Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anti-gay bullying, particularly against college students, surfaces in some serious incidents

Last night (Sept. 29), Anderson Cooper covered a couple more examples of the effect of bullying on gay teens, including one 13 year old, and then the case of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge (saying he would do so online) after roommates secretly videotaped him in a gay liaison in a Rutgers dormitory, and streamed the trysts real time on the Internet. A male roommate and female friend have been charged with felony invasion of privacy in the case.

No question, the incident illustrates the dangers of abuse of the Internet for purposes of teasing or bullying, and the incredible lack of judgment of some people in their abuse.

I’ve related before how roommate issues and peer pressure had led to my own college expulsion in November 1961 (see my BillBoushka blog Nov. 28, 2006).

A typical story on the Clementi incident appears on the Mahalo site (website url) here.

One could interpret Clementi's action as a way of showing contempt for the world he suddenly wanted to leave. There is a legitimate question as to whether the university condoned or "permitted" sex (heterosexual or homosexual) in dorms, and whether the roommate thought, in that context, that what he was doing was nothing more than something like an "initiation" prank.

Anderson Cooper on AC360 (link) has also covered the cyberbullying of gay college student Chris Armstrong at the University of Michigan by Assistant Michigan Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, “on his own time and resources”, motivated by “existential” thinking. My main blog covered that yesterday, Sept. 29.

AOL has a detailed story about Tyler Clementi today here.

A recent clip showed Tyler playing the first movement of the Bruch Violin Concerto #1 in G Minor.

Gather has an essay, "The Death of Tyler Clementi and the Shame of Society",  link here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mainstream GOP politicians go to Log Cabin fundraisers, raising questions for the "social conservatives"

The Washington Post today, in an article by Perry Bacon, noted “GOP’s dilemma on gay rights: win over advocates, or risk losing its base”, link here. Recently Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) visited a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser. He was asked to change his mind on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” after having voted against cloture allowing the Senate bill to come vote recently. On the other hand, his visit to a Log Cabin function did anger some “social conservatives.”

Equal rights for gays, as a concept, has certainly found a home in the libertarian side of the conservative world, with the military ban a paradoxical issue because libertarians tend to see military service as a voluntary choice to begin with.

Visitors may wish to check out the 2004 documentary film “Gay Republicans” )World of Wonder, dir. Wash Westmoreland, 63 min).

It still strikes me that social conservatives have a view of “family values” that requires some portion of family responsibility and complementarity to be experienced by everyone, partly (they say) to make people less dependent on a public safety net, but also make sure that those who make and keep active familial commitments believe that others must “play fair” and do the same. Some things seem to be like that: they are easier to keep to when one believes everyone else must or will do the same.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Federal judge orders Air Force to reinstate nurse Mar. Margaret Witt

A federal judge, Ronald B. Leighton, in a ruling in Tacoma, WA, ordered the Air Force to reinstate Air Force Reserves Major Margaret Witt on Friday, using the “Witt” standard, maintaining, under a review standard from the Ninth Circuit, that the government had not shown her discharge advanced any legitimate interest. Robert Barnes has a story in the Washington Post Saturday here. He said that “Good flight nurses are hard to find.”

Rob Carson has a similar story in the Olympian (Washington state) today (website url) here. Leighton is a Bush appointee and indicated that he still believes Congress should overhaul the policy.

The ruling is interesting as it comes at a time when the Navy reportedly is recruiting nurses up to age 40 aggressively because of humanitarian challenges in Haiti and in the Indian Ocean, as well as combat.

Sandhya Somashekhar has a story in the Post today about libertarian courtship of LGBT members after failure of Democrats to deliver. We’ll have more about this soon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NAACP says it will build stronger bridges to gay rights groups

Krissah Thompson has a story in the Washington Post Sept. 23, “NAACP leaders reach out to gay rights groups”, link here.

The NAACP says it opposes discrimination in any form, but much of the objection to Washington DC’s passing gay marriage came from the African American community. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has found that 64% of African Americans consider homosexual behavior always wrong, vs. 48% of whites and, surprisingly, 43% of Hispanics (which might include whites).

Pew has a link on LGBT issues here.

Also, today (Sept 24) Judge Phillips is likely to announce whether the injunction against enforcing DADT will go into effect or be stayed to allow appeals.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cloture vote on repeal of DADT fails in Senate

The Cloture vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3454) failed 56-43 today. That was four short of the 60 needed to break a Republican fillubuster. The CNN story is “Senate halts ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal”, by Ted Barrett and Dana Bush, link here.

The Republicans have objected in part to their not being allowed to make amendments to the military ban portion.

The Senate seems unimpressed with the recent court decision from California.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. has an op-ed in the Washington Times, “D-Day for the U.S. Military: Repeal of homosexual ban could break the all volunteer force”, link here.  There is a comical cartoon poster, “I want you to be fabulous: next recruiting station”. There is some irony in that TWT recently offered an editorial that the military was not a place for someone who wants to stress “autonomy of self.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Palm Cente has major article on myths about "don't ask don't tell"

Aaron Belkin, from the Palm Center (link) at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has a major article on p B3 of the Sunday Sept. 19 Washington Post, “5 Myths about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, link here.

