Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dog Performs Heimlich Maneuver?

What the hell?!! I swear I've heard it all now.

What The Internets Are Made Of

The internet is broken down as follows:

70% porn, 10% pictures of cats, 9% MySpace, 5% YouTube, 5% useful information, and 1% blogs.
-Nine Pearls

For some reason, this made me laugh really hard. I think she is absolutely correct, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Somewhere In Faerie-Land

Somewhere in Faerie-Land, a little pixie named Labyrinth Merryplume flitters off into the horizon in search of new adventures until her mother, Sparkling Tinseltuft, calls her inside for a spot of honey dew and raspberries.

I was sitting at my computer and VanGoghGirl came into the room dressed like this, demanding to be called "Labyrinth Merryplume". I was re-named "Sparkling Tinseltuft" and her dad became "Ratscat Boots". She's method acting, so she's going to be our little pixie for the rest of this day. I just had to take a few pictures of her to preserve this moment in time.

By the way, the picture on the wall that can be seen in the background is one of the self portraits she did a couple of years ago.

Honey, Guess Who Moved In Next Door!

Well, it turns out that even a lot of disabled folks aren't too fond of people like me.

This research is supported by findings published in the 23rd Report of the British Social Attitudes survey, whereby 82 per cent of people who don't know any disabled people say that they would not feel very comfortable with a schizophrenic moving in next door, compared with 71 per cent of people who know someone who is disabled and 62 per cent of people who are themselves disabled.

You know, it's reading stuff like this that makes it harder for me to talk about having schizophrenia than it is for me to talk about my cancer. I've written about how, in our society, cancer can work as an instant sympathy card that one can redeem at any given time. It's different with mental illness, though. Tell someone you have schizophrenia and you can be sure that anything you've ever done or do in the future will evaluated and re-evaluated on the basis of that admission.

Have you shown up to work having an extremely bad hair day? It must be because you're "schizo". Have you ever been thinking about something funny and laughed out loud about it? It's because you're nuts. Are you having a day where your nerves are frazzled and everything you're doing in the laboratory seems to be going wrong? There's no doubt about it--you're definitely on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. But if anyone else were to exhibit the same behavior, it can simply be attributed to having a bad day, waking up on the wrong side of the bed, not having had one's morning cup of coffee, et cetera.

It's enough to drive a person crazy. Okay, okay! I know that was an awful attempt at a joke but, seriously folks, unless you have spent your whole life on a deserted island formerly occupied by the Dharma Initiative, there is absolutely no way that you can be an adult and not have ever known someone with a mental illness. We are all around you. So what is there to be so uncomfortable about if a person with schizophrenia lived next door to you? We're not going to rub our really contagious crazypeople-germs on your doorknob when you're not looking and you can be fairly sure that we won't make you uncomfortable by staring at you every time we see you in the hallway...that is, provided you don't do anything crazy 'cuz if you do, then all bets are off, my friend.

My Kind of Girl

Click Here for more great videos and pictures!

I love it! Who needs a knight in shining armor when you have a three year old like this! Why can't we have fairy tales featuring girls like her?

(Thanks Ravenmn)

The Edward's Campaign: The Case For Continuing

I'm fired up. I've been meaning to write about the Edward's announcement but I kept putting it off because the media reaction to it has been particularly annoying. Then today I saw this little post on a supposedly "progressive politics" blog and I got downright aggravated. I fired off a response but I'm not sure they'll even post it and I don't think I have the patience to write a separate one for my blog after creating that one. So, here it is.
December 11, 2006 I marked the fourth anniversary of my diagnosis with incurable bone cancer but my doctors agree that it had been in my chest for several years before it was diagnosed. My tumor was found to be attached to one of my ribs, pushing into my spinal column, and wrapped around the aorta going to my heart. Since that diagnosis I've had radiation and three surgeries. It was hard to get through but I did it.

I have all of my body parts except for pieces of a couple of my ribs which they took out when they de-bulked my tumor. I can eat whatever the hell I want. I can ride rollercoasters and get more than a little tipsy on St. Patrick's Day and this summer I'm going to take my first cross-country road trip with my friends and my spouse. I'm not paralyzed. I have a full head of hair, all of my teeth, both breasts, two working eyes and ears and I'm even slightly overweight. Yeah, that's right. Since I got diagnosed and went through all of those treatments, I haven't lost a single pound. I'm not all shriveled up with chapped lips and a death-rattle for a voice despite how television and movies love to depict folks with cancer. I've been yelled at lots of times in parking lots because people look at me and think that I have no business being in the spots reserved for "the handicapped". In fact, unless I were to take of my shirt and show you my two surgical scars, you wouldn't know that I'd ever had anything done to me at all.

And you know what? I'm not an anomaly. There are millions of folks like me walking around in this country. I think a lot of people who haven't had cancer don't really understand how many advancements have been made in cancer care over the past few years. Soon after my grandfather got diagnosed with lung and throat cancer twenty years ago, he began to look like the picture that most Americans have in their head when they think of the word "incurable cancer". Today it's a hell of a lot different. I have accomplished more in the years since my diagnosis than I had in all the years before it.

You are doing your readers a HUGE disservice by advancing the erroneous notion that "incurable cancer" is synonymous with "terminal cancer". There is an enormous difference between the two! You can be incurable for many, many years without ever becoming terminal. You can become terminally ill even though your cancer is, at least in theory, curable. In my own case, lupus (my other health condition) has threatened my life many more times than my cancer has.

Speculating about someone's condition without even seeing the details of their medical records can have very hurtful consequences. For many people, the internet is one of the first sources they use to find information when they or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and I can personally attest to how distressing it can be to try and un-do the damage caused by misinformation about cancer.

Honestly, there is no reason why Mrs. Edward's cancer should be considered a reason for her husband to stop campaigning. She's healthier than Richard Cheney was when he became Vice President--a position that I think is much more taxing to one's health than simply being a potential first lady. She's young enough to be considered a good candidate for many, if not all, of the treatments that would be recommended in order to keep her fairly healthy. She's much richer than the average cancer patient so she can afford to get the very best care in whatever country it may be found instead of being limited to just one group of doctors may be able to do for her. Besides, I think what we should really consider is the fact that continuing this campaign is what she says she WANTS her husband to do and that, above all else, is more than enough reason for them to go on.

People can wind up wasting years of their life just sitting around waiting because they think that being incurable means they about to turn up their toes and die. And what if Mrs. Edwards does die of cancer eventually? Well, sitting around at home wouldn't have prevented it from happening.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Johari and Nohari Windows

Okay, I got it from BFP who got it from Turtlebella who got it from Sidonia...Aww, hell! You know how this goes. It's one of those viral memes that are just too good to pass up. I think it would be neat to get an idea of how others see me. Most of the people I know didn't do the Nohari window but I figured, what the hell! I might as well see what my friends think my weaknesses are too. And all of the haters who lurk around on my blog can go there and anonymously tell me what they think without having to stop being so cowardly.

The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up.

Describe How You Perceive Me By Clicking On This Link

The Nohari Window is a challenging inversion of the Johari Window, using antonyms of the original words. By describing your failings from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of perceived and unrecognised weaknesses can be explored.

Describe My Weaknesses By Clicking On This Link

Intersex And Disability Modeling

In my post about BrownFemiPower's Radical Women of Color Theorists series, I mentioned her entry featuring Emi Koyama. It was BFP's entry on Koyama that really motivated me to write the post. Don't get me wrong, I love the other women in the series but it was reading Koyama's writing in the link I mentioned that prompted me to mention the series here on my blog. I am always on the lookout for anything that addresses the intersectionality between people with disabilities communities and other marginalized groups, so I got very curious about Emi Koyama and I figured others might also find her interesting enough to investigate. Well, I just got some feedback that really concerns me.

Gina felt like I was calling Emi a spokesperson for people with disabilities and people who identify as intersexed. She pointed out that, as far as she knows, Emi does not identify herself as intersexed nor does she claim to have a DSD (disorder of sexual development). She also wrote that she does not consider the collection of conditions that are usually included in the intersexed category to be disorders at all, just as many people with Autism feel about their condition.

