Monday, February 13, 2012

Since You've Been Gone

It was about this time 11 years ago that you drew your last breath, arms tucked under several blankets, John Denver playing on repeat over your speakers, an allergy mask over your mouth and nose, and two garbage bags tied around your head secured about your neck with linked heavy duty rubber bands. You had left nearly 10 notes neatly laid out on your dining room table addressed to various people. You left a handwritten note on a sticky note by your bed identifying your physician and counselor, noting that neither one knew of your plans.

Usually, on this day, I remember everything that happened leading up to your suicide and my notification. I remember coming home, going through all the motions that one has to go through to bury a loved one. I remember not crying until that first night, after I had a shower, when it just hit me, and I sank to my knees in my mom's living room and sobbed uncontrollably over what you had done. I also remember my grandparents, YOUR parents, changing that day, and a light extinguishing inside them that has never reappeared.

Today, however, on the 11th anniversary of your suicide, I want to try something different. It's an open letter, if you will, to let you know some of the things you have missed by choosing to take your life on February 13, 2001.

  • My graduation from the dual degree program, which meant two different graduations on the same weekend.  Your parents showed, and Aunt Janie came with Bad Grandma.  You not being there was a wet blanket on the festivities.
  • I accepted a job at CDC in genomics.  I ended up transferring to Global Immunizations right before the two year Presidential management fellowship was up, but I've now been at CDC for over 10 years.  I currently work in the policy office of the Center for Global Health.
  • You missed my political activism take off. I've held several statewide offices in the Young Democrats, and a couple of national ones at the Southeast region level.  I was the first openly gay state president of young democrats in Georgia history. 
  • I started playing rugby last fall in a bid to take better care of myself.  I enjoy it, and I'm trying to learn to trust my physicality.  It would have been nice to have you see one of my games.
  • Your life insurance policies allowed me to immediately pay off my student loans, although for months afterward, I would have nightmares that you had faked your death, and the insurance company wanted its money back.
  • Your life insurance also allowed me to purchase a condo in Atlanta.  I still live in it.  I also have your bedroom furniture as my own.  Some think it's creepy to sleep in the bed that you died in, but I now look at it as MY bed, and it's not like I kept the mattress.  I also have your dining room table, where you left all the notes.
  • We followed your instructions fairly closely.  However, I felt you owed it to your parents to have a place where they could go and "visit" your remains.  After cremation, I had half of your ashes scattered as you asked, and half were buried in a plot next to where Grandma Ann and Papa will be buried someday.  It has been a great source of comfort to them.
  • You aged your parents overnight with your suicide.  They became OLD after you died.  The light in their eyes dimmed significantly.  I am convinced you shaved off at least 10 years of a life they would have lived.  The only positive thing to come out of your suicide is the family has become closer; we look out for each other better.
  • Mom still feels tremendous anger and guilt over your suicide.  She thinks if she just hadn't divorced you in 1998 you might have lived.  This, despite even your admission that the divorce was a good thing.  She dreams of you when she's sick, and often it involves her yelling at you about how you could do this to all of us.
  • Pretty much every year between Christmas and this day, a pall is cast over all of our lives as we become more moody, sometimes depressed, about the coming anniversary of your suicide.  You foolishly thought we'd just get over your death after a brief period of mourning.  It has not worked out that way.  Movies that have suicide as a plot point, especially ones that approach your method, are almost unwatchable.  You've made us all members of a horrible fraternity of suicide survivors.  I'm luckier than most because there was nothing left unsaid between us.  I just wish you'd had more faith in yourself to make it through the dark period. 
  • Even your friends aren't immune. They miss you terribly too, and your absence is something they notice.  I know that might surprise you.  No one who knew you and loved you has been left unscathed by your suicide.  We have all moved on with our lives, yes, but the memory of your death is never too far away. 
One thing that's amazed me is how much the WORLD has changed since you ended your life.  Here are some highlights of what's happened since that February 13.


  • FBI agent Robert Hanssen is charged with spying for Russia for 15 years (Feb. 20).

  • Balance of the Senate shifts after Jim Jeffords of Vermont changes his party affiliation from Republican to Independent. The move strips Republicans of control of the Senate and gives Democrats the narrowest of majorities (50-49-1) (June 5).  (A little birthday present for me!)

