History on Repeat: Trump More Dangerous than Bush

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In the years leading up to 9/11, a proposal was made by the Clinton Administration to require secure cockpit doors on all commercial aircraft. This would have prevented 9/11. The media was more interested in a sex scandal.

The rest is history. On repeat.

“The federal government should consider aviation security as a national security issue. The Commission believes that terrorist attacks on civil aviation are directed at the United States, and that there should be an ongoing federal commitment to reducing the threats that they pose.” The Gore Commission final reportFebruary 12, 1997

In 1997, Vice President Al Gore chaired the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, otherwise known as the Gore Commission, to study and recommend  new safeguards to prevent future terrorist attacks.  The Gore Commission recommended all commercial aircraft install secure, un-breachable cockpit doors to stop terrorists from hijacking an aircraft while in flight. The GOP controlled Congress subsequently rejected the Gore Commission proposals as too expensive and too burdensome on the airlines.

Unbeknownst to all, also in 1997 a radical Islamic terrorist named Osama Bin Ladin was plotting an attack on the United States. This plot might have been uncovered sooner if the Republican Congress wasn’t more concerned with impeaching President Bill Clinton over lying about a blowjob.

Some may argue that in 2016 the Republican controlled Congress likewise overlooked a plot – by the Russian government to hack our democracy because they were more concerned about investigating emails. <sips tea>. But that’s none of my business.

In 2000, Al Gore ended up losing the presidency to the dumbest man in American politics after the media caricatured Gore as a boring and self aggrandizing technocrat and lauded his opponent George W. Bush as the plain spoken guy you wanted to have a beer with.

Gore narrowly lost to Bush by 500 votes in Florida after Ralph Nader, sensing a moment to make a comeback as an election spoiler, ran a negative Green Party campaign casting the devout environmentalist Gore as a corporate owned shill no different from the oil industry’s official sock puppet, George W. Bush.

Sound familiar?

As we know, Bush narrowly won the electoral college while losing the popular vote by 500,000. For only the third time in U.S. History, the election loser was appointed to the presidency. The fourth to win by losing (by 2.8 million) of course is Donald “Traitor” Trump.

Like Donald Trump today, George Bush also didn’t care for his daily intelligence briefings, including the one he should have received in August 2001 titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike on US Soil”. Bush was on a month long vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch when this alarming report was issued, warning of threats to hijack commercial aircraft.

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On 9/11, terrorists were able to breach the cockpits of multiple commercial aircraft not encumbered by Al Gore’s proposed safety regulations. 3,000 people died horribly that day and two wars were started as a results.

History repeats.

Bernie is No John Lewis or a Democrat

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Putin couldn’t have done it without Bernie

Bernie and his Brats are trying to do a hit and run. They wrecked the election and are now attempting to flee the scene.

History unlearned, or worse, re-written, repeats. That’s why I stand up for examining truth. The Russian government may have installed Donald Trump as President, but they couldn’t have done it without Bernie Sanders, the guy who once honeymooned in the Soviet Union.

For some reason, the Bernie or Bust crowd seems thrilled with Trump beating Clinton, almost as if beating Clinton was always their only goal. Maybe they think Rust Belt voters would have swooned for a leftist socialist atheist who never held a job outside of government, but I don’t.

Now, after doing more than anyone to beat up Clinton, Sanders wants a say in a party he still hasn’t joined. He wasn’t a Democrat before he inserted himself into the 2016 Democratic Primary (a hijacking attempt that DNC leaders should have nipped in the bud by telling him to either join the party or be disqualified) and he isn’t a Democrat now, even after the destruction he caused.

The major reason Bernie never became a Democrat while seeking to lead the Democratic Party is because he’s a narcissist who never voted for anyone until he voted for himself. It is ALL about him.

Despite casting himself as a Civil Rights hero, Bernie Sanders never voted for any of the civil rights heroes of the Civil Rights era. He didn’t vote for anyone until he was into his 30’s when he voted for himself. He didn’t vote for Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey or McGovern. He didn’t care if Goldwater or Nixon won.

His supporters treat him like John Lewis while tossing the actual John Lewis under Rosa Parks bus (for daring to back Hillary Clinton).

Here’s Bernie bragging about not giving a damn about voting in a 1987 article in the Gadfly, a University of Vermont student newspaper.

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Apparently, Bernie Sanders only liked to talk about politics, not do anything meaningful to change things like organizing voter drives or all the various things real community leaders do, for example: voting. (GOOGLE Obama, Barack or Clinton, Hillary for examples of effective community organizers.)

Some may question the relevance of Bernie’s narcissistic voting habits, but I believe it perfectly explains Bernie’s careless disparagement of the Democratic Party that so graciously endured his constant jabs at its leaders and longtime supporters like myself who have voted in every damn election since I was legally allowed to (and never once been called a “shill” until this year).

Remember when Bernie cried “rigged” over the Superdelegates? His supporters sure do. They still claim the election was rigged. Who can blame them when their leader said so?

Bernie’s top campaign advisor Tad Devine actually invented the superdelegate system in the 1980s, but that didn’t stop his fanatics from blaming Debbie Wasserman Shultz. The Bernie Brats know more about the hierarchy of the DNC than they do their own state governments.

Once Bernie was mathematically eliminated from the nomination, he changed his mind about those evil SDs. He needed them. Hillary had 18 million votes and he only had 13 million. What to do?

So he then called on those same dastardly SDs to reverse the election and nominate him instead of Hillary at the convention. His supporters then began harassing delegates at their homes. (It’s hard to distinguish Bernie’s and Trump’s supporters sometimes).

