Sunday, August 09, 2009

What if We [Conservatives] Win the Healthcare Fight?

David Frum, New Majority: What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?
For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself.
The problem is that if we do that… we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.
We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.
Not a good outcome.
Even worse will be the way this fight is won: basically by convincing older Americans already covered by a government health program, Medicare, that Obama’s reform plans will reduce their coverage. In other words, we’ll have sent a powerful message to the entire political system to avoid at all hazards any tinkering with Medicare except to make it more generous for the already covered.
If we win, we’ll trumpet the success as a great triumph for liberty and individualism. Really though it will be a triumph for inertia. To the extent that anybody in the conservative world still aspires to any kind of future reform and improvement of America’s ossified government, that should be a very ashy victory indeed.
DAVID FRUM: In 2001-2002, David Frum served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush. In October 2005, Frum founded and served as chairman of Americans for Better Justice, the lobbying group that led the opposition to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. In 2007-2008, he served as senior foreign policy adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign. Frum is a member of the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

I am an American conservative shithead

John Aravosis (DC), AmericaBlog.com: Something that's been flying around the Internet - I couldn't figure out who the actual author is.
This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.
I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.
After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.
On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.
After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.
And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on Freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Dan Savage: Was Obama a One-Night Stand?

Dan Savage, The Advocate: We could start with the betrayals and the slights -- the Reverend Rick Warren, 265 (and counting) gay men and lesbians kicked out of the military since Barack Obama was sworn in, the now-infamous DOMA brief that compared gay marriage to incest and pedophilia -- but maybe we should start by remembering the good times.

Hey, remember when Barack Obama couldn’t get his tongue any further up our butts?

Remember when he practically spooned Melissa Etheridge during the Logo–Human Rights Campaign debate? Remember when he positioned himself to the left of Hillary Clinton on the Defense of Marriage Act? While Clinton came out in favor of a partial repeal, Obama said he favored -- and would fight for -- a complete repeal, and described DOMA as “abhorrent.”

That was pretty sweet.

Then there was Barack Obama’s open letter to the gay community. “Equality is a moral imperative,” candidate Obama wrote, before reiterating his promise to repeal DOMA. He also promised to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to pressure Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard hate-crimes act, and to lift the HIV travel ban. And then this line in particular jumped out at me, as it must have for other gay parents: “As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.”

But the highlight of the campaign for me came during the vice-presidential debate. An Obama-Biden administration would support civil unions for same-sex couples, Joe Biden said, adding that there should be “no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint” between same-sex and opposite-sex couples (except for the “marriage/civil unions” distinction). When Sarah Palin said that she didn’t support same-sex marriage either and that she agreed with Biden that the federal government shouldn’t “do anything to prohibit” visitation or other rights, Biden moved in for the kill: “I take her at her word, obviously, that she thinks there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple.”

Ah, those were good times.

But then Obama was sworn in under Rick Warren’s porcine gaze and the “fierce urgency of now” quickly morphed, in Andrew Sullivan’s damning turn of phrase, into the “fierce urgency of whenever.” Never mind that gay people are being turned away from their partners’ bedsides during medical emergencies now. Never mind that people are being kicked out of the military now. Never mind that Arkansas banned adoptions by same-sex couples on the very same day that Obama was elected. (Gosh, where’s that bully pulpit when you need it?) The man who wasn’t afraid to appeal directly to us for our votes as a candidate -- and certainly wasn’t shy about asking us for our dollars -- couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge the promises he had made to us and seemed to greatly resent being asked to actually honor them.

The difference between candidate Obama and President Obama crystallized for me when NBC’s Brian Williams asked the president if “gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry ... have a friend in the White House?” The comfort candidate Obama demonstrated with gay people and issues was gone. I don’t remember exactly what the president said, but I will never forget the look on his face. Judging from his pained and slightly annoyed expression, you would have thought that Williams put the question to him in a suppository form.

Have you ever been introduced to someone with whom you’d had a torrid one-night stand and he acted like he didn’t know you? “Don’t know me?” you’re tempted to say in a loud voice. “Honey, you ate my ass.

