Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama's Commutation of Manning's Sentence Triggers Anger from the Right

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst who was imprisoned for leaking military and diplomatic information to WikiLeaks, will be free this spring. According to the New York Times, President Obama commuted all but four months of Manning's 35-year prison sentence. Huffington Post reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange agreed to accept extradition to the U.S. if Manning received clemency, but only time will tell if he keeps his promise.

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) announced that she was transgender in 2013 shortly after her sentencing, and her struggles while transitioning at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas have been well-documented. LGBTQ equality organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed relief at her commuted sentence. Unfortunately, Manning's struggles are not over. USA Today reports that Manning will lose her military health care benefits (including access to gender transition care at military medical facilities) under the terms of her dishonorable discharge.

Conservative commentators have criticized President Obama's clemency decision, and unfortunately, several have made no attempt to hide their transphobia. For example, National Review columnists David French and Andrew McCarthy, Charisma News writer Bob Eschliman, and American Conservative commentator Rod Dreher dead-named Manning and referred to her with masculine pronouns. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) repeatedly referred to Manning as "Mr. Manning" and "he" in a January 18th appearance on Family Research Council's Washington Watch. Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio did so as well in a January 17th Tweet, adding later that, "Bradley Manning will be a he until the day he dies. Ask any geneticist."

Other commentators used the Manning decision to belittle the LGBTQ rights movement. In a January 18th commentary piece, Family Research Council staff repeatedly used masculine pronouns in reference to Manning and claimed that her transgender status was a factor in President Obama's decision. The piece accused President Obama of pandering to "trans-activists" while neglecting national security.
"And anyone who suggests that Manning's sexuality had nothing to do with the decision hasn't been paying attention. If it didn't, the president would have commuted the sentences of others. After all, there's Robert Hannsen, who's serving 15 life terms without the possibility of parole for selling secrets to the Soviets. So is Aldrich Ames. And what about Jonathan Pollard, who served 28 years for giving helpful information to Israel, a U.S. ally? Maybe if they suffered from gender confusion, their sentences would have been commuted too! In the end, this is nothing but Barack Obama solidifying his legacy as the most LGBT-obsessed administration in U.S. history. Even halfway out the door, he's determined to give trans-activists another victory at the expense of American credibility and security."
Writing at Breitbart, Neil Munro claimed that President Obama's clemency decision and other "disastrous pro-transgender policies" was due to "the influence of gay-advocacy groups"  who have undertaken "social-engineering tasks". Commuting Manning's sentence was a way for President Obama to "cement his alliance with wealthy gays" for little political cost, Munro insisted.

During a conversation with Alex Marlow on the January 18th edition of Breitbart News Daily, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council used the Manning commutation to bemoan women and transgender persons in combat. At the 1:47 mark, Boykin whined that "social experiments" like integration of women and transgender people force soldiers to endure horrors such as sitting in classrooms.
MARLOW: And you attribute this to political correctness toward the social justice warrior mentality that has really dominated the left-wing agenda of the Democratic party in recent years. You think it's purely to pander to that crowd of people?

BOYKIN: I think it is. I think it is absolutely associated with that. I think that the social experiments that we have seen forced on our military which have in all cases have degraded readiness, and they've degraded readiness because of all the training that goes with these things. When you, for example, put women in infantry units, you know, those warriors that are supposed to be training to win wars are forced to sit in hours and hours of classrooms on a repetitive basis, going through things like tolerance, integration of women, integration of transgenders, white privilege, and all of those kinds of things which just take away precious training time, when our young men and women should be preparing for war.
I will not speculate here on whether Manning's incarceration was just, nor will I discuss the merits of President Obama's decision. I will, however, condemn these commentators for their bigotry. Using Chelsea Manning's situation to promote transphobia is hateful and tasteless. Manning's incarceration, and all the suffering that came with it, sparked a national conversation about the plight of transgender people in detention facilities. Her struggle reminds us that transgender prisoners face unique struggles behind bars and are entitled to dignity and humane treatment. Using her commutation to mock transgender people and LGBTQ activists is disgraceful.

