4/25/2009

We'll Miss You Bea!

Maude (TV series)Image via Wikipedia

Beatrice Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in the hit shows "Maude" and "The Golden Girls" and who won a Tony Award for the musical "Mame," died Saturday. She was 86.

Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family spokesman Dan Watt said. She had cancer, Watt said, declining to give further details.

"She was a brilliant and witty woman," said Watt, who was Arthur's personal assistant for six years. "Bea will always have a special place in my heart."

Arthur first appeared in the landmark comedy series "All in the Family" as Edith Bunker's loudly outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley. She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series.

"Maude" scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977.

The comedy flowed from Maude's efforts to cast off the traditional restraints that women faced, but the series often had a serious base. Her husband Walter (Bill Macy) became an alcoholic, and she underwent an abortion, which drew a torrent of viewer protests. Maude became a standard bearer for the growing feminist movement in America.

The ratings of "Maude" in the early years approached those of its parent, "All in the Family," but by 1977 the audience started to dwindle. A major format change was planned, but in early 1978 Arthur announced she was quitting the show.

"It's been absolutely glorious; I've loved every minute of it," she said. "But it's been six years, and I think it's time to leave."

"Golden Girls" (1985-1992) was another groundbreaking comedy, finding surprising success in a television market increasingly skewed toward a younger, product-buying audience.

The series concerned three retirees — Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan — and the mother of Arthur's character, Estelle Getty, who lived together in a Miami apartment. In contrast to the violent "Miami Vice," the comedy was nicknamed "Miami Nice."

As Dorothy Zbornak, Arthur seemed as caustic and domineering as Maude. She was unconcerned about the similarity of the two roles. "Look — I'm 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line," she told an interviewer. "What can I do about it? I can't stay home waiting for something different. I think it's a total waste of energy worrying about typecasting."

The interplay among the four women and their relations with men fueled the comedy, and the show amassed a big audience and 10 Emmys, including two as best comedy series and individual awards for each of the stars.

In 1992, Arthur announced she was leaving "Golden Girls." The three other stars returned in "The Golden Palace," but it lasted only one season.

Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City in 1922. When she was 11, her family moved to Cambridge, Md., where her father opened a clothing store. At 12 she had grown to full height, and she dreamed of being a petite blond movie star like June Allyson. There was one advantage of being tall and deep-voiced: She was chosen for the male roles in school plays.

Bernice — she hated the name and adopted her mother's nickname of Bea — overcame shyness about her size by winning over her classmates with wisecracks. She was elected the wittiest girl in her class. After two years at a junior college in Virginia, she earned a degree as a medical lab technician, but she "loathed" doing lab work at a hospital.

Acting held more appeal, and she enrolled in a drama course at the New School of Social Research in New York City. To support herself, she sang in a night spot that required her to push drinks on customers.

During this time she had a brief marriage that provided her stage name of Beatrice Arthur. In 1950, she married again, to Broadway actor and future Tony-winning director Gene Saks.

After a few years in off-Broadway and stock company plays and television dramas, Arthur's career gathered momentum with her role as Lucy Brown in the 1955 production of "The Threepenny Opera."

In 2008, when Arthur was inducted in the TV Academy Hall of Fame, Arthur pointed to the role as the highlight of her long career.

"A lot of that had to do with the fact that I felt, `Ah, yes, I belong here,'" Arthur said.

More plays and musicals followed, and she also sang in nightclubs and played small roles in TV comedy shows.

Then, in 1964, Harold Prince cast her as Yente the Matchmaker in the original company of "Fiddler on the Roof."

Arthur's biggest Broadway triumph came in 1966 as Vera Charles, Angela Lansbury's acerbic friend in the musical "Mame," directed by Saks. Richard Watts of the New York Post called her performance "a portrait in acid of a savagely witty, cynical and serpent-tongued woman."

She won the Tony as best supporting actress and repeated the role in the unsuccessful film version that also was directed by Saks, starring Lucille Ball as Mame. Arthur would play a variation of Vera Charles in "Maude" and "The Golden Girls."

"There was no one else like Bea," said "Mame" composer Jerry Herman. "She would make us laugh during `Mame' rehearsals with a look or with a word. She didn't need dialogue. I don't know if I can say that about any other person I ever worked with."

In 1983, Arthur attempted another series, "Amanda's," an Americanized version of John Cleese's hilarious "Fawlty Towers." She was cast as owner of a small seaside hotel with a staff of eccentrics. It lasted a mere nine episodes.

Between series, Arthur remained active in films and theater. Among the movies: "That Kind of Woman" (1959), "Lovers and Other Strangers" (1970), Mel Brooks' "The History of the World: Part I" (1981), "For Better or Worse" (1995).

The plays included Woody Allen's "The Floating Light Bulb" and "The Bermuda Avenue Triangle," written by and costarring Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna. During 2001 and 2002 she toured the country in a one-woman show of songs and stories, "... And Then There's Bea."

Arthur and Saks divorced in 1978 after 28 years. They had two sons, Matthew and Daniel. In his long career, Saks won Tonys for "I Love My Wife," "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Biloxi Blues." One of his Tony nominations was for "Mame."

In 1999, Arthur told an interviewer of the three influences in her career: "Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; (method acting guru) Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and ('Threepenny Opera' star) Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."

In recent years, Arthur made guest appearances on shows including "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Malcolm in the Middle." She was chairwoman of the Art Attack Foundation, a non-profit performing arts scholarship organization.


My early introductions to Bea were the original soundtrack recording of "Mame" (was there any doubt how I'd turn out?) and her role in "Maude." During her Golden Girl years, I tuned in constantly to watch her witty reparte with her co-stars and marvel at the creation of an entire cast of gay icons in Dorothy, Rose, Sophia, and Blanche.

She was a beautiful woman and her roles helped bring to light progressive issues including gay rights, women's rights and senior's rights.

Bea, you'll be missed by your fans but we'd all love to say: "Thank you for being a friend."

And now, in tribute, my first exposure to Bea as she sings the wonderfully campy duet "Bosom Buddies with Angela Lansbury her co-star in "Mame" -



Oh Hell... let's do another. Here's Bea doing "The Man in the Moon" also from "Mame":




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4/24/2009

Are States Losing Their Sovereignty?

United States Marshals Service ToolsImage via Wikipedia

This just in from Raw Story about a new plan that has moved forward to merge the Arizona State Police with the U.S. Marshal's Service.

