Monday, December 28, 2009

Libertarian Solutions for Health Care

The Libertarian Party issued a press release entitled "How Liberty Makes Healthcare Virtually Universal". By themselves, the 5 ideas are interesting, but I have some concerns, especially since there are no studies or other data to back up any of the claims. I will present the 5 arguments and my thoughts about each.

1. Allowing individuals, as well as businesses, full tax credits/deductions for medical insurance and/or medical expenditures. In the interim, encourage the use of HSAs by increasing the amount of tax-deductible contributions (currently $3000) that a person can make each year.

Yes, I am aware of how insurance has masked the true cost of healthcare, thus driving up the costs. There are many studies to show how this has happened. Yet, the Health Savings Account (HSA) is not a pancea since you cannot get enough people to adopt them to make a dint in prices. HSAs only work currently if you never go to the doctor for anything. If you have a chronic condition, you are SOL.

The current tax code does allow you to deduct your medical expenses, so long as those expenses are more than 7.5% of your income (it could be point is not the actual number but that such a deductibility currently exists). Perhaps it's that 7.5% threshold that Libertarians are objecting to. I admit that I don't know if businesses are able to deduct 100% of their health costs from their tax liability. If that's the case, then I would support individuals doing the same.

I also love my Health FSA (Flexible Spending Account), which is like an HSA, except I use pre-tax dollars to pay for health-related items, including all co-pays. The downside is that in a FSA, unlike the HSA, at the end of the year, you lose any money you haven't spent.

I don't see how this proposal will reduce costs OR increase coverage. I understand the economic theory behind it, but I don't see how it works in real life.

2. Ending insurance mandates that states impose. As an interim measure, allow insurance sales across state lines so that consumers can choose the insurance plan that best fits their needs, rather than be limited to what state legislatures allow.

The idea that selling insurance across state lines would somehow be a panacea to the cost of insurance is attractive on its face. What I don't understand is how you prevent the insurance companies from simply raising the rates to cover the cost of the most expensive areas of the country. If selling a NY resident AL insurance is a money loser, then how do you stop the insurer from simply raising the price of AL insurance? Wouldn't truly national policies price themselves up to the most expensive market and therefore create an increase in the uninsured?

This brings up the idea of the nature of health care. It is not a commodity like clothing, tires, or any other widgit you could name. People generally do not DIE because they can't afford a certain car or brand of clothing. Health care, however, touches at our ability to survive, our right to life, if you will. If there is not some basic standard of health care, then you doom the poor to a shorter life by denying them treatment of diseases or conditions that could extend their lives. You are saying only the wealthy truly deserve to have good health care. Only the wealthy have lives "worth" saving. The very life of a rich man is worth more than the life of a poor man. The poor are disposable, and the rich are not. That is the underlying message of those who say health care is nothing more than a commodity like clothing. One reform I'd love to see is requirement that all health care entities be non-profit. They still have to survive, but their goal should be to provide quality health care to customers, not to get rich. The current bills touch on this idea with the requirement that a certain percentage of premiums MUST be spent on health care.

It's also useful to look at why states created mandates in the first place. Mostly, it was because of blatant discrimination against certain groups. I especially think of women, whose needs were certainly NOT covered. Women couldn't get basic preventative measures like mammograms or pap smears covered. That is what drove people to the legislature to REQUIRE such coverage. The insurers wouldn't do the right thing until they were forced. Again, the result of repealing all state mandates would be to say that only the wealthy should be able to get certain services covered. In the realm of a person's health, that seems wrong.

3. Making doctors and their insurers liable only for actual negligence and malpractice. In the interim, caps on non-economic damages, such as those in California and Texas, lower insurance costs, but may prevent victims of actual malpractice from being appropriately compensated.

Over 30 states have caps on liability in medical malpractice, but the cost of malpractice insurance keeps going up. Why is that? Making physicians liable for actual negligence is not a bad compromise with the usual plan to basically ban all medical malpratice suits through a standard of GROSS negligence. If I actually believed that conservatives gave two shits about peoples' health care, I'd strongly support including malpractice reform like this to gain their support for other, more liberal measures. However, in the end, conservatives have shown they'd tell us to "fuck off" in the end while they filibuster.

4. Ending the regulation of medical professionals and employing a system of voluntary certification instead. Studies show that certification increases the amount of quality care delivered, especially to the poor. Since practitioners are usually certified on the basis of competence, rather than on politically-correct regulations, their number and quality increases, while prices decrease.

I'm not sure where this proposal is coming from. I am guessing they'd like to take away the authority of the state of license medical professionals period. "Voluntary" certification is a joke. How do you stop any tom-dick-or-harry from saying they are an MD? The "market" won't catch these fools until it's too late, and people are already dead or maimed. There's safety issues here. Unless you require certification, how can you ensure any kind of quality? And if you require certifcation for insurance coverage, etc, how is that different than the system we have now? I am not aware of any "politically correct" regulations in the licensing of doctors. I'd like to have those pointed out if they exist. I know for a fact that neither Virginia nor Georgia has any "politically correct" regulations when it comes to the licensing of lawyers. You don't get any bonus points on your bar exam for being a minority. I'm confused by this proposal.

5. Ending FDA regulation of pharmaceuticals and employing a system of third-party certification instead. The FDA doesn’t test any drugs, but simply looks over the data provided by manufacturers. Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL), which certifies electrical appliances, actually tests the products that bear its “Seal of Approval.” Such third-party testing is an excellent model for drug certification.

Oh yes, let's turn the clock back to the late 1800s when there was no FDA, and any charlatan could roll into town with his concocation of the day and make whatever claims he/she wanted in order to sell to an unsuspecting public. I do not think we should set the standard as "claim what you want until someone can prove it's false". Not for pharmaceuticals or for supplements (which is what the regime that supplements currently fall under). I am not opposed to setting up an independent entity like UL that would do independent testing and certification of safety and claims. Such an entity could be set up by fees paid by drug companies who develop these drugs. Somehow, I don't think that's what the libertarians have in mind. They seem to want no penalty at all for companies that put drugs on the market that don't have certification that it actually works. They think the "market" will take care of that. Again, the market probably would, but not until people die.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The GOP Purity Test

The proposed GOP Purity test, which the GOP swears is not really a purity test, could marginalize the party even more. This is especially true with the mandate that a "real" Republican must agree with 8 out of 10 propostions. Of course, like our Constitution, the GOP Purity test has flexible language you could drive a truck through. The key is how one defines certain words.

I will try to present the GOP Purity Test as proposed and then divine what they REALLY mean by it:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;
We believe that only the Department of Defense should exist. All other departments need to be dismantled. Stop all social spending, especially anything for the lazy poor. Also, ban all taxes. Government should pass a collection plate, like in church. Of course, if the community I happen to live in has a government funded project, that is money well spent.

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

We love Jesus and Capitalism. Health care is not a right. Letting poor people die is God's way of weeding out the lazy. If you can't afford healthcare, it's because you haven't pulled yourself up by the bootstraps and tried hard enough. All government regulation should be banned.

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

The private market has done a great job of taking care of our energy needs. Gas is so much cheaper here than in Commie, Freedom-Hating, Godless Europe as a result. If we just let energy companies drill wherever, whenever, and however they wanted, we'd be fine. The Endangered Species Act needs to be repealed too. No regulations! No Rules! Let companies do what they need to do!

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

We like how companies can stack the deck in a union election, forcing employees to sit through hours of lectures of how evil the unions are, firing union organizers, and such. We want to go back to a real capitalist economy circa 1890 when there was no rules to get in the way of profit like minimum wage, safety regulations, and the like. Unions should be crushed, not allowed to bully people into signing some card!

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

We're all for people coming to America. But there are rules. First, learn FLUENT G-D English! I don't want to hear no accent from a foreign land. Second, you better learn to accept Christ. We won't tolerate no terrorist-loving towel-heads here! Not in OUR country! Third, learn to dress like we do. None of this wearing veils or other
non-American clothing. You came here because we're free! If you don't like how we do things, go home! We also need to build a big wall on the southern border to keep those brown people out. Canada's OK...they talk like us. Dress like us in the winter too. After all, a wall worked in Berlin!

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

We love our servicemen, so long as they aren't our sons and daughters! Other peoples' kids are fine. Whatever our generals say they need, they get, no questions!!!! Why can't we nuke the terrorists?

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

Bomb the shit out Iran and North Korea! Teach them to cross us!

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

Homosexuals are against God's Plan. Revoke all "special rights" that name homos. We shouldn't have to live near them, work with them, or have anything to do with them. We should never give them any recognition for their so-called "relationships" which are based on nothing but blasphemous fornication.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

The private sector and the church can give out charity care. Those institutions will provide everything that the too-stupid-or-lazy-to-get-a-GOOD-job need. We definitely think all abortion should be banned. Birth control too.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;

All current gun regulations should be repealed. The 2nd Amendment is absolute. No restrictions on gun ownership of any kind. If I want an Uzi, I should have one, even if I'm a felon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wrestling with the Darkness

On November 8, Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) tried to commit suicide. The Speaker released a statement that a deep depression had led to his suicide attempt. Two days after the story broke, and eight days after he tried to take his life, the 911 tape of his mother calling for help was released. Apparently, the Speaker took sleeping pills, and then decided he'd call his mother to say good-bye. That indicates to me that a part of him wanted to be stopped, or he wouldn't have called.

