Saturday, March 28, 2009

Whatever Happened to Usury?

Repealing Usury Laws
During Reagan Years Created
Current Debacle

Columnist Joe Galloway has it pinned down in this recent column:

Road To Ruin: Usury, greed And The Paper

In Edna Ferber's 1925 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "So Big," a cultured woman spends her life doing hard physical labor on a rural Illinois farm so that her son can go to college and land in a fulfilling profession.

But when her son abandons a career in architecture due to its low pay and joins the soulless but lucrative world of bond trading, his mother asks with disappointment and contempt: "What is this you sell in that mahogany office of yours?"

This could be the question for America. What have we been selling for the last 30 years?

We've built trillion-dollar enterprises on nothing more than huckstering newer and more esoteric financial products. Ephemera, as it turned out. Beyond that, we don't make much anymore.

There are a multitude of reasons for this, including the one that everyone instantly points to: globalization. But as Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan writes in April's Harper's magazine, there is one factor that has rarely been mentioned but looms larger than most of the others: the legalization of usury.

In 1978, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively released banks from state interest rate caps. In Marquette National Bank vs. First of Omaha Service Corp., the court said that Minnesota could not enforce its usury law against a credit card issued by a Nebraska bank. The National Banking Act of 1864, the court said, allowed banks to lend at interest rates set by the state where the bank is chartered, not where the loan is made.

This meant those reasonable state limits of 9 percent or thereabouts went out the window as states repealed and loosened usury laws in order to give their banks competitive advantages. Interest rates on credit cards soon spiked.

As profits for these companies soared, there was a corresponding shift in the way capital flowed. Manufacturing, with its modest returns, was thrown over for the more robust returns of the financial sector.

All that capital flooding into financial institutions led to new ways to package investments; and so were born ever more exotic securities, derivatives such as credit default swaps, and even bets on the future of futures. According to Geoghegan, the "notional" value of these bets in 2007 was $516 trillion.

This great diversion of wealth meant that rather than invest in American businesses that might make something the rest of the world would want to buy, diversifying our wealth and providing good middle-class jobs, capital went into buying paper.

At the same time, without interest-rate caps, lenders had incentives to offer people more credit than they could reasonably afford. No longer was a credit-worthy borrower the best customer. The bigger profits were made when credit card companies could charge 25 or 35 percent interest on an account that was only intermittently paid off.

For payday lenders, interest rates could reach annual levels of 500 percent or higher, as long as the borrower was kept in a cycle of perpetual indebtedness.

Unhinged consumerism with its corresponding dark temperament of irresponsible borrowing was encouraged, since it added to the financial sector's healthy bottom line.

But with our withered manufacturing base, the American buying spree wasn't going for domestically made goods. We were buying from China and the rest of the world. Not only were we not investing in our own workforce, we were taking on personal debt as well as national debt in the form of a ballooning trade deficit.

We see where this tragic trajectory has led. Our economy has been hollowed out by a financial sector that helped to stifle manufacturing. Honest pursuits, as Geoghegan calls the production of goods, could not compete with the profits of finance once legal constraints on usury were dismantled.

Now we sit among the piles of nearly worthless paper and discover that there is nothing real undergirding our economy. We invested in electron-swaps rather than in people, good jobs and innovation.

Usury has been a known evil since Babylonian times, yet we allowed it to revive and flourish. And so paved our path to ruin.

Today in Gay History

Happy Birthday March 28th!
Jane Rule (1931-2007)
Lesbian Novelist/Activist

Image: Jane left,
Helen right

Though dealing forthrightly with lesbian and gay subjects, the novels and criticism of Jane Rule are deliberately nonpolitical in their commitment to diverse communities and a range of experiences.

Rule was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on March 28, 1931, the daughter of Arthur Richard and Carlotta Jane Rule. In 1952, she earned a B.A. in English from Mills College and then, for a year, studied at University College, London. In 1956, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia; from 1976 onward, she made her home on Galiano Island. She became a Canadian citizen in the 1960s.

