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Lt. Dan Choi Discharged

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2010

That tidbit is buried deep in this Gay City News story:

Choi lost his battle with the Pentagon on June 29 when his discharge from the Army under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was finalized. While Choi’s National Guard unit informed him by registered mail and with phone messages, he has not disclosed the action. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

That lack of an acknowledgement from Choi, let alone an announcement, seems strange.

Comments

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Lindoro Almaviva
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

This shouldn’t be strange. I would also refuse to acknowledge something that in my view is illegal and unconstitutional.

I think it is well within the realm of possibilities that he is refusing to acknowledge he has been discharged under suck unfair and bigoted circumstances.

Priya Lynn
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Its a bit anti-climatic. Perhaps that’s why Choi hasn’t commented – maybe he feels “Big deal, the obvious happened, who cares at this point.”.

Scott P.
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Perhaps he doesn’t care to give more ammunition to people who attack him for no good reason, like one of the contributors here.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

The thing that puzzles me is that if Choi really was discharged, that would be another news hook to bring futher attention to DADT.

Unless, of course, his final discharge was for reasons other than DADT. He did protested while in uniform, which as I understand it is against regulations. But if he had been discharged for that, that would be a rather swift act. Does the National Guard really work that fast? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Also, since Gay City News is the only one reporting it, there’s also the possibility that the discharge hasn’t actually occured. I’m not raising that to say that Gay City News isn’t trustworthy, but sometimes things that very good reporters learn in developing a story still turn out not to be fully correct.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Jim, you raise a good point: “Unless, of course, his final discharge was for reasons other than DADT.” This could well be the case.

His behavior has become more & more erratic. First he finagles his way onto the stage for the Kathy Griffin/HRC DADT rally, then he chains himself to the White House fence not once but twice, and then he starts disrupting traffic in Las Vegas for ENDA (not even DADT).

This indicates a trend that’s getting more & more out of control. His latest stunt in Las Vegas wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands of innocent drivers. He wasn’t winning anybody to his cause … and the cause wasn’t even DADT that he’s most equipped to represent!

We’ve lost him. He’s gone from an eloquent gay military spokesman getting positive attention from the media & public, to an out-of-control gay militant activist that is loathed by the media & public. What a shame.

And yes, I know I will get flamed for saying the above, since we’re all supposed to support Dan Choi. And until recently, I supported him too. But as of late his behavior worries me greatly, and he’s turning from an asset to a liability for gay rights causes.

John in the Bay Area
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

I think that Choi is still very much an asset. Our movement is best served by those making a ruckus and those working behind the scenes as well. It really doesn’t help us to be too polite.

I wonder if he is planning to make some sort of formal announcement at an event, rather than make any comments to email enquiries or other low key ways of confirming the discharge.

Scott P.
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Yeah, he should just behave himself, because if we’re nice and quiet and don’t upset anyone maybe one day, sometime in the future, the nice straight people will let us have our rights.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

That’s the problem, Scott P: you’re confusing action with activism. Just running around, causing problems and creating spectacles, that’s just action. It might make Dan Choi feel he’s doing something, and it might makes us feel better seeing somebody sticking their finger in the eye of “the establishment.”

But at the end of the day, what has it accomplished? It’s embarrassed, annoyed and upset the very people who we wish to win over. Recall the major protests in CA after Prop8 passed – they backfired against us, losing us a lot of sympathy and many straight supporters. Such action without focus wreaks only havoc.

But activism is about leadership with moral authority, uniting people behind a cause, and creating coalitions, all with the focus of achieving a goal.

Martin Luther King built broad coalitions, united untold numbers of people, black & white, behind him. He motivated with great moral leadership & eloquent speeches. (“I have a dream…”) He used focused, targeted civil disobedience to draw attention to specific causes.

Susan B. Anthony created an entire movement, and motivated with passionate speeches and great writings & publications. She had great moral authority and never compromised her beliefs.

