Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's sobering reality how many revelers will ring in New Year for last time as holiday drunk driving takes its deadly toll





Momentum is building for the last blast of the 2011 holiday season, but not everyone should count on awakening safe and sound in their own beds with the traditional celebratory hangover on New Year's Day.

The more fortunate partygoers will find themselves on an old friend’s sofa, in bed with a new friend or even in a jail cell with a bunch of strangers. But the less lucky won’t be waking up at all because they will have become a part of the year’s impaired driving fatality statistics.

That’s why U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he kicked off a nationwide crackdown on impaired driving on Dec. 13 in an attempt to remind Americans they risk killing others or themselves if they get behind the wheel drunk or stoned.

Impaired driving fatality statistics for 2010 released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a decrease in many states in comparison to the previous year, but 10,228 or one-third of the fatalities on American highways still involved intoxication.

The fatality statistics spiked during the second half of December when drinking traditionally becomes more prevalent because of holiday parties. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that 40 percent of traffic deaths during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays involved drunk driving.

The risk increases during the holidays because it is a time when many people uncharacteristically drink to excess and take on one of the characteristics of what is known as hardcore drunk driving.

Hardcore drunk driving refers to anyone who gets behind the wheel with a blood alcohol account of 0.15 or above, does so repeatedly and is resistant to changing that behavior. For the past decade, fatality statistics show that 70 percent of impaired drivers responsible for the deaths had a blood alcohol account of 0.15 or higher.

It is an issue of particular concern to the LGBT community because many studies have shown a high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse among its members.

In connection with the national anti-drunk driving campaign that carries the slogan, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” alcohol awareness educators are warning revelers to understand how beer, wine and liquor affect the human body. Many occasional and frequent drinkers apparently harbor misconceptions about the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol impairs coordination, driving skills, reflex time and judgment long before the drinker or anyone else notices signs of intoxication, and it can spark aggression that makes the driver more dangerous on the road. 

Even after an individual quits drinking, alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream and affect the brain for hours afterward. Coffee or other caffeine drinks do not reduce the effects of alcohol and do not make the impaired driver any safer. Only time can counteract the detrimental effects of alcohol.

Educators advise party goers to take a cab or to designate someone to drive who will not have any alcohol to drink. Otherwise, anyone planning to get behind the wheel should not have any more than one alcoholic drink per hour, and it would be a good idea for every other drink to be nonalcoholic.

No one should rely on someone else to monitor and take care of then on New Year’s Eve or any other holiday party. No matter whether the reveler is at a private party or a nightclub, the person in charge may be far too busy to notice the drinker is impaired.

The bottom line is that many citizens who typically would not dream of breaking the law risk doing exactly that if they drink to excess and try to drive themselves home. The legal limit is 0.08 in most states these days, and that only amounts to two or three drinks for many people.

Others who have problems with alcohol and other drugs should seek help before they get behind the wheel again and risk the lives of themselves and others. It could be time to go seek the help of the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous.

Anyone who drives drunk this New Year’s Eve risks getting arrested, being jailed, bonding out of jail, hiring a lawyer, going to court, possibly going back to jail, serving probation and making huge financial expenditures. It is estimated that a drunk driving charges costs about $20,000 when all of the expenses – including increased insurance costs – are tallied.

That is the risk if the drunk driver is lucky and doesn’t have an accident resulting in an injury or fatality. In a worst-case scenario, there will never be an end in sight to the anguish and devastation affecting everyone involved.

That’s cause enough not to ever get behind the wheel in the first place.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gay author, activist Glen Maxey on road promoting his book about Rick Perry's alleged secret homosexual life


Life is changing quickly for gay former Texas Rep. Glen Maxey since the publication last week of his memoir chronicling a five-month investigation of Republican presidential contender Rick Perry’s alleged homosexual liaisons with a subordinate, steady boyfriends, anonymous sex partners, a hustler and reportedly anyone else he could coax into a horizontal position.

Prior to the book’s debut Maxey, who became a gay activist after leaving politics, had stocked his Austin apartment with food and other supplies anticipating a period of time when he might want to stay out of sight. But after his expose attracted national media attention and outrage by conservative religious supporters of Perry he decided to go further underground.

“Got some death threats of the crank level, but have moved to a safe house until it calms down,” Maxey said in a message via Facebook following a telephone interview a few days earlier.

Maxey, who is the only openly gay politician to have ever served in the Texas Legislature, sent the message as he prepared for a Univision morning interview and a KLBJ drive-time radio interview that afternoon.

The “calm before the storm” that Maxey had talked about in the telephone interview apparently has erupted into a major disturbance, and he is now planning personal appearances to sell and autograph the book. He has already sold a good number of the $19.95  paperback books at book-signings in Austin and Dallas.

“Head Figure Head – The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry” is the product of Maxey’s work with The Huffington Post reporter Jason Cherkis and the frustration he felt when publisher Arianna Huffington killed what the former legislator claims was a completed story approved by editors and ready for publication.

When it became clear the story would never be published, Maxey started writing his book.
In his book Maxey does not name any of the sources he cites who claim knowledge of Perry’s alleged sexual escapades, nor the Huffington Post reporter, whom he refers to only as the national journalist. The book was at first only available online, but now is also available as a paperback through Amazon.com.

Maxey said other publications were interested in talking to him and his sources about the allegations of extramarital homosexual pursuits by Perry, but both he and the men who claimed to know the governor in the biblical sense were reluctant to start over with a new reporter.

 “That was a mountain I couldn’t climb again, and the other folks had the same reaction,” Maxey said. “It’s difficult to get people to talk about sex in general, it’s more difficult to get them to tell their story to a reporter, and it’s an even bigger climb when it’s Rick Perry they are talking about.”

