28 December, 2010

QOTD: Tom's of Maine: Philosophy of Goodness

Tom's of Maine: Philosophy of Goodness is a video message that both serves as a commercial for their products but also as a vehicle to promote their corporate philosophy. It had me in tears.

Here are some quotes from the video, created and produced by Tom's of Maine:
"Success can be measured not only in terms of money made but in the good created that making uncommonly good products can actually serve the common good."

"Let's work together to accelerate the change for good."

"We can do more to help improve society so tell us not only how to improve our products but how to improve our world."

"Together we can be an unstoppable force for good."
According to the video statement, Tom's of Maine donates 10% of their profits to charities and "encourage[s their] employees to donate 5% of work time to community service."

They're asking the global community to bring worthy charitable causes to their attention that are in need of either or both of funding and exposure.

So watch the video now, answer a question from them and receive 50 butterfly rewards credits from Care2, which can be used to do works of good via the Care2 web site.

Follow Tom's of Maine on Facebook Facebook and Twiter Twitter.

08 November, 2010

Gays in the Military, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) -- Obama is no Truman!

I was just as this question on a web site I participate in, and thought I'd share my response here for all of you to see.

  •  What is your solution to keeping gays in the military?
     Robert, when Truman integrated the military, he didn't wait for Congress. He didn't poll the foot soldiers to find out how they'd "FEEL" about having to live and/or serve with other races in the same unit. He didn't pussyfoot around. He issued a fucking executive order as Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, and the troops fucking followed his order. Period, end of discussion!

The only reason that can be inferred from POTUS Barack Obama's refusal to end DADT and order an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians serving in the Armed Forces of United States of America is because he doesn't want to.

US  President Harry S. Truman
Truman's top military aides and advisers all thought he was bonkers for integrating the military. But guess what? He issues the order, and the military did not fall apart. It kept functioning, and did so quite well in Korea.

And for those who argue that POTUS needs the permission of Congress to repeal DADT by law, here's another tidbit of history for you:




In 1948, President Harry S Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces shortly after World War II, a major advance in civil rights. Using the Executive Order (E.O.) meant that Truman could bypass Congress. Representatives of the Solid South, all white Democrats, would likely have stonewalled related legislation. Source: Desegregation in the Military, via Wikipedia
I do not see why people keep making excuse for this POTUS, one who promised to repeal DADT as one of the first things he would do in office, in order to garner the support of the "gay vote." Well, he got their support, and what baffles me most is that he continues to have their support.

Obama, if you want to end DADT, get off your bloody arse and issue the fecking Executive Order already. But I doubt you'll do that; you don't have the cojones to be POTUS.

01 November, 2010

It Gets Better

I know I don't usually start off a blog post with a video (those who have been following my blog for a while know it's something I might end a post with, but not start one...) however, this is too important, and too moving, to not put up front.

I'm not a vlogger. I just don't think I do well in video. But I do think I have a fairly decent command of the written word, and I've used that as my medium for quite some time. As someone who's been online in one form or another since the 1980s (that's before the Internet was open to the public), I've used my powers of persuasive writing to advocate for a number of things—such as politics, the environment, and yes, for gay rights.
“In my own unassuming way, I know I can make a difference. You can as well.”
~Kinsey Millhone.
Often, one of the questions posed to me, as a blogger, is, “Why do you blog?” I just finished reading T is for Trespass, the latest (as of this writing) released book in Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery series, starring fictional heroine Kinsey Millhone, an old-fashioned gumshoe of a private investigator, whose stories are set in the 1980s (an age before the Internet, widespread computer usage, mobile phones, flat-screens, and other similar technological wonders). The quote above can be found in the Epilogue of the book, and I think it answers the question as to why I blog quite nicely.

I know, from the experience of having had readers (whether it be individual posts or the blog as a whole) contact me, that I have made a difference in people’s lives by blogging, whether it was from sharing something personal, describing some new technological wonder of interest to me, arguing a point in law, or any of the myriad topics that one would find in the annals of my blog.

It is in this vein that I tackle a subject that is very difficult for me—one that is deeply personal, emotional, and difficult to deal with but one that mainstream media has declared the cause célèbre this past month: the tragic suicides of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or questioning youth.

Last month, mainstream media decided to shine its spotlight on the tragedy of LGBTQ teenage suicides, and no less than six individual stories of teens who either were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning their sexuality, or perceived to be one of the above, and who made the tragic choice to end their short lives, made national headlines here in the USA.

Unlike most of the posts on my blog, this one is heavily edited, and I've been working—and struggling—with this post for nearly a month. However, some recent actions finally brought push to shove and I've decided to go ahead and publish this post. I would imagine that, like many bloggers, an occasional blog posting gets written that sits in draft status and is never published; I know I have a few such unpublished "drafts" sitting in my Blogger account, and I'll most likely never publish them. This one, however, is something that needs to be published. I need the world to hear, and to listen, to what I have to say.

I had been debating whether or not to address this topic, given the skill with which so many others had done so, as well as the difficulties I have regarding this particular topic. I had been trying, as much as possible, to avoid news, discussion, debate, and mention of this topic, so that I would not have to revisit it. In particular, it's the rantings of Clint McCance on Facebook of all places, Tony Perkins' ranting that gay teens resort to suicide because they're 'abornmal', and Maggie Gallagher's insane ramblings, and other such hateful statements to have come out in response to this very, very tragic choice that many gay teens make because they feel so ostracized and hated in life for simply being who they are.

For you see, when I came to the self-realization of who I was (that is, when I finally figured out or realized that I’m gay) back in my teens, the only mention of homosexuality (that’s the only way it was politely referenced at the time) I ever had encountered in my life was, for the most part, condemnation.

I was raised, by my grandparents, in a very strict, very conservative Roman Catholic household. Sex and anything related to sex was never discussed in the home. I was masturbating long before I even knew what it meant to masturbate. My fantasies, as a sexually-aroused teenager, were wild and varied but they all had one thing in common, and in the deep recesses of my subconscious, I knew that that one thing made me different, and set me apart, from everyone in my life.

Long story short, when I finally figured out that I was one of those “faggot” homosexuals, I felt the entire weight of the world bearing down upon me in my thoughts: I would shame my family for generations. I was an aberration that must be aborted. I was the devil incarnate. I was every imaginable bad thing one could think of, in my own mind. I thought, “How could I live with myself?”

Where did these thoughts come from? Quite frankly, they came from all around me. In church, religion, politics, popular culture, school culture, school, family, friends, and the like. Being gay was definitely a big, big no-no in the late 1990s. It just wasn't something that one would be, never mind announce to the world.

There's a statistic out there that LGBTQ teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight, heterosexual counterparts. As this article points out, it's not being gay or lesbian that's a risk factor; it's the negative treatment such LGBTQ teens receive that raises their risk of suicide.

The most insane part of this is that no one, and I do mean no one, ever even suspected me of being gay as a teenager. I don't think they thought I was really straight, either. Actually, it was more like no one thought of me as a sexual creature, period. I was this fat, dorky, geeky, nerdy braniac. On top of that, I was so in the closet that I joined the chorus of condemnation every chance I got. Still, the pervasiveness and the negativity about being gay was so severe that it lead me to a drastic course of action.

And so, while on the phone with a friend at the time, whom I had told about my being gay during the conversation, I basically had suggested to him that I was considering ending my life. After I ended the conversation shortly after that revelation, I went to retrieve the bottle of pills my grandparents kept in the upstairs bathroom’s medicine cabinet and started taking them.

Now let me mention a few other things: with the exception of my father, my family (grandparents and sister) had gone on a weekendation – I don’t recall the particulars of where/why they went but suffice it to say they weren’t home. My grandparents saw to it that I led a very sheltered life; I knew that people killed themselves by taking a full bottle of pills but I was unaware that they had to be taken all at once. So I began taking the OTC sleeping pills, and drifted off to sleep.

My friend, worried, convinced one of his parents to come up to my house; my father answered at some unruly hour in the middle of the night, and checked in on me. He saw the bottle of pills, half-taken. I'm not going to announce why the pills didn't do me in but obviously, my plan had failed.

