Category Archives: gays in the military

National Memorial Day Concert on the Washington DC Capitol Lawn

 

Although I have attended many July 4 Mall events in Washington DC, I had never attended a Memorial Day Concert.

Two of the early speakers, including an actor, described the Doolittle Raid following Pearl Harbor, flying over Japan and landing in China.  That was the topic of the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor” with Josh Hartnett and Ben Affeck (directed Michael Bay).  I saw it in Minneapolis, but it was shown when I was working as a substitute teacher, so I saw the raid twice.

Another speaker talked about recovering from traumatic brain injury and leg amputations from an IUS in Iraq. He said he had undergone over 70 surgeries.  His wife had been by his side.  I can not imagine myself in an intimate relationship that carries through something like this.  The call it necessary resilience.

Another speaker spoke about the Tuskegee airmen (the movie “Red Tails”, 2012, directed Anthony Hemmingway, with Cuba Gooding)).

Renee Flemming led a singing of “God Bless America”, a favorite of Ronald Reagan, and even Kate Smith back in the 1950s.

The National Symphony Orchestra played a march called “Commemoration” by Robert Wendell.

PBS link for concert.

Dolittle Raid (or Tokyo Raid).

1  Pearl Harbor

2  Pearl Harbor Pt 2

3   Red Tails

4   God Bless America

5   Colin Powell calls for volunteers to help wounded veterans as a moral duty   (Powell (author of “My American Dream“), as JCS Chairman had opposed Bill Clinton’s lifting the ban on gays in the military in 1993, but gradually changed his views, winding up with “don’t ask don’t tell” which would be repealed under Obama in 2010-2011.)

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(Posted: Monday May 29, 2017 at 12:30 PM)

Proposed video series (for web or for cable): “What in Life Is (or Should Be) Free”?

I have thought that there ought to be a documentary film about the Open Access issue, and that I could add something to it.

But I would be able to add more to it if the concept were expanded to cover the entire topic of “Free Content”, which has become a practical expectation for consumers and speakers since the mid 1990s with the Internet, especially with the development of modern social media.

I think this concept would work better as a cable series for a channel like Discovery on A&E or even HBO.

So I have to narrow down the concept and unify it.

Part 1

Back around 2012, Reid Ewing had produced a web series of three videos with Igigi Studios called “Reiding”, with the three films called “It’s Free”, “Free Fish”, and “I’m Free”. I don’t know why they are not available now. But the first of the films was set in a public library and set up the exploration of the question “What in life is free?”   It would be possible (after negotiating copyright licenses) to introduce the series with these films, of at least the first one.

The very existence of public libraries suggests that we think some basic knowledge should be “free”. That extends to the idea that public education should be offered to all minors (even immigrants), which is controversial with some conservatives. But even the idea of school choice could be seen as ratifying the idea of education as a basic human right (so that’s one episode).

I think a good title for this series, then. Should be “What in Life Is Free?”

Part 2

We also have to contend with the way people are used to getting knowledge. It has typically been passed down through familial (often patriarchal), religious, and political hierarchies. The use of propaganda by authoritarian leaders (which Vladimir Putin openly admits in defending Russia’s 2013 anti-gay “propaganda” law) presumes that the public and the masses aren’t capable of discerning “truth” for themselves. The use of religious scriptures, and the objection of religious leaders to challenges to interpretation of scripture, dates from a time when science could not explain a lot of things and when people depended on a “priesthood” to get knowledge for them from “God”.

I experienced some of this pressure as a young boy, when I would challenge my father’s authority based on things I had read, even in reference books lying around the house (like on medicine). I started to question why boys had to do dangerous and risky things. My father would complain “you read”.

Yet, a lot of this reference information was sold in a conventional way, through middlemen. We bought our set of World Book Encyclopedias, in 1950, from a door-to-door salesman (remember those colorful state relief maps, no longer published). Later, when I was taking piano, we bought a Sherwood Music School course from a similar salesman.