Now, supposedly, state and local police are under the control of local and state governments and are tasked with investigating and handling state and local laws. The U.S. Marshal's Service is supposed to be tasked with transporting and handling criminals prosecuted under Federal law. The two, constitutionally, are supposed to be separate. Now, the two will be one - at least in Arizona.

This is another slide down the slippery slope to a National Police force that began with the infusion of federal funds to provide local and state police with salaries and military gadgets under the guise of the "Drug War" some 30 years ago. Now, not only are they exerting pressure through the addictive drug of big money but they are outright merging and taking over local police agencies. Scary stuff, is this change we can believe in? Sounds more like an extension of the Bush years.

The Arizona State Police are merging with a local service of the federal U.S. Marshals in order to "save money" and track a growing convict population in the state.

Sadly, this will not be anywhere nearly as cool as that Tommy Lee Jones movie from 1998.

From Arizona Central:

"Basically, it's getting everyone in one room in one building working together instead of occasionally discussing cases of mutual interest. It's a great force multiplier," U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said.

The aggregation of acronyms brings together the state Department of Public Safety's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, called VCAT, and the Arizona Wanted task force of the U.S. Marshals Service. The merger formalizes a relationship among agencies to share information and manpower to track the 60,000 wanted fugitives in the state.

[...]

Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff said another goal of the new system is to minimize politics and maximize results. "What this means to the cop on the street is they come to work every day with precise information about individuals who have committed crimes in our community," he said.

Do you think this will give Arizona cops an advantage over runaway criminals? Or is this a federal encroachment on state authority? Furthermore, how would you feel if your state announced a merger between it's police and federal marshals?

But more troubling is the fact that this means our local agency will probably be spending less time dealing with apprehending criminals charged with state crimes and more time working for the Feds, leaving us to fend for ourselves against those petty state criminals who commit murder, rape, assault and armed robbery.


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Democracy Now's Credo Mobile Scam


"The cell phone company that calls for Karl Rove's arrest!" A "progressive" company. "Socially responsible". It all sounds great, right?

Supposedly, they stood up to the big bad government during the wiretapping push by the Bushies and supposedly they're a nice liberal company all for social justice and progressive issues. At least that's what the pitch is from Democracy NOW via an ad for a company called Credo Mobile which used to be Working Assets long distance until they figured out no one uses long distance in the age of VOIP and cellphones.

So, we checked into this socially progressive company who believes in privacy and standing up for the little guy in these tough times.

Turns out it's not what it seems to be. After entering all your information and being presented with all the pitches about the company and how progressive they are, they quickly ask for your Social Security number so they can run an "industry standard" credit check. Oops! So much for the whole privacy thing and being socially responsible. After all, as any true liberal would tell you, the SSN is supposed to only be used to identify you to the Social Security Administration and not as your personal ID for corporate dossiers that include almost every detail about your life since birth.

In today's economic climate people have seen their credit scores drop along with the stock market. Job losses, lack of medical insurance, and loss of homes to the mortgage crisis have all conspired to hit folks in the pocketbook and as a result the much vaunted "credit score" has taken a hit as well.

Socially progressive? Liberal? Standing up for the folks hit hardest by the policies of the right? Standing up for privacy?

Not hardly. Credo Mobile appears to be just another gimmick to help the McMansion liberal set feel better about their white guilt. It's a gimmick pushed by liberal groups who probably are getting kickbacks on new signups. Socially responsible? I don't think so.

It's bad enough to be manipulated by the right, it's even worse to be manipulated by Progressives pushing products or services that only give lip service to those values while continuing to do business as usual.

What's worse, is that Credo Mobile, unlike the other carriers doesn't even offer an option for people to get their service by paying a refundable deposit or offering a "pay-as-you-go" type of plan, thus participating in the "liberal" phone company idea. It's strictly the old style cellphone service operating by the same big business model that the right loves so dearly, complete with contracts, penalties, credit checks, and hidden plan charges. The really progressive thing to do would be to change up their business model and get away from the per minute idea with surcharges and simply charge a monthly fee for service like cable and phone companies do today. Then they could dispense with the need to consult dossiers on private citizens and simply offer an option for automatic credit card or bank billing. THAT would be progressive! Instead, it's the same old Republican model given a fresh coat of paint and lots of liberal catch phrases. After all, they charge for extra minutes but make no refunds if you don't use the ones in your plan. Does that sound like something that fair minded and honest liberals would do?

After having service with Verizon for years, Credo doesn't think my credit is good enough for their Liberal Phones because the cost of an organ transplant wrecked my credit for the forseeable future. The "progressive" thing to do would be to look at people and their situations first rather than simply prying into their finances with automated software and dismissing them out of hand. In fact, their business model sounds exactly like something the right wing would do. Credo, the "socially responsible" company cares so little about people that they simply throw up an alert screen telling you you're not worthy of their "liberal" company. My, how Republican of them!

My advice? Give Credo Mobile and this latest moneymaker from a liberal website a pass. It's a right wing business in Progressive clothing and to me that's way worse than a right wing business who is honest about what they are and how they do business. So, Verizon will still be getting our money every month as they have for over a decade and their contributions to right wing politicians will wipe out the quarter that Credo contributes here or there to maintain its claim as a "Progressive" company. Too bad.

BTW: That big "contribution" to liberal causes? It's a whopping 1% of your bill. In our case that would be 47 cents. I'll remember to drop that by to my local GLBT community center each month. Heck, I'll do Credo one better and round it up to 50 cents!

I also tried to find out how much Laura Scher their CEO was pulling down yearly as the darling of the "anti-greed, socially responsible" crowd. Interestingly, I can't find it listed anywhere. Although I did note that her political contributions last year (personally) were almost $39,000. That's down from $73,000 during the 2004 election cycle. Guess she's not worrying about insurance or medical bills.
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Oregon Man Thrown Out of Partner's Hospital Room

nurse ratchedImage by nexus6zora via Flickr

A man in Oregon who took his partner to the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital when he had difficulty breathing was ejected from the room by a staff nurse when it appeared the man might be dying.

According to reports the nurse ushered him to the door saying "Christopher is very ill and there are some life and death decisions to be made. Now is not the time for friends to be in the room."

The man finally located an attorney who made several phone calls and over two hours later he was readmitted to his partner's bedside.

Now, here's the kicker. The nurse's actions weren't just ugly and mean, they were illegal. The couple had a domestic partnership which supposedly grants access at exactly those times. She refused to honor that agreement.

