How Many High School Valedictorians Join The Military?

I have to ask a question in light of today’s vote in the United States Senate where the entire Republican minority stood firm against repealing the military’s ban of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  For the past year there has been much talk about the need for the Democratic congress to work for gay men and women who serve the nation in uniform, but have to live a life of lies and secrets.  There has been no shortage of demands made that DADT be repealed.  While I know the policy is wrong, I also feel that the policy helps to further an image of the military as being small-minded and uneducated.

For many in our country who are not involved in the military, but have listened and watched this debate, the whole notion of living a double life is really quite pre-Stonewall.  Most Americans in 2010 know gay people, and poll after poll shows a strong level of support for a variety of ever-more rights to ensure equality is provided regardless of sexual orientation.  When citizens see the outcome of the vote today in the Senate there will be disbelief at the disconnect between what is happening in their neighborhood versus what aging politicians are doing in Washington.  After all, gay dates for high school proms are no longer uncommon but the U.S. military is still able to punish gay men and women who want to serve their country with their head held high.

As I have talked about this matter over and over with friends this past year I keep coming back to one question.  Why would any intelligent and self-confident young man or woman coming out of high school want to join the military?  Why would any well-reasoned and educated person want to enter an organization that is so disjointed and illogical when it comes to human sexuality?

I do not personally know any active enlisted members of the military.  But during my life I have known a number of  valedictorians.  Two are in my family.  My partner James, along with a  niece Katrina Pfaff, had the honor of representing their class on graduation day. In addition my niece’s father Darvin was also a valedictorian.

I have known only two people (neither were family and both were casual acquaintances) who served in Iraq, and in each case they were stationed there for less than a year.  In one case it was only for a few months, and the young man spent most of it on a base.   When he returned he told of the type of stunted social development some of his fellow soldiers had, and how uncomfortable it made him to hear the way they talked about the people and country where they were stationed.  The words they used were not the ones he heard at home, or ever uttered on his own.

While my dad served in World War II, and a  few uncles were in this or that branch of the armed forces, none of their children made the military a destination when they reached adult age.  No one in my high school made the military a career, and the vast majority never even made the military a pit-stop on the road to the future.  I think most people have the same experience as I have had.  Most people do not know someone personally in the armed forces.

Why is that? 

Does it not warp the way we feel about war and the policies of the nation if we do not at least know one person involved in the conflict?  It is different to have a young man from the larger community shredded by a road side bomb than to have a son or cousin meet the same fate.  Does that fact make a difference when we condone this or that military adventure.  I think it does.

I bring this all up today because I truly think policies such as DADT is far more dangerous than just because it works to stigmatize gay people in uniform.  I really think this policy, and other ‘jar-necked’ notions, creates an atmosphere where a whole segment of the country says “I want my kid to go to college and not get messed up in the army.”   That may sound elitist, but it is an honest statement that is played out over and over coast to coast in living rooms and kitchens every day.  The military is seen as red-neck and most parents want their kids to have a different direction in life.  That is proved by the fact so many Americans do not know someone serving in the military.

And it will continue to be that way as long as in the military “sand-monkey” is thought  to be a funny term, and those who can quote Thoreau are ‘fags’.

There could have been a strong signal sent today about the modern military understanding that society has changed, and they needed to change too.  Instead the lowest common denominator ‘won’ the day.  And somewhere tonight an educated parent with a good job is telling his wife that “our kids are going to college, they are not getting into the military.”   It has nothing to do with being gay, but it does have everything to do with what image they want their family to have, and a deeper sense of what parents want their kids to connect with as adults.

Who can blame any parent for wanting the best for their children?

DADT Has Cost Taxpayers $600 Million

The news today was not shocking,  but it still was gross and unfair.

“Senate Republicans Block Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'”

The Republican Party likes to scold the nation about fiscal mismanagement, as if Republicans were not the grand architects of the worst economic meltdown since the Depression.  In light of  the vote today on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’  it is going to be even more difficult for the conservatives to prove they care at all about dollars or sense.

After all, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is sure-fire way to waste money, and lots of it.

Since DADT came into force in 1993, some 14,000 service members have been discharged under the policy—the equivalent of an entire division of warfighters. Investigating and processing each case has its costs; so does recruiting and training each replacement. How much? A 2006 commission organized by UCLA’s Palm Center and led by former Defense Secretary William Perry put the total cost of each discharge at $42,835, meaning the policy has now cost the U.S. taxpayer around $600 million.

That’s not pocket change, especially for a military scrounging for savings. It’s also no small matter at a time when the military’s recruitment standards for age, education, physical fitness and moral standards have been steadily declining. In the last two years alone the Army and Marines have granted an unprecedented number of “moral waivers” to recruits with previous felony convictions.

The result, Mr. Laich acidly notes, is that “we would rather have in our military middle-aged, overweight, undereducated felons than fully qualified, experienced patriots who happen to have a sexual orientation that some people find troublesome.”