Maxey disputes Huffington’s claim to POLITICO.com that the story was never ready for publication, and that there was no real story. The activist claims the publisher killed the story after Perry’s campaign hired famed libel lawyer Lin Wood, and the lawyer wrote a letter to the Huffington Post threatening to sue if the story was published. Huffington denied that the lawyer’s letter had anything to do with her decision.
“Arianna Huffington told a bald-faced lie,” Maxey said.

No response has been received to an e-mail sent to Huffington Post’s media relations department seeking comment on Maxey’s claim.

Maxey concedes a high-priced call boy who claimed to have engaged in sex with Perry and another man for hire in hotel rooms several times never went on the record, even though celebrity attorney Gloria Allred reportedly was signed on to represent him when the story hit. An affidavit signed by the prostitute – whom Maxey said was feeling “traumatized” by the prospect of going public with his allegations -- might have convinced Huffington to go with the story, but the activist maintained there was already enough documentation to justify publication.

Maxey claimed Huffington exercised a “double standard” when she decided against publication of the Perry story, probably on the advice of AOL parent company corporate attorneys. If the story had involved extramarital heterosexual activities, the story would have run, he claimed.

In late August the Huffington Post reporter, who made several trips to Austin and had contacted gay journalists for information earlier in the investigation, wrote in an e-mail seeking clarification that he was putting finishing touches on the story before it ran.

Some political observers have speculated Perry’s drastic drop in the national opinion polls from frontrunner status might have contributed to Huffington’s decision to kill the story.

Another source familiar with the investigation said it appeared the publisher -- for reasons only she knows -- was never interested in outing Perry, and the story will never be published. The Huffington Post scribe reportedly indicated he had no problem with Maxey’s book, and that he thought Maxey needed to write it.
For his part, Maxey said that he is not worried about Gov. Perry filing a lawsuit against him, and he doubts anyone from Perry’s camp will ever contact him. The former legislator also doubts that he would lose a lawsuit if Perry filed one against him.

“Everything I said in this book is my opinion,” Maxey said. “I believe Rick Perry is homosexual or had relations with gay men. The evidence points to that conclusion.”

Maxey said it is unlikely Perry would file a lawsuit against him because if he did the governor and his wife, Anita, would be forced to answer questions under oath about the widespread rumor that she caught Perry and another man having sex in the governor’s mansion six years ago.

At the time, a story was widely circulated that the governor’s wife had checked into the luxurious Driskill Hotel in Austin and hired a prominent divorce attorney. The story became so widespread that Perry and his wife – who typically avoid one-on-one media interviews -- sat down with an Austin American Statesman reporter to refute the tale.

“If Perry was bold or stupid enough to file any action against me, my lawyers would welcome the opportunity,” Maxey said. “I don’t think Perry would take that risk.”

There has been no response to a telephone request for comment from the Rick Perry Campaign.

Maxey said that although he is gaining widespread attention for the book, his only motive in writing it was to expose the alleged hypocrisy of Gov. Perry, who is recognized as the most virulently outspoken anti-gay governor to ever hold office in Texas. The governor’s claim to conservative religious leaders after he announced for the presidency in August that there was nothing in his personal background to embarrass them rankled him, the activist said.

“How amazingly hypocritical he was claiming there would be no scandal,” Maxey said. “It was astonishing to me. That was the impetus for writing the book.”

Maxey said at the time he wrote the book there were only a dozen men known who had claimed to have had sex with Perry. Now, there are twice that many, and new tips come in daily, he said.

“I went into publishing this with no real expectations,” Maxey said. “The story may get retold in a more comprehensive way, and people can make their own decisions about it. I think the rest of this will play out in the public discussion.”

Maxey said one thing is for certain. Perry will be a bigger enemy to the state’s LGBT community than he ever has before if his bid for the presidency continues on its failure track and he returns to Texas, he said. The activist said he wouldn’t be surprised if Perry attempted to call the Texas Legislature into emergency session on an anti-LGBT initiative to pacify his conservative religious supporters.

“When you see a snake in the grass you chop off its head,” Maxey said. “I believe this snake is coming back to Texas. He is going to be a meaner snake. He will have something to prove. He will take it out on gay people.”

And that threat is likely to keep Maxey, the author and the activist, busy on his anti-Perry campaign for a very long time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hateful bigotry of Perry campaign surpassed only by its asininity; latest strategy smacks of utter desperation


Just when I thought the 2012 Rick Perry for President Campaign couldn’t get any nuttier, guess what? Yep, it managed to get sillier with the release of Gov. Perry’s campaign video attacking openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Services.

Never mind that in the video dubbed “Strong” Perry is wearing the same type of tan Carhartt ranch coat actor Heath Ledger wore in the gay romance movie “Brokeback Mountain,” and that the video’s musical score was inspired by gay American composer Aaron Copland. The message is ridiculous, and the video’s distinction of registering  what some are calling the most “dislikes” ever for a YouTube video (646,000 dislikes to 20,000 likes) is probably attributable as much to its asininity as its hateful bigotry.

Facing the camera against a wooded backdrop that conjures images of the big gay movie’s outdoor scenes, Perry declares that he is not “ashamed to admit” he is a Christian. “You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that something is wrong when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas and pray in schools.”

Perry adds that as president he would “end Obama’s war on religion” and “fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”

Aside from the imagery and the music of the video making Perry and his campaign staff again look like fools, the idea that openly gay and lesbian members of the military somehow undermine Christianity is ludicrous. Or are children supposed to resent gay and lesbian soldiers because they get to go off and fight wars while they are stuck at school unable to pray out loud?