Bernie stayed in the race too long and held out the false hope to his fans that Hillary would get indicted over emails. His wife Jane even begged the FBI to hurry it up! He refused to concede when any other candidate would have to avoid dividing the party, but he wasn’t a Democrat anyway, so dividing the party he never cared for wasn’t really his concern.

Then WikiLeaks and Russia decided to get involved, selectively leaking hacked emails from the DNC suggesting (GASP) that longtime Democratic Party leaders might prefer nominating an actual Democrat to lead their party. The Bernie kids ate up the Russia propaganda like it was free college.

Hoping to change the outcome, his delegates disrupted the nationally televised Democratic Convention, an event meant to showcase the party platform and nominee.

The 227 year old glass ceiling got shattered when for the first time a woman became the nominee of a major party, but Hillary and her supporters were denied that celebration.

Instead of celebrating this history, instead of celebrating the achievements of a woman who has been an inspiration to millions world-wide, Bernie’s boorish delegates booed and interrupted speakers at the convention, including John Lewis. Even Bernie supporter Sarah Silverman got booed and she told them on prime time TV that they were acting like babies. Bernie more than anyone brought us Donald Trump.

Despite everything, Hilary was up 7-12 points in some polls 11 days from the election. It took the FBI Director’s last minute letter to defeat Hillary, but she shouldn’t have been in that danger zone where 80,000 votes in 3 swing States decided the election.

The answer to Hillary’s question on why she wasn’t up by 50 points against Donald Trump is: Bernie Sanders.

Post Truth AIDS History

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I am no fan of Ronald OR Nancy Reagan, so I’m really, really tired of the uninformed trying to link Hillary Clinton with Nancy Reagan when it comes to AIDS policy in America.

The Clintons were early and crucial champs when it came to AIDS policy. They instituted the Office of AIDS Research and increased federal funding for AIDS research and care by 356% and they successfully fought to outlaw discrimination based on HIV status in employment and housing.

This absurd linkage got created by the Bernie Brats when Hillary stupidly said some kind – but not wise words – at the funeral for a fellow former First Lady regarding AIDS.

“Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that, too, is something I really appreciate with her very effective low-key advocacy,” she said. [emphasis mine]

Although Clinton issued an apology within MINUTES of her comments, some people still won’t let it go. Even on World AIDS Day.

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The irony is, Clinton was almost right about Nancy Reagan’s “low key advocacy”. In fact, the venerable national LGBT magazine The Advocate said almost the same thing in their obituary for Nancy Reagan just the week prior.

“Nancy Reagan is sometimes credited with pushing her husband to do something about AIDS, and he eventually supported some funding for research. The death of their friend, actor Rock Hudson, is often referred to as a pivotal moment.”

img_2263Nancy’s real claim to villainy is her refusal to get her husband to help her dying pal Rock Hudson get experimental treatment in a French government hospital that was closed to non citizens. Nancy coldly declined to get involved, reasoning people would accuse Ronnie of granting special favors to a Hollywood celebrity. This calculated response to a dying friend rightly earns Nancy Reagan her villain award. But this has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.

Again, I’m no fan of Nancy Reagan, but to let an inconsequential misstatement erase Hillary Clinton’s 25 years of advocacy for AIDS research and care is ridiculous. It is ignorant, dangerous and it is most of all ungrateful.

But expected in our post truth world.

Bernie Who? Hillary’s Been There For LGBT

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How soon people forget what staunch allies Bill and Hillary Clinton have been to the LGBT community and how hard they fought during their White House years (and today) for funding for HIV/AIDS. Clinton was steadfast in fighting for money for finding a cure for this horrible disease and just like today, he had to battle a hostile Republican Congress to get funding for these programs. Without Bill and Hillary Clinton’s leadership in the 1990’s, there are likely millions of people who would not be alive today.

Bill Clinton’s administration increased funding for AIDS programs by 358% for one department and 150% for another. They initiated a multitude a programs to provide drugs and housing and against discrimination. They did this despite a hostile Republican Congress.

The Bernie brigade recycles partial quotes of Hillary defending “traditional marriage” without mentioning it’s from a speech she gave AGAINST banning gay marriage (the 2004 anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment). It is sad, but ironic that the video people keep posting as “proof” that Hillary is anti-gay marriage is actually her fighting to keep gay marriage legal! The people manufacturing these smears are beyond disgusting in their ill treatment of our long time friend.

Where was Bernie Sanders when Republicans tried to pass this federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? In 2006 Sanders went on record opposing gay marriage in Vermont. Why does Sanders get a pass?

Hillary Clinton has been a leader on LGBT issues in both the Senate and in the State Department. Some folks seem to focus on marriage equality as if that was the only item on the LGBT agenda. What about Hate Crimes? Hillary was there fighting to get LGBT included. What about ENDA? She was there fighting for this long overdue bill to prohibit LGBT discrimination in all federal employment and contracting.

“Gay Rights Are Human Rights.” Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s record on our issues earned her the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the country. Of course Sanders denounced the endorsement even as he hoped to get their nod. He even bungled their name, calling this venerable organization the “Human Rights Fund”. It seems if you were so hot and heavy for gay rights you’d know the group’s actual name. But Bernie is only a distant supporter of gay rights. Not like Clinton, who works regularly with these groups on issues important to our community.