My immediate reaction upon hearing the news, followed seconds later by deep shame, was that it was a pity Richardson did not succeed in his suicide attempt. The immediate shame came from being someone who knows exactly what kind of anguish would lead a person to contemplate suicide, and someone who knows what's its like for loved ones left behind. As despicable as I find Glenn Richardson to be as a politician, and no matter how much I think his ideas on how the world should work disgusting, mean spirited and cruel, he is still a human being in a tremendous amount of pain. He is arguably the 2nd most powerful man in state government after the governor, but even he felt life was not worth it.

The police report states that they found him in the master bath, sitting on the edge of the tub, with a .357 Magnum in front of him on the sink. He was semi-conscious and unresponsive to commands. The Speaker had written two suicide notes which were beside him as well.

To be filed in the category of "Maybe Republicans Do Have a Human Heart", there has been no move to force Richardson out of the Speaker's chair. The comments from the public, though, have not been so kind. There have been many people who say that running the State House of Representatives at a time of budget crisis is too much for someone who is depressed and has suicidal tendencies. They have spoken of depression as disqualifying mental disorder for any significant public trust.

These people commenting obviously have no idea what it's like to suffer from depression.

When you are depressed, it's like a heavy blanket is surrounding you every moment you are awake. Your heart FEELS heavier, and the thought of actually going out, interacting with people, getting out of bed, getting dressed, etc just seems to require way too much energy. Everything looks gray. Sometimes your body can ache. It's nothing like growing pains, or aches you have when you're sick with the flu. It's a very subtle ache, but it's very real, and the burden of it is oppressive. Much of the time, it feels like you are moving in slow motion. Your thoughts are slower, your movements are slower. People around you may not notice these things, but in your depressed mind, that is what you experience.

The depressed mind stops caring about things. You begin to not care what you look like, smell like, or when you'll eat. The future looks bleak, and all you can see on the road ahead of you is more of the same. This whole cycle will feed on itself unless you get help. Of course, even getting help does not guarantee you will get better, but it does give you the tools to fight the encroaching emotional darkness. This may be the step that Glenn Richardson did not take. As the GOP House Speaker, seeking psychiatric help would probably not go over well in the "Daddy Party" where everyone tries to outshine each other with their jingoistic patriotism, Godliness, and general "manhood". Of course, now that he's attempted suicide, there's not a decent human being who would argue the Speaker shouldn't get help.

Another irony is that the Speaker brought on the circumstances surrounding his descent into depression and despair himself. He is the one who is rumored to have had a notorious affair with the chief lobbyist of Georgia Power. If he's like other Georgia power-brokers, he was chasing tail all over Atlanta just because he could. Unlike most political wives, the former Mrs. Richardson wouldn't tolerate it, and divorced him. It was this divorce that started his spiral into despair.

My father's birthday was yesterday. Had he not committed suicide in 2001, he would have been 59 years old. His birthday had me thinking about Speaker Richardson, and how my dad planned an attempt on his life that I foiled before he succeeded. My hope is that Richardson, his friends, family, and coworkers, don't think this is over for him. Just because everyone will be watching him more closely now that he's actually attempted to take his life doesn't mean the danger has passed. My father fooled not only his family, but his psychiatrist and counselor into thinking he'd turned a corner. That corner, represented by a sense of peace and greater levity of spirit, turned out to be nothing more than a final decision and foolproof plan to kill himself. Most people who commit suicide seem to get better right before they end their life, mostly because they see a certain end to their anguish.

My dad's birthday, and Speaker Richardson's suicide attempt have made me think of my own struggles with depression. It's been a cyclical thing with me, with a major depression appearing about every 10 years. According to my psychiatrist, that kind of cycling is highly unusual. Usually, people with depression see their cycles get more intense and closer to one another, especially without treatment. Having a pattern of a major depression every 10 years is unusual, and it figures that I'd be the exception to some kind of rule.

One thing that frustrates me is that I'm very aware of what's going on when I have a little depressive cycle, or when I slide into a major depression. I've learned enough over the years to see the signs. I had hoped that taking anti-depressants would break the cycle, but no such luck. First, there's the insomnia which wreaks havoc with your mental capabilities over time even without depression. Then there is the lethargy, related to the exhaustion of not getting enough sleep. Then the feeling of heaviness, darkness, and approaching gloom followed by despair. Even when you know the things you feel are irrational and not true, it doesn't stop you from feeling them. At least that is my experience. I've always had the "talent" (not sure this is the right word for it) of being quite aware intellectually of my emotions. I've been able to largely name them, describe them (at least to myself), and even know when the emotions are irrational, unfounded, and not based in reality. Yet, I have not been able to control those emotions. Usually, I have to wait for them to pass.

Depression is not quite so easily dispatched. You have to force yourself out of bed. You have to force yourself to do the things you know you NEED to be doing. Living alone doesn't make that task easy. Even having two wonderful dogs that depend on me doesn't make it easier. It also doesn't help that my depression (in its current form) has fixated on my inability to find a boyfriend, let alone a partner to build a life with. Intellectually, I know this is silly. I'm only 34, and while I would have thought I'd be long settled down by now, I'm far from being without hope. Yet that is the very place I find myself desperately trying to not reach...a place of hopelessness that I'll ever find someone. Intellectually, I know it's silly, and I haven't met the right guy yet. Intellectually, I'm pretty sure it will happen. Emotionally, though, doubt, panic, despair, longing, loneliness, and hopelessness have all conspired together in one big ball of Depression Nasty to try to bring me down.

Some days are better than others, and on some days the beast seems to have gone into hibernation. Usually, when I'm around friends or at work, the monster sleeps. Although people can say something to awaken him at any time. But make no mistake - it is a struggle. Like every person with depression, I wrestle with the darkness because I refuse to let it overtake me. I've been lucky that I've learned some skills in conducting this fight. Most importantly, the experience of my father's suicide has taken such a path off the proverbial table for me. I can't imagine forgetting what it does to friends and family when a person commits suicide. I hope things never do get that bad. My father got to a place where he believed that everyone was truly better off without him. He was blind to the pain he was about to inflict on us all. He gave into the darkness.

I never will because I can't.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats 2009 Endorsements

As a board member of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, I wanted to share our press release regarding endorsements in Atlanta city elections, along with the special election in State House District 58 and Decatur City Commission. I believe the release speaks for itself.


Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 – ATLANTA – Atlanta Stonewall Democrats announces endorsed candidates in Atlanta Mayor and City Council races as well as State House District 58.

Our Process: Candidates for Mayor, City Council President, City Council, Decatur Commission, School Board and State House District 58 were sent an email upon closing of qualifying for their respective offices directing them to where they could find the 2009 Endorsement Questionnaire from Atlanta Stonewall Democrats (ASD). While some candidates chose not to seek our support, many others did. The answers to our questions revealed a broad spectrum of responses, not only on LGBT Equality issues, but also on questions regarding knowledge of their district, the problems to be solved, and what they as an elected official would and could do to address the needs o f their constituents.

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats was generally pleased with the candidate responses. Indeed, in some races there was more than one excellent candidate. The focus among almost all candidates seemed to be on Public Safety/Crime and Economic Development/Jobs. Although responses and approaches to these two areas varied, there was a general feeling that nearly all candidates in the various races understand the overwhelming pressure and influence these two issues are placing on our city’s residents, elected officials and civil service employees.

Some candidates did falter on an overall understanding of the LGBT communities and the fact that our communities share a common interest with other Atlanta communities. Focusing solely on LGBT issues would be appropriate if LGBT issues were ASD’s only mission. But it is important to know that the members of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats not only advocate for LGBT Equality inside the Democratic Party, we are also involved in matters of equality and fairness for all. We are actively connected to the Democratic Party and to the diverse coalitions that make up the Atlanta Progressive Community. Some of the candidates recognized this connection and addressed their responses in a way that showed ASD’s board that they clearly understood the overall mission of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats. Sadly, other candidates did not.

The Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is dedicated to engaging in conversation with traditionally Democratic constituency groups and potential allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that the road to equality must be paved by fair-minded Democrats.

The work of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is based on a long-term strategy, rooted in coalition-building and grassroots organizing, to move us forward in building a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

We are an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, a nation-wide, grassroots federation of more than 90 other LGBT Democratic chapters. We are committed to working closely with other LGBT organizations, along with our allies in progressive communities and traditionally Democratic constituency groups to build a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

After much deliberation, and a thorough review of answers from candidates, the board of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is pleased to offer the following endorsements in advance of elections to be held on November 3rd, 2009:


ASD was impressed with the problem-solving ideas put forward by many of the candidates for Mayor, but one candidate stood out not only in presenting his forward-thinking solutions for the ills and concerns of the City of Atlanta, but in a knowledge of and past dedication to the LGBT Communities and concern for the greater good of all Georgians.

