Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"My Obama" (LaBamba Parody)

via WickedGayBlog (Thanks Dave!)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Judge: American GIs should "convert" Lesbians

I've heard the hate spewing from the megaphones of NOM and off of the fundraising letters of "Focus on the Family." And just when I thought I couldn't possibly read or hear anything worse than I've already heard...along comes part-time Hamilton County (TN) magistrate Joseph Rehyansky. Writing in a column for the "Daily Caller" titled, "Don't hint, Don't wink: An Immodest Proposal," Rehyansky argued for the inclusion of lesbians in the military, but the exclusion of gay men. His 'reasoning' (I shudder to even use that word) sets a new low in the conversation on Don't Ask Don't Tell...and is nothing short of horrifying coming from the pen (it wasn't even a verbal slip) of a man who is a Judge.

Regarding lesbians in military service, Rehyansky wrote, "...it is an open secret that they [lesbians] do well in the calling, especially in medical and administrative specialties. I am certain that I knew some during my 20 years in the Army, although I didn’t ask and they didn’t tell..." But then he offered his final solution to the 'problem' of having these positive public servants: "...My solution would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.”

In other words, if we can stop all those gay men from whining about equality, we can let our red-blooded straight American Soldiers screw all those confused lesbians straight.

Corrective rape. How utterly....18th Century. If that.

On the other hand, Mr. Rehyansky sees no hope for Gay Men at all:.

He writes, "...gays spread disease at a rate out of all proportion to their numbers in our population and should be excluded from the military..."

Ummm...Did Mr. Rehyansky forget about what actually went on the medics office during the decades he himself served in the military? Did he forget the warnings and 'protection packs' offered to military members before going on leave? Is he unaware that syphilis, followed by other STDs, is the number one 'condition' treated by Navy Medics? And that vasectomies are the number one outpatient operation performed at military hospitals? And that these, generally, all involve those red-blooded, straight American soldiers (the same ones he wants to go rape the lesbians into submission and straightness?)

Not willing to deal with military heroes like Col. Victor Fehrenbach and Lt. Dan Choi who stand to lose their pensions and careers, Rehyansky then goes on to attack gay mens' contributions in the military.

"Kinsey’s notorious World War II-era study concluded," he writes, "that about 10% of adult males in the United States were homosexual. Never considered in his study was the fact that most able-bodied American male heterosexuals were elsewhere, serving as part of The Greatest Generation...

Ah. Straight Warriors. Gay Pansies. Straight men go to war and gay men stay home. If that's the case, why are 'gays in the military' any issue at all? There wouldn't be any, would there?

Finally, he brings up the locker room.

"It’s been a long time since I was required to shower among 40 or so friends, acquaintances, and virtual strangers...Forty-two years after the fact, I no longer have a clear recollection of the experience, so it must not have made much of an impression on me. I’m certain I would have vivid memories of the experience if my shower-mates had been potential sexual partners....shouldn’t the overwhelmingly straight warriors who answer their county’s call be spared the indignity of showering with other men who achieve lascivious enjoyment from the sight of those lithe naked bodies...?"

The point, Mr. Rehyansky, is NOT that there were no gay men in your locker room. The point is that there most likely were, and it was no big deal - not then, not now.

And let's face it, Judge...some of those very straight men engage in some very lascivious conduct in those very locker rooms. Perhaps that's why "Dont Tell.." is such a threat to so many....

This "Judge" can't figure out whether gay men in the military are few and far between (because they are not inclined to military service), or whether they are so numerous that they may spread a health risk throughout the service (because they are having sex with ....who?)

He can't explain why stating one is gay makes one more likely to spread disease while keeping it hidden will also keep the STD hidden.

He can't explain the logical inconsistency of an article where he writes for three paragraphs about gay mens' promiscuity, while at the same time concluding that straight GIs be promiscuous with lesbians to 'correct' them.

This man represents Blind Justice? This man delivers judicial decisions from the Bench?

God help the citizens of Hamilton County, Tennessee...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Annual Thanksgiving Post

A brief video clip of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving story...and an absolute MUST for anyone who has adopted children from abroad, anyone who immigrated to America, anyone whose ancestors immigrated to America...and anyone conscious of the current immigration controversies in American politics. This is a short video, but the entire book is readily available in stores and online, and is titled, "How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story," by Eve Bunting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!!

