Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Please Don't Feed the Cancer Curebies

I understand that lots of folks are angry to hear that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood. As a woman with cancer, I'm actually pretty glad to hear it. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate
the outrage that many people feel. However, I'd like to explain a few things.

This has been in the works for a long time and isn't a surprise to many of us in the disability advocacy community. Many of us noticed a few years ago that, in several states, the Walks for a Cure were starting to be infiltrated by anti-reproductive justice advocates who were using it as a platform to spread the myth about abortion and breast cancer. There are several reasons why this has been effective.

A lot of it has to do with just who still supports the Walk for a Cure. The Walks are not really for people with cancer. They are for people to feel like they are supporting people with cancer, while ignoring our needs.

Ultimately, the Komen foundation is another curebie organization. Curebies DO NOT serve the interests of those with the condition. They are nothing more than panaceas for privileged people and privileged societies.
What if all of those folks who go the Walks took the time to spend a day visiting their Congress members? What if people took the money they donated to the Komen curebies and hired an office full of professional lobbyists to help persuade members of Congress to vote for universal health care? An even better question is why DOESN'T the Komen foundation lobby for universal health care? Universal health care would save more lives than these organizations have.

I used to be in academia and I was even a research assistant in a couple of top tier universities. I've experienced what it's like to be a cancer researcher, a test subject in other cancer research trials, and a recipient of cutting edge treatment for cancer.

There's a few things that I've learned through these experiences. The most significant of these is the reality that there is no reason to believe that cancer will ever be cured. It can sometimes be functionally eliminated from an individual, but that's not a cure. A cure rids the cause of the disease. The reality is that cancer is too multi-faceted for there to ever be something that cures it. Cancer is as natural as having five fingers on each hand. We could cut off a finger, but it won't stop folks from growing five fingers at some point in their development. The same is true with cancer. Any honest researcher will tell you that the most we can ever expect to achieve is better treatments for cancer.

Cancer isn't one disease. It's hundreds of diseases. Each of those diseases have their own triggers, exacerbating factors, and prognoses. To cure cancer, you'd need HUNDREDS of cures. You could walk until your legs fell off and donate your entire life's savings and you won't have done a single thing to cure cancer.

Now, if patients know that and researchers know that, would it be reasonable to believe that the Komen foundation doesn't know that? I don't think so. So *why* are they always pretending that supporting them will help make a cure possible? Well, for one thing, it's pretty damn profitable to sell ideas. You don't have to produce anything and you can sell them for as long as you can find people who want to believe in what you're offering.

The Komen foundation has figured out that you can slap a pink ribbon on ANYTHING for sale and make some people believe they should prefer that product over other comparable brands.

At this point, almost all of the organizations that are supposedly dedicated to fighting breast cancer are simply money-generators that do nothing but line the pockets of those who run them. I don't know how to make it plainer than that. Komen has been a scam for a very long time. Anything that might interfere with its publicity is simply eliminated.

Please, please, please stop supporting these groups. I say that as a woman with incurable cancer. Nobody has more skin in the game than I do. These people and organizations are profiting off of the pain and suffering and death of people like me.

If You Pay $40,000 for Your Child to Attend a Private Elementary School:

If you pay $40,000 for your child to attend a private elementary school, you're stupid and probably a bad parent. Yeah, I said it. I'll also say that I hope the median price of tuition triples next year. It's not like these stupid people won't pay it. They've already convinced themselves that this is the only way they can make sure their child receives a good education.

Look, I don't care if you have millions of dollars to spare. Some things are still wasteful. I've had plenty of years of my life where The German and I and VanGoghGirl survived quite well on half of that amount.

The argument that these tuition prices are worth it, because of the features they offer, is simply bogus. My daughter's elementary public magnet school had swimming lessons and a teacher that they paid to come over from France and teach the children French. They were able to do all of that on a state budget. All we had to provide was her swimming suit. Our taxes paid for the rest.

Even before that, my daughter was able to learn how to swim just from going to the pool at our apartment with her daddy as her "personal swimming coach". She learned elementary level Arabic from listening to cassette tapes when I was studying and she learned French from a pirated Rosetta Stone CD.

