Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Great American Smoke Out is 32 years old

The first national Great American Smoke-Out was sponsored by the American Cancer Society in 1977 in hopes that Americans would quit smoking for a day. And that day would lead to another and so on.

Here's what the Cancer Society has to say about smoking in it's materials for this year's event:

"Today, about 43 million US adults smoke. Tobacco use can cause lung cancer, as well as other cancers, heart disease, and lung disease. Smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 3 cancer deaths, and 1 in 5 deaths from all causes. Another 8.6 million people are living with serious illnesses caused by smoking."

Look at that again. 1 in 3 cancer deaths is smoking related. According to the Cancer Facts and Figures 2009, smoking causes more than just lung cancer. Smoking is associated with increased risk of at least 15 types of cancer: nasopharynx, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses, lip, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, and acute myeloid leukemia. Half of all those who continue to smoke will die from smoking-related diseases. Over 8.5 million people suffer from chronic condictions related to smoking like emphysema, bronchitis and heart disease.

One those statistics was my mother. I say was because she died in 1991 from heart failure brought on by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, (emphysema and chronic bronchitis). She smoked from about the age of 12 until finally forced to quit at age 60. By then it was really too late and the damage done to her lungs was irreparable. As horrible as dying from cancer caused by smoking no doubt is, in my opinion, COPD is far worse. In took her a decade to die. 

She was gradually robbed of the ability to do most, if not all, of the things she loved to do. My mother was an avid bowler who played in a league on Wednesday mornings for just about as long as I can remember. She moved to a lighter weight ball and spent her time between frames catching her breath until finally she was forced to stop. She loved to shop and Christmas was always one of her favorite times of year. Slowly but surely her forays to the mall became fewer and fewer. By the time my children were born, she was for all intents and purposes house bound. My parents' house in Houston was a large, sprawling ranch style affair that had grown over the years in pace with my Dad's home remodeling business. My mother could hardly walk across the house from her bedroom to the den. By the time she reached her destination, she was gasping for air as if she'd just come in from running a mile. 

She took a dizzying array of drugs - inhalers, daily breathing treatments, anti-anxiety meds, steroids and more. She was in the hospital on a nearly annual basis as I was growing up. She was hospitalized with pneumonia or bronchitis more times than I can count. Interspersed between that she had Legionnaires, Strep in her nose and thrush. 

In short, she spent the last decade or so of her life miserable, coughing and gasping for breath, and eventually waiting to die. It's really hard to convey in words what it was like to watch and I can't even begin to imagine what it was like to live. 

If you've ever been sick with a really bad lung infection or bronchitis then you have some idea.  The struggling to take a deep breath, the pain, the wheezing, the sense of drowning on dry land. Now imagine living like that every day for the rest of your life.

I've shared this story with my children. They've known since they were young that they don't have a Grandma around because of smoking.  If this convinces one person to quit or better yet not start, then I'll be glad.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, November 16, 2009

Transgender Awareness Week

Transgender Awareness week began yesterday and will culminate on November 20, the 11th International Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day was set aside to memorialize those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

But just what is meant by transgender? There are many terms used to describe these individuals – some medically based such as intersex and some behaviorally based such as cross-dresser – and not all experts or transgendered individuals agree which ones apply. For the sake of our discussion, I will define a transgender person as a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.

In practical terms, a transgendered person lives their life as one gender despite the fact that their genes and genitalia say something different. This could be because of androgen insensitivity in which their bodies cannot process testosterone. It could be that their brain sex differs from their physical sex. Scientists are discovering that gender is far more than the XX and XY that we learned in high school biology. There are genes integral to the development of sexual characteristics. Any change in these hormones can result in gender ambiguity. These chromosomes can alter brain sex, or how the brain is hardwired to perceive its gender. Studies have shown that transgendered females (a person born male who perceives themselves as female) have structures in the hypothalamus of the brain essential for sexual behavior the same size as genetic females. In men, this region of the brain is much larger. This supports the transgendered person’s assertion that their brains are the opposite sex from the assigned gender; that despite the fact they were born female, they are actually male or vice versa.

Until these recent scientific studies, it was common societal belief that these people were choosing a lifestyle. It’s this perception that transgenders are deviants that leads to discrimination and in extreme cases physical attacks. Virtually every transgender person will face this in some form during his or her lifetime.

Since 1970, there have been 444 documented murders of transgendered individuals internationally. These numbers are no doubt lower than they should be since many times these murders go unidentified as bias crimes. In the US alone, 10 people have been murdered for being trans this year. Last year, that number was 18.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance strives to keep these individual’s memory alive.

On this November 20th, I ask that you join me in remembering these people who died because someone couldn’t accept them for who they were.

