Friday, January 28, 2011

Unconscious American Conscience

As protests erupts throughout the Middle East we, those living within America, watch, captivated. As people take to the streets, as armies descend upon citizens, as people pelt others with rocks, we watch horrified. We watch, helpless, but not without responsibility. We watch in not believing that this could happen in America. Yet, our conscience has been knocked unconscious. We are slumbering fools if we think that we are "better than that."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rep. Sanchez: " Reassign Rep. Giffords Committee Seats"

Rep. Sanchez recently proposed the impossible: removing Rep. Giffords from her assignment on the Armed Services Committee. As reaction to my article published last week in The Loop 21 showed, some people are clearly having issues dealing with the fact Rep. Giffords situation is full of uncertainty, and that constituents need representation at a critical juncture in Arizona's way forward.


Sanchez told her Democratic colleagues on the committee that every vote would be crucial, and since there was little indication Giffords would return soon, they should seek a replacement. A spokesman for Sanchez defended her proposal and called the criticism “ludicrous.”
“Gabby has always been one of the most active members on the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Sanchez wants to make sure HASC Democrats preserve her voice until the congresswoman has returned,” Sanchez’s Press Secretary Caroline Hogan told TheDC. “Rep. Sanchez simply inquired whether a proxy could represent the Congresswoman on the Committee at Rep. Giffords’ request. That way, Gabby’s legislative priorities and seniority would be preserved until her return. Any other interpretation of her question is ludicrous.”
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/01/25/rep-loretta-sanchez-sparks-outrage-from-fellow-democrats-with-proposal-to-boot-giffords-from-armed-services-committee/#ixzz1CGNv0HMV


As I noted in a rebuttal to Keith Olbermann, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is proposing cutting 300,000 from the Medicaid rolls. And with that, the budget would still fall way short of being balanced. Obviously, one more Democratic rep. wouldn't change everything, and yes, Democrats would still be in the minority in Congress. However, those facts still don't invalidate Congress establishing a standard procedure or Rep. Sanchez's proposal to reassign committee seats. The reassignment is an appropriate way to handle the situation without Rep. Giffords resigning office and still allowing for more constituent representation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: An Independents' Ball

(Excerpt of my weekly column at The Loop 21)


It was a grand political ball. The First Lady was impeccable as always and President Obama, a beyond gifted orator, was able to deliver a State of the Union for the people, at an event that was clearly invitation-only. But this exclusivity wasn’t just about political figures and celebrated citizens in attendance. This was a speech that gave and gave to the political independents, but if you were progressive, you may have wondered if your invite got lost in the mail. Many progressives expected the State of the Union to be a homecoming of sorts due to sudden the bump in Obama's job approval rating (it leaped 8 percent in the past month). Finally, a chance to see a progressive president embracing their successful policies as he re-surges in popularity.

However, the speech clearly showed that progressives were all dressed up with nowhere to go. The only thing progressive about it was that it got progressively more conservative as it went along. From the focus on competitiveness to education to border security and ending with the deficit, there was so little for progressives to chew on that they must have thought it was Ramadan.

Frankly, I was surprised that President Obama spent so much time talking about education. Not because it isn’t imperative that the U.S. continue revamping our K-12 school system, strengthening community colleges, and asking hard questions of worn-out, outdated “solutions” – that’s common sense. And not because his administration hasn’t made education a significant focus in the past – they surely have. No, I was surprised more so because little new was proposed. In fact, the opportunity seemed to showcase how bold the Race to the Top initiative was and how it was created in a bipartisan fashion. Of course Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) wouldn’t agree with that. But then again, he probably didn’t have time to watch the speech because he was too busy using stimulus funds to implement a secession plan...



 About the Author

Connect: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
john [at] policydiary.com 
A proud graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, John is currently a Master's of Public Health candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University  where he is studying health policy & management. He is also a weekly contributor to theloop21.comand founder of So Educated (www.soeducated.com), an education policy and reform blog focused on widening the debate surrounding education and empowering parents and teachers - frequently the least thought of. 

