15 November 2012

Post 4.13 - Tumbling Down

So something frightening happened to my dog.

In April, I was working for a few weeks in New Hampshire, and a few days after I returned, my beloved Belgian Malinois presented with some scary symptoms. He kept falling, as if one side of his body were weaker, and he was vomiting. My first reaction was that he had suffered a stroke, and I went into a panic. I normally consider myself calm, cool, and logical when adverse situations occur, but my dog is my baby.

And I could not imagine what rehab one might do for a dog who had had a stroke.

We rushed him to a 24-hour animal hospital in Gilbert, AZ. He was diagnosed with "Old Dog" vestibular disease, also called idiopathic vestibular disease.

It is somewhat common in older dogs (my dog is now 12 years old), and most owners react exactly the way I did.

According to Dr. Jennifer Coates of website petMD:
     The vestibular system is composed of portions of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining our sense of balance. When something goes wrong with the vestibular system, it feels like the world is spinning.

My dog has had one other episode, which appears to have been longer lasting, but generally speaking, he has recovered well. But it was probably one of the more frightening things I've had to experience in a long time, and it took me a long time to calm down enough to communicate.

According to Dr. Coates, any or all of the following can present if your dog is affected:

  • A head tilt
  • They are unsteady on their feet and may fall over
  • They circle in one direction or even roll across the floor
  • Their eyes flick back and forth, up and down, or rotate in a circle (this is called nystagmus)
  • An unwillingness to eat due to nausea
  • Vomiting

My dog has had several of these between the two instances, but knowing more definitely helped me deal with things better the second time around. I think the hardest part is being unable to explain to him what is happening, and that it will all be better soon. But he does get better, and in the end, that's all that matters, since there is nothing else to do. It is just a transient condition that can sometimes happen.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

14 November 2012

Post 3.15 - Olympus

As I mentioned on Monday, while I still reside in Arizona, I have been working in California. Specifically, I have been working at a site about 30 minutes north of San Francisco. I have spent much of the last several months on site, but in 2013, we are adjusting my schedule so I can divide my time a bit more fairly and effectively between the two states.

Since relocating to Arizona in 2005, I have spent most of my time working from home, leaving me outside of typical office politics and human social interaction. It hasn't been all bad - in fact, I have found that it has made my work more productive and efficient. Unfortunately, I am still human, and there is much to like about being around other members of the species.

Not the least of this is what I refer to as "eye candy".

And oh, is there much to see.

Post education, we meet most of our social contacts through our places of employment. Even with all the social media options we have now, there is no substitute for actual human interaction. In person. And I've been surprised how much we all notice eye candy. Not so much surprised in that it happens, but in how easily some folks will talk about it.

One colleague, who I'll call Ares, has commented on several of the female co-workers with whom we work. At first, I thought he might be trying to gauge where my interests might lie, but I've learned that it's just a natural part of who he is. And as a straight male, sharing these things with me as another male is as a safe outlet. It doesn't descend to locker room type banter, but a release.

Another colleague, Hyperion, is more subtle. He is one of my favorite people to begin with, because he's just so intelligent and warm, but when his sexuality is expressed, it's just even more fun. His style is much more under-your-breath kind of commenting, that if you heard randomly, you wouldn't even completely register what he'd said. It's an amazing gift he has for that.

That's not to exclude the women, because they do it, too, although it takes an increased comfort level to express it with me as a male.

My colleague Ananke is a somewhat naturally shy person, but it is very clear in watching her and listening to her when and for whom there is that extra layer of interest present. Aura, another colleague, is very tight-lipped, but I've learned she is the object of interest for a number of my male colleagues.

And then there are the objects of my own interest, which thus far, I've revealed to no one... and there are several.

So with all this tension and attraction and things going on below the surface, what are sexual beings to do?

There are two schools of thought here.

First, there is the position that mixing business and pleasure are bad ideas. A relationship gone bad can make a mess of the working situation. Even a misplaced crush or expression of interest can be a problem. And don't forget the entire sexual harassment situation that may be perceived. I have noticed among my LGBTQ colleagues that there is next to no discussion of interest or even LGBTQ-type activities, even here in California.

I think a lot depends on the maturity of the parties involved, and of course, I would be against any sort of situation involving someone married or already otherwise involved. But suffice to say, this can be a significant can of worms.

