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On The Eve Of Christmas, A Navy Rabbi And Lesbian Army Captain Reunite To Bear Witness To DADT’s End

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Navy Chaplain Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff:  A Trumpet for Justice

There is a synchronicity to the rhythm of life when justice finally arrives. And so it was that my favorite rabbi in the world, and dear friend, Arnie Resnicoff, would deliver the invocation at the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill signing, marking the beginning of the end of DADT–a “beshert” moment–the Hebrew word meaning destiny in all its perfection, and a story come full circle.

One week after Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States in 1992, in the absence of less developed policies, Clinton’s campaign pledge to allow gays to serve openly in the military dominated all news headlines and broadcasts–the news media had gone into a berserk frenzy about homosexuals in the ranks.

Less than two weeks later, by the time I took my seat as a discussant on a panel about diversity in the military at the Naval War College, (in my debut representing the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,) Clinton’s proposed policy to reverse the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military transcended all other issues to be discussed — including racism in the ranks and the controversial topic of women in combat — with an audience of several hundred senior Navy leaders in attendance.

On this auspicious occasion I met Navy Chaplain Rabbi Arnie Resnicoff, whom I would come to know as a strong supporter and advocate for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. He has been morally brave over the course of many years by directly confronting the opinions of many of his peers and superiors and by challenging the military’s chaplain corps to always serve the troops first, without regard to a service member’s sexual orientation.

During the nearly three hours of “discussion,” I was personally attacked and relentlessly harangued by the Navy’s finest senior leaders, until its conclusion, when I mustered enough strength to push myself away from the table and walk to the back of the stage where I cried my heart out. Rabbi Resnicoff comforted me, as he put his arms around me and said, “You were so brave. I am so sorry this happened to you.”

In this awful moment, Rabbi Resnicoff, Arnie by this point, conveyed the compassion and generosity of a stranger, and affirmed the dignity of my personhood during an experience of profound cruelty and humiliation. It was a connection of a lifetime.

Arnie has always felt guilty about the way his fellow Naval officers treated me that day. On the eve of this week’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal act signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., which we would both attend, he wrote to me once more about this incident 18 years ago:

“I have been thinking about the conference at the the Naval War College where I first met you: the shabby way you were personally treated, and the way the ugly face of discrimination and prejudice showed itself in the words and actions of so many people around me…

“And, just as I believe that changes in the military had an impact on the larger issues of race relations in our nation, I feel that same can happen now…I think back at how hard it must have been for you to participate in that conference. There are combat zones away from the battlegrounds overseas, and that was one of them, back then.”

As I said, there is a synchronicity to the rhythm of life when justice finally arrives. In his beautiful prayer, Rabbi Resnicoff applies a healing salve to the psychic wounds we have sustained as second-class citizens, and reminds us of the greatness of America in believing that life can improve, as he calls upon divine wisdom to lead us into an unknown future of change.

“O Lord who made a world of change, You challenged us to mend, repair and change the world.

“Some lose faith and think that things will never change, But we Americans–of every faith–religious faith or not–Refuse to give up hope or abandon that most American of dreams: That we can make a difference, and that the future can be better than the past.

“Today we make a change as President Obama signs this bill into law, Today we recall that unity, not uniformity, is our goal, That we need not fear differences, Among those united to defend our nation’s freedoms and its dreams.

“Today we honor ALL brave men and women, Including those who served so long without the honor they deserved.

“O Lord our God, and God of generations past, Help us move forward, Toward a nation a little more united, more indivisible, A union a bit more perfect, founded on a great deal more respect.

“Let us pray that if the day has not yet dawned, When we can see the face of God in others, Then we see, at least, a face as human as our own.

“Lord, help us keep faith the day will dawn, When justice flows–for ALL–like mighty waters, When liberty will be proclaimed throughout the land, When every man and woman can stand tall, And none shall be afraid.

“And may we say, Amen.”

And so it is today, as we stand on transformed ground of our own making: Having realized the first dream of justice in America for gay and lesbian people–by the sheer dint of our effort, ingenuity and intelligence; by our anger and rage and by revealing our true hearts and dreams, others can and do see who we are–many, like Rabbi Arnie Resnicoff, are with us on this journey.  I celebrate him today and share the wisdom and compassion of a true friend in our struggle.

May we always be so generously blessed.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs atColumbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Instituteaffiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

(photo by Sammie Moshenberg: Rabbi Resnicoff and Tanya Domi at the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill signing.)

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DISASTER

Republicans Boot Only Person With Elections Experience From AZ GOP’s $9 Million ‘Audit’ Fiasco: Report

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Republicans once referred to Ken Bennett as the “director” of their widely-panned audit of votes in Maricopa County, but he has reportedly lost his privileges to even enter the building where the fiasco is taking place.