We did that while living off of a total budget that MIGHT have been close to reaching $20,000 when we were both in school, receiving financial aid and having The German working the overnight shift at The Home Depot. At $15,000, things were hard, but we still managed to live in a nice apartment complex, in a good school district, and deal with maintenance costs associated with our Honda (that I now suspect was powered by the Holy Spirit alone, because I've never seen a car as reliable as that one was). Our diet wasn't great, but that was partly because I was too proud and stuck-up to apply for food stamps.

If we could do that, you can't convince me that these folks couldn't provide their kids with an excellent education for a fraction of what they're spending.

Lemme tell ya' what I think (as if I haven't just written a diatribe doing just that).

I think that these are rich folks who are too damned lazy to engage in real parenting, so they justify their apathetic attitude towards their children by paying someone lots of money to do the job for them. That way, if their kid isn't excelling, they can blame someone else for it. They can convince themselves that it's okay for them not to spend quality time with their kids, because they're still making sure that the kid receives all of the instruction they need from the school.

Those children become the kind of kids that the student center tutors loved in college. They were more than happy to give us some of their mom and dad's money in exchange for giving them an original term paper that they could use as a "model" for how to write their own. In the real world, that translates to writing term papers for them.

I could go and on about how rich kids get through college without having to learn anything. At one of the $40,000+ a year private universities in New Orleans, all exams were proctored by graduate students. Students had to sign an honor system pledge at the beginning of semesters. They had to agree not to cheat or engage in illegal activities, while they were a student at the school. Because of their honor system policy, they didn't make students present any form of ID when turning in tests. This meant that anyone could walk in and take a test for someone. The proctors had no way of knowing whether the test-taker was the same person enrolled in the class. If you get a "nerd" from another university to take it for you, there's almost no way you could get in trouble for doing this.

Now, you can't tell me that the university didn't realize this was going on. We knew about it. The students at the school knew about it. It's still like that to this day.

There are people who go from kindergarten to your basic undergraduate degree in liberal arts without having to deal with any of the "hassles" associated with meritocracy. These are the people who grow up and go to work on Wall Street where they play with poor people's pension funds and 401Ks. Meanwhile, poor people are eating hot dogs four nights a week, because they've been led to believe that they should feel ashamed of themselves if they accept food stamps.

Why Jan Brewer's Behavior Energizes African-American Voters

To the people who said that there was no element of racism involved in Jan Brewer's behavior towards the President: you don't have the authority to decide for the rest of us what is and isn't racist. I'm not about to sit here and attempt to change the minds of those who truly don't believe that racism had anything to do with this. If you don't understand it already, you probably still wouldn't even if I did explain it to you. In this instance, it isn't even necessary to think that racism played a role in this.

I'm not sure what kind of upbringing Jan Brewer received, but my parents taught me to have enough respect (for myself and for our family) not to engage in that sort of tacky, ill-tempered behavior. It was emphasized that this was inappropriate for civilized and educated people, especially in public! If I ever found out that my child pointed her finger in any one's face, the consequences would be severe enough for her to never again make that mistake. I think that if you're a person who finds yourself pointing fingers in the faces of others, perhaps you ought to reevaluate your standards.

Even though Brewer was crass enough to behave this way, I think it would have been inexcusable for Obama to then do it back to her. My mom and dad explained to me that the behavior of others was not a valid excuse for compromising my own standards. It seems that Obama was raised the same way.

He behaved like a gentleman even as this Brewer person cackled at him. That tells me a lot about the kind of respect that he has for all women. It also shows me that he has the ability to keep a cool head, even when he is challenged by less stable people.

That is why this incident fires up many African-Americans. It's not really her finger pointing. It's his reaction to it that fires folks up. We all know that the GOP would love to be able to portray him as the stereotypical "angry negro". Heck, they already attempt it even when he does respond to them with grace! Obama seems to understand that there is an added layer of responsibility that goes along with being the nation's first black President. He has consistently shown us that he does not take this responsibility lightly.