Kasim Reed has spent the last 11 years representing Atlanta in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. During that time in office, he has a 100% voting record from Georgia Equality and other LGBT-advocacy organizations. He has delivered concrete results and advanced progressive policies to level the playing field and give more protections to the LGBT community. As a State Representative, he was the chief House sponsor for Georgia’s Hate Crimes Bill that included protections for LGBT individuals, and fought to keep those protections over the objections of a number of Republican and Democratic legislators. He secured state funding for an LGBT tourism study for the City of Atlanta, and feels that Atlanta needs to invest in more aggressive marketing to solidify Atlanta’s standing as an LGBT destination in light of strong competition from other cities. He also believes that Atlanta should have an entertainment district that would allow us to truly be a 24 hour international city.

We are aware that Kasim has stated his support of civil unions with full benefits. However, Kasim has proven his commitment to full legal equality for same sex couples when he led the effort in the State Senate against the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. He has also been a key ally working with Rep. Karla Drenner to stop attempts to ban gay adoption in Georgia. During the last legislative session, he sponsored and passed legislation that now requires Georgia to test prisoners exiting the state’s penal system for HIV/AIDS and to provide counseling. This will help prisoners know their health status and seek the help they need before they are released. Kasim’s statement on the Eagle raid made clear that he would not tolerate a police department that violates the civil rights of any citizen. He vows to continue to work equally as hard when Mayor to ensure that LGBT citizens are all treated fairly and equally.

What earns Kasim our endorsement in a race where nearly all the candidates voice support for LGBT equality is performance over promises. We value his strong record in the legislature, his status as one who can bring a fresh, outsider’s vision to a city government that has largely broken down, and his proven ability to establish productive relationships with a Republican state legislature and governor. As Atlanta attempts to recover from the current financial struggles, Kasim’s solid leadership, proven results and knowledge of all levels of government are what Atlanta needs in a Mayor.

Kasim has also received the endorsement of the Atlanta Progressive Firefighters; openly lesbian State Rep. Karla Drenner; State Representatives Kathy Ashe, Roger Bruce, Rashad Taylor, and Rahn Mayo; State Senators Horacena Tate, Nan Orrock, David Adelman, Valencia Seay, and Minority Leader Robert Brown; the Sunday Paper; Ambassador Andrew Young; and the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council AFL-CIO.


Caesar Mitchell is currently a City Councilman At-Large. He has long worked to cultivate a strong relationship with LGBT Atlantans, promoting various non-profit and civic engagements devoted to civil rights. Caesar is strongly committed to protecting existing domestic-partner benefits for Atlanta city employees, while also working proactively to urge the state Legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation. Caesar also recognizes that the city has room for improvement in how it supports transgender Atlantans through municipal policies, and supports improving those policies as City Council President.


Adam brings a forward thinking, fresh outlook to City operations. Having organizational experience from his IBM career, he is already proposing ways to make the City Council and its operations more open, honest and transparent for city residents. A well qualified candidate, who happens to be gay, he is one of the more impressive and aggressive thinkers on the campaign trail. With his ear to the ground from neighborhood meetings and community involvement, he has focused on what people want: safer streets, a city government that can manage its finances, and productive, efficient and responsive services. His expertise in analyzing the efficiency of government service delivery will be a welcome addition to the Council.

Adam has received the endorsement of the Victory Fund.


Aaron has served on the Atlanta School Board both as a member and as Board President. He has proven his commitment to equality in this difficult arena as well as scored 100% on our survey. His Board service also included chairing the critical Finance Committee and overseeing an annual operating budget of $450 million and a capital improvement budget of $430 million, funds used to build new schools, renovate decaying ones, and install modern information technology for all students. Aaron’s elected office experience shows how he understands budgeting, the effective implementation of accountability standards and the need to fulfill a group leadership role. Since his school board service, Aaron has most recently been working on the challenges of establishing sensible transportation options. He seeks to link neighborhoods, promote smart land use, controlled housing density and establishing protected green space.


LaShawn has received recognition as one of Atlanta's most distinguished young civic leaders. He is a consummate community advocate who also serves as the CEO of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association, one of the more successful neighborhood-based community development corporations. He is a former chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-V and has served on numerous community boards in both Atlanta and Fulton County, including the local school council boards for C.L. Gideons Elementary School and W.L. Parks Middle School and the Atlanta Citizen Review Board. In addition to scoring 100% on our survey, LaShawn brings true grassroots energy and leadership abilitiesto a Council that could use a good dose of both.


Since the election of Cathy Woolard to this seat in 1997, District 6 has been known as the “Gay Seat” on City Council. With 6 candidates in the race, three of them gay, there is no guarantee that the seat will remain “gay”. LGBT voters need to consider not just the sexual orientation of a candidate, but who is qualified and can win. We believe Steve Brodie is the strongest candidate in this race, having run in 2005 and coming within a handful of votes of election. He is a gay candidate who has been actively involved in issues that directly affect the interest of the voters, gay and straight: public safety, zoning, land use, the BeltLine, and the budgeting process. He has worked to prioritize public safety for major events in Piedmont Park, fix miles of sidewalks, and he successfully represented the neighborhood positions on land use issues. Steve played a significant leadership role in the start-up of the Safety Committee and Neighborhood Watch Program in Candler Park, and was a leader and fundraiser for the Midtown “Light the Streets” program. Many candidates who run for public office and do not win often get discouraged and disappear. Steve Brodie has remained deeply engaged in the community and the District he seeks to represent.

Another issue of concern in the District is a vibrant nightlife. When Steve was first elected to the MNA Board of Directors and the NPU-E Board as the representative for Midtown, both boards had a strong contingency that were dedicated to the closure of gay bars. He was a forceful advocate for complete cessation of these actions and was able to create a majority to take all closure/harassment actions off the agendas of the organizations. He spoke out when anti-gay activists directly attacked African-American LGBT citizens in Piedmont Park on Sundays, even though some thought his position put him at political risk.

Although our constituency forms the heart of District 6, Steve is not just an LGBT advocate. He understands that the issue of crime affects all residents, and has a track record of working successfully on this issue. As a city council member, he will be best able to move the levers of city government to keep those issues on the front burner of the new Council and Mayor’s agenda. Of all the candidates, he has done the best job of laying out specific ideas on public safety and suggesting concrete actions needed to fund improvements.

Steve has received the endorsement of the Atlanta Police Union, and the Sunday Paper.


Simone is running for the recently vacated District 58 seat that serves portions of incorporated east-central Atlanta in both Fulton and DeKalb counties, plus adjacent portions of unincorporated DeKalb County. She has been a resident of Atlanta for 20 years and of District 58 for 10 years. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and has spent the majority of her working life as a community organizer with local non-profit organizations.

Simone has worked as an activist and advocate in Atlanta and across the South for more than 20 years. Her education and work in health care, experience advocating for women’s health, African American and LGBT rights at ZAMI, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and Lambda Legal have all given her the tools and perspective to advocate on behalf of the residents of District 58. When elected, Simone will be the first openly gay African-American woman State Representative in the United States. Considering her experience, broad knowledge of quality of life issues, commitment to the under-represented and community involvement, Simone is uniquely ready for this position.

She has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality and Victory Fund.


At the age of 32, Kyle is already an accomplished community leader. He has held leadership positions in groups like the Red Clay Democrats and Generation Green. In addition, Kyle served on Georgia Equality’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007, eventually serving as president his final year. As an attorney, Kyle has been recognized three times as a Georgia “Rising Star” in Litigation, Land Use and Zoning by Georgia “Super Lawyer” and Atlanta Magazine. Southern Voice named him one of the top 20 young gay leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Kyle hopes to advance his ideas to modernize Decatur and bring innovation to the City Commission. He is a candidate with solid credentials and is devoted to LGBT equality. The Commission is currently one of the more effective local governing bodies and it would take a lot for a new member to be quickly productive and contribute. We believe Kyle has the credentials and the vision necessary to not only serve but be a stand out.

Kyle has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality, Victory Fund, and Log Cabin Republicans.

At this time there are some contested races where we found incomplete or unverifiable information and our decision was to not make an endorsement. This should not be interpreted as a positive or negative reflection on the candidates and we will continue to monitor these contests and assess any need to revisit evaluations.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Support LGBT Federal Employees! Support the New Definition of Family!

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has proposed a change to the definition of “Family” to include same sex domestic partners so that LGBT employees can use vacation and sick leave just as straight people can. These changes would implement Section 1 of President Obama's June 17, 2009 Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination and ensure that agencies are considering the needs of a widely diverse workforce and providing the broadest support possible to employees to help them balance their increasing work, personal, and family obligations. I’m sure once the right learns that comments are open through 11:59 pm on November 13, they will be all over it. So we have to make sure our folks are writing in too!

