The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Farce

When I wrote that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would come up for a vote, I said that it was unlikely to be repealed.  What I should have added was that the vote was a complete farce—just empty political theater—since the Democrats were never serious about trying to getting the repeal passed.

Yes, it was Republican senators who—with the help of Arkansas Democrats Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) and Mark Pryor (D-AK)—filibustered the defense authorization bill that would have repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They did that in spite of the fact the majority of Americans dislike the policy, in spite of the fact that President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen all have said they favor repealing the policy, and in spite of the fact that a federal court ruled that the policy infringes our soldiers’ first amendment rights.

Yes, the Republican reasons for blocking the bill were bad. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said—before joining the Republican filibuster anyway—that “we should welcome the service of these individuals who are willing and capable of serving their country.” But she explained that she wouldn’t vote to end what she herself described as an unfair policy because the way the Democrats were trying to pass the bill—preventing Republicans from adding nuisance amendments designed to destroy it—was unfair to Republicans. In other words, like many Republicans, she justified continuing discrimination against gay and lesbian service member on partisan procedural grounds. Never mind that—as Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show—she had supported using precisely the same tactics against the Democrats to pass a bill shielding gun manufacturers from liability when the Republicans were the majority. This is like justifying a vote for segregation on the grounds that the other party is being too pushy about ending it.

But the Democratic leadership was never serious about repealing the policy either. If they had wanted to they could have brought the repeal for a vote separately from the defense authorization bill. That might have lost the vote a couple of Democrats. But it also would have put moderate Republicans like Sen. Collins and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) on the spot. And it would have forced Republicans to take responsibility for their opposition to repeal. Instead the Democrats handed Republicans an excuse for voting against repeal, while allowing Republicans to claim they’re not actually opposed to repeal itself. The Democrats made sure repeal would never pass in any case by also attaching the controversial DREAM Act giving some illegal immigrants a chance a path to citizenship—which they also weren't serious about passing—to the bill. The truth is that Democrats were more concerned with getting Republicans to vote against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” before the election than they ever were about repealing it themselves.

This is the worst kind of partisan politics. Both parties used arguments over procedure to distract us from what's really at stake. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a civil rights issue—and it’s making our military less effective. It’s time to give repeal an up-or-down vote. And when someone volunteers to put their life on their line in the service of their country, just shake their hands and thank them.

Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points
Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

Study: The effects of online trolling on authors, publications

A study started out trying to see the effect of sexist attacks on women authors, but it found something deeper.

Surprising Science
  • It's well known that abusive comments online happen to women more than men
  • Such comments caused a "significant effect for the abusive comment on author credibility and intention to seek news from the author and outlet in the future"
  • Some news organizations already heavily moderate or even ban comments entirely; this should underscore that effort
Keep reading Show less