Saturday, January 24, 2009

Those Naughty Obamas!!

I know it's silly but I just couldn't resist posting this. It seems these Obamas are even feistier (or is it fist-ier?) than we imagined.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Which Word Describes Your Inauguration Day Mood?

Emily Troutman is an independent writer and photographer who created a video from the photographs that she took on the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated. She carried with her signs for people to choose from. She had this to say about the project:

"This week I made my way around Washington, D.C. and asked hundreds of people to pick words to represent how they feel now, at the dawn of a new beginning for the United States. Participants chose from 26 words:

Alive, Angry, Anxious, Awed, Believe, Curious, Dancer, Excited, Grateful, Happy, Hopeful, Human, Humble, Jealous, Joyful, Love, Obama, Patient, Proud, Ready, Scared, Skeptical, Tired, Together, Wonder, Worried"



President Obama: Words for How We Feel Now from Emily Troutman.

If I had to choose one of these words, I guess it would be "Wonder". I'm too skeptical to choose "Hopeful" or "Believe". This historic event, the election of an African-American, is very awe-inspiring. I think that Obama has the potential to be a better President than many others that this country has had. I know enough about the human nature to just assume that he couldn't possibly let his supporters down, so I'm mostly just wondering how things will go over the next four years.

By the way, Emily Troutman also has a blog you can visit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good-Bye George Bush!

From the mouths of babes...

Why I Became Pro-Choice Even Before I Became A Womanist

Have I ever written about what changed my views from staunch anti-choice to absolutely pro-choice?

There was a woman in my cancer support group. She had Stage III breast cancer. Her husband decided he couldn't deal with her illness, so he left her for another woman while she was going through chemotherapy. She had three children to care for. One was a young tweenie and the other two were just above toddling age and she had just found out that she was pregnant with a fourth child.

Now, she could have tried to go through with the pregnancy but it would mean she'd have to stop her chemotherapy. She was already in a position where her oldest daughter was forced to carry out almost all of her duties as a mother (cooking, bathing the kids, cleaning the house) because of how the cancer and treatments had begun to weaken her. The hubby had walked out on her and didn't seem too eager to take the kids they already had over to where he was now living with his young girlfriend.

When I heard about this, I was floored. This woman was already facing a long battle even without the pregnancy. Stopping the chemo would be signing her own death warrant. She wasn't bleeding to death or anything that might make some feel confident that this was an emergency situation. However, she was not going to live without chemo and anything that delays chemo diminishes the possibility for a cure.

I agonized over this situation. The woman was Catholic and she was agonizing, too. However, her feeling was that God didn't want her to leave the three children she had completely orphaned and there was a good chance that she'd die before she could give birth even if she did try to keep going with the pregnancy. To her, an abortion seemed like the only rational decision. I still can't argue with that. I realized that my arguments against abortion didn't take into consideration the range of situations that women can find themselves in.

This woman was married, faithful to her husband (she was still hoping he'd come back home even though he'd already moved in with someone else), a good mom, a good Catholic. She wasn't engaging in any of the behavior that I saw as irresponsible or licentious (according to my religious conservative weltanschauung ). Yet, here she was in need of an abortion. That woman's situation has stayed with me from that day on.

Someone recently pointed out to me that this kind of situation is quite uncommon and constitute a sort of special circumstance. These kinds of "special circumstances" didn't mean much to me until I met someone who was in one. Now, my feeling is that I don't want to be a part of anything that would say these women don't matter, that they don't deserve to be able to control their own bodies and their own destiny. I don't want to say that these women should die because their situations don't occur often enough for us to take them into consideration before we pass rules that will affect them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Veterans Make Suggestions for the Obama Administration's Handling of the VA

Jon Soltz, the co-founder of VoteVets.org who served as a Captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom, is feeling optimistic about the new Obama administration's commitment to military veterans. At noon, when the White House website switched from that of Former President Bush to the one for President Obama, he was encouraged by what he saw on the agenda.

After polling over 45,000 veterans and their families back in December, VoteVets.org sent a memo to President-Elect Obama's office that detailed their concerns and suggestions for how to improve the Veteran's Administration (VA) that handles health care for those who have served in the military. Soltz feels as if the new Obama administration is off to a good start by paying attention to what veterans are saying, as evidenced by what has been put on the new President's agenda for the VA.

Maybe if there had been better VA care available to my Vietnam Vet uncle, he could have received treatment for his depression and we'd still have him here instead of trying to deal with his suicide that has left his Army vet wife and daughter and the rest of our family (with a strong familial tradition of serving in the military) just devastated. It's too late for our family but I hope that this will be fixed so that other people don't have to lose their loved ones, too.

I bet my uncle would have been really delighted to see this day where an African-American became the President of the United States for the first time in our nation's history. I wish he was here.

