(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
Some American troops donned drag for a charity performance in Okinawa. World Net Daily is appalled.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin that she was not sure he was in touch with reality.
Prediction: this is not going to happen. But Winter Storm Titan is headed for the eastern U.S.
This is what happens when you allow Swedes to serve in the military.
From NYT, a remarkable story of perseverance and devotion to duty that bears reading.
Think Progress reports.
Ryan Teague Beckwith tweets, "Instead of a memoir, Robert Gates should have just given lots of loud off-the-record interviews on the Acela." Obama never stops being punished for reaching across the aisle. Gates complains about civvies on the White House staff asking skeptical questions of military brass. Clutch the pearls!
On December 3 at the National Air & Space Museum, the U.S. Air Force Band performed a flash mob version of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Joy to the World." Here's to high musical and production standards.
(Hat tip: Bob Witeck)
Gabriel Arana at American Prospect profiles activist Dan Choi. Here's a passage that conveys his situation:
By the time “don’t ask, don’t tell” was abolished, Dan had been interviewed scores of times, appearing in all the major newspapers and news networks (save Fox); spoken at dozens of gay-rights rallies from Wichita to Moscow; lectured at universities from Texas A&M to Harvard; and been named a “brave thinker” by The Atlantic.
Now, Dan wakes up most days with nothing to do. After the sun rouses him from his spot on the couch, where he sleeps under his “affirmation quilt”—fan letters are printed on each square—he takes two capsules of Hydroxycut, a diet pill loaded with caffeine, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant used to treat bipolar disorder. Sometimes he goes for a long bike ride or works out at the gym in his building. He attends fundraisers and art openings, occasionally in uniform. Now and then, he drives to Fire Island, a gay vacation destination off Long Island. He earns a living by giving speeches at $10,000 a pop, which the Gotham Artists agency arranges for him. He smokes pot—a lot of it, he admits. “I can’t tell the difference,” he says, “between being high and not.”
Dan is an Iraq war veteran with PTSD whose personal health was not helped by his encounter with fame. He is a wounded warrior who needs help. I know some have tried. It is a sad story.
(Photo by Associated Press)
The latest from Bryan Fischer at AFA, courtesy Right Wing Watch. If God were so closely monitoring the world, She'd have zapped this hateful loon long ago. Or at least unplugged his mic.
Late Saturday night, after news broke that Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China had reached an agreement in Geneva with Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons, President Obama appeared in the White House State Dining Room to describe some of the details:
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
As soon as the news broke, and without bothering to wait for the details, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted:
Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care
Cornyn thus echoed what others were tweeting sarcastically in anticipation of reflexive GOP denunciations of the diplomatic breakthrough. One wag tweeted:
Someone get the details of the deal out quickly so the people who hate it already can find out why
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Closet) quickly offered his usual overcompensating saber-rattling that bars any thought of preventing war:
Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven't gained anything. #IranNukes
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).
Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing”the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.
Metro Weekly reports:
Nearly two months after several states began blocking requests for benefits by members of the National Guard with a same-sex spouse, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered Pentagon officials Thursday to take immediate action to resolve the situation.
In a speech at the Anti-Defamation League's centennial dinner in New York, Hagel said he ordered the chief of the National Guard Bureau today to meet with commanders in the states that continue to deny the processing of benefits at state installations for same-sex military families and see that federal policy is followed.
"Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation," Hagel said, according to prepared remarks provided by a senior Defense Department official. "At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions."
From Right Wing Watch, the latest wisdom from Virginia Republican Lt. Governor candidate E.W. Jackson. Message to Mr. Jackson: when our warriors enjoy the rights they are defending, our nation is stronger, not weaker.
Who are the nitwits who take this guy seriously?
(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
Here's remembering not just the victims and first responders on that awful day twelve years ago, but the freedoms that were lost, and the blood and treasure that were subsequently spent, when our patriotism was misused by unscrupulous people who exploited the attack to divide the country for a power grab and partisan gain. Their punditry is hollow and hypocritical. May a lifetime of showers never wash away the shame that properly clings to them for their acts.