He is right in pointing out that the comparison of the DADT issue with president Truman’s racial integration of the military in 1948 (so well documented in the HBO film “Truman” with Gary Sinese) is misleading and unsatisfactory.

And he is also correct that the handling of the “survey” as reported this summer is probably misleading, and young troops, as well as the general public, have come around to the idea that the military ban should be lifted, and that much progress has been made in attitudes since 1993. Actually, remember that 1993 was the year of the enormous March of Washington in April, a massive, watershed event; it was the time that “gay conservative” writer Andrew Sullivan wrote his categories of “the politics of homosexuality.”

Belkin points out that the “unit cohesion” argument is really a false proxy for the supposed “moral” arguments. At the time of Clinton’s 1992 victory, some chaplains and evangelical pastors were trying to paint gays and lesbians as “moral abominations”. (I remember an interaction with a chaplain in Basic Training myself in 1968, as I engaged to play piano and organ at Sunday morning services.) What’s more shocking is that in 2007 the then JCS chief Peter Pace (certainly not “Peter Parker”) suggested that “homosexual conduct is immoral” as a reason for the ban, and then had to relent that he had been venting or ranting a personal opinion. There was another argument, remember, vented by Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos, that openly gay soldiers would affront the “privacy” of straights in close quarters of forced intimacy. But after 9/11 Moskos backed away from that argument as he proposed resuming a draft (Moskos has since passed away), and Nunn has turned his attention to reigning in on the terrorist nuclear threat, a good thing for him to spend his time on.

As for the “moral precepts”, Moskos may have migrated to a pivotal notion after 9/11. Even without a formal draft (or without our “backdoor draft” for stop-loss, which is ending), defending the homeland is ultimately a responsibility that everyone shares, so legislating gays out of the military is morally slanderous. (Remember, though, that during Vietnam, the military stopped “asking” and had to sidestep people trying to get out of the draft by saying they were gay.) The bigger “moral” issue (separating from religious or “scriptural” notions) is that a sustainable democracy may not be able to “let people out of” facing the idea of long term emotional commitments based on complementarity rather than affiliation (a proxy for “family values”). In fact, it always seemed to me that “sodomy laws” had been used as a proxy for outlawing “getting out of things”. But modern thought is discovering that real “complementarity” (a favorite word of the Vatican) is much more a matter of psychological polarity than biological gender. There’s no reason, then, in principle, that a modern sustainable democracy could not bring gays and lesbians into the idea of shared community responsibility. That’s where the gay marriage and gay parenting debates are taking us anyway.

I visited Dr. Belkin at his office at UCSB in February 2002 on a West Coast trip. I remember the campus well.

Formerly the Palm Center had been called “The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military”.

Wikipedia attribution link for USCB picture.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In DC, Cobalt is really dancing on Friday nights

Well, I think Donald Trump could have made his first show of the renewed “Apprentice” about redesigning a disco (the physical space and its website). In Washington DC, on 17th St, it appears that the Cobalt / 30 Degrees Lounge has proven the point, as it is REALLY packed on Friday night, after midnight, and it’s physical. Putting back in some sofas, moving the DJ, whitening the walls, etc, seems to have done the trick. So for now, the Cobalt avoids Trump’s “Board Room”. I suspect that in Trump $$, recent nights have gone well. On Saturdays, it appears that the club experiments with ladies nights. Take the lessons from all of Trump’s past boardrooms: it’s about customer service.

I think also a lot of the guys don’t want a drag show first, although last night there was an appearance of one of the “Housewives” – not sure I got the name.

See July 30 blog entry for link.

Friday, September 17, 2010

NY Times: don't enforce "don't ask don't tell"; sea change in gay equality?

The New York Times has a major editorial today, “Don’t Enforce ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, discussing the details of the recent opinion from California judge Virginia Phillips in the Log Cabin Republicans case. The link is here.

The Times also recent judicial decisions against Proposition 8, as well as the Clinton era DOMA, or Defense of Marriage Act, which at one time had seemed like a “moderate” law encouraging state experimentation. The editorial poses the question about “sea change” in gay rights.

There’s no question that DADT is superfluous to the real issues of unit cohesion. Militaries like Israel and Britain have done away with the bans without significant problems. It’s true, as some recent documentary films (like “Restrepo”) show, it does take a certain kind of person to function in certain kinds of combat environments. But, as Goldwater once said, “you just have to shoot straight.”

The biggest “threat” to gay equality in the future may be the “natural family” ideology, the idea that everyone needs to have a biological or procreative stake in the future. That’s an old (curiously Vatican) idea that seems to be coming back in some circles. But gay marriage and gay adoption may have arrived just in time, in the courts and sometimes legislatures.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Senate cloture vote on DADT will occur soon

Senator majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion to bring the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) up for a vote on Tuesday September 21.