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

3 Lessons from the TSA Horror Stories

The stories have gone viral, and we hardly have to repeat what has been covered by every major news channel: The pleas of Thomas Sawyer, a 61-year old Bladder Cancer survivor with a Urostomy (an external bag collecting urine), are ignored by TSA agents who break his bag and leave him in tears and covered in his own urine. Cathy Bossy, a 32-year old Breast Cancer survivor, is forced to remove her prosthetic breast. A three year old is subjected to a full-body pat down because she cried when Agents attempted to take her teddy bear away from her to go through the metal detector. Gurdeep Bawa, a religious Sikh, is forced to remove his turban and watch it manhandled, even though he had passed both a metal detector and a detectives trace detection test.

In an effort to prevent terrorism on the airlines, the 'experience' of airline travel has clearly changed in the last decade...and the public debate between those who would preserve privacy, and those who would insist on security, is at fever pitch. Now, to be 100% honest, I have a perverse desire to wear some type of leather-and-metal masochistic contraption on my 'junk' just to watch some TSA agent have to deal with it. But many Americans (more Normal than me) have called for a massive protest on Wednesday ("National Opt-Out Day"), to overwhelm the government security operations on one of the busiest travel days of the year. As expected, the TSA, and some news commentators, are warning against such an action.

We draw 3 conclusions from this entire episode:

1) American officials need a lesson in Marginal Analysis (Microeconomics 101).

On the first day of Micro class, I ask my students if they think that protecting children is important. Of course, they respond in the affirmative. Then I ask them if ski slopes that permit children to ski should be forced to bubble-wrap all the trees on the slope...after all, if children's lives are important, shouldn't we do everything in our power to make it safer...even just a little bit? Eventually, students come around to reconciling their concern for children with their recognition of the innate, if unstated, concept of Marginal Analysis: the question is NOT "Don't you want children to be safe?," but rather, "What are the costs and benefits of the next proposed action?"

This applies to *every* public policy debate. Yes, children's education is important...that doesn't mean every school should have a 1:1 teacher-student ratio. Yes, fire protection is important...that doesn't mean there should be a firehouse on every block. Yes, rescuing fishermen whose boats have gone down is important...that doesn't mean the Coast Guard should be searching 6 months later.

And the same reasoning applies to Airline Security. The question is NOT, "Is airline security important?" (Of course it is). The question is, "What are the costs and benefits associated with this additional step." People who defend the TSA's actions based on the broad concept of "the importance of security" are simply not thinking this through.

According to the TSA, only 3% of airline passengers are subjected to "enhanced" security searches. How much additional safety do we all experience as a result of a process that is only used on 3% of passengers?! The fact is, the additional benefits are dwarfed by the additional costs associated by this procedure: costs in equipment, personnel, delays, and public outrage. Standard Marginal Analysis would suggest that the TSA's efforts are a sure loser (and while children are being stripped at the gates, al qaeda is circumventing this process entirely by planting bombs in cargo holds).

2) The Terrorists have Won. Beginning with waterboarding and continuing through Guantanamo Bay, the suspending of habaeus corpus, and the Patriot Act, from Bush through Obama, constitutional guarantees have been shredded.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Patting down a 3-year old is now "reasonable?" Removing a prosthetic breast is "reasonable?" Breaking an American's Urostomy bag is consistent with being "secure in their persons?"

In the name of Security, the Fourth Amendment has been rendered 'voidable' by our federal government. The Terrorists, who have a deep-seated hatred for American civil liberties, have succeeded in eliminating one of our most important rights...and sadly, many Americans go along in the name of 'security.'

3) Obama is Clueless. President Obama's detached, passionless leadership style has hurt both his Presidency and the Democratic Party. The high-falutin,' tortured, bureaucratic gobbledy-gook emanating from the White House in response to the public outcry is remarkable for its total lack of any hint of empathy. The President should have immediately joined in the outrage over the abuse to cancer survivors and children named above, and declared that he was ordering changes to TSA policy...instead, what we received was an into-the-air comment about 'evolving policy.'

