflect a more conservative tone than in the past.
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Split along party lines, the board voted 9-5 to adopt the new standards, which will dictate what is taught in all Texas schools and provide the basis for future textbooks and student achievement tests over the next decade.
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Approval came after the GOP-dominated board approved a new curriculum standard that would encourage high school students to question the legal doctrine of church-state separation - a sore point for social conservative groups who disagree with court decisions that have affirmed the doctrine, including the ban on school-sponsored prayer.
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Before the final vote on the lengthy list of standards, the board’s five Democrats criticized the Republican majority - primarily social conservatives - for injecting their political and religious views into the standards and giving short shrift to important minority figures in history.
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Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, called the proposal a “travesty.” “The board has made these standards political and had little academic discussion about what students need to learn,” she said. “I am ashamed of what we have done to the students and teachers of this state.”
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While most of the world is seeking to better educate students for the competitive global economy, U.S. Christianists are actively trying to dumb down American students so that they will buy the religious based insanity that now is part and parcel with the Republican Party. It is very distressing to anyone who knows and respects true history.

Saturday Male Beauty

Africa's Anti-gay Laws Are Product of American Religious Exports

Like the Roman Catholic Church, American Christian Right elements are focusing their efforts on Africa where unfortunately lack of education and other social conditions make the population vulnerable to a hate based form of Christianity that is withering in Europe, the USA and educated parts of the world. One of the by-products of this phenomenon is the growing homophobia making itself visible in African nations such as Uganda, Malawi and other countries. The London Times has a piece that looks at this problem and traces the poison back to American Christianist groups that are seeking more fertile ground for their perverted version of Christianity. In my opinion, it borders on being criminal that obvious lunatics like the totally discredited Scott Lively are allowed to sow lies and falsehoods in Africa. Worse yet, such individuals are allowed to pose as "experts" even when associated with known hate organizations. Here are some story highlights:

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When he arrived at Kampala’s Hotel Triangle for a three-day conference, the Rev Kapya Kaoma knew that he would not like what he heard. The clue was in the event’s title — “Exposing the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda” — and in the line-up of guest speakers arranged by Stephen Langa, head of the Ugandan-based Family Life Network (FLN), and an outspoken advocate for the criminalisation of homosexuality in Uganda.
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Given top billing at the event hosted by the FLN was Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, an American conservative Christian group from California, and a Holocaust revisionist
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To Mr Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who is project director of Political Research Associates — a Massachusetts-based progressive think-tank — it was further evidence of how America’s Christian Right has stoked intolerance to homosexuality in Africa.* After a 16-month investigation, during which he interviewed scores of witnesses in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, Mr Kaoma concluded that Africa’s anti-gay crackdowns are, at least in part, “made in the USA”.
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“Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools and educational materials, US religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals, and present themselves as the true representatives of US evangelicalism,” he wrote in Globalising the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia, a damning report on the issue.
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The results are becoming clear. In Malawi, where this week an openly gay couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour, and across the continent, gays and lesbians face lives of increasing dread. It is hard to underplay the depth of anti-gay sentiment expressed in Africa.
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It wasn’t always like this. A decade ago Uganda seemed at the forefront of a liberal renaissance sweeping Africa. Then, Angela, a Ugandan transvestite, led a dance troupe that regularly played to packed audiences. Now she fears for her life. “This is the worst it has ever been; they say we are evil and blame us for everything,” she said.
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Also on the speakers’ list at the conference were Don Schmierer of Exodus International — an organisation that argues that same-sex attraction can be “cured” — and Caleb Lee Brundidge, a counsellor who claims that he was healed of his homosexuality and promotes others to do the same through “healing seminars”.
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“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” said Tarso Luis Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates.
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“Unless the world moves fast, we should expect a lot of killings of gays, not by state sanction but through mob violence. This will continue unless the international community can start talking about gay and lesbians having human rights that need to be protected and defended.”
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Meanwhile, policies like DADT and the lack of civil equality for LGBT citizens plays right into the hands of the hate merchants who can point to U.S. laws that fail to protect all citizens.

Letters to President Barack Obama - A Retired, Ordained United Methodist Pastor

As readers cannot help but know, I am one of the bloggers participating in the SLDN campaign "Letters from the Frontlines - Letters to President Barack Obama" aimed at pressing Barack Obama and Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell ("DADT") this year. I have received many comments on the series, but one really struck me - a message from a retired United Methodist pastor who said that the series had prompted her to write her own letter to President Obama. I was touched by the letter and with the author's permission I am going to publish it in its entirety. The letter is important in my view because (1) it reminds us that we DO have important straight allies, many of who are Christians, and (2) it reminds others that despite what our enemies contend, there are many gay Christians. I want to thank Reverend Vincent (pictured above in a photo on the Church website at her retirement party) for sharing her letter with me and other bloggers involved in the SLDN campaign and for allowing me to share it with all of you readers. Here is her letter (the emphasis is mine):
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May 21, 2010
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President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington DC 20500
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Re: Urging a speedy repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
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Dear President Obama,
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It is an honor and a privilege to write to you. My husband and I voted for you, and we are very glad you are our president. Thank you for your outstanding service in these very difficult times.
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I write as a mother, wife (46 years) and retired, ordained United Methodist pastor who served churches in California for sixteen years. I’m in touch with many gay and lesbian people and their families, and am aware of their hopes and struggles to gain equality.
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In this context, please allow me to plead with you to immediately do all that you can to end the terrible policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Can you issue a temporary stop-loss order for discharging our gay and lesbian service members, while the Pentagon completes their study and Congress repeals this discriminatory policy? It is my observation that these actions must be done soon, or I know that the LGBT community and their allies will not be supporting Democrats and will sit out the November elections in discouragement.
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Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are hurting, as are their families. As a pastor, I have heard many heart-breaking stories. So I’ve had to learn the issues and develop a response. It became most important to me to understand how one interprets the biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexuality. After years of study, I have come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin, nor does the Bible speak to our understanding of LGBT issues today. The lesbians and gay men in our congregation at Almaden Hills United Methodist Church in San Jose, CA and in other congregations I have served, love and serve God with all their hearts. They didn’t want to be gay and fought for years against their gay orientation. Being gay wasn’t a choice; it’s a fact of their being. Given my experience, I would debate my brothers and sisters who see it differently.
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Gays have been done great harm by unjust social policies, the church and even their families. It’s past time to stop the hurt and make matters right. With hope that you can aggressively lead the Pentagon and Congress to “do the right thing” and do it now, I send you my prayers and support. God bless you, Mr. President!
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Grace and peace,
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Reverend Carole L. Vincent
M.Div. Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Male Beauty

Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama - Active Duty U.S. Marine

While Barack Obama dithers and Congressional Democrats demonstrate that they have backbones of jell-o, lives and careers continue to be destroyed by Don't Ask Don't Tell ("DADT"). In addition, thousands of honorable service members live in the closet in terror that some anonymous enemy or homophobe will touch off an anti-gay witch hunt. With a even some 56% of Republicans supporting a repeal of DADT, it is inexplicable why Obama and the Democrats refuse to deliver on their campaign promises. Today's letter to our cowardly "fierce advocate" is from an active duty member of the U. S. Marines who cannot be publicly identified for obvious reasons. Until Obama and the Democrats deliver, I continue to support "Don't Ask Don't Give." Here is the letter:
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May 21, 2010
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President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
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Dear Mr. President,
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On November 4, 2008, I spent the evening at the Democratic Headquarters of a small town. I watched anxiously as election results poured in from across the nation, nervous and hopeful that enough Americans had believed in the change you promised to bring.
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Then it happened. The broadcaster announced that the network was declaring you the winner; the tears welled up in my eyes. Cheers erupted and I turned to hug the person standing closest to me, as we all did.
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Balloons and confetti flew, and photographers began snapping pictures. One aimed his camera at me and I turned away. After another attempt, he asked if he could take my picture. I said no. I couldn't risk having my photo appear in a newspaper because I am a Marine, and the person in my arms was my boyfriend.
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We had met nearly three years earlier while I was in Marine officer training. He was working in a clothing store near a bar I went to on the weekends. I wanted a reason to stay and talk to him, so I bought a pair of shoes I did not need. We went on our first date the next weekend, and the rest was history. I was later stationed across the country and we flew cross-country to see each other.
When I found out I was being deployed, he came with my family to see me off.
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It was my first deployment, and I had no idea what to expect. It is a strange feeling to say goodbye to someone you know you might never see again. When have you hugged enough? How do you know when to let go? How many times do you tell them you love them? How do you convince them everything will be fine when you are not sure it will be?
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I looked at my mom and dad, my sister and nephews, and my boyfriend, trying to burn their images into my mind so I would not forget them.
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As I looked around the parade deck and saw my fellow Marines kissing their wives and girlfriends goodbye, I felt crushed. I could not kiss my boyfriend of two years goodbye. Worse, he was afraid to even stand too close to me for fear of anyone getting the wrong idea. I was willing to risk it out of my love for him, but he – like the rest of my family – feared being responsible for doing or saying anything that could have jeopardized my career.
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Several years earlier, sitting in a Marine recruiting office, my recruiter asked me if I was gay. He had been trying to explain DADT to me and was frustrated by how long it was taking. He said it only mattered if I was gay, so he asked. It was the first time I was confronted with DADT, but it would not be the last.
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When you ask a straight Marine if he is gay, he says no without hesitation. When you ask a gay Marine, he either lies or cites DADT and declines to answer. You can sacrifice your integrity or invite suspicion.
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When I returned from Iraq, I had trouble adjusting to being home. Like many of my fellow Marines, I had trouble reconnecting to my friends and family. I did not know how to relate to my boyfriend. I had trouble being intimate, trouble sleeping, trouble expressing my feelings. Our relationship suffered.
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I became depressed, and we grew apart.
I could not seek counseling because my relationship with him was against the law. Talking to a counselor about my relationship would have resulted in my own discharge. I suffered alone and in silence.
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When he finally left me, I was devastated.
My other half – my partner through school, transfer, and deployment – was gone. After four years he had grown tired of living with the shades closed in the apartment, afraid that neighbors would see us sitting beside each other on the couch. My work suffered and my colleagues noticed a difference in me, yet I had no choice but to lie and cover it up, insisting that I was fine.
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Every day, gay and lesbian service members suffer and our loved ones suffer. We are forced to lie to our brothers-in-arms and our units suffer. We lie about our relationships, and our families lie to protect us.
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The law renders us second-class citizens by prohibiting us from having or forming relationships – the same type of relationships our straight counterparts form that are hailed as vital to the health and success of our Armed Forces.
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While they have family housing, family counseling, family readiness officers, and key volunteers, we serve alone. We are denied access to services and support created specifically to help us with family issues and stress – much of which results from the very policy that prohibits us from seeking help in the first place.
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The sacrifices gay and lesbian families make just to get through each day are more than most people can even fathom, and we do it in silence. I live every day with the knowledge that I could be fired simply for being honest about who I am. I lie about my loved ones and myself in order to survive.
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Still, my sense of duty and patriotism drive me to serve despite the restrictions this law imposes on my family and me.
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Please, Mr. President, work with Congress to end this discriminatory law.
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Let me serve honestly, openly, and with integrity.
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Semper Fidelis, A U.S. Marine
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Blogs partnering with SLDN in this series are as follows:
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Campaign microsite: sldn.org/letters
SLDN Twitter: twitter.com/FreedomToServe
Campaign hashtag: #DADTstories
Campaign shortlink: http://bit.ly/cLUsmp
SLDN Facebook: http://ow.ly/1CXf

