Saturday, November 28, 2009

One of These Twins is Gay NatGeo TV takes a look at gay twins and nature vs nurture in homosexuality.

Defying Judge's Order, White House Instructs Personnel Agency to Obstruct Health Benefits to Spouse of Lesbian Employee Back in February I posted about a ruling by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge regarding the offering of health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee in a decision it appeared would directly challenge DOMA.

Michelangelo Signorile points out some troubling activity on this case which was just written up in TIME:

" was actually going to happen until the White House, through the Office of Personnel Management -- headed by openly gay appointee, John Berry -- refused to comply and directed the health insurance carrier of the employee not to proceed [all bold below is mine]:

The order was not published, and garnered little or no notice at the time. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts moved to comply with the judge's ruling, submitting [federal employee] Golinski's insurance form to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the case would have probably gone away — had the Obama Administration not stepped in. "After the AO submitted Ms. Golinski's form, I thought this matter had concluded," [Judge] Kozinski wrote.

"The Executive Branch, acting through the Office of Personnel Management, thought otherwise. It directed the insurance carrier not to process Ms. Golinski's form 2809, thwarting the relief I had ordered. I must now decide what further steps are necessary to protect Ms. Golinski and the integrity of the Judiciary's EDR [employee dispute resolution] plans."

Now Judge Kozinkski has ordered that OPM stop interfering, demanding last week that the Obama administration comply with his order.

The White House has a month to respond: "[Judge Kozinski's] order last week demanded that the executive branch reverse course, and gave the Administration 30 days to enroll Golinski's wife as her health-insurance beneficiary. He made clear that if it doesn't, he's ready to use the powers of his court to enforce his decree."

And the sadder "personnel" irony here, Signorile notes, is that the OPM is headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the Obama administration:
"...the Office of Personnel Management was ordered by the White House to refuse to give a lesbian federal employees her court-ordered rights. John Berry, as head of that office, was thus apparently forced as an openly gay man to deny another gay person, and the LGBT movement itself, of rights, even in the face or a court order. Is this how openly gay appointees must operate within the Obama administration -- not as advocates on behalf of civil rights but rather as lackeys charged with blocking equal rights for their own kind?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Stupid Virus (VIDEO) "SuperNews!"--aka the guys that brought you the Twouble with Twitters, Larry King interviewing the Large Hadron Collider and Emoticon Wars--have returned this week to bring you the answer to this question: Why are people so stupid? Turns out it's a virus spread by an Obama-hating monkey. He's responsible for birthers, the people who equate health care reform to the Holocaust, and Rush Limbaugh.

The First Ten Lies from Going Rogue

Geoffrey Dunn, Excerpts from Sarah Palin's Going Rogue have been released by several news agencies and other sources who have received advanced copies. Here are the first ten lies from Palin's memoirs:
  1. The Cover Byline: Palin didn't write the book by herself. Most books with known ghostwriters list their co-author's name on the cover. In this case it was Lynn Vincent (a well-known homophobe). Going Rogue does not.
  2. The Subtitle: An American Life. Aside from her infancy, Palin has really spent very little time outside of Alaska, and according to John McCain's campaign advisors, was shockingly unfamiliar with American geography and American history. "Alaska," as John McPhee noted in his resplendent Coming Into the Country, "is a foreign country...Its nature is its own."
  3. Going Rogue features Palin's obsession with Katie Couric and characterizes the CBS anchor as "badgering." Palin refused to prep for the Couric interview because she was more concerned about her popularity in Alaska than about what was best for the campaign. Was it really badgering to ask what books or periodicals Palin read? Palin further claims that Couric suffered from low self-esteem. In fact, according to those close to Palin, it's the former governor who suffers from low self-esteem and frequently projects that onto other women.
  4. Palin asserts that there was a "jaded aura" around McCain's political advisors once she entered the campaign. In fact, McCain's aides bent over backwards to protect Palin and to try to get her up to speed on international affairs. In addition to not knowing whether or not Africa was a continent, according to sources in the McCain campaign, Palin also didn't understand the difference between England and Great Britain. And much, much more.
  5. Palin contends to have been saddled with legal bills of more than $500,000 resulting from what she calls "frivolous" ethics complaints filed against her. The lion's share of those bills resulted from the ethics complaint she filed against herself in a legal maneuver to sidestep the Troopergate charges being brought against her by the bipartisan Alaska Legislative Council.
  6. Palin rather astonishingly claims that she was saddled with $50,000 in bills for the legal fees associated with her vice-presidential vetting. A) She was not vetted; B) A McCain campaign advisor says this is "categorically untrue."
  7. Palin states that she found out only "minutes" before John McCain's concession speech that she would not be allowed to make remarks of her own introducing McCain. In fact, she had been told at least three times that she would not be allowed to give the speech and kept lying about it in the hopes of creating some last-minute chaos that would allow her to assume the dais.
  8. Palin asserts that her effort to award a license for a natural gas transmission line was turning a "pipe dream" into a pipeline. Although she claimed otherwise in her speech at the GOP convention, there is no pipeline. It remains a pipe dream.
  9. Palin implies that the McCain campaign intentionally bungled the release of information regarding her daughter Bristol's pregnancy and refused to let her rewrite it. In fact, the McCain campaign allowed her to rework the draft, but the original version went out accidentally. Palin reportedly accepted the recalcitrant staff member's apology for the mistake, then when she left, ordered her immediately dismissed of her duties.
  10. Palin complains that McCain's senior advisors, most notably Steve Schmidt, forced her to "stick with the script" they provided her. In fact, Schmidt & Co. were encumbered with the task of keeping Palin from lying and misleading people throughout the campaign, from her well-documented lies about the "Bridge to Nowhere" to her duplicities about her husband Todd's assocation with the Alaska Independence Party. Palin's lying to those in the McCain campaign was so troubling to them that they cringed every time she went "off script."
And that's just for starters.


ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES: In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.

In an interview, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, said: “I regret that the language was the same. I did not know it was.” He said he got his statement from his staff and “did not know where they got the information from.”

Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to “revise and extend my remarks.” It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.

The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the “author” of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. (More)

David Broder would be happy with the wrong decision on Afghanistan

Joe Sudbay (DC), David Broder's column on Afghanistan and Obama today is absurd:
It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right.
So, a wrong decision works for Broder. That's good to know. Broder is the so-called "Dean of the Washington press corps." That press corps willingly let Bush lead us into the Iraq war without question.
That's an example of a wrong decision. Read Steve Benen's critique of Broder:

The premise of the piece is that a decision is needed immediately. Where did this arbitrary deadline come from? Broder doesn't say; he just warns of the Taliban "coming back in Afghanistan," as if the Taliban hasn't already reclaimed much of the country.Thinking back, I don't recall Broder ever showing this kind of Afghanistan-related antagonism towards the Bush administration -- which was, not incidentally, the team that allowed Afghanistan to deteriorate, watched as hard-earned gains slipped away, and never bothered to craft a strategy for the future of U.S. policy in the country.

Indeed, reading today's Broder piece I get the distinct impression that the columnist had lunch with John McCain at some point this week, and then rushed back to his desk to jot down the senator's criticism. That's a shame. Given the reality, Broder was facing an editorial deadline, and he decided the urgent necessity was to write a column -- whether or not it was right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Does Focus on the Family Fund Abortions?

Amy Sullivan, TIME: It does if you hold the organization to the same standard it uses to insist that health reform would result in publicly funded abortions.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fungibility argument that many pro-life groups and politicians have employed to oppose health reform. The problem, they say, is that if any insurance plan that covers abortion is allowed to participate in a public exchange, then premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars. You can debate about whether it makes sense to use this strict standard, but that's the argument.

But are those pro-life organizations holding themselves to the same strict standard? As it happens, Focus on the Family provides its employees health insurance through Principal, an insurance company that covers "abortion services." A Focus spokeswoman confirmed the fact that the organization pays premiums to Principal, but declined to comment on whether that amounts to an indirect funding of abortion.

Even if the specific plan Focus uses for its employees doesn't include abortion coverage--and I'm assuming it doesn't--the organization and its employees still pay premiums to a company that funds abortions. If health reform proposals have a fungibility problem, then Focus does as well. And if they don't think they do have a fungibility problem, then it would be interesting to hear why they think the set-up proposed in health reform legislation is so untenable.

(By the way, I'm not trying to pick on Focus on the Family, which has opposed congressional health reform proposals but certainly hasn't been the only or leading organization involved. I suspect many of the groups denouncing health reform as funding abortion have the same issue with their own insurance plans. Focus was just the only group willing to call me back and confirm its insurance coverage. Read more.)

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sen. David Vitter (R-Formaldehyde)

Andy Kroll, Mother Jones: In May, President Obama nominated a renowned scientist known as the "father of green chemistry" to head the EPA's Office of Research and Development. For an administration that supports ambitious climate change legislation and stresses the importance of sustainability, the nomination of Paul Anastas, director of Yale's Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering and a former White House environment director, was very much in keeping with its broader agenda. Anastas' nomination was unanimously approved in committee in July, and his confirmation seemed all but assured. Yet six months later Anastas still isn't confirmed. Standing in his way is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose block on Anastas' nomination raises questions about Vitter's close ties to the formaldehyde industry.

Today, the future of the formaldehyde industry is very much in jeopardy. A few years back, the International Agency for Research on Cancer definitively announced that the chemical, used in building materials and household products, causes cancer in humans. The EPA, which has studied formaldehyde's risks for more than a decade, doesn't go quite so far, saying it's a "probable human carcinogen." But that could soon change. The EPA has recently signaled that it plans to definitively assess formaldehyde's health effects. "This is not the time for more delay," an EPA spokeswoman told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in September. As the agency's research director, Anastas would surely have a role in this assessment. Given that one of Anastas' specialties is researching "the design of safer chemicals and chemical processes to replace hazardous substances," the formaldehyde industry is predictably concerned about his nomination.