Like her, I do not believe that all those conditions along the Autism spectrum are disabilities. My daughter has been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder but I do not believe that the way she is constitutes a disorder at all and there are many others I know who feel the same way. I have a boy that I consider my son who has Asperger's. Both he and my daughter attend a school for children who are gifted and/or talented; They are both in the "and" category. That isn't what most people would consider possible for those with "something wrong with their brain". Instead, I view it as just facets of who they are.

At first, I was willing to believe that maybe there was something wrong with my daughter since when she was diagnosed, she was having trouble in school and finding it difficult to get along with others her age. However, when she was put in the proper environment, these problems disappeared. Experiencing this with her is what initially made me question the biological model of disability--you know, the one where if your body is in any way different from some "norm", then you're disordered or diseased in some way. Before that time, I really didn't see this model as problematic in any way. After all, I had lupus and given how much I went through as a result of it, in my eyes, of course that meant there was something WRONG with me, right? On top of that, I was also diagnosed as having an incurable cancer. The way people treat cancer in this society is more than enough to make a person convinced that they are truly disabled!

Over time though, I've come to view things differently. I may never live to be sixty or seventy years old. I might not ever get the opportunity to watch any grandchildren graduate from high school or college. But I'm thirty years old and in a couple of years, I'll have had a longer lifespan the majority of people in many parts of the world managed to reach before they died. And even if I died this year at thirty, I'll have earned more money than most people on this planet will see in twice as many years, even if they did manage to live that long. I've had a child. I've had crushes and heartaches and long-term relationships and life-long friends. I've read lots of good books and rode plenty of rollercoasters. I've learned a few languages and I've interacted with people from all around the world. I've even managed to have a darn good sex life at times.

Basically, I've had nearly all of the significant experiences that people without cancer or lupus can enjoy. However, because I probably won't live to be sixty or seventy and because I have to submit to lots of procedures and take lots of medications in order to extend my life a bit, the medical system and society classifies me as having something wrong with me. But this is really an arbitrary line that's being drawn. Is an eighty year old person without cancer really able to enjoy their life more than an eighty year old person with cancer? If not, then what makes the latter "disabled" and the former "healthy"?

It's true that every day I go through some kind of difficulty just trying to engage in the same activities that other people can do with relative ease and there is that fact that I probably won't live to be sixty or seventy (which might or might not be a good age to want to reach). However, I'm not even sure that I want to live long enough to find out whether being seventy years old is anything other than a hassle. Oh, I know some people think we're not supposed to say that but the good thing about being me is that I don't have to care about whether people think I should want to get really old. Because I have incurable cancer and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that I'll not see the other side of fifty, people are better able to deal with me saying "To hell with getting old. Screw watching all of my age mates die and getting left behind to wonder if I'll be the next or not".

Not having cancer or lupus would probably be nice and it might be really fun if I never got charged taxes again too. However, nobody would say that there's something wrong with you just because you have to pay taxes, so I'm not sure I want people telling me that I have something wrong with me because I have to deal with cancer and lupus. It's just the way my life is. Now, I don't know whether having an intersexed condition is the exact same way and I'm sure that among all people who identify as intersexed there are many different experiences but it sure wouldn't wouldn't surprise me to find out that they are treated a lot like those who identify themselves as disabled.

Living With Disabilities In Both Poor and Affluent Communities

BFP raised some disability related questions on her Woman of Color blog about the differences in how people with disabilities are perceived in different environments. In it, she wrote about her own recollections regarding the way people with disabilities were treated

From what I can remember as a small child–there was no pity for anybody in our community–something that I’ve read a lot disabled people commenting on in the blogging community. Everybody’s life sucked, and you just dealt with the best way you could.


In fact, it often went the other way–where people were unduly harsh on disabled people–Often times, survival depends on a persons ability to contribute to the family, so if a person with a disabled leg can’t walk, s/he better figure out a way to crawl mighty quickly.

I started responding to her there but it got too long so I figured that must mean I had enough to say about it to create an entire post. So here's my take on things. Okay, I've been dirt poor and I've been "comfortable" and I've been disabled my entire life even though I wasn't always read as a PWD because schizophrenia can be an "invisible disease" if you're able to get medication and therapy and all of that stuff that poor people often can't afford.

In my own family, there really wasn't any pity for those with disabilities. I remember once when I was hospitalized because a medication adjustment. A lupus flare-up had prompted my doctor to double my prednisone dose in order to try and get it under control. This increased amount of the drug triggered a psychotic episode and I was admitted to the mental ward of the hospital for a few weeks while they dealt with both the lupus and schizophrenia. When I got home, no one was sympathetic at all. My older brother sarcastically told me that it must be nice to get to drop out of life and have a little vacation. Similarly, my mother's attitude was that we all have stuff wrong with us but that's no excuse for not holding it together and leaving others to be responsible for my daughter.

At the time, I thought they were being extremely cruel and unreasonable. I mean, how in the world could I have known that prednisone would do that to me, right? Even my doctor was surprised. He said that prednisone has been known to have the effect that it had on me but there wasn't any way of knowing which patients it would do that to. Even without my family, having had a psychotic break made me feel like a failure because I hadn't managed to prevent it from happening. When those feelings were coupled with their reaction, the guilt became almost overwhelming. Things didn't get better at home for a very long time. I'm not going to claim that this was a healthy environment for someone with a lot of disabilities but I can look back and say that it definitely helped me learn some much-needed lessons.

When you're in a place where poverty is just a heartbeat away and you're scared stiff that it could be you living on the streets, doing anything that could tip the scale back is considered a luxury. The effects of this mentality in people of color communities is always visible to me. I've seen poor people sitting at work with the flu drugged up on over the counter cold medicine because they can't afford to sit at the public hospital for the twelve to fourteen hours it would take to see a doctor and get prescriptions for medicine they really need. When I worked at the drug store in a predominantly Black and Asian part of the city, I saw people who were so sick that they had no choice but to go to the hospital and get the prescriptions only to get to the pharmacy and find out that the price of the meds was so high that they just couldn't bear to spend that much money on themselves when their family had so many other needs. Over time, I watched as they sacrificed their health but managed to keep their households afloat financially and they didn't get any kudos for doing it either nor did they seem to think that they deserved any.

I don't know. Some people might have a hard time understanding that but it is how we were taught to be. Sure, maybe those old women I met at the pharmacy should have just purchased their blood pressure medicine using the money they had. Maybe I should have stayed home and recuperated for awhile instead of go back to working full-time just two days after I got out of the hospital. Perhaps it would have been better if this girl I knew who had bi-polar disorder didn't have her severely disabled mother babysit for her every week.

But what would have happened as a result? Several of those sick older women had grandchildren in their custody that they were trying to prevent from having to go into the foster care system. They didn't have anyone else around to do it for them. I needed to get back to work to pay for the exclusive and, unfortunately, expensive pre-school program that I wanted VanGoghGirl to be able to keep attending. And as for that girl I knew, she had to have her mother babysit so that she could go and work the night shift at a parking garage in order to keep all three of them from being homeless.

When I compare those people to some of the more affluent families I've known intimately, the attitudes were very different. First of all, in some of these circles you just don't see as many people with disabilities. Perhaps it's because they are able to get the sort of pre-natal care that's necessary to avoid some disabilities occurring in the first place, which is a very good thing. And if you do have enough money, you can take care of some health problems before they become major disabilities. However, I've seen other factors that I think may contribute to the absence of people with disabilities. I don't know if this is a widespread attitude but a lot of the more affluent people I've known wouldn't dream of continuing a pregnancy if they found out that the child would likely be born with a significant disability that couldn't be "fixed". They also seemed much more ashamed of having family members with disabilities. I swear, some of these people acted completely devastated when they birth to a child with congenital illness, whereas poor people I know who also experienced the same thing seemed a lot more resigned.

I think the richer folks were less accustomed to having to deal with as many real disappointments, so when they had to deal with the kind that couldn't be fixed just by having more money or better connections they were not as mentally prepared for what they were about to have to go through. However, when you have to live your whole life in almost impossibly difficult financial situations and, above all else, you need to keep your family together because, as screwed up as they may be, they are all you have in this world, then you're going to have to adopt an attitude that is conducive to survival. And when the fit hits the shan, being accustomed to putting other people's needs first and knowing how to suck it up instead of wallowing around feeling sorry for yourself is what one needs in order to get through it all without falling to pieces completely.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Professor Debbie Reese and the UIUC "Chief Iliniwek" Controversy

Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Native American, teaches in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One of her blogs has been devoted to providing a Native Perspective on UIUC's "Chief Illiniwek". A few days ago she wrote about the latest chapter in the long fight to have the university change their mascot.

