Sunday, July 10, 2011

Marriage over life

OK. This has been a nagging irritant for me for months -- actually years. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender leadership in the U.S. have made the determination that marriage equality is the most important battle in the gay rights movement. To show that support, the leading groups like HRC and NGLTF has sunk millions into marriage equality in a variety of states that have not suffered the evil effects of so-called "Marriage Protection Amendments" to their Constitutions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Starting Medications

It’s just a pill.

Well, in my case, it’s three pills. But still, it is medicine. But why is it imbued with so much emotional debris? That is something I am sorting through as I prepare to go on anti-retroviral treatment at the end of the month.

I have been HIV-positive since March 2007, and I have known since July 17, 2007. I remember, very clearly getting the phone call from my doctor saying I needed to come in right away. It was 3 p.m. in the afternoon and I was meeting with the head of the Lansing Parks Commission about Shakespeare productions we had coming up. He offered to drive me.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From the Spam Folder...

OK, so here it is again, another installment from the Spam Folder.

First up is another robo-mail attempt at poetry.

Pussy and her epoxy staircase

wren hippopotamus soda office
(URL removed)

Babe squirms and backbone whiskey

dorothy competition heron brazil exclamation
(URL Removed)

No Subject

I was tired of always having to borrow money I kept telling myself to stay optimistic this turned my luck around!! (URL Removed) now I feel whole again just wanted to help out a friend

In other news, evidently I have a hip replacement which has been recalled. I merely need to click on the link attached to the phrase: "Hip Replacement Recall Eligible for Compensation -- Just Click Here."

Of course with my "compensation" from that hip replacement I can start a business in Nevada. 

The Nevada Edge - Discover the benefits of Incorporating in Nevada.

Heard about incorporating in Nevada?
Find out what the buzz is about with our free book.

And that is it for the From the Spam Folder...

On this 30th anniversary of the first description of HIV/AIDS

I have spent the day today curled up on the sofa, generally laid flat with back pain. While this was a beautiful day, it was spent on the sofa with the dogs. But I was able to do some reading -- specifically about HIV/AIDS.

I am doing research for a book looking at the rhetoric associated with HIV prevention for gay/bi men. And what I am finding as I read, is that prevention rhetoric has been tied up and twisted around with presumptions, exclusions and insensitivity to the community.

Why is the gay community so important in this evaluation? Because in the U.S. something like 52% of all cases are the result of homosexual activity -- specifically anal sex, and being even more specific, receptive anal sex (bottoming). The rhetoric is stunning when we look at it.

Take for example the very category in which gay/bi men are pigeon holed when they test positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC) identify such transmission as men who have sex with men. Share needles to shoot up meth? That is intravenous drug use. Are you a woman with HIV? You are categorized likely has high risk heterosexual. Are you a lesbian with HIV? You are likely identified as women who sleep with women.

Look at those categories again. Only gay or bisexual men are identified specifically by the sexual behavior they engage in. Heterosexuals engage in the same behaviors as gay men (yes straight folks have anal sex). IVDUs are completely de-sexualized (unless they are men who have sex with men. Then they get their own category). Women who sleep with women -- well now, isn't that lovely! They can have nap time but they don't fuck, do they?

Men who have sex with men was a moniker created by the CDC to describe men who engaged in anal sex with other men but did not identify as gay or bisexual. Personally, I believe if you are fucking another man, or getting fucked by one, you are at least bisexual -- whether YOU decide to use that label or not. But I digress. So in an attempt to avoid identifying men with homosexuality -- as if it was worse than being HIV positive or having AIDS -- we have authorized a complete eradication by the government of the reality of our intimate and emotional lives. The government is telling us that as same-sex attracted men (a lovely 12-step identity created by the rightwing anti-gay pray the gay away Christian movement), we just fuck. We don't "sleep" with each other. We don't have relationships -- hell we don't even bother to identify the intimacy involved, only the fucking. Even heterosexuality is identified in a way to promote a relationship and an identity. Those in that category are high risk heterosexuals (HRH). Why aren't we identified as high risk homos or high risk queers or high risk faggots...

In the same way, prevention messages continue to focus on those with HIV, but not on those without the infection. The uninfected are not identified as a target. They are not encouraged to stay negative. Instead they are presented with information that implies they will end up positive. No wonder there is a bizarre sense of inevitability of HIV infection.

I also have to say I have been stunned at the silence by friends about this anniversary.

Monday, May 30, 2011

As if spam were not abysmal enough...

So I occasionally review my spam messages, in part because some people like adding my email address to various lists. Spam is generally mundane, at best. A link to a porno site, or what I imagine is a hot breathy voiced come to see hot college co-eds naked.

But these two pieces take the cake:

Subject: jet clarinet

Hello, onion cucumber south korea
fiction perfume football museum.

or this one:

Subject: Two blondes playing with hole-to-hole dildo horse ex-wife polyester

anger triangle cowbell factory gong.
weed car debtor icicle apartment cream port.

Almost poetic in a random sort of way...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Viral Apartheid: America and its HIV underclass


(The following is the beginnings of the book I am writing in relation to HIV in America, criminalization and issue of blame, responsibility and prevention in American culture.)

When a handful of gay men were identified as suffering from a rare cancer or pneumonia nearly 30 years ago, it was something that only a few in the halls of public health took notice of. It was, after all, just a disease killing queers.

