Category Archives: Politics

On ‘Free’ Community Colleges

Over on Facebook, my friends and I have had an interesting discussion on the elusive details of the President’s budget/SOTU proposal for ‘free’ community college education.

Because of a New Year’s resolution a few years ago, I rarely delve into long, drawn-out debates on Facebook. It’s usually not worth your time. But I made an exception here, in part because of the thoughtful insights from my friends (and a friend/former teacher!) and partly because I wanted to weigh in further.

Here’s my (lightly edited) rant:

Edward and Shawn, I agree with points you both make. The cost of ignorance is high and not everyone has the opportunity to attend a Jesuit school with great science teachers like Mr. Nolan. (Though the Jesuits are trying as hard as they can with the Cristo Rey model, which is phenomenal.)
 
I love community colleges. My grandfather was a professor at one, and my mother attended there before going to tOSU. I’m just opposed because I don’t think this level of involvement by the government is appropriate. It’s my libertarian side coming out.
 
Realistically, this has ~0% chance of passing Congress. The “Pay Go” rules don’t help because anyone who proposes it on the Democratic side will “pay for it” with a tax increase and not a cut, which is how the game is played in Congress these days.
 
If Obama / Congressional Democrats wanted to be clever, here’s how they’d structure it:
 
1.) You apply for this program and by doing so, you agree to forfeit your Pell Grants entirely.
 
2.) Under Pell Grants, you get up to 12 semesters (six years) worth of grants, which, under maximum level at max time before exhaustion represents a little under $35,000. Of course, not everyone qualifies for Pell Grants, or gets the full amount. But you could argue savings by doing this.
 
3.) Cynically, if you wanted to obtain a 4-year degree, then you’d likely go to the student loan market (effectively nationalized since 2010!) where the government could make the money back. (Though, they’ve already used the “profits” from that to defray the cost of Obamacare and it would be hard to count that twice.)
 
A friend of mine, an analyst type, observed that this would be among the cheaper proposals Obama has proposed, even though the costs would be in the tens of billions, according to some estimates.
 
Two states (and others I am sure) have tried “free college programs.” Their examples are instructive. (I still am weary about government involvement in this, but at the state level it is at least appropriate from a federalism perspective.)
 
Arizona, when I worked for Senator Kyl, had something called an AIMS scholarship. If you met certain requirements under their AIMS program — you got a full tuition waiver at in-state schools, provided you were accepted. Of course, the test was not terribly hard and lots of people qualified. Now, it covers 25%, and is renewable — subject to college-specific requirements — over the remaining three years.
 
It was poorly planned. And it was done by Republicans!
 
Tennessee has the “Tennessee Promise” program, a brainchild of their Republican governor, gives free community and technical college tuition (for 2 years) to high school graduates in the state. The program is funded by the lottery. The program, which I also think was poorly implemented as such measures often are, has seen 58k applicants. Double what they expected. They’re learning Freidman’s adage of “no such thing as a free lunch” despite being well-intentioned.
 
Details on Obama’s plan are still forthcoming, but right now we know you have to have a C+ average, these CC’s have to agree to certain stipulations about their programs and credit transferability, and some vague notions of “student outcomes.” The feds expect states to pick up 25% of the cost.
 
While I agree with Mr. Nolan about college/knowledge having an effect on real-world life outcomes, Shawn’s point about high school and those outcomes is also worth delving into. To paint with my partisan broad brush, Democrats only seem to be interested in spending more money, not reforming public education in meaningful ways. (Thanks, teachers’ unions!)
 
So, rather than improve the K-12 system, I think there is room to criticize this proposal as keeping the bad and just inflating the bar.
 
White House director Cecilia Muñoz told Politico that “Obama aims to make college ‘the norm in the same way high school is the norm now.'”
 
Depending on your partisan lens, this statement will be interpreted differently. I see this as what I alluded to earlier — education inflation rather than education reform.
 
Granted, we’re all wasting our time in a thought exercise because this has about the same chance of happening as anything in President Obama’s budgets. Budgets these days are a thought exercise in “how I’d like things to be, but obviously won’t be.”
 
This started the last two years of the Bush presidency, when Congress was controlled by Democrats. They became “Hope Documents” or “Wish Lists.” Even after Obama was elected, his budgets were never taken seriously by Congress because Congress was not serious about budgeting.
 
