Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Climate Change Deniers – The New Truthers?

Nothing staggers and irritates me more than the ignorance of people who want to ignore climate change.  The folks who say “Hey, it’s snowing in Texas, global warming must be a big lie” stagger me because they’re just so stupid.  Never mind the fact that climate and weather aren’t the same thing, or the fact that bizarre weather patterns stem from unusual temperatures in parts of the oceans, it’s just ridiculous that these people have decided that massive heaps of peer-reviewed science are somehow “junk” because the contrived nonsense pumped out by deniers says so.

It’s funny, because one of the standard nonsense arguments that theists like to bring up when I get entangled with them is something called “Pascal’s Wager”.  The argument basically considered the possible outcomes of choosing to believe of not believe in god, against the possibility of god ecisting or not existing.  Pascal basically made the argument that if you believed in god and he didn’t exist, the consequence was basically nothing, but if you didn’t believe, and god did exist then the consequences were disastrous.

In a theological debate, the premise is a little ridiculous, it doesn’t hold any logical basis, though I’m sure for many people it’s reason enough to keep faith.

I saw a video a while ago which basically translated Pascal’s Wager to the climate change debate.  There’s four possible outcomes.  It’s either real or not real, and we either act or we don’t.  If it’s not real and we don’t act, that’s great.  If it’s not real and we act, well, we could still potentially benefit a great deal from developing new technologies and ideas that still conserve resources, make for cleaner air, etc.  If it’s real and we act, we could greatly improve our lives and possibly save ourselves as a species.  If it’s real and we don’t act – well, the results will be determined by just how severe the reality is.

The reality is that most of the changes we would need to make to address climate change would benefit us in the long run by conserving non-renewable resources like oil, natural gas, and coal.  The fact is that burning these fuels has a variety of negative environmental consquences besides CO2 production that we know to be altering the climate, as well as things likes the pH of seawater.  I say we know this because it is fact, supported with piles of research.  Burning oil releases sulphur and nitrogen oxides which create smog and acid rain.  Coal burning produces those, but also emits things like mercury into the air.

So what happens if we act to reduce those emissions?  Well, we have to come up with a way to do so – and cap & trade is one method suggested.  This sort of thing isn’t really new – I remember back in Costa Rica when I was there in 1998 that carbon offsetting and trading was being discussed then – primarily as a means to support ecologically-minded charities’ efforts to buy up rainforest tracts to preserve them.  There’s of course the argument that India & China won’t play along – but this to me is sort of a variation of the “tu quoque” fallacy.  They won’t play along, why then should we?

Ultimately, I don’t believe that not playing along gives a great competitive advantage.  Just because some other nations won’t play along right away doesn’t mean that there’s no point in trying to do so.  The fact is, as well, that the kind of advancements we can make to improve out ecological impact will likely lead to new job, new industries, to progress.  It is an inescapable fact that the “old” economy of much of North America, the manufacturing economy as we knew, is mostly done.  No longer can we expect to lead in manufacturing of simple goods – cheaper labour abroad in places like China have made that clear.  We can’t base an economy on selling hamburgers and haircuts to each other, either – so it’s clear at least to me that if we want to continue to enjoy prosperity we need to seek opportunities to strike out into new fields.

I’m looking forward to building a new home in the next few months, and putting much effort into using new technologies to make it more efficient.  As planned for now, we’ll be building an R2000+/LEED home, roughed for solar power/water heating (though I won’t be able to put it in right away), using a heat pump rather than conventional HVAC, etc.  My criteria is that the investments I make have to be ones that will actually provide a cost benefit – so no wind turbine as my research suggests that it’s not currently a benefit, but I think we’ll be able to do a lot of good.

I want this technology to be available – and I want to see my neighbours developing it and profiting from it.  That’s why we need to get to work on the problem, instead of trying to obfuscate and decate what is becoming more and more obviously fact.

Incidentally, if you’re a climate change skeptic, Canadian Senator Grant Mitchell, who’s an avid Twitter user, sent out this link from the Pembina Institute that inspired this whole post.  It’s well worth a read: http://climate.pembina.org/blog/71

Trying to clarify some issues for people…

I made the mistake, apparently, of trying to explain why allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines in the United States isn’t likely to fix the US healthcare mess.  I have never, ever met someone quite as ignorant as this guy, quite honestly.  I mean, this man just doesn’t get it.  Doesn’t understand that insurance markets do not operate like garden variety markets for good and services.  So I decided to try, via Twitter, to give the guy a crash course in insurance and basic healthcare economics.