That was 1981. That indifference continued for a year. It continued when the bizarre illness began taking Haitians and intravenous drug users. They were, like queers, disposable people in American culture. They were not worthy of serious attention. No person with the disease struck a cord until researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta discovered cases of what would become known as HIV in blood product users and infants, the alarm bells began ringing.

Mother's Day 2011 Pretty Flowers

Since my mother died in 2002, and my Grandmother -- who really was more motherly than my mother ever was-- is also gone, I spent the afternoon Sunday wandering the Red Cedar Preserve in Lansing taking pictures of flowers. Cause flowers are purty. After the jump...

Announcing; Billy 365

So, I have determined that my life is not lame enough. I need to share my lameness in as many photographs as possible. Thus today, I announce the launch of Billy 365.

Starting May 10, 2011, as I am heading to Indianapolis to join the NAPWA conference, my William Shakespeare action figure will be featured in some sort of interesting, witty, or perhaps just lame image. When I go to the Capitol, Billy will be with me. Can I get his photograph with all the lawmakers in the Capitol? Can I get his picture with Gov. Rick Snyder? What will Billy find a year later at the Kalamazoo River? Indeed Billy will be having many, many adventures.

And from whence did this thought come? Check out the stormtrooper action figure photography here. Shouldn't Billy have THAT much fun too?

What would you like to see Billy doing? I will be in Indianapolis this week, and the following weekend in Rhode Island. I will of course be doing some traveling around Michigan as well, and Lansing has a plethora of places for Billy to show up. But don't hold your breath in order to see him at the $20 million hole in the ground. Do you have a favorite hang out you want to see Billy's picture take at? Well let us know!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Since I am up...

Well since I am up, and writing (or not writing the things I should be, as the case may have it), I thought I would do a wee blog and update my two readers (being generous, as I think there are no actual readers of this blog, rather I am just blathering into the ether).

As some who follow me on Facebook are likely aware, I have been having these obscene sleep needs the last couple of weekends. Last weekend, I slept well over 20 hours in the course of Saturday and Sunday. This weekend, I managed between Friday and Saturday to sleep 20 plus hours. And Tuesday of last week I realized there might be a problem. A real problem, considering I was watching the Michigan Senate take action on a controversial Emergency Financial Manager package. Surely, this was as riveting as the Michigan Senate has been in years, and yet I passed out. I awoke four hours later with a fever of 106.

So I called my general practice doctor, who directed me to go get an x-ray. I was not five minutes out of the x-ray office when she called me to inform me I had double pneumonia (meaning the fluid from such an infection was present in both lungs). I was directed to the local pharmacy where I picked up a script for Cipro.

For anyone who knows me, they know that I am not one who does well with slowing down -- even when I am sick. In fact, such limits serve to frustrate me. At the end of 2009 I was hospitalized for what turned out to be shingles on the optic nerve, but manifested as a severe headache which lasted nearly 6 weeks. While in the hospital, I actually did work on the computer, to the frustration of the doctors, nurses and my editorial staff. But, such is life for the Heywood. I hate slowing down. There is far too much to be done in this world, and I only have a finite time on the planet to accomplish it.

So, true to form I tried to work through the week on my usual schedule of 10 plus hours a day. I failed. On Thursday I actually slept to 1 pm, much to my frustration. I called my editor and apologized, and he chastised me, reminding me I had nothing to apologize for, afterall I was sick.

So anyway, that is why I have been unable/unwilling to update the blog. I used what energy I had to work. Damn paycheck and stuff. hahahaa.

So now I am gearing up for a week of protests at the capitol. Folks here are furious with Gov. Rick Snyder -- the self proclaimed "tough nerd" -- and his budget plan. Under the proposal, Snyder and his GOP allies in the legislature have to eliminate an estimated $1.4 billion from the budget. Not a pretty thing, when we have had consistent cuts to the budget for a decade. There is not much left but bone. That has not stopped Gov. Nerd from hacking the bone anyway, while giving business a nice big kiss.

With tongue.

He has proposed eliminating the state's Michigan Business Tax and associated surcharge of 22 percent. Yes that law is onerous at best, but eliminating the tax actually takes another $1.8 billion in revenue from the budget, shoving the state budget some $3.2 billion into deficit. Instead of continuing the tax as it stands now, the Gov has proposed a 6 percent flat tax on businesses, taxing retirement pensions (which currently are not taxed) extending the current higher income tax, eliminating the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and cutting all business related credits -- you know things like Brownfield credits which result in the redevelopment and repurposing of obsolete properties in the state.

The Tough Nerd has also proposed cutting K-12 funding, higher education funding, local revenue sharing and more. In short, the Nerd's budget really makes only one Michigan entity happy -- business. Everyone else, from schools to local government to the poor, well they are pretty much getting the pooch screwing.

Add on top of that the move by Republicans who control both chambers of the legislature to push a massive Emergency Financial Manager bill which will give pretty much unrestrained powers to one person, appointed by the governor, in managing the operations of local governments deemed to be in a financial crisis. The EFM can dissolve the elected body, dismiss collectively bargained contracts, eliminate any local law the EFM wants to, and if the EFM decides to, can dissolve the political entity altogether, forcing it to be absorbed by neighboring governments. Exciting, right?

All this adds up to a pissed of electorate, which in turn means protests. Now the question is, will the state actually deal with this in a way that voters can be heard (think Wisconsin protests times 4 or 5 to make that even be a consideration), or will the GOP continue as they see fit, the voters be damned? I guess we will see over the coming days and weeks...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Because damn it Gobbo is adorable!

