Guns, guns, guns


“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  2nd Amendment, United States Constitution.

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association.

December 14, 2012. Newtown, Connecticut.  Twenty children, six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It was at this point in United States history that we, as a nation, decided that the lives of our children were less important that the cultural and political mores of the 18th century, or the profits of the firearm industry.  In order to protect the modern fantasy that citizen militiamen, armed with their own weapons, would stand ready to overthrow the United States government if called upon (by whom, one wonders), and that every person needs a gun to defend their home, family, and person, the NRA and it’s gun manufacturing overlords have manipulated the legislatures of many states, as well as Congress, to make further gun control impossible.  Despite popular support in the public, as well as from NRA members themselves, the gun pushers control the purse strings of elected officials, and stop every attempt (at least at the Federal level) to pursue reasonable regulations. (including regulations the NRA used to support, and even, on occasion, proposed) The people have decided not to change this situation.  Or perhaps more accurately, too many people have decided they cannot effect change, and have given up by not voting.  Either way, the deaths of twenty first and second graders were not enough to end that apathy.

Since Sandy Hook, there have been 1,044 mass (four or more victims) shootings in the United States, with at least 1,327 killed and 3,784 injured.  (this includes the San Bernardino shooting on December 2, 2015)

Now, because the actions of the authors (both Democrat and Republican) of our foreign policy blunders in the Middle East, the chickens have come home to roost, literally. We are dealing with the ability of people who are sympathetic with the grievances of terrorists to easily acquire weapons more suited to war than hunting or self-defense.

“For those concerned about terrorism, some might be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can’t get on planes, but those same people who we don’t allow to fly, can go into a store right now (to buy a gun) in the U.S. and there is nothing we can do to stop them. That is a law that needs to be changed.” President Barack Obama, to CBS News, December 2, 2015.

“Anyone can be arbitrarily placed on the no-fly list—in fact, that’s happened quite a bit. People have been arbitrarily placed on the no-fly list mistakenly, innocently… So with respect to the no-fly list, I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list.” Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, on why the GOP will not support legislation to prevent individuals on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms. (although the Republicans also will not act to provide any easier means for individuals to appeal inclusion on the list.)

“I urge you to responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm. To ensure the safety of yourself and others, make sure you are comfortable and proficient with your weapon, and knowledgeable of the laws in New York State with regards to carrying a weapon and when it is legal to use it.” Ulster County, New York, Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum, in remarks made after the San Bernardino shooting.

I don’t know how things work in Ultser County, New York, but I have been a law enforcement dispatcher in Tulare County for over 21 years.  Every time I’ve dispatched deputies or officers to a call where the reporting party has told me they have armed themselves with a gun, and I report that fact to responding units, I’m told to tell that person to secure the weapon when units arrive.  Every. Single. Time.  Law enforcement officers may publicly and privately support citizens owning and carrying firearms, but they do not want them unsecured when they arrive.  For some reason, more guns doesn’t seem to make them feel safer.  (yes, yes… I know, understand, and agree with the reasoning behind it.  It’s just an odd artifact of the illogical nature of gun “rights” in the United States.)

Between gang violence, domestic violence, suicides, accidents, crimes of passion, simple run-of-the-mill criminal activity, and now terrorism, we have handed the keys to the armory over to evil, and refuse to act to change that.

I suppose we should take some pride in our record.  Nobody else in the western world comes close to the United States in the number of mass shootings and murders by firearms.  Our love of guns is so pervasive, so deep, so historically ingrained in our national psyche, that we seem unable and unwilling to change that.  We will continue to kill each other to the tune of more than ten thousand a year, injure more than twenty four thousand a year, and line the pockets of gun makers and dealers.  Terrorists, whether home-grown or imported, will easily acquire the weapons of war, and use them and our laws against us.  “Bad guys” will continue to spray bullets indiscriminately in a drive-by or in retaliation for some imagined “disrespect” by some other “bad guy”.  Children will pick up a gun in their own home, and shoot themselves or someone else.  The burglar shot in the hallway will end up being a teenager trying to sneak into his bedroom at 2am.  The list is endless.  All in the name of the 2nd Amendment, freedom, and  ‘Murica.

World AIDS Day December 1


Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in 1981, 78 million people have contracted HIV, and 39 million have died. In 2014 alone, 1.2 million people succumbed to AIDS.  70% of all people living with HIV, 25.8 million, live in sub-Sahara Africa.  Only 41% of individuals world-wide have access to anti-retroviral therapy.