Here’s what HRC had to say about Hillary Clinton’s national and international LGBT record:

“Clinton has a long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe. As Secretary of State, Clinton became the first in her position to robustly advocate for LGBT equality throughout the world, making a historic and forceful speech to the United Nations declaring that “gay rights are human rights.” In the Senate, she helped lead on bills to protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination, and had a strong record on key votes and legislation that mattered to LGBT Americans.”

Before President Clinton, no US President gave a damn about gay rights or the mounting death toll in the LGBT community from AIDS. This changed dramatically in 1992 upon the election of Bill Clinton.

Clinton set the tone for his presidency by inviting the N.A.M.E.S. Project to include sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in his 1993 inaugural parade. In his two terms in office, Bill Clinton never wavered in wrangling money in his budgets for programs caring for the sick or to preserve vital research funding for effective treatments and to find a cure.

How soon we seem to forget who our friends are!

When the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed in the National Mall in 1992 it contained 40,000 panels and covered 24 football fields. Here’s a photo from NPR of the President and First Lady viewing one of the panels.

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According to a recent story on NPR, from 1987 until today, the Quilt has grown to 48,000 panels – signifying the deaths of 94,000 people. Thru the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Quilt grew at a rate of 11,000 panels per year. Today it has dwindled to 1-2 a day.

Maybe this is the reason for the amnesia?

In 1996, for the very last time, the AIDS Memorial Quilt in all its entirety was laid out across the Washington Mall. It has since grown too large to be displayed all in one place.

My friend Keith Molter shares his story of being at the Quilt in Washington DC in 1996 when by chance he witnessed Bill and Hillary Clinton visit the Quilt seeking out a specific quilt made in honor of a longtime friend of hers. Keith recalls:

It was stone silent on the vast Washington Mall. No fanfare. No hoopla. They simply went and we had stumbled upon it.

Silence. Stillness. They got out of their motorcade hand in hand and walked through the Quilt.

It was THE first time it was ever acknowledged by anyone of any higher level in government. They stood. They prayed. They looked at a few other panels. They wiped tears. We were 100 feet away. As they turned to leave, the still silence was broken by a squelching sound, like an animal in deep pain. It was me screaming “Thank you!” through my sobs, my voice cracking. They both turned. He put his hand up in a still wave and nodded his head -his mouth doing that mouth/chin thing he does. They turned and left.

I was there. They were there – maybe too late for some that we lost. But they were there as soon as they could – once the country elected two people who actually cared.

Here’s Hillary Clinton reminiscing about visiting the AIDS Memorial Quilt in a speech at the 2012 International AIDS Conference.

Another friend who was “there”, Robert Sandy,  recalls those exciting 1990’s when our President first invited the LGBT community to the national table.

“I am old enough to remember that Bill Clinton’s VERY first act as President was to try to overturn the ban on gays in the military. HIS FIRST ACT. Of course America nearly imploded then and calls and letters were hitting the White House at a rate of 15 to 1 against.”

“I am also old enough to remember that most of the gay community sat that fight out and then had the audacity to bitch about the outcome. Clinton used up much of his political capital in that fight. But, you know, why remember how shit really went down?”

Well Robert Sandy, I remember it all too! Especially the thrill of having a President and First Lady who for the first time declared themselves publicly to be in our corner.

I guess it’s easy to forget those days when the stakes aren’t nearly as high. I’m voting for Hillary because I remember that she was a friend who was “there” for us, and – most of all – because I remember what she did for my community and for my country as the First Lady, as Senator and as Secretary of State. She can step into the Oval Office as smoothly as into one of her trademark pantsuits.

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Thank you Keith and Robert and Bill and Hillary Clinton and the countless others who worked not only for our rights but who also fought for the very lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters!

BREAKING NEWS!

Bernie Sanders supporters tout his 1983 Gay Pride proclamation as proof of his LGBT bonafides over Hillary’s actual record of fighting for the LGBT agenda. Well, guess what Bernie Bots and Bros, Sanders also signed a Mayoral proclaimation declaring marriage “a union between a man and a woman”. Cue the cognitive dissonance!


 People really need to vet Sanders before he ends up rolling back the progressive movement 25 years.

Private Flagger

“Private Lane, on 14 Feb. 00, you made an unsolicited statement that you were gay. This admission and your sexual orientation could be prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the unit, and you are subject to separation under Chapter 15.” -Andrew S. McClelland. Company Commander, Fort Bliss Texas

Private Stacy Lane wasn’t looking to “be  all he could be” when he joined the U.S. Army, he was just looking to pay off his student loans. Even so, his three years in the military expanded his notion of who he was and what he could be. Flag dancing isn’t one of the courses offered in basic training, but after being discharged from the Army for being gay, flagging was one of the skills Stacy took home with him, that and a certificate in electronics repair and maintenance.

ENLISTED

Small towns aren’t often on the cutting edge of federal policy, but Graham, Texas (pop. 9,000), where Stacy grew up, was a very early innovator of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The only sign of homosexual life in Graham was to be found inside the town’s lone florist shop, run by a couple of suspiciously single older gentlemen. But no one talked about it. Graham is a bastion of conservative Christianity, and the Lane household was no different. Stacy’s graduation from Abilene Christian University was very pleasing to his deeply religious family, but along with the notes of congratulations came the payment book for over $20,000 in student loans.

Though a military career wasn’t something Stacy had ever considered, he was bewitched by the Army’s generous offer to repay his student loans. And so, Stacy Lane enlisted in the Army, and dedicated himself to studying electronics repair and maintenance and completing his basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., before being shipped off to serve at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.