Areas of interest include health care reform and education reform, particularly: access to health care, health care exchanges, and Medicare and Medicaid; in addition, charter schools,  K-12 funding, and educational equality.
John is wholeheartedly determined to contribute to the rapidly changing dialogue in the health care and education communities. He has made continuous contributions by conducting research, publishing articles, interviewing practitioners and professors, and engaging students through on-campus organizations.

John's publishings have appeared in fora such as: The Huffington PostThe Orlando SentinelThe Daily VoiceWiretap magazineBlack Web 2.0The Daily Californian, Frum Forum (formerly NewMajority.com)Club RelafordHipHopRepublican.com and Policy Net. In addition, his commentary has been dissected on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Think Progress, Mediaite, and CNN.

Previously, he served as a legislative fellow in the offices of the Honorable David Englin (D) and  David Bulova (D) of the Virginia House of Delegates, in the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions, respectively. John also interned in the office of the State Attorney General of Virginia, and completed a Governor's Fellowship in the Office of Gov. Bob McDonnell where he worked with the deputy secretary of health on projects regarding aging, HIT and disability. 
   

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rep. Giffords' Constituents

The Washington Post has an article this morning about Rep. Giffords ongoing recovery and the fears some constituents have:

Some worry that Giffords's absence removes an important voice in Washington.
"There's so much going on in Tucson that we need representation. People who are not from border states don't understand," Lee Silva, 40, a Tucson resident who voted for Giffords said recently as she stood near a sprawling collection of cards, candles and stuffed animals outside the hospital where Giffords and other victims of the Jan. 8 rampage were taken. "It's not just illegal immigration, but drugs. They do a lot of damage to the communities they touch."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Young Turks Late to Giffords Story and Still Wrong



The Young Turks recently posted the above video. It's a little over two minutes long and the only thing factual in it is the Netflix commercial at the end. In it, Cenk says that I describe myself as a Hip Hop Republican. I never have and never will. While it is true that my work has appeared in the Hip Hop Republican blog, a cursory look at the those articles will mostly show complete support with a Democratic agenda if not President Obama himself. Mediaite's Tommy Christopher did a great job batting down this silly notion. 
"...the attempt to paint this as conservative ghoulishness is as lazy and unfair as it is predictable. No one wants to admit that someone on their own “side” can be this big an a-hole. Keith Olbermann probably got the idea that “Right-wing blogs demand Giffords’ resignation” by reading the Think Progress piece, Their implication that Wilson is a conservative is supported by a link to a piece Wilson wrote for HipHopRepublican.com which, if they had bothered to read, would have made apparent that he’s no conservative. The piece is a vigorous defense of Barack Obama’s handling of health care reform, immigration, and the BP crisis."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keith Olbermann Gets It Wrong In Giffords Debate


“Your point was made. You embarrassed yourself, this country, and the human race.”
Those were Keith Olbermann’s words to me on Twitter after I suggested I come on his show and reply to his six minute attack on me last night. An attack that was a response to a story I wrote on The Loop 21 about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the need for her district to have representation as she recovers from being shot.
Rather than engage, Olbermann subsequently blocked me from replying to him at all. But last night he was more talkative.
He called me soulless, insensitive and a host of other things. Mind you, Keith Olbermann has never met me, nor is he cognizant of how I treat others. Instead, he disagrees with one article of mine and suddenly deems himself the arbiter of one’s character and value to mankind.
But Olbermann isn’t really the crux of the problem – our political discourse is. The same discourse that many – myself included – have charged Sarah Palin with inflaming through the use of gun sights and over-the-top rhetoric, is the same discourse where it’s perfectly fine to denigrate someone’s character, get significant facts wrong, and ignore the ones that aren’t malleable enough to turn into half-truths...
Read more herehttp://goo.gl/2CGtK

Hate By Any Other Name

Musician Daniel Bailey says in one song, "Hate by any other name is still just hate." There's no doubt that we in America know this all too well. We use synonyms for hate throughout our everyday, seemingly ordinary lives. We use them so that we don't have to face the remarkable reality that we are each implied in the ongoing conversation that calls for progress.