In 1988, The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day.  It “is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.(Wikipedia)

In the United States, the CDC estimates that more than 1.2 million persons age 13 and over are HIV positive. CDC also estimates that 12.8%, or approximately 156,000 of them are unaware of their status.  Over 658,000 have died of AIDS since the pandemic began.

Once a death sentence, HIV infection is now a treatable (but not curable) condition, manageable with increasingly effective medications.  In July of 2012, the FDA approved Tenofovir/emtricitabine (trade name Truvada) to be used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis. This medication, when taken daily, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 99%. Awareness of Truvada, also known as PreP, is spreading, and people considered at high risk of exposure to HIV are urged to consult their medical practitioners about using PreP to prevent infection.

The theme for World AIDS Day for 2015 is “The Time To Act Is Now“.  The United States government has a dedicated website, here, for information and resources to fight HIV/AIDS.  President Obama has issued the following proclamation:

More than three decades ago, the first known cases of HIV/AIDS sparked an epidemic in the United States — ushering in a time defined by how little we knew about it and in which those affected by it faced fear and stigmatization. We have made extraordinary progress in the fight against HIV since that time, but much work remains to be done. On World AIDS Day, we remember those who we have lost to HIV/AIDS, celebrate the triumphs earned through the efforts of scores of advocates and providers, pledge our support for those at risk for or living with HIV, and rededicate our talents and efforts to achieving our goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Today, more people are receiving life-saving treatment for HIV than ever before, and millions of HIV infections have been prevented. Still, more than 36 million people around the world live with HIV — including nearly 3 million children. My Administration is committed to ending the spread of HIV and improving the lives of all who live with it. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act has allowed more people to access coverage for preventive services like HIV testing, and new health plans are now required to offer HIV screening with no cost sharing. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against individuals living with HIV/AIDS or any other pre-existing condition. Additionally, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Ryan White CARE Act, which established the Ryan White Program — a program that helps provide needed care to the most vulnerable individuals and touches over half of all people living with HIV in America.
To further our fight to end the HIV epidemic, my Administration released our country’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy in 2010. The Strategy provided a clear framework for changing the way we talk about HIV, and it offered a critical roadmap that prioritizes our Nation’s response to this epidemic and organizes the ways we deliver HIV services. Earlier this year, I signed an Executive Order to update the Strategy through 2020, focusing on expanding HIV testing and care, widening support for those living with HIV to stay in comprehensive care, promoting universal viral suppression among individuals infected with HIV, and increasing access to preventive measures, including pre-exposure prophylaxis for people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV.
Additionally, the primary aims of the Strategy include reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities, because HIV still affects specific populations disproportionately across our country. Certain individuals — including gay and bisexual men, Black women and men, Latinos and Latinas, people who inject drugs, transgender women, young people, and people in the Southern United States — are at greater risk for HIV, and we must target our efforts to reduce HIV-related health disparities and focus increased attention on highly vulnerable populations. My most recent Federal budget proposal includes more than $31 billion in funding for HIV/AIDS treatment, care, prevention, and research. We are also making great progress toward achieving a greater viral suppression rate among those diagnosed with HIV, and in the last 5 years, we have made critical funding increases to ensure more Americans have access to life-saving treatment.
We cannot achieve an AIDS-free generation without addressing the pervasive presence of HIV throughout the world, which is why our Nation is committed to achieving the goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to reach more people living with HIV, promote global health, and end the AIDS epidemic. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has helped save lives across the globe and has made significant impacts on the number of new HIV infections by strengthening international partnerships and expanding essential services for preventing and treating HIV. This year, I announced new targets for PEPFAR that aim to provide almost 13 million people with life-saving treatment by the end of 2017. The United States is also committing resources to support PEPFAR’s work to achieve a 40 percent decrease in HIV incidence among young women and girls in the most vulnerable areas of sub-Saharan Africa. This is a shared responsibility, and America will remain a leader in the effort to end HIV/AIDS while continuing to work with the international community to address this challenge and secure a healthier future for all people.
Working with private industry, faith communities, philanthropic organizations, the scientific and medical communities, networks of people living with HIV and affected populations, and governments worldwide, we can accomplish our goals of reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, improving health outcomes for patients, reducing HIV-related disparities, and building a cohesive, coordinated response to HIV. On this day, let us pay tribute to those whom HIV/AIDS took from us too soon, and let us recognize those who continue to fight for a world free from AIDS. Let us also recognize researchers, providers, and advocates, who work each day on behalf of people living with HIV, and in honor of the precious lives we have lost to HIV. Together, we can forge a future in which no person — here in America or anywhere in our world — knows the pain or stigma caused by HIV/AIDS.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 1, 2015, as World AIDS Day. I urge the Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and compassion to those living with HIV.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

