Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"It's time...to 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.

UPDATE:

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.

WOW!

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

The leftist Politico.com 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.

My 2009 speech at Michigan Pride

I gave this speech about living with HIV in 2009.

Tell me your story


I met with the artistic director of one of the local professional theaters here in Lansing on Wednesday. Our conversation was about creating a play about living with HIV. It's not an easy thing, even 30 years into the epidemic and tons of science about the disease, its transmission and its prevention. As an out positive, I get responses from other gay men ranging from you should be shot, to silence. I also get told "I don't have sex with positives," and yet those same people saying that I know have engaged in sexual relations with people who are positive, but not disclosing.

Disclosing is a moral obligation, in my opinion, but it's not easy and it can often be painful. You have to have a pretty serious ego in order to accept the rejection associated with disclosure.

So, this was all said as a way to introduce my call for stories. I am looking for HIV positive people, or those who are negative and in a relationship with an HIV positive partner to tell me their stories.

How did you disclose your status? How did people react? What was your emotional state as you prepared to tell that special some one you were positive? Do you always disclose? If so, why? If not, why?

What are the barriers you have in disclosing? What makes it easier to disclose?

If you are negative in a relationship with a positive (or have been in a relationship with a positive person) what was different? What made you agree to the relationship? How did you react initially when that person told you? How did you overcome fear?

Oh the list of questions goes on and on. The reality is, I want to tell the stories of romance and HIV in the 21st century, so I need your stories! Submit you story to TellingHIVStories@gmail.com. You will remain anonymous and I will be the only person who reads your story. Thanks so much in advance for your help!

But dialing fiasco

OK, I have a blackberry for a time, that sadly would regularly dial the last number I called. It was weird to be in the middle of a rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet and suddenly here an editor's voice screaming through my cell phone. So, I get it. Butt dialing happens.

But what happened Winnetka, IL; goes a bit further than anything I have seen as a punishment for a butt dialing incident.

In this suburb of Chicago, a school employee accidentally butt dialed his wife. She heard things that made her believe that he was being held hostage. She called the cops, they responded with a SWAT team.

Turns out what she heard during the butt to ear call was music lyrics.

"He was listening to music and he had, I don't know, hip-hop … or music like that, where there were lyrics that were gangster-like. So there were lyrics on the radio as he was driving home, and she listened to it and became concerned."

No one was harmed in the incident, and students at the school had already been dismissed for the day.

You can't make this stuff up.

Animal die offs all over the globe

Some smarty pants has put together a google map showing the locations of hundreds of unexplained animal die offs, like the ones I have already written about.

Here's the link.

UPDATE:

Now the USGS National Wildlife Health Center has issued a report on die offs in the U.S. and probable causes. It's a pretty stunning document, you can see it here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Animals dropping dead not exclusive to the U.S.

Here's an interesting little tidbit. As I blogged earlier this week, there were a series of mysterious animal deaths in AR and LA earlier this week. Now comes word that the weirdness is not limited to the U.S. Thus reports TheStar.com:

The Thanet shoreline is littered with the crabs, along with dead starfish, lobsters, sponges and anemones.

But wait, that's not all:

Meanwhile, about 50 jackdaw birds were found dead Wednesday on a street in Stockholm, Sweden.

Summation: Dead birds and fish in AR. Dead birds in LA. Dead sea creatures in England. Dead birds in Sweden. Conclusion? There's nothing to see here. Move along, move along...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today's Reality TV Quote of the Day

I am starting a new feature. As I work, I generally have the television on playing a variety of shows. They are almost invariably reality court shows, like Judge Mathis, Judge Judy, the People's Court, etc etc.

Of course, in each of these shows, there is some one who makes a statement that is just funny. Most of the time it is funny to just me. But you never know, maybe the readers will find it fun. If not, at least I am amused.

So, today's quote: (Drumroll)


The quote today comes from Judge Greg Mathis and is:

‎"cause I have been in dat perdickerment..."

I AM-- Transpeople speak

This is a fantastic new website dealing with transgender issues and identities.

It also includes a fantastic video of Diego Sanchez who works for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). I have had the opportunity to get to know him.

Here he is testifying before the Congress:

A few pictures of me


This is me, during the 2004 production of "The Comedy of Errors" in Nancy L. Moore Park in Okemos. The dog is my adorable and slightly off center rat terrier Virgil Joshua.


Here I am with President Josiah Bartlett aka Martin Sheen. This picture was taken Dec. 1 2007 in Detroit. Sheen was the keynote speaker for the ACLU of Michigan's annual dinner. He was incredibly friendly and an excellent interview. He even invited me to come sit with him for dinner, something discouraged by ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss. :)


And this is me in my Sarah Palin glasses. And yes, I can see Russia out the window behind me. But only if I close my eyes and pretend.

The NYC Health Department HIV Prevention ad

Late last year (that would 2010 if you are like me and still not sure where we are in the calendar) the New York City Health Department launched an HIV prevention advertisement which they are quite pleased with. However, it has been the subject of much conversation and some criticisms. OK, not just criticisms, it has been sounded condemned by many in the HIV prevention community.

My friend Sean Strub has an excellent exploration of this issue at his Poz.com blog.

And while others are going to line up on either side of the prevention fence on this -- ie, does it or doesn't it work to show a blood anus encrusted with cancer -- I want to look at something slightly different.

In his blog, Sean writes:

Supporters of these ads claim HIV prevention has been a failure and they are angry that the epidemic has disappeared from the media and fallen off the list of priorities for LGBT organizations and others who once were leaders in the fight against AIDS.

I do not support these ads, in large part because fear does not work as a prevention tool, and in the remainder because the "factual" information is misleading, at best, about the health issues associated with HIV disease.