Last month, The German, VanGoghGirl, and I all celebrated when we first heard the news that the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign announced that it would get rid of their racist mascot, Chief Illini. However, Reese points out that this announcement fell short of acknowledging that their use of a NDN cariacature was wrong. Fortunately, the university's Board of Trustees took the time to speak about this at their meeting on March 13th.

I remember years ago when I first learned about the UIUC mascot controversy from a discussion in an online group for Native Americans. Sending my first letter to UIUC regarding their racist mascot, it really seemed like nothing more than a show of support for the Native students at the school. After I found out how long other people had been fighting for this cause, I felt as if my letter-writing was simply an exercise in futility. I didn't feel like Natives had a snowball's chance in hell when it came to convincing the UIUC to get rid of its beloved, racist mascot. Yet, all that activism eventually made a difference.

Even though some diehards are suing to force the university to keep the mascot, it seems that the school is making a real effort to put this behind them and move on with a new mascot that reflects the real students at UIUC instead of some insulting cariacature of Native Americans.

BrownFemiPower's Radical Women of Color Theorists Series

BrownFemiPower has created a series of posts about Radical Women Of Color Theorists.

I’m starting a series that I will call Women of Color Theorists. Creative name, I know–but I think the addendum should officially be: “Because Audre Lorde Was the Beginning and bell hooks is Over Quoted”.

So far, she has featured a bunch of amazing women that I admire to no end. Because she's my friend and she's the most awesomely awesome writer on the face of the blogosphere, I'm taking it upon myself to promote this series she has created. Well, that's not the only reason. It's a magnificent collection of posts and the women she's featured are all worth becoming familiar with.

Audre Lorde-I had no clue who this woman was before I joined the blogosphere. Her book, The Cancer Journals, is one that I would recommend to every woman of color who is dealing with cancer in some way. I could never do it justice by trying to describe it here

Andrea Smith-It's frustrating to see how the mainstream view of Native American culture is freeze-framed as if, in order to be a "real" Native, you have to walk around wearing moccasins and beaded earrings. Smith is a Cherokee woman whose writings address the concerns of today's women and criticizes the notion that we should seek to emulate mainstream culture or look to mainstream "progressives" to solve the problems in people of color communities.

Deborah A. Miranda-While acknowledging that we all have many of the same goals, Miranda points out how Native American interests tend to get ignored even within communities of people of color. As a mixedblood woman, she brings a unique perspective that allows her to get to the heart of these problems.

Emi Koyama-As the director of the Intersex Initiative, Emi gave an address called "From 'Intersex" to "DSD': Toward a Queer Disability Politics of Gender" that I think should be read by everyone who identifies as a person with disabilities. In it, she discusses the history of the term "intersex" and how it never did accurately describe those who do not fit neatly into the little male or female dichotomy that so many people believe in. She shows solidarity with people with disabilities, recognizing that we both face the same medical system that often sees nothing wrong with dehumanizing both groups and we both live in a society that "disables" us more than our bodies do.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Da Arabian MC's

Palestinian rap group DAM (Da Arab MC's) created this music video about the life of Palestinians in Israel. They're from Lod, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so they're Palestinians with Israeli citizenship (often called "Israeli Arabs"). They usually rap in Arabic, but they made a Hebrew version of this song with a music video to get their message out to the majority of Israelis who don't speak Arabic.

Da Arabian MC's

These cats are hot! You should definitely check out their website. Their other songs are just as tight. It sure beats most of the English junk I've heard on the radio lately.

Thanks for the tip Kai!

Friday, March 23, 2007

There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
Fools are put in many high positions,
while the rich occupy the low ones.
I have seen slaves on horseback,
while princes go on foot like slaves.

Someone visited my blog after searching the term "Gardasil". I think My Private Casbah wound up in the results because I mentioned it yesterday in my post about the Bush administrations cuts to the National Institute of Health. I went back and looked at some of the other results that came up from this search. Not surprisingly, there were several links regarding the evangelical movement's reaction to this new vaccine.

This issue really concerns me as a woman, a parent, and a religiously-inclined person. In the past, I've written about how I am still struggling to come to grips with my religious background. My old church is not a part of the controversy about Gardasil but, to protest the idea that girls should be getting this vaccine, many right-wing leaning individuals, evangelical churches and organizations have converged (no surprise there) on the basis of their beliefs about sex and I have a lot of feelings about that. To me this is a utterly horrifying thing to witness.

The amount of misinformation being passed is just stunning but maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Having kept abreast of politics for the past decade, I've witnessed more than enough to stop being so optimistic. Watching the news as people in charge of countries show that they have fewer critical thinking skills than the average junior high student at VanGoghGirl's school. Still, I find myself believing that nearly everyone should be able to see through the drivel that gets passed on as facts these days. Unfortunately, it is not so. I'm not saying that the majority of people in this country are stupid. It's just that there are groups of people, large groups of people, who refuse to allow themselves to even examine the arguments put forth by individuals who claim to be experts about medicine, about politics, about "God's will". And these folks are driving this country into the ground, seriously.

As a former libertarian, I still lean towards allowing everyone as much freedom as possible. If an adult wants to move out to the mountains and start their own hydroponic paradise at home so that they can get baked everyday for the rest of their life, I have no desire to stop them. It doesn't affect my ability to live in a smoke-free house. However, here's where it gets a lot muddier: Sure, everybody has the right* to be ignorant but that doesn't mean that we as a society should encourage and nurture this stance.

This nonsense with the abstinence-only fad is just downright ridiculous. I am all for teaching children not to just engage in sex with every person they meet. I personally think many folks would benefit from abstinence education. That includes a lot of married folks too. We all need to know how to negotiate situations where our partner's wants and desires are different from ours and we aren't interested in budging beyond our comfort zone. However, sexuality is much, much bigger than this.
These days there are a lot of folks who are promoting abstinence-only programs where the only message is that if you have sex before marriage horrible things will happen to you but if you wait until after you're married, it will be the most wonderful and carefree experience you could ever have. And what facts do they have to back it up? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Sifr.
When I was a year older than my daughter is now, we spent one half of the school year in P.E. (physical education) and the other in a health class. Our instructor was a no-nonsense teacher with a strong belief in instilling a sense of self-respect in her students. Our teacher taught us all about how to practice good oral hygiene, then she went on to care of the cardiac system, and slowly we worked our way down to the reproductive tract. We all had to get our parents to sign permission slips saying they did or did not want us to sit in on the lessons about "sex-ed". The teacher talked to us about how all of our sex organs worked and why females menstruated and boys had nocturnal emissions. She even used the words "penis" and "vagina".
When I got to high school, we all had to take a Home Economics course where we had to carry around a bag of flour for week at school to simulate having to be responsible for a baby. If the teacher saw us without our bag of flour, then she dropped our grade for the semester. After that week, we all had to carry around a raw egg for a week. The teacher signed each egg so that you couldn't just replace it if you dropped it. After those two weeks had passed, she had us talk about the experience. By that time, almost all of us were sure that we were not ready to have any children.
Now, a lot of these advocates for abstinence-only programs would have you believe that these sort of frank lessons on the workings of the human body and what being a parent

I will definitely be getting my daughter vaccinated. I have an incurable form of cancer and while it is not the cervical variety, I can attest to the fact that cancer is one of the worst things that one can have to experience while on this planet. As a child I was sexually assaulted by a total of three different teenaged boys--all of them were evangelical-church going boys from families that were active in our congregation. Now I'd love for someone to explain how abstinence-only messages would have prevented me from contracting HPV from one of these young pedophiles.

*Rights are a topic for another post but I should add that my use of it here basically means those things that no one can prevent another from exercising.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Because I Don't Want To Die Before They Get The Money To Find A Cure

Echidne has a post that should be read by everyone whose life has been affected by any sort of serious disease. It's about how the Bush administration is underfunding the NIH (National Institute of Health). The NIH is one of the primary sources of funding for all of the scientific research in this country. It is institution that makes finding cures possible.

