Monday, December 21, 2009

To Juan at the Winter Solstice by Robert Graves

This is a tribute to this time of year by mythologist and poet Robert Graves. In keeping with Graves' concept of primitive European culture being matriarchal, this poem refers to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth of the consort to the great mother that is earth itself. At this, the shortest day of the year when the folkloric newborn oak king's power waxes while winter's holly king's power over the earth wanes, it seems an appropriate poem to reproduce here:

To Juan at the Winter Solstice by Robert Graves

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Happy Winter Solstice

Yesterday, we dug ourselves out of the first snow storm of the season. As usual, it wasn't as bad as predicted by the sky-is-falling weather forecasters. But it was plenty of snow nevertheless and, while I don't usually like the snow because of the hard work of clean-up, the house did look beautiful surrounded by an expanse of clean white. The sky was light blue, the deciduous trees bare but for the snow covering their branches, the house cast in a glow of reflected sunlight off the unblemished snow.

How ironic that this snow came fast on the Winter Solstice today. As the days in the northern hemisphere begin to lengthen and the promise of brighter days takes hold, we can be happy that the Holly King (the mythical figure of winter) will gradually lose hold and give way to the Oak King. The winter snows will ultimately melt, nourishing the roots of plants that will flourish once again in the springtime. The buds are set, waiting to break forth once the sunlight and warmth are intense enough. It's precisely the promise of life reborn that so many cultures throughout human history have celebrated at this, literally the darkest time of year.

This is a metaphor of sorts for all the trials we face: It so often is indeed darkest before a new cycle of life can resume. While we don't always win every battle, the moments when things seem hopeless are often only temporary and but a prelude to new victories. This can often be the case when one loses a job, when one is diagnosed with cancer, or when one suffers a set-back in the fight for social justice for all people (gay and straight alike), all things I've experienced firsthand over the years. But hope renews just as surely as the days lengthen. So there is a lesson in this time of year when so much of the world celebrates the renewal of life and the resurgence of hope for the future. Even on the darkest longest night, the human spirit is strong enough to dream and work for brighter and longer days to come.

Happy Winter Solstice

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vermont to have 3G service...

I fell in love with Vermont when my partner and I spent a few days there last summer. The state has so much going for it: beautiful landscapes, pleasant people, same-sex marriage equality, a viable third party (the Progressive Party), a great independent-minded senator (Bernie Sanders), and a live-and-let-live attitude. And now it will have AT&T 3G service for the iPhone. Now all I have to do is learn to be a dairy farmer or buy a B&B and I'd be set to live there:
Going to Vermont for a White Christmas? Relax - you'll have 3G service

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Babs tells it like it is...

I once had the honor of meeting Babs Siperstein. At the time, I didn't actually know who she was and how important she is. We simply talked about politics during a backyard barbecue at someone's house and she came across as simply an ordinary citizen who just seemed to know everything there was to know about state politics in New Jersey. Imagine my surprise when I later found out I had been talking to one very prominent member of the state Democratic party.

I write all this as preamble to Babs' post on the Blue Jersey blog concerning tomorrow's vote on marriage equality in the state senate. I particularly like her final point about making sure we hold Democrats to account and support those who support us. We in the LGBT community are a critical component of the Democratic coalition in New Jersey and, as such, are not to be taken for granted. I know I will do my utmost to support those Democrats who stood with us tomorrow. I will also do everything I can to support challengers to any Democrat who votes against my interests and those of all other same-sex couples in New Jersey in the senate tomorrow.

Here's the direct link to her post: http://www.bluejersey.com/diary/13731/marriage-equality-an-open-letter-to-nj-democrats

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A long day at the New Jersey State House

I'm still collecting my thoughts from what turned out to be a particularly long day at the New Jersey State House in Trenton yesterday. I was there along with well over one thousand fellow Garden State Equality members to make our presence felt and accompany our side's testimony on behalf of the state civil marriage equality bill (S1967) being considered by the senate judiciary committee. I got there at 6:30 AM and didn't leave until 8:00 PM, at which time the hearing was still going on and would continue to go on for at least another couple of hours.

There were many things I experienced that angered or saddened me, things that made me realize just how much willful ignorance of our laws, our foundational principles, and common decency and respect still prevail in our society. But there were some high points as well: I was met with a smile and a nod from a senator running to get lunch when he saw me wearing my Garden State Equality t-shirt. I got to spend the day with friends old and new (Rich, Rick, Boaz, Jane: you're all beautiful people). I shared my cancer experience with Rich, who proved all the more just how caring and compassionate man he is. I got to have a few moments of levity and silliness (I guess that's why we're called "gay") with my friends. I got to listen to powerful testimony from private citizens, supportive luminaries from the worlds of politics and public affairs, and a particularly rousing speech from Civil Rights legend Julian Bond.

Finally, as the evening wore on, I found myself in a small overflow room sitting next to Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey ACLU. We shared some pizza, laughed at some of the funnier aspects of the day, we talked at length, and wondered when she would finally get to testify. It turned out she got her chance, the very last person to testify that day. I had let my ACLU membership lapse, much to my shame. I have so many charitable interests that I'm in danger of losing track of them all. But not in this case. Today I renewed my membership so I could justifiably say that I'm a proud member of the ACLU. And that's because I believe, fiercely, in individual freedom and dignity. I close with Deborah's own recollections from the overflow room: http://www.bluejersey.com/diary/13762/reflections-from-the-overflow-room

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An open letter to NJ Democratic legislators

I am very fortunate indeed to be represented in Congress by one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and dedicated politicians: US Representative Rush Holt. Congressman Holt has added his signature to scores of others such as Newark Mayor Corey Booker, DNC member and NJ activist Babs Siperstein (whom I once had the privilege of meeting) in an open letter to the Democratic members of the New Jersey state legislature calling on them to get behind the Marriage Equality bill during this legislative session. Individuals can add their names to the letter at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/njmarriage/. I urge all my friends who are registered Democrats to join this effort to remind our elected representatives in Trenton that equal protection under the law is not worthy of its name if it only includes some couples but not others. Please join me in signing on. Below is the text of the letter:

An Open Letter Calling on Democratic Legislators to Post Marriage Equality Legislation for a Vote

We believe that equality and fairness are fundamental principles of New Jersey's Democratic Party, and that is why we call on the state legislature to vote immediately on, and pass, the marriage equality bill.

New Jersey has a proud history of supporting civil rights. It was this legacy that encouraged many of us to become involved in politics. We believe that allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry is, at its core, about treating our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with dignity and respect.

We appreciate that this is a difficult issue for some state legislators. But marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. We are confident that the voters will stand by those elected officials who do the right thing.

When our children and grandchildren look back on this moment, we want to be able to tell them that we, too, did the right thing.

As Martin Luther King poignantly reminded us, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." That is why we’re proud to lend our names and our voices to this important cause. We do so in our capacity as private citizens and Democratic voters, and not on behalf of any particular office or organization.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What does one religion's doctrine have to do with civil marriage?

