Archive for December, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed

December 22, 2010

Photo Credit: Patsy Lynch

President Obama today (Dec. 22) signed the bill that marks the end of the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Discharged Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva; Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]; Congressman Patrick Murphy [D-Pa.], Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and U.S. Sens. Joseph Lieberman [I-Conn.] and Susan Collins [R-Maine] were among those who joined the commander-in-chief on stage during the signing ceremony at the Interior Department. LGBT activists and other members of Congress were also in attendance.

“This morning I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Obama, highlighting gay World War II veteran Andy Lee who saved fellow soldier Lloyd Corwin during the Battle of the Bulge. “This law I am about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideas our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will tens of thousands of men in uniform be asked to live a lie. Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”

Anticipated Delay in Certifying DADT’s End Seen As Unnecessary

December 20, 2010

Politico.com’s Morning Defense column is reporting today (12-20-2010) about a new Palm Center study that concludes that the Pentagon could easily train the entire force in preparation for the elimination of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

According to the study, “any claim that DADT cannot be repealed until after the completion of exhaustive training is inconsistent with actual military needs.” The Palm Center provided a preliminary copy of the study to Politico.com and will publish a final version this week.

The new study reviews tools that the Pentagon uses to rapidly train the entire force, including troops deployed in combat zones, and offers case studies in which the Defense Department provided force-wide training within a matter of days or weeks. The study shows as well that in most cases, the Pentagon implements new policy concurrent with training, rather than waiting for the completion of training before implementing new rules. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to demand a delay lasting through most of 2011 to train the forces in preparation for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Palm Center scholars argue that training for the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is an uncomplicated task. Aaron Belkin, Palm’s Director, said that “the troops already know how to interact with gays because they do so every day.” The RAND Corporation concluded in 1993 that the “new policy should be kept as simple as possible,” and lessons from foreign militaries confirm the same point. Belkin added that, “When you read the Pentagon’s 87-page implementation plan, you see that the transition requirements can be boiled down to just two things: strong leadership and simple rules. This really isn’t rocket science.”

The Palm Center is a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 1998, the Center has been a leader in commissioning and disseminating research in the areas of gender, sexuality, and the military. For more information, visit http://www.palmcenter.org.

BREAKING: US House Votes to Repeal DADT

December 15, 2010

Rep. Rothman Lauds Passage of New Bill to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Rep. Rothman: It is in our nation’s national security interests to end the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” immediately. Equal justice and strengthening our national security cannot wait.

Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, released the following statement on the bill (H.R. 2965) to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that passed the U.S. House of Representatives this evening:

In my opinion, our country’s national security has been hurt by the U.S. armed forces having sent home more than 13,500 qualified, patriotic service members since 1994 who were willing and fit to serve our country. In each instance, there was no conduct unbecoming a member of the armed service.

Investing many millions of dollars to train these individuals, and then dismissing them in the absence of bad conduct, has wasted many millions of precious taxpayer dollars and unnecessarily added to the strain on our already overburdened armed forces.

As the U.S. continues to face dangerous enemies from all corners of the globe, it makes no sense to turn away qualified, able and willing volunteers from the U.S. military.

The Pentagon’s November 30, 2010 comprehensive study of the policy concluded that the repeal would not have a major impact on morale or readiness. The results also showed that 70% of our service members believe that DADT’s repeal would have either a positive effect or no effect on their ability to complete missions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I also believe that the U.S. Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, requires the government to apply our laws equally. That is why only negative conduct, not one’s sexual orientation, should be grounds for dismissal from the armed services.

It is in our nation’s national security interests to end the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” immediately. Equal justice and strengthening our national security cannot wait.

Hilarious Play with Serious Message: New City Stage Company’s Miss Witherspoon

December 14, 2010

Julie Czarnecki in New City Stage Company's Miss Witherspoon. Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge.

Ensemble in New City Stage Company's Miss Witherspoon. Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge.

by Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

When I heard from Founder and Artistic Director Ginger Dayle that her New City Stage Company’s 2010-11 season would address the theme of women committing suicide, and that two of the three productions were comedies, I had to wonder how funny this topic could be, and who would see the humor in it? After attending the opening of Christopher Durang’s Miss Witherspoon on Saturday night, I am happy to report that everyone in the audience not only found the production hilarious, but also got the uplifting moral behind it.

Dayle’s inspiration for the season came from some real-life shocking statistics. She found in a study by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (2008) that the suicide attempt rate in the United States had risen for the first time in ten years, and that the highest increase was among Caucasian women ages 25 to 35, and over 45. And a study by Temple University (2009) confirmed that teens and young adults in Philadelphia have almost twice the national average of suicide attempts among high school and college students, with females having a higher rate than males. So Dayle sought plays dealing with this pressing issue, and scheduled Miss Witherspoon (to be followed by Pterodactyls, running March 3-27, and ‘Night Mother, on stage from June 9-July 3).

Miss Witherspoon tells the story of Veronica, a woman whose negative attitude makes it impossible for her to cope with the challenges of daily life and human interactions. She commits suicide, only to discover in the Bardo (the Buddhist equivalent of Purgatory) that she will need to reincarnate, to learn the lessons of earthly life and to repair her “brown-tweed aura.” The renamed “Miss Witherspoon” resists, but eventually learns through a series of disastrous incarnations and serial suicides that she controls her own fate and can choose happiness over despair.

Despite its morose theme, the screwball comedy by Durang, a resident of Bucks County and native of New Jersey, is anything but depressing. The script contains intelligent, thought-provoking, and laughter-inducing references to the traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, and to well-known movies, plays, and heroes from Pop culture, including the unlikely Rex Harrison, and The Lord of the Rings’ Gandalf.

New City Stage’s accomplished cast members morph in and out of their multiple lives and identities with ease. Julie Czarnecki is hysterically funny as the stubborn, long-suffering Miss Witherspoon, and has especially amusing scenes as a newborn baby and a pet dog. Indika Senanayake plays Miss Witherspoon’s wise spiritual guide, Maryamma, with appropriately good-natured calm and patience. Wendy Staton is over-the-top as Christ in the guise of a gospel-singing and Beatitudes-spouting African-American woman, and Ginger Dayle and Russ Widdall give sidesplitting performances as both the junkie, and the yuppie parents of the infant Witherspoon’s multiple reincarnations. Amy Chmielewski’s costumes provide perfect complements to the characters’ wacky personalities; particularly heavenly are the flowing hair, beard, and robes of Gandalf, played with godly command by the ever-impressive Widdall.

Miss Witherspoon is a work that successfully employs a comedic mode to make an important point: that life is worth living if you have a purpose and contribute to the betterment of humankind (and thereby also advance your own good karma). It’s a lesson that everyone should take to heart, and an entertaining, relevant production that should be seen.

Performances run through January 9 (including a special New Year’s Eve show and reception), on the mainstage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia. For information and tickets (reasonably priced at $18-20), call 215.563.7500, or see http://www.newcitystage.org.