Tag Archives: obama

The Right Thing To Do


Last week history was made. President Obama signed the repeal of DADT into law. This was an especially meaningful moment for me as a former gay member of the military and as a vocal advocate for repeal for several years.

My military experience as a gay male became a cornerstone of my life and psyche. Forsaking two full four year scholarships to outstanding universities, I decided instead to join the military. Knowing at the time that I was gay, I made the difficult decision to lie on my enlistment application. I joined the Air Force in a time beset by the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of social change within our country.

My military career as a Personnel Specialist started at the 615th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron in Neubruecke, Germany; a bit of a homecoming for me as I had spent my formulative years in Germany as a military brat, and had just returned to the States less than two years earlier. A small, tight-knight unit housed in an old Army hospital from the post-war period, we worked alongside NATO forces, Canadian Air Force, and the Army protecting and serving our country. It literally was a facility where everyone knew his fellow soldier.

During my years here I enjoyed great success in my military career, having been selected as the unit’s Airman of the Year and was one of four nominated for the command-wide USAFE (United States Armed Forces Europe) Airman of the Year. My personal life was also rewarding me with the completion of my college education through the University of Maryland and a formulative relationship with my best friend whom I care for deeply to this date.

Following my tour in Germany, I was assigned to Ellsworth AFB, in South Dakota. Continuing to be involved in the community and matters that involved my fellow soldiers, I was elected President of the base’s Air Force Sergeant’s Association, and (thanks to my language skills) was nominated for a special duty assignment with HUMINT, located at the Pentagon.

Later, I was transferred to Eglin AFB in sunny Florida, and spent the remaining four years of my military career there. It was during this period that I began to embrace the fact that I was gay, and without a stable relationship since I left Germany, I immersed myself in what I found to be a fairly large gay community in the Fort Walton Beach area. A community composed of civilians and an alarming (to a young me) number of active duty, former military, and retired Air Force members.

Of the one hundred or so Air Force personnel at the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO) where I worked, there were nearly ten of us who were gay, including the Chief of Personal Affairs and the Chief of the CBPO, a Major. 

For many years as a Personnel Technician in the Air Force my job was to process administrative discharges for cause. Some of these were otherwise outstanding men and women, discharged for being gay. Of them, a few just “wanted out”. Others accepted their fate and were willing to move on. Some were the targets of “witch hunts”, and were exposed to the full impact of homophobia in the military. Those I knew, I spoke with at length about my trepidation and the implied hypocrisy of my position in processing their discharge. We agreed that I was merely doing my “job”, and I had to be convinced several times to not speak out as it would affect my career.

I left the military and moved on with my life. Over the years, the fact that I was gay became less of a “chore”. That may be an unusual statement to make, but you must understand first that my entire life, up to this point, revolved around keeping my sexual orientation a secret from authorities: My family, led by a career military man; and the military, led by the institutionalized homophobia fueled by ignorance.

To say that being free from these constraints of society was challenging would be an understatement. On two occasions I was the victim of extreme hate in the form of gay-bashing, with the last incident leaving me seriously injured, physically and mentally, at the hands of a law enforcement officer attending training at the FLETC in Brunswick, Georgia.

As a result, I’ve become increasingly an advocate for gay rights and equality. More so after someone (a former Navy enlisted man) had the following statements to say (on an internet forum) about me a few years ago:

With those assumptions… and your own admission… I can safely say that you falsified government documents to gain employement in a government position under false pretenses.  That is a federal crime.

…a guy who admittedly broke the law and lied to his government for almost 2 full decades.

Howey is a guy that illegally served in the military.

The fact that you lied to your employer and broke the law for your entire career.

A man can not serve his country while breaking the laws of the land.  

…gay person that made a false statement to gain employment with the government commited a federal crime.

If someone lies about their eligibility to serve, it is fraud.

…you are a liar and should be in jail for defrauding the United States government of money you don’t rightfully deserve.

I’m glad to see current service members don’t agree with those statements, as well as our Service Chiefs, Congress, and a majority of Americans. What I see is the opportunity for gay men and women to continue serving for, and dying for, their country without fear of reprisal and shame merely because they happen to love someone of the same sex.

The President is correct.

It was THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

Is Health Care Reform Constitutional?


Is it a right? Are the American people guaranteed good health?

That’s a question I’ve seen a lot over the past year or so. Many of those opposed to health care reform often cite the Constitution; usually with the rally cry,

WE THE PEOPLE

Perhaps they should read a little further…

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Here’s the definition of “Welfare” from Merriam Webster: “of, relating to, or concerned with welfare and especially with improvement of the welfare of disadvantaged social groups…”

From The Free Dictionary: “Health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being.”

We The People, Indeed!

Health Care: The President’s Plan


A short while ago The White House released the President’s plan for health care. An extensive and comprehensive plan, it’s an excellent compromise of  the House and Senate legislation.

The Wonk Room has an excellent overview of the President’s proposal and a comparison between it, the Senate version and the House version. From The White House:

Overview of the President’s Proposal

The President’s Proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care.