Hysteria and anti-LGBT animus have highlighted much of the response to HIV and AIDS over the years.  In the 1980’s, it took the death from AIDS of a personal friend of President Ronald Reagan (fellow actor Rock Hudson) to spur his administration to begin dealing with the disease. ACT UP and other groups had to conduct aggressive and constant actions to insure progress in research and development continued. Even today there is still much hatred and fear directed at the gay community over HIV/AIDS. A fundamentalist Christian preacher in Arizona recently promoted the execution of gays as a way to have an “AIDS free world by Christmas” (completely missing the fact that the vast majority of those infected with HIV/AIDS are heterosexuals living in Africa).

World AIDS Day reminds us that the pandemic is far from over, but the end is now in sight. With more research, education, and treatment, HIV/AIDS will be defeated.

Transgender Day of Remembrance


The Transgender Day of Remembrance is held on November 20 of each year.  In 1999, transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith held the first vigil to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman killed in 1998. TGDOR has been an annual event since.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
– Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Since January 1, 2015, 23 transwomen have been murdered in the United States. Already ahead of 2014’s count of 20 killings,  they are part of the worldwide total of at least 81 (documented) deaths by violence at the hands of another this year.

Caitlyn Jenner has been in the news this year, with her story of moving to publicly living as her authentic self making world-wide headlines.  Formerly known as Bruce, gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, Jenner has raised awareness of the “T” in LGBT. That has not stemmed the violence towards transwomen.

Locally, Fresno resident K.C. Haggard, 66, was murdered on July 23, 2015.  That crime remains unsolved, and the persons responsible for stabbing her to death on a Fresno street remain at large.  Fresno Police continue to refer to Haggard as a male, even after local trans activists informed them of her status.  (I assume FPD noticed Haggard was dressed as a woman at the time of her murder.)

While the murders of transwomen in the United States are the focus of this blog, violence against transgender people, including female-to-male (transmen), genderqueer, and gender-diverse individuals, continue and number over 1,700 incidents around the world since 2008.

Events are held around the world to mark the day, to remember those lost to violence and bigotry.  Groups in Bakersfield and Fresno have scheduled memorials and vigils.

GLAAD has a good transgender FAQ page, here.

Locally, those looking for information and referral can contact Trans E Motion in Fresno. Their Facebook page is here.

PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties to host Skyler Cooper


PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties will host Skyler Cooper at it’s November meeting, Sunday, 11/15.  The meeting will be held at the Educational and Cultural Center, Congregation B’nai David, 1039 S. Chinowth, Visalia, from 3pm to 5pm.  Hear Skyler Cooper speak and watch a screening of  the short film “Hero Mars” as part of November’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Join us for dinner afterward.

From the PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties Facebook page:

Skyler Cooper is a dynamic, talented, and inspirational award-winning artist, who has been acting in film and theater for fourteen years. Cooper is an influential transgender pioneer in the arts and has received critical acclaim for his gender-bending title role in live performances of Othello. Having appeared in the films Elena Undone, The Owls, and The Insomniacs, and television on RuPaul’s Drag U, Skyler was recently voted one of Autostraddle’s 100 LGBTQ People You Should Know. Hero Mars marks Cooper’s directorial debut; he also wrote, produced, and starred in this beautifully cinematic and thought-provoking award-winning short film. Currently Cooper is in development of his next film, Worthy of Survival. The Gulf War veteran says: “My overall life experience has aided in my ability to relate to many different people as an actor, producer, and director. Today I see my experiences as stories yet to be told, stories that I hope will transform to inspirational guidelines for life.”

PFLAG provides a safe and confidential space place to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, and works to build a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

There is no cost to attend, and membership is optional.

PFLAG Tulare and Kings Counties is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status.

Don’t poke the dragon


The Mormon Church just poked a dragon. I’m not sure the church hierarchy even realizes it yet, but it won’t take long for that to dawn on them.  They’re a bit weak when it comes to learning lessons, but you’d think after the Proposition 8 debacle they’d be a little more concerned about revisiting this dragon’s lair. Apparently not.

The Mormon Church is now treating the children of gay couples as pariahs themselves, no matter their own sexual orientation.  Blaming the child for the parent’s “sin”, they will ignore the very words of Jesus in Matthew 19 – “14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  Perhaps the leaders of the LDS are following an older policy, however.  Exodus 20:5 – “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”  Or maybe there’s something in those golden tablets about this, I’m not really sure.  Faith is such a convoluted thing.