I doubt that it will come as a shock to Perry, his staff, the voting public or even school children that there are openly gay and lesbian people working in every level of local, state and federal government and private business -- even churches -- without harm to Christianity. Yet for some reason they expect everyone to swallow the notion that openly gay and lesbian members of the military will put the nation under the control of pagans.

What about openly gay and lesbian soldiers who observe Christianity by going to church, reading their Bibles and praying? Are they to be the demise of their own religion?

And do U.S. citizens who are Jewish or members of other faiths matter at all to Perry and his campaign staff? Under the Perry plan are those children to be indoctrinated into Christianity?

As to Perry’s promise in the video’s closing, it would be news to everybody if it were learned President Obama had declared a war on religion. Those laws regulating Christmas displays and school prayer were put in motion decades ago, a long time before Obama ever thought about running for political office. Open prayer in school was banned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 when Perry was in grade school. Surely he remembers.

Ultimately, I can’t imagine many people viewing the overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was supported by a majority of the American public, enacted by Congress and signed into law by Obama, as an assault on Christianity.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this week that Obama is probably not aware of the Perry campaign video, but he added that the president is proud of his support LGBT issues.

The video looks like evidence of the Perry campaign’s desperation following the governor’s disintegration in national polls since his announcement in August he would run for president. Perry dropped from a double-digit front leader status to 5 percent following a series of debate missteps and disastrous public appearances that showed him to be outmatched on the debate stage by every other Republican in the campaign.

A new American Research Poll shows Perry now has 13 percentage points in Iowa, the first primary state. But he still is in back of the pack, far behind Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Regardless of where Perry goes in the polls, I’m confident he will again sabotage himself in some manner, unless he has an undercover gay or lesbian person on his campaign staff doing it for him. 

Oddly enough, it was revealed just this week that Tony Fabrizio, a nationally known GOP campaign consultant  who was outed by GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia, has played a key role in Perry’s campaign. Later, it was claimed that Fabrizio had sent an e-mail calling the ad nuts.

But aside from the obvious aspect of Fabrizio being a traitor who apparently has sacrificed the LGBT community to make a few bucks for himself, he doesn’t appear to have been using his expertise as a gay man to help Perry navigate difficult waters.

Who will ever forget the image of Perry deep throating a corn dog at an Iowa state fair while Romney graciously nibbled on his? What were they thinking when they handed a corn dog to Perry, who has been fighting rumors that he is secretly gay for years?

In fact, a common question today is, “How did he ever go so far in Texas politics?”

There is only one group of people – other than personal friends, relatives and other beneficiaries of the governor’s influence as an elected official – to whom Perry still appeals. That is conservative Christians who put their religious beliefs ahead of every other consideration, regardless of whose rights get trampled upon in the process.

No wonder Perry released such a video and continues to offer it on his campaign Website, but I don’t think there are enough of them to vote him into office. With the release of gay former Texas legislator Glen Maxey's book "Head Figure Head" this week detailing an investigation of Perry's alleged secret homosexual life, he might also lose a lot of that base.

Many people who started off supporting Perry have now fled from his camp, saying that his performance as a presidential candidate has brought about a national embarrassment.  The worst part of it is that there is no telling what Perry and his campaign will do next. But it’s bound to be a dilly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Suicide data shatters myths but statistics still staggering



                                 In Memory of Water Felker, June 7, 1949 - Nov. 9, 2010,
                                 pictured with his beloved mother Mattie Muriel Felker on a
                                 cruise during the Christmas holidays.


One of the biggest myths about suicide apparently is that people are more likely to kill themselves during the Christmas holidays. That’s what I had always thought, but now I know I was misinformed about that and much more related to suicide.

It turns out the month of December actually has the lowest number of suicides during the year, and spring and fall months have the highest incidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is speculated that people who might be suicidal think less about killing themselves during the holidays because increased social activity distracts them from their thoughts.

The federal agency recently released the results of its study of suicidal thoughts and behavior in adults for the years 2008-2009. The report, which reveals that someone kills themself every 15 minutes in the United States, provides some interesting statistics about suicidal thought. It is the first report to present such data state by state.

One of the more interesting findings of the study is that suicidal thought and behavior vary widely from state to state. About 2.2 million adults – representing 1 percent of the nation’s adult population – acknowledged making plans in the study year to commit suicide, ranging from .01 percent of that number living in Georgia to 2.8 percent in Rhode Island. About 1 million adults reported attempting suicide, ranging from .01 percent in Delaware and Georgia to 1.5 percent in Rhode Island.

The report’s researchers concluded that adults in the Midwest and West were more likely to think about suicide than those in the Northeast and South. Adults in the Midwest were more likely to make plans to commit suicide than those in the South, but suicide attempts did not vary by the four regions.

The variance among the states’ statistics is peculiar, but suicide statistics in general seem to be perplexing. As in the case of loved ones who are often left wondering why victims killed themselves, researchers must try to make sense of the data the victims’ deaths leave behind.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that four men commit suicide for every woman who kills herself, as was reflected in the 2008 statistics when 28,450 men succeeded in killing themselves compared to 7,585 women. Yet women reportedly attempt suicide three times as often as men.

By age, suicide is the sixth leading cause of death for children 5 to 14 years old, and it is the third leading cause of death for people 15 to 24 years old. Rates of suicide among adult men rise with advancing age, and men 65 and older are seven times more likely than women to commit suicide. Women are most likely to commit suicide between the ages of 45 to 54, and then again after age 75.

By ethnic groups and race, the highest rates are seen among Native Americans, Alaskan Americans and Anglos. The lowest rates are seen among Latinos and African Americans who commit suicide at rates of less than half of what is seen in the other groups.

People diagnosed with AIDS are 20 times more likely to commit suicide, according to the foundation.