Building a Network of Gay Entrepreneurs

Last evening's Hampton Roads Business OutReach ("HRBOR") anniversary event was a huge success. While attendance numbers have not been finalized, estimates are between 220 and 250 people including local elected officials, Jessica Sandlin, a gay friendly Republican running for the 2nd Congressional District nomination, a host of business owners and representatives of some heavy hitting local non-profit organizations. Also in attendance was a representative of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce ("NGLCC") to announce that HRBOR was being awarded the NGLCC "Rising Star Award" - i.e, the chamber of the year. The formal presentation of the award will be in November in Washington, D.C. As one of the inaugural board members of HRBOR, it is amazing to see what has grown out of the efforts of a small core of like minded individuals. Equally important, I have made a circle of amazing friends and business referral sources.
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Thus, it was more than a bit ironic that when I opened by e-mail this morning a reader had forwarded to me a link to a New York Times story on networking groups for gay owned business. The story also looks at how some LGBT entrepreneurs have found the resolve to come out of the closet in their businesses. Here are some story highlights:
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How do you come out of the closet in your business? And how do you handle investors who might be uncomfortable with your vocal support of gay rights? Mr. Conley, 49, who came out four years before he opened his first hotel, the Phoenix, in 1987, recounted steering such investors to the Web site of Kimpton Hotels, a competitor that promotes its support for gay employees. Then he told them that one of Kimpton’s biggest investors was a former Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist. That example, Mr. Conley recalled, was enough to ease the investors’ concerns.
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Mr. Conley’s talk was organized by StartOut, a new nonprofit networking group for gay entrepreneurs. The group, organized by a circle of friends in spring 2009, has since drawn some 1,000 participants to events in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
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Entrepreneurs come to StartOut events to network, share ideas and sip cocktails. They come to talk business in a setting free of awkward assumptions (“What does your husband think?”). And they come to hear speakers like Mr. Conley, who serves on the group’s advisory board, or Mitchell Gold, the co-founder of the furniture company Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, or Megan Smith, the vice president for new business development at Google, who is headlining a StartOut event later this month. Darren Spedale, an investment banker turned serial entrepreneur in Manhattan, came up with the idea for StartOut a year ago.
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In fact, the last decade has seen a flowering of affinity groups for gays in business. . . . There are some 1.2 million gay-owned businesses in the United States and about 29,000 of them belong to local gay chambers of commerce, according to Justin G. Nelson, president and a founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which was organized in 2002 in Washington.
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For too many years, Mr. Nelson said, the prevailing attitude among gay entrepreneurs in America was, “It’s O.K. for me to be gay, but I can’t do it in my business for fear that it will ruin my company.” That message, however, has evolved.
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This month, StartOut volunteers plan to teach teenagers about entrepreneurship at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a New York City nonprofit organization that serves gay youths. Mr. Spedale and a few colleagues will play the part of investors, critiquing the teenagers as they come up with and present business ideas, discussing how to get clients, sell products and complete other entrepreneurial tasks.
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“You end up creating an ecosystem where people can help fund each other."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama - Former Army Cadet Sara Isaacson

Today's letter to our "fierce advocate" President Barack Obama is authored by Sara Isaacson who was thrown out of ROTC under Don't Ask, Don't Tell ("DADT"). As with the others service members who have been discharged under DADT, Isaacson's competence and ability were not at issue. Only her honesty and refusal to live her life according to the dictates of homophobic religious zealots abetted by gutless politicians all too ready to subvert the U.S. Constitution and it's guarantee of religious freedom for all citizens in order to pander for votes. Both DADT and the betrayal of LGBT Americans by Obama and Congressional Democrats sickens me. While I hold respect for the office of the presidency, I have lost all respect for Barack Obama the man. I - we all - have been betrayed. At times I believe that our lives mean absolutely nothing to them. It's as if we are not even human to them. Here is Sara Isaacson's letter:
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May 20, 2010
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President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
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Dear Mr. President,
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Two Saturdays ago – that’s the day I was looking forward to for four years. May 8, 2010: Commissioning Day.
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My parents should have pinned on my rank of Second Lieutenant. I was prepared to take the oath. To swear that I’d support and defend our constitution. But instead, I am writing a letter to you. There was no pinning. There was only the sudden reality that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” still very much exists and is still very much enforced.
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I wish that I could tell you stories about my distinguished military career, deployments, and awards. I cannot share such stories. This past January with you as my Commander-in-Chief, the opportunity to prove my merit as an Army Officer was taken away simply because I’m a lesbian.
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Inspired by my grandfather’s service, I made it my goal when I was 13-years-old to spend a career as an Army doctor. This dream was a driving force for me throughout high school and helped me to be accepted at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship.
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Being a Cadet has been an integral part of my identity since the first day I stepped foot on campus. I worked hard to be the best Cadet I could, and felt an obligation to my future soldiers to be a great officer. I was one of the most committed and dedicated members of my battalion. My efforts were rewarded with an “Excellent” rating this summer at the Leader Development and Assessment Camp, placing me in the top 3 Cadets in my platoon and top 20% of the nearly 5,500 Cadets who passed through Ft. Lewis.

I had the opportunity to spend three weeks at an internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where I decided that I wanted to see what life was like in the active duty Army before attending medical school. Instead of immediately pursuing my medical degree, I was fortunate to receive my first choice active duty placement working in the Air Defense Artillery.

My service to my country has centered on the Army core values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. My training has instilled these values in me, and I hold them in the highest regard. No one can take them away from me, and without them, I have nothing to fall back on.

In November of last year, I accepted that I’m a lesbian. It was the values of Honor and Integrity that forced me to come out to my Commander. I agonized wondering if I could go through my career lying about who I am, living in fear of being outed, and putting up emotional walls between me and my soldiers—the very people I must trust with my life and who would need to trust me with theirs.
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As much as I longed to be an officer, I realized I was not willing to compromise my Integrity to do so.
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Mr. President, I tell you this not looking for sympathy but rather to plead with you to do everything possible to end this arcane, discriminatory law. It hurts our military every day to force our men and women in uniform to lie or else face discharge.
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You gave me hope that I might be able to serve honestly and openly in your State of the Union Address. If you repeal this law today, I’ll sign up to serve my country tomorrow.
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Please do the right thing. Do not let any more service members be fired for being honest about who they are. Please work with Congress and the Pentagon to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.
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Mr. President, we can’t wait any longer.
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Very Respectfully,
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Former Cadet Sara Isaacson
United States Army

Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Obama is Betraying LGBT Americans