Sigh.....Where is the sign up sheet for "Hillary in 2012?" A

And in the meantime, dammit - if you're flying on Wednesday - get there early, stand up for reason and for your rights as an American, and join the National Opt-Out Day

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Icon of St. Columba

This is my first attempt at painting a religious Icon. St. Columba (or "Colmcille," in Gaelic) lived from 521-597 AD and founded the monestaries at Kells, Ireland, and on the Island of Iona off of the western coast of Scotland. Both monestaries were known for their production and protection of early Christian illustrated manuscripts, including the Book of Kells which is currently housed at Trinity College in Dublin.

This icon was initally fashioned after an original prototype by Maria Elchaninov-Struve. I began it in March of 2010 under the tutelage of Iconographer Kerry Wiederspahn, and finished it today. It is painted using egg tempera on a gesso-covered board, and the water used throughout was water I had collected from St. Columba's well in Kells, Ireland about six years ago.

The entire process was an incredible moving, spiritual experience. The Saint "emerged" as Icon transitioned from a'blank slate,' to pigments floating on water ("the Spirit of God hovered over the waters...") , to the initial shapes, final colors, and addition of "light" emanating from the rocks and Saint himself. This was only the first Icon of what I hope will be a life-long endeavor.

I did feel led to make some changes to the initial prototype:

Columba's staff has been made into a rustic crozier, symbolic of his status of Abbot;

He is holding an illustrated manuscript under his arm;

The traditional Greek letters "IX CX" (Jesus Christ) have been replaced with Gaelic "T I C" (Tighearna Iosa Criosd, or "Lord Jesus Christ");

Visible Celtic knots have been 'carved' into the Standing Cross;

I have added the name "Naomh Colmcille" at the top (Gaelic for "Saint Columba");

I have kept 'pock-marks' in the gesso surface, representative of the rocky ground and rock structures on the Island of Iona; and

The entire icon is framed in green, the traditional iconographic color for nature and growth.

While deeply appreciative of the eastern orthodox spiritual exercise of 'writing' icons, I am a western Christian, and feel a bit less contrained by Byzantine, Greek, and Russian rules. My apologies to those who may find offense in this.

Prayer of Saint Columba

Let me bless almighty God,
whose power extends over sea and land,
whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:
I pray for peace,
kneeling at heaven's gates.

Let me do my daily work,
gathering seaweed, catching fish,
giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,
sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet,
always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live
on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell,
serving the King of kings.

Friday, November 19, 2010

James Carville on DADT...

Sometimes I have to have my Cajun husband translate what Carville says, but I needed no help with this one!:

"If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two." - Democratic strategist James Carville, speaking about the president's commitment to the repeal of DADT. After Carville's comment was widely criticized, he fired back: "If I offended anybody, I am not sorry and I do not apologize."


via WickedGayBlog, via JMG

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Debt Reduction Commission, Part 2: Social Security

In a previous post, we addressed this commission's proposals for changes to the federal income tax. We generally agreed with them, and suggested they should even a bit bolder. In this post, we will revisit a topic I have blogged on at least twice before...the "social security" system.

Facing the prospect of a bubble of "baby-boomer" retirees, longer life expectancies (with higher medical costs), and fewer young workers paying taxes to support them...addressing this looming crisis is long overdue. The Obama Commission, in it's preliminary stages, has suggested the following:

1) Cost-of-living increases would be reduced for seniors (these increases are currently tied to the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation. This year seniors received a big fat zero.)

2) Social Security benefits would be adjusted based on recipients’ incomes. Most retirees would receive less, but those with lower overall incomes would receive more.

3) Gradually raising the retirement age for full benefits from 67 to 69 — though not until 2075 (It would appear that this element is drawing the most fire so far)

4) More of workers’ incomes would be subject to Social Security taxes. Currently, workers are only taxed (at 7.65%) on their first $106,000 of income. In order to close the funding ga, the Commission is likely to propose raising this to $190,000. While this might seem prudent at first glance, many forget that businesses must match their employees social security contributions...and in the current economy (hell, ANY economy), this is a price too high for many businesses to absorb.

On this set of recommendations, we must disagree with the Commission's suggestions. To be fair, they deserve applause for tackling perhaps the most sacred of all sacred cows in the US. However, their approach still amounts to treating a compound fracture by wrapping it up in gauze.And so once again, we are lead to ask:

"If the Social Security System is such a good deal, why are thousands of federal and state government employees exempt from being involved in it? Why have they chosen federal and state pension systems, and private retirement options instead?"

