Progress In America: Navy Ship Named For Gay Rights Leader

In the midst of our great challenges ranging from how to keep the pressure on so more Americans understand the rationale for being vaccinated (and I understand the ridiculousness of even needing to still entertain such a need) to pressing forward with a range of social policies in a massive Congressional bill, we can lose sight of the gains we have made as a nation. But it is important to step back from the bombast that echoes from every direction and consider something that happened this weekend.

It is hard to imagine that anyone does not recognize the name of Harvey Milk. He was a powerful leader of the gay rights movement, though he started later in life to challenge existing laws and perceptions. He was elected the first openly gay official in California but assassinated in 1978. His life has been the topic of books, lectures, a major motion picture in 2008, and a play off-Broadway in 2018.

On Saturday a Navy ship named for him was christened and launched in San Diego Bay. This moment had weight to it. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro made that most clearly in his comments.

“The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,” Del Toro said.

Milk received a less-than-honorable discharge and was forced to resign from the Navy because he was gay. That will not happen in 2021. Conservative guys from the deep South will surely be among those who work on the replenishment oiler USNS Harvey Milk and will be part of the arcing of history towards a more just America. That is what happens when we continually advocate for changes and progress.

The fact that so many gay citizens in uniform had to measure their words and actions in the military so as not to violate truly bigoted codes of conduct was painful and wrong. With social pressure and political tools, however, modernity has been ushered into the military, just like other parts of our society. There are many issues still to be dealt with but no one can miss the significant steps that have been achieved.

It is important to reflect on the victories we score in this nation. Even while we work for the next success.

And so it goes.

Colin Powell: His Words Still Resonate

Today Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state, died from complications after contracting COVID-19. The tragedy of the pandemic layered upon the loss of a most vital American of our time makes this a very sad story.

The loss of Powell’s voice on the issues of our time will be missed. They were certainly ones that resonated on this blog over the years. We have always had in our nation, through the arc of history, solid men and women who spoke with gravitas when we most needed to hear their wisdom. Think Margaret Chase Smith.

From January 2013 and his appearance on Meet The Press he reflected on the previous November election and the campaign for president.

When I see another former governor after the president’s first debate where he didn’t do very well, says that the president was lazy. He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well, he said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans but to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is shiftless and then there’s a third word that goes along with it Birther, the whole Birther Movement. Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the Party? I think the Party has to take a look at itself.

It has to take a look at its responsibilities for health care. It has to take a look at immigration. It has to take a look at those less fortunate than us. The Party has gathered unto itself a reputation that it is the party of the rich. It is the party of lower taxes. But there are a lot of people who are lower down the food chain, the economic chain, who are also paying lots of taxes relative to their income and they need help. We need more education work being done in this country. We need a solid immigration policy. We have to look at climate change. There are a lot of things that the American people are expecting…..

I was perhaps most proud, however, of how Powell well understood the scope of history and grasped how anger and rancor is never, ever, a sound way to make national policy. That was clear with his opposition to the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo.

Powell knew who we are as a nation cannot be separated from what we do as a nation. He regretted the fact repressive governments used Gitmo to deflect criticism of their own policies by charging hypocrisy. Violent extremists used it as a recruiting tool. It remains a symbol for many around the world of torture, injustice, and illegitimacy. 

The goal of terrorists is to change us, to change what we say we stand for, and to make us live in fear. As such, Powell like so many other educated people, wanted Gitmo to be shuttered.

Powell did have a stain on his career with his actions prior to the invasion of Iraq under President Bush in 2003. I do not marginalize the degree to which he aided in the lie that led to the greatest mistake created by American foreign policy in that region since 1947.

But the sum of Powell’s life can not be measured from that year and action, alone.

There are not many people in our land who can be summed up by saying they were a continuously dignified statesman and leader for truly dedicating their life to the nation. Powell was such a man.

His voice and reasoning will be missed by a nation that needs to have more adults with mature ideas speaking to the needs of our time.

And so it goes.

Trump Supporters Forget About Nixon Needing To Be Protected From Himself, Too

Without a doubt, Donald Trump was the most unstable, mentally unhinged, and dangerous individual to ever sit in the Oval Office.

There was, however, one other president who also faced a most unsettling ending to his time in office which also provoked dread and uncertainty in the defense establishment of this nation.

Many readers know my fascination and deep interest regarding the life and times of Richard Nixon. During the final days of Nixon’s presidency, the defense establishment was concerned about his stability. They could not make a solid prediction that he would not do something reckless.

Donald Trump was even more prone to outrageous behavior, and that can be demonstrated based on his temperament and actions since Inauguration Day 2017. What led up to the November elections, and certainly what followed with the most bizarre and outrageous behavior we have seen from any person in the White House. It was pure lunacy on parade.

Martha Mitchell looks calm and well-balanced in comparison.

This past week we learned that Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in a new book that Gen. Mark Milley reached out to China in the waning days of the Trump administration, attempting to reduce tensions by assuring China that no American attack was imminent, and asking that China not do anything without consulting the U.S. military leadership.

