Thursday, March 25, 2010

HIV, Criminal Conduct, and Reality

A man in Minnesota has been charged with willfully spreading HIV. According to the story and video clip, the man had sex with multiple partners, did not disclose his status, and at least one person has tested positive. In the cases in the video clipped, the man is NOT charged with rape, though I have heard from a friend of mine that he is charged with sexual assault from an earlier incident in February. While I am not going to comment on this man's guilt or innocence, I sure as hell am going to comment on the situation. The following blog post may seem a little disjointed, as I co

Did you listen to the story? Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, needs to check his facts. He said, "The man didn't have it [HIV] before, and a month later he did." Ummmm....any doctor will tell you that it takes, in general, a minimum of 3 months to have built up enough antibodies to detect HIV. Which means that the "victim" was having unprotected sex with more than just the accused.

Also, if the men were having unprotected sex with this guy and NOT asking his status, and there is no evidence that the dude lied, then it is not a leap to believe that they had unprotected sex with other men. How do they KNOW that this is the guy that transmitted HIV to them? Where the fuck is the responsibility on their end? Why is the blame/shame/burden always on the positive individual?

Also, were there drugs involved? I am going to go ahead and say most fucking likely. Regardless of the outcome, the accused's life is ruined.

As an HIV+ man that has struggled in the past with drug addiction, I can tell you that almost 99% of the time no one was asking anyone else about their HIV status when crystal meth was involved.

If you choose to have bareback sex then you CHOOSE the risk of contracting HIV. That choice is on you, the burden is on you, and the responsibility for the action is on YOU. Unless you can prove that you were RAPED or the sex was not consensual in some other way, the burden is on you. It was your choice to believe the man or to trust the man with your life, and now that you found out you made the wrong choice, you are going to lay the burden on someone else? BULLSHIT.

I am not perfect, but this case is more than just about the one dude (I hear that he is also charged with rape...that is another story all together)...but the precedent this will set if he is convicted on the spreading HIV charge as opposed to a rape charge is going to create such an overwhelming fear in positive people and a justified one...what if you don't disclose your status, you are having protected sex, and the condom breaks? Are you then a felon? What if you honestly believe you are HIV-, have unprotected sex, and then you find out you are after having infected someone else? Even your partner? Are you a felon? What if you and the party are both engaged in the use of illicit drugs....I am not perfect, and I carried a lot of guilt for a long time for my actions when actively using, but I will be damned if I carry the burden or the HIV+ community should carry the burden for the choices of others. It's just that simple, unfortunately the apparatus of the state and 20 years of fear mongering, gay baiting, and oppression are on the side of the Hennepin County attorney. And let's not forget that Mike Freeman is an elected official. The county attorney office led directly to the Senate for Amy Klobuchar. He is going to sensationalize this case as much as humanly possible to set himself up runs for hire office. The good tough attorney got this diseased predator off the street. What could be sweeter on the campaign trail?

I am curious to see what other cases Mike has made sure got into the paper? What other cases are on his case load? Why this case? Why this incident? I will tell you...H-I-V.

The continued stigmatization and scapegoating of positive people for the actions of negative people is based in shame and fear--the shame of the positive person that leads him or her to not disclose and the shame of the newly positive person that seeks to shed his shame by blaming everyone else for his HIV status except the person responsible: himself.

Let the witch hunts begin.

Monday, March 22, 2010


With passage of the legislation, Obama has achieved the signature domestic goal of his presidency, and the most sweeping piece of social legislation since the 1960s Great Society initiatives that saw the passage of Medicare and Medicaid.
-Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine

Mr. President, thank you for putting my current and future health as your top domestic priority.

Thank you for not giving up when Mr. Brown went to Washington. You went to the mat for the people of the U.S., and, for once, the people won.

Now your healthcare plan isn't perfect. It is not single payer universal. The Hyde amendment is still in full effect (banning the use of federal funds for abortion), and you gave a nod to the Devil (aka Rep. Stupak of Michigan) in order to get this deal through. While you didn't put any new restrictions on a woman's right to choose, you did not, however, broaden their ability to access safe reproductive services including abortion. And that is saddening.

