Leading from the Left

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Got Milk? Got Hope?

This Thanksgiving marks the 30th anniversary of the assisination of Harvey Milk. Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the US and his election caused a shock wave across the Country. At the time anti-gay hate was at a peak (one of many, it turns out), with the rise of Anita Bryant in Florida and the Brigg's initiative in California.

Milk gave a speech about why it's important to elect openly gay people to office. It still resonates today and is worth a listen. Keep an eye out for the new Gus Van Sant movie about Harvey Milk which is set to open locally in mid-December. Sean Penn plays Milk in a performance that's generating Oscar buzz.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste!

At our day long retreat on Friday November 14th, the Board of County Commissioners brainstormed a vision for energy independence in Orange County. It was an exciting conversation, brimming with good ideas and long-range goals.

We discussed energy in context of taking advantage of new economic development opportunities, creating news jobs for our citizens, and doing our part to address global climate change. The US is facing an energy crisis on two fronts: global climate change and an unhealthy dependence on foreign oil. And both are real crises. But, as in most crises, there are opportunities. As one participant said: "Why let a good crisis go to waste?!"

I couldn't agree more. Here are just a few of the potential opportunities: a) work with the community college to create training for jobs in the 'Green Economy,' b) support the creation, in co-operation with universities and private business, of new business ventures that apply green technologies, c) encourage/require energy alternatives such as wind and solar, d) explore waste-to-energy, and e) focus our Economic Development Department on creating attracting green businesses and green jobs to Orange County.

I even tossed out the notion of creating a long-range plan to take the county 'off-grid.' That that would mean is that Orange County would meet its energy needs locally. We'd do that by creating alternative energy solutions (wind, solar, geo-thermal, waste-to-energy, etc) that allow us to meet our energy needs internally. Now, it's a long range goal and many will say it's impossible to acheive. But I'd argue that it's worth a shot. We have nothing to lose. And everything to gain.

The Board's discussion about energy issues on Friday was the beginning of a conversation, not the end. No plan was formally created, but we did lay out an exciting vision for Orange County's future. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Woman's City

Woman's City
(a poem by Dorothy Meister)

This windowsill, this curtain blowing,
This steady grief,
This way a woman has of knowing
Her beliefs, are foothills
Craving slurs of snow and rain.

Night descending on a woman's city
Is harsh again,
Fine white dust of moonless pity,
This grain of tears lending
Strange grace to wonder, more sane.
More rare, more sweet flowers growing,
Tremulous fear,
The way a woman has of knowing
The year she must fulfill
In a window curtains blowing.

(A poem written by my grandmother, Dorothy May Beaver Meister: May 1913-Nov 2000)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wanda Sykes and "Prop H8"

When I last wrote about same sex marriage and the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I posited that there was a void to be filled. Namely, there is an important role for prominent African-American gay people to play in terms of engaging black Americans in a productive conversation about LGBT equal rights. There are some conversations that are best held "within the family" and that could be led by folks like Wanda Sykes, Queen Latifah, and Donna Brazile.

Well, Wanda Sykes is now out there and working her behind off. Here's a video clip of her speech at a Prop 8 rally in Las Vegas yesterday.

The passage of California's antigay, discriminatory Proposition 8 has led to nearly two weeks of protests nationwide, including a rally yesterday in Raleigh which I attended. Approximately 1400 determined LGBT folks and our allies rallied behind the state legislative meeting and marched to the Governor's mansion. People are energized and ready to fight. The passage of "Prop H8" feels like a seminal moment for the LGBT community, much like the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video Post from Pamshouseblend

Check this out....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Five Angry Nights

Protests continue in California, five straight days and nights. After the passage of Proposition 8--which takes away rights from California's gays--gay Californians and their supporters protested in front of Morman and fundamentalist Christian churces, on the streets of major California cities, at the state capitol, and at city halls.

Even Republican Governor Arnold Swartzenegger has weighed in on the side of equality and justice.

Ah-nold is right. Don't give up. Be persistent, harness the anger, work harder next time, and remember--always remember--that movements for equality take a long time. Revolutions are never won or lost in one battle. Our fundamental human rights will be secured by convincing--one by one, personal conversation by personal conversation--our friends, family and co-workers that justice is in order.

On a side note: alot has been written about the irony that African-American Californians voted to restrict the rights of gays in fairly large numbers. Some have pointed out the irony of black voters in CA voting to elect a president from a mixed marriage, whose parents could not have legally wed in much of the US in the early 1960's, at the same they voted in large numbers (roughly 70%) to restrict the rights of gay Californians to marry.