Here's where Vitter comes in. Instead of the EPA ruling on formaldehyde now, Vitter wants the agency to let the National Academy of Sciences review formaldehyde's risk, a process that could take a year or more and that might favor industry supporters, environmentalists say, because the NAS review would use industry-based reports. Likewise, blocking Anastas' nomination is another way of slowing the EPA's movement on formaldehyde. (An EPA official told Mother Jones that agency head Lisa Jackson met with Vitter to ask him to let the nomination go through, which didn't happen.) And though a Vitter spokesman's recent comments that the FEMA-trailer debacle, which exposed thousands of displaced Gulf Coast victims living in government-issued trailers to high formaldehyde levels, demonstrated the need "to get absolutely reliable information to the public about formaldehyde risk as soon as possible," Vitter's position ensures the EPA won't be rolling out formaldehyde guidelines anytime soon.

So why is Vitter so sympathetic to the formaldehyde industry? Campaign finance records show that many of Louisiana's big formaldehyde polluters happen to be—you guessed it—Vitter campaign donors. He's received $9,000 from Dow Chemical's PAC, $5,000 from Monsanto's, $5,000 from ExxonMobil's, and $2,500 from the American Forest and Paper Association's. The American Forest and Paper Association is also a member of the Formaldehyde Council, an industry group whose views align with Vitter's (it's lobbied for an NAS review, too).

Anastas is under no illusions as to the obstacles in the way, telling Chemistry World in October that "we face tremendous challenges in ensuring the best science is brought to bear on issues like arsenic and formaldehyde." Reached at his office Wednesday, he remained sanguine about his nomination, saying he was "extremely enthusiastic about assuming my duties at the EPA when the Senate finalizes its process and if they confirm me." An environmentalist with the Sierra Club summed up the situation best to the Times-Picayune: "It's just disappointing that anybody would try to get in the way of us finally adopting the kind of formaldehyde standards that exist in other [countries] that protect people. It's ironic that this could come from somebody from Katrinaland, who has thousands of constituents who were exposed to excess formaldehyde level after being placed in government housing."

LSB: Another obstructionist senator... Coburn obstructing the veteran's bill, GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee with Obama's judicial appointments, and now Vitter and this EPA appointment. Guess the GOP senators are all all channeling their inner Nancy Reagan - "Just say no!"

Catholic Church Threatens To Stop Feeding Homeless Over Gay Marriage

Allison Kilkenny, A few days ago, I wrote about Goldman Sachs's transition from a bank holding company into a public relations disaster machine. I argued that Goldman's CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, has been behaving like he wants to be attacked by a ferocious mob.

Now, it appears the Catholic church is determined to unseat Blankfein in the "Inexplicably Evil Organization Most Disconnected From Real People" category.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.
Yup, that's right. If gay folk can marry, the Catholic church refuses to feed the homeless.

Well, that all seems very reasonable. After all, the state would force the Catholic church to perform gay marriages, and celebrate the beastly unions, right?

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
Oh. So this "Please Stop Being An Asshole, You Guys" law is really the thing that has sent the Archdiocese flying off a cliff. The child molestations, and filing sticky-fingered priests from diocese to diocese is all part of God's grand plan, but showing the slightest bit of consideration for gay couples is just too much.

Beyond being simply mean and intolerant, this is just a stupid strategy for the Catholic church to employ. It may be a symbol of religion, but the church is also a business that needs to expand its customer base, or it will become extinct like Greek polytheism or New Coke.

Young people, i.e. potential future Catholics, are very tolerant -- some might say accepting and supportive -- of gays and gay marriage:


And don't give me that "It's in the Bible so we can't change our beliefs!" crap. Religions stray from the Bible's teachings all the time the second people realize they're being unspeakably cruel to a society's sect. The Bible was used to legitimize slavery, and yet we don't do that anymore, so surely Catholics can make the same jump when it comes to gay marriage.

Yes, the Bible said something that one time about "if a many lieth with a man, he be in really big trouble," or something, but the Bible also says you'll burn in hell for eating shellfish, and I guarantee lobster-eaters crowd the pews every Sunday all across this great land.

Second, non-Catholic Christians are the largest group in the country today:


Less than a quarter of all American adults identified as Catholic between January and June of this year.

The Catholic church got so desperate to expand its ranks that it recently offered Anglicans sanctuary under the Virgin Mary's skirt, supposedly to hide from all of the icky gays and lesbians the Anglican church has embraced (in a Christ-like fashion, some might say).

Anglicans passed on the offer. This includes "heads of churches in Africa and the developing world, where anti-gay sentiment is especially strong, as well as in Canada and the United States." The message being: we hate gays, but we still prefer to avoid you guys.

As the Catholic church continues its march toward antiquity, I won't be shedding any tears. In addition to preying on the fears and prejudices of the unenlightened masses, I have no tolerance for tax-exempt pyramid schemes that take money from poor people to build golden houses in Italy for a decrepit former Nazi youth, who now wears a funny hat and occasionally blathers in a dead language about hating gay people, suppressing women, and always -- always -- refusing to wear condoms.

What's so strange is that the Catholic church itself seems determined to perish. Attitudes toward gay people are dramatically changing in this country, and yet the church remains stuck in its corner, fingers in ears, eyes shut, refusing to accept that the tide is turning.