Non-Profits are often non-"prophets"

"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining" - John F. Kennedy.  This isn't prophecy.  It's simply looking forward.  And it's something AIDS-organizations as they have become institutional are less and less able to do.

There was news out of Chicago recently that one of the older HIV/AIDS organizations, Better Existence with HIV (BE-HIV) was closing its doors.  Cited as two main reasons: decreased contributions and a shift in the funding from government sources that flow through AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).  What fairly-quickly ensued was a defensive announcement from AFC that HIV/AIDS organizations and their boards need to be looking at long-term sustainability, mergers and consolidations because of economic realities in 2011.

For me, this story that is unfolding says more about how HIV/AIDS organizations too often have been about institutional survival and not enough about mission and adaptation to new realities other than economics.  In the mid-1990's, I was working for an organization called AIDS Alternative Health Project (AAHP).  Like BE-HIV, this was an organization that was providing services and hope in a time when there were no real viable medical treatments available.  Gritty determination, creativity, and a sheer will to live combined with a mix of acceptance of a terminal condition were what we had.  We were surrounded by daily reports of deaths, but were also surrounded by spirit.  HIV/AIDS organizations were also fairly well-funded, as Ryan White Care Act was re-authorized for 5-years and events such as AIDSWalks and AIDSRides were bringing huge numbers of people and dollars together.  Despite all the death, there was a spiritual vibrancy to the times.

I remember the introduction of Protease Inhibitors, and sensing an earthquake for me personally and for the HIV/AIDS movement.  For me, it was finding myself living with what had been considered a terminal disease suddenly having to make the mental shift to a chronic disease.  Within a few years, AAHP was also gone - mostly because alternative, complementary and holistic therapies could not find their footing in the medical  world.  As I moved on to work for a housing organization, I observed a similar resistance to institutional change  in the housing work.  A colleague (like me, a person living with HIV who greatly benefited from the services pre-treatment and then greatly benefited from the treatments) and I marveled at the staying power of the institutions that struggled to adjust to the new reality that we were not going to die anytime soon.  We worked internally to try to bring about some change, with some successes (i.e. in a transitional housing program we developed but now, ironically, is likewise threatened by an effort to monopolize supportive services by bigger players).  In general, however, these same institutions that built their foundations on the backs of people like us as long as we were sick, often find us a threat when we call them on their rigidity and waste.


What didn't last was the spiritual vibrancy that inspired people to join the walks and the rides, and even to work in HIV.

It was during this time (mid-1990's) that the call for mergers, consolidation, creativity and collaboration should have been at their peak.  For sure there was some of that happening as organizations like AAHP fell by the wayside, but where it was mostly happening was not in the spirit of optimism because of new treatments and technology in testing.  These were motivated by economics.  Meanwhile, on-going legacies of the early movement became more bureaucratically entrenched, and many of the early leaders in the movement subsequently became the bureaucrats.  The fact that Ryan White Care Act, initially an emergency government program that grew out of an activist movement, is now a permanent fixture, speaks to this (as does PEPFAR, to some extent).

So what we are seeing with the saga in Chicago between BE-HIV and AFC is really little more than the failure of the AIDS movement to do the prophetic work when it had the opportunity, and the rigidity of "AIDS, Inc." to further entrench itself at the seat of power and control to the detriment of the movement.  The result is a further squelching of the spirit and to continue the shift to the medical model that is always chasing the virus.


 About the Author

Connect: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
Brad's articles on Policy Diary

Brad Ogilvie spent over a decade working on the "treatment" side of HIV as a clinician and program coordinator in a holistic clinic, and then running an AIDS housing program. During this time period – 1995 to 2005, he witnessed huge advances in the treatment of HIV. He also noticed that the institutions that had grown out of the early HIV/AIDS movement were slow and even resistant to change – often being competitive and divisive along demographic and geographic lines both nationally and internationally. He was increasingly convinced that the "business of AIDS" was big business that placed greater weight on keeping case loads and beds full, rather than stopping the spread of HIV. 