  • Bush signs new tax-cut law, the largest in 20 years (June 7).  This is the beginning of the end of the surplus.

  • Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh executed (June 11).

  • Terrorists attack United States. Hijackers ram jetliners into twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashes 80 mi outside of Pittsburgh (Sept. 11). Toll of dead and injured in thousands. Within days, Islamic militant Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network are identified as the parties behind the attacks.  Like most Americans, I watched this live on TV at work.

  • Anthrax scare rivets nation, as anthrax-laced letters are sent to various media and government officials. Several postal workers die after handling the letters.  CDC was at the center of this storm, and it resulted in the ouster of the CDC Director.

  • Beatle George Harrison dies of cancer on Nov. 29.

  • 2002

  • President Bush declares Iran, Iraq, and North Korea to be "an axis of evil" in his first State of the Union address.

  • Kenneth L. Lay, big buddy of Bush and chairman of bankrupt energy trader Enron, resigns; company collapses after it is revealed it hid debt and misrepresented earnings.

  • U.S. withdraws from International Court treaty. First of many "screw you" messages sent to the world from the Bush administration.

  • U.S. abandons 31-year-old Antiballistic Missile treaty (June 13). Oh look, another "screw you"!

  • Bush signs corporate reform bill (July 30) in response to a spate of corporate scandals: Enron, Arthur Andersen, Tyco, Qwest, Global Crossing, ImClone, and Adelphia, among others, were convicted or placed under federal investigation for various misadventures in fraud and crooked accounting.

  • Pennsylvania miners rescued after spending 77 hours in a dark, flooded mine shaft (July 28).

  • Bush addresses United Nations, calling for a "regime change" in Iraq (Sept. 12).  See, Bush is going to avenge his daddy by invading Iraq after getting the CIA to deliver fake intelligence on "weapons of mass destruction".  Sorry for the spoiler.

  • Snipers prey upon DC suburbs, killing ten and wounding others (Oct. 2–24). Police arrest John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo (Oct. 24).

  • After a nasty election where the GOP said Democrats were on the side of terrorists, Republicans retake the Senate in midterm elections; gain additional House seats (Nov. 5).

  • Department of Homeland Security is established (Nov. 25).

  • Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law resigns as a result of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandals and cover-up of priest-child molestation. (Dec. 13).

  • Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace prize.  Timing is seen as a rebuke to President Bush's rush to war with Iraq.

  • 2003

  • Space shuttle Columbia literally dissolves upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, killing all 7 astronauts (Feb. 1).

  • U.S. and Britain launch war against Iraq (March 19).

  • Baghdad falls to US troops (April 9)

  • Bush signs ten-year, $350-billion tax cut package, the third-largest tax cut in U.S. history (May 28). First time ever that the country has cut taxes in a time of war.  Step 2 in financial ruin.

  • Iran is discovered to have been hiding nuclear activities (June 18)

  • California governor Gray Davis ousted in recall vote; actor Arnold Schwarzenegger elected in his place (Oct. 7).

  • Saddam Hussein captured by US troops, hiding in a spider hole. (Dec 13)

  • 2004
  • Bush proposes ambitious space program that includes flights to the Moon, Mars, and beyond (Jan. 14). Turns out to be nothing more than a cheap re-election ploy.

  • A. Q. Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, admits he sold nuclear-weapons designs to other countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Libya (Feb. 4).

  • Spain is attacked by Al Queda, killing over 200 people, and resulting in the government being voted out of office days later. (March)

  • U.S. media release graphic photos of American soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Images spark outrage around the world (April 30).

  • Gay marriages begin in Massachusetts, the first state in the country to legalize such unions (May 17). No pestilience, plagues, or other vengeance from God happens.  Massachusetts also doesn't slide into the ocean.

  • Summer Olympics held in Athens, Greece (August)

  • Bush is reelected president with a little over 50% of the vote.  Georgia (and many other states) officially ban all recognition of gay relationships in the state constitution.  Georiga's amendment passed with 76% of the vote.

  • Yassir Arafat dies (Nov 14)

  • Ukraine presidential election declared fraudulent (Nov. 21).