An open and out lesbian, Rule was best known as a fiction writer. Her awards included the Canadian Authors' Association Award for Best Novel (1978), the Benson and Hedges Award for Best Short Stories (1978), the Literary Award of the Gay Academic Union (1978), the Fund for Human Dignity's Award of Merit (1983), and the Order of Canada (2007).

Rule's book of criticism, seven novels, and numerous short stories and essays address lesbian and gay issues to varying degrees, most often by presenting them as universal concerns. Though typically outcasts, her characters do not belong to a subculture; whether queer or straight, they participate in what she calls the human family, whose members' task it is to learn to get along with one another.

The cultivation of nurturing relationships and communities in the wake of obtrusive social "systems" is a predominant theme in her work, as is the appreciation for landscape and nature, which some critics have called a particularly Canadian motif.

Rule's first novel, Desert of the Heart (1964), recounts a lesbian love story via conventional Christian images and narrative strategies. By invoking and subverting representations of gender and sexual taboos from such canonical texts as the Bible, The Divine Comedy, and The Pilgrim's Progress, the two protagonists of this coming-out novel explore the significance of their involvement.

Self-consciously literary, Desert of the Heart offers an affirming, insightful, and optimistic depiction of lesbian love, one rare indeed in pre-Stonewall fiction. Dedicated to Rule's life partner Helen Sonthoff, the novel was made into the 1986 lesbian cult film Desert Hearts, directed by Donna Deitch.

Rule shared a 45 year committed relationship with her lover, Helen Sonthoff.
After Helen's death in 2000, Jane wrote a painfully beautiful meditation on grief that appeared in Go Big, another publication (now defunct) from Pink Triangle Press (publisher of both The Body Politic and Xtra). "Learning to survive is, at first, simply a series of distractions which begin with a love/hate relationship with everything Helen loved, from daffodils to children's laughter, from Christmas to lima beans. I don't now try to make sense of that loss. I learn to make use of it instead. The house I prepared for Helen's broken hip, to which she never returned, now shelters a friend badly hurt in a car accident, a friend about whom Helen used to say, 'Just seeing her face makes me feel better.' It does me, too.

"Risk, grow, grieve," Rule continued. "Helen's like will not walk this earth again, nor I love like that again, but the care I learned is useful still for all she and I learned to love together."

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Planet are They From

Dispatches from the Alternative Right Wing Universe

Anonymous Liberal wrote a few days ago:

John Hinderaker at Powerline recently wrote the following about Barack Obama:
Everyone knows that Barack Obama is lost without his teleprompter, but his latest blunder, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via the Corner, suggests that the teleprompter may not be enough unless it includes phonetic spellings. [Obama apparently mispronounced the name of the company "Orion"]

So evidently we have to add astronomy to history and economics as subjects of which Obama is remarkably ignorant. I'm beginning to fear that our President has below-average knowledge of the world. Not for a President, but for a middle-aged American.
If that alone isn't enough to make your head explode, here's what the very same John Hinderaker had to say about our previous president:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
The alternative universe that these folks manage to create for themselves is really quite something to behold. In their world, a man who was the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review and a constitutional law professor at a top law school is some sort of empty suit who is incapable of thinking or expressing a coherent thought without a teleprompter. A man who spent much of his childhood in Indonesia, has travelled extensively overseas, and who, by all accounts, is an avid student of foreign policy is some kind of ignoramus who knows nothing about the world.

But a man who was notorious for his struggles with the English language, who achieved everything in his life by virtue of his last name, a man who admittedly had no interest in foreign policy and had traveled nowhere prior to becoming president . . . that guy is worldly beyond measure, a "man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius."

What's really sad is that Hinderaker is not alone in this belief. If you read the right wing blogs, it's just an accepted fact that Obama is a moron. It's as if they think that if they say it over and over again, it will somehow catch on with the public at large. The problem with this meme, of course, is that it's so easily disproven. No one who watched Obama give his hour long prime time press conference last month--where he gave lengthy professorial answers to every question asked--would entertain for even a moment the suggestion that he is stupid or unknowledgeable or incapable of speaking without a teleprompter. The right wing blogosphere might as well be trying to convince the public that Obama is white.