Could Barack Obama be that one-night stand?

I started screaming and yelling about Barack weeks before his Department of Justice chose to celebrate the beginning of Gay Pride Month by defending DOMA, leaning on every bigoted argument against marriage equality that Pat Robertson ever advanced. Back in April, in a Salon piece I wrote marking the president’s first 100 days in office, I gave him a D-minus on gay issues. A few weeks later, when I was on MSNBC discussing Obama’s first comments about gay marriage since taking office (a lame joke delivered at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner), I revised that grade downward: F.

Then came the DOMA brief, and all hell broke loose on the blogosphere and outside two gay fund-raisers for the Democratic National Committee. But the screaming and yelling online -- a unique moment of unanimity among bloggers John Aravosis, Andy Towle, Pam Spaulding, Andrew Sullivan, Michelangelo Signorile, and Joe Jervis -- was nothing compared to the screaming and yelling in my kitchen.

Anyone who wonders why I’m so down on Barack Obama -- and have been for months -- needs to meet my boyfriend: He supported Hillary Clinton during the primary, while I backed Obama. My support wasn’t passionate; I didn’t write Obama a check until after he clinched the nomination. During the primary I was fond of saying, “I’m for Hillary or Barack or both.” But those facts can’t save me from the boyfriend’s wrath. I’m not to blame, he admits, but I’m handy. Barack Obama has been backtracking on his commitments to gays and lesbians since the moment he got elected, and someone’s going to hear about it. Might as well be me.

Take “don’t ask, don’t tell.” During the campaign Obama promised to “end” the ban on gays in the military, but now he talks about “changing” it. Apparently, the president hopes to find some middle ground, a “bipartisan solution,” some compromise that pleases both advocates of gay equality and raving antigay bigots. Someone needs to tell the president that “don’t ask, don’t tell,” crafted in 1993 by the Clinton administration, was the split-the-difference middle ground, it was the “bipartisan” compromise, and it’s proved to be as unworkable as it is unjust. The policy was supposed to allow gay people to serve in the military so long as they remained closeted, so long as they didn’t tell. But it’s only the telling part of this equation -- also known as honesty -- that’s ever been punished under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” No one’s been tossed out of the military for asking (or telling on) a gay soldier, so the witch hunts and expulsions have continued -- at the rate of two service members a day.

My boyfriend is certain that Hillary Clinton, if she’d been elected president, would have been a passionate, ballsy supporter of gay rights. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” would already be history, he insists, and it’s hard for me to argue. Not because he’s necessarily right -- we’ve been betrayed by the Clintons before (Bill signed “don’t ask, don’t tell” and DOMA into law in the first place) -- but because it’s impossible to argue with him about all the progress being made on the civil rights front in the parallel universe where Hillary Clinton is president. He can’t actually prove that things would be better under President Hillary Clinton, but I can’t prove things would be as bad or worse. All he knows for sure is that -- seven months in -- things are bad under Obama.

And since, um, Barack Obama won the White House by a single vote -- mine -- that makes me ultimately responsible for everything.

And that’s why I’m being so tough on the president. Not because Obama won the White House thanks to my vote (or check), but because I know that every broken or delayed promise, every weasel word that falls out of Robert Gibbs’s mouth at the daily press briefing, every shift from “end” to “change” is going to upset the man I married in Canada -- where they actually don’t make a distinction from a constitutional or legal standpoint between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. And that means yet another argument about what could have been under Hillary Clinton.

Ain’t love grand?

While the boyfriend beats me up -- figuratively speaking (he abuses me physically only at my request) -- I’m also being pummeled, via e-mail, by Obama supporters (most of them straight) who think I’ve been too critical of the president during my TV appearances and in my blog posts at Slog.TheStranger.com.

These presidential defenders seem to fall in two basic camps: those urging patience and those urging self-reliance.

The patience crowd’s argument goes like this: The president has a lot on his plate. Compared to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our collapsing economy, and the effort to bring health care to all Americans, repealing DOMA, ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and ending the HIV travel ban are ridiculously trivial. Plus he’s only been in the White House for seven months. Be patient!