This finger-pointing incident fires up many people, because this has been a very tiresome three years. The whining Republicans have fought every single thing that the President has tried to accomplish. Now we're waist-deep in the election cycle and the Republican nominees are all on display for the world to examine. When we look at the antics of that parade of fools and compare it to Obama's reaction to this, the contrast is so great that we can shake our malaise and do something to keep those buffoons from embarrassing us all by voting for someone who can represent us well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lack of Medical Treatment Leads to Another Tragedy

If the USA had a basic public health system, people like Williams could receive the appropriate medical care. But, because a certain political faction wants to gut any program that might provide for care of those with mental disabilities, we should expect to continue to see many, many more cases like this.

There are those who say that we should just incarcerate them even if they do have a mental condition that obviously played a significant role in whatever occurred. Ironically enough, these are usually the same folks who complain about how much they pay in taxes. Well, incarcerating millions of people is very expensive and it has to be paid for by someone, so it winds up becoming our responsibility. A public health system would also have to be paid for by the public, but it's still cheaper than the costs of maintaining and creating even more prisons.

Unfortunately, that fact is lost on many Americans. We are a notoriously short-sighted society. We refuse to learn from anyone or any country or even our own past.

What happened to this baby could have been avoided if we had learned from the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. Gifford's tragedy could have been avoided if we had learned something from John Hinckley Jr's attempted assassination of President Reagan. I could go on and on with cases that occurred between and before this one. We're fooling ourselves if we think that not funding public health care won't have devastating consequences for us all.

Contrary to the beliefs of many Americans, history give us a good idea of what to expect in the future. It shows that there will be plenty of tragedies like the one in this article. Until we stop treating these kinds of deaths as justified collateral damage in the (trumped-up) fight to maintain "American values", we are going to see many more folks lose their lives in one way or another.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Yes, There ARE Bigots in the LGBTQIA Community

I'm just going to jump right in here and explain what's wrong with the way this supposedly liberal writer used the term "redneck". In a letter that Mitchell S. Gilbert wrote to a Tennessee politician who has been engaging in homophobia, he said,

"Why do southern red-necks open their mouths and advertise to the world how incredibly simple, bigoted and foolish they are?"

The term "redneck" is a lot like the term "cracker" or "honky". Sure, it's perfectly okay for people to use those terms about themselves, but it's certainly not okay to use them as pejoratives that are then applied to others.

My daddy is proud to refer to himself as a "black redneck". Anyone from here knows that "redneck" really describes a rather decent way of life. My daddy views it as a capitulation every time he has to buy fish from the store for dinner. My daddy saw the raccoon that got trapped in our garbage can one night as a boon from the good Lord. My daddy made sure that every girl under his roof knew how to shoot a gun, before she moved out. Like a good redneck, he thinks that women should leave the cooking to men. My momma hasn't cooked dinner in over a decade and he hates when she gets in the kitchen and moves stuff around. My daddy kept skinned rabbits in our deep freezer. He worked outdoors most of his life and when his first wife left him, he raised his eight kids all by himself for many years until he met my mother. From then on he raised his 8 plus her 4, without a single complaint about it.

Using the term "redneck" as if it's something to be ashamed of is really low and more than a little bit prejudiced. I'd like to see folks stop looking for labels that they can use to denigrate those who belong to a different way of life. I readily identify as queer. However, if I walk down the street and someone says, "Look at that queer!" you and I both know that they are using it as a slur. It's the same thing when you use the term "redneck" in the way that the author did. It's rather irritating when people in the LGBTQIA community see nothing wrong with slurring an entire group of people, just because they don't like what an individual did. It's disgustingly hypocritical.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Science!!

Today, a dear friend passed along a link regarding a project in Oaxaca that seeks to save Mexico's native corn varieties. Maybe it was because it's 4 a.m. and I can't sleep. For whatever reason, I'm in a cranky mood and I felt motivated to talk about something from my past that I'm still a tiny bit bitter about. And this friend is really, really easy to open up to, so that might have something to do with it, too. It was my pre-cancer life when I was on my way to...what? An exciting future as a botanist or geneticist or pharmacologist? I'm so far from that person now, that I sometimes find it difficult to even remember who she was or what motivated her.