You may submit comments, identified by RIN number ``3206-AL93,'' using either of the following methods:
  1. Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  2. US Mail: Jerome D. Mikowicz, Deputy Associate Director, Center for Pay and Leave Administration, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Room 7H31, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20415-8200.

The text of the changes are below. If you go to and put in any of the following, it should get you there:

  1. Document ID: OPM_FRDOC_0001-0338
  2. Docket ID: OPM_FRDOC_0001
  3. Document Type: proposed rules
  4. “Absence and Leave; sick leave

If you choose to comment, you will be asked to fill in your name, etc. I filled it out as “citizen” since I am speaking for myself, but it does ask you to list an organization even if you are commenting as a citizen. I’m a bit confused by this, and wonder if it’s not a programming error on the site. However, I would propose for people who aren’t comfortable with putting “Young Democrats” , "Stonewall Democrats", or even "Democratic Party" as the organization, perhaps retype “Citizen” or “US Citizen” in the organization blank so that your comment goes through.

Please support the Obama Administration and leave positive comments supporting these changes. If you have ways to make the changes stronger, suggest them. Either way, we need to really support President Obama and openly-gay OPM Director John Berry for making this first step toward LGBT equality in the federal government.

OPM's proposed regulations would amend the definition of family member in
part 630, subparts B (Definitions and General Provisions for Annual Leave and
Sick Leave) and I (Voluntary Leave Transfer) and immediate relative in subpart H
(Funeral Leave); and include new definitions for committed relationship,
domestic partner, parent, and son or daughter. We are also making conforming
changes to subparts J (Voluntary Leave Bank Program) and K (Emergency Leave
Transfer Program) because both subparts reference the current definition of
family member. The definitions are being changed as follows.

The current definition of family member at 5 CFR 630.201 and 5 CFR 630.902
reads-- ``Family member means the following relatives of the
employee: (1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Children, including adopted children and spouses thereof; (3) Parents; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; and (5) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

We are modifying the definition of family member to include domestic
partners, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Our proposed definition reads-- ``Family member means an
individual with any of the following relationships to the employee: ``(1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Sons and daughters, and spouses thereof; (3) Parents,
and spouses thereof; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; (5) grandparents and grandchildren, and spouses thereof; (6) Domestic partner, including domestic partners of any individual in paragraphs (2)-(5) of this definition;
and (7) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

We are also defining the terms committed relationship, domestic partner,
parent, and son or daughter. The proposed definition of domestic partner
reads-- ``Domestic partner means an adult in a committed
relationship with another adult, including both same sex and opposite sex
relationships. Committed relationship means that the employee,
and the domestic partner of the employee, are each other's sole domestic partner
(and are not married to or domestic partners with anyone else); and share
responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare and
financial obligations. This includes, but is not limited to, any relationship
between two individuals of the same or opposite sex that is granted legal
recognition by a state or by the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous
relationship (including, but not limited to a civil union).

The proposed definition of parent reads-- ``Parent means-- (1) A biological, adoptive, step, or foster parent of the employee, or a person who was a foster parent of the employee when the employee was a minor; (2) A person who is the legal guardian of the employee or was the legal guardian of the employee when the employee was a minor or required a legal guardian; or (3) A person who stands in loco parentis to the employee or stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis. (4) A parent, as described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition, of an employee's domestic partner.''

Finally, we are also proposing a definition of son or daughter, which
reads-- ``Son or daughter means-- (1) A biological, adopted, step, or foster son or daughter of the employee; (2) A person who is a legal ward or was a legal
ward of the employee when that individual was a minor or required a legal
guardian; (3) A person for whom the employee stands in loco parentis or stood in loco parentis when that individual was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis; or (4) A son or daughter, as described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition, of an employee's domestic partner.''

We are also proposing a new definition of immediate relative for the
purposes of funeral leave under subpart H, which uses the same categories of
relationship as the definition of family member. In order to be consistent with
the definition of family member of subparts B and I, we are also taking the
opportunity to write the definition of immediate relative in the present tense
and to define immediate relative by relationship to the employee rather that by
relationship to the deceased. The proposed definition reads--
``Immediate relative means an individual with any of the following relationships
to the employee: (1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Sons and daughters, and spouses thereof; (3) Parents, and spouses thereof; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; (5) Grandparents and grandchildren and spouses thereof; (6)
Domestic partner, including domestic partners of any individual in paragraphs
(2)-(5) of this definition; and (7) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

In the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program regulations in 5 CFR part 630,
subpart I, we are proposing the same change to the definition of family member
and the addition of the same definitions of committed relationship, domestic
partner, parent, and son or daughter as we are proposing in 5 CFR 630.201. In
the voluntary leave bank and emergency leave transfer programs, we are
referencing the changes we are making in the definitions section of the
voluntary leave transfer program.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What did Lesbians Ever Do to Atlanta Cotillion?!?

The Atlanta Cotillion has always been a fun event. For several years, the Young Democrats had an unofficial table organized by current DNC Member from Georgia Page Gleason. I chose to pay extra in order to wear a tux mostly because I make one ugly woman, and I wasn't sure that the sitting President of the Young Democrats of Georgia (2007-09) should be photographed in full on drag. The heterosexual men at our table all dressed as ladies for the occasion, to some hilarity as well as surprise at how pretty a woman some of them made! It was all for a good cause, supporting AID Atlanta in its work preventing HIV infection as well as supporting those who have HIV/AIDS.

This year, a very good friend of mine decided to become a Cotillion Debutante. Debutantes are generally "tapped" by a member of the previous year's class and are men who have not done drag before. They make up a name, a history, and then spend the late spring and summer hosting fundraisers for their "cause". There is a competition to raise the most money, as that Debutante is crowned Queen. My friend John Michael Roch chose the name Liberty Belle O'Hara as a nod to his heritage as a yankee from Philly, as well as a nod to his "drag mother" who tapped him for Cotillion, whose last name was O'Hara.

John not only set an ambitious goal for his fundraising, he spent many hours and a lot of his own money pursuing the fundraising parties that fuel the Atlanta Cotillion fundraising. He has made good headway in meeting his goal, with the last hurdle being getting people to buy tickets off of his fundraising page for the Cotillion itself on Sept 19. And for folks feeling the pinch of this recession, he's asked for them to just give whatever they could afford.


I have been asked, in the strongest terms possible, to remove this post in its entirety. It turns out that the Cotillion board did not make the decision referred to the original post. The co-chairs did, and the "bylaws" which I suppose the mean the handbook, specifically state that "gentlemen" must be the escorts. So for now, I just ask you donate to John's deb page.

However, I am accurately quoted by Southern Voice:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Difference Without a Real Distinction

Today, the proposition was laid before me that the consumer or collector of child pornography was a far lesser criminal than the actual child molester. After all, the consumer of child porn was not actually touching a child. My initial reaction was that this person was trying to split hairs where the difference in the two crimes was not that important. Quite frankly, his notion offended and angered me.

There was a rationality to his argument. After all, the consumer of child pornography is not actually TOUCHING a child. However, what that person is doing is just as bad. The consumer of child porn is still violating a child. It is his (I'm sure women can be child porn consumers too, but I'm going to stick with the male pronoun.) sexual desire for children that creates the market for actual child molesters to thrive. I believe that every time someone consumes a piece of child porn, they are violating that particular child all over again, even if they never physically touch that child. They are creating and expanding a demand for children to be victimized. After all, the child porn cannot be created without a child being TOUCHED by someone.

Just because he is not the one touching the child, he is not absolved of his involvement in the crime. Neither is his crime THAT much less severe than the actual child molester that it warrants a distinction. The child molester and the child porn consumer are two peas in a pod. Yes, they are different, but not different enough to make a real difference. Every piece of child porn that is consumed resulted in the physical violation of the child. It doesn't matter that he wasn't the one doing the touching. It's really only a matter of time until he does actually touch a child. That's the harsh reality.

Perhaps my vehemence is related to my own molestation by a stranger at age 11. I managed to overcome the shame and guilt, and the suspicion planted by my church at the time that it was God's punishment of me for having homosexual thoughts as my body plunged into puberty. My molester was never caught, although I'm pretty sure that had the internet been as developed then as it is now, he certainly would have had quite the collection of child porn.

My friend was dead wrong in his presumption. The child molester and the consumer of child porn are two sides of the same horrible coin.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Leaving YDG in Safe Hands

Contested elections can be an envigorating thing, but they always make me nervous. Perhaps it is because I usually lost contested elections in high school. The one exception was the year that I beat a basketball star for the post of Treasurer of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (Yes, I can sense your snide remarks!) It could also be that the contested elections I've seen as an adult have usually descended into bitterness, acrimony, and recriminations that last long after the vote has been held.

