Monday, May 14, 2018

All mothers matter

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” —  Stevie Wonder, American singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist

MAY 12 was Mothers' Day. I'm hoping those fortunate enough to have had a mother, a loving one, and still have her on this earth, made an effort to spend time with her. Or if that wasn't feasible — called, sent cards, flowers or some other special something. 

Those whose mothers have passed on may likely have spent the day missing her or in my case wishing I'd had one in the first place. Looking back, I recognize that I've been in search of mothering all my life. Our precious neighbor, Virginia Logli, whom I've known since I was nine years old, has helped fill that hole in my soul, and Paul's mom lends a patient ear.

It behooves us though, I believe, to think of other mothers besides our own — or our stand-ins. Attached is an article from NBC News that explores a sad and unacceptable reality: black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related causes. Doctors are finally beginning to take a new approach to address this crisis.

How training doctors in implicit bias could save the lives of black mothers

By Elizabeth Chuck
May 11, 2018 

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — There was a pool of blood, a look of panic on her husband’s face — and then everything went black.

Alia McCants was back at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where nine days earlier, she had given birth to healthy twins. She and her husband had brought the babies home to their apartment in Harlem, and everything seemed all right — until complications from her cesarean section caused her to hemorrhage.

She rushed to the emergency room, where her vision went dim.

“My husband said, ‘You have to stay here, you have to stay here.’ And then I thought: I’m going to die,” she said.

Each year in the United States, about 700 women die as a result of pregnancy or delivery issues — while 50,000 experience severe complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes nationwide; in New York City, they are 12 times more likely to die. Postpartum hemorrhaging, or heavy blood loss, is one of the leading preventable causes.

McCants, who is black, did not know the grim statistics in December 2014, when her twins were born. Her birth experience was generally positive, and she credited the hospital staff with later saving her life when she needed emergency surgery to stop the hemorrhaging.

Click here to read the entire NBC News article.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Handmaid's State

“I cannot understand anti-abortion arguments that center on the sanctity of life. As a species we’ve fairly comprehensively demonstrated that we don’t believe in the sanctity of life. The shrugging acceptance of war, famine, epidemic, pain and life-long poverty shows us that, whatever we tell ourselves, we’ve made only the most feeble of efforts to really treat human life as sacred.” — Caitlin Moran, British journalist, author and broadcaster

IN JULY of 2017 I wrote a post called Iowa: trying hard to be as stupid as Texas about the Iowa legislature following in the short-sighted footsteps of the Republican-controlled Texas state legislature which defunded Planned Parenthood, an action which, predictably, resulted in a statewide increase in both teen pregnancies and abortions. 

Now that the Iowa legislature has just passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law the most restrictive abortion ban in the entire country, Iowa has leapfrogged clean over Texas and every other state to be not just the stupidest state in the Union, but the most misogynistic. 

Last year the Iowa legislature passed a 20-week abortion ban, but Republicans in the state wanted to tighten the prohibition even further, and they succeeded. This new, so-called 'fetal heartbeat law' makes it illegal for doctors to perform most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy and often before a woman realizes she's pregnant. 

On the one hand the Iowa legislature has forced Planned Parenthood to close clinics so it’s harder for women to have access to affordable birth control to prevent pregnancy, while at the same time slashing social services, mental health programs and other safety nets — and on the other, Iowa is now going to force women to carry their pregnancies to term whether or not they are able to support, feed and take care of the resulting children. In this state, pro-life mean pro-fetus. 

We are the Handmaid's State. 

Thanks to Andrea Phillips for sharing this graphic.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Identity politics: true or false

"To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." — Hubert Humphrey, United States Senator representing Minnesota and 38th Vice President of the United States 

SATURDAY, April 28 was the Iowa Third District Democratic Convention in Greenfield, Iowa. I plan to write a post about the convention and the town as soon as I can, but in the meantime, I'm interested in sharing this particular piece from CNN because coincidentally, the delegate sitting to my right shared his view with me rather at length about the Democratic Party's need to move away from "identity politics." He believes that's what cost us the 2016 election. 