Update: In the original article, I wrote that Jesus condemned homosexuality. However, that's not true. The condemning homosexuality bit is written in Leviticus. Sorry, Jesus.

10-Year-Old Won't Pledge Allegiance To A Country That Discriminates Against Gays

Via Queerty comes a story from the Arkansas Times about Will Phillips, an elementary school student who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance in school because of discrimination against gay people:
"I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer," Will said. "I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all."

After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will's mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day.

A columnist for the Arkansas News has stood up for Phillips against his angry substitute teacher. Predictably, fellow students have taunted the kid and called him a "gaywad," but he says he doesn't see his quiet act of protest ending any time soon.

RNC insurance plan covers abortion

Jonathan Allen and Meredith Shiner, Politico: The Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party’s own platform calls “a fundamental assault on innocent human life.”

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

Informed of the coverage, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told POLITICO that the policy pre-dates the tenure of current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

“The current policy has been in effect since 1991, and we are taking steps to address the issue,” Gitcho said.

Leading up to passage of the House health care reform bill last week, 176 House Republicans joined 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, a measure that prohibits federal funds from being used to buy health insurance that covers elective abortions.

A spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee – the campaign arm for the House Republicans – said it does not include coverage for elective abortions in its employee insurance policy.

“The policy does not cover abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger,” the NRCC spokeswoman said.

According to several Cigna employees, the insurer offers its customers the opportunity to opt out of abortion coverage – and the RNC did not choose to opt out. (More)

LSB: Same Old Hypocrites!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GOP's Coburn "is denying veterans many benefits and services”

Joe Sudbay, We'll hear a lot of speeches about veterans and their service to our nation today. But, any Republican Senator who speaks today should be ashamed. Their colleague, Tom Coburn (OK) is still blocking a bill to aid vets. At the end of last week, Senator Akaka laid down the gauntlet:
Speaking Friday on the Senate floor about a procedural hold that is blocking passage of S. 1963, the Veterans’ Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said “it would be truly disgraceful” if the bill didn’t clear the Senate by Veterans’ Day.

Akaka said the bill represents a bipartisan collection of veterans’ committee proposals packaged into one bill so it could quickly pass. Consideration of the measure is being blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who doesn’t want the measure brought up unless he is given an opportunity to offer amendments.

This single senator is denying veterans many benefits and services,” Akaka said, including a new caregiver assistant program at families of the “most seriously wounded veterans.”Well, it's Veterans Day and Coburn is still blocking the bill. His GOP colleagues are enabling him.
On Monday, Democratic Senators held a press conference to focus attention on this issue. And, Coburn showed up for what he called the "festivities." The Democrats blasted him anyway:

Festivities? This is all fun and games for Coburn. It's reality for the vets and their families.
Isn't it time to just roll over Coburn? If the Senate can't do it for veterans, they won't do it for anyone.

Jon Stewart catches Sean Hannity lying

Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
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Destroying the So-Called “Unit Cohesion” Argument

From the Left: On this Veterans Day, it seemed like a perfect time to destroy one of the dumbest arguments used by people opposed to the repeal of the viciously homophobic, Clinton-era military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Unit cohesion,” as the argument goes, says members of the military might be uncomfortable serving alongside openly gay and lesbian servicemen and women, and that discomfort means a unit may not function as intended. It’s better, the argument goes, to exclude qualified, well-trained soldiers from service in the midst of two wars than to make homophobic soldiers feel ill at ease.

But the evidence to support repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” keeps growing:

A survey of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan concluded that having gay or lesbian soldiers in fighting units has no significant impact on unit cohesion or readiness.

The data raise new doubts about the underlying assumption of the congressional ban, namely that military discipline will fall apart if gays and lesbians are permitted to serve openly.

“Service members said the most important factors for unit cohesion and readiness were the quality of their officers, training, and equipment,” said Laura Miller, a military sociologist at the RAND Corporation, a private research group that has long advised the Pentagon, which conducted the study along with the University of Florida. “Serving with another service member who was gay or lesbian was not a significant factor that affected unit cohesion or readiness to fight.”

Three-quarters of the veterans surveyed said they felt “comfortable” or “very comfortable” in the presence of gays or lesbians, and nearly one in five said they already knew of a gay or lesbian member in their unit.

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 502 gay and lesbian soldiers have been kicked out of the military since President Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009.

So, on this Veterans Day, I ask members of the Congress and President Obama, what are you waiting for? Repeal the ban — now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Iraq War Veteran Darren Manzella Speaks Out On His DADT Dismissal

Dan Savage Explains The Real History Of "Traditional Marriage"

Murdoch: Beck 'Was Right,' Obama Made Racist Comment

Danny Shea, After a summer of silence, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has piped up to say that his newest Fox News star, Glenn Beck, "was right" when he called President Obama a racist in July even if he was wrong to say it.

"On the racist thing, that caused a [unintelligible]," Murdoch said in an interview with his Sky News Australia over the weekend, referring to Beck's claim which seems to have been prompted by Obama's reaction to the controversial arrest of African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates.