Part 3

My own narrative fits in best here, because the availability of “free knowledge” increased with the evolution of self-publishing.

Here would fit the entire narrative of the self-publication of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book (in 1997), originally motivated by the lowering cost of desk-top publishing (book self-publishing through “subsidy publishers” had been known since the early 1970s but had been a very expensive and usually not successful process). I would start placing my content online, and by mid 1998 I was “competing with myself” by offering the book free in simple HTML online.

I did sell out my first printing, and went to POD (print on demand) publishing (with iUniverse) in 2000. But it was the online availability, for free, that allowed me to become known and for my own unique arguments on how to deal with the ban on gays in the military (“don’t ask don’t tell”) to become effective in the growing debate. It was the way search engines (not just Google) worked, at the time giving advantage to very simple sites like mine, that became relevant.

Eventually, years later, I would be pestered by my self-publishing companies about actually getting serious about selling books in physical stores (helping people keep their jobs, Trump-like) or directly from me, rather than just through Amazon and BN online (including just from Kindle and Nook).

Part 4

Several legal developments had the potential to affect self-publishing in this mode. The first was the Communications Decency Act, or Telecommunications Act of 1996. The controversial censorship sections were struck down in 1997, but one portion, Section 230, actually helped the Internet along by shielding Internet service providers (and later publishing platforms) from potential secondary liability.

Congress would try to pass a more “acceptable” censorship bill with the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA). Working through Electronic Frontier Foundation, I became a plaintiff challenging it; eventually prevailing (after two Supreme Court cycles) in 2007 in a trial for merit in Philadelphia.

In the meantime, a parallel concern over copyright infringement followed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, with the safe harbor provision that protected intermediaries (in 230-like fashion) from downstream liability for copyright-related accusations.

I developed an online presence in concentric fashion, covering most policy topics from a libertarian perspective, with simple HTML and free search engine exposure (indeed, to quote Reid Ewing, “It’s free!, it’s free!”)

Important concepts along the way were how web hosting companies work, and how domain name assignment works.

Legal risks for speakers include possible frivolous litigation: SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against pubic participation), which can cause the speaker to spend money defending the self against vindictive claims; copyright trolls (like Righthaven), and possibly trademark litigation over domain names (which is not the same problem as patent trolls).

Part 5

A major development in the “free content” model was modern social media. Originally email list servers had served a social media function in the 90s, but then came Myspace, and then Facebook (with Instagram) and then Twitter. Originally social media (with the idea of “friends” and then “followers”) was intended to build somewhat closed social circles online, but gradually some of them migrated to alternative blogging platforms with news aggregation, morphing eventually into the “fake news” area where some people tend to receive only news that fits their own bubbles.

Blogging platforms (like Blogger and WordPress) were somewhat intermediate, first emphasizing the idea of “followers” but gradually (especially WordPress) migrating into content management systems.

On the other hand, some social media services tended to facilitate harmful and dangerous exploits. These included not only conventional viruses and scams (like phishing) through older email platforms, but also cyberbullying and child pornography distribution, and even terrorist recruiting. But most of the terror recruiting followup occurs on “the dark web” in encrypted fashion on offshore servers, away from the reach of common user-friendly social media. In the days right after 9/11, there was also fear that amateur sites could be hacked by terrorists to spread messages through steganography.

Small businesses, especially “bricks and mortar”, giving personal services (especially contractors), and even some medical providers, would rebel against consumer review sites for unfavorable reviews, as driving them out of business.   Individual consumers would be hit with frivolous suits, although the review sites were protected by Section 230.

Part 6

A related development all these years (from about 1996 to now) was the gradual evolution of network neutrality. The concept was arguably necessary to prevent telecommunications companies from charging some content publishers more than others to be hooked up to their networks. In practice, the hookup has always been “it’s free”, even for amateurs. Trump’s new FCC chairman could undo network neutrality practices put in by the Obama administration in 2014, but it’s unclear how much difference this would make. Are “fast lanes” like “toll lanes” on Interstate highways?

