Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are you energized and excited about the 2012 Elections?

Most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, would answer no. Watching the Republican candidates “debate” on multiple occasions reminds me of how an elderly Hispanic woman described American food, “It is light brown, dark brown and green; and it all tastes the same.” Ron Paul, who advocates for an end to the “Patriot” Act, pulling our troops out of Afghanistan & Iraq, and ending American Empire, provided the only moments of interest. Sadly, these were offset by his views on healthcare and social programs that, if implemented, would push American society back to a pre-Theodore Roosevelt social Darwinism.

The Democratic side of the aisle provides all the spectrum of food service choice found in coach class on a budget airline. Apologists for President Obama, desperately trying to convince progressives to vote for him, resort to, “He’s better than the alternatives.” That alone is a comment on the President’s litany of half-measures and outright “Cave-ins” to Republicans.

We got Healthcare “Reform,” instead of a Single Payor or a National Healthcare PLAN. The “Reform” does not fully kick in for another two years and three months (too bad if you need health care before the kick in date) and requires Americans to purchase health insurance out of pocket, sort of like we are required to purchase automobile insurance out of pocket. Why are there so many “irresponsible” uninsured drivers? Because the poor cannot afford monthly automobile insurance payments, yet they still need to get to their part time jobs. The “public exchanges” and special subsides to the poor offer a complex and frustrating series of hurdles to people who are least equipped to successfully navigate such obstacles. Setting aside EPA laws, Financial “Reform” akin to requiring an additional fire extinguisher on the Hindenburg and reauthorizing George “W” Bush’s tax break to millionaires adds to an increasingly frustrating and seemingly inexplicable series of decisions by President Obama.

Seemingly inexplicable, until you ask who benefits from all these policies “mistakes,” Corporations are awash in over two trillion dollars, while average Americans suffer a worsening second Great Depression. Essentially, American’s choices in the 2012 Election will boil down to Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. A Corporation candidate who is also a social Darwinist, or a Corporation candidate who will offer limited concessions to progressives on “social issues.” Either way, Corporations will fund the candidate’s political campaigns and thereby continue to dictate America’s economic policies, energy policies, healthcare policies, and foreign policy. The rest is a sideshow between the teabaggers and social progressives meant to generate the illusion of democracy.

So, why did the media fail to cover weeklong protests on Wall Street by demonstrators demanding real economic reforms and real policy changes? Because Wall Street owns the politicians and the media and they don't want you to realize you have it within your power to take your country back. Caesar’s old maxim, “Divide and Rule,” will continue to work until, like the demonstrators on Wall Street, the American people realize that their enemies are not fellow citizens with differing social views, but the Corporations that have foreclosed on their homes, force them to pay exorbitant fuel costs, outsource their jobs to third world nations, use the resultant economic depression as a license to eliminate the social safety networks of FDR while striping workers of collective bargaining powers, and substantively weakened the Bill of Rights through the “Patriot” Act.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to beat John Eastman, NOM's new spokesperson, in public debate

The Associated Press reports the following, re-printed by the Huffington Post:

"A law school professor from Southern California was named Thursday as the new chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the most active groups opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
John Eastman, a professor and former dean at Chapman University Law School in Orange, Calif., will replace NOM's co-founder, Maggie Gallagher, who will remain a member of the board while devoting some of her time to finishing a book about the same-sex marriage debate.

Eastman, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, ran unsuccessfully last year for state attorney general in California, though he did garner support from some tea party activists."

In confronting John Eastman, the new spokesperson for NOM, I would suggest using material presented in Professors Salzman and Lawler’s recent book, “The Sexual Person.” ISBN: 9781589012080 (1589012089)

The Huffington Post re-published an interesting article by Phyllis Zangano on “The Sexual Person” on 29 September 2010,

"Salzman and Lawler's dense academic argument turns traditional Catholic teaching on natural law on its head. They redefine natural law, saying "nature" is personal and individual, and that sexual activity need not be directed at procreation (contrary to what the Catholic Church has always said).

Salzman and Lawler argue that what is "natural" for a heterosexual is not "natural" for a homosexual, and therefore homosexuals and heterosexuals must act in accord with their personal "natures".