The Obama Inauguration in LEGOS

I'm posting this just because it's so-oo-oo dern cute!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Obama Presidency's Impact on Black America

A few days ago, I was conversing with some white Americans about Bill Cosby and how he recently stated that he really doesn't care what some racists in white America think of what he has to say. This led to a discussion about what sort of impact Obama's presidency will have on black America. At this point, I think that the possibilities are wide open. I really don't know what having Obama as President will mean to people of color in the long run. There are so many layers to this (the effect on people of color) that I think many white people haven't picked up on.

For instance, there's the Obama's social status. While lots of people are impressed about where the Obamas went to university, there is the segment of black society that feels differently. I'm in the third generation of my family who went to university. I know some people of color who are among the fourth generation of their family to go. For the upper-middle to upper class set, the Obamas are nouveau riche. Barack and Michelle may have done well, but they are the first in their family to attain real wealth. Some people of color see that as the first step towards entering black high society but it certainly isn't enough. There's also a significant amount of folks in this group who are Republicans and see the election of Obama as the reinforcing of the stereotype where all blacks are assumed to be Democrats.

There are those people of color who have mixed-ethnicity identities. For some of them, the fact that Obama is bi-racial is a big deal because it means he is someone who can relate to different groups without feeling as if he has to maintain some sort of loyalty to the very unscientific social construct of race. We were pretty dern excited by this at my house because it brought mixed-ethnicity and interracial relationships into the forefront where they could be discussed in ways that rarely occurred before. Will Sasha and Malia see themselves as "just black" or will they identify as "mixed-ethnicity" or as "people of color" or "just Americans"? We can't wait to see how having children of color with white and Asian and black family members may affect Barack Obama's weltanschauung.

Then there are those who do not see Obama as really representative of blacks at all. There is the legacy of shadism/colorism that seems to be relevant here. The truth is that, throughout American history, lighter-skinned blacks have been viewed as less threatening than darker-skinned blacks and have generally received better treatment from white society. The fact that Obama could appeal to white, rural people isn't much of a surprise to those who point out how accepting lighter-skinned people of color allows some white Americans to feel tolerant without actually addressing the problem with racial stereotypes.

I think most people of color think that it's great we've finally opened up the Presidency and added a bit of diversity to it. At the same time, there are so many ways that this affects different segments of people of color that I don't think any of us know the full impact that Obama's election will have.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Substitutes for "Sex Positivity"

Renegade Evolution has shared a secret on her blog.
Shh...The term Sex Positive? Guess what? I think it sucks. Yep. I do. I think it is a stupid, problematic and often inflammatory term. Now sure, I don’t scare if people call me slut and all so I might have a bent view on the topic, but yes, I think “Sex Positive” is well, just a really, really idiotic term.
You know, I think I may have referred to myself as sex positive maybe once or twice but the term never really seemed to represent how I see myself. I don't know what term would give someone an idea how I tend to view sex and sexuality.

I don't really watch porn, but I'm not against it. I think sex work should be legal, but the only way I could ever see myself being a sex worker is if I could work exclusively with people with disabilities and that's mostly because I think so many of us are viewed as non-sexual as if having a disability means you don't have the same needs and desires as everyone else. I'm in a sexually monogamous relationship, but I'm not against altering the terms of our commitment to each other if my partner was ever interested in doing so. I find (some forms of) BDSM really cathartic, but don't really engage in it to any serious extent because my partner freaks out and switches back into caretaker mode if it looks like I'm short of breath or in pain.

So what terms might make for a good replacement for the sometimes problematic "sex positive" label? I'm going to have to think on that one.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Blue Cross vs. Tufts Medical Center: Patients to Pay the Costs

Hat tip to Alicia over at the Awesome Cancer Survivor blog

I hadn't heard about what's going on in Massachusetts, so I'm guessing that a lot of other folks might also be unaware. Tufts Medical Center is a teaching hospital located in Boston. Because of its state-of-the-art equipment and clinical trials, many people with cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions receive treatment at the Tufts facility.

Blue Cross of Boston, the biggest health insurer in the state, has been engaging in negotiations with Tufts Medical Center over the reimbursement rates that the hospital receives for treating patients. Right now, Tuft and its doctors receive between 20 to 40 percent less than other teaching hospitals in the area and they are seeking a 9% increase. Blue Cross of Boston is refusing to give Tufts the increase they are asking for. This means that Tufts patients who have insurance coverage through Blue Cross of Boston will have to find new doctors, because the hospital will no longer accept their insurance after February 3rd.