As the prior post indicates, I am beyond over Barack Obama's lies and failures of leadership. Waiting for a consensus to somehow fall out of the sky is hardly leadership and it is certainly not the kind of president that Obama promised he would be if elected. For the LGBT community he may not be as objectionable as a McCain-Palin regime, but with "friends" like Obama we can count on being second class citizens for many years to come. Most outrageously, he is allowing Bush/Cheney holdovers to dictate policy rather than set the agenda himself - and that's assuming he's not tacitly backing the betrayal behind closed doors. I hate to say it, but I have come to the point where I believe nothing the man says. Bush may have been a cretin, but he told the truth as he saw it in his delusional alternate universe. Secretary of Defense Gates needs to be fired by Obama now. A timely post at Pam's House Blend rightfully takes Obama - AND Congressional Democrats, including Virginia Senator Jim Webb - to task. Here are some highlights:
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With today's official confirmation that Democrat Ike Skelton refuses to include "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal language in the House's Defense Authorization bill, and reports are coming that Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson too has joined Democrat Sen. Jim Webb, and Republican Scott Brown in ruling out repeal in 2010. Their reason? They are listening to Bush-appointee and Obama holdover, Democratic Administration Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' recommendation to not to attach repeal to the Senate version of the Defense Authorization Bill. To anyone playing close attention, repeal seems hopelessly handicapped in 2010.
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And mostly, by the White House's complete and total lack of leadership. Because of Gates' unprecedented presumption to set the legislative calendar for Congress, and Obama's total silence and disengagement on the issue, it is undeniably the Democrats who are destroying hope for repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for 2010.
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They are telling our community as they always have: to wait. Not acceptable.
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I say to President Obama, we voted for you. Not George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense. We were expecting Change. And we expect you to keep the promises you made to our community. And we expect you to lead the Democrats, as the leader of the party. Your complete and total lack of leadership on this issue is more than a disappointment, it is a betrayal. It's time for the gay community-for the leaders of our national organizations-to come together, in total unity, and say with one voice: "We'll vote for you later." Later. As in Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010.
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Until Democrats fear ticking off the LGBT community, they clearly will be feckless allies and fair weather friends who take us for granted and feel no inclination to reward us for our tireless devotion to keeping them in power.
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Well, let them look at the prospect of midterms 2010, without our resources. No LGBT votes. None of our feet on the ground knocking on doors. Our pocketbooks sealed tight. To be clear, I don't want the Republicans in charge of the Senate or the House anymore than anyone else. But it is the only stick we have in our arsenal to discipline the Democrats into doing what they promised, what is right. As the Courage Campaign noted today, the relationship has become hopelessly dysfunctional. They clearly need a spanking. It is no longer enough they be better than the GOP, they must actually be good.
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It's time (way past time, really) for Human Rights Campaign, and every major LGBT organization to let a message be known, Obama and the Democrats have a proposal on the table: "President Obama and Secretary Gates must come out and endorse repeal this year. The leader of the party must bring Democrats in line to deliver on the promises he and the party have made to our community for years. Or every major LGBT organization will recommend LGBT Americans stay home during the midterm elections.

Gulf Oil Disaster - Florida Worries About Effect on Tourism

If dire predictions that oil from the British Petroleum oil debacle in the Gulf of Mexico are entering the so-called "loop current" prove accurate, Florida has good reason to be worried about harm to tourism - as do other coastal states in the Southeast, including the North Carolina Outer Banks region which is less than 25 from the Gulf Stream flow. Should the feckless folks at BP fail to stop the oil flow and Barack "Chicken Shit" Obama fail to get government assets more involved in stopping the disaster - no matter the cost to BP, the economic and environmental effects could be disastrous. Especially in states already reeling from the economic recession.
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The reality is that if summer tourism is badly reduced by concerns that oil slicks will cover beaches and/or foul offshore waters, it could mean bankruptcy for many businesses. In nearby Virginia Beach, hotels and many other businesses must make enough money in the summer months to keep them afloat and able to handle debt service and other operational costs the rest of the year. Ditto for the Outer Banks and every other beach resort area down the East Coast. Waiting for BP to fix a disaster it created does not constitute leadership from the White House. The New York Times looks at growing concerns in Florida. Here are some highlights:
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Off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the seas are calm and the king mackerel are running. Capt. Joe Meadows’s telephone should be ringing with bookings for his 42-foot sport-fishing boat for the summer season. Instead, the calls are from reservation holders wondering if they should cancel.
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For now, Florida tourism is living and dying in 72-hour increments. While no oil from the spill — sheen, slick, blobs or balls — has washed ashore on Florida beaches yet, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection is guaranteeing such conditions for only three days at a time.
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[B]ookings to destinations on Florida’s West Coast declined around 15 percent in the three weeks after the spill, compared with the three weeks before the spill, said Katie Deines Fourcin, a spokeswoman for Expedia.com. She said the trend was slightly worse for the Panhandle region.
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Many travelers have already decided to avoid the area for now. Robert Baldari, 60, and his four brothers had chosen Key West for a week of scuba diving and dining for their annual vacation, but they postponed their trip this week.
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Under normal circumstances, most hotels in the Panhandle would be fully booked by now for Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of the peak summer tourism season. This year, plenty of rooms are still available. “The pace of new reservations is down 70 percent,” said Julian MacQueen, chief executive of Innisfree Hotels, which operates four hotels along the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast.
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The same situation is playing out hundreds of miles away at Florida’s southern tip. When asked if new reservations were down at her Key West hotel, Carol Wightman, owner of the Marquesa, laughed and said, “Have you heard the phone ringing?”
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[T]he spill could still have a substantial effect on fish populations, Dr. Ortner said. “I am concerned that a lot of species’ larvae — snapper, lobster, blue fin tuna, dolphin, billfish — are out on the edge of the Gulf Stream and loop,” he said, referring to the powerful current that carries warm water in a clockwise motion from the Yucat√°n Peninsula into the northern Gulf of Mexico, then south of the Florida Keys and out into the Atlantic. “Newborns and larvae are much more sensitive that adults. They are vulnerable.”
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Damage to those populations would be more bad news for Captain Meadows and the $5.2 billion sport fishing industry.
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The boyfriend and I are headed to South Florida Memorial Weekend to visit a couple of his clients - one in Ft. Lauderdale and one in Marathon Key - and then a friend in Key West. Obviously, we are worried as to what we may find. With airline tickets non-refundable, we will be going no matter what, but many other tourists do have the option of cancelling or not booking in the first place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Most Straights Don't Get