The chance for nastiness in the race to succeed me as President of the Young Democrats of Georgia was particularly high because of the participation of Brad Barnes who I believe has shown on more than one occassion in his home town an ability and eagerness to play dirty to get what he wants. In Rome, his manipulations were more easily successful, although even there, the only thing he truly won was control of his local chapter. That he was trying to take his "show" statewide alarmed me more than I can ever relay.

What's so wrong with Brad? When he first came around, we were thrilled to just have someone up in Rome, GA working with young democrats. He provided us with membership lists and always talked about different activities going on. There was no reason to not believe him at the time. My biggest wake-up call came at the Macon convention last year when Brad tried to derail all the reforms I was attempting to pass in how YDG was structured and operated. He did this despite having been part of the management group that worked with our consultant as part of the GO Grant. He knew why the reforms were happening, and he'd never raised a single objection. He also had ample opportunity to provide feedback at a Charter and Bylaws Convention or even via emails since I made no secret of my intentions. Yet, there he was, having not even bothered to show up to the Charter and Bylaws committee meeting at convention, challenging me on the floor and trying his damnedest to derail carefully considered reforms.

His behavior infuriated me, especially after he lost the argument when I got the 2/3 vote I needed to pass the reforms and then turned around and got himself elected as the North GA Regional Representative, a position he had just fought so hard to stop. However, I was aware now that Brad was secretive, not a team player, and would work to undermine my administration for whatever personal reasons he had.

It did not take long for Brad's behavior in Rome to become known to me. I received an official complaint from the Floyd County Democratic Party about a smear campaign being run by my Vice President of Membership, complete with affidavits and evidence. The thing was, the smears were carried about by my VP of Membership, but the whole plan was put together by Brad, who was smart enough to give him plausible deniability by leaving his direct fingerprints off the whole matter. There were threats of lawsuits being filed, but I quietly issued a reprimand to my VP of Membership and let the matter drop. No lawsuits were filed. The whole scandal was over a race for Clerk of Court, and Brad was trying to flex his muscles with the county party after he'd tried and failed to take them over. So his campaign spread smears and rumors about this poor man (who turned out to be the uncle of another officer at Georgia Tech, and the father of the UGA Finance Chair) and defeated him on primary election day.

It was around this time that actual elections were held for the Rome YD chapter, and it ended up that Brad lost control. Yet, he cried foul, screamed bloody murder, and spread lies about the subversion of democracy to demand an election do-over. The person who had beat him agreed just to end the raging controversy. Brad, however, was not finished with him yet. Part of his smear campaign against this guy was to spread rumors that he not only had AIDS but was trying to spread it and other STDs around the Rome area. Rome, GA is not a large city. The people with roots there know each other well, and it's a conservative area. Spreading these kinds of false rumors is bad enough in Midtown Atlanta where there are enough HIV+ people around that you can feel safe just living your life. But to spread this in a rural, conservative town? That was reckless and dangerous. I even had someone write out by hand that Brad had told him this specific rumor personally in case I ever needed it.

The "redo" election happened, and Brad got his brother to bus in all of his GOP-leaning friends, none of whom paid dues that anyone can tell. Brad got the treasurer of his group to refuse to allow his opponent to pay dues in an attempt to claim he wasn't a member of the chapter. In the end, Brad won back his chapter...and then promptly skipped the STATE to go work for Obama in Pennsylvania. He disappeared for months, and left his chapter so divided and ruined that they were useless in our #1 targeted state house district. Our candidate lost in a year he should have won, and if Brad hadn't destroyed his chapter for personal gain, it's likely the work that needed to be done by the YDs would have made the difference.

After that episode, I was done with Brad. He cares only about personal power and aggrandizement, doesn't follow established rules and procedures, shows a willingness to destroy whatever he can't control, and lies with an ease and casualness that exposes a very dark soul. I am no Polyanna when it comes to politics. You often have to fight hard, and rough, to get your way. But there is an unspoken code of conduct that people are expected to honor. Brad shows no willingness to follow any code of conduct at all. In fact, during the whole dust-up with the Clerk of Court primary there, I had more than one person from Rome tell me that Brad "is a cancer on the body politic." That's pretty serious. Usually, you hear opponents derided as idiots, dolts, assclowns, etc. But calling someone a CANCER ON THE BODY POLITIC takes it to whole new level that sends shivers down my spine. However, I have come to agree with that assessment.

This was the person who was trying to succeed me. Of course, true to form, he had no intention of announcing until the last minute. I suppose he thinks that no one talks to me about anything, or that I don't reach out to many different people to know what's going on in my organization and state. I suppose he thought I'd be caught by surprise at his announcement, or the rumors that he was going to bus in 60 people to vote for him. He even refused to participate in our room block at the hotel to keep us guessing.

After many discussions with many different people, I had decided to support Jane Bradshaw, my National Committeewoman, to succeed me. She has deep Georgia roots (over 7 generations), has worked as a paid member of a campaign staff as well as a paid legal counsel for the state House Democrats. She's bright, hard working, and understands the organization. She gets what the Young Voter Revolution is all about... empowering our generation and turning them into Democrats! She was an Obama delegate to the DNC in Denver last year, and people in the party know and like her. I felt that she was a strong contender to responsibily take over from me, and I wasn't alone. So Jane announced after I opened nominations, and seemingly ran unopposed while Brad was scurrying around the state whispering the mantra of "change" to undo the "cabal" in Atlanta that I had formed. Or something equally stupid.

Sure enough, Brad announced the last day of qualifying. He actually emailed me his declaration with 3 hours to spare, which did surprise me because I fully expected him to wait until 5-10 minutes before the deadline. I suppose he did not want to chance something happening in cyberspace to delay his email. Also at the last minute, George Seaborough, who had been our paid staffer in Savannah for the fall 2008 campaign, announced for Executive Vice President (EVP). I found that declaration strange since he had not spoken to anyone about running for anything. Usually, people do not just come out of the blue and announce for something without at least talking to others first. Turns out, he had talked... to Brad.

The campaign was mostly one of whispers, but luckily, enough people had had interaction with Brad that there was no way they would vote to turn the organization over to him. Still, I worried. Despite our best organizational efforts, it was possible to legally come in and take over the convention and work your will. We had to outdo Brad, and that's what we did. True to form, he didn't even follow the simple rules we had for convention. He did not turn in any credentials until the last minute, and I'm betting a good number of the people listed are not legitmate members, let alone Democrats.

On Friday, April 17, the convention opened. We had a rules meeting where we passed rules that would have prevented Brad from disrupting the convention. I had a Parliamentarian and the Judicial Council ready to respond to any controversies that Brad might stir up. Knowing how he craves his own aggrandizement, I had to prepare for about anything. It was like preparing for a trial! My legal education came in handy.

The "candidate debates" became a social after it was clear no one wanted to listen to speeches, and the candidates present were mingling. Of course, Brad and George (who by this time were running mates), showed up very late, and handed out plastic cups with their pictures plastered on them. As usual, Brad showed up looking like a slob. His weight is not the issue, because I have known many people who are much heavier than he is who managed to still look neat and put together. More often than not, Brad's idea of dressing up is a new pair of "stretchy pants" and a dress shirt that's untucked and usually has food stains on it.

George looked good and campaigned hard. I liked a lot of his ideas, but by hitching his wagon to Brad, he had destroyed any chance that many of us might have considered his candidacy seriously. When you associate with trash, the stink inevitably rubs off on you. But his opponent, Katie, is not a natural campaigner (which I COMPLETELY relate to) so there was anxiety that people would vote for Jane and then for George.

Saturday morning, I discovered my Credentials Chair was not going to make it. She had suggested that I use someone from her chapter to replace her. That I would not do, because I knew that a challenge had been filed regarding the Rome Chapter's credentials, should they ever be turned in. I was upset at first until I realized that I could appoint my predecessor in the Presidency, Billy Joyner. He has experience working through difficult issues like this through committee, and it turned out to be my best appointment.

Billy had control of the meeting from the start. A crowd had gathered, knowing that something big was likely to go down at the meeting. He methodically went through all the credentials, and gave people chances to correct and update them. Then he pulled out the challenged that had been written up earlier in the week outlining all the charges I've discussed earlier. The challenge asked that Rome's credentials be denied, which basically strips them of their charter. That is when all hell broke loose.

Carry from Savannah State (who now lives in Chattanooga) rose up to decry the charges, the attack on democracy, our lack of love for fellow democrats, etc. It was a loud, bravado performance that turned most people off. At first, Brad tried his wide-eyed innocent routine, and then he tried to throw my VP Membership under the bus by claiming he was shocked SHOCKED that such an underhanded thing had been done. But then my VP Membership stood up and implicated Brad quite clearly. It was at this point where Brad started demanding evidence of wrongdoing. That's usually what happens when we catch him in a lie, he goes from the doe-eyed innocent to a calculated stare and some variation of "You don't have the proof." It's interesting that he never denies it, but just states you don't have the evidence to tie him to anything.

What was happening in that room was a very public political humiliation. We did have evidence, which was printed and circulated... and everyone knew in their hearts that Brad was guilty as sin. As it got more heated, eventually the challenge was withdrawn. But the damage was done. Brad was exposed for the fraud he is.