And why haven’t the rest of America’s workers had that right? If we can cut through the political rhetoric, we might just be able to give our kids and grandkids better choices than we have had.

Social Security is a financial time bomb as a natural result of changing demographics. And the single biggest problem is how it is funded: current workers pay for current retirees. When today’s worker pays social security tax, it does not go into a ‘safe place’ to be held for his future retirement; rather, it is used to fund the checks of current retirees. As the Social Security system currently operates, that means that today’s workers will have to rely on their grandchildren’s taxes for retirement income.

When this system was devised more than eighty years ago, there were forty working people for each retiree. Today, as family size shrinks, that ratio is approaching only two young workers for every retiree. In the 1930s, the average life expectancy was only sixty-five; today, we have two generations of retirees living into the eighties and nineties. That means that as originally conceived, forty young people supported one senior for a relatively short period of time. It was seen as a caring social responsibility. But in today’s world, that means two young workers will need to support themselves, their family, and a retiree for almost twenty years. That’s neither ‘caring’ nor ‘socially responsible.’

In fact, it is the opposite: it is socially irresponsible because we are turning our grandchildren into indentured servants with a tax burden that can not be sustained, while asking our seniors to work longer and live on less.

In addition, one of the most distressing trends in America is the growing wealth disparity between the wealthy and poor. The Federal Reserve has found that the difference in median net wealth between the richest and poorest jumped 20% between 1998 and 2001 alone...and that was before the current unemployment mess.

Worse is the dirty little social security 'secret': The gap between whites and blacks has grown 21% , and the social security system has played a significant role in that widening gap. 52% of Americans invest privately, but the poorest, after paying for clothing, housing, food, transportation and medical care, have little or nothing left to invest. Yet, they are forced to pay 7.65% of their income as a social security tax. This worker may pay this tax for 40 years, but if he dies without minor children or a spouse over 65, none of that money passes to his heirs.

In essence, the current system robs the poor of their ability to get ahead. One in three African-American men will die without ever collecting a cent of social security, and with no investment inheritance to pass along, in spite of paying a compulsory retirement tax his entire life.

Personal Lifelong Investment Accounts are the answer to these inequities.

Workers should have the right to invest their own money, long-term, in their own accounts, so they may collect interest and bequeath their funds should they predecease their spouse. Retirement should be something that people work for and save for throughout their lifetime...not a tax on the next generation.

We are not suggesting that people place all their retirement funds in a single gamble (the “Enron” scare tactic.) Rather, investments should be placed in a highly-diverse, long-term, broad basket of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that easily survive even should one company have trouble – precisely the plan that I, as a State employee, have the right to do.

Yes, the market has ups and downs. But no one planning to retire in 2010 begins by starting to invest in 2005. Long-term investments in the market have always yielded significant results, and retirement is a long-term process. Just as workers currently must pay a tax today to fund a check tomorrow, so may they be required to save today in an IRA that will garner growth, interest, and dividends over the course of the next 30 years. And yes, the federal government could and should continue to provide a safety net to guarantee a minimum income for ALL seniors.

Those who would seek to ‘save’ the current social security system always choose to accomplish that task through using coercion: they would tell you when you may retire, what your benefits would be, how much you would pay in taxes, and how much you would receive and on what schedule when you retire. It presupposes that government can somehow decide what is best for you. In a nation like Chile, workers decide how much they will put aside, when they will retire, where and how their money is invested, and what payment schedule they would prefer upon retirement. If they should pre-decease their retirement, their account still belongs to their estate, and their family is not left at the mercy of government payments. Returns on Chilean workers’ money has averaged 13%, far more than Americans can ever hope to make back on their social security contributions.

No wonder US government workers have permitted themselves to opt out of Social Security. It's time that right was given to the rest of America as well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Obama's Debt-Reduction Commission: Income Tax & the Mortgage Interest Deduction

This week, leaders of a special bi-partisan White House Commission on Deficit Reduction released some of its preliminary recommendations. The recommendations, to be finalized next month, touch on hot-button issues such as the federal tax code (particularly the mortgage interest deduction and tax brackets), military spending, the corporate income tax, and social security. Interest groups on both the Left and Right immediately criticized those areas where their particular ox was gored.