SPARTACUS AND A COMPASS

Possessing a college degree entitled Stacy not only to the higher rank of Specialist, but also a private room. In an atmosphere drenched in homophobia, Stacy kept his sexual orientation closeted on the base. “You’d hear anti-gay comments everywhere, everyday, from just about everyone,” Stacy says.

Off-base, however, was an entirely different matter. Whenever he could, Stacy would slip away to a gay bar in nearby El Paso called the Old Plantation (or OP for short). The OP was Specialist Lane’s very first gay bar, and though it  was nothing to write home about, this smoke-filled dive sparked in him the hopeful thought, “There’s gotta be something better.”

Stacy soon discovered from “Spartacus”, the travel guide to all things gay, that something better was a mere three-hour drive to Albuquerque, N.M., where he read that there was a hopping gay dance club called The Pulse. The Pulse was everything the OP was not; the crowd was younger, the music fresher and, most importantly to Private Lane, “Everyone looked like they were having fun.”

Ecstasy has a way of lighting up a room.

BEAU JASON 

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The summer of 1999 brought a fresh batch of soldiers to Ft. Bliss among them a blonde haired boy of 18, named Jason, who was assigned to work in the electronics shop alongside Stacy. “He was the cutest thing I’d ever seen,” Stacy recalls. When Jason began tagging after him, Spc. Lane was thrilled to take this adorable but straight young lad – with liquid-blue eyes – under his wing. Together, they would hit the straight clubs in town, or hang out in Stacy’s private room playing on the computer.

On one of those evenings in the barracks, Stacy had been less than careful about keeping his double life under wraps. Turning from his computer, Stacy was horrified to see Jason flipping through a copy of a gay rag called “Circuit Noize” magazine –  THE guide to the gay dance party scene, and chock full of pictures of nearly naked men. Stacy could barely register his relief when Jason looked up from the magazine to comment, “Hmmm, these parties look like fun.”

“Uh, yeah,” was the only response Stacy could stammer.

Luckily, Jason thought having a gay best friend was the coolest thing that had ever happened to him, and immediately pressed Stacy to take him along on a journey to Albuquerque and to the electric sights and sounds of The Pulse.

Part II

Pvt. Stacy Lane never realized going into the Army would help him come out of the closet. What a relief it was to have a friend he could be honest about himself with. Jason didn’t mind at all that his new buddy was gay; he liked how the gays rolled.  To him, gays had more class, dressed better and knew how to party. After discovering Stacy’s secret, the only thing that changed was the bars they frequented. On weekends, Jason and Stacy took a pass on the tired watering holes of El Paso in favor of the dry glamour of Albuquerque, N.M. There, at a gay dance club called The Pulse, they discovered not only an alternative to the beer-swilling in El Paso, they found an alternative to beer.

Dropping ecstasy for the first time, Jason recalled the experience as feeling like his brain was taking a bubble bath. For Stacy, the experience was more revelatory: “It opened a whole new world. I made a connection about being gay and who I was”.

Jason made a connection that night as well, after the owner of The Pulse spotted this boy-Adonis gyrating atop a box on the dance floor. “Come see me.” the owner instructed, tucking a $10 bill into the waistband of Jason’s underwear. Later, the owner offered Jason a job dancing on the weekends.

For months this happy attangement continued. Stacy and Jason dutiful soldiers during the work week, but tearing it up in Albuquerque on the weekends. The owner of The Pulse even arranging for a helicopter to fly his new star in for performances. But all good things get ruined by the government eventually.

An organization that regulates how you make your bed isn’t one likely to tolerate recreational drug use. It was just before Christmas when Lane was called for a routine random “monitored urinalysis”, but he wasn’t concerned. The Army didn’t test for ecstacy, he thought. That was about to change, but Stacy hadn’t gotten the memo. Besides, Stacy’s mind was more focused on ringing in the millennium at his very first circuit party, the New Year’s Masterbeat Millennium party in Palm Springs, California.

The Party’s Over

Upon reporting for duty on the first Monday of the New Year, the platoon sergeant gave Lane the ominous order, “Talk to me after formation”.

Being handed scientific proof that his $30 Ecstasy purchase had been well spent offered Lane little consolation when he was informed that his pre-Christmas urine sample had tested positive for MDMA, the molecular signature of ecstasy. For peeing “hot”, Specialist Lane was reduced in rank to a Private and his pay docked and he was further punished with 45 days of extra duty and 45 days restricted to his barracks. Upon hearing this, Jason almost fainted.

Even before his buddy got busted, there were rumors circulating on base that a certain blond-haired private was working as a go-go boy in a gay nightclub. Serving your country is said to be an honor, but that’s because Uncle Sam is a lousy tipper. It became an open secret that Jason had been augmenting his meager Army salary by dancing in his undies at The Pulse.

Hearing the bad news that his partying days were over. Jason felt trapped. He was in a panic and he had to get out. The rumors concerning his part-time “job” gave him an idea. This straight boy was about to “come out”.

Learning A New Skill

Before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was tossed, declaring yourself a homosexual would get you discharged, but it would take many months. An investigation would be performed and paperwork filled out. Around this time, the Army also had become suddenly sensitive to gay bashing, stemming from the August 1999 beating death of Pfc. Barry Winchell, whose complaints of anti-gay harassment were ignored because, as Winchell’s Sergeant later testified, “everybody was having fun”. So, when Jason “outed” himself, the brass were protective of him to the point of ridiculousness. While Stacy toiled away in the hot sun raking gravel, Jason was given his own quarters and air conditioning.