"But [Obama] did make a very racist comment about blacks and whites and so on, which he said in his campaign he would be completely above. And that was something which perhaps shouldn't have been said about the President, but if you actually assess what he was talking about, [Beck] was right."

Beck's comment prompted an advertiser revolt, with many brands boycotting his show and directing their advertising dollars to other Fox News programs. It can also be seen as his tipping point: since July, Beck has been challenging Rush Limbaugh as the media voice of the Republican party; his ratings are up, he's made the cover of TIME magazine, he received the key to his hometown, and, this past weekend, he was even skewered on "SNL."

WATCH (discussion begins near 18:00 mark):

On Bush's Watch, U.S. Suffered Its "Electronic Pearl Harbor"

Jason Linkus, Sunday's 60 Minutes featured a pretty terrifying report on the potential threat the United States faces from cyberterrorism. It's territory that the show has mined before.

As Steve Kroft pointed out at the outset of the report, the show had "less than a decade ago" gone to the Pentagon to learn more about how computers could be used by hackers "as a weapon." "Much of it was still theory," Kroft related, "But we were told that before too long, it might be possible for a hacker with a computer to disable critical infrastructure in a major city, and disrupt essential services, to steal millions of dollars from banks all over the world, infiltrate defense systems, extort millions from public companies, even sabotage our weapons systems."

Eep! Sounds like someone better get on that, before something terrible happens! Except guess what, something terrible already did. "Plus a lot that we don't even know about," Kroft said. Great.

Enter Jim Lewis, who directs the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who says that the United States experienced its "electronic Pearl Harbor" in 2007:

LEWIS: Some unknown foreign power, and honestly, we don't know who it is, broke into the Department of Defense, to the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, probably the Department of Energy, probably NASA. They broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information.

Lewis goes on to point out that the entire Library Of Congress is the equivalent of 12 terabytes, so that sort of puts things in perspective, doesn't it? And it's not like hackers were making off with William Faulkner novels!

And last November, according to Lewis, "someone was able to get past the firewall and encryption devices of one of the most sensitive U.S. military computer systems and stay inside for several days." That system? The CENTCOM network, which you might know as "the people who are fighting all of our wars." The hackers were able to sit inside the network, tracking information and documents "like they were part of military command."

This, Lewis said, is the "most significant" breach of security ever "acknowledged by the Pentagon." Not acknowledging this, however, is the Bush administration, on whose watch all of this happened. Asked why the public was never told about the extent to which the United States had already suffered significant cyber-casualties, Lewis said: "You know, I've been trying to figure out why that is. And some of it is the previous administration didn't want to admit that they had been rolled in 2007." Worse yet, in Lewis' estimation, the seriousness of the threat, even now, "doesn't seem to be sinking in."

Hopefully, Liz Cheney will find some way to waterboard the Internet!

Watch CBS News Videos Online

AMA Joins Efforts to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

From the Left: This caught me off guard. The American Medical Association proved to be ahead of President Obama and the U.S. Congress by agreeing to join efforts to repeal the viciously homophobic, Clinton-era military policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

In a surprise move, the Chicago-based AMA also voted to declare that gay marriage bans contribute to health disparities for gay couples and their children.

The nation’s largest doctors’ group adopted both gay-rights policies at its interim policy meeting Tuesday in Houston.

The AMA says the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy creates an ethical dilemma for gay and lesbian service members, as well as the doctors who treat them.

The other measure declares that marriage bans leave gays vulnerable to being excluded from health care benefits, including health insurance and family and medical leave rights. The new AMA policy stops short of opposing the bans.

Catholic Bishops have become political operation fighting social justice

Joe Sudbay (DC), Who knew one of the most aggressive political operations in the U.S. in the year 2009 would be the Catholic Bishops?

Last week, Maine's Bishop, Richard Malone, gloated after his campaign to repeal Maine's marriage equality took away the rights of same-sex couples in that state. In Maine, the Bishop turned his church into a political operation.

This weekend, the Catholic Bishops are getting credit for undermining women's rights in the new health care bill through the Stupak amendment:
Both sides credited a forceful lobbying effort by Roman Catholic bishops with the success of the provision, inserted in the bill under pressure from conservative Democrats.
The Bishops also led a sustained campaign on this issue. And, Obama and Hill leaders acquiesced:
Beginning in late July, the bishops began issuing a series of increasingly stern letters to lawmakers making clear that they saw the abortion-financing issue as pre-eminent, a deal-breaker.

At the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in August, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, stole a private moment with Mr. Obama to deliver the same warning: The bishops very much wanted to support his health care overhaul but not if it provided for abortions. The president “listened intently,” the cardinal reported on his blog.

Bishops implored their priests and parishioners to call lawmakers. Conservative Democrats negotiating over the issue with party leaders often expressed their desire to meet the bishops’ criteria, according to many people involved in the talks. On Oct. 8 three members of the bishops conference wrote on its behalf to lawmakers, “If the final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”
The Bishops have made themselves into a political operation. That means they warrant the same kind of scrutiny every other political operation receives. No hiding behind the collars.