On Thursday, November 5, the church announced a new policy that prohibits the children of gay couples from being “named” or “blessed”.  In other words, they can’t be baptized. The new policy requires the children of gay couples wait until they turn 18 to become eligible to be baptized, but then only if they don’t live with their parents, and publicly disavow any same-sex relationship, cohabitation, or marriage.  The church known for it’s strong advocacy of family will now require the children of LGBT households to disown their parents if they want to be Mormons.

A group of Mormon women, confronted with the reality of their religion’s hatred for all things gay when a child of theirs comes out as LGBTQ, have formed a group, called “Mama Dragons“.  Designed to educate, support, defend their children, and try to effect change from within the church, the Mama Dragons are fierce protectors of their children.  The group released this statement after the Mormon Church made their announcement:

As mothers of and mother figures to LDS LGBT children, we are profoundly saddened and disillusioned by the church’s clarification of their stance on LGBT relationships. We work diligently to make sure every LGBT youth and young adult within our reach feels safe valued and loved. We are painfully aware of those who have chosen to end their lives over rhetoric such as this and many of our own children have fallen into this category. As we work to educate and support LDS mothers when their beloved children come out to them, we are fearful now that these recent statements by our church will result in even more of these precious souls being rejected by their families, kicked out of their homes, and attempting suicide. These statements do not feel like love to us. The idea that children of LGBT parents will now have to disavow themselves from their parent’s relationship in order to be baptized in our church, is perhaps the most painful part of this difficult news today. It feels positively medieval, unequivocally wrong, and in our estimation stands to push more people out of the church and tear apart families. We will never abandon our children or grandchildren even as the church prepares to officially do so. We know our Savior loves and accepts our children exactly as he created them and that he desires for them to have love and companionship. We are collectively heartbroken today as our children get the message loud and clear that they are not wanted here; that they are merely collateral damage in some holy moral values war.

The worst thing you can do is threaten a mother’s child.  The Mama Dragons will not stand idly by and let harm come to the most precious things in their lives.  Former Bakersfield resident Wendy Williams Montgomery, now of Arizona, has become a prominent figure in the battle for acceptance of LGBTQ Mormon children.  Working from inside the LDS church, Wendy and her fellow Mama Dragons struggle to bring enlightenment to that conservative, and frankly, rigid organization.  Just when they thought they had been making some progress, this policy is released, to go into effect immediately.  Not content to shun and shame any of their members who are LGBTQ, no matter their age, they’ve now went a step further, and will do the same to the children of LGBTQ adults.

The LDS leaders have poked the dragons, and they may come to regret it.

If you’re struggling with this news, or with any issues related to being LGBTQ, the following hotlines are available, 24/7:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Trevor Project – 866-488-7386

Trans Lifeline – 877-565-8860

Local Stories: PFLAG to host speakers for National Coming Out Day


 October 11 is/was National Coming Out Day.  2015 marks the 27th annual observance, commemorating the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, held in 1987.  On this day, those still in the closet, whether they are LGBTQ or allies, are urged to step out and tell their stories.  In recognition of NCOD, PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties will host two Visalia residents as they discuss their “coming out”.

Since the first NCOD was celebrated in 1988, there has been a sea-change in the way society in general, and the law specifically, views the LGBTQ community.  From the riots in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that sparked the modern LGBTQ movement, to the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that made marriage equality the law of the land, few would have thought such progress possible.

In 1977, Harvey Milk of San Francisco won election to the City Council as California’s first openly gay person to run for office.  During his campaign, and his short time in office (he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in their offices on November 27, 1978), Milk often urged closeted members of the gay community to “come out”.  He maintained it was the only way for the LGBTQ community to truly advance.  As more people came out over the years, Harvey’s words have proven prophetic.  Harvey Milk is recognized in California with a “Special Day of Significance”, each May 22nd.

Each October, PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties recognizes Coming Out Day with programs related to the subject.  This year, two Visalia residents will speak, telling their “coming out” stories.  Gail McCarthy, author of a five book murder mystery series, the Alexandria Whitney mysteries, and Jim Reeves (that’s me!), 9-1-1 dispatcher, blogger, and LGBTQ activist, will be discussing the coming out process and how it’s impacted our lives.  We’ll talk about the societies we lived in as we approached our own “coming out”, the atmosphere that colored our perceptions, and how being “out” has affected our lives since.

