Lost in translation

Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) struck a nice rhetorical blow last week against the Defense Department's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy -- the ban on gays in the military. During a hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Ackerman expressed his dismay that the military has continued its practice of firing gay Arabic- and Farsi-speaking translators at the moment when we need them most.

According to news releases, Rep. Ackerman said, "For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are (of) terrorists. ... If the terrorists ever got hold of this information, they'd get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad."

Rep. Ackerman's fanciful image of our Defense secretary fleeing a bunch of gun-toting Islamic lesbians is going to keep me up all night, I'm sure, but the good congressman had a serious proposal for Secretary Rice, too. What if all those vital translators the military got rid of were now hired by the State Department?

The impact of those firings is significant. According to a 2005 report from the federal Government Accountability Office, between 1993 (the year DADT was implemented) and 2005, 322 "service members with important language skills" had been discharged for being gay or lesbian. About one third of those fired had studied either Arabic, Farsi, or Korean. Of the 55 Arabic speakers sent home, at least 22 of them were discharged after the September 11th attacks. I'm sure you remember that one of the reasons our intelligence officials didn't understand what Al Qaeda was planning was that our Arabic translators had a backlog of intercepted messages piling up on their desks.

According to Steve Ralls, Director of Communications for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization that assists targets of DADT, Rice has said that she is seriously considering Rep. Ackerman's suggestion. SLDN is working to compile the resumes of discharged military linguists who would like to be considere…


Cliffs Notes

I'm afraid I've been all deer-in-the-headlights on the ex-Reverend Ted Haggard story. I haven't brought myself to write about it because the facts of Haggard's case were so obviously, jaw-droppingly ridiculous that I felt no commentary was necessary. I've snapped out of it now, thanks to the ex-reverend's announcement yesterday that he's "completely heterosexual" after just three weeks of "restoration." The man just can't stop raising the bar.

To refresh your memory, Ted Haggard was the founder and senior minister of New Life Church, a Colorado Springs mega-church, who was fired in early November in response to allegations that he had a three-year relationship with a male prostitute. Haggard's stumping for an anti-gay marriage initiative on the Colorado ballot was what apparently pushed the prostitute, Mike Jones, over the edge. Jones, being a civic-minded American, contacted the media in the days leading up to the mid-term elections with information about the relationship and Haggard's alleged purchases of methamphetamine.

Bringing Haggard down was no small feat. He was at the apex of the evangelical mountain, serving as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and preaching to a congregation of 14,000. He also was the author of a dozen books on Christian themes and was a leader of President Bush's prayer network. He had a long way to fall.

Haggard recently retreated to Arizona where, under the stern eyes of a group of pastoral "overseers," he sought healing from his wicked ways in an intensive three-week program. Although in his November resignation letter to the congregation he noted that "through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective," somehow he's managed this time to fully recover from years of homosexual behavior and desires in only 21 days.

Does this guy have Cliffs Notes or what? Clearly an overachiever, I predict Haggard will easily dominate the sprawling ex-gay minist…