Part 7

The logical outcome of what I had developed was free web references, most of all Wikipedia, which was created in January 2001. The documentary could examine how “volunteer” and “amateur” writers and editors can provide a reliable “free” online encyclopedia (which does not allow advertising but which does ask for contributions An important concept in Wikipedia is “notability”: how does one properly get a page created to make oneself known.

Other competing “compendiums” were proposed, which would require more peer review before publishing. Encyclopedia companies had to fight back.

In parallel came the development of “open source” software, even including the browser Mozilla.

Part 8

The most “publicized” controversy in the “free content” area would occur with what we call “open access”   This development focused mainly on peer-reviewed science and medical (and sometimes social science) journals, compared to the amateur, non peer-reviewed content covered so far.

The most famous case, of course, is the tragic history of Aaron Swartz (the film “The Internet’s Own Boy”). Aaron’s “career” had started with an attempt to make PACER court documents, which arguably should be free and public domain anyway,, but then exploded when he downloaded illegally some JSTOR server documents.

Science journals were built around a business model of high subscription prices. It has gotten to the point that university libraries can’t afford all of them. Recently, some government agencies, like NIH, have enforced agreements requiring release of peer-reviewed papers to public domain after about one year. It’s unclear if this would continue under Trump.   Likewise, some foundations (as with Bill Gates) require open access.

Younger scientists need access to peer reviewed science documents. Jack Andraka, who developed an inexpensive pancreatic cancer blood marker test for a science fair, has written about the problem. Although he could arguably have gotten a subscription through a university (like Maryland), he argues there is a catch 22: he could not have gotten far enough in his early research to convince a university to give him one, without open access.

Overseas, Alexandra Elbakyan (from Kazakhstan) would start “Sci-Hub”, as a compendium of papers, and attract litigation.

I’ve covered the Open Acesss issue on a legacy blog here.  See especially April 2, 2015 (Jack’s toga Ted talk),   Here’s another account of Jack’s arguments.

Does the “Tragedy of the Commons” apply to Open Access? Not really.

Part 9

Another controversy in the “free content” area is the hard times that newspapers have find competing online, especially keeping print profitable   Paywalls are conceptually the same devices that science journals use, but for ordinary news content are normally much cheaper.

Many newspapers have gone to paywalls for their online subscriptions, and this idea is catching on with more local papers, which would make local news harder to get. However broadcast networks and news sites have generally remained free and depending on advertising.

Over time, consumers have often become irritated at online advertising, and have installed “do not track” tools, which often come free by default with modern browsers. Many consumers click less often on ads than they used to, which would make one wonder about the ad-based business model (derived from broadcast network television) which made so much free content – most of all user-generated content — possible.

Part 10

Still another controversy has played out more in Europe than in the U.S. – “the right to be forgotten”. Since news stories about obscure people remain indexed online, people have claimed the right to demand that search engines remove these references after a certain amount of time, to avoid trivial small incidents from affecting their lives.

The “right to be forgotten” goes in hand with another concept called “online reputation”, which started to become trendy around 2006, with companies (like Reputation.com) offering to help people maintain their online impressions.

(Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST)

Kristin Beck (Lady Valor) speaks at AGLA Christmas Party

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Kristin Beck (author of “Warrior Princess” and subject of the CNN film “Lady Valor”) spoke tonight at the Christmas party for the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I see that I have footage from her speaking to AGLA at the Arlington VA library Nov. 25, 2014, too.

Here are the clips. I have to admit my attempt to wide-screen them on the cell phone backfired. Later I’ll figure out how to rotate them in the embed statement. For now, just play in YouTube and rotate the smartphone 90 degrees/

1 (Introduction)

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(Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 9:30 PM EST)

A Capitol Fourth, 2016: Clips, with some surprising political retrospect

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It started with a chain dance, not exactly a Virginia Reel from the old days of straight singles clubs.  Before, a couple of brothers played a game of mistaken identity on Capitol Hill.

