Tag Archives: President Obama

National Coming Out Day: Obsolete?

11 Oct

national_coming_out_day-395x400I know many of you will be clutching your pearls and grabbing your smelling salts when you now realize I am gay! Yes, there I said it.

I cannot underscore enough how important it is for LGBTQ people to be out and visible and I also realize there are still yet so many places in the United States and around the world where it is not safe to be visible. The more visible we are as a community, the more difficult it is to marginalize us and treat us as sub-human, or second class citizens, denied over 1,300 rights that our heterosexual brothers and sisters are granted just for being heterosexual. NO! National Coming Out Day is not obsolete, for it is still quite relevant and needed.

Much has improved! Watching President Obama advocate for LGBTQ rights during his inaugural speech brought me to tears, for I never thought in my lifetime I would witness the President of the United States talk about issues of equity for my community. Despite the fact that the LGBTQ community has made great strides in the past year, however, we are far from eradicating homophobia and all of the intersections that are linked to homophobia, such as racism and misogyny.

I actually think marriage equality is on the horizon for the United States and I caution people to remember this DOES not mean the end of homophobia.  While I am a great supporter and beneficiary of marriage equality, I also know we have to address the constant inequities for people who do not choose marriage. I would also encourage people to look at the many barriers transgender people still face, not to mention the increase in violence against the LGBTQ community in the past four years.

I hope that today there will be much celebrating as people find the courage to use their voices individually and collectively to be Out and Proud as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, or Transgender person.  Living one’s life authentically allows for great freedom and of course supports the Gay Agenda!

 

Boehner’s Ill-Fitting Suit

18 Jul

BoehnerYet again the people of the United States are witnessing an enormous waste of tax-payer money and political grandstanding, as the third most powerful man in the country is filing a lawsuit against President Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act. We saw this waste of money and grandstanding before when Boehner hired a legal team to defend DOMA — that was a colossal waste of money and time to promote bigotry.

With the success that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is enjoying, what do Boehner and his cronies have planned? Will they be making home visits to revoke health insurance from families that now are insured? What is the purpose of this frivolous lawsuit? I wonder why Boehner and his GOP House of Shame can’t work on creating jobs and repairing infrastructure, as President Obama has urged and the American people have demanded.  Sadly, for me, this feels like a great deal of racism being stirred up again.  I suspect Boehner must not have a single gay/black/female, or any minority friend given where he spends his negative energy as the Speaker of the House.

Boehner claims that the root of the lawsuit is an effort to curb executive abuse of power. That doesn’t make any sense. Congress — specifically the HOUSE which Boehner hypothetically leads — has a tool to deal with such abuse. It’s called impeachment. Despite many GOP claims that such action would be justified (and a deep tide of Tainted Tea encouraging it), it’s pretty clear that there is no way impeachment could succeed and polls indicate that it might backfire in November’s mid-terms.

So Boehner is trying an ironic, hypocritical, unprecedented Legislative power grab. Curiously, his claim of “abuse of power” which he links to Obama’s executive orders and signing statements, is an outright lie. Relative to every president of the last 50 years, President Obama is the least frequent implementor of these two LEGITIMATE tools of executive authority. Even Gerald Ford issued more executive orders in barely 1/3 the time in office. Curiously, the king of executive orders is Saint Ronald the Addled. The all-time champ of signing statements is George W. Bush aka Cheney’s Sock Puppet. So it’s fine when conservative white guys do it, but when a legitimately elected man of color facing the most obstructionist Congress in modern history tries to actually govern…

It’s also curious that Boehner singled out the ACA’s mandate for the lawsuit. Irony #1 – President Sock Puppet issued an executive order delaying Medicare sign-up penalties. Sounds a lot like what President Obama did with the ACA; that is, he established executive policy to smoothly implement a complicated law. Irony #2 – Boehner ignores the primary area where most Americans feel the administration may have overreached: NSA spying and tapping. I guess even unpopular strong executive action is fine if the Speaker AGREES with it.

CALL TO ACTION: Draw attention to this sham. Have every member of the House who supports it dragged into the light come election time. This lawsuit is frivolous, wasteful, vindictive, and hypocritical. Let’s make it cost Boehner and his rabid base come November.

Affordable Care Act Rollout (Obamacare): Disaster or Distortion?

19 Nov

ACAFactsI know I talk at length about the dominant culture and discourse (the structural and institutional power source) and how targeted populations (folks that are not white, heterosexual, male, wealthy, and Christian) should unite and engage the dominate culture in a way that works towards creating equity across the board. This means a re-distribution of wealth and health insurance for all human beings. Today I want to talk about how tired I am about all this mishigas over the Affordable Care Act.

