Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pentagon will have to grapple with practical (and tactical) issues in ending "don't ask don't tell"; watch the social media

James Dao has an important piece on the front page of the Saturday May 29 New York Times, ‘As ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Fades, Tactical Concerns Start to Rise”. Online the title dispenses with “tell” and reads “Ad ‘Don’t Ask’ Fades, Military Faces Thorny Issues,” with the link here.  This sounds like a discussion about chess: positional play (strategy) v. tactics (queen sacrifices, literally, and pawn underpromotions).

What’s a bit striking, to me at least, is the literalness with which people take the concerns about equal housing (especially the notion of “separate but equal” as already proposed by a Marine Corps general), equal spousal benefits (even though federal law will not recognize gay marriage anytime soon, but probably it will eventually) – as compared with older concerns about “unit cohesion” within combat units. Pro-ban “advocate” Elaine Donnelly was especially vocal about the housing issues.

The article also discusses the tragic irony of the military’s having to pursue discharges for at least the rest of this year (until the mandatory Pentagon review before the end of 2010), as of Air Force Col. Victor J. Fahrenhach.

One issue that will certainly need attention as the Pentagon ponders its conduct rules will be the use of social media. We all know how information posted on social networking sites and blogs travels virally (even without search engine hits), and the business and civilian family worlds are finding that individual postings on these sites can prove a tremendous distraction to stakeholders, regardless of being right or wrong.

The Chris Matthews show on NBC Sunday morning pointed out that three-fourths of Americans now support allowing gays to serve openly in the military. (It was only 44% in 1993.) Thirty foreign militaries (including Israel and Britain) allow gays to serve with no loss of effectiveness.

Friday, May 28, 2010

MSM ban on blood donations to be reconsidered; roll call on House vote on DADT available; cold feet? (Happy feet?)

Madison Park reports on CNN that the federal ban on blood donations from MSM’s is about to be reconsidered. The link is here.

Nevertheless, there may be a two-week window period when no test, even for antigens or nucleic acis, can detect a very recent HIV exposure.

Possibly all blood donors should be asked about non-monogamous contacts within the past thirty days only as well as having thorough blood testing.

The Washington Times ran a reader’s letter today that tried to connect the blood issue to “don’t ask don’t tell”, an ironic combination of words, here.

The AP has provided a roll cost list on Thursday’s vote on “conditional repeal” of DADT here.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting Friday that the House bill also contains Defense spending that President Obama may veto, here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

With Senator Ben Nelson's support, vote on conditional repeal of "don't ask don't tell" is likely in both Houses of Congress today

Conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson (somewhat akin to former Senator Sam Nunn, an author of DADT but now a leading proponent of reigning in on nuclear waste around the world) from Nebraska says he will vote for a provisional end to “don’t ask don’t tell”, contingent on Pentagon review, adding to prospects that a provisional repeal will come out of the Armed Services Committee and pass the Senate. The Salon story link is here.

Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa all agreed to cooperate with the provision of requiring Pentagon approval.

Those pushing for repeal of the ban want to pass a provisional bill now because they fear Republican advances in Congress this midterm because of public anger over bailouts and future tax increases. It seems as though two years is a short term memory.

Other media reports suggest that passage of repeal is still a difficult shot. On Wednesday May 26 The “conservative” Washington Times ran a front page story by David Eldridge, Sean Lengell and Hillary May, “Delay urged on military gay ban: election year cited for rush”, link here. But Thursday TWT offered a story on Nelson's vote by Lengell alone.

On Thursday morning, the Associated Press (Ann Flaherty) reported that the House would vote on a “conditional repeal only” bill today (May 27), and that the Senate would vote a similar measure (part of a larger bill) out of committee. The AP original story is here.

I’ll track down the precise text on govtrack and give the links as soon as it’s all more official.