 As a person living with HIV, he also experienced the “spend-it-or-lose-it” policies that fostered a culture of dependency.  Armed with this knowledge and these experiences, he founded The Mosaic Initiative in 2005 to focus solely on stopping the spread of HIV through education and testing. He has worked in conservative and liberal communities in Illinois, Washington DC and rural Kenya.  

As a gay man living with HIV, he has also found that by simply engaging people with open arms rather than closed fists, new alliances, friendships and community partnerships form that will, hopefully, bring a stronger grassroots voice to HIV from a place of common ground that influences better policy and action.  Brad lives in Washington, DC and works full-time for William Penn House developing programs for youth and young adults on social justice issues including HIV. His blog Mosaic Initiative is frequently updated and a wealth of information.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Think Progress Picks a Beef (Updated)

(Update appears below.)

Think Progress  picked up my article in The Loop 21 questioning whether Rep. Giffords should be allowed to hold onto her seat. Currently, there are no federal laws or guidelines on medically incapacitated officeholders. Recent history - and for that matter history in general - offer little other than it is solely at the officeholder's discretion. That's not good enough for constituents. They deserve better.

One thing Think Progress gets wrong is my affiliation as a conservative. I am not. I have written at numerous outlets - both progressive and conservative - and maintain close ties with them. However, I am a Democrat.

*Update* The Huffington Post ran my article in full here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-s-wilson/post_1607_b_811853.html

*Update 2* The Tuscon Sentinel just posted my article as well: http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/opinion/report/012011_giffords_resign

*Update 3* Keith Olbermann did an entire segment on this piece on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.









About the Author
John S. Wilson
Founder and Editor-in-Chief 
Connect: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
john [at] policydiary.com 
A proud graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, John is currently a Master's of Public Health candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University  where he is studying health policy & management. He is also a weekly contributor to theloop21.comand founder of So Educated (www.soeducated.com), an education policy and reform blog focused on widening the debate surrounding education and empowering parents and teachers - frequently the least thought of. 

Areas of interest include health care reform and education reform, particularly: access to health care, health care exchanges, and Medicare and Medicaid; in addition, charter schools,  K-12 funding, and educational equality.
John is wholeheartedly determined to contribute to the rapidly changing dialogue in the health care and education communities. He has made continuous contributions by conducting research, publishing articles, interviewing practitioners and professors, and engaging students through on-campus organizations.

John's publishings have appeared in fora such as: The Orlando Sentinel, The Huffington PostThe Daily VoiceWiretap magazineBlack Web 2.0The Daily CalifornianNewMajority.comClub RelafordHipHopRepublican.com and Policy Net

Previously, he served as a legislative fellow in the offices of the Honorable David Englin (D) and  David Bulova (D) of the Virginia House of Delegates, in the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions, respectively. John also interned in the office of the State Attorney General of Virginia, and completed a Governor's Fellowship in the Office of Gov. Bob McDonnell where he worked with the deputy secretary of health on projects regarding aging, HIT and disability.

Who Controls Rep. Giffords' Seat - Her or the People of Arizona?


(Excerpt of my weekly column at The Loop 21)

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has led to a multitude of unanswered questions surrounding: gun regulation (or lack thereof);heated political rhetoric and its consequences; and what if any effect all of this will have on the 2012 presidential election.

An additional question yet to be properly discussed much less answered is: Who will represent Arizona in Giffords’ stead? ThankfullyRep. Giffords is on the road to recovery. However, it will be long, arduous and unpredictable. There is no doubt her constituents mourn for her and her family. But does that mean they should also go without representation in Congress? Certainly not.

Arizona state law provides for a remedy. When an official officeholder is unable to "discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months, the office shall be deemed vacant and at such time, a special election could be called to fill the opening,” The Washington Post reports. The problem is that law most likely does not apply in this particular situation.

