Archive for the ‘Editorials’ Category

nacchioOn April 14th, Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications, began his prison sentence, after a judge sentenced him to serve six years for insider trading in 2007. After a two-year period of post conviction jockeying of appeals and delays, Nacchio began his sentence at a minimum-security prison in Minersville, Pa. In addition to serving prison time, Nacchio has been ordered to pay $71 million in fines and forfeitures.

Mind you, seven-eights of a gram of marijuana earns a ten-year, maximum-security sentence. We’re are talking Oz-like hard time.

Nacchio was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading. Prosecutors said he sold $52 million worth of stock in 2001 based on nonpublic information that Qwest faced trouble meetings its sales targets. He was acquitted on 23 other counts of insider trading.

While Nacchio used private and protected information to protect his earnings, thousands of Qwest employees and other investors saw their portfolios fall to miniscule levels.

Nacchio is but the latest in a long perp walk of CEOs making astronomical sums by using insider information to make certain that they make even more. Further, what does this say about Nacchio’s contempt for his employees – many of whom had the bulk of their retirement invested in Qwest stock?

Beyond these obvious legal challenges, the question that amazes me is “how much is enough?” What do you think?

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editorialIn today’s Washington Blade, I published an editorial critical of the appointment of the Human Rights Campaign’s Rev. Henry Knox to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The council is not only a continuation but and expansion of the previous administration’s federal faith-based initiative protections. The program ignores hiring protections and is assault on the essential separation of church and state. The article is as follows:

Re: “Gay man joins Obama’s faith-based council”

In this article, the Blade’s Chris Johnson announced the appointment of HRC’s Rev. Henry Knox to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships. This is not good news for our community.

I believe that I have a relevant perspective. From 2003 to 2006, I was the knowledge manager and nonprofit subject matter expert for President Bush’s federal faith-based initiative as an employee of the federal contractor tasked with managing the program’s technical resource center. We were the lead organization providing management assistance to all organizations that received grants through the program.

During this three-year period, I witnessed tax-funded technical assistance provided by government employees — including the White House through its legal council — to grantees on how they could legally discriminate in hiring based on their particular religious predilections. I heard grantees forcefully announce that they would never hire known gay and lesbian people and have that bigotry supported by leadership at the highest levels of government. My strenuous objections to the federal project officer were ignored.

In addition to the hiring issue, the program is a clear violation of the vital separation of church and state, certainly not an afterthought by the framers of the Constitution. Instead of respecting the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, it was mocked as an irrelevant and unnecessary nuisance that could be finessed with a “wink and a nod.”

I am absolutely amazed that President Obama has not only chosen to continue the program but expand it given these very concerns about the program made by candidate Obama. I am disturbed that the president has agreed to allow federally funded religious organizations to continue discriminatory hiring on “a case by case basis.” This baits the question, “Is there ever a ‘good case’ for discrimination?”

I am amazed that President Obama has appointed 26-year-old Rev. Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister, as the program’s new director. Rev. Dubois was candidate Obama’s point person for religious outreach. Newsweek columnist Sally Quinn says that DuBois was “the person who first floated Rick Warren’s name as a possible inaugural speaker.” During the campaign, he put together the program that featured Donnie McClurkin, an “ex-gay” gospel singer who has said that “homosexuality is a curse.” This is the person that now leads this massive federal program. Sorry, but this isn’t change I can believe in!

I am perplexed that Rev. Knox would accept an appointment to the advisory council given a membership that includes such anti-gays as Frank Page, past president of the socially conservative Southern Baptist Convention, which has close ties to Exodus International — an organization that attempts to “free” gays from “homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” I am very concerned that Rev. Knox cannot help but be, and remain, a marginalized voice without any ability to impact the direction of this office. While Rev. Knox is clearly a talented and committed community member, unfortunately I see his presence as empty tokenism.

Arlington, Va.

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taxes_250x2512It doesn’t matter how long a same-sex couple has been together, come Tax Day — April 15th — they are considered single by the federal government.

Even though my partner and I have been together for 21 years, for tax purposes we are two, single and unrelated individuals. As single people, we must pretend that our finances and our futures are not intertwined and forgo access to the many economic safety nets our tax dollars help fund, such as Social Security survivor benefits, estate tax deferral when inheriting property, and the ability to file taxes jointly.

Every year, lesbian and gay people are forced to pay taxes on their partner’s health care benefits as if it were additional income. Opposite sex couples are exempt from this unfair taxation.

Even in Massachusetts and Connecticut and soon-to-be Iowa and Vermont, where same-sex marriages are recognized by the state, they are not recognized by the federal government, and all of the above injustices apply.

Gay and lesbian couples people need equal rights for equal taxes paid. There are many paths to this equality, including repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and passing an inclusive Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I urge everyone to contact their members of Congress and eliminate this discrimination today.

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pope2Pope Benedict XVI has just proven that he is not only mean but just plain crazy. During a visit to Africa last week, the pope said the use of condoms increased HIV infection rates. As someone who worked in U.S. AIDS services for ten years, we have known since the early 1980s that consistent and correct use of condoms saves lives. His remarks have been roundly condemned by aid agencies, the UN and the German, French and Belgian governments. The British publication, The Lancet, today has called for the pope to retract him comments.