While I agree that it's disappointing that one minority group voted to restrict the rights of another, it's not fair to lay the blame at the feet of just one group of people.

However, it is fair to note that we have much more work to do to educate Americans of all backgrounds about equality and justice. In my humble opinion, one of the things that needs to happen is that LGBT African-Americans need to take a lead role in initiating a conversation in the AA community. Frankly, white LGBT political and cultural leaders aren't the right people to carry the message. Barney Frank and Ellen just aren't the right folks to open that door. It's time African-American gay leaders step up; folks like Donna Brazile, Queen Latifah, Wanda Sykes, and Tyler Perry.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Salt in the Wound: Prop 2

I'm still on cloud nine about President-elect Barack Obama.

But for gay Americans it's a bittersweet week. Arkansas voters declared us unfit to be parents. Florida voters passed an amendment that embeds discrimination against LGBT Floridians in their constitution.

And worst of all, Californians passed Proposition 8 which stripped gay's and lesbian's of our equal rights, essentially relegating us to second class citizen status in that state. Reminiscent of Jim Crow legislation it's one of the few times in US history that existing rights have been taken away from a minority group. The salt in the wound? Californians passed Prop 8 the same night they also passed Proposition 2 which will end the inhumane confinement of animals.

Yup, that's right. The same night that Californians voted for Barack Obama by a 24% margin (61% to 37%), the same night that California stripped rights from humans, they gave rights to animals. I would have supported Prop 2 if I lived in California, but it's sadly ironic that voters value pigs and goats more than the rights of humans.

"The road ahead is long."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So Our Children Can Fly

I heard this recently, on the radio. It reflects how I'm feeling today, the day after Americans elected Barack Obama president. I have no idea who wrote it, or where this comes from:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Jesse could run.
Jesse ran so Barack could win.
Barack won so our children can fly.

Enough said.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

For Quality Medical Care You Can Actually Afford

This year I made 3 trips to San Diego so I could get dental work done in Mexico. Yup, that's right. I went to a Tijuana dentist.

Why, you ask? Because I couldn't afford to get the dental work I needed done here in the US. And every year, millions of Americans find themselves in the same boat. And more and more of us are ditching US doctors for less expensive care in foreign countries.

Let me tell ya, under no uncertain terms, the care I received was excellent. The Tijuana dentist I chose picked me up personally at the border crossing. He spoke impeccable English, but more importantly he was clearly well trained and competent.

Perhaps the most common prejudice folks have about medical care in third world countries is that it is substandard, the equipment old and the doctor's office dirty. I found none of that to be true. In fact, the equipment in Dr. Casas' office was every bit as up-to-date as the equipment in the office of my Chapel Hill dentist.

Here's how I ended up in Mexico. Right before last Christmas two teeth broke unexpectedly. Both had old fillings which caused those teeth to crack and then sheer off. I was told I needed two crowns, at least one root canal, and perhaps gum surgery. To the tune of $5,000. Wow. Not having an extra $5,000 laying around, I explored options.

I had heard that Americans were traveling overseas for medical and dental care, but had no idea how to go about it. So, I started researching. I googled dentists in Mexico and Costa Rica, found websites on which Americans reported on their own experiences with medical care abroad, and read everything I could get my hands on before making a final decision. Once I narrowed my search down to Mexico (the cheapest and easiest country for me to get to), the next step was finding a dentist.

For me that was the hardest part of the entire venture. Let's face it, when looking for a new dentist here you can ask friends and neighbors whom they recommend. Through word of mouth, you can get a pretty good idea who would be a good match for your particular set of preferences. Obviously, that's harder when there's a language barrier and an international border in the way.

I found Dr. Casas after googling dentists in Tijuana and then checking and double checking education and other records online. I won't kid you; it was still a leap of faith. But my experience was excellent. If you have medical or dental needs you can't afford in the US, I highly recommend looking abroad. It's not for everyone, but it worked for me.

So, how much did I save? Well, dental care in Mexico generally costs 1/3 as much as care here in the US. Remember the original estimate I received of roughly $5,000? Well, including airfare and some hotel nights, I spent $2600 out of pocket. Yup, half what I would have spent here! Plus, my dental insurance company reimbursed part of the treatment. So, when all was said and done I only spent about $1800.

Many US dental insurance companies will cover your care even if you are going to a dentist in a foreign country. Check with your insurance company before going.

There was a good article in today's LA Times about medical travel abroad.