  • Hamid Karzai inaugurated as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president (Dec. 7).

  • Massive protests by supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's lead to a new Ukrainian election; Yushchenko eventually declared prime minister (Dec. 26).  

  • Enormous tsunami devastates Asia; 200,000 killed (Dec. 26).


  • The Terry Schiavo case (right to die) becomes the focus of an emotionally charged battle in Congress (March 20).

  • Pope John Paul II Dies (April 2). Benedict XVI (former Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany) becomes the next pope (April 24).

  • Former Teheran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line conservative, wins Iran's presidential election with 62% of the vote. He defiantly pursues Iran's nuclear ambitions over the course of his first year in office (June 24).

  • Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announces her retirement (July 1).

  • London hit by Islamic terrorist bombings, killing 52 and wounding about 700. It is Britain's worst attack since World War II (July 7).

  • Hurricane Katrina wreaks catastrophic damage on the Gulf coast, including the drowning of New Orleans; more than 1,000 die and millions are left homeless. Americans are shaken not simply by the magnitude of the disaster but by how ill-prepared all levels of government are in its aftermath. (Aug. 25-30).

  • Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 33 years, dies (Sept. 3). He is replaced by John Roberts.

  • Another major hurricane, Rita, ravages the Gulf coast (Sept. 23).

  • House majority leader Tom Delay is accused of conspiring to violate Texas's election laws. He steps aside from his House leadership position (Sept. 28).

  • A federal grand jury indicts Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, with obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with a White House leak investigation. (Oct. 28).

  • President Bush nominates arch conservative judge Samuel Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court after failing to foist a random woman on the court from the White House Counsel's office (Oct. 31).

  • California Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigns after pleading guilty to taking at least $2.4 million in bribes (Nov. 28).

  • The press reveals that in 2002, Bush signed a presidential order to allow the National Security Agency to spy on Americans suspected of being connected to terrorist activity without warrants. (Dec. 15).

  • 2006

  • Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist with ties to several members of Congress, is sentenced to six years in prison by a Florida judge on fraud charges (Mar. 29).

  • The Supreme Court rules that military tribunals cannot be set up to try prisoners in the absence of Congressional authorization and that prisoners are entitled to fair trials under the Geneva Conventions (June 29).

  • Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections (Nov. 7). HUGE surge of relief.

  • Saddam Hussein is convicted of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court (Nov. 5), and hanged in Baghdad. A witness videotapes the hanging using a cell phone and captures the chaos that unfolds as Shiite guards taunt Hussein (Dec. 30). Of course, it goes viral on the internet.


  • California Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman speaker of the House and will preside over the 100th Congress. Democrats take control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994 (Jan. 4).

  • President Bush announces that a surge of an additional 20,000 troops will be deployed to Baghdad to try to stem the sectarian fighting (Jan. 10). 

  • Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is found guilty of lying to FBI agents and to a grand jury in the investigation of who leaked to the press the name of a covert CIA agent. The agent, Valerie Plame Wilson, is married to Joseph Wilson, who in 2003 questioned the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein was pursuing a nuclear weapons program by seeking to obtain uranium from Niger (March 6). Libby is sentenced to 30 months in jail (June 5). President Bush commutes his sentence (July 2), but he refuses to pardon him.

  • Bush and his Attorney General caught up in a mess about interfering with US Attorney investigations, and then firing US Attorneys who didn't take politics into consideration about which crimes to pursue.

  • President Bush signs law that legalizes government eavesdropping of telephone conversations and emails of American citizens and people overseas without a warrant as long as there is a "reasonable belief" that one party is not in the United States (Aug. 5).

  • Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.