I woke up the next morning thinking, WHAT THE FUCK?!?

I could not reconcile who I was with everything that I was brought up to believe, especially coming from my religion (Roman Catholicism). Seeing that I was not able to end my life, my somehow came to the realization that if I were meant to be alive and be gay, then it is everything else that I have been taught about homosexuality that must be wrong. I systematically eliminated those negative influences (that told me that who I was wrong) from my life, with the help of the first gay person I ever met, first online and then in person, who is a dear friend and mentor to me to this very day.

Through my contacts of being on-line, I managed to come across a very happy individual and debated with him at length (along with a bunch of other folks) about politics. I soon came to find out that he was gay. Soon after my initial contact with him online, he set up his own online repository, and I began speaking with him there. There, in secret, and away from the prying eyes of others on any other system, I was able to engage him, and find out more about this "homosexual" and in doing so, I began to realize that I wasn't quite as alone as I thought I was.

Without his kind love and support, I probably wouldn't have made it this for. And for the record, our relationship has never been sexual. He has always been a friend to me, supporting, and unconditionally accepting of who I am, gay, Republican, and all.

I haven't looked back since that dark time in my life. I've accepted who I am and began to love myself. I gradually started coming out to people: friends first, and then everyone else over time. I went through the phase where I flaunted my sexuality but eventually matured, and I've since grown into the person I am today—one who is still maturing and growing as time marches onward to the rhythm of its steady beat.

If you’ve read some of my other posts on this blog, then you know I’ve been through a lot in life, and I’m still here. I’ve survived all of the torture, torment, pain, ridicule, and whatever else that the Universe has thrown at me, and I have come to realize that I am part of the Universe.

So you see, it does get better. I am a better, stronger person for having gone through what I did, when I did.
As I've previously stated, I’m not a vlogger so, unlike most of the other “It Gets Better” messages out there, this message is in the form you now see it in. My medium is, has always been, and most likely always will be the written word. And so with this, if even one person reads this entry and reconsiders a tragic decision to end their life and decides to stay on and fight, then it’s well worth it.

To give you an idea of just how "worth it" things can become, I’ll restate a story I wrote almost a year ago, about my grandmother’s coming to terms with my being gay, and moreso, her coming to terms with my being a gay rights activist.
Approximately one decade ago, Westchester County (where I live) was debating some legislation that would have extended certain protections to individuals based on their sexual orientation, which made it extremely controversial because it included "sexual orientation" in the wording of the legislation as a protected class--something New York State law did not do at the time.
I'd always been politically involved and astute. Despite my family's wishes to the contrary, I registered to vote as a Republican on my 18th birthday and haven't missed voting in an election since. But I digress; my political leanings naturally lent their hand in somehow shaping me as an advocate for gay rights and someone who has been active in the LGBTQ rights movement.
I had written a "letter to the editors" in support of the passage of the county's proposed Human Rights Law. For whatever reason, somewhere around 90% of the letters to editors that I write actually get published, and this was no exception.
My letter appeared in the local paper, signed with my name and village of residence. My grandmother, very frail of health (at that time she'd had four major coronary infarctions and a series of minor strokes / TIAs, along with the usual health problems associated with someone approaching their 80th birthday who had been smoking for 60+ years...), came into my room carrying the newspaper (while not bed-ridden, she didn't often get out of bed except to use the facilities and go to doctor's appointments).
She asked me how I could be so stupid as to have such a letter published with my name and location. I was very puzzled by her reaction, as she had tears in her eyes (I had already come out to her by this point (or more accurately, she came out to me; that is, she figured out I was gay and asked me for the truth), so it's not like she didn't know I was (am) gay). 
I asked her what the big deal was, and she told me that there are very crazy people in the world and having my name & location published, someone could be hiding in the bushes outside of our house and attack me for being gay, or come by the house and throw rocks at me, or while I'm out and about someone could try to kill me, etc. It was a cause of great consternation for her that I would be harmed by any one of these crazy people.
I responded by telling my grandmother that it was she who instilled in me the values to stand up for what I believe in, to exercise my rights as guaranteed to me in the United States Constitution, and not to back down when I know I am fighting a just and worthy cause. My grandmother hugged me, told me that she loved me, and urged that I be more cautious and safe and not take such public stances in the future, for she worried greatly over my safety.
Grams said she would pray that I not ever fall into harm's way because of who I am, and advised that she would be worrying over me whenever I left the house (a promise she kept, as whenever I left she wouldn't go to sleep until I returned home safe and sound).
A short while later, a public hearing was being held on the proposed Human Rights Law. I was getting ready to leave the house to head for the hearing and to speak out in favor of the passage of the law. Grams asked me where I was going. I (reluctantly) told her that I was going to speak in support of the law at the public hearing (I had to explain a bit what was going on). She asked me if I could wait 5 minutes, and so I did.
Less than five minutes later, my grandmother had her purse and winter coat on, and told me that she was coming with me (despite her frail health). There was nothing I could do to change her mind, so I brought her along to the public hearing.
We arrived a bit late, taking seats near the front. When the legislators asked if anyone else wished to speak, I began to rise but my grandmother put her arm on me to keep me seated and instead rose herself and approached the podium.
At the podium, my grandmother relayed how she read my letter to the editor in the newspaper, and how scared she was for my safety. She told the legislators that she was a devout Catholic, but that I was her grandson and she loved me no matter who I was or what I did. She implored the legislators to pass the Human Rights Law, so that she could stop worrying about the safety of her grandson, and not have to worry that he would be fired from a job for being who he was, etc.
I had absolutely no idea that Grams was going to do this. Tears filled my eyes (just as they are now as I recount these events). It was then, right there in the public hearing, that I came to know the true meaning of Unconditional Love. I couldn't have been more proud, happy, or loved than I was at that point in time .... 
Since then, as I've met more wonderful people (mostly through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Fabulis, and the like), I've come to experience this unconditional love and acceptance.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, don't—just don't. Pick up the phone, or get on your computer, and talk to someone. You can contact the Trevor Project at, 1-866-4-U-Trevor (that's 1-866-488-7867). You can also check out the resources on the Yellow Ribbon website or call them at: 1-800-SUICIDE. Besides, do you have ANY idea just how messy and icky and yucky failed suicide attempts are? Trust me, you do not want to go there!

So you see, it really does get better. And you, too, can become a fighter, just as I have. All you have to do is stick around to see that day come about. And trust me, it will come about! I should know; I am a survivor ... of gay teen suicide. And if you think there's noone left in the world who cares about you, you're wrong: I do. I care about you; if I didn't, I wouldn't have gone through the emotional roller coaster ride in writing this post.

28 September, 2010

An Open Letter to the United Nations, World Governments, and content copyright organisations

To: The United Nations General Assembly, All Governments and Political Authorities, Holders of Content Copyright

Living in the Age of the Internet, I am deeply puzzled over the ineptitude, unnecessary overcomplication, and (at times) outright hindrance of certain organisations to broadcast content over the Internet internationally simply because they're unable to successfully navigate the myriad complications in securing such permissions at a global level and must do so jurisdiction by jurisdiction.

The very idea and notion of building a global community has never been closer to reality than in today's Internet Age; villages in poverty-stricken, rural outlays are able to communicate with the entire world thanks to solar-powered laptop computers and wireless broadband.

The major obstacle to completing the global community is the deprecated notion of copyright legalities.

While I recognize that the originators and creators of content should have mechanisms in place to protect such content from being used in ways they hadn't intended, I believe that a simplification, rather than further complication, of laws should be the result on a global scale. Why should a web site like Hulu or Netflex or the BBC be prevented from showing their content the world over simply because they are unable to go to a single repository to secure redistribution rights, regardless of what form that redistribution takes place in?

It just doesn't make sense, in today's day and age of technological wonder, to continue using the antiquated systems that were built and dreampt up centuries ago.

I implore you, please develop a global repository for content creators to deposit content where it will be protected to the levels of their choosing so that others may redistribute (in whatever form they desire) such content in accordance with the creator's permissions in a simple, straight-forward manner.