Wouldn't you know it? As soon as I had posted the blog about Gobbo, he went and did something totally adorable.

It's true. He is sleeping. Legs in the air. He is more and more like Daddy every day. :)

I've been missing in action

Apologies for anyone who has been following this blog. It has been an extremely busy month! Work has been very busy and on top of that my back has been quite out of control with pain. Additionally, I came down with the flu about three weeks ago and I still have not been able to kick it.

On a positive note, a couple of cool things have happened as well. I was given a promotion at the American Independent News Network (AINN). I am now Senior Reporter for Michigan Messenger. It's a rocking cool deal.

In addition, a week ago I had an addition to my beloved family. As anyone who knows me is aware I have two amazing rat terriers, Gypsianna Rose (Gypsy) and Virgil Joshua (Virgil). A week ago, they got a new brother.

Meet Lancelot Gobbo (Gobbo). He is an American Hairless Terrier, and is now 10 weeks of age. He is incredibly intelligent, curious and super playful. While Gypsy was ostensibly OK with a puppy (I asked her if we could get a baby puppy and she was very excited about such an idea), she was not particularly keen to young Gobbo when he arrived home Sunday night.

In fact, Gypsy took three days to deign to acknowledge Gobbo's existence in the house. And she was so upset with me that for those three days, she refused to get on the sofa with me to cuddle. Generally, Virgil sleeps under the covers at my feet while she sleeps cuddled beside me under the covers. But not so with the introduction of young Gobbo. She was not happy.

However, on the third day she decided to check him out, and in doing so attempted to suckle him. Gobbo was not keen to that idea, but took it as an invitation to play. The two are now regular wrestling buddies.

On the other handle, Virgil was quick to accept Gobbo, but he is regularly irritated by the little boy's desire to play. When Gobbo is ready to sleep, and Virgil is under the covers, Gobbo will climb on his back and curl up to sleep. Virgil tolerates this. And while Virgil will wrestle with Gobbo on occasion, he prefers to watch Gypsy and Gobbo wrestle. He even goes so far is to get upset, thus unleashing a torrent of high pitched barking -- as if he is demanding the two cease and desist. This, of course, leads to Gypsy and Gobbo playing more.

So right after I picked Young Gobbo up in Battle Creek (thanks to Emily Dievendorf for accompanying me as my navigator), we took him to Preuss Pets. There we looked at various dog clothing. I have to admit I was a bit weirded out by the idea of having a dog that needed doggy clothing. However, with the help of Debbie and Kirbay Preuss, we found Gobbo the perfect jacket, a faux sheep skin jacket. I call this his "Brokeback Terrier" look after the Academy Award Winning "Brokeback Mountain." And I admit, I just can't quit him!

So where did his name come from? Lancelot Gobbo is the young clown in William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." He is a character with a fantastic monologue about the internal monologue we all have running in our heads between good and bad ideas. I used this monologue to audition for both Central Michigan University and BoarsHead Theater. Both locations accepted me -- with CMU providing me with a scholarship and BoarsHead hiring me in their intern program. I accepted the internship over more schooling. Regardless, I have alway enjoyed the character immensely as there is a common sense wisdom to his words that Shakespeare is fantastic at harnessing in many of his "fool" characters.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"It's listen to what I'm saying."

This is a beautiful, powerful, simple message that sums up what many of us felt when we discovered that our feelings meant we were queer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

IRONY? Thy name is Heat Surge Roll-n-Glow

One of the punishments of being on a bizarre schedule is being forced to view infomercials for a host of useless and bizarre items-- from all in one gyms to plastic pasta cooking containers for the microwave. I think I may actually lose a few brain cells each time I watch the infomercials

(Sidenote: I could possibly avoid the brain cell death if I were more 'American' and spend my hard earned income on cable or satellite service so I could have many more channels to choose drivel from, and yet I seem unable to do so.)

So what infomercial caught my attention this morning? Why one for the Heat Surge Roll-n-Glow fake fire place heater in a wood casing. Why would this catch my attention? Well here, from their website:

"How are the Mantles made?
The Amish-made mantle is made of 100% real wood and top is comprised of a solid-wood and solid front trim pieces are made of plywood with real wood veneer.
Hand cut precision pieces
Hand rubbed to accent wood's character
Hand stained w/ heat resistant catalyzed varnish
Uses mortise joint and kreg drilled design
4 screws bolt the unit into the mantel
Fluted trim sides & cove trim top
With 4 steel casters (2 stationary & 2 swivel wheels)."
The irony is that this lovely Amish handcrafted mantles around encasing a heating unit which emits electromagnetic energy waves to heat room air. That is, in short, a fusion reactor. You know where you force atoms to combine with this high energy wave. 

Cause that is TOTALLY what the Amish stand for. 

UPDATE: Birds dropping dead

Just because the black helicopters are not following you around does not mean there was no government conspiracy in the mass deaths of birds at the end of 2010. 

Yes indeed, it appears at least one mass die off of starlings has been explained. The United States Department of Agriculture announced it was responsible for the deaths in Yankton, S.D., reports the Christian Science Monitor. 

"The USDA's Wildlife Services Program, which contracts with farmers for bird control, said it used an avicide poison called DRC-1339 to cull a roost of 5,000 birds that were defecating on a farmer's cattle feed across the state line in Nebraska. But officials said the agency had nothing to do with large and dense recent bird kills in Arkansas and Louisiana
Seems our friends at USDA Wildlife euthanized four million avians in 2009. But no need to fear, because the project does not cost U.S. taxpayers, the USDA says. In fact, it says the farmers pay the USDA to perform the cullings. 

