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President Obama Betrays the Gay Community June 18, 2009

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Published on Thursday, June 18, 2009 by Salon.com

We supported you. Time to live up to your promises

by John Aravosis

  Team Obama keeps telling lesbian and gay Americans like me to be patient. If we just wait a little longer, administration officials whisper to us lovingly (and out of earshot of the media), after the White House finishes with healthcare reform and getting the troops out of Iraq, your time will come. In the meantime, cheer up — we put a gay band in the inaugural parade!

Everyone loves a parade, but we don’t like being betrayed. And while gay and lesbian Americans were initially willing to cut our new president some slack, the president’s now-clear reticence to follow through on even one of his many campaign promises to the gay community has put the Democratic Party on the precipice of an ugly and very public divorce with this once-solid constituency.

During the presidential primaries, then-candidate Obama promoted himself as the biggest defender of gay rights since Harvey Milk. He would be a “fierce advocate” for our rights, he promised, and he even out-gayed Hillary Clinton: telling gay and lesbian voters that while she was for a partial repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he’d get rid of the whole damn thing.

And there was much rejoicing.

Then, not so much.

About a year before the November election, primary challenger Obama invited Donnie McClurkin, a homophobic gospel singer who claims to have been “cured” of his own homosexuality, to lead a series of concerts in the South in order to woo the black vote. The gays were not amused, but candidate Obama held firm. The gays forgave the Big O until a year later, when then-President-elect Obama chose evangelical preacher (and well-known homophobe) Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer. Again, the gays expressed their ire, Obama wouldn’t budge, and his advisors continued to whisper sweet nothings in our ears about how glorious the future would be once Dear Leader was finally in office.

But a funny thing happened on the way to equality. Rather than clouds opening up and angels descending from on high, Barack Obama became president and things never got better for the gays. In fact, they got decidedly worse.

On taking office, Obama immediately announced that he was doing away with the Clinton-era concept of special assistants who served as liaisons to various communities like gays and Latinos. He then went ahead and appointed special liaisons to some of those communities anyway, but never to the gays. Around the same time, the White House Web site, once detailing half a page of presidential promises to the gay community, overnight saw those pledges shortened to three simple sentences. Gone were five of the eight previous commitments, including the promises to repeal both Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA. Adding to a growing sense of angst, senior White House officials kept telling the media that they weren’t sure when, if ever, the president would follow through on his promises to the gay community. Then there were the Cabinet appointees. Three Latino nominees but nary a gay in sight. And finally, last week our president had his Department of Justice file a brief in defense of DOMA, a law he had once called “abhorrent.” In that brief, filed on the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia (which outlawed bans on interracial marriage), our own interracial Harvey Milk, not lacking a sense of historical irony, compared our love to incest and pedophilia.

Shit, meet fan.

Tonight, President Fierce will try to make amends by signing either a memorandum, a directive or an executive order, directing some federal agencies, but not others, to provide some benefits, but not others, to some gay federal employees, but not others, at some undisclosed time in the future. (And the benefits may reportedly go away when Obama leaves office.)

First problem, federal agencies already have the right to provide these benefits to gay employees — and several, including at least one DOD agency, do. Second problem, the administration can’t tell us exactly which benefits they’re talking about and for which employees. That’s because this was all hastily thrown together after the incestuous and pedophilic gays nearly brought down a Democratic National Committee gay pride fundraiser scheduled for next week. A gay blogger got hold of the event’s guest list and published it, and once D.C.’s gay paper, the Washington Blade, announced that it would be staking out the entrance to the event with camera and video, the $1,000 a head attendees started dropping like flies.

In other words, the only reason we’re getting anything: The gay ATM ran dry.

Don’t get me wrong. Some federal employees getting some benefits at some future point is definitely something. But it’s not an answer to why this president directed his Department of Justice to defend a law he previously opposed when he didn’t have to. It doesn’t explain why the DOMA brief linked a key Democratic constituency to pedophilia and incest. Or why this president has already overseen the discharge of 253 gay service members, and has refused to issue a stop-loss order ceasing those discharges. Or why he won’t lift a finger to push Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

The president would like us to believe that he’s awfully busy being president, and if we only wait a little while longer, we’ll get our rights. Of course, the president isn’t too busy to stab the community in the back by continuing the military discharges, defending DOMA, and comparing us to pedophiles. (On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was given a chance to repudiate the DOMA brief’s language about incest and pedophilia and would not.)

When, Mr. President, will be a good time to set my people free? When will the leader of the free world get a breather, a presidential timeout as it were? (And I thought this was the administration that could walk and chew gum at the same time.) Are we really to believe that 2010, a congressional election year, will be any more timely than today? Or 2011, the beginning of the presidential primaries? Or 2012, with a congressional and presidential election? There is quite literally no time like the present.

The real problem is that Team Obama is stuck in 1993. Perhaps some advisor has convinced our once-fierce advocate that gay rights is the third rail of presidential politics. Just look at what happened to President Clinton 16 years ago when he tried to help the gays, the insider is likely warning.

But 2009 is not 1993. Sixty-seven percent of Americans now favor granting same-sex couples the right to marry or join in civil unions. Sixty-nine percent support letting openly gay men and lesbian women serve in our military, including a majority of Republicans (58 percent), conservatives (58 percent), and even churchgoers (60 percent). And an overwhelming number of Americans have long since supported passing legislation banning job discrimination against gays.

The controversy is in President Obama’s mind — at least it was until it became real and moved to the Democratic Party’s pocketbook.