If the 60 votes needed are obtained, then the floor is open for debate. But negative things can happen, such as removal of the DADT repeal (which is effectively accomplished by removing the Enclosure on “Homosexuality in the Armed Forces”) that had been inserted in November 1993. The law would also require a Pentagon review with new policies to address concerns, like unit cohesion and benefits, that have been raised.

Chris Geidner has the main "Poliglot" story in the Washington Metro Weekly here.

If the Senate passes the repeal (the removal), the House concurs, and the bill becomes law, the Pentagon will still have to come up with some sort of conduct policy, like that proposed by Rand in 1993 (with particular attention now perhaps to social media).

It's not clear that the Senate is impressed with the federal court ruling last week in the Log Cabin case.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Same-sex marriage debate is coupled with immigration reform debate, like it or not

Once again, the issue of gay marriage and its nexus with immigration reform has come up in a story Monday September 13, 2010 in The Washington Post, “Immigration overhaul could leave gay couples out”, link here.  Even though same-sex couples in the District of Columbia have the right to marry legally, the federal government does not recognize their marriages and will not necessarily allow a non-citizen spouse to become a citizen as it would with a heterosexual spouse.

The article goes on to discuss conservative (and to some extent “Tea Party”) claims that the immigration debate should be decoupled from the same-sex marriage issue. But logically, these big dots must be connected.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

CA federal judge declares "don't ask don't tell" unconstitutional

A federal judge, Virginia A. Phillips, has declared the “don’t ask don’t tell” law unconstitutional, in the case “Log Cabin Republicans v. Gates". The link is here.

The opinion noted that the restrictions on free speech (the “forced outing” problem) are greater than necessary for legitimate government interest, and in the case of foreign language translators may be counterproductive. It also precludes servicemembers from openly joining organizations. It also found the First Amendment problems “content based” (oddly reminiscent of COPA).

The opinion also discussed application of the Witt Standard.

AOL News has a summary story (citing other stories), including the judge's plans to implement an injunction against enforcement, by Theunis Bates, here.

Update: September 13.

The Washington Times predictably has an editorial "Judicial assault on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Activist judge decides to reorder the military", p B2 in the Opinion Section of the $1.00 print version (yup, I bought one today at the 7/11), link here.  The editorial talks about Lawrence v. Texas (2003) but, it's the last sentence, (I think quoting it is "Fair Use" despite all the controversies recently as on my "BillBoushka" blog; and, no, I don't repost entire articles!), "Those who are on a personal quest for the autonomy of self would do well to seek it outside the brotherhood of arms,"  is the most important, to me at least.  I had several letters published on this back in the 1990s (at least two in this newspaper), and TWT is well aware of my interest in the "personal autonomy" arguments.  So my reaction to that sentence is this:  You don't go through life getting out of things through "autonomy".  We used to have a draft, with a moral quandary over student deferments (and earlier even fatherhood and marriage deferments).  We could have it again. There are legitimate gender issues in military service, to be sure.  But they also surface outside of the miitary, as do othe kinds of challenges to "autonomy of self."  Try eldercare.  Try war inflicted on civilians.  The day we just commemorated should remind us of that.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Dr. Phil counsels older woman question sexual orientation, and says it is immutable

On Friday, Sept. 3, the Dr. Phil show presented a 52 year old woman who was questioning, in front of her husband, whether she was a lesbian after 18 years of marriage.

The link for the show is here.

Dr. Phil had psychotherapist Dr. Michelle Angello comment on the situation.

The story concludes with a curious link “Is homosexuality learned behavior?” Dr. Phil definitely believes that sexual orientation is immutable, perhaps genetic, and perhaps even biologically essential (as described in Chandler Burr’s 1996 book “A Separate Creation”). He said “Homosexuality is not a learned behavior. A sexual orientation is inherited; you are wired that way.”

In practically all of his programs, Dr. Phil’s philosophy emphasizes personal responsibility in a secular sense. He does talk about the “phenomenal family” (as with his book) but seems to look at forming one as a choice.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Focus on Family complains that anti-bullying initiatives might promote "gay rights" (AC360 "debate")

Last night (Sept. 1), Anderson Cooper 360 presented a “debate” on whether anti-bullying initiatives in public schools should or must specifically address anti-gay bullying. The link is here.

Candi Cushman, Education Analyst for Focus on the Family Action, tried some double talk. She said that no bullying of any kind for any reasons should be tolerated, but said that kindergarten and elementary school kids should not be taught about homosexuality, because that might seem to endorse it.

Two other guests appeared, including one from GLSEN. They both said that kids would not understand bullying until they are educated about the issues that provoke it, and one of these issues is gender-related or gender conformity issues among kids.

I was teased heavily from third to about the fifth grade, largely because I was perceived as “weak” and behind physically, as well as socially distant (probably something like very mild Asperger’s). There was a playground rule “no bunts except for Boushka”. By sixth grade, I had developed some competence in batting a tossed softball, and remember an occasion when I was waiting to bat and the kid in front of me, right before lunch, hit into a triple play!