Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama Fail on Terrorism

It wouldn't be Christmas in the post-9-11 era without a terrorist attempt on an airliner. As if the sluggish economy and two wars overseas weren't enough of a downer, the very real threat of terrorism aimed at U.S. citizens in our skies and on our land still looms large. The worst decade ever, as Time magazine says, may be over, but what the hell do we have to look forward to in 2010? That, my friends, is for a later blog post. Today, however, we have to talk about President Obama's loose grip on national security. In short: when a passenger plane is nearly blown out of the sky, don't you think the president should have a word or two with the nation?

Well, our president is on a much-deserved vacation in Hawaii. I say that seriously, the man has a right to some sun and golf and quality time with his family. But the "blackberry" president, he who is supposedly always at the ready, he who can answer that 3am call, has a responsibility to address any significant attempt on our nation's safety and tell the American people what next steps are in place to keep us safe. It is not the job of a bumbling administration official, one Janet Napolitano, to get on CNN to say the system "works" when the system just allowed an avowed terrorist - one whose family reported him to the FBI just a few weeks ago - to get on a plane with enough TSA-approved equipment to blow up a plane.

Then again, this is the same president who told the nation to not jump to conclusions after the killing spree at Fort Hood last month. A man who has since been revealed to have been in contact with religious extremists in Yemen shoots up an army base and it's preposterous to assume any connection with Islamic jihad. Uh, right.

This is where liberals rightly get it on the chin from conservatives. In the liberal mindset, national security is put in dismissive quotation marks to represent the hysterics of the barely literate. And even when the doom and gloom scenarios of the illiterate come true, liberals are quick to shrug these off and say they're the product of, well, insert any social ill here that can be blamed on capitalism and that, my friends, results in terrorism.

As much as I hate to reference Dick Cheney, that man did say that Obama's approach to national security puts our safety in danger. Now, Obama is no more responsible for this attempted attack than George W. Bush was responsible for 9-11. The idea, however, that Obama is soft on terror and is more inclined to court the Muslim world rather than chastise them for the unrelenting violence of their faith, lingers. For reputation's sake, the president should have by now addressed the nation and put on a brave face for an ongoing conflict.

Obama fail, as they say in Twitter speak, when it comes to our safety.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Step Closer to National Health Care

America is one step closer to providing health care to all its citizens following a 60-40 vote in the Senate early this morning. What conservatives fear most, and what liberals perhaps thought would never come to pass, might just become a reality. There's no telling now what other sorts of progressive, inclusive legislation the Obama administration can introduce if we pass the healthcare bill (ahem, DOMA, DODT).

In spite of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson's antics and the unanimous discontent of senate republicans, the $870 billion bill is moving forward toward a final vote this week, but not without some major adjustments.

Among the compromises the dems made to keep the bill alive: the government-run public healthcare option has been scrapped, the minimum age for Medicare will not go down to 55, and public funds will not be used to subsidize abortion.

As for costs, well, CNN says: "Individuals under both plans [House and Senate plans] would be required to purchase coverage, but the House bill includes more stringent penalties for most of those who fail to comply. The House bill would impose a fine of up to 2.5 percent of an individual's income. The Senate plan would require individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face a fine of up to $750 or 2 percent of his or her income -- whichever is greater."

Both versions of the plan represent significant increases in income tax for the wealthy, and the demands on small business are quite hefty - "the Senate bill would require companies with more than 50 employees to pay a fee of up to $750 per worker if any of its employees relies on government subsidies to purchase coverage."(CNN) That's a lot of money, even for a company that can afford to have 50 people on their payroll. I guess none of the people who wrote this book have heard of "working under the table."

And then there's the issue of undocumented residents - what to do with them when they're sick or injured? That there is no provision in the bill for this group still smacks of the short-sightedness that has kept universal healthcare at bay for decades.

While the dems can withstand a little in-fighting and some name-calling from the republicans, if this bill doesn't pass then the whole course of the Obama administration could be derailed. Not that the President has lost his lustre, but Americans are a little less fired up nearly a year into his administration. Some of that is to be expected, but with the war effort being the mess that it is and unemployment still hovering at 10 percent, we need to see our president be able to exert some form of control on a major issue.

It all comes down to Tuesday's vote...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Houston's Gay Mayor...See? They Like Us, They Really Like Us

Beyonce's hometown has elected an openly gay woman as mayor of their city. This past Saturday, Houston City Controller Anisse Parker was elected by a margin of 53%; it's a fascinating development for the reddest of the red states "that overwhelmingly voted to outlaw gay marriage four years ago and in a city where voters have rejected offering benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees." (USA Today)

So, yes, the gays are everywhere. And most Americans don't seem to mind our presence. Except when we start making demands for equal rights and ask for society to confer the same recognition to our relationships as they do to heterosexual couples. Is it simple homophobia? Are all Americans really so obtuse and closed-minded that they'd vote in a near single block to deny (or, in some cases, take away) their fellow citizens' rights?

Or are we the problem? We meaning the gays of course. If Americans have no qualms letting Ellen into their homes everyday and they're electing openly gay candidates to positions of power, what's keeping marriage and domestic partner benefits out of our grasp?

A few years ago I probably would have wagged a finger at some of y'all and had said something like, see? your nasty porcine ways have cost us our rights. But that wouldn't be fair. The older I get the more heterosexual people I've seen pissing all over the institution of marriage (I refuse to talk about Tiger Woods here but you know what I'm talkin' about). So why are gays not allowed into the club? We can mess things up too, if given the chance.

