Showing posts with label Academia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Academia. Show all posts

June 28, 2016

Staten Islander Crowned Non-female Queen at “Fame” HS


Matthew Crisson, a Staten Island native, was recently crowned the first non-female prom queen at Laguardia High School for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Instagram/hotmessiah)

 Matthew Crisson, an 18-year-old Staten Island native, was recently crowned the first non-female prom queen at 2016 prom of LaGuardia High School for the Perorming Arts
Laguardia is widely known as the "Fame" high school, because it inspired the 1980 movie and television series, "Fame."
Crisson is also the first "gender-fluid" prom queen — i.e. born male but identifies as non-binary, which means he does not identify as either gender.

The teen, who will be attending SUNY Purchase in the fall, has kept his head high and encourages members of the LGBTQ community to "stay strong and know that things will get better for you," according to Fox 5 News,  
"I had always struggled with social anxiety and reaching for things I really want,"  Crisson said during his interview. "Being prom queen was the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone and proved to myself that I have courage, and I have strength, and I have confidence."
He admitted to thoughts of suicide in middle school. "I'm so glad I didn't do that because there are so many great things that I accomplished this year... and that I'm going to accomplish." 
Crisson was crowned prom queen a week after the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., which killed 49 people in the most devastating mass shooting in U.S. history. 
Dr. Gracelyn Santos |

May 30, 2014

Psychotic 20 yr Old Buys Gun to Probably kill, Mom Calls Police he’s Serving 15 yrs

(  Blaec Lammers is serving 15 years )

The parents of Blaec Lammers knew their 20-year-old son struggled with mental-health problems. He was on antipsychotic medications, when he wasn’t refusing to take them. Several times his parents had rushed him to the hospital for an involuntary, 96-hour psychiatric detention. It felt like a cycle without answer or end.
“Every conversation was, ‘What do we do about Blaec?’ ” his father, Bill Lammers, said from the family’s home in Bolivar, Mo.
Then, in November 2012, Blaec Lammers’s mother found a receipt for an AR-15 rifle in his blue jeans. Alarmed, she called police. Officers took him in for questioning. Blaec Lammers admitted to having homicidal thoughts and to buying two rifles with plans to shoot up a local movie theater and Wal-Mart, according to a probable-cause statement.
His parents were hailed as heroes. But today, as their son serves a 15-year prison sentence for his plot instead of getting the help they believe he needs, they are filled with doubt about their decision.
Now, Blaec Lammers’s parents look at therampage Friday in Isla Vista, Calif. — in which 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people despite a series of mental-health red flags in recent months — and wonder whether their son had been heading down that same tragic path. Last month, deputies in California visited Rodger for a wellness check after his mother found disturbing videos that he had posted on YouTube, but authorities found no cause to intervene.
“The million-dollar question: Had we not done anything, would Blaec have done that?” Bill Lammers said.
The elder Lammers sees this latest mass murder — perpetrated by another young killer with hints of mental illness — as a further sign of a broken mental-health-care system and the often private struggle of families dealing with mentally ill children. An estimated 20 percent of U.S. teenagers have some mental-health irregularity, including 10 percent who have some behavior or conduct disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“You don’t want to think your son, your own blood, is going to be a shooter, a mass murderer,” Bill Lammers said. “But you’ve got to face the reality that he might’ve been.”