The public is, as always, invited to attend PFLAG meetings.  Admission is always free, and refreshments are served.  This month’s will be Sunday, October 18, from 3 pm till 5 pm.  We meet at the Congregation B’nai David, in their Educational and Cultural Center, 1039 S. Chinowth, Visalia.  (Just follow the rainbow flags)


Standing with Planned Parenthood: A coming out story


I’m going to do a very rare thing, and turn my blog over to another writer.  Jennifer Davis is a dear friend, former Visalia resident, and a force of nature.  During her time in Visalia, she was the sparkplug for many ‘chosen family’ activities, including her own wedding. Recent events have spurred her to ‘come out’.

I feel like I am “coming out” all over again! Guess what everyone – I not only STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD, I HAVE USED PLANNED PARENTHOOD!!! OMG, I know… the stigma and shaming associated with this proven effective national healthcare organization is astounding to me. So many people stand with PP “on principle,” but so few are willing to talk about how they (and/or someone they know and love) have benefited from PP’s services. To add to that, I do not consider myself Pro-Choice, I am Pro-Abortion.
Over the years, I have benefited from Planned Parenthood & other reproductive health organizations in a number of ways, but let’s cut to the quick, the elephant in the room, the subject everyone wants to minimize, or not talk about at all, or worse, sensationalize it with lies. I WENT TO PP FOR THEIR ABORTION SERVICES (and other things, but we’ll talk about that in a minute). I am not embarrassed, nor ashamed, and I have no regrets, none. And I am grateful beyond words that PP was there for me, and I am willing to fight to insure abortion services are there again if wanted or needed for myself and others. These assaults on reproductive health care accessibility are not limited to PP, but encompass any organizations or clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services.
Now, let’s get past the sometimes well-meaning but still-offensive questions… It doesn’t matter how old I was or whether or not carrying a pregnancy to term would have “ruined” my life. It is irrelevant whether or not I was raped or molested, whether or not I had 1, 3, 10 or 100 abortions or how “far along” I was. It is irrelevant whether or not there were “other” health concerns. It is irrelevant what my education level is or was at the time. It is irrelevant whether or not I was using drugs. It is irrelevant whether or not I did or did not tell my sexual partner (or partners) at the time. It is irrelevant whether I had the means and the support, financially or otherwise, to have a child. It is irrelevant if I knew about or was using other forms of contraceptive. And it is irrelevant whether or not I knew about or considered other options.
It was not the “hardest decision” of my life; in fact, it wasn’t hard at all; it was one of the easiest. I do not feel the need to justify having a safe and legal medical procedure, no more than I would need to justify a biopsy, drawing blood, getting a cast, or having an x-ray. If you really want to know the details of my medical history, you can ask. I am open to talk about my personal medical experiences with people I choose to discuss such matters. Beyond that, really, it is none of your damn business. Now that is out of the way, phew, let’s move on.
I am a mother. I have the smartest, most beautiful, amazingly creative, intensely funny, interesting daughter, ever (no bias in this statement)! Being a mother to an adult daughter has not diminished my support of abortion providers, if anything it has strengthened it. I am a lesbian, married to the most amazing woman in the world (again, no bias in this statement). For myself, and more importantly, for my daughter and my wife, I stand with Planned Parenthood, and all legal abortion providers, for the fundamental right to reproductive justice; for the freedom of choice in medical decisions; for the ever increasing need for affirming care; for the call to action of intersectionality of progressive causes; for the understanding that the assault on abortion rights is part of a growing and dangerous war on women and self-determination.
I have used Planned Parenthood, and other organizations, for among other things: contraceptives, HIV & STD testing, exams, etc. Most importantly, I have used PP and other reproductive health organizations as a resource. PP has always been a resource to share for accurate, up-to-date information and education on reproductive health, affordable health care, safer-sex education and resources, and affirming care for transgender health services. I cannot adequately express my gratitude and the life-changing, and yes, life-saving information and care PP has provided to me and to so many others I know.
Planned Parenthood has been a consistent ally in the fight for LGBTQ equality – I cannot think of a Pride event I have attended that PP, and other reproductive health services, were not active participants, providing services, resources and education to the LGBTQ community. If ever there was a time for intersectionality, for the LGBTQ community to stand up with a consistent ally, it is now, it is with Planned Parenthood and legal abortion providers.
Regardless of your personal choice regarding abortion, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the exhaustive barrage of legislation to limit access to abortion services, really, has nothing to do with abortion, and I think everyone knows that. Federal funds are NOT used for abortion services, though I personally think that is a grievous tragedy. Abortion services make up a tiny percentage of the services offered by PP, though that is irrelevant, even if 99.9% of their operations were abortion services, they should still be supported. And has been proven so many times, the healthcare services PP and other organizations provide actually decreases the demand for abortion services. Arguing these points, in many ways, defeats the purpose. Abortion is not a crime, it is not wrong, it is not bad, and those of us committed to reproductive rights and justice need to stop apologizing for abortions – there is nothing to apologize for!
The assaults on abortion services are about self-determination. Once again, right wing, religious zealots have the audacity to say, to imply, and to pass legislation based on their belief that I, and millions of women, are not smart enough, are not strong enough, are not moral enough, are not capable of making our own decisions. They do this through blatant lies, through manipulation, through misinformation, through shaming. I refuse to be a part of this, and I challenge anyone and everyone to join me in refuting these critics and to stand up.
The assaults on abortion services are about sex shaming. We live in a society that over-sexualizes, under-sexualizes, de-sexualizes and mis-sexualizes women in so many ways, and then we add the religious bigotry of sex-shaming. Instead of arguing that federal funds aren’t used for abortions or that only a tiny percentage of PP’s operations are abortion related, we should be clarifying the conversion. Who cares? Bottom line, women are sexual, always have been, always will be. Oh, and so are men. Sex is not bad. I can’t believe I even have to say that. Accurate sex education, access to reproductive health services, and safe, affirming care – this is what these organizations provide, and why all of us need to stand with them.
The assaults on abortion services are about limiting access to health care, especially for disenfranchised women. Defunding and legislation limiting access to women’s health care services disproportionately harms poor women, women who live in rural areas, women with accessibility and ability issues, women in abusive relationships, undocumented women, young women. On the same note, given the range of services these organizations provide, it also disproportionately hurts our most vulnerable LGBTQ communities: poor, rural, young, transgender, undocumented, etc. In many places, cosmetic surgery is more accessible than reproductive health services. The absurdity of that makes me laugh, and cry. Even if I do not need their services right now, even if you have never needed these services, standing with Planned Parenthood and legal abortion providers means you are standing with our communities, with all members of our communities. It is important, it is vital that reproductive health services and education be expanded NOT limited.
The more women, the more people share their experiences of utilizing abortion service providers, regardless for what kinds of services, the less the extremist right can use the lies and the manipulation and the misinformation to advance their agenda. There is power in our stories, and in our experiences, but only in the telling of them, only in the sharing of them, only in the debunking of those lies and manipulations and misinformation – only in the truth. So, yes, I stand with Planned Parenthood and all legal abortion providers, and I encourage others to as well, and to share their stories and their truths so that others can use and have access to this important and vital resource. I refuse to be bullied and shamed, and I hope my “coming out” encourages others to do so as well.