"Legally, it's not a close call," said Brian Svoboda, an attorney and expert in political law. “You have a history of interpreting these constitutional decisions and the courts have consistently struck down state laws that have tried to impose additional qualifications beyond those that are set forth in the Constitution."

    So if the Arizona law is not applicable, is there a federal law that is?....

    Read more here: http://goo.gl/xUbs0

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Who Gon' Check Me Boo(m)?!

    Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused of last Saturday's shootings, purchased his firearm legally, passing an instant background check in a state many consider to have the most relaxed gun laws in the nation. Arizona does not require a permit for concealed carry.

    So any enraged adult can literally walk in a store and purchase a gun with about as much questioning and in as much time as is necessary to buy a beer?



    What should we take from this? If a man who was denied admission to the armed forces and expelled from college does not raise red flags in this gun database, who will?

    Art Hites, a concerned citzen raised this same issue in a letter to the Dayton Daily News, with the bottom line being--gun purchasers need to be "checked out better."

    • Did Jared Lee Loughner have a psychiatric diagnosis?

    • Why isn’t there an effective uniform procedure for adding people with psychiatric diagnoses to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)?

    • Why don’t all states require firearms dealers to check the FBI’s NICS before selling a gun?

    • How can Arizona permit anyone off the street to purchase a firearm and carry it concealed without a waiting period or any background check?

    • Why not reinstate the prohibition against selling large-volume magazine clips to civilians?

    While the individual’s right to bear arms is guaranteed the Bill of Rights, just as with other rights guaranteed in this country, they can't go unchecked. Gun possession and purchases need stricter regulation. Congress must stand up to the National Rifle Association and "check" them. Gun manufacturers’ should not be able to lobby in such a way that they hold more power than the nation’s citizens who want nothing more than to be safe and secure in their homes or in the Safeway parking lot.

    Arizona Shootings Show Extremism Has a New Face

    (Excerpt of John's weekly column in The Loop 21)

    I’ve always found it interesting when a tragic situation such as theshootings in Arizona happens and folks tell politicians "it’s not about politics," or worse when the reverse happens and politicians are the ones saying it to folks. It’s simply not a matter of separating politics from the painful moments of life. Yes, not grieving or taking a moment so that others may is crass and should be denounced as such. But seeking political remedies isn’t much different than, seeking moral ones. At the end of the day politics isn’t a job, it’s way of life. Does anyone ask the clergy to not take something religiously?

    Both morality and politics seek to properly equip a people with the tools necessary to understand and react to a myriad of situations. While morality has typically been most associated with retributive justice, the U.S. criminal justice system, which is influenced strongly by politics, is slowly moving toward a restorative model where victims and the community are central to the justice process.

    The kind of politics I’m referring to isn’t couched in terms of wins and losses and parties and party bosses. Instead, I’m talking about politics at its most basic: cumulative idealism of a people.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Westboro Can Go To Hell

    Westboro Baptist plans to picket the funerals of some of the victims in AZ. Yes. You read that correctly, and you can read about it here. People are outraged, regardless of faith, or belief, or political stance. Hate and ignorance speaks across the boundaries we create to invigorate our deeper sensibilities. Now, I could launch into a diatribe about the nature of hate and love, the universal understanding of what's hateful and what's loving. But, I don't have the energy to do so.

    Looming Questions, Sparse Answers: The Consequences of Healthcare Reform Repeal


    Awakening from its lame-duck session, Congress has the task of addressing what is arguably one of the most pointed speculations and heated debates happening in Washington today: the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The Republican-controlled house is currently assembling a case for the overhaul of the healthcare bill; the final vote will happen next Wednesday, January 12. The Democratic-controlled Senate has felt the fire of this friction and has made it clear they will vehemently oppose any attempt at repeal. Even the president, in an official statement from the Office and Management and Budget, announced that he would exercise his right of veto if he was presented with H.R.2 (“Repealing the Job-Killing health Care Law Act).

