Tag Archives: cancer

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

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Cancer During the Trump Era

9 Oct

I was just recently diagnosed with cancer, specifically colon cancer. I am still processing what this means and how it will impact me and my family. A good bit of me says “fuck cancer,” but a large part of me is just simply terrified. As my friends and family are gathering around me to support me, they insist that”I have the strength to beat cancer,” which keeps being echoed. I’m not sure I believe this–and I have serious doubts I can beat cancer during 45’s administration. I need to let everyone know that that the artwork shown at the end of the article was done by some former students, now friends/colleagues of mine–thank you Erin and Nick. I love you both!

In the context of living in the US during 45’s reign of terror, being diagnosed with cancer is making me wonder if perhaps this is my time to go. Being barraged everyday with another assault on human rights by a narcissistic autocrat is quite wearing on one’s emotional (and obviously physical) health. The intense racism, homophobia, misogyny, and classism have been more than just revolting: they speak to the very worst in humans. I must confess, this is not the world I want to live in and the fatigue of 45 is real. I also constantly worry I do not know how to adequately take care of those whom I love and love me. I know people that love me are scared and I struggle with how to care for all of these wonderful amazing people.

While hurricane Maria wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico (an American Territory), 45 has the chutzpah to blame the country and even worse, to blame the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. (How dare you be a strong and smart woman!) On a side note, one should mention that Trump helped to contribute to the debt of Puerto Rico when he abandoned his golf course there and left the people of Puerto Rico with the 33 million dollar debt he created. To further push his racist agenda, 45 thinks he is on a television show again and wants NFL owners to fire the black athletes who kneel in protest of the racism people of color experience daily in the United States. 45’s exact words: “Fire the Son of a Bitch”–my how presidential. It is very difficult for me not to hear this as: Hey, all you white owners, you need to tell all of these black people how lucky they have it to work on the field.

More discouraging news which does not encourage one to fight any type of cancer: Gollum, I mean AG Jeff Session just found a way to allow employers not to cover the cost of birth control for women, but will continue to cover the cost of medication for men to have an erection. This all falls in alignment with what misogynist and homophobe Mike Pence has been promising around Religious Freedom, a.k.a the justification to hate and deny people their civil rights. In an effort to spread more hate and venom, on October 6, Sessions issued a 25 page memo that outlines how all business can now legally discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community under “religious freedom,” meaning Christianity. Who would Jesus Hate? This memo supported by 45 is one of the most significant bills of hate. Of course, the insane Spin Doctor 45 responded to this proposed bill with: “his administration will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” Wow! I have no words on how to address this twisting of power and the ability to sustain a white supremacist, homophobic, misogynistic power structure. If you are not actively resisting this mishigas, you are NOT an ally to targeted communities. Here is where I will agree with Rex Tillerson: “Trump is a fucking moron.” I have to also agree with GOP Bob Corker referring to the  “Whitehouse as an adult day care center.” Wow! I just agreed with two Republicans.

Yes, as you can see, there is not a great deal of motivation to fight cancer given the overwhelming amount of power that normalizes HATE, normalizes homophobia, normalizes racism, normalizes misogyny, and vilifies any type of journalism that tries to hold 45 and his white robed cabinet accountable. It’s so hard to believe that all of this has happened in just one week, the week since I received my diagnosis.

And yet! And yet I am going to fight in ways that people better be scared of me! I am 50 years old and I don’t believe I have said “Fuck You” to enough people. I have not shown enough active resistance to tyranny. Now is my time. I shall call this cancer “45,” and I shall fight it until I kick its ass and defeat it. My ability to defeat this cancer will signify that communities all over the country can use our power to love each other and embolden targeted communities–we can tap into our shared humanity and refuse to live in fear. “I ain’t dead yet.” Stay tuned!

Inviting Joy…

21 Dec

JoyI have been working on this particular post for the past few months. 2015 has not been an easy year for me.  Since August 4th, I have lost four very dear friends. Our dear friend Jim passed away on August 4th from liver cancer, leaving a hole in our hearts. A week after Jim passed away my friend Ross, whom I was friends with for 20 years, died of pancreatic cancer. Naomi passed away yesterday and I will miss her terribly. Another significant loss was on December 3 when Beth died of liver cancer. Beth and I had been friends for over 30 years. She was my college girl friend. She would have been 52 yesterday. At times, it is all I can do just to get up in the morning. Throughout the day, it feels as though I have been punched in the stomach. Sadly, it also puts me back in touch with the loss of Bonnie, who was like my twin sister. This much loss is so unsettling that I am working exceedingly hard at staving off depression.