His son’s arrest came at a fraught time. Four months earlier, in July 2012, James Holmes, 24, walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and fatally shot 12 people and wounded 70 others. One month after Blaec Lammers’s arrest, in December 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The mental states of both shooters have been debated, along with whether their families or doctors could have done more to prevent their achieving their destructive ends. Holmes’s attorneys have argued that their client is too mentally ill to face the death penalty.
Bill Lammers, who works as a health-care software consultant, was in New York City on a business trip when his wife, Tricia Lammers, called him on Nov. 15, 2012. It was a Thursday afternoon. She had just found the receipt from Wal-Mart. Their first thought was that their son was going to kill himself. Then, they worried that he might hurt others. They agreed she should call law enforcement authorities in their rural, southwestern part of Missouri.
The Lammers family knew the sheriff well. Deputies had been enlisted before to help with their son. A couple years earlier, Blaec had stormed out of the house after an argument with his parents. They tried coaxing him back, but he ran off across a field.
They warned the sheriff that Blaec was off his medication. A couple hours later, the sheriff pulled up to the Lammers home and dropped off their son. The sheriff and Bill Lammers stood in the yard talking. Bill Lammers was shocked that the sheriff wasn’t going to detain his son, at least until he calmed down. But the sheriff explained that he couldn’t arrest someone until he had done something to justify that action. “Then it’s too late,” Bill Lammers told the sheriff. “We’re trying to prevent something.”
Bill Lammers recalled that conversation as he watched recent news coverage of the Isla Vista killings. A sheriff in California was explaining that Rodger, appearing timid and polite, did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold. Rodger had not done anything, either.
“The mental-health system is totally broken,” Bill Lammers said. “Calling the police is the only option.”
Bill Lammers, 53, owns guns. He keeps them locked in a safe. He never let his son near them. He knew that Blaec should not be around firearms. So he was shocked when he learned that Blaec had bought two rifles from the local Wal-Mart.
He bought them legally. There was nothing in the standard background check to stop him. But, as Bill Lammers pointed out, this was the same Wal-Mart where his son filled prescriptions for his antipsychotic and antidepressant pills. It was also the same store where, in 2009, Blaec Lammers was found wandering the aisles carrying a butcher knife and wearing a Halloween clown mask. Deputies escorted him out of the store that time.
Bill Lammers said he does not support laws limiting the size of ammunition clips or restricting ownership of certain firearms. But he would like to see stricter laws to prevent someone with a history of serious mental illness — someone like his son — from buying firearms.
Even after police arrested Blaec Lammers, which was followed by a burst of national attention over a foiled mass-murder plot, his father never expected him to face serious prison time. Blaec Lammers, his father said, “was for the most part a peaceful, easy-going person.” In March 2014, after a bench trial, a judge sentenced Blaec Lammers to 15 years for first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Bill Lammers said his wife has struggled with their decision to notify authorities in 2012. She expected her son to get a wellness check. He ended up giving a confession. She feels that she ruined her son’s life, Bill Lammers said. He struggles with their decision, too. “But isn’t that better than him killing 20 or 30 people?”
“We still have trouble accepting it,” he added. “It’s just like the parents out there in California.”