This is a prime example of why "domestic partnerships", "civil partnerships" and "civil unions" are really not close to being equal to marriage. There is no doubt that married couples are allowed to stay with one another and make decisions in those situations. It is simply accepted that married couples have those rights.

However, when you have a "special" class from which you've chosen a handful of rights to grant to second-class citizens people become confused about what is allowed and what is not allowed. People have to carry around paperwork to "prove" their status and they have to spend time educating others about their relationships and rights. That is not acceptable and certainly not acceptable in life and death situations.

In this particular case, the outcome was a happy one. Christopher recovered and wil be discharged shortly. However, in that two hours it took to litigate rights that were perfectly legal and to satisfy this self-appointed Nurse Ratched, he could have died without the person he most wanted by his side.

The hospital apologized that this happened and has vowed they will do "additional training" for their staff.

Here's the thing and this is where the argument given by politicians about these second class designations fall apart. The idea that everyone who works in these facilities can be "educated" about what is allowed and what is not is a fallacy.

In most large hospitals a large portion (sometimes the majority) of nursing staffs are made up of what are called "contract nurses" or "traveling nurses." These professionals work for an agency and contract with hospitals around the US and worldwide to work in their facility for a number of months. Then they move along to another facility. Often, these nurses are not even US citizens. The Phillipines has become a major supplier of contract nurses for mid-size hospitals in the Southeast.

How are they to be adequately "educated" on scores of local and state laws about "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions" or whatever other term is chosen to appease the religious bigots among us? They only work for a short time in one area and they are usually not educated about family law.

I was in nursing for many years and don't recall a single in-service class to inform us of the rights of married couples. It was assumed that everyone knows. When we start throwing about second-class designations for relationships it is easy for these hospitals to forget or not even care to go into it with their "contract nurses." After all, most orientations last a matter of hours. In that time they have to cover hospital policies, administer CYA tests, talk about fire drills, emergencies, disaster drills, and the local code language used in that facility. There are hands-on demonstrations of IV pumps, issuing of passwords for computers, and how to charge your lunch to payroll deduction.

They may educate the current crop at OSHU, but by the time this crowd moves on to other places, they probably will forget to sit them down in the midst of all that other stuff and explain how they have to honor the second-class citizens of the state too meaning a repeat of this episode down the road. The word "married" could have avoided all of that.
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4/23/2009

Whoops! Four States Misplaced!

Four Corners, markerImage via Wikipedia

Tourists who want to put a hand or foot in each of four states at the Four Corners area are apparently off the mark — by more than a couple of miles.

According to readings by the National Geodetic Survey, the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2 1/2 miles west of where it should be.

The only place in the United States where four state boundaries come together was first surveyed by the U.S. government in 1868 during the initial survey of Colorado's southern boundary line.

The intended location was 109 degrees west longitude and 37 degrees north latitude. But, because of surveying errors, the popular tourist spot is actually just a bit off.
The accurate location would be downhill to the east of U.S. 160 in Colorado and northeast of the San Juan River as it flows into New Mexico.

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4/19/2009

Humility in Leadership

To what extent do participants in joint activi...Image via Wikipedia

What does it mean to be a "community leader"? Community leaders, generally, are not elected. Often they come into their positions by simply being among the first to act in their community to bring attention to a problem. Perhaps they are the first to assemble a group of friends or like-minded people to create a grassroots movement.

But one thing all community leaders must keep in mind is that they are not the community. It is tempting, especially with younger people, to confuse community with self. The praise and attention heaped upon those who serves as community organizers can be heady. Those acting on behalf of their community must continually fight against the urge to put self above the needs of the community as a whole. What might be good for one may not be good for all.

Many times people step into these roles thinking that being an activist is sort of being a party organizer with a cause. Rallies, protests, and other public events are easy. You find a place to hold it, you promote it, and that's pretty much it. When I say easy, I mean that there is usually very little need for political skill, political knowledge or self awareness.

But, organizing parties is not community organizing. Community organizing requires that there be clearly defined goals. It is not enough to say "We'll make our community safe!" you must define how you will make it safe. What steps will you take to make it safe?

Let's take the case of a fledgling movement in a smaller city. Rallying to the generic cause of "equality" the usual round of rallies are out of the way. But what is the next step? More rallies? Yes, in many cases that is as far as they get. Rally, rally, rally, rally... always calling for change but rarely doing anything to bring about that change. Why? Rallies are easy. Politics are hard.

In these cases, without clearly defined goals and a clear plan about how to achieve those goals, the community will tend to go into reaction mode. They will seek any reason to hold a rally in order to keep up the energy of the community.

When that is combined with a community leader or organizer who sees himself or herself as the symbol of the community rather than the servent of that community, the movement cannot mature. The leader will tend to act in a manner to keep his/her name in the press. Without a clear goal and game plan, the leaders are free to pursue any path no matter how sensational because there is no expectation of real momentum on real issues. Playing on the victim mentality the movement will eventually derail without achieving any real change and quite possibly destroying opportunities for advancement for some time in the future.

So, what about the small city who wants to make the community "safe"? What could they do to actually achieve a more secure city for their community?

First, define why they feel "unsafe." Are there incidents of bullying or harassment? If so, are there already laws that cover these? If so, why aren't the police investigating? If not, what can be done to pass laws to protect those segments of the community?

Second, work with the governmental agencies involved to bring about the changes necessary. This is where most newly minted "community leaders" begin to falter. They may be great at playing victim and organizing a protest or rally, but often they're very ill-equipped to handle the give and take of politics. In many cases, they will intentionally either shy away from such matters or think they can negotiate from behind a bullhorn and while demonizing those they need to sway.

There is a place for protests and rallies. When things reach an impasse they can often break it free by putting pressure on people to act. However, they should be the last resort, not the first. Resorting to a protest march or rally for every perceived slight shows a lack of maturity and a decided lack of political skill. To be an effective community leader one must have a sense of strategy and tactics. The rally, the media, the private negotiation, and the formal political process are all weapons in the activists arsenal. They must be chosen carefully and in a timely manner. Each should be assessed for it maximum effect on the ultimate goal.

For example, using the protest before the officials whose action you need are even aware of a problem is useless. Accusing those officials of misconduct in the media, or some sort of bigotry before you have sat down with them to even learn their positions can destroy the process before it begins. Eschewing a formal political process in favor of a rally means your goal will never see the light of day. Holding a negotiation with officials and simultaneously broadcasting your doubts about their ability or desire to act responsibly will make it difficult for them to take you seriously or work with you in good faith.