After the meeting, Brad, face flushed with rage, asked me when I had found out about the charges. I casually told him that we'd received the challenge earlier in the week. He retorted, "And you didn't think you should notify me?" I looked at him and responded, "The challenge was addressed to me and the committee. I saw no reason to act on it until the committee met." Privately, I thought, "And why would I give you a heads up so that you could just craft more lies?"

By this time, we were heading to the floor of convention for General Session. We started off with general announcements and then committee reports. One big surprise for me was a resolution that thanked me for my service as President. It was very nice and flattering, and touched my heart. As it was announced, the convention gave me a standing ovation. I never expected such a show of thanks and love. I've never felt more appreciated in all my life. I'm usually not speechless, but I was at that point. I'm luckily, I didn't cry.

We saved Charter and Bylaws for last since that was the most controversial. We had two proposals for maps. One was a 5 region map that created two HUGE South Georgia districts and the other was a more equitable 6 region map. However, to get 6 regions with votes on Exec, we had to eliminate one of the 15 Exec votes that existed. The management consultant was pretty clear that going above 15 exponentially decreased the effectiveness of your board, so I felt the one most easy to get rid of was the rotating caucus vote. That was the part I knew would be controversial, and it was. We managed to table the discussion to move on to elections.

Luckily, President was voted first. As the votes came in, it was obvious that Brad was going to lose, and lose badly. Georgia Tech's chapter put Jane over the top, and she ended up winning 147-45. The only reason Brad got that many votes was due to the distance weights for himself, University of West GA, Chatham County, and Savannah State. But the will of the convention was clearly to reject him and his politics.

The next office was EVP. Atlanta chapter had decided to throw nearly all their votes to George to "punish" Katie for not supporting their guy for Regional Director. UPDATE: Apparently, I was misinformed. While Katie told Nikema she was not going to vote for Nikema's finance for Metro Atlanta Region Director, Nikema did not discuss that with the chapter or engineer a "punishment." Therefore, I stand corrected! UGA then had an unusually high number of abstentions that resulted in Katie being ahead at the end, but not enough to win. UGA then amended its vote to put Katie over the top.

The next move was for George to throw Haley Shank under the bus. She had recruited him to run for EVP because she didn't think Katie was a strong enough leader for EVP. Haley, however, could not attend convention due to being in a community place and was having to campaign from afar. That did not go well. Stephen Ratner from Emory was also running, but he was relatively new. Atlanta opened the floor and nominated George. He had previously promised to support Haley even if he lost, but he saw his chance and took it. He squeaked through to victory over Stephen, draining all votes that might have gone to Haley.

Daniel was unopposed for his office, but Savannah State, Chatham, and Rome decided to be bitchy and deny the convention the ability to elect by acclamation. They didn't bother putting up even a token candidate. They just made everyone go through role call as a way to "punish" Daniel. Talk about not knowing how to win friends and influence people. First, the screaming fit in Credentials, and now needlessly dragging out elections. The body was NOT pleased, and showed it by moving to have 1 minute voting periods (eventually became 5 seconds) for the uncontested races. I suppose they got satisfaction out of it, but they sure left a bad impression with everyone else.

When it came to Secretary, we also had a bit of drama. We knew the two declared candidates were nonstarters. One was Brad's minion from Rome, and the other was absent. We fully intended to nominate and elect from the floor. A guy from UGA named Carter offered himself as Secretary and we went with it. The interesting thing was that Brad's minion came up for his speech and withdrew trying to mumble about dirty politics or something. The result was that Carter won all but 10 votes.

Treasurer, National Commiteeman and National Committeewoman were all uncontested, but we slated them and then had a 5 second vote before sending forth vote totals for all three offices. The Savannah State-Chatham-Rome petulant section offered up varying degrees of "abstentions" to show displeasure. Apparently, Nikema was the one they liked best because she got the fewest abstentions.

Then we returned to the maps. Everyone was all up in arms as we broke into regions to discuss the maps and getting rid of the rotating caucus vote on Exec. The compromise was to open the slippery slope of adding a vote without taking one away. So now Exec has 16 votes on it. I didn't care as much in the end, although I found the arguments of "disenfranchisement" and "robbing the voice" of the caucuses to be childish and immature. In a fit of pique when I was approached by the Women's Caucus Chair about adjourning in time for her program, I snapped, "I don't know! I don't care. You can suck it." Not my proudest moment.

Then, it was over. We adjourned, went into regional caucus, and elected Regional Directors. But I had made it, and the right people had largely been elected. The unmitigated disaster of a Brad Barnes presidency was averted.

At dinner that night, I could finally relax. Senator Max Cleland was our featured speaker, and he was magnificant. We got to eat dinner with him, although there wasn't much talking at the table. Jane Kidd, the Democratic Part of Georgia chair, gave a very nice speech too. We also got to hear from two of our declared gubernatorial candidates. All in all, a very nice dinner.

We ended with awards. We had a nice slate of winners this year. Jason Chitwood from Cobb County was named YD Male of the Year. Nikema Williams was named YD Woman of the Year. UGA was named Chapter of the Year. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College was named New Chapter of the Year. Cobb County was named Most Improved Chapter of the Year. Ed Hula won Jackass of the Year for an unprecedented 2nd time in a row, and the committee said he would not receive it again because it was unfair for "mere mortals to have to compete against a professional." Ed's not too happy about that. Finally, Democrat of the Year went to Juliana Illari, who was quite deserving of the honor.

I then started what I hoped would be a new tradition. I brought Jane up to the stage, and swore her in to office using the US Presidential oath as a template. People laughed when we got to the part about swearing to "preserve, protect and defend the charter and bylaws of the Young Democrats of Georgia", but the effect was just as I hoped. It was a clear and visible transition of power, and I ended it by bowing and saying, "Congratulations, Madam President" as I handed Jane the gavel, and gave her a bag with all the files, credit cards, IDs, etc that I had accumulated as President. I whispered that it was "the YDG Football". She got a kick out of that. Then Jane called up the other newly elected officers and swore them in too. I hope that tradition continues.

Tim had a surprise for me in his closing announcements when talking about the Leadership Academy. He talked about someone who had inspired him and had been not only a good friend but a good boss too. Then he and Jane presented me with a basket of goodies and a gorgeous, fabric bound book with a seal on it about Law in America that's largely legal history, but just the sort of thing I adore to read. I was completely touched by the gesture. I've never felt so good about myself in my whole life.

When I came into the Presidency two years ago at Jekyll Island, I simply wanted to continue the work we'd done in the last 5 years I'd been involved. Most of all, I wanted to NOT mess it up! I wanted to grow the Youth Voter Revolution as we planned. I tried to continue to run things by consensus without being afraid of acting on my own when necessary. If you were open and honest with me and worked as part of the team, things were good. For people like Brad, who wish to obstruct for the sake of obstruction, I had no tolerance. When you are a president, things you do will be questioned, and no one will be happy with you all the time. You'll even make a few enemies. I always acted with what I believed to be the best interests of the Young Democrats of Georgia. My needs or political ambitions did not matter. It was about building a youth political machine for Democrats....and we are starting to deliver. After two years, you'd expect many to be sick of me, but the honors they gave me with the gifts, the resolution, and the ovation, make me believe I did something right. I maybe even did a lot right, and I thank God for that. My worst nightmare would have been to disappoint everyone.

I have left the Young Democrats of Georgia in good hands. Our work will continue, and it will continue to succeed.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Love Hypothesis

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who posited the following hypothesis:

Love is about control. That which you control and dominate, you tend to love. Likewise, that which dominates and controls you, you also tend to love.

I found this hypothesis to be instantly repugnant at first. It seemed to violate something deep within my soul. Yet, I was unable to articulate why. My friend went on to give the example of a dog. There is no reason for people to love their dogs, or the dogs to love us. We love our dogs because we absolutely control and dominate them. Our dogs, in turn, love us because we dominate and control their existance.

I understood where the philosophy came from, and I hated to admit that there did seem to be some validity to it. I still couldn't shake the feeling that something was being left out of this Love Hypothesis. I have quietly reflected on the matter for days, and I am convinced that the original hypothesis is too cold and simplistic to boil down a concept like love so easily.

Going with the pet motif, I offer the example of a cat. Before I rile up any cat lovers, I know they make wonderful pets, and some are quite loving, etc. More often than not, though, cats tend to be solitary creatures, often ignoring their "masters" unless it's time to be fed, watered, or have the kitty litter changed. Even with kitty litter, sometimes, Kitty will simply take a dump on the master's bed to show displeasure. Cats clearly do not love their humans like a dog does, although they seem to recognize that humans control the food supply. Still, if the Love Hypothesis as stated was correct, cats would adore their humans as much as dogs do.