Sadly, all we hear from 99% of the media is the crash of the Affordable Care Act and has President Obama lost credibility? Really? This the question? Why are we not asking how many people are already enrolled and are still trying desperately to enroll? Why are we not asking how we can create a more equitable way of taking care of all of our citizens regardless of party lines? Why are we not asking where were all the critics when Mitt Romney had trouble rolling out the exact same health plan in Massachusetts? Why are we not asking about the cost of the government shutdown and how much of that money could have gone to health insurance? Why are we still tying employment to health insurance?

Of course, I have to bring up race and class again.  Those that are not part of the dominant culture (as defined above) suffer disproportionately as far as employment, health care, and poverty.  Do we just discard human beings in the United States if they don’t fit in to the boxes we assign them? Let’s look at a simple fact: at least 20 Million people in this country are uninsured and will have the ability to be insured thanks to the ACA. No amount of GOP whining, media distraction, website downtime, or pundit bloviating changes the fact that this is a simply good thing.

The constant barrage of criticism uses words like “debacle” and “disaster.” Are these accurate? Objectively, NO! Let’s explore the three basic criticisms of the ACA: website, signups, and cancellations.

First, the most legitimate criticism: the website doesn’t work very well. That appears to be true. The deliverable product is very complex. It needs to interact with multiple government agencies, multiple private companies, and the fundamental operations of the ACA. At the same time, it needs to protect privacy and pass along a significant amount of information. Yes, the government should have focused on making this rollout a success. On the other hand, nearly 20 MILLION visitors have started come to the site, providing a great deal of stress. GOP governors repeatedly rejected state exchanges, forcing their citizens to the federal site, contributing to overload. Many of the federal employees  responsible for making the website a success were either furloughed during the shutdown or bogged down answering questions from GOP House members. Objectively, the website needs serious improvement, but the loudest complainers (are you listening, Boehner and company?) are the biggest obstacles to its viable completion.

Pundits and so-called journalists are also bemoaning the sign-up levels. The number 27,000 is used a lot lately. Yes, that number is lower than the initial estimates. Given that nearly half of America lives in cities smaller than 25,000 , however, that means the typical U.S. citizen is seeing their entire town given health care. The dire figure also ignores a significant number of other factors. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up through state exchanges, proving that the “states rights” option that should have appealed to the GOP is a big success. Medicaid enrollment, a major element of the ACA, is up by nearly 400,000.  People under 26 can stay on family plans under the ACA, leading to a large (but so far uncalculated) number of younger Americans having coverage they would not have had. So the real number  easily 20 times larger than the pessimistic reports.

How about those cancellations? Anyone on an employer plan should remember that the plans change every year or two. That’s right, those cancellation notices that the media are saying prove the ACA doesn’t work are business as usual for insurance companies. Sadly, the cancellations that make the news ignore two other very important facts. First, many of these plans were at best cheap, ineffectual coverage. Second, many of the people who need to look for new plans qualify for much better insurance for little or no increase in payments through state or federal exchange programs.

Yes, there are legitimate frustrations. Certainly the website should have been better stress tested. At the end of the day, however, what matters is CARE. Thousands, leading to millions, of US citizens will have better coverage — or the first coverage in years (or ever) — as a result of this law. Could it be smoother or simpler? YES. But the GOP refused to pass that kind of law. The ACA is a strong step in the right direction and must be given time to succeed. Millions of Americans need that. The media need to focus on facts and benefits and stop the senseless, sensational reality-show shenanigans–all in the name of profits for the top 20% of the country.   What would it be like if each citizen was guaranteed the same health care package that all 535 congress people receive?  What is getting in the way of accomplishing this?

The Elephant Who Cried “Scandal!”

21 May
That's supposed to be MY White House!

That’s supposed to be MY White House!

Poor President Obama. If you looked at the headlines or the Congressional calendar last week, it was his worst week ever, as his administration was bogged down in scandal after scandal. Or was it?

First, there was the ongoing attempt to politicize the attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi. (Dick Cheney Wannabe) Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Nastyville) held more pointless hearings to get exactly the same information. There was some understandable confusion right after the attacks. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice repeated some partially incorrect CIA talking points to the media. The White House and State Department have been very forthcoming with all the information Congress demands. There are some real security lessons to learn, but the GOP would rather try to smear the very popular Hillary Clinton and attack the President. ABC’s Jon Karl screamed scandal as he revealed “new” White House emails. The only problem? They were old, incomplete emails — provided to Karl by Republicans.