  • 2008
    • Jan. 3: The presidential primary season begins with Iowa wins by Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee.
    • Feb. 5: Arizona senator John McCain emerges as the clear front runner among Republicans in the Super Tuesday primary races. On the Democratic side, New York senator Hillary Clinton wins big states such as California and Massachusetts, but Illinois senator Barack Obama takes more states.
    • March 8: President George W. Bush, saying intelligence officials must have "all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," vetoes legislation that would have outlawed all methods of interrogation that are banned in the Army Field Manual, which prohibits waterboarding and other harsh techniques that have been used by the CIA.
    • March 18: Sen. Barack Obama delivers a pivotal speech on race, denouncing the provocative remarks on race made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., but explains that the complexities of race in America have fueled anger and resentment among many African Americans.
    • March 11: The government begins to intervene in the U.S. financial system to avoid a crisis. The Federal Reserve outlines a $200 billion loan program that lets the country's biggest banks borrow Treasury securities at discounted rates and post mortgage-backed securities as collateral.
    • March 16: The Federal Reserve approves a $30 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase so it can take over Bear Stearns, which is on the verge of collapse.
    • May 15: California's Supreme Court rules, 4 to 3, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
    • May 20: Senator Edward Kennedy is diagnosed with malignant glioma, a brain tumor.
    • June 3: On the final day of the 2008 primary season, Sen. Barack Obama secures 2,154 delegates and becomes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He's the first black candidate to head a major party ticket in a presidential election.
    • June 12: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a right to challenge their detention in federal court.
    • June 26: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess a gun, but insists that the ruling "is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
    • Oct. 10: Connecticut's Supreme Court rules that a state law that limits marriage to heterosexual couples and a civil union law that protects gay couples violate equal protection rights guaranteed by the constitution.
    • Oct. 27: A jury finds Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) guilty of seven felony charges for lying on financial disclosure forms and failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from the VECO Corporation, one of Alaska's biggest oil-field contractors.
    • Nov. 4: Democratic senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election against Sen. John McCain, taking 338 electoral votes to McCain's 161. Obama becomes the first African American to be elected president of the United States. Also in the election, Democrats increase their majority in the House and pick up five seats in the Senate.
    • Nov. 4: Voters in California narrowly pass a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that overturns the May 15, 2008, California Supreme Court decision that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
    • Dec. 19: President George W. Bush announces plans to lend General Motors and Chrysler $17.4 billion to survive the next three months.

  • Jan. 22: President Obama signs executive orders closing all secret prisons and detention camps run by the CIA, including the infamous Guantnamo Bay prison in Cuba, and banning coercive interrogation methods.

  • Jan. 31: Michael Steele is selected by the Republican National Committee to be its new chairman. He is the first African-American to hold the position.  Because, after all, who better to fight a black man than another black man, right?

  • Feb. 17: President Obama signs the $787 billion stimulus package into law. The president's hope is that the package will create 3.5 million jobs for Americans in the next two years.

  • March 2: Insurance giant American International Group reports a $61.7 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. A.I.G. lost $99.3 billion in 2008. The federal government, which has already provided the company with a $60 billion loan, will be giving A.I.G. an additional $30 billion, making it the largest company loan the government has provided during the bailout. March 14: A.I.G. announces they will pay top executives more than $165 million in bonuses, despite having received $170 billion in bailout funds from the U.S. government. The company claims the bonuses were promised in contracts and are no longer negotiable. Nearly 80% of A.I.G. is now owned by the federal government. March 16: President Obama has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to pursue all "legal avenues" in order to block the bonuses to A.I.G. executives.

  • March 6: Unemployment in the U.S., which has been steadily growing for several months, reaches 8.1% in February 2009. This is the highest rate since 1983.

  • April 2: Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois charged with attempting to sell President Obama's vacated senate seat to the highest bidder, is indicted on 19 charges, 16 of them felonies.

  • April 3: The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejects a state law banning same-sex marriage. April 27: Same-sex couples are granted marriage licenses for the first time in Iowa. Iowa is the third state to allow same-sex marriages, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Three of the judges are later thrown out in a retention election.

  • April 7: Vermont becomes the fourth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, just days after Iowa becomes the third. The legislature votes to override Governor Jim Douglas's veto of a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry, nine years after the state became the first in the nation to allow civil unions. Vermont is the first state legislature to legalize the practice; the other three U.S. states' approval of same-sex marriage came from the courts.

  • April 30: Justice David H. Souter announces he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court when the current term ends in June. He is replaced by Sonia Sotomayor.

  • April 30: Chrysler files for bankruptcy protection while entering into a partnership agreement with Fiat. It is the first time since 1933 that an American automaker has been forced to restructure under bankruptcy protection.