This incident might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but maybe it changed the course of my beliefs about the world. My grandfather practically revered science. I don't think I've ever said it here, but when he died we found out that he had donated his body to science. Tulane Medical School got the call from I don't know who, but they came and picked up his body straight from my grandmother's house. He'd never discussed his decision with anyone, but they showed us his papers where he'd agreed to it. I was shocked at first, but after a while it made perfect sense to me. It was just the sort of thing he'd do. I'm sure he loved the idea of being able to contribute something of value to the world of medical research. This is soooo besides the point of this post, so I'll get back to it.

I don't like to talk about it very often, but...In my academic days about a decade ago, I was once in a conference presenting my results of a study on GMOs and I was silly enough to believe that a bunch of biologists from universities around the nation would give a damn about this stuff. I even passed out little seed bags that I handed to people. I'd filled them with all sorts of seeds that can grow well indoors or outdoors. Most bio labs that I worked in had windows and I made sure to tell folks that these would grow fine in a window sill. I wanted to make it more than just a dry research review on tomatoes and rice.

So, ya' know. I presented my research results. The tl;dr version was about how we don't need to pump nutrients and other shit--excuse my language, but you know that's what it is--back into certain foods, because there were already varieties that already have a high nutritional value. So, I did the whole power point with the charts, figures, and blah blah blah. *I* was silly enough to believe that what I was saying would at least be mildly interesting. I mean, these are biologists. They are notorious for being able to get interested in teeny tiny results that almost no one will care about. I got a couple of polite questions and requests for copies, but it was mostly disinterest.

My feeling now is that change ain't going to come from a lab. I'm not anti-science or anything wacky like that. It's just...We're going to have to save ourselves by preserving whatever we can ourselves. The seed banks they're creating won't help us. You and I know that folks like us aren't going to be the kind that those folks in power think should be preserved if mankind has to start over from scratch or from whatever ruins our Grand Catastrophe leaves behind.

I'm just so disillusioned about the current state of things with plant genetics research. I mean, you'd think SCIENTISTS would be leading the charge in the fight for the preservation of biodiversity. I have opinions about why they're not, but I think I'd better save that rant for another day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

For People with "Solutions" to Obesity That They Just Won't Keep to Themselves

I've been thinking more and more about the comments I read on the HuffPo article that I blogged about a few hours ago. It wasn't a surprise to see an abundance of people making comments like, "Just put down the fork", "Just eat fewer calories than you burn", "I hate seeing people eat excessively" and "nobody made you eat, so it's all your fault that you're fat." Although it's exactly what you see every time there's an article about obesity, it still bothered me a lot. There's so much that I wanted to tell these asshats.

My partner's grandmother died of lung cancer. She never smoked. Her husband did, though. He survived much longer than she did and he never got cancer. Sometimes, outside factors are to blame. Sure, it's much easier to tell people to solve it all on their own. That way you don't have to take responsibility for your role in why there is an obesity problem in this country. See, you don't want to admit that your apathy and lack of compassion towards others might affect their lives.

I'm underweight. I struggle to stay at what is seen as a healthy weight. If simply adjusting how much one eats was the key to controlling a person's weight, then almost no one would be obese. No matter how much I eat, I will likely remain underweight. Why? I have an autoimmune condition that makes my GI-tract so FUBAR that I constantly deal with gastric dumping syndrome so bad that my food often goes straight through my body in less than a couple of hours. Eating more doesn't change that. Exercising less doesn't change it.

You know what does change it? Being able to afford to buy and eat just the foods that don't aggravate my problem and having good health care. When I can get to the doctor regularly and get the meds that I need, I can sporadically experience two or three months at a time where my GI-tract works okay. Then, my lupus flares-up again and I drop all of the weight that I may have been able to gain during the good times.

See, that's why your silly little assumptions should be disregarded­. We are not all clones of each other. What works for some people will not work for others. Since you're not their doctor, you don't know what will work for them. You're just guessing. If you don't like to see people be excessive, then why don't you keep your excessive unqualified­ medical advice to yourself? The world doesn't need it.