Now if we can just figure out what caused the deaths in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Kentucky in the last month.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A whole lotta spam

Perhaps I am odd, but I find Spam email entertaining. So, from time to time I am going to use this blog to poke fun at the Spam email I get in my spam filter.

Todd don't let your Social Security Disability Benefits go to waste This is a curious one. How are my SSD benefits "going to waste?" Don't you have to be legally qualified as disabled in order to qualify those benefits? The answer yes, you do need to certified as disabled to qualify for SSD benefits. They are there, which is why all of us are paying into the fund. Just like Social Security benefits. So the way it works is you pay into the system and if you are ever disabled the benefits are then available to you.

Cancer Alert: Asbestos causes mesothelioma Thank GOD the Mesothelioma Legal Center is on the case. I had no idea about this amazing discover from 1960. How would I ever know without them?

Live your dream: create video games for a living From the actual email, allow me to share the pitch:

Turn your passion for gaming into an awesome career.

Want to help develop the next generation of great games? All
it takes is desire, creativity, and the right degree. Right
now, top schools across the country are offering online or
on-campus programs in game art and design, game software
development, and game programming. Get the training you
need to make your gaming dreams come true.

Why isn't that nice of them to help me live my dream. Except, well, I don't give a steaming pile of poo about gaming. Score one for ESP.

Web Only Offer | DISH Network $24.99/mo | HD for life Woot! A secret web only offer. I am feeling so damn special... Wait. No I am not feeling special. The Web Only Secret offer was in my mail today. And there was just a television commercial for it. Good thinking there DISH. No one would ever know you were blanketing areas via email, USPS and television. Stay classy.

Lift your chest without surgery Just what I was looking for!

Barelifts- The Invisible Solution To A Naturally Perky Look.

Barelifts are completely strapless and will help lift your breasts while ensuring a naturally perky look in virtually ANY outfit. With Barelifts, you can lift your breast and realign your nipple to a higher position, even if you are larger than a D cup.

Holy flying monkeys! Where has Barelifts been my whole life? My nipples are often sagging and unperky. This is the fix for that hairy chest and lack of actual breasts I have been looking for. Barelifts, you are a life saver!

Ah Spamsters of the world unite.

Sarah Palin's Battle Hymn

This just popped up on my Facebook feed.

This homage to Sarah Palin is set to the tune of  "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The ironies abound.

Read more about the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" here at Wikipedia.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

How do communities address 'dangerous' pets?

In the summer of 2010, there were a rash of reports in Jackson county of quite outrageous dog attacks. Community leaders are, legitimately, concerned about this. The owners of the dogs are, legally, responsible for their pets' behavior. That too is right.

A typical feral cat response when confronted with a human being.
Photo Credit: Yanjing Lu: Wikimedia Commons.
However, there is another type of pet I became well aware of while I worked in Jackson county and it is one which I have had to deal with at my own home in Lansing. Stray and feral cats. By their very definition, these felines are not "owned" by anyone. To clarify, a stray cat is one which will accept limited human touch and interaction. A feral cat is one which is wild and thus unwilling to accept human touch. The closest to human interaction a true feral will have is watching from a distance.

In Jackson, as well as Lansing and all over the state, people build elaborate structures for these cats to shelter in, and provide food and water for them. Usually these shelters are built on private property, usually empty city lots and usually without the permission of the property owner.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some opinion pieces worth reading

As anyone who knows me is aware, I read a lot the newspapers in the state, and several not in the state. I consume information like a vacuum. I process it quickly, file it away under the appropriate heading, and sadly can recall it quickly. 

With that introduction I would like to share a couple of news pieces I think that are worth taking the time to read.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comparing public reflections on the Tucson tragedy

President Barack Obama is speaking right now at the University of Arizona. He is, of course, discussing the tragedy of Saturday's shootings in Tucson.

Compare the rhetoric and speech of Sarah Palin, released earlier today, to that of Obama tonight:

As Prepared for Delivery—
To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona:  I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.
There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts.  But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight.  We mourn with you for the fallen.  We join you in your grief.  And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.
As Scripture tells us:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital.  Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.
That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets.  And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.
Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years.  A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge.  His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit.  He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative.  John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.
George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters.  They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon.  Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say.  When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife.  Both were shot.  Dot passed away.
A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter.  A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered.  A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.
Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.  A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux.  His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.
Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people.  As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks.  He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help.  Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancĂ©e, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.
And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green.  Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer.  She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her.  She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed.  We have the best life.”  And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing.  Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.
Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday.  I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.  And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.
And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others.  We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive.  We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload.  We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives.  And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.
These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle.  They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength.  Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.
Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us.  It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward.  How can we honor the fallen?  How can we be true to their memory?
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?
So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.
That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.  For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong.  We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them.  In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners.  Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son.  In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law.  In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.
And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children.  So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.
So deserving of our love.
And so deserving of our good example.  If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.  Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.  It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.
I believe we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.
That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.”  On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life.  “I hope you help those in need,” read one.  “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.  I hope you jump in rain puddles.”
If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.  And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace.  May He love and watch over the survivors.  And may He bless the United States of America.

Pictures of the dogs

The dogs were just too damn cute today so I shot these pictures of them as they were waking. I am still surprised Gypsy would be so nonchalant about a camera pointed in her direction. She generally hates having her picture taken.

