Friday, May 7, 2010

Stay until the end when Stewart covers Reker's "European gaycation"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Family Research Council's European Gaycation

Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

A moving letter from Harry Truman's grandson to President Obama

Here's another letter in the campaign to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.

May 7, 2010
Truman Family

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Tomorrow, my family and I will mark the 126th anniversary of my grandfather President Harry Truman’s birthday. There are many reasons we celebrate his life and contributions to our nation, but in particular we are proud of his decision to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in July 1948, which paved the way for future civil rights advancements.

It was not easy. He faced fierce opposition from inside and outside the military. Many, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley, argued that mixing black and white soldiers would destroy the Army.

My grandfather, however, was appalled that African-American service members had been beaten and lynched upon their return home from fighting in World War II. They had risked their lives to defend our nation, but were denied the full rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Implementation of his order to desegregate wasn’t easy, but it made our military stronger and our nation a brighter beacon of democracy.

There are strong parallels between the desegregation of the military and the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that mandates the firing of a service member based solely on his or her sexual orientation. Opponents argue that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve alongside their heterosexual comrades will endanger discipline and morale.

While I have no idea where my grandfather would stand on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I do know that he admired service and sacrifice. An estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen are willingly risking their lives to defend our nation, despite being treated as second class citizens.

I would hope that my grandfather would want his openly gay great-granddaughter and others like her to have the opportunity to serve the country they love with dignity and integrity.

Mr. President, as you have said many times, including in your State of the Union Address earlier this year, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the right thing to do. This year is the right time to do it.

I commend you for your commitment and hope the example of my grandfather, Harry Truman, will help you lead with the same courage and conviction to ensure the "equality of treatment and opportunity for all who serve our nation’s defense.”

Clifton Truman Daniel

The fact that I traveled with a young blond I found on doesn't make me gay!

The story of George Reker, the ardently  anti-gay activist who was found with a young gay prostitute, keeps getting stranger.  Today the Miami Herald, which broke the story, published an email by Reker.  Here is part of it:
If today’s news story in the Miami New Times is accurate, I have been advised to retain the services of a defamation attorney in this matter, because the fact is that I am not gay and never have been.

My travel assistant called me this afternoon earnestly asking me to clarify on my website that he worked for me as a travel companion and not as a prostitute. I completely agreed with my travel assistant that it is absolutely true that I hired him and he worked for me as a travel companion and not as a prostitute. I also read to him the first sentence that has been posted on my website for several days that says, “A recent article in an alternative newspaper cleverly gave false impressions of inappropriate behavior because of its misleading innuendo, incorrectly implying that Professor George Rekers used the Rentboy website to hire a prostitute to accompany him on a recent trip.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these photos of Mr. Reker's "baggage handler" pretty much tell the story.

I am generally against outing people against their will.  I also tend to be sympathetic to LGBT folks in the closet, especially those who came of age in an era when being openly gay was not only difficult, but also quite dangerous.  However, all bets are off when one of those closeted people have spent their lives attacking the LGBT community.

(Thanks to Joe.My.God.)

"I am not gay and never have been gay."

(via Joe.My. God.)

Good news from Argentina

The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News is reporting that Argentina may be one step closer to permitting same-sex marriage.  Here's the story:

By a 129-105 vote, with six abstentions, the House of Deputies approved same-sex marriage on Wednesday, May 5.

The Senate will now take up the legislation. If the Senate also passes the bill, President Cristina Fernandez has promised not to veto it.

Gay rights activist Esteban Paulon said the vote in the House of Deputies is historic - the first time a marriage-equality initiative has been debated in a national legislature in Latin America.

Five gay and lesbian couples have already been married by Argentine judges who rules that the country's constitution supports freedom of choice for couples. But some of the marriages have been overturned by the high court.

Conservatives led by the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes the marriage equality.

If Argentina approves gay marriage, it would join Canada as the only other country in the Americas offering marriage equality.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

DOMA is challenged

Will Buchanan of The Christian Science Monitor reported on yesterday's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples.  The challenge began in a federal courtroom in Boston.  At issue is whether or not gay couples legally married under state law are entitled to the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Wrote Buchanan:
Eight same-sex couples and three widowers, who filed their suit last year, are challenging the 1996 federal law known as DOMA, which bans gay marriage. They argue DOMA is unconstitutional because it denies them equal protection under the law.