Among LGBT people the reports of suicide attempts are significantly higher in comparison to straight people in similar socio-economic and age groups, according to the report “Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations.” The report published by the 2011 Movement Advancement Project notes that statistical information about suicides among LGBT people is scarce.

Indeed, most of the statistics about suicidal behavior and suicide seem to create more questions than they facilitate understanding, but researchers have identified certain constants. People who kill themselves are most likely to use a firearm in the process, their deaths are likely to occur after they have made an average of 11 previous suicide attempts, they might suffer from major depression, they may abuse alcohol and other drugs and they could be victims of bullying, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

There are preventive measures that can be taken if someone is in crisis and at risk of suicide, and it is a good idea to be prepared for such an event. The strongest indicator of a suicide risk is a previous attempt or ongoing expressions of intense distress and despair. Those people must never be left alone, and they should immediately be afforded mental health treatment.

Psychotherapy has helped people who are at risk of suicide survive, and alcohol and drug abuse treatment can succeed in saving lives that seemed destined for destruction.

And even though it turns out the holidays are not a time when people are most at risk for planning or attempting suicide, the myth has created an opportunity to raise awareness about a preventable tragedy for both the potential victims and their loved ones. After all, there often are no second chances when it comes to a risk of suicide.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank opened door for other LGBT politicians when he came out in 1987



Openly gay U.S. Congressman Barney Frank’s monumental contribution to the LGBT rights movement will one day be honored in the collection of unique individuals and events that makes up every American history book.

Frank, 71, may no longer be alive to see that day arrive, but as sure as God made little apples, it’s coming. That’s because the LGBT rights movement has become an unstoppable force under the guidance of the testy congressman and the scores of other openly gay and lesbian politicians who have joined him over the years in public office at every level of local, state and national government.

Now that Frank, a Democrat, has announced he will retire in 2012 and not seek re-election to the congressional office he has held since 1981, it is time to start putting his contributions to the American human rights movement in perspective.

Most LGBT rights activists agree the single most important measure in achieving success requires securing a place at the table where law is being made, and Frank accomplished that at the highest level a quarter-century ago when he publicly came out.

At the time Frank came out he had already served in Congress for six years, and it surely was no surprise to his colleagues, friends and families to learn about his sexual orientation. But the same could not be said for the majority of the American public which still viewed homosexuality as quirky at best.

Even many LGBT people were unsure in 1987 about what to make of a congressman coming out as gay and thought it would likely be the end of his political career, which he began in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973.

Probably to the shock of some Frank continued to gain respect in Congress, and he now is viewed as one of the smartest, wittiest and most eloquent politicians in Washington, D.C.

Frank achieved success and gained admiration from his peers, the media, his constituents and others even after being enveloped in a scandal in 1989 that nearly wrecked his career. It was learned that year Frank had an affair with a male prostitute, whom the congressman had allowed to move into his home.

Frank was investigated by the House Ethics Commission at his own request, and it ruled after a 10-month inquiry that the congressman had not been aware the live-in prostitute had continued to practice his trade from the household. It did recommend Frank be reprimanded for using his position as a congressman to get favors for his prostitute boyfriend.

In the height of irony, Frank survived an attempt by former Republican Idaho Congressman Larry Craig to remove him from office. Craig, who was elected in 1991 to the Senate for Idaho, made news in 2007 for attempting to solicit sex from an undercover male vice squad officer in a Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport restroom.

Craig, who plead guilty to the charge but made laughable excuses about his predicament in an attempt to claim his innocence, did not run for re-election the following year. On the other hand, Frank went on after his scandal to win every following election by a wide margin.

At the time Frank came out as gay there was not much more than a handful of openly gay politicians in the nation, if that many. As Frank’s fortunes rose so did those of other politicians in the LGBT community, and today there are openly gay and lesbian people serving in a wide variety of major elected offices.

In the last election in November, the Victory Fund saw 53 of the 75 openly gay and lesbian candidates it had endorsed elected to office, including Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, State Sen. Adam Ebbin of Virginia and State Assemblyman Tim Eustace of New Jersey.

 As Frank retires from public office, he leaves behind in Congress Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who also are Democrats.

No openly gay or lesbian member of Congress has ever been elected on the Republican Party ticket, although there have been a number of gay Republicans who have served from the closet. And more than one has been exposed for their hypocrisy as a result of a scandal, something Frank wisely avoided.

Frank’s legacy will be that he broke ground in American politics, inspiring other openly gay and lesbian people to seek and win elected office at every level.  That has resulted in the type of political gains that many people who have been around since the start of the gay rights movement in 1969 never thought they would see, regardless of how Frank might be viewed on some other issues.

Considering what has happened in the past four decades, it is conceivable that one day an openly gay or lesbian politician could be elected to any office, including the U.S. Senate or even higher.  That’s a thought that probably never even occurred to Frank back in 1987.












Friday, November 25, 2011

Republican presidential candidates shuffle again, 'fringe' candidate Ron Paul rises in polls



For entertainment’s sake it just doesn’t get any better than watching Republican candidates vying for the 2012 presidential nomination give it their all – or lack of it -- for a national TV audience.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is now polling as a frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, is the most recent  to take center stage after months of sharing his political views on the sidelines while being dismissed as a “fringe” candidate by the political establishment and the national media. Judging from his appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday, Nov. 20, he intends to make the most of it.

TV news host Bob Schieffer often showed signs of exasperation as he struggled to get in the last word during the interview with the controversial candidate. After the broadcast it was clear Paul, who is known as the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement, had burst out of the “media blackout” his campaign flacks claim has thwarted him since he entered the race in May.

While his fellow Texas presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry might often be at a loss for words, that’s obviously not the case with Paul, who lobbed the ball back to Schieffer every time it came flying at him. In the process, Paul probably left most federal employees – especially career bureaucrats and military brass -- a bit shaken now that he is rising in the polls.