The aresenal of the activist is powerful and it must be wielded by someone of sufficient maturity and self-restraint to put the needs of the community ahead of their personal desire for praise or fame. A real community leader must be prepared to take lumps from all sides and remain steadfast in their work toward the goals of their community. They must be willing to say "no" to those in the community who would misuse one of the weapons in the arsenal.

Throwing a good party is easy, being a community leader is not. If you don't have these traits in spades, perhaps the title "community leader" is not for you:
  • Self-Control
  • Wisdom
  • Restraint
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Political Knowledge and Skill
  • Fortitude
  • Self-Esteem
  • Strong Personal Support System
  • Sober and Moderate personality
As Harvey Milk noted in his recorded will: "Everything I have done has been with an eye on the gay movement." If anything a community leader does has more to do with his/her personal feelings, a personal gripe, a personal slight, or a personal desire for fame... then that leader has betrayed his community by putting his/her needs ahead of others.
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4/18/2009

A Movie and A Panel Discussion

Kate FlemingImage via Wikipedia

If you're in the Tucson area tomorrow afternoon, join me for a showing of the documentary film, "For My Wife"at 3:00pm at the Crossroads Festival Cinema followed by a panel discussion on marriage equality and the state of legal protections for LGBT couples.

I'll be sitting on this panel for a multifaceted discussion of the effects of various approaches to equality on gay couples and their relationships. Also on the panel will be Dr. Melissa Levine, a local physician specializing in LGBT care and issues as well as Ray and Kathy Green, a couple from Marana.

"For My Wife" is a feature documentary chronicling the making of an activist. After the tragic death of her wife, Charlene Strong was thrust into the spotlight becoming a powerful voice for the equal rights of same-sex couples and their families, resulting in the passage of Washington State's historic Domestic Partnership legislation.

Charlene was on her way home from work in a winter storm in Seattle when a call came from her wife Kate Fleming saying she was trapped in their basement. Kate was a renowned audiobook narrator who had been working in her basement studio when their home was innundated by a flash flood.

Charlene arrived to find her wife trapped by debris. As she struggled to free her the waters continued to rise and eventually swept her away. Rescuers arrived shortly thereafter and got Kate out of the basement but she was unconscious and unresponsive.

At the hospital nurses kept Charlene from the Emergency Room because she was "not related" frantic calls to Kate's family back east finally appeased the staff and they allowed Charlene into the room moments before Kate died.

After her death, Charlene faced the ingominy of a funeral director who refused to acknowledge their relationship and required Kate's sister to make all the arrangements. As the insults mounted, Charlene's resolve hardened. You can read the full story of her ordeal and her committment to gaining legal protection for gay couples in Washington in this Newsweek story.

"For My Wife" has won a number of awards and promises to be an enlightening and moving film. Please join us for this offering from the Arizona International Film Festival and Reel Pride. The showing and panel discussion is being sponsored by Wingspan, Southern Arizona's LGBT Community Center.

Hope to see you there!

Map to Crossroads Festival Cinema:


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4/17/2009

Strip Searched for Advil

Open bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol and Ext...Image via Wikipedia

If there was ever a clearer example of the school officials being out of control in their pursuit of being part of the "Drug War" this would be it.

If you're my age (40's+) you probably remember every girl in school having Tylenol or Mydol in her purse. Headache? No biggie, just take a Tylenol and keep going. Today, however, high school students are treated as crackheads first and kids second. No longer can you take a Tylenol or Advil for a headache on your own. To do that requires permission by several people and all but a full physical by a nurse or doctor.

What's worse, if you're caught with such dangerous and "illegal" drugs as Tylenol or Advil you can be suspended, expelled or even arrested! Even more, if you're "suspected" of having such hard core drugs you can be taken into a room and told to get nude in front of a stranger. You can have this woman put her hands on you and search your body cavities. What's more, she can do all this without benefit of a warrant.

Now the courts are taking up this question. Can a student who is "suspected" of having a drug be subjected to a strip search without a warrant?

Here's the story:
SAFFORD, AZ. — Eighth-grader Savana Redding was scared and confused when an assistant principal searching for drugs ordered her out of math class, searched her backpack and then instructed an administrative aide and school nurse to conduct a strip search.

"I went into the nurse's office and kept following what they asked me to do," Savana, now 19, recalls of the incident six years ago that she says still leaves her shaken and humiliated. "I thought, 'What could I be in trouble for?' "

That morning, another student had been caught with prescription-strength ibuprofen and had told the assistant principal, Kerry Wilson, that she'd gotten the pills from Savana. The nurse and administrative assistant, both women, were alone with Savana in the nurse's office when they asked the girl to take off her shoes and socks, then her shirt and pants. The two women then asked Savana to pull open her bra and panties so they could see whether she was hiding any pills. None was found.

Drug searches, along with drug tests for students in athletics and other extracurricular activities, have become common in schools across the nation. But the search of Savana at Safford Middle School on Oct. 8, 2003, ignited a legal dispute that has landed before the U.S. Supreme Court — and could transform the landscape of drug searches in public schools.

Tuesday, the nine justices will hear Safford officials' appeal of a lower court decision that said the administrators violated Savana's constitutional rights and should be held financially responsible.

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4/16/2009

Help the Northern Gray Wolves!

Wolf pupImage via Wikipedia

Watch the short video below about "Limpy" a partially lame Northern Gray Wolf that was a favorite of visitors to Yellowstone Park until the Feds lifted the ban on killing these beautiful animals and some redneck asshole with a "wolf ticket" shot Limpy because he was easy pickings.

Listen as the governor of Idaho laughs and says he'll be the "first in line" to kill these animals (wonder if he'll ask Sarah Palin down for a little romatic getaway). Here's my response: I'll be the first in line to get a ticket when we lift the ban on hunting down and shooting morons like him and these other so-called "sportsmen." Dicks.


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4/15/2009

Casa Grande Police Threaten LGBT Protesters

IMG_3098Image by jessebucksc via Flickr

Earlier today as part of national Tax Day protests to bring attention to the disparities between LGBT couples' tax burdens and those of straight married couples, protests were held across the country. The protests involved dissemination of information on the tax disparity and visibility.

In Casa Grande, a planned protest was broken up by police from the city stating that "Rainbow flags" were illegal within the city limits of Casa Grande. They then proceeded to harrass LGBT protestors and threaten them with arrest.

Here is part of a note from Christopher Hall who organized the protest:

Today the Casa Grande Police Department broke up our demonstration.