But frankly, we think the Obama Commission is on the right track, and the suggestions deserve support. In fact, if anything, we think the proposal can be made even bolder than it is (My friends who are anti-tax advocates, real estate agents, and home-owners are screaming, "What?!?!?") We will attempt to address these in a series of separate posts. Today, we tackle the mortgage interest deduction and tax brackets.

Here are the Facts: The federal government's financial state has never been worse. EVER.

The current National Debt - the amount our expenses have exceeded our tax revenues - is at 13.7 trillion dollars. To put that in perspective, the total value of all the goods and services created in the United States over the course a year (our GDP)...is between 13 and 14 Trillion....which means our debt is as great as everything we are capable of producing. Or, put another way, the debt is $42,000 per man, woman, and child in the US.

And that is just the current debt. Since the US actually borrows money to engage in deficit spending, interest is continually added to this figure. Currently, almost 25 cents of every tax dollar goes simply to pay the interest on this debt. That's 25 cents that could otherwise be used for actual productive purposes...instead, that interest is paid to institutions enormous enough to be able to lend money to the US government to fund its deficit spending: The government of China, Goldman-Sachs, Lloyds of London, Credit-Suisse, the House of Saud, Morgan Stanley, and Citibank.

As long as we continue to pay interest like this, we are institutionalizing a situation where wealth leaves the hands of the general citizenry and is concentrated in the hands of those who already have enormous wealth. In other words: The rich get richer, while the poor - and the middle class, and our children - get poorer.

NEVER have we been this close to a financial catastrophe. And the time for playing politics is over.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "...The preliminary plan in its current form would end or cap a wide range of breaks relied on by the middle class—including the deduction for home-mortgage interest....To compensate, one version of the plan would dramatically lower and simplify individual rates, to 9%, 15% and 24%.."

Let's take these one at a time.

Home Mortgage Interest Deduction:
This is one of the favorite income tax deductions used by middle class, home-owning Americans. (I wonder how many homeowners who are worried about the federal deficit will be willing to support changes in their personal sacred cow?)

The Federal Income Tax is, supposedly, a "Progressive Tax," meaning that the more money you make, a higher percentage of that income is paid in income tax. Of course, that's the theory...in reality, the use of deductions like the Home mortgage interest deduction actually reverses this, and places a higher tax burden on those with less wealth.

When a new mortgage is made for a home, the homeowner pays mostly interest in the earliest years. A new mortgage that runs $1500/month, for instance, might be as much as $1,400 interest and $100 in principle each month. The portion that represents interest is deducted from the homeowners gross income before the tax rate is applied. In the above example, a family earning $50,000/year could have an annual deduction of $16,800, reducing their taxable income to $33,200. The same family, if they were renting their home for $1,500 month, would have a deduction of ZERO. The Home Mortgage interest deduction results in penalizing those with fewer assets and rewarding those who already have wealth in the form of real estate assets. Rather then being a "progressive" tax, this deduction creates the opposite result.

In addition to these two families having different "taxable income," the renter may actually have to pay a larger tax rate because of the Federal Income Tax "Brackets:" A family making over $68,000 is taxed at 25%, while a family making $67,000 is only taxed at 15%. As a result, the mortgage interest deduction has become an almost necessary deduction used by American families to push them down into lower tax brackets to avoid punitively high taxes...again, at the expense of those who rent, or who bought their homes years ago, and have no such deductions, who must pick up the slack.

Bottom line: if Americans are to 'get on board' with the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, they must first be convinced that it is part of a comprehensive tax reform package that is not going to drown them in taxes.

Tax Brackets: The Federal tax code currently utilizes six tax brackets: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%. The commission is proposing reducing this to only three tax brackets: 9%, 15%, and 24%. This still leaves the problem that taxpayers will seek deductions to 'push' them down into lower tax brackets. The time has come for a long-discussed, long-overdue idea: a simple Flat Tax. The commission (and more importantly, Congress) should be convinced to eliminate tax brackets altogether, and use a simple percent applied to income, with no 'deductions' for special vested interests.

A legitimate argument against a Flat Tax is that those at the very lowest end of the income earning spectrum are hurt. Not only are they unable to meet basic needs of shelter, heat, clothing, food, transportation, and health care...now they would need to pay 10% of what little they make to the government, further impoverishing them.

This could actually be addressed with one simple adjustment to the Flat Tax.