The current debate about whether or not Elena Kagan's sexual orientation is relevant to her qualification for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court has revealed a number of starkly varying mindsets across the country. First, the professional Christians and religious extremist demagogues at the first slight suggestion that Kagan might be lesbian began to foam at the mouth, denouncing her as sinful, immoral, etc., and declared her totally unfit for the Court. On the opposite extreme others say that it's an issue that has no relevance whatsoever. Others while not disturbed by the issue have acted as if sexual orientation is nothing more than behavior to be taken on or discarded. Yet others have minimized the impact that being gay has on one's psyche and emotional development. Having spent decades in the closet myself I beg to differ with this last perspective. True, one's sexual orientation is not the sole defining aspect of an individual. However, in this country's still far too homophobic society, being gay and struggling to deal with that reality IS a defining experience. I by no means intend to disparage LGBT allies, but until it is you, you cannot fully know what another has experienced. Even the most sincere attempts at empathy do not provide a full understanding. Andrew Sullivan sums up the reality well and argues that straights still don't "get it" and to the extent Kagan's sexual orientation is in question, it is relevant for something different than what many assume: Here are highlights:
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[W]hile a potential justice's personal life or sexual orientation can certainly influence her innate understanding and experience in the world, it is no more relevant than thousands of other factors in her life experience. - This is a sentence that could only be written by a straight person.
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This is what a gay person must go through to get to adulthood: he or she must figure out she's different at varying ages, but usually, clearly by mid-adolescence. The dating question looms, as does the marriage question. What do you do? Many gay kids pretend to be straight for a while (mercifully fewer than in the past); many come out and begin the difficult pursuit of love and intimacy and, in some states, marriage; others make a strategic decision to lie about themselves or to construct a public persona drained of any emotional or relationship content so they always avoid the question. At every stage of this evolution, the gay person is made deeply aware of his or her marginalized status as a citizen and as a human being. Few identities expose as much how the law can oppress, stigmatize and alienate.
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With all due respect, this is more relevant than "thousands of other factors" in someone's life. This experience, certainly for someone of my generation and older, cannot but be formative, whether it is repressed, engaged, hidden or run from. To remain closeted requires a massive use of emotional and psychological resources to distract, dissociate, lie, euphemize, cover, appease. It requires deception every day.
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This question is not about someone's sexual preferences - by which I mean, whether you like your partners tall, short, hairy, buxom, skinny, fat, whatever, and what you might like to do with them. It's about your emotional core and the integrity with which you have lived your life. It matters if a Supreme Court Justice has lived his life as a convenient careerist lie. It tells us a lot about him. And for gay people who have had to make these choices, and risked a huge amount to do so, it is somewhat offensive to be told this experience is just not that big a deal
.
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Personally, I have no idea whether Kagan is a lesbian or not. I do think the question of emotional core and integrity raised by Andrew is important. I believe this discussion is also relevant in terms of the debate on repeal of DADT. Do we really want a policy that causes service members to be secretive, lie, and live their lives and perform their duties as if playing an actor's role? Or do we want service members who are honest, live with integrity and who are well adjusted?

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Final Reminder - HRBOR Anniversary Party Tomorrow

Just a final reminder to local readers that Hampton Roads Business OutReach ("HRBOR") is holding its Third Anniversary Event tomorrow, Thursday, May 20, 2010 at the 21st Street location of Decorum Furniture. Heritage Bank is hosting the food refreshments. Here are the details for locals who I hope will attend because the event is FREE and open to the public and because it is a wonderful way to make friends and network for those with businesses. The NGLCC will be represented and will have a special surprise - HRBOR is receiving the 2010 "Rising Star Award. Here are details:


DATE: MAy 20, 2010, Thursday
TIME: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
HOST: Decorum Furniture, Claus Ihlemann and Robert Roman
PLACE: Historic Ghent
301 West 21st Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
757.623.3100
http://www.decorumfurniture.com/
(Parking available in lot behind the store on W 20th Street)

FEATURED NON-PROFIT:
HRBOR, Hampton Roads Business OutReach -
It’s our Third Anniversary, so we are opening our doors to the Public in celebration of our Third Birthday as an organization. No guest fees! Come meet our members, network with other business professionals and see what HRBOR is all about. We have some great plans for the future!!!

COST: May’s Third Thursday is FREE, no Guest Fees this Month. Open to the Public in honor of HRBOR’s Third Anniversary! (Members Free each month)

Gulf Oil Spill Enters "Loop Current" with Florida and East Coast at Risk

The evening news shows on MSNBC have had plenty of coverage of the growing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum is proving itself as incompetent in stopping the oil gushing into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico as incompetent as it was in making sure that safety rules and procedures were followed before the blowout occurred. Some - and I am one of them - believe that the U.S. government needs to take control of the effort to stop the oil flow and do whatever is needed to blow up the well head and stop the oil flow - even if that means the well and surrounding area are lost completely and BP takes an even bigger financial hit on the lost well. Incredibly, the CEO of BP was delusional enough to previously claim that the damage from the spill would not be a major catastrophe. Now, reports are coming in that not only is the Gulf of Mexico being destroyed - along with the local fishing and seafood industries - but that now the Florida Keys and the majority of the East Coast ARE potentially going to be damaged. The still flowing oil has found its way into the "loop current" that flows clockwise around the Gulf , through the Florida Straits and then up the East Coast via the Gulf Stream. Here are highlights from a BBC report:
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A "small portion" of oil sheen is in the Loop Current, which circulates in the Gulf, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. Diluted oil could appear in isolated parts of Florida if persistent winds pushed the current that way, it added.
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European scientists warn the spill could reach Florida within six days. Oil has been spewing into the Gulf since the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, leased by oil giant BP, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on 20 April and sank two days later.
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Satellite images released by the European Space Agency (ESA) depict a streak of oil stretching south from the main slick into the Loop Current - a body of fast-flowing water coming from the Caribbean which the agency says is likely to propel oil towards Florida within six days.
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Also on Wednesday, the US said it was having talks with Cuba over the spill. Observers say the rare talks demonstrate a concern that the oil may be carried by currents far from the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
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In Louisiana, a lawyer has asked a panel of federal judges to consolidate more than 100 cases related to the oil spill into a single action. Daniel Becnel asked that the growing number of cases against oil companies BP, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron be combined and heard in Louisiana, the Associated Press news agency reported. The lawsuits have been filed by commercial fishermen, restaurants, hotels and property owners and others who say the oil spill has cost them income.