Officer B. Walsh and his accomplice, who would not provide her name, informed us that our flag was not to be flown anywhere within the city of Casa Grande. Dana who was the owner of the flag, was threated to be arrested if it were flown again.

We were told that it was obstructing the view of the road for some individuals. We were more than willing to work with them. We had asked where we could stand and they said we could not stand anywhere.

Funny thing is, I had talked to the city and they said as long as we were on the sidewalk or 7 feet from it, there should not be a problem. Apparently there was. When I first confronted the police about the issue, they told me to get in touch with the city. Even though I did, they still enforced their “policy” and were hesitant to work with us in any way.

Another form of injustice happened when they took down the gay people’s information, but none of the straight people had to provide the police with their ssn, date of birth, photo id, etc. The gay population on the other hand had to.

Full details are at Rainbow Foot Soldiers . The protest was held on a street corner with vacant lot so that the street nor sidewalk would be obstructed by those gathered.


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ASU Just Can't Get a Break!

Arizona State University logoImage via Wikipedia

PHOENIX — Arizona State University "blew it" by choosing not to award an honorary degree to President Obama when he speaks there next month, the university's spokeswoman said in an e-mail Monday.

In the e-mail, obtained by the Star, Terri Shafer, ASU's associate vice president of marketing and strategic communications, said ASU "could have — and probably would have — awarded an honorary degree to the president" when he delivers the graduation commencement address.

But Shafer said in her e-mail — written to an individual criticizing ASU — that once "controversy erupted," officials "determined it would not be appropriate to offer a degree to President Obama under circumstances in which the offer might not be considered to be genuine or positive."

After Obama agreed to speak at the state's largest university, ASU first said it would not award Obama an honorary degree.

Once the story made national news, ASU President Michael Crow announced plans to create an Obama scholarship instead. Crow said ASU always intended to honor Obama somehow.

But in her e-mail, Shafer indicated that the situation was not handled properly from the beginning.

"You are right. We blew it," Shafer wrote in response to the original e-mail — in which the individual said, "Just admit you blew it and give the honorary degree."

Shafer continued: "We have learned a big lesson, and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future."

In an interview, Shafer said she could not elaborate about any plans to change the university's policy regarding honorary degrees.

She said the university is focused on planning next month's graduation ceremony.



BTW: The President of the United States who happens to be the first African-American President as well as a Constitutional Scholar and professor of law himself isn't worthy of a degree from ASU (NOT known as a mecca of top level education) however there are lots of folks who have been worthy of honorary degrees including:

  • Steve Allen - moderately entertaining piano player and political satirist
  • Tom Chauncey - owned a couple TV stations and raised horses
  • Leontyne Price - Operatic Soprano (Michael was there and met her... she did not seem impressed.)
  • Edward Albee - playwright
  • William A. Fowler - astrophysicist
  • Rabbi Albert Plotkin - Eccumenical Jewish Rabbi
  • Tony Hillerman - author of southwest mystery novels
  • Willard Pedrick - Professor of law (but not one that got elected President)
  • Wu Qidi - Minister of Education for People's Republic of China (really? You'll give a degree to a Communist Chinese official but not our own President?)
There are dozens more on the list. Most are minor figures in education. A few are figures in the arts and several are politicians of some stripe. However, it is beyond the pale to think that ASU can honor these people with degrees but not the President of the United States with his academic and social resume.

Honestly, is ASU that racist? Did some Mormon right winger from Mesa put in a fix? What's the deal with them? I mean, being in Tucson I don't pay much attention to ASU since UA is in my backyard, so what's the deal up there? Jeesh!


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4/14/2009

The Teabagging of America

There are times when the loony wingnuts do something that just boggles the mind. Now that taxes have been dropped on most Americans and the majority of Americans feel that the tax rate is just right (an amazing change), the folks at Fox and major corporations have decided to manipulate the loons that make up the Libertarian front and their extreme right wingnuts from the GOP into holding "Teabag Parties." Described as a "grassroots" protest, it is in fact an astroturfed protest.

First, let's get the obvious out of the way. According to the Urban Dictionary, "teabaggin'" is "
when a man repeatidly (sic) submerges his testicles into the mouth of a man/woman."

OK, that's why we're all laughing and that's how out of touch with American culture that the folks organizing this pseudo-protest are.

But what about the whole tea party thing? Is it really a legitimate historical reference and extension of an historic event into modern times? Let's consider that.

What was the Boston Tea Party? It was an organized bit of property destruction to protest a direct tax on an essential product. Now, this same tax that they protested so vehemently we pay every day on almost every product we purchase in the form of a sales tax. We pay direct taxes twice on some essentials like gas and heating oil as both state and federal taxes are assessed. We even vote overwhelmingly to raise double direct taxes on some products like cigarettes, cigars, and other smoking products.

With that in mind, let's go back to 1773 and the "Tea Party." In order to recoup the costs of fighting a war in Europe and the New World (The Seven Years War/French and Indian War) Parliament (not the King) imposed various taxes on the colonies to pay for their defense. Since income taxes were not used at that time, the logical tax was on products imported and exported from the colonies. After an initial row over taxes Parliament rescinded all but the tax on tea.

The Bostonians Paying the Excise ManImage via Wikipedia

So, the colonists organized boycotts of tea. They pulled down the homes of tax collectors and port authorities. They tortured and even killed some tax collectors. This was not a shining moment of liberty as many think. It was a brutal and vicious time when to disagree with the mob was to put life and property in jeopardy.

Finally, a group boarded three ships in Boston Harbor where tea was being held because Governor Hutchinson refused to allow the ship to offload the tea nor return to England without paying the tax. The group seized the bales of tea, cracked them open with axes and poured the contents into the harbor making it impossible for the government to collect the taxes on the product.

So, that is the significance of the "Tea Party" it was not only a protest but a practical way to keep the government from collecting a tax on a product. The tea was no "symbolic" it was the actual focus of the protest.

Tomorrow, wingnuts will be having their "tea parties" all over the country decrying income taxes and whatever else they can dream up. For weeks they have been mailing teabags to Congress and the White House saying they are "teabagging" Washington.

Now, destroying teabags that you buy yourself and pay a sales tax on hardly qualifies as a protest. In fact, by virtue of the protest itself they are generating tax revenue for the state through the sales tax on the product bought to be destroyed as well as the fact that they are holding many of these "protests" in bars where they will also be paying federal and state taxes on liquor and alcohol consumed. In fact this "tax protest" will actually generate a nice bit of change for the state and federal government.