Mohandas Gandhi was modern forefather of mass civil disobedience, and brought together disparate people of different backgrounds and religions for a focused cause. He changed a country, and the world.

They were true activists who united people, stood upon moral authority, and affected change.

Now look at Dan Choi, with his great gifts of leadership and eloquent speaking … throwing it all away. He’s not creating a movement or uniting groups of people; he’s just with a handful of protesters chaining themselves to the White House fence or screwing up traffic in Vegas.

This isn’t creating coalitions. This isn’t raising moral authority. This isn’t affecting positive change.

Christopher Eberz
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Not to latch on to a tangent, Lost, but regarding this statement:

“Recall the major protests in CA after Prop8 passed – they backfired against us, losing us a lot of sympathy and many straight supporters. Such action without focus wreaks only havoc.”

Is this just your opinion or did you read a poll of some sort that sampled opinions of marriage equality in CA or nation-wide after the protests?

I recall the “Join the Impact” protests (overwhelmingly peaceful and massive in participation) and took part in them, and “unfocused” is the last word I would use to describe them.

Timothy Kincaid
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost,

I disagree about the post-8 protests. I think they helped rather than hurt.

When you have tens of thousands of people from around the world protesting simultaneously, it looks serious. When the message is directly tied to one issue, one event, and easily understood, it is easily seen to be righteous anger.

The Prop-8 responses were timely, tied to a very well known issue, and very large. Further, they were sufficiently news-worthy that those who were being inconvenienced (say through closed streets) could turn on their radio and know in an instant why.

And you don’t have to agree with it to understand the reason for the protest or to sympathize. Even those who disagree with your position understand large-scale non-violent civil protest when a real grievance has been experienced.

I very much doubt that we lost any real supporters at all and I suspect that we gained more than a few folks who suddenly realized that we do care about our rights and that this is a civil rights issue.

And even smaller events can be effective if they are sufficiently clear. The chaining to the White House fence I got: timing, message, credibility all were present. Everyone seeing the event knew who, what, and why.

But, unfortunately, I don’t think I can say quite the same about the somewhat sporadic and confusing actions taken by GetEqual recently. I’m not sure the timing is well thought out, that the message is at all clear, or that the size is credible.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

I would tend to agree. I don’t think the protests resulted in any sort of a backlash. A recent Field Poll has California public opinion running almost exactly the same today as a similar poll before the election. Granted, that poll shows more Californians support marriage equality than oppose it, but the same poll showed the same thing (incorrectly) by statistically significantly equal margins before the election. Which means that it hasn’t budged either way.

And if anything was “focused” it was the Prop 8 protests that occured not only throughout California, but throughout America. And those protests engaged more LGBT people into the political process like never before — certainly not like the apathy that was clearly palpable among many folks before November 2008 when I think a lot of people just assumed Prop 8 would fail.

I do think direct action is important. I thought Choi’s handcuffing himself to the White House fence was a million times superior to the HRC’s parading around Kathy Griffin. Talk about embarrassments. (And I’m a Kathy Griffin fan.) But I’m not sure that the Las Vegas action was all that helpful. I don’t think it hurt any, but I don’t see it contributing anything. We’re all talkikng about it today, but by next week it’ll all be forgotten, while Choi’s chaining himself to the White House Fence still continues to resonate.

Which, again, puzzles me as to why if he has been discharged he hasn’t commented on it.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Christopher, Timothy & Jim,

Yes, we’re taking this conversation off on a tangent. That’s okay — let’s discuss Prop8 and the backlash to the backlash:

Right before the Prop8 vote in 2008, 51% of Californians favored gay marriage. (The Field Poll, July 2010)

But then, after the Prop8 vote and all the protests, blocked streets, ad-hoc demonstrations, and vandalism towards Prop8 supporters, the poll numbers for gay marriage dropped.