So what's missing? I think it is true that when we dominate and control something, we have a tendency to love it. I also think it's true that if you are dominated or controlled by someone, you tend to love that as well. Think of the Stockholm syndrome where a kidnap victim starts to identify with his/her captors and behave in ways that would indicate to most of us having a "love" for those captors.

The Love Hypothesis is missing the characteristic of emotional intimacy. This is the idea that it is safe to make yourself vulnerable to another person. If you simply love someone because you dominate and control them, it does not follow that you are emotionally intimate. In fact, there would be no reason to be emotionally intimate since that would threaten your control. I suggest that love based through domination and control is not love for that person at all; it is merely love of the situation. You love BEING controlled or CONTROLLING another person. You are not emotionally intimate with them, so you cannot really LOVE the person at all. You don't even really know the person in those situations.

When I think of love, I do not think of control unless it's in a fluid sense within the relationship. Sometimes you will control things, and other times, the other person. When you both try to control, conflict can occur, and you have to negotiate that. What makes love worthwhile to me is knowing that someone has my back, knows my secrets and still thinks I'm a good person to be with, and with whom I can be emotionally vulnerable and know that it is safe to do so.

That last part is the real kicker for me. I find it difficult to trust that a love interest is not going to use my vulnerability against me. I also find it hard to trust that such a person is being "real" with me, and returning the favor of emotional trust. Part of this is through personal experience, and some of it comes from watching what has happened to friends. For me, to really be in love with someone, I have to feel completely comfortable that he is not going to just leave me on a whim. I need to know in my heart that even when I mess up badly, he will still love me (even though he might be really angry with me for a while) and will not abandon me lightly. And I would want him to know the same thing about me. It's much like how I feel about my family. I know they will be there for me and love me no matter what. Even when if I did something horrible, they wouldn't abandon me. That's a real comfort, especially in a world where it's so easy to feel alone and isolated.

So, I would add emotional intimacy to the mix to explain love. The domination piece can and does play a role, but that alone cannot explain why people love. You have to be able to expose your innermost self without fear of ridicule, betrayal, or descruction. That goes for the "dominant" person in the relationship as well as the "submissive" person, and it goes double for relationships where neither person really dominates.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Top 10 Arguments Against Gay Marriage

First, I have to thank for directing me to these ridiculous Top 10 Reasons for Opposing Gay Marriage.

This topic seems appropriate considering the Vermont Senate and the New Hampshire House BOTH passed Gay Marriage bills for their respective states this week!

Anyway, the homophobes who first screamed "Let the People Decide!" all across the nation as LGBT lives were put up for a VOTE via constitutional amendments to make sure our relationships are never recognized are now screaming foul that the PEOPLE'S Representatives are looking like they will pass laws.

The "Top 10" reasons to oppose gay marriage are so stupid, it actually makes gay marriage look good.

In a nutshell, the ten arguments are as follows (comments in italic):

Argument #1.
It will destroy the institution of marriage and lead to massive numbers of children born out of wedlock.

I don't get it. How exactly does expanding marriage destroy it? Right now, same sex couples with children are technically "single" parents... but those children still have TWO loving parents, even if the state refuses to grant them any of the rights their heterosexual peers possess.

Argument #2
The introduction of legalized gay marriages will lead directly to polygamy, incest, bestiality and other alternatives to one-man, one-woman unions.

This is the old man-on-dog argument. Marriage is a special contract between two unrelated people. The argument is that if you say it can be between two men or two women, then you open the door to EVERYTHING. That is not true. Marriage would still be between two unrelated people. Why unrelated? Genetics will tell you that. But gay people can't reproduce you say! Ummm, ever heard of a sperm bank? What about the sister of a gay male partner agreeing to donate her egg so that her brother and his husband can have a child? I personally know people who have done both. So you rule out polygamy and adult incest marriages. Just because you need help to reproduce does not make the reproduction less valid. As for the arguments that gay marriage leads to marrying children and pets, neither children nor pets are legally able to make binding contracts or decisions for themselves. They are not able to consent to a marriage, so those two scenarios are also red herrings.

Argument #3
With the family out of the way, all rights and privileges of marriage will accrue to gay and lesbian partners without the legal entanglements and commitments heretofore associated with it.

That's preciously the point? How is this an argument AGAINST gay marriage? :)

Argument #4
With the legalization of homosexual marriage, every public school in the nation will be required to teach that this perversion is the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

I think moral lessons are better left to church and home than public school. There's no reason for public schools to do anything than acknowledge the existence of different types of families, without judgment.

Argument #5
From that point forward, courts will not be able to favor a traditional family involving one man and one woman over a homosexual couple in matters of adoption. Children will be placed in homes with parents representing only one sex on an equal basis with those having a mom and a dad.

Wow, end discrimination, and you can't legally discriminate! Glad you get it!

Argument #6
Foster-care parents will be required to undergo “sensitivity training” to rid themselves of bias in favor of traditional marriage, and will have to affirm homosexuality in children and teens.

Not being a foster parent, I have no idea what kind of training they have to go through. However, I do not see a problem in being trained on how to handle a gay teenager, especially when gay teenagers have such a higher percentage of suicide than heterosexual teens. Yeah, I can see how letting gay children or teens know that they aren't disgusting, hated by God, etc. would be a BAD thing. *sigh*

Argument #7
How about the impact on Social Security if there are millions of new dependents that will be entitled to survivor benefits? It will amount to billions of dollars on an already overburdened system. And how about the cost to American businesses? Unproductive costs mean fewer jobs for those who need them. Are state and municipal governments to be required to raise taxes substantially to provide health insurance and other benefits to millions of new “spouses and other dependents”?

This is the lamest of the arguments. Gay people pay social security taxes just like anyone else. Our families SHOULD be entitled to the same benefits. Studies have shown that where same-sex couple benefits are concerned, the cost to localities is minimal. This argument relies on the assumption that same-gender couples are beneath contempt.

Argument #8
Marriage among homosexuals will spread throughout the world, just as pornography did after the Nixon Commission declared obscene material “beneficial” to mankind.11 Almost instantly, the English-speaking countries liberalized their laws against smut. America continues to be the fountainhead of filth and immorality, and its influence is global.

Considering that South AFRICA offers gay marriage, along with a good portion of Western Europe, America is already behind the curve. If we do set an example, though, that is not a bad thing.

Argument #9
Perhaps most important, the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed. The family has been God’s primary vehicle for evangelism since the beginning.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ says nothing about Gay Marriage. Christ himself never mentioned the concept, let alone condemned or endorsed it. This makes the assumption that gay marriage is not compatible with Christianity. Again, a falsehood. Anyone doubting this needs to come visit All Saints Episcopal Church for more examples than you can shake a stick at of committed same-sex couples brimming with enthusiasm and passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You might actually win back some lapsed Christians who think the church is full of nothing but right wing bigots.

Argument #10
The culture war will be over, and I fear, the world may soon become “as it was in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37, NIV). This is the climactic moment in the battle to preserve the family, and future generations hang in the balance.

Raise your hands if you think the "culture war" ending would be a GOOD thing! It's kind of funny how underlying these arguments is that if gay marriage is OK, then seemingly heterosexual men will drop their wives and take up with each other in DROVES. Now I enjoy same-gender lovin' as much as any gay man, but I fail to see how heterosexual men would suddenly give up the va-jay-jay for man-on-man lovin'! No one chooses their sexuality, one way or the other. And for the beleaguered bisexual, gay marriage would give them two perfectly valid options for building a life with the person of their choosing. No longer would society's pressure be exclusively on the bisexual settling down with an opposite gender spouse.

So those are the Top 10 Arguments Against Gay Marriage. It just goes to show how far ignorance and fear can take a voter.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eight Years

This post is not cheery, and it concerns the 8th anniversary of my father's suicide on February 13, 2001. It is an essay I feel compelled to write, but I understand if you don't want to read it.

I was sitting in the Juris Publici (law school student newspaper of which I was editor-in-chief) office when I received the instant message to report to the Dean's Office. I had finished all my classes in the morning, and had contemplated going home for an afternoon nap, but decided not to do that. It's unusual to be summoned to the Dean's office, so I immediately thought I was in trouble. Was I being accused of cheating? Had I turned in anything that could remotely cause a professor to think I might have cheated? I couldn't think of anything as I made my way to the Dean's office.

When I got there, I was directed into the Dean of Student Life's office, and she asked me to shut the door. Another bad sign. What is going on? I thought. The Dean told me that my mother was on the phone and would like to speak to me.

That's when I knew. I knew in my heart why my mother was calling. She was going to tell me that my father had done it. He had committed suicide.

My father had been spiralling down for months. It started in May 2000 when a relationship he was in suddenly ended. He seemed OK at first, but he began to brood more and more. The woman was named Sophia and she worked with him at IBM. In early July, she annouced she was engaged to another man. Turns out that while she was with my dad, she was also seeing an old high school flame on the side who lived in Indiana. That's when the bottom fell out for him.