News Tidbits

Reuters: Trump election prompts U.S. mothers to warn children about assault: poll

CNN: Controversial megachurch pastor Eddie Long dies at 63 

LGBTQ Nation: Al Franken confronts Trump nominee over conversion therapy donations

The Advocate: Ben Carson: LGBT People Don't Deserve "Extra Rights"

Washington Blade: Activists plan queer dance party outside Mike Pence’s house

Commentary Tidbits

News One: Eddie Long And The Black Church’s Legacy Of Child Sexual Abuse

BET: From Eddie Long to Kim Burrell: Why Millennials Need to Abandon the Church

Medium: Bishop Eddie Long Is Not the Only One Who’s Dead   (Trigger warning)

The Advocate: Gordon Klingenschmitt Exploits Abuse Allegations to Tar All LGBT People

Godless in Dixie: A Living Sacrifice No More


Expired coffee that my late father hoarded
So, what have I been up to these past few months? After my father passed away in late October, my mother and I undertook the herculean task of clearing out his belongings. My father was a hoarder, and we've spent months sorting through all the sundries he accumulates over the years. For me, this has involved endless trips to thrift stores, the transfer station, the local scrap yard, and the regional solid waste authority. Here's what we've sorted through so far:

  • 200+ pounds of stale coffee, some of which expired as far back as 2005. The coffee will be gradually added to my compost pile throughout 2017.
  • Countless unworn coats, clothes, and enough unworn shoes to make Imelda Marcos jealous. All were donated to local thrift stores.
  • Dozens of bottles of opened and unopened vitamins and over-the-counter medications, which I disposed of in a medication drop-box at the police station.
  • 15 gallons of expired cooking oil, which I donated to a biodiesel program.
  • 16 boxes of unused glassware, which I gave to friends or donated to local thrift stores.
  • Over a dozen pieces of broken electronic equipment, such as cassette decks and turntables. The broken electronics ended up at the recycling center.
  • Hundreds of metal tools, including screwdrivers, open-ended wrenches, combination wrenches, two comically large industrial wrenches, a huge C-clamp, and woodworking tools. Several of the tools were in their original packaging, never opened. The tools were given away to friends or donated to local thrift stores.
  • Hundreds of bottles of wine and spirits. After decades of being stored at inappropriate temperatures and humidity levels, most of the corks had dry-rotted. All of the wine had soured and/or oxidized. I poured the wine and liqueur down the drain and am using the spirits to clean my shower tiles.
  • Hundreds of pounds of scrap metal in the form of tool boxes, hub caps, rusty automotive parts, broken lawn mowers, and other items. A local hauler happily took the scrap metal off our hands.
  • Ridiculous quantities of paint, including 87 gallon cans, 12 quart cans, 2 5-gallon buckets, and several boxes full of paint-related chemicals. I disposed of all of the paint and paint-related chemicals at the regional solid waste authority.
  • 20 boxes (and counting) full of old household chemicals, which I will take to the solid waste authority this spring.
  • 25 bags of unused concrete, which I will take to a landfill this spring.
  • Roughly 20 gallons of kerosene, which I donated to an auto shop with a kerosene heater.
  • 40 bags (and counting) of trash, necessitating extra trash tags from my city.

Clean-up has been time-consuming and expensive. My mother and I have expended hundreds of dollars in solid waste authority fees, transfer station fees, trash tag fees, and gas driving to and from different locations.

I wish I could make sense of my father's hoarding behavior. Was it the logical result of compulsive shopping? Was it a pathological attempt to create an illusion of abundance and security? Was it the result of misfiring synapses, an illness that defies rationalization? I don't know and will never know.

Imagine my surprise when anecdotal evidence and research taught me that hoarding is not uncommon. After discussing my late father's hoarding on Twitter, several Twitter friends confided that their late relatives hoarded as well.

Research also shows that hoarding is not rare. Various studies suggest that between 3.7% and 6% of the population exhibits hoarding behavior. The disorder appears to be more common among men than women. Hoarding can co-occur with other mental health conditions, and may also be a heritable condition with a genetic component.

For any readers who are cleaning up after the passing of a hoarder, I'd like to share a few tips (adapted from my Twitter list).

  • A loved one's hoarding should not be a source of shame. Talk about it. Reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Don't expect the hoarder's behavior to make sense. Hoarding is not a rational behavior, and hoarders often collect materials that are bizarre or useless.
  • Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. Disgust, bewilderment, frustration, and other emotions are normal reactions.
  • Be prepared for dust and mildew. Hoarded sundries inhibit air circulation, which contributes to dust build-up and mold.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local thrift store, transfer station, recycling center, metal scrap yard, "clean" landfill, and regional solid waste authority. Depending on the extent and nature of the hoarder's belongings, you may end up taking materials to all these locations and more.
  • Set aside money for trash tags and disposal fees ahead of time. These costs mount quickly.
  • Hoarding can create safety hazards if hoarded items are flammable, or if clutter makes house navigation difficult. Tackle these problems first.
  • Scour local classifieds for freelance haulers who will haul away junk for free or a small fee. Check the hauler's name against your state's docket sheets and the Megan's Law database to make sure they're trustworthy before summoning them to your house.
  • When the time comes to drop off materials at the thrift store, scrap yard, etc., you'll need boxes. Lots of them. Beer boxes are ideal because they're thick and sturdy. Ask your local beer distributor for boxes -- their generosity may surprise you.
  • Be careful when moving metal containers, which can rust and leak if hoarded for years on end. Wear rubber gloves and have paper towels handy. I learned this the hard way when I picked up a rusted container of wood stain and proceeded to spill stain all over my hands, the shelf, and the floor.