Jennifer Davis, Lakewood, Washington

War on Women? Nunes votes YES

My congressional representative, Devin Nunes, joined with all but three of his fellow Republicans in the House, and voted on Friday to defund Planned Parenthood.  The attempt to cut funding will fail, as Republican Senators do not have enough votes to block a Democratic filibuster, and fall well short of the votes needed to override a Presidential veto.  This was mere political posturing, and if Nunes thinks voting to defund essential medical services for poor women across the country is a good idea, his judgement as a leader must be questioned.

The Congressional Budget Office projects access to medical care would be cut off for 600,000 patients, and result in thousands of unplanned births, if funding for Planned Parenthood were ended.  Federal law already prohibits the use of tax dollars for most abortions, permitting it only “in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury,(ACLU)” so talk of reducing abortions funded by Federal tax dollars is an attempt at deflection.  The real reason for the vote is political pandering to the extreme right-wing base of the GOP.

It was disappointing to see Representative Nunes vote to deny funding, especially when it is so desperately needed in his district.  With the high rates of teen pregnancies and unwed mothers in Tulare County, you’d think he’d show the leadership required to tackle these problems head on.  Instead, he votes like a “good soldier”, and supports a false idea (destroying Planned Parenthood will reduce abortions), a useless vote (it will not pass in the Senate, or survive a Presidential veto, or manage a veto override), and takes part in what is merely a crass political move ahead of elections.

That’s not leadership, it’s just another salvo in the right-wing’s war on women.  Nunes seems content to be a soldier in that war, damage to his district be damned.

Planned Parenthood in Visalia can be found at 211 N. Stevenson Street. Their phone number is 877-855-7526.