What can the president do to avoid outright rupture with the gay community? He needs to start fulfilling his campaign promises — even one would be a nice start. He needs to stop the discharges, and stop the Falwellian legal briefs in support of a policy he opposes. He needs to push — really push — for legislation banning job discrimination, repealing DOMA, and lifting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Many of us were willing to cut our new president some slack. Not anymore.

© 2009 Salon.com

John Aravosis is a longtime gay rights advocate and the editor of AMERICAblog.com.

Conflict in the Congo a resource war waged by US and British allies March 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa.
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congo

by Kambale Musavuli (Posted by Rady Ananda)

www.opednews.com, March 7, 2009

Since Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo in 1996, they have pursued a plan to appropriate the wealth of Eastern Congo either directly or through proxy forces. The December 2008 United Nations report is the latest in a series of U.N. reports dating from 2001 that clearly documents the systematic looting and appropriation of Congolese resources by Rwanda and Uganda, two of Washington and London’s staunchest allies in Africa.

However, in the wake of the December 2008 report, which clearly documents Rwanda’s support of destabilizing proxy forces inside the Congo, a series of stunning proposals and actions have been presented which all appear to be an attempt to cover up or bury the damning U.N. report on the latest expression of Rwanda’s aggression against the Congolese people.

The earliest proposal came from Herman Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George Herbert Walker Bush. He proposed that Rwanda be rewarded for its well documented looting of Congo’s wealth by being a part of a Central and/or East African free trade zone whereby Rwanda would keep its ill-gotten gains.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy would not be outdone; he also brought his proposal off the shelf, which argues for essentially the same scheme of rewarding Rwanda for its 12-year war booty from the Congo. Two elements are at the core of both proposals.

One is the legitimization of the economic annexation of the Congo by Rwanda, which for all intents and purposes represents the status quo. And two is basically the laying of the foundation for the balkanization of the Congo or the outright political annexation of Eastern Congo by Rwanda. Both Sarkozy and Cohen have moved with lightning speed past the Dec. 12, 2008, United Nations report to make proposals that avoid the core issues revealed in the report.

The U.N. report reaffirms what Congolese intellectuals, scholars and victims have been saying for over a decade in regard to Rwanda’s role as the main catalyst for the biblical scale death and misery in the Congo. The Ugandan and Rwandan invasions of 1996 and 1998 have triggered the deaths of nearly 6 million Congolese. The United Nations says it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II.

The report “found evidence that the Rwandan authorities have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces” to the DRC. The support is for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, formerly led by self-proclaimed Gen. Laurent Nkunda.

The report also shows that the CNDP is sheltering a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court, Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda. The CNDP has used Rwanda as a rear base for fundraising meetings and bank accounts, and Uganda is once more implicated as Nkunda has met regularly with embassies in both Kigali and Kampala.

Also, Uganda is accepting illegal CNDP immigration papers. Earlier U.N. reports said that Kagame and Museveni are the mafia dons of Congo’s exploitation. This has not changed in any substantive way.

The report implicates Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a close advisor to Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda. Rujugiro is the founder of the Rwandan Investment Group. This is not the first time he has been named by the United Nations as one of the individuals contributing to the conflict in the Congo.

In April 2001, he was identified as Tibere Rujigiro in the U.N. Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as one of the figures illegally exploiting Congo’s wealth. His implication this time comes in financial contributions to CNDP and appropriation of land.

This brings to light the organizations he is a part of, which include but are not limited to the Rwanda Development Board, the Rwandan Investment Group, of which he is the founder, and Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council. They have members as notable as Rev. Rick Warren, business tycoon Joe Ritchie, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Scott Ford of Alltell, Dr. Clet Niyikiza of GlaxoSmithKline, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and many more.

These connections provide some insight into why Rwanda has been able to commit and support remarkable atrocities in the Congo without receiving even a reprimand in spite of the fact that two European courts have charged their top leadership with war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is only recently that two European nations, Sweden and the Netherlands, have decided to withhold aid from Rwanda as a result of its aggression against the Congolese people.

The report shows that the Congolese soldiers have also given support to the FDLR and other armed groups to fight against the aggression of Rwanda’s CNDP proxy. One important distinction must be made in this regard. It appears that the FDLR support comes more from individual Congolese soldiers as opposed to overall government support.

The Congolese government is not supporting the FDLR in incursions into Rwanda; however, the Rwandan government is in fact supporting rebel groups inside Congo. The Congolese population is the victim of the CNDP, FDLR and the Congolese military.

The United Nations report is a predictable outgrowth of previous reports produced by the U.N. since 2001. It reflects the continued appropriation of the land, theft of Congo’s resources, and continuous human rights abuses caused by Rwanda and Uganda. An apparent aim of these spasms is to create facts on the ground — land expropriation, theft of cattle and other assets — to consolidate CNDP/Rwandan economic integration into Rwanda.

Herman Cohen’s “Can Africa Trade Its Way to Peace?” in the New York Times reflects the disastrous policies that favor profits over people. In his article, the former lobbyist for Mobutu and Kabila’s government in the United States and former assistant secretary of state for Africa from 1989 to 1993 argues, “Having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.”

He adds, “The normal flow of trade from eastern Congo is to Indian Ocean ports rather than the Atlantic Ocean, which is more than a thousand miles away.” Continuing his argument, he believes that “the free movement of people would empty the refugee camps and would allow the densely populated countries of Rwanda and Burundi to supply needed labor to Congo and Tanzania.”