They quickly abandoned regular order and the normal appropriations process in favor of continuing resolutions and omnibus packages. A power grab by the leadership, disenfranchising moderate and oddball Democrats and castrating Republicans in the minority.
 
Presidential budgets have always been blueprints. Congress is under no obligation to consider them, but Presidents are still obligated by the law to churn them out. It used to make sense, but now it’s sort of a pointless partisan exercise.
 
Boehner tried to restore regular order when I went from the Senate to the House as a staffer. In that, he failed. McConnell has signaled he wants to try his hand at that, too.
 
I wish them luck and hope it succeeds, but I’m not optimistic.
Prospects for reforming K-12 education are equally dire, but then again, while I agree with conservatives on their reforms, I’m of the view that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in the first place on education, a position many conservatives share. Hard to argue that when you’re voting to essentially maintain some semblance of federal control over it, even if it is diminished.

 

This Guy Isn’t Homeless, He’s Running for Governor

I came across this video of California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari living in Fresno, California on the streets for a week, trying to find work. I’ll admit I was skeptical that the 10-minute video would be compelling campaign advertising. I was wrong.

Kashkari has come from pretty much nowhere in the polls to be the Republican nominee in the California governor’s race. Just like he sort of came from nowhere to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Bush and Obama, specifically charged with overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Not a popular job. Of course, to the far left he is a boogeyman because he worked at Goldman Sachs. To the far right, he’s a boogeyman because he helped administer, well, bailouts.

Elijah Cummings, an embattled Democratic congressman from Baltimore, asked at an oversight hearing whether or not he was a “chump:”

“Mr. Kashkari, in the neighborhood I grew up in, in the inner city of Baltimore, one of the things that you tried to do was make sure that you were not considered a chump … What really bothers me is all these other people who are lined up. They say, well, is Kashkari a chump?”

Kashkari apparently did not take that flogging very well.

Kashkari heads to a Home Depot to find work.

Kashkari heads to a Home Depot to find work.

Kashkari’s background, which I had not researched, surprised me a bit.

He’s from Akron, Ohio. He’s a Cleveland Browns fan with, according to the Plain Dealer, dogs named “Winslow and Newsome.” He went to Western Reserve Academy — a nice private school, but didn’t go to a top-tier college. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to study engineering. (He got an undergrad degree and a master’s.)

It was only after he attended Wharton for his MBA that he went into finance, and followed Hank Paulson to the Treasury department.

Former Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi wrote a column about him with the headline: Bailout Architect Runs For California Governor; World Laughs. He joked “It seems Jerry Brown has become his own personal Dolph Lundgren.”

In the piece, he noted that Kashkari isolated himself in the woods after the flogging from Cummings, et. al., where he built a shed, chopped wood to lose weight, and helped with Hank Paulson’s book.

Taibbi concluded: “Anyway, having this guy run for public office is like a gift from the blogging gods. How funny will this get? Will this one go to 11? I’m taking the over.”

One nice campaign video does not a winning campaign make. (Kashkari has a few nice videos…) Then again, most politicians prefer to post pictures on Twitter showing “look, I’m eating Ramen Noodles in my well appointed Washington house” rather than go and live on the streets for a week.

I don’t know if a 10 minute YouTube video on poverty will convince Democrats dissatisfied with Gov. Brown to consider Kashkari as a recipient of their vote, but one thing’s for sure — Kashkari’s trip into the woods may be funny joke fodder for Matt Taibbi, but Neel Kashkari isn’t going to be anybody’s chump this go-around.

Watch the video here:

Update: Kashkari’s campaign is hurting for cash, nearly broke.

The Problem With Automatic Voter Registration

Tonight at Hillary Clinton’s debut on the Ricki Lake Christiane Amanpour CNN Townhall, there was a discussion about “mandatory voting” (what is this, China?) and “Automatic Voter registration.”

Election Law Blog notes:

5:55 p.m.: Asked if there should be mandatory voting, Clinton “no,” but argued “there should be automatic registration.”

“When a young person turns 18, that young person should be registered to vote,” she said. “And I deplore the efforts by some to restrict the right to vote.”

Now, I suppose trial lawyers might love the idea of a bigger jury pool — or maybe they won’t. Friend of the blog and former professor of mine Doc Lawrence says:

I actually don’t have a problem with this (although I think automatic registration would not have a very large effect on voter turnout; frankly I think the biggest depressing factors in the US are election fatigue and weekday voting).

Doc’s views are on point, but my concern with automatic voter registration is one of procedure. I think it would probably cause a lot of problems.