Commentary Tidbits

Mother Jones: Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America's Schools to Build "God's Kingdom"

Right Wing Watch: Anti-Choice Activist Confident ‘A Jeff Sessions-Directed Justice Department Will Go After Planned Parenthood’

The Advocate: Americans Are Trying to Poison Romania With Homophobia

Al*com: Brandi Burgess, bisexual daughter of Rick & Bubba host: 'I am praying for my father'

News Tidbits

The Daily Independent: MSU continues oral history project on Kim Davis events

Yahoo News: Family Research Council Praises Passage of Obamacare Repeal Resolution

LGBTQ Nation: Tony Perkins thanks John Kerry for providing list of LGBTQ rights Trump can undo

LGBT Weekly: UK health care organizations unite against conversion therapy

Pink News: Raft of anti-LGBT clergy booked for Trump’s inauguration

Pink News: The author of Russia’s gay propaganda law is now pushing to let men beat their wives

Monday, November 7, 2016

News and Commentary Tidbits: Election Edition

Infidel753: Going nuclear

Rosa Rubicondior: Time For Positive Thinking!

First Draft: We Don't Need to Heal. We Need to Win.

Talking Points Memo: Trump Rolls Out Anti-Semitic Closing Ad

Washington Post: A Catholic priest put an aborted fetus on the altar in an appeal for Donald Trump

Huffington Post: Catholic Church Bulletin Says You’ll Go To Hell If You Vote Democrat

New York Times: The Religious Right’s Trump Schism

Boston Globe: How the religious right embraced Trump and lost its moral authority

Get Out and VOTE Tomorrow

I may have been absent from the blogosphere, but I haven't ignored developments in the 2016 presidential election. This summer and fall, each day has shown us more horrors involving Donald Trump, from violence at Trump rallies, to support for Trump among Alt-Right and white supremacist figures, to Trump's alliances with the Religious Right, to Trump's shocking comments about nuclear weapons, to his utter cluelessness during presidential debates, to an audio clip of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, to accusations of sexual assault from multiple women against Trump -- and that's just off the top of my head.

It should be obvious that Donald Trump would be incompetent and dangerous as president of the United States. His history of hateful rhetoric and foolhardy proposals should convince us that he is unsuited for one of the world's great seats of power. Hillary Clinton, while imperfect, is the much more competent and experienced choice.

Recent polls give us reason to be optimistic. Most election polls show Hillary Clinton with a substantial lead over Trump, according to the New York Times. A recent Gallup poll found that 69% of respondents were dissatisfied with the Trump campaign. Ultimately, though, polls mean nothing. Votes mean everything.

The candidate we Americans choose for president tomorrow will wield immense power over policy, foreign relations, military deployments, Supreme Court justice appointments, and the image of the U.S. across the world. As voters, we have a responsibility to choose our next president wisely. Our collective decision will have massive ramifications for the U.S. and world.

Tomorrow, go out and VOTE for Hillary Clinton.

My Recent Absence from the Blogosphere

My apologies for being absent from Republic of Gilead for the past few weeks. Several of my readers have worried about me during my absence, so I owe everyone an explanation.

Back in January, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and received chemotherapy treatments soon thereafter. As the year went on, my father declined, growing weaker each month as the cancer spread through his body. My mother served as his primary care giver (with the help of a visiting nurse and home care aid) during his final weeks. I took over yard work, errands, and other chores for my parents, leaving little time for my blog.

My father passed away during the early morning hours of Saturday, October 29th. My mother and I have spent the past week arranging the cremation, clearing out my father's belongings, and taking stock of finances and home repairs.

With so many responsibilities demanding my attention right now, I have little free time to blog. I'm not abandoning the blog, but I won't be able to post as often, at least for the time being.

Please keep my mother and me in your thoughts.

The Sociopath

Ben Howe of the conservative political blog RedState wrote and directed The Sociopath, an unsettling documentary on the Trump presidential campaign. A must-see before tomorrow's election!