We know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Milley that she worried about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes and that he was “crazy.”

To which Milley replied, “I agree with you on everything.”

For the past few days the Fox News crowd has created their own rhetorical storm, but it lacks substance and foundation. Trump was so troubling that our republic was potentially in danger. A majority of the nation understood that on Election Day. Milley knew it too, and aided the nation when it was required.

For that he is an American I am proud of for caring for the nation above all else. There are not many one can say the same about.

Trump supporters would do well to read some history on this larger issue. They need to understand that mature individuals will always come to the defense of the greater good of the nation, and they did in 1974.

Moreover, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recalled years later that in the final days of the Nixon presidency he had issued an unprecedented set of orders: If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them. Schlesinger feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon. Nixon himself had stoked official fears during a meeting with congressmen during which he reportedly said, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” Senator Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger, warning about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.”

When National Thriller Author Pales In Comparison To A Dangerous President

Every now and then I read a James Patterson book for a complete escape, the level of drama created by a plot that seems hard to imagine. On Thursday night, I read a Washington Post story about an actual event that would have been even harder to fathom if we had not seen the events play out on national television.

In the waning weeks of Donald Trump’s term, the country’s top military leader repeatedly worried about what the president might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming.

The inside account of the lies created by Donald Trump concerning the 2020 presidential election, and the coup attempt on January 6th from “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig is not for those who wish to have a calm night of sleep. The events relayed in two excerpts of the book alert us anew to the treachery and absolute danger posed by Trump and his sycophants.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation’s top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley’s growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

The events are harrowing to read about, as we know how deeply engrained the lies Trump was pushing had taken hold in the weakly educated parts of the nation.

Outside the Capitol, the pro-Trump protest was quickly morphing into a battle scene. Demonstrators so outnumbered law enforcement officials that hundreds of Capitol Police officers on the western front of the complex had no chance of holding the crowds away from the grounds. This was no ordinary political protest. It was a riot. Many of those crashing through the outer barricades were wearing military gear and carrying Trump flags, and some were wielding pipes, batons and cans of bear spray. A few had climbing gear, and some even brought night-vision goggles and fire-retardant gloves. Some engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the police officers, who chose not to fire on the crowd for fear of triggering gruesome violence.

Inside the Capitol, the joint session was underway in the House chamber. Lawmakers from both chambers began considering electoral vote counts state by state, in alphabetical order, but were interrupted by a Republican objection to Arizona’s tally and soon disbanded. Senators returned to the Senate chamber for debate, where at 1:35 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to strenuously condemn the move by some of his Republican brethren to block certification.

Reading from a carefully prepared text, McConnell said, “The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a National Board of Elections on steroids … [If] this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

McConnell and most of his colleagues did not know about the mayhem building outside. But Sen. Mitt Romney had been more attentive than others. On Jan. 2, the senator from Utah received a call from Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, warning him about unsettling personal and specific threats. Milley had shared with King online chatter he had discovered through an app on his phone called Dataminr.

Pro-Trump rhetoric was interlaced with calls for violence and references to smuggling guns and other weapons into Washington to “stop the steal.” One message said something along the lines of, “Let’s burn Senator McConnell’s house down while he’s in it.”

We are coming to kill you. Just wait a few days,” read another message, which appeared to be aimed at members of Congress who supported certifying the election.

Romney told his wife, Ann, about King’s call.

“Mitt, you can’t go back,” Ann Romney told her husband. She called his Senate staff and said she feared for his safety.

Mitt Romney tried to reassure her. “It’s the Capitol and I’m careful and I do have precautions and security. I’ll be very, very careful,” he told his wife. He said he had a responsibility to go back to Washington to certify the election.

Romney solidified his plans to fly to Washington while his aides arranged for additional security. He was harassed by Trump supporters at Salt Lake City International Airport on Jan. 5 and aboard his flight; some passengers chanted, “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”

As Romney sat in the Senate on Jan. 6, his phone buzzed with a text message from aide Chris Marroletti.

“I’m not liking what’s happening outside the Capitol,” Marroletti wrote to his boss. “There are really big, violent demonstrations going on. I think you ought to leave.”

“Let me know if they get inside the Capitol and I will go to my hideaway,” Romney texted back.

At 2:10, the first rioter entered the Capitol by breaking a window and climbing inside. A stream of Trump warriors followed him.

The undermining of our democracy is real, and we must never forget what happened in the closing months of Trump’s term in office. He was the ringleader. The autocrat who thought America was too weak to stand up to him.

Trump lost.

Action Alert: Moral Imperative To Help Afghans Who Helped U.S. Military

I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. (202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

There is no wiggle room on this issue. No two ways to look at the matter. Rather, there is the right way, the moral path, the only one our nation can undertake. And we must take that path. Now.

As the Taliban take their final military steps to control the whole of Afghanistan there are now thousands of people, who were mighty helpful to the American efforts, who now face certain death. The retribution from the Taliban is not a question of if, but only when.

