Our Soldiers Are Ready for Gays in the Military
Paul Rieckhoff is the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non-partisan non-profit group with over 100,000 members around the world. Since founding IAVA in 2004, it has become America’s first and largest Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans organization. Rieckhoff is now a nationally recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting troops, military families and veterans.
After graduating from Amherst College in 1998 with a degree in Political Science, Rieckhoff coached high school football, worked on Wall Street, participated in the rescue efforts at Ground Zero on 9/11, and served as an infantry platoon leader in Iraq from 2003-2004. In the spring of 2004, Rieckhoff became one of the first Iraq veterans to publicly criticize the war, call for better care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and demand accountability from elected officials. In 2006 Rieckhoff also published Chasing Ghosts, a critically acclaimed account of his experiences in Iraq and activism on behalf of veterans.
Question: Will repealing "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" be disruptive to straight soldiers?
Paul Rieckhoff: It’s not a valid fear. Military personal will execute the orders put down by the commanders. If they are told to serve with gay people, they will serve with gay people. There will be very little debate. They will execute the orders that are put down by their Commander in Chief. That is part of a professional military. That is our obligation as professional soldiers: to execute the orders put down to us. So I think that any kind of idea there there will be a mutiny or some kind of resistance in the military if we overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is ridiculous, and it’s not really founded in any kind of historical fact.
When women were integrated into the military, the military made it work. When African-Americans were integrated into the military, they made it work. Now, of course there were problems and there were issues, and there is kind of a learning curve that needs to happen, but our military is highly professional and will execute on the orders put down to them. So on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I think that there’s a real generational divide here. People of our generation are not afraid of gay people. These ideas that you need to worry about what’s gonna happen in the shower, or if you’re in a foxhole I think are really ridiculous.
If you come from a younger generation, if you’ve operated in the modern military, you’ve been around gay people, you’ve grown up around gay people, gay people have been a part of our media and a part of our consciousness really from our childhood, so it’s not this boogieman like it is to some of the older generations. And I think from a legislative standpoint, it’s important to recognize that this is happening. This is gonna happen.
I will put all the money in my pocket right now on the fact that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be repealed. On what timeline, we don’t know. Right now, it’s contained in the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, which is kind of the big defense budget component that congress hasn’t passed yet. They probably won’t pass it before the summer recess. They may pass it before the election campaigns start. But that’s where “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is gonna be coming out of, and it will be interesting to see what the polling says coming out of the military. But at the end of the day, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is going to be overturned, and the people in the military are going to execute and are going to continue to uphold the level of professionalism that has really set us apart from most other folks in the world.
Question: Did you serve with any men that you knew were gay?
Paul Rieckhoff: I did. Not in my unit, but I did know people who served that were gay. There's kind of a... people who are in the know know that the Pentagon is a place where there are a lot of gay service members, probably one of the highest concentrations of anywhere in the military. So that's been an interesting part of the behind-the-scenes dialogue that goes on. There are folks like Admiral Mullen who have been very outspoken in saying that gay people have been critical in their survivability.
And I think it was a very important moment when Admiral Mullen stepped out front and said his personal feelings on “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” and he felt it should be overturned, and Secretary Gates backed that up. People like Colin Powell have evolved in their position, and it's important to note that Congressman Patrick Murphy is the first Iraq vet elected to Congress, and he is leading the charge to overturn “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
So I think it's gonna be an interesting fight, but for those of us who are tracking on this inside the Pentagon, who follow defense policy, there's not much of a fight. This is gonna happen, and now it's a question of, “How do we properly implement it? How do we educate and prepare the community?" And that's what we're doing at IAVA right now is educating our members about the debate, assessing where they are, and giving them a voice in the dialogue because that's an important point to note.
Our organization has not been invited by the White House or anyone else in Washington, with the exception of the Pentagon, to come in and talk about this. Unfortunately, there has been a component of the debate that's been left only to the activists in gay rights groups, and they have an important role to play, no doubt. But the military and veterans community has really not been included in this dialogue to the extent that they should be, so I hope that changes throughout this summer. I want to go to the White House and talk to the President about this. Other groups want to do that as well, and it's important to know that it's not just about whether or not we pass it, but it's once we make that change, how do we ensure that people who are serving in the military who are gay are protected? How do we ensure that their rights are protected? How do work through the nuances of property issues, and life insurance, and all that other stuff that's gonna be a part of figuring out how to actually implement a change. We want to be a part of that discussion, and we can be a valuable asset to whoever is driving that discussion, but so far, unfortunately, it hasn't happened.
Recorded August 2, 2010
Interviewed By Max Miller
The idea that there will be some sort of mutiny or resistance when "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is repealed is "ridiculous."
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.
The WashU electrolyzer<iframe src='https://mars.nasa.gov/layout/embed/model/?s=6' width='800' height='450' scrolling='no' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe><p>The WashU electrolyzer—it has no snappy acronym yet—will not be the first device capable of extracting oxygen from Martian water. That honor goes to the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or <a href="https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/instruments/moxie/" target="_blank">MOXIE</a>, which is en route to Mars onboard NASA's <a href="https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/" target="_blank">Perseverance</a> rover. The rover was launched on July 30, 2020. It will arrive on February 18, 2021, and will perform high-temperature <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolysis_of_water" target="_blank">electrolysis</a> to extract pure oxygen, but no hydrogen.</p><p>In addition to being able to capture hydrogen, the WashU system can even do a better job with oxygen than MOXIE can, extracting 25 times as much from the same amount of water.</p><p>The new system has no problem with Mars' magnesium perchlorate-laced water. On the contrary, the researchers say it ultimately makes their system work better since such high concentrations of salt keep water from freezing on such a cold a planet by lowering the liquid's freezing temperature to -60 °C. He adds it may "also improve the performance of the electrolyzer system by lowering the electrical resistance."</p><p>Cold itself is no issue for the WashU system. It's been tested in a sub-zero (-33 ⁰F, or -36 ⁰C) environment that simulates Mars'.</p><p>"Our novel brine electrolyzer incorporates a lead <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926337318311299" target="_blank">ruthenate pyrochlore</a> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anode" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">anode</a> developed by our team in conjunction with a platinum on carbon <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode" target="_blank">cathode</a>," explains Ramani. He adds, "These carefully designed components coupled with the optimal use of traditional electrochemical engineering principles has yielded this high performance."</p>
Back home<p>"This technology is equally useful on Earth where it opens up the oceans as a viable oxygen and fuel source," Ramani notes. His colleagues forsee potential applications such as producing oxygen in deep-sea habitats with ample water available, such as underwater research facilities and submarines.</p><p>The study's joint first author Pralay Gayen says that "having demonstrated these electrolyzers under demanding Martian conditions, we intend to also deploy them under much milder conditions on Earth to utilize brackish or salt water feeds to produce hydrogen and oxygen, for example, through seawater electrolysis."</p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
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Pfizer's vaccine needs to be kept at -100°F until it's administered. Can caregivers deliver?
- Fair distribution of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is especially challenging because they need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures.
- Back in 2018, the WHO reported that over half of all vaccines are wasted worldwide due to lack of cold storage, and they were only talking about vaccines that need to be chilled or kept at standard freezer temperatures.
- Real-time logistics data, location tracking, and information about movements are crucial to track shipment progress, product temperature and other conditions.