Cohen’s first mistake in providing solutions to the conflict is to look at the conflict as a humanitarian crisis that can be solved by economic means. Uganda and Rwanda are the aggressors. Aggressors should not define for the Congo what is best, but rather it is for the Congo to define what it has to offer to its neighbor.

A lasting solution is to stop the silent annexation of Eastern Congo. The International Court of Justice has already weighed in on this matter when it ruled in 2005 that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations due to Uganda’s looting of Congo’s natural resources and the commission of human rights abuses in the Congo. It would have in all likelihood ruled in the same fashion against Rwanda; however, Rwanda claimed to be outside the jurisdiction of the court.

The United States and Great Britain’s implication is becoming very clear. These two great powers consider Rwanda and Uganda their staunch allies and, some would argue, client states. These two countries have received millions of dollars of military aid, which, in turn, they use in Congo to cause destruction and death.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is a former student at the U.S. military training base Fort Leavenworth and Yoweri Museveni’s son, Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, graduated from the same U.S. military college in the summer of 2008. Both the United States and Great Britain should follow the lead of the Dutch and Swedish governments, which have suspended their financial support to Rwanda.

With U.S. and British taxpayers’ support, we now see an estimated 6 million people dead in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women systematically raped as an instrument of war and millions displaced.

A political solution will resolve the crisis, and part of that requires pressure on Rwanda in spite of Rwanda’s recent so-called “house arrest” of Laurent Nkunda. African institutions such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union are primed to be more engaged in the Congo issue. Considering Congo’s importance to Africa, it is remarkable that they have been so anemic in regard to the Congo crisis for so long.

Rwanda’s leader, Paul Kagame, cannot feel as secure or be as arrogant as he has been in the past. One of his top aides was arrested in Germany as a result of warrants issued by a French court and there is almost global consensus that pressure must be put on him to cease his support of the destabilization of the Congo and its resultant humanitarian catastrophe.

In addition to pressure on Kagame, the global community should support the following policies:

1. Initiate an international tribunal on the Congo. 

2. Work with the Congolese to implement a national reconciliation process; this could be a part of the international tribunal.

3. Work with the Congolese to assure that those who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity are brought to justice.

4. Hold accountable corporations that are benefiting from the suffering and deaths in the Congo. 

5. Make the resolution of the Congo crisis a top international priority.

 

Living is a right, not a privilege, and Congolese deaths must be honored by due process of the law. As the implication of the many parties in this conflict becomes clear, we should start firmly acknowledging that the conflict is a resource war waged by U.S. and British allies.

We call upon people of good will once again to advocate for the Congolese by following the prescriptions we have been outlining to end the conflict and start the new path to peace, harmony and an end to the exploitation of Congo’s wealth and devastation of its peoples. 

Global Research, February 22, 2009
Online Journal - 2009-02-19

How Rick Warren’s Invocation Made a U.S. Army Officer “Hate Himself” January 21, 2009

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Chris Rodda, www.huffingtonpost.org, January 21, 2009 

Not unexpectedly, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) was besieged with emails and phone calls from members of our armed forces today following Rick Warren’s invocation. These weren’t complaints about the inappropriateness of Warren being chosen to deliver the invocation, or even about the content of Warren’s prayer. They were complaints about the pressure put on our servicemen and servicewomen by their superior officers to applaud Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose-Driven Life is second only to the Bible itself as the most promoted religious book by the U.S. military, currently being incorporated into everything from pre- and post-deployment family programs to suicide prevention.

The following is an email from one decorated combat officer, a man with the courage to repeatedly put his life on the line on the battlefield, being wounded twice, but who could not muster the courage to resist the pressure of his “serious and committed born again Christian” commanding officer to applaud Rick Warren. The author of this email is typical of the majority of servicemen and servicewomen who contact MRFF for assistance. Like 96% of MRFF’s clients, he is a Christian — but not the “right” kind of Christian or Christian enough for today’s military.

To Mikey Weinstein and MRFF:

My name is (name withheld) and I am a (officer rank withheld) in the U.S. Army currently stationed stateside at Fort (military installation name withheld). I, my spouse and my children are Methodists attending church regularly on both Wednesdays and Sundays. I will always remember today as the low-point of my long (number of years withheld) year career in the Army. I have only myself to blame. Today I firmly established myself as a shameful person. Mikey, I write about 3 things; Rick Warren, my cowardice and your bravery. Today, I watched President Obama’s inauguration on the television set up in our Brigade staff conference room. I attended as a member of (unit level designation withheld) staff along with over 40 other senior officers, senior enlisted an few senior Army civilian staffers. There had been much talk here about Pres. Obama’s selection of the evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the ceremonies.

Our current Commander is a very intolerant and “serious and committed born again Christian” as he always describes himself to all his subordinates. At every military assignment I’ve ever been to it’s always the same thing; if you are not a born again “serious” Christian you are branded as pretty much worthless. My current Commander is bad but not the worst I have seen. I have served 2 combat tours; one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I have seen those under my command killed and grievously wounded. I was wounded twice. I have been awarded many combat medals and decorations. I have also stood by silently while my combat superiors have openly and repeatedly proselytized me and my troops. I did nothing. I have stood by and watched them continuously proselytize the Iraqis and Afghans. I did nothing.