  • May 6: Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signs a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The law will not go into effect until summer 2009.  Voters overturn the law in a state election.

  • May 26: The California Supreme Court upholds the ban on same-sex marriage, solidifying the vote made by California residents last November. The 18,000 same-sex couples who were married before the ban went to effect are still legally married, however.

  • June 1: General Motors files for bankruptcy and announces it will close 14 plants in the United States.

  • June 4: In a speech during a visit to Cairo, Egypt, President Obama calls for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," asking for new alliances based on mutual respect and common interests.

  • June 25: Michael Jackson dies at age 50. He is found unconscious in his home, then rushed to a Los Angeles hospital where he is pronounced dead. His physician is found guilty of the death.

  • June 30: Nearly eight months after the election and a long battle over a recount, the Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Al Franken (Dem.) wins the U.S. senate seat for Minnesota. The final recount gives Franken a 312-vote lead. His rival, Norm Coleman (Rep.) concedes. Franken's win gives the Democrats in the Senate the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority they have been hoping for.

  • Aug. 25: Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, a fixture in the Senate for 46 years, dies of brain cancer at the age of 77.

  • Oct. 19: The federal government announces it will no longer prosecute those who use or sell marijuana for medical reasons, if they are complying with state law.

  • Oct. 21: The Obama administration orders pay cuts for the top-paid employees at those firms that received the most stimulus money. The top 25 earners at seven of the companies that received the most taxpayer money will have compensation cut up to 50%.

  • Nov. 5: A shooting at the Fort Hood army post in Texas kills 13 and injures 29. Ten of those killed are military personnel, while one is a civilian. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is the alleged shooter. He was shot four times by an officer on the scene, but he survived the attack.

  • Dec. 1: President Obama announces that the U.S. military will be sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, in an attempt to prevent further Taliban insurgencies. The troop surge will begin in Jan. 2010, and will bring the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to 100,000.

  • Dec. 25: A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The explosive device that failed to detonate was a mixture of powder and liquid that did not alert security personnel in the airport. The alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group based in Yemen, takes responsibility for orchestrating the attack.

  • Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize basically because he's not President Bush.

  • 2010

  • Jan. 21: In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the government cannot restrict the spending of corporations for political campaigns, maintaining that it's their First Amendment right to support candidates as they choose.  Since corporations are people under the constitution, and all. This decision reverses 100 years of law on the speech "rights" of corporations. 

  • Feb. 2: Following President Obama's State of the Union Declaration that he wants an end to the military policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which forbids openly gay men and women to serve in the military, top officials at the Department of Defense look for a way to end the law. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announces that he feels repealing the policy is "the right thing to do." Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will follow through with Obama's orders.

  • Mar. 21: The House of Representatives passes a bill that will overhaul the American health-care system. The bill will be sent to President Obama to sign into law. Among other things, the bill will allow children to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26, prevent insurance companies from denying coverage due to a patient's "pre-existing conditions," subsidize private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans, and require all Americans to have some sort of health insurance. The budget office estimates that the law will reduce federal budget deficits by $143 billion over the next 10 years. The government plans to earn money for the law with a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans and a tax on the investment income of the wealthiest Americans. Mar. 23: President Obama signs the health-care overhaul bill, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, into law. Mar. 30: Obama signs the "reconciliation" bill, which outlines minor changes and additions to the new health-care act, coupled with the bill that overhauls the student loan industry. The health care revisions were drafted by the U.S. Senate as a measure to prevent Republicans from filibustering the original health-care bill.

  • June 23: After a controversial interview with Rolling Stone that included some demeaning remarks about President Obama and his administration, General Stanley McChrystal is fired as commander of the American Forces in Afghanistan and replaced by his boss, General David Patraeus.

  • July 15: Congress approves a landmark financial regulation bill, strongly supported by President Obama and by and large the Democratic Party. The bill increases the number of companies that will be regulated by government oversight, a panel to watch for risks in the financial system, and a consumer protection agency. Some Democrats and critics argue that the bill is not tough enough; Republicans claim it gives the government too much power in the business sector.

