Saturday, June 19, 2010

Renewing an old hobby:

Collecting conundrums.

It is such a short time after my previous post, and yet I have come upon a real topper in an article in today's Boston Globe concerning the Homeland Security employee who has been convicted of a felony for employing an illegal immigrant.

Here is a quote from the article:
She secretly tape-recorded Henderson advising her not to leave the country or she would be deported.

This is presented as evidence that Henderson, the Homeland Security employee, was encouraging Bettincourt, the Brazilian cleaning lady, to remain in the country illegally. I'm not making this up- there it is in the newspaper. I guess it's sort of like "you can't fire me because I quit." That is, unless the reach of Homeland Security now extends to deportation from other countries. Would she be deported back to the US?

The Judge is looking for a sense of proportion, for which I laud him.

We are told Bettincourt is now in the country legally. Therein lies a tale, I'm sure.

I have another statement ripe with internal contradiction to add to my collection of public utterances that prove, once again, that Edmund Carpenter was right about the force of the media.

And finally, the now legal cleaning lady will lose her employer.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stonewall to Gay Marriage

"Pride Week," or as a certain friend of mine refers to it, "the Gay High Holy Days" is now over. Emotionally it's been a little tough on me. I start out with a photo of the official flag raising at City Hall, and it ended with the very unlikely circumstance of your humble servant giving a gay historical tour of Boston's South End called "Stonewall to Gay Marriage, a Long Road Through the South End. Today, I see in the New York Times, that the final arguments in the marriage trial in California have been presented, so there is a nice arrangement of events.

Folks who knew the "Mad Genius" through his "Lucubrations" don't know that he worked at City Hall for a while, so finding myself there for the flag raising was peculiar; my head fairly buzzed with his caustic comments, not the least because I was there at the behest of my friends at "Ethos," and Boston's community of elder LGBT's (I hope I haven't left anyone out of the acronym.) It would seem that I am now officially part of that community which he didn't survive to join with me.

I marched in the Parade with Emmanuel Church, and I will confess that I marched in my first Pride Parade, bare chested with my honey of long ago, with a little more ease than I did "Coming out" as this staunch Episcopalian which I've been lately- of course I worked out a lot then, and the church is much different now; and then there was the joyfully bizarre gathering on City Hall Plaza at the completion of the parade, now filled with booths for break away Catholics complete with tonsure, leather men, drag queens, corporate sponsors, doggie gift sellers, and politicians. I have been avoiding these gatherings since "The Mad Genius" passed. I have an almost surreal feeling of watching the proceedings from somewhere beyond the grave. I say this all the time but it is starkly true- almost everyone is either 10 years younger, or 10 years older than I. Of those with whom I was even acquainted during the 80's only 2 or 3 are seen around. I keep a mental tally of men I hear of in Boston who about 60- the present number is 9. When you consider that the year of my birth, 1948, was the crest of the baby boom, that we should be the largest, not the smallest, segment of the population, the devastation of AIDS becomes apparent. As I wandered around the festivities I felt like a "stranger from a strange land."

I don't need to tell you about my walk through the South End because one of the new friends who joined us has reported on it already, and very well, here, at Diffuse5. I encourage you to explore her blog.

So on to this report in the New York Times which has graced the cyberworld this morning. As usual, I have some questions. I realize that these may be more about the report than about the arguments reported upon, which I am not about to read in transcript,there are limits to my political enthusiasm!

Here are my questions, the quotations from the NYT report are in italics:

“The marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race,” said the defense’s leading lawyer, Charles J. Cooper. “Without the marital relationship, your honor, society would come to an end.”

This line of argument against Gay marriage has always confused me. Yes, this is the lawyer defending Prop. 8. It is as though extending marriage to Gay couples will remove it from world of straight couples, once gay people can marry there won't be any more babies. All the straight people in the world will suddenly revert to Hippies who feel it is unconscionable to bring children into the world, I guess. Or another explanation, which I feel seriously may be the case, has to do with latent homosexual feelings. this is particularly conspicuous in the case of religious leaders: making sexual relations between men OK will threaten sexual relationships between men and women (when we speak of procreation we are speaking of sex after all.) In what set of circumstances could this be true? Only if men are much more attractive sexually than women, right? So when you hear this argument, doesn't it make you wonder about the inclinations of the speaker?