“I would have outed myself earlier if I had known.” Stacy,  “He was treated like a king.”

Though Stacy badly wanted to follow Jason’s lead, he felt like he had to take his punishment. His honor wouldn’t allow him to give the impression that he was only coming out to avoid taking his medicine.

For 45 days he couldn’t leave the base. After working his regular shift in the electronics repair shop, he was ordered to perform extra chores like raking gravel or cleaning the latrines. In his alone time, Stacy’s mind kept returning to something strange and wonderful that happened to him at the New Years Eve party in Palm Springs when the mystical quality of hallucinogens were revealed to him on the dance floor.

“The music and the lights and the energy were all incredible. It was beautiful, and I was moved to where I couldn’t speak and I had to kneel down on the ground for a second to catch my breath.”

Overheated and sweating from all the dancing, Stacy suddenly felt a rush of cooling wind on his back as he knelt there on the edge of the dance floor. Then he felt a soft fluttering against his skin. Raising his head, Lane was awed by the beauty of what he saw. Like an angel with pink fabric wings, a man stood above him as a guardian, spinning a pair of soft pink flags gently over Stacy’s body as if to soothe him, and Stacy recalls feeling as if this ethereal flagger was somehow transferring energy to him through the twirling soft fabrics.

The moment seemed to last forever, but it was probably over in seconds, and when Stacy stood up, his only thought was how badly he wanted to learn how to flag just like his angel. “I’ve got to learn how to do this. I NEED to learn how to do this!”

While confined to base, Lane ordered a pair of flags from a website called Flag Troop, with delivery promised within three weeks. It seem like forever, but one day after lunch his flags arrived – along with a brief instruction book. Stacy took his package to his room, where he pulled out his new silver lamé flags and – completely neglecting the safety warnings in the instructions – he gave his weighted twin fabrics a feverish twirl and in the process, he knocked everything off the counters and hit himself in the eye.

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His early efforts were choppy and practice was not making perfect. He was becoming frustrated. Reviewing the instruction manual yet again, this bit of advice popped out to him:”Just feel what naturally comes from inside you, that is what flagging is truly about.”

Selecting Julian Marsh’s “Proud” mix CD, Stacy pushed back all the furniture and cleared off all the counters. He picked up the flags and began to twirl, and all of a sudden everything started coming together.  He was one with his flags and his music and with himself.

Some nights Jason joined in, bringing a miniature disco ball. They taped glow sticks to the ceiling fan and with the music pumped as loud as possible, there in the barracks, the two army boys danced shirtless about the room at their own private circuit party.

On Valentine’s Day, after completing his 45 days punishment, Pvt. Lane Lane declared himself a homosexual to his commanding officer, setting in motion his discharge from the Army. After discharge, Jason moved to Albuquerque, while Stacy packed his bags for Chicago. Despite their geographical distance, the two remain close friends.

You may have seen Stacy spinning his flags at one of the clubs, carrying on the mission that came with his mail-order flags: “Spread the art and the joy to people in whatever form it may take.”

In other words: “Be all you can be”.

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Baseball After 911 with Liza Minnelli

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Ten days after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, the City of New York as well as the rest of the nation was still in a deep state of shock. Music and comedy and sports had all paused during this time of national mourning.

For the NY Mets first game after the attacks, someone had the genius idea to invite Liza Minnelli to perform her iconic song “New York, New York” at New York’s Shea Stadium during the 7th inning stretch – for the first televised baseball game since that awful day.

The Mets were tied with the Atlanta Braves going into the 7th inning. The crowd was “subdued”, as the TV announcer describes it in the broadcast footage. The fans seemed to be just going through the motions – with not a lot of cheer in the cheering section.

Then Minnelli takes the field, escorted by a bevy of New York’s heroic firefighters and police. The footage from this  event is amazing in that the camera stays on the crowd more than Minnelli, and we can watch their mood change before our eyes – hesitantly clapping along at first, leading to full out flag waving jubilation at the end  – the whole stadium even matching Minnelli’s dance moves and the awkward kick line of the NY heroes behind her. At one point, a fireman spontaneously sticks his hat on Minnelli’s head and the crowd goes nuts as she gamely incorporates it into her choreography. Never before were the words, “It’s up to you New York, New York” more poignant, and all the more so being delivered in person by Liza Minnelli, New York’s legendary cheerleader-in-residence,

Check out the clip below and see how Minnelli stirs the somber crowd into a patriotic frenzy, with NYC firefighters and cops forming a kick line behind her.

Art and music can heal.

BITCH: The Maria Pappas Story

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APPLYING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. THE OFFICE WAS CLEAN AND MODERN WITH NONE OF THE RAGGED, DEPRESSION-ERA DRESSED PEOPLE I IMAGINED. THERE WASN’T EVEN A LINE. THE INFORMATION DESK WAS MANNED – OR IS THAT PERSONNED – BY TWO WORKERS, MALE AND FEMALE, WHO BOTH SEEMED HAPPY TO HAVE SOMEONE NEW TO TALK TO. THE WOMAN GREETED ME WITH A SMILE AND ASKED ME THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY UNEMPLOYMENT.

“Were you laid off? Fired? Did you quit?’ She inquired, trying to determine which form I needed to fill out. Seldom are things so clear cut and likewise, my recent unemployment was no simple question that could be answered “yes” or “no”, “black” or “white”. Besides, having voluntarily quit, I wasn’t about to close any options that would make me ineligible for free government money.