On the other hand, we spend a lot of time with these people. I can confidently say that I have a lot of affection for my colleagues, and I consider several of them to be actual friends. As an adult who does not enjoy the bar scene, is no longer involved in higher education, and who has little time to socialize heavily in other ways -- my options are limited. Shouldn't I go for it?

For me, specifically, the decision is actually much easier, because I am not interested in building a life in California - I am here for a job. Companionship, affection, even sex would be nice, but in the end, it can't really go anywhere unless my paramour is open to moving to Arizona. I'm selfish that way.

I think the bottom line is that life is too short. There is no reward without risk, and things can be handled in the right way to allow for any number of possibilities. My advice is this:
  1. Be honest about what you want and expect.
  2. Be amenable to a negative response, as in, s/he isn't interested. And be a grown-up about the rejection. There will be others.
  3. Keep personal time separate from professional time as much as possible. Remember that this will be an adjustment for co-workers, also, and the best road to travel is to be discreet.
  4. Do what you can to ensure your potential partner is on the same page with these points.
  5. Workplace drama doesn't help anyone.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

13 November 2012

Post 2.18 - Obama: The Sequel

On November 6, 2012, the United States re-elected Barack Obama to a second term as President. While the rejoicing was not as euphoric as 2008, this came as a great relief to many across the country and the world.

Despite living in a traditionally red state (Arizona) and working in a very blue state (California), I know many from the opposite party in both locations. It has given me a new respect for Republicans and conservatives in general, and encouraged me on the issues that are important to me.

I am a civil rights voter. It's not that I don't care about energy, the environment, or the economy, but in my opinion, until we get beyond certain serious civil issues, things are not going to improve. One party has a decidedly better record in this area.

And I think this is where the future lies, more than many might expect.

As citizens, as human beings, we are stewards of our country and our world. We are only here temporarily, but we all leave a legacy. We can choose to leave a legacy of discrimination, of destruction, of waste, of ignorance -- or we can choose to leave a legacy of justice, of nurturing, of growth, and of knowledge.

A conservative friend of mine was trying to explain to me his free-market position and how it applies across the board. If you are mistreated by an employer, simply find another. If you have a bad experience with a product, simply buy something different. And my response was to say that if companies and individuals behaved ethically, whether in health, safety, or just basic fairness, we wouldn't need regulations in these areas. Our country and our world are not level playing fields unless we do things to make them so.

In the US, we are taught that all men are created equal. If that were really true, we would not have had the women's suffrage movement or the need for the Civil Rights Act. Yes, our founding documents may say these great words, but our failing has always been that we ignore them.

It is my fervent hope that we continue to see the progress we saw in this election on LGBT issues, on the population of women and minorities in government, and in embracing the changing face of our electorate. It is our future, and clinging to outmoded ideology is denying the force of nature.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

12 November 2012

Post 0.8 - The Return!

My sincere apologies for my protracted absence. I've begun working in California, and much of what I do is write all day -- so writing more at night and on weekends has had a reduced appeal.

But I was telling a co-worker about my blogging activities, and I thought it was time that I incorporate this blog back into my life again.

So here we are.

Monday is normally my foodie day, but with my traveling, that's become even more of a challenge -- so I'll return to this topic next week, just in time for Thanksgiving. :-)

Tomorrow, on politics day, I'll give my take on the recent election. It was monumental in a lot of ways.

Wednesday is sex/relationship day, so I'll have a post on workplace flirtation and romance. Now that I don't work from home a lot, I have some material for this based on my observations and experiences. Not that I didn't have any before, but it's definitely in my face these days.

Thursday is pets day, and since I last wrote, my pets have had a number of issues. This Thursday, learn more about idiopathic vestibular disease.

And Friday, as usual, will be a surprise! In this case, as much to me as to you, since I'm not sure what it will be about just yet.

So if you're still reading, thank you for that, and thank you for being here for my return. :-)

If you have a question or would like to suggest a topic, you can write me at facetsblog@gmail.com. Again -- comments are moderated, so you can also feel free to ask an anonymous question there or suggest a topic, and I'll answer in a future post.

28 February 2012

Post 5.17 - Model Students

PBS Newshour recently aired a story about cyber schools and discussed some of the effects of this model on education. The issues are really very interesting, but I think the piece highlights the issues in each competing model for education. And given the profits quoted for the cyber school, it's clear that education can be done more economically.

However, I think the proper solution for all students lies somewhere in an amalgam of these models.

