Sunday, December 10, 2017

EPA rendered toothless by Scott Pruitt

“The Pruitt E.P.A. is cratering on the enforcement work that matters most: holding the biggest polluters accountable.” — Cynthia Giles, former assistant administrator for the E.P.A.’s enforcement office and currently a director at the Energy & Environment Lab at the University of Chicago

AS HORRIFIC as this is, it absolutely fits with Trump's agenda. Comes as no surprise to those of us who knew who he was all along. From The New York Times.

Under Trump, E.P.A. Has Slowed Actions Against Polluters, and Put Limits on Enforcement Officers

By Eric Lipton and Danielle Ivory
December 10, 2017

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The highway billboard at the entrance to town still displays a giant campaign photograph of President Trump, who handily won the election across industrial Ohio. But a revolt is brewing here in East Liverpool over Mr. Trump’s move to slow down the federal government’s policing of air and water pollution.

The City Council moved unanimously last month to send a protest letter to the Environmental Protection Agency about a hazardous waste incinerator near downtown. Since Mr. Trump took office, the E.P.A. has not moved to punish the plant’s owner, even after extensive evidence was assembled during the Obama administration that the plant had repeatedly, and illegally, released harmful pollutants into the air.

“I don’t know where we go,” Councilman William Hogue, a retired social studies teacher, said in frustration to his fellow council members. 

Click here to read the entire article.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A really, really discouraging male tale

"And I walked around, and whenever someone yelled out something, or catcalled, I would turn around, I would ask if I could start recording, and I would say, what did you just say, and what were you hoping to get from it?" — Eleanor Gordon-Smith

A DAM has broken it seems. Women are talking. I'm trying to, but I'm doing a bad job of it. I'm stuck because misogyny, subtle or overt, is so omnipresent that it's like the air we breathe. It IS the air we breathe. We're marinating in it all the time, so much so that even we, the women who suffer the consequences, don't challenge many aspects of it.

And that's what stops me from talking . . . because it's so entirely everywhere. It would be like trying to call out individual nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere.

I've mentioned that Paul has been the means for connecting me to some extraordinary podcasts; I shared one with you in The Lady Vanishes that I continue to recommend. I have another one I want to send your way from This American Life

I don't listen to every TAL broadcast, but I happened to catch this one that originally aired December 2, 2016, so almost exactly a year ago, and I have to say, it depressed the hell out of me. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it ever since. It re-aired November 19 of this year. Ira Glass must have thought the Harvey Weinstein story and #metoo firestorm have made it relevant again. Unfortunately, it's always relevant.

Eleanor Gordon-Smith 

It's about an Australian woman, Eleanor Gordon-Smith, who got fed up with the ubiquity of women being catcalled and harassed by men and decided to see if she could change the culture by talking to a some of the perpetrators, explaining to them how it makes women feel and why women don't like it. She had meaningful dialogues with them, she believed, and she got hopeful. In the end, despite the direct, firsthand, in-person evidence absolutely to the contrary presented to them, these men decided that they had been right all along: women "like it." They like being catcalled and having there butts grabbed as they walk down the street.

Give a listen. Once More with Feeling

Monday, November 27, 2017

The #metoo chronicles

“I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world-famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” — Lauren O’Connor, former employee of the Weinstein Company

SINCE THE Harvey Weinstein shudder-inducing story broke, I've been struggling. 

In less than two months, as many as 80 women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, harassment or assault. On the one hand, I'm fist-pumping every time a woman has the courage to speak out against anyone who has harassed, assaulted or abused her. On the other hand, the extent of it is appalling. And on the third hand — I know there isn't one, but there should be — i've been suffering personally; it's traumatizing.

Because I have my own stories to tell. Plural. And I can't seem to get them out. My stories aren't as horrible as some, although they're plenty bad enough, but the thing that grinds me down is that there are just so many of them. And that's me . . . one woman. My experiences multiplied by all the women in the world make for an ocean of shame, humiliation, trauma, heartbreak, injury, grief, depression, anguish.

More than a month before the Weinstein story made headlines, I started trying to tell my story by writing a post called The Lady Vanishes. Then, as now, I began by talking about how stuck I am in writing about my experiences, and I attached a podcast: a quiet tale from more than 100 years ago that I found to be sadly representative of life as a woman — a century ago and still. 

That particular post was little read compared to others, and that in itself was dispiriting. (Perhaps people will find it relevant now.) 

Tonight, I've gotten no further than before. I've said all I can . . . and once again I am attaching something someone else has to say, published by The New York Times. Apparently I'm going to have to disentangle this knot in my stomach a little bit at a time.

Weinstein and Our Culture of Enablers

By Bret Stephens 
October 11, 2017

Of all of the dismaying and disgusting details of the Harvey Weinstein saga, none is more depressing than this: It has so few heroes.

There is a storybook villain, Mr. Weinstein, whose repulsive face turns out to be the spitting image of his putrescent soul. There are victims, so many of them, typically up-and-comers in an industry where he had the power to make or wreck their careers, or bully or buy their silence, or, if some allegations are to be believed, rape them.

But mostly there are enablers, both those who facilitated his predations and those who found it expedient to look the other way.

The enablers were of all sorts. Corporate board members who declined to investigate allegations of his sexual behavior and now claim the news comes as “an utter surprise.” Assistants who acted as “honeypots,” joining meetings between Mr. Weinstein and his intended victims to give them a sense of security — and then leaving the predator to his prey. Reporters who paid him tribute with awards, did his bidding with fawning coverage, or went after his enemies with hit pieces.

Click here to read the entire NYT article.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rosa Parks and Colin Kaepernick

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor

I'VE WRITTEN about Colin Kaepernick three times before. You may have gotten the impression that I'm a fan. You'd be right. 

It takes moral courage to be willing to be the match that ignites so much latent hatred, even though light is exactly what's needed to illuminate the dark places of our national psyche.

And how is the underlayment of racism so ingrained in this country not the darkest of places? I will never, ever, ever understand how so many 'Americans' (the air quotes are intentional) can value a symbol more than the reality it's meant to represent.

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmorenov has written an insightful op-ed piece for The New York Times that puts Colin's protest in historical perspective and exposes a persistent myth about the nature of social change.

Colin Kaepernick and the Myth of the ‘Good’ Protest

By Glenda Elizabeth Gilmorenov
November 20, 2017

LAST week, the editors of GQ named the quarterback Colin Kaepernick its Citizen of the Year for his work protesting racial injustice. Mr. Kaepernick has been heavily criticized by people like President Trump, who claims that an N.F.L. player who kneels during the playing of the national anthem “disrespects our flag” and should be fired; others argue that he is out of bounds as an activist who mixes sports with politics.

The problem is that Mr. Kaepernick’s critics, and most of America, don’t really understand how protests work. Our textbooks and national mythology celebrate moments when single acts of civil disobedience, untainted by political organizations, seemed to change the course of history. But the ideal of the “good” protest — one that materialized from an individual’s epiphany — is a fantasy. More often, effective protest is like Mr. Kaepernick’s: it’s collective and contingent and all about long and difficult struggles.

Click here to read the entire article.

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dobby, the House Elf and other stories

"You shall not harm Harry Potter!" — Dobby, the House Elf

I HAVE a friend who is recovering from back surgery and as a means of passing the time, she's been listening to audio books. We were on the subject of reading aloud because she'd read my post about Paul buying all the Winnie the Pooh books and reading them to me. (I still have to pinch myself that he did that.) 

My friend considers being read aloud to as the ultimate luxury and asked me if Paul had used different voices for the various WTP characters: Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, Owl, Eyore, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga and Baby Roo

Of course. 

And of course that's made it impossible for me to listen to Winnie the Pooh audio books; the voices are all wrong! The only way I'm ever going to be able hear those stories again is if he either reads them out loud to me again in person or records them. Maybe I'll ask for that for Christmas: audio books by Paul.

Our conversation jogged my memory. I'd forgotten about the time i read Paul back to Iowa

I love the Northwoods, and for a number of years Paul and I would spend at least a week of our summer in the far northern reaches of Wisconsin or Minnesota. Not surprisingly, the cabins where we stayed didn't have TV (and sometimes no indoor plumbing) so we’d bring along books to read.

Inevitably there was a fireplace, though, and every night Paul would build a fire . . . whether we needed one or not . . . and if we weren’t on a late night canoe paddle or dock sit, we’d read next to the fireplace. 

One summer trip there was during the Harry Potter era, and I brought one of the books in the series along as my selection. After a few days, Paul had finished what he’d brought to read, leaving just the one Harry Potter book between us — which I'd already gotten a ways into, but I started over from the beginning, and every night I read it aloud.

Dobby, the House Elf

But then we finished it. The next day I suggested we drive into town to see what else we could scare up in the way of books. We were in luck. Although it wasn't a big town, there was a book store, and it offered the next book in the Harry Potter series for sale. We snatched it up, and I read it aloud for the remaining night or two.

We loved our Northwoods stay as always, but it was over, and time to pack up and make the long trip home. Paul was very, unusually quiet as we began the drive. Finally he spilled the beans. He was just so sad to leave! 

I didn't want him to be sad, so I got out the second Harry Potter book, the one we’d bought while we were there, and read it to him all the way home. It was midnight by the time we were back, I was hoarse, and I’d read the entire book to him. 

Paul tells me that it's one of his favorite memories . . . being read to all the way home so he wouldn't be sad. It's funny, though. Just like me and all the Winnie the Pooh characters, Paul got so used to the way my version of Dobby, the House Elf sounds that he can't watch the movies; they've got Dobby all wrong!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mending maybe — and a caution

"The remedy is worse than the disease." — Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author

WHEN PAUL took me to urgent care four weeks ago, I was prescribed an albuterol sulfate inhaler, oral prednisone and over-the-counter anti-mucus tablets (guaifenesin). I've used the mucus-loosening pills — one before bed almost every night. It's helped clear my nose enough to sleep, finally. 