Does anyone see how this is very different from the real Tea Party? In fact, does anyone notice this is almost the opposite of the real Tea Party? If they wanted to protest income taxes and be as ballsy about it as our forefathers, the thing to do is go into libraries, post offices, and other public places and gather all the tax forms and burn them in the streets. Then refuse to file their taxes or collect income taxes from their employees. Those would be direct actions and civil disobedience that would have both a symbolic and practical effect.

Instead, they will all dutifully pay their taxes then run off to the Safeway to buy their teabags and dutifully pay the sales tax on them, gas up their car and dutifully pay the tax on that gas, and then meet their fellow wingnuts and destroy the teabags while swilling their drinks on which they have also paid the taxes like good citizens.

Protest? Not hardly. As Shakespear said: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."


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4/13/2009

Deporting American Citizens for Being Brown

Immigration RaidImage by echobase_2000 via Flickr

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pedro Guzman has been an American citizen all his life. Yet in 2007, the 31-year-old Los Angeles native — in jail on a misdemeanor, mentally ill and never able to read or write — signed a waiver agreeing to leave the country without a hearing and was deported to Mexico as an illegal immigrant.

For almost three months, Guzman slept in the streets, bathed in filthy rivers and ate out of trash cans while his mother scoured the city of Tijuana, its hospitals and morgues, clutching his photo in her hand. He finally was found, trying to cross the border at Calexico, Calif., 100 miles away.
These days, back home in California, "he just changes from one second to another. His brain jumps back to when he was missing," said his brother, Michael Guzman. "We just talk to him and reassure him that everything is fine and nobody is going to hurt him."

In a drive to crack down on illegal immigrants, the United States has locked up or thrown out dozens, probably many more, of its own citizens over the past eight years. A months-long AP investigation has documented 55 such cases on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there actually are hundreds of such cases.

It's illegal to deport U.S. citizens or detain them for immigration violations. Yet citizens still end up in detention because the system is overwhelmed, acknowledged Victor Cerda, who left Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 after overseeing the system. The number of detentions overall is expected to rise by about 17 percent this year to more than 400,000, putting a severe strain on the enforcement network and legal system.

The result is the detention of citizens with the fewest resources: the mentally ill, minorities, the poor, children and those with outstanding criminal warrants, ranging from unpaid traffic tickets to failure to show up for probation hearings. Most at risk are Hispanics, who made up the majority of the cases the AP found.

"The more the system becomes confused, the more U.S. citizens will be wrongfully detained and wrongfully removed," said Bruce Einhorn, a retired immigration judge who now teaches at Pepperdine Law School. "They are the symptom of a larger problem in the detention system. . . . Nothing could be more regrettable than the removal of our fellow citizens."

Jim Hayes, ICE director of detention and removal, said he was aware of only 10 cases of U.S. citizens being detained over the past five years. Even if combined with the cases found by the AP, "that's not an epidemic," Hayes said. He refused to identify any cases, citing privacy laws.
He added that agents investigate any claims to U.S. citizenship, but they often turn out to be false. He said U.S. citizens sometimes claim to be foreign-born, and that immigration officials never knowingly hold someone they can "definitively" determine is a citizen.

It's impossible to know exactly how many citizens have been detained or deported because nobody keeps track. Kara Hartzler, an attorney at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, testified at a U.S. House hearing last year that her group alone sees 40 to 50 jailings a month of people with potentially valid claims to citizenship.

The non-profit Vera Institute for Justice found 322 people with citizenship claims in 13 immigration prisons in 2007, up from 129 the year before. That number does not include possible citizens in the nation's more than 300 other immigration prisons.

What is clear is that immigration detentions — including those of citizens — have soared in recent years. One reason is a heightened concern for security that arose out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Another is a political climate that encouraged a tough stance on illegal immigration, especially after Congress failed to pass immigration legislation almost three years ago.

After 2003, the nation launched several programs to detain more immigrants, including one that called on local police and sheriffs for help. Before 2007, just seven state and local law-enforcement agencies worked with immigration. By last November, more than 950 officers from 23 states had attended a four-week program on how to root out and jail suspected illegal immigrants.

A Government Accountability Office investigation has since found that ICE did not ensure local officials properly used their authority and failed to collect data to assess the program. As a result, ICE is rewriting agreements with 67 agencies.

The program came under fire partly because it gives local officers so much leeway to decide whom to stop. Almost 10 percent of Hispanic adults born in the U.S. report that police or other authorities stopped them and asked about their immigration status in 2007, according to a Pew Hispanic Center survey of more than 2,000 people.

Ousted by sheriff's office

It was a local sheriff's department that sent Guzman out of the country. He was picked up near his home in Lancaster, Calif., on March 31, 2007, by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officers on a misdemeanor trespassing charge. He had tried three times to board a private plane, showing lottery tickets for passage on one attempt, officers said in a report. He also had stolen a car and told officers his mother's car was broken. A judge gave him three years' probation and three months in jail for vandalism.

At the jail, Guzman told officers he was born in California, a response noted in official records. But a sheriff's employee still got Guzman to sign an agreement to leave the country without a hearing.

On the day he arrived in Mexico, Guzman called a relative to say he didn't know where he was, and he asked a passer-by. The answer: Tijuana. Then the phone cut off.
Guzman was finally returned to California legally in August 2007.

Now he no longer can stand the sun because it reminds him of Mexico. His family will not let him talk about the ordeal because it upsets him. He has frequent counseling sessions, but he is shaky, stutters and seems to hear voices, according to his brother.

Neither the Sheriff's Department nor immigration officials would discuss the case, citing pending litigation.

Mass arrests at workplaces

American citizens also have been caught in the net of increased workplace arrests and jail sweeps.

Workplace arrests rose from 517 in fiscal year 2003 to 6,274 in 2008. Julie Myers, former Homeland Security Department assistant secretary overseeing ICE, said agents quickly sort out which workers are citizens during raids. She added that federal law, court decisions and search warrants give immigration agents the authority to enter workplaces to question everyone inside, including citizens.

But the raids already have led to several lawsuits.

In 2007, 114 U.S. citizens and permanent residents sued after a raid on Micro Solutions Enterprises, a computer printer equipment recycler in Van Nuys, Calif. They alleged illegal detention and sought $5,000 damages each.

Army vet caught in web

Born in Belize, Rennison Castillo had lived in the United States since he was 7 and had served two years in the Army. But his superiors told him he could not stay in the Army without citizenship. So he took the citizenship test and passed, taking his oath on Oct. 28, 1998.