Image: Congressman Devin Nunes official portrait 

Friday night at 9-1-1

Call to 911
Call to 911

Have you ever watched TV shows like “Rescue 9-1-1”, and wondered about the scenes of the dispatchers working through an emergency? The ones where the show cuts back and forth from the caller’s perspective to the dispatcher, where the 9-1-1 operator works through the situation to get help going? Well, it’s almost never like that. Let me tell you about last night, working at 9-1-1.

It’s Friday night.  It’s also summer in the valley, with daytime highs near or over 100 degrees F.  And it’s a full Moon. Surveys, studies, logic and the scientific method assure us that there is no “full Moon effect”, but you’d be hard pressed to find any 9-1-1 dispatchers who don’t believe it’s real.  Personally, I don’t, but sometimes I’m hard pressed to remember that. Last night was one of those nights. Let’s dive in.

9 1/2 hours of a ten hour shift on channel two, on a Friday night (they do let us out for 30 minutes for lunch). A full Moon. In August. For most of the night, 25 units on my channel. All it takes is one to decide to do a traffic stop, then suddenly ALL of them want to do traffic stops! It’s especially fun when the gang suppression or car theft teams are out and about.

Fights. Parties. Loud music. More fights.

Oddly, no barking dog calls tonight.

More loud music.  Always loud music.

Reckless drivers. Drunk drivers. A couple of traffic accidents. Several ambulance runs, one a 15 day old difficulty breathing, one 84 year old difficulty breathing.

Shots heard. They’re strange, shots heard calls: sometimes we only get one call from a crowded neighborhood, other times we get dozens.  Cops dispatched.

Child exchanges, dispatch a cop to “keep the peace”.  Wonder at people that need the cops to exchange kids. Child exchanges that didn’t happen, and the other parent is pissed. Send a cop for that. Breakups with kids can get nasty. Midnight checks because the non-custodial parent is “worried” about the children.  99% of the time they’re fine, and were woke up by the police at the door.  Way to go, other parent.

Welfare check because somebody on Facebook was fishing for attention and “seemed” suicidal. He’s fine. She didn’t get his “joke”.

More traffic stops.  Everybody and their grandma is on the road tonight, and they’re all forgetting the vehicle code.

Abandoned cars. People pulled over on the side of the road and being “suspicious”…. as they talked on their cell phones for 20 minutes.  Good for them, no driving while on the phone.

Drunks staggering down the shoulder of the road. Gotta find a cop to check it out, but they’re all busy on other stuff. Like loud music.

Yeah, more loud music calls.

Crappy radios…”10-9?”  “it’s the heat” “it’s the cold” “it’s the fog” “it’s the rain” <– reasons for crappy radio transmissions.

Units chomping at the bits to join the CHP’s pursuit before it runs out of the county. It ran out of the county.

Bar brawl, send a bunch of cops, and an ambulance needed. Then, a second ambulance needed. Laceration and “asthma” (panic) attack.

Teenager calling in and harassing the dispatchers. Vulgar. Threatening. Dozens of times. Not bright, we know who he is.

Cookies in dispatch. Didn’t last long. Somebody bring us donuts, too, please.

Air unit doing patrol checks. Three at a time. Put him on one, take him off. Update city unit that keyed up immediately after. Put air unit on second patrol check, take him off. Respond to deputy doing a traffic stop. Put air unit on last check, take him off. Other units trying to talk all at once.  It’s one at a time, folks, sorry.

Answer the 9-1-1 line, because everybody else in the room is already on a phone, and there are 4 lines ringing. Lucky, just a quick transfer to CHP, off the phone quick. 

More loud music. “How come we never do anything about it?? I’ve called a bunch of times!”   “No, I don’t want contact, just make them stop!”

Direct the young lady who has decided at 6:30 pm on a Friday that she’d like information on becoming a police officer to call back Monday during business hours to talk to somebody about it.  Phones are ringing off the hook while she’s asking questions.  Or they would be if they had hooks, anymore.  Now, the computer screen is blinking at me, and the speakers are “ringing” that annoying 9-1-1 tone.  

Another party! According to the caller, it’s all about that bass.  “I have to get up at 4am!”  

Racing vehicles… give it to CHP.  Stop sign down, call sign maintenance. Malfunctioning traffic light.  That’s on a state highway, call CHP for Caltrans.