I know a lot of teachers, and they all struggle with students of varying calibers, with budgets, with supplies, and with curricula with respect to the time allotted. I know parents who home school, use cyber schools, use Montessori schools, and other parents who are constantly looking for ways to give their children the best possible education. If nothing else is evident, education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Different students thrive in different environments and with different methodologies.

My mother wanted to send me to a Montessori school, but this was not financially viable, so I went to public schools until college. I was segregated out with the "smart kids" into different classes for elementary and middle school, and then was offered options for advanced placement and honors high school courses. I was fortunate to have arts and music opportunities at all levels, and my high school had a policy of offering class options that would be scheduled formally if enough students wanted them, for electives like accounting, computer science (showing my age here), or stenography.

Now we're in a new age. We can think outside the box in how education is offered.

Here's what we know:
  1. Education funding is being cut across federal and state levels virtually all across the United States, while standards for education remain at largely the same level.
  2. Every time a student goes to a private school via a voucher program or other system, the public school loses even more money. As one superintendent pointed out in this piece, you can't close the school or classroom because you lost two students.
  3. Some students are simply not served by the current educational approach because they are either too advanced and work better on their own, or are at the other end of the spectrum and require extra help.
  4. Parents cannot always be as involved in the process as they would like or the school might like. The realities are that many households have two parents who work outside the home, or have only a single, working parent.
  5. Children continue to suffer from bullying and other social issues for which there is little support available. This has again fallen upon a burdened school system to address.
  6. Children in home schooling and cyber situations often have fewer opportunities for group activities such as team sports or school clubs.
It seems to me there are ways to combine the best offerings from the various models into a new approach. While I agree with the school superintendents in this piece that "the money [belongs] to the kids", the investment in research and development as well as other areas show that the money can be used in other ways to benefit the students and community.

So here's what I'd suggest.

Combine the cyber aspect into the public school system such that there would be different approaches available: traditional public schooling (in a building), cyber schooling utilizing public school teachers in the same classes and schedules (which gives home-based students a structure for classwork and other activities), mixed approaches offering both (morning cyber classes with afternoons on-site at school), accelerated cyber schooling (giving more advanced students greater flexibility), and independent study approaches. It could even be possible to offer night and weekend classes in additional electives, if the student were interested. And imagine a study hall where you could go online with a tutor for math or English from a laptop at your desk, whether on-site or at home.

If all of this is based out of the public schools, the school does not need to lose funding. Classrooms would not close their doors if 2-3 students were switched from the room to home. This also has the potential to avoid overcrowded classrooms, since a class could be split, if needed, to allow one teacher to engage home-based students while another engaged the on-site students. Additionally, the home-based student would have the ability to access school-sponsored activities such as after-school clubs, athletics, or possibly after-school music instruction.

It would also be necessary to apply the same standards for accountability in curriculum and progress. While you can't necessarily give a home-based student detention in the traditional sense, there would be the caveats attached that if progress in one environment is not optimal, another environment would need to be considered. In other words, no spending all day playing video games if the student doesn't have the self-discipline to complete their lessons.

Now, this isn't perfect. There would be considerations for school buses, for example, if a student were on a unique on-site schedule or wanted to participate in something after regular school hours after spending all day as a home-based student. We'd also need to get the technology into the classrooms and to all the home-based students, although many school districts are already pursuing ways to get laptops to every student. It also does not address those parents who home-school for religious reasons, which is a whole separate ball-of-wax.

But it seems to me there has to be a way to find a synergy between these various approaches such that schools, and most importantly, students are given the best possible options and opportunities.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

27 February 2012

Post 1.20 - Pollo Perfecto

One of the reasons I like to cook chicken or with chicken is that it often tastes great with very little effort. Sure, you can bread it, marinate it, poach it, cover it in barbecue sauce and grill it -- but a little salt and pepper and 40 minutes in the oven can taste amazing, too.

So I have two recipes for you today.

The first is one I prepared for my mother at her suggestion. She is diabetic, and this recipe is diabetic-friendly (i.e., low-carb, high protein), and so easy as to be ridiculous. The result is delicious.

The second is one I have made several times in bulk, as the individual portions freeze and sous-vide or microwave beautifully.

Both can be served with rice, vegetables, or both -- but you'll see when you try them. No heavy sauces here, but amazingly flavorful.

American Pie Chicken  (from the original recipe here)

Non-stick cooking spray
4 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets (4oz. each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup apple butter
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat real cheddar cheese

Keep in mind the safe-handling guidelines with this recipe. You will not use an entire jar of apple butter, so separate out your 1/4 cup in a separate dish before you begin and put the rest in the fridge. Then your spoon can go back and forth between the dish of apple butter and the raw chicken. If you don't, you could contaminate your apple butter and you'll only ever be able to use it safely for this recipe.