Secretary of State Kerry gives us a catalog of horrors. Excuse me, Mr. Secretary, but what is your purpose? Sadly, there are many horrors being committed by various regimes around the world. You do not begin to propose military responses to all of them. I agree that our choice has consequences. I see no good consequence of the proposed military action. Oddly, a proposal for all-out war against Assad would make more logical sense than the send-a-message volley being entertained. Allow me to remind you of your Senate testimony from 1971.
Here's a link to the "U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013."
So what piddling missile volley will we launch after today's eloquent, ringing speech by the Secretary of State? Will the likely mismatch between our words and actions really leave us looking stronger? As I said before, sending more ordnance into that region will not create greater stability. Kerry convinced me of something I already knew: Assad is a monster. He did not persuade me that American military action can solve the problem.
Metro Weekly reports on the sentencing of Bradley Manning to 35 years in military prison.
Several issues are swirling around Manning's sentencing:
NYT reports. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy, convicted on most other charges. He could get 136 years. Sentencing phase starts Wednesday.
I am not one of Manning's supporters. He broke the law in a massive way and must pay the consequences. If he thinks he did it for a good reason, he should embrace the penalty.
The New York Times has published In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims that discuses how repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell has affected sexual assault reporting. Personal stories relate how fear of discharge under DADT kept men from reporting sexual assaults. (The article doesn't discuss how DADT discouraged women, both gay and straight, from reporting assaults.)
“A lot of people say this problem exists because we are allowing women into the military or because of the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” he said, referring to the ban on openly gay service members. “But that is absurd. The people who perpetrated these crimes on me identify as heterosexual males.”
The first thing that an abuser tells their victim is don't tell anyone. By shielding sexual predators DADT was a prescription for sexual assault, which was documented decades ago by Randy Shilts in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf.
OutServe/SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson was fired after a board coup yesterday according to a leaked email sent to Bilerico Project. Robinson was the only transgender leader of a major LGBT organization that is not specifically trans-related.
The organization's entire senior staff quit immediately following the board vote. Director of External Engagement Zeke Stokes, Director of Chapter and Member Services Gary Espinas, and David McKean, Legal and Public Policy Director, have all resigned in protest of Robinson's termination.
So far two board members have also resigned over Robinson's firing. Other board member resignations are expected later today.
Most Executive Directors are given at least a year to get their feet wet and get ensconced in their positions. Robinson has only been the head of OutServe/SLDN for approximately nine months.
Chris Geidner reports at BuzzFeed.
What we need now is more information, though whatever problem was at the root of this, it appears to have been handled disastrously.
(Photo from @allysonrobinson on Twitter)
Freedom to Marry explains:
Retired Admiral Jamie Barnett, former congressman Patrick Murphy and Army Major Mary Bergner explain why the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't enough to make gay and lesbian service.
(Hat tip: Michael Crawford)
Adele M. Stan writes for RH Reality Check:
Despite its bipartisan support and 27 co-sponsors, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the committee chairman, struck from the [Defense Authorization] bill a measure offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would have moved the adjudication of all serious crimes (such as murder, rape, and sexual assault) into the hands of independent prosecutors in order to create a safer environment and more impartial judicial process for those who have been the targets of assailants in the military ranks.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said:
"I don't personally believe that you can eliminate the command structure in the military from this process because it is the culture," he said. "It is the institution. It is the people within that institution that have to fix the problem, and that's the culture. The people are the culture, so I don't know how you disconnect that from the accountability of command."
The action by Senator Levin and the statement by Secretary Hagel make them unfit for their jobs. There were more than 26,000 military sexual assaults reported last year. The current approach to dealing with the problem is not working. Thank God there are women like Kirsten Gillibrand and Barbara Boxer in the Senate to fight this outrage; but all of us need to back them up.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos slams Senator Carl Levin:
Thanks to Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI), top military officers will substantially get their way: Solving the problem that's bigger than they imagined will continue to be up to their imagination. Levin is removing Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's proposal to make trained legal experts in the form of military prosecutors in charge of decisions about prosecuting sexual assaults from a defense spending bill....