Paul’s most controversial theory focused on the reason he believes Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. He claimed it occurred because of the influence of “flawed” U.S. foreign policy on other nations, and he placed the blame on U.S. “policy makers.”

The nation’s 12,000 diplomats should be put to work in improving relations with countries like Iran rather than trying to scare other countries’ leaders into submission, said Paul, who is a medical doctor in addition to being a politician. Sanctions against other countries are a bad idea because they are a preamble to war, he said.

In connection with his peaceful approach to foreign affairs, Paul said if he was elected president he would close the 900 military bases the U.S. now operates in 130 countries and bring the troops home to protect the country. Because the U.S. is “bankrupt,” Paul said he also would shut down several federal agencies, including the departments of energy, education, interior, commerce, HUD and FEMA.

On top of that, Paul said he wants to reduce the federal workforce across the board by 10 percent.

Clearly Paul has thought his proposal through more carefully than Gov. Perry, who near fatally embarrassed himself in a recent debate, because the congressman can remember the names of all the agencies he wants to close. But what on earth is going to happen to all of those federal employees when they are put out of work, and what is to become of the programs they administer?

This can’t be a popular idea with federal employees, who make up the largest workforce in the U.S., and members of the U.S. Armed Services. When you add in all of the relatives and friends of people who are on the federal payroll, it’s possible that Paul’s numbers are going to fall as fast as they suddenly rose.

The latest financial reports for campaign contributions show large numbers of federal employees supporting him, but those reports reflect the period ending Sept. 30. He unveiled his plan to streamline the federal government Oct. 17. It’s possible federal employees will be giving the stability of their jobs a second thought, “progressive” layoff plan or not.

Paul’s stand on LGBT issues didn’t come up during the interview, but they wouldn’t appeal to anyone who considers advancement of them critical to voting for a presidential candidate, according to his past statements about marriage equality. Paul is opposed to legalization of same-sex marriage, and he supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

In contrast, Paul opposes a Constitutional amendment to protect the current definition of marriage, but that is likely based on a widespread belief that the document should be inviolate. He did support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so he has gained some LGBT voter support.

On other progressive issues, Paul’s views are similarly divergent. With a medical background in gynecology, he is pro-life and opposed to abortions, yet he supports homeschooling and the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs.

At this point the most recent national poll by USA Today/Gallup is showing that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 20 percent and 19 percent respectively, are tied for the top spot in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. They are trailed by businessman Herman Cain at 16 percent, Paul at 10 percent, Perry at 8 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 1 percent each, who with the exception of Paul are all virulently anti-LGBT.

Of course, those figures could go absolutely anywhere during the next year. Perry and Bachmann were once frontrunners, and Gingrich has seen his fortunes rise, fall and rise again since he announced his candidacy. Allegations of past sexual harassment will likely bring down Cain, and Gingrich’s past association as a highly-paid “consultant” for federal housing agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will likely prove to be his undoing.

Romney’s numbers have remained more stable than the other candidates, and he seems to carry less baggage than the others. That has led many to speculate that the former Massachusetts governor will eventually wind up with the nomination.

But for now it’s Paul’s turn in the spotlight, and that’s likely to make for some pretty intriguing debates when the seven candidates get on stage together in the coming days as the media pays more attention to the Texas congressman. It will be interesting to see if they remember their goal is to prevent President Obama’s re-election or if they succumb to another dogfight.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Child sexual abuse concerns all, especially LGBT parents



Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children so it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse. Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families -- and of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied this week in an NBC interview of engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him. His admission shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected – Sandusky is most likely a pedophile who has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combatting child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948. In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching,  who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child,  who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,  who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes.  The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety,  suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality. Victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them. It’s hard to imagine that Sandusky’s future holds anything in store other than a lengthy prison center.

But the real tragedy – if the allegations are true – will be the lasting impact upon the victims.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Republican candidates' missteps work to Obama's advantage, gay rights movement



Anyone wanting to see President Barack Obama serve a second term in the White House for the sake of LGBT equality has got to be feeling pretty good about now as his Republican challengers struggle to survive what must be one of the most peculiar national campaign seasons ever.

When the Republican candidates aren’t self-destructing in mass, they appear to be too busy destroying each other to make any headway with the nation’s voters.

Herman Cain, the black anti-gay Georgia businessman who has led the pack of Republican contenders for president in recent weeks, likely will soon suffer a steep plunge in opinion polls as a result of several women telling the New York Times and other members of the media he sexually harassed them years ago. Cain calls the allegations “baseless,” but Republican heavyweights, such as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, are showing signs of nervousness and demanding answers as the controversy persists and the number of allegations grows.

Cain attempted at first to brush off the allegations by refusing to discuss them with the media, but that strategy obviously collapsed earlier this week when he finally called a press conference on the campaign trail near Phoenix to answer the charges. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO denied guilt and defiantly vowed to remain in the presidential race.

In a debate with the other Republican candidates this week in Michigan, Cain insisted the sexual harassment allegations would not affect his campaign. He cited a continuing flow of campaign contributions from his supporters as proof of his invincibility.

That resolve could dissipate though if more details of Cain’s alleged improprieties emerge. Two of four women whom Cain allegedly sexually harassed when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s have spoken out publicly.

And a fifth report has emerged that he made a woman with whom he dined uncomfortable by allegedly asking her for an introduction to another woman -- in addition to sticking her for an $800 bill for two bottles of wine. The dinner followed a speech Cain gave to USAID in Egypt in 2002, according to the Washington Examiner.
Although Cain and his handlers no doubt thought that trying to ignore the controversy might make it go away, he instead came off to many as arrogant and inept.