    The people "want this bill repealed and we are going to repeal it," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. If it is not repealed, "it will ruin the best health care system in the world ... (and) will ruin our economy." Boehner, addressing reporters on Capitol Hill, took issue with the CBO analysis, arguing that it was based on unrealistic economic and fiscal assumptions originally provided by Democrats. "I don't think anyone in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit," he said. The United States has 40 million people uninsured, an average life expectancy that is ranked 50th in the world after the European Union, the costliest health care system in the world, 37th in overall performance, and 72nd by overall level of health (The World Health Organization). It is known to have the last ranking in the quality of health care in similar countries (The Commonwealth Fund).

    A far dimmer reality than the rosy picture of the “best health system in the world.” Whether you are for or against “Obamacare,” there is little weight in the argument that the current status of healthcare in America needs drastic improving to curb excessive spending and provide better health indicators. But in a market-driven economy where resources are finite and tradeoffs are consecutively demanded, we will always be up against tough choices. Money for the military or education? Technology or the environment? The way the game has been played in Washington so far, we are looking towards reconciling access to healthcare and new jobs. The PPACA does not go without its flaws and uncertainties; the exact amount of the savings it will produce may not be known for several years. But it is ludicrous to assume that swelling the deficit by repealing the act will bring us any closer to revitalizing the unemployment pipeline. The money and effort that will be funneled into preventing the bill from materializing is not making Americans any healthier or less unemployed.

    In a preliminary analysis released on Thursday, the CBO projected that the health care repeal would increase the federal deficit by $145 billion between 2012-2019 and by 230 billion from 2012-2021. “We expect that repealing [the] legislation would increase budget deficits,” writes CBO director Douglas Elmendorf on his blog. He gives a small caveat, however: because the Congressional Budget Office’s budgetary predictions are based on theoretical projections as opposed to what happens in reality, there is still room for uncertainty about the definitive financial impact of the repeal. As Elmendorf notes, “Obama’s health care reforms include “a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.” This information, however, should be taken with the following consideration in mind: The CBO in Washington is known to be a neutral referee --an unbiased scorekeeper that has no investment in the outcome of the game and therefore will only give facts and figures, not opinions. Its nonpartisan nature is necessary to the ethical and effective functioning of policy makers on Capitol Hill. It is true that the CBO can’t make guarantees; it can only make educated and researched predictions based on the information it has. And at present, the lion’s share of that information points to a deficit increase if the act is repealed.

    What we need are honest and critical conversations about the status of our population’s health and what measures will bring us there. We need threats for a lost re-appointment to be replaced with the motivation for a sustainable and healthy future through a reinvestment of resources into preventative health. How can we work within the existing framework of the PPACA to create the most equitable distribution of resources and money? How can we ensure that these measures are not just written down but effectively executed and monitored to yield the projected savings? What evidence-based practices and reliable data can we turn to as we make these adjustments? Despite the final outcome of Wednesday’s vote, any agenda that is pursued from here forward will need to address these difficult but critical questions. Until then, America is left to wait and hear its diagnosis for the future.
    Sources:

    About the Author
    Reema Dedania is currently a master's of public health candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University where she studies health policy and management. She also earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Emory University in Anthropology & Human Biology. 

    Her principal areas of interest include: the intersection between clinical medicine and public health practice; the creation and implementation of health policies that target underserved populations; preventative medicine; complex humanitarian emergencies and refugee population health.



    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Tears in Tucson

    There are no words that adequately sum up the events of Tucson, AZ. Yet, we would be wise not to say that this was senseless tragedy. There was much sense behind the trigger, behind the gun, behind the man that pulled the trigger. It was the sense of hate. As I type these words, I recognize that many despise the man who killed innocent victims. There are many that hate those that fueled rage with their words.

    Bullets do not know conservative or liberal. As we, the survivors, all across the country attempt to dissect and understand this event, we blame each other. We point fingers across the aisle hoping to provide a reason as to why this all happened. Quite simply, we are so struck with pain that we
    need someone to blame.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Institutionalize Boehner

    John Boehner, the incoming Speaker of the House, said in a passing inteview that, "The Speaker of the House is supposed to protect the institution...that's what I'm going to do."