But gay rights don’t seem so trivial if you’re the person being kicked out of the military -- like Dan Choi, Arabic linguist, West Point grad, Iraq vet -- or if you’re the person being turned away from your partner’s bedside during a medical emergency. But the supposed triviality of “our” issues is just as good an argument for moving on them as it is for shelving them. Demand a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” -- a move supported by 75% of the American people (including wide majorities of conservatives) -- and if members of Congress balk, call them out for bogging down on such a trivial issue, one that most Americans would like to see resolved in our favor.

And it’s not like “don’t ask, don’t tell” isn’t a distraction now. Obama’s failure to act on the policy -- he has the authority to suspend enforcement of it right now, and 77 members of Congress sent him a letter asking him to do just that -- hasn’t kept the issue of gays in the military out of the news. The president has been forced to address it, as have his press secretary and Defense secretary.

And, I’m sorry, but if not now…then when? Next year, 2010, will be time for the midterm election, and we’ll be told that Washington can’t move on gay issues because they’re too controversial -- which is a lie where “don’t ask, don’t tell” is concerned -- and that we have to focus instead on all the Democrats running in swing districts. Then the following year, 2011, the president’s reelection campaign begins.

Can we expect action in a second term? Maybe. But there’s no guarantee that the Democrats will hold such large margins in the House and Senate after 2012. Obama may be willing to move on our issues in 2013 -- if we take him at his word -- but might not have the support in Congress by that point. Then we’ll once again be told to sit down and shut up during midterms in 2014 and the kickoff of another two-year presidential election cycle in 2015.

Now’s the time -- people are being kicked out of the military now, turned away from their partners’ bedsides now. And yes, President Obama has a lot on his plate now. But delay now could very well result in no action on gay issues until the next Democrat is president. And since the White House tends to flip back and forth between parties, that could be 16 years from now.

The self-reliance crowd insists that it’s irrational for gay people to expect the president to do this work for us. “You want this done,” one self-reliance type wrote me, “then you have to do it for yourselves! Don’t expect the president or the Democrats to do it for you!” But how exactly are we supposed to go about “doing this” for ourselves? Are we supposed to elect a gay president? Seize power in a coup d’├ętat (a coup gay’tat?) and pack Congress and the Supreme Court with men who sing in choruses and women who play softball?

The sad fact is this: We can’t do this stuff for ourselves. It’s not like we haven’t been working on these issues; we’ve been suing, agitating, marching, raising money, crafting and winning arguments. (Colin Powell, one of the architects of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” has come out for its repeal.) But we still need a president and a Congress -- this president, some future president; this Congress, some future Congress -- to enact and sign the legislation that ensures our full civil equality.

And I’m sorry, self-reliance douche bags, but if it’s unfair of us to expect the president to do this stuff for us, then why did Barack run around the country for two years promising to do just that? He didn’t point to his positions on highway beautification when he asked for our support and our money.

There are some positive signs, some indications that the screaming and yelling -- on the blogosphere, outside of DNC fund-raisers, in my kitchen -- is having an effect. And the White House press corps -- God bless you, Jake Tapper -- has been grilling Robert Gibbs on gay issues, taking our equality and civil rights struggle with the seriousness it deserves and has long been denied.

The president had the Good Gays into the White House for a reception to mark Gay Pride Month, and he used the occasion to rehearse his campaign promises to the gay and lesbian community. After months of dithering, the HIV travel ban looks like it may soon be history; the Matthew Shepard hate-crimes act continues to inch its way through Congress; a trans-inclusive ENDA may be in the works.

These positive developments have only occurred because we made it clear to the White House that we will not be patient. We’ve made it clear that, as much as we like the president, we will extract a political price if we are slighted or lied to. We’ve made it clear that we expect President Obama to deliver on candidate Obama’s promises.

And deliver on them now. At the Pride Month reception the president predicted that we would all be pleased by the end of his administration. “I suspect that by the time this administration is over, you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration,” he said. But that’s not good enough.