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 7" x 11" baking dish with the non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place chicken in baking dish; season chicken with salt and pepper then spread apple butter evenly over it.
  3. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until no pink remains in the chicken.
  4. Remove the baking dish from the oven, uncover, and sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese. Return chicken to oven and bake uncovered for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Spinach Chicken Parmesan (from the original recipe here -- I have modified it slightly)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 diced red bell pepper

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a small bowl combine cheese and seasoning. Roll chicken pieces in cheese mixture to coat lightly. Set remaining cheese mixture aside. Arrange coated chicken pieces in an 8×8×2 inch baking dish. I have found that it works best if you roll up the breast slightly when you place it in the dish, although leaving them flat is fine, too.
  3. In a small saucepan, saute green onion in butter/margarine until tender. Stir in flour, then add milk all at once. Simmer, stirring, until bubbly. Stir in drained spinach and diced red bell pepper and mix together. Spoon spinach mixture over chicken and sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender and chicken juices run clear.
Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

20 February 2012

Post 1.19 - Tomayto, Tomahto

I grew up in an era when less was known about many of the food allergies we hear about today. And all my life, while loving the taste, I've had a problem with tomatoes. Which is to say, typically, I have the runs.

We're all friends here, right? :-)

In a recent conversation with my mother, I learned that as a toddler and younger, I would get a rash on my face whenever I ate tomatoes. In other words, an allergic reaction! She was explaining how she could get me to eat anything with tomato sauce by telling me it was pizza, and then casually mentioned the after effects.

But like I said, it was a different time.

Anyway, in changing my diet in recent years, I have found that I can eat tomatoes without incident, depending on how I prepare them. I simply have to seed them first. I am not allergic to the skin or the "meat" of the tomato -- the part I like best anyway -- it's the mucus covered, acidic seeds that do me in. So I can make tomato sauce, I can add tomatoes to sandwiches and other entrees, and have no problem with stuffed tomatoes whatsoever.

Who knew?

Now, with other allergies, it isn't so simple. Peanut allergies can be downright deadly, but I relate this story because maybe I am not the only one who has trouble with tomatoes, and it really comes down to the acidic nature of seeds in general. Many seeds, especially those of fruits (as tomatoes technically are), have defenses to ensure the survival of the species, and acid is just one trick. We also eat tomato seeds without thinking much of it, while we'd never do the same for apples, oranges, or for that matter, a peach pit.

And I dare say, my favorite homemade tomato sauce is wondrously flavorful, even better than what my parents used to make when I was growing up -- which consisted of many ingredients stewing on a stove for hours on end.

So here's my recipe. Hope you like. I actually highlighted this/these recipes in May 2011, but they're worth repeating.

The Italian dressing mix is based on this recipe, and the overall dish is based on this recipe.

Italian Dressing

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white sugar (I use Splenda or equivalent -- cuts the calories and sugar content)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons salt

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, celery salt and regular salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.
  2. To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the dry mix.
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1 (16 ounce) package dry penne pasta (or your favorite pasta - I use whole wheat rotini/fusilli)
8 roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place the penne pasta in the pot, cook 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
  2. While the pasta cooks, seed and dice the tomatoes. You can also use a food processor to dice the seeded tomatoes, pulsing until you have the desired texture - from chunky to puree.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the tomatoes and Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese, or add the cheese to taste.
You can expand this with some diced onion (as the original recipe calls for), some grilled chicken, or even some browned beef.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

09 February 2012

Post 2.17 - The Clash

When I started writing the posts for this week, I had planned my usual diversity of articles discussing all the topics I usually do. But it's been a remarkable week politically.

Tuesday saw the resignation of Karen Handel from Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, after the defunding then refunding of Planned Parenthood. The Republican voters also handed victories to former Pennsylvania Senator and far-right conservative Rick Santorum (R), giving renewed life to his campaign.

Wednesday saw the Ninth Circuit of Appeals affirm the federal court ruling that California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

And all week, the talking heads on the various networks have been discussing the Obama Administration's decision to require insurance coverage for birth control, even for so-called religious institutions who may believe differently.

Since this post is prepared in advance, who knows what today may bring?