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Then Colin Powell gave a speech appealing for the USO, which entertains troops, often at some sacrifice by performers.  Now the USO comes up in the 1999 film “Southpark” when “Big Gay Al” mentions it (before blaming Canada);  he made an allusion to my book and the military DADT at the time.  In fact, Powell, as Chariman JCS, first opposed President Clinton’s 1993 plan to lift the military ban on gays, but gradually accepted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” which Clinton announced July 19 that year at Ft. McNair.

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Besides the closing of the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, the National Symphony played the “Liberty Fanfare” by John Williams:  Two brief clips (the second is the ending)

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(Posted: Monday, July 4, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

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Also: Fort McNair in Washington DC (site of Clinton’s DADTDP speech)

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Films about gays in the military: Hollywood could do much more with this theme

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It’s logical to have expected activity in the film world over the issue of gays in the military.  Most of the films have been small, and there may have been missed opportunities.

One of the oldest was a television film, “Matlovich vs. The U,S. Air Force” on NBC in 1977, about Tech Sgt. Leonard Matlovich.

One of the first important Clinton era films was “Serving in Silence” on NBC, about the case of Washington National Guard colonel Grete Cammermeyer, as played by Glenn Close.  I remember a scene near the end where the Army  JAG lawyer for the government describes her as a fine person.

There was talk in the 1990’s that there would be films about both Joseph Steffan and Keith Meinhold, but they did not come about.

An important film about tension within the ranks. would be “Any Mother’s Son” on Lifetime, in 1996, about the murder of gay sailor Allen Schindler, from the Belleau Wood, by off-duty sailor Terry Helvey in Sasebo, Japan, in 1992, a killing that was in the same league as that of Matthew Shepherd.

In 2003, Showtime aired “Soldier’s Girl”, the tragic story of a solider (Barry Winchell) who fell in love with a trangendered person (Calpernia Adams) and was bludgeoned to death by unit mates, at Fort Campbell, KY.

In 2008, Johnny Simmons produced an important documentary “Ask Not” giving the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy,

There is a similar film in 2009 by Tom Murray, titled “Tell”, having mostly interviews of soldiers, and attorneys including Dixon Osburn.

Ned Farr’s “A Marine’s Story” presents a lesbian kicked out of the Corps telling her backstory as she trains a delinquent girl with tough love.

“Out of Annapolis”, by Steve Clark Hall, presents gay alumni of the Naval Academy.

In 2012, Marc Wolf produced the film “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Snag Films, his monologue based on his play “Another American: Asking and Telling”, which I had seen at the Studio Theater in Washington DC in April 2000.

The best history film on the policy is probably “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato) on HBO, airing in October 2012.  The film did a particularly good job of distinguishing between the “privacy” issue and “unit cohesion”, which is a bit more subtle.

And there is the one hour history “Do Ask, Do Tell: The Documentary” on YouTube by Ali Sue.

There are many films in the past that have tangentially brushed the issue of gays in the military, including the 1929 silent classic “Wings” set in WWI, and even “A Few Good Men” in 1992.

Books about gays in the military, and the history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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In view of the content of my own books, it’s useful to survey the major books on gays in the military, including the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which was effectively passed into law at the end of 1993 and officially repealed in 2011.

The basic reference was by journalist Randy Shilts, “Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military”, originally published by St. Martins in 1993, and reissued, slightly updated, in paper by Fawcett Columbine in 1994.  Really, this is a history of gays in the US military, all the way back to the Revolutionary War, up to the beginning of DADT.  A critical time came in 1981, just before President Reagan took office, when the Pentagon came up with the notorious “123 words” (“Homosexuality is incompatible with military service” and the following litany or word salad), and a uniform absolute ban on gays in all the services, technically including the Coast Guard and Surgeon General corps.  Shilts also gave a history of the Vietnam era, when the Army had to try to stop men from claiming homosexuality to get out of the draft.  Shilts included a case of a man thrown out of a civilian college in Illinois in 1995 (officially “flunking out”), getting drafted and discharged again.