I have been watching and observing friends of mine and my husband and am in awe of their resiliency. These observations have led me to question how do I — how do we all —  invite and make space for joy. For me, this is a task that at times escapes me and seems to grow increasingly difficult.

Being aware of the embarrassing pustule on humanity known as the current Republican party (GOP) only adds to my sense of loss — the loss of common decency in our discourse.  It is exceedingly easy for me to give way to a misanthropic abyss when I think about how the discourse from EVERY Republican presidential candidate participates in and perpetuates racism, homophobia, misogyny, classism, and all of the intersections therein. Let us not forget, this is not just the nefarious Donald Trump, since every candidate believes as Trump does. They may not be quite as vociferous, but they share the same racist, homophobic and misogynistic beliefs. Sadly, even those Republicans who condemn the horrific rhetoric by these presidential hopefuls, still maintain that they will still support the Republican nominee. Yes, even while Paul Ryan slams Trump for  his racist, even Nazi like approach to this race, Ryan will still vote for him. This is more than just a little nonplussing.

So how do you, how do I invite hope, not just hope but how do I invite joy? Here I will share things that actually do bring me joy and I invite all of you readers, how do you invite joy? I want to learn from all of you!

Being in my classrooms teaching MSW students brings me great joy, such joy that I don’t have language to fully articulate how giddy I feel when I watch these students and how they reflect and leverage their privilege for equity. I am in awe of these people and they bring me joy and give me hope.

Spending time with my friends’ children next door brings me joy. Hank (who is only six years old) who grabs onto me and most insistently tells me stories brings me joy. Spending time with my amazing colleagues and friends as we are vulnerable with each other and support one another brings me great joy. Spending time with my husband as we talk, listen, drink wine, and support one another, and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race brings me joy!

My failing seems to be how do I hold on to all of this? How can I keep in contact with all of this joy and sustain my gratitude?

How do all of you do it?

Women’s History Month 2013: Valerie Harper

15 Mar

Valerie_HarperToday I would like to honor another remarkable woman who has been a big part of my life for the past 40 years. As regular TSM readers know, I have always loved the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Part of me wanted to be Mary, but I’ve always had a lot of Rhoda in me. I actually put this in my essay when I applied to the school of social work. Her bold, outspoken nature and very human insecurities made her a wonderful character, and no-one could have brought her to life other than the incomparable Valerie Harper.

She was born in Suffern, NJ in 1939; her family moved frequently for her father’s work (including a couple of years here in Ashland, Oregon). When they left NJ, she moved to New York to pursue her dream of dancing. She obtained her degree and began chorus work, rising to lead roles and eventually moving into television after a bit part in the film version of a Broadway show she had appeared in. The casting agent for MTM saw her and knew that she had found her Rhoda. Nine years later, Harper had four Emmy awards, one Golden Globe, and seven nominations for her groundbreaking role.

More significantly, she had shown another kind of independent woman. Unlike Mary’s clear career path, Rhoda was always more of a free spirit. She had her own life and lived it proudly. She also went through one of the first prime time divorces, showing the difficulties of relationships in an honest way while retaining her quirky charm and joy. Harper also notes proudly that she was one of the first actors to use the word “gay” on prime time network television, on one of my favorite episodes of MTM, My Brother’s Keeper–a must see episode!

While acting on stage and television, she was also a strong advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s rights. She was as outspoken as her famous television persona and helped put a familiar face on these important issues. She also co-founded L.I.F.E. with Dennis Weaver, an LA organization that provided meals for the underserved and marginalized. In recognition for her work, the Women’s Film Institute awarded her their Humanitarian award in 1987.

Sadly, Valerie Harper is back in the news for tragic reasons. A lung cancer survivor, she recently discovered that the cancer has returned in a rare and nearly untreatable form of brain cancer. Rather than retreat, she is using her personal struggle to encourage others. In print and television interviews, she stresses how lucky she has been and encourages everyone to live their lives to the fullest while they can.