Seven years later, the U.S. government locked Castillo in a Tacoma, Wash., immigration jail. He had been picked up at the Pierce County Jail, where he had spent eight months for violating a restraining order and for residential burglary.

At the holding cell, an officer asked if he wanted to go home. He thought she meant his home in Lakewood, Wash. "Yes," he answered. "I'd love to go home."

She chained him up and told him he would be deported.

Over and over, Castillo said, he told officers he was a citizen. He pleaded with them to check their computer files.

But the officials said nothing in their records confirmed his citizenship or his military service. One officer actually recognized Castillo from their Army days at Fort Lewis, Wash., and mentioned their battalion but told Castillo he couldn't help.

Then Castillo saw a number posted on the wall for the Northwest Immigration Rights Project. On the group's advice, he contacted a friend who pulled his military document from the trunk of his car.

Nearly eight months after he was transferred to ICE custody, Castillo was released. He discovered that immigration officials had two files on him, with different numbers, and he has since filed a lawsuit. ICE would not comment because the suit is pending.

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4/12/2009

Amazon Fail!

Cover of "American Psycho"Cover of American Psycho

A nice Easter has turned ugly as news broke this morning that Amazon.com was de-listing LGBT books in their sales rankings.

For those not familiar with how Amazon and book sales work, let me explain. The sales rank determines whether a book is listed as a "best seller" and where it ranks in search listings. Having a book's sales figures removed can even mean that a book is no longer searchable on the site.

The first person to figure out this new policy was a self-published author. Mark R. Probst noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon's customer service explained:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Probst is the author of a novel for young adults with gay characters set in the old West; he was concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted.

Image representing Amazon EC2 as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

Within hours the news had been picked up on Twitter with thousands talking about the new ban on LGBT sales rankings on Amazon. The hash used is #amazonfail if you'd like to watch the story unfold.

Shortly after the news hit Twitter a Facebook group sprung up calling for a boycott of Amazon as well as an online petition.

The policy, ostensibly to "protect" people from erotic literature seems to be aimed mainly at LGBT works. According to research this afternoon by the L.A. Times, the breakdown of those unranked and those still ranked is confusing.

Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs; "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" by Alison Bechdel, "The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1" by Michel Foucault, "Bastard Out of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), "Little Birds: Erotica" by Anais Nin, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and "Becoming a Man" by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

Books that remain ranked include: "Naked" by David Sedaris; "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller; "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis; "Wifey" by Judy Blume; "The Kiss" by Kathryn Harrison; the photobooks "Playboy: Helmut Newton" and "Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds"; "Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs; "Incest: From 'A Journal of Love'" by Anais Nin; "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition).

Certianly many of the books that are no longer ranked are no more "adult" than many of those that are...
Individuals have found that while works like James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room", a classic of mid-century literature has been removed, books on training fighting dogs (complete with graphic photos) has remained in the rankings.

Perhaps most bizarre are the effects on searches. Searching for "homosexuality" returns the book: "A Parents Guide to Preventing Homosexuality." A search for "Gay" bestsellers returns a self-help book for heterosexual men on dating by Steve Harvey.

While it appears that Amazon has targeted LGBT works primarily, the larger and more troubling assessment is their desire to implement a system of censorship in their store that will effectively keep controversial works off the shelves and out of the hands of the buying public. That is a troubling turn for the world's largest bookseller.


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We're Not All Shallow Jet-Setting Gays

seeking disco gear!!!Image by skampy via Flickr

This story at the LA Times and the people in it disgust me to no end. Not all of us burn cash like Caligula at an orgy, not all of us are rich, not all of us think we have nothing better to talk about than our latest vacation. I can't figure out who makes me sicker, the obviously biased and shallow reporter or the even more vapid and shallow subjects. In light of the recent study that shows LGBT people are more likely to find themselves in economic hard times because of a lack of traditional social net, this article and Hedonists quoted in it makes my stomach turn.

According to the LA Times, while "Americans" (note: it gives the impression we are not Americans) cut back their budgets the Gays are hot-trotting it all over the globe without a second thought:

"As Americans rejigger their budgets to abide the nation's economic gloom, travel plans are being routinely cast aside, leading to plummeting airline traffic and a tourism downturn around the globe.

But at least one demographic has refused to relinquish its passion for travel. Chicagoan Tim Engdahl is part of that group: gay, gainfully employed, with no kids and a lifelong wanderlust."

Yes, because, don't we all know that the economic crisis doesn't have any effect at all on LGBT people. No, we're magically insulated by our fairy dust!

I'm fairly sure you can find pockets within all groups that haven't had their lives disrupted by the economic meltdown (the CEO's of the banks come to mind), but characterizing all LGBT people as somehow not only immune to the downturn but raucously oblivious to it is offensive.

Of course, as is usual, that class of Evil Queen whose lives revolve around cocktails and cruises is more than happy to help along this stereotype:

"I might cut back on other things throughout the year," said Engdahl, a 46-year-old nurse who took a Caribbean cruise in February and plans another later this year. "But I have to see what's worth it to me in life, and traveling is worth it."

Bryan Herb co-owns Zoom Vacations, a Chicago company that caters specifically to the gay and lesbian community. He has seen no drop in business; in fact, it's up.

"If I'm at a cocktail party with a bunch of gay people, we're talking about travel--a lot," Herb said. "Gay people will give up a lot of things, but we won't give up our vacations. What else are we going to talk about?"

Gee whiz, not one but two cruises this year for that queen. How fabulous for her. I suppose I'm not a good gay because, well I've never taken a cruise, have no plans to take a cruise and actually have not really taken a vacation in years. Uh, oh, once again I fail to live up to the current stereotype.

But what's really galling is this Bryan Herb. Maybe I could give him a list of things to talk about:

  1. Marriage Equality and what he could do to help that along.
  2. Employment Non-Discrimination - maybe discuss ways to pressure Congress to pass that.
  3. The disproportionate percentage of homeless LGBT youth and particularly transgender youth who are prone to be victims of violence. Maybe you could even give up your third vacation of the year and donate that money to an LGBT shelter... nah, Jamaica and it's anti-gay government calls for your dollars.
That's just a start, I'm sure with a little work he could probably come up with at least a couple more subjects to fill up his time at that cocktail party. Then again, discussing those subjects requires a conscience, so it might be difficult.