Next, the mess at the IRS. A branch office (in Cincinnati) used the term “Tea Party” to analyze tax exempt applications for “social welfare” agencies. “Political targeting!” cried the GOP. Well, maybe. But since the dreadful Citizens United decision, the number of organizations trying to get such status has gone from under 700 to over 2400 a year. Republicans have slashed the IRS budget and refused to craft legislation that would give the agency guidelines for implementing Citizens United. One office made a poor decision, but NO APPLICANT WAS REFUSED THE STATUS — except for one liberal organization. It must be a scandal, though! (Curiously, although the record clearly shows that the White House learned about the problem about a month ago, long after the practice was stopped and an internal investigation launched, at least one person DID know about it way back in July — Rep. Darrell Issa.)

Finally, the Justice Department demanded hundreds of phone records from the AP. This is actually disappointing, fitting into the pattern of domestic spying and privacy infringements that have been part of the Holder DoJ for years. From drones to wiretaps, it’s a blemish on Obama’s potential legacy. Oh, but so far his administration, however foolishly, IS FOLLOWING THE LAW. A law shoved down Congress by a Republican president (Remember good old W?  If you want someone to blame for this law, then blame W, trampling rights as he lied his way into Iraq.). Oh, and the GOP actually likes spying on the press, so never mind, no real pressure here.

Bad news for the GOP: all their screaming and hearings aren’t getting much traction. Sure, the Sunday talk shows (aka the McCain hour–always a pleasure trip into insanity) and the newspaper headlines are parroting their points in the name of “objectivity.” The real impact though? Not so much.

A new Gallup shows the President’s favorables at 53-45, up 11 points from March. GOP ratings for the same period? Down 13, to the lowest since 1992. Maybe Republicans in Congress should focus on creating jobs and actually passing some bills for a change. Clearly, their obstructionist ways along with their “Get off my lawn” ranting is not working.

On Social Security, Is the White House Possessed by Thatcher’s Ghost?

10 Apr
If she's laughing, be afraid.

If she’s laughing, be afraid.

This week one of the prime movers in late 20th Century geopolitics died. Margaret Thatcher’s deeply conservative, pro-corporation, anti-business, slash the safety net and cut the taxes approach to governance helped set the stage for the fiscal gambling and international financial meltdown from which we are still struggling to recover. Remember her effort to secure a poll tax–oh she was a madcap, our Maggie. With a legacy like that, you might think that smart politicians would steer clear of her policies.  The English Punk group, The Jam gave the world an all too accurate portrait of Thatcher with their song, Town Called Malice, which basically addresses the death of the middle class and economic oppression.  The architects of this oppression were Thatcher and Reagan.

Sadly, the President of the United States — a DEMOCRAT elected by a coalition of the poor, people of color, women, and other marginalized and oppressed people — seems intent on taking an unprecedented and disastrous budgetary step. In the latest mind-numbingly awful round of budget “negotiations” with Congress, the White House has made it clear that cutting Social Security is part of the package.

This makes no sense. Even St. Ronnie the Addled, Thatcher’s partner in crime in the 80s, famously noted that cutting Social Security did NOTHING to reduce the deficit. Worse, the proposed plan, tying benefits to a particular Consumer Price Index, is viciously regressive. Those who depend on Social Security — the elderly disproportionately from marginalized populations — have expenses that don’t fit with chained CPI. The bulk of their expenses are health care, which increases much faster, and non-discretionary spending. You know, like food. The White House proposal effectively shoves retirees into poverty even faster.

The President’s stated goal seems admirable: compromise. Like all his fiscal wrangling with the GOP, however, he seems to think that compromise starts with capitulation and goes downhill from there. By taking the first ever major blow to Social Security, a Democratic President is easing the country into the Teahadist dream world where the New Deal and Great Society are erased forever.  Looks like most Americans will need to get used to eating cat food.

It isn’t too late. Many Democrats in Congress oppose the President’s plan and have proposed much more sensible starting points for budget negotiations. Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to support these smarter plans. Then contact the White House and make it clear that putting Social Security on the chopping block is unacceptable. If that doesn’t work, we should start raising some money to hold an exorcism.