But in the up-is-down world of the right wing echo chamber, anything goes, no matter how dumb.


Happy 49th Birthday
Renato Russo
(March 27,1960-
October 11,1996)

H/T to qlbtq and wiki

One of Brazil's most popular rock singers, Renato Russo challenged homophobia in his homeland by coming out as a gay man.

Russo was born Renato Manfredini, Jr. on March 27, 1960 in Rio de Janeiro. His mother taught English as a second language, and his father was an economist with the Banco do Brasil. When Russo was seven, the family moved to New York in connection with his father's job.

The Manfredinis remained there until 1975, when they returned to Brazil. The same year Russo was stricken with epiphysiolysis, a rare bone disease that left him unable to walk. He spent the next two years undergoing surgeries and other treatments before he recovered his mobility. During this time Russo began dreaming of starring in a rock band. He invented the surname Russo for his rock persona as an homage to the artist Henri Rousseau and philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Bertrand Russell.

The young musician did not achieve instant success in that field. Instead, he worked as an English teacher, a radio programmer, and a journalist.

His musical tastes were eclectic and included the Beach Boys, the Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. When punk rock arrived on the scene, Russo, influenced by such groups as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Eddie and the Hot Rods, formed his own band, Aborto Eléctrico ("Electric Abortion") in 1978.

The group reorganized as Legião Urbana ("Urban Legion") in 1979. In 1985 they contracted with EMI Records and immediately became Brazil's top band. This ascendancy occurred, as Ernest S. Barteldes wrote, "despite the fact that its other three members couldn't play very well." The public, he stated, was more interested in "Russo's poetry and his fine baritone voice."

Other Brazilian musicians rushed to cover Legião Urbana's songs.

Concert tours by the band proved dangerous because of the passion the group excited. Riots erupted at shows in Brasilia in 1986 and 1988. One person died as a result of the former, and numerous people were injured at the latter.

Russo had not yet found the courage to come out as a gay man in his homophobic native country. To salve his pain and depression at having to live with the deception, he turned to drugs, including heroin.

In a 1990 interview with the Brazilian magazine Bizz, Russo was more forthcoming. He acknowledged his homosexuality. His honesty caused him to lose some fans in the short term, but his popularity soon rebounded.

During a trip to New York the same year Russo fell in love with an American, Robert Scott, who went to Brazil to live with him. They remained together for two years.

When they met, both were addicted to drugs. Russo checked himself into a treatment program in late 1990. Freeing himself of his dependence was difficult, and he underwent another regimen of treatment in 1993.

After several more albums with Legião Urbana, Russo released his first solo disk, The Stonewall Celebration Concert, in 1994 in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York. The album included English versions of some of Russo's favorite songs, as well as tunes originally written in English, among them "Say It Isn't So" by Irving Berlin and "If You See Him, Tell Him I Love Him" by Bob Dylan. A large portion of the profits went to charity.

Russo's next album, Equilibrio Distante ("Distant Balance") (1995), sung in Italian, was a great success. It won the singer new fans and launched a fad for Italian music in Brazil.

Legião Urbana released a long-awaited new album, A Tempestade ("The Storm") in 1996. Fans hoped for a tour, but none occurred, as Russo died of AIDS-related causes on October 11, 1996 just weeks after the album was issued.

Russo had suspected as early as 1990 that he might have the disease but was initially reluctant to be tested for it. When he learned that he was indeed infected, he shared the news with only his parents and a few close friends. They guarded his secret, and so, although his physical decline led to some speculation that he might have AIDS, the general public did not learn of his condition until the announcement of his death.

In his last few weeks Russo stopped taking the "cocktail" of drugs that had been prescribed for him. The medication was causing him great pain, and he knew that the end was near. He remained in his apartment, where he died with his father by his side.