Bill McCollum's Ethical Challenge

It's an issue that could trip up other members of the nation's state bars - the ethical duty as an attorney to inform the court of false testimony introduced by a client or witness. True, many witnesses likely stretch the truth everyday. But when the witness giving false testimony is a state retained expert hand picked by the state's attorney general, the issues become really dicey. Not following the narrative yet? I'm talking about Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum who selected George A. Rekers of recent rentboy.com fame as the State of Florida's star "expert" witness in a case seeking to uphold the Florida ban on gay adoption. A New York Times article looks at the bind in which McCollum put himself in his rush to pander to the Christianists in the Florida GOP. The irony, of course, is that McCollum's woes are self-inflicted. Here are some highlights:
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But legal experts say the scandal may affect more than Dr. Rekers’s reputation. They say it places obligations on those who have relied on Dr. Rekers to inform the court in at least one continuing case to modify or withdraw their arguments.
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“Each lawyer must tell the court if he comes to know that one of his witnesses has given ‘false’ testimony,” said Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University. That could come into play if the expert is discredited, he added.

Dr. Rekers has responded to the storm of coverage with a mix of withdrawal and defiance. He resigned from the board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a group that argues that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy. On the group’s Web site, he denounced the “false reports,” stating: “I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.”
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Regardless of what occurred in Europe, the trip could affect cases in the United States. Dr. Rekers’ involvement, for example, has been critical in a suit challenging a Florida law banning adoption by gay parents. His testimony was a major part of Attorney General Bill McCollum’s defense of the statute, for which the state paid Dr. Rekers $120,000.
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Mr. McCollum has distanced himself from Dr. Rekers. “It is safe to say that if this case moves beyond this stage, Mr. Rekers will have no further involvement in the case,” said Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCollum. “We will certainly not be recommending him in the future.”
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In the November 2008 decision declaring the Florida gay adoption law unconstitutional, Judge Cindy Lederman of Miami-Dade Circuit Court wrote that Dr. Rekers was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science,” and not “credible.” Mr. McCollum, a Republican who is running for governor, has appealed that decision. In papers filed well before the scandal broke, he denounced the court’s “wholesale disregard” of testimony by Dr. Rekers and another expert, calling the decision “arbitrary,” stressing Dr. Rekers’ qualifications and stating that “the trial court entirely discredited him based on his religion.”
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To Professor Gillers, Mr. McCollum is now obligated both as a lawyer and as a public official to alert the appellate court. “It is not enough for the attorney general simply to refrain from relying on the testimony in his brief and argument,” he said. “He has an affirmative duty to speak up.”
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The practical effect of the Rekers scandal on the legal movement to restrict gay rights is unclear. He is not the only expert espousing such views. Another Arkansas case concerning restrictions on gay adoption is under way, for example, and Dr. Rekers is not part of that case. The universe of such experts, however, may not be large
.
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It can only be hoped that other state attorney generals and those who would knowingly use faux experts backed by the Christian Right in court cases will think twice before doing so if it may set them up for ethics charges before the state bar. Is winning a case worth losing one's license?

Wednesday Male Beauty

Iowa: More Out-of-State Gay Residents Marry than Gay Residents

The Des Moines Register is reporting that 2,020 same sex couples married in Iowa since last April when same sex marriage became legal in Iowa. That number represents more than all marriages performed in Iowa during that time period. Obviously, there is a demand for marriage in the heartland and I can only suspect that Iowa has benefited from the marriages of roughly 1,200 out-of-state same sex couples. Here in Christianist dominated Virginia, LGBT couples must travel to Washington, D.C, and other destinations to marry - taking and spending money that might otherwise boost Virginia's economy in those alternate destinations. Again, religious based bigotry does have a financial cost. Here are some story highlights:
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A new report from the Iowa Department of Public Health says 2,020 same-sex marriages were recorded in the state from April 27, 2009, through March 31, 2010. Only 815 of the couples were from Iowa. The newly married included 199 gay couples from Illinois, 158 from Missouri and 111 from Nebraska.
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Overall, 19,904 couples were married in Iowa during the time period. Of those, 2,020 were listed as “same gender” couples, 16,869 were listed as “opposite gender” and 1,015 were listed as “not stated.” Among gay couples getting married here, 728 were two men, and 1,292 were two women.
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Polk County had the most gay marriages, with 484; Scott County had 238; Johnson County had 235; and Pottawattamie County had 222.

U.S. Navy May Save Virginia from Offshore Drilling

Interestingly enough, the U.S. military - which has caused enough environmental damage on its own over the decades - now may save Virginia's coast from offshore drilling. It also puts Gov. Taliban Bob McDonnell in a bind since he claims to worship the military, yet seems all to ready to jump in the pocket of Big Oil. It seems the U.S. Navy has stated loudly that offshore drilling is incompatible with naval operations in three quarters of the area sought to be leased by McDonnell under a federal program. Even before this announcement, support for offshore drilling has been plummeting as coverage of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico hits the airwaves daily. Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:
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Drilling in most of the Virginia coastal waters that the government wants to use for oil and gas exploration would interfere significantly with military operations, the Defense Department said in yet another major road block for offshore drilling.
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The Pentagon report showed that roughly three-fourths of a proposed lease site would be completely off limits to oil and gas exploration because it would interfere with training, testing, gunnery exercises and other operations, particularly the Norfolk naval base, the world's largest. Much of the rest of the tract is already heavily used by commercial ships served by busy ports in Hampton Roads and Baltimore.
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Rep. Jim Moran, an opponent of offshore drilling, wrote a letter Tuesday to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, urging him to back off on his push for offshore drilling.
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"I trust you would agree that the presence of the Department of Defense in the Commonwealth is of greater benefit than anything that could be derived from offshore drilling," Moran wrote.
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The Pentagon cannot unilaterally veto drilling proposals, but Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, said the Defense and Interior departments have a long history of cooperation, and drilling has never taken place in an area objected to by the military. "We have every expectation that if we said we need an area ... that they would fully honor that," Robyn said.
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In recent weeks, McDonnell has continued to support offshore drilling while calling for a thorough investigation of the Gulf spill. In March, McDonnell suggested that the Virginia tract should be expanded, which could potentially allow oil companies to more effectively work around any military restrictions.

Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama - Former Sergeant Darren Manzella

Here in the Hampton Roads area between the huge Navy presence, the Air Force at Langley Air Base and Army and Marine personnel at several other military installations in the area, there are literally thousands of gay LGBT service members honorably and diligently serving in the U.S. Military. Some I know personally have done multiple deployments to Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Despite their faithful and competent service to their country, these service members have to live in fear that some disgruntled homophobe could end their career merely by making allegations against them - allegations that often are not even true. Others have to keep their partners hidden and must worry that a slip of the tongue could lead to disaster. And who is served by this policy? Frankly no one other than the Christianists and professional Christians who make a livelihood and stroke their own egos by maintaining legalized discrimination against LGBT Americans as they try to force Christianist religious views on all citizens. Sadly, our president still chooses to be blind to this reality as our other members of Congress who by their inaction subvert the very U.S. Constitution that they have sworn an oath to uphold. Today's letter to our self proclaimed, no action "fierce advocate" President Obama is authored by Former Sergeant Darren Manzella, U. S. Army (pictured above):
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May 19, 2010
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President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
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Dear Mr. President,
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It was spring 2004. I had just arrived in Baghdad. We’d been there all but four days. Then it happened. It was an ambush. It ended with my good friend shot dead. I was overwhelmed by emotions of anger and sadness, but also confusion.

At that moment, my perspective on life changed; I wondered, what if I had been killed in action and had never come to terms with who I truly was and, even worse, never had the chance to share it with my loved ones? There comes a point when acceptance is your only salvation—my return from Iraq was my moment.
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I served two tours of duty in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Soldier in the United States Army. I was promoted to sergeant, was a team leader of a medical squad, and conducted over 100 12-hour patrols in the streets of Baghdad, treating wounds and evacuating casualties of sniper fire and roadside bombs. I applied for Officer Candidate School under the recommendation of two generals in my chain of command. But, today, instead of protecting my fellow Americans, I sit working in a university development office because I was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
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When I came out, the first people I told were comrades, with whom I had just spent 12 months in Baghdad. To be honest, I was scared of their rejection more than the mortar and rocket attacks, ambushes, or roadside explosives. But, they showed immense understanding of what I had been going through and offered unconditional support. The response from my brothers and sisters in arms proved that the military is a family—no matter if you are man, woman, black, white, transgender, gay, or straight. What truly matters is whether you can trust the person next to you. And how can trust be built around a lie?
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One day, I received an email from a Soldier I had never met; it said I was being investigated under DADT and that I would be stripped of my rank and pay and eventually discharged. I tried to ignore it, but the emails continued and became more derogatory. Soon, I began receiving similar phone calls at work.
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Unsure of who to trust, on edge every second, and losing more and more sleep each night, I approached my supervisor. I was a Soldier who lived by all seven of the Army values, including honesty. I refused to have someone else end my career. He offered a sympathetic ear before reporting me to the legal department.
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After an investigation into my statements and the harassment, I was told I was an exceptional Soldier and to “drive on” with my work. It was a great a relief to break the silence. My colleagues suddenly understood why I had always been so detached and began asking me to join them in activities outside of work.
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Later that year my division deployed again and I served the entirety of the deployment as an openly gay Soldier. I no longer had to lie if someone asked if I were married or had a girlfriend, I didn’t have to write my emails in “code.” I no longer feared being “outed.” I finally was able to be honest.
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After arriving in Iraq for the second deployment I was promoted once again and served my division as the medical liaison officer in Kuwait. It was there that I participated in an interview with Leslie Stahl for 60 Minutes with the focus being on a out gay Soldier working in a combat zone.
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I gave voice to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve everyday under the fear of DADT. The interview also ended my career. I was honorably discharged on June 10, 2008.
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While I sit in a safe and comfortable civilian office, former comrades and friends continue to serve, leaving their families for a third, fourth, or even fifth deployment. Why am I not able to stand in the place of my battle buddy who has left his wife three times to deploy and missed the birth of his new born child? Why are exceptions being made to enlist individuals with subpar mental and physical standards? And why are serious convicted felons granted waivers to serve while I was pushed out the door?
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Mr. President, last year you restored my hope that this discriminatory law will be repealed, but I must admit that my spirit has been shaken because DADT still exists. Every day, we lose dedicated and capable service members while other Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen sacrifice more than their share. My experience demonstrates what matters most is competence, trust and ability. Why then should we wait another year or another decade to do what is right?
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Sincerely,
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Former Sergeant Darren Manzella
United States Army

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Our Not So "Fierce Advocate," Barack Obama

Among the calculated blather that Barack has put out both during his presidential campaign and since assuming office is that he promised/promises to be a "fierce advocate" for LGT equality. In my personal view, he has largely thrown LGBT Americans under the bus having secured our money and votes for his own further aggrandizement during his campaign. Did he mean any of it? I guess we will never know for certain. However, when you look at the "accomplishments" of Obama in terms of LGBT equality to date, the track record over all is pitiful and suggests that Obama merely cynically used LGBT voters in his quest to get elected. As I have confessed before, he certainly played me for a fool and I put forth effort that I would have reserved for other issues had I realized that all of Obama's pretty words were more or less lies. John Aravosis at Gay.America Blog - whom I chatted with yesterday via e-mail - has put together a good overview of Obama's record on LGBT issues in response to Democrat efforts to make it sound like Obama has lived up to his campaign promises - even though he has not. Here is in John's response/summary its entirety (NOTE: it merits a full read if you have not already read it):
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DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias has compiled a list of President Obama's 30 biggest gay accomplishments during his presidency. Let's take a walk through that list. And make sure you keep a running tally of how much political capital the President has spent to make these "accomplishments" happen - the total amount is zero.
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Here's the list, with my commentary after each "accomplishment."
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1. Reversed an inexcusable US position by signing the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
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That's nice. No idea how it impacts any of our lives, but I suppose it's nice.
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2. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
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That's a lie. And it's one the administration keeps pushing, even though we caught them in the lie, and the NYT reported on our catching them. The benefits weren't "extended." Gay federal employees were already getting these benefits for at least the past 15 years, under Democratic and Republican administrations. I got the head of OPM, John Berry, to admit this during a media conference call. It's unfortunate that the administration and its allies continue to lie about this point.
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3. Endorsed the Baldwin-Lieberman bill, The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, to provide full partnership benefits to federal employees
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BFD. Endorsed? With all due respect, WTF cares if the President "endorses" some legislation that he's never going to lift a finger to help pass? This is part of the "all talk" nature of the President's, and the Democratic party's, commitment to our civil rights. They believe that talking about giving us rights is the same thing as actually giving us those rights or at the very least, trying to give us those rights.
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4. Signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act
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Good.
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5. Lifted the HIV Entry Ban effective January 2010
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Took him a year, and Congress had already repealed the travel ban during the Bush administration, but still, it's a good thing.
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6. Released the first Presidential PRIDE proclamation since 2000
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Words.