“I was forced to quit.” I answered, hoping being forced out would count just the same as being fired. For unemployment  eligibility requirements, being fired is second only in desirability to being laid off –  quitting is for losers. The lady looked over her glasses at me, clearly needing more information. “My boss heard a rumor I’d called her a bitch,” I explained, “Maybe you’ve heard of her. Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer?”

“Oh, she is a bitch!” The woman declared. Everyone has a Pappas story.

And such is the reaction I’ve come to expect after falling into disfavor with the baton twirling Maria Pappas, newly enshrined Cook County Treasurer. But the odd thing is, up until Ms. Pappas turned against me, I thought she was great. It’s funny how sometimes you look back and smack your head and shout, “What was I thinking?” I’m having that kind of summer.

After being led into an immaculate, carpeted room, furnished with two conference tables and a dozen empty chairs, I got right to work on the stack of forms I was handed, using a borrowed #2 pencil from a box of thousands. Employment History was the first intimate detail of my life they wanted to know about.

I started at the Treasurer’s Office right out of college. Not that working for Edward J. Rosewell, who was the Treasurer before Pappas, was the reason I spent over thirty-grand in student loans. All my life my family warned, “You better go to college”, as if it were some magical place that transformed you, by association, into a highly employable individual. So I went to DePaul University and drifted back out a few years later armed with a Bachelors degree in English. Unfortunately, I had  graduated in the middle of a recession and for employment purposes, an English degree during a recession is about as impressive as an Associates Degree in Telemarketing.

My first job offer out of college was from a rental car agency. They wanted me and my English degree for a Manager Trainee position. They saw my potential! And they wanted to groom me for management! As it turned out, the only thing I was groomed for was a career in washing cars. I left within two weeks. The day I “quit” (by mutual agreement) I made a frantic phone call to a politically connected fraternity alumnus who wanted to get in my pants (I told him “no thanks”, as there was one ass in there already). He made a call to his buddy, Edward J. Rosewell, Treasurer of Cook County and as simple as that I had a job. It was a temp position at first, but because I was able to dress myself and not show up drunk – and I could run a computer – I eventually got a permanent position as an “auditing clerk”.

I was constantly interrupted from my form-filling by a stream of well- meaning, but bored workers wanting to assist. There seemed to be about three workers for every unemployed person there. Thanks to the booming economy, many of the people helping me fill out those forms were in danger of becoming unemployed themselves. How ironic that their job security goes up when everyone else’s goes down.

One guy wanted to help me find a job, and asked me what kind of work I formerly did for the Treasurer. I wanted to say, “No thanks, I’m just here for the free money”, but instead I described my work experience. Despite having absolutely no financial background, I had spent the last six years doing accounting-type work for the County. Reconciling accounts, computing interest and distributing tax money in the Treasurer’s Cash Management department. But the last thing I wanted to do was work with numbers again, but nevertheless, I was handed pages of available accounting jobs. I politely accepted them and continued to fill in the blanks on my multitude of forms.

“Reason for leaving?”

We were back to that question. I wasn’t always the model employee I ended up being under Maria Pappas. I started off in the Treasurer’s office wanting to make good. I rushed through each assignment, then proudly reported to my supervisor that I was ready for more. That is, until a co- worker took me aside and asked “What’s up with that shit? Take your time, slow down.” That’s the culture you find in some government offices, where promotions are reserved for the connected.

I thought working for Maria Pappas would be different. I had followed Pappas’ political career through the years, admiring her confrontational style. She was always bitching about something and stirring up controversy. I liked that. I rooted for her when she ran for the County Board Presidency against John Stroger and Aurelia Pucinski. I cheered her on when she twirled her baton every year in the Gay Pride Parade. When she announced she was running for Rosewell’s job, who was retiring under the scandal of an indictment for ghost payrolling and for placing his window-washer “room- mate” in a $70k job. I was excited about the prospect of working for this political maverick and when she took office, I transformed myself from lackadaisical county employee into Super Worker, eager to be part of the team.

There were a lot of worried faces within the rank and file as the day approached when Eddie Rosewell, a very sweet, energetic little Irish man – and the top vote getter for the Democratic party – would gallop off into the sunset (or possibly prison) and Ms. Pappas would take over the helm. Gossip and rumors filled the office. Pappas had a terrible reputation as an employer during her years as a County Commissioner. The gossip columns buzzed with her latest firings or of disgruntled workers calling it quits. One estimate pegged her as going through over twenty employees in an eight year span, which is a staggering figure when you realize commissioners are only allotted three employees. There were also rumors that called into  question Pappas’ mental health. Supposedly she had  her office swept for bugs – the electronic kind – afraid someone was spying on her. There were also tales of her employing handwriting analysis of people she didn’t trust, trying to judge character through their scribblings. There were so many, many rumors, I just discounted them all. At worst, I thought, she was a little eccentric.

On Pappas’ first day in office. I was appointed by her Chief Deputy, a wonderful guy named Mike Shine, to assist with computer related issues. The Treasurer’s office wasn’t exactly the information superhighway. When I first started, we were still doing spreadsheets on grid paper. I was good with the different programs like Excel and Word, while most workers couldn’t find the “On” button; and because of this I gained a reputation for being knowledgeable about computers, which Pappas’ people found to be of value. This is what I craved – what any worker craves – to be recognized and to feel needed.  I responded well to this new and unfamiliar stimuli. I found myself staying late and arriving early, working harder and what was really odd – taking work home with me! Because of my enthusiasm, Pappas’ top management recommended me for several different promotions, but for some reason, Pappas always turned my promotions down. I never took it personally which was a mistake, because it was personal, only I didn’t know it yet.