Potential candidates for President usually don’t campaign on non-federal issues, so I don’t think we’re assuming wrongly that Hillary is talking about a federal proposal to automatically register voters*. (*= Assuming felons, green card holders, illegal aliens excepted.)

Typically, and with some notable exceptions, election law  is left up to the states. But the feds do have the ultimate say.

Oregon has been considering such a measure:

which would allow the state to automatically register any Oregonian when a state agency already has their name, age, address and digital signature

Whereby:

The measure calls for using driver’s license data from the state to automatically register people if they are citizens and meet other criteria for voting. Under the bill, the secretary of state’s office would send a postcard to all new registrants giving them a chance to opt out of registering.

Now, imagine 50 some odd voting jurisdictions forced by the federal government to coordinate sorting this mess out. Yes, they already have to coordinate it, but imagine adding lots of young people who are going to be transient for the near future, and don’t vote in great numbers.

What’s the point? Registering to vote is not hard.

Compounding the problem is that these kids go to college, meet an activist in the dorm/on the street who convinces them to sign a petition and register to vote for whatever cause. Their driver’s license, license plate, state where they pay income taxes all (likely wrongly) might be another state.

But now they think they’re registered to vote in another state despite all of that. And come fall, assuming they don’t lose interest, they plan to vote there.

Or maybe when they’re back home they plan to vote back home. Surprise!

With Oregon, somebody decides to change their driver’s license while attending college in Oregon to get in-state tuition. But, they still (wrongly) consider themselves residents of the state where their parents live, and still pay taxes and vote there.

Dumb as it seems, these things happen — and my friends who think I am a residency Nazi are also the same ones trying to convince me that keeping their out of state whatever isn’t some sort of fraud. (The DC/MD/VA area is pretty harsh on failing to become a resident.)

And these are adults we’re talking about — not 22 year olds.

Residency, we’re told, is all about intent — and people love cheating for whatever reason. Whether it’s taxes, making their vote “count more”, or their silly customized license plates they’ve had.

If Oregon, a state with just under 4 million residents expects an automatic voter ID law would result in 500,000 new voters, you can imagine the complications that would cause across the country in keeping the system safe and fair.

My opinion is that the complications of the real world get in the way when it comes to a national automatic voting system, and on top of that, it’s pretty much an unfunded mandate.

Enjoy jury duty!

Actual DCCC Memorial Day Weekend Fundraising Email

Somebody over at the DCCC is really aloof.

dccc

 

Can Bill Nye Claim He Has a Ph.D. on His CV?

On John Oliver’s new show Last Week Tonight, Bill Nye starred in a cameo as a top expert on global climate change — at least as decided by bookers on television shows.

Which got me thinking — what is the etiquette on going by Ph.D. when you didn’t earn one?

Two friends who have attained a Ph.D. weigh in, with one saying: “Technically, honorary doctorates aren’t Ph.D’s at all” while another comments “His doctorate is on par with Kermit the Frog’s.”

What do you think? Is it fair for Nye to claim he has a Ph.D.?

nye

Bill-Nye-CV

VIDEO: Happy Hour While Ukraine Burns

New Yorkers Complain About Economics

From the ever-expanding “This Isn’t Price Gouging” Department, the New York Post reports:

Passengers are blasting the Uber car-service app for its “surge’’-pricing scheme, which kicked in during the city’s first snowstorm of the season — in one case pricing a short trip across town at a whopping $132.

But in Boston, blogger Jessica Gioglio — who bills herself as “The Savvy Bostonian” — shelled out $91 for a 3.18-mile, 16-minute trip from Beantown’s Back Bay to Central Square.

Posting a screenshot of her e-mail receipt, she called the fare “price-gouging” and said, “I’m really disappointed in u guys.”

Uber, much maligned by regulatory fiends and taxi cab sympathizers, has really upset the taxi cabal in many major U.S. cities. Namely by providing better, more convenient service for a more premium price.

Unlike taxicabs, whose drivers can usually only impose a change in prices when allowed by decree from the government (i.e. during a snowstorm, or when gas prices are unusually high), Uber can raise prices to reflect market demand. And users are clearly made aware of this before they agree to take an Uber, as seen below.

The Post continues:

The app’s practice of surge pricing is actually designed to help consumers, Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian insisted Sunday. The higher rates “get more cars on the road quickly when demand outstrips supply, helping to guarantee that New Yorkers can get a ride when and where they want,” she said.