Thank you for your courteous time and attention to my request.

Yours truly,
-Peter C. Frank

07 September, 2010

OPINION: Cal Thomas gets it wrong again

I just read this opinion piece, Cal Thomas: Polygamy precedent applies to gay marriage | The Salt Lake Tribune, and I write this in response thereof.

Cal Thomas is the author of the aforementioned piece, which was published by the Salt Lake Tribune. I don't know about you, gentle reader, but this blogger really wonders how an opinion piece advocating that same-sex marriage be denied on the same grounds as, and because, anti-polygamy laws were held constitutional and not an intrusion on the fundamental right to marry, ends up published in the primary newspaper for the Mormon Capital of the World, Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. Thomas proclaims himself to be "America's #1 nationally syndicated columnist" and syndicated commentator. He has been an outspoken opponent of equality and opposes even tolerance of "homosexuality":
What we tolerate, we get more of, and we have been tolerating a lot since the Age of Aquarius generation began the systematic destruction of what past generations believed they had sacrificed, fought and died to protect. (source: "The Slippery Slope of Tolerance" published 7 September 2010 by Monterey County's The Herald)
As one may remember, and as Mr. Thomas points out, the State of Utah had to ban polygamy (practiced by those in the Mormon faith at the time) before the Union (the United States of America) would accept its membership. Quoth he, "Has the [New York Times] forgotten the federal government’s “discrimination” against Utah when it forbade the territory from entering the Union until it outlawed polygamy?" Comparing apples to oranges, apparently, is a valid legal argument in Mr. Thomas's opinion. 

Mr. Thomas cites Reynolds v. United States of America, 98 U.S. 145 (1878) which holds that religious action is not protected under the Constitution's First Amendment freedom of religion protections; rather, only religious opinion is.

However, the Court has since developed a test used to determine the constitutionality of legislation versus religious freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment, in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). The first two prongs of the test deal with purpose and effect of the legislation; does it intend, or actually result in, the advancement or inhibition of a religion? In other words, the legislation must have "a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion.” The third prong measures "government entanglement with religion."

Now here's the real apples-to-oranges comparison: Reynolds was a case about criminal law, not civil law. That's right, let me repeat: George Reynolds (petitioner in the case) was convicted of a felony. He argued that his religious beliefs should excuse his felonious behaviour. So, Mr. Thomas uses a convicted felon's argument (that his religious beliefs should excuse him from criminal conduct) to bolster support for his argument that marriage equality should be unconstitutional.

If you, gentle reader, are not already aware, no where in the United States of America is marriage equality (that is, same-sex marriage, or "gay marriage") illegal--not a single jurisdiction has enacted legislation criminalising marriage equality. In fact, there is no locality within the United States where homosexuality is a crime or where comitting homosexual acts are a crime (see Lawrence v. Texas539 U.S. 558 (2003)).

If, as Mr. Thomas wished, marriage equality were to continue to be denied in most of the country, it would put the religious beliefs of some ahead of the religious (and non-religious) beliefs of others. Using the basis of his argument, polygamy, it also would require that same-sex marriage be criminalised, and that homosexuality be recriminalised.

The Reynolds Court analyzed the First Amendment's freedom of religion:
The word 'religion' is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning, and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted. The precise point of the inquiry is, what is the religious freedom which has been guaranteed.
Before the adoption of the Constitution, attempts were made in some of the colonies and States to legislate not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed, against their will, for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenets they could not and did not subscribe. Punishments were prescribed for a failure to attend upon public worship, and sometimes for entertaining heretical opinions. The controversy upon this general subject was animated in many of the States, but seemed at last to culminate in Virginia. In 1784, the House of Delegates of that State having under consideration 'a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion,' postponed it until the next session, and directed that the bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested 'to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of assembly.'
This brought out a determined opposition. Amongst others, Mr. Madison prepared a 'Memorial and Remonstrance,' which was widely circulated and signed, and in which he demonstrated 'that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator,' was not within the cognizance of civil government. Semple's Virginia Baptists, Appendix. At the next session the proposed bill was not only defeated, but another, 'for establishing religious freedom,' drafted by Mr. Jefferson, was passed. 1 Jeff. Works, 45; 2 Howison, Hist. of Va. 298. In the preamble of this act (12 Hening's Stat. 84) religious freedom is defined; and after a recital 'that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty,' it is declared 'that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.' In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State.
In a little more than a year after the passage of this statute the convention met which prepared the Constitution of the United States.' Of this convention Mr. Jefferson was not a member, he being then absent as minister to France. As soon as he saw the draft of the Constitution proposed for adoption, he, in a letter to a friend, expressed his disappointment at the absence of an express declaration insuring the freedom of religion (2 Jeff. Works, 355), but was willing to accept it as it was, trusting that the good sense and honest intentions of the people would bring about the necessary alterations. 1 Jeff. Works, 79. Five of the States, while adopting the Constitution, proposed amendments. Three-New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia-included in one form or another a declaration of religious freedom in the changes they desired to have made, as did also North Carolina, where the convention at first declined to ratify the Constitution until the proposed amendments were acted upon. Accordingly, at the first session of the first Congress the amendment now under consideration was proposed with others by Mr. Madison. It met the views of the advocates of religious freedom, and was adopted. Mr. Jefferson afterwards, in reply to an address to him by a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association (8 id. 113), took occasion to say: 'Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions,-I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.' Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.

[emphasis supplied.]

Here, we see the famous phrase, "separation of church and state," which, contrary to popular belief, is not actually used in the First Amendment. However, as the Reynolds Court notes, this "wall of separation between church and state" is the wording of one of the chief advocates of such tenet, and which to which the court derives its opinion as to the meaning and scope of the language used in the First Amendment. Why is this important or noteworthy? Because one sees here that the Reynolds Court, in interpreting the law, did not create a "separation of church and state" out of thin air; rather, it pulled it from one of the chief architects thereof.

The Reynolds Court then goes on to examine polygamy in general, noting:
Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void (2 Kent, Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offence against society.
. . .
By the statute of 1 James I. (c. 11), the offence, if committed in England or Wales, was made punishable in the civil courts, and the penalty was death. As this statute was limited in its operation to England and Wales, it was at a very early period re-enacted, generally with some modifications, in all the colonies. In connection with the case we are now considering, it is a significant fact that on the 8th of December, 1788, after the passage of the act establishing religious freedom, and after the convention of Virginia had recommended as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States the declaration in a bill of rights that 'all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,' the legislature of that State substantially enacted the statute of James I., death penalty included, because, as recited in the preamble, 'it hath been doubted whether bigamy or poligamy be punishable by the laws of this Commonwealth.' 12 Hening's Stat. 691. From that day to this we think it may safely be said there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offence against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law.
[emphasis supplied.] Mr. Thomas is selectively taking the court's view out of context in order to support his misguided argument. Of particular interest is the last statement, "Marriage ... is ... a civil contract, and usually regulated by law." As far back as 1878, the United States Supreme Court has recognized marriage as being a civil matter, governed by civil law, not by religion. While religion plays a part in some marriages, it does not dictate, control, or influence the the 1,138 federal civil laws regarding marriage, nor should it.


Chief Justice Waite put it best:
Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.
Mr. Thomas states, "If the federal government could reject polygamy then as a means of promoting the general welfare, why can’t it block attempts to redefine marriage now?" Apparently, he has not read the Reynolds case, as nowhere in it does the Court state that the government rejects polygamy as a means of promoting the general welfare. Instead, the Court stated that polygamy generally has been considered in Western civilizations as an offence against society--in other words, it's a crime. Nor does Mr. Thomas understand that polygamy is a crime whereas same-sex marriage, and same-sex relationships among consenting adults, is not criminal conduct of any kind.

As America's #1 syndicated columnist, someone really should be fact-checking his writing, in my opinion, so as not to have such misinformation carried into the public knowledgebase.

21 August, 2010

The Typical New Yorker

Some thoughts were just running through my mind and I thought I'd share them, to see what others think.