That is why the House, in late June, voted overwhelmingly (366 to 46) to speed up the process that would allow these brave people to immigrate to the United States. There are over 18,000 Afghans who worked for the United States as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, and embassy clerks.

Over the past months as we faced a pandemic we have heard of essential workers in this nation. Well, my readers, these men and women in Afghanistan were ALSO essential workers.

But they are now stuck in a bureaucratic mess that should not be allowed to continue. They did the proper paperwork and applied for the Special Immigrant Visas. Such visas are for people who face threats because of work they have completed for our government.

With each day that passes without a resolution of this matter, the lives of these people become more dire. So to put it into more stark, but accurate terms, every minute counts. And you can help make for a positive outcome.

While I am very aware that we can recount the ways and means of how American foreign policy over the decades has betrayed those who have supported this nation, this is not the time for such academic posturing. The barn is on fire, and the need to extinguish the flames is paramount. The back-biting and sniping can wait until the smoke at least clears.

Therefore, I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. 202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

Most Americans Do Not Personally Know Active Member Of The Military

I have often wondered how military policy would look if more valedictorians served in the armed forces. What would their families demand of policy-makers when constructing international policy or engaging in military maneuvers? Over the years thoughts of this kind percolated when issues of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, and more recently transgenders openly serving were making headlines  During the national dialogue with both topics the end result furthered an image of the military as being small-minded and backward.

For many in our country who are not involved in the military, but listened and watched those debates, concluded that living a double life was quite pre-Stonewall.  Most Americans know gay people, more and more know a transgender person, 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 or biology.  When those topics were making headlines nationally about the military it needs to be noted gay dates for high school proms were no longer uncommon.  In other words, society is moving forward.   

So must the military.

So, it has long been perplexing to me the disconnect between what is happening in neighborhoods across the nation and then what comes from the aging politicians and military planners in Washington.  All this underscores how the mindset of the military as a whole needs to be shaken up.  After all, gay men and women and transexuals just want to serve their country with their heads held high. Does not the nation want a military made up of members serving with pride?

As I think about this matter one question keeps popping forward. 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? Or join an organization that is simply backward with their scope of thinking when it comes to people in another land, or the faith they follow?

This should be concerning to us all.

Most people do not personally know any active enlisted members of the military. I do not. But during my life, I have known a number of valedictorians.  Three are in my family.  My husband James, along with my niece Katrina, along with her father Darvin. They all had the honor of representing their class on graduation day. 

But 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 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 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 simply 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 a conflict?  It is different to have a young man from the larger community shredded by a roadside 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 there is still a strong perception of the military as a place that stigmatizes certain people or groups of people who wish to serve the nation. Such ‘jar-necked’ notions, create 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’.

It is essential for the long-term military interest of the nation that a strong and determined signal is sent that the modern defense establishment understands that society has changed, and they need to change too.  Until that happens folks across the nation with a good job (because this is also very much an economic issue) are saying “our kids are going to college, they are not getting into the military.”   It has 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?

(Gregory) Humphrey’s History Video Minute: Embarrassing Military Moment

Gregory Humphrey’s (that is your CP blogger) History Minute! When one has lost a military stand-off but then also faces additional embarrassment at not even being able to capitulate without losing again. The Ottoman Empire, HMS Doris, and Alexandretta, now known as İskenderun. Short, snappy, and amusing.

All Eyes Need To Be On Myanmar

The headline came across my computer screen and it was not so much news but rather what must be the inevitable next step from events that played out this weekend.

President Biden threatens to review sanctions on Myanmar following coup

It was gut-wrenching for the world to learn that in Myanmar the military seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi. So it is more than appropriate that Biden called this situation a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.” But make no mistake on what needs to follow.

Not more words. Rather, the united actions from the world community to underscore what Biden stated. The world community must “press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they seized.”

Soldiers stand guard on a blockaded road to Myanmar’s parliament in Naypyidaw on February 1, 2021, after the military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president in a coup. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Let us not forget what happened in November 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi, along with her party, again won a landslide election and in so doing ensured–or so it was thought by the voters–a civilian government in the country. But this weekend the military struck hard and now Kyi and a host of others who share democratic notions and ideas are all detained.

I am not posting today to in any way promote Kyi as a saint. Or the standard by which democracy should be vowed. She is not. Her previous actions regarding the repulsive nature of defending the immoral generals in their ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims have put her whole being in the light of day. There is much darkness that the light of truth has allowed the world to see. But the integrity of an election and the subsequent actions of the winner then ruling must be the international standard that we all seek to uphold.

There must be a foundation the world fights for. It is really a most simple sentence to write. An election victory must never be undone by a coup. And a landslide one, at that!

Biden is correct to use the power of his office, and the might of our nation to set a tone for how to move forward when dealing with the junta in power. Their declaration of a one-year state of emergency underscores the nature of what we are dealing with in Myanmar. The BBC reported this morning that the army had already announced the outlines of a new cabinet. My readers will not be shocked to learn that military officers, both active and retired, will fill many positions.

This must not be allowed to continue without a very concerted and demanding message from the international community. This coup must not be tolerated.