By Todd C. Frankel

November 17, 2013

Obama Said He Was SorryBut The GOP still Lying About The Law

President Obama acknowledges that he was wrong when he said Americans could keep their existing health plans under the Affordable Care Act. He’s apologized, and he’s told insurance companies they should let people keep those plans for a year.

But has that mollified Republicans eager to kill Obamacare, either outright or by draining it of all meaning? No way. If anything, this perceived weakness has them sharpening their political rhetoric.
On Saturday, their designated attacker as much as said Obama lied when he repeatedly assured the public, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
Among the phrases used by Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin in the weekly GOP radio and Internet address: “phony…fraudulent…grand deception…false promises.”
“President Obama's so-called apology was as phony as his fraudulent marketing of Obamacare,” Sen. Johnson said.
“Those assurances weren't slight exaggerations or innocent shadings of the truth. They were statements that were fully vetted, coldly calculated, and carefully crafted to deceptively sell your health care plan to a trusting public,” Johnson charged. “It was a political fraud echoed relentlessly by House and Senate Democrats who should be held accountable for the disastrous consequences of their grand deception.”
“Consumer fraud this massive in the private sector could – and should – bear serious legal ramifications,” he said. “For President Obama, however, it helped secure enough votes to pass Obamacare, and win reelection.”
Whether or not Obama knew early on that some people would be kicked off their health insurance policies may never be known. There’s no smoking gun – no secret Oval Office tape – so far.
But large numbers of Americans – already fed up with the debacle – are not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Asked whether Obama “knowingly deceived the public when he said that if people liked their health insurance plans they would be able to keep them under the 2010 health care law,” 46 percent of respondents in the latest Quinnipiac University National Poll say “yes,” including 17 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents. (Forty-seven percent say “no.”)
A new Fox News poll came up with similar results: half of those surveyed believe the president knowingly lied when he made the notorious “you can keep it” pledge, nearly 60 percent believe the administration knew ahead of time that people would have their health insurance policies canceled because of the law, and 55 percent think the White House has “tried to deceive” people about it.
With midterm elections around the corner, Republicans are stalking political prey – especially any Democratic incumbents who voted for Obamacare. And they’re using Obama’s “grand deception,” as Sen. Johnson put it Saturday, in politically predatory fashion.
"There's nothing more damaging than when your word is devalued and people think they were misled," Rep. Greg Walden, (R) of Oregon, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, told the Associated Press. "And especially damaging is when it actually affects you and your family. So in terms of degree of impact, this is off the Richter scale."
For his part, Obama might have been expected to talk about the Affordable Care Act in his radio and Internet address Saturday.
But at this point, it’s actions instead of words that will be judged. And to dwell on it in this venue – apologizing some more, promising that things will get better with – would look like he’s trapped in one issue.
In his address, Obama talked about energy policy.
“Just this week, we learned that for the first time in nearly two decades, the United States of America now produces more of our own oil here at home than we buy from other countries,” he said. “That’s a big deal. That’s a tremendous step towards American energy independence.
Christian Science Monitor

AFoxie Side Dish:
"To reoffer old plans means to go through the whole process again – and some states may simply say no to that. Insurers cannot simply reissue old plans: They must recrunch numbers, refigure the benefits and rates for a complex array of populations, and then resubmit them to state regulators.
“Now you have to have the 50 states and Puerto Rico agree to offer the old plans,” says Thom Mangan, CEO of United Benefit Advisors, an employee-benefits advisory firm in Chicago. “And that’s not very easy to do. You’re going to have the more-liberal states say, nope, we agree with Obamacare, this is the way we’re going, even as the red states – who never wanted to be part of it anyway – say, fine by me.”
Indeed, in blue Washington State, where, unlike, the state-run exchange has rolled out with great success, the insurance commissioner rebuffed the president and announced his state would not be reissuing old policies.
“I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington,” Mike Kreidler, the commissioner, said in a statemen. “In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington.”
Allowing people to keep the plans they liked, many insurers worry, would be catastrophic for the new numbers they have already worked hard to crunch.
One key component of Obamacare, insurers point out, is getting younger and healthier Americans to pay for health insurance. This is necessary to help subsidize the higher costs of other individuals, who will be putting more pressures on a system already exploding in costs.
In the previous system, rates for the young and healthy were generally much lower: Since they generally don’t get sick as much, they were able to pay less, in a setup similar to safe-driver discounts. Indeed, it is many of these Americans who have seen their cheaper health plans canceled and have seen their rates increase.
Now, they can go back to these old plans – assuming states will allow insurers to offer them. But this will undermine the cost structure for those already on new Obamacare plans – those with preexisting conditions, say, who now cannot be denied coverage. These new plans were designed with the assumption that more premiums would be paid by the young and healthy.”