The case puts the Obama administration in an unusual situation. The president has said he would like to see DOMA repealed, but the Justice Department is tasked with defending the law.

“The government does not presently support DOMA and would like to see it repealed, But we do argue for its constitutionality,” said Justice Department attorney W. Scott Simpson at the onset of his argument. He filed a motion to dismiss the challenge to the federal law, arguing for the US government’s right and responsibility to apply federal law as it sees fit, regardless of some states’ decision to “experiment” with broadening the traditional definition of marriage.
This is not the first time that the Obama Administration has defended the discriminatory law.  A previous defense used the usual insulting language heard from the Bush administration to deny same-sex couples the basic rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is supporting the challenge.  This is the same group that won the 2003 case in Massachusetts that legalized same-sex marriage.  GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto (center of photo, above) asked the court to rule in favor of her clients in a summary judgment – a decision made before a full trial ensues. She argued that DOMA’s legislative history clearly shows it to be an inappropriate and unconstitutional effort by Congress to express “moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Buchanan describes the plaintiffs as "a retiree of the federal Social Security Administration who was denied health insurance for his spouse; three widowers who were denied death benefits for funeral expenses; and couples who have paid more in federal taxes because they are not allowed to file joint returns, according to the Associated Press."
The New York Times recently ran a slide show showing some inadvertently funny translations in China.  Click and enjoy.

Funny translations

Didn't we leave the Middle Ages? is carrying a story about outrageous remarks made by a Brazilian archbishop. 

A Brazilian archbishop has claimed that children are "spontaneously gay." He added that gay rights will lead to rights for pedophiles.

Although Archbishop Dadeus Grings (right) did condemn childhood sexual abuse within the church he also argued that internal punishment of guilty priests was sufficient, rather that involving the police.

Grings, who is the archbishop of the Porto Alegre diocese, one of the largest in Brazil, said: "For the church to go and accuse its own sons would be a little strange."

He also warned of the dangers of homosexuality, saying: "We know that the adolescent is spontaneously homosexual. Boys play with boys, girls play with girls.

"If there is no proper guidance, this sticks. The question is – how are we going to educate our children to use a sexuality that is human and suitable?"

He added that equal rights for gays and lesbians would "pretty soon" lead to acceptance of pedophilia.

He told the newspaper: "When sexuality is trivialized, it's clear that this is going to affect all cases. Homosexuality is such a case. Before, the homosexual wasn't spoken of. He was discriminated against.

"When we begin to say they have rights, rights to demonstrate publicly, pretty soon, we'll find the rights of pedophiles."

According to Associated Press, Grings has also upset Jewish groups in the past with remarks about the Holocaust.

Last year, he told a magazine that "more Catholics than Jews died in the Holocaust, but this isn't known because the Jews control the world's media."

What I find so ironic here is that it is the archbishop who is "trivializing" the sexual abuse of children by arguing that police have no role in the scandal.  It is still staggering to me that these sorts of men are leaders of the church.  It's as if they never left the Middle Ages.

Such petty meanness

Why do some of us call the anti-equality movement hate?  Perhaps because of the incredibly petty meanness apparent in stories like these, reported by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa:

A state senator who opposes gay marriage is asking questions about plans to change a camping rule in the state park system. Just over a year ago the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling which legalized gay marriage in Iowa.

Senator Merlin Bartz (left), a Republican from Grafton, says it appears to him that the Department of Natural Resources wants to make gay couples eligible for family camping at state parks. “They’re citing the Supreme Court case and changing, you know, ‘husband and wife’ language to ’spouse,’” Bartz says.
The rates or fees for camp sites are the same, whether you’re a family or a non-family, but the state allows families to put up more than one tent on a camp site. “They’re changing their language even though the state legislature has not had a debate on this particular issue,” Bartz says.

Bartz is a member of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee which meets on Monday. He’s asked D.N.R. officials to explain their proposal at that meeting. Bartz says he wants to be “vigilant” and keep state agencies from writing rules that extend new benefits to gay couples. “A lot of the advocates of gay marriage in Iowa have said, ‘It doesn’t affect anything. Nothing has changed,’” Bartz says. “The reality of it is that everything is changing.”

Bartz concedes the D.N.R. might be sued if they fail to ensure “family” policies for camping apply to gay couples, although Bartz says the state may be sued by gay marriage opponents if the rule is changed. The proposed rule will be formally presented to Bartz and the rest of the legislative panel on May10th, but the final draft won’t be up for a committee vote until later this summer.  At that point the Administrative Rules Review Committee has several options to delay implementation, including a move which would delay a decision on family camping policies until 2011 so the full legislature could make the decision.