In other words, if it's "natural" for a homosexual to perform homosexual acts, then--for that person--heterosexual acts would be "unnatural" and immoral. For the two professors, homosexual activity is only immoral for the heterosexual acting against his or her nature."

Georgetown University Press offers this review, for more click here,

"Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics."

Professors Salzman and Lawler’s work is a very important tool in our battle for Full Federal Legal Equality, because “Natural Law” arguments form the philosophical foundation for Anti-Equality laws and policies. Salzman and Lawler's arguments transform Natural Law into our ally for full Equality and should be required reading for anyone debating John Eastman, Robert George and other NOM spokespersons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Day (and work) after the "End of DADT" Celebrations

As I drove home during LA rush hour traffic I was listening to National Public Radio news. The news commentator observed that the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen had been an important advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, especially in his testimony on several occasions last year on Capitol Hill.

At a news conference held on the day the repeal took effect, Politico reports
the following comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mullen,

“Today is really about every man and woman who serves this country, every man and woman in uniform, regardless of how they define themselves,” Mullen said. “Tomorrow they’ll all get up, they’ll all go to work, and they’ll all be able to do that work honestly.”

Asked about how the military can guard members of the military against harassment and violence against gays, Panetta noted that the military has a “zero tolerance” with regards to harassment and that military leaders must be on the lookout for potential problems that arise.

I think that the Admiral’s words are the clearest expression of what is at the heart of our struggle for Full Federal Legal rights and protection. It really is simply about people, ALL people including LBGT people, being able to get up in the morning, go to work and live their lives (and relationships) in peace. Without harassment and violence.

Yesterday, we took a significant step forward towards that ultimate goal. It was an imperfect step, transgendered people are not protected by the repeal of DADT and gay/lesbian service member’s spouses/domestic partners are not granted the same rights and privileges of their heterosexual counterparts. However, it was a historic step forward, not only for the Armed Forces and their members but also, for American society.

When I arrived home I found the following article posted to my Facebook wall,

Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, Dies in Suicide

Another tragic reminder that bullying against gay youth is a continuing problem comes with the suicide of a 14-year-old boy, Jamey Rodemeyer, who had asked for help repeatedly.

The repeal of DOMA and the passage of ENDA are necessary and important next steps in our struggle for Full Federal Legal Rights. However, while we work to recapture the House of Representatives and secure victories in November of 2012 that will make such legislation possible, we can and must work on the grassroots level to advance Anti-Bullying laws.

You can be part of this effort by attending your local PTA meetings, School Board meetings and becoming informed, involved and advocate for Anti-Bullying Laws. Write local officials letters, with a postage stamp, members of Congress actually pay much more attention to real letters from constituents than to E-mails.

Anti-Bullying laws will help to avoid tragedies like the one posted above. Remember how you felt when you were very young and first discovered that you were “different?” Remember how alone and powerless you felt? You can be a voice for the voiceless. You can personally make a real and immediate difference in this battle. Finally, Anti-Bullying laws will help all the “letters” in our alphabet soup.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DADT Repeal, Part of Full Federal Legal Equality.

"The President-Elect has promised to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. What we are going to do here today is brainstorm about policy changes that we will make in the Air Force after the ban is lifted."

Through my peripheral vision I saw Airmen manning recording equipment and I looked down at that dime-sized microphone at my desk. I looked around the room at approximately fifty young officers, each at an identical desk also equipped with a dime-sized microphone. I raised my hand and said, "Major, until the Uniform Code of Military Justice is amended we are not free to speculate on policy changes." The Major paused and said, "That is correct." That was the end of the exercise.

Years later, I learned that similar exercises were held at various military bases. Many of those who offered policy recommendations in favor of accommodating homosexuals had their careers “negatively impacted.”

In those heady days, many of us believed that President-Elect Clinton would lift the ban. National Healthcare was given priority and all we got was DADT and DOMA. Still, LGBT people were thrilled that the President mentioned us at all. Oh, we never got National Healthcare either, even now we only have a partially implemented Healthcare Reform Act. Arguably, this is better than what we had, but still far less than Single Payor, or a National Healthcare Plan. So much for bi-partisan cooperation.

