Author Archives: Victoria

Finally, Three Diagnoses.

I am not going to apologize for being out of pocket for months.  I’ve been ill.  More ill than usual.  And, like a cat, I tend to tuck myself away and avoid everyone.  Unlike a cat, I don’t hide behind the refrigerator heh.

The diagnoses are:

Normocalcemic hyperparathryroidism.

Lifelong, never-before-diagnosed strabismus that just manifested a year or so ago.

Autonomic dysfunction (aka autonomic neuropathy).

The first one I can do something about (surgery).

The second one can only be managed by wearing very expensive glasses with prisms, so that’s a no-go and Medicare doesn’t pay for them, Medicaid pays $100 of the cost and it’s still unaffordable.  It’s getting worse and even typing all this is a major endeavor because my eyesight is so bad (double vision).

The third one I can’t do a thing about. There is no cure.  There are no meds.  Managing symptoms is the only thing I can do.

Medical lesson ahead!

Hyperparathyroidism is when someone’s parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH).  These glands are located in back of your thyroid glands, which are in your neck.  They’re normally really teeny tiny. 

From the website parathyroid.com:

Hyperparathyroidism occurs when one (or more) of the parathyroids develops a tumor which makes too much hormone leading to high calcium and other bad symptoms. 

In normocalcemic hyperparathyroidism, the blood calcium doesn’t usually get high, though mine will on occasion.  Because my calcium levels were not high every single time I got a blood test, the doctors initially thought I had secondary hyperparathyroidism due to lack of vitamin D.  But once this was corrected, I continued to have wonky blood test results, fluctuating PTH and calcium levels.

I’m not sure what symptoms hyperparathyroidism is causing – possibly the general malaise, headaches, and so on.  The main problems that it causes are kidney stones, which I have every few years, and osteoporosis, of which I have a mild case.  It’s not something a person can ignore indefinitely.

It may be responsible for, or contributing to, the bouts of high blood pressure.

My personal opinion is that it’s not “normocalcemic”, because I do get high calcium levels in my blood.  But, hey, I am not going to argue that point with my new endocrinologist.

Aside #1: I “fired” my last endocrinologist after she insisted I take a type of medication I told her I was allergic to (several times, it was an ongoing argument), and she finally got me to take one that she swore up and down wasn’t a thiazide – and I landed in the hospital with kidney failure.  Turns out, it was a thiazide. Contemplating a lawsuit, as my kidneys haven’t fully recovered to pre-hospitalization levels.

Ok, so anyway, surgery is the cure for this condition.  I am waiting to hear from my endocrinologist about whether or not he’s going to refer me to a surgeon in Pittsburgh.  Not sure what the holdup is here, but my next scheduled appointment with him is in November, which seriously interferes with plans to leave PA before winter weather.

I’ve already written about the double vision in another post, so I won’t reiterate.  It’s continuing to worsen and it’s majorly interfering with my life.  I can’t read labels anymore, I can’t read a lot of things anymore, and there are days when I trip due to lack of depth perception.

I did see a specialist in Hershey, and he told me I probably have had an eye alignment problem all my life, but my brain was compensating for it, and finally