I'd recently been accused of being "one of those arrogant, rude New Yorkers" and so I've been focused on why this misconception of New Yorkers being rude and obnoxious has come about and it has lead me to the exact opposite conclusion:

New Yorkers are, by and far, more friendly and more intimate with each other than citizens of other big cities and small towns alike, because they've taken the time to get to know one another through assimilation.

Being The Center of the World has its advantages (there are so many things to do!) and its disadvantages (there are so many things to do!). Because of this, New Yorkers are perennially wandering about from place to place and from event to event, to get to that "next thing to do" that's on their "list" (virtual or stone tablet).

With all this running, walking, jogging, skating, biking, and otherwise getting to and fro, who has time to stop and carry on a verbal conversation with anyone? As such, over time, New Yorkers have learned to communicate non-verbally (it's a much more efficient means of communication, don't you think?). Of course, this has led to the occasional misunderstanding and mishap but those are far and few between as we New Yorkers have honed this non-verbal communication skill.

In discussing this with a friend on-line, I was asked, "Just how do we learn from each other if we're not communicating?" Obviously, I had to sit my friend down and explain to him that he wasn't paying attention, because I never said we New Yorkers don't communicate; we just do so in a non-verbal fashion.

Apart from the hustle and bustle of perennially flitting about to and fro to get to our next "thing to do" in this great and wonderful town (town, ha!--more like a megalopolis, isn't it?), there's another reason that we've taken to using this non-verbal mode of communication: space constraints.

This falls into my theory of New Yorkers having learned the art of getting to know people via assimilation. Living so close together, one can't help but learn about one's neighbors through plastered walls and soundboard ceilings and floors.

And not just in our homes (where we almost never seem to be, as there's always something on our "To Do" list) but in our places of work and in our places of enjoyment. And don't forget, we also assimilate knowledge about our neighbors (of which New Yorkers are all one to each other) in the process of moving about to and fro all the places we need to be and are trying to get to in order to reach the next big great destination on our To Do's.

To the outsider, New York may seen like a very chaotic place but I'm certain the chaos theorists will eventually conduct a study to prove the order within this perceived chaos in New York City. In other words, we have a way of doing things that none can mimic. The way we talk, the way we walk, the way we dress, the way we mess; it all comprises who we are as individuals and also as part of the group collective.

To further combat this chaos, many New Yorkers try to instill order into it by sticking to a certain schedule. Thus, we get to know our neighbors as we travel those paths to reach the next destination of our To Do's. While we may not know their name, most New Yorkers can certainly tell you about the guy who always gets a schmear of butter (or low-fat cream cheese, or strawberry cream cheese, or onion & lox, or lox & chives, or sour cream & chives, or--well, you get the picture) on their bagel and the one who a fourth of the time will forget to put a lid on their coffee after pouring it into their cup from the self-serve carafes at the news stand (or deli) in the morning, splattering it all over their copy of The Times or The News at The Rock and the guy who's always running down the block/stairs/avenue trying to catch the next bus/train/subway and always ends up missing it anywhere from 15 seconds to 3 minutes too late and who at lunch order the pastrami as opposed to the ham or turkey or liverwurst or roast beef and whether it's Swiss or American or provolone on rye, wheat, white, whole grain, or multi-grain and whether the Ferragamos are from Saks, Bloomie's, Barney's, Bergdorf's, or down on Canal and Oy! putting that cockamamie Louis V with such an obvious Chanel knock-off ....

Now, to the outsider, this may seem like trying to decipher the Egyptians' hieroglyphics on a collegiate education specializing in English Literature but to a New Yorker, it's providing vital information to them about who the person is. And when one is imbued with such intimate knowledge of a person's life, the necessity for that "Hey, lovely day we're having today, isn't it?" just floats out the window and up the canyons formed by the City's towering structures of concrete, glass, and steel. And besides, who has time to say such things when what's really on your mind is how late you fell asleep and how late you woke up this morning because you were kept awake by the Batlan living upstairs and their never-ending exploits and how much you'd just love to knock their head against a wall some day but you can't be bothered because you're on your way to that next greatest best thing on your To Do's.

Of course, whilst there are certainly exceptions to the rule, as its general practice, New Yorkers tend to be the most conforming lot of non-conformists ever to have been placed on this round ball of silicate/iron/magnesium dangling dangerously close to that molten nuclear reactor we call a G2V star. And that's what makes the infusion of information by assimilation possible in New York.

This also explains the tendency of New Yorkers to be a bit of T3h Buttinsky. Because, after all, New Yorkers are informed, opinionated individuals who always know what's best for the other (provided the "other" isn't themselves) and hesitates at nothing to let their neighbors know (because, after all, New Yorkers really are a caring, compassionate lot). It's our way of saying, "Hey, we care about you, so this is how you're going to do this to avoid having your tuches bounced off the pavement by ...."

So next time you encounter a New Yorker and we don't put on the two-faced politeness that those in the South, Southwest, and Western parts of this nation practice, please do try to keep in mind that it's probably because we've already surmised how you're doing given our non-verbal communication skills and simply are on our way to the next best greatest thing on our To Do's and if you haven't learned how to communicate non-verbally as well have and deal with this massive amount of intimacy within which we have all learned to live, then it's just a crying shonda. ;-p

11 August, 2010

In response to a question someone asked me

Someone recently asked a question of me on the Fabulis site and my answer wouldn't fit in the space provided, so I'm providing it here. The question was:


A: Here's my answer:

Hrm, I'd have to say waking up to watch the sun set in the arms of a man I've fallen 1001% for. Walking to the balcony in his arms while the servants start lighting candles about the palace, bringing in juicy bits of fruits & other organic, delicious, sweet foods along with some granola and whole grain cereals. Feeding each other as we begin our day, laptops on the table, checking in around the world and seeing what's going on. Interacting with others on-line, blogging, printing out coupons for sales, checking prices, seeing what's going on.

Watching the snow fall on twinkling lights around the city from the balcony, then running out to catch a musical concert featuring the best of Béla Bartók, Smetana, and the rest of the best of the Romantic composers, or perhaps a production of Die Zauberflöte. Running to the shops on 5th to catch all the latest sales and spending way too much money on presents for friends and strangers. Stopping by The Rock to admire the tree and watch as late-night revelers fall in love on the rink, skating in and out of each other's arms.

Returning to the palace in the northern 'burbs topped in a blanket of snow with a carriage full of presents, wrapped in their bows. Enjoying a nice candlelit meal of baked organic chicken & veggies, perhaps some pasta in a garlic sauce with a wonderful pinot grigio, in front of a roaring fire whilst watching Doris Day DVDs on the LED screen that fills almost an entire wall. Moving to the couch with popcorn and more organic fruits and scrumptious probiotic chocolates to dip the fruit in, snuggling up on the sofa until the snuggling turns into an uncontrolled passionate session of loving my man.

Finishing on the balcony wrapped in his arms and glory to watch the sun rise, then being carried in his strong, gentle arms to our well-appointed bed of down pillows & comforters fitted with 1,000 thread-count Calvin Klein linens, falling asleep wrapped up in his arms, lilting into the dream-world whilst he stays deep inside my ... every essence....

If you'd like to ask a question for me to answer
just
head over to my page on Fabulis.

For those not in the know, Fabulis.com is the network that helps gay men and their friends discover where to go, what to do, and who to meet. Fabulis is headquartered in New York, NY and has development operations in Pune, India, and Deinze, Belgium.

04 July, 2010

Happy Independence Day

I've become quite annoyed that we, as a nation, are complacent with calling today's holiday "the Fourth of July" instead of its traditional, more meaningful name, "Independence Day."

Today's holiday celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which marks the birth of our great nation. Like Christmas, it is one of the few holidays we celebrate here in the USA that occurs on a specific date, as opposed to a specific day (such as the last Monday in May, when we celebrate Memorial Day, or the fourth Thursday in November, when we celebrate Thanksgiving).

We don't wish people a "Merry 25th of December" or a "Happy 11th of November"; why then, have we resorted to this downgrading of Independence Day by wishing folks a "Happy Fourth of July"?