There was also a “book” by the Rand Corporation, the official study commissioned by Les Aspen in the Clinton Administration, “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy”.  The book surveyed many other countries, including Canada, Britain and particularly Israel, before concluding that “sexual orientation was not germane to assessing fitness for military service” and recommending a “code of military professional conduct.”

But the really interesting books were the autobiographies by the individual gay and lesbian soldiers who had to deal with the ban

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The best of all of these books was “Honor Bound: A Gay Naval Midshipman Fights to Serve his Country”, by Joseph Steffan, from Villard (Random House) in 1992.  I actually bought this book at a signing party at Lambda Rising in Washington in September of that year and met the author, I read it in one night and couldn’t put it down.  It woke me up.  Steffan was about to graduate third in his class in 1987 when, in a bizarre set of circumstances, he was outed, and did tell the honor board and cadre that he was gay, and was denied graduation.  He had many accomplishments, such as signing the National Anthem at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.  He did a summer cruise on a submarine without incident, and was apparently quite skilled at chess.  There was a great line in the book: “Personal honor is an absolute. You either have or do not have honor”.  For all its importance, I’m surprised that this book is no longer in print and seems to be available only from resellers.

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Marc Wolinsky and Kevin Sherrill authored “Gays in the Military: Joseph Steffan vs. The United States”, Princeton University Press, supplements Steffan’s book with all the legal papers.

Mary Anne Humphrey authored an anthology of cases “My Country: My Right to Serve” (Harper Collins), again, pre-DADT.

James Hollobaugh, in “Torn Allegiances” (1993, Alsyon) told the story of his life as an ROTC cadet.  Discharged after outing himself, he was pursued for recoupment of scholarship monies. One of the most harrowing passages, though, occurs in civilian life when he gets lost in a blizzard in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina (yes, it gets cold there).

Soldier of the Year: The Story of a Gay American Patriot”, by Jose Zuniga, 1995, Pocket Books, is the story of the Sixth Army Soldier of the Year who enlisted at Fort Bliss in 1989.

Serving in Silence” is the story of Grethe Cammermeyer, to be covered in another posting.

Rob Graham’s “Military Secret”, published in Dallas, was a first-person account of Desert Storm.

One of my favorite later books is Reichen Lehmkuhl’s “Here’s What We;ll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force“., from Carroll Graf.  By clever manipulation, Reichen survived his four years at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and graduated.

Of special interest as Scott Peck’s “All American Boy” (Scribner, 1995).  Peck was the gay son of a Marine Corps general who opposed lifting the ban and who hosted a radio talk show about gay rights on Sunday nights in 1993.  He one time had a discussion with Frank Kameny on his program about security clearances for gays.

There were books by men in civilian fields similar to the military. There was Frank Buttino’s “A Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI”.  Mr. Buttino describes his meeting with the closety J. Edgar Hoover, and his own relationship with a gay sailor, who never was discharged and served without incident.

There are a couple of books by gay atheletes:  “The Dave Kopay Story”, and then Esear Tualo’s “Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL”.  There is also Mark Tewksbury “Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock”, by a Canadian Olympic swimmer (sorry, that means “all that body shaving”).  And there is Greg Louganis, “Breaking the Surface.”

My own “Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” (1997) inverts the usual story, where I was thrown out of a civilian college (William and Mary) for admitting homosexuality in 1961, then took the draft physical three times and eventually was drafted in 1968 and “served” two years without incident.  But Shilts relates a somewhat similar incident at one point.

We should mention John Barrett’s “Hero of Flight 93; Mark Bingham: A Man Who Fought Back on September 11

Regarding the history of the Repeal, I recommend Aaron Belkin and the Palm Center (at UC Santa Barbrara), “How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’” on Kindle.  Previously Belkin had authored “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military” (2003).  I met with Dr. Belkin at his office in Santa Barbara in February 2002.   Another book of important is Nathaniel Frank’s “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America”  (2009). Vincent Cianni will publish a photographic book “Gays in the Military” April 30, 2014.