  • Aug. 4: A federal judge strikes down the voter-approved gay marriage ban in California, calling the law unconstitutional. Judge Vaughn Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court of the Northern District of California, claims that the law, which was voted into place with 52% of the vote in 2008 as Proposition 8, discriminates against gay men and women. Aug. 12: Judge Walker lifts the stay on the banning of gay marriage in California, allowing same-sex couples to marry while higher courts consider the matter. He delays implementation of the order until August 18, however. Aug. 16: A U.S. appeals court rules that same-sex couples cannot marry in the state of California while the court considers the constitutionality of the ban.

  • Aug. 5: The United States Senate votes 63 to 37 to confirm President Obama's most recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, as the newest Justice. Kagan is only the fourth woman to ever hold this position, and she'll be the third female member of the current bench, joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

  • Aug. 31: Seven years after the war in Iraq began, President Obama announces the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a withdrawal of combat troops. Obama emphasizes that U.S. domestic problems, mainly the flailing economy and widespread unemployment, are more pressing matters to his country. The U.S. will continue to be a presence in Iraq, mainly with civilian contractors but also with a smaller military contingent of approximately 50,000 troops. The remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

  • Nov. 4: The Republican Party gains control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, but the Democratic party retains the majority in the Senate. Two members of the Tea Party also have victories, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mark Rubio of Florida. Senate majority leader Harry Reid wins his reelection in Nevada and his fellow Democrats win key Senate races across the country; therefore, Reid maintains his leadership position. Representative John Boehner of Ohio is poised to become the new Speaker of the House, replacing Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.

  • Nov. 24: Tom Delay, the former House Majority Leader from Texas, is convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering involving corporate campaign contributions. He faces up to 99 years in prison in his sentencing.

  • Dec. 18: The Senate votes 65 to 31 in favor of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Clinton-era military policy that forbids openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Eight Republicans side with the Democrats to strike down the ban. The repeal is sent to President Obama for his final signature. The ban will not be lifted officially until Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agree that the military is ready to enact the change and that it won't affect military readiness. Dec. 22: President Obama officially repeals the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy.

  • Dec. 22: After years of debate and compromise, Congress passes a $4.3 billion health bill for the rescue workers involved in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The bill will cover $1.8 billion in health-care costs for the 60,000 rescue workers registered for monitoring and treatment; the City of New York will pay 10% of the bill's overall costs. The bill will also reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund for five years, which provides money to compensate for job loss.

  • 2011
    Last year saw the Republicans drive the country to brink of bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  The hard right of the part is in control, and a "grand bargain" with Speaker John Boehner was derailed.  A super committee meant to find $1.5T in budget cuts failed miserably.  It's a weird time.

    Well, that's what you've missed.  The world is a very different place than when you were last in it.  I could have used your guidance and advice many times.  But what is done cannot be undone.  I just hope you are resting in peace.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    Funny, I don't remember getting this particular email in 2004 or 2008! The emphasis on certain words is mine.

    Subject: "Did You Know?": Obama/Candidate Photographs and the Election

    1. Q. Now that President Obama is a candidate for reelection, may federal employees display his picture in their offices?

    Answer: NO. An employee covered by the Hatch Act may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government room or building, while wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle. 5 U.S.C. § 7324. Political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101.

    Thus, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from, among other things, displaying pictures of candidates for partisan public office in the federal workplace. See 5 C.F.R. § 734.306, Example 16. Because President Obama is a candidate for reelection, the Hatch Act prohibits an employee from displaying his photograph in the federal workplace, unless one of the two exceptions discussed below applies.

    The first exception applies to official photographs of the President. The Hatch Act does not prohibit the continued display of official photographs of the President in the federal workplace, to include both public and employee work spaces. Official photographs include the traditional portrait photo of the President displayed in all federal buildings, as well as photographs of the President conducting official business (e.g., President meeting with heads of state). However, these official photographs must be displayed in a traditional size and manner and should not be altered in anyway (e.g., the addition of halos or horns). Pictures that are distributed by the President’s campaign or a partisan organization, such as the Democratic National Committee or Organizing for America, are not official, even if they depict the President performing an official act. Similarly, pictures downloaded from the internet or clipped from magazines or newspapers, screens savers and life-size cutouts are not official photographs for purposes of this exception.