I hate mixing medicine and politics but it's really becoming impossible these days. During the Clinton years, funding for the NIH was increased. However, for some reason, the Bush administration decided put a halt to increased scientific research. Not only did they stop increasing the NIH budget, they also decided to cut it.

This has an ENORMOUS impact on those with cancer. This research is the only hope for millions of people like me who will die of cancer unless new treatments are found. Within my lifetime, I have watched Luekemia go from a disease that most people would die from to one that is over 90% curable in children under five years old and highly survivable for others too. From the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

The relative five-year survival rate has more than tripled in the past 46 years for patients with leukemia. In 1960-63, when compared to a person without leukemia, a patient had a 14 percent chance of living five years. By 1975-77, the five year relative survival rate had jumped to 35 percent, and in 1996-2002 the overall relative survival rate was nearly 49 percent.

The survival rate for invasive cervical cancer has also seen great gains.

The five-year survival rate for invasive cervical cancer that is caught at its earliest stage is nearly 100 percent. More advanced cases that haven't spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere have a 92 percent five-year survival rate, and the overall five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 73 percent, according to the cancer society.

Thanks to scientific research we can now PREVENT most cases of cervical cancer. The new HPV vaccine Gardasil is only in existence thanks to funding that is now threatened. Is this really the point in history where we want to stop medical research? Just look at some of the latest news in cancer research.

Bone Cancer:
Researchers Find Genetic Link in Bone Cancer
Trial Uses Measles to Kill Bone Marrow Cancer
Molecular Mechanisms in Chrondrosarcoma Metastasis
Outlook For People With Bone Cancer Brighter

Cervical Cancer:
Test Points to Aggressive Cervical Cancer
Combo of Cisplatin & Topotecan Improves Survival in Advanced Cervical Cancer

Prostate Cancer:
Capsaicin causes cancer cell death,
'Inoperable' advanced prostate cancer may be operable, curable,

Uterine Cancer:
Racial gap in uterine cancer survival shrinking
Oral contraceptives and IUDs protect against endometrial cancer

Breast Cancer:
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) hope for breast cancer

Lung Cancer:
Blood Pressure Drugs May Fight Lung Cancer

Half (around 45%) of the men in the United States will develop some type of cancer within their lifetime. One in four of all US men will die from cancer. One in three US women will develop cancer at some point. One in five US women will die from cancer. These are just the statistics for the entire country. Depending on certain factors, your risk may be much higher than this.

For cancer alone, there are over 4,000 clinical trials that are taking place right now. One of them may hold the cure to the kind of cancer that you or your loved one develops. NIH-funded research has produced amazing results and we're just getting started. Please consider contacting your members of Congress and asking them to support the NIH. This is an issue that affects us all, no matter what political party you prefer. There are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are trying to get the President to properly fund this research, so there's no reason why everyone shouldn't get behind this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another Good Reason For Me To Never Move To Texas

Thanks to Black Amazon for bringing this to my attention.

Sweet Jesu, I don't even know what to even say about this except

Don't ever move to Texas. In fact, don't even visit. It's just too risky. The criminal justice system is bat crap crazy over there and evil to boot!

Write and Contact the Judge and Governor!

Honorable M.C. (Chuck) Superville, Jr., Judge
Lamar County Courthouse
119 North Main
Paris, TX 75460
Phone # 903-737-2410

Fax # 903-785-3858

Mailing Address:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Delivery Address:
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701

Citizen's Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600
[for Texas callers]

Citizen's Assistance and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782
[for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]

Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000
[office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]

Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

Has Anyone Had Bad Experiences With The New Blogger?

I'm getting tired of getting sent to the screen asking me if I'm ready to switch to the new blogger, so I'm starting to consider doing it just to stop having to bother with constantly trying to get the page to stop redirecting.

Has anyone switched to the new blogger? How do you like it? Do you wish you had stuck with the old one? Are there any disadvantages to it? Did you lose any information when you switched?

In other words, can someone fill me in on this because I'm totally clueless?

shukran jazilah
domo arigato
Merci beaucoup
Muchas gracias

Gratuitous Kitty Cuteness: Nameneko!!!

Namen nayo!

or else I'll have to sic' my cats on you!

Interview With Trombone Shorty in the Historic Treme District of New Orleans

New Orleans Voices: Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews

This is a short video interview with the musician Troy Andrews (better known as "Trombone Shorty") that takes place in the Treme (pronounced "trim-may") neighborhood where he grew up. Treme is the oldest black neighborhood in the United States and is one of the most culturally-rich zones in the city of New Orleans. I would be tempted to say that it is THE area most responsible for creating many of the things that New Orleans is famous for but I wouldn't want to start a fight with those folks in a couple other parts of the city *cough*Uptown*cough*. :P

This video is REALLY special because it contains footage of a phenomenon that you will in all likelihood never had the opportunity to see unless you came here at just the right time and, now that so much of the city is empty, may not last beyond this generation. As Shorty takes the camera-woman on a small walking tour of the Treme district, he introduces her to the remnants of the community, those who managed to stay or return to the city and neighborhood they love. They also encounter one of the Mardi Gras Indians from his neighborhood named Tyrone Miller.

I got a good laugh when Shorty tried to cajole Miller into giving the woman just a little taste of his skills and Miller flat out told him no twice with a completely straight face that didn't seem the least bit apologetic. However, after Shorty asked a few more times and Miller sized up the camera-woman he finally relented and performed an Indian classic call and response chant called "Shoo, fly! Don't bother me!". The name reveals the refrain which would be repeated by the audience in between short stanzas performed by the Indian. The refrain provides a framework for this chant which has been made into countless versions as each performer creates short rhyming lines that are improvised each time. The performers often use these improvisations to hail listeners, tell short tales, engage in good-natured boasting about his skills, and/or praise his particular neighborhood or tribe. Even though outsiders might not know them, these folks are local heroes. If you listen carefully, you can also hear two more Indian chants on this video, "Hu-ta-nay" during the introduction and "Shallow Water" while the credits roll at the end.

My little brother went on his first tour around the world right before he started high schoo with Trombone Shorty. I remember Shorty from when he was a skinny little phenom with a powerful set of lungs. He was blasting folks away with his skills back then too. Even though this guy has taken many trips to many different countries where his music is much more appreciated than in the United States, Shorty has chosen to keep New Orleans as his home. I can't do anything but admire a cat like that. If this city has any chance of retaining it's African-American culture, it's going to depend on the tenacious artists like Troy.

The video below is of Shorty playing a solo at a Jazz festival in Ascona, Switzerland in 2006.

Oprah's Leadership Academy. A New Variation Of The Child-Sponsorship Schemes?

Diary of an Anxious Black Woman is the creation a new woman of color in the blogosphere and she has only written two posts but I'm sure we'll hear great things from her in the future, especially given her first post-introduction entry. It's called The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy: Black Feminism, Surrogate Motherhood, or Colonialist Fantasy.

A couple of months ago, The German, VanGoghGirl and I watched the Primetime Special about the academy for girls that Oprah created in South Africa. I was really awed by the scale of this endeavor and how she had managed to carry it out. Seeing all of these African girls receiving this awesome opportunity made me very happy for them. I remember when I was a girl with dreams about what sort of future I wanted for myself. I can only imagine what it might be like to grow up having those same dreams and knowing that you have virtually no chance of seeing them come true. The idea that even a few girls could now feel more hopeful about their future just filled my heart with gladness. But the creation of this school has not come without controversy.

I remember when Oprah was building this school she caught a lot of flack because she said she'd rather build the school in Africa because so many students here would rather have I-pods and tennis shoes than an education. The truth is, I agree with her. It's true that Americans are obsessed with the acquisition of material goods but what Oprah did not explain was why they are like that.

There are many people who provide a much better explanation for this but, in my opinion, it seems to be at least related to the capitalist system we have in the USA. When wealth determines one's ability to succeed much more than merit does, it is inevitable for children (the ones most susceptible to buy-in) to pick up on this and adopt these values. So, is it any wonder that they'd seek the things that, in their minds, signify success?

I can't pretend to understand how the average South African citizen feels about Oprah building this academy in their country. Here in America, there are a lot of people who absolutely disagree with her decision. They say the money should have been spent on American students or the money should have been spread out across the country instead of just one elite school or that she created the academy in order get more praise from the media. Those assertions make up the majority of the criticism about Oprah's decision and I have a few thoughts about them.