16 June, 2010

A Long Day's Journey Into This Good Night (Part 1/3)

I wrote this on 30 March 2010 but just haven’t had a chance to post it until now. But then, something happened today (a few conversations with a few different TweePALs) that made my memory job back a few months and remember what I had written, and realize that now would be a great time to finally get this up on my blog:

I had to go into the City today and forgot to bring a book along with me to read on the train ride. While the ride isn’t that long (50-minutes tops, from my sister's home) it’s long enough to get through a few chapters of a good book.

I did, however, have my trusty laptop computer with me so I’ve brought it out as the train is departing and am just going to write down some of my thoughts until a few minutes before my stop, when I’ll have to start the process of hibernating the computer (it takes a few minutes to go into hibernation mode because writing 3,221,225,472 bytes (3GB) of data to a hard disk drive – no matter the speed and/or interface – still takes a few minutes!).

Today was perhaps the busiest day I’ve had in a few years. I made, and kept four different appointments (although technically, I combined two appointments into one by seeing two friends in NYC at the same time, in-between the 1st and 3rd appointments I had, which were more business-related).

First, I met with an individual from Twitter with whom I had become twendly (that’s Twitterspeak for “Twitter-friendly” or “friendly using Twitter”), Linda Rey, whose Twitter username is @ReyInsurance. I had an absolutely, fantastically fabulous time with her, and actually am quite glad that I managed to get up, go out, and do something that’s outside of my routine. 

Linda truly is an awesome, awe-inspiring individual. She’s warm, caring, intelligent, smart, friendly, funny, witty, compassionate, courageous, and a true wonder woman.

We talked shop for a bit and then talked about our lives. I look forward to building a relationship with her (boy, bet you’d never have heard those words coming out of THIS gay boy’s mouth, right? LOL!)—both business and personal—and having it grow as time move forwards. If I were straight, I could very well imagine myself falling in love with Linda—she’s just that sort of person. Linda was able to get me laughing quite often during our wonderful repartee, and actually said something which I thought would make a wonderful twote (that’s when we tweet quotations on Twitter—did I just coin another portmanteau?):

Linda was relaying a story of her dating escapades (or attempts thereof), and as soon as she said the following, I had to stop her and write it down. She asked if I was going to tweet that (GMTA!) and of course I told her that I was, because I thought it was such a fabulous thing that she revealed about her that also speaks volumes of truth about people and relationships in general these days. Thus sprach Linda:
What is it with all of these men putting all sorts of conditions and requirements into a relationship these days?? I’m at a point in my life now where I’m just, add water and I’m ready to go.
With that kind of humorous wit, how could anyone not fall in love with this great lady?

So not only have I made what hopefully will turn out to be a wonderfully productive and profitable business connection via Twitter for my new business venture, but I’ve hopefully made a wonderfully great, caring, and loving new friend as well. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Linda is perhaps the fifth person I’ve met in-person whom I originally “met” via Twitter. And my meeting with her reinforces what I said in my blog posting around New Years of this year, that there are some absolutely phenomenal people in this world whom I never would have met without the benefit of being on Twitter. That I can turn an on-line relationship into a real-life relationship is an even greater benefit, and I expect that as I encounter more people around the world on Twitter such as Linda, I will find more and more people who possess the same wonderful and great qualities that I believe will make her a wonderful friend.

So after two hours flew by with Linda, she dropped me off at the train station where I caught the train into Grand Central and met up with two of my friends, one whom I haven’t seen in nearly a year and the other of whom I haven’t seen in nearly twice that amount of time. We went to Junior’s Restaurant (yes, of the same fame as Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts from Brooklyn, NY) where I had a pretty decent Tuna Melt (on Rye, of course) served with the traditional, awesome, great-tasting New York Dill pickle. ;-) So we just chatted and caught up a bit and caught up with each other. I had to give one of my friends their tax return (it’s almost as if I were really killing three birds with one stone today, right?) so I was able to do that over lunch/dinner, as well.

One of my friends had to leave, so the other walked with me to my destination a few blocks away, a huge global law firm (somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 attorneys) where I might be able to get some work (after being unemployed for nearly three years!). Since I receive SSD income and have gone through my trial work period, I’m allowed to earn a whopping $1,000/month (gross income, pre-tax of course) and keep my benefits. That might not sound like a lot but believe me—it definitely comes in handy and having to live these past three years without that extra income has been an excruciating experience, to say the least!

If I actually could work enough hours to earn that (around 30 hours / month) amount, my net income would be more than double than what I’m receiving now from unemployment [note: my unemployment benefits ran out shortly after I wrote this; I haven’t received any unemployment benefits for nearly three months now!]. Add to that my work-from-home business (Tax Preparation, Business Consulting, IT Consulting, and Computer Repair/Instruction) and I might just start making enough money again to be able to afford a little present for myself every few months, instead of scraping by and worrying about finding something to eat on a daily basis. That would be a really nice—and welcomed—change of pace.

So my fourth and final meeting was actually to be tested at one of these firms (for about the past 8 years or so, the large firms don’t let one work for them, even through a temporary/employment agency that already has conducted its own testing, without first testing one’s skill set for their environment). The test took me a bit longer than I had thought as they tested me on the entire suite of MS-Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, as well as their document management system (DMS). In all honesty I haven’t used PowerPoint well over five years and they were using the 2007 version of MS Office, into which were incorporated some very drastic changes to the user interface (but that’s another story, for another time). So instead of finishing ahead of the “average” user who has taken the test, I took almost exactly the amount of time I was told the average user took to complete the test.

The one area where I think I may have not done so well, of course, is PowerPoint. After wasting around 15 minutes trying to modify the built-in templates to produce the document required by the test, I just scrapped everything and used the “screw it, do whatever works” method. I did manage to get the document completed and it looked fairly close to the original; however, it may not have been using the “best methods” or “best practices” that most firms like to see one use these days in MS Office applications. I’ll find out soon, and hopefully I will have scored well enough on the test so that they’ll call me in for work, during third shift (graveyard, a/k/a overnight shift). [UPDATE: I passed the test; the firm I tested at doesn’t score and only uses the pass/fail method, and I’m hoping to be called in for work soon!]

Another area where I actually was surprised was in the MS-Word portion of the test, because they required completion of a Table of Authorities, which is something that, normally, the paralegal or attorney would do. They also asked that citations to be inserted were formatted properly—again, something that usually is under the prevue of an attorney or paralegal. It’s a good thing that I went to law school and have worked as a paralegal, so I knew exactly what to do; I’ve never before seen a test given by one of these gigantic firms where such knowledge was required to successfully complete it.

So now I’m sitting on the Metro North train which is whisking me back toward my sister’s home. Once I get there, I’ll check into Twitter, update my blog with this posting, check into Farmville and see which of my crops had withered (I hadn’t planned to be off the Internet for such an extended period of time today), and just try to unwind. For me, this was a very, very busy day. While I feel drained of energy, at the same time I’m also excited, as I made new contacts, reconnected with old ones, and hopefully might have some work coming in that will replace the end of my unemployment benefits.

Coming soon:

Please read Part 2 of this posting to get an update on my family:

Then, read Part 3 of this blog post to learn why I decided to go back to what I had written a few months ago, dredge it up, and post it to my blog now.

15 June, 2010

QOTD - Suze Orman

Found this awesome video clip from one of my favourite famous women who do not work in the field of entertainment, Suze Orman:



Here is a partial transcript of quotes that I thought should be transcribed for all to see:


Back [in the 1980s], there were ethics. There were ethics with money, believe it or not. You couldn't buy a house unless you had 20% down. They didn't give you credit cards unless you had the money to get out of credit card debt. They didn't give you a financial rope so that you could hang yourself.

Today's economy is based on the ignorance of the people everywhere in the hopes that you're going to make some serious financial mistake that makes these people over here be able to meet their earnings reports for the stock markets and the this and the that.


Way back when, money made sense. You could go to the university and pay $100 a semester to attend. Now we have kids graduating college with more student loan debt than they have any idea what to do with. Good luck if they ever are able to afford to buy a home, no matter where they live. Their jobs are being shipped overseas. And i can go on and on and on. The price of a gallon of gasoline—are you kidding?