Here both dogs are waking up from a nap. They both feel it is absolutely essential to be under the blankets when sleeping. Virgil actually pouts, with a whiny cry when he cannot easily get under the blankets. Then we he does succeed in getting under the blanket, he inevitably rolls himself up in the blankets, pulling them off of me. Gypsy, on the other hand, finds that sleeping under the blanket is only acceptable if I am there. In which case she must be laying beside me, touching me as much as possible.

Virgil has to have the first morning yawn, you know. It shows a sign of how well he slept.

Isn't she just too damn cute for her own good? The beautiful and fantabulous Gypsy, Queen of the House.

I thought we grew past this kind of crap (Updated)

Seriously. I thought America, as flawed as it is and has been in relation to HIV had outgrown the blame the person with HIV and punish them for it mentality.

Apparently not in North Carolina, however. State Rep. Larry Brown, a pasty overweight balding white man -- a traditional southern Republican, told the Winston Salem Journal that people with HIV ought not get government assistance to access medications or doctors.

From the Journal:

State Rep. Larry Brown said during a discussion of his legislative goals for the year that the government should not spend money to treat adults with HIV or AIDS who "caused it by the way they live."

He went on to say he thinks the government shouldn't spend money to treat HIV among people "living in perverted lifestyles."

"I'm not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don't condone spending taxpayers' money to help people living in perverted lifestyles," said Brown, who ran unopposed in the November election to win a fourth term.

Such a charming man, this Rep. Brown. He says those who get HIV via sex or drugs are among those he considers perverted and thus not eligible for government assistance.

It seems that North Carolina is already doing some cost containment. The state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has 87 people waiting for access to the life saving medications which costs thousands of dollars a year. The program has also implemented other cost containment measures by limiting what medications are even covered by the program.


The folks at Human Rights Campaign have weighed in on Rep. Brown's statements. In a release sent out just now (3:10 p.m. EST), here's what HRC had to say:

“Rep. Brown’s ill-informed comments are not only hateful rhetoric, but they are also extremely dangerous,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Hysterical, judgmental and inaccurate statements like Brown’s create an environment that prevents many from getting tested and seeking treatment, thereby furthering the spread of HIV and AIDS. Larry Brown’s conduct reflects poorly on his constituents and other elected officials. The people of North Carolina deserve better.”

“Larry Brown’s views are out of line with the fair-minded people of North Carolina,” Solmonese added. “Sadly, he won a fourth term in November unopposed. Expressions of such bigotry and ignorance have no place in the North Carolina Legislature.”

Now don't get me wrong, I am glad HRC weighed in. But I am troubled that everytime I have reached out to Human Rights Campaign about HIV issues in Michigan, I am met with silence. In fact, HRC recently released a tour schedule for their political agenda, and once again Michigan was missed. I am beginning to wonder if HRC even knows that Michigan exists.

Arizona, Giffords' assassination and political rhetoric

Since Saturday, the internet has been a buzz with discussions about what, if any, roll political rhetoric played in the assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. That attempt left Giffords in a medically induced coma, six people -- including a 9-year-old girl -- dead, and over a dozen critically wounded. The gun man is in custody, and has not cooperated with law enforcement to explain his actions.

But that has not stopped those of us in the media from asking the question, what roll has the violent political rhetoric that has tained our national elections played in this shooting. We may never know what impact all that rhetoric had on Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused in the shootings. But the questions are worth asking.

Well, most of us think so.

Sarah Palin, with her Don't retreat, reload and rifle sights on districts (including Giffords), however sees things differently. She released this video today responding to the conversation about the roll of political rhetoric in the shooting:

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

For those who don't want to listen to the 7 minute plus video, here is the text of her statement:

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

In Michigan Messenger today I ran a piece looking at this very issue about political rhetoric and violence. In that piece I spoke to Joe Munem, a GOP strategist from Michigan, Gene Clem, the president of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots, and Jeffrey Feldman, an NYU professor who has written two incredibly insightful books about framing and political rhetoric in modern America.

I do think it is important to note that I wrote a similar piece during the 2008 Presidential race, when Palin and McCain were hosting rallies where attendees were calling for the killing of Barack Obama.

Some good news

I was able to report some fantastic news yesterday on Michigan Messenger. My alma mater, and an institution that is very dear to my heart, has announced the formation of a scholarship for LGBT students. The scholarship is open to any LGBT student under age 25, who has been involved in the community on behalf of the LGBT community. It is good for as many as four semesters and will be allocated each semester.

This is exciting news. I started at LCC as a student in 1989. At that time there were no out gay people on the campus. I ran for the student government, and won. And it is important to note I campaign in drag. True story. I was wearing a tight black leather mini skirt, black fishnets, a black teddy and electric blue high heels and a turquoise blue dress shirt. I also donned a beautiful red wig. I did not shave my chest.

I vividly recall campaigning in the Kennedy Cafeteria in the Arts and Sciences Building. I approached a couple and asked them to vote for me. The woman asked why they should vote for me, and I said, as I lifted my leg onto the table, "because I have hot legs."

She was some what shocked. But he was staring in what can only be described as a weirdly excited way. So I turned to him and said, "right?"

He nodded and I was off to campaign some more. I won the election.

But for many years I was the only gay man on campus who was willing to talk about LGBT Issues. At one point, I was assaulted in a campus bathroom after a meeting I had with student government in which I delivered an impassioned speech about LGBT Issues.

I would often be approached by closeted men who declare "You don't speak for me."