Things aren’t going any better for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who quickly ascended in the polls after he announced his candidacy for president earlier in the fall. But Perry, another major foe of the LGBT community, fell to the bottom just as fast after giving a series of poor debate performances with other GOP candidates.

The governor continued his fall from grace when he spoke at an event in New Hampshire recently and appeared to be under the influence of some sort of intoxicant, although he issued a denial and attributed the odd behavior to a casual speaking style he had adopted for the evening.

In the Republican debate this week Perry again stumbled by being able to remember the name of a federal agency he wanted to eliminate if he was elected president. Before the debate Cain’s answer to the sexual harassment question was expected to dominate news coverage afterwards, but Perry’s slip-up instead became the lead.

It was Cain’s second break of the evening during the debate. Earlier, Romney had declined to answer a question about whether he thought Cain was unfit for the presidency because of the sexual harassment allegations.

The problems stunting the Cain and Perry campaigns ordinarily would work to the advantage of the other major Republican contender, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but the savagery the other GOP candidates’ campaigns will inflict on him in coming months no doubt will offset the advantage. Political analysts expect Romney, who also demanded answers from Cain this week, will be portrayed in multi-millions of dollars’ worth of advertising as a flip-flopper who can’t be trusted by Republican voters.

For that matter, LGBT voters probably can’t trust Romney either – and certainly not Cain or Perry who already have made it clear they would not support gay rights issues.

In the case of Romney, he does indeed appear to flip-flop on issues. Although he once seemed supportive of the LGBT community when he was the governor of Massachusetts, there’s no telling what stand he might take in an effort to win the Republican nomination and the presidency.

As for Perry, his disdain for the LGBT community is well known in Texas. He has long fought rumors that he is secretly gay, and that could be part of the reason for his vehement opposition to any LGBT human rights advances. It was for that reason the picture of him going down on a corn dog at a state fair made him the laughing stock of the country.

Likewise, Cain has already vowed to reverse any gay rights gains seen during Obama’s administration, and the revelations about his alleged sexual harassment of women should concern all LGBT voters. If he repeatedly treated women over whom he had power with disrespect, it’s unlikely that he showed any mercy to gay and lesbian associates he encountered.

But despite the dangers the three major Republican candidates pose to the gay rights movement, the one who wins the nomination will enjoy significant LGBT support. Many LGBT voters believe the Republican Party’s policies regarding economic, defense and other issues represent the best course for the country, regardless of the impact on the gay rights movement.

The saving grace for gay rights activists who want to see Obama remain in office is that the Republican Party has failed to come up with a candidate to electrify the nation’s voters. As discouraging as the country’s economic situation remains, Obama continues to outpoll other candidates and would likely win the election if it were held today.

And at this time it appears unlikely any of the Republican candidates are going to change that scenario by Election Day next year.






Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beware political candidates backed by evangelical stooges who want to turn clock back on gay rights

There’s probably never before been a safer — or more critical — time in American culture and politics for LGBT people to come out and acknowledge their identities.

This week when Dan Koeffler, an ABC News co-anchor on the World News Now show, acknowledged he was gay, in a reference to Star Trek actor Zach Quinto, Koeffler likely caused a lot of people to realize we might just pop up anywhere — even on TV at 3 a.m.

The television personality’s off-hand quip that he might drop his rule against dating actors in favor of Quinto, who recently came out in a New York Magazine interview, might serve as an good example for members of our community who have thus far opened the closet door only a little bit.

The television journalist’s declaration hopefully will inspire LGBT people who are tired of listening to Republican presidential candidates backed by evangelical stooges, condemn us and threaten to rollback our hard-won human rights gains.

If there was ever a moment for us to stand up against the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced recently at a campaign event by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ senior pastor Robert Jeffress, it is now. The thought of Jeffress — who has made a pastoral career out of trampling on the rights of LGBT people — having the ear of the next U.S. president ought to be enough to scare anyone into action.

If Jeffress would dare to publicly condemn the Mormon faith of Perry’s Republican political rival Mitt Romney in a weaselly attack before reporters after the event, what retributions against our community might he attempt to exact in exchange for helping deliver the evangelical vote to Perry in a presidential election?

We’re talking about an obsessed man who goes on TV to rail against anyone who doesn’t follow his religious philosophy, declaring that merely being a good person is not enough. Anyone one who doesn’t want to burn in hell must believe as Jeffress does, according to his sermons.

A friend of Perry’s who has known him for more than a half-century told me recently that the governor is more enlightened and tolerant than the LGBT community perceives him to be. But I don’t buy that — especially after he failed to condemn Jeffress’ outrageous remarks.

The message doesn’t get much better over in the camp of Herman Cain, who has vowed to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it were to pass Congress if he is elected to the presidency. There are other Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, vying for the party’s presidential nomination that are just as scary. But they appear to be trailing so significantly in
the polls that they aren’t a threat — at least for now.

Veteran LGBT activists have long known and shared their wisdom with us about the need for people to come out and stand united against hypocrisy and bigotry. And much has been accomplished as a result. There is strength in numbers, and to quote one of my favorite gay activists, William Waybourn of Washington D.C., “If everyone who is gay came out at once, the discrimination and bullying would stop immediately.”

That obviously won’t ever happen, but it does present a strong argument for the kind of mass, non-threatening demonstration that is the philosophy of the National Coming Out Day. The event has already passed this year, but there is nothing to say we couldn’t declare 2012 a coming out year in light of the importance of the national election.

Bullying is something everyone needs to remember and condemn, and it’s what Kloeffler said was on his mind when he came out on national television in the early morning television broadcast. He was referring to a gay teenager, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, N.Y., who had valiantly fought intolerance and violent anti-gay discrimination to the point of posting a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better,” only to finally succumb to suicide when he lost the will to endure more intolerance from his peers.