“As soon as demand falls or supply increases sufficiently, prices return to normal.”

Uber cars and their drivers, like everything else, are a scarce resource with alternate uses. Uber is right to raise prices to incentivize more drivers to work than to accept private contracts (as many Uber drivers do in Washington), hunker down with their family, or go out and get supplies for their homes. Just like laws prohibiting so-called “price gouging” during a storm serve as a disincentive for shop owners to stay open, the rules that govern taxi cabs often result in less taxis being available.

Which, in turn, might cause Uber’s demand to surge even higher than it normally would if taxis had greater flexibility to charge market rates. bsig

The Sriracha Story … How Will It End?

The timing for Griffin Hammond’s documentary on Sriracha sauce couldn’t be better. More on that in a bit. This holiday season, I highly recommend this 33 minute documentary, which you can buy for $5 on his site. Put it on a flash drive, tape it to a Sriracha bottle, and give it to a loved one as a stocking stuffer.

My only complaint is that I wish it were longer and included the current fight over the ability of Huy Fong to sell its products.

Fans of the sauce will especially love the film, and those who can’t stand anything spicy will still find the story of it fascinating.

Hammond tells the story of one of America’s favorite hot sauces with a cult-like following from a societal perspective, from that of David Tran, the Huy Fong company’s founder, and from a historical perspective about the sauce’s origins in Thailand. Now, Sriracha isn’t my favorite hot sauce (it’s hard to pick one), but it was one I stupidly avoided at burger joints. I’m happy to admit I am wrong, because this sauce is wonderful.

Just the “how it’s all made” portion of the documentary, which is well-filmed and produced, would be enough to interest me. Hammond bills it as “The origin story of an iconic hot sauce, finally revealed.” He’s not lying.

Tran, the founder of the most known version of the Sriracha-type chili sauce (with a green cap and a rooster on it), came to the U.S. by way of Hong Kong after the fall of Saigon. As an ethnic Chinese man, he wasn’t really welcome in Vietnam after it went communist.

hf2Tran got out of Vietnam on a boat. When the British told the boat to turn back, it stayed there for a month. The British relented, and Tran made his way to America as a refugee.

In 1980, he founded his company, selling his version of the Sriracha sauce in the Chinatown neighborhood in LA to local restaurants. The company’s name?  Huy Fong — the name of the ship that saved him from communism and a society that didn’t welcome him.

He has never marketed his sauce, though fans appear eager to do so for him — including the webcomic The OatmealTran seems more interested in bringing his product to the masses.

Much success has come to David Tran and his chili sauce factory. His former factory was once a Wham-o factory that made frisbees and hula-hoops, but demand grew too much. So, in 2010, he arranged for a bigger factory — a few times the size of his old one — in nearby Irwindale. In 2012, he sold 20 million bottles of the stuff.

In the making of chili, during the fall harvest, the peppers need to be pureed and mixed with other inputs at the most ripe point, when they are red. So, for much of the ripe-times for these chilis, the Huy Fong plant excretes a delicious chili aroma. Then it’s aged and stored before it is bottled and sent out.

Irwindale’s citizens, fewer than 30 of the city’s 1,400 residents– including a city councilman’s son — complained about the chili odor. And because of this, the city sued, saying the smell of chili was a “public nuisance.” This, after Tran and Huy Fong installed filters not once, but twice in response to complaints. The South Coast Air Quality Management District visited numerous times, but didn’t cite Huy Fong for violations.

Tran won the first round, but on appeal, the city won — even though the judge said there was a “lack of credible evidence” tying health problems to the factory’s smell — on the public nuisance complaint. For now, it doesn’t matter that much until next fall, since the harvest is over. The fight, though, isn’t.

According to the LA Times, some of the closest neighbors to the plant, however, fail to see what the problem is:

Sal Hernandez, a 75-year-old former Irwindale councilman who lives on Azusa Canyon Road, just a few houses from the Huy Fong plant, said he has never noticed a smell. He said he was surprised the city went after the maker of Sriracha hot sauce so quickly and aggressively.

“It hasn’t bothered me yet. I haven’t had any effects from it, and I’m right next door to it,” Hernandez said.

A former reserve police officer who has lived in the city for more than 30 years, Hernandez said few people go before the council to complain about the smell from other factories in town – like the huge MillerCoors Brewery or a dog food manufacturer on Arrow Highway.