Today, after Pastor Warren ended his invocation by praying in the name of his personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Commander jumped to his feet clapping and yelled “God Bless him for having the courage to pray for all of the lost souls in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ!” About a third of those attending also clapped. I did not. That was until our Commander turned around to survey everyone’s reaction to his statement. When that happened, the officer next to me started to clap and the one to my left clapped too. I felt like I was in a spotlight as the Commander looked at me and the female officer in front of me who had also not clapped. Then she clapped. And then I clapped too. I tried not to but could not muster up the strength to be the only one in the room not clapping in support of our Commander and Warren. I know what I should have done but I just couldn’t. Despite the many fierce combat situations I have been in, including hand-to-hand, I just couldn’t. I hate myself for this failure. I hate myself for my cowardice. I hate myself.

I have heard and read about all of the death and other threats being made against you, your wife and children. I listened to the voice recording of the death threat that you released made against MRFF client Spc. Jeremy Hall. I heard about that church being burned down when you spoke in that town. All of you show bravery especially when the chips are down. I had my chance today and I showed fear and cowardice. I can’t stand what I did today. I have been a client of MRFF for over three years now but no one knows it other than my spouse. We are both afraid of anyone finding out. I have heard other Army personnel talk of being MRFF clients but they usually try to keep it very quiet. Everything you are fighting for, Mikey, is the right fight. I’m not guessing and not assuming; I have lived it. I am living it. I will continue to live it. Trying to complain up the chain of command is as useless as filing an IG complaint or other administrative action. No, it’s far worse than just useless. It can and will brand the complainer as a target for revenge.

I have seen it happen and fear it could happen to me if I stood up to it. I have a family and am not that far from being able to retire in peace and quiet. MRFF is the only outlet for military people like me. I hope this e-mail message can help other people (there are so many of us) be willing to contact MRFF and allow you to fight on our behalf against the multitudes of “serious and committed born again Christians” who control all of our careers and lives. Your lawsuit is important to us all. Please don’t stop your fight and please don’t hate me for not fighting. I hate myself enough for everyone.

(name and rank withheld)
Fort (military installation withheld)
(unit designation withheld)

Chris Rodda

Barack Obama: More ” Plus ça change… You Can Believe In” January 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama.
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Several weeks ago I coined the phrase “plus ça change… you can believe in.”  (http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/plus-ca-change-we-can-believe-in/?)  It is an obvious take-off on the Obama slogan that twists the meaning 180 degrees via the classic French dictum, which translates to English more or less as “the more things change the more they stay the same.” (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose)

Today’s Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/uselection/article/572960) has published an article it had run nineteen years ago in 1990 on the occasion of Barack Obama’s election as the first ever elected president of the Harvard Law Review.  The article is eerily prescient; and it provides grounds both for those who believe he will bring meaningful change as well as for those, like me, who based upon both his words and actions, have lost most of what hope we may have had.

(Full disclosure: I voted for Obama but my heart was with Ralph Nader)

The article confirms that as early as nineteen years ago, Barack Obama had already clearly demonstrated his brilliant mind, a social conscience, formidable personal drive, and magnificent diplomatic skills.  In an uncanny way we see in this article almost a carbon copy of the Barack Obama that we have watched as a presidential candidate and now President-elect.Those of you pragmatists out there will thrill by the account of how he was able to relate positively to conservatives along with those of his more natural constituency to achieve his historic election as the Law Review president.  From your adulatory postings on the article’s Comment section, however, you must have either missed or ignored that paragraph that jumped out at me.

“‘He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,’ said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. ‘His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).'”  (my emphasis)

If this isn’t prescient, I don’t know what is.

In a recent article in politico.com (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17532.html) entitled “Obama Tries to Seduce Republicans” we read about not only Obama’s selection of the notorious Rick Warren for the inauguration invocation prayer, but also of  his dinner with right-of-center writers at George F. Will’s home and the transition team’s reaching out “to other prominent figures atop the Southern Baptist Church, Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministry and the Jewish Orthodox Union.”  We read of his cozying up to McCain and others in the Republican leadership, and he has been eulogized by everyone from Condoleezza Rice to Pat Robertson (from Robertson’s CNN interview with Larry King: “I must say, this is the most amazing campaign that I think we’ve seen in our life time or maybe in this century. Obama is absolutely brilliant. I would like to make a prediction. He can one of the great presidents of the United States if he doesn’t get pulled too far off of center and gets over into some of the things the American people don’t want. If he governs the way he said he is going to do, as I say, he has the smarts and the charisma to pull this nation together and be an outstanding president.” (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0811/05/lkl.01.html)

I have no problem “reaching out” to the neo-Fascists who control the Republican Party, but what had set him apart from the others in the campaign was his initial indication that he would “reach out” to the likes of Cuba’s Castro, Chávez in Venezuela and Iran’s Ahmadinejad.  That would take courage and show leadership, but unfortunately he has backpedalled on this commitment since he won the election. 

It is interesting yet most disturbing to note that right wing Republican presidents like Reagan and W. tend to be aggressive in promoting their agenda and thereby achieve results (which unfortunately are disastrous for most Americans), while Democrat compromisers like Clinton and Obama tend to be diplomatic and achieve little of their own agenda while advancing that of their opposition (in Clinton’s case, for example, welfare “reform,” free trade, reduced social spending, etc.).

I am still more than pleased that Obama won over McCain, that the United States elected its first Afro-American President, and I have confidence that the Obama presidency and the Democratic controlled Congress will undo some of the most horrendous crimes of the Bush Administration.  I believe that Obama will outlaw torture, eventually close Guantanamo, and make some necessary changes with respect to women’s health care, domestic spying, stem cell research and other important areas.  And it cannot be too soon for some of our existing Supreme Court Justices to move on to that even higher court up in the sky so that Obama will have the opportunity to make appointments to that will serve to detoxify the Court, which has become contaminated with the likes of Thomas, Alioto and Roberts.