Although Koeffler was likely confident he would suffer no repercussions at work nor in the rest of his life by his admission, it was still a courageous move, apparently undertaken in an effort to help others in less comfortable situations. Too many people who could make a difference sit by idly and silently when opportunities arise to speak out against intolerance and discrimination. And Koeffler acknowledged he had been one of those for quite some time.

When it comes to anti-gay discrimination and bullying or any other class of prejudice, situations just don’t get any better without concerted resistance on the part of the oppressed. I know this because I have in the past tried to reason with evangelical Christians, including a close associate of Jeffress’, whom I have known most of my life.

Their reaction to my pleas for compassion as regards the plight of young LGBT people who are victims of anti-gay bullying and other issues involving discrimination was something along the lines of, “They deserve what they get.”

A typical response during the conversations was a flabbergasting, “We are so far apart on this,” which was based solely on what I consider to be misguided religious beliefs.

What I learned from trying to reason with the opponents of our quest for equal rights is that it was destined from the start to be a fruitless endeavor, and that our only hope in attracting allies is to appeal to the compassion of open-minded individuals who believe in fairness.
Even if that wasn’t Koeffler’s conscious objective in speaking out on the broadcast, I think his words probably reached a lot of people who are realizing our sheer numbers necessitate them giving more thought to our mission.

Maybe it’s a good time for others to follow Koeffler’s lead and see what kind of difference they might be able to make in spreading tolerance and fairness in their communities.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's lifelong friend comes to his aid, addresses racism, gay rumors, homophobia allegations


A lifelong friend of Texas Gov. Rick Perry claims a recent Washington Post report detailing the involvement of the Republican presidential candidate's family in the lease of a West Texas hunting camp known as "Niggerhead" inaccurately portrays his buddy.

The New Republic, a national liberal magazine based in Washington, D.C., quotes Dallas banker Riley Couch as saying Perry is "just not like that," when it comes to racial prejudice.

In his more than 50 years of friendship wth Perry, he has never heard the governor use a racial slur, said Couch, who was born in Haskell County where Perry also grew up.

Couch was in the same Boy Scout Troop, graduated from Texas A&M and sold Bible books in Missouri during college summers with Perry. The Dallas banker, whose father owned a West Texas bank, has been a strong supporter of the governor's political career, and Perry appointed Couch to the Finance Commission of Texas in 2009 to a term that expires in 2012.

Perry, who was a yell leader at Texas A&M, is the longest continuously serving governor in the history of Texas. He is a favorite of conservative religious groups, and he professes strong religious beliefs.

Perry, who is generally recognized by LGBT activists as the  most virulently outspoken anti-gay governor in the history of Texas, has been plagued by rumors that he is gay since 2006. Before he announced his presidential candidacy his advisors acknowledged they were ready to address the rumors.

In an e-mail message today to The Rare Reporter, Couch said the rumors Perry is gay are unfounded. "No, I firmly believe he is straight," said Couch, who is straight and has a daughter by a previous marriage.

Numerous people from Haskell County, both gay and straight, have said in interviews over the years that they had never heard anything about Perry being gay or saw anything that made them suspect he was. But rumors persist in Austin that Perry had male lovers dating back to the mid-1980s when he was elected to the Texas Legislature.

Several national media outlets have launched investigations about the allegations Perry is gay but so far none have produced any stories indicating he has had a secret gay live. Hustler Magazine recently offered a $1 million reward for anyone male or female who could prove they had sex with Perry after he was married to his wife Anita, who is also from Haskell County, in 1982.

Despite the governor's well-known record of opposition to the passage of any laws granting equality or anti-discrimination protection to Texas' LGBT residents, Couch said he believes the governor would treat gay and lesbian employees on his staff fairly.

"He would not treat a gay any different than a straight, I firmly believe," said Couch, who reportedly received numerous media inquiries today in regard to the Washington Post story.

Couch added that he had never heard the governor speak disparingly about LGBT people.

"I have been in many, many social, business and other settings with him over the years. I have never heard him make a crude joke, derogatory statement or use demeaning words to describe any gay individual or lifestyle," Couch said.

Couch said he suspects the governor supports equal rights for all individuals, short of marriage equality rights. Perry has repeatedly said that he believes marriage should be limited to union between men and women only.

"I just cannot picture Rick discriminating in the workplace or his appointments because an individual chooses a different lifestyle. I don't think he would ask or care, as he shouldn't ask or care."

Read The New Republic online article at:  http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-stump/95697/hes-just-not

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Washington Post bombshell may finish Perry off



Someone in the know about things political recently told me a really ugly story was about to blow up about homophobic presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and I assumed it was somehow connected to the rumors about his alleged past gay life.

Imagine my surprise today when I learned the Washington Post had published a story detailing the involvement of Perry and his family in the leasing of a hunting camp in Throckmorton County in West Texas that was known as "Niggerhead." The name reportedly was once displayed in black letters on a large rock at an entrance to the camp, although it was later thinly painted over in white paint.

Perry's camp is currently involved in furious overtime damage control, claiming the name was painted over shortly after Perry's family leased the camp and began entertaining people there. The Washington Post story indicates otherwise, quoting sources (some anonymous) who claim the name remained on the rock for years.

It would appear now the gay rumors that have plauged Perry for years were nothing in comparison to this bomb that was about to blow up in the presidential candidate's face. I wonder if in their haste to begin preparations for addressing the gay rumors Perry's handlers overlooked this monster lurking in the background?

Read the Washington Post story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/rick-perry-familys-hunting-camp-still-known-to-many-by-old-racially-charged-name/2011/10/01/gIQAOhY5DL_story.html

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Texas Tea Party members brew nasty campaign strategy


Politics just don't seem to get any nastier than they do in Texas, judging from a group of Texas Tea Party members' apparent plans to exploit an appearance in Dallas by an internationally known anti-bullying champion.