Last fall we, along with everyone else, got swept up in the momentousness of the campaign, in the symbolism and the history and the drama, and lost sight of something important: Obama is a politician -- and a Chicago politician at that. Nothing is ever given to you. You have to ask and tell and demand and do the work -- not passing the legislation ourselves or signing it ourselves (no coup gay’tat is in the offing), but in making sure our “friends” in the White House and Congress understand that we won’t take “wait” for an answer.

What do we want? What we were promised. When do we want it?

Now.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

ADVOCATE Cover

The Advocate: As a candidate Obama promised us a lot; as president he’s delivered very little -- and many gay people are getting impatient. Does the outcry unmask this president’s indifference, or reveal our own impotence as a movement?

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Sean Kelly, an award-winning illustrator for the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post." [LSB: Click on the pic to embiggen.]

Daily Show On South Carolina

Joe.My.God.: Horse fucking, Lindsey Graham, and hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Thank You, South Carolina!
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Olbermann Harshly Criticizes Members Of Congress Over Health Care Reform: "Legislators For Sale"

HuffingtonPost.com: Keith Olbermann harshly criticized members of Congress in a "Special Comment" tonight for paying more attention to the needs of the health care industry, who donate large sums of money to their campaigns, than to their constituents, who would benefit greatly from health care reform. Olbermann titled the segment "legislators for sale."
From the transcript:

I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters' bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they'd kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.

But I think you get the point. We don't need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word "Dogs" is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.

I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.

You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.

If you will behave as if you are Republicans -- as if you are the prostitutes of our system --you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!

Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.

Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.
LSB: Olbermann mis-identified Rep. Joe Barton as a Congressman from Oklahoma; in fact, Barton is my asshole rep from North Texas.

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation: A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. Susan Burke, a private attorney working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is suing Blackwater in five separate civil cases filed in the Washington, DC, area. They were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. Burke filed the August 3 motion in response to Blackwater's motion to dismiss the case. Blackwater asserts that Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and that they were professionally performing their duties on behalf of their employer, the US State Department.
The former employee, identified in the court documents as "John Doe #2," is a former member of Blackwater's management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, "it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct." John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he "fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration." He also alleges, "On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."
In a separate sworn statement, the former US marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq alleges that he has "learned from my Blackwater colleagues and former colleagues that one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information about Erik Prince and Blackwater have been killed in suspicious circumstances." Identified as "John Doe #1," he says he "joined Blackwater and deployed to Iraq to guard State Department and other American government personnel." It is not clear if Doe #1 is still working with the company as he states he is "scheduled to deploy in the immediate future to Iraq." Like Doe #2, he states that he fears "violence" against him for "submitting this Declaration." No further details on the alleged murder(s) are provided.
"Mr. Prince feared, and continues to fear, that the federal authorities will detect and prosecute his various criminal deeds," states Doe #2. "On more than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top managers gave orders to destroy emails and other documents. Many incriminating videotapes, documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed." (More)

Rachel on GOP's thuggery strategy: It's "literal intimidation"

Rachel calls them out. It's a long piece, but really worth watching:
You'll notice there are a lot of angry older people seen in the video from these events. I hope they've all stopped accepting Medicare. Ha. That's the thing about so many of the angry folk. Many are beneficiaries of the very programs they're complaining about. At the Town Hall meetings, might be worth having members of Congress ask who is getting Medicare (or Medicaid or Social Security.) You'll see a lot of hypocrites in the audience.

Obama and same-sex marriage: Is his current opposition real -- or just a craven political ploy?