“Things we should go to court for we don’t, and for this thing, we’re taking [the Sriracha company] to court,” he said. “I’m surprised. They were praising this thing before they even came in. Everyone was praising it.”

Praising it, indeed. The city even went out of its way to attract those Huy Fong jobs, offering a really good loan for a small town that, when you think about it, is kind of nuts.

The LA Times reports:

Huy Fong Foods decided to locate its factory in Irwindale three years ago when the city offered a loan with “irresistible” terms: pay only interest for 10 years, with a balloon payment at the end.

Huy Fong took the loan and contributed $250,000 a year to the city of Irwindale each year as part of the deal, Tran said. The company then built a $40-million factory that at full capacity could generate about $300 million a year in sales, according to Tran’s statements.

But after complaints about the smell began last year, Tran said he began to get an “odd feeling” about the city’s behavior. In response, the company has taken out a loan with less favorable terms from East West Bank to pay off the city’s loan.

Could Irwindale be suffering from buyer’s remorse? Perhaps. The town with 1,400 people did offer to front a loan for Huy Fong similar to the interest only mortgages popular before the housing crash in exchange for jobs and commerce, which seems like a bad idea. Tran’s premonition led him to pay off the loan early, like some TARP recipients did in the wake of the financial crisis when the Treasury imposed special regulations on loan recipients.

Or is Irwindale angling for a settlement deal? Also possible.

The city could be taking action for all 20-some citizens who have a problem with the plant, though based on former councilman Hernandez’s comments, the city’s actions seem strange — like that of a spurned crazy ex-girlfriend.

One thing is for sure, taking loans from the government may save you money up front, but the special terms of the deal often appear after you’ve signed on the dotted line, as seems to be the case here.

Tran looks like he is taking this personally. He put up a big banner that reads “NO TEAR GAS MADE HERE” and hung it out in front of his factory. The sign gives the impression Tran plans to fight this in court, but the company is largely keeping quiet.

Los Angeles County, where Irwindale is located, has a higher than average unemployment rate — 9.5% as of October. Like the Dollar Shave Club commercial says, “I’m no Vanderbilt but this train makes hay” — Tran’s brought commerce to Irwindale, but do they really want this litigious NIMBY reputation? It doesn’t appear the city has put much thought to the trade offs such a lawsuit brings.

If Irwindale’s sudden and bizarre reversal weren’t enough for Huy Fong, the state of California has made matters worse.

According to a report by ABC News:

The Southern California-based maker of Sriracha has been told it can’t ship any more of its popular hot sauce to food distributors until next month because the state Department of Public Health is enforcing stricter guidelines that require a 30-day hold on the product.

Health department spokeswoman Anita Gore told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the 30-day hold is needed to “ensure an effective treatment of microorganisms present in the product.”

The move by the California Department of Health might be seen as suspicious by some, given the timing. But it appears that the regulation that went into effect wasn’t specifically targeted at Huy Fong.

LA Weekly reports that the 30-day requirement “has existed for years but that it was recently modified in a way that now applies specifically to Huy Fong’s hot sauces.” The Department of Health cited federal regulatory law as the justification for the change in their enforcement, despite the sauce being produced there for over 30 years. The regulations were changed in 2011, under the Obama administration, state that companies that deviate from the scheduled process for acidified food must “set aside that portion of the food involved for further evaluation as to any potential public health significance.”

California has stricter rules than the rest of the U.S. for guns, cars,  and apparently, hot sauce.

One wholesaler is very unhappy, telling ABC News that he’s already received 30 angry phone calls — more than the total number of complaints in Irwindale — about the problems it’s causing. Unfortunately for consumers, they don’t have a city to sue on their behalf, only David Tran, Huy Fong Foods and his legal team. The delays, the wholesaler says, could cost him $300,000 in lost business.

Other cities’ officials are trying to lure Tran and his company to relocate to their city. One such place is Philadelphia. While it’s unlikely Huy Fong — which only uses one chili supplier — would ship its chilis across the country in an expedited manner to make their product there, nearby Arizona and Nevada might be a better fit.

In the film, Tran tells us that if people no longer like his product, he’ll stop making it. His product’s popularity isn’t the problem at present — it’s California, and Californians. David Tran waited a month on a ship to escape Vietnam, so Irwindale should expect no lack of patience from him.