"Here's the microphone, speak for yourself please," I would respond. They refused.

LCC taught me my craft as an actor and director. The institution is responsible for teaching me I have the ability to report as a journalist. But most importantly, LCC taught me I had a voice worth being heard.

For those gifts, I ran for and served on the Board of Trustees for two years. I was then and remain today, the only openly gay man elected to serve on a community college board of trustees. I am proud of that history and I am proud of the LCC district's willingness to entrust me with such an honor.

It is for these reasons I continue to go back to LCC to talk to management classes about being gay in the work place. It is why I talk to sexuality classes about living with HIV. It is the only way I can continue to give back to this beloved institution.

And so today I am asking my friends to take a moment and make a donation -- it needn't be millions of dollars -- to the LCC Foundation's LGBT scholarship fund. Let's keep this fund going for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Speaking of insanity

OK so the crap in Nebraska is nuts enough, but now we have Westboro Baptist Church's Fred Phelps heaping praise on the shooter in Tucson. No, seriously. The shooting was God's work:

Ah... the crazy that is Westboro Baptist Church. Need I say anything else?

HIV insanity proposed in Nebraska

One more time, this time with feeling. HIV is not spread by spit. It just is not possible.

That is not stopping the Nebraska legislature from creating a new law about spitting at police officers a crime.

For those not infected with Hepatitis B or C, or HIV, the spitting at a peace officer will be a misdemeanor. But for those infected with any of those three viruses, spitting at a peace office will be a felony.

Here's how the Associated Press reported the legislation:

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - State Sen. Mike Gloor, of Grand Island, has introduced a bill designed to protect police from assault with bodily fluids that can transmit diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B or C.

The bill is 1 of 5 Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning listed in his legislative package last week.

Under the measure, assaulting a peace officer with bodily fluid would be a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The offense would be a felony if committed by those who know they are infected with HIV, AIDS or hepatitis B or C. The penalty would jump to up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Well isn't that sweet. At a time when the federal Department of Justice is directed by the Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy in the White House to get states to review and remove HIV specific criminal laws, Nebraska is going back to the 80s to create a fear driven, fact forgotten law.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On the Giffords' shooting

Two of America's court jester have weighed in on the shootings of Gabrielle Giffords.

This first one is far more thoughtful and comes from Jon Stewart.

The second one is from Bill Maher, and while not as thoughtful, it is just as insightful.

Mass die offs of animals explained

Now here is one heck of a weird explanation for the mass die offs of birds and other animals in the past weeks. It is because we repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. It's the Arkansas Effect:

You can't make this crazy up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Battalion 14: Michigan's newest hate group

Here is a video interview with Chris Simpson, the commander of the Battalion 14 neo-Nazi group that surfaced in Jackson, March 21, 2010.

After this march and the video interview with Mr. Simpson went on line, the Southern Poverty Law Center told me in an interview for Michigan Messenger that the group would definitely be listed as a hate group for the 2010 hate map.

“I have very little doubt we will list them as a hate group,” Potok said. He said there was no question, in his mind, the group was a white supremacy group and was national socialist in nature. He said it was clear the group understood what white supremacy phrases and references meant, and supported them."

Loughner: Leftist Lunatic or Republican Zealot?

Those in the Tea Party Nation would have us believe that Jared Loughner, the accused Tucson shooter was a "leftist lunatic" according to Judson Founder of Tea Party Nation. But is that an accurate portrayal?

The facts seem to say differently. Loughner was a registered Republican in Pima County. He was also tied to the group American Renaissance according to an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security:

"An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo quoted by FOX News Channel revealed the gunman - named by the media as Jared Loughner, 22 - is "possibly linked" to American Renaissance."

Now American Renaissance is not exactly a lefty love fest. In fact, it is a right wing racist website which has had ties to two Michigan State University groups including the Young Americans for Freedom (which was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has since fallen from student ground recognition) and the new group Sons of Liberty (which shared the same muslim hating faculty advisor).

And what does American Renaissance have to say about the 2010 Republican landslide victories?

The Great White Wave: The 2010 elections saw a dramatic uprising against the policies of President Obama and the Democratic Congress led by the “tea party” movement. Another phenomenon has yet to be fully expounded—the decisive factor of the white vote. Assistant editor Stephen Webster reviews the numbers to show how white votes made the crucial difference as Republicans scored historic gains in dozens of elections both state and nationwide. Mr. Webster notes the success of immigration-reform candidates — also due to significant white support — as well as several important ballot initiatives, and discusses what this political realignment can mean for whites — if they are willing to act in their own interests.

This hardly fits the face of a leftist lunatic. Rather it is the face of a right wing radical of the ilk of Kyle Bristow who ran YAF and graduates of the Morton Blackwell Leadership Institute in Virginia. LI trains students to be conservative activists on their campuses, pays them a stipdend and gives them a lap top computer. The group spends millions of dollars annually on infiltrating college campuses with bogus new racism theology, anti-gay rhetoric and free market blather which makes no sense to any human being who has seen what free martketing did to the housing market with subprime loans bundled as security instruments and sold as gambling debts on the stock market exchange.

It also serves to undermine the claims of his supposed friend from high school who said he was a leftist. By her own admission she has not spoken to Loughner in a long time. Maybe that is because he was a true believer in right wing thinking and Sarah Palin's gun sights on various candidates and districts.

Sadly we may never know the answer. But this information sheds a light on the shooter that the Tea Party elite would prefer the American people not pay attention to. A letter posted on the Tea Party Nation website by Judson Phillips sums it all up -- at least from the distancing movement:

Immediately after Congressman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the left wing went into over drive to try and blame the Tea Party for the shooting. There was one minor problem.