Among Russo's survivors was his then seven-year-old son, Giuliano Manfredini, who is being raised by Russo's parents. Another secret that the family is keeping is the name of the boy's mother.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baby Steps

Lesbian named chief judge of U.S. Claims Court
Hewitt is married Episcopal priest
By LOU CHIBBARO JR. of WashingtonBlade

The White House announced Monday that President Obama has appointed a prominent lesbian attorney and ordained Episcopal priest as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Emily C. Hewitt, 64, has been serving as one of 16 judges on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since President Clinton appointed her to the post in 1998.

Hewitt’s elevation to Chief Judge on the court does not require Senate confirmation. The Senate confirmed her 1998 appointment to the court.

A biography of Hewitt on the court’s web site says she is married to Eleanor Dean Acheson, a nationally recognized gay rights attorney who served as an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration. Acheson, who was out as a lesbian in the Clinton administration, later worked as director of public policy and government affairs for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

With so many recent appointments of superbly qualified gay and lesbians Americans by President Obama to high offices, it is finally beginning to feel like we’ve finally turned the page on the dark days of the Bush administration.


And then, there's this 180 degree turnabout in recognizing that GAY STUDENTS exist and need to have a voice:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has told a gay student advocacy group that he intends to make schools safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Duncan made the pledge during a meeting with representatives of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and a delegation of students and teachers.

It is the first time that a Secretary of Education has met with LGBT advocates. The Bush administration rejected calls to meet.

“It was moving to witness these students and teachers sharing their personal stories of pain, rejection, resilience and hope with the nation’s top education official,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard who attended the meeting.

“Secretary Duncan showed great compassion for their experiences, respect for their perseverance and dedication to identifying effective responses to school climate issues. I am confident that we will see growing engagement with these issues at the Department of Education and truly positive change.”

Duncan also expressed an interest in finding ways to highlight the problem of bullying and harassment in national discussions about education, and requested further data on a number of proposed interventions.


Equality survives a Popular vote in Gainesville Florida March 24th 2009!

"GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Voters have turned down a measure that would have stripped Gainesville, Fla.'s anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents."

"With all precincts reporting Tuesday, the vote was 58 percent against changing the law."

"A group, Citizens for Good Public Policy, had sought to replace the city's protections with the Florida Civil Rights Act."

"The act does not include anti-discrimination laws to sexual preference or gender identity."

"The winning group, Equality is Gainesville's Business, says the allegations played on the public's fears and the changes were merely an attempt to remove protections from Gainesville citizens."


Today in Gay History

on March 26, 1974
Bella Abzug (D NY)

introduced on March 26 a bill in Congress to amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on "affectional/sexual preferences."

It goes nowhere, but makes quite a


Even today. Rest in Peace, Bella!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who are the Real Culprits?

H/T to Têtard: for link to

by Thom Hartmann

Whenever a politician or commentator bloviates about the brokers at AIG who are getting bonuses, we should all be remembering Lynndie England and Charles Granger. AIG brokers are to the financial meltdown what England was to the Iraq war.

Certainly she did things that were deplorable. But she thought they were legal (England, operating under orders to "soften up terrorists," even thought she was helping defend our nation). And to the extent that John Yoo's memos were law, arguably her actions were legal (although the Bushies never wanted it tested, so threw them to the wolves).

But the important point is that the real criminals of the Iraq War were not those like Lynndie England: they were George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld (and their neocon buddies).

. . .But the real criminals of the AIG mess - and the entire financial meltdown that was set up between 1999 and 2006 and crashed starting in 2007 - were Grover Norquist, Phil and Wendy Graham, Tom Delay, and, sadly, Bill Clinton.

The philosophy that it's possible to bomb people into democracy and torture them into being on our side drove the Bushies. It was wrong, flawed, and frankly insane, and we're paying a huge price for it.

Similarly, the philosophy that playing the game of business and investment without rules (the technical term is Laissez-faire Capitalism) has driven our government since the election of Ronald Reagan, and went on steroids during the last two years of the Clinton administration and throughout the Bush administration. It's equally wrong, flawed, and insane, and we're paying a multi-trillion dollar price for it not unlike we are for the war.