    The second exception, which applies to all candidate photographs, concerns employee personal photographs. An employee would not be prohibited from having a photograph of any candidate in his or her office, if all of the following apply: the photograph was on display in advance of the election season; the employee is in the photograph with the candidate; and the photograph is a personal one (i.e., the employee has a personal relationship with the candidate and the photograph is taken at some kind of personal event or function, for example, a wedding, and not at a campaign event or some other type of partisan political event). An employee must not have a political purpose for displaying the photograph, namely, promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for partisan political office.

    Questions?: Please contact the CDC Ethics Program Activity Office

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Ok, Maybe I DO Get Overenthusiastic

    I wrote this essay in October and think it is worth sharing.

    I would recommend that anytime you stop seeing someone in a romantic sense that you sit down with that person and have a chat about it. The things you can learn are quite useful, and it goes a long way to soothing hurt feelings. Some of you are aware that in the past couple of months, I have felt terribly wronged, misled, and otherwise lied to by someone. Names are not important (and please do NOT call out any names in comments). Suffice it to say that this person finally agreed to sit down with me one-on-one and talk. I think the talk went very well, and had I had talks like that with previous exes (although this person didn't last long enough to be an actual "ex"), I could have saved myself a lot of self-torment and heartache.

    In this conversation, I was able to provide my perspective of what went on between us and to explain where my thought processes led me, even when the conclusions were in error. About a month ago, I had become pretty drunk and for the first time in my life, I was an ANGRY drunk. Never before had this happened, and I hope it never happens again. I don't remember what I said to him, but I do remember the overwhelming sense of rage. It's the kind of rage I've only felt a couple of times in my life, and never drunk. It's never been pretty. I'm fairly slow to anger, but when I do lose my temper, it can be volcanic, and I can say some of the most vicious things imaginable. That's why I try to always recognize when I'm getting angry and to deal with it immediately rather than let it fester or grow. It's a strategy that has worked pretty well for me. Apparently, Angry Drunk Jason unloaded on this guy for about an hour (via text no less). Then I switched to depressed, morose, self-pitying drunk Jason. Luckily, this guy deleted the whole ugly scene, as did I, before I passed out.

    Anyway, what led up to that unloading of venom does not in any way excuse it. I made that clear when I started asking him to sit down and talk with me after that incident. I wasn't sure he'd actually do it, even after he said yes. After all, he'd stood me up before, but to his credit, he did show up. I spent a lot of time talking, explaining things about my background, and why I thought the things that I did. It wasn't a monologue, thankfully, and he provided feedback along the way.

    What I learned is that I tried too hard, and made him feel like I was pushing him toward a certain "boyfriend status" ahead of the timeline he was comfortable with, so he just shut down and backed off, basically avoiding me like the plague. Why not just tell me I was being too intense to relax or back off? Good question. He says he didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. It's a bit of a cop out, but one that rings true to me. He knows that this course of action simply made things worse, and lead me to believe that he'd been telling me a pack of lies which infuriated me. Nothing will send me into orbit more quickly than giving my trust to someone and having them betray it.

    I have trust issues with men. There's no way to get around that fact. I've had therapy to work on it, but it's a very slow process. My first experiences with having my brain soaked in "love chemicals" which produce the unique sensation of falling in love with someone with it's euphoria, the sense of fireworks exploding in the sky, etc etc did not go well. In fact, they have NEVER gone well. After a particularly heinous period in my early-to-mid-20s, I simply vowed that I would never allow anyone to hurt me like that again, to rob me of my sense of self-worth and feeling that I was loveable and worthy of being loved. The result was that I built a particularly strong and effective wall around my heart so that a person could get pretty darn close to me, but not close enough to do real damage. Flash forward a decade or so, and this strategy certainly kept me from having my heart broken again, but it left me completely alone with no prospects of that changing.