There was no evidence.

In fact, in the hours after the shooting, the evidence began to pile up that Jared Loughner was in fact a liberal. Former classmates tweeted about his beliefs. He was a pot head who was kicked out of community college because he was such a disturbed individual. After twenty-four hours of ripping the Internet apart, the liberals are beside themselves with anger because the cannot tie Loughner to the Tea Party movement.

But have no fear, when the liberals really need help, they can count on the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS has magically come up with a report that says he has “ties” to an anti Semitic, anti-government group that has ads for tea party groups on its front page.


There is a legal term for this kind of stuff. It is MSU. That stands for makin’ stuff up!

The leftist reported that the Department of Homeland Security had a memo that said Loughner is “possibly linked” to a group called American Renaissance.

This is the same Department of Homeland Security that issued the infamous report on April 14, 2009, a day before the great Tax Day tea parties, warning of an upswing in “right wing extremism.” This is the same Department of Homeland Security, who’s Secretary Janet Napolitano, claimed the border is secure and the system worked, after the underwear bomber tried to blow up a flight on Christmas day, 2009.

The group, American Renaissance, says they have no record of Loughner ever being associated or involved with them.

The obvious question that should be asked is, how about at least some evidence?

All that is there is some, at best, speculation. Of course, the liberal media and the blogosphere are quite happy to run with the story that fits their story line.

The liberal hate group, the Southern Poverty Law Center went through convolutions to try and claim that Jared Loughner was some kind of conservative. The Huffington Post ate that up and immediately posted the story online.

This is liberal thought and liberal journalism at its best. Facts and the truth are ignored in favor of speculation that supports the story they want to believe.

When this nightmare first began, Tea Party Nation decided to get out early and fight because we knew this is what would happen. Regardless of the facts, the left would try to tie this to the Tea Party movement. We are pushing back now and we need everyone in this movement to help us fight the smear the liberals are trying to put out.

We need to remind everyone, the shooter was a liberal lunatic.

Leftist Lunatic or Rightwing soldier, there are serious questions about the rhetoric and how it impacts Americans.

The Congresswoman's Heroic Staffer

It never fails. Whenever there is a mass shooting, or major incident, some person's actions are raised to the level of heroism. They are painted as the face of the better angels we would all like to believe would take us over if we were ever caught in such a scenario.

The shooting Saturday of Gabrielle Giffords at a Tucson shopping center is no exception to this role. In fact, there are two competing images of heroism happening.

The first is the story of one of the dead. She is being held up as a kind of tragic hero. Born on Sept. 11, 2001 as our nation was wrestling to the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. The day we all sat glued to our televisions as the twin towers collapsed in a cloud of grey dust which filled southern lower Manahattan with whisps of dust. She was Christina Taylor Green. The Washington Post has dubbed the 9-year-old "A Face of Hope." The newspaper writes that she often wore red, white and blue in honor of the country.

But Ms. Taylor Green is dead and it is easy to idolize a dead child and mourn her lost innocence.

Daniel Hernandez however might not be as easily idolized in the lexicon of American heroes. He ran to the Congresswoman's side, and provide aid and comfort to her while the bullets were still flying and until the medical professionals arrived. He told ABC News, according to Huffington Post:

"I had to lift up the congresswoman because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe okay because there was so much blood."

The 20-year-old Congressional intern did what we would all like to believe we would do faced with such a situation. But Joe Jervis, of the blog Joe.My.God, raises a troubling point. Why is it that we see Daniel, the hero, stripped of his full humanity?

Jervis writes:

"Yes, it IS relevant that shooting hero Daniel Hernandez is gay. If he were straight, the lede in every story would be something like 'The married father of three rushed towards the Congresswoman...'" Reminds me of Oliver Sipple who saved President Ford on Sept 22, 1975, but died disowned & penniless, dead in apt for 2 weeks. Oliver was a hero too."

Oliver Sipple, downplayed his sexuality in 1975 when he saved then-President Gerald Ford from the bullet shot at him by Sara Jane Moore. He said it didn't matter anymore than the color of his skin or the color of his eyes.

Yet the man who saved a President died, alone, in 1989, penniless, disowned by his family and forgotten. So forgotten in fact, he had been dead in his home for two weeks before police found him, a letter of gratitude from Ford on the wall near his rotting corpse.

Let us not allow the heroism of Daniel Hernandez end in the same tragic way.

Hernandez says he went to the Congresswoman to aid her. He said doing so while the bullets were still flying was likely not the wisest choice. No, Mr. Hernandez, your actions were the actions of a true American hero. Thank you.

The shooting of a Congresswoman

There is a lot of opinion flying around the political cybersphere in relation to Saturday's horrifying shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot in the face, at point blank range, and then the gun man open fire on the crowd that had assembled outside a Safeway shopping market for a Congress on your corner event. Six of those present were killed in the shooting, including a 9-year-old girl and the Chief U.S. District Court Judge for Arizona.

Those on the left were quick to point the fingers at the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party was quick to distance itself for the shooting.

And sadly, the 22-year-old man being held in the shooting has not been very communicative with law enforcement so there is no real answer as to whether or not this shooting was politically motivated or if it was the result of a mind troubled by mental health issues. The Shooters YouTube channel certainly supports the later, although the rhetoric is very similar to posse comitatus anti-government thinking and his claims that Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto raises questions as well.