So I started out by trying to explain the concept of adverse selection.   In simplistic terms, adverse selection is a market failure that comes from the way pricing works in insurance works.  A decision to buy insurance weighs one’s perception of the potential cost of the insured risk against the cost of the insurance.  Insurers set their prices based on statistical models on covering their potential losses .  They try very hard to determine how much of a risk any particular insured peril is.  Consider, then, a market for insurance – a community.  Insurers will have an idea of how much on average their healthcare will cost in any given year, and base their premiums on that sort of a model (I’m grievously simplifying, but just to illustrate the concept!)

Now, suppose in our market, some people smoke and some don’t.  The cost for care for those that smoke will likely be higher.  What could happen is that the price of the insurance will reflect this, and those people who don’t smoke might therefore assess the value of the insurance not to be worth the cost.  They might then decide not to buy insurance – or what could happen is another entrant to the market might show up, and offer insurance just to those non-smoking people for a lower cost.  For our original insurer, they have a problem – their average cost is going to rise because the best risks are no longer in their risk pool.  This can cause a vicious circle whereby only the higher risks remain in the pool and costs soar.

Something similar to this is what caused the end of the community rating system that was originally used by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield system in the United States – new entrants cherrypicked out the best risks and drove costs up. 

So, what’s this got to do with the cross state line idea?  Well, let me try to explain.

The savings would most likely come from differences in what’s required to be covered in various states in the the US.  Different states mandate different conditions be covered in different jurisdictions.  Ultimately, you’ll get cheaper insurance, because you’ll get covered for less.  The buyer essentially gets exactly what they pay for, after all.

Remember what I said about cherrypicking?  Well, suppose you’re in a state with relatively lax mandates.  You can offer very cheap coverage to young, healthy people for the simple reason that you don’t have to cover much and the risk to you as an insurer is low.  Your clients are generally healthy and you can fairly accurately model their risks for the relatively few perils you cover.  That’s great for young, healthy people who don’t see a need to carry much insurance.  However, if you’re older, or sicker, or considered a higher risk, you’ll see your costs likely soar, because those healthy folks are being poached out of the overall risk pool.  That’s a lot of people who’ll see their costs rise, potentially.

What about those savings?  Well, consider that in 2005 the US Congressional Budget Office studied that.  What’d they find?  Well, here’s the study: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=6639&type=0  Take a look at the fifth paragraph.  Here’s what it says:

“In general, health insurance that includes coverage of mandated benefits will cost more than it would if those benefits were not required. In aggregate, this estimate assumes that if only those benefit mandates imposed by the states with the lowest-cost mandates were in effect in all states, the price of individual health insurance would be reduced by about 5 percent, on average.”

Five percent.   That’s it.  Five percent.  Some magic bullet that is.

There’s another great argument for why it won’t work.  I’d go on about it, but it’s done better on another blog: http://healthpolicyandmarket.blogspot.com/2009/12/selling-health-insurance-across-state.html  Summarizing, insurers get their cost efficiencies from the networks they establish in their markets.  Without those networks, there’s not likely to be much cost advantage.  I’ve got no personal experience with this “in-network” nonsense, every single healthcare provider in Canada is my network, at least as far as my provincial medical insurance goes.  So you might by that cheap cheap policy from another state, but where will you be able to get the service?

Basically, I’m not going to write a dissertation on the subject, but I could.  The aim of this posting is to highlight the fact that insurance markets aren’t so simple as to suggest that this approach will actually address the problem.  The reader needs to go and do their own research, and maybe if I get the inclination I’ll flesh out more of this.

On Miranda, Terrorism, and Liberty

Much debate lately about the fact that the “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was read his Miranda rights after his arrest on Christmas Day for trying to blow up an aircraft on its way into Detroit from Amsterdam. I’ve watched gleefully as the most foolhardy discussions around this issue have unfolded. It was even a campaign ad issue in the Massachusetts Senate election, brought up by Scott Brown. And the fact that there’s a debate about the issue is laughable in so many ways that I don’t even know where to start.

The most obvious place to depart from is the origin of ones rights in the United States of America – the Constitution, specifically the Fifth and Sixth Amendments thereto. The rights we associate with the Miranda warning derive specifically from the Fifth Amendment’s protections from self-incrimination. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy public trial, the right to face one’s accusers, the right to legal counsel, etc etc.