This is a potentially life-threatening situation. My doctors had never encountered a patient with chondrosarcoma before. The fact that my oncologists, my rheumatologist, and my general practitioner are all down the hall from each other allows them to manage my care quickly. There have been several times when I had to be ferried down the hall for my other doctors to examine me so that they could decide which condition might be causing the symptoms I was experiencing.

If I had to start over and find a new hospital, I'd have to find--not just one oncologist who was trained to deal with sarcomas--I'd also have to find other doctors who are comfortable treating a patient with so many co-morbid diseases. Without my doctors working together, my conditions simply can't be managed. I know this for a fact. It was a situation that I faced after Hurricane Katrina.

This fight between Tufts and Blue Cross is leaving seriously-ill patients in a dangerous position. Even though Blue Cross is saying that seriously ill patients will have an additional three months after February to receive treatment at Tufts and have those treatments covered by their insurance, it doesn't really change the fact that many people simply can't change hospitals without endangering their life and potentially worsening their condition(s).

I blame Blue Cross of Boston. Tufts isn't asking to be paid at the same reimbursement rates as Blue Cross' highest paid health providers. The 9% increase would simply make them more competitive. If doctors at Tufts are making less money than they would if they went to some place else, then what incentives are there for them to stay? If the hospital can't attract good doctors, then they can't provide the kind of care that their patients need. If patients don't get the best care they could have received, more of them will die. If I hadn't been for the best care that the country had to offer, I'd certainly be dead. For many patients, Tufts is the best facility for them to use.

I don't know what's going to happen but I do know what should happen. Blue Cross should agree to the increase instead of putting patients' lives at risk. Now, I guess we'll have to see what decision they'll make. If anyone has any ideas about how to put pressure on Blue Cross of Boston, please let me know. This deserves attention.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

MC Flow: "Created Equal" (about Prop 8)

MC Flow is a hip hop artist from New York, now residing in California. She wrote this to express her feelings about waking up on November 5th and finding out that Prop 8 had passed. It's really passionate and beautiful and worth watching.

Lakota Elder Russell Means: "Palestinians are the American Indians of the Middle East"

On December 29, 1890, during the Massacre at Wounded Knee, over 200 children, women, and men of the Lakotah Sioux were shot and killed at point blank range by the United States military. This occurred after the United States government had already reneged on several treaties with the Lakotah, stolen their land, rounded them up into several non-contiguous reservations concentration camps and then cut off their food supply. Does any of this sound familiar to those listening to what's going on in Gaza right now?

In this video, Chief Elder Russell Means of the Republic of the Lakotah discusses how Palestinians have become the American Indians of the Middle East.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Geek Girl Part X: Death by Black Hole

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an acclaimed astrophysicist who has written several books and in this interview he describes what it would be like to die in a black hole. He's very entertaining and I think even those who don't have much of an interest in science will be fascinated by this video. Watching this interview reminds me of why I fell in love with science in the first place. Anyway, let me know what you think about this in the comments section.

Monday, January 05, 2009

25 Things to do to Bring Peace With Justice

Hat Tip to R.

1) First get the facts and then disseminate them. Here are some basic
background information
http://www.btselem.org/english/Gaza_Strip
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4933.shtml
http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war The
true story behind this war
http://www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/If%20Gaza%20falls.pdf If Gaza
Falls
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml Gaza massacres
must spur us to action

2) Contact local media. Write letters to editors (usually 100-150
words) and longer op-eds (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers.
But also write to news departments in both print, audio, and visual
media about their coverage. In the US http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/
You can find media listings in your country using search engines like
google

3) Contact elected and other political leaders in your country to urge
them to apply pressure to end the attacks. In the US, Contact the
State Department at 202.647.5291, the White House 202-456-1111 the
Egyptian Embassy 202.895.5400, Email (emba...@egyptembassy.net) and
the Obama Transition Team 202-540-3000 (then press 2 to speak with a
staff member).

4) Organize and join demonstrations in front of Israeli and Egyptian
embassies or when not doable in front of your parliament, office of
elected officials, and any other visible place (and do media work for
it).

5) Hold a teach-in, seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing
etc. this is straightforward: you need to decide venue, nature, if any
speakers, and do some publicity (the internet helps).

6) Pass out fliers with facts and figures about Palestine and Gaza in
your community (make sure also to mention its relevance to the
audience: e.g, US taxpayers paying for the carnage, increase in world
instability and economic uncertainty)

7) Put a Palestinian flag at your window.

8) Wear a Palestinian head scarf (Koufiya)

9) Wear Black arm bands (this helps start conversations with people)

10) Send direct aid to Gaza through the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA). http://www.un.org/unrwa/

11) Initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions at all levels and
including asking leaders to expel the Israeli ambassadors (an
ambassador of an apartheid and rogue state). See Palestinian call
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml

12) Work towards bringing Israeli leaders before war crime courts
(actions along those lines in courts have stopped Israeli leaders from
traveling abroad to some countries like Britain where they may face
charges)

13) Calling upon all Israelis to demonstrate in front of their war
ministry and to more directly challenge their government

14) Do outreach: to neighbors and friends directly. Via Internet to a
lot of others (you can join and post information to various listservs/
groups).

