Tag Archives: Kirsten Gillibrand

Hero of the Week Award, November 22: Democrats in the U.S. Senate

22 Nov

GraphCongratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – NV) and the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate. After years of abuse and obstruction by the GOP, they finally said, “ENOUGH.” Unable to get a simple up-and-down vote on three recent nominees to the DC Circuit Court, Reid made it clear that the Republicans had violated both the spirit and letter of every agreement made in the past few years about Presidential nominees. Even some long-standing holdouts — like Sen. Feinstein and Boxer of California and Sen. Leahy of Vermont — realized that this level of obstruction must be stopped. It’s about time.

I think it might be helpful to have a  brief history lesson: In 1917 the Senate created a method for ending filibusters, the cloture vote. It originally required a 2/3 majority and was revised down to a 3/5 majority. Both filibusters and cloture votes were used sparingly. In 1975, the non-speaking filibuster arrived, creating the model we’ve seen grow over the past few years. Just saying one intended to block a vote counted as a requirement for cloture. Even then, however, use was relatively rare.

Since President Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct him. Their extraordinary use of the virtual filibuster has served as a way to nullify his election and especially his re-election–it is difficult for me not to see a racist agenda here. They didn’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but couldn’t repeal the law, so they filibustered the President’s nominees. (That resulted in the election of Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, so they shot themselves in the foot with that one!) They want to keep the federal courts as conservative as possible, so multiple judges have been blocked. One might ask, one should ask: this type of block voting says two things: one, the GOP is not interested in serving all citizens of the United States, and two, where is there room for independent thinking and creating partnerships?

The so-called Nuclear Option that changed the rules only required a majority vote and it succeeded. For the rest of this Congress, any Presidential nominee except for Supreme Court justices will only require a simple majority to be approved. That ends a major logjam and takes a critical piece of obstruction away from the GOP. Given how broken the filibuster is, something more might be needed, but this is an excellent start. I might suggest that something more to be removing John Boehner as the Speaker of the House.

Of course the GOP is screaming with rage, even though they could have stopped the rules change simply by sticking to the agreements they had made. It’s amusing to note that one of the biggest whiners, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – KY), threatened the very same thing when Democrats invoked far fewer cloture votes on Pres. Bush’s nominees. Hypocrisy much?

This change is long overdue. Big thanks to the trio of senators who have pushed hard to help make the Senate work again, Tom Harkin (IA), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Tom Udall (NM).

A related honorable mention goes to the ever wonderful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY). She’s been pushing hard for reform in military justice protocols to help stem the tide of sexual abuse and assaults. When senior Democrats pushed to water down her bill, she stood firm and now has majority support for real reforms.  Gillibrand is one of the best civil servants the United States currently has.


Hero of the Week Award: June 7, Marcel Neergaard

7 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Proving decisively that you’re never too young to make a difference, this week’s hero spoke his mind and made a real change. Marcel Neergaard is 11 years old. He is also gay. He lives in Tennessee and was so mistreated and abused in school that his parents are home-schooling him now. The Neergaard family was horrified to learn who StudentsFirst had named as their 2012 Reformer of the Year: Rep. John Ragan. Ragan is the author of the nasty “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban any reference to homosexuality in Tennessee schools.

Marcel decided to do something about it. With his parents help, he created a MoveOn.org petition demanding that the award be rescinded. He also recorded an impassioned, articulate video about the harm that Ragan and his ilk do.

During my first year in middle school, I experienced severe bullying. I was called terrible names that were quite hurtful. At that time, I had just realized that I’m gay, and the bullies used the word “gay” as an insult. This made me feel like being gay was horrible, but my parents told me otherwise. Their support was tremendous. But as powerful as their love was, it couldn’t fight off all the bullying. I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did. No one deserves that much pain, no matter who they are. This was my reason for writing the petition.

Wow!  How impressive is Marcel here?  The story has a happy ending. Months of pressure from LGBT activist groups did nothing to sway StudentsFirst. Marcel Neergaard was more successful. Within days, the group rescinded the award and issued a statement supporting Federal anti-bullying legislation. Says Neergaard,

It seemed like the right thing to do, and the fact that there’s a chance to not do that sounded like you were saying, ‘Yeah, I was bullied and I’m going to let those bullies win.’ It’s giving up to them. It’s giving up to myself.

What an amazing young man! The world needs more people like him.

Honorable mention this week goes to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). During hearings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the military’s disgusting record of dealing with sexual assault and rape, the senators demanded action. As the commanders offered excuses and dodged issues of reporting and prosecution, McCaskill let them have it.

I don’t care how good a pilot it is, I don’t care how good a Special Ops person it is. Their ability to perform as a soldier or an airman or a member of the Coast Guard is irrelevant to whether or not they committed a crime.