The debate as I’ve seen it seems to suggest two glaring misconceptions exist amongst many people. The first is the idea that the rights affirmed in the United States Constitution apply only to U.S. Citizens. The second is that by reading Abdulmutallab a Miranda warning, investigators “gave” him rights he wouldn’t otherwise have, or somehow afforded him some special privilege he would otherwise not have had. These are both completely, utterly, demonstrably false, and the parroting of these assertions has disturbing implications for those of us who value civil liberties dearly.

Let’s debunk the first assertion. The best way I’ve seen this done is to suggest an alternate scenario, and the best one I’ve seen is to suppose that a Canadian tourist in New York City is arrested for shoplifting in a souvenir shop. Being a non-citizen, would he then have no entitlement to legal counsel, no right to remain silent, etc? Of course not. In fact, if you look at the Miranda warnings used in states along the US border, they actually add on to the “standard” warnings by including the right to consular access. The reality is that anyone arrested on suspicion of a criminal act within the jurisdiction of the United States of America is entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights. One’s citizenship is irrelevant.

This argument then goes to the “enemy combatant” discussion fairly quickly – the idea that these folks aren’t criminal suspects but rather “unlawful enemy combatants” and therefore not entirely to legal protections with which we’re all generally familiar. Again, this comes down to jurisdiction. Under US law, an aircraft bound for the United States are considered “special aircraft jurisdictions of the United States”, according to Section 46501(2)(A) of Title 49, United States Code, and Section 31(b) of Title 18, United States Code. That means that the enemy combatant status is not applicable – unless it’s set out by a legal/judicial process.

That process was used in the case of Jose Padilla, who was eventually returned to the criminal justice system, convicted therein, and imprisoned. This result came only after a series of legal battles over the legality of the declaration. The logical and rational person has to ask, then, “Why?” Why go through a complex series of legal hoops to declare this status pointlessly, when the criminal justice system is more than suitable to deal with the heinous acts alleged in the indictment. This guy is bound for prison for a very long time, anyhow.

The answer seems to lie in the idea that without according Abdulmutalab the rights that it seems clear he is entitled to, the people criticizing the process think that the US Government could somehow override any right he has to maintain silent. Presumably, they are advocating torture in some form – I can only think of “Ve Haff Vays Off Makink You Talk”. Given the international revulsion over allegations of torture, the wide body of evidence that suggests it doesn’t extract information that is accurate or valuable, and the fact that it defies the very ideals the United States is supposed to stand for, you can see why this is a disturbing idea.

Never mind that, Adbulmutallab is talking anyhow. Why? Because of good, old fashioned leverage. The FBI brought his family in to talk to him, and they have convinced him to be a little more forthcoming with information in the hopes that he might earn some mercy at the hands of the courts. This information, obtained though cooperation rather than coercion, will likely be much more valuable and useful than anything that could be waterboarded out of him.

So I think we’ve thus debunked the second assertion now, that the acknowledgement of the man’s rights somehow impeded the obtaining of actionable intelligence.

The thing of it – the part that seems to escape these people – goes back to principles. I’m reminded, somewhat tangentially, of Martin Niemoller’s view – he overlooked the offensive acts of the Nazis when they didn’t directly affect him, and when they did, there was no one really left to stand up for him. Those who believe that liberty is sacred cannot abide the trampling of others’ liberties, even if those people are distasteful in their acts and words, because to do so sets the precedent that the same fate could befall them. The United States’ entire foundation for its Weltanschauung is that it is a land of liberty and justice for all – a land where freedom is paramount. Those ideas are being attacked under some insidious pretenses and those attacks are being defended by those who claim to want to protect them. Standing idly by is not an option.

Expanding On Comments On Teabaggers

When I started using Twitter I was immediately very absorbed by the #tcot group and it’s more radical subset, #ocra. These are the arch-conservative types. Amusingly enough I always used to think myself pretty conservative, and by Canadian standards, for the most part I am. My views generally fall on the side of personal initiative, of free markets, and so on – but having studied economics with particular emphasis on public finance and healthcare being themes I enjoyed, I understand that there is a crucial role for governments to play in the economy, because markets are not perfect.

The study of economics pays close attention to these shortcomings of markets and studies how and why they work. Many of them are applicable to the issues brought out in US political debates raging now.