That's the title of this great piece in today's Blue Jersey blog. The concept of separation of church and state, one of the pillars of our republic as enshrined in the very first article in the Bill of Rights, seems to be difficult for a lot of people, notably among established religious organizations, to understand. For example, the Roman Catholic Church seems to think it appropriate to use its influence and financial resources (arguably better spent helping the poor) to prevent people like me, who aren't even Catholic, gaining equal CIVIL legal marriage rights.

Most recently, the Catholic Church in Maine was instrumental in contributing money to overturn equal civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in the recent Question 1 ballot initiative in Maine, thus stripping same-sex couples of equal civil protections regardless of whether or not those couples were even Catholic. The Catholic Church is also threatening to withhold charity services to the poor and sick in Washington, DC if the District council votes, as it is expected to, to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples there. Perhaps I'm picking too much on the Catholic Church when in fact many other denominations have been just as guilty of imposing their sectarian beliefs on society at large. But I can't help being disgusted as I see an institution that has its own checkered history with respect to morality (e.g. the ongoing scandal of priests abusing children while being protected by the Church, most recently in Ireland) seeking to impose its religion-based sectarian views on all of society, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Nobody is imposing anything on the Catholic Church. I wish they would return the favor.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coverage of our lobbying effort at the NJ State Capitol

Organized by Garden State Equality, almost 300 hundred lesbians, gay men, and our allies spent much of the day at New Jersey's state capitol in Trenton to lobby senators on the opening day of the lame duck session (the period between the recent election and the new term in January) for civil marriage equality in New Jersey. Here is a synopsis of the press coverage we received. I'm already looking forward to heading back to Trenton again and hope it is soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Biking in my home town of Porto Alegre, Brazil

Ever since I watched and blogged about a video from this year's Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge, I've been intrigued by the idea of shooting video of bike rides. The bike, after all, offers such a unique perspective not available from within a car.

I've even been thinking of getting a dedicated helmet-mounted camera myself or improvising a handle-bar mount for my existing camera (which can shoot video). In the meantime, I've been exploring videos shot by other cyclists. Some of them are crazy, shooting through traffic while violating every traffic law in the book. Others are a demonstration of how, no matter how much a cyclist obeys the law, drivers can be inattentive, malicious and downright murderous.

But today I saw a series of videos posted on YouTube by Diego Hernando Szczesny Mancilha, a cyclist living in my home town of Porto Alegre, Brazil. He has improvised a helmet mount for a regular camera and has shot videos riding around the city. Having lived in Porto Alegre and faced the terrible driving manners of its citizens as a pedestrian, I think cycling is the last thing I would do there. If American drivers are disrespectful of cyclists, Brazilians are downright hostile. This guy is brave. Here's one of the videos, this one of Diego hurtling down some of the steepest drops in the city. Porto Alegre is well known in Brazil for its hills:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Frontline: "Sick Around the World"


My partner and I recently watched a brief but reasonably informative documentary on PBS' Frontline program entitled "Sick Around the World" and providing an overview of systems for providing and insuring health care in very different settings: the UK, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan. While there may be many people in the United States who believe, for whatever reason, that we have nothing to learn from the experiences other countries have had, I very much disagree. Each of these countries offers a lesson in how their societies made choices, often very difficult ones, to balance competing objectives with respect to health care: universality, flexibility, efficiency, low cost, good public health outcomes, and patient satisfaction. The results vary a good deal from country to country but one thing keeps emerging, at least to judge from the public health statistics: all these countries achieve better population outcomes (neo-natal mortality, life expectancy, popular satisfaction) at lower costs as a proportion of GDP than is the case in the United States. We obviously have much to learn from these countries and ignore their experience at our peril.

Urge FBI to Investigate Anti-Gay Hate Crime in Puerto Rico

Urge FBI to investigate Hate Crime in Puerto Rico: "Please join me in urging the FBI to investigate a suspected hate crime involving the brutal murder of a gay 19-year-old in Puerto Rico particularly as local authorities seem to exhibit a "he had it coming" attitude towards this crime."

Friday, November 13, 2009

There's nothing like coming home to a dog...

This blog entry includes videos of soldiers returning home from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and being greeted by their dogs. And by "greeted" I mean jumped on and loved in a way only a dog can. Who was it who said "the more people I meet, the more I love my dog?" Enjoy: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/40324

Here's the first of the videos and my favorite:

LLS to participate in Gap's Give & Get program to support its blood cancer research

LLS to participate in Gap's Give & Get program to support its blood cancer research

Here's the coupon link: http://www.gapinc.com/giveandget/lls/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The pressures of cancer on couples

From today's The New York Times, this article on the impact of a cancer diagnosis on married couples: "Divorce Risk Higher When Wife Gets Sick" and which cites research published in the journal "Cancer" of the American Cancer Society showing that women diagnosed with cancer are far more likely to face divorce than men diagnosed with cancer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Avoiding Factory Farm Foods

There are some good rules of thumb to follow in this piece by author Nicolette Hahn Niman entitled "Avoiding Factory Farm Foods: An Eater's Guide" on how to improve the quality of what one eats (tip: avoid industrialized beef for starters).

Rubix Cubewich

Courtesy of the Insanewiches blog, I present the Rubix Cubewich:



Silly? Of course. But I needed a little levity on the heels of so much bad news these days (Christie, Maine, homophobia, cancer, etc.).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 40th, Sesame Street

At my age, my memories of "Sesame Street" are from long ago but I still remember the "Manamana" song, among others. Here's the original version from 1969:



"Rubber Ducky" is my other favorite song:



Happy birthday, "Sesame Street" and welcome to middle age.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The high price of equality

It's tiresome fighting for what others take for granted. It's also expensive. Last week, my partner and I attended one of several statewide sessions called by Garden State Equality to get the New Jersey LGBT community organized to lobby for civil marriage equality in our state. The window of opportunity for equality is quickly closing as the inauguration of New Jersey's recently-elected Republican governor, Chris Christie, approaches. Christie has made no secret of his opposition to gay equality. GSE needs funds to air ads on television in support of equality. Already, the opponents of equality are airing ads full of lies and fear-mongering. So my partner and I felt we had no choice but to pledge $500 to help air the ads. Another couple did the same and many others at our meeting in New Brunswick followed up with contributions. We did so so that someday we might have the legal protections afforded by marriage. That's not the first time we've made a contribution to fight for our rights and, sadly, it won't be the last. Incidentally, straight couples need merely hand over $28, the cost of a marriage license, to a clerk to obtain the same rights.

Unfortunately, achieving something better than second-class citizen status in our state will take a lot more than writing a check. At the very least, it will take calls every single day to our legislators not only from members of our community but also from our straight allies. The lesbian and gay community is small and, while attendance at the aforementioned meetings was inspiring, too many members of our community are too cynical, apathetic, or ignorant of their own oppression to participate in this effort. Others, after so many years of disappointment, have little hope and even less energy to fight yet another battle. The losses in California in 2008 and in Maine last week, when our rights were put up for a vote (in a way no one else's would be), have only added to this disenchantment. This is why it's all the more important for us to reach out to our friends, family members, and coworkers for help. We are too few in number without the help of our straight allies to offset the shouting and fear-mongering coming from the forces of bigotry.

