Monday, December 19, 2011

Fallen Woman

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It’s getting to be a bad joke: Pick a Republican who’s attacked same-sex marriage and they’re either gay themselves or done something totally skeevy to besmirch the holy institution.
The latest culprit is Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (left), who stepped down from her leadership post Friday after allegations surfaced she was having an adulterous affair with a male staffer.
Color us stunned. Really.
Koch isn’t resigning as a state senator, mind you—just her leadership post (and refusing to seek re-election). Because it’s genetically impossible for a Republican politician to fully understand the nature of hypocrisy. Koch and her cronies helped get an amendment into the voting booth next year that will let the people of Minnesota vote on whether same-sex marriage should be banned. That makes sense—she’s something of an expert on things that destroy marriages.
“I think in the end there are probably only two people who really know what kind of relationship [it was] and how long it had been happening,” interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michell told the Star-Tribune. “It certainly had risen to a level within our Senate family that people were coming to us.”
While Koch’s male paramour hasn’t been named, Michael Brodkorb—her communications chief—is no longer on staff as of Friday. Draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anti-AIDs Discrimination Rears Its Ugly Head ... Again

The 1980's was a frightening time for many in America.  Particularly so for those who were/are members of the LGBT community and others who suffered from any number of illnesses where blood transfusions were or might be necessary.  Initially known as the "gay cancer," HIV/AIDs quickly came to symbolize the single greatest threat to not just gay men and women, but to ever sexually active person.  During the early years of what has been for a number of years referred to as a "global pandemic," little was known about how the virus was transmitted from one person to the next.  As a result, individuals, organizations, businesses and many other entities responded in many instances with knee-jerk reactions on how to address the issue of those individuals infected with HIV/AIDs.  Rampant discrimination and active and blatant ostracization and oppression of those suffering from the then-100% fatal disease was accepted and even promoted by some. 

This unwarranted sense of fear of those who were infected continued for many years (many would say it still exists more readily than most would like to admit or accept), even after medical researchers and doctors discovered that transmission was only possible by direct contact with the blood supply of an infected individual with the blood supply of an uninfected individual.  Despite America being told via a nearly unprecendented media storm of information, the result of tireless effort by many activists and AIDs support organizations (ASO's), the paranoia over possible infection continued to be prevalent years later.

During the 1980's a teenager named Ryan White became the virtual 'poster boy' for those afflicted with HIV/AIDs, as he was forced to leave the junior high school he was attending because school officials believed he posed a significant threat to the remaining student body.  Despite the nation slowly learning that someone with HIV did not present any risk of transmission as the result of casual, and even some limited intimate, contact, citizens of the United States remained seriously divided as to whether White's school acted responsibly, or reprehensibly.  White's legal case was ultimately decided in his favor, requiring that his school allow him to attend classes.  Such legal precedence would, seemingly, only have since been strengthened by passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990), along with a more recent package of amendments to the original legislation that effectively widened the scope of influence over what was deemed discriminatory, liberalizing (to some extent) what a disabled person would be able to expect/require of any potential (or current) employer or other public accomodation.  However, the Milton Hershey School believes otherwise.  In fact, their denial for admission to the school of a 13-yr. old who is HIV-positive is rather conclusive that despite legal protections afforded those are HIV-positive or who have been classified as having AIDs, along with the incredible medical advancements that have produced medications which reduce exponentially the threat of possible exposure (even through intimate contact) as they reduce levels of the virus in many of those infected to levels at which doctors refer to them as "undetectable," suggests that the school cares little about the facts about the science behind HIV/AIDs nor the legal responsibility it bears toward potential students who are HIV-positive. 