I'm unschooled enough that, to be honest, I didn't actually know what "identity politics" are. Sounds like a euphemism to me, always used as pejorative. I'm beginning to think it's code for "Stop talking about civil rights and inclusion and gay people and stuff because it's making old white men uncomfortable." 

The writer of this CNN opinion piece, Julian Zelizer, is a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University and the editor of The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment, and a also co-host of the podcast Politics & Polls

Democrats need to stop believing this myth about Trump's base

By Julian Zelizer, CNN Political Analyst
April 30, 2018

(CNN)The big myth about the 2016 presidential election was that economic suffering drove most of Donald Trump's "base" directly into his hands in states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The story goes that while Democrats were tied in knots about identity politics, Trump's attacks on China, free trade and open-ended immigration appealed to struggling workers who believed he could bring back their jobs.

The problem with the narrative is that we keep learning it is not true.

Some Democrats have responded to the widely circulated misconception about why Clinton lost by insisting that the party needs to move away from identity politics -- issues revolving around gender equality and racial justice -- and focus in on economic issues.

Instead, Democrats should be basing their 2020 election strategy on what is actually true.

A just-published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the political scientist Diana Mutz found that white, Christian, male voters were attracted to Trump out of fear that their social status keeps dwindling. It was, in fact, Trump who was focused on identity politics, not simply the Democrats.

Mutz's research found that members of Trump's base believed they faced more discrimination as white males than most other groups, such as Muslims. "For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country, white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race," she writes.

Click here to read the entire CNN article.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Dehydration headaches

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” — Leonardo da Vinci, Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography

YEARS AGO, when I mentioned to a veterinarian that I had a headache, he suggested that I drink a big class of water. He said that when someone takes an aspirin or other analgesic for a headache, it's often the water providing the relief, because she or he was dehydrated without realizing it.

My friend Liz Neff shared the below article from Silver Sneakers, a free fitness program offered by insurance companies, that offers a brief list of some less obvious signs of dehydration. Below that I've attached an excerpt from Medical News Today about dehydration headaches. 

5 Sneaky Signs You’re Dehydrated
When your body’s fluid level gets low, these symptoms will let you know.

By Jim Shadbolt 
April 5, 2017

You’re probably aware of the more obvious signs of dehydration: yellow urine, dry mouth, feeling thirsty. But the less-obvious signs are just as important and sometimes appear sooner, especially as you get older.

The amount of water you need doesn’t increase as you age, but your body’s ability to conserve water is reduced and your sense of thirst weakens. So it’s important to drink even if you aren’t thirsty.

The importance of water can’t be overstated. It makes up roughly two-thirds of our body weight and is responsible for a variety of functions, including digestion, blood flow, and temperature regulation. It’s like oil to a machine.

When your body is low on fluids, all systems must work harder to function properly. This not only leaves you feeling fatigued, but if untreated, it can lead to dizziness when standing, kidney problems, or seizures due to electrolyte imbalances.

That’s why it’s so important to prevent dehydration or catch it early. Here are five lesser-known signs you might be low on H2O.

1. You Have Bad Breath

When you’re dehydrated, your body secretes less fluid. You already know that means decreased urination, but it’s also true for tears and saliva.

Saliva is antibacterial, so if you’re not producing enough, it can lead to bacteria overgrowth in your mouth. That means bad breath. It’s also why so many of us experience morning breath, as saliva flow almost stops completely while we sleep.

Click here to read the entire Silver Sneakers article.

Dehydration headaches: Signs, treatment, and prevention

By Jenna Fletcher
May 19, 2017 

Headaches are one of the most common causes of pain and missed days of work. But what are the key signs that a headache might be due to dehydration?

A dehydration headache is a secondary headache, caused by not having enough fluid in the body. Dehydration headaches can be relatively mild or severe as a migraine.