Obama’s Inspirational Inaugural

24 Jan
We the People

We the People

The inaugural speeches of U.S. Presidents are seldom very interesting. As part of a larger ceremony — admittedly a significant one in the operation of our government — they tend to be bland “what a great country” orations.  I must confess that I don’t usually pay much attention. This year, however, the presence of Myrlie Evers got me watching, and I’m truly glad that I did.

President Obama can be an inspiring speaker. This Monday he delivered what may be the finest speech of his career. The handful of great inaugurals — Lincoln’s call for healing in 1865, FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933, JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in 1961 — have taken place at pivotal moments in our country’s history. It can be hard to spot such moments when you are living in them, but our President did just that and I don’t know that I have ever been prouder to identify as an American.

The divide between Americans — by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more — have been cast in such sharp relief by the politics and behavior of the past decade that too many of us wonder where we fit in. Obama’s theme, We the People, called out this problem and sought everyone’s participation in its solutions.

I was stunned and thrilled to hear him use the world “marginalized” in the speech. That barely prepared me for the next sentence.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.

Having the leader of the nation clearly show the path from the first feminists to the struggle for racial equality to the struggles for LGBT rights was stunning. The participation of gay poet Richard Blanco in the inaugural events was a welcome touch. The very real words of the President, calling for that march of justice to keep moving, was overwhelming. My husband and I were both in tears, caught off guard and astounded by his direct call for justice; this is probably the most hopeful I have felt in years.

The entire speech, only 15 minutes but packed with power, is worth reading. As a social worker, I found his very specific challenge to those who write the laws as well as those who rally for social justice particularly resonant.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

For the first time, a President actually explicitly used the word “gay” in an inaugural. I have seldom felt so accepted as a citizen of this nation.

It’s no wonder that days later pundits and journalists and Americans of all types are still marvelling at this speech. It wasn’t just a pale summoning of an America that might be. It was an invocation of what we say we are and a challenge to all of us to live up to that promise — not just for ourselves but generations to come. Let us celebrate this President, his words, and his intentions. Let us work together to help his vision come true.

Number 4 Hero of the Year 2012: President Barack Obama

28 Dec
Number 4 Hero of 2012

Number 4 Hero of 2012

It’s been a challenging year for President Obama. The hijinks of the obstructionist Republican leadership made even his best efforts challenging. Facing reelection with a still fragile economy, he also had to deal with steady criticism from the left. While there may be more he could have done, he still accomplished a great deal in spite of large obstacles. He also continued to rebuild the human face of the Presidency — mugging with Olympic athlete McKayla Maroney, hugging victims of hurricane Sandy and surviving family members in Newtown, and letting a small boy rub his head in the Oval Office.

What stands out most clearly, however, is his support of marriage equality. President Obama has worked hard for equality — dismantling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, refusing to defend DOMA, extending same-sex benefits to federal employees — but nothing resonated like his interview in May. Never before had a President stated clearly that all loving couples deserve to marry. His words helped shift public opinion, with numerous polls showing a new, consistent majority for equality. His encouragement had a huge impact on the African-American community, arguably making the difference in marriage equality passing in Maryland. His courage and clarity, in a year where silence might have seemed a safer option until after the election, is notable and speaks to his character and leadership.

Now that he has a second clear mandate to lead real change in his second term, let’s hope for more of this. Not just for the LGBT community, either, but pushing back against the war on women and taking a strong stand against poverty and inequity. It’s been a good, if challenging, four years. Can the next four be even better? Yes, they can.

Because TSM was very fortunate to receive so many lovely nominations for Hero of the Year Award, I had to list many splendid honorable mentions. Honorable mention goes to all the grass-roots activists in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington who helped those states achieve historic victories for LGBT equality. Learning from mistakes of the past, they crafted clear, effective messages, raised funds $5 at a time, and pushed back the forces of bigotry to great effect.

Honorable mention also goes to two brave women. Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer was discharged from the military for being honest about her sexual orientation in 1992. She stood up for LGBT equality and fought discrimination and DADT for years. In the space of a year she saw that equality become a reality and was one of the first to marry her same-sex partner in Washington state when marriage equality became a reality there. Brigadier General Tammy Smith included her wife in the ceremony where she accepted her new rank, making her the first openly serving LGBT general in U.S. history.

Finally a sad farewell and honorable mention to AIDS activist Spencer Cox. He was instrumental in moving forward clinical trials of HIV fighting medicines in the 1990s, proposing protocols and helping shred bureaucracy to accelerate the availability of life-saving drugs. He died this month at the young age of 44.  Let us hope we get to Zero soon–zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths.

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