Look at the same Field Poll in 2009: the percentage of support dropped to 49%. Finally, now in 2010, the Field Poll shows us back to 51%. It’s taken us TWO YEARS to recover from all the chaos and messiness after Prop8 and return to pre-Prop8 levels. Two lost years. Below is the data.

The Field Poll: Support for Gay Marriage in California
2003: 41%
2004: 43%
2006: 43%
2008: 51%
2009: 49%
2010: 51%
(Source: http://www.signonsandiego.com/photos/2010/jul/20/198999/)

See how we were climbly very steadily? But then, the sudden reversal and dip in 2009. This shows why we need focused activism, not chaotic protests.

Timothy, just two days ago you were (very rightly) pointing out the counter-productiveness of the in-your-face gay demonstrators at NOM’s Providence Rally. Yes, such unfocused actions hurt us, and we need to call this out more often. Unfortunately, Dan’s actions are now too becoming counter-productive, and we must call this out.

Priya Lynn
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost, you’re wrong about the prop 8 demonstrations causing a loss in support. The dip from 51% to 49% occurred election day – before the prop 8 protests. You can’t blame a dip that occurred prior to the protests on the protests themselves.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Whenever you’re looking at polls, you always have to consider margins of error. The Fields poll runs at a +/- 2.8% margin of error. Because the fluctuations since and including 2008 fall within the margin of error, the polls indicate that support has been statistically flat for three years running.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Sorry, Priya Lynn, you are incorrect. Look at the data — the poll was taken in 2009, months after the election.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/photos/2010/jul/20/198999/

As much as we hate to admit it, the protests and the actions of the protesters hurt us.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Due to the poll’s margin of error, it provides no evidence to support the contention that protests resulted in either a drop or increase in support. Statistically speaking, it has been flat for three years running.

The Field Poll’s +/- 2.8% at a 95% confidence level for responses near the 50% point is pretty standard for public opinion polls.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Jim,

Yes, you can argue margin of errors within a year or two of the polls.

But what you cannot argue is the trend of the polls were steadily climbing over the decade, and at a pretty significant increase of 4.5% year-on-year growth average. That is until after Prop8 and its aftermath.

It’s not within the overall margin of error when you consider the overall growth rate seen during the years up to Prop8. Statistically, the 2009 dip is significant when looked at in the context of the overall trend of the decade.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost Choi,

You have an argument you want to make,and you’re trying to use statistics to make it. But any statistician will tell you that you are wrong in your interpretation. Statistically, the level has been flat according to the Field Poll for 2008 through 2010. What happens before or after it does not affect the measures of statistical significance. Statistically — and by that, I mean the standard statistical measures used to assess poll results — the “drop” in 2009 is not a statistically meaningful result. Statisticians will tell you that all three years are statistically flat.

If you want to use statistics, you have to follow the logic of statistics and the mathematics behind them. Otherwise, find another poll (they may be out there), or try another tack. But please don’t try to make statistics say what they don’t say — and what they mathematically are incapable of saying. That was the whole reason I started this web site.

Priya Lynn
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost, its irrelevant that the poll you refer to was taken months after the election – the poll on election day showed the drop in support occured prior to the protests, almost certainly sometime immediately prior to the election, or at the very least on election day.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Jim,

For the sake of argument, let’s use your interpretation of the data, and the trend line suddenly goes from positive increases to “flat” over 2008-2010.

This is an inflection point, when suddenly, the trend changes.

So how do YOU explain this inflection point?

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Well, since the statistically significant point of the inflection occurs before 2008, one would have to look for the answer on or before the date in 2008 when the poll was taken.

John in the Bay Area
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost,

The steady growth in those polls occurred without the spending of tens of millions of dollars in anti-gay television ads during the Prop 8 campaign. Temporary setback that will be undone by demographic changes.