The body requires the proper balance of fluid and electrolytes to function properly. Every day, the body loses water through daily activities, such as sweating and urinating.

Most of the time, the amount of fluid lost is easily balanced through drinking or eating fluid-rich foods. However, sometimes the body loses water faster than it can be replenished.

During these times, the body can become dehydrated, which can lead to complications including unpleasant dehydration headaches.

When the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss. This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache.

Click here to read the entire Medical News Today article.

Friday, April 27, 2018

James Shaw Jr.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

I'D LIKE to take a moment to celebrate James Shaw Jr. and draw your attention to how his bravery A) debunks a stereotype maintained by both overt and dog-whistle racists and B) discredits a lie perpetuated by NRA idolaters.  

You remember James; he's the guy who, barehanded and unassisted, blocked an active shooter who killed four people in a Waffle House Restaurant 
in Antioch, TN April 23.

A) The hero is a black man; the killer is a white man

In November of 2015 then candidate Donald Trump retweeted an utterly false set of statistics claiming that 81% of white people are killed by black people, and only 2% of blacks are killed by whites.

Hero: James Shaw Jr. and his daughter

Killer: Travis Reinking

B) Travis Reinking had an AR-15; James Shaw Jr. was unarmed.

You've heard that (rotten) old chestnut, 
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," that gun-worshipers regurgitate in an attempt to convince us that the more armed we are, the safer we'll be. A National Bureau of Economic Research study by Stanford University law professor, John Donohue, concluded that allowing concealed-carry seems to increase violent crime 13 to 15 percent.

As if James weren't heroic enough, just hours after he stopped a killer literally with his bare hands, he launched a campaign to collect money for the victim's families and raised $165,000.

Attached below is an article from from CNN about the fundraiser James started.

Waffle House shooting hero James Shaw Jr. raises $165,000 for victims

By Faith Karimi

April 26, 2018

Just hours after he pried a rifle from a gunman who'd opened fire at a Waffle House in Tennessee, James Shaw Jr. launched a fundraiser to help the victims' families.

That GoFundMe campaign by Thursday afternoon had raked in just under $165,000 -- 11 times its goal -- since the attack Sunday left four people dead.

Meantime, the Antioch, Tennessee, restaurant has pledged to donate all its proceeds for the next month to the families of the deceased and living victims.

And a New York man launched an online fundraiser to benefit Shaw that had raised $175,000 from more than 5,500 donors.

Click here to read the entire CNN article.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It really really REALLY is a simple equation

“I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.” — Molly Ivins, American newspaper columnist, author, political commentator and humorist 

I'M WITH Molly. (Too bad we couldn't keep her forever.) The means for reducing gun deaths in the United States is undeniable: regulate and reduce access to ownership of mass killing machines. Any argument against this obvious reality springs from the intersection of an unholy trifecta: greed, power-lust and ignorance. 

Don't bother hauling about that bloody (figurative and literally) Second Amendment justification.  

A) When the writers of #2 (which is what I liken it to) composed this particular addition to the Constitution in 1791, the typical "arms" they were giving citizens a "right to bear" were muskets and flintlock pistols. According to the Washington Post, a typical Revolutionary-era musket had a one-round magazine capacity, so that even when operated by the most skilled expert, it could only fire three shots a minute. Anyone who wants to "bear arms" today has my permission to own one of those, no problem. You have my blessing.

B) The Constitution is not sacrosanct. Since the first ten amendments were added in 1791, 227 years ago, 17 more have been tacked on, so get over the delusion that this document can't be altered, including #2

The below CNN article with graphics lays bare our national insanity.

How US gun culture compares with the world in five charts

By Kara Fox — graphics by Henrik Pettersson

March 9, 2018

(CNN)The United States. Home to liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the most mass shootings in the world.

America's unique relationship to gun ownership -- enshrined as a right in its constitution -- is also in the middle of an emotional and divisive debate about the meaning of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Twenty-seven words that give its citizens the right to own guns and also, in the views of many critics, helped usher in a culture that sees more of its own people killed by fellow citizens armed with guns than in any other high-income nation in the world.