  • It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today.  This helps over 31 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more.
  • It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.
  • It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.
  • It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

Although the plan does not include a Public Option, it would be safe to say that such an option will be within the bill when it is passed through reconciliation, hopefully within the next two months.

Where does this leave the Republicans? After more than a year of record-breaking obstructionism, it’s time for them to get on the bus and work with the President and Congress on this issue, or continue their non-productive agenda.

We’ll know in three days

The President should be commended for his actions and the obvious action right now is to do what Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly said last month:

Pass the damn bill.

Just Pass the Damn Bill!


I’m a big fan of Steve Benen over at The Washington Monthly. Here’s his latest post in it’s entirety. I couldn’t agree more!

I have no idea whose advice would be most likely to influence congressional Dems on health care reform, but Paul Krugman was recently named the most influential commentator in the nation, so here’s hoping his message gets through: “Stop whining, and do what needs to be done.”

A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history.

Tuesday’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts special election means that Democrats can’t send a modified health care bill back to the Senate. That’s a shame because the bill that would have emerged from House-Senate negotiations would have been better than the bill the Senate has already passed. But the Senate bill is much, much better than nothing. And all that has to happen to make it law is for the House to pass the same bill, and send it to President Obama’s desk.

Right now, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, says that she doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill. But there is no good alternative. […]

[S]ome Democrats want to just give up on the whole thing. That would be an act of utter political folly. It wouldn’t protect Democrats from charges that they voted for “socialist” health care — remember, both houses of Congress have already passed reform. All it would do is solidify the public perception of Democrats as hapless and ineffectual.

 Americans have been waiting for this for a century. The top domestic policy priority of the Democratic Party for generations is right there in front of them, just waiting for a single roll-call vote.

House passage of the Senate bill would help millions suffering under the dysfunctional status quo. It would prove that Democrats can deliver on their agenda. It would take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity and be a historic achievement. It would steer clear of electoral suicide that would cost Democrats’ their majority and leave the country much worse off.

The solution is so goddamn obvious it’s literally unbelievable that Dems aren’t rushing to embrace it.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Steve Benen

Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8


It’s showing up on bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and even teddy bears.

For those unfamiliar with biblical passages, it seems pretty inocuous, doesn’t it? How nice! Let’s pray for the President! 

“Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama”

The words of this particular psalm are far more telling:

“May his days be few, may another take over his position.”

 

“May his children be orphans and his wife a widow”

 

“Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

 

Courtesy ThinkProgress

I find it particularly distressing that evangelical right wing conservative leaders of our churches in this country are taking a political stance on political issues, regardless of the current interpretations of Separation of Church and State. It’s one thing to preach civil disobedience, it’s an entirely different thing to preach breaking the law.

From Diane Butler Bass at BeliefNet:

It is the personal prayer of an individual, someone who has been dealt an injustice by another–and usually more powerful–person. The words of Psalm 109 are those of deep agony, the longings of a victim for retribution and justice. This psalm is considered one of the most difficult of all the psalms–full of violent images of vengeance and death.

From Rabbi Brad Hirschfield via The Washington Monthly:

Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks’ events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies?

Amen!

We’ve discussed on here the implications of the tragic massacre at Ft. Hood a few weeks ago. What I find ironic now is that these are the same right wing conservative christian nutcases who are screaming “TERRORIST!” and “TRAITOR!” over the same sentiments voiced by Major Nidal Hasan…

“Allahu Akbar”

Massacre at Ft Hood – UPDATE


UPDATE

Today, ABC came out with a story attributed to “a senior lawmaker” accusing the CIA of having evidence Hasan attempted to contact the al Qaeda earlier this year, although by what means and what level of contact was unknown. From the report:

One senior lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, said that he requested the CIA and other intelligence agencies brief the committee on what was known, if anything, about Hasan by the U.S. intelligence community, only to be refused.

That story was later changed to identify the “senior lawmaker” to be Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a frequent critic of the Obama administration.

Not long after release of the ABC report, Hoekstra spoke:

“President Obama said people should not jump to conclusions about what happened at Fort Hood, but the administration is in possession of critical information related to the attack that they are refusing to release to Congress or the American people,” Hoekstra said. “I intend to push for intense review of this and other issues related to the performance of the intelligence community and whether or not information necessary for military, state and local officials to provide for the security of the post was provided to them.” Hoekstra said he was concerned that more information had been provided, piecemeal, to the news media by anonymous sources than had yet been provided to the Committee.

Since publication of ABC’s report, the CIA has dismissed Hoekstra’s claim as “bogus” .

The CIA is denying an ABC News report that the agency has refused to brief Congress on any knowledge it has about Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army major suspected in the shootings at Fort Hood last week. “This is a law enforcement investigation, in which other agencies — not the CIA — have the lead. Any suggestion that the CIA refused to brief Congress is flat wrong,” CIA spokesman George Little tells TPMmuckraker in a statement.

It’s apparent another slippery threshold has been passed – and another concerted effort by the right wing Republicans to tie, somehow, this massacre to the Obama Administration.

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A note of thanks to VetVoice for giving this blog the national attention needed to spread my word!