Open to Serve

August 26th, 2011


The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is quickly approaching. On September 20th the repeal and certification process officially is complete and the sexuality that a person is born will no longer be grounds for discharge. As we approach this historic day that marks the end of seventeen years of institutionalized discrimination former and active duty service members are telling their stories of how they made it through and what it was like to endure.

GQ magazine has collected some of these stories and presents them here.

Like the story of Eric Alva, the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When Alva signed up, before "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," he had to lie on his paperwork. "I knew I was lying," he says. "But I loved what I did, I loved my job, and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I said, ‘It’s going to be my secret.’ I knew I was not going to be happy in a way, but I knew this was what I wanted." In 2003 he was deployed to the Middle East, and on March 21 he crossed the border from Kuwait. His unit was part of a huge convoy that stopped outside Basra. Alva got out of his Humvee and went to fetch something from the back of the vehicle. "That’s when I triggered the IED. I was awake, my hearing was sort of gone. My hand was covered in blood and part of my index finger was gone. The chaplain was holding my head and I was telling him I didn’t want to die. I was taken off a helicopter in Kuwait—it was estimated that I was only in Iraq about three hours—and carried into surgery. I woke up later and when I looked down I saw that the right side of my sheet was flat. I cried myself asleep, only to wake up hours later and see that it’s true: My leg is gone."

DADT not only affected the lives of those who risked their lives on the battlefield. It also took a toll on those they loved.

"The relationship lasted for about four years, but I always felt like I was disrespecting him, to have to pretend he didn’t exist when I went to work. When I got deployed, he was there with my family when I left. It kind of sucked—to shake his hand and a little pat on the back and ‘I’ll see you when I see you’ kind of thing. And when you’re getting ready to come back, the spouses were getting classes—here’s how you welcome your Marine back into the family—and my boyfriend didn’t get any of that. I had a really hard time adjusting to being home. We tried to make it work for a year but he was getting more and more paranoid about people finding out about us. It killed me that he felt that way because of me. I don’t think we ever really had a chance, ultimately."

For some DADT became the weapon used by haters.

The harassment grew worse. Of a number of escalating events—Rocha was also force-fed dog food and locked into a shit-filled dog kennel—the most abusive and explicitly homophobic was when he was ordered by his commander to act in a dog-training scenario, repeated over and over so that every dog in the unit could be run through it. "The scenarios were supposed to be relevant to what the dogs or the handlers would experience. Like a domestic dispute, or an armed individual who has been spotted on the base, or someone strapped with explosives. This day he chose that the scenario would be that I would be getting caught giving another service member a blow job and, once the dogs came in, I was supposed to jump up from having been in between this guy’s legs. He would coach as to how exactly he wanted it played out, which was the sickest part of it." Rocha says he had to act this out between half a dozen and a dozen times, about fifteen to twenty minutes each time. As they repeated it, his commander ordered Rocha to make the scenario more extreme. "He wanted me to be very queer and flamboyant. He wanted me to pretend like there was stuff on my face. Loving it so much that each scenario was gayer and more disgusting—the introduction of fake semen, that I would have to wipe my face, or that I would have to make slurping noises. The level of humiliation I experienced that day, that’s when I knew I wasn’t safe in the military."

I highly recommend heading over there and reading more

Creative Commons License photo credit: DVIDSHUB

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Solutions: Powered Schools

There are hundreds of thousands of schools scattered across America and the costs of educating our young people continue to rise every year, forcing higher taxes on all of us either through property tax increases or through state budgeting. When schools are in session, the class rooms use huge amounts of electricity, not to mention the costs of heating and providing water. During the summer months these large buildings and properties often sit largely idle aside from normal maintenance.

So here is my idea:

Install solar and wind power generating capabilities to every school building. Most schools are generally built with large flat roofs. These are great open spaces for the placement of solar panels. The idea of course is to generate as much electricity as possible, and preferably as much as the building would normally use during high usage days. This would make the building electrically self-sufficient during the winter months when class in session. During the summer months when the schools are sitting mostly idle, the power generated by these systems could be sold back to the power grid, generating money for the school districts that can be used for books, computers, etc to help educate our kids.

In the town of Grinnell alone we have 2 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and the high school. That’s 4 buildings in this one town of just under 10,000 people that could be generating power for sale to the grid and improving the financial situation of the town.

The downsides of course is the initial investment. It can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 to retrofit a home for solar power which would obviously have far lower electrical needs in comparison to a school building. That is money that would have to be paid for either through bonding or higher property taxes unless private enterprise were to volunteer and donate the monies, but in the long run there is serious potential for school districts to generate revenue by turning their buildings into power generating stations.

Health Care Math

299px-Caduceus.svg I posted this question in a comment over at The Liberty Papers and as I?ve been sitting here today working I?ve delved into more deeply.

How much money would it take to provide health care to every American every month?

The monthly premium that Seniors pay for Medicare Part B is $95.40 a month. Medicare Part B is highly popular.

US Census Bureau?s Population clock estimates the population of the US at 307,040,414 as of 07/30/09 at 14:45 GMT.

Currently every working adult in America has a percentage of their gross income deducted as Medicare taxes. As of 2009 the rate was 2.9% which is divided evenly at 1.45% between the employee and the employer.

On top of this American?s have the health insurance premiums which can widely vary (about$150 a paycheck where I work.)

Now here is where I get theoretical. Instead of taking out the Medicare taxes or having every American pay an insurance premium, give them back that money and instead charge them $95.40 a month and put every man, woman, and child in America on Medicare Part B. That comes to about $29,291,655,495.60 collected every month in Premiums. Would that be enough money to cover the health care needs of every American in the US every month?

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation probably not. In 2007 the the cost of health care in the US averaged out to about $7,421.00 per person. $95.40 a month only comes out to about $1134.00 a year per person. What usually happens with programs like Medicare however is that the premiums and taxes paid into it are put into a trust fund of some sort. A portion of which is then taken and used to create some sort of interest earning revenue. So, if you take that $29 Billion a month or $351,499,865,947.20 from one year, and take a portion of it and put it into some sort of interest bearing market, would that the combined result be enough to pay for the health care of every American?

One of the biggest conundrums of American politics today is the fact that a significant majority of Americans want government services like Medicare and Medicaid. 62% of Americans want a public health care insurance option of some form, however most simply don?t want to pay for it. It?s that type of thinking that got California into the mess it?s in. But as long as everyone is willing to chip in, pay their fair share, could we make Medicare work for everyone. Seniors like it. Sure it needs reform as well to cut costs. But it does work. And the idea that the quality of care would suffer? I find that unlikely. Most medical research that happens in America today is at least in part funded through loan and grant programs funded by State and Federal government. That is unlikely to change no mater what we do to health care reform.

And just to clarify; this is more of a thought exercise than anything and not necessarily a move I would 100% support or something I expect congress is likely to do.