I think that if Oprah was only focusing her philanthropy abroad, I'd have more issues with it. I think there's a lot of wisdom in the principle that charity should start at home. However, Oprah has created several programs focused on providing more educational opportunities for people in this country too. In fact, this is where she started her philanthropical work and she hasn't discontinued it nor has she stated any plans to do so.

The argument that Oprah doesn't care about these students and that she did it to draw attention to herself seems pretty silly to me. From everything I've seen over the years, Oprah really does have an enormous soft spot for children, especially ones who had the same sort of economic background as she had. I'm willing to bet that Oprah does, at the very least, enjoy the attention that she receives from the media but then there are plenty of ways she could have garnered praise if that's just what she was looking for. Even if she didn't create this academy, Oprah could spend the rest of her life completely surrounding herself with people who do nothing but compliment her.

Some who disagree with her investing the entire amount on one school say that the money could have helped a lot more people. But here's the thing, 40 million dollars is not enough to fully educate an entire nation of children and even if it could, there would still be more children outside of that nation that equally deserve to be educated. At some point you must decide how many people you'll help or else the funds will become watered down to the point that they don't really help anyone. The question then becomes "Where is the right place to draw the line?" I think it depends on how much you want to help each individual but, no matter how many people you choose to help, there will always be a lot of people who are excluded. Even a billionaire can not fix the lack of educational opportunities for everyone who needs them.

My personal opinion is that what they really best in places like South Africa is small action groups (preferably controlled by the people who live there) because they can recognize what the local needs are and how they can be addressed most effectively. Unfortunately, even keeping small organizations in place requires a lot of money, money that isn't usually provided by the governments where help is most urgently needed. In order to get the sort of money that will be needed to improve the conditions in all of the poor areas where these girls come from, someone has to draw attention to what's going on there. As the world is now, that person must almost always be some sort of charismatic figure in order to get that attention these organizations need.

Mother Theresa brought attention to the plight of impoverished Indians. Though I do not admire many of her actions (my sister used to work in the orphanage that she established and she can talk on that subject for hours), it is undeniable that her words and her personality inspired many people to give to other organizations in India, too. The non-governmental organizations existed before Mother Theresa started campaigning for the poor and it would have been better if people would have paid attention to their voices even if an outsider didn't come along to speak for them. Still, I think that to the extent that they did receive funds from people who didn't hear about the need for aid in India until Mother Theresa came along, her advocacy was a good thing.

I'm going to name a much more controversial figure that has also made a similar impact on the world: Osama bin Ladin. Through his own image as a party-boy-turned-(wannabe)holy-man, he appealed to many people's sense of obligation and deep religiosity. This allowed him to attract funds and potential soldiers from around the world. His message is/was not really unique. Many others have expressed the same sentiments over the years. However, his personality and ability to create arguments that sounded compelling attracted the sort of attention that others never received. Those arguments promoting violence were despicable and they also show that charismatic personalities can influence societies in a number of ways. If bin Ladin wasn't seen as some rich guy that could be out enjoying the finer things in life, most people wouldn't have found his words half as compelling but he used his personal story to promote his cause with a lot of success.

We still don't know what sort of results Oprah's academy will produce but I'd much rather see her use the force of her personality to work on a cause like educating young African girls than for her to adopt the "I pulled myself up by the bootstraps" attitude that many people express.

The issues others have raised that concern me the most are that she may be setting these girls up for a Pygmalion scenario where can no longer fit in with the society they came from. BrownFemiPower discusses this in "Oprah, Black Feminism, Colonialism, Separatism".

Reading her post and the comments that followed made me think about those "Save the Children" sponsor programs you always see commercials for on television. You know the one where the nice bearded white guy looking like a benevolent santa-figure is holding an brown child with dirt smeared across her face and then in the next scene they show some little kid walking through the sewage in a shanty town with no shoes on. After that they call for people to send money RIGHT AWAY because these children might not have another moment to spare. What you don't hear about is how these sponsorship programs often lead to the further breakdown of poor third-world communities. The same factors that make child sponsorship programs so detrimental to the individuals that they are supposed to help may also wind up applying to Oprah's new academy. Unfortunately, since it has already opened, it looks like there are going to be a lot of girls used in this grand experiment of her's before we find out one way or another.

If you want to read more about the child sponsorship issues, there is a wonderful 9 point fact sheet that spells it out much better than I can.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Disablism/Ableism & The Problem With "Able-bodied"

Today I came across two different sites that contained definitions of terms commonly used in activist circles. Nezua on The Unapologetic Mexican had this list of definitions meant to decrease the number of incidences when time is wasted in conversations because someone is unaware of what someone means when they use a term in reference to another individual. If you're familiar with his blog, he also has a glosario of terms commonly found on his site in particular. Both of these links are quite informing and amusing.

The Colours of Resistance website has a list of Real Definitions that makes for a very good reference page for those who are new to anti-oppression activism. I wish I had found this page when I was struggling to understand terms that other people (in conversations) used without considering the fact that most people are unfamiliar with their meaning. They even address the use of acronyms that really make some people's writing inaccessible to those who are just being introduced to many of these concepts.

Reading the Colours of Resistance definition for Ableism motivated me to write to them with regards to their use of the term "able-bodied". This is a complicated issue, partly because people with disabilities have differing ideas about how they'd like to be referred to by others, so there are no universal terms one should use. Some terms are perfectly acceptable in certain places but considered disrespectful in others. People with disabilities deserve to have their preferences respected and if you're not sure what they prefer, then they should be asked.

The term "disablism" is often used in the same way as "ableism". In short, ableism and disablism describe the way that people with disabilities are discriminated against and, like racism, it is a systemic problem that can only be dealt with through complete changes in the way that societies function.

Both terms are considered valid in most of the people with disabilities communities that I've been a part of over the years. People tend to decide which one they'll use based on their own personal preference or which ever one is preferred in that particular community.

Also, the term "able-bodied persons" is considered problematic by many of us in the people with disabilities sphere. It has a lot to do with the notion that only those without disabilities are "able" and, therefore, that those with disabilities are not able to function as well. However, with the proper equipment, many of us are just as able-bodied as everyone else.

For example, a person with Muscular Dystrophy might not be able to make it down a long country road by foot. However, with a wheelchair, they could use their body to travel that distance even faster than those who do not have MS. We don't say that those who use cars are not able-bodied nor should we say this about those who use wheelchairs or canes or seeing eye dogs. For these reasons, the term "non-disabled" is much less problematic than "able-bodied" when one is referring to those who are not a part of the people with disabilities community.

E-mail Anxiety & The Best Ways of Contacting Me

BrownFemiPower expresses sentiments that I can totally relate to in her post "There's A Reason I Don't Like Answering E-mails".

When I created my blog, I made the decision not to post my e-mail address. I usually ask people to just drop a note in my comments section if they want to tell me something. If it's something that you'd like me to respond to, you can also leave your e-mail address and let me know that you don't want the message published on the blog and I'll get back to you.

Because the comments on My Private Casbah go through moderation, I can get private messages that way without having to make myself too easily identifiable for the passersby who might otherwise contact me. However, if we've never spoken before, I'd really appreciate it if you'd tell me a little about who you are before you ask me to e-mail you.

The big exception to that is those who are contacting me about cancer or lupus or depression. In fact, if you are looking for information about any disability that you think I might be able to talk to you about, then let me know how to contact you and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible even if we have never spoken before. I know this opens up the possibility that some jerk will use this to get my address and then flame my box with hate mail but I am a strong believer that the universe has a special curse just for those who would seek to take advantage of people with disabilities.

I should also take this time to remind those friends who do have my e-mail address that I suffer from extreme anxiety disorder. I have spoken in front of hundreds of people, rooms full of other scientists just itching to poke holes in someone's research, and impromptu television interviews. These are no problem for me. However, things that are simple for most people are sometimes more than I can bear.

If someone knocks on the door or the telephone rings or I see a lot of e-mail messages in my in-box, it's not unusual for me to feel completely unable to respond. In the past, I've gone months without answering my phone and I have, at times, allowed e-mail to pile up for weeks and weeks and when I do read them, it can be really hard for me to answer them. Those who deal with me in "the real world" (the quotations are because I consider these on-line interactions just as significant as all others) have, at times, gotten the impression that I'm avoiding them when that wasn't really what was going on.

