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What 2009 Taught Me About 2010

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How To Make Good Use Of A Bad Year And A Bad Decade

It seems appropriate that 2009 would be a terrible year, to top off a terrible decade. Eight years of George W. Bush & Co. ensured much of the first decade of the twenty-first century would be terrible, but I don’t think many foresaw just how bad it was going to get  – and that’s lesson number one.

We pay our leaders in large part, not to “predict” the future, but to see the potential pitfalls and to steer us clear from them. And yet, time and again our leaders croaked, “No one could have predicted…”

At the start of this year, commenting on an interview former Vice President Cheney gave, Jon Perr in “Cheney Defends the “Nobody Could’ve Predicted” President,” summed Bush & Co. up nicely:

“Cheney deflected blame for the calamity on Wall Street and the deepening recession by declaring, “nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure that out” and “I don’t know that anybody did.” Then, Cheney magically converted failure into a virtue and ignorance into a shield in explaining away the Bush presidency:

“No, obviously, I wouldn’t have predicted that. On the other hand I wouldn’t have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneous run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the near collapse of the financial system on a global basis, not just the U.S.”

At every turn, of course, voices both inside and outside the government warned a Bush administration asleep at the switch.”

Yes, many had warned Bush all along the way of what could happen. But he ignored them all, and the world in which we live today is the result of his ignorance and denial.

As I said, we pay our leaders to see the potential pitfalls and to steer us clear from them. The trick is in finding the right leaders, leaders who have enough wisdom and insight to look into the future and steer the ship of state through the right waters – not necessarily the calmest – but the right waters.

As a community, we haven’t done a very good job of this. The LGBTQ community is about as diverse and fractured as any group out there today. As a result, we suffer infighting, lack of an agreed common purpose – heck, we can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, much less what our priorities are. Leadership? That’s a far-off dream. What we need right now, more than anything, is a uniter – someone who can harness the best of who we are and enable us to meet to achieve some shared goals.

We don’t have that in HRC, the Task Force, the ACLU, or even our grassroots organizations. As much as the National Equality March in D.C. literally brought together thousands of people from our community, it was equally in effective in pushing members of our community apart.

And so 2009, despite our wins, was also a year of great loss. We won marriage in Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and just recently, Washington, D.C. And we lost marriage in California (Prop 8 supreme court decision,) Maine (repeal of marriage law,) New York (38-24 Senate vote,) New Jersey (decision to not vote.) By my count, that’s five wins and four losses. As much as it feels like at least we had a stellar year in marriage, we really didn’t.

Did we at least win hearts and minds? Well, it feels like we did, a little, but the numbers say, not really. And, certainly, not enough.

However you slice it, we still have a lot of work to do to win hearts and minds – and that’s lesson number three.

Elsewhere, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act finally was signed into law. Sadly, just two weeks later, the murder and decapitation of a Puerto Rican teenager, whose Governor refused to label a hate crime demonstrated clearly the need for the law.

Passage of ENDA, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, along with repeal of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” appear stalled. Nancy Pelosi has declared there will be no “controversial” legislation taken up by the Houise in 2010, so seeing these pillars of modern gay rights goals stalled is at best, disheartening.

The Democratic Party is not our friend. Not by my definition of what a friend is. At best, we can call the Democratic Party a “fair-weather friend” – there when they need us, not there when we need them. And right now, we need them and they’re not answering the phone.

This is lesson number three – know who our friends are, and reward them appropriately.

Obviously, lesson number four is the opposite: know who our enemies are. Let’s just call them Maggie & Co. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM,) along with those hate icons (that blogger Joe.My.God lets you vote for the worst!) like Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera, along with Tony Perkins. And so many more. Like the C Street crowd. And Rick Warren.

The point here is we need to stand vigilant and ready to counter all their lies, hate, and misinformation. This is critical, and I have dedicated myself to this task. I hope you’ll join me this coming year in confronting their attacks.

So, what did 2009 teach us for 2010?

  • Look to the past while protecting the future. There will be many more attacks against us and the narrow victories we have achieved. We need to never say, “No one could have predicted.” Someone always predicts. We need to listen and be ready to take action.
  • Choose the right leaders and work toward uniting along common goals and issues.
  • Keep fighting to win hearts and minds – regardless of how hard it gets.
  • Identify and support our true friends.
  • Identify, stay vigilant, and battle our enemies to protect our rights, our reputation, and our future.

Stay safe, have a Happy New Year, prepare, prepare, prepare.

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Burn Bags and Use of Personal Email: Justices’ Security Practices Even Worse Than Leak Investigation Showed

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Supreme Court employees raised security concerns that were not made public when an internal investigation was completed following the leak of a draft opinion reversing abortion rights.

Multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations told CNN that justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive communications, employees used printers that didn’t produce logs and “burn bags” to collect sensitive materials for destruction were often left open and unattended in hallways.

“This has been going on for years,” one former employee said.

Some justices were slow to adopt email technology — they were “not masters of information security protocol,” according to one source — and court employees were afraid to confront them over the security risks.

Supreme Court marshal Gail Curley in her investigative report noted that printer logs intended to track document production were insufficient, but a former employee said employees who had VPN access could print documents from any computer, and remote work during COVID-19 shutdowns and otherwise meant draft opinions could have been taken from the building in violation of court guidelines.

Curley’s report noted that court methods for destroying sensitive documents should be improved, but three employees said striped burn bags supplied to chambers were often left sitting out unattended, and each justice had their own protocols for disposing of court documents.

A source familiar with court security practices said some colleagues stapled burn bags shut, while others filled them to capacity and left them near their desks, and others simply left them sitting in hallways where anyone with access to non-public areas could have taken sensitive materials.

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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

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Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

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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.”

READ MORE: George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

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 ticketed 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.

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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