James Kirchik has an op-ed in [Sunday's] Washington Post about Obama and same-sex marriage:
Obama's history on the issue does have a complicating twist. On a 1996 Illinois Senate race questionnaire, Obama (or more likely a staffer) wrote, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." Liberals take from this revelation the assumption that Obama's apparent flip was insincere.
But there is nothing in his record since he became a national political figure that should give them any reason to think he will revert to his supposedly pro-gay-marriage position. And if Obama actually does believe in same-sex marriage, that makes his public opposition to it worse than it would be if he were genuinely opposed. How is it in any way reassuring to liberals to suppose that a politician agrees with them while selling them down the river? Even if Obama's apparent flip isn't genuine, he nonetheless acts as if it were, rendering his supposedly silent support worthless in tangible political terms. Whatever he "really" thinks, Obama's stance on gay marriage is virtually indistinguishable from that of John McCain.
For some time, liberal politicians have taken a largely wink-and-nod approach to gay issues. They've done so with the excuse that the culture must catch up before any progress can be made (an excuse that conveniently doesn't apply to other liberal interest groups, such as unions and trial lawyers, that do very well when Democrats are in power). Obama paid tribute to this timeworn tactic recently when he told gay activists at the White House: "I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, but by the promises my administration keeps. By the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."
Remember, in California, proponents of Prop. 8 used Obama in their ads, despite his stated opposition to that measure. Will we see the same thing this fall in Maine? Someone over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue better be thinking about that. Because if Obama is used against us by the right-wingers again, it's not going to be good. Not good at all.
Team Obama practices from political homophobia. And, it's going to catch up with them because the culture is changing fast. Catholics support same-sex marriage. And, Ted Olson is fighting for it. On this one, the candidate of change looks out-of-touch (and it's damaging the brand.)
I think Michelle Obama should be taking the lead on the same-sex marriage issue. She's the most sensible person in the White House from what I can tell.

As Fehrenbach awaits discharge under DADT, there's no White House action and still no Senate bill

The Washington Post has a profile today on Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who is about to be discharged because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Fehrenbach didn't tell. He was outed. And, he trusted that Obama would follow through on his campaign promise to end DADT:
After investigating, the Air Force charged him last September with damaging its good order and discipline. The "don't ask, don't tell" law, passed by Congress in 1993, prohibits gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.
Fehrenbach, who has nine Air Medals, including one for heroism under fire during an enemy ambush near Baghdad in 2003, intended to resign. But he changed his mind last fall with the prospect of a Barack Obama presidency.
As a candidate, Obama promised that the law would be overturned, but the administration has moved cautiously, not wanting to wage a costly political battle on the divisive issue during the president's first months in office, as President Bill Clinton did.
"Hearing the president's promises last fall, I thought he would follow through," Fehrenbach said. "It's just been disappointing because we've seen nothing."
In April, a review board ruled against Fehrenbach, and unless Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejects the recommendation, he will be dismissed. If he is unable to retire with 20 years of service, Fehrenbach will lose nearly $50,000 a year in retirement pay as well as medical benefits. More disappointing, Fehrenbach said, is being unable to serve the country in a time of war.
"It doesn't make sense to throw out someone who's ready, willing and able," he said.
It doesn't make sense. And, what also doesn't make sense is the failure of Barack Obama to take any action to end the policy. On this issue, we have a complete failure of leadership. Obama does have the authority to stop discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But, he hasn't. And, from every bit of info. I can gather, the White House staffers have done nothing to encourage action on Capitol Hill. When Obama wants something from Congress, people on the Hill know it. On this one, nothing.
Meanwhile, Rep. Patrick Murphy now has 168 co-sponsors for his legislation to repeal DADT. There isn't even a Senate bill yet, although we've been told there will be hearings on DADT. The Majority Leader said he supports repeal. Lots of Senators do. But, there's still no legislation.
And, note to everyone: During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Repeal, not change. Anything short of repeal isn't change we can believe in.

