Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some Press Releases from the Senators who voted against Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Here are some of the press releases in favor of lifting the ban on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who said he thinks we gay people are immoral, released this press statement on December 8, 2010:

"On many previous occasions, I have said that I would oppose repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until I had heard from our servicemen and women regarding this policy. I have now carefully reviewed all of the findings, reports, and testimony from our armed forces on this matter and I accept the Pentagon’s recommendations to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I also accept the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ commitment that this policy can be implemented in a manner that does not harm our military’s readiness, recruitment, or retention. We have the strongest military in the world and we will continue to do so by ensuring our troops have the resources necessary to carry out their missions. Therefore, I support the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee and will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year."

Somehow, he recognized that the morality of gay people has nothing to do with it.

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina with the poorest gay rights voting record you could get from the Human Rights Campaign, released this statement:

"Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable. However, I remain convinced that the timing of this change is wrong, and making such a shift in policy at a time when we have troops deployed in active combat areas does not take into consideration the seriousness of the situation on the ground.

"But, the vote this morning to invoke cloture on this bill indicated that the broader Senate was prepared to move forward with a change, and despite my concerns over timing, my conclusion is that repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell is the right thing to do."

and this, concerning independent Republican Lisa Murkowski, courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News:

"Our military leaders have made a compelling case that they can successfully implement a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell, ...' " she said. "It is infinitely preferable for Congress to repeal the law, and allow the service chiefs to develop and execute a new policy, than to invite a court-ordered reversal of the law with no allowance for a military-directed implementation. I've heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it's time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them."

Murkowski posted a press release from the the senate web site as well.

And of course, Scott Brown's press release from the beginning of the month:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer. As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.

“I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the Secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

David Frum's Take on DADT

Leave it to a Burkean conservative to post this quote.

The Gay Rights Argument from the Religous Angle

Julian Sanchez decimates the main argument put forth by the religious right:

"Religious believers in the armed forces are also, of course, “forced” to “accept” serving alongside Muslims, Hindus, atheists, Jews, and a whole welter of other religious denominations."

The argument that religious conservatives shouldn't be compelled to accept the rights of those who engage in practices they deem immoral or un-Biblical was conceded the moment they acknowledged the right of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious minorities to live in accordance with their own beliefs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Update: "Repeal" Measure Passes

3:24 PM, reported by MSNBC and now they are talking to Dan Choi, the West Point graduate who outed himself on "The Rachel Maddow" show.

9-11 Bill

Good for Mike Huckabee. I thought voting for the wounded who saved rich people's lives would be an easy one but it apparently it is not. We have to find a way to pay for their health care. Anyone want to revisit Senator Chuck Schumer's millionaire tax cut threshold after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is officially repealed and Congress returns in January? It shouldn't be that hard since the Republicans care about the 9-11 responders' feelings, as John Stewart aptly noted on "The Daily Show" this week.

Other Republican Yes Votes on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Procedural Votes

Scott Brown of Massachusetts (he's up for re-election in 2012 so this was a chance to burnish he moderate credentials so as to appeal to Massachusetts' forward-thinking cultural progressives)

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (oh wait, she's an independent now, lol)

Susan Collins of Maine (she gets most of the credit on the Republican side)

Olympia Snowe of Maine (less so since her vote came after she recognized who the Tea Party has to challenge her so the risk, while there, given she might be challenged in her party, is less so)

George Voinovich of Ohio (but he's leaving so there was no risk)

McCain on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Senator John McCain just said this is "a very sad day." People are putting "their lives on the line" and don't need any "distractions."

Yes, right. Because the only people at Walter Reed are straight.

Update: 63 voted to move the bill forward for a vote. 33 did not, which raises the question. Who didn't vote? Update: 63 voted yes, 33 voted no and 4 did not vote. Kudos to Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), a Republican this blogger recommended for the senate seat. I hope this can be a sign Kirk will vote like the moderate he portrayed himself to be and the moderate I hoped he would be.

Hopefully this will happen in the very near future.

More battles will be fought before we can credit our president for fulfilling his promise.

In the meantime, let's give credit where it is due. Kudos must be sent out to Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Senator Sue Collins (R-Maine) and their staffs for their hard work in moving this bill forward.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why the Objections Against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Don't Work

The objections are as follows:
that we are at war and this is a distraction
that we shouldn't force these changes on the military when there are still objections and concerns, particularly in the Marines

The reason they both fail -

the bill which will be voted on does not lift the ban on gays serving in the military. It merely authorizes the president and the military commanders to lift the ban at their own discretion and in accordance with their own preferred time line.

The fact that we are at war, in other words, is besides the point since the bill merely gives the president and commanders the option (and not the command) to lift the ban. Should they decide to do so, the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff can postpone any lift of ban (which they might support) until either or both wars come to an end.