15) Start your own activist group or join other local groups (simple
search in your city with the word Palestine could identify candidate
groups that have previously worked on issues of Palestine). Many have
also been successful in at bringing coalitions from different
constituencies in their local areas to work together (human rights
group, social and civil activists, religious activists, etc).

16) Develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other
places where decision makers aggregate

17) Do a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place

18) Visit Palestine (e.g. with http://www.sirajcenter.org)

19) Support human rights and other groups working on the ground in
Palestine

20) Make large signs and display them at street corners and where ever
people congregate.

21) Contact local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of
worship and ask them to take a moral stand and act. Call on your
mosque to dedicate this Friday for Gaza actions.

22) Sign petitions for Gaza, e.g.
http://www.avaaz.org/en/gaza_time_for_peace/98.php?cl_tf_sign=1

23) Write and call people in Gaza

24) Work with other groups that do not share your political views
(factionalism and excessive divisions within activist communities
allowed those who advocate war to succeed).

25) Dedicate a certain time for activism for peace every day (1 hour)
and think of more actions than what is listed above.

For support and contacts of people in Gaza or to volunteer, please
contact the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, via
g...@imemc.org, or call 989-607-9480 (from the US and Canada) or 972
2277 2018 (from other places)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gaza Protest in New Orleans Tomorrow!

Stop the Massacre in Gaza!

New Orleans Says No Murder In Our Name!
March and Rally for Justice and Liberation
2:00pm
This Sunday, January 4
Start at Corner of Canal Street and Convention Center Blvd, at the base of Canal street, across from Harrah's Casino

Indiscriminate bombing by Israeli Military forces and prolonged siege of the Gaza Strip, supported and funded by the United States, has led to:

  • At least 428 Palestinians, including scores of children and hundreds of other civilians, murdered
  • Over 2,100 Palestinians wounded, including hundreds of civilians
  • Mosques, Health Clinics, apartment buildings, and a university targeted and destroyed
  • No medical care for the wounded, public health infrastructure devastated
  • No food
  • No fuel

The Israeli Government has promised to continue to escalate its attacks against the Gaza Strip and acts of mass murder against the Palestinian people.

WE SAY NO MORE KILLINGS IN OUR NAME!

Demonstrations against this violence have arisen all over the world. Now our voices, here in the US, must be heard to demand an immediate end to the massacres and an end to US aid to Israel! The Israeli military is promising more bombing and killing, and the Bush administration has given its approval - we must say no NOW!

For the past year and a half, the people of the Gaza Strip of Palestine have been slowly starved to death by an Israeli-imposed siege on the Palestinians by air, land and sea, bombing all electric plants and hospitals, depriving Palestinians of their existing resources, preventing the entry of any more resources and the travel of the Palestinians seeking food, shelter and medical care, imprisoning the entire Palestinian population as they starved and died of lack of access to medicine.

This Demonstration is sponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New Orleans; INCITE! New Orleans; The Women's Health & Justice Initiative; the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic; The New Orleans Chapter of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; New Orleans Palestine Solidarity; Mayday Nola; PATOIS: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival; Artist In Action; and many other organizations and individuals (list in formation). We invite everyone concerned about justice and human rights to join us.

For more information on the situation in Gaza, see also these resources:

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml

http://www.counterpunch.org/loewenstein01012009.html

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/12/30-11

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mary and Jesus in Afghanistan

Time magazine has several lists highlighting the "Top Ten Everything of 2008" on its website. There was one picture that really touched me.

Photo Description: A woman sits with her legs crossed on the floor of a dark room. She is wearing a floor-length green dress with long sleeves. A long white scarf is lies loosely over her head and extends down to her elbows. Her face is turned to the left as she looks up. In her arms, she holds a small baby who is feeding from her partially-shown right breast.

The Time magazine caption reads, "Siamoy, an Afghan woman from remote Badakhshan province in Afghanistan, feeds her one-month old baby. The remote, mountain region has the highest maternity mortality rate in the world."

I keep thinking about the biblical story of Jesus' birth. Looking at this picture, I can't help but think about how it reminds me of the Nativity scenes that are so popular in our society this time of year. Mary and Jesus would have looked much like Siamoy and her baby. Our society celebrates the birth of Jesus and portrays Mary as holy and worthy of reverence and devotion. At the same time, many of the same people support the wars that have terrorized and killed so many women like Siamoy and her child.