The first clue that working for Maria Pappas wouldn’t be all roses and lollipops came the second day she was in office. It was early December, with signs of Christmas all around, but for a half-dozen employees, their coal-filled stocking came early. It was expected that the new administration would want their own top management, but the people Pappas canned were hardly top management. Most were mid-level career employees who had worked in the office for ten or more years. Two of the workers fired were a gay couple, both approaching retirement. The biggest shock was when they fired Kelly, a young woman from my own department. Kelly started working for the Treasurer’s office right out of high-school, needing the job to support her younger siblings after their parents died. Kelly was an invaluable resource for everything related to the functions of the Cook County Treasurer. She was also six months pregnant when she was abruptly informed her services were no longer needed.

Everyone was freaked out by Kelly’s firing, including me, but I tried to remain calm. That was my reaction to everything that happened, “Calm down, I’m sure there’s a reason.” Even when Pappas made all the women  – and only the women – wear ugly blue blazers. They were hideous, baggy and had the effect of turning even the most shapely woman into a frump. You could feel the humiliation from the ladies when they were forced to put on these over-sized men’s cotton jackets. Males were required to wear white shirts and a tie, unless you were part of the janitorial service, she made the male janitors also dress in those awful blue blazers.  Women and janitors. Let that sink in for a minute and what that says about Madam Treasurer’s regard for women. (Given Maria’s psychology degree, maybe someone should ask her!)

The ladies hated those fucking jackets, but were all too afraid to complain. Except for one.

Pappas liked to hover about the workers, and when the blazers were distributed, she went around asking the women how they liked them. She questioned the wrong person when she asked Joyce. a fifty-something lady not known for her quiet nature. Joyce told Pappas she hated the jacket, “I feel  like we’re in prison,” she replied. Pappas seemed startled by this frankness and asked the lady seated next to Joyce for her opinion. The lady answered “They’re fine,” which caused Joyce to erupt, “That’s not what you said a few minutes ago!”

After several more futile attempts to promote me went down in flames, my supervisor took me aside, “Did you do something to piss off the Treasurer?” he asked. I was surprised by this, “No,” I replied, I honestly couldn’t recall saying or doing anything that would put me in disfavor with the Treasurer. She certainly didn’t behave toward me as if anything was wrong. Pappas had even bragged about my serving on the county Domestic Partnership committee – chaired by Congressman Mike Quigley, who then was the man newly elected to Maria’s old County Board seat; and also Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy (before they were elected State Representatives).  My role was to draft a letter that all County officials would sign in support of extending benefits to LGBT domestic partners of Cook County’s 25,000 workforce. Our committee crafted and helped pass the Cook County Domestic Partnership Ordinance, and Pappas boasted to everyone that she and I were working “together” on this project (although her only involvement was not objecting to my attending the committee meetings).

Despite all of the signs, I still could not believe that Pappas had something against me.

“Are you finished with your forms?” The Unemployment officer asked, interrupting my trip down memory lane. I nodded yes, but her keen eye spotted information I had yet to fill in. “Put your previous salary here.” She said, pointing to one of my errant blanks.

Your former salary helps determine your winnings in the Unemployment Sweepstakes. County employees are not lavishly paid, unless you’re a former window washer. Rosewell gave me a secure job with benefits, but no lavish salary. Luckily, money wasn’t an issue for me. Like Pappas, I had  married well. Not nearly as well as Maria, whose husband is an owner of the Treasure Island grocery store chain, but well enough that when the shit hit the fan, I was able to walk away without worrying where my next meal was coming from.

During her run for Treasurer, all the Treasure Island stores had Pappas campaign signs in their windows. A precinct captain told me about Pappas campaigning at the Broadway Treasure Island, sitting on a table, puffing away on a cigarette inside the store. One of the employees, a young bagger, approached her about this, pointing to a very prominent “No Smoking” sign and asked her to put the cigarette out, to which she seethed, “I own this store!” Apparently this is the manner Pappas treats all of her subordinates. Very early on, we were given a memo instructing us on how she preferred the phones to be answered; a script ending with the chilling words “Phone Calls may be monitored for quality assurances.” After that, we assumed we were all being listened to, even departments such as mine where calls from taxpayers were rare.

No one could have convinced me that Pappas herself was the one doing the phone monitoring, until one day a worker in the Refund Department told me about a call from an irate taxpayer who referred to Pappas by every four letter word imaginable, without any contradiction from this employee. Later, an angry Pappas confronted him, demanding to know why he hadn’t defended her. “You instructed us that the customer is always right.” he replied. This rule, he found out, had some exceptions.

Another lady was written up twice for going into her own purse during work hours. Pappas had targeted her for ill treatment to get her to resign so she could give the job to a supporter and the fact that this poor lady had lost her entire family in a drunk driving crash a year earlier had no alleviating impact. They drove her to quit without pity.

The cumulative effect of all the memos, the blue blazers, the mysterious firings and the massive write-ups for petty infractions led to a state of paranoia, distrust and multiple forced resignations.

My turn came on April Fool’s Day. Pappas summoned me to her office for a meeting. I wasn’t the least bit nervous, assuming she wanted to talk to me about one of my projects. She invited one of her deputies to sit in our meeting, explaining as she closed the door, “I want a witness to avoid any confusion later.”

“Uh-oh,” I joked, “what did I do?” I had no idea what was about to happen.