The forces opposing marriage equality will tell you that marriage equality somehow redefines existing marriages. That's a lie. They will tell you that your children will be taught about homosexuality. That too is a lie. They will say that marriage is a religious institution and that religious institutions will be affected by marriage equality. That is false: civil marriage is granted by the state and New Jersey residents are free, and will always be free, to choose to have that marriage celebrated in a temple, church or mosque of their choice. The state has nothing at all to do with religious marriage and cannot therefore require that any religious institution do anything different than they currently do. The forces of bigotry will try to mislead the public and our elected representatives into thinking that marriage equality is something other than it really is: simply the extension to all New Jersey couples of the civil rights, protections and obligations before the law that currently only opposite-sex couples enjoy. In short, their voices are loud and shrill, qualities which seem too often to hold more sway in our society than the quiet voices of reason.

So I appeal to all my friends and colleagues to join me and my partner and scores of other couples in New Jersey in our effort to gain the same level of equality before the law that our friends in opposite-sex relationships are. If you live in New Jersey, please call your state assembly members and state senator every day starting now. All it takes is a few seconds on the phone with each of their office staffers to tell them your name, that you live in their district, and that you want them to vote to enact full marriage equality for same-sex couples before the end of the year. I do this regularly and it takes absolutely no time at all, the office staffer keeping a tally of how many people call to support marriage equality. Trust me, our enemies are doing the same thing and will stop at nothing to make sure we never achieve our dream of being treated as full citizens of our state.

Looking up your representatives in Trenton is easy. For a search engine as well as talking points, simply go to this link: http://www.gardenstateequality.org/officials/call.html .

Below is the ad my partner and I are helping to air. In addition to calling your legislators, if you would like to contribute to support this ad and the overall effort to persuade the state legislature to enact full equality, please do so by contributing to the Garden State Equality Action Fund.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

ENDA Hearing in DC Today

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is holding a hearing this morning on the pending Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I've written to my two US Senators, Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez, this morning even though neither of them sits on the Committee (see letter below).

I urge my friends to please contact their senators, particularly if they sit on the Committee, to support passage of ENDA. A list of the Senators on the Committe is on the left side of this link. While those of us working in companies with explicit non-discrimination policies or living in states with non-discrimination laws on the books may not fear being fired for being gay, lesbian or transgendered, far too many Americans do not have that peace of mind. In particular, transgendered individuals are at special risk, with more than a third of transgendered people having experienced discrimination in the work place. Non-discrimination is good for business as it attracts and retains the best talent and it is the right thing to do. It's about fairness.

Below is the letter I have written to my two Senators:
As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions holds a hearing this morning on pending legislation to ban employment and other discrimination against lesbian, gay and transgendered individuals, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my strong support for passage of ENDA.

I hope, Senator, that my partner and I can count not only on your support should a bill come to a vote in the Senate, but that you will urge your colleagues in the Committee as well as out of the Committee to support passage of ENDA.

As a resident of New Jersey and an employee of a company that has a nondiscrimination policy, I am aware of the fact that while I enjoy relative peace of mind, so many Americans elsewhere do not. I very much wish to see all Americans throughout our country be able to go to work without fear that their employer will fire them for their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A painful loss in Maine

I could post about how the very idea that one group of people could vote out the basic rights of another group of people runs counter to the principals at the core of our republic, a republic established on the idea of representative democracy as a means of safeguarding minorities from the tyranny of the majority through the filter of deliberative representation. This comes to mind as I ponder the painful defeat as the No on 1 campaign in Maine lost to the forces of bigotry with the effect that the recently-enacted same-sex civil marriage law in that state has been voted out. Same-sex couples will continue to be treated as second-class citizens before the law.

But instead, I post a letter I received (and published on the No on 1 campaign site) from Jesse Connolly, who ran a valiant effort to sensitize Maine voters to the fundamental inequity of treating lesbian and gay couples as second-class citizens. This vote shows that the road ahead will indeed be very difficult, even in an otherwise progressive state, and that it may be years, many years, before lesbians, gay men, and transgendered people ever experience the level of respect and equality before the law they demand and certainly are entitled to:

Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality, but in the end, it wasn't enough.

I am proud of the thousands of Mainers who knocked on doors, made phone calls and talked to their family, friends and neighbors about the basic premise of treating all Maine families equally.

And I'm proud of this campaign because the stories we told and the images we shared were of real Mainers -- parents who stood up for their children, and couples who simply wanted to marry the person they love.

We're in this for the long haul. For next week, and next month, and next year-- until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for.

Thank you. Thank you for everything you did. Thank you for digging deep and giving one more dollar to run our TV ads, for making those phone calls for one more hour. This campaign was, from the beginning, powered by people like you who rolled up their sleeves and did the hard work of change.

Stay the course.


Jesse Connolly
Campaign Manager
NO on 1 / Protect Maine Equality

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bea Arthur leaves $300K to gay youth

Bea Arthur, the wonderful stage and television actress who died in April of this year, "included a $300,000 donation to New York's Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless LGBT youth, in her will" according to this piece on CNN online. Young gay kids all too often find themselves homeless as they are rejected and abandoned by their own families. This bequest will certainly go a long way.

This is the spirit of meeting a Challenge

The Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge, organized by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, took place last weekend. The stories of inspiration, sense of community, and feeling of accomplishment are coming back as the participants settle back into their regular lives. Among the accounts of that weekend is one by a man named Brendan as summarized in his entry on his Go By Bike! blog. He shot video of the ride itself, with a particularly inspiring moment at about the 11-minute mark in this video:

Livestrong Challenge 2009 from Brendan on Vimeo.


For me, this exemplifies the notion of facing a personal challenge, whether related to cancer or not, and conquering it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

At last, an online merchant who "gets it"

I ordered a bike jacket and pair of shoes from Zappo's on Monday, my first ever transaction with this company. Free shipping, free returns for up to a year from purchase, and a wide selection of shoes and other clothing all lured me to try Zappo's. I was really surprised to see that I could expect to receive my delivery the day after my order. Unfortunately, there was a snafu with UPS, which reported the item as delivered Tuesday morning but which had not actually delivered the package to my house. With some trepidation born of past lackluster customer service interactions with other online vendors, I called Zappo's to get to the bottom of why a package marked delivered was anything but.

I expected to have to wait forever on the phone, or not have access to a live agent, or to be pushed back to UPS. None of that happened. I was connected to a live agent almost immediately who promptly apologized for problem (even though it was UPS' fault), filed an investigation with UPS, and put in a rush replacement order. That investigation must have awakened the folks at UPS because somehow the package appeared on my doorstep a few hours later. Another quick call to Zappo's to request that they cancel the replacement order was met with thanks for letting them know and some friendly banter with the customer service rep. Why can't all online vendors be like them? I suppose brick-and-mortar stores should hope this approach — easy returns, live agents, respect for the customer — doesn't catch on in the online world. I'll definitely be buying from them again and can only hope that Amazon, which has purchased the company, doesn't change their business model.