7. Hosted the first LGBT Pride Month Celebration in White House history
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The champagne version of "words." This cocktail party was thrown together at the last minute to try to deflect attention away from the administration's legal brief defending DOMA in court - a brief that invoked incest and pedophilia.
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8. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King
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Again, nice. But what's the actual impact on our civil rights of these medals? How much political capital did the President spend giving these medals?
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9. Appointed the first transgender DNC member in history

That's good.
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10. Issued diplomatic passports, and provided other benefits, to the partners of same-sex foreign service employees
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That's good. I still think it was Hillary who did this, but still, it's a good thing.
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11. Committed to ensuring that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity
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"Committed to ensuring?" Seriously, Andy? Those are words. It means he hasn't done it. He's simply said he will, some day. That will be a recurring theme.
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12. Conceived a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders -- the nation's first ever -- funded by a three-year HHS grant to SAGE
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Good.
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13. Testified in favor of ENDA, the first time any official of any administration has testified in the Senate on ENDA
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Words. Obama hasn't lifted a finger to get ENDA passed.
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14. Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability -- the first positive federal LGBT legislation in the nation's history
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This one is tricky. Of course it's a good thing the bill became law. But the hate crimes bill passed Congress before, and even survived a GOP filibuster attempt. Any Democratic president would have signed the law. And again,
Obama spent no political capital helping to ensure the law's passage. HRC likes to say he did, but they can't point to one thing he actually did.
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15. Supported lower taxes for same-sex couples who receive health benefits from employers
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"Supported"? What does that mean? Words. What did he actually DO to try to make it happen? Has it happened? Of course, the answer is "no" because the provisions were included in the House version of the Health Care Reform bill, but not the Senate version. And which version did the Obama administration support? The Senate version! So, in fact, they did not support us in getting this provision.
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16. Hired and appointed a record number of qualified LGBT Americans, including more than 10 Senate-confirmed appointments
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That's great. But we didn't get a single Cabinet secretary, even though three Latinos were nominated for the Cabinet. And let's not forget our ambassador to Samoa. When do we get a real ambassadorship? Speaking of real jobs, the most senior gay in the administration is the head of the Office of Personnel Management. When do we get a policy job?
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17. Sworn in Ambassador David Huebner
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Yeah, Samoa. Mind you, George Bush and Bill Clinton both had gay ambassadors, so this isn't really an accomplishment at all.
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18. Changed the culture of government everywhere from – among others – HUD and HHS to the Export-Import Bank, the State Department, and the Department of Education
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"Changed the culture?" Seriously, Andy? What the hell does that even mean?
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19. Appointed Sonia Sotomayor, instead of a conservative who would have tilted the Court even further to the right and virtually doomed our rights for a generation...
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Now that is utter bullshit. That's not a gay accomplishment, unless she's a lesbian. Has Sotomayor said she's in favor of marriage? That she'd strike down DADT and ENDA? We're to believe that the President picket Sotomayor expressly to help the gays? What is this even doing in a list of gay accomplishments?
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20. Named open transgender appointees (the first President ever to do so)
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That's good.
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21. Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation's largest employer)
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That's good.
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22. Emphasized LGBT inclusion in everything from the President’s historic NAACP address...
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He gave a speech? Words, Andy. We've had enough of the pro-gay speeches. When do we get action?
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23. Recommitted, in a televised address, to passing ENDA . . . repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell . . . repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act
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LOL Okay that one deserves a laugh out loud. Now it's an accomplishment when the President reiterates a promise he hasn't kept, and has made no moves whatsoever towards keeping. Words. Why doesn't he just reiterate the promise 30 more times, then this list could be twice as big!
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24. Spoken out against discrimination at the National Prayer Breakfast
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That's nice, and had the President actually followed through on the significant promises, this one would be a very nice addition. As one of the only things he's done for us, it's quite thin.
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25. Dispatched the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call on the Senate to repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell, in the meantime dialing back on discharges
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Oh please. And he also let the Sec of Defense torpedo DADT repeal this year, which means it won't happen for years to come (since we're expected to lose massive numbers of Democrats in the fall congressional elections). Not to mention, we're now going to list every single thing the President does to lobby for DADT as a separate "accomplishment"? And, we're going to take an issue that he has supremely screwed up, like DADT, and give him credit for it?
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26. Launched a website to gather public comment on first-ever federal LGBT housing discrimination study
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Launched a Web site. I'm speechless.
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27. Appointed long-time equality champion Chai Feldblum one of the four Commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
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That's good.
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28. Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept our relationships from being counted, encouraging couples who consider themselves married to file that way, even if their state of residence does not yet permit legal marriage
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That's good.
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29. Produced U.S. Census Bureau PSAs featuring gay, lesbian, and transgender spokespersons.
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A rather minor accomplishment - I mean, created a PSA? - but I guess it's a step forward.
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30. Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) to allow LGBT visitation rights.
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This one is also tricky. Of course, anything to help partners in hospitals is a good thing, but it's a rather small step compared to everything the President actually promised. Had he followed through on the big promises, this would have been a welcome addition. But since this is now being touted as a huge promise, and it's one of his only ones, it's rather small bits.
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In conclusion, there are a few significant accomplishments on this list - but even those do not rank in the top tier of promises made to our community by President Obama (i.e., DOMA, ENDA, DADT). They're the B-grade accomplishments, and below. And even the B-grade ones, like Hate Crimes, are only a few - and even those, the President did little, if anything, to make them happen. Then there are things like "built a Web site" and "reiterated a promise" that are simply laughable, and show the lack of sincerity of those who claim that the President has been our best friend ever. They're trying to trick us by compiling as large a list as possible, in the hopes that we won't notice that the "accomplishments" on that list, for the most part, are all quite small.
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We were promised CHANGE. Not change.
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Over all, about all that Obama can claim is that he hasn't been as anti-gay as George W. Bush. As for major accomplishments and major promises that have been kept? There are none. Yet Obama and Congressional Democrats somehow think LGBT Americans should be flocking to donate money, get out and vote and figuratively kiss Obama's ring. I'm sorry, but not me and not many other that I know who are tired of being played for chumps.