The Bishops want to take away people's rights. Members of Congress and the Obama administration have to decide just how closely they want to align with the protectors of pedophiles.

Don't Ask, Don't Give

Joe and I are launching today a donor boycott of the DNC. The boycott is cosponsored by Daily Kos, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Paul Sousa (Founder of Equal Rep in Boston), Pam Spaulding, Robin Tyler (ED of the Equality Campaign, Inc.), Bil Browning for the Bilerico Project, Andy Towle and Michael Goff of Towle Road, and soon others.

It's really more of a "pause," than a boycott. Boycotts sounds so final, and angry. Whereas this campaign is temporary, and is only meant to help some friends - President Obama and the Democratic party - who have lost their way. We are hopeful that via this campaign, our friends will keep their promises.

So please sign the Petition and take a Pledge to no longer donate to the DNC, Organizing for America, or the Obama campaign until the President and the Democratic party keep their promises to the gay community, our families, and our friends.

You can find our Frequently Asked Questions, below, that explain the entire campaign. You can use our "Tell a Friend" page to tell all of your friends, family members, and coworkers about this effort (and we won't keep any of the email addresses you enter, they'll all be deleted after the emails are sent).


What is this?
We are asking voters to pledge to withhold contributions to the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, and the Obama campaign until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is passed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is repealed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed -– all of which President Obama repeatedly promised to do if elected.

Why are you asking people to take this pledge?
Candidate Obama promised during the campaign to be the gay community’s “fierce advocate.” He and the Democratic party have not kept their promise.

Can you give examples of how the President and Democrats have not been fierce advocates for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans?
But won’t your pledge hurt Democrats?
It never hurts Democrats to keep their promises to the voters. The American people respect strong leaders who have the courage to stick to their beliefs. And it will only help Democrats in the next election to stand by their commitments to a core constituency. If Democratic voters aren't motivated, they won't vote. We are concerned that the President's failure to fulfill his promises may suppress voter participation not only from gay Democrats, but from our families, friends and allies. In a very real way, this is an effort to ensure that we get-out-the-vote in 2010, 2012 and beyond.

But if you don’t give money to the DNC, won’t that help elect Republicans who are even worse on gay issues, and other issues Democrats care about?
We are not calling for a boycott of donations to the DNC. We are simply calling for a pause until the party follows through on its campaign promise to repeal DADT and DOMA, and pass ENDA. The party will get the same donations it would have gotten, when the promises are kept. The Democrats could choose to make good on their promise today. And by doing so, they will only further motivate the Democratic base to again turn out for the next election, a decidedly good thing.

You have to admit, gay rights is controversial – wouldn’t it be political suicide for Democrats to push gay rights?
Democrats should not have promised to support gay civil rights rights in exchange for our votes if they never intended to keep the promise. If we're not controversial during the campaign, when politicians are happy to accept our votes and our money, we cannot accept being labeled controversial after our candidates win. We kept our part of the bargain, we voted for Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress. It’s entirely reasonable for us to ask our elected officials to keep their part of the bargain too.

What's more, gay rights are not controversial. Americans favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military by a margin of 69% - 26%. By a margin of 57% - 37%, "A clear majority of Americans (57%) favors allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples." That can't happen if DOMA is the law. And in fact, if these civil rights promises were controversial, they would have hurt candidate Obama at the polls. But, he proudly and loudly proclaimed his support for LGBT equality, and he won.

No matter how disappointed you are, aren’t Democrats still better than Republicans?
The Republican party is terrible on gay issues. That doesn’t excuse the Democratic party breaking specific promises to the gay community made in exchange for our votes. We didn’t break our promise at the ballot box, the Democrats shouldn’t break theirs after we helped put them into office.

President Obama has only been in office less than a year, why the rush?
In less than a year, serious damage has already been done to the President’s commitments to the gay community. The problem isn’t only that he hasn’t been quick enough to fulfill his promises, it’s that he has actually backtracked on his promises and hurt the cause of civil rights and our community, as detailed above.

But aren’t there bigger priorities than gay rights for the Democrats to deal with, like health care and the economy?
Would President Obama, the DNC and the Congress tell other minorities that their civil rights aren't important? The suggestion is that Democrats have more important things on the table. When won't Democrats have more important priorities than the civil rights of gays and lesbians? Will there ever be a day, a year, an administration, when the President and the Congress won't have serious crises to deal with? Suggesting that gay Americans and their friends and families wait until the President and Congress have nothing else to do is not only insulting, it's a recipe for never. And regardless, we trust that this President, unlike the previous, can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Who is behind this effort?
John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, two longtime political operatives in Washington, DC, and the editors of AMERICAblog has raised over $300,000 for Democratic candidates and progressive causes, including nearly $50,000 for then-candidate Barack Obama, supported by AMERICAblog early in the primaries. The boycott is cosponsored by Daily Kos, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Andy Towle and Michael Goff of Towle Road, Paul Sousa (Founder of Equal Rep in Boston), Pam Spaulding, Robin Tyler (ED of the Equality Campaign, Inc.), Bil Browning for the Bilerico Project, and soon others.