At one point, Judge Walker wondered at Mr. Cooper’s logic. “Do people get married to benefit the community?” he asked. “When one enters into a marriage, you don’t say, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to benefit society!’ ”

Here, my liberal friends will have to excuse a sardonic comment. I have always thought it strange that the homophobic community would be against gay marriage rather than insistent upon it. Gay people are bad, right? And really at their worst when they are running around the streets at night, looking for sex and having fun dancing to loud music. Get them off the streets and confined to the restrictions of marriage like decent people! Let them model themselves on us and benefit society! I suppose that the danger of this line of reasoning would be that straight people would have to stay in their marriages, raise their kids responsibly, do good for the community, and work to reverse the divorce laws. Odd that these "procreation as a standard" folks are not so active in that area.....

Judge Walker also asked why the state’s domestic partnership law, which affords most of the same rights as marriage, was not “sufficient accommodation” for the rights of gay people. Mr. Olson countered that marriage was a unique institution and more significant than domestic partnerships.

“It means something completely different,” Mr. Olson said.

Arguments in the trial began in early January, and included two weeks of evidence and testimony by plaintiffs and experts on marriage, sociology and political science.

The defense offered much more limited testimony, with two witnesses arguing, among other points, that same-sex marriage damages traditional marriage as an institution and that special judicial protections are unnecessary for gay people.

I have very conflicted feeling about the issue of "Gay Marriage" verses "Domestic Partnership," but will also acknowledge that my ambivalence is self interested: had the community in Massachusetts accepted domestic partnership rather than holding out for marriage "The Mad Genius" and I would have had some protections, and I would have been able to claim his assets when he died. Because of this personal cost I have always been skeptical that the price of "Marriage" was worth the delayed protection that the fight resulted in. I am now coming to see the wisdom of it however.

The quote above contains another oddity. I must say that I am continually amazed at the obvious lack of logic in statements that are made in the media- and also in court. California was mandated by the Court to apply the marriage laws equally to all people, not only to heterosexual people. This mandate was reversed by Proposition 8, and that reversal is being defended by Mr. Cooper who is saying that it would be a special judicial protection to apply the law equally to gay people, and that that is unnecessary; that applying the law to one section of society is routine, but applying it to another is unnecessarily special!

This appeal to the myopic view of a self-centered and fearful majority is exactly what our constitution is meant to protect us from.

and finally, back to the parade!

One problem with marching is that you only get to see what is just in front and just in back of you. I did get to see, however, a couple in a pedicab carrying a sign that read "55 years together, 6 years married." Here is another of my long standing observations about the validity of gay relationships. Consider that in our society all the legal, social, financial, and religious institutions have historically reinforced, supported, even demanded heterosexual marriage, yet the divorce rate is high and examples of happiness rare. And in times past, the times this couple established themselves during, gay people in relationships have suffered legal prosecution rather than protection, were ostracized by society at large and often their families as well, received no financial advantage or religious support, yet have managed to maintain a meaningful relationship. It is rare assuredly, as rare as the fifty-fifth anniversary of a straight couple, and who can say that it is of any less value to society.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Few Controversial Statements....

This post is inspired by Joan Vennochi's comments in today's globe regarding Helen Thomas's statement that the Jews of Israel should go back to Germany and Poland. Ms. Vennochi's comments, equating Helen Thomas with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh et al seem to me to be poorly developed. It is interesting to read the many comments. Most of them would be amusing if they didn't expose such disturbingly poor reasoning on the part of the American public, but a few bring important points to the discussion, not least the difference between Thomas's position and voice as a serious reporter compared to the the position of outrageous talk show hosts who are, it is suggested, entertainers. Technically this is a valid point and might have been considered, but whether it obtains in the mind of the general public is a question- I will once again refer to "Oh what a blow that phantom gave me."

There are many difficulties involved in this discussion, not the least being coming to an understanding of the difference between being "anti-zionist" and "anti-semitic." I know Jews who are not Zionists, and by the way the Arabs are Semitic people. A subtext read in Thomas's statement, I suppose, is that returning to Germany or Poland would be a return to pogroms and death camps, which inference I think the Germans and Poles of today might resent, and by the way, wasn't America included in Thomas's original statement? And while reading the comments Obama's oil spilling in the gulf came up- I thought the oil was British, obviously connected with Balfour, I'm really surprised the commentators missed that, and I also learned that the Jews are right wing, I always thought they were left wing. The world is becoming so confusing to me, it must be my age, just as it must be Helen Thomas's age, which is great, and her career long. Perhaps, in the impatience of age, perhaps not quite at her best, she has slipped a little. We will all , at least the fortunate amongst us will get to that place in life, and having gotten there will think that the world might extend a little consideration, but alas, Dryden was right...