Update: late Thursday: it passed the House tonight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White house supports conditional repeal of "don't ask don't tell": pass repeal-only bill now, put new policy into effect after Pentagon review in 2011

The Obama administration is sending signals that it will support a conditional repeal of the 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law, consisting of removing the language from US Code, as long as it does not go into effect until the Pentagon finishes its review of how to implement conduct rules administratively and deal with “cultural” issues for military families, which Defense Secretary Gates says would take until about Dec. 1, 2010.  But vote on a conditional repeal-only measure could occure before June 1.

This all means that “don’t ask don’t tell” could be history by Jan. 1, 2011. There will certainly be a New Years celebration for it is so (blizzards or not).

The Washington Post news story on Tuesday May 25 is by Michael D. Shear and Ed O’Keefe, “Obama backs ‘don’t ask’ compromise that could pave way for repeal,” link here.  At the moment (9:30 AM Tuesday morning) this is the lead story on the Washington Post online.

On Saturday, former Clinton Joint Chief of Staff John M. Shalikashvil has argued for a “repeal only” approach in the Post, and that advice seems to have favor with the president.

The Pentagon could follow the Rand 1993 study in drawing up conduct rules, as prepared for the Defense research Institute then, called “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment.” Rand has issued a monograph online of the report here.  It would be necessary for the Pentagon to consider the effect of online social media on the conduct rules (as it has to now for other issues, including security). Under the current law, it’s clear that the recent controversy over privacy in social media (including Facebook) is relevant and could lead to discharges.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports keeping the DADT policy, which he admits is "not perfect."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Former Clinton JCS urges "repeal only" law to start the end of "don't ask don't tell"

Former JCS chairman (under President Clinton) John M. Shalikashvili has an op-ed on p. A15 of the Washington Post on Saturday May 22, “’Don’t ask, don’t tell’: repeal now”, link here. The online title of the piece “tells” more:

“Congress should repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' and let the Pentagon do the rest”.

His argues for a “repeal only” bill, and let the Pentagon design the rules of conduct and, where possible, non-discrimination in benefits and assignments. He obviously believes that an Obama Pentagon will come up with an even-handed policy similar to that recommended by the Rand Corporation in its 1993 book. He makes the point that “repeal only” gives the Pentagon the capability to design and implement its own rules without the shackles of the 1993 law.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Outfront Minnesota takes on the gay marriage issue

I lived in Minneapolis from 1997 to 2003 so it is with some interest that I viewed an email from Outfront Minnesota on the same-sex marriage fight in Minnesota.

Outfront’s page is here.

On May 18, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story “TV ad zeroes in on same-sex marriage” and claims that the National Organization for Marriage is spending $200000 on television ads which Outfront says are intentionally misleading. The link is here.

The ad refers to the Minnesota gubernatorial race and leaves the incorrect impression that Minnesota governors could call for a referendum on the issue, which they cannot.

The ad also takes shots at the Minnesota DFL party which is an old coalition of “Democratic Farm Labor.”

View: from my own apartment in the Churchill, winter 2003.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cobalt (popular DC bar) holds women's dance Saturday

Last night (May 15), it appeared that Cobalt DC (17th and S St in Washington DC) held women’s night (or “ladies’ night) from all appearances.  That's probably a way to distinguish itself from the TownDC now providing competition. That’s the first time I’ve walked into a women’s dance. So, you say, I haven’t lived yet, or I’m chauvinist. As the night progressed, the preponderance of males gradually increased, and the dancing picked up downstairs in the 30-degree lounge as well as the dance floor. I hadn’t seen that before.  I got there shortly after midnight and found the place (which had been experiencing interest problems in the past) packed.

The Cobalt still does not seem to have a working website of its own from what I can find, so it’s hard to tell what its schedule or events are.

I see a Facebook invitation from a friend in Dallas from the 1980s (through MCC). It's early Sunday morning after a long night. I'll check it out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

AC360, Dr. Phil weigh in on anti-gay bullying trial in California

Anderson Cooper invited Dr. Phil to his AC360 program (“keeping them honest”) Thursday night (May 13) to look at anti-gay bullying, and why teachers and administrators look the other way when it happens. They covered the case of a 15 year old eight grader, Larry, shot to death in a middle school class in California. The boy accused of the act, Brandon McInerney, is being tried as an adult for first degree murder and a hate crime. The link for the story on CNN is (web url) here.