But this is par for the course. When he was Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, then as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was affectionately known as “God’s Rotweiler.” Over 25 years, he orchestrated the silence of progressive theologians (e.g. Charles Curran), clamped down on liberal thought, and authored particularly homophobic pronouncements.

As Pope, he has blamed gays for the worldwide priest pedophilia scandal and sent emissaries to every catholic seminary in an attempt to rout out gays (good luck!). Just this year he lifted the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson who has publicly denied the existence of the Holocaust (You Tube video of Williamson defending his position). For me, he is no different that Iran’s Ahmadinejad who has describes the Holocaust as “ambiguous and dubious.” A little known fact is that Benedict was a Hitler Youth.

This should put a final nail in the coffin of “apostolic succession” (i.e., God selecting Benedict to continue the papal line from St. Peter), and papal infallibility. The guy is a bigot — old, out-of-touch and unilaterally irreverent.

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pepsiThe American Family Association has teamed up with PFOX to launch a boycott of all Pepsi products. They are upset over Pepsi’s support for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which the AFA claims promotes “intolerance of the ex-gay community.” Which seems very strange to me. If there is such a thing as an “ex-gay community,” it has to be among the most invisible communities in the world. Sort of like the “leprechaun community” or the “pixie community.” Besides I thought the “ex-gay community” was supposed to be the “straight community.”

Anyway, the AFA’s latest action alert, which is ironically titled, “Pepsi refuses to be neutral in the culture war,” says:

By issuing national press releases against PFOX, by organizing protests at ex-gay conferences, by publishing anti-ex-gay literature, and by opposing ex-gays equal access to public venues, Pepsi-supported Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) contributes to the intolerance of the ex-gay community, stereotypes former homosexuals, and continually misrepresents PFOX’s mission.

PFLAG is a vocal and activist homosexual group that calls those who oppose homosexual marriage “the forces of prejudice and discrimination.” PFLAG not only cheered the California Supreme Court’s ruling on May 15 which legalized same-sex marriage, it was also vociferous in its opposition to Proposition 8, the ballot initiative which restored traditional marriage in California on Election Day.

By funding PFLAG, PepsiCo and its shareholders help promote fear and hostility against the ex-gay community and other heterosexuals. PepsiCo is the leading corporate sponsor of PFLAG.

The AFA wants its members to call Pepsi’s corporate office to complain, and they want their members to call their nearest Pepsi bottling company. From what we hear, Pepsi is being bombarded with nasty phone calls.

So let’s all call Pepsi (914-253-2000 or 1-800-433-2652) and tell them we appreciate their support and their refusal to bow to anti-gay extremists. The boycott also extends to other PepsiCo products, like Frito-Lay (800-352-4477), Quaker Oats (800-367-6287), Tropicana (800-237-7799) and Gatorade (800-884-2867).

Source: Box Turtle Bulletin

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dadtThe time has long since come to reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 ban against allowing gay and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces. Further, President Obama made a campaign promise to reverse this discriminatory policy. And to those who claim that our country’s attention is better focused on our current financial challenges, I state that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

The arguments against allowing gay and lesbians to serve openly in the military were the very arguments made against admitting blacks and women in the U.S. military. Yet, after these bans were lifted, the armed services had no problem incorporating either group. There is no reason to believe that this would not be the case for gays and lesbians.

We are fortunate to have excellent comparative data from other countries that support the acceptance of gays and lesbians into the U.S. military. Most Western military forces have removed policies excluding open gays and lesbians. Of the 26 countries that participate militarily in NATO, more than 20 allow open lesbians and gays. A recent University of California study reports that in these 20 NATO countries, unit cohesion, performance and morale did not suffer because of the presence of open gay service members.

Of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, two (United Kingdom and France) allow gays and lesbians to serve. Countries that do not allow gays to serve openly are China, and Russia; certainly these countries would not be our model for social policy. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows gays and lesbians to serve openly. Again, these countries have had no difficulty incorporating gays and lesbians into their military.

Outside of outright bigotry, there is no reason to continue the ban against gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military.

For those interested in an excellent study of this important issue, Dr. Nathaniel Frank has just authored an excellent book, “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.”

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editorialThis term, I am teaching MBA students in Florida every other weekend. This requires a two night stay-over at a hotel. Last Saturday night I was channel surfing and came across a fascinating interview of Frank Schaeffer by D.L. Hughley. Frank Schaeffer was the son of Francis Schaeffer, arguably the founder of the Religous Right.

The younger Schaeffer is author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back). In the book (and in the Hughley interview below), he talks about the hijacking of the Evangelical movement from a focus on faith to that of a political movement that become destructive, judgmental, and myopic. I found the interview phenomenal and have started reading the book.

To provide a flow for the book, here in a March 1, 2009 Huffington Post blog, Schaeffer stated:

The Republican base in now made up of religious and neoconservative ideologues, and the uneducated white underclass with a token person of color or two upfront . . . on the TV to obscure the all-white, all-reactionary, all-backward — there-is-no-global warming — rube reality. Actual conservatives, let along the educated classes, have long since fled.

You can read his “Open Letter” and view the Hughley eight-minute interview: here.

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