It seems among many American right wingers their ideal is a small, nearly non-existent government. The irony in my view is that they want this small government which will barely tax them, to do a lot of particularly expensive things. Like wage wars abroad against those they perceive to be enemies of America. In testament to this, consider their attitude toward Iran currently. Look also at their continued attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq whose cost was staggering, both in blood and treasure, for no discernable purpose except perhaps to line the pockets of the defence industry who are generally speaking in bed with politicians.

I could spin off on all sorts of tangents from here, about the basics of guns vs butter (an elementary economic study in tradeoffs), or about the rather ominous idea that all the kerfuffle about Iran, Israel, and the Middle East is rooted in the bizarre apocalyptic fantasies of religious nutcases in the US, but I’ll try to stay out of the weeds there.

The common theme amongst the disenfranchised right wingers, at least those on the internet, seems to be a perception that their country has been stolen from them by the current administration, whom they seem to want to blame for the current budget mess the US faces, the massive debt the US owns (which they rather aptly refer to as “generational theft”).  Of course, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that the current US administration in fact inherited the budget mess in large part from its predecessors, and more importantly, they don’t seem to have much to offer in terms of alternatives.

This has been illustrated to them numerous times.  One of the best examples I happened to hear the audio of on CNN – Rick Sanchez interviewing Judson Phillips, the fool in charge of the Tea Party nonsense in the States.  You can watch it here: http://vodpod.com/watch/2988674-tea-party-profiteer-downplays-bushs-fiscal-mess-before-throwing-him-under-the-bus–  If the link doesn’t work – Google what I did: “Rick Sanchez tea deficit” and choose the second link.  This is the kind of thing I observe from most of these conservative types – their vitriol is based on misinformation from the get-go, so it’s to be expected that their arguments are unsound.

(As an aside, while scouring YouTube for the clip, I found a lot of videos by the excellent Canadian band The Tea Party – one of my favourites)

In any case, I’ve tried to see the arguments that these folks are trying to make from their point of view.  So repeatedly, I ask them to identify what specifically their gripes are, and more importantly, how they see they can be addressed better.  To the date I’m typing this I’ve not seen anything particularly substantive.

The argument often starts with “returning to Constitutional government” or something like that.  Of course, that’s not an answer in itself, and leads to me asking for a specific example of how the current administration has deviated from the rules of the US Constitution (which I’ve read rather thoroughly, repeatedly, and read plenty on its interpretation), and I get nothing but vague comments about bailouts (well, TARP happened during Bush’s watch, and I don’t really see how any other option was possible), or more nonsense about healthcare reform that shows they don’t really have a clue.

The fact that seems undeniable is that there’s a racist undertone to the whole thing.  I’m not saying those who support the Tea Party “movement” are racists merely by virtue of supporting the movement, nor that the movement itself is outright racist, but there’s a lot of racist rhetoric coming from their “grassroots” movement that utterly discredits whatever it is they might otherwise be trying to say.  And it’s not as though there’s a plethora of minorities involved.

The other thing they keep talking about is taxation.  US taxes are already quite low, particularly given the size of the US budget and unfunded liabilities.  And more than that, I fail to see how tax cuts will get any real traction for the economy currently.  While it is reasonable and economically sound to state that lowering taxation will increase disposable income which should theoretically stimulate the economy by increasing consumption spending, there’s a good argument to be made that it has a low likelihood of working for two reasons: first – most of this disposable income is likely to go to dealing with the tremendous amount of household debt carried by Americans.  Paying off interest on credit cards isn’t stimulative.  Secondly, for those who aren’t drowning in debt, it seems that there’s been an increase in savings rates – perhaps it’s some manner of uncertainty about the economy (and perhaps it’s being fuelled by the shilling for gold that’s common on TV and radio in the US, particularly on right-leaning outlets), but it seems like savings rates in the US are rising.  (source:  (source: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/PSAVERT ) Putting money in the bank is also not stimulative.   The jury seems to be out on whether the “stimulus checks” of 2008 accomplished any meaningful stimulus – I can find a myriad of sources arguing both sides – but I know that if someone sent me a cheque for $1000 or some other amount – I’d be using it to pay down my own debts, not to buy more stuff.

So the debate gets onto massive deficit spending that started before Obama took office.  In my view, Keynesian ideals about spending one’s way out of recession are logical and reason in certain cases – if the spending is investment in future competitiveness.  Spending money as Canada has on building roads and other infrastructure projects, on schools, hospitals, retraining, etc is good.  I’m not panicked about the deficit our government is running currently because it’s not structural in nature,  and the money is going to projects which generally are both necessary and will give a long-lasting economic benefit.