I doubt Tran will go full Atlas Shrugged and deny foodies, hipsters, and hot sauce fanatics his great product. But its fans should take notice to see what the NIMBY crowd and regulatory overreach is doing to one of their prize condiments. Don’t expect any hilarious criticisms of regulatory overreach by The Oatmeal.  Unless Tran wins in court, the price of Sriracha is set to rise, or the California label might be coming off the bottle.bsig

Should Everyone Graduate From Harvard?

The beauty of the internet, aside from bringing volumes and volumes of data to many people who would never have access to such information in the past, is that we get the opportunity to have brushes with greatness on twitter.

I’m not talking about trolling celebrities, getting lewd photos from Anthony Weiner, or even getting a “you’re fired!”  tweet from Donald Trump. I’m talking about the really famous intellectuals. Like Joyce Carol Oates. Thankfully, twitter has a way of telling me somebody is important even if I do not know who they are. It’s called the “verified” button.

And, thanks to the internet, I now know that Joyce Carol Oates is actually famous. (Good job, twitter!) In 2010, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Joyce Carol Oates

I scoured the internet, and I couldn’t find any credible sources for her claim of a 1 percent graduation rate, other than a retweet from a News Corp employee who shared a stat provided by an Occupy Wall Street twitter account.

The Washington Post, my hometown newspaper, owns/owned a competitor to the University of Phoenix — Kaplan. They report that the overall graduation rate for the college is 16 percent. Online-only students have a graduation rate of about 4 percent.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that schools like Phoenix and Kaplan “compute and publicize their own alternative graduation or ‘completion rates,'” and that the institutions argue “that these better reflect the nature of their student bodies and their institutional missions.”

Be that as it may, Oates’s claim of a 1 percent graduation rate could be true after statistical manipulation — but I just haven’t seen that it’s true. This comparison is apples to oranges. Harvard isn’t the same as the University of Phoenix. It’s like comparing a privately-run GED equivalency program to a private high school like Sidwell Friends in Washington, or Saint Ignatius in Cleveland.

Some critics contend that Ivy League schools, like Harvard, suffer from grade inflation and bad professors. What does a diploma mean if your professors are bad (like Cornel West) and your grades are inflated? If you graduated from Harvard, it doesn’t matter.

There’s no doubt that Harvard-accepted students are bright people. But, as Oates questions, should “anyone” who gets into an Ivy League school be given a guaranteed diploma?

The obvious answer is no.

Acceptance to a school — whether it’s Harvard, Hagerstown Community College, or Hamilton College — shouldn’t guarantee you a diploma. A school’s exclusivity or selectivity shouldn’t negate the hard work by its students from acceptance to senior year.

Graduation should be earned, not given. Whether you attend the University of Phoenix or Harvard.

While all of my friends who attended Ivy League schools graduated, I highly doubt they’d advocate Oates’s position: “anyone who does [get in] should graduate.”bsig

Human Rights Campaign Weighs In On Manning

Bradley Manning Support Network

Army Private Bradley Manning, recently demoted and dishonorably discharged for his role in leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive classified files to WikiLeaks, was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison.

Manning has since applied for a Presidential pardon, and also announced his desire to be treated as a woman.

According to a letter he wrote that was first reported by NBC’s Today show, Manning writes:

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).”

However, according to an emailed statement from an Army spokeswoman to Reuters: “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.”

It is unclear whether Private Manning will be able to undergo hormone therapy.

The Human Rights Campaign, the activist group which bills itself as “working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights,” had been strangely silent on the topic of Private Bradley Manning. In fact, their webpage never mentions him before today.

Today, the group addressed this issue for the first time:

In an email, Human Rights Campaign Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely released the following statement:

 “Regardless of how she came to our attention, Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  As she requested in her letter, journalists and other officials should use her chosen name of Chelsea and refer to her with female pronouns.  Using the name Bradley or male pronouns is nothing short of an insult.  Media, having reported on her wishes, must respect them as is the standard followed by the AP Stylebook.

 “As Pvt. Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does – appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence.  The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors – including professionals who understand transgender care – agree is best for her.  There is a clear legal consensus that it is the government’s responsibility to provide medically necessary care for transgender people and the military has an obligation to follow those guidelines.

 “What should not be lost is that there are transgender servicemembers and veterans who serve and have served this nation with honor, distinction and great sacrifice.  We must not forget or dishonor those individuals. Pvt. Manning’s experience is not a proxy for any other transgender man or woman who wears the uniform of the United States.”

bsig