Officials at the school offered in defense of their actions denying the 13-yr. old admission, that,

“We understand that the risks presented by an HIV-positive individual who is on medication are low,” the school said in a recent statement posted on its website. “Taking all these and other factors in consideration, including the fact that we would be prohibited by law from informing our community of the young man’s HIV-positive status, we concluded that the risk was significant, and rose to the level of a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”

Ironically, the possibility that a student might be exposed to the HIV virus while conducting themself as a student is not the school's concern.  Instead, they are most concerned about the fact that students may well engage in sexual intercourse.  And that despite the univeral procautions against the transmission of bloodborne pathogens that all public accomodations are required by law to follow, students could find themselves exposed to the virus. 

It is difficult to decide which is most reprehensible about the school's behavior: their blatant and unnecessary discrimination against a potential student who is HIV-positive, or the fact that they consider themselves responsible for every Hershey student's sexual conduct.  If the latter is the case, then one could come to the conclusion that should an unexpected pregnancy of a Hershey student, or one that was caused by a Hershey student should occur, that the school would then agree to providing any/everything needed for the care of the expectant mother and the child before and after the child's birth.  However, it's HIGHLY unlikely that that is the case.  No doubt, if a pregnancy occurs the school most likely is of the opinion that while it may concede to making 'reasonable accomodations' to the expectant mother so that she could continue her studies while the pregnancy progresses, it in no way accepts any measure of responsibility for the student's condition.  Which gives Americans reason to ask, "Then why is it different for the kid with HIV?  Why consider sexual conduct that results in pregnancy NOT the school's responsibility, but that which might be engaged-in by someone who is HIV-positive is within their purview?" 

Let's face it: HIV/AIDs discrimination still exists.  Ask anyone who is afflicted with the virus and they will no doubt quickly accede to the notion that although federal law makes such discrimination illegal, it's still around, and it's just as ugly as it has ever been.  And in a strange twist of irony, while Americans find themselves in an era where those who embrace a conservative philosophy of government believe government at all levels, especially in areas like education, tries to provide too much to citizens, it's a private educational institution, one largely removed from many of the fiscal ties the federal and state governments have on their public counterparts, that is exhibiting blatant discriminatory practices. 

HIV/AIDs discrimination is offensive enough when it happens to an adult with the disease.  But such behavior reaches an even lower level of depravity and reprehensiveness when it targets a child. 

The Milton Hershey School should apologize to the student denied admission.  And the student should be allowed to attend the school, if he still desires to do so.  Furthermore, the school should willingly agree to pay all of the costs associated with the student's attending private school, whether that school is Hershey, or some other learning institution.  The school should also make some sort of public apology to all Americans who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDs, stating clearly and unapologetically that their behavior was not appropriate.  That they failed to appreciate the challenges someone who is HIV-positive might face, but instead ignored those possibilities and rathe embraced a fairly unsophisticated and insufficiently educated position on the question of whether or not to extend admission to an HIV-positive student.

Schools should be this nation's, and the world's, "citadels of learning."  Institutions dedicated to providing the very best education possible for students.  This could not be more true than it is today, when a growing number of young persons who identify themselves as gay are resorting to suicide in order to free themselves from the constant threat and mistreatment suffered at the hands of bullies.  Those who are HIV-positive experience the isolation that is a common factor in the lives of members of the LGBT community, only it is usually more severe, direct, and even more harmful.  Hershey could stand in the way of the further marginalization of those with HIV/AIDs.  The school could also send a loud and clear message to educators everywhere that all students, regardless of their station in life, should be treated with the respect afforded to all human beings.  It is 2011, after all.  Nearly 30 years after the virus first 'officially' reared its ugly head, all Americans can and should do better by those who are HIV-positive.  And those who are HIV-positive or have been diagnosed with AIDs should be able to expect all institutions to respect them first, foremost and always as human beings.


Bachmann Says U.S. is 'Bananas'

During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" with show host David Gregory, Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman and candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination suggested that the United States was spending like a "' banana republic or 'Greece'."  Continuing her ongoing denunciation of all-things Obama, the Congresswoman again laid the blame for Washington spending, the federal deficit and the national debt at the feet of the President.  Go here for the full interview of Ms. Bachmann.