You did, however, guarantee that 32 million people living in the United States will receive health care coverage. That still leaves us with 15 million undocumented residents that will need healthcare services. We need to cover those human beings too with no questions asked.

But you did what U.S. Presidents have tried to do since Teddy Roosevelt was in office: you created a healthcare system that will cover all U.S. citizens. Mil gracias, mi presidente. Mil gracias.

The critics are already out there wondering if this will hurt the Democrats in the mid-term elections. I am sure it will. Those who are brave enough to stand up for what is right when the wolves are howling for what is wrong, sometimes get bitten. But the truth and history will make victors of the temporarily defeated, and though you may lose some political ground after November, you have won a fight for justice, and that is worth more than controlling both houses of Congress.

Thank you President Obama.

(The following is a breakdown of the bill, it's cost, and an implementation timeline. This is taken from an article from CBS News)


$940 billion over ten years.


Would reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the first ten years. That is an updated CBO estimate. Their first preliminary estimate said it would reduce the deficit by $130 billion over ten years. Would reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars in the second ten years.


Would expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

Health Insurance Exchanges:

The uninsured and self-employed would be able to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges with subsidies available to individuals and families with income between the 133 percent and 400 percent of poverty level.
Separate exchanges would be created for small businesses to purchase coverage -- effective 2014.
Funding available to states to establish exchanges within one year of enactment and until January 1, 2015.

Individuals and families who make between 100 percent - 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and want to purchase their own health insurance on an exchange are eligible for subsidies. They cannot be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid and cannot be covered by an employer. Eligible buyers receive premium credits and there is a cap for how much they have to contribute to their premiums on a sliding scale.
Federal Poverty Level for family of four is $22,050

Paying for the Plan:

Medicare Payroll tax on investment income -- Starting in 2012, the Medicare Payroll Tax will be expanded to include unearned income. That will be a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for families making more than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for individuals).

Excise Tax -- Beginning in 2018, insurance companies will pay a 40 percent excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" high-end insurance plans worth over $27,500 for families ($10,200 for individuals). Dental and vision plans are exempt and will not be counted in the total cost of a family's plan.

Tanning Tax -- 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.


Closes the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" by 2020. Seniors who hit the donut hole by 2010 will receive a $250 rebate.

Beginning in 2011, seniors in the gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. The bill also includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade.

Expands Medicaid to include 133 percent of federal poverty level which is $29,327 for a family of four.
Requires states to expand Medicaid to include childless adults starting in 2014.
Federal Government pays 100 percent of costs for covering newly eligible individuals through 2016.
Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid.
Insurance Reforms:

Six months after enactment, insurance companies could no longer denying children coverage based on a preexisting condition.
Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions.
Insurance companies must allow children to stay on their parent's insurance plans through age 26.


The bill segregates private insurance premium funds from taxpayer funds. Individuals would have to pay for abortion coverage by making two separate payments, private funds would have to be kept in a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds.
No health care plan would be required to offer abortion coverage. States could pass legislation choosing to opt out of offering abortion coverage through the exchange.
**Separately, anti-abortion Democrats worked out language with the White House on an executive order that would state that no federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother. (Read more here)

Individual Mandate:

In 2014, everyone must purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual fine. There are some exceptions for low-income people.
Employer Mandate:

Technically, there is no employer mandate. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or pay a fine of $2000 per worker each year if any worker receives federal subsidies to purchase health insurance. Fines applied to entire number of employees minus some allowances.

Illegal immigrants will not be allowed to buy health insurance in the exchanges -- even if they pay completely with their own money.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


It's an easy walk from the word Negro to Nigger. As a matter of fact, some white folks gleefully skip from one to the other, which is why, frankly, I have now decided that Negro needs to be banned from the public conversation as well.

Here's what changed my mind: yesterday, as Civil Rights Movement veteran and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman Lewis was leaving the Cannon Office building, Tea Bagger protesters gathered outside of the building started chanting kill the bill, nigger.

Let me repeat myself in case you missed that.