October 13, 2011

Gay military college students start club come out


    At the inaugural meeting of Norwich University's post-"don't ask, don't tell"-era LGBTQ Allies Club, Josh Fontanez raised the blinds in the student union's fishbowl-style room. He was sending a message: we're here, we're visible, we're active and we'd welcome your company.
  • Norwich University students attend a LGBTQ Allies meeting.
    By Josh Fontanez
    Norwich University students attend a LGBTQ Allies meeting.
By Josh Fontanez
Norwich University students attend a LGBTQ Allies meeting.
  It was a significant moment — not just for the students in the room who, under the policy barring openly gay people from serving in the military, had been forced to keep secret a huge part of their identities while preparing to serve at the nation's only private military college. After witnessing two failed attempts to get a similar group off the ground when DADT was still in place, some faculty members and administrators felt the gravity of the gesture as well.
Fontanez, the Norwich senior and Corps of Cadetstrainee who will commission in the Army this May, is president of the Norwich University Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning and Allies Club. Fontanez laid the groundwork for the club in the spring while he was president of Norwich's student government. (As Fontanez put it, the club "may not have been the most popular thing." He wasn't re-elected as student body president, but he's now secretary of diversity and equality.)
"No one wanted to step up and take the leadership role, just because of whatever type of stereotyping would come along with that, or judgment," Fontanez said. "Someone has to be the voice for a population of our student body, faculty and all members of our community who haven't had a voice for a long time."
Though Norwich enrolls citizens as well as future officers, as the birthplace of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the institution primarily teaches students who are headed for the military. Thus, attempts to start an LGBTQA group in the 1990s and 2000s had trouble getting off the ground. Since its first weekly meeting on Sept. 20 - the day of the DADT repeal - the new group has drawn a steady 20 or so gay and straight students, staff and faculty members, and the number is slowly growing.
"The repressive policy which demanded that people lie about their own sense of identity precluded honest support for everyone," said M.E. Kabay, faculty adviser of the club and a professor of information assurance and statistics. "It was not possible for them to continue in their military careers under those circumstances, so there was basically no support."
At the meetings and in an online discussion board, students are talking about their experiences and working with other local groups to plan events and educate students about LGBT issues.
Kabay, a vehement supporter of gay rights, has been at Norwich for 11 years and has never hidden his views: his office door is plastered with Human Rights Campaignstickers and posters. But for students in the age of DADT, things weren't so straightforward. As current and former students at military academies have said, many lead double lives. Openly showing support could lead to suspicion, and eventual discharge. Even objections to homophobic slurs might raise eyebrows.
At military colleges, this has forced student LGBT groups - however formal or informal - underground, said Shane L. Windmeyer, co-founder and executive director of Campus Pride, a group that advocates for gay students and helps them and their allies create campus organizations. Students at Norwich and ROTC students at all kinds of institutions may have had to meet up secretly in the past, he said, but with the repeal, there's no reason why military colleges wouldn't create an official group.
"It's not a surprise that after 'don't ask, don't tell' you're going to see a lot of military-based institutions creating LGBT organizations, much as they have done on other campuses," Windmeyer said. "These students are seeking support and visibility - possibly resources - on their campus, so one way to do that is to mobilize."
Officials told Carolina Suazo and all her classmates in their very first ROTC class freshman year that if they were gay or lesbian and came out, they'd be kicked out. But she wanted to commission in the military, so she became a cadet anyway.
During Army training, "I had to stay in the closet," Suazo said. Even though she didn't have to worry about being found out at school, because the university itself couldn't do anything, Suazo had to be careful about letting anything slip to a fellow cadet who might turn her in. Now, of course, she doesn't have to worry.
But for others the repeal is still too recent, Suazo said. The stigma remains, and for the next year, people will still largely be considered "gay by association, in a way," she said. But, she's O.K. with it - all she can hope for is that they are open to different viewpoints.
"Pretty much the majority of the kids who come here are conservative white Republicans. And when you bring that issue up, it ruffles a couple feathers. But we just try not to take it personally," Suazo said, adding that, while jokes about being "gay" are common in a testosterone-fueled environment, she rarely encounters a person who openly taunts her. "For people that don't share my opinion, I think it's going to be more of a maturity issue for them. I think it won't be extremely hard, we just have to be persistent - just find a fine line between being pushy and being persistent…. If we ride out the storm, we will get to a better place at the end of it. This year will be rocky."
Although students couldn't unite openly while DADT was in effect, some alumni did. Groups of graduates (and in some cases, faculty and staff) who are no longer in the military have over the years created organizations to support each other and to advocate for currently enrolled LGBTQ students. The groups are active at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy.
None of those institutions has formed a student LGBT group yet, nor have the Citadel orVirginia Military Institute, which, like Norwich, are members of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States.
At Norwich, the biggest obstacle to the formation of a club has been a "real and perceived" homophobia among students - not administrators - said Rowly Brucken, an associate history professor who teaches a class that includes the history of the gay and lesbian liberation movement.
The club is valuable because it dovetails with Norwich's mission, which is based on tolerance and inclusion, and the emphasis of academe on challenging individuals and stereotypes, Brucken said. But it's also important because the military should and does reflect the general population - and everyone needs to know that and be able to operate in that environment.
"If the military is going to protect us, it should be like us, and having this club which includes cadets really fights the stereotype of gays and lesbians as sort of weak cowards - invisible, not masculine," Brucken said. "It challenges those stereotypes by saying, 'Yes, you can be homosexual and be as skilled or unskilled in the military as anyone else.' "
For some, the repeal brought the military in line with another proclamation - its own. The Blue Alliance, the LGBT alumni group of the Air Force Academy, points out that the "enforced silence" of gay and lesbian cadets was incompatible with the institution's own Cadet Honor Code, which is shared by Norwich and other military colleges.
"A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do."