All of this over the permission to put up two pop tents rather than one?  Yup.  I think that's hate.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dogs in Snow (second attempt)

Apparently the "Dogs in Snow" video on Monday didn't download for some of you.  Here another stab at it.

Thanks again to Steve H.

Another anti-gay activist gets caught with his pants down

Here's a story reported in the Miami Herald and then posted on Joe.My.God.   This sort of story is becoming quite clich├ęd. When folks are so ardently anti-gay, you really do have to wonder where the hatred is coming from.  George Alan Rekers is a member of the virulently anti-gay NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) and a co-founder of the equally hateful Family Research Council.  He is also author of the book, Shaping Your Child's Sexual Identity.  Here's the story as reported on Joe.My.God:
On April 13, the "rent boy" (whom we'll call Lucien) arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberian Airlines Flight 6123, after a ten-day, fully subsidized trip to Europe. He was soon followed out of customs by an old man with an atavistic mustache and a desperate blond comb-over, pushing an overburdened baggage cart. That man was George Alan Rekers, of North Miami — the callboy's client and, as it happens, one of America's most prominent anti-gay activists. Rekers, a Baptist minister who is a leading scholar for the Christian right, left the terminal with his gay escort, looking a bit discomfited when a picture of the two was snapped with a hot-pink digital camera. Reached by New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. "I had surgery," Rekers said, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him." (Though medical problems didn't stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart through MIA.) Yet Rekers wouldn't deny he met his slender, blond escort at — which features homepage images of men in bondage and grainy videos of crotch-rubbing twinks — and Lucien confirmed it.

Oil spill like chocolate milk, says Congressman

Here's a story from the Huffington Post (via Peter C.) that left me shaking my head:

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) suggested over the weekend that people shouldn't be "scared" about the Gulf Coast oil spill and in justifying his claim compared the massive slick to "chocolate milk."

On Saturday, Taylor flew over the oil spill in a Coast Guard plane and at first glance declared that the site was "not as bad" as he expected it to be.

The Sun Herald reports:

    Taylor flew over the site of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig Saturday along with Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker and Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama. [...]

    "At the moment, it's not as bad as I thought it would be," he said, shortly after returning from the three-hour tour.

After observing the oil spill from 1,000 feet, Taylor said in an interview with Biloxi's WLOX-TV that what many feel is an environmental and economic catastrophe is not "Katrina" or "Armageddon," adding that the "chocolate milk looking spill" is beginning to "break up naturally":

    What I want people to know is this isn't Katrina. This is not Armageddon. I did this for the Coast Guard many years ago. Yeah, it's bad. And it's terrible that there's a spill out there. But I would remind people that the oil is twenty miles from any marsh. [...]

    That chocolate milk looking spill starts breaking up in smaller pieces... It is tending to break up naturally.

All of this despite the fact that the spill has tripled in size over the past few days.

Keith Olberman hits it out of the park

I had been thinking much the same thing about John McCain and others who have criticized the police and FBI for their near immediate capture of the Times Square bomb suspect, but as usual, Keith Olberman said it much better than I could.

Another letter to the President

May 4, 2010
President Barack H. Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

They called me "vapor" --

As a little boy, I always had an interest in serving in the U.S. military. Both my grandfathers served in the Korean conflict, an uncle in Vietnam and I soon became the first of my generation to serve, followed by my brother and a few of my cousins.

After entering the Air Force in February of 2001, I eventually was promoted to Staff Sergeant. Although successful in my job as a Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) technician, I was still coming to terms of being a gay man.

I struggled with my faith that told me it was a sin. I couldn't talk to the Chaplain Corps because I had read about gays being discharged after coming out to a chaplain. And so, I continued to internalize my struggle with accepting myself, my faith and how I must live under "don’t ask, don’t tell."

As my separation date approached, many of my supervisors offered career-counseling. They all said the same thing: "Tony, you need to consider re-enlisting. You are the kind of Airman that the USAF needs to retain. You have a bright future in the Air Force and it would be a great loss to see you leave."