What Congresswoman Bachmann again fails to admit is that she was a member of Congress during the final two years of the Bush Administration.  Years that added hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal deficit.  She also fails to admit that during George W. Bush's two terms in office, more debt was added to the federal deficit in those eight years than during the entirety of our nation's existence.  That the reason for those massive deficits were two wars (one of convenience, one more rooted in necessity) that were entirely unfunded, the largest reductions in tax rates (in terms of dollars saved by the taxpayer) in our nation's history (without any commensurate reduction in spending), and the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program (alone adding $700-800 billion to the deficit over 10 years), which was hamstrung by the pharmacuetical manufacturers who essentially wrote the legislation by not allowing the federal government to seek quantity discounts from those same companies for the drugs the plan was intended to cover. 

What the Congresswoman also fails to either understand, appreciate or perhaps simply doesn't care is that if the United States has, in her mind (a frightening thing to contemplate, in and of itself), begun acting like a 'banana republic', it's not because of government spending or the federal deficit.  Rather, any resemblance to "banana-dom" is tied directly to the ever-expanding wealth disparity in the United States.  In an interesting article written by the late-Christopher Hitchens for Vanity Fair magazine, the writer provided readers with an excellent, and somewhat telling (and some might say clairvoyant), description of what a banana republic is.  This is shared, in part, because it seems fairly safe to say that while Ms. Bachmann knows the term 'banana republic', it is not entirely certain that she knows what it means.  And her denunciation of the U.S. acting like such a country affirms that suspicion.

"In practice, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility. Such an imbalanced economy reduces the national currency to devalued paper-money, hence, the country is ineligible for international development credit and remains limited by the uneven economic development of town and country." (Banana republic. (2011, December 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:00, December 19, 2011, from

Hitchens goes on to opine that what typifies a banana republic is when, ". . . a money class fleeces the banking system, while the very trunk of the national tree is permitted to rot and crash. . . .  ." (Ibid.)

In many respects Ms. Bachmann's declaration is somewhat correct, in that the United States is, in many ways, "a country operated by a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility."  One could look at conditions in the U.S. today and see striking similarities between the aforementioned 'definition' and the way our "free enterprise" system and the federal government works to each others rather lop-sided benefit; "free enterprise" reaping whirlwind profits while public debt goes through the roof.  However, where Ms. Bachmann stumbles is when she attempts to place blame for our tarnished fiscal condition at the feet of "big government spending."  It is NOT government spending that has resulted in private corporations making billions upon billions of dollars in profits.  Those are the result of previous administrations in Washington turning a blind-eye toward or even advocating for monopolistic corporate mergers that have given fewer individuals nearly overwhelming influence and power over this nation's financial, business and political policies.  And all the while as Corporate America was actively and effectively "raping and pillaging" the American taxpayer and consumer, the federal government, particularly when controlled by Republicans, provided the wealthiest of Americans their lowest income tax rates in six decades, coupled with loopholes and a capital gains tax rate that is less than half the highest income tax bracket for those same wealthy individuals.  Throw into that mix the completely disingenuous and fairly destructive practice of "privatizing" more and more of what the federal government had done in years and decades past, which only guarantees even MORE money flowing from the American taxpayer directly into the pockets of private companies/corporations, and you effectively not only have the monopolistic business environment, but you also have a government which has done nearly all that is within its power, short of handing them the keys to the White House, to ensure that those monopolistic businesses continue garnering ever-greater profits and influence. 

No.  Ms. Bachmann was not entirely wrong in suggesting that the United States has begun to resemble a banana republic.  Where she was wrong was in attempting to suggest that blame for such an ignanimous description of our nation be blamed on the current administration.  Like it or not, America did not reach the conditions in which we find it today in just the last 2+ years.  America today is the result of decades of "Trickle Down Economics," a political party that is hell-bent on making sure the U.S. has only two economic classes (the wealthy and their servants), and an electorate that has seen its influence over elections and policy continually diluted, wittled away, and in some instances, largely co-opted or done away with altogether. 