But by his policy statements (slower troop reduction in Iraq; troop build-up in Afghanistan; at least tacit support of the Israeli massacre in Gaza; no immediate doing away with the tax cuts to the rich, etc.) and his appointments (Gates of Iran-Contra fame, Rahm the unabashed Israel apologist, Clinton the cheerleader for the Iraq Invasion; Lawrence Summers the wolf to guard the economic chicken coop), Obama has shown us what we can expect in the most critical areas: change that is pretty much the same thing.

 

Max Blumenthal on “Rick Warren’s Double Life” December 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights.
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www.democracynow.org

23 december 2008

 

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President-elect Barack Obama is drawing criticism from many supporters for his choice to deliver the invocation at next month’s inauguration. Obama has selected the Reverend Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Warren supported California’s recent gay marriage ban and has compared abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. In a recent interview with the website BeliefNet.com, Warren said he thinks gay marriage is comparable to incest, polygamy and child abuse. We speak to investigative journalist Max Blumenthal.

AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Obama is drawing criticism from many supporters for his choice to deliver the invocation at next month’s inauguration. Obama selected the Reverend Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Warren supported California’s recent gay marriage ban and has compared abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. In a recent interview with the website beliefnet.com, Warren said he thinks gay marriage is comparable to incest, polygamy and child abuse.

    REV. RICK WARREN: I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

    STEVEN WALDMAN: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

    REV. RICK WARREN: Oh, I do. I just say, for 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion. This is not a Christian issue. Buddhists, Muslims, Jews—you know, historically, marriage is a man and a woman.

 

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Rick Warren, speaking to beliefnet.com. After Warren’s inauguration appearance was announced, Obama was forced to defend his choice.

    PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

    What I’ve also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. And I would note that a couple of years ago, I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign’s been all about.

AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Obama, speaking in Chicago last week.

I’m joined now by Max Blumenthal, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute. His work has appeared in The Nation, Salon and many other publications, currently writing a book on the US evangelical movement. His latest article, “Rick Warren’s Hypocritical Double Life,” is online at dailybeast.com. Max Blumenthal joins us by DN! video stream.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Max.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the history of Rick Warren.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, the history of Rick Warren is pretty interesting. And you heard some of his views right there. These are views that people have only recently started paying attention to. Prior to this controversy, Rick Warren was, you know, proffered by the media as the voice of the new evangelical movement, which embraces environmentalism and fights poverty and is going to move beyond the old hobgoblins of the Christian right and the old, you know, draconian figures of the Christian right, like James Dobson and Pat Robertson. Rick Warren was supposed to be the pioneer of this new movement. He is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch in Orange County. And he’s the author of The Purpose Driven Life, which is, you know, a sort of subtly Christian, self-help manual that sold 25 million copies. So he has a really broad appeal, and he’s planted churches across the world, especially in Africa.

And because, you know, the media has expected evangelicals, especially conservative evangelicals, to be draconian and retrograde, you know, they’ve made a hero out of Rick Warren without looking at who he really is and what he really believes. Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times, for example, has called Rick Warren an evangelical liberals can love. You know, Newsweek named Rick Warren one of the fifteen people who make America great. And even The Nation, which I’ve written for, you know, the venerable left-wing magazine, in 2005 published a piece calling Rick Warren America’s pastor.

You know, he wears a Hawaiian shirt. He looks like a big teddy bear. He doesn’t holler or hector. He speaks in a ponderous tone. And he does seem to genuinely care about the environment and care about poverty. It’s not clear what he’s actually done.

And he’s been pumped up by a small group of Democratic consultants, who urged Barack Obama first to go to his church and speak with him and then to participate in a debate this August that was broadcast by CNN, the Saddleback Forum, where Rick Warren essentially got to interview both candidates sequentially, John McCain and Barack Obama, on the issues and serve as the national minister. The debate went really badly for Obama, because Rick Warren asked him a trick question about abortion: When does a baby get human rights? Barack Obama couldn’t answer it. Soon after, he was attacked by right-wing radio hosts for his answer, because he said, you know, “This question is above my pay grade.” And Rick Warren even went on a conservative radio show and, you know, chuckled about Obama’s response and kind of lightly mocked him.

So, the real Rick Warren is someone who fights the culture war with a velvet glove. He’s a religious right figure who’s figured out a new strategy to move into a Democratic post-Bush era and still hold influence. He even—he freely admitted to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal that the principal difference, the only difference, between him and James Dobson is a matter of tone. And when I called Rick Warren’s PR handlers, you know, the people that are responsible for making him into this major national figure, from Larry A. Ross Communications, they kind of laughed at the idea that he was America’s pastor. They said he’s consistent with what the Bible teaches. He’s not trying to be America’s pastor or whatever.

So, Rick Warren openly backed Proposition 8 in California last November—this November, and he did so in the terms that you heard him speaking to Steven Waldman, essentially saying that two percent of our population, the homosexual population, was trying to dictate to the rest us, which is a really demagogic thing to say. He told that to his congregation. And he’s backed every anti-gay proposition that’s come down the pike in California in the last ten years, including Proposition 22, which laid the groundwork for Proposition 8. He joined up with James Dobson and Charles Colson and Tony Perkins and these people to do this.