The intellectual forefathers and mothers of the insane conservative economic policies that have brought us to where we are include Ludwig Von Mises, Freidrich Von Hayeck, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Tom Freidman, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Ayn Rand. Phil and Wendy Gramm pushed through the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Act (which allowed banks to get into the gambling business) and the Commodity Futures Moderinization Act (also known as "the Enron Loophole"), and Bill Clinton merrily signed them into law.

But just as it's inconvenient to hold the defense contractors and the senior politicians responsible for the Iraq debacle, and instead blame it on Lynndie England, our sound-bite corporate media prefer to focus on a few IAG traders, instead of the people who made what they did both possible and legal.

. . . Instead of passing a 90 percent tax that is limited to the traders, let's be realistic. Ever since Ronald Reagan rolled back the top marginal income tax rate on millionaires and billionaires from 74 percent to 29 percent, our government has been disastrously in debt, sliding deeper each and every year (the so-called "Clinton surplus" was a mirage created with phony numbers, although it was still a hell of a lot better than what we have now).

. . . Grover Norquist suggested it would force government to become so small it could be "drowned in a bathtub," leaving the corporations in charge. George W. Bush actually, finally, made it happen.

Thus here we are, ten-plus trillion dollars in debt, and trying to blame our problems on Lynndie England and a few traders at AIG.

Let's call out and name the real criminals, and get about the simple and straightforward solutions of putting our country back together.

Roll back the Reagan tax cuts that have done so much damage over the past 28 years. Pull out of insane trade agreements. Re-regulate banks so they're functionally public utilities again. Give oversight to the SEC on all forms of speculative investment and bring back the .25 percent STET tax on each unit of investment vehicle traded.

None of this is rocket science. From 1937 until Ronald Reagan began his wrecking-ball efforts at the stability and solidity of our nation's economy, we didn't have a single bank panic. Reagan dropped income tax rates and the almost immediate result was a bubble and crash in the stock market followed by the S&L crisis, which has been repeated over and over again with startling regularity ever since (just as they were during the 150 years preceding Roosevelt putting into place the regulatory structures and high marginal income tax rates of the New Deal that stabilized us).

Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower embraced a 91 percent top marginal tax rate on millionaires and billionaires and strong regulation of banks, including the STET tax, and the nation prospered.

It's time to return to sanity and quit swatting at the little guys, while the real criminals and thieves walk away with our nation and our wealth.


Happy 62nd Birthday
Sir Elton John
Commander of British Empire

b. March 25, 1947

H/T to Wiki and qlbtq:

Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947) is an singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and philanthropist.

In his four-decade career, John has been one of the dominant forces in rock and popular music, especially during the 1970s. He has sold over 200 million records, making him one of the most successful artists of all time. He has more than 50 Top 40 hits including seven consecutive No. 1 U.S. albums, 56 Top 40 singles, 16 Top 10, four No. 2 hits, and nine No. 1 hits. He has won Grammys, an Oscar, Golden Globes and a Tony.

During the mid-1980s, John developed a close friendship with Ryan White, a teenage hemophiliac who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. White attracted international attention when he was barred from his Kokomo, Indiana middle school in 1985. John not only befriended the courageous young man but also provided financial help and emotional support for White's family.

Ryan White died on April 8, 1990. John had dedicated "Candle in the Wind," the song he and Taupin had written as an elegy for Marilyn Monroe, to Ryan at the Farm Aid concert in Indianapolis the night before Ryan's death. In a touching performance, he reprised the song at White's funeral.

John, along with talk show host Phil Donahue, was also instrumental in helping Ryan's mother Jeanne White start up the Ryan White Foundation for the prevention of AIDS. In 1992, John also established his own non-profit group, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has, to date, contributed more than $25 million to various AIDS causes worldwide. John also announced that all royalties from his singles sales would henceforth go to AIDS research.

John announced, in March 2004, that he would marry David Furnish, his partner of 11 years, because "I would like to commit myself to David," but also because of President Bush's proposed constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. As John stated to the New York Daily News, "Bush's anti-gay marriage stance gave me the final push down the aisle I needed."