I haven’t really looked in detail at what the stimulus money has been going to in the US but it does seem like it’s controversial at the very least.  There’s an argument to be made there about accountability – but again, that in and of itself isn’t a good condemnation of the Obama administration, and without any sort of clear alternative presented, I always have to circle back to “what would you prefer to happen?”

No one has really answered that yet – and until they do – in a reasoned way, I’m going to have to dismiss them for the most part.

Insane Right Wing Paranoia

Insane paranoid ideas aren’t anything new among right wingers in the USA.  They’re coming out in full force again though lately, and if it wasn’t dead serious stuff, it’d be pretty funny.

A few weeks ago, someone sent me this link: http://www.eutimes.net/2009/12/prepare-for-rebellion-obama-orders-us-canadian-troops/comment-page-1/ which claims that 3700 Canadian soldiers were massing in Barstow, California, to quell an expected rebellion.  Now, the real reason those troops and their equipment was headed to Barstow was much less insidious – they are Task Force Afghanistan 1-10 – the next rotation of troops headed to Kandahar in a few months.  I was actually hoping to be on that Roto but fate had other plans for me.

This kind of thing isn’t really new – in the 1990s, an old soldier friend of mine told me, a bunch of Canadian Army vehicles painted white with UN markings were shipped down to the States to complete some training for a deployment, probably to Croatia.  Some insane militia types in the US believed it was an invasion by the UN (which of course has no standing military or means to accomplish such a thing, never mind motivation to do so!)

Now, I have no real idea what the “EU Times” is, the website is US-based, and seems to be chock-full of nutty articles, with a vaguely anti-Semetic and racist undertone.  Not really something I’d consider legitimate journalism.  However, it’s stuff posted on the net, and apparently people read it.  And probably give no critical thought to the idiocy of the article.  Why would Obama need 2700 Canadian troops (to whom he has no authority to give orders, incidentally), what impact would they have on a state with a population that I think is as large as Canada’s?

Some of this stuff then ties into the longstanding conspiracy theories about the existence of  of massive interment camps, like are described here: http://www.sianews.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1062 which is even funnier.  It refers to “concentration camps” being set up on military bases in Canada.  It’s like someone looked at a map of Canada and decided remote communities with the word “Fort” in the name are military bases.  They claim Halifax, Nova Scotia is one such site.  Pretty laughable, overall, but again, it’s nutty.

Then today AlterNet ran this piece from Mother Jones: http://www.alternet.org/news/145590/a_conspiracy_theory_about_a_secret_police_force_has_ignited_a_firestorm_of_right-wing_paranoia which really encapsulates the whole thing.  The INTERPOL thing was pretty laughable (and MJ highlights just how stupid Glenn Beck’s tirades about it really were), and it seemed to roll out of the nonsense about Obama’s comments on a destire to have a civlian national security force as well funded and capable as the military.  When you write it as Civilian National Security Force, it suddenly sounds like a new separate organization, which is  not actually what Obama was talking about – he was referring, of course, to making sure that law enforcement organizations were funded adequately to do their job.

I guess the paranoid set is a good market to target, because there’s so many people into it – Alex Jones, Hal “I swear this Amero coin is real” Turner, and so on.  It’s just insane ideas being spread without basis and it seems as though the internet just makes it easier to spread lies and make them look like truth.  Too few people critically analyze what they’re reading, the axiom of “it was on the internet, it must be true” is still holding very true, moreso now with the fact that the folks who like to parrot this stuff have their ideal archenemy in office in President Obama.

I just hope it stays as a comedic sideshow, not reality…

About Guilty Pleasures & Enlightenment

Everyone has those weird things they do from time to time that are inexplicable. Sometimes they aren’t even pleasurable yet we do them anyhow. I’m no exception to the rule in that regard. I have a few such traits. I bite my fingernails, particularly when I’m bored or anxious. I used to smoke but gave that up ages ago, and it wasn’t even that hard – but I’ve bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and it’s something I’ve never been able to stop doing. Even though it’s a nasty habit, it’s readily apparent to others I do it, and from it I derive no actual pleasure, more like inconvenience and occasionally pain from going to far.