Bennett, who served as Arizona’s Secretary of State and president of the state Senate, was the one person associated with the recount with experience in elections. He was officially listed as the liaison to the state Senate, which paid $150,000 of the $9 million the audit is reportedly costing.

“Questions are mounting about who is in control of the long-running partisan review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results — the Arizona Senate, which ordered it, or the outside firms that are running it,” The Arizona Republic reported Friday evening. “On Friday, Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the audit, was not allowed into the building at the state fairgrounds where the audit is taking place, a day after he shared data with outside critics from an ongoing ballot count.”

“While this work is supposedly being overseen by Senate representatives, many times that oversight is not there,” the newspaper noted. “The Cyber Ninjas have for weeks resisted getting outside checks of the audit, insiders say.”

Reporter Ryan Randazzo explained why the outside review is threatening.

“The data Bennett provided to outside analysts, Larry Moore and Benny White, showed the results of the ongoing machine count of the ballots tracks very closely with the the county’s tally,” the newspaper reported. “If that trend continues, it may call into question the results of Cyber Ninja’s count, because [Senate President Karen] Fann has said that the Cyber Ninjas’ count did not match the county’s.”

The newspaper reported Cyber Ninjas spokesperson said any decision to ban Bennett was made by Fann’s office.

 

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CRIME

New Details Revealed in Florida Republican’s Plot to Disrupt the 2020 Election

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New details have been released in the investigation of former Florida State Sen Frank Artiles (R) over his involvement in running “scam” campaigns in an attempt to disrupt the 2020 election.

With his trial expected to begin August 30, prosecutors are firming up their case against the former GOP lawmaker in a political corruption case the Tampa Bay Times reports, “has roped in prominent players across Florida over the last several months, including a GOP-linked research firm in Gainesville, a top not-for-profit Miami hospital network and a veteran Republican operative who leads a Tallahassee-based political organization.”

According to the Miami Herald, new revelations show that Florida political operative Alex Alvarado — linked to Artiles — was funneling money to sham campaign officials in an effort to disrupt key 2020 state Senate elections.

The report notes that “documents released late Friday, provide new details into the breadth of the criminal investigation into Artiles and his longtime acquaintance, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez.”

“Prosecutors say Rodriguez was recruited by Artiles and paid some $44,000 to change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify on the ballot and attempt to sway the outcome of the Miami-Dade Senate District 37 election. GOP candidate Illeana Garcia won the race by 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shared the same surname as the Democratic incumbent, received more than 6,000 votes,” the Herald reports. “Between June 15 and November 15, 2020, Artiles was under contract to work for veteran Republican political operative Pat Bainter for $15,000 a month, court documents show. Bainter paid Artiles $90,000 and reimbursed him for his travel, a courier service and $4,000 for ‘research,’ according to those documents.”

As part of the scam, one woman who was pregnant and desperate for money agreed to take $1,500 to chair a political committee with no plans to have her do any work.

In testimony 25-year-old Hailey DeFilippis, explained to investigators she was listed as the chair of “The Truth, a dark-money-funded political committee that spent $180,000 on political mail advertisements promoting sham candidates in key 2020 state Senate elections — two in Miami-Dade and one in Central Florida.”

She was later paid $2,500 more for the “inconvenience” after reporters called up asking about the group.

“Artiles signed a contract with Bainter on June 9, 2020. The next day, Rodriguez met Artiles at Artiles’ Palmetto Bay residence to fill out campaign forms, according to investigators who noted in an arrest affidavit that Rodriguez had ‘no prior knowledge as to what forms needed to be completed to qualify as a candidate for elected office and relied on Artiles’ instructions.,'” the report adds. “Neither Bainter nor Gardner have responded to phone calls or emails seeking comment since the Herald learned they were served subpoenas. The powerful GOP-linked research firm, based in Gainesville, also served as a general consultant for Republican Senate campaigns during the 2020 election cycle.”

You can read more here.

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News

‘You Falsely Smeared My Wife and She’s Getting Death Threats’: Eric Swalwell Posts Angry Texts With Tucker Carlson

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On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) posted screenshots of an angry argument between him and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who wanted to get him on the phone for a call.

“Tucker, I’m hesitant to do that. You falsely smeared my wife on Tuesday and she’s getting death threats,” said Swalwell, referring to a retracted Fox News story alleging that Swalwell’s campaign funneled money to a business employing his wife. “That’s way out of bounds. She’s a pregnant mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Hit me all you like. But to go after her. That’s just wrong.”

“Carlson responded by calling the Democrat a ‘coward’ and then apparently phoning him a few minutes later,” reported Blake Montgomery. “Swalwell tweeted, ‘I’m just not that into you.'”

Swalwell, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has long been a target of rage for conservatives. Carlson has also accused Swalwell of aiding a Chinese spy — although experts have made clear that Swalwell in fact properly worked with the FBI to help upon learning the spy had tried to get information from him.

 

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