Each year, the Federal Government determines the 'poverty' level; in 2010, for a family of 4, that figure is $22,050. If one agrees that no family should be pushed into poverty because of taxes, then A Flat Tax could be applied to Gross Income less the poverty level income amount for that year. In other words, our family of 4 above, making $50,000, would subtract $22,050 from their gross income, and be taxed on the remaining $27,950. If the tax rate was a flat 15%, that family would pay 4,192 in taxes, regardless of whether they owned or rented. A family earning less than $22,050 would pay nothing; a family earning $200,000 would pay $30,000.

Simplification of the tax code by enacting a single Flat Tax rate, applied only to earnings above the poverty level, would eliminate the need for taxpayers to seek out special deductions, make the federal income tax far more equitable than it currently is, and help move us back on a track towards fiscal sanity.

Of course, now that we have hopefully calmed some of the real estate agents fears, the accountants who thrive on the Byzantine tax code will be up in arms....

Monday, November 08, 2010

Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund: for Veterans Day, Act to repeal DADT now...

What do the following people have in common:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates;
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen;
Gen. Raymond Odierno;
Gen. David Petraeus;
Vice President Richard Cheney;
President Bill Clinton;
Secretary of Defense William Cohen;
Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones;
General John Shalikashvili;
General Colin Powell;
104 other Generals and Admirals

ALL are calling for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." NOW. Before the end of the year and changes in the Senate.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) has released the following 'campaign,' and have given us permission to reprint it for our readers immediate action:

"The next 12 to 36 hours are critical to repeal of "DADT;" important conversations on moving the defense bill are happening now." –Army veteran Aubrey Sarvis.


The House has passed legislation repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as part of a Military Funding Bill, but it has not yet seen a vote in the full Senate, where Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Democratic leaders says they are trying to reach a deal across the aisle now that Election Day has passed.

The Senate has not yet acted on the bill. Discussions are happening right now between Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin and Ranking Member Sen. John McCain. McCain wants repeal of DADT stripped out so he is not forced to take an on-the-record vote against funding the troops.

McCain wants the Democrats to cave; WE CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN

Advocates need to show their support for repeal NOW. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and President Obama need to come together to push back aggressively on Sen. John McCain's threat to filibuster the comprehensive defense bill.

Obama, Levin, and Reid need to be convinced to call the defense bill up in a bipartisan way to bring on a handful of Republicans who we will need to pass the bill. Every day that goes by with silence from the President and Majority Leader Harry Reid makes repeal tougher. The Senate must call up the defense bill as reported out of committee and pass it before it goes home for the year. If the President, Majority Leader Reid, Secretary Gates, and a handful of Republican senators are committed to passing the comprehensive defense bill, there is ample time to do so.

"The Senate should call up the defense bill reported out of committee and pass it before it goes home for the year," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "If the president, Majority Leader Reid, Secretary Gates and a handful of Republican senators are committed to passing the comprehensive defense bill, there is ample time to do so."

UPDATED LIST: KEY SENATORS WHO NEED TO HEAR FROM REPEAL SUPPORTERS NOW (critical Republican Senators in New England are in boldfaced type):

Harry Reid (D-NV); Carl Levin (D-MI); Susan Collins (R-ME); Olympia Snowe (R-ME); Mark Pryor (D-Ark.); Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark); Richard Lugar (R-IN); Judd Gregg (R-NH); Scott Brown (R-MA); George Voinovich (R-OH); Kit Bond (R-MO); Joe Manchin (D-WV); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Mark Kirk (R-IL)


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bishop Gene Robinson to retire

Sad news that brought me to tears this evening.

It is not hyperbole to say that the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson will go down in history alongside Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I have been blessed to have lived and worshipped during this time, in the state of New Hampshire, in the Episcopal Church while he has been our shepherd.

Bishop Robinson has stood in the face of criticism and hate and death threats in order to proclaim a greater truth, and to offer a gospel message of hope and love and humanity for all at a time when many have confused the Gospel of Jesus with an ignorant, fundamentalist "churchianity." He has sacrificed his personal privacy and safety in a never-compromising outreach to Gay and Lesbian men and women...and at a time when the Ugandan Church is calling for the execution of gays and conservatives in the Anglican Communion threaten to tear the church apart over the acceptance of gay and lesbian parishioners - - Bishop Robinson has stood and spoken with a blinding truth and honesty that is painful.