All of everything ties to politics. Today it is so hard, you know I did this whole thing, this whole book deal that i did called The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke. I should've called it The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, Depressed and Broke. And there's a good reason that the young ones today—I call them the wife & beers—that they're depressed: because nobody has their back, financially speaking.


You can tell—can you not tell I'm an emotional woman? I am passionate. I believe in what i'm saying. I've been doing this for 30 years. I have, and it's like, I'm going like, give me some emotion back...

However, it's worthless but through our own actions we can tape [the ripped up $20 bill] back together; we can bring these parts together—we can! But you're going to have to do it yourself because here's the bottom line: the government isn't gonna save you. Nobody's gonna save you. YOU have what it takes to save yourself. So when it comes to your money, I want you to look in the mirror because that's the best financial advisor you're gonna find. Please people, if you think other people have your best interests at heart when it comes to your money, I don't think so!

25 May, 2010

The End of a Friendship

I just wrote this to my supposed best friend:

We met almost two years ago and have been through a lot together. However, our friendship cannot continue. You have destroyed any and all trust that I had in you by your actions.

If I speak to you about this, instead of writing, I will be using words that you do not want to hear – language that you, or any person of your race, would want to hear. That is how upset I am. So instead, I leave you with this letter.

It does not matter how much you took, or what you took. It matters, simply, that you took, without asking and without informing me (after the fact), period. And you didn’t take just once, or twice, or thrice—you took multiple times. After I confronted you about it and left for my mother’s, you continued to take. That’s all that matters.
I wish you well; I do not wish you any ill will. I will try to help you when I can, but we are and can only be acquaintances now.

I don’t know if you’ll ever repay me the money that you owe me (a substantial amount, at that) and even if you do, I don’t know if it will restore my faith and trust in you.

I gave you multiple chances—moreso than I would give other folks these days—solely because of our history and what I thought was to be our lasting friendship.

But another thing you took from me is the respect that you had given me. You don’t treat or view me with respect. It’s either Johnny’s way or the highway, and that can’t work in a true friendship. You weren’t respectful of things I told you, or as you to do. You didn’t respect my opinion, you didn’t heed my advice. You just did whatever it is that you wanted, and everyone else be damned.

I know you’re going through a lot right now. I’ve been there, as you well know. But I never stooped to the level that you have stooped to. I always maintained my personal integrity, self-respect, and trust among others. I always kept my word. You, conversely, have not.

I’m finding that people I once thought I was able to trust I am not so certain I can, and I’ve been reevaluating and reexamining all of my relationships with everyone.

The way you spoke to my mother in your messages, and what you told her, just prove my point about you—that you cannot be trusted. I still care about you, and this is what hurts the most—that I can’t trust you any longer. Without trust, there is no friendship.

My mother has demanded that I completely remove you from my life; I’m not certain that that’s possible. Maybe one day in the future you will regain my trust, but that day—if ever it comes—is a long way off into the future.
I leave you with this message: I hope you’re able to ground yourself, to find yourself once again, and to find what it is that you’re looking for. I hope you’re able to ease the pain you’re suffering, and to find love and friendship from others.

I wish you well, []. Even though I am still upset and furious at your actions and your decision to destroy our friendship (as it has been solely your actions that destroyed it) but still, I wish you well and all the best that life has to offer.

Sincerely,
Peter C. Frank

02 May, 2010

Case Study: Why 1,138 federal marriage rights matter

AS OF MAY 2004—the last time this analysis was conducted, six years ago—there were ONE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT FEDERAL LAWS where martial status is a factor in determining rights, benefits, responsibilities, obligations, protections, etc.

In the past ten years alone, the IRS code (Title 26 of the United States Code) has grown by some 35,000 page or approximately 50% (thanks to Dorian Davis for this video factoid); if we presume that the IRS code grew 3,500 pages per year over the past ten years (using simple math--not trying to do complicate things), then we can say that it grew 21,000 pages over the past six years. In those 21,000 pages, how much would you like to bet that there are some new laws where marital status is a factor—and that's just in the IRS code, which constitutes only a portion of the United States Code surveyed to determine the number of laws where marital status is a factor.

How does this affect the every day individual—"Joe Schmoe," so the speak—you ask yourself? I present you with a real-world example of just how horrible things can go when one isn't afforded all of the protections conferred upon married couples by those 1,138-or-so federal laws:

I'd like to introduce you to Clay Greene, since the press and news media have decided to ignore this story (thanks to the efforts of some of our staunchest stalwarts like Bil Browning (of the Bilerico Project, which initially broke this sordid story on 17 April 2010), Andrew Sullivan, and Michaelangelo Signorile, to name a few), with the notable exception of The New York Times, albeit only on its blog site and only for the SF Bay Area, and only after three days of hounding by the LGBT media to bring attention to this barbarous story (as Mr. Sullivan so aptly puts it):

In the event that you've missed any of the reporting surrounding Mr. Greene, here's a quick update:

Clay Greene, a 78-year-old gay man from Sebastopol, filed a lawsuit against Sonoma County claiming he sustained spate of indignities at the hands of county officials during a bizarre estate battle that took place when Harold Scull, Mr. Greene's partner of 20+ years who was 88 at the time, fell and became hospitalized in 2008.

[As an aside, The New York Times points out that news of Mr. Greene's case came out just as POTUS Obama published his Presidential Memorandum on hospital visitation, which I've previously debunked as being pure rubbish and amounting to a hill of nothingness.]

Sonoma County (California) officials successfully petitioned the court to gain some powers of conservatorship. Then they “sold, kept, converted to their own use, and otherwise disposed of” almost $500,000 worth of belongings from the home shared by the two men — including furniture, art objects, and memorabilia from the years Mr. Scull spent working in Hollywood, as well as a truck and two cats.

Mr. Greene has stated that he and Mr. Scull previously had specified each other as executors in case either became incapacitated; however, Sonoma County officials ignored the couple's previously prepared legal documents and the history of their relationship, and at one point referred to Mr. Greene as Mr. Scull’s “roommate.”

Citing the state of Mr. Greene’s "mental health," Sonoma County officials then moved him—against his will—into a nursing home, and sold the rest of his belongings. He was not allowed to visit Mr. Scull, who died several months later, in August 2008.

Long story short: elderly gay couple, with all of the legal documents they could muster, because they were not allowed to marry, had the state trample all over their life and literally tear apart and obliterate their lives and cherished possessions. You can read more about the couple on The National Center for Lesbian Rights' web site in an article (hosted by The Bilerico Project) written by its executive director, Kate Kendell.

Also, be sure to check out the update posted by OutQ News where Sonoma County's response alleges that it was acting "in good faith" on a domestic violence claim—a claim that neither police nor the district attorney's office know anything about. Perhaps even more disturbing is the answer by Sonoma County that the county's bookkeeping records are "awful" and they haven't a clue as to where or to whom the proceeds from the auctions were disbursed!

Now, had Messrs. Greene and Clay been married, this, to quote the inspector from Woody Woodpecker, would never have happened. In those 1,138 or so federal laws pertaining or relating to marital status, there are protections for couples to prevent the government from making such harsh and punitive intrusions into a couple's life. Absent these protections (i.e., absent marriage), this same scenario could happen to anyone.

And, in fact, it did happen to another couple a few years ago. An unnamed couple living in Westchester County, New York, had a very similar situation happen to them. Unfortunately, I'm still awaiting details of their situation from a friend who personally knows them and their situation (*ahem*, LG, if you're reading this, please hurry?).

"So what can or shoud I/we do about this?", you may be asking yourself? The answer is very, very simple: demand full marriage equality for all consenting adult couples.

In the meantime, we can make some noise about the unfortunate and undeserving circumstances of couples like Messrs. Clay & Greene. As one friend on Facebook put it, it's:

TIME TO MAKE SOME NOISE:
Sonoma County, California has a board of 5 Supervisors, and each one of them needs to hear how ANGRY we are that something so heinous occurred on their watch! You can contact each supervisor by e-mail below (individual email addresses). If you would rather phone, they are reached through a common switchboard at (707) 565-2241. ASK THEM WHAT IS BEING DONE WITH REGARD TO THIS INSTANCE, AND HOW ARE THEY GOING TO ENSURE NOTHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS AGAIN. DEMAND THE FIRINGS OF THOSE INVOLVED.