The cost of DADT was paid for in destroyed careers and ruined lives of countless members of our Armed Forces. Most of those costs will never be recouped. Moreover, gay and lesbian military personnel were forced to live double lives in the shadow of fear. DADT was a lie. Everyday at the water cooler people talked about whom they were dating. About their wives and husbands. About what they were doing on the weekend, or on leave. Gay and lesbian had to do what they had learned to do as adolescents, what they had learned as a survival mechanism, they had to lie. Heterosexual service members were quite free to Ask and Tell, gay and lesbian service members were not.

Pronouns were changed and reasons were fabricated as to why they were still single, why they chose to live off base. Worse still, some entered into sham marriages in order to protect their careers. I recall one such marriage that ended shortly after the military member reached his twenty years of service. Suddenly, his wife discovered that her husband was gay and that he was divorcing her. DADT had straight victims too.

Thankfully all that ends on Tuesday 20 September 2011 for most of our military. Most, not all, transgendered members of the Armed Forces are still at risk. They must still remain hidden. They are still required to lie merely to survive. At a talk I gave tonight, someone stated that we should have held out for “all or nothing!”

Although I empathized with the person’s zeal for justice, I quoted my old Political Science professor who said, “The reasons why liberals seldom win, is that they want the whole loaf of bread. In politics, you’re lucky to get one-third or one-half of what you want.” The repeal of DADT is imperfect for many reasons.

It is imperfect because it does nothing for transgendered members of the Armed Forces. It is also imperfect because spouses/domestic partners of gay/lesbian service members are not entitled to base housing, insurance benefits, etc. There is still much more work to be done, more battles for equality to be fought.

I think that the frustrations with incrementalism in our community are both reasonable and unreasonable. They are reasonable in that some LGBT organizations have used incrementalism as a license for inaction. One woman used to make a substantial donation to the Cancer Society every year and then, one year, she suddenly stopped her donations. Her son asked her why she stopped. The woman answered, “I discovered that they were only funding research for treatments and not research for cures.” If they found a cure, there would no longer be a need for the Cancer Society, or for continued donations and fund-raisers. Not to mention all the salaried positions. Some LGBT organizations might be afraid that the attainment of Full Federal Legal Equality would render them obsolete. Full Equality would mean an end to the donations and fundraisers that make possible all those salaried positions and benefits packages they currently enjoy. Incrementalism in this light is politically cynical and ethically indefensible.

Incrementalism in President Harry S. Truman’s Executive order desegregating the U.S. Civil Service and Armed Forces did little to immediately end segregation in this country. However, the Armed Forces socialize young enlistees from all over the nation and those enlistees bring their new thinking back to Hometown, USA. Truman’s act changed America’s culture and laid the groundwork for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 and the Civil Right Act of 1964. In that light, the repeal of DADT is an ominous defeat for the forces of social bigotry they understand that this will affect all of American society.

It may also be argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was incrementalism. Since it failed to address the issue of housing discrimination based on race. Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 addressed that, but without the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there would have been no Fair Housing Act of 1968. In that sense, incrementalism is an intelligent and necessary strategy. We take a third of the loaf of bread today and then fight for fourth of the rest of the loaf tomorrow and so on, until we have the whole loaf. The NAACP still has much work to do today, even though Civil Rights have come a very long way since Dr. King delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the feet of Lincoln’s statue. There will still be many generations of work ahead for LGBT organizations, long after Full Federal Legal Equality is attained.

We still have to pass ENDA and repeal DOMA. We still have to fight for those in our community who have not yet benefited from the repeal of DADT. Some of these battles will be fought by attorneys in courtrooms, some by you at the ballot box and in your conversations with family members, co-workers and in social settings.

Although imperfect, the repeal of DADT represents substantive progress for our community. Today is a day to draw strength from this battle victory by celebrating this encouraging step forward towards greater legal equality. Even after full federal legal equality and protection for our community is achieved, we will have to continue to work and fight for full social equality.