    Great. Fantastic. Wonderful. [If you do not smell my sarcasm, please, please, please, get a new nose. Yes, that was sarcasm too].

    Need I remind him of the Tea Party rhetoric that verged on ignorant anarchy? Need I remind him of those voracious few (though the media portrayed them to be many) that wanted to end the institution of taxation? I think I just did.

    In any case, I don't want the institution protected. Fact is, institutions become abusive when they cease representing their constituency. My concern with Boehner is that he will not recognize the necessary changes he must make to "protect the institution."

    HIV and Equality beyond Diversity

    The approach to HIV/AIDS that has held from the beginning has been the same fundamental mistake that society has pursued in the name of social reform – an approach that focuses on “difference” and “diversity”, not equality.  In following this paradigm, we have nurtured stigma and perpetuated victimization while making promises of restitution in the form of treatment.  All the while, the system has held despite phenomenal technological advances in treatment, testing and communication.  It has been a game that has been joined by both the political left and the political right, and is so often what happens when movements become bureaucratic beasts. 

    Consider the history:

    In the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it was mostly the liberal/left that was openly confronting HIV/AIDS (with people like C. Everett Koop among the exceptions).  It took 6 years before President Reagan publicly addressed HIV/AIDS, but during much of that time and through the 1990’s, many in the Republican party (including future HIV/AIDS “champions” Jesse Helms and Henry Hyde) had no qualms about discouraging AIDS funding in the US for prevention unless it was for “abstinence-only” education.  Other future “major” players such as Rick Warren and George Bush were largely silent on HIV/AIDS.

    Around 2000, things started to change.  Bono, who had long been involved in sub-Saharan African poverty causes (going back to work with Bob Geldoff in the 1980’s), suddenly found new traction here by including HIV/AIDS in the “reason-to-care” message.  Hyde and Helms rocked the political world by speaking up about the need to respond to AIDS in Africa while continuing to condemn those with HIV in the US as “immoral”.  This provided an entry for the more traditional “political right” and the evangelical community to jump on the “AIDS” bandwagon.  So for the next decade, there evolved a movement led from the “right” on AIDS in Africa, and from the “left” on HIV/AIDS in the US (the gay community, “communities of color”, IV-drug users).  While the leadership emanated from these sides, there was frequent cross-over.  People like President Bush received praise for his HIV-leadership despite his continued lack of leadership on comprehensive prevention or on HIV/AIDS in the US.  (I maintain that Bush’s efforts were as notable because it was him as much as that the efforts were visionary – just note that his “Emergency Plan” recognized an “emergency” that was already in its 3rd decade and largely ignored and/or scorned by his very party.)  What did emerge over this time was a deepening of the bureaucratic reach into the grassroots activists’ minds that is reflective of the collusion of leadership that keeps us focused on “diversity”.  On the “left”, this diversity meant outreach to people of color, injection drug-users and the “MSM” community.  On the “right”, this meant “Africans” (or, in lesser-publicized cases, “southeast Asians”.  When it comes to the view from overseas, people could easily make the connection between poverty and community health, and certainly in some arenas people in the US do make the call for affordable housing and healthcare as vital to the HIV/AIDS movement, but overwhelmingly the politics and policy are driven by identity, tolerance and diversity. 

    What is unspoken in all of this, however, is the call for “equality”, and just like the current state of civil rights for minorities (blacks, Hispanics, gays/lesbians), if the “equality” factor is lacking, not much will really change.  “Equality”, in this case, means economic equality that manifests in equal education and opportunities not based on race/gender/sexual orientation differences.  This is the most stubborn obstacle of all to overcome because, when we include economic equality, all of a sudden the issues of our day become more systemic, and we all become both a part of the problem and a part of the solution, should we choose to take action.  However, sitting on the sidelines is not an option.  To celebrate that places of privilege (schools, board rooms, etc.) have greater ethnic/racial/sexual diversity does little to address economic inequality.  This is one of those things where you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. 