FIRST DISTRICT: Supervisor Valerie Brown
vbrown@sonoma-county.org
SECOND DISTRICT: Supervisor Mike Kerns
mkerns@sonoma-county.org
THIRD DISTICT: Supervisor Shirley Zane
szane@sonoma-county.org
FOURTH DISTRICT: Supervisor Paul Kelley
pkelley@sonoma-county.org
FIFTH DISTRICT: Supervisor Efren Carrillo
ecarrillo@sonoma-county.org

Additionally, we can write letters to the Editors of our local newspapers, asking them why this story hasn't run in their newspaper, and we can also contact our local press and news media offices, asking them the same question.

Bringing light to this issue will help educate the American public as to Why Marriage Equality Matters (note: this links to a PDF file) to us; it's not j!ust some abstract theory we're fighting for. This involves real people, and real lives. It truly is a matter of justice.

Just remember, there are over one-thousand, one-hundred and thirty eight reasons under federal law alone for couples to get married; Harold & Clay's story is but one of the myriad in which couples have suffered without these essential and necessary protections afforded to everyone else.

[Note: I am e-mailing each of the five Sonoma County Supervisors a copy of this blog article; any responses they provide will be published on my blog either as a comment herein or as a follow-up blog posting.]

[Note: This section was added after the initial posting, at 3:45pm]: A friend just reminded me of something: we can also ask our national LGBTQ organizations—those well-established organizations supposedly "have our backs", such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal, for starters, just where the *(!&_@! they have been during this tragedy. HCR, NGLTF, ACLU & Lambda are the oldest and most well-established organizations in the country fighting for LGBTQ rights. Just where have they been throughout Clay's & Harold's ordeal? And where are they now? The answer, to date: ominously silent.

We, as a community, should also direct our and and our outrage at our own organizations—the very organizations that are supposedly fighting for our rights. Well here sits an egregious story filled with unconscionable behavior, and the very organizations that purport to represent us are just sitting idly by (with the notable exception of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, of course, which has spearheaded Clay's cause), attending $30,000/plate dinners with POTUS Obama. What a farce they all are.

It's time, indeed, for new leadership, new organizations, and a new direction, if we ever are to achieve the equality that we so desperately seek and deserve.

[Updated 3 May 2010 4:55pm UTC] This is the full text of the 2004 report by the United States General Accounting Office [PDF].

18 April, 2010

QOTD

**le sigh**

They just don't make'm like this anymore ...

At this moment we are passing through a period of great unrest—social, political, and industrial unrest. It is of the utmost importance for our future that this should prove to be not the unrest of mere rebelliousness against life, of mere dissatisfaction with the inevitable inequality of conditions, but the unrest of a resolute and eager ambition to secure the betterment of the individual and the nation.

So far as this movement of agitation throughout the country takes the form of a fierce discontent with evil, of a determination to punish the authors of evil, whether in industry or politics, the feeling is to be heartily welcomed as a sign of healthy life.

If, on the other hand, it turns into a mere crusade of appetite against appetite, of a contest between the brutal greed of the “have nots” and the brutal greed of the “haves,” then it has no significance for good, but only for evil. If it seeks to establish a line of cleavage, not along the line which divides good men from bad, but along that other line, running at right angles thereto, which divides those who are well off from those who are less well off, then it will be fraught with immeasurable harm to the body politic.

*     *     *

As a matter of personal conviction, and without pretending to discuss the details or formulate the system, I feel that we shall ultimately have to consider the adoption of some such scheme as that of a progressive tax on all fortunes, beyond a certain amount, either given in life or devised or bequeathed upon death to any individual—a tax so framed as to put it out of the power of the owner of one of these enormous fortunes to hand on more than a certain amount to any one individual; the tax of course, to be imposed by the national and not the state government. Such taxation should, of course, be aimed merely at the inheritance or transmission in their entirety of those fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits. Again, the national government must in some form exercise supervision over corporations engaged in interstate business—and all large corporations engaged in interstate business—whether by license or otherwise, so as to permit us to deal with the far reaching evils of overcapitalization.

*     *     *

No good whatever will come from that warped and mock morality which denounces the misdeeds of men of wealth and forgets the misdeeds practiced at their expense; which denounces bribery, but blinds itself to blackmail; which foams with rage if a corporation secures favors by improper methods, and merely leers with hideous mirth if the corporation is itself wronged.

The only public servant who can be trusted honestly to protect the rights of the public against the misdeeds of a corporation is that public man who will just as surely protect the corporation itself from wrongful aggression .

If a public man is willing to yield to popular clamor and do wrong to the men of wealth or to rich corporations, it may be set down as certain that if the opportunity comes he will secretly and furtively do wrong to the public in the interest of a corporation.

But in addition to honesty, we need sanity. No honesty will make a public man useful if that man is timid or foolish, if he is a hot-headed zealot or an impracticable visionary. As we strive for reform we find that it is not at all merely the case of a long uphill pull. On the contrary, there is almost as much of breeching work as of collar work. To depend only on traces means that there will soon be a runaway and an upset.

The men of wealth who today are trying to prevent the regulation and control of their business in the interest of the public by the proper government authorities will not succeed, in my judgment, in checking the progress of the movement. But if they did succeed they would find that they had sown the wind and would surely reap the whirlwind, for they would ultimately provoke the violent excesses which accompany a reform coming by convulsion instead of by steady and natural growth.
~Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
(October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919)
26th POTUS, Statesman, Politician

The quotes published above by President Theodore were given during his “The Man with the Muck Rake” Speech on Sunday, 15 April 1906, at the laying of the corner stone of the Cannon Office Building in Washington, DC. (it truly is an awesome & awe-inspiring speech!)

It's so sad how much of what President Roosevelt said in his speech is still true today—over a century later!

15 April, 2010

POTUS Obama issues Memorandum on Hospital Visitation Rights

I read the memo that Obama wrote in its entirety, and I have to disagree with all of the hoopla that's being made about it--not with anything that he said but with how people are characterizing this as such a monumental change, etc.

This is not an order; it's a memo, and there's quite a big difference between the two. If Obama wished to place impetus into his words, he would (or should) have issued an Executive Order, NOT a memorandum seeking advice from the Dept of HHS on how it should be doing its job. In other words, it's a request, a comment, a call to action--not the action itself.

Yet, people continue to create fanfare and hoopla and praise Obama for barely lifting a finger. IMHO, this is not NEARLY as big as people are making it out to be. Essentially, this is Obama saying something along the lines of, "yes...well, people shouldn't be discriminated against and they should be allowed to have visitation rights but I'm not going to force the issue and start ordering people & hospitals to comply with what I'd like to see happen...."

So just what does it all boil down to you ask, boys & girls? Try this on for size:

The Dept of Health & Human Svcs basically can tell Obama to bugger off; if Obama had issued an Executive Order, things would be *quite* different. But this is, quite literally, the LEAST POSSIBLE ACTION that POTUS could take w/ respect to their admin.

And that, as they say, is that.

[TEXT AFTER THIS POINT ADDED 16 April 2010 5:00am UTC -- you folks just couldn't deal with me writing a short post to my blog, could ya? ;-) ]

I've been accused by some of being factually incorrect in stating that Obama has not ordered the Director of the US Department of Health & Human Services. I linked to the Memorandum as published by the US White House Office of the Press Secretary; however, just to clear things up (because apparently, most folk haven't taken the time to click through and actually read what Obama wrote), here is what President Obama actually wrote in his memorandum (this is a direct quotation from the Memorandum over which everybody is making such a great, big fuss):

By this memorandum, I request that you take the following steps:
  1. Initiate appropriate rulemaking, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395x and other relevant provisions of law, to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The rulemaking should take into account the need for hospitals to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances as well as the clinical decisions that medical professionals make about a patient's care or treatment.