    Over the last several years, I've learned that if I don't want to die alone (a thought which has haunted and frightened me since I came out of the closet in 1994), I have to be willing to take risks emotionally. I have to be willing to open my heart to being broken again if I expect someone else to do the same. The crappy thing about that idea is there are no guarantees that it'll work out. You expose your heart to pain, and you're likely to get hurt, even if you find love. The people we love can be the ones who hurt us the most sometimes. So I could either grow old and die alone, but heart not being risked again, or I could learn to tear down that wall I'd built and take a risk that could REALLY pay off or it could end up in heartache again. But if I didn't take "enter the game" there was no way I could win. Besides, *I* get sick of hearing myself complain about never having a man; I can only imagine what my friends think!

    Anyway, why this guy ended up being the person to unleash the love hormones in my brain, I don't know. He's not the type I usually go for, and had he not expressed interest first, I probably would have never paid him a bit of attention. But he did express interest first, and I was intrigued and then really liked what I saw. Next thing I know, by the end of the first date, my brain was pumping out dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin (the "love chemicals" of the brain) in apparently large quantities. Spending the night together soon after only put production of these chemicals into overdrive. What can I say? I don't share my bed often, but when I do, it's very much a bonding experience for me. It's why I don't do overnights casually in the sexual context. Sharing a bed on group trips does not have the same effect ;-)

    It had been over a decade since I'd experienced anything close to these emotions, and I have to admit it frightened me. Even though I'd been "in training" via therapy for such an event, when it arrived, the terror started to rise in me. Because I have never had a good experience when I have felt these emotions, my rational mind equates them with impending doom and heartbreak. I had to fight very hard against that fear when I spent time with him. I knew I had to force myself to remain emotionally open and completely honest, even though that felt like surrendering all the power. It was terrifying, but I managed to do it. What I found was that I became somewhat obsessed in making sure that I wasn't putting forth all this effort in vain; that I wasn't being "played" or used. I was so afraid that if this guy turned out to be a douchebag, that it would undo all the effort I'd put in to being willing to take a risk.

    So I definitely became over-enthiastic. I couldn't help myself. The ironic thing is that he wasn't the only person I was spending time with, getting to know. But he was definitely in the lead just based on brain chemicals alone. I did seek too much reassurance, tried way too hard. It would have helped me come back to earth had he just pointed that out and been honest about how much it was driving him nuts. When I started to get information that indicated he was playing me, that's when he chose to start avoiding me, which led me to conclude that my information must be correct since actions speak louder than words.

    There are other details that don't really matter, except for one. He admitted, and apologized, for lying to me about stupid things. The chief one being the night he simply stood me up when I was supposed to cook him dinner and then gave me some crap excuse about his phone dying being the reason he couldn't contact me until over 24 hours later. Had I had an ounce less of those damn brain chemicals flowing in my head, I would have never spoken to him again after that. It stands out as the single rudest thing that has EVER been done to me. He also lied about text messages not being delivered, all of which I knew. Not only did the lying anger me, the notion that he thought I was stupid enough to buy his pathetic excuses insulted me to boot. I was pleasantly surprised that he owned up to it, and that he apologized. I told him that empathy for other people is not a sign of weakness or a bad trait. The truth is always better than a lie, especially when your lie is so transparent.

    Another thing about this guy is his charisma. I've seen him work that charisma on other people, and it's pretty amazing to see him switch it on and off so quickly. His level of charisma rivals the best politicians I've met in my life, and I've shaken hands with Bill Clinton! This guy can, and does, turn his charisma on and off at will. When he's turned it on in your direction, he's very hard to resist or with whom to remain angry. Some of what he told me was probably self-serving, especially his misunderstood bit. What he told me about his experience of my behavior, though, was very useful. I *do* get over-enthusiastic when there seems to be a mutual attraction. I blame it on the fact that I'm basically starved of romantic love, so when the opportunity looks like it will arise for me to experience it, I'm like a starving man at a buffet. I'm sure it scares people off, like it did this guy.

    I'm not sure how to control that response. Do I warn future prospects that this is how I get, and to please tell me when I'm coming on too strong since that is not my intent? I'm not getting any younger. I need to find good answers, and a good man who will love me quirks and all. I'm still scared that such a man does not exist, and that if he does, it's certainly not in the metro Atlanta area. I don't know how to beat that fear down either.

    Where's a mail order husband when you need one?

    I'd like to leave you with this quote that explains perfectly why I have tried to tear down my inner wall and why I am so determined not to rebuild it:

    "Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum, p247