You can contact us at:

How can I help?
Sign the pledge, tell your friends about this campaign, read the blog, and stay tuned for updates and action alerts on how you help make sure that the President, the Congress and the Democratic party keep their promises to the LGBT community, our families, our friends and our allies.

Close it Right: Guantánamo Must Be Shut Down Quickly And Properly

Anthony D. Romero, On January 22, 2009, his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order mandating that the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay be closed within a year. Well, the clock’s ticking and it’s not looking good. As January 22, 2010 fast approaches, the administration is signaling that it's unlikely to meet its own deadline.

Guantánamo has become a symbol of American lawlessness and human rights violations, and it is highly disturbing that it is taking so long to shutter it. The prison should be closed now.

While the administration has encountered diplomatic problems regarding the transfer of detainees to other countries, the potential delay has also been due to business as usual in the nation’s capital. Even with Democrats in power, we’ve once again seen the tail wagging the dog, with a slow and weak response to fear-mongering about the unfounded dangers of transferring detainees to maximum security prisons in the U.S. — the “Not In My Backyard” cry from obstructionist cynics. In fact, a Democratic-led Congress has voted four times to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the U.S. except for prosecution, making diplomatic efforts to convince other countries to accept detainees that much more difficult. Our very own elected officials who should be advocating for justice have essentially and shamelessly been obstructing it.

Unfortunately, instead of continuing to passionately pursue the quick closure of Guantánamo, some members of the administration have played right into the obstructionism, sacrificing principle on the altar of political expediency. In fact, there are reports that White House counsel Greg Craig, who courageously led the charge for setting a closure deadline, has been criticized rather than supported for advancing the cause of American values. It is hard to know who started all this cynical maneuvering and who caved into it, but it’s time for the administration to regain its moral footing. That means reigniting its passion for ridding the world of Guantánamo as soon as humanly possible.

But whether or not the administration breaks its deadline for closure, it must not break its commitment to American values. As important as closing Guantánamo soon is closing it right. That means putting an end not only to the prison itself, but also to the unconstitutional and inhumane policies that have come to define it.

Approximately 775 individuals have been held at Guantánamo since it opened in 2002, only five percent of whom were captured by U.S. forces, according to a study by Seton Hall University School of Law. The great majority were captured by Pakistani or Northern Alliance forces, or turned in by bounty hunters for well-publicized rewards.

At least one detainee was as old as 98 when he was brought to Guantánamo; several were teenagers. ACLU client Mohammed Jawad was only 14 or 15 when he was brought to the prison, where he spent the next seven years of his life — essentially growing up there — before a judge ordered his release when the U.S. government was unable could produce any legitimate evidence to continue holding him. It has become clear over time that, contrary to the Bush administration's assertions, not all Guantánamo detainees were the "worst of the worst." The ACLU has just released a video featuring interviews with five men who lost years of their lives at Guantánamo without any meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention, only to be released without ever having been charged with a crime.

About 220 men remain at Guantánamo today, including 75 who have been approved for release by a presidential task force but remain in custody while the administration figures out what to do with them. The administration says it will announce the fate of at least some Guantánamo detainees by November 16. ...

President Obama's promise to close Guantánamo was an important commitment that must be honored, and quickly. But it will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its shameful policies elsewhere. We can't go back in time and stop the tragedy of Guantánamo from happening. We can, however, stop it from happening again.

Anthony D. Romero is Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

LSB: When is this administration going to live up to the promises it made in order to be put in office? The war isn't winding down, Guantanamo is still open, and DADT still has a strong hold on the nuts of our military. Sorry, but "a lot on his plate" is beginning to sound an awful like "it's hard work." Nothing but an excuse. Well, I'll find an excuse the next time the DNC needs money, volunteer time or my vote if the Congressional majority and the administration can't follow through with its promises. Where is the change we need?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

SNL Parady of FOX "News"

Domestic Partner Benefits No Longer Treated as Income in Healthcare Bill

From the Left: If you’re gay or lesbian, one of the significant aspects of the sweeping healthcare reform bill passed last night by the Democratic Congress is the change to the way domestic partner benefits are treated by the IRS.

Under current law, domestic partner benefits are treated as taxable income — a blatantly homophobic and discriminatory practice that exposes employees and the employer to higher tax liability.

Gay or lesbian employees with domestic partner benefits, on average paid $1,100 more in taxes than their straight coworker. Under the healthcare reform bill, such benefits are tax-free.

From personal experience regarding domestic partner benefits, I can report that adding Jim to my health plan, or Jim adding me to his health plan, exposes the other to roughly $5,000 a year in additional taxable income. Because of this, neither of us have added the other to our employer sponsored health plan. Over the years, I have written more than a dozen complaint letters to my Congressional representatives regarding this discriminatory practice.