Beyond that, he compares pro-choice advocates to Holocaust deniers. He recently was interviewed by Sean Hannity, and Sean Hannity asked him, “Should we attack Iran?” And Rick Warren said, “Well, it’s our God-given obligation to take out evildoers.” He has recently scrubbed material from his website claiming that man walked the earth with dinosaurs, basically that, you know, history is one big Flintstones episode. He will not allow homosexuals to be members of his church, and he recently scrubbed that from his website.

So it’s just interesting to me that people are finally paying attention to this, after Rick Warren has never tried to hide his views. He’s never really gamed the media. It’s just that progressives have finally drawn the line, where Barack Obama has not.

AMY GOODMAN: You write about, one, Rick Warren saying he doesn’t feel that politics and religion should be mixed. But you also talk about how in the last days of the presidential race of Bush’s 2004 re-election bid, Warren sent an urgent blast email to hundreds of thousands of evangelicals, insisting they base their votes on five non-negotiable issues: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, human cloning and euthanasia.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. And this is before Rick Warren became a member of the ONE Campaign, before, you know, the media had began puffing him, and before people—Democratic consultants like Mara Vanderslice, who ran a sort of Christian front group for Obama called Matthew 25, and self-proclaimed progressive evangelicals in the media, like Amy Sullivan, began presenting him as one of the new evangelicals who was going to take us beyond the Christian right. But the evidence was there that Rick Warren had sort of insidiously backed George W. Bush by saying that pastors had to vote and urge their congregations to vote on issues like abortion and homosexuality. If you vote on those issues and you say that those issues are non-negotiable, then of course you’re going to vote for George W. Bush, and of course you’re going to back the Republicans for Congress.

Beyond that, you know, Rick Warren says he’s for the environment. Rick Warren says that he’s for fighting poverty, which is great. But what has he actually done? You know, I’ve spent hours scouring the internet, calling around, trying to find some results that Rick Warren has produced in Africa against AIDS, results he’s produced against poverty. And all I can find is that his peace programs, which he calls them, are sort of recruitment vehicles for the churches that he’s planning in Africa and that he is using these programs actually to evangelize, and there’s no real way of measuring his results. And there are Christian groups that are doing good work, you know, in the third world, that are fighting poverty, and they measure results, groups like Medical Teams International. Even World Vision measures results. But we have no way of knowing what Rick Warren is doing. It looks to me like he’s going around to the Aspen Institute and to these big elite festivals and telling people who expect evangelicals to be retrograde and who expect evangelicals to be draconian, that he’s doing something different. And he speaks the language that people want to hear in the media-manufactured age of post-partisanship. But it’s unclear what he’s actually doing, beyond fighting the culture war with a velvet glove.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, let’s turn to another clip highlighting some of Rick Warren’s views. Earlier this month, he was interviewed by Ann Curry of MSNBC.

    ANN CURRY: If science finds that this is biological—

    REV. RICK WARREN: Yeah?

    ANN CURRY: —that people are born to be gay, would you change your position?

    REV. RICK WARREN: No. And the reason why is because we all have biological predispositions. I’m naturally inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

 

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rick Warren. Max Blumenthal, final thoughts?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, that’s a bizarre remark I haven’t heard. And, you know, I like to get to know women first, and I think, you know, most people do. Rick Warren has a doctrine of women’s submission, which he preaches to his church, and he tells the female members of his church that they have to support their husbands’ decisions, even if they make bad financial decisions, because women have to submit in a biblical manner to their husbands. So this goes way beyond being anti-gay. He’s, you know, patriarchal. He’s supported assassinating Iran’s president. And he’s just—

You know, I have no problem, and I don’t think anyone should have any problem with Barack Obama going to Rick Warren’s church and meeting with him or working with him on good initiatives. But the question is, where does Barack Obama draw the line when someone demonizes a segment of Americans? Is this person really fit to address the nation and confer God’s blessing on the entire United States of America, when Rick Warren freely admits that he only believes that a small segment of Americans are going to heaven and that the rest of us are going to burn in an everlasting lake of fire? That’s the question. And I think that Barack Obama has answered it. But at the very least, progressives have drawn the line here, and I think they should hold the line.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you for being with us, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute, writing a book on the evangelical movement. His latest article is called “Rick Warren’s Hypocritical Double Life.” It’s online at dailybeast.com.

Barack Obama, Linda Douglass, and Little Ole LGBT Me December 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights.
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www.huffingtonpost.com

Karen Ocamb

There’s a saying in the 12 Step programs about being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s at this point — generally your own personal version of rock bottom — that you surrender and admit something has been screwing up your life.

Well — I guess that’s where I am now. I’m sick and tired of hope.

I wanted to explain this to Linda Douglass, Obama’s heavy-duty spokesperson, when she called unexpectedly and unsolicited at 7:30 Friday morning. But I was taken aback. When she started to identify herself, I stopped her and said, “I know who you are. I remember you from your time as a reporter here in L.A.” – before CBS News moved her to Washington to cover the Justice Department. I was once a small time producer at CBS News and admired Douglass’ journalistic talent.

But Linda did not call to chat about our different career paths. She called me as the news editor of LA’s two largest LGBT publications — IN Los Angeles and Frontiers magazines — to talk about evangelist Rick Warren, who President-Elect Barack Obama selected to deliver the Inauguration Invocation. In case you haven’t heard, there’s been something of a firestorm from LGBTs over the choice.

Obama chose Warren, Linda said, primarily because Obama “has a strong belief in seeking common ground with those people with whom he disagrees on important issues” so difficult discussions can be conducted with civility. Obama admires Warren’s efforts on behalf of the poor and people with HIV/AIDS and climate change, she said, but he disagrees with Warren on issues involving the LGBT community, women’s reproductive rights, and other issues.