Gillibrand was equally firm, noting the extent to which the problem is embedded in military culture.

You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases.

Thank you, Senators, for speaking truth to power!

Announcing the Clarence Thomas Award for Sexual Misconduct

16 May

ThomasDoDRecent events in the U.S. Military have led to the creation of a new SJFA award! Named in dishonor of (In)Justice Clarence Thomas, who blamed the victim, distorted the truth, and winked and nodded his way into a lifetime appointment — at the expense of Anita Hill — this award will be announced irregularly when any person or organization qualifies. A combination of monumental misogyny, callous disregard, and overt sexual hostility are the requirements. Sadly, we may see awards far more often than we would like.

Since the inclusion of women in the military, sexual assault and forced prostitution have been very real problems. Over the past decade or so, as women have moved into positions of greater authority, the Pentagon has indicated the intent to address the issue. Sadly, two recent events prove that whatever they are doing isn’t working. (Perhaps they’ve been taking strategic advice from the Catholic Church…)

Last week, an Air Force officer was charged with sexual battery; this week an Army Sergeant First Class is being investigated for forcing at least one subordinate soldier into prostitution, and for sexually assaulting two other soldiers. The common thread? Both were in positions of authority and power to investigate and prevent sexual assault!  Maybe they just didn’t read the job descriptions properly.

Based on the ongoing problems faced by LGBT personnel since the repeal of DADT and the shocking lack of effective health training for women, it’s clear that the U.S. Military is still living in the 1920s before all that equality stuff got in the way. The Pentagon must provide real leadership, and real consequences, to change the culture or the behavior will never change. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, is demanding such change.

It is time to get serious and get to work reforming the military justice system that clearly isn’t working. I believe strongly that to create the kind of real reform that will make a difference we must remove the chain of command from the decision making process for these types of serious offenses.

Sounds like it’s time to send a woman in to get the job done right.


Leaders with Courage: Repeal DOMA

17 Mar

Coons,Gillibrand, and Feinstein: Repeal DOMA

For those of you that follow this blog with any consistency, you know how much I love Kirsten Gillibrand, for her courage and leadership! I hope she will run for president. I’m happy to say that others are taking her lead and now demonstrating that same brand of courage in the face of hate and bullying politicians.  Sen.Chris Coons (D-Del) made an eloquent speech asking for the repeal of DOMA. I would also like to applaud Dianne Feinstein for her leadership in supporting the repeal of DOMA. I can only hope the tide is turning and we are starting to see the end of institutionalized discrimination against the LGBT community. Click here to see the video on Jeremy’s blog of Sen. Coons.


Hero of the Week Award: March 4

4 Mar

Hero of the Week

In a letter to John (I hate women, blacks, the poor, and gays) Boehner, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand once again proves to be the voice of reason and the voice looking out for American citizens. Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Boehner earns her this week’s HWA, (Not her first hero award on this blog).  Here is an excerpt of this intelligent and brilliant letter:

Dear Mr. Speaker, In a letter to you last week, the Attorney General advised that the Administration has concluded that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and therefore will cease to defend the statute in pending litigation. It is in the best interests of taxpayers and the constitution for you to refrain from appointing special counsel to defend this law. A decision to appoint special counsel would be an unnecessary cost to taxpayers, and would detract from our shared goal of cutting wasteful spending and creating jobs.

Not only does she demonstrate great leadership by upholding the constitution (not a document well revered by the right wing), but she is also demonstrating fiscal responsibility, something the GOP purports to be good at–Oy! Don’t get me started on that one. Brava, to our Senator Gillibrand. Click here for the full article.


The Number 1 Hero Award of 2010

31 Dec

What a delight I had in writing this post.  I always have to compose the Bigot post first to get rid of the bile.  Composing the Hero articles feels like dessert.  This year’s Hero Award goes to Kirsten Gillibrand , with an honorable mention to Patrick Murphy.  Kirsten Gillibrand has been a champion of repealing DADT for two years now, as demonstrated in this video from 2009. She introduced repeal legislation in the Senate in March, well before the more-reported last-minute efforts that eventually succeeded. She is also a strong proponent of equal protection for the LGBT community and for marriage equality.  We need more heterosexual and outspoken allies like Gillibrand.  She has shown great leadership as the Senator from New York and does not shy away from confronting her peers by protecting civil rights. As we move into a difficult new Congress, we need strong leaders like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and this year’s hero: Kirsten Gillibrand.


Nominees for Hero of the Year Award, 2010

24 Dec

Composing this post was a true delight and gave me some hope for the future.  It was inspiring to reflect on the Top 10 list of heros.  Each nominee demonstrated courage, compassion, and integrity; it will be difficult to narrow it down to five winners starting next Monday.  Here is the list wonderful souls:

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