I have another such nasty habit. One that gives me an actual measure of enjoyment in a sick and inexplicable way. From time to time I’ll listen to talk radio – especially insane religious radio – or when I’m in the car that has XM I’ll sometimes listen to the audio feed of FauxNoise. I make my wive cringe from time to time on the drive home from work when I throw my favourite talking head buffoon on, the incomparable Glenn Beck. Actually, there is worse, I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh while travelling in the US, but Beck on satellite radio is more than sufficient most of the time.

With religion radio the pleasure seems to derive from the smug feeling I get listening to people who are brainwashed, some kind of Schadenfreude like feeling of superiority that atheists cannot help but feel from time to time. Sometimes I listen to get myself angry at the bullshit propaganda they spread, too.

It comes in handy occasionally too. Yesterday I was engaged by an individual who started recounting verbatim Beck’s screwy history of the world with respect to the gold standard replete with his Beck’s opinions and errors. Saved me some time by cutting to the chase a bit.

Every now and then Beck says something that’s actually insightful but the problem he has is the one that plagues all teabaggers I’ve heard from: they assign the blame incorrectly, and while they are adept at finding problems, they offer no workable solutions.

That’s where I guess I derive the pleasure -from being able to support my position by knowing that for all the complaints they have yet to propose any sort of answers.

It’s Time To End Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Today, apparently, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be in front of what I believe is called the Joint Armed Services Committee to start the process of scrapping the US military’s policy which prohibits gays from openly serving in the Armed Forces.

There is an irony to it as I understand, in that when Bill Clinton’s administration brought in the policy, ostensibly to be somewhat socially progressive, they replaced an easily withdrawn executive order with actual legislation that is much more complicated to do away with.

The policy just makes no real sense. Even those people who are gay who serve honourably and silent about who they are can have their career ended if outed by their peers. Scores of intelligence specialists, linguists, and decorated people have been discharged from the military under the policy at a time when those people are fairly crucial to US national security.

The arguments made to keep the policy seem overwhelming silly to me. I was a few months ago perusing the website of the “Center For Military Readiness”. The name is misleading, it’s some sort of religious organization whose sole concern is DADT.

One of the major claims is that repealing DADT and allowing LGBT people to serve openly would lead to an exodus of people from the military. Even if the surveys making the claim were real and stood up to scrutiny, which is apparently debatable, I suspect how some would answer and how they would actually act are two different matters entirely.

I remember having a discussion on the issue years ago with a crusty old Warrant Officer (which, in US Army parlance, would equate to a Platoon Sergeant or a Sergeant Major). He laughingly told a herd of young officers his take. He said, “First, they let women in and I thought that was bad, that I’d quit as a result. And I didn’t. Then they decided to let women into the combat arms and I said that was where I’d draw the line. But they came and I stuck around anyhow. Then they told us they were going to let gays in and I said that was it. But I never got around to quitting then either. But I’ve drawn my line in the sand now. As soon as they make it mandatory to be gay – that’s when I’m getting out!”

The anecdote is telling. Even in an organization that tends to lag social policy people adapt. Members of the military value what they do more than just getting a paycheque. They won’t quit en masse because of a change which quite realistically will have next to no impact on their lives.

The fact is there will be people who will be uncomfortable with the change – but being in the armed forces means being able to cope with adversity and soldier on. The only thing that needs to be happen to allow repealing DADT to succeed is that leaders need to do their jobs and lead. The reality is that most who serve couldn’t care less: they care that the person beside them can do his or her job, not what they go home to or do in their private lives!

As I write this in fits and starts I’m looking up info on Elaine Donnelly, who fronts the farcical Center for Military Readiness. One of her better claims is that “civilian activists do not understand or respect the culture of the military.” Funny enough, she has never served, making her one of those civilian activists. Her claims get more and more ridiculous from there.

The fact is, most of the US’ allies and many other professional military forces outside of NATO make no such ban. In fact, most integrate women more fully as well, though the treatment of women in the US military is a whole series of other problems that jezebel.com and various other sites address very well.

I don’t see why something like sexual orientation should be an issue. If someone wants to serve the country they love and has the talent to do so, that should be the sole defining factor. The fact that those who want to keep DADT or replace it with some manner of stronger ban have to resort to ridiculous arguments to justify their views shows just how untenable their positions are. Take a look at the arguments – what if any of them makes rational sense?

Good luck today Mr. Gates. It’s good to see some movement on this issue. It’ll be a small victory President Obama can be proud of.