Gun-related deaths unfold in tragic circumstances across the country daily, with more than 1,800 people killed by guns this year alone, according to Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit group. But it is often mass shootings that reignite the debate over gun control in the US and that shine the spotlight on its position as a global outlier.

Here's a look at how America's gun culture compares to the rest of the world.

Click here to read the entire CNN article.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

TCJO goes on the road and other stories

“My favorite thing to do is to go where I’ve never been.” — Diane Arbus, American photographer noted for photographs of marginalized people

PAUL AND I have had a hard time keeping up with our lives for awhile now — by my reckoning, since we got back from Europe in September. First we were recovering from the trip itself. So much fun, but exhausting. I've promised Paul that the next vakay we take will be going somewhere and not moving — a cabin in the North Woods or a cruise with lots of at-sea days.

We had just regrouped from our trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, when we both got about as sick as we've ever been. We came down with the virus from hell October 8, and seriously, it took us at least two and a half months to fully recover.

Just when life was beginning to return to normal, our adored furry baby, Shiva, became desperately ill. We came within an eyelash of losing her. It's been an all out fight for her life for the last four months, but miraculously, we've managed to save her. 

At last we have a little bit of breathing room, just enough distance that I can finally write about it, but not that story tonight. Soon though. For now I'm going to fill in some of the gaps since December.

February 14, we — and by we, I mean Paul and me on behalf of Turner Center Jazz Orchestra — flew in Rose Colella from Chicago to sing with the band for the February 14 Valentine's concert. This is the second opportunity we've had to import Rose. Although both performances were noteworthy, of the two, Paul and I enjoyed the most recent one more, probably because her first collaboration with the band was the holiday concert which meant she was limited to Christmas and New Year's standbys. On the one hand, they're songs you love because they're the soundtrack of the season; their familiarity is what makes them satisfying, but on the other hand we've all heard them so often for so many years.

This time we were able to offer her a broader range of tunes that allowed her to put more of her personal stamp on the music, stretch out more, and John Benoit contributed three outstanding arrangements that he'd written especially for her and TCJO. It was the first time they had been performed.

Rose Colella sang with the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra, Feb. 14, 2018

Nine days later the band hit the road for a concert in Algona, about two and half hours away, and thanks to Richard Early we got to travel in style — on an actual band bus.

This concert at the Ed and Betty Wilcox Performing Arts Center was arranged by Des Moines chanteuse Tina Haase Findlay, and John Aboud, her former Algona High School band director, in recognition of Tina's 50th anniversary as a performer and 35th anniversary of her high school graduation. I assumed Tina had always only been a singer, but no, she was also first chair trumpet at school. It was obvious Tina respects and adores Mr. Aboud, as she still calls him, and that the feeling is returned in equal measure.

It was the first time in a month that I was able to leave Shiva for more than four hours at a stretch; that in itself was a milestone and cause for guarded celebration. To add to the evening, Paul and I were both so pleased to have his cousin Anne Fairchild Sexe and her husband, Brian, in the audience — who were nice enough to drive over from Estherville on a day's notice. Music runs in the family. Anne is herself a fine jazz and all around singer, and Brian is a retired band director. We loved having them with us.

The band bus on our way to the Wilcox Performing Arts Center in Algona, Feb. 23. 2018.

Tina Haase Findlay bringing down the house with Jamie Poulsen on piano.

Tina with Scott Davis on trumpet, Jim Eklof on drums and Steve Charlson on bass.

My favorite trombone player . . . actually my favorite everything . . . with Richard Early on the right and Tom Rankin on the left.

Andy Classen on trumpet and Mike Short on bass trombone. You've already met the rest.

A way-cool shot Paul took on stage of Robert Espe.

Paul's extra-nice cousins, Brian Sexe and Anne Fairchild Sexe.