First baby rhino born in Uganda in 28 years is named Obama

Mike Pflanz, London Telegraph: The first baby rhinoceros born in Uganda in almost 30 years has been named Obama because his father is from Kenya and his mother was born in the US.
Researchers at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary have only recently been able to approach the calf, born at the end of June, because her mother was too aggressively protective earlier.
"He's a real little scamp, running all over the place like crazy, his mum can barely keep up with him," said Angie Genade, director of the sanctuary, 105 miles north of the capital, Kampala.
"Once we could get close enough to see what sex he was, there really was no other name that we could give him." Uganda's rhino population of roughly 450 animals was completely wiped out during the horrors of former President Idi Amin's reign in the 1970s.
But within the last four years, the 30 sq mile Ziwa sanctuary has taken four Southern White rhinos from neighbouring Kenya – "including the newborn Obama's father, Taleo, the group's dominant male.
They have also been given two rhinos from the Disney Animal Kingdom in Florida, including Nandi, Obama's mother, born in captivity in the US.
"To have an infant born here for the first time in 28 years, completely naturally, after this animal became extinct is something really special," said Ms Genade.
One of the other females gave birth to a stillborn calf earlier this year.
But now two of the other females in the group are also pregnant, with one baby due in November or December and the next early in 2010.
Six other rhinos, all female, will also arrive from South Africa next year at the sanctuary, which relies entirely on private donations to continue to operate.

Small Beer, Big Hangover

FRANK RICH, The New York Times: The comforting thing about each “national conversation on race” is that the “teachable moment” passes before any serious conversation can get going.
This one ended with a burp. The debate about which brew would best give President Obama Joe Six-Pack cred in his White House beer op with Harvard’s town-and-gown antagonists hit the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Had Obama picked a brand evoking an elitist whiff of John Kerry — Stella Artois, perhaps? — we’d have another week of coverage dissecting his biggest political gaffe since rolling a gutter ball at a Pennsylvania bowling alley.
You can’t blame Obama if he’s perplexed about the recent events. He answers a single, legitimate race-based question at the end of a news conference and is roundly condemned for “stepping on his own message” about health care. It was the noisiest sector of the news media that did much of the stepping. “Health care is bad for ratings,” explained one cable anchor, Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC, with refreshing public candor. What a relief, then, to drop dreary debates about the public option and declare a national conversation about black-white fisticuffs. Especially when this particular incident is truly small beer next to the far more traumatic national sea change on race that will keep sowing conflict and anger long after Henry Louis Gates Jr. finishes his proposed documentary on racial profiling.
I’ll return to the larger picture, but before the battle of Cambridge fades entirely, let’s note that the only crime Obama committed at his news conference was honesty (always impolitic in Washington). He conceded he did not know “all the facts” and so wisely resisted passing judgment on “what role race played” in the incident. He said, accurately, that “separate and apart from this incident” there is “a long history” of “African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately.” And, yes, the police did act “stupidly in arresting” — not to mention shackling — “somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” If Obama had really wanted to go for the jugular, he might have added that the police may have overstepped the law as well.
The president’s subsequent apology for his news-conference answer was superfluous. But he might have used it to acknowledge the one exemplary player in Cambridge, Lucia Whalen, the white passer-by whose good deed of a 911 phone call did not go unpunished. In his police report, Sgt. James Crowley portrayed Whalen as a racial profiler by saying she had told him that the two men at Gates’s door were black. She denied it, and the audio tape of her original call backs her up: she had told the dispatcher (only when asked) that one of the men “looked kind of Hispanic” and that she couldn’t see the other. Yet Whalen, who was pilloried as a racist because of Crowley’s report, received no apology from him and no White House invitation from Obama. That’s stupid behavior by both men.
It’s also stupid to look at Harvard as a paradigm of anything, race included. If there was a teachable moment in this incident, it could be found in how some powerful white people well beyond Cambridge responded to it. That reaction is merely the latest example of how the inexorable transformation of America into a white-minority country in some 30 years — by 2042 in the latest Census Bureau estimate — is causing serious jitters, if not panic, in some white establishments.
Ground zero for this hysteria is Fox News, where Brit Hume last Sunday lamented how insulting it is “to be labeled a racist” in “contemporary” America. “That fact has placed into the hands of certain people a weapon,” he said, as he condemned Gates for hurling that weapon at a police officer. Gates may well have been unjust — we don’t know that Crowley is a racist — but the professor was provoked by being confronted like a suspect in the privacy of his own home.