Simply put: we haven't adapted our message of same-ness to the liking of most Americans. There's something missing in the gay/straight dialgoue when it comes to our basic rights. Could things change if we approached the issue from a "may we, too, please?" perspective rather than the current "you have it, so should I" model which annoys many, many people. Granted, there is a significant number of Americans whose faith would make it impossible for them to support our rights. We have to accept that. However, the public can be swayed. I wouldn't have a job otherwise. So I think the problem lies within ourselves. The gay community hasn't really put up a credible case for the recognition of our rights and relationships.

Parker's election is a foreshadowing of the great things that are on the way for gay people in the U.S. There is something to be learned from this victory that can turn the national debate on marriage in our favor.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings Shouldn't Have to Talk about Fisting

For a few months now conservatives have been lobbying for the removal of president Obama's safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings. That a homosexual should hold the title of Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools is too much for some conservatives to handle, and as such, a host of allegations have been drummed up to scare Americans into thinking that a lone gay is single-handedly "queering" our nation's youth. Such is their dismay over Jennings' sexuality, and the fact the he founded GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, that conservatives are actually spouting the words fisting and dental dams over the airwaves. Yes everyone, hide your kids because the gays, and all of their corporate backers are on a mission to rape America's children.

Outlets like Queerty and the Huffington Post have been following this story since September, when allegations against Jennings were first voiced by the conservative right. The chief complaints against Jennings, and GLSEN, are as follows:

1. Jennings all but applauded a sexual relationship between a 15 year-old boy and an adult male back when he was a schoolteacher in Massachussetts over 20 years ago
(When Fox News jumped on the story they then had to retract and say that the student was in fact, 16 at the time of the incident, which is the age of consent in that state)

2. Jennings supports an avoid pedophile
(Jennings lauded the activism efforts of one Harry Hay who unfortunately is an avowed member of NAMBLA, the National Man Boy Love Association)

3. GLSEN is an exploitative organization trading in pederasty and the advocacy of fisting and incest
(The group does provide bar guides to LGBT youth, information on gay chat lines and offers education on safer sex practices - may I say, however, that minus the gay chat lines, these are all integral elements of the Gossip Girl story line? Those kids are NASTY underage drinkers.)

4. GLSEN is promoting a salty reading list that is full of explicit sex
(Right. When it comes to sexualizing America's children, the gays did it first)

At the moment, bloggers like Michelle Malkin are calling for a boycott on GLSEN's corporate sponsors and she's making the rounds on the Fox News Channel to scare America straight on the "truth" behind GLSEN. She is all too happy to be talking about fisting and dental dams, and for the past week she's been linking to sites that are calling the Jennings controversy "FistGate."

Once again conservatives have shown that when it comes to gay rights they can't approach the topic without delving into the most crude elements of sexuality and promoting the idea of the homosexual as a predator with aims on innocent youth. It's trashy but effective - the sad thing is that the business of fear is quite lucrative and conservatives, and their minions at the Fox News Channel, are going to run with this story for as long as they can.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surge on Afghanistan? It's 30,000:1.5 Billion

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage on, President Obama has declared that an end to our efforts in the latter conflict will come in 2011. By then, an additional 30,000 troops will have been deployed to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, on top of the 55,000 soldiers who have already served in the region. You have to wonder if 85,000 or so soldiers can topple an army of one billion. That figurative army of one billion refers to recent statistics which found that one out of every four people, or 1.5 billion men, women and children, are Muslim.

Is it gauche and irresponsible, almost ten years into the war on terror, to think of the conflict as a war on fundamentalist Islam? Or on Islam altogether? Is it unpatriotic to think that this is a battle that we can't win because there are too many religious zealots out there who aim to lay waste to western civilization? Or the whole world for that matter seeing as jihadists are apt to kill anyone, even their own people (just look at today's car bomb attacks in Baghdad that have killed over 100 people).

At this point in the war, I do believe that the Muslim world's reaction to the events of the past decade has been tepid and, quite frankly, I've gone from not having an opinion either way on Islam to thinking that it is, in fact, a dangerous religion. If the corner mosque can be a hotbed for fanatical thought, as we have seen at Fort Hood in Texas or here in Brooklyn, then there is no place for this faith in the modern, civilized world. At least not in the west.

Our leaders never sold the war as a quick fix for the epidemic that is fanatical thought, but this war seems to have no end - and while our troop levels may be depleting - a terrorist seems to be born every minute. Some people would argue that aid, education and understanding are needed to win hearts and minds, but as we all know by now the world's biggest terrorist comes from one of the world's wealthiest families and the 9-11 jihadists had enough education to know how to fly planes into skyscrapers. And while the response to these attacks back in 2001 was rightfully careful to not condemn of all Islam, our overtures to this faith have gotten us nowhere. Our own president has traveled to the Muslim world, he's tried to strike a conciliatory tone in his speeches about the war and the role of the faith in this country, but to no avail.

It's no wonder, then, that even ever-neutral Switzerland has had to take a stand on the issue of Islam by banning the construction of minarets in the country. A lot of people are in a pique about this but I'm of the belief that we can no longer play host to a faith who seems fixated on the destruction of so-called infidels. I compare the minaret ban to the closing of bathhouses in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. - when increasing numbers of gay men were coming down with the disease, public health officials saw a connection between the activities at the baths and the spike in AIDS infections. I don't think that was homophobia, that was a response to a plague. I would offer that fanatical Islam is a plague we've been fighting for quite some time as well.

So, fine, we can send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and sure, we can say that we "almost" found Osama, but the real problem, that seed which germinates and turns into terrorism and turns into a financial and spiritual drain on the west, still exists. So what do we do about that?