My friend and fellow cancer survivor Frank pointed me to an article in The New Yorker about their business model: Zappos, the online shoe shopping utopia: newyorker.com

Incidentally, the bike jacket — a Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible — fit perfectly and will help me to keep on biking in cold weather. I opted for the Screaming Yellow color (more like a neon chartreuse) should help keep me visible to even the most absent-minded cell-phone-using careless drivers on the road. It was nice knowing that even had it not fit, I would have been able to return it hassle- and cost-free. Two thumbs up for Zappo's.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Ready for Another March?" I am!

Writing in The Advocate, writer and Sirius radio broadcaster Michelangelo Signorile suggests in his article "Ready for Another March?" the need for continued marches like the recent National Equality March if the LGBT community doesn't see concrete action on our issues (ENDA, DOMA, DADT). Obviously this doesn't at all replace the need for lobbying and direct contact with our elected representatives. But this is something I've been thinking of since my partner and I participated in the march earlier this month. This country has never seen fundamental correction of past injustices without people taking to the streets and making noise in every way possible (e.g. the suffrage movement and the African American civil rights movement). I'm ready.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"What do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?"

Andy Towle has blogged about an 86-year-old World War II veteran speaking about why he supports gay equality. Maine is in the midst of voting on ballot Question 1, an initiative which, if approved, would overturn the recently enacted same-sex civil marriage law and would thus deny lesbian and gay couples the right to equal state protections afforded by civil marriage in Maine. In his testimony, apparently recorded during public hearings held in April before passage of the same-sex marriage bill in Maine, this hero of World War II cuts to the core of the matter and speaks to his own experience: "My wife and I did not raise four sons [so that] three of them would have a certain set of rights but our gay child would be left out." My partner and I have contributed to the "No on 1" campaign and urge all our friends to do the same. It's about fairness, something I would hope we all can support. Watch the video. It's that moving:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yet another gay bashing, this time in Oklahoma

The past several days have seen a lot of news of vicious attacks on gay men and lesbians. Andy Towle reports on the latest crime, committed against a young man in Tulsa, OK. More graphic images of the sawing, stabbing and punching inflicted on Brandon Patrick are available as well.

While these crimes are horrific by themselves, what is all the more chilling is the common theme running through them: These are crimes motivated by hatred towards the lesbian and gay community and having the effect of terrorizing that entire community. At the federal level as well as in most states, crimes committed against LGBT individuals are not considered hate crimes even when motivated by hate and promoting fear in the LGBT community at large. Furthermore, these crimes are all too often not investigated and/or prosecuted to the extent they should be as a result of the homophobia present in the local police forces and prosecutors' offices across this country. Please call your US Senators to ask them to support the Matthew Shepart Act recently passed by the House of Representatives but awaiting consideration in the Senate. It would give prosecutors added tools to punish, and by so doing, deter hate crimes committed against our community and its members.

DavidMixner.com: Democrats: If You Are NOT on This List Then Not One Penny!

DavidMixner.com: Democrats: If You Are NOT on This List Then Not One Penny!

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hundreds march in Queens against hate crimes

In support of gay-bashing victim Jack Price, who has been left in a coma because of a hate crime in Queens, hundreds of people marched through Queens on Saturday. On hand were a few supporters, yes supporters (!), of the assailants currently in police custody:Hundreds march in Queens against hate crimes :: EDGE New York City

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bangor Daily News endorses No on Question 1

The "Bangor Daily News" has endorsed a No on Question 1 vote in Maine and, by so doing, has backed same-sex civil marriage equality in Maine: No on Question 1 - Bangor Daily News

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Senator Udall calls Pres. Obama's bluff on Don't Ask Don't Tell

Courtesy of John Aravosis at AmericaBlog, here's the story and actual letter US Senator (D-Colorado) Mark Udall has written to President Obama requesting him to solicit input from the Secretary of Defense and the military establishment within thirty days to push forward the discussion on just how the elimination of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy should proceed. Udall rightly reminds the Obama that for sixteen years, dedicated men and women have been expelled from the armed forces, often after being subjected to what can only be described as a witch hunt, an injustice and a disservice to over-stretched armed forces that needs to end. Last weekend at the black-tie HRC dinner, Obama talked (as he is wont to do) very eloquently about the injustices endured by the LGBT community. Now here is an opportunity to turn that talk into action so that Congress can move forward in putting a repeal on his desk. Meanwhile, there is nothing to prevent him from putting a stop-loss order to suspend DADT so that more servicemen and women are not separated from the forces. The time for talk is long over. The time for action is overdue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This is what homophobia looks like

Jack Price, a gay man, was recently beaten by two attackers in Queens so severely that he now finds himself in a medically-induced coma. This is sadly not an uncommon event in this country. Surveillance video has come to light of the incident and warrants watching. It depicts what happens when two men, motivated by a hatred of gay people, proceed to act out on that hatred. By so doing, they harm not only the victim they attack but they also terrorize an entire community of gay people. This is a hate crime. Please call your US Senator to ask him or her to support the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill recently passed by the US House of Representatives but awaiting passage in the Senate, where it is far from certain to be passed.
 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More on the California ballot "initiative" to ban divorce

I blogged last month about John Marcotte's satirical effort at an initiative to ban divorce in California. After all, if preventing lesbians and gay men from getting married hasn't protected opposite-sex marriage in California (shocking, that), surely banning divorce would be a much more direct and successful means to that end. Here's an ad as part of this very tongue-in-cheek campain. The satire-impaired are warned not to watch:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This about sums it up...


There is so much that is wrong in the world and it's easy to be either complacent or cynical, to not care or to think things beyond hope. Effecting change is hard work, work it's tempting to leave to others. But the very least, the bare minimum that one can do is at least support those who seek to make the world a better place by joining in, standing up to be counted, and raising one's voice in unison with others. That's why I'm going to Washington, DC this weekend for the National Equality March. Not because I think it alone will wipe away all the hatred and oppression of lesbians and gay men and transgendered people in the United States. I'm not nearly that naïve. But this march is merely the beginning and the bare minimum of what we in this community need to do.

We need to make noise, be it on the phone talking to our representatives — yes, they're our representatives too just as surely as we pay taxes too — or in the streets or in the schools or in the workplace or in our families and among our friends. We each need to do this until this country wakes up to the fact that we are every bit as entitled to the same protections and responsibilities and, yes, respect that our straight friends, coworkers and family members take for granted.