Let's end this rant with Mr. Herb again:

Herb, of Zoom Vacations, said he has only one gay friend who doesn't have a passport. Gays and lesbians, he believes, may be more eager travelers because of the social circumstances they've endured throughout their lives.

"I think the idea of newness and differences in general, it makes us even more curious than other people," Herb said. "A lot of gay people have felt so different their whole life. After you come out, you almost feel like you can do anything."

Maybe this guy needs a new set of friends and new philosopy of life. Maybe people need to realize that rich people are just rich people whether they're straight or gay and stop trying to make these queens the poster kids for the LGBT community.

The last time I checked taking a cruise or a trip to Australia was not a political act related to coming out. As for knowing only one person without a passport, I can introduce him to many LGBT people without passports. Then again, I'm sure socially responsible, serious, and thoughtful LGBT people would just wreck his next Marie Antoinette costume ball which I'm sure will be held on a private cruise to Tahiti or something. (sigh)

OK... I'm done and feel much better. Thank you for putting up with my vent.


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4/09/2009

An American Sea Change

Newlywed male same-sex couple at Gaypride 2006...Image via Wikipedia

I never thought that a quote from the American Family Association would give me hope that we have truly turned the corner on LGBT rights but it is true. Speaking about the recent decision by the Washington, D.C. council to recognize same sex marriages performed in other places, Peter Sprigg of AFA issued the following quote:
"I’m concerned that every step closer to same-sex marriage that does not meet resistance makes it easier for some people to accept same-sex marriage down the road."
I read in that quote a note of fatalism on the part of those who have so long stood against equality and civil rights for all Americans. It appears that Sprigg and the AFA no longer believe they can win this fight. Instead, they are concentrating their efforts on simply making the battle bloody and fraught with as many offensive statements as possible until the day arrives when like the White Citizens Council they are relegated to the dust bin of history.

The past week has been amazing. We saw the Iowa Supreme Court invalidate their anti-gay law. We then saw the Vermont legislature pass a full marriage equality bill then rally to override the veto of their Governor. We saw Washington, D.C. opt to recoginize marriages performed elsewhere. We saw the National Organization for Marriage launch a $1.5 million dollar commercial and almost immediatley go down in flames over its lies and distortions - not to mention the use of paid actors to represent "real people." We see the Wisconsin courts casting an eye toward taking up the question of the validity of their own anti-gay law. Meanwhile, equality legislation is winding its way through the process in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine and possibly New York state while the New York City council calls on the Federal Government to recognize same-sex marriages in the upcoming census.

Can we not look at these events and find hope? What must this be doing to the forces of hatred and intolerance as they watch progress even as they bleed cash and public good will?

Times, they are a changing - and changing at a rate I doubt any of us could have imagined. After the Prop 8 and Prop 102 campaigns we saw anti-gay organizations spend themselves into near bankruptcy only to have their gains called into question in the courts.

Even here in Arizona there are subtle signs of change. While Arizona remains stolidly conservative and white centric once you leave the large metropolitan areas, a cursory glance at the Arizona Policy Council - an ultra right group - shows how the base of these groups is shrinking.

While Cathi Herrod continues to run her mouth in her personal fiefdom of hate, it appears that those she is attracting to her cause are not the middle-class families she wishes. Instead, in recent months it appears her base of support is shrinking to just the ultra-religious fringe groups and her active troops are now neo-nazi groups and other white supremacists such as the Nationalist Coalition. What better sign of demise is there than having to turn to such people for your support? Certainly, her coalition makeup will make it increasingly uncomfortable for people who don't seem themselve aligned with these types to continue with her cause. Without her constant spin a message of tolerance and openness might take root in their lives.

We know that education is related to people accepting the fact that all people are entitled to civil rights. After all, the fear that drives these people comes from ignorance and ignorance is bred by lack of education and life experience. The current rate of Arizona students who never graduate high school is 30%. This fact has gotten the attention of people who would never think much of LGBT rights. They want to increase educational opportunities in the state and insure a higher graduation rate. The good news is that indirectly it will assist the LGBT community by educating the population, exposing them to greater chances to learn history, civil rights, and civics making for an educated and thoughtful population versus one ignorant of even the most basic concepts of our national government and civics.

Truly, it is a time to ponder how far we've come. As I sat reading news this afternoon I was struck by the changes since I first came out in the mid-80's.

Gay Activist, a publication of the Gay Liberat...Image via Wikipedia

I came out in 1985 while visiting my brother in San Diego. At that time (I was 18) it seemed as though the "Gay Liberation" movement was ancient history. Yet, it was only eight years after the Brigg's Initiative in California and Anita Bryant's hayday. Still, the thought that one day I might be able to be married seemed, well, like science fiction. At the time people were dying of AIDS at alarming rates and our government was ignoring it. I often heard that gay people should be put in concentration camps so they wouldn't infect the "normal" people or that AIDS was the wrath of God and steps should not be taken to find a cure or even provide palliative treatment. Even four years later when I worked as a surgical technologist, there were nurses who refused to treat HIV positive patients. Women were told they didn't have to treat an HIV positive patient if they were pregnant. It was amazing how many people became suddenly "pregnant" the moment an HIV patient entered the surgical suite! Often there were only 3 or 4 of us on staff who would treat these patients - and this was before "Provider Conscience" rules were enacted to make this not only legal but perfectly acceptable.

That was the environment into which I emerged as a young gay man. Within a decade AIDS had become not the "gay scourge" but a disease being researched with amazing advances in care. People were no longer being thrown out of their homes or jobs because of fear.

Even more amazing, people had begun to talk about allowing gay people to marry!

We've come a long way, baby. There's a lot of work to be done. We've got to get DOMA overturned, DADT off the books, ENDA passed, and a comprehensive hate crimes law and marriage equality in the other 46 states. But, deep down in my gut, I feel these are now givens. These things will happen. It might be a bloody battle because I think our opposition know that they've lost the war. They refuse to sue for peace and are determined to make every remaining battle as hard and heartbreaking as possible. Yet, I think we all know how this war will now end.

Rainbows and departing storm clouds, Minsi Lak...Image via Wikipedia

The world has changed and continues to change at amazing speed. No longer are we having to fight an uphill battle while our opposition stakes out the moral high ground. Now we are on the moral high ground as people of all backgrounds begin to understand the equality is right and proper and those opposing equal civil rights do so out of ignorance, hatred, and hubris.

Yes, I am strangely positive and feel like I can see that rainbow beginning to peek through the clouds of the storm.


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