Indeed, he has been"...a stone to make men stumble..." (1 Peter 2:8)

My husband-to-be and I were with him in the gallery of the New Hampshire Statehouse when Marriage Equality was finally approved. And he personally gave his blessing to clear the way for our wedding, and promised us personally that he would provide clergy to perform our ceremony.

Coming less than a week after a political tidal wave of change in our nation and in our state legislature, rendering all of our marriages "at risk," this is doubly distressing. But we take heart, knowing that

"...the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice." - Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Time for the rest of us to step up our vigilence.

I have included his the Bishop's entire statement, released today the Episcopal Diocesean Convention.


Bishop of New Hampshire Calls for Election of Successor

Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire

November 6, 2010

I am using this time for closing remarks to announce to you an important decision I have made regarding our common life. On January 5, 2013, I will retire as your Bishop. To that end, I am hereby calling for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire, who will succeed me in 2013. While this is an excruciatingly long period of time – two years and two months – from now, this period of time is essential for a smooth and unhurried process of transition, for the diocese and for me.

Let me share with you the reasons for announcing my retirement at this time:

I wanted to make this announcement to you in person. While I might have delayed this announcement a few more months, I could not imagine doing so by letter. I have been in the Diocese of New Hampshire 35 years, the last 24 of which have been in a diocesan position. Our time together has always focused on “relationship,” and I could not imagine changing this relationship without telling you so personally.

By January, 2013, I will be approaching my 66th birthday. (This is where you say, “But bishop, you look so young!”) I will have been a bishop over nine years, a reasonable and typical tenure for a bishop my age in the Episcopal Church, in what I consider to be one of the great and healthy dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Since the very beginning, I have attempted to discern God’s will for me and for you, and this decision comes after much prayer and discernment about what God wants for us at this time. I received the diocese under my pastoral care in good shape, thanks to Bishops Phil Smith and Doug Theuner, and believe that I will be passing it along to my successor ALSO in good shape. I have tried to be a faithful steward of the trust and responsibility you placed in me. Only you can be the judge of that.

The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and YOU. Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, YOU. While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the Diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate. While my resignation may not stop such pressures completely, it does seem to be the right time for me to initiate the nearly-two-year process for your election of a new bishop. A three-month overlap will allow for a smooth and appropriate transition.

There are still things left for me to do. First and foremost, there is continuing to be a good bishop for you during the next two years. I don’t intend to be a “lame duck,” as you deserve a bishop during this interim that is “on all burners” for the remaining two years. I intend to continue to be fully engaged as your Bishop in the remaining time we lead the diocese together. You can do YOUR part by not sweeping me aside, either literally or emotionally, over the next two years, while I lead as your Bishop Diocesan.

Let me assure you that I am in good health – having lost 25 pounds put on over the last seven years in part by eating all your good food!! Especially that coconut cream pie in Colebrook! I continue in my fifth year of sobriety, which has been a total blessing to me. I continue to treasure my work and ministry with you, and it is a total joy and privilege to serve you and to serve God in this holy collaboration with you. After two more final, vigorous years with you, there are other things that I hope to do, in a new chapter in my life and ministry.

In the meantime, there is mission and ministry to be done. I have been on retreat with the senior staff, and we have set priorities for the next two years. My first priority during these two years will be to continue to support, nurture and pastor our clergy, lay leaders and congregations. Our School for Vestries, under the able leadership of our new Canon for Lay Leadership, Judith Esmay, is the fulfillment of one of my dreams for us. We will continue our focus on stewardship, vitality and leadership development in congregations. We will continue to be responsible stewards of our finances. We will continue to work with congregations in finding the best clergy available for ministry here in New Hampshire. Our fantastic diocesan staff will continue to see, as their primary mission, serving you, the people of the diocese. The Diocesan Council will shepherd us through a new and exciting accountability process for Fair Share giving. Our Mission Resources Committee, under the leadership of Benge Ambrogi, will be freed to focus on new and creative ministry projects in small and large congregations alike. It is such an exciting time in the life of our diocese, and I intend to jump into it with both feet!