We filled the inhaler prescription, but I didn't use it because when the tech x-rayed my lungs at urgent care, to the surprise of the doctor, my lungs were completely clear. I'm much more prone to have things get into my sinuses and nasal passages and stay there, and in this case, eyes, ears nose and throat in the most miserable way, but not my lungs.

On the other hand, congestion is likely go straight to Paul's lungs. He was severely asthmatic as a child and has battled airborne allergies much of his life, so for him it's his lungs. This time has been no exception, so he's used the inhaler to breathe.

We didn't fill the prednisone prescription, however. Fortunately I'm married to an extra-smart guy. Prednisone is a steroid, and steroids are immunosuppressants. Although it's used to reduce swelling in sufferers' nasal passages to facilitate breathing through the nose, Paul's theory was that the short term comfort wasn't worth damping down my immune system when it's vital for it to be fully functioning to battle this particularly virulent virus.

I got curious about the relationship between steroids and viral infections and accidentally came across a concerning post in Phoenix Rising, an ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) online discussion group and forum. 

I have at least two friends who suffer (and suffer is the key word) from ME/CFS and another friend who, like us, also came down with a horrible viral infection and was prescribed steroids, so I thought I'd pass along a link to the article.

Click on the link below to go to the discussion page.

Corticosteroids (Steroids) Such as Prednisone Given During an Acute Viral Infection May Cause ME/CFS. 

Dr John Chia has noted that corticosteroids given during an acute viral infection seems tobe a recipe for precipitating ME/CFS.

That is to say: acute infection + corticosteroids = ME/CFS

In this presentation, Dr John Chia talks about the factors and events his ME/CFS patients report just prior to them developing ME/CFS.

One factor that Chia says he hears of hundreds of times, occurring just prior to the onset of ME/CFS, is that the patient was given corticosteroids (steroids) such as prednisone or prednisolone at a time when the patient was acutely ill with a viral infection.

Click here to go to the entire discussion page.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Do not come down with this

"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." — Fannie Lou Hamer, American voting rights activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement

AS OF today, I have been sick four weeks. Seriously. The Halloween costume picture not withstanding. 

And Paul, too, although he's made more of a recovery than I have.

Paul got sick Sunday night, October 8, but insisted he could and must live through a photo shoot we had previously scheduled in Council Bluffs for the next day. It was extremely windy, and there we were climbing around for hours and hours on various bridge construction projects.

That was a Monday. I left Paul home sick in bed on Tuesday while I went to work, and by the time I drove home I knew I was doomed to suffer the same fate.

The following Saturday, although he was just as sick as I was, Paul took me to urgent care where they kept me for four hours. They x-rayed my lungs, drew blood for a white cell count, did a nasal swab and a breathing test. Everyone who came in to perform a test or procedure said, "Wow, you look terrible."

I wasn't offended. I did look terrible, and I felt even worse. It was validation. They see sick people every day, all day long, so I figured I must be really, extra, extremely sick.

Not influenza A or B; not bacterial. Some unknown virulent virus which they said would take two to three weeks to recover from. Well, today it's four.

Paul said that this virus has attacked every tissue system in our bodies.
  • Fever and chills ✓
  • Soar throat; holy buckets ✓
  • Sneezing; fits of it four and five at a time ✓
  • Blinding headache; Paul's much worse than mine ✓
  • Swollen glands ✓
  • Pain; the bones in my face hurt so badly that it felt like I'd smashed headfirst into a brick wall ✓
  • Eyes swelled up and crusted over; three weeks at least ✓
  • Intestinal distress; Paul, but not me ✓
  • Unrelenting cough; I coughed so much and so hard I threw my back out ✓
  • Excruciating back pain for at least eight days (see above), but fortunately Dr. Deb fixed me last week ✓
  • Chest congestion; Paul much more than me, he was asthmatic as a kid, so he's rather more prone to it  ✓
  • Constant running nose; we've gone through a dozen large boxes of tissues ✓
  • Laryngitis; me worse than Paul, I couldn't talk at all for two weeks and still can sometimes only squeak ✓
  • Weight loss; me again; I lost four pounds which puts me today at 95.8 ✓

A week ago, I believed that I could see light at the end of the tunnel, and I went into work for about three-quarters of the day. I also thought I'd be able to wear my costume the following day for Halloween and go to work, and I did. But it was too much, and I relapsed the next day. 

Today I'm maybe, maybe back to where I was a week ago, seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel.

One might be tempted to think that we must have picked up this awful virus in Europe, and indeed as we were boarding our plane in Brussels, the young woman ahead of us in line, was clearly ill. But viruses just don't incubate for three weeks. Nope, we contracted it here at home, Paul thinks possibly at the last Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert. The timing is right for it, anyway.

One unforeseen outcome of this miserable sickness is that Paul and I have bonded even tighter and stronger than before. It might be hard to suppose that two people who work together and live together 24/7 could get any closer than we already are, but so we have. 

When everything else is stripped away, all the doing and going, and going and doing, all the busyness and lists of things that must be done, you realize that so many of the innumerable distractions that seem so important at the time, just aren't. The world shrinks, and there's just that one you love, who loves you, the mutual comfort of one another's presence, the perfectness, despite all else, of being together.