We need to sensitize the people in our lives to stop hurting us by thinking our love somehow less than theirs, by voting for candidates who continue to maintain a body of tax and family law that oppresses us, by talking a lot about tolerance when what they should be doing is practicing respect. This is, sadly, a lifelong amount of work for anyone in the LGBT community who cares enough to want to change all our lives for the better. And it's work that won't get done simply sitting at home in front of the TV or going to a dance club all the while cynically putting down the efforts of well-meaning and hard-working lesbians and gay men to make a change. So this march isn't sufficient. But it sure beats sitting at home doing nothing and just feeling like a victim. Well-behaved and quiet people never effected any change worth a damn in this country's history. It's time to get vocal. That's why I'm going to Washington, DC and that's why I'm going to keep hammering away at issues that matter to this community until we gain full equality.

Pelosi Tells The NRCC Where Her Place Is

Pelosi Tells The NRCC Where Her Place Is

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Quits Chamber Of Commerce Over Climate Change

Here's another reason why I've admired Apple as a company since my first Mac way back in 1984:

Apple Quits Chamber Of Commerce Over Climate Change

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garmin Connect Activity Details for Jockey Hollow Loop

Garmin Connect -
Activity Details for
Ride with Nathan


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My friend and coworker Nathan and I decided to take advantage of reasonably good weather today and the fact that our entire organization at work was having a United Way fund-raising event at Lewis Morris Park, adjacent to Jockey Hollow National Park near Morristown, to go on a ride in the area together while the rest of the team would stay behind at the park. The tricky thing for me, a novice with only one month of bike ownership, was mapping out a loop that would be long but not too hilly for me. That proved difficult on paper (er, MayMyRide) and, as it turned out, on the road too, the whole area adjacent to the park being very hilly indeed. This was one challenging ride and even Nathan, a seasoned rider (he rode the century at the Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge this year in great time) told me it was hillier than he expected. Well, I did it. Sure, I got off my bike and walked a few yards halfway up the worst two hills (at around mile 13 and mile 18), although in my defense they reached grades of 22% and 16%, respectively, and I was still in a lot of pain from a particularly tough leg workout a couple of days before. My leg routines always produce muscle soreness at their peak 48 hours after training. Not to be outdone by the hills, I managed to have my chain fall out near the very end of the ride as I switched the front gear from a particularly tough climb back into the park after almost 25 miles of riding. Who knew threading a chain back on was so easy?! It took little more than a few seconds to get that baby back on so I consider that yet another right of passage into the world of cycling. Hills, falling chains, aggressive drivers, and more hills. Bring 'em on! I'm ready and feel really good about today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary

Mary Travers of the singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary has died as a result of complications from cancer treatment. Her voice very much represented the spirit of hope and rebellion (the two going hand in hand) of the '60s. The group's performances of songs like "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "If I Had a Hammer" and "Blowin' in the Wind" are, needless to say, so very representative of the time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A California ballot initiative to ban divorce

I love satire when used as a tool to point out hypocrisy. John Marcotte has introduced a ballot initiative in California, a state arguably left ungovernable thanks to ballot initiatives, to ban divorce. After all, if Proposition 8 was introduced and passed last year ostensibly to "protect" traditional marriage (whatever that means) by denying civil marriage to same-sex couples, the logical and probably more productive way to protect opposite-sex marriage would be to prohibit opposite-sex couples from divorcing. After all, not allowing same-sex couples to have the legal benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage has manifestly no effect on the stability of opposite-sex marriage. But prohibiting opposite-sex couples from destroying their own marriages through divorce would be far more productive. I wish this guy luck. He's doing a public service to all those opposite-sex couples who would gladly stay married if only they couldn't get divorced. As he says on his web site "You said 'Til death do us part.' You're not dead yet."

Here's a brief report on him from CNN:

John Marcotte: California Man Introduces Amendment To Ban Divorce (VIDEO)

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Friday, September 11, 2009

A view of a landmark before the world changed

Today's The New York Times profiles a project by Seolbin Park, curator of New York's SB D Gallery, to collect images of the World Trade Center from before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The exhibition opens today and runs through October 15th. What's striking about these images is how our perception of them can't help but be colored by what we know now. Images that might have seemed whimsical or simply beautiful with the perception of someone on September 10, 2001 now have a very different cast. I can't look at images from the day of the attack and, to be honest, looking at these pre-attack images is painful enough. The sense of loss (of life, beauty, innocence) is palpable enough in these simple photos when viewed through the prism of that tragedy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meat Cake, the cake with no sugar


It's been a slow afternoon so I started checking out some of the blogs and tracked one entry on the This is Why You're Fat blog (a collection of food oddities) all the way back to a recipe for something called Meat Cake, a concoction of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and ketchup in cake form. It seems a very efficient way of consuming a meatloaf-with-mashed-potatoes dinner by the slice. Stick a candle in it and it makes a great birthday cake for the meat lover.

Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings | Foreign Policy

Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings | Foreign Policy

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Joe Wilson, Republican Rep. from SC and disrespectful liar

POLITICO: A voice from the floor on illegal immigrants: 'Lie' - Ben Smith - A voice from the floor on illegal immigrants: 'Lie'

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My first hilly bike ride. Look ma, no walking!

Garmin Connect -
Activity Details for
Untitled


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A long overdue recognition of an injustice to a gay man and hero of WWII

Alan Turing, a mathematician who played a critical role in World War II by helping to break German military codes, was convicted under British law for his sexual orientation after the war with ultimately tragic consequences. At long last, there may be a public apology for this gross injustice: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8226509.stm .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Calling right-wing lunacy what it is...

One line of attack by the right-wing against Obama is this crazy comparison of him to, of all people, Hitler. It's offensive on so many levels, not only to reason, the President and common decency, but it also trivializes the horror that was Nazism. How does one react when someone spews this sort of lunacy in a public space? While I have a lot of problems with him, particularly in how he has become an apologist of sorts for the Obama Administration's poor record so far on LGBT issues, Barney Frank in this clip shows how it's done. When confronted with idiocy or insanity, you call it for what it is:

Monday, August 17, 2009

A voice of sanity in the health care screaming match, er, debate

Paul Krugman writes in today's The New York Times on the health care discussion (I can't bring myself to call it a debate) that has gone quite off the tracks, thanks to demagoguery on the right, a leadership vacuum in the White House, and legislators beholden to the insurance and pharma lobbies.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Running and knee trouble

I often hear, to the point of actually worrying about it, that running at my age can ultimately lead to joint problems, notably arthritis in the knee. I had never run at all until this year when I started to train for the LIVESTRONG 5K this year. I'm in my 40s so issues of cartilage damage become more relevant, perhaps, than they might be were I in my teens. So it's heartening to read this piece in The New York Times Health section concerning findings that running, at least if done free of injury, can actually support long-term knee cartilage health.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country

Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country

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How to Squat with Proper Technique without Injuring Yourself

I've been thinking a lot about my weight-lifting routine specific to legs. I have the bad tendency to listen to any and all people, regardless of how qualified they are, and have often allowed the nay-sayers to mess with my head when it comes to some things. One of these is squats. Squats are the king of all leg routines but very much need to be done with absolutely correct technique to maximize effectiveness and reduce injury. I really started seeing my legs improve once I started going ass-to-grass (that is, below parallel) and have had absolute no knee trouble at all. This despite a lot of people, none of whom squats at all, telling me not to. Here's a great link on how to avoid injury and complete a squat. It's a must-do exercise and I love/hate it. I love it for what it does but dread doing it. It's that hard to do correctly:

How to Squat with Proper Technique without Injuring Yourself

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I care too much

I think I care too much.