On December 21, 2005, the first day in which same-sex couples were permitted to enter into civil partnerships in Great Britain, John and Furnish exchanged vows in Windsor's Guildhall in the same room where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were married earlier in the year. The union of John and Furnish brought enormous attention to Britain's new civil partnership law and provided John an opportunity to denounce the homophobia that prevents the recognition of same-sex couples in other countries.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keynesian Economic Balance and Justice

Jeffery Sachs of the Huffington Post had this insight recently under the title

Capitalism and Moral Sentiments:

. . .The fascinating thing about this greed is that it is so deeply ingrained that neither the bankers themselves nor our economic leadership understands just how disgusting and dangerous it is. Even after the music stopped, to use Chuck Prince's now famous simile, the bankers keep dancing - with our money. They continue to grab billions of taxpayer dollars (in Merrill's case) or at least hundreds of millions of dollars (in AIG's case) with giddy abandon, in full view and with a straight face. And our economics officials declare that this is unavoidable or too dangerous to curb. Contracts are sacred, unless of course it is union contracts, in which case we should demand that wages and benefits be cut as conditions for government help.

The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history's most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don't matter in the great matters of finance.

Here is how Keynes famously described the "psychology" that propelled the first successful era of global capitalism in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Herein lay, in fact, the main justification of the capitalist system. If the rich had spent their new wealth on their own enjoyments, the world would long ago have found such a régime intolerable. But like bees they saved and accumulated, not less to the advantage of the whole community because they themselves held narrower ends in prospect . . . The capitalist classes were allowed to call the best part of the cake theirs and were theoretically free to consume it, on the tacit underlying condition that they consumed very little of it in practice. The duty of 'saving' became nine-tenths of virtue and the growth of the cake the object of true religion.
Understanding the need for a moral code in the economy will enormously help the economics leadership not only to weather the storm of outrage that has rightly hit Washington and Wall Street over Wall Street's rampant and continuing abuses, but also to fashion -- finally -- a successful solution to the tottering banking system. The stalemate over banking has arisen because the economics team has been unwilling to take on the bank shareholders and management. It now reportedly plans to clean up the banks' assets through a new alliance of hedge funds and taxpayer dollars. That simply won't happen. The public won't tolerate such games for another round. The public won't accept more money going into financial bailouts until the banks are clearly being run for public benefit, not for the private gain of undeserving shareholders, management, and traders. America will not right itself until it regains a moral compass in economic affairs. That will require a new generation of financial leaders who will forswear the abuses of the past generation of Wall Street leaders. The faster that the economics team and Congress heed the public call for simple justice and decency in financial matters, and the more rapidly that translates into a true Wall Street clean up, the faster will come the economic recovery.

Today in Gay History

Happy 66th Birthday
Col. Margarethe


(b. March 24, 1943)

Credit qlbtq

The highest-ranking official in the United States military to acknowledge her homosexuality while in the service, Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer successfully challenged the military's policy banning homosexuals prior to the implementation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." She served a number of years in the Washington State National Guard as an open lesbian.

. . . In 1961, to help pay for her education, she joined the U.S. Army and signed up for the Army Student Nurse Program. She received her B. S. in Nursing from the University of Maryland in 1963.

After college, Cammermeyer reported for active duty and completed basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, following which she spent an additional six months at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia. Once trained, she was stationed in Nuremburg, Germany.

[Later, her distinguished career as an Army Nurse took her to a tour in Vietnam. Along the way, she married while in service, and "retired" when she had children. She returned to service after divorcing and after the military ended the policy of prohibiting mothers from serving. She served during the 1980s as a command nurse in the National Guard in several states, rising though the ranks.]

In 1987 Cammermeyer was promoted to the rank of Colonel. In 1988 she became the Chief Nurse for the Washington State National Guard. She also returned to graduate school at the University of Washington to complete her Ph.D. in nursing.

In 1989 a routine interview for a security clearance prompted her to respond to a question about homosexuality by saying, "I am a lesbian." In the past year, a developing relationship with a woman named Diane, who is now her life-partner, helped her fully accept her sexual orientation.