I do, however, believe that HIV prevention in the past decade or more has been a failure. The question is why?

The answer is Prevention for Positives. This is a misguided, albeit well meaning, move by health experts to control the spread of HIV. The thinking behind PoP is that if you teach people who are infected with HIV how to prevent the spread of the virus you will stop the epidemic.

It's a nice theory, but it is not a theory based in any sense of reality. The majority of new HIV cases are caused by people who are infected with HIV, but completely unaware of their infection. We know that those who know their status are more likely to be in care, more likely to be on successful ART and more likely to have low to undetectable viral loads.

Yet with the ascendancy to the Presidency of George W. Bush (Bush 43), the CDC saw directives to focus on abstinence only education and PoP as prevention messaging. As a result, the vast majority of gay men never received the information necessary to prevent infection. Worse, a presumption of the inevitability of infection with HIV set in with many young gay men. So, they reasoned, why bother to be safe if they are going to get it anyway.

Back when I first came out, in the very late 80s and early 90s, you could not attend a queer related event without seeing a giant fishbowl full of condoms. They were available at the bars, at MSU LGBT Council events, at pride... Basically, if it was a gathering of queers, it included condoms.

But that changed in the mid-90s with the advent of successful ART. We don't have condoms readily available at our events. In fact, we barely have the money for it. I recently spoke at Oakland University, and had to bring a brick of condoms with me to the University because staff there were unable to access free condoms from the health department in that county.

And why is that? It is simple. The vast majority of funds for HIV are focused on medical case management and access to antiretroviral medications. What small amount of money that is available for prevention is directed mostly at those of us already infected with HIV. In other words, we are shutting the barn door after the horses are already out.

If indeed public health authorities would like to address the HIV crisis as it comes roaring back, perhaps it should focus on efforts which worked in the early and mid-90s. Free condoms, widely available and always visible at LGBT events. That might start addressing some of these numbers.

Here is the PSA in question:

The Birds...

In one of those bizarre moments, thousands of Redwing Blackbirds began raining from the sky in Beebe Arkansas on New Years day 2011. No one knows why the birds died, but some speculate it had something to do with New Years' fireworks.

I have not idea what caused it, but it is certainly odd.



I suspect we are unlikely to ever find out exactly what caused this oddity in the New Year.

UPDATE: It was not just birds that died off on New Year's Eve/Day in Arkansas. An estimated 100,000 fish mysteriously died off in an area of the Arkansas River. No explanation for the die off has been found.



UPDATE:

Evidently the mass die of the birds was not and is not contained to Beebe Arkansas. Here is a report from Labarre, LA.

State biologists are trying to determine what led to the deaths of the estimated 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings on La. 1 just down the road from Pointe Coupee Central High School.

The discovery of the dead birds — some of which were lying face down, clumped in groups, while others were face up with their wings outstretched and rigid legs pointing upward — comes just three days after more than 3,000 blackbirds rained down from the sky in Beebe, Ark.

Necropsies performed Monday on the birds in Arkansas showed the birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots leading to their deaths, The Associated Press reported.

Mark Antony speech mourning Caesar -- 1953 film version

I am uncertain why RNC Chair candidate Saul Anuzis posted this to his blog, but I thought I would post it cause I love me some Shakespeare. Perhaps Mr. Anuzis was intimating that Mr. Steele, the current RNC chair, is a soon to be doomed Caesar like figure and he pictures himself in the role of Antony -- rallying the mourning nation into mutiny and ultimately civil war?



Regardess, enjoy this fairly well done version of the famous speech by Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Greatest American Hero: Nostalgia and Television

I brought in the New Year watching The Greatest American Hero.

I recall the show quite fondly, though I admit I was completely unaware of all the politics and American concerns it referenced throughout its three seasons. Communists and the Reds were in nearly every episode. In one episode, there was a plot about small pox and a paramilitary group of Americans who wanted to unleash the pox on America. Another episode featured neo-Nazis. It's a fun show, although the "special effects" suck.

It does make me wonder -- what would Ralph Hinkley (another irony considering the man who attempted to assassinate then-President Ronald W. Reagan was named Hinkley) be fighting today? Here is the theme song from the show. I actually sang this as a choral piece in the early 80s, it was that popular of a song.

One of my bizarre listening habits

Many moons ago, I was the assignment editor at the newly launched ABC 53 News Now local news. This programming played on WLAJ. Sadly, they have ended local news, instead feeding a small update from the CBS sister station in Kalamazoo, ending one of the fine local news outlets.

Anyway, during my time there, I began listening to police and emergency radio traffic on scanners. My personal scanners no longer work, but thanks to a Facebook friend, I have found you can listen to the Ingham County emergency traffic online!

Check it out here.

An image from the Inaugural of Rick Snyder 1-1-2011


I shot this image on Saturday, January 1, 2011 at the Michigan State Capitol. I believe the two are a father and son duo. They were saluting while the National Anthem was being sung by a member of the Michigan Air National Guard. This moment caught my eye, although I can't say why. I find the young boy's turned left foot endearing. (c) Todd A. Heywood 2011. All Rights Reserved.


Welcome to Heywood's Corner!

The cost of maintaining The Conversation Starts Here at ToddHeywood.com was too much for me, so I have decided to create this blog. Here you will find my musings on a variety of issues -- HIV, politics, the bizarre, the absurd and more. I will also do a semi-regular feature with my favorite quotes from shows like "Judge Hackett," "Judge Joe Brown," "The People's Court," and, of course, "Cops." Those shows tend to have some ridiculously fun quotes, and I enjoy posting them on Facebook.

You will also find commentary about my beloved dogs and their antics, as well as photos from my various travels around Michigan and beyond.

So, welcome! And let's see what there is to see, shall we?