For more information, please visit:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What 53% of Maine thinks is right is wrong

One of the many reasons that 53% of Maine voters elected to repeal the same-sex marriage law is based on a misconception. In fact, most of the arguments used by Yes on 1 activists are based on fear and lies. Disinformation aside, one of the reasons you hear over and over again by those who support "conjugal marriage" is that homosexuality is against the laws of nature.

That anyone can believe this with the mountains of evidence to the contrary simply amazes me. But indeed, there are educated, articulate people like Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review that do. She cites a few others in her article canonizing Maggie Gallagher and celebrating the Maine victory. People like Archbishop Timothy Dolan who says marriage is an "institution grounded in natural law".

These three, and many others like them who stand against same-sex marriage, believe that homosexuality is something that perverts the natural order. Since it takes male and female to reproduce, any behavior that contradicts that pattern would be going against our basic nature, right? Well, the real answer is not so much.

There is a long laundry list of studies that show evidence of homosexual behavior in animals. Some of the evidence is old. As in from the 1800s old. It's only gotten news in the last decade or so because of prejudice. Bruce Bagemihl wrote a book in 1999 called Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. In it, he rather clearly cites example after example of animal homosexuality. In fact, he documents over 450 species in his book.

The facts are that homosexuality occurs across many species and in many environments. As our understanding of biology grows, we're learning more about the complexity of sexual behavior, both straight and gay. Genetics plays its part but so do environmental factors. From the womb and beyond, we're shaped by the environments in which we live. And the two can't be separated. They are both equally important. Changes we encounter in our mother's womb can shape who we become and we have no more control over the outcome than we do the sunrise. Our genetics contain our potential that will be shaped by the environments we encounter in our lifetimes. Each is as natural as it gets.

Homosexuality is not a choice. It is not a lifestyle. And it is as natural as heterosexuality.

H/T to Andrew Sullivan for starting this morning's journey.

Friday, November 13, 2009

There is hope for the future - Part 2

In one of last places you might expect to find this, Arkansas, a 5th-grader has taken a stand. By refusing to stand.

Will Phillips, after discussing the meaning of the pledge of allegiance with his parents, decided that as long as there are no equal rights for LGBTs to marry or adopt, he would not be standing for the pledge.  As you might gather from this description, Will is not your average 5th-grader. For one thing, he skipped the fourth grade.

“I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer,” Will said. “I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all.”

Will is 10-years-old. When a 10-year-old, precocious or not, can look at the current situation in our country and recognize the reality of inequality, there is hope for the future. Perhaps we should remember this young man's name. And some day, about 30 years from now, when his lawyerly ambition turns to politics, we'll remember the stand he took for equal rights and honoring the pledge that we've all taken all our lives. And we'll vote.

Will Phillips for President in 2032.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

I may have found my candidate for Governor of Texas...

Hank Gilbert, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor has just issued a statement in which he sets forth the following goals:
  • proposes allowing civil unions in Texas, and repealing the Texas Defense of Marriage Act.
  • proposes legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • proposes legislation prohibiting insurance companies from considering a history of transition treatments as a reason to deny coverage
  • proposes legislation allowing Texas public and governmental institutions—including all universities, public school districts, municipalities, and all governmental entities to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits.
  • proposes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in housing, public accommodations, and real estate transactions.
  • Ending Discrimination For Public School Employees.
  • proposes legislation prohibiting the electronic sharing of information related to a person’s sexuality on medical records
  • proposes legislation establishing the authority of domestic partners in medical decision making
  • Ending baseless lawsuits challenging the veracity of medical powers of attorney for LGBT couples.
  • proposes tough anti-bullying statutes.
  • proposes removing the requirement stipulating that adopted children must have both male and female parents on their birth certificate.
  • proposes expanding the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include gender identity or expression.
  • proposes making it less difficult for transgender individuals to change the gender marker on birth certificates and state identification cards.
  • proposes repealing §21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, the “Homosexual Conduct Law,” which was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2005.
  • proposes affirmative defenses to protect gay teens from disparate treatment under the Texas Penal Code.      
And this personal message:

Fellow Texans:

I introduce this policy for two reasons.

Number one, it is what I believe. I was raised in a home where discrimination had no place. I was raised to treat all people equally. For me, knowing that discrimination exists in Texas and doing nothing about it goes against everything I stand for. It also makes all those who remain silent passive participants in discrimination.

The office of governor is, among other things, a position from which to lead the state toward innovations in public policy which will lead to a better future for all Texans.. For someone to seek that office—let alone attain it—and stay quiet on an issue they strongly believe in, because it is perceived as controversial or untimely, is unconscionable.

Number two, this is what is right for Texas. The issue of equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals is the new civil rights battle of the 21st century. When it came to the civil rights battles of the last two centuries involving African Americans and Latinos, Texas came to sit at the table of equality very late.