In the words of Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA):

“[The change] would correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make healthcare covergae more affordable for more Americans.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Jon Stewart Does Glenn Beck: Touts Conspiracy Theories, Cries (VIDEO)

Alex Leo, We knew Jon Stewart was a talented comedian, but until last night we didn't know he had missed his true calling: Being Glenn Beck. Yes, the "Daily Show" host spent an entire segment acting like, talking like, crying like, dancing like, and gesticulating like Glenn Beck. He was inspired by the fact that Beck recently had his appendix removed to create the 11/3 project--taking America back to a time before Beck lost his vestigial organ.

"Apparently the medicine that was good enough for our founding fathers is now considered politically or medically incorrect," Stewart said employing both air quotes and crazy voice registers that left the viewer wondering who and what he was quoting. "I'm not saying this is a plot by Hitler to steal Glenn Beck from all of us internal organ by internal organ by internal organ and then reprogram him to use as a weapon. But isn't it fascinating that I'm the only one with the courage to ask these questions?" He proceeded to jump up from his seat and run over to a chalk board that had the human anatomy scrawled on it alongside Che, acorns and the Russian flag. It only got better from there.

The 11/3 Project
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Obama Administration Helps House Democrat Gut Post-Enron Reforms

Shahien Nasiripour, With the White House's blessing, a House panel voted Tuesday to water down a key post-Enron measure designed to protect investors.

In a voice vote, members of the House Financial Services Committee agreed to permanently exempt from a provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act all publicly traded companies with market values less than $75 million -- which amounts to more than half of all public companies. (more)

LSB: This isn't change we can believe in!

Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing

Arianna Huffington, ... I often found myself wondering what Candidate Obama would think of President Obama. Would he look at what the White House is doing and say, "that's what I and my supporters worked so hard for?"

How did the candidate who got into the race because he'd decided that "the core leadership had turned rotten" and that "the people were getting hosed" become the president who has decided that the American people can only have as much change as Olympia Snowe will allow?

How did the candidate who told a stadium of supporters in Denver that "the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result" become the president who has surrounded himself with the same old players trying the same old politics, expecting a different result?

How could a president whose North Star as a candidate was that he "would not forget the middle class" choose as his chief economic advisor a man who recently argued against extending unemployment benefits in the middle of the worst economic times since the Great Depression?

...if the president wants to make sure he doesn't let down the millions who believed he really would change the rotten system, he should read the The Audacity to Win from beginning to end -- and rediscover a whole host of things he knows, but seems to have forgotten.

Then he can complete the journey from The Audacity of Hope and The Audacity To Win to The Audacity to Govern.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

SkyWest and Delta Accused of Anti-Gay Discrimination, May be Sued Gilbert Caldwell, a SkyWest baggage agent who married his partner last year in California in the window following the Supreme Court's decision when it was legal, says SkyWest refuses to offer his husband the same free fares it offers heterosexual spouses, the Desert Sun reports:

"In a six-page letter to the airlines, attorney Tara L. Borelli, with Lambda Legal, contends her client, Gilbert Caldwell, and his spouse, the Rev. David Farrell, are enduring employment discrimination due to a SkyWest travel policy that refuses to extend its benefits to same-sex spouses 'while heterosexual employees' spouses are fully respected automatically.' The Oct. 29 letter is the first step before formally suing SkyWest and Delta, Borelli said Friday.' In this incident, they are refusing to treat Gilbert in the same way as they do married, heterosexual couples,' added Borelli, a Lambda Legal staff attorney in Los Angeles. 'They should be providing travel benefits on equal terms.' ... Officials with SkyWest and Delta Airlines did not return multiple phone messages on Thursday and Friday seeking comment. .This surprising and discriminatory policy not only sends a powerful message of stigma and devaluation to SkyWest's gay and lesbian employees, but contravenes clear California legal mandates to treat same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners on equal terms with heterosexual spouses, the letter states."

The SF Chronicle reports: "The case is one of the first discrimination complaints to surface by any of the 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California before the November 2008 passage of Proposition 8, which amended the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

SkyWest has not released a statement about the case. Lambda Legal says the letter to SkyWest is the final step before a lawsuit is filed.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

State Be Ill-in'

Kenneth in the 212: Hundreds of students have rallied in support of Dan DeLong, a teacher in Illinois who was suspending for "letting" his 10th-grade students read a report on homosexuality among animals. Apparently this is far more objectionable than the case of another Illinois teacher who warned his students that they wouldn't want "your tax dollars going to pay some black fag in New York to take pictures of other black fags" and was merely given a warning, when he clearly should have been fired.


I can't believe it's not a democracy!: Alan Grayson calls a whore a whore -- Beltway whores freak out & defend Enron lobbyist working at the Fed. Naturally, democrats are piling on and trying to distance themselves from one of the truly progressive, strong true democratic voices in DC. I hope that Grayson gets soundly reelected and the sheep who are trying to paint him as a crazy man find themselves out of a job. Long and short, Grayson was right when he pointed out that Linda Robertson, a former Enron lobbyist and current Fed lobbyist, had "a long and well-known career as a "K Street whore." Sadly, Grayson felt compelled to apologize for using a term "seen as disrespectful of women."

I'm a woman and I don't see "whore" as disrespectful to women. Case in point: Jeff Gannon. I rest my case.

Halloween Humor

From Gary McCoy