“So, you think I’m a bitch.” Pappas said, taking a seat behind her massive desk, “and that I’m part of the Greek mafia.”

I was floored. She could have had me on the “bitch” part, as I’ve used that word liberally my entire life. It’s a great, all purpose word, and as a political friend later commented, “If calling Maria Pappas a bitch is a firing offense, then crank up the hiring mill.”

Pappas and the word “bitch” had a quiet wedding years ago. Former County Board President Dick Phelan made a big splash in the press when he called her one during a County Board meeting. Pappas was called a bitch so many times by so many people, I thought it was part of her name until they painted it on the front door.

She might of had me on the “bitch” remark, but the “Greek Mafia” thing was not from me. I tried to defend myself, but she kept insisting her informant, whom she would not identify, was “trustworthy”. Then her faced turned cold and sneering, “Quit!” she yelled, “If you don’t like it here, then quit!”

Walking back to my desk, I felt like a truck hit me, or I’d gotten kicked in the balls. I was bewildered that someone would do something like this to me and powerless to defend myself without knowing who was my accuser. Later in the day I attempted to speak to Pappas again, to iron out this mess. I was talking to her secretary when Pappas poked her head out of her office and hissed, “What are you doing here?”

By the tone in her voice I realized it was a lost cause. I returned to my department and typed up a letter of resignation and began looking forward to a long, luxurious summer collecting unemployment and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, now that I’m all grown up.

I’ve also made a decision to retire the word “bitch” from my vocabulary, I’m considering a switch to the “C” word. Bitch is still a great word, it’s just that I won’t be able to use it without thinking about Maria Pappas. I want to move on, you know.image

Richard Foley as The Marlboro Man

image The title of the “Most Interesting Man I‘ve Ever Met” would go to my old friend Dr. Richard Foley. He’s also the leading candidate for the “Craziest Man I‘ve Ever Met”.

Richard was a recently retired college professor when I first met him at one of his infamous after-hours parties. I was writing a nightlife column at the time for the Chicago Free Press, so our paths were destined to cross. He was holding court around his sprawling couch, a cigarette dangling in his hand, ashes going everywhere but in the amply full ashtray in front of him. I still remember his booming laugh as he concluded an elaborate “dumb blond joke”, a funny joke that was all the funnier for his dramatic re-telling.

Richard had been a tenured Professor at the University of Illinois, and a well-known expert in the psychology of education. A brilliant man from a humble and chaotic blue collar childhood, he studied hard and received degrees from the University of Chicago and Roosevelt University. A lover of both psycho and drama, (his favorite movie being “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)  Richard relished getting friends or strangers on his proverbial couch to spill their guts or to take one of those standard personality tests, which he’d administer like he was reading you your fortune.

Richard loved telling the story about one of these late night psychotherapy “patients”; a young man who confessed to Richard that what he wanted most in the world was to become a fashion model. Richard thought the guy was over estimating his attractiveness. Not one to hold back on dashing dreams, Richard explained to him that professional models all tended to have certain ratios and symmetries to their facial features; and then proceeded to whip out a tape measure to assess the degree of the bad news, which he delivered with a sympathetic shake of his head, “Pity.”

He was a great listener and a mentor to many, but, alas, a terrible role model. He drank Skyy vodka from morning to, well until the next morning, while also using stimulants to mask his intoxication. He had a good excuse for his drinking and drug abuse though. For over twenty years he had walked around with a grapefruit sized hole in his leg, the former home of a cancerous tumor – whose removal left a giant radiated, un-healing wound, the sight of which would make a battlefield doctor vomit and go AWOL. The radiation rendered the wound incapable of healing over and un-bandaged you could see bone and a good place to smuggle things through an airport. So, he had an excellent excuse to drink – the alcohol and pills kept him mobile, until the pain became unbearable and he had to lay down.

Richard had a terrific sense of humor and a hearty laugh to go with it. He loved a good joke or even better, a good insult. Because of his leg, he preferred hosting in his large Edgewater condo overlooking the lake. When the bars let out, there was always a place to hang. I saw many a sunrise from his balcony. I also got to learn about condo boards from his various run-ins with them over his late night extravaganzas. He was actually forced to sell one of his old places after too many complaints. That condo board had a dossier on him thicker than Bin Ladin’s – which he loved to bring out and read a loud from.

His funniest condo board run-in happened one morning around sunrise when some of his departing guests discovered there was a swimming pool on the roof of his high rise building. Richard sent me to shoo them out, but the water did look refreshing and I confess I may have been negligent in performing my duties.

Unfortunately, sunrise is also a great time for old people to swim laps.

The resulting condo board complaint indicated there was “noxious sexual activity” going on in the pool, which was untrue; as I argued to the board, it was merely two people innocently rubbing against each other rhythmically in order to keep warm in the chilly pool. I think we got the fine down to $600 that time.

He died a few years back. The cancer came roaring back in his leg and he refused his doctor’s advice to amputate. I begged him too lose the damn leg – I even offered to lop it off myself. But he let the cancer take him. I hope when I go, my friends will think as fondly of me as they do of Richard.

Now, may I present a never before seen video of Richard as the Marlboro Man  –  in a home video filmed by his Polish ex-boyfriend who I’ll call Jack. (As Jack is a doctor now living in a conservative country, he wants to remain anonymous). It took years for me to track him down for this video. A copy of it disappeared from Richard’s safe after he passed, along with the notorious “Sketch Book” a diary in which visitors would write interesting things or tell jokes or draw cartoons.