October 9, 2011

Yales'David Halperin: Queer Studies+Brudner Prize winner

 photo By Emilie Foyer
David Halperin, the W.H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan, has been credited with establishing the field of queer theory, though his relationship to the discipline is more complicated than you might think. Even so, he's one of the best-known names in an amorphous but influential queer milieu. WEEKEND sat down with the 2011 Brudner Prize recipient to discuss theory and practice, academia and gay culture.
Q. How do you see yourself as a part of Queer Theory today, insofar as it represents an academic movement or discipline?
A. Well, I see myself both identified with it and at the same time, out of sync with it. My preoccupations have come to focus particularly on gay male culture — that’s not a particularly fashionable topic. And also, even though I’ve been involved in queer theory, my current work isn’t particularly theoretical, partly because, in order to work on gay male culture, I actually need to start from the empirical phenomena themselves. There is no ready-made theory that’s exactly right for trying to figure out what defines the distinctive character of gay male culture. So, my current work is kind of inductive and formal. Nowadays, a lot of queer theory begins with some theoretical propositions and then applies them to phenomena. That’s not what I’m doing.
Q. So, how would you characterize the work you’re doing now. Do you feel like it fits into a particular academic discipline?
A. It fits only into gay studies and/or queer studies. I’m not quite sure that queer studies or gay studies is a discipline, but really my work has consistently been situated in this interdisciplinary field. In the ’90s, with the emergence of queer theory, it became possible for the various traditional disciplines to reassert themselves within queer studies. Queer theorists could claim to be “queering” literary criticism, or the renaissance, or archaeology or anthropology, which meant that queer theory became compatible with maintaining the traditional disciplines. You could remain within them and queer them. In my case, there is no particular discipline I’m doing in a queer way. I’m dealing with a specifically queer issue. There would be no way to approach it except through queer studies. Still, my background is literary, so a lot of what I do involves close reading.
Q. Along those lines, how has your particular methodology changed over time to suit your various academic projects?
A. I think it’s become less theoretical.
Q. Interesting.
A. And more descriptive.
Q. Is that a trend you’d like to see develop in queer studies?
A. A bit, yes. I think the field is somewhat theory-heavy at the moment. I also worry that the way that theory is deployed in the field is very dogmatic, which is odd, because the theory we use is critical theory, which was invented to unseat various dogmas. And now theory seems to be invoked as if it’s a truth. So, that’s a problem. I also think we miss a chance to describe in detail a lot of the world which hasn’t been described previously. There’s a ton of stuff to do, besides invoking the same theoretical gestures again and again.
Q. How has your personal identity or conception of self affected your work over time?
A. I think it’s more the case at the moment that my work has affected my personal sense of self. I’m someone who always thought that being gay had to do with desiring people of the same sex, not having a particular cultural identification. So, in some ways, I’m the last person who should be working on gay culture, because I’ve never understood it, and everybody has always told me that I’m hopeless at being a gay man. But that’s also why I’ve been intrigued by this claim that there’s a right way to be gay, that you have to know something to be gay. I thought that having sex with men was enough. I’ve certainly given that everything I can. But, I actually think that workng on gay men’s cultural identifications has made me more gay, so I’m pleased with the effect my work has had on me.
Q. How would you characterize your role in the founding of queer theory or sexuality studies, and do you find that people who enter the field now address you in a particular way, because of that reputation?