The Ventura County Star has a blog posting (by Raul Hernandez) on the case here  indicating that a judge granted a delay in the trial. The victim was more “flamboyant” than in many other cases that still attract teasing and harassment, and there may have existed a personal relationship issue that contributed to the incident.

The Safe Schools Coalition has a pdf paper with Hightlights from the American Association of University Women’s “Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing and Sexual Harassment in School”, link here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Key vote on "don't ask don't tell" repeal may occur in late May in both houses of Congress

In both the House and Senate, there may be new riders attached to “Defense Authorization” bills attempting to overturn “don’t ask don’t tell” as soon as right after Memorial Day. In the Senate, Carl Levin (D-MI) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) are expected to introduce such resolutions, as will Patrick Murphy (D-PA) in the House. The Washington Blade (May 7) has a story by Chris Johnson “Congress nears key votes on ‘don’t ask’ repeal”, here.

Barney Frank is reported as saying that there may not be enough votes yet to overturn “don’t ask don’t tell” because lobbying efforts haven’t been effective enough.

Does Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court vacancy send a message about the urgency of repealing DADT?

I’ll take the liberty of reproducing a letter to me by James Moran (D-VA) from July 27, 2005, here

“Knowing of your interests in issues affecting the gay and lesbian community, I wanted to update you on legislation that was recently introduced to repeal the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

“Gays and lesbians have served and will continue to serve in the armed forces, regardless of the military or of the government’s official position on the issue. It is my view, however, that gays and lesbians should be able to serve in the military without the fear that their sexual orientation would be made known and result in their discharge.

“Many opponents in lifting “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” have raised concerns that allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve next to straight soldiers represents a conflict. However, I believe that it is the conduct of these soldiers by which they should be judged. In the same way that there rules in place preventing intimate contact between male and female soldiers, there are rules in place outlawing relations such relations between same-sex soldiers. Militaries around the world, including our allies Great Britain and Israel, have allowed gay and lesbian soldiers to serve without penalty for their sexual orientation. In that time, I am unaware of any reports of serious problems or legitimate claims that a service’s unit cohesion and morale were harmed. It is also estimated that over 30 million dollars are wasted due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In 2001, 1,271 men and women were discharged due to this policy. All of this coming at a time when our nation faces serious threats to our domestic security from terrorists, and our troops are attempting to secure peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In light of these facts and my personal views on the issue, I wanted to make you aware that I recently became an original cosponsor of the “Military Readiness Enhancement Act” (H.R. 1059). If enacted, this legislation would repeal, once and for all, the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and prevent a person’s sexual orientation from being used to prevent their service in their country’s armed forces. Be assured that I will continue working with over 80 cosponsors of this bill to both raise awareness of the issue and fight for its eventual passage.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Washington Post poll shows increase in support for same-sex marriage in MD

A Washington Post poll has found increasing support for same-sex marriage in Maryland, according to a Metro section p B1 story by Aaron C. Davis and Jennifer Agiesta on Tuesday May 11, link here.

55% say that same-sex marriages in another state should be recognized in Maryland; 38% say no. But 46% favor recognizing same-sex marriage within the state; 44% oppose.

The public is showing a gradual increase in acceptance of same-sex marriage that follows the gradual trend in favoring allowing gays to serve in the military.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

CNN, other media report on religious right leader George Rekers use of escort on a vacation

CNN's Randi Kaye provides a video report on the religious right leader George Rekers and his gay travel companion . According to Kaye, the companion had been found on the site “rentboy” and that Rekers wrote a contract for companionship and “massages” during a recent overseas trip.

Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald has the story (link) (reprinted in the Boston Herald) presented the account of escort Jo-vanni Roman, who did not look like he had many Neanderthal genes. Rekers reportedly is connected to the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which offers this response (link) to the story on Rekers.