I suspect that the vote margin would have been closer if those massive protests targeting the Mormon backers of Prop 8 had occurred prior to the vote. Many non-Mormon Californians are very suspicious of the Mormon Church, and might have thought a bit more in deciding whether they wanted to support this Mormon initiative. Gay leaders of the No on 8 campaign were unwilling to play the Mormon card. That is an example of the restraint that I don’t think serves our goals.

In all movements, there are those who cringe at in your face activism, including large peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience, in particular, is commonly criticized. However, the more that gay issues are discussed (even by anti-gay bigots) the more people start to think about the issues we face. In the long run (sometimes very long), it works in our favor by bringing the conversation out in the open. Anita Bryant and the initial AIDS epidemic have had a tremendous influence on gays and lesbians securing more rights in the country.

Ultimately though, the most effective thing that we can do for ourselves in terms of fighting for our rights is to come out of the closet. Ben in Oakland is constantly sounding that theme, and he is right.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

I agree with John In the Bay area. The inflection point coincides with the millions of dollars spent on the pro-prop 8 campaign. Remember, we lost that poll, the only poll that matters, despite people believing that the Field Poll predicted the opposite. Again, the pitfalls of not paying attention to margins of error. They will bite you every time.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Jim,
The inflection point happened between the 2008 poll and the 2009 poll, so we must look to what happened between those two polls. You can chalk it up to the major monies spent on Pro-Prop8 … but unfortunately, that doesn’t quite work. It was actually the ANTI-Prop8 side that had more monies:

Total funds raised for/against Prop8:
Pro-Prop 8: $39.9 million
Anti-Prop 8: $43.3 million
(Source: The Associated Press 02-02-2009, also on Wikipedia. )

So wouldn’t that indicate that, overall, with more money being spent on pro-gay marriage that it would have helped our Field Poll numbers? (Let’s not discuss the Election Poll itself and its results. That’s a conversation for several hours over several drinks. Next time you’re in Southern Cal let me know and we can have a drink or two together.)

John in the Bay Area,
Agreed – our Anti-8 campaign was weak and disappointing. And I believe that if the Anti-8 folks had pulled out the stops and played the Mormon card as you suggest, things could have been different.

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lost Choi. You are wrong. The inflection point is at or before the 2008 point. That’s simple statistics 101.

Either that or I am wrong. And every statistician and mathematician is wrong. Every statistics textbook is wrong. Every statistics professor is wrong. Every pollster is wrong. And you alone are right.

I’m done arguing.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

Sorry Jim. Please return to your Stats 101 class: the inflection point is clearly between 2008 & 2009. The trend to 2008 is clearly upwards, then the trend goes flat/negative after 2008 to 2009 and beyond. (And yes, not only is my background in Engineering with tons of Stats, but also I have reviewed this with not one but two Statisticians.)

SO THE QUESTION I ask yet again, the question you don’t seem to want to address: If it wasn’t the all the problematic protests, blocked streets, ad-hoc demonstrations, and vandalism towards Prop8 supporters, then what do YOU propose was the reason for the dip in support for gay support after 2008 in California?

Jim Burroway
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

The margin of error makes 2008 through 2010 statistically flat. Which means that the change in inflection occurs ON OR BEFORE 2008, WHERE ANYONE WITH THE SIMPLEST UNDERSTANDING OF STATISTICS CAN PLAINLY SEE IT. As for the reason for that change in inflection on or before 2008, there were millions of reasons for it, millions of reasons that weren’t there for 2006: Mormon money.

I will not discuss this further with someone who has no understanding of statistics, and who is not interested in learning.

The end. We’re done here.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

“2006”? Jim, the overall trend continues higher from the Poll beginnings to 2008. Are you reading the correct Field Poll data?

Okay, let’s review this in the simplest terms, with a very simple analogy:

Imagine every day you wake up and the sky is blue. Every day, blue sky. Monday morning, the sky is blue.

But then Tuesday morning you wake up and the sky is (gasp!) red. And every day thereafter, the sky is red.