Nor does it help that DADT has given top universities a handy alibi to exclude ROTC from their campuses, and the students at those schools a reason not to serve. Would lifting DADT increase recruitment at schools like Harvard and Yale? Probably only at the margins. But it would help end the poisonous estrangement, with all its larger political consequences, between America’s military and our intellectual elites.

Trivia: Who Told Jimmy Carter That Ted Kennedy Would Run Against Him In 1980?

Would you believe Joe Biden?

How Are Ron Johnson And Joe Miller Alike?

Both are conservative Republicans who latch onto Tea Party members for support.

One is a senate candidate from Wisconsin, and the other is a senate candidate from Alaska.

Both spout a disdain for the federal government and the services it at times provides for the citizens of this nation.

But both have used government programs and money for their personal gain in the past.

Ron Johnson’s company received $4 million in special low-interest government loans.  The funds assisted in the purchase of equipment and plant expansion

Joe Miller receiving farm subsidies during the 1990’s from land that he owned in Kansas.

That those in the Tea Party have no problem with any of this shows 1) that they do not really care about the things they rant over, and 2) they have no higher motives than just to be elected and have power. 

That would seem to make teabaggers no better than the ones they rail against. 

But there is a lesson to be learned in all this.

Carrying the Constitution in one’s pocket to make a person look smart in the end only highlights a lack of principles.

Poll Shows Rich Support Taxes To Reduce Deficit, Help Middle Class To Buy More Products

The tax debate that is playing out in Washington is one that pits the Republicans who never saw a tax cut they did not like against the Democrats who want a more level playing field for Middle America. The problem is that there seems to be no one concerned about how to pay for the tax cuts, or what the cuts mean for the long-term needs of the nation.

The GOP do not care about how to pay for the cuts for the wealthy, and Democrats are not interested in paying for the middle class cuts.  In these rancorous days of no one being able to talk honestly about the need for stimulas funding, or planning for the economy of the future, these cuts only serve to further undermine the long-term stability of the nation.

Sensible people outside of the process in Washington understand that more tax cuts will only exacerbate the deficit.  I consider all the tax cuts that are being debated in need of ending.  President Obama wants all of them extended except for the wealthy, those making over $250,000 a year.  My views on not extending any of them has not changed since before the 2008 election.

The Republicans howl about the shabby treatment the rich are getting at the hands of the President in regards to taxes.  But now according to a recent poll even the rich are not in favor of more tax cuts.  They too seem more interested in the long-term deficits that would be created by extending the tax cuts.   Some of the rich are also echoing the concerns that Democrats have made for over a decade.  That is, without a middle class able to buy products, the wealthy at the top will not make as much money.

But a Quinnipiac University poll this year showed nearly two-thirds of those with household incomes of more than $250,000 a year support raising their own taxes to reduce the federal deficit.

An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by Garrett Gruener, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, makes two important points about taxing the rich. (Mr. Gruener founded Ask.com and is the CEO of Nanomix and is a co-founder of Alta Partners, so he’s got street cred.)

First, he says tax rates don’t make or break the success of an entrepreneur or the jobs he creates. He says he’s paying the lowest rates of his working life. But “if you want the simple, honest truth, from my perspective as an entrepreneur, the fluctuation didn’t affect what I did with my money. None of my investments has ever been motivated by the rate at which I would have to pay personal income tax,” Mr. Gruener writes.

History, he says, shows that “modest changes in the tax rate for wealthy taxpayers don’t make much of a difference if the goal is to build new companies, drive technological development and stimulate new industries.”

Second, an economy built only on the rich – who account for the lion’s share of income and spending – is unsustainable.

“What American businesspeople know, and have known since Henry Ford insisted that his employees be able to afford to buy the cars they made, is that a thriving economy doesn’t just need investors; it needs people who can buy the goods and services businesses create.”

He says the tax hikes for the rich should be invested by government in infrastructure and research. Preserving his tax rates won’t lead him to start new companies in the U.S.

Response To Major League Baseball Fan Club Mailing

A friend received a mailing to become a member of a baseball fan club.  With disgust over the state of major league baseball he used the enclosed self-addressed and postage paid envelope to mail back his thoughts about the sport.  It was such a perfectly-pitched response I post it here on CP.

Let’s see,

You have an old coot commissioner who refuses to do anything when someone is robbed of a no-hitter game and record,

Your sport is riddled by drug-enhanced players and their records stand,

There’s talk of getting a crook and gambler reinstated in the game so he can be in the hall of fame,

Your All-star game will be played in a state next year where half the star players could be stopped on the street and asked for their papers because of who they are and how they look, but dumb-ass Bud won’t change his mind on venue,

The owners continually extort new stadiums from cities where the money could be better spent on improving peoples’ education and health (e.g. St. Petersburg , Chicago, Milwaukee)

Call me when you have this figured out, butt-heads.