And what is probably the most ironic thing about Ms. Bachmann's appearance, past statements, and even her current candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is her hubris-laden suggestion that she, and she alone, is the person best equipped to "bring America back."  If it wasn't for the fact that she hopes to run for President, the most powerful individual on the surface of the planet, her determination and steadfastness in the face of scathing dismissals as being 'irrelevant' or 'poorly informed' would almost be admirable.  Almost.  Instead, her laser-like focus on the Presidency, and her almost rabid belief that she knows the cures for all the nation's ills, is fairly frightening. 

As if the threat of the United States possibly being "Newt"-ered isn't enough to cause someone to contemplate a renewed faith in a higher power and the hope for deliverance from bombastic inanity, the haunting specter, and spectacle, that would be a "Bachmann Presidency" is reason enough to question how in Hell does someone of, at times, marginal intelligence and unchecked bravado and braggadocio find themself being a contender for the nomination to run for the Presidency on behalf of the Republican Party?  America has always been proud to promote itself as the "land of opportunity."  Where anyone can, with enough hard work and determination, reach untold heights of personal and professional success if they so choose.  But when the Michelle Bachmann's of the world come even THIS close to the "levers of power," we need to rethink how such a bizarre concurrence of events could have happened.  And strive to make sure that this particular bolt of lightening does NOT strike twice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Majority Of Voters Support Protections For Gay Workers

By On Top Magazine Staff
Published: December 13, 2011
A survey released Friday found a vast majority of voters support protections for gay workers.
The poll released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in partnership with Greenberg Quinlan Research found that 77 percent of voters support protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in employment.
“Indeed, support for anti-discrimination laws and policies are so non-controversial that overwhelming majorities of Republicans, conservatives and observant Christians support them as well,” the report's authors wrote.
Seventy percent of Republicans and sixty-seven percent of conservatives support such protections.
The poll also found that a large majority (87%) of respondents believe it is illegal under federal law to fire someone for his or her sexual orientation, while 78 percent believe it is illegal under state law.
The poll demonstrates strong support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a proposed federal bill that would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 (except the 109th; 2005-2007).
Pollsters surveyed 800 likely voters between November 9 and 13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points.

Friday, December 9, 2011

That Gay Marriage Thing ... It's Bad, Right? Right?! Apparently Not!

Gay Marriage Has Boosted Iowa’s Economy, Study Concludes

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa has provided an ecnomic boost to the state, according to a new study by UCLA.
The study was released by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law which focuses on sexual orientation and public policy. It found that since Iowa extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2009, the resulting spending on wedding arrangements and tourism provided an additional $12 to $13 million to the state and local economy.
The institute estimated that gay marriages have likely added between $858,000 and $930,000 in tax revenue to the state.
The release of the report, titled “Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage Equality in Iowa: Sales Tax,” comes just weeks before the Iowa caucus, the first of the Republican presidential nominating votes.
None of the eight individuals currently running for president, including Barack Obama, have explicitly expressed support for gay marriage, but there is a strong opposition to the idea within the Republican Party.
Five of the seven candidates currently seeking the GOP nomination have come out in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Four of the candidates – Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum – have signed a pledge sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage promising their support for the federal ban.
Only Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have said that they would not support such an amendment. Paul believes that marriage is a private matter and that the government should have no involvement. Huntsman says that while traditional marriage should be between a man and a woman, he does support civil unions for same sex couples.
Timothy Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, predicts that because the party is relatively united on the issue, this study won’t likely be a factor in the caucus outcome.
“It really shouldn’t effect what’s going on in this race because it’s not something that particularly divides the Republicans,” Hagle said.
Lee Badgett, one of the authors of the study, tells ABC News that timing of the studies release is a coincidence.