Don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral!

She also notes how lucky she is to have great health care through her union. Never shy, she reminds everyone that universal health care should be a right and expectation and that unions work hard to create a level playing field for all workers. Yes, it is obvious I love our  Valerie Harper.  I am confident that she will prevail.  I  thank you for your great work and thank you for allowing me to celebrate you during Women’s History Month!

Hero of the Week Award: October 26: John English and company

26 Oct

Hero of the Week

Once again the lies of a Republican politician have forced an everyday American to come face to face with vicious hypocrisy; once again an everyday American has found the strength to speak truth to power. It started with an ordinary political ad.

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is running a spot featuring three people who lost loved ones to mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos. The three thank Warren for her work representing their families and achieving a settlement from the corporations that refused to take responsibility. They also mention Sen. Scott Brown, Warren’s opponent, and his attempts to lie about her record of defending corporate victims.

When asked about the ad, Scott Brown brushed it aside, claiming, “A lot of them are paid. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing.” REALLY? Three decent people relive their personal tragedies to stand up for something they believe in and you call them liars and whores? You are Klassy with a K, Sen. Brown.

John English, who lost his father to the disease, was outraged and refused to let Brown get away with it. Taking time from his workday to set the record straight, he was very clear.

After taking care of my father for so long, it’s a little insulting. I’m not an overpaid actor. I’m an ordinary construction worker just like my father. […] Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a paid actor, and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death.

Thank you, Mr. English. Thanks also to Ginny Jackson, who lost her husband and was subjected to the same outrageous abuse. Ms. Jackson replied

Sam and I were childhood sweethearts and we had been together since I was 15 years old. I came forward in this campaign because Massachusetts voters need to know the truth about what Elizabeth Warren did to help families like mine who were affected by asbestos poisoning, rather than Sen. Brown’s misleading attacks.

It’s horrifying that these people should have to defend themselves, but gratifying that they took the time to do so. If more people like Scott Brown were called out on their lies regularly, they might start to think before they speak.

Farewell Sally Ride, Astronaut and Inspiration

24 Jul

The world lost a shining light yesterday when Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died from pancreatic cancer. She was only 61. She was born in Encino, CA in 1951 and was passionate about science and tennis in her youth. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and physics from Stanford and went on to get a PhD in physics, studying astrophysics and free electron laser physics. She responded to a newspaper ad recruiting for the space program and became one of the first women in the program in 1978.

She became an integral part of the space shuttle program and in 1983 became America’s first woman and, at 32, the youngest American in space. Over her NASA career she logged over 340 hours in space. She was the recipient of numerous awards including the National Space Society’s von Braun award. She retired from NASA in 1987 but remained active in education and science. She taught physics at UC San Diego and was director of the California Space Institute.

Ride’s most powerful legacy is Sally Ride Science, the program she launced in 2001. The mission of the organization is to

make a difference in girls’ lives, and in society’s perceptions of their roles in technical fields. Our school programs, classroom materials, and teacher trainings bring science to life to show kids that science is creative, collaborative, fascinating, and fun.

Sally Ride also wrote a number of science education books.

An intensely private person with a vibrant public persona, Ride encountered some real sexism even while she was celebrated. Early in her career, a journalist asked her if she was prone to crying when things went wrong. I bet they never asked John Glenn that question. While she celebrated her role as a pioneer, this scrutiny left her cautious about her personal life. As a result, no-one outside of her family knew she had cancer until her death. She was also very quiet about being a lesbian, although her partner, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, worked closely with her. They were together for 27 years.  Sadly, Tam O’Shaughnessy will not receive any Federal benefits such as social security, as heterosexual married couples do.

Meet Linda: Breast Cancer/Politics and More on Komen Foundation

5 Feb

Hear Linda's Story

Wow!  Meet Linda, a breast cancer survivor.  Her story must be heard and please share her story!  Linda pulls no punches in her candid conversation about her own cancer and about the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  A very dear friend of mine, actually she is my family, Cheryl Fairchild survived breast cancer and maybe that is why I can’t stop writing about my disappointment with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Please watch Linda’s video and share this post!  I hope we will keep the focus on finding a cure and on prevention, rather than politics.  Sadly, the Komen Foundation is far more concerned with politics.

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