The sky was blue Monday morning, but was red Tuesday morning.

So, when did the sky turn from Blue to Red?
A. Before Monday morning?
B. Between Monday morning and Tuesday morning?
C. After Tuesday morning?

Yes, the correct answer is B. Between Monday morning and Tuesday morning.

So with this analogy, let’s look at the Field Poll data. Since the beginning of the The Field Poll data, the overall trend has been increasing. In 2008, the trend was still increasing. But then in 2009, it (gasp!) turned flat/negative. And again in the following year, still flat/negative.

So, when did the trend turn from increasing towards gay marriage to flat/negative towards gay marriage?
A. Before 2008?
B. Between 2008 & 2009?
C. After 2009?

Yes, again the correct answer is B. The trend changed between 2008 & 2009.

Lost Choi
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

(*sigh* Okay, sorry that last post was so patronizing. Can we discuss the REAL issues now?)

I want to discuss the real issues, but instead I’m feeling attacked for extraneous details. (Witness how this thread went from “Dan Choi is acting irrationally” to “My statistics are better than yours”) Focusing on the small & extraneous details and ripping them apart as a way to undermine the caller is a ploy that (especially) rightwing radio talk show hosts employ. But BTB isn’t Sean “Banality”, but and should be the place of *real* dialog.

So I’m still looking for answers & input for the real questions raised in the postings above:

• Have we “lost” Dan Choi? Has he turned from a promising spokesman to an irrational agitator?
• Are we being too light on Dan Choi? When emotional gay protestors disrupted a NOM event in Providence two days ago, Timothy/BTB rightly pointed out that they were undermining our cause. But when Dan Choi acts just as irrationally and shuts down traffic in Vegas for an ill-conceived protest, do we give him a pass? Why?
• Why did the Field Poll data, which showed for most of the decade an overall increasing trend towards gay marriage suddenly change between the 2008 and the 2009 polls? What stunted the trend of public opinion moving towards gay marriage acceptance?
• And why do we gay men feel the need to dance when we hear the music of Lady Gaga? (Okay, scratch that last one – some mysteries are better left unexplored.) :-)

I’d appreciate the dialog. Thanks.

Jim Burroway
July 22nd, 2010 | LINK

“2006” in my last comment was a typo. It should have read 2008. My apologies. However with that correction the comment stands. You are entitled to your opinion but the Field Poll neither supports nor repudiates it. It’s crazy to argue with someone who clings to his opinions despite the facts, but all I can do is lead the horse to water. The fact that you ignore the margins of error demonstrates to me that you just don’t understand how polls work. And because your premise is wrong there is no point in discussing your conclusion.

Jim Burroway
July 22nd, 2010 | LINK

Thanks for bringing the thread back to the topic with your second comment.

However, the answer to your third question is explained fully by the margin of error. According to probability theory, if the Field Poll had taken another simultaneous poll on the same day in 2008 as the on the actually had done using the same questions and same methods, but a different sample of some 1,700 people, the second sample in 2008 was just as likely to have come in at 49%. Conversely, a different sample in 2009 using the same questions and methods could have just as likely come to 51%. That’s what margins of error mean, which is why no statistician would ever conclude there was a measurable “drop” in support from 2008 to 2009. It’s also why the uncertainty of polls keep campaign managers up all night.

I think there is a distinction between getting into someone’s face ans shouting at him, and engaging in an act of civil disobedience and protest. A huge difference. The first example is just a personal spat that changes nobody’s mind, while the second has a long and proud tradition in all American civil rights struggles, from abolition and women’s suffrage to the modern civil rights era.

Terry Hardy
July 22nd, 2010 | LINK

I, being in construction and being gay, shop at the Atlanta area Home Depots everyday. Sometimes 3 times a day depending on the various jobs that I have for that day.
I praise Home Depot for recognizing good employees, and shoppers, that take pride in what they do.

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