  2. Ensure that all hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid are in full compliance with regulations, codified at 42 CFR 482.13 and 42 CFR 489.102(a), promulgated to guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected, and that patients' representatives otherwise have the right to make informed decisions regarding patients' care. Additionally, I request that you issue new guidelines, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395cc and other relevant provisions of law, and provide technical assistance on how hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid can best comply with the regulations and take any additional appropriate measures to fully enforce the regulations.

  3. Provide additional recommendations to me, within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, on actions the Department of Health and Human Services can take to address hospital visitation, medical decisionmaking, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

[emphasis supplied; hyperlinks provided]

Now let's examine the language that President Obama used (please note that "emphasis supplied" means that I altered the appearance of the text by adding bold-face/italics to it; otherwise, apart from any formatting snafus, the text remains exactly as it was published by the White House Office of the Press Secretary):

As can be seen in the first sentence that is quoted, President Obama has requested that the Director of the US Department of Health & Human Services perform three actions, which he outlines. Within those three actions, he reiterates that he is requesting her to perform these actions. I think it's time to take a dictionary break:

re·quest

–noun
[ ]

–verb (used with object)
6. to ask for, esp. politely or formally: He requested permission to speak.
7. to ask or beg; bid (usually fol. by a clause or an infinitive): to request that he leave; to request to be excused.
8. to ask or beg (someone) to do something: He requested me to go.
–verb (used with object)
1. to put a question to; inquire of: I asked him but he didn't answer.
2. to request information about: to ask the way.
3. to try to get by using words; request: to ask advice; to ask a favor.
4. to solicit from; request of: Could I ask you a favor? Ask her for advice.
5. to demand; expect: What price are they asking? A little silence is all I ask.
6. to set a price of: to ask $20 for the hat.
7. to call for; need; require: This experiment asks patience.
8. to invite: to ask guests to dinner.
9. Archaic. to publish (banns).

–verb (used without object)
10. to make inquiry; inquire: to ask about a person.
11. to request or petition (usually fol. by for): to ask for leniency; to ask for food.

or·der

–noun
[ ]

–verb (used with object)
37. to give an order, direction, or command to: The infantry divisions were ordered to advance.
38. to direct or command to go or come as specified: to order a person out of one's house
39. to prescribe: The doctor ordered rest for the patient.
40. to direct to be made, supplied, or furnished: to order a copy of a book.
41. to regulate, conduct, or manage: to order one's life for greater leisure.
42. to arrange methodically or suitably: to order chessmen for a game.
43. Mathematics . to arrange (the elements of a set) so that if one element precedes another, it cannot be preceded by the other or by elements that the other precedes.
44. to ordain, as God or fate does.
45. to invest with clerical rank or authority.

–verb (used without object)
46. to give an order or issue orders: I wish to order, but the waiter is busy.

di·rect

–verb (used with object)
1. to manage or guide by advice, helpful information, instruction, etc.: He directed the company through a difficult time.
2. to regulate the course of; control: History is directed by a small number of great men and women.
3. to administer; manage; supervise: She directs the affairs of the estate.
4. to give authoritative instructions to; command; order or ordain: I directed him to leave the room.
5. to serve as a director in the production or performance of (a musical work, play, motion picture, etc.).
6. to guide, tell, or show (a person) the way to a place: I directed him to the post office.
7. to point, aim, or send toward a place or object: to direct radio waves around the globe.
8. to channel or focus toward a given result, object, or end (often fol. by to or toward ): She directed all her energies toward the accomplishment of the work.
9. to address (words, a speech, a written report, etc.) to a person or persons: The secretary directed his remarks to two of the committee members.
10. to address (a letter, package, etc.) to an intended recipient.

–verb (used without object)
11. to act as a guide.
12. to give commands or orders.
[emphasis supplied]
[source: Dictionary.com, an Ask.com service]

So as we can see, there is a clear—and significant—difference between the words "request," "order," "ask," and "direct": to request and to ask are synonymous with each other; likewise, to order and to direct are synonymous with each other. With the first group, the connotation is such that one is seeking another to perform an action, without having authority to require such action of said individual. In other words, the decision on whether or not such action is to be undertaken is left with the person upon whom such action is being requested.

Contrary to the non-authoritative, permission-seeking words "request" and "ask," the words "order" and "direct" connote authority from the individual issuing such directives such that one can be fairly certain that the missives being commanded will be carried out. In other words, the decision on whether or not such action is to be undertaken is left with the person who is commanding such action.

I now bring your attention to the very last paragraph and sentence of Obama's Memorandum:

You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

[emphasis supplied]

Unlike the earlier paragraphs, where Obama requests the Director of HHS to undertake certain actions, here we see Obama directing the Director of HHS to take certain action.

Clearly, President Obama knows the difference in meanings among these words and has chosen the wording of his Memorandum very carefully. If you have any doubt as to this, then ask yourself, "Why did he only request that the HHS Director take the enumerated steps but direct her to perform other actions?" The answer should then become quite obvious, as I've implied above: President Obama has done the very least he could possibly do in order to throw some bread crumbs to the LGBTQ community, in an effect to begin soliciting funds for his fellow politicians so that they all may return to their thrones of power in this coming November's mid-term election.

I'm not going to get into the fact that Candidate Obama promised, upon his election, a repeal of DADT and a repeal of DOMA. To date, neither of his promises have been given even a scintilla of veracity by him.

Oh, and before I get to my next point, I do need to bring this to your attention once again (even though I've hyperlinked to the text and quoted it above, I set it apart here for your inspection).
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
And there you have it, in black & white. President Obama states, quite clearly, that his intention is not to actually confer upon any individual any right[s] or benefit[s] that can be enforced by any sort of legal mechanism, whatsoever.

If there is any doubt in anyone's minds that President Obama has absolutely no intention of having the Director of the US Department of Health & Human Services effectuate any of his "requests" then perhaps this will prove more probative in convincing any such individual.

In his Memorandum, President Obama quotes four (4) distinct sections of US law:

42 U.S.C. 1395x
42 CFR 482.13
42 CFR 489.102(a) and
42 U.S.C. 1395cc

Let's take a brief, quick look at these sections of United States Law:

42 U.S.C. 1395x consists entirely of definitions used in "The Public Health and Welfare" section of United States law (Title 42 of the United States Code)

42 CFS 482.13, to the best of my knowledge, does not exist.

42 CFR 489.102(a) is a very short (three-columns) section of law pertaining to the requirements of providers of health services who accept payment from Medicaid and/or Medicare, particularly with respect to advanced directors. Unlike health proxies, advanced directives are generally used to confer upon another individual their wishes with respect to remaining or being removed from life support, should they ever find themselves in such a situation. Advances directives therefore usually are very limited forms of a health care proxy in that there is only one decision to be made: whether or not to continue life support for an individual (usually in some form of a vegetative state) who is unable to make that determination for themself. Oh, and about 1/3 of the text in these three columns provides exemptions from adhering to the wishes, desires, commands, directives, and orders from such health care proxy with respect to an advanced directive on the grounds that it is contrary to the provider's religious beliefs.

Finally, 42 U.S.C. 1395cc deals with billing agreements with health care providers who accept Medicaid and/or Medicare as a method of payment for the health services they render.

So, what do we really have here?

We have:

President Obama, approximately six months before the mid-term elections, throwing a few breadcrumbs to the LGBTQ community, as political strategy for fundraising efforts that will enable the return of the Kings and Queens in Congress to their respective thrones, asking the Director of the US Department of Health & Human Services to implement some vague changes that 95% of the nation agree should have been made ages ago, referencing some pretty irrelevant sections of the laws of the United States of America and perhaps even throwing in another reference just to make it look better, all the whilst stating that he has absolutely zero (0) intention of actually making any real changes that would actually benefit or confer a right upon anyone with respect to what he's requesting the US HSS Dep't director to do, and then commanding her to publish his so-called intentions.

In other words, what we have here is a big, fat, bulking heap of ...

ZERO!

Now do you folks get it, and why all of the fanfare, hoopla, and parades surrounding this are really, truly, honest-to-goodness, over nothing?
[Time Stamp - insertion of new section completed 16 April 2010 6:45am UTC]