The goal, Linda said, was to make this “the most open and inclusive Inauguration in history, including all points of view.” The choice of Warren “was about his seeking common ground with somebody who is trying to be a voice of moderation” to others in the Christian Evangelical movement and beyond through his book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

“This is a choice that reflects these steps toward inclusiveness,” Linda said, adding that the Inaugural program is being rolled out very slowly and by the end, the Big Picture will be revealed as including a “very diverse, inclusive set of people” and an environment that reinforces the belief that “we’re stronger when we’re united. That’s the goal.”

Linda urged me to urge my LGBT readers to look at Obama’s Warren choice in the context of “the Big Picture — a set of goals that have to do with making sure every voice is heard and making possible progress” by resolving those differences that “get in the way of doing what is right for all the people. There is no reason to fear that [Obama's] commitment to equality for gay and lesbian people is going to waver.”

Linda noted Obama’s “own strong belief in the importance of equality and the importance of doing away with discrimination.” Look at the fact that on Election Night Obama “gave a firm shout-out to gays and lesbians that was heard all around the world,” Linda said, as well as his strong record on LGBT issues, including his opposition to Prop 8 (the California amendment that stripped marriage rights from lesbian and gay couples).

Linda noted that civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery has received “short shrift” as the person doing the Benediction. He’s an “outspoken champion of LGBT issues – one of the really, really strong voices” and he’s “at the other end of the program.”

Yes, thank God.

But Linda, I said, the Inauguration isn’t a town hall meeting where different policy discussions can be hashed out. This is a hugely important moment when you say, “this is what we stand for” — and with no openly gay person on the podium — or in his Cabinet – Warren’s pick is a devastating kick in the solar plexis.

Was Obama aware that in an interview with Beliefnet Rick Warren compared same sex marriage to incest and pedophilia? “I don’t know if he was aware of any specific thing,” Linda said. But he is aware of his disagreements and Obama is a “strong, strong champion” of LGBT rights who favors repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and will sign federal hate crime legislation.

Look at the Big Picture.

But it’s hard to look at the Big Picture when you’re doubled over with pain.

I brought up Melissa Etheridge’s question to Hillary Clinton during the
Logo/Human Rights Campaign debate last year – when Melissa basically asked Hillary how can we trust you when we had such high hopes with Bill Clinton and he threw us under the bus?

Linda said she’s been listening to a lot of pain.

I can imagine. I don’t think the Obama folks were quite prepared for the reaction. And I KNOW LGBT folks were not prepared for the sucker-punch — especially after having our legitimate, fundamental right to marry stripped from us by a simple majority of California voters.

But maybe the outrage has done some good. Maybe Obama will finally “see” us — not as a motley crew with a common issue — but as real flesh and blood human beings who get hurt and angry with good reason — we are the last minority against whom it is acceptable to discriminate.

I was in the room in 1991 — before there were medications to “manage” HIV/AIDS – when candidate Bill Clinton went off script and said to a theater full of angry and pained gays and people with AIDS, “I have a vision and you’re a part of it.” Even without close advisors David Mixner or Bob Hattoy whispering in his ear – Clinton wanted and sought and got the LGBT/PWA vote — because things were soooo bad under Reagan/Bush. We were traumatized — experiencing life and death daily like water gushing through clenched fists.

Clinton included us in the Inauguration — gay families on the family float — panels from the AIDS Quilt — a LGBT viewing corner along the parade route — meetings between LGBT and AIDS activists with transition team members — including Hattoy — who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and Tim Westmoreland.

And then, as everyone knows — in the face of Sam Nunn and threats to defeat every piece of legislation if he executed his promise to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military — Clinton threw us under the bus and created the “compromise” policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with the Defense of Marriage Act following not far behind. But everyone knew beforehand that Clinton was more conservative than LGBTs and people with AIDS wanted.

But at least Clinton saw us. He seemed to understand our lot as American exiles living in America and he “felt our pain.”

So I was as moved by Maya Angelou’s Inauguration poem for Clinton, “On the Pulse of Morning,” as I was when I heard JFK’s Inauguration speech as a child. The possibility of hope filled the air — a marrow-bone belief that one day we will see each other and celebrate our differences with civility.

I think of Maya Angelou everyday as I walk my dogs and nod to my neighbors, “good morning.” For a moment, it all rushes back — that positive possibility of a better world, starting one to one.

That’s what Obama promised. Yes, together we can change America. That’s why the brilliant gay author and legal scholar Tobias Wolff flew across the country on his own dime defending Obama and asking for a second chance after antigay Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin headlined Obama’s “Gospel Tour.” Wolff promised that henceforth no antigay people would speak for Obama.

So when it was revealed that Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation — I felt sucker-punched. My mind drifted to the opening paragraph of the famous book by Ralph Ellison — “Invisible Man.”

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids =- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

At the end of the book, Ellison writes: “Perhaps, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you.”

I finally got it.

It’s not that Obama thinks of this as a “Sister Souljah” moment as I first thought. The fact is — Obama doesn’t think of us at all. The gays who might be near him are staffers who happen to be gay and for whom being gay is apparently not an issue. He doesn’t see them as gay — and therefore he doesn’t see us at all.

We are not a substantive part of his vision.