I care that my adopted country, the United States, has made one costly mistake after another with respect to issues of justice, war, peace, investing in the future, and economic development.

I care that its leaders plunged it into a war of choice at a tremendous cost in human lives and wealth, a cost which will haunt my country for a very long time to come.

I care that there are people in this country who have no access to health care while others, I among them, have access to the very best health care all by virtue of where we work or where we live. Yet the very same people who stood by and, in fact, cheered on the aforementioned costly war now wring their hands at the potential cost of achieving universal health care coverage, a cost that pales in comparison to the cost of war. Apparently it is better to spend a fortune destroying lives than to spend a lesser fortune helping to save them. These same people talk about foreign princes wanting to come to our country as an indication of our health care excellence, ignoring so conveniently the lack of access to that same health care to so many Americans, none of them foreign princes.

I care that we have allowed our cities to lose jobs, people, and quality of life while permitting the leveling of our once beautiful countryside to make way for isolated corporate centers, self-enclosed housing developments consisting of little more than oversized boxes, and shopping centers that have made the once diverse American landscape seem oddly uniform. All this at the cost of congested highways, inefficient transportation systems, and an alarming reliance on energy procured in unstable parts of the world ruled by despots.

I care that our country has all too often, when afforded the choices, sided with tyrants over oppressed people throughout the world, despite the lofty ideals professed by our leaders. The very same leaders who trumpet democracy while overturning democratically-elected governments elsewhere.

I care that in many fundamental respects, those politicians who so often talk about values and patriotism have been the quickest to depart from the ideals behind the founding of this republic more than two centuries ago.

I care that our elected leaders are often quick to do the bidding of industry and other special interest groups over the obvious needs of the people who elected them to office, figuring that campaign contributions from industry groups are more important than earning votes. That they remain in power only proves that their political calculus is correct.

I care that my country lectures other countries on human rights while using torture as a tool to extract confessions, notwithstanding the fact that torture has never been shown to reveal the truth. It only reveals what the tortured thinks the torturer wants to hear.

I care that a president, a constitutional scholar no less, can argue that he has the power to detain people indefinitely even if they have been acquitted of any crime, solely on the suspicion that that person might someday exact revenge for that very same indefinite detention. This is the stuff of Kafka.

I care that in a country which began its life as a refuge for groups that had been oppressed for failing to subscribe to an official religion in their home country, a country whose very constitutional framework enshrined the principal of government having absolutely nothing to say with respect to creed, a country founded by a group of men of diverse and often vague religious beliefs, we now see so many of lawmakers making law based solely on their personal religious beliefs.

I care that the very politicians who argue so strongly that their religious scruples should be the foundation of law are all too quick to violate those very same scruples in their personal actions. They go even further by condemning others for the very actions, such as adultery, they are guilty of.

I care that so many of my fellow Americans, including people I know and love, gladly elect politicians who are only too happy to continue to see people like me, by virtue of whom and how I love, be afforded less protection under the law than they are. I am told that this is for the good our country. I am told that were I treated the same as others, the very country would be in danger, ostensibly at the hand of the god in whom these same people believe. In fact, I am told that were I to enjoy the same civil rights, protections and responsibilities as my "straight" friends and loved ones, their opposite-sex relationships would somehow become meaningless. I am told this is for the sake of tradition, nevermind we have seen many traditions (women as chattel, slavery, perhaps someday torture) thankfully abandoned for the sake of justice and progress. But ignorance dies slowly, apparently. I fear I won't outlive this particular form of ignorance, the ignorance of heterosexism.

I care that my country spends its wealth on wars of choice while actually reducing what it spends on fighting a war of necessity against diseases like cancer, heart disease and AIDS.

I care that we have apparently become a country of people who, for the most part, speak of spirituality and who condemn consumerism, all while lusting after products produced in far-away lands by exploited people.

I care that my outrage isn't shared by everyone. And I worry that in merely expressing that outrage, I am little better than the objects of that same outrage.

I write all this not with the expectation that anyone will actually read it (the obscurity of this blog is protection enough) but merely to list out the many things I have to realize I can do little to change. And in recognizing one person's inability to change everything, I recognize how important it is, in the over-quoted words of Voltaire, to tend my own garden. Not only to focus on only those things I know I can do, but to enjoy the light even when surrounded by darkness.

This occurred to me when talking to a couple of musicians last Saturday at a party. I had only just met them but within moments learned of their knowledge of and commitment to music performance. Here were two people who seemed genuinely happy and satisfied and whose lives revolved around art. We talked about Bach and the topic of his music alone was such a breath of fresh air compared to the constant news of war, politics, corruption, bigotry, racism, homophobia, and hypocrisy.

I can't help envying people who don't evince the sense of outrage I feel. They are probably happier for it. After all, what good is feeling outraged about something (or everything, in my case) while feeling powerless about it. Why should life be robbed of the light (Bach, for example) just for the sake of worrying about the dark?

My partner Sean and I will be leaving on vacation soon, spending a mere week in some quiet out-of-the-way places in New England. Perhaps this will be a time for me to remind myself that it is possible to care too much about that which I can't single-handedly change. I should use it as an opportunity to return to those things, set aside since before my second cancer diagnosis, that dispel the darkness. My Bach recordings will be making the trip with me next week.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama takes yet another page from Bush's playbook

Secret White House meetings with industry lobbyists. Extraordinary rendition. Give-aways to the financial industry. Holding people prisoner for indeterminate time without charges. All these are practices of the Bush administration that have survived in the Obama administration. An administration supposedly pledged to "change." Add to that list the much-abused practice of signing statements, as reported by "The Hill" with respect to legislation signed by President Obama yesterday. It's interesting, to say the least, that this administration will defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court using particularly offensive language, ostensibly because "it has no choice but to defend the law" while then issuing a signing statement in which the administration makes clear that it will not enforce some provisions of a law passed by Congress.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yet more evidence that "change" is a meaningless word

The Obama Administration is fighting to keep White House visitor records secret so the public will not know who drops by the White House to influence the chief executive. This is in keeping with Bush Administration policy, as are so many other things it seems (indefinite detention, rendition, aggressive enforcement of DADT, energetic defense of DOMA, etc.). This particular position contradicts Obama's promises of transparency. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing to gain access to the logs of visits from coal company executives.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Department of Justice files a motion in support of anti-gay discrimination

The Federal Department of Justice has filed a motion to dismiss a case seeking to overturn the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in Federal court. In its motion, the Obama Administration uses arguments in support of this discriminatory act which can only be described as straw men or even homophobic.