They often times would ask why I wanted to leave, and I always replied: "I don't like wearing hats."
Eventually, I changed my mind and was able to better manage living under DADT. I applied for cross training into C-130 Loadmaster and was accepted. I figured the high ops-tempo; frequent deployments and lack of down time would make for a great environment to keep me so busy that I just wouldn't have time to be gay.

I thought it was a brilliant plan.

As a distinguished graduate from Loadmaster training, I quickly established myself as a top-notch troop with the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Within four months of my arrival, I had completed my upgrade training and was mission ready. I deployed to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But deployment can take its toll. I couldn’t lie to my fellow troops -- my friends -- anymore. I delayed coming out as to not compromise our mission and waited until we returned to Germany. At first, I ended up avoiding them as much as possible.

They nicknamed me "vapor" -- as soon as we hit the ground, I would disappear.
I didn't avoid them because I didn't like them, I avoided them because I respected them enough to not have to lie and burden them with my secret.

When I arrived in Germany, I sent an email to my First Sergeant to tell him I wanted to speak with my commander about being gay and not wanting to abide by DADT any longer. My commander said I served honorably and they would be there to support me in my transition back to civilian life.
Each one of my past supervisors from the ranks of E7 to E9 wrote character reference letters that requested my retention. My commander and First Sergeant said my character, performance and honorable service was not at question…it was merely a legal matter.

Upon my discharge, I was hired by global contractor KBR to fill a technical position in Iraq and later in Bagram, Afghanistan. I was once again working with the same Airmen I had worked for on active duty, but this time openly gay. No one had a problem.

I continue to work side by side with members of our military – each of them knowing me as a gay man -- and it has caused no impact on the mission. My contracting job for the Department of Defense now is the same job I performed when I was in uniform.

Mr. President, we need you to help repeal this law – this year -- so that my comrades continue to work in a force that retains the best and brightest based on performance rather than sexual orientation. Our men and women in the military deserve better. Listen to them, and, please, sir, do not turn your back on us.

Very Respectfully,
Former SSgt. Anthony Loverde United States Air Force

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Must-Read Letter

This is the second in a series of letters to President Obama written by LGBT members or former members of the armed forces.  I will publish more as they are available.

May 3, 2010

Joseph Christopher Rocha

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

After the recent letter by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be delayed, this is my plea to you on the behalf of the soldiers serving in silence to end this law now:

I never wanted anything more in my life than to be a career officer. My entire childhood I was exposed to abuse, violence, and crime. I came out of it all with a simple, yet overwhelming desire to serve. When my first attempt at getting into the Naval Academy failed, I waited restlessly until I turned eighteen. I enlisted on my birthday and set off to prove myself to the Academy. I was eager to leave the cruelty of my past and join a true family.

I knew I was gay, but it was irrelevant to me then. I was determined to join an elite team of handlers working with dogs trained to detect explosives. As I studied hard to pass exams and complete training, I was convinced that the current law would protect me. I knew that based on merit and achievement I would excel in the military.

I never told anyone I was gay. But a year and a half later while serving in the Middle East, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, as they had their suspicions. The irony of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply.

Shop talk in the unit revolved around sex, either the prostitute-filled parties of days past or the escapades my comrades looked forward to. They interpreted my silence and total lack of interest as an admission of homosexuality. My higher-ups seemed to think that gave them the right to bind me to chairs, ridicule me, hose me down and lock me in a feces-filled dog kennel.

On one day in the Middle East, I was ordered by a superior to get down on my hands and knees and simulate oral sex on a person working in the kennel. We were supposed to pretend that we were in our bedroom and that the dogs were catching us in the act. Over and over, with each of the dogs in our unit, I was forced to endure this scenario.

I told no one about what I was living through. I feared that reporting the abuse would lead to an investigation into my sexuality. Frankly, as we continue to delay the repeal of this horrible law, I can’t help but wonder how many people find themselves in similar, despicable situations and remain silent. My anger today doesn’t come from the abuse, but rather from the inhumanity of a standing law that allowed for it.

Three and a half years later when the Navy started investigating claims of hazing, I had finally earned my place at the Naval Academy Preparatory School. But instead of celebration, I began to question the life of persecution, degradation, and dishonor DADT had forced on me. I questioned the institution -- our great military -- that would condone and endorse this kind of treatment of its own members. The only thing I had ever done wrong was to want the same thing my straight counterparts wanted: a brotherhood and something to stand for.