What to do? Well, for one — expect nothing from this new president for whom we are a nuisance, given how huge are his priorities. Let the national organizations push to their hearts content. But the real work on securing our equality with other American citizens will be done on the ground — locally, statewide and through grassroots networking and coalition building. Through the Victory Fund and electing our own. Through the political clubs and electing delegates to rise up through the ranks to start running the parties. There are as many options as there are creative imaginations among us. Let us be the visionaries. At least we see each other.

Now that’s a cause for hope.

Time Mag Columnist: Obama Is “Very Rational-Sounding Sort Of Bigot” December 22, 2008

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rick_warren_1218

Pastor Rick Warren
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

The Problem for Gays with Rick Warren — and

Obama

 TIME MAGAZINE

 

 

 

About three years ago, a reporter at Fortune asked Rick Warren, the successful pastor whom the President-elect has asked to pray at his Inauguration, about homosexuality. “I’m no homophobic guy,” Warren said. His proof? He has dined with gays; he has a church “full of people who are caring for gays who are dying of AIDS”; he believes that “in the hierarchy of evil … homosexuality is not the worst sin.” So gays get to eat — sometimes even with Rick Warren! Then they get to die of AIDS — possibly under the care of Rick Warren’s congregants. And when they go to hell, they won’t be quite as far down in Satan’s pit as other evildoers.

But Warren did have a message of hope for gays: they can magically become heterosexuals. (He didn’t explain how, but I suspect he thinks praying really hard would do it, as if most of us who grew up gay and evangelical hadn’t tried that every night as teenagers.) Homosexuality, Pastor Warren explained in the virtually content-free language of the dogmatist, is “not the natural way.” And then he went right for the ick factor, the way middle-school boys do: “Certain body parts are meant to fit together.”

More recently, Warren told Beliefnet that he thinks allowing a gay couple to marry is similar to allowing “a brother and sister to be together and call that marriage.” He then helpfully added that he’s also “opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage.” The reporter, who may have been a little surprised, asked, “Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?” “Oh, I do,” Warren immediately answered. I wish the reporter had asked the next logical follow-up: If gays are like child-sex offenders, shouldn’t we incarcerate them?

Rick Warren may occasionally sound more open-minded than Jerry Falwell, another plump Evangelical who once played a prominent role in U.S. politics. But he’s not. Gays and lesbians are angry that Barack Obama has honored Warren, but they shouldn’t be surprised. Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships. He did throughout his campaign, one that featured appearances by Donnie McClurkin, a Christian entertainer who preaches that homosexuals can become heterosexuals.

Obama reminds me a little bit of Richard Russell Jr., the longtime Senator from Georgia who — as historian Robert Caro has noted — cultivated a reputation as a thoughtful, tolerant politician even as he defended inequality and segregation for decades. Obama gave a wonderfully Russellian defense of Warren on Thursday at a press conference. Americans, he said, need to “come together” even when they disagree on social issues. “That dialogue is part of what my campaign is all about,” he said. Russell would often use the same tactic to deflect criticism of his civil rights record. It was a distraction, Russell said, from the important business of the day uniting all Americans. Obama also said today that he is a “fierce advocate for equality” for gays, which is — given his opposition to equal marriage rights — simply a lie. It recalls the time Russell said, “I’m as interested in the Negro people of my state as anyone in the Senate. I love them.”

Many gays I know gave money to Obama, which mystified me. The favored explanation was that he doesn’t “really” believe gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry; he just has to say that in order to win. People seemed to feel that once he had won, he would find a way — in his contemplative style — to help convince Americans that gay people really do deserve basic equality. Instead, he has found a way to insult gay people deeply.

In California, some gay activists are planning to put marriage on the 2010 ballot so that Proposition 8 — which (thanks partly to Warren’s support) passed last month, banning marriage equality in the state — can be undone. Gays will need to reach older, religious, and African-American voters in order to overturn Prop. 8 (those three groups all voted disproportionately for it). If gays hoped that President Obama would help, they may want to reconsider.

The only piece of good news is that Obama loves to raise money, and he won’t want significant gay donors to stop organizing fundraisers for him. Having picked Warren to pray at the Inauguration and Republican Robert Gates to stay on at the Department of Defense (where Gates will likely continue the policy of investigating gay service members — a policy he has the legal power to end with the stroke of a pen), Obama will now have to do something nice for the gays. Today, the Washington Times brings news that some retired military leaders are supporting William White, an openly gay man who is chief operating officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, to be Secretary of the Navy. That would be cool. But I’m not getting my hopes up.

Lawmaker says `no’ to Rev. Warren at inauguration December 21, 2008

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AP, December 21, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first openly gay member of Congress said Sunday it was a mistake for President-elect Barack Obama to invite the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said in a broadcast interview.

“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”

Warren, a best-selling author and leader of a Southern California megachurch, is a popular evangelical who stresses the need for action on social issues such as reducing poverty and protecting the environment, alongside traditional theological themes.

But gay rights advocates, who strongly supported Obama during the election, are angry over Warren’s backing of a California ballot initiative banning gay marriage. That measure was approved by voters last month.

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

“I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet. But later in the interview, he compared the “redefinition of marriage” to include gay marriage to legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy.

Warren, in a speech on Saturday, said he took “enormous heat” three years ago for inviting Obama to speak at his church, even though the two men disagree on some issues. “Now he’s invited me,” Warren said.

Obama defended the selection of Warren last week, telling reporters that America needs to “come together,” even when there’s disagreement on social issues. “That dialogue is part of what my campaign is all about,” he said.

Frank appeared on “Late Edition” on CNN.

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