WHITE Tea Bagger protesters started shouting at a man that had his skull broken by police in Selma, Alabama, "KILL THE BILL, NIGGER." And they did so in chorus while spitting on Congressman Cleaver from Missouri, another member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

But wait....there's more...the same protesters saw Massachusetts Representative Barny Frank and greeted him with a rousing refrain of FAGGOT.

Don't believe me? Here is a link to an article written by my acquaintance John Nichols from The Nation.

Here's a report from McClatchy Newspapers.

Even Fox News deigned to report on this issue. Though you will note they declined to actually use the words that were hurled at the members of Congress, which, I find, suspect.

Republican Uncle Tom Chairman Michael Steele had the nerve to condemn the actions of these Tea Baggers without declaring a complete and total break from the "Tea Party Movement." How many more racist incidents have to happen before it becomes unconscionable for Republicans of any stripe (well any stripe short of Dixiecrats and the resurrection of Strom Thurmond) to associate or accept any sort of support from these racist individuals?

How many more racist incidents will have to happen before the "leadership," of the Tea Baggers call off the entire fucking parade because their rank and file are RANK and firing hateful slurs at members of Congress doing their jobs and working to provide support for the American people? Tea Baggers overwhelmingly identify as fundamentalist Christian, and the Bible commands that we provide the most for the least, and yet when members of Congress are seeking to lift up and provide healthcare for the least of the least of Americans, they buck their Christianity and become rabid fascist brown shirts.

How long before some Tea Bagger assassinates a member of Congress or takes aim at the President or First Family? Is that what it is going to take before people wake up and recognize these people for the threat they are? What are the FBI and Homeland Security doing about these domestic terrorists? Are these people on No Fly lists? Is Janet Napolitano using her wire tapping powers to monitor the conversations of the Tea Bagger leadership? These are the questions I want answered before someone is murdered by these selfish, hateful, self-absorbed, over privileged white people.

The Tea Bagger movement is racist. It is fascist. It is corrupt. And the Republican Party needs to be pulled down and ripped apart for continuing to accept the "grassroots" support of these rabid jackasses.

And truthfully, I feel sorry for the Republican Party.

Yesterday, I was sitting at the home of a New York lawmaker, and I got to know the young queer Republican that ran against him in the last election. This young man was sweet, articulate, and genuine. Though we did not talk politics, my guess is that he is one of those old school Republicans that simply wants smaller government, fewer taxes and a business friendly climate. There were Republicans, once upon a time, that believed that Civil Rights were not antithetical to their world view, and this young man was one of them. Unfortunately, his party has gone so far past that common sense and compassionate point that it simply can not be pulled back by a few well meaning good hearted Republicans trying, desperately, at the edges to bring Republicanism back to its roots.

It's time for moderate, good hearted Republicans to break off, form their own party, and let the rest of the rabid hate mongers that consistently show their asses on the national stage crash, burn, and die in a bonfire ignited by their own stupidity and hatred.

And to close, I will quote my dear friend Stacey Parshall Jensen, "I'll head east and take it to the street because my wish for health care reform, for ending the war, for cuttting taxes, for education reform, for giving the middle-class a break, for ending discrimination against women, gays, and folks of color, and for helping the poor all in the name of the FREAKIN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS DOES NOT MAKE ME A NIGGER. Shoot. The old Black lady in me has spoken."

The old black lady in you has spoken for me too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


So, like many Americans, I was tickled to death to see the word NEGRO on my Census form. Ten years ago, when I filled out my first Census form as an adult, the word Negro was not on the form. Now...all 10 questions on the Census form are approved by an act of Congress. Setting aside the stupid and ridiculous red tape that must have gone into actually getting 535 members (or, at the very least, a majority of those 535 members) to agree on 10 questions for a form (only in the US of A), where the hell was the Congressional Black Caucus when this question came up?