It is a mistake we cannot repeat. LGBT citizens in Texas deserve more. Our state must not relegate any Texan to the status of second-class citizens.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a candidate.

A battle lost but not the war

We lost in Maine. We won in Kalamazoo and Washington state. Openly lesbian Annise Parker is in a run-off for mayor of Houston. So, things could be worse. As in all things political, we won some and we lost some.

I think though, that there is room for hope. Despite the fact that Maine voted 53 to 47 to repeal same-sex marriage, on the University of Maine- Orono campus the results are telling:  81% No, 19% yes. Time is on our side.

The struggle for LGBT rights is not over. We, allies and LGBTs alike, need to remain vigilant. We need to be open and visible. We need to continue to voice our concerns and our demands. Too many are silent.

The results reminded me of a song. Jo Dee Messina had a big hit a few years ago with this song by Billy Montana and Helen Darling. I give you, "Bring on the Rain":
Another day has almost come and gone
Can't imagine what else could go wrong
Sometimes I'd like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost but not the war cause

Tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

It's almost like the hard times circle 'round
A couple drops and they all start coming down
Yeah, I might feel defeated
And I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing - but I'm not dead, no

Tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

No I'm not gonna let it get me down
I'm not gonna cry
And I'm not gonna lose any sleep tonight cause

Tomorrow's another day
And I am not afraid
So bring on the rain

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Did you know that the Right thinks Obama is an Alien? No. Seriously. A rodent-eating reptile-like alien.

So SyFy, the cable channel formerly known as Sci-Fi and forever more as sih-fee in my house, has remade that 80s mini-series great "V".

Remember the reptiles masquerading-as-humans who liked to eat small mammals whole? Who wasn't enthralled by that special effect? How they took over the planet and only a brave band of resistance fighters saw through their masquerade and tried to save us all? Didn't they seem rather Nazi-like to you? Brown shirts and youth led groups of thugs police seemed pretty much like my history lessons on Nazis.

Well, apparently, I was wrong. In reality, this new incarnation of "V" is a thinly veiled smack-down of Obama. Take a gander at this critic's "analysis":

"Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care."

Yes, that's right. Glenn Garvin of the Chicago Tribune believes that "V" is all about Obamania and how gullible we've all been to drink the kool-aid. Never matter that this was written and began pre-production while W. was still in the White House. This is so clearly about Obama and his slick salesmanship that has duped America.

I suppose that Garvin thinks we'll all wake up and realize that Obama is just like the aliens - intent on our destruction and total domination.

I kinda think SyFy just wants to cash in on the trend of remaking 80s classic TV in major productions. Seems to have worked for a them before. Can anyone say "Battlestar Galactica"?

-guaranteed 100% toaster-free-

H/T to Joe.My.God.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

RTT - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It's Tuesday. Time for another enlightening round of randomness. Grab the button and join the fray at the Unmom's.

So, let's start with the ugly and move our way towards better things, shall we? Have you heard the latest from the world of sports? Seems that CNBC's Darren Rovell thinks that Meb Keflezighi, who recently won the New York Marathon is, and I quote, "an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country" and thus his victory, hailed as the first American win in over two decades, is "not as good as it sounds".

After the shit storm that his comments stirred up, Rovell wrote this as way of apology:

"I said that Keflezighi's win, the first by an American since 1982, wasn't as big as it was being made out to be because there was a difference between being an American-born product and being an American citizen. Frankly I didn't account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi's running experience came as a US citizen. I never said he didn't deserve to be called American."

 Hmm, maybe not. But you sure as hell implied that being a naturalized citizen is somehow less than an authentic American. And as for the idea that African-descended folks are better distance runners and that 's what you really meant. Let me ask you this. If Keflezighi's spouse is also African-descended, will their children, who will certainly meet the "American-born product" notion you so inelegantly propose, qualify as American enough for you?

Just so you know, Keflezighi was born in Eritrea and immigrated at age 12 to escape that nation's civil war. And thus did almost all of his training for distance running here. Thus making him about an American an athlete as one can be.

Moving on to the Bad. That would be me. Bad as in spending way too much time on Facebook playing poker. (Farmville is so yesterday's news). Not blogging, not working out on the Wii, not even vegging out on the sofa. I have been bad.

Also. I will most likely skip voting today. Nothing on the ballot but a gazillion amendments to the state constitution. Which really should  just be tossed out and a new one started from scratch. But it would take an amendment to get that to happen...

And the best for last. We saw a victory last week with the signing of the Hate Crimes legislation and the lifting of the HIV travel ban. Both important steps in the ongoing civil rights struggle for LGBTs. Now if the Maine vote goes our way, this week will be even better. Seems that the turn-out there has been better than expected so far, so that's point in the progressive column.

Go visit the Unmom for better randomness. You'll be glad you did.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]