But if nothing else is true, it is a fairly sure bet that the next and any future conflict will be conservatives trying to deny something to somebody. That is what all of these points have in common. And when is this nonsense going to end?

I guess it can't. Conservatives only seem to be happy if they get to tell people what they can and can't do, and they only cry foul if someone tries it against them.

I had Republican and conservative friends telling me that Komen had the right to give money to whatever ancillary organizations they wish, and that's true. Doesn't mean we (the public) have to like it, nor does it mean we don't have the right to speak out against it -- isn't that supposed to be what the Tea Party has been doing since Obama's inauguration? Oh right - I forgot, only conservatives can do that.

Plus, the issue was as much Komen hiring Karen Handel as vice-president of public policy, as she is an avowed opponent of a woman's right to choose -- making the entire situation all the more suspicious.

Now Republicans and conservatives, both pundits and my friends, are saying religious organizations should not be subject to the birth control requirements if it is against their beliefs. The problem is, if a religion decides to involve itself in other services, it is subject to state and federal constitutional authority. I've heard people say, "you don't have to go to a Catholic hospital" for medical care if you disagree -- but in some areas of the country, you do, because there are no other options available. People also do not have the easy opportunity in the current economy to change jobs to a more favorable/like-minded employer, and this flies in the face of being able to maintain health coverage from job to job if some coverage is offered and other is not. In the end, it is all part of the same argument involving Planned Parenthood and women's health in poorer communities, as well as same-sex marriage and spousal visitation rights. Where do these so-called "conscience clauses" end?

Additionally, involvement in health care and education means that religious philosophy and other teachings can be imposed on the public, rather than allowing individuals to make their own choices. (There is a great article here on the bogus "War on Religion" that the right is trying to get the public to buy).

Access to birth control doesn't mean you have to use it.

Access to abortion services doesn't mean you have to have an abortion.

The ability to marry a same-sex partner doesn't mean you have to do so.

And because this is not a theocracy, but a democratic republic respecting ALL belief systems, involvement in the public square providing public services means showing that respect even if it conflicts with what you believe.

I would not force nor prevent someone from using birth control if they did not wish it.

I would not force nor prevent someone from having an abortion if she did not wish it.

I would not force nor prevent anyone from marrying anyone else.

This is what personal liberty is about. This is what the pursuit of happiness is all about.

If you don't want to use birth control, then don't. If you don't believe in pre-marital or extra-marital sex, don't have it. If you don't want an abortion, don't have one. If you don't want to marry a same-sex partner, don't do it. No one is forcing anyone to do any of these things by giving people a choice.

As we head into this election, the Republicans are putting forth candidates who would work to curtail civil rights, either through legislation, policy, or who they nominate to the Supreme Court.

Please pay attention and keep these matters in mind as the election season continues to unfold.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

08 February 2012

Post 2.16 - Proposition Hate

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." -Judge Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 07-Feb-2012

Proposition 8, voted into law in 2008, was California's ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign was largely bankrolled and supported by the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, various Protestant evangelical sects, and various conservative groups from around the country, including the National Organization for Marriage. The ruling yesterday upheld the earlier federal court ruling that the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

As I discussed yesterday with respect to the liberal/conservative paradigm, this is another case of conservatives denying rights to someone. For the moment, this is a losing proposition with respect to same-sex marriage (and with the resignation of Karen Handel from Komen, also for a woman's right to choose).

What I continue to grapple with and fail to understand is why conservatives and religious fundamentalists care so much about what other people do in their private, personal lives. The need for control over what other people do with their lives and their bodies is nothing short of stupefying. And make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening in these conservative referenda and laws across the U.S. today, from Proposition 8 in California to the recently defeated Proposition 26 in Mississippi.

But back to yesterday's victory.

The Ninth Circuit's decision is just the latest battle in the ongoing war. The decision is limited to California, which may make it more difficult for the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which most believe will be the next step. Had the decision applied to the entire Ninth Circuit, it would have impacted more states, including my home state of Arizona. Arizona adopted Proposition 102 in 2008 limiting marriage to one man and one woman, after failing to pass a similar measure (Proposition 107) in 2006. Under a broader Ninth Circuit decision, this would likely have been nullified.

The crux of the anti-8 case is that the state has no compelling reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. In our society, one cannot cite the Bible or any other religious text or teaching as a basis for discrimination. Interestingly, conservatives have tried to use this argument repeatedly over the history of our country when denying rights to women and minorities. The pro-8 legal team did not resort to this (they actively avoided using any testimony from religiously motivated witnesses), but cited easily and repeatedly debunked "studies" to illustrate damage to families and society. And in an amusing turn, if you read the transcripts of the original federal trial, most pro-8 witnesses made the case for the anti-8 side.