For example, DOMA is defended on the grounds it protects the Federal government's "scarce resources." By that line of reasoning, the Federal government should likewise not recognize opposite-sex marriage. Furthermore, the motion states rather broadly that DOMA is "well-reasoned" and doesn't deprive same-sex couples of any fundamental rights. I guess the over one thousand rights afforded opposite-sex couples under Federal law don't really count.

My favorite part is the statement that DOMA was not motivated by animosity towards gays! Really. So the fact that my partner and I, were we even able to obtain civil marriage in our home state (where we cannot), would not be recognized as a couple in most of the country or by the Federal government is something born out of what then? Is DOMA and act of love for same-sex couples? Is DOMA a gesture of compassion towards couples who simply want to live their lives together, free of fear of discrimination in taxation, in the healthcare system, when they retire, and when one of them dies? It sounds like the usual religious right claptrap about "loving the sinner." No thanks. I don't want this so-called Christian love. What I want is the same set of rights that my opposite-sex married friends take for granted. Please don't tell me that DOMA has nothing to do with anti-gay sentiment. I'm nowhere near stupid enough to buy that.

For more on this filing, check out John Aravosis' citations from this filing in his blog entry. Aravosis goes into more detail and his entry is a must-read for any same-sex couple that is interested in knowing what chance they have of seeing any progress on this issue for our community.

Meanwhile, I'm left saddened that my growing skepticism that the Obama Administration is in any way sympathetic to the LGBT community has found yet more evidence to support it. The president has described himself as a "fierce advocate" for LGBT rights. Yet the LGBT community has seen nothing but silence on issues fundamental to it and now outright hostility.

After all, this is an administration that continues to enforce Don't Ask Don't Tell by separating decorated and uniquely-skilled lesbian and gay service members from the armed forces at a time when our armed forces are already stretched. In fact, a bill written by my representative, Rush Holt, calling for the end of DADT is languishing, with no word of support at all from the White House.

The president continues to enjoy a great deal of forbearance across a wide range of issues, tackling as he does so many problems inherited from the previous administration. But the silence and now hostility from his administration on issues that matter to a community that had disproportionately supported him in the last election, thanks largely to his ostensible "fierce advocacy" for it, is inexplicable. And it's disappointing and discouraging. To judge from the evidence so far, I in my condition of gay man in a loving relationship with another man do not have a friend in the White House.

Monday, June 8, 2009

ABCNews report on a freed Guantánamo Bay detainee

Officials of the former Bush Administration, starting with Dick Cheney, have much to answer for. This report covers the experience of a man working for the Red Crescent in Bosnia who was detained and held for over seven years, was abused and tortured, but was never charged with anything and against whom no evidence was ever produced:
EXCLUSIVE: Ex-Gitmo Detainee Lakhdar Boumediene Details Torture - ABC News

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy birthday, Harvey Milk. You were taken much too soon.

Today would have been gay rights leader and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk's 79th birthday had he not been, along with Mayor Moscone, murdered on November 27, 1978. The details of Harvey Milk's life and the circumstances of his death are well known through books, documentary films, and a recent bio-pic. I can't help wondering what he would make of where we in the LGBT community are today, of the progress we've made, but of the persistent level of ignorance and hatred that still manifests itself today. I suppose he would tell us, as he so often did, to cling to hope and to fight like hell. Happy birthday, Harvey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Generosity

Until my second cancer diagnosis about a year ago, I rarely involved myself in fund-raising activities. I participated a couple of times in the Philadelphia AIDS Walk in the late '90s but, looking back, was probably too self-involved to consider participating more actively and more frequently in volunteer or fund-raising work. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took a second cancer diagnosis to wake me up to the fact that, in the face of relentless diseases like cancer, sitting back and doing nothing is simply not an option. Well, it's not an option if we care about something that affects all of us. And it's not an option when our leaders too often spend much of our country's fortune fighting wars of choice overseas when they should be investing (yes, "investing") that fortune to fight a war of necessity here at home.

But this post is not about the failure of our government to do more to combat cancer, particularly as there are hopeful signs that we are waking up to the pressing need for more research and better treatment options for this disease. Rather, it concerns the one thing that humbles me as I do what I can to raise money among my professional colleagues, my friends, and my family members: generosity. I can't help being inspired by the willingness of so many people to give so much.

Many of these people have been closely affect by cancer, either as patients, as care givers, or as people who have lost someone to this disease. As a cancer survivor, I understand now better than ever the motivation, born of a frustration in the face of cancer, to do something, anything, to fight this scourge. For the people who have been robbed by cancer (that's what it feels like to me), it becomes a lifelong need to do something so that others need never suffer the same. The people who have suffered because of cancer and choose to do something about it inspire me because they see themselves not as victims, but as warriors. They have chosen not to be defeated by cancer but to fight back.

But I'm impressed in a different way by the generosity of people who have never suffered the pain and loss of cancer. Those people evidently give not out of a personal experience but rather out of a sense of empathy. They are able to imagine the sense of loss that others must feel. They understand that we all share the costs of cancer as this disease ultimately touches all of us in one way or another. Empathy and compassion are the qualities I've felt I've lacked for much of my life and which I've come to appreciate now as a two-time cancer survivor. I'm humbled by the fact that so many people who have not had to face cancer are nonetheless so ready to give out of precisely the sense of empathy.

So as I see the donations on behalf of my participation in the August 2009 Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge pour in, I feel a deep sense of awe at this abundance of empathy translating into generosity. It is this very quality — the willingness to translate feeling into action — that we need more of in our society today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cancer, celebrity, and confidentiality

Cancer patients are probably more aware, and more protective, of the need to protect their privacy than most people for many reasons. After all, fighting cancer is such a deeply personal and painful experience. Furthermore, patients can too easily fall prey to employment discrimination, exploitation, and scams. This is why it's all the more horrifying when a medical center violates the trust (and the law) patients rely on to protect their privacy. It's in that context that Farrah Fawcett's case, one in which details of her treatment were leaked without her consent, serves as a reminder of just how vulnerable patients can be. While most of us are not celebrities and therefore are probably of little interest to the tabloid-reading crowd, it's chilling to read Leonard Pitts' (an excellent columnist, by the way) column in The Miami Herald on this actress' battle and how her privacy was violated.

Medical insurance challenges faced by gay couples

In today's The New York Times, there's a piece describing the difficulties and added costs faced by gay couples when seeking coverage for both partners. If the current health insurance climate is challenging in general, it is all the more so for lesbian and gay couples.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We've all been there...

Who hasn't been in a family photo that just came out wrong? I'm thinking particularly of those posed wooden awkward photos in which nobody looks like what they usually do. Well, there's an entire site devoted to those photos: AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com . Enjoy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Look out, Senate pages, Gov. Crist is coming

Closet-case orange-skinned Republican governor of Florida and all-around gay-rights opponent (and thus, hypocrite) Charlie Crist plans to announce his run for the US Senate. He's probably a shoe-in for it. Senate pages should run for cover. Actually, the up-and-comers (insert your own joke here) will probably seek out his attention. I just wonder if he'll leave his beard of a wife behind in Florida. Check here for the, ahem, "straight" news story or here for a snarkier take on it. By the way, go see the movie "Outrage" for some more Crist background.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A fit of anti-science on "Hardball" last night...

