â€œWithout your leadership and unparalleled efforts, this historic opportunityâ€¦ will pass all of us by.â€
The Human Rights Campaign today released an open letter from HRC President Joe Solmonese to President Barack Obama regarding the â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ law and the necessity of administration action to end the discharges this year.Â The full text is below:
Dear Mr. President:
Years from now, students of the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality (LGBT) will no doubt see this fall as a pivotal period in the history of our struggle for fundamental fairness.Â In January, we were all inspired by your State of the Union pledge to end our nationâ€™s discriminatory ban on open service by gays and lesbians.Â Equally inspiring was the testimony in support of repealing the â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ law by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Â We have come so far, but the only true measure of success is whether the thousands of brave gay and lesbian Americans who are serving their country, and the many more who want to serve their country, can do so openly and honestly.Â We have not yet met that goal, and without your leadership and unparalleled efforts, this historic opportunity to remove a stain of discrimination from our nation will pass all of us by.
Last week, lawyers for your administration asked for an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking to end a worldwide injunction of the â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ law while they work to overturn a federal judgeâ€™s conclusion that this law â€“ one that you have called discriminatory and contrary to our national security on many occasions â€“ offends the protections of our Constitution.Â I continue to struggle with how your administration can defend a law you oppose, and how it could be even remotely constitutional for a statute to single out one group of brave Americans, because of who they are and who they love, and order them serve in silence and deception.Â How can our government have a duty to defend a statute that is clearly so contrary to our Constitutionâ€™s guarantee of equality for all?
The Ninth Circuitâ€™s decision to stay Judge Phillipsâ€™s decision further frustrates repeal advocates and puts a bright spotlight on you to reconcile this endless legal wrangling with your public promise to end â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell.â€Â While we continue to call on your Administration not to appeal, if the Justice Department does insist on defending this discriminatory law, I strongly urge you to instruct government lawyers to inform the appellate court that the Executive Branch believes that the â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ law is unconstitutional. I agree with the esteemed lawyer and former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, Walter Dellinger, that such a move would send the Ninth Circuit a critically important message.
Furthermore, the litigation strategy challenging â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ is made all the more critical by the challenges a legislative repeal has faced in Congress.Â While the House approved repeal by a wide margin, the Senateâ€™s first and second attempts to move forward on the critical Defense Authorization bill were stymied by Republican obstructionists looking to score political points before the midterm elections.Â There is still an opportunity for the Senate to send the repeal of â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ to your desk in the lame duck session, but it will not happen if you do not put the full weight of the Office of the President of the United States behind it.Â Republican opponents would rather see the Defense Authorization and everything in it â€“ military pay raises, critical armor and equipment for our troops, health coverage for their families on the home front â€“ fail than let gays and lesbians serve their country openly.Â This is an outrageous insult to our troops, to their Commander-in-Chief, and to the Defense Department charged with their operations and their care.Â You and Secretary Gates must be full partners in making clear to Senators that it is doubly unacceptable to hold hostage the needs of every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine in a desperate attempt to preserve a law that flies in the face of the American ideals they sacrifice to protect every day.
It is because â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ is contrary to our core values as a nation that it must end.Â And we must have a durable solution â€“ legislative repeal or a solid judicial decision.Â But if those fail, you must not allow another day to go by in which a brave gay or lesbian service member is discharged based simply on sexual orientation.Â HRC has urged your administration, privately and publicly, for more than a year to use every tool at your disposal as Chief Executive to at least significantly reduce discharges, if not end them entirely.Â More can be done in this regard.
You can and should issue a stop-loss order suspending enforcement of â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell.â€Â This discriminatory law has already deprived our military thousands of service members, many with critical skills in fighting terrorism.Â You have acknowledged that it harms our national security.Â If we fail to achieve legislative repeal this year, and if you will not abandon the defense of this discriminatory law in court, then it is imperative that you use your clear authority as President to end the discharges.Â Anything less is unacceptable.
We have fought long and hard to get this close to ending â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell.â€Â We pledge to continue that fight, every step of the way, until this unjust law is gone for good.Â Future generations will look back at this moment â€“ we must not let it become a setback in the long march toward full equality, but instead make it the turning point it is poised to become.
The New Civil Rights Movement
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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