But ultimately, the shooting raises significant concerns about the violent tenure of political discourse in America. You might remember the terrorism calls during the Obama McCain Presidential race in 2008. Or the racist and homophobic slurs hurled on members of Congress during the health care vote. You might even recall Sarah Palin's Sarah Pac releasing a map of 20 districts of Democrats to target. Each district was highlighted with a rifle site. Or perhaps you recall the threats leveled at Rep. Bart Stupak or Rep. Mark Schauer in 2010. And who can forget Palin's "Don't retreat, reload" rhetoric?

All of this is here and a part of the political discourse, and whether or not the 22-year-old accused shooter was inspired by this rhetoric directly or not, this rhetoric does give mental permission to see our congress and other elected officials as enemy of the state worthy of assassination. And that is a problem. Disagreement is part of politics. Finding a bridge of compromise is the ultimate sign of functional operation of government.

The question becomes, are we as Americans ready now to discuss the violence of our rhetoric in politics, or are we going to continue calling on the worser angels of our being and then act surprised when those worser angels lash out in violence?

I wish I had an answer to that. I really do.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Advocating or educating?

I have done a great deal of writing about Michigan's HIV disclosure law and specifically how it is putting HIV positive people into suspect felony classes merely because of their HIV status. I have also spoken at length about living with HIV and preventing HIV in this modern era. The speech I posted earlier from the 2009 Pride March is one such example.

But true to the Yiddish proverb: For the Truth you get beat up -- I have taken a lot of heat from some in the community for those stories.

Some have gone so far as to allege I am advocating for HIV positives not to disclose their status, which could not be further from the truth. Instead, I believe that disclosure is a persona issue, not a criminal issue, and using finite and dwindling police resources to investigate and prosecute cases which ultimately rely on (1) the jury's ignorance about HIV and (2) a he said/she said scenario. That is a use of finite resources better directed at armed robbery suspects, domestic violence cases, and other violent cases.

There is room, I believe, in traditional law to prosecute those accused of serial exposures. But in order to do that, a person must not be in treatment and must have a measurable viral load, which thus makes them truly infectious.

Unfortunately our laws are from a time when HIV was a death sentence and they reflect they hysteria and misunderstandings about HIV which continue to this day. Sadly, disclosure of an HIV status can lead to rejection, violence and harassment. And placing the disclosure duty on those with HIV is an unfair pressure. If state medical officials were following the federal CDC recommendation of being tested at least annually. Until such time as HIV testing is routine, and violence and fear do not prevail in disclosure these laws are a danger to the community. Studies show that the laws actually prevent persons from being tested and lead to false assumptions during sexual encounters.

Should HIV positives disclose their status? Absolutely.

Should HIV negatives disclose their status? Absolutely.

Should partners exchange recent HIV tests to show their status? Absolutely.

Are all those happening? Sadly, no.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Introducing my babies

As they are often the subject of my status updates on Facebook, and I speak of them regularly, I suppose now is as good a time as any to introduce you to my babies.

This is my beloved Virgil Joshua. While some believe he was named after Virg Bernero, that is not quite accurate. My friend Val Lea went with me to get Virgil from a breeder in Owosso. He was the only one in the entire litter who did not come out when we were looking. He had to be removed from the nesting box in the pen he was in. I picked him up and it was instant love. So on the drive back to Lansing, Val and I were trying names on him. I wanted to make sure that his name was as important as his soon to be brother's was. At home I had a beautiful, sweet pitbull mix named Windsor Titus Turing. Windsor, from the Merry Wives of Windsor, Titus from Titus Andronicus and Turing from the gay math whiz who helped break the Nazi Enigma code, and thus helped win World War II. Val said how about Virgil? I promptly thought of Virgil the poet. She, of course, was thinking about State Sen. Virgil Bernero whom we had all come to respect a great deal. Without asking her which Virgil she meant, the name was an instant stick. I attached the name Joshua because it sounds right, and also because it is a potent Biblical name. Thus was Virgil Joshua named.

And this my beloved Gypsy. Her full name is Gypsianna Rose. She came to live with me in May 2003, when I was managing the Cascades Humane Society in Jackson. At the time, she was coming to live with me only on a temporary fostering basis. I brought her home in a carrier, and brought her in the living room. I set the carrier down, and Windsor and Virgil were of course eager to see what was in the carrier and were sniffing around. I opened the door, and she flew out of the carrier and promptly kicked the hell out of both of them. From that moment on, Gypsy was at home. While her full history is unknown, here is what I do know about her life before moving here to Lansing with me. She was tossed, in a carrier, onto the front lawn of one of the board members of the CHS. From there she placed in home after home, each time being returned for behavior issues. She was a dominate aggressive dog and smarter than most dogs. She was generally bored in the homes she was in, and the families who adopted her generally had no idea how to deal with a dog that was incredible smart and incredibly dominate. Such dogs require a job. In my home, she made keeping the boys in check her job. And she continues to do that to this day with Virgil. She has slowly grown more affectionate and attention seeking over the years. It was not until 2007 or so that she began meeting me at the door with a wagging tail, and in 2010 she started letting people into the house without biting them. It was also in 2010 that she began starting the morning by crawling up my chest to very gently, almost tentatively actually, place a few simple kisses on my nose. Then she rises and is ready to go out.

Virgil teaches me to not take myself too seriously and to remember to play. Gypsy has taught me the power of transformative unconditional love.

These are my babies and I am pleased to share them with you.