I usually enjoy watching "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC while weight-lifting. Some of the discussions get me fired up enough to help me squeeze out a few extra reps or add on some more weight on the bar many evenings. However, I was appalled at the level of science illiteracy on display last night as Tom Tancredo (a man who is on the wrong side of almost every issue) spewed a bunch of "Intelligent Design" nonsense completely unchallenged by the host of the show. I thought perhaps I was alone in being disgusted by yesterday's show until I came across this piece in Daily Kos reflecting very much my feelings. How is it possible that in a country which has contributed so much to the sum total of scientific research, we can still witness people using the public airwaves to deny established facts (e.g. the fossil record, the reality of evolution, etc.) of nature unchallenged? This isn't even an issue of balance. Rather, it was witnessing two people speaking gibberish. I could almost feel my head ready to explode last night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Same-sex marriage in Maine!

Maine is yet the latest state to acknowledge the fundamental injustice of denying same-sex couples the protections and responsibilities of civil marriage, as just reported by CNN.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Bravo Television will premiere "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" next Tuesday according to this article in today's The New York Times. I haven't watched the previous versions of the "Real Housewives" series (Atlanta and New York having been recently profiled), particularly as reality shows feel like the television equivalent of junk food: it might even taste good but you know it's just empty calories. Nevertheless, as a New Jersey resident who has witnessed the behavior of too-much-cash-and-too-little-taste trophy wives in our little state (a trip to Short Hills Mall suffices), I can't help being drawn to this new installment. My partner would call a show like this "deliciously trashy" and, given the subject matter, I'll have to agree. I'll probably tune in, if for no other reason than to reinforce what I already know: New Jersey has more than its fair share of superficial tasteless over-monied trashy trophy wives.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You tell 'em, Barney!

Barney Frank on the long-overdue hate crimes legislation:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

iPhone dominates mobile web traffic

I've been an Apple fan since 1984, the year the Mac 128K came out. I've stayed loyal through a lot of ups and downs and can't help feeling a little satisfied at the way Apple racks up one success after another (iMac, iPod, iLife, MacBook, iPhone, etc.). In another demonstration of how Apple has an influence in the market place beyond its market share, new numbers have come out showing the iPhone and iPod touch accounting for half of the mobile phone web traffic. Not bad for a device that has only been on the market for two years.

Cheney stands alone

Leaving aside the issues of morality, legality and adherence to the United States' treaty obligations, torture is highly unlikely to ever produce actionable intelligence. Former Vice President Dick Cheney continues to argue that torture has been effective but yet another news item contradicts this. So far, Cheney seems to be alone in touting the wonders of torture and never addressing the fundamental moral and legal issues involved. Torture isn't just wrong, it doesn't work. We've allowed our nation's reputation and principals to be compromised and for what? What do we have to show for it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My gay tax dollars at work, helping to murder gay men in Iraq

Ah Iraq, the nightmare that will never end. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has written a letter to the Iraqi Justice Minister protesting the wave of violence (including torture and murder) directed at gay men in that country. But it doesn't stop there. Apparently, the Iraqi government is cracking down on the LGBT community there. Now last I checked, weren't our tax dollars being used to prop up that country's government?

Neff: Homophobes for hookie

Neff: Homophobes for hookie

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A tale from the healthcare crisis front line...

Today's The New York Times carries this article on yet another family thrown into turmoil because of a cancer diagnosis and the ongoing - and yet unresolved - crisis of medical coverage in the United States.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Texas threatens to secede?

OK, the right wing is starting to get downright surreal. I thought Glen Beck and Michele Bachmann were crazy enough. But now the Republican governor of Texas is dropping hints that his state might secede for who knows what reason. Uh, didn't Texas try that once before? It didn't work out too well, did it? Besides, Texas has it pretty good, what with Federal funds used for hurricane prediction and recovery, Federal funds for border patrols and drug interdiction, Federal funds for highway construction, just to name a few. What exactly are they complaining about?

If any state should secede (which no state can, by the way), it should be my own state of New Jersey. In a ranking of the ratio of Federal funds received to Federal taxes paid, New Jersey comes dead last among the fifty states. New Jersey's "return on the tax dollar" is $0.61 while Texas is just below parity. Cry me a river. By the way, among the states with the biggest return on their tax dollar are, you guess it, Alaska (Palin country) and Louisiana (Jindal land). Ah, the irony.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rick Warren Was Sick ... Or Exhausted ... Or Full Of It

Rick Warren Was Sick ... Or Exhausted ... Or Full Of It

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Teabagging and M4M

Right wingers do provide an endless source of hilarity. Although Obama has proposed reducing marginal tax rates for most Americans in his budget, the wingnuts are sending teabags to members of Congress and staging rallies in a poor imitation of the Boston Tea Party. This has lately been referred to as "teabagging" which I used to think was something quite different indeed (Google it if you don't know).

As if that weren't funny enough, some folks opposed to same-sex civil marriage rights are organizing something called Two Million for Marriage but referred to by the abbreviation "2M4M" which sounds more like a personals ad for a male three-way. Do the right wingers even bother to think at all before coming up with this stuff? Here's Rachel Maddow trying to find a discrete way of poking fun at this latest:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"We are a family, not strangers"

This statement, repeated often in this ACLU video, synthesizes the very issue all same-sex couples face: that before the law, we are nothing more than strangers to each other no matter how deep and long our relationships. Same-sex couples constitute real families, every bit as real as any other relationship of respect, love and commitment. It's time the government stop discriminating against these relationships.

Republicans predictably seek to overturn same-sex civil marriage in Iowa

It was only a matter of time before Iowa's Republicans would begin the process of rolling back same-sex access to the rights and protections of civil marriage granted in that state by the state supreme court, as reported in The New York Times. A party out of ideas, a party that seems to have only one word its vocabulary ("No"), a party that screams "socialism" at every turn, is a party that continues to target same-sex couples at every opportunity. It's predictable and continued evidence that the Republican Party is intrinsically inimical to the interests of the LGBT community.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marriage Equality in Vermont!

The Vermont legislature just voted to over-ride the Republican governor's veto of the bill legalizing same-sex civil marriage. The original vote to enact same-sex marriage had already passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority but the House bill had passed originally a few votes shy of such a majority. The vote to over-ride the Republican governor's veto thus means that some members of the House who had voted against marriage equality the first time changed their vote to side with those who are on the correct side of history. To the Republicans and others opposed to equal access to civil marriage, this is yet another sign (last week having been Iowa) that they are on the wrong side of this issue. Now I'm left wondering when New Jersey's legislators will finally do the right thing by people like me.