The German is a big help to me with the telephone and answering the door but I handle the e-mail by myself, so if I don't get back to you for a few days, please don't think that I'm ignoring you. I will write back but it may take me a few days of looking at the message in my box before I can deal with opening it.

How New Orleans Shaped Me And My Views About Others

This is a middle of the night post. I spent all of St. Patrick's Day boozing it up, being a stereotypical Irish woman. Well, I'm not exactly all that stereotypical, am I? I mean, when most people think of Irishmen, they don't think of anyone who looks like me. It was this fact that got me to thinking about a lot of stuff. I started writing this last night but I couldn't finish it then. I decided to gather my thoughts a bit more and I spent the day doing that. Tonight I decided to separate what I wrote into multiple posts so that it made a bit more sense.

Growing up in New Orleans, there was never a time where I can remember being unaware of cultural diversity. I was very lucky to be in a place where people were (better) able to live as they pleased without facing nearly as much discrimination as there is in other places. It wasn't until I was an adult and got to travel to other parts of the USA that I found out just how rare a place New Orleans really is.

The city's long history of being so diverse (due to the successive periods of ownership by several different nations) made it a magnet for those whose lives have taken them on "the road less traveled". Partially because it was so cut off from much of the rest of the country for so long, many people came here seeking refuge. As any New Orleanian can tell you, it is a place of secrets. It's a place where privacy was well respected, or at least rarely was it publicly violated. That provided a very nourishing environment for corrupt politicians but it also allowed those who would never have survived in other places to make a life for themselves and easily find others who shared their proclivities. Some may disagree with this trade-off but New Orleanians long ago decided that they preferred putting up with the public corruption if it meant retaining their personal privacy.

Inter-racial couples were probably among the first groups to take advantage of this in significant numbers. Slavery did exist but it was the most lenient variety of slavery in the entire region. Alongside the black slaves and white slaveholder class, there were also the gen de coleur libre (free people of color). Some of them were former slaves who had purchased their freedom and others were freed by their owners as a reward for some service. Some slave owners freed their lovers and the children they produced through these unions. While many slavers were certainly guilty of raping people of color, this does not entirely explain the whole picture. Other relationships were much more nuanced. There were some men in the slaveholder class who chose to have life long inter-racial relationships with a single partner. Many remained in New Orleans where they could enjoy freedom that would be unavailable to them anywhere else in the south. These relationships flourished over time to such an extent that eventually the number of multi-racial individuals made up a fairly large portion of the New Orleanian population and still does to this day.

Gay people have also benefited from the laissez faire attitude in New Orleans. Many people know about the infamous Storyville district where prostitution was legal and quite popular but far fewer are familiar with the multiple gay-friendly communities scattered throughout old New Orleans. Many famous gay writers, actors, and musicians were born in or migrated to New Orleans where they could live and thrive in peace. It's no wonder that this was such a mecca for the arts back in the early twentieth century.

As far back as I can remember, there has also been a vibrant transgender community. I went to school with transgendered kids in high school. I had friends who were transgendered. And there were always transgendered people within the African-American community here. In fact, they were a part of every community here. I guess that's why I didn't know that there was supposedly some adversarial relationship between gay and transgendered people until I encountered it on the web. Down here, the two have always co-existed in the same spaces which makes sense seeing as there are so many people who were both gay and transgendered. All of the places that were frequented by either group were frequented by both groups.

I remember being young and trying to understand who I was and then figuring out how I could become comfortable with who I was and then trying to decide how I could develop this person that I was trying to enjoy being. It was this city, where people of color, gay, and transgendered people of all income brackets intersected as so many points, that made it possible for me to work all of this out despite living in a family where homophobic, snobbish, right-wing, fundamentalist religion was inescapable until I became an adult and got the opportunity to decide which one I would let influence me the most.

I chose New Orleans.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's Good To Be Irish

St. Patrick's Day Photos

Isn't it nice? You can barely see tell how toasted I am on this one?

Irish girls are the best!

Rockin' out leprechaun style!

Kiss her, she's Irish!

The two of us holding a portion of our loot.

The BESTEST beer on the face of the earth. My mother-in-law got this for me on her last trip to Wisconsin. I hadn't had any since I moved away from Madison. The luck of the Irish is truly on my side because she managed to find it on her last day in Milwaukee just a few hours before she left. It was the last six-pack. I gave it a good Irish wake today!

~An Irish Blessing To All My Friends~
May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane ;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Top O' The Morning To Ya!

This morning we went out to the St. Patrick's Day parade and had a rollicking good time. It was packed out there! St. Patrick's Day Louisiana-style means floats, beads, doubloons, and PLENTY of green beer. We have two Celtic societies here, so there's also a few bagpipe processions.

My sister Neko-chan (her alias for my blog) came down and spent White day with us and then went to visit her friends but she came back today to spend St. Patrick's Day with us. Unfortunately, our partner-in-crime, my cousin's wife, could not come with us because she just had a baby two months ago and she's breastfeeding. That means no getting drunk for her!

The krewes passed out more throws than any other year. VanGoghGirl got pelted with stuffed animals all morning. A lot of people were throwing beanie babies this year. She also collected two bamboo spears. Neko-chan got lots of attention, of course. She's one cool girl and with the two of us dancing along with the music, we got lots of beads. The riders love to see people rockin' along with the music playing on their floats. There were a few songs I could not dance along with though. There were a couple of dorky krewes filled with college-aged guys. One had Eminem and the other had Li'l Boosie blasting through their speakers. I'm no stick in the mud but there are some songs I wouldn't be caught dead dancing to.

Everyone was so friendly. That's what I like about the parades in Baton Rouge.

Thank goodness someone threw Neko-chan a big potato sack or else we would never have been able to take all of our stuff home. When we got home we put our loot on the scale and it came in at over thirty pounds of beads alone. The German had to carry it all

to be continued.. It's drinking time again!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Incest Taboo: Beyond the Ick Factor

Okay, I wasn't going to write about this but I keep seeing stories about it and I think it raises some very interesting issues so, I'm going to take a stab at it.

From the Beeb:

"At their home in Leipzig, Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski are in the kitchen, playing with a young toddler. They share a small flat in an east German tower block on the outskirts of the city. It looks like an ordinary family scene, but Patrick is Susan's brother and they are lovers."

The short of it is that these two were not raised together and were completely unaware of each others existence until she was 15 and he was 23. After the death of their mother, they fell in love and became a couple. They have several children together (two of these children have disabilities) who have been taken away from them by the state and Stuebing has spent two years in jail after being successfully prosecuted for the charge of incest. Stuebing has recently had a vasectomy to prevent them from having any more children, which could lead to further charges because it would provide the state with undeniable proof that the two are still engaging in incest.

The most common blogosphere reaction to this story seems to be that it's creepy, icky, gross, nauseating...Well, I think you get the point. Some people base their disapproval on the idea that such a relationship creates an unacceptably high risk of producing children with disabilities. Of course, there are all of the religious prohibitions that affect how people feel about it. Believing that God has said "No, you can't do that" is a powerful consideration for many people.

Personally, I can't even picture partnering with one of my brothers. The idea of doing so is just barf-worthy, as a matter of fact. In our society, there's an undeniable yuck-factor associated with everything that's even related to incest (no pun intended, honestly). Still, I feel a bit reticent about setting hard, fast rules about this for the whole world.

The truth is, incest isn't anything new. We know that it's been going on for at least as long as people have been recording history and the idea that most people view it as taboo is relatively new. The most famous group of people who engaged in this practice is probably the Egyptian royalty. It was also common among other groups in the region as well.

Greek mythology is rife with stories of incestuous couples. Gaia was impregnated by her son Uranus. Cronus married his sister Rhea.
Lest Christians, Jews and Muslims feel left out, there's also the Biblical account of, Abraham and Sarah--a brother and sister pair who married each other with God's blessing. Plus there's the original Biblical couple, the ancestors of all mankind, Adam and Eve. I'd welcome any input on this but the fact that Eve was made from Adam's rib seems like a reasonable argument could be made that this was also an incestuous relationship.