What about those far more famous leaders in Hume’s own camp who insistently cry “racist” — and in public forums — without any credible justification whatsoever? These are the “certain people” Hume conspicuously didn’t mention. They include Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, both of whom labeled Sonia Sotomayor a racist. Their ranks were joined last week by Glenn Beck, who on Fox News inexplicably labeled Obama a racist with “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” presumably including his own mother.
What provokes their angry and nonsensical cries of racism is sheer desperation: an entire country is changing faster than these white guys bargained for. We’ve been reminded repeatedly during Gatesgate that Cambridge’s mayor is a black lesbian. But a more representative window into the country’s transition might be that Dallas County, Tex., elected a Latina lesbian sheriff in 2004 (and re-elected her last year) and that the three serious candidates for mayor of Houston this fall include a black man and a white lesbian.
Even Texas may be tinting blue, and as goes Texas, so will all but the dwindling rural minority of the Electoral College. Last month the Census Bureau released a new analysis of the 2008 presidential election results finding that increases among minority voters accounted for virtually all the five million additional votes cast in comparison to 2004. Black women had a higher turnout rate than any other group, and young blacks turned out at a higher rate than young whites.
It’s against this backdrop that 11 Republican congressmen have now signed on to a bill requiring that presidential candidates produce their birth certificates. This bizarre “birther” movement, out to prove that Obama is not a naturally born citizen, first gained notice in the summer of 2008 when it was being advanced by the author Jerome Corsi, a leader of the Swift boat assault on Kerry. That it revved up again as Gatesgate boiled over and Sotomayor sped toward Senate confirmation is not a coincidence.
Obama’s election, far from alleviating paranoia in the white fringe, has only compounded it. There is no purer expression of this animus than to claim that Obama is literally not an American — or, as Sarah Palin would have it, not a “real American.” The birth-certificate canard is just the latest version of those campaign-year attempts to strip Obama of his American identity with faux controversies over flag pins, the Pledge of Allegiance and his middle name. Last summer, Cokie Roberts of ABC News even faulted him for taking a vacation in his home state of Hawaii, which she described as a “foreign, exotic place,” in contrast to her proposed choice of Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the real America of Dixie.
Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter have condemned the birther brigades and likened them to “the truthers” who accused the Bush administration of engineering the 9/11 attacks. But those conspiracy theorists couldn’t find 11 congressmen willing to sponsor a bill supporting their claims. Even Liz Cheney has publicly refused to dispute the libels on Obama’s citizenship.
One of the loudest birther enablers is not at Fox but CNN: Lou Dobbs, who was heretofore best known for trying to link immigrants, especially Hispanics, to civic havoc. Dobbs is one-stop shopping for the excesses of this seismic period of racial transition. And he is following a traditional, if toxic, American playbook. The escalating white fear of newly empowered ethnic groups and blacks is a naked replay of more than a century ago, when large waves of immigration and the northern migration of emancipated blacks, coupled with a tumultuous modernization of the American work force, unleashed a similar storm of racial and nativist panic.
As Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and Helene Cooper of The Times have pointed out, a lot of today’s variation on the theme is class-oriented. Some whites habituated to a monopoly on the upper reaches of American power just can’t adjust to the reality that Obama, Sotomayor, Oprah Winfrey and countless others are now at the very pinnacle, and that they might sometimes side with each other just as their white counterparts do. Threatened white elites try to mask their own anxieties by patronizingly adopting working-class whites as their pet political surrogates — Joe the Plumber, New Haven firemen, a Cambridge police officer. Call it Village People populism.

Sometimes the most revealing expressions of this resentment emerge in juvenile asides — Bill Kristol (on The Weekly Standard’s blog) ridiculing Gates for writing a flowery travel magazine article about his privileged vacation home of Martha’s Vineyard, or Heather MacDonald (in National Review) mocking Gates as a “limousine liberal” for his supposedly hypocritical admission that he has a “regular car service” and a “regular driver” to fetch him at the airport. Who does Henry Louis Gates Jr. think he is, William F. Buckley Jr.?

The one lesson that everyone took away from the latest “national conversation about race” is the same one we’ve taken away from every other “national conversation” in the past couple of years. America has not transcended race. America is not postracial. So we can all say that again. But it must also be said that we’re just at the start of what may be a 30-year struggle. Beer won’t cool the fury of those who can’t accept the reality that America’s racial profile will no longer reflect their own.