"When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on and think tomorrow will repay:
Tomorrow's falser than the former day;
Lies worse; and while it says we will be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.
Strange cozenage! None would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And from the dregs of life, think to receive
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired with waiting for this Chymick gold,
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old."

You cast your bread upon the water, as the good book says, when you jump to criticize the indiscretions of our seniors.

But still, that situation in the Mid-East is very confusing and distressing, so I want to share the opinon of a woman I once worked for with you. My first job out of college, where I minored in stained glass, was working for Durand Studios in New York City repairing stained glass. obviously this caused the team I was on to spend much time in religious establishments, I have many stories to tell! We were working in a Mid-manhattan Synagogue on this occasion. The Synagogues and temples were always the most hospitable and generous places to work- a marked contrast to the RC churches which wouldn't let come inside to eat our lunches. It was a cold rainy December day in 1972, and the woman who staffed the placed was busy making sure we had what we needed and were comfortable. "The Weather- you're working in this weather- we should be in Miami... You think it's warm in Miami? even in Miami it's cold!" She thought a lot about Miami it seems. During lunch we were chatting about the news which contained much distress from Israel just then. She threw up her hands and said "Oy! They should have given us Miami, then we wouldn't have all this trouble!" I still chuckle every time I tell this story.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Warning: Journalist may pose health risks

On my igoogle home page I have a feed from Scientific American, which included this morning an item entitled "Warning: New Doctors May Pose Health Risk." it is a jaunty little essay that reports on a statistic which indicates that there are more mistakes made in hospitals regarding medications during July that any other month, and it implies that this is because July is the month when freshly minted doctors hit the ward. The survey does not seemed to include any statistics on freshly inebriated barbecuers.

I will leave it to Dr. Funk to opine whether this is a causal relationship or not- she lurks amongst the anonymous followers here. I'm sure we will have an amusing diner talking about the incidents of barbecue burns and fish hook wounds, to say nothing of firecrackers during July 4th weekend, or the difficulties in obtaining accurate information on a person's medication from a sober patient, never mind one who has spent the day at the beach drinking "be-ahs" (excuse the dialect, just couldn't help myself.)

What concerns me is the idea that all doctors would have started their career with the seasoned knowledge of an experienced clinician. Obviously we all hope that at the end of that ambulance ride we will be put in the hands of the particular hospitals most experienced doctor. I doubt that would do us much good if the venerable doctor had been work 24 hours a day for the last 20 years and so some of us will have to accept he might be at home asleep- or even at the beach himself- when we are delivered to the emergency room.

This report, I acknowledge I haven't read the study itself, doesn't mention emergency rooms. I think they must be the scene of the errors, however, because if your doctor has admitted you he will be monitoring your case. That is if you have chosen your doctor well, and that my friends, is your own responsibility. And if you are in the hospital and you don't enquire about what they are administering to you, and question if it is different than what you are accustom to, why that is also your own responsibility.

My problem with this jaunty little report in Scientific American is actually a responsibility issue. In it's largest sense, the "it takes a village" sense it has to do with our responsibility as a society to foster the quality of the young professionals. I am often reminded of an essay by Eleanor Perenyi in her book "Green Thoughts." It is titled "Partly Cloudy" and comments on our attitude toward weather. This is a garden book, and she talks of gardeners who complain about rainy days, and then goes into a rather detailed description of what the world and our gardens would be like if we never had to have another rainy day. You may anticipate one of my pet themes here- rainy days are beautiful. It seems a very unfortunate thing to me that people will ignore both the misty pastel colors and vital supplies of the one element that we can't survive without that rainy days bring us. So too with the influx of young doctors, who will become deeply experienced doctors and who, by the way come, in the lack of experience, with the most up to date knowledge, fresh in their minds and right at their finger tips. You, we, are lucky to have them.

So here is my own report on new doctors.

My primary care doctor (I just can't use the acronym PCP, it sounds too much like a toxic chemical) went on Sabbatical last year so I had my check up with one of the "New Doctors" who was covering for him. As you know, I spend a lot of time with doctors, each has his specialty and interest, the older ones have, yes, experience. What I was having was an unsteadiness in balance- I was having to use a cane. At the time I was being treated with interferon, and every one was looking at that as the source of all ills, but this "new doctor," Dr. Petty, took about 5 seconds to question my B12 levels. Surprise, low B12 can cause all sorts of problems with your nervous system, which become permanent if not attended to. No surprise, my B12 levels were in the basement and in a very quick and easy fix Dr. Petty got rid of the cane.

So I say, rejoice if you get one of the New Doctors, and if you don't know what your medications should be you'd better learn. It takes two to tango.