I'm not trying to offend anyone nor am I saying that any of these people were somehow immoral. This was an acceptable practice in the much of the world until quite recently. The spread of Western "values" to other parts of the world has lead to the expansion of this idea that there is something inherently wrong with marrying people who are closely related to you, but there are a lot of folks who just aren't buying into this. Many people who feel disgusted by the idea of brothers and sisters marrying would see absolutely nothing wrong with first cousins doing the same thing. In fact, there are plenty of places where such an arrangement would be looked upon quite favorably.

In fact, I don't have a problem with people in Western societies partnering with their family members if that's what they want to do. It's not what floats my boat but then I also wouldn't do a lot of other stuff that small groups of people freely engage in all around this country. I'm talking about stuff like this or this.

The principle that I'd apply here is that what I would or wouldn't do shouldn't interfere with whatever two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home. The idea that this should be prohibited based on how uncomfortable it makes some people is just as a dubious as when people make the same argument against allowing un-married, disabled or gay couples to adopt children. I look at it in this way: Your discomfort is your personal problem and shouldn't dictate how I can live my life.

And can we please get rid of this crappy argument that incest shouldn't be allowed because the children might come out with an extra eyeball growing out of their head or something? I'm not dismissing the possibility that something could go horribly wrong when siblings reproduce. Of course, that same possibility exists when non-siblings have children too. So why should this only be held against partnered siblings? What's next? Are we going to prohibit people with sickle cell trait or thalassemia from being partners too? The likelihood that a child with a disability may result from such a union is quite high as well. And who should really be able to decide what level of risk is too high when it comes to the potentiality of producing children with disabilities? It seems to me that when people start with the "think of the children" pleas, they are usually just trying to bolster claims that are, at the core, illogical or irrational. If the world really cared about children, then they'd be taking care of the ones who are here instead of worrying about potential children.

It really concerns me that people would go so far as to try and prohibit two people from being together based on the fact that they might possibly bring a person with disabilities into the world. This sounds like one step short of bringing back the practice of mandated sterilization of us "undesirables".

Just look at this case: The guy was picked up by the government and forced to serve time in jail based on the fact that he chose to have consensual sex with an unapproved of partner (not the first time this has occurred in Germany). He was coerced into being sterilized because if his partner got pregnant again, then he would be imprisoned by the state again. This is nothing different from the practices of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina which engaged in the same tactics all the way until 1974, just two years before I was born.

If Karolewski and Stuebing want to spend their lives together as partners, I see no reason why they should be prohibited from doing so.

Look, You Racist, It Wasn't A White Woman.

It has come to my attention that in her post about how Ampersand is the anti-Christ incarnate, Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff (Heart) claimed that my Special White Lady award was created with the help of WomansSpace:

"I was at first disgusted by the way Amp thought bint’s “special white lady award” was so funny, created, as it was, with the help of none other than :::the name that shall not be named::: who created the imposter blog to mine, when Amp KNOWS this person’s history and what this person is about (the imposter), but more than that, as though Amp has any standing to even offer an opinion."

For those who don't know about the controversy, Cheryl has a blog by the name of WomensSpace. She got her panties in a bunch when someone created a blog called WomansSpace and that person then proceeded to expose all of the holes in Cheryl's latest fad, radical feminism. She went on to complain that by creating this blog with the similar sounding name, the person was trying to pretend to be her even though the person stated on her blog and explained that she is NOT Cheryl every time someone got confused about it on other sites.

Personally, I thought/think the whole incident was absolutely hilarious on so many levels. Cheryl explains that she named her site "WomensSpace" because the women on her old site, The Margins, voted on names for her new blog and they were the ones who chose that name. What she failed to mention is that the person who created the WomansSpace blog ran an IRC channel using this name way back in the nineties. This means that, of the two of them, Cheryl is actually the one who has the least history with this name.

Could it be that Cheryl was just unaware of this fact? Hardly. You see, she and this person have been familiar with each other for several years, having posted on many of the same sites which is where the drama between the two of them began. Unfortunately, if someone new to the Cheryl Chronicles only got to see the waist-deep bull caca that she spewed they might actually feel like this was a case where she really was being victimized and that is exactly what happened, for a little while. It didn't take more than a few days for the rest of the story to get out and suddenly the only people who were defending her were the same sycophants that gladly gulp down the shite that Cheryl regularly shovels out to them on her blog.

But let's say that the other person hadn't been using the WomansSpace title longer than Cheryl has. Would that mean that the creation of this new blog was somehow illegal? Nope. Someone suggested that Cheryl might want to get a trademark and/or consult a lawyer about this (supposedly) imposter site. Cheryl seemed to think that since the person suggesting it was a lawyer, then it must be a good idea.

You know, if these folks weren't so ignorant, I might actually feel bad about treating them as objects of derision on my blog. The problem is, they just won't stop giving people a plethora of material to laugh at. As much as they like to pontificate about how much more enlightened and learned they believe they are compared to us women of color and people with disabilities, you'd think that they'd at least be familiar with the basic principles of democracy in this country. Between the whole lot and despite over 90 different responses to this post, not even one of them showed any awareness of the fact that satire and parody are forms of protected speech in this country where they live.

If I wanted to create a site called "The Real Margins" and call myself "Heart(less)" and I went on to state that my sole purpose in creating the site was to expose the truth about Cheryl's persecution complex, there is no law that prohibits this. In fact, there isn't even anything unethical about making such a site. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with literature knows that without parody many of the most influential books in history could not have been produced. It is an essential means of engaging in criticism and this nation wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the fact that people have been able to use parody and satire to spread controversial ideas in a form that wouldn't get them killed on the spot. In fact, Cheryl even uses it on her site, so it is the height of hypocrisy for her to complain about being the subject of the same sort of treatment.

Nevertheless, I understand why it may come as a surprise to Cheryl and her crew that one of their own, a fellow white woman, would dare point out how their views were absolutely antithetical to feminism, especially radical feminism. Of course they'd want to have a site like that shut down. It's a matter of competition.

When it was just women of color (Me, BrownFemiPower, Aradhana, Rabfish, and many others on several different occasions) trying to reason with them, I guess it didn't much matter because we are, after all, the all-powerful oppressors of white women who were kind enough to marry into the Black race and try their very bestest to lead us into God(dess)'s Promise Land full of milk and honey political lesbians and wimmin-born-women-only spaces. However, this rival website, run by a white woman with a different interpretation of radical feminism, was obviously unfair to them because there's no way that people would be able to tell the difference between someone like the alleged imposter who said, "This is my view and these are the reasons why I think Seelhoff et al are wrong" and the good white ladies who know what's best for us and would have liberated us all by now if we'd just sit down, shut up, and stay out of their way.

Lord knows us women aren't smart enough to be able to tell when we do something because we want to and when we engage in a behavior because someone is forcing us to, right? No? Well, according to them, that's the case. Of course, they are the exception to this rule. They are quite certain that their beliefs couldn't possibly be aiding the dreaded patriarchy and how is it that they are able to be sure about this? Why, it's because they are white women, stupid! Not only that, they are white women who married Black men and if that weren't enough to prove how much street cred they have in conversations with women of color, there's the completely significant and utterly relevant fact that they also have Bi-Racial ChildrenTM.

How about that?! Black/Latino/Asian/NDN womankind, just when you thought that you were special, you find out that there are people on this planet who have actually *gasp* married outside of their species race. Oh, and did I forget to mention their Bi-Racial ChildrenTM? I didn't? Sorry about that. But hey, can you blame me? I mean, you know how much us people of color just loooooooooves us some mulatto kids. There's nothing that says "I know what's best for Black women" better than having spawned your very own troupe of mixed-race children.

In fact, given their obsession with telling people of color about their Bi-Racial Children, I just thought they might find it interesting to know that despite the fact that my award might seem far too clever to have been created by a non-white person, there was no white lady involved in the process. However, perhaps its originality is a result of the fact that the person who helped me make it is at least partially white. That's right! My very own multi-racial child is the one who actually assisted me.

VanGoghGirl is a very talented artist who is much more adept in computer graphics than I'll ever be. But there I go again, treating her like an individual and not just some objectified tool to be dragged into conversations when I want to talk to or about people of other races. Maybe some folks ought to try that sometimes. I'm willing to bet their bi-racial children would probably appreciate it.