Having suffered through serious depression myself, I knew the symptoms and signs. When he came to visit me in early September 2000, it was obvious to me that he was NOT in good shape at all. I took matters into my own hands and wrote his therapist. I knew her name, and my mom got me her address. I mailed her a letter telling her my concerns and observations. Turns out that my dad's shrink (he was on anti-depressants at this time) also became concerned and contacted his therapist within a day of my letter reaching her. The one-two punch was alarming enough that she had him come in, and he started more intensive therapy.

I remember wondering if he'd be angry with me, but he wasn't. He knew why I had written the letter, and he seemed relieved and grateful that I had. He kept having anxiety attacks though, especially when he would run into Sophia. His friends were a lifeline in trying to keep them apart as much as possible.

Things continued along, and Christmas break came. I was in Lexington and staying with my dad who had an extra bedroom in his apartment. What I observed there really alarmed me. My dad, the ultimate pack rat, had done some spring cleaning in the middle of December. He threw out a bunch of things, and he had everything else sorted and labeled. Growing up, my dad hated cleaning out the garage, and he certainly never did it after the divorce in 1998. He had a brick from his childhood home in Nashville that is now underneath an airport runway that he was giving back to his parents. I found a copy of the book "Final Exit" which was the notorious "how to" manual for euthanasia.

My dad also gave strange Christmas gifts that year. Along with the brick from his childhood home that he gave to his parents, he gave me a framed picture of himself. Christmas night, as we were getting ready to go to bed, my grandma said, "You think your dad will be alright, don't you?" I don't know why, but something told me to spill my guts on my concerns and observations. My mom joined in the conversation, as did my grandpa. My dad had retired an hour or so earlier. We talked for a good hour about our observations of him, conversations he had had with each of us. My father was very smart...he gave each of us a piece of the puzzle. It wasn't until we compared notes that a picture began to form.

My grandfather was suspicious that my dad wanted to reclaim his Glock that he'd given to them for safekeeping when the serious depression started in the summer. My grandfather went to the hiding place, and the Glock was gone. He confronted my dad, and I'll never know what was said, but my dad turned over the gun, and my grandfather cried. My grandfather never cries, but we didn't see all that. We just knew my dad was acting strange.

A day later, my dad admitted to me what he had been planning. He confessed to me, my mom, his therapist, and his friends. He had been planning on killing himself just after the New Year, Jan. 3 to be exact. At this point, I had a very open and frank discussion with my dad. I begged him not to hurt himself, hold him how much I loved him and needed him in my life even if I was about to graduate from law school. I got to say all the things in my heart that a lot of people leave unsaid until it's too late. In that respect, I have no regrets.

My dad underwent intensive therapy. I tried to talk him into going into a mental health facility just until his mood stabilized, but he refused. He was convinced that if he ever went into a hospital, he'd never get out. I tried to assure him that would not be the case, but he wouldn't be budged. Things seemed to be looking up for him. Since mid-January, his mood had noticeably improved. I thought, along with everyone else, that he had turned a corner.

It was not to be. The mood improvement was a result of his final decision to die. This is common in suicides. Once the person commits to death, he/she knows their pain is about to end, so that makes them happy. My father's pain is something I hope I never feel. I know I was close in 1998, and my dad said to me that if he had known how bad it was for me then, he would have been by my side. I hope my example of beating back depression would show him that he too could win. But his despair was to a point that my example was no comfort.

I took the phone and sat in the Dean's offered chair. My mother told me that my father had died that morning. She was trying like hell not to cry, but I could hear the torment in her voice. It was 11:30am. I responded, "He killed himself, didn't he?" She said he had. She then told me that a plane ticket had been purchased for me to come home, and that the Dean agreed to take me home, help me pack, and get me to the airport.

From that point, things were a whirlwind. The Dean had sent someone to the Juris Publici office to pack up my books and computer. She told me that my car would be safe in the law school parking lot and not to worry about a thing regarding my classes and such. She said I could have as much time as I needed, and just to keep in touch. I was in emotional shock at this point. I went with the flow. I knew I had to get home to Lexington, KY.

Back at my apartment, I threw a few things together that I knew I would need. A suit, regular clothes, etc. I kept trying to call S and tell him what happened. He was very difficult to reach, but I finally did reach him and told him what happened. He didn't have much to offer in the way of comfort, and I am not sure why I thought he would. Little did I know he was on the verge of divorce, so he had his own troubles to deal with.

Turns out that my dad had talked with my mom about what he wanted her to do should something happen to him. He wanted her to drive to Richmond, VA personally and tell me. That was ridiculous. But with my history of depression, she was afraid that this news of my father's suicide would send me into some kind of tailspin and that I'd end up offing myself in response. I understand that worry, but it wasn't realistic. Especially then. Once you've experienced the suicide of a loved one, that option is forever off the table for you, because you know all too well the emotional devastation it causes. No matter much pain you are in, you could never do that to your loved ones. It's a scar that never goes away, and you have no right to inflict it on others, especially those you claim to love.

The next couple of weeks were a blur of activity. As the sole heir, I had to make a lot of decisions, and I followed my dad's wishes as closely as I could. He wrote a total of 9 suicide letters addressed to various people. Mine was a co-letter with my grandparents. Of course, the police had to read all the notes in their investigation. He even had left a note in Sophia's office. One of the small comforts I have is that Sophia had a lengthy interview with the police at IBM. I hope she was humiliated by that. I also made it known she was not welcome at the funeral or the visitation. If she showed up, I would not be responsible for what I'd do. She was smart, and acquiesced to my wishes.

My dad really planned out his suicide well. He spent the night before writing the notes on his computer. From the time/date stamps, we could tell what order he wrote the letters in and what time. He was drinking screwdrivers, although we didn't know that until a blood screen was done. We thought it was OJ, because my dad was not a drinker, but my mom remembered that screwdrivers were his favorite. He burned a funeral CD for us to use at his services, fully labeled and everything. His notes explained everything and left instructions about his funeral. He put on a John Denver CD on repeat, went to the bathroom one last time, and crawled into bed. At this point, he took a handful of the anxiety pills he'd been hording for the last six-seven months to make him go to sleep. He had several blankets on the bed to keep his body warm. It was about 5:30am at this point, and he called his friend Michelle to tell her what he had done and to call the police. He did this knowing that she came in later in the morning due to getting her kids off to school. He also had a lunch date in case Michelle didn't come to work for some reason. Between the two of them, he knew his body wouldn't sit for long. Then, following the instructions of Chapter 13 from "Final Exit", he put on an allergy mask and secured two trash bags over his head with heavy duty rubber bands. The allergy mask is to prevent the bags from being sucked into the mouth. The body's response to suffocation is to claw that the mouth to get air. The mask would prevent this reflex, and the drugs would heavily sedate him, further lessing the impulse to get air. According to the book, this method takes 30 minutes to work. That means my dad died a little after 6am on February 13, 2001.

Today is the 8th anniversary of his suicide. The world has changed so much in that time, and even I am a very different person. I miss him every day, but time has healed. For a few years after his suicide, I used to brood over it from Christmas until the anniversary. The last 2-3 years, I only became melancholy and brooding for a few weeks in late January until the anniversary. Last year, I only started thinking about it the day of. Perhaps that was due to the excitement of the Presidential Primary in Georgia. But this year has been different. Since just after New Year's Day, I have been on an emotional roller coaster, usually feeling fine when I'm at work or out with friends, doing something. It's coming home where I have descended into a dark place. I think about death a lot, especially his. I've even thought that I couldn't half-way blame him for thinking the way he did. That kind of thinking has scared me, because I know what it's like to be left behind. As a result, while I can understand WHY he did it, I have a hard time thinking that I could ever actually do it. Then I am home alone, just me and my dogs, and I feel quite lonely. He must have felt that way too. But I know that as of today, this mood shall pass. It always has. The anniversary is kind of rough, but I think it always will be.

In the years since, another friend of mine committed suicide suddenly and violently. He not only cut his throat, but he hung himself too. I was fortunate that I was not asked to help pack up his place after the funeral. We largely kept the circumstances a secret out of respect for the family. Plus, he left no clues as to why. No note, no diary, nothing. He seemed fine until his body was discovered. Another dear friend lost her father this past October. He shot himself in the head in his car. I know what kind of pain my friend is going through. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. In some ways, I'm lucky. I know why my father killed himself. I have the comfort of knowing I did and said everything I possibly could to convince him to LIVE. Most survivors don't have that comfort. They haunted by "what if" questions, even though those questions are pointless. Someone who is determined to die will find the means to accomplish the task, no matter what we do.

Hopefully, no more of my friends will ever know what surviving suicide is like. But if you ever do, know that it does get better. We did everything we knew to save my dad from himself, but it wasn't enough. Ultimately, he had a choice to make, and he made it. It was the wrong choice, but a person determined to die will find a way.

Tonight, I have some dear friends who are going out to dinner with me for the sole purpose of giving me something else to think about, new memories to make. I am grateful to them for their love and friendship. Eight years seems like a lifetime ago in some ways, but in others, it's hard to believe he's been gone that long.