A. Oh, I think most of the people that enter the field now have no idea about any of that. I mean, I’ve always wanted the field to move into new areas and to find ways of renewing itself, to keep expanding and changing and transforming itself. Otherwise, it loses its excitement. I do think there’s a particular problem when students who enter the field now seek to be credentialed in it, rather than to do what people in my generation did, including people who were students at the time, and that is, trying to change what could be thought and said.  And now, a lot of students enter the field not in order to change what can be thought and said, but to learn what other people have already thought and said. And that’s fine, I mean that’s what we fought for when we tried to create this field—that students would have the possibility to take courses in it—but it puts me in a weird relationship to my students. Because, instead of feeling like we’re part of a common enterprise, designed to change the world, I end up saying, “Well, you’ve got this right and you’ve got this wrong,” and my students respond to me in the way that students in any discipline do — like someone who’s grading them and calling the shots, like I’m telling them what to think. That might be normal in other fields, but for me it’s kind of aberrant.
Q. Do you perceive a trend toward the mainstreaming of the field?
A. Well, I worry about it. There are a lot of new things happening and all sorts of exciting developments. At the same time, I think it might be interesting, and I’ve tried to do this to some extent, to de-discipline the field somewhat, to try to open it out, to make it possible for it to be more porous to activists and thinkers outside the academy — for it to become more of a community possession. But then, of course, we also have to admit that the gay movement in this country no longer exists in the way it once did. So, in some ways, we’re in a paradoxical situation, in which some of the traditional values of the gay movement now exist within universities, rather than out there in the movement.
Q. What’s your perspective on the mobilization of discourses from queer theory or sexuality studies toward goals that are now part of the mainstream gay rights movement in the US, like marriage equality?
A. Well, my sense is that there are relatively few insights from queer studies that actually are inspiring those movements. Queer studies didn’t anticipate those movements and they didn’t advocate for them, which is one of the reasons for the split between the movement and queer studies that happened in the early ‘90s, and that has never been healed. It was over two issues: gay marriage and the genetic explanation of homosexuality. To some extent, it was also over gay people and military service, but less so. There was popular support for gay marriage, for a biological origin theory of homosexuality and for lifting the ban on gay people serving in the military, and queer theorists had serious reservations about all those issues. In my view, the problems have less to do with the cause of gay marriage or military service than what those causes mean. They’ve come to mean different things over time. Gay marriage or military service was once an issue that was about, among other things, economic justice, access to benefits, ending formal discrimination against gays. Those causes have since become about social symbolism—about the acceptance of gay people by society, about recognition, validation, citizenship, badges of normality. Obviously, what’s queer about queer studies has to do with its oppositional relation to normality. But of course there’s room in the world for all sorts of different causes, and I’m glad that gay people can now get married in some parts of the world. What worries me is when gay marriage is used to assimilate gay people completely to pre-existing heterosexual forms of life, rather than to inquire into what forms of life might be particularly suitable for gay people.
Q. Who are some academics that you admire?
A. Well! Especially people at Yale: George Chauncey, Michael Warner, Joanne Meyerowitz are all people I’ve admired enormously. George Chauncey’s 1982-3 article “From Inversion to Homosexuality” was the particular trigger for my historical work on Ancient Greece. Michael Warner’s work on normativity was crucial for some of my later work on Foucault and on sexual culture. So, that’s not just an idle compliment. I knew them both long before they ever came to Yale.
Q. What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia and incorporating some aspect of queer theory or sexuality studies into their future work?
A. I would say, you have to know when to bow to the kind of pressure that academe puts on you to conform to its standards, but you also have to know when not to cave into that pressure. The name of the game is trying to make an academic career into a vehicle for what you want, rather than for what they want from you.

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