Basically, the old white men in charge of the military said "trust us, we'll start taking sexual assault seriously and we'll make it stop even though we've done neither to date" and the old white man in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee said "sounds good to me. How about if we make a cosmetic change that leaves you guys still completely in charge but pretends to add accountability?"
I was screaming at the TV. This is outrageous beyond words.
President Obama talks about the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and deftly handles heckling by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. The difference between him and her is that he has to deal with political reality.
On Thursday, March 28 in federal court, U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola found Lt. Dan Choi guilty of failing to obey the order of a law enforcement agent in his protest at the White House fence three years ago, and ordered him to pay a fine of $100 (rather than the maximum penalty of $5,000 and five years in jail). Metro Weekly reports:
In court on Thursday, Choi represented himself, cross-examining witnesses and making a series of disjointed points in order to defend himself against the charge. But Choi seemed scattered throughout the exercise, at one point breaking down into tears as he showed the courtroom a video clip of "The Rachel Maddow Show," the show on which he initially came out by publicly stating he was gay.
Following his tears, Choi got up and loudly told Facciola that he was ready for closing arguments. Facciola called a recess and ordered the parties to come back for closing arguments later that afternoon. Choi then had what several friends and observers characterized as a "breakdown," during which deputies from the U.S. Marshals Service forced the audience to exit the courtroom.
According to Choi's fellow activist Staff Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, who peered through the glass on the courtroom doors, Choi was on the floor of the courtroom during the episode. At one point, Choi was heard sobbing, "I don't want to do this any more!" before several marshals exited the courtroom, carrying Choi, by his arms, with his legs in the air as Choi cursed at them, even telling one of the deputies, "Fuck you, you're a coward."
"I think he's tired, he's been under pressure for so long," Ben-Shalom said of Choi's mental state.
After the sentencing, Dan said he refused to pay the fine. Judge Facciola said he had a right to appeal. And so the drama goes on.
What is the point of continuing this fight? One of the traditions of civil disobedience is embracing the punishment (like Dr. King in Birmingham jail). Dan is a wounded warrior who should be urged to pay the nominal fine and focus on healing--not be egged on like a man on a ledge being encouraged to jump. Our compassion should trump our need for a martyr.
Dan has PTSD. He has talked of suicide. His main publicity photo is of him in a crucifixion pose handcuffed to the White House fence. He is mentally ill. He needs and deserves healing, not enabling by people seeking not equality but an excuse to perpetuate their outrage. His breakdown in court on Thursday should be the last straw that prompts people to pull back and reconnect with reality. Dan played a part in the fight to end the gay military ban, but there were countless people who labored and held on in the struggle for years who deserve respect as well--not dismissed with contempt in service of the myth that Dan's media appearances were the key factor. The judge on Thursday showed great restraint, which was appropriate with a returned servicemember bearing the mental scars of his service. But at long last, enough. It is time, out of simple decency, to turn away from the public spectacle of a man's self-destruction.
Bob Summersgill commented on Facebook, "A $100 fine for civil disobedience is a win. Everyone else declared victory with the repeal of DADT, so now should Dan." Amen.
David Mariner reports:
Took the day off so that I could support Dan Choi at his trial. He was facing up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine for his act of civil disobedience in service to our community. I'm pleased to report that while he was found guilty, he received only a $100 fine.
I attended the 8 am rally for Dan at the federal courthouse Thursday, but could not stay for the trial. I am glad the penalty was light, though the conviction may prevent Dan's desired re-enlistment. I hope now that he takes the time to heal.
Civil rights veteran Rev. C.T. Vivian, who is 88, attended the rally to express solidarity with Choi. Dan is being prosecuted in connection with a protest he held outside the White House in 2010.
(Photos by Rick Rosendall. All rights reserved.)
From the Anti-Defamation League, celebrating its centennial year.