Corker's Threat

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from the (ahem) civil rights pioneering state of Tennessee, says he is willing to kill the START Treaty if the Democrats vote on the so-called DREAM Act (which I coincidentally oppose) and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill (which I support). I don't see what the START bill, which deals with nuclear inspections, has to do with with either of the other two bills and for once, the Democrats should stand up and be counted. They should ask the senator why his vote on a nuclear weapons inspection regime should be dependent upon their votes for (or against) immigration bills and/or gay rights. The START treaty (which should be passed, either in this Congress or the next, and possibly could be passed in the next since many Republicans wouldn't be so foolish as to jeopardize our relationship with the Russians) should rise or fall on its merits, and Republicans like Senator Corker should vote for or against it on that basis and not on the Democratic majority's political maneuvering on other issues.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gay Artitcle Links

Not very uplifting but the reporting on these matters is very important, particularly in light of the recent suicides. The first comes from The Los Angeles Times; the latter from The Washington Post

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Machetes in Manhattan Down the Road?

“People talk about how knives are dangerous, and then they go in the kitchen and they have 50 of them,” said D’Alton Holder, a veteran knife maker who lives in Wickenberg, Ariz. “It’s ridiculous to talk about the size of the knife as if that makes a difference. If you carry a machete that’s three feet long, it’s no more dangerous than any knife. You can do just as much damage with an inch-long blade, even a box cutter.” excerpt from The New York Times

I have no problem with an individual buying a machete to protect himself and his or her family members from the occasional home invasion but do we really want to see everyone carrying a machetes on their way to work or to a bar in midtown Manhattan?

Tax Cut Logic Question

Okay. I need some help here.

In general, the Democrats say we should preserve the middle class tax cuts (because we are in the midst of a recession and they can spend our way out of it) while letting the tax cuts for the rich expire (because we shouldn't spend the $700 billion helping those who neither need the aid nor will spend our way out of the recession).

And in general, the Republicans (and some Democrats) say we should make the tax cuts permanent for everyone (even though this adds to our nation's debt) and definitely not when we are in the middle of a recession. Fine. I don't agree with this assessment but there is no logical inconsistency behind the rationale.

Some Democrats, thinking they didn't have the votes to let the tax cuts for those earning $250,000 a year or more, thought they could win some more votes by raising the threshold to $1 million. I understand the reasoning here. One bill didn't pass so let's propose a less "drastic" or "controversial" alternative which self-declared "moderates" can get behind.

But what is the logic behind a vote for the former (letting the tax cuts expire for those earning $250,0000 a year or more) then vote against a bill that lets those tax cuts expire at the higher $1 million threshold? Why would a senator who voted to let the tax cuts for the rich expire (Jay Rockefeller IV, Richard J. Durbin, and Tom Harkin) then turn around and vote against the more viable and more responsible of the two remaining options?

Would the next journalist who speaks to these three senators press them to answer this question? I'd like to know how a senator who had no qualms voting to let the tax cuts expire at a $250,000 mark object at the higher $1 million threshold?

Obama's Perceived Weakness

Here are two competing theories explaining why the Democrats accomplished virtually nothing which the Democratic base would consider significant or important to them:

(1) Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill are wimps. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow (it seems), and NY Times columnist Frank Rich seem to think the president means well but doesn't know how to deliver:

"THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin," Frank Rich writes in today's New York Times.

(2) Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill are really centrists who play to their base and then pick someone to supposedly thwart the progressive agenda which they themselves back. Laurence Lewis expressed this more cynicalview on the Daily Kos web site today:

"It's conventional wisdom to believe that the president gave away the public option for which he had campaigned, while accepting the mandate he campaigned against, and again the arguments are largely about what he might have gotten had he tried. Or the optics of trying. But again the presumption is that he wanted to try. The same goes for the inadequate and ultimately politically disastrous stimulus package. But he himself later admitted that the public option hadn't ever been that important to him. And his political team, like his more passionate supporters, continually hyped every isolated cherry-picked uptick in economic data as proof that his stimulus plan wasn't so inadequate after all. Take it at face value. He thought the stimulus was enough. He didn't care that much about a public option. The agenda so desired by liberals and progressives just wasn't his agenda."

Whatever the case may be, the president better get his act together and win a couple of these battles lest he, like former President Jimmy Carter, face a competitive primary opponent running to his left two years from now. The progressives won't care if the president's failures can be attributed to his ineffectiveness or to his desire to court the liberal base with false platitudes while undermining their agenda behind closed doors. They voted for him. They encouraged their parents to vote for him. They bought into his campaign for "change" and they financially contributed to his campaign. If the president fails to deliver on any of his promises they may force him into a primary. Who knows? They might "draft" ousted Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin to challenge the president from the left.