The Tea Party members reportedly hope a planned appearance by British rugby star Ben Cohen this month at the Dallas gay rights parade can be used as a weapon against an incumbent Texas state representative in the Republican Party Primary.

The legislator, State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Cohen's anti-bullying StandUp Foundation on Sept. 16, prior to the rugby player's appearance as a VIP guest at the annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sept. 18.

Cohen, 33, retired from professional rugby in May 2011 to focus on the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation he created to combat homophobia and bullying. As an athlete he represented the brands Brive and Sale Sharks. He is married to a woman and has twin children.

In November 2000, Cohen's father Peter Cohen was killed while protecting an attack victim at a nightclub he managed in Northampton, England. He died a month later from head injuries. Three men were found guilty of the violence.

Cohen, a World Cup winner who is straight but has many gay fans, has said in interviews the stories he heard from gay people about being bullied and feeling suicidal as a result of the violence drew him to the issue years ago.

The Dallas fundraiser, which was organized by a gay resident, was scheduled to take place at Pitts' Highland Park home in the Dallas area, but the location was changed to a residence in another neighborhood after Pitts' political opponents employed gay-baiting tactics in an apparent effort to embarrass the legislator.

The relocation of the fundraiser occurred when news of the uproar reached Cohen's handlers in London and nearly derailed Cohen's planned four-day visit to Dallas, according to the organizers. The sports star's representatives reportedly wanted no association with Texas' volatile political climate, one made infamous in recent years by ultra-conservative, anti-gay Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Texas Tea Party members learned about Cohen's planned appearance when the LGBT newspaper Dallas Voice published a report about them on its blog Instant Tea. At one point, the agitators who had heard about the report but could not find it online, erroneously claimed that the newspaper had pulled the story in an effort to cover up Pitts' involvement with the fundraiser.

The Tea Party members' antics came to light when they twice asked Joey Dauben, the publisher of the conservative Ellis County Observer Website, to reach out to a Dallas Voice writer he knew for information. In the last communication, the Tea Party members wanted to know if the newspaper or any other organization would be taking pictures at the fundraiser that they would be able to obtain for use against Pitts in a campaign.

The Tea Party members reportedly have no plans to demonstrate at the event or crash it.

Pitts reportedly is being targeted by Tea Party members because he advocated for the passage of anti-bullying legislation in Texas and voted for two measures backed by Equality Texas. The legislator reportedly offered the use of his home for the fundraiser because of his interest in the issue.

Although Pitts backed the anti-gay bullying measures, he has been criticized by activists for being less friendly on other LGBT issues. That has left some observers puzzled by the Tea Party members' tactics.

Dauben said his criticism on his blog of Pitts is more motivated by the legislator's obvious residency in Dallas when he represents Waxahachie, rather than his participation in the fundraiser.

Two Texas Tea Party members, Linda Bounds and T.J. Fabby, have announced plans to oppose Pitts, who has been in office since 1992, according to the Ellis County Observer.

It appears the two candidates and their supporters are willing to do just about anything to get one of them elected. And so it goes in Texas elections.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry just being himself


This photo has been distributed far and wide, but alas I must post it as well. I first saw it on the Dallas Voice Web site.

Many people who have displayed this photo have done so because they claim it shows his form in regard to an alleged sexual proclivity. It has been widely rumored that old Rick, who was a devastatingly handsome young man and still looks better than a lot of us at the same age, likes dick.

Now, I don't necessarily believe that rumor, but if for no other reason than appearances I would suggest that he nibble on those wieners on a stick rather than gulping them right down.

Rick, where are your handlers when you do these things? Even Anita would have told you that was going to come off bad.

You probably need to hire a gay person on your staff to advise you not to do things that are going to add fuel to the fire of gossip that you are a closeted homosexual. Unless you already have one on staff, which in such a case, might suggest that said queen is secretly planning to sabotage your presidential bid. Go, girl!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Rare Reporter celebrates 62nd birthday, retirement


I have to admit that for most of my life I've pretty much done everything ass-backwards so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I've decided to relaunch The Rare Reporter blog just as I've turned 62 and officially retired.

Two good friends of mine -- one a high school friend who now lives in Montgomery, AL, and the other a college friend who lives in Houston -- joined me in Puerto Vallarta for the celebration of my birthday last week. We had a wonderful time together eating, drinking, sight-seeing and generally living it up.

I was also fortunate enough to run into a couple of other friendly faces from Dallas while I was in Mexico.

The highlights were excursions to the jungle-covered mountains outside of the city where attached to cables we sailed over tree tops, and an exotic boat cruise down the coast of Mexico. It was a fabulous trip.

The picture above is one of me gliding through the air to the next stop while on the tree-canopy tour. I just sort of closed my eyes and hoped for the best as I neared the landing platform.

But now that I'm back home, I realize I don't want to vegetate in retirement. I do plan to spend a lot of time traveling, but when I'm not I'm still going to be writing and taking photographs. I've been doing it most of my life, and I can't imagine stopping now.

At this time my column, The Rare Reporter, is being published by the Dallas Voice, which will always be the flagship publication for my work, the South Florida Gay News, the Seattle Gay News, LGBTSR.com, and I think I've got a couple of other publications interested in publishing it.

I'm glad to be alive and still kicking. So many of my friends, both gay and straight, didn't make it this far.

They say 60 is the new 40 so I guess I've got a lot of miles left yet to travel. I'm determined in retirement to keep doing what has always gave me the most satisfaction -- serving my community.

I look forward to continuing to share the news and my thoughts with you.