I think what continues to anger me about these cases is the ridiculous amounts of money spent to fight these cases and fight these referenda. Here's why:
  1. Civil rights should never be determined by the majority. That isn't how it is supposed to work in this country, and is against the very spirit upon which this country was founded.
  2. Conservative forces claim to be patriotic, but are perfectly willing to deny "liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" portions of our Declaration of Independence to anyone they want to treat as less of a person.
  3. This country is not a theocracy. This country draws its strength from the depth of diversity of its population: many faiths, many nationalities, many beliefs and many ideas. This culture and its people were borne of a rejection of conformity. Every case, every proposition, every legislative vote which denies these facts diminish us all.
  4. We have bigger things to worry about, and all we continue to do is pick sides rather than work together.
It's all so tiresome.

I am happy that the Ninth Circuit upheld Judge Walker's decision, and I have no doubt it will be upheld again if another judicial body is required to hear the case. The evidence coming from the states which do allow same-sex marriage is clear, and the existing, protected California marriages give the same result: heterosexual marriage is completely unaffected, families have not collapsed, and somehow, society continues apace. I look forward to a day when this is simply a non-issue and we can all move on to more important matters.

07 February 2012

Post 2.15 - Running Path

We are in the thick of the race for President here in the United States, but the ongoing circus that has been the selection process for the Republican candidate has not been the only news. Last week, in the continuing War on Women, a leading breast-cancer focused charity, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure announced that it would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood ("PP"), the leading provider of women's health services to poor and underserved populations in the U.S. The Komen organization stated that their new criteria for providing funds to other organizations required that such organizations not be under federal or state investigation, and PP is currently under such investigation.

The reaction to this decision and the "criteria" has been swift and vocal, both from pundits and the general public, and the Komen organization has been forced to reverse their decision. The damage, however, has been done.

So why did this all happen?

PP also happens to be the largest organization to provide abortions. The Komen organization recently hired a new vice-president who is a former political candidate for governor of Georgia, and she is decidedly anti-choice and ran on a platform of defunding PP in her last campaign. Buoyed by the successful pressure to reverse Komen's funding decision, activists on the political left are now pressuring that this vice-president be terminated.

It's a mess.

On the one hand, private organizations like Komen are allowed to give or not give money to anyone they want. On the other, Komen has supported PP for years, as the funds for PP were specifically designated for low-cost and free cancer screenings, not abortions. These screenings are vital to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and offer the needy the only avenue to such care in many cases. The "investigation" of PP is politically motivated, and is not criminal in nature, and such "investigations" can be initiated by any legislator looking to make a name for him- or herself with their largely Republican and/or conservative constituency. PP has been under constant attack since the Republicans won control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Breast cancer runs in my family. I even have a male cousin who is a breast cancer survivor. It is a serious health concern, and women should have access to as many resources as possible. PP may represent the largest network of abortion providers, but abortions account for only 3% of their activity. In many areas, PP offers the only low-cost medical services for women of any kind. But all of this comes down to the basic difference between liberals and conservatives at the core of the Democrat and Republican parties, respectively: despite any "libertarians" on the Republican side who often tout the benefits of "smaller government", they are not happy unless they get to decide how everyone is supposed to live. Liberals are always on the side of civil rights, whether they be for women or minorities or laborers or even children, while conservatives are always in favor of a hierarchy which diminishes one group in favor of another.

And you can review American history and find example after example. You will always find the liberals on the side of equality and fairness, and conservatives on the side of denying rights or favoring one group over another. The arguments may evolve, but the pattern is always the same.

The Komen PP debacle highlights a lot of issues on several fronts, but here are just a few:
  1. Politics do not belong in healthcare. The vast majority of PP's services - 97% - do not involve abortion, but do involve scores of needy and underserved women. The public at-large recognized this situation for what it was, and reacted accordingly.
  2. Organizations like PP need to exist because the U.S. continues to support a fee-for-service model of healthcare.
  3. Organizations like PP and Komen need to exist to represent and advocate for women's health interests, which are grossly underserved by our state and federal legislators.
Komen may be irreparably damaged by these events, but it will hopefully be a learning experience for organizations that operate in these spheres. The work has to go on, the support has to go on, and politics need to stay out of it.