Unaware of the precise policy regarding gays and lesbians in the military, Cammermeyer answered honestly. In so doing, she inadvertently set in motion an investigation and discharge proceedings.

The investigation moved slowly, and during this time, Cammermeyer continued to serve, with many of her colleagues and commanders fully aware of her sexual orientation. The administrative discharge hearing did not occur until June 11, 1992, when she was honorably discharged from the military, in spite of the board's recognition that she was "one of the great Americans."

Cammermeyer and her attorney filed suit in civil court challenging the decision. In June 1994, Judge Thomas Zilly of the Federal District Court in Seattle ruled the policy banning gays and lesbians from the military unconstitutional and ordered Cammermeyer's reinstatement.

Pentagon officials appealed the ruling and requested a stay of the decision, initially blocking Cammermeyer's return to uniform. Ultimately Judge Zilly and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied these requests, and Cammermeyer returned to her position in the National Guard. In March 1997, she retired with full military privileges after thirty-one years of service in the U.S. military.

In 1994, Cammermeyer published her autobiography, Serving in Silence, which was well received. Subsequently, it was made into a television movie starring Glenn Close. The movie won three Emmy awards.

Since retirement, Cammermeyer has remained busy. She ran for Congress in the Second Congressional District in Washington State. Even though she lost the election, her spirit of public service remained active. For two years she hosted an internet talk show. She recently returned to law school.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts on the Recovery Stimulus

GimmeChocolate, one of Crapaud's regular blogger favorites on Lafayette Louisiana's The Daily Advertiser, had this pithy little comment* recently. Crapaud thinks its worth passing along.
*"The bet being made by the United States on the outcome of the stimulus package is a bet on the idea that wealth is not defined simply by the number of dollars, but also by the flow of dollars and the trust of citizens that they can exchange dollars for what they need. Wealth creation is a result of a predictable rate of flow and of trust sustained over time. Wealth destruction results from economic turbulence or loss of trust in money."
Gimme later expanded the dialectic using the gambling metaphor:

So the economy is like a river, and it is also like a game of poker in a casino. To extend the mixed metaphor:

LIKE A RIVER: If the flow undergoes drastic and unpredictable changes, especially if there are interruptions in the circulation of money because some people are hoarding it, then people get scared that they won't be able to dip into the stream (get credit or income). A trickle is not enough, as we have seen in these years since the 1980s.

So a failure of flow kills trust, but it works the other way too. When people are scared to take on debt for fear of losing their jobs, they stop spending on things like new cars. The stream we call the the auto industry dries up, and jobs are lost in a self-perpetuating cycle.

LIKE CASINO POKER: The new administration has to try to play the game decisively to convince all the players it's in control and that they can therefore trust the house's rules. It has to try also to prime the flow. The game could be lost for everyone involved by "the House" priming too little (betting too little), thereby failing to make a sufficiently profound impression on investors and consumers who need to believe there is still something that they can win by playing. Betting too much has its potential problems too. What happens to the game if the House loses too much and can no longer afford to cover bets for all players? We'll deal with that later. We're in too deep to stop the game now and lock in our losses.

The House has a stake in seeing that nobody keeps taking home all the chips (not even the House!), lest all the other players drop out and the game stops, because nobody's willing to place bets. Look at how angry people are that Bernie Made-off with so much of everyone's money! He and the AIG execs are accused of cheating, and that ruins the game.

So everybody wins so long as the game doesn't stop and as long as nobody wins it all.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stand Out Story of the Week

March 15-21, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy 79th Birthday
Stephen Sondheim

Thanks to qlbtq

Sondheim has been honored with multiple Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the bestowal of Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors by President Clinton in 1993.

Sondheim's musicals occupy a paradoxical place in gay culture. A gay creative artist who has never created an explicitly gay character and who, according to biographer Secrest, did not come out until his early forties or allow himself to fall in love with another man until age 61, Sondheim has nevertheless attained gay cult status.

He is recognized both as the most intelligent, witty, and musically audacious of composers and as a brilliantly ironic lyricist in the tradition of his gay predecessors Lorenz Hart, Noël Coward, and Cole Porter.