At NAPS I realized that a career of service under DADT would be a forfeiture of my basic human rights. It would be a forfeiture of basic job security, peace of mind, and meaningful relationships, particularly with my fellow straight service members whom I was forced to deceive and betray.

After completing a six-week officer candidate boot camp, my commanders said they wanted to offer me a leadership role. But after what happened in the Middle East and even the suicide of my close friend, I was mentally and emotionally depleted. And so -- with my knees buckling -- I offered my statement of resignation in writing:

"I am a homosexual. I deeply regret that my personal feelings are not compatible with Naval regulations or policy. I am proud of my service and had hoped I would be able to serve the Navy and the country for my entire career. However, the principles of honor, courage and commitment mean I must be honest with myself, courageous in my beliefs, and committed in my action. I understand that this statement will be used to end my Naval career."

They say some people are just born designed for military service. It‘s the way we are wired, and the only thing that makes us happy. For too many of us, it‘s the only family we ever had. I am sure now, more than ever, after all the loss and hardship under DADT, that all I want to do is serve as a career military officer.

Mr. President, any delay in repeal is a clear signal to our troops that their gay brothers and sisters in arms are not equal to them. I plead that you take the lead -- fight for repeal -- and allow qualified men and women to serve their country.

Very respectfully,

Joseph Christopher Rocha
Former Petty Officer Third Class, U.S. Navy

Howard Dean speaks at DADT rally

Thanks, Howard Dean.

Congressional Candidate talks about "taking care of gays" -- and not in a good way

The Associated Press is reporting that two Republican candidates in the 8th Congressional District"made candid comments about gays during a recent Tea Party forum that included discussion about the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy."

Physicians Ron Kirkland of Jackson (left) and George Flinn (right) of Memphis were among the candidates who stated again and again their opposition to President Obama  and his policies.

The candidates criticized the administration for wanting to overturn the policy, which prevents gays from serving openly in the military.

Said Kirkland: "I can tell you if there were any homosexuals in that group, they were taken care of in ways I can't describe to you."

Smith added: "I definitely wouldn't want to share a shower with a homosexual. We took care of that kind of stuff, just like (Kirkland) said."

These are the same people who disavow any role in violence against LGBT people.

Dogs in snow....

I couldn't figure out how to post this video directly on the blog, so here's a link (and a thank you to Steve H.) that should make you smile.

Dogs in Snow!!!

How does John McCain sleep at night?

How can John McCain, who used to be a moderate voice about immigration reform, actually sleep at might with this about face ad in order to be reelected?

This seems even worse to me than the politicians who have been anti-immigrant and fear mongering all their careers.  McCain seems to be victimizing people he once supported in order to get reelected. Shame on you, John McCain.

Ethnic Cleansing without the Guns

The Huffington Post recently ran a story about further exclusionary laws in Arizona when Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that now restricts what schools may teach. According to The Post:

Under the ban, sent to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by the state legislature Thursday, schools will lose state funding if they offer any courses that "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

There is so much wrong with this ban that I don’t even know where to begin, but let’s take “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government” first.  How do you measure this?  What constitutes promotion?  Would criticizing the U.S. fall under this law?  I have seen many tea baggers advocating the overthrow of the government.  I have heard the Governor of Texas talk about secession.  Somehow, I don't think these were the folks Arizona politicians had in mind when they passed and signed this bill.

Second, take the phrase “promote resentment of a particular race or class of people.”  Does this mean you can’t teach the history of slavery with any honesty?  What about Jim Crow Laws?  If -- God forbid -- an African American student quite logically finds inside him/herself some resentment over the role of white people in the slave trade, could their teacher be accused of “promoting resentment”?

Third, look at the phrase “are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.”  The assumption here is that courses that highlight Latino, Asian-American or African-American (among others) contributions  to history are designed solely for these racial groups and that this material is not important for white students to learn  Also, hasn't history been taught for years with male, white heterosexuals contrributions in mind?  Writes The Post: “As ThinkProgress notes, the Tucson Unified School District's popular Mexican-American studies department is the target here. The state superintendent charges that the program exhibits "ethnic chauvinism."

Finally, what do they mean by “advocating ethnic solidarity”?  Would they feel the same way about “advocating religious solidarity” within the Evangelical Christian community?

This is really scary stuff, folks.  In its own way, I find it even scarier than the immigration law.  At least that is out in the open and people are protesting and boycotting.  This bill is under the radar screen and more insidious.  This is ethnic cleansing without the guns.