I mean, I know, for example, that the entire CBC is not made up of 75 year old black men from Georgia. For example, the Congressman that represents Minnesota's 5th District aka Minneapolis is Keith Ellison...a young black man that is also Congresses first Muslim Representative. Was Keith absent the day that they debated those 10 questions? Was there some "Back to Negro" movement that I missed out in the last 10 years? I know on first glance I don't necessarily appear as the most niggerish of Negroes, but even as a stealth Blacky, I still tend to know at least any major movements/issues/discussions going on within the black community. Did Kwame call up the Census Bureau and say that his great-grandma was mad that Negro had been taken off the form in 1970 and wanted it back? Maybe Maya Angelou, old and fierce as she is, wrote a poem called "On The Pulse of the Negro," and it created an intense but narrow movement to bring back the word Negro.

Negro. Negro. Negro.

I can't stop saying that damn word.


See...there I go again.

Really...I am not offended at all by the use of the word Negro on the Census form, but I am, perhaps overly, amused by it and a little confused. Is there an enclave of Black folks in America that neither recognize that the word "black" and the words "African American," are referring to them? I can TOTALLY see if the word "black" were omitted as there are many many many black non-African-Americans in the United States. The word black, for me, indicates everyone of African descent no matter their country of black Puerto Ricans, black Brazilians, and Africans living in America are all encompassed in the word black, but African-American covers, nicely, all those not covered by black. Negro just seems like an archaic redundancy and perhaps a misguided attempt by the Census Bureau to make Michelle and Barack Obama feel welcome and included in Washington.


I'm just saying.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Theater Review-- Yank!: A World War II Love Story

The hardest part of seeing the play Yank! was finding the York Theater. Tucked away in the basement of the Church of St. Peter on 54th and Lexington, the street numbers magically jump from 601 to 649 Lexington, leaving this theater-goer at a loss to find 619 Lexington.

But do not fret, the theater is in the basement of the beautiful St. Peter's, and though I loathe the Upper East Side, I would make the pilgrimage to see Yank! every single night if my theater budget would allow me to do so.

This show was phenomenal.

The story opens with a young, presumably queer, man that has found an old journal in a junk shop in San Francisco. The journal chronicles the love story of Stu and Mitch, two men that find love at the height of World War II. Dealing with issues of war, sexuality, race, and cultural tropes all set to hilarious and sometimes poignant original musical numbers, Yank pulls at your heart strings and plays the audience like the cello hidden offstage.

The story is focused on the two main characters Mitch and Stu. Mitch, played by the lamentably straight but oh so gorgeous Ivan Hernandez, and Stu played by the presumably (and hopefully) queer Bobby Steggert, are well rounded characters brought to vibrant life by these gifted actors. I saw Bobby Steggert in the recent, and now sadly defunct, production of Ragtime on Broadway. He wowed in Ragtime, and he blew me away in this production. But, even with stellar performances by Hernandez and Steggert, the show was completely stolen by Nancy Anderson, the sole femme (though most assuredly not the only femme) in the production. Nancy played half a dozen or more female characters throughout the show from a plucky USO girl and a sultry blues singer to General MacArthur's right hand lesbian wo(man). And each time she took the stage a great production became brilliant. I will literally see that woman perform in anything she does from now on whether it be a shampoo commercial or a Roger Corman film. She was a phenom and her voice gave me goose bumps.

In the end, the cast included laudable performances by Jeffrey Denman (Artie) to the bubbly and infectious Pole played by Tally Sessions. The fact that this show brings back tap, evoking old time movies starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kay, makes this lover of Savion Glover, a happy camper.

This show, mark my words, will be going to Broadway. And it is a success that the Zellnick Brothers, David and Joe, rightfully deserve. My only complaint is that I had the opportunity to meet David after the show last night, but he was coming in from out of town, and he wasn't going to arrive until nearly midnight, and this writer was already dead on his feet.

Thank you to Bill Martin for making this show happen for me last night. And to the rest of you, GO AND SEE YANK! It is running at the York Theater until March 21, 2010.

For showtimes and more information on the show, including additional reviews, check out the Yank! Website.

PS Yank was actually a magazine published by the Army during World War II, and actual pages from Yank were posted on the walls of the reception area of the theater. Included in some of the pages posted was a picture of my hometown, Minneapolis, from the 1940s. Kismet I tell you.