Send a deputy to assist CHP on another call, because the car they stopped has a fight between a man and woman in progress. CHP doesn’t do domestics. (but to be fair, we don’t do traffic accidents)

Burglar alarms sounding, owners will only respond if it’s an actual burglary. Oh, look, the motion sensor was tripped by that hanging sign under the air conditioning vent. 

Phone rings, everybody is on another line, so grab it – “I just got home, and I was robbed!”  “Someone robbed you?”  “Yes, I’ve been robbed!”  “What did he look like?”  “I don’t know, I wasn’t here!”  (oh, the caller was burgled, not robbed.  They’re different things in my world). Add it to the list of calls waiting.

More loud music.

The tweeker is reporting a break-in, not sure what’s missing, but they’re sure something was taken.

It’s Friday night, the teenager has been missing since Wednesday morning, but the parents have decided they better go ahead and report it now.

Betty calls in and graces us with what we’ve come to call “Bettyisms”…  tonight’s is mild, more akin to a blessing than anything else.  Some from the past:  “Our family cow, named Betsy, my sister tried to claim her for herself, so my Mother made my Daddy sell it“.  Another:  “They didn’t heed to the doctors warning or to Betty’s advice, so they are either dead or doing lousy“.  We say, “OK, thanks, Betty, bye!”  She laughs, and hangs up happy.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

And that’s just what I can tell you about.

I’ve been doing this now for 21 years, 2 months, and about 3 weeks.  I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do to earn a paycheck.  I really do love my job.  Even after 21 years of the same thing over and over, it’s never the same thing.  It’s an amazing career, and I work with amazing people.  Between the dispatchers and the deputies and officers, the brass that tries to keep what has to sometimes seem like herding cats going in the right direction, and the public who expects top-flight service no matter what, this job is like no other.

My Friday night was ten hours of roller coaster riding at it’s best, and at the end of the shift, everybody went home in one piece.  Well, a few went to jail, but that’s a different story.

Disclaimer: Not an official anything from any agency.  Some details changed to protect privacy. Just an overview of one dispatcher’s night at work.  Multiply that by thousands across the country, and tens of thousands around the world, in dispatch centers everywhere.  “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

The REAL “American Exceptionalism”

americans_franceWe often hear politicians pontificate about “American Exceptionalism”.  It’s often a mindless soundbite, designed to appeal to the vanity of voters, and can be meaningless.  This weekend in France, three young American men showed the world the true meaning of that phrase.  With the help of a British businessman, they subdued an armed terrorist who opened fire on passengers on a European bullet train in France.

In the picture above, from left to right, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler lept into action when a 26 year old Moroccan national tried to shoot passengers on the train to Paris.  Skarlatos, with the Oregon National Guard, Air Force airman Stone, their civilian friend Sadler, and British national Chris Norman subdued the terrorist, who was armed with a Kalishnikov rifle, 300 rounds of ammunition, knives, and a handgun, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.

Unarmed themselves, they immediately took action to stop the shooter, later identified as a member of a terrorist group that European authorities had dealt with in the past.  Stone was injured during the take-down, and is reported to have tended to the injuries of others before allowing his own to be treated.

President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have commended the men, with President Obama speaking to them by phone, and the French President to meet them Sunday.  Although not mentioned in reporting, I suspect a visit to the White House is being arranged.

Reminiscent of 9/11’s Todd Beamer aboard United Airlines Flight 93, who said “Okay, are you ready? Let’s roll” when passengers took action to stop the hijackers, Skarlatos yells “Spencer, go!” as the three Americans leapt into action.

I often cringe when I hear the term “American Exceptionalism”.  It’s often a cover term for Americans acting badly, putting our own political interests and corporate profits ahead of the peoples of other regions.  Another term that might apply in most cases is “American Imperialism”.  This event, however, is the kind of thing we should mean when we talk about our exceptionalism.  These men and their actions give us the moral and ethical authority to make such boasts.

This heroic action does present a major problem for the NRA, however. It’s clear that it does NOT take “a good guy with a gun” to stop “a bad guy with a gun”.  All it takes is bravery, and a little luck.  How many more would have been injured or killed, if a shoot-out between the gunman and passengers had occurred?  Can you imagine the carnage that would have been evident if this event had happened in, say, Texas? (Assuming, of course, that Texas had a high speed bullet train. That’s a stretch, I know.  We have people fighting the idea here in California, so…  Texas? But, I digress.)  More guns would have simply resulted in a body count, rather than a roster of injuries.  I wonder how the NRA will spin this, if they even mention it.

Kudos and thanks to Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler for their bravery and for representing the best of the United States.  They truly are exceptional Americans.