By the way, if anyone who reads this actually talks to Cheryl, maybe they should tell her that if Ampersand has no standing to offer an opinion on what he sees, then neither does she. It seems this fact never even dawned on her but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, I think.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You People Make My Nose Bleed

Seriously, it's all your fault. You're the cause of my allergies. In fact, you are my allergies. When you wake up in the morning, your sole goal is to get in my nostrils and irritate my nasal passages. Don't you have better things you could do with your time?

Yes, this is a totally pointless post but I have a nosebleed this morning and I need someone to blame it on because it definitely isn't a result of me forgetting to take my Zyrtec last night and don't you dare insinuate otherwise!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Irouni Music Samples

I came across a random site filled with six files of beautiful Irouni music. I'm thinking that maybe others might enjoy listening to it too, so I decided to link to it here. I don't speak Farsi so I really couldn't tell you what in the world the site is about though. Sorry!

Irouni music site


I was going through my blog roll to make sure that all of the sites I have listed were included in my google blog aggregator, so I clicked on one of the links because I didn't really remember whose blog it was. It turns out that this blog was actually a Zionist propaganda site. I hate even using the word "Zionist" because, next to "pr0n", there is no other word that seems to draw more agitated lunatics to one's blog.

Anyway, the blogger on my roll draws one-panel cartoons that further the claim that any action that Israel takes is acceptable and justified as long as Israelis aren't the target. My position is that it is never acceptable to kill innocent people. This view applies far beyond the Palestinian/Israeli conflict but I think it bears repeating here.

I think that all of us who care about what happens to the people living in Israel/Palestine need to to start asking more questions in order to understand why this particular conflict is still on-going. The first thing we should consider is,

"Who benefits?"

There is a huge body of evidence that shows the majority of Palestinians and Israelis just want to co-exist in peace. I place the most of the blame for the death and destruction squarely at the feet of the Palestinian and Israeli authorities governing their respective territory and citizens. They are the only ones in this contested territory who stand to gain from the perpetuation of violence.

Outside of Palestine/Israel, this conflict is also very beneficial for other governments. The United States can supply Israel with more arms which emboldens their government to wage war with its neighboring countries. This keeps them from becoming more powerful despite the fact that they happen to sit on the biggest supplies of the most valuable energy source on the planet.

While the United States is benefiting from the Israeli contributions to the intifada (political revolution), the Arab countries are exploiting the Palestinians in a very similar manner. As long as there is a war between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Arab governments can deflect criticism of their heavy-handed practices by appearing to care about the plight of Palestinians without actually doing anything significant to help them.

To make a long story short, I just wanted to clarify my position on this conflict and apologize to anyone who might have stumbled onto that link and wondered why I had it on my blog roll.

Remembering Our Institutionalized Brothers and Sisters

Blue over at the Gimp Parade is commemorating her one year anniversary of avoiding permanent institutionalization in a nursing home. Having gotten to know her over the past few months, it's really chilling to hear how close she came to being warehoused in a place where she would be confined to a bed in a small room for the rest of her life.

Our healthcare system indicative of just how callous this society is. I've heard right-wing American pundits claim that universal healthcare would be a total disaster but does anyone still believe that the system we have isn't a disaster already? Are there still people walking around this country who don't know at least one person who has suffered unnecessarily as a result of healthcare shortages and/or HMO policies?

If you're lucky, the worst you'll experience is an occasional foot-dragging by your HMO. If you're not so lucky, then you just might happen to be one of the 38 million people who have inadequate healthcare coverage or you could be one of the 44 million people in this country who have health insurance at all. In either of those latter two situations, you may seriously want to consider moving to another country. Don't worry though, there are plenty of places to choose from since the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't at least have policies that restrict the price of pharmaceuticals and lots of these countries also have publicly administered national healthcare. In fact, the United States is the ONLY western nation that doesn't provide healthcare for all of its citizens.

Unfortunately, those who are most in need of healthcare services--people who have chronic or progressive disabilities--are often unable to afford moving elsewhere. Many of these people wind up indigent eventually. This can happen as a result of trying to pay for the care they need or because they are no longer able to work because of their under-treated/untreated condition. Others wind up being institutionalized by insurance companies that find it much easier to just stick people in nursing home instead of providing them with the assistance they'd need in order to live at home.

I understand that there are many people in this world who do not have a home nor do they have any family members who are willing to care for them. I'm not against the idea of providing such people with a place to live. It's just that there is no reason why society must incarcerate them in nursing homes as if they were guilty of some sort of crime.

Of course, it isn't surprising that we allow this to go on in this country. Nursing homes are proof that this country really does believe that people deserve to be penalized for being disabled. It doesn't matter if you are disabled because of some factor that you couldn't control like having a genetic defect or being the victim of a drunk driver. Regardless of the circumstances around it, if your body fails to conform to societal expectations, you must be punished.

Every few months or so, some story comes out in the news about how some nursing home has been abusing their patients or even killing them outright. I think that when many people hear about these stories, they want to believe that they are just isolated events. Unless we die young, it's quite possible for any of us to wind up in a nursing facility at some point and I think some people need to believe that being locked up in a nursing home like the ones on the news is something that could never happen to them. Nevertheless, these problems are systemic. The entire healthcare system is broken and nursing homes are a red flag that we should be paying more attention to.

What kind of conditions exist in these institutions? Does the average person really know? I don't think they do. Reading about the nursing home that Blue was almost forced into would be a good start for those who wanted to find out. If you have ever read her blog, this would probably be a good time to let her know how much you enjoy it.

Happy White Day, Girls! (Japanese Holiday)

For those that are familiar with this holiday: I know that it's for the men to give presents to the special ladies in their life but I couldn't bear to pass up an opportunity to celebrate a holiday that was created just for us women to enjoy. Those who have never heard of White Day can learn about it here.

I hope that all your honmei remember to get your sanbai-gaeshi today. If there is anyone who reads this and is celebrating White Day, feel free to tell me about what gifts you received or gave today.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Because We Obviously Don't Have Enough To Deal With Already

No individual should be held up as a representative for an entire marginalized group. I can't even count how many times I've had someone ask me to explain why a particular person of color behaved in a certain way and I resented it every single time. Seeing that it is 2007 A.D., it really shouldn't be necessary for me to say that sharing the same skin color or sexual orientation or gender as someone doesn't mean that you are anything alike. Nevertheless, there's no escaping the fact that many people still haven't come to understand this.

Every person of color knows how it is when you hear about someone in your community committing an atrocious crime that attracts lots of media attention and you just hope and pray that it wasn't "one of us" who did it because, no matter how enlightened people may pretend to be, we know that when a lot of people see a Black/Latino/Asian perpetrator, they don't view them as an individual, they view them as confirmation of all the racial stereotypes in their head. Sure, most of the time when people of color commit a crime, it's other persons of color who are most likely to be the victims. However, we (POC) all get branded as dangers to society to some extent. And this phenomenon isn't just limited to violent crimes.

The same principle applies when the stupidity doesn't quite rise to criminal levels even though it's definitely most embarrassing then. Therefore, I have a simple request to make to any and all individuals belonging to marginalized groups. Can you please try not make it any harder for the rest of us? I'm not saying that we should all spend our entire lives working to be considered "a credit to our race" or anything like that but is it too much to ask that we don't go out of our way to make our own people, people who have it hard enough as it is, look totally irresponsible and untrustworthy?

Right now, there's a guy in the news who manages to simultaneously embarrass three different groups with his actions. Colonel Matt Sanchez is a student at Columbia University and he's been receiving a lot of attention from folks like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Michelle Malkin. Sanchez claims that some really mean socialists on campus called him a baby-killer because he's in the military. The right-wing pundits just couldn't pass up the opportunity to give Sanchez' story lots of attention because it played right into the supposed anti-military/anti-war bias that they are claiming exists on many college campuses today. He was interviewed on television by Bill O'rly and Sean Hannity and he also made the rounds on a few right-wing radio shows.

What's ironic is that this Matt Sanchez turned out to be a gay prostitute, stripper and porn star with over 50 films under his belt. While he's talking about professors violating campus policies, he was and is violating the military's policies. What hypocrisy!