Georgia Thinks Shaming Children Sounds Like a Great Campaign

HuffPo features an article about a new campaign going on in Georgia. They titled it, "Georgia Anti-Obesity Ads Say "Stop Sugarcoating" Childhood Obesity". I think that's disingenuous. It's actually a campaign to shame children who are considered obese and their parents. The picture you see here is just one of their ads.

I think it's disgusting and abusive. That ad is just the tip of the iceberg for these hateful people. They've managed to come up with several others that are just as bad and some that are much worse. I'm not going to post them here, because I just don't want to see that on my blog. However, the HuffPo article shows them and anyone who wants to see them that can look there.

My daughter is skinny. I'm talking about size 0-2 skinny. Honestly, it's mostly because of genes. She's never dieted a day in her life. She eats a lot, even for a teen (she plays soccer and has to eat a lot to have enough energy to perform at her peak). In fact, because she eats so much and she's so skinny, she has had numerous girls confide to her that they "binge and purge". They see how much she eats and how skinny she is and they think that she must do it too. They want to know what techniques she uses, so that they can try it, too.

It's scary. These kids are desperate enough to nearly kill themselves, because of the shame they have been made to feel. Shame doesn't make them get skinnier. It makes them get suicidal. Is that what people want? It's certainly one way to reduce the number of obese kids in America, now isn't it?

The goal shouldn't be to make kids lose weight. The goal should be to help them get and stay healthy. People need to learn the difference­. Sadly, most would rather be judgmental toward a group that's easily vilified, than to put their money where their mouth is and provide the funds necessary to create a healthier society.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

California comes up with an ingenious way to fix its mistakes

CalWORKS recipients losing due to parent payments
California's CalWORKS welfare program is meant to help the state's neediest families. The cash assistance, usually a few hundred dollars a month, is available only to people with children who have trouble meeting basic needs such as housing, food, clothing and medical care.

One of those people is Fresno County resident Clarence Ayers, who receives $334 each month to help raise his 14-year-old great-granddaughter, Irene. So Ayers was shocked when officials informed him in July that they would be cutting Irene's monthly stipend to make up for nearly $3,000 CalWORKS mistakenly paid her mother more than a decade prior, some of it before Irene was born.
These officials are making a child financially responsible for their mistakes. The amount that her great-grandfather was receiving for her each month wasn't even enough to raise a child down here in Louisiana. With the cost of living in California, I don't know how they were managing to survive. As if that's not tough enough, now they are slashing that because she happens to be related to someone that they claim owes them money. If you read the rest of the article, you'll find out that it's even worse than that. The state won't even tell them why they've decided that her mother, who was a child at the time, was overpaid.

This is why I am saving so that my daughter can travel after graduating from high school. She needs to see what life is like in other places. I can't let her live her life with this stupid belief that "Amurika is da best nation on the planet!" This is certainly not the best that the world has to offer, not by a long shot.

My aunt came to the United States to try and live here for a few years while her youngest daughter is in college here. She was so miserable that she returned to Cochabamba in less than a year. My sister just moved back to Japan for a while. She plans to come back, but she needed a break so that she could go home and get some much needed health care and to work and save up enough money to supplement the lousy pay that she makes as a music teacher and as a chef at a small restaurant in New Orleans. One couple that I'm friends with are thinking about how they can save up enough money to return to the homeland of the women, because it's next to impossible for a transgender woman to find legal employment in the good ol' state of Louisiana.

I could go on and on. It seems like anyone with options is getting out of here like birds before a hurricane. I don't blame them. I'm just about at the point where I'm about ready to do the same.

It's a bitter feeling, because I was raised to be proud that I come from a people that have survived here for thousands of years. The idea of leaving fills me with guilt. If things get worse after I'm gone, would it be, at least partly, because I abandoned the land? I feel as if I should be willing to stay here and just find some way to make a life for myself and my family no matter how bad conditions become. After all, my life isn't even close to being as difficult as what some people in this country are forced to deal with.