The hypocrisy is certain on a scale of that of Ted Haggard.

Update: May 16

Check the May 16 op-ed "A Heaven-Sent Rent-Boy" by Frank Rich, link here in The New York Times, p 10. Rich writes "There is nothing funny about the destruction his writings and public activities have sown." His writings are called "screeds" in the piece. The op-ed mentions the 1982 book "Growing up straight: What families should know about homosexuality" by Rekers from Moody Press (not a very high sales rank on Amazon) as a screed that refers to earlier writings. But here is a similar 1968 book by Peter Wyden "Growing Up Straight: What Every Thoughtful Parent Should Know About Homosexuality", which I recall from much earlier days.  Wyden had written "we want every young man to grow up to be sexually normal" and actually presented Nazi-like passages linking physical "inadequacy" to homosexualtiy. This was published by Stein and Day. But during the 1960s this sort of view was starting to die down as the Vietnam War perked (and brought so many half-open gays into the military without any fuss).

Friday, May 07, 2010

BSA case in San Diego (public accomodations and GLBT) draws attention of religious right

The Boy Scouts are back off the metaphoric Bunsen burner, with an op-ed in The Washington Times in Commentary on Friday May 7, “Court puts Boy Scouts in a moral quandary: Supremes have a duty to stand up for justice,” link here, by Robert Knight (Coral Ridge Ministries).

The case involves the exclusion of BSA in 2003 from Balboa Park in San Diego, which forbade them from meeting because of discriminatory policies, partly reinforced by the BSA’s pyrrhic victory in the James Dale case, which is beginning to look like an unwise pawn grab in a chess game, from BSA’s viewpoint, at least. In many communities, the Boy Scouts have been barred from using or even renting publicly owned spaces because of discriminatory policies (on homosexuality and probably atheism or agnosticism), which are not supposed to be supported by taxpayer money. The ACLU has filed a suit for a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple. I could not find the ACLU brief on their site yet.

Knight argues that the BSA is not really a religious organization, and then wavers into to talking about the scandal in the Catholic Church. He writes then “either they drop their moral standard and put boys and their own legal survival at risk, or they face endless harassment designed to bankrupt them.” Chess is a good analogy for life sometimes.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Even now, statements made under DADT should not be counted when made under conditions of legal confidentiality

Some time ago, Secretary of Defense Gates announced that the military services would be expected to be much more careful in following “due process” in discharges under “don’t ask don’t tell”, following the spirit, to say the least, of the regulations that were originally announced in February 1994. Gates has been somewhat ambiguous on outright Congressional repeal of the policy, saying that the Pentagon needs to be heard out completely first.

It’s important to remember that sometimes, in relation to security of other government operations, people make personal statements to others under conditions of absolute sworn guarantees of confidentiality. Still, it seems that such statements about personal activities have been deemed as “telling” in many instances in the past, particularly when made to other military personnel with regard to matters like health care or security clearance investigations. Statements made to others sworn to confidentiality should never be regarded as “violations” of DADT even now.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pelosi wants a vote on "don't ask don't tell" repeal in 2010; Gates does not

The reinvented Washington Blade (aka DC Agenda) is reporting, on Apr. 30, in an article by Chris Johnson, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a vote on the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” to occur in 2010. The link is here.

However Johnson has another story in the same issue, that Defense Secretary Gates wants the Pentagon to complete its review of the policy before it comes before Congress, which would make the earliest possible date become Dec. 1. He sounds concerned about hearing input from “grassroots” military members, which sounds like a reference to the unit cohesion or even “privacy” problem.

Gates write “Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital engagement process. .Further, I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families

Picture: the TownDC now has a “bandstand” on the downstairs dancefloor, rather like the Saloon in Minneapolis.

Update: May 2

TownDC reported (in a broadcast email) that a visitor, 58 years old, collapsed and died, of an apparent heart attack, on the dance floor Saturday Night May 1, causing the club to close early. I was there Friday. Check the Blade next weekend for details.