The latest attempt by the National Organization for Marriage to turn the truth on its head.
The man who twice attempted a citizen's arrest of Robert Mugabe takes on Prime Minister Cameron's austerity policies and invokes the dreaded name of John Maynard Keynes. Peter Tatchell proposes his own alternatives to cutting the British welfare state and says, "The poor in our society are bearing the brunt of an economic crisis that they did not create." Listening to his engaging presentation makes me sorry he isn't in the House of Commons. (Note: Peter's voices comes through much more clearly than the introducer's.)
Ted Cruz, showboating freshman senator, throws out a lot of red-meat accusations to which he won't let Chuck Hagel respond, then plays some tendentiously edited tapes to give the impression that Hagel opposed defending either Israel or the United States. He has a future playing sinister opposing attorneys in courtroom dramas (especially since William Windom, who did the job in To Kill a Mockingbird, is now dead).
Lindsay Graham demands that Chuck Hagel "Name one man" in Congress who was intimidated by the "Israeli Jewish lobby" (a phrase that Hagel has already apologized for having used). Seriously, Lindsay? Can you say overcompensate?
John McCain is a bitter, twisted old man who has put his personal score-settling ahead of his country's interest. He is ready to start two or three more wars. He is reckless and delusional, still indignant that anyone disputes what a wonderful thing the Iraq War was. Here's a quick summary of his bullying of his former friend Chuck Hagel:
McCain: Were you right or wrong about the surge in Iraq -- yes or no?
Hagel: It's more complicated than ...
McCain: Yes or no! It's a simple question! Yes or no!
Hagel: John, you're having a flashback to the Hanoi Hilton. Wake up, this is your buddy Chuck.
McCain: Let the record show that he's refusing to answer the question!
Hagel: Take your meds, John.
That's my phrase describing Republican senators at Thursday's confirmation hearing for Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense. In this and a few subsequent posts I'll give you a rundown on the leading offenders.
James Inhofe demanded that Hagel explain why the Iranian foreign ministry reportedly supports him as DefSec. Hagel just laughed and said he has enough trouble with American politics. Did you know that Poppy Bush was once endorsed by Muammar Qaddafi?
The news prompted the following tweet from Ryan Teague Beckwith, politics editor at Digital First Media's Project Thunderdome:
Hillary Clinton successfully faces down angry senators, prompting Leon Panetta to realize that women can be good in combat.
(Hat tip on Beckwith tweet: Andrew Sullivan)
The Secretary of State was doing her job today at two hearings on Capitol Hill, but her masterful performance in the face of the most disgraceful demagogic attacks doubles as a brief for her candidacy in three years. Indeed, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today referred to her as President Clinton. Thank you, Hillary.
3:42 PM: Clinton to Rep. Michael McCaul: "1.4 million cables come to us each year, all of them addressed to me."
4:48 PM: Rep. Ami Bera: "Secretary Clinton, can you tell me how long it takes to read 1.4 million cables?"
As the violence in Mali escalates following France's intervention to halt the advance of Islamist fighters, UNESCO has issued calls for the protection of the ancient city of Timbuktu, urging armed forces to safeguard the nation's historic and religious landmarks....
Timbuktu, in northern Mali, is a UNESCO World Heritage site of huge cultural significance, but in recent times its carefully preserved heritage has come under severe threat amid ongoing conflict.
The threat to "idolatrous" sites in Timbuktu by Islamic extremists is a chilling example of what happens when religious bullies gain power. Those who cannot tolerate religious diversity, even within their own faith, will crush the people who embody that diversity just as they destroy humanity's cultural heritage. They did it to ancient Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, they are doing it in Mali, and their American Christianist counterparts are doing their damnedest to do it here.
(Hat tip: Pepe Julian Onziema
A problem for the NRA: Some of its defenders are so unhinged that they look like they could be the next mass shooter. New slogan: "NRA -- they're all the rage." Below, conservative former congressman Joe Scarborough calls the NRA a fringe group and asks, "What's wrong with these people?"