    Take HIV-testing:  currently, HIV-testing campaigns focus on targeted “high-risk” groups, and by naming a group as “high-risk”, we have to look at “difference”.  In HIV/AIDS-speak, this boils down often to either skin color or sexual orientation, but tends to ignore economic inequality.  The irony is that those who have the greatest access to HIV-testing are those who often have the least access to education and treatment.  Meanwhile, those who have access to treatment and education (even if it is through the high-tech world of social networking) may have the most difficult time accessing testing, as mobile clinics do not come through their neighborhoods, their schools might be more resistant to talking about HIV unless it is in the context of “Africa”, and their medical providers may not be informed or may be reticent about raising the issue of HIV-testing for fear of offending the patient. 

    We often lament how polarized our society is, but the fact is that this system, which is really just a reflection of the larger societal paradigm that stubbornly refuses to see that “equality” is a very different beast than “tolerance” and “diversity”, is a system maintained by a collusion of strange bed-fellows, including HIV/AIDS activists demanding more funding, policy-makers of both left and right, and inner-city and international HIV/AIDS workers.  As long as they continue to nurture an approach that focuses on “differences” and not “equality”, we will never reach our goal.    




     About the Author

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    Brad's articles on Policy Diary

    Brad Ogilvie spent over a decade working on the "treatment" side of HIV as a clinician and program coordinator in a holistic clinic, and then running an AIDS housing program. During this time period – 1995 to 2005, he witnessed huge advances in the treatment of HIV. He also noticed that the institutions that had grown out of the early HIV/AIDS movement were slow and even resistant to change – often being competitive and divisive along demographic and geographic lines both nationally and internationally. He was increasingly convinced that the "business of AIDS" was big business that placed greater weight on keeping case loads and beds full, rather than stopping the spread of HIV. 

     As a person living with HIV, he also experienced the “spend-it-or-lose-it” policies that fostered a culture of dependency.  Armed with this knowledge and these experiences, he founded The Mosaic Initiative in 2005 to focus solely on stopping the spread of HIV through education and testing. He has worked in conservative and liberal communities in Illinois, Washington DC and rural Kenya. 


    As a gay man living with HIV, he has also found that by simply engaging people with open arms rather than closed fists, new alliances, friendships and community partnerships form that will, hopefully, bring a stronger grassroots voice to HIV from a place of common ground that influences better policy and action.  Brad lives in Washington, DC and works full-time for William Penn House developing programs for youth and young adults on social justice issues including HIV. His blog Mosaic Initiative is frequently updated and a wealth of information.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Why Darrell Issa Isn't As Rabid As You Think

    (Excerpt of John's weekly column in The Loop 21.)

    Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is one of the most-watched politicians right now and with good reason. As chair of the Committee On Oversight and Government Reform, Issa is in a position to not only make things difficult for the Obama administration but depending on how cantankerous he chooses to be, block their efforts and bring signature achievements like healthcare reform to a standstill.

    In this role Issa has a vast amount of investigatory power. Armed with a deluge of attorneys and the subpoena power of Congress Issa will be able to question the administration on matters of government management and accounting, procurement of goods and supplies, executive branch restructuring, and waste, fraud and abuse.
    Issa should do himself a favor and focus not on rumors or wily allegations but where federal agencies have legitimately fallen short of meeting expectations and how they can effectively change that. Roland Martin, appearing on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer pointed out that Issa’s calling the Obama administration"one of the most corrupt" at the outset before an investigation has even begun, is foolhardy.

    Such a non-qualified statement signals to voters that Issa is more concerned with pleasing the GOP’s base and turning this affair into a political witchhunt than he is finding the facts.
    It remains to be seen what Issa is really after. In an interview with CBS recently he said that he no longer was interested in pursuing whether or not Joe Sestak received an improper job offer from the White House that would have made way for Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. That’s an important revelation because it is something Issa had harped on for quite a while.

    In that vein I think Issa is tempering his approach. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for three reasons...

    Read full article here: http://goo.gl/V20Ql