For my own ministry as your bishop, both within and beyond the diocese, I will continue my work of evangelizing the unchurched and the “de-churched.” I get to talk to probably more unchurched people than any other bishop in The Episcopal Church. On college campuses, speaking to various public forums, and also in my work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, I get the opportunity to make the case for God and for God’s Church – either to those who have never known God’s unimaginable love, or to those who have been ill-treated, in the name of a judgmental God, and who have left the Church. Recent news brings us the tragic stories of teenagers who have taken their own lives because religion tells them they are an abomination before God and who believe that their lives are doomed to despair and unhappiness. I get to tell them a different story. By all accounts, I have had the privilege of bringing many people into the Church for the first time, or convincing them that the Church is becoming a safe place to which they can return with a reasonable expectation of welcome. This is EVANGELISM, for me, pure and simple. This is my attempt at fulfilling “the Great Commission” to go forth into the world, baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a calling not just for a bishop, but for each one of us.

I must admit to some anxiety about this change, but I’ve got plenty of time to deal with that. Since I was ordained at the ripe old age of 26, the Church has been my whole life. I love getting up at 4:30 in the morning to pray and to begin work answering your emails and questions and to respond to the needs of our clergy and congregations. Sundays continue with my weekly, official visitations in congregations which have enlivened, nourished and excited me for much of the last decade. I look forward to continuing in being intimately connected with you and your ministries. But as we are told in Ecclesiastes: “to everything there is a season.” And now it seems to be the season to continue that ministry among you over the next two years, as you carefully choose your next bishop. He or she has no idea what a joy and what a privilege it will be to serve you, the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire

I have talked with the Standing Committee about my decision and they will meet on December 9th with Bishop Matthews of the House of Bishops Pastoral Development Office. The Standing Committee will begin the process of choosing both an Episcopal Search Committee and an Episcopal Transition Committee, which will begin their work in the new year. About a year later, in early 2012, nominees will be announced, with an election in the late spring of 2012. Allowing for the necessary consent process at General Convention, we will consecrate our new Bishop on (tentatively, subject to consent) Saturday, September 15, 2012. As with my own election, there will be a few months of overlap for the new bishop to get acclimated and for a smooth transition to occur. On Saturday, January 5, 2013, I will pass over my authority, and the Bishop’s Staff which symbolizes it, to our new bishop, with joy and thanksgiving for what has gone before and for what is to come under new leadership.

I make this announcement with nothing but praise and thanksgiving to God for having the privilege of serving you. While I know that I have not been God’s perfect servant during this time, I will leave in early 2013 knowing that I have given this ministry my best efforts. YOU are, and will continue to be, the reason I have not only survived, but thrived, during this tumultuous time in the wider Church. New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, “the Bishop.” This is the one place on earth where I am not “the gay Bishop.” I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did. You always treat me as a human being, a beloved child of God, and an eager servant of Our Lord. That is what I have tried to be, all along the way – and with every ounce of my being, I will continue. And God willing, I will leave this office in 2013 with even more love, more affection and more gratitude for you than when I assumed this role.

I know that this will have come as a shock to many of you, especially given how much I love being your Bishop and love the work we have undertaken together. I even hope that my energy and enthusiasm for being your Bishop has caused you to forget that I am approaching retirement age. But there it is!

There will be plenty of time in the future for remembrances, thanksgivings and reflection on our time together. For now, though, there is important work to be done. We need to let our fine Standing Committee and the future Search Committee do their jobs, and in the meantime, get on with being the Church and preaching the Gospel in this part of God’s vineyard. New Hampshire has made a name for itself in the last few years, and although unwittingly, we have been on the national and international stage. It has given us the opportunity to proclaim God’s love for ALL of God’s children in profound ways. I do not expect that to be diminished in any way as we move through the next two years of transition and as you move into a new partnership with your new bishop! All I can say is that it is the most profound, blessed and exciting honor to continue as your bishop. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for loving me and working alongside me in bringing the Church in New Hampshire and the world ever closer to the Reign of God.

It’s been a great, collaborative ride, and it will continue to be. All in the name of God, who loves us beyond our wildest imagining, and who will continue to lead us into the future as surely and as faithfully as in the past. Thanks be to God.

And now, I will ask our outgoing Standing Committee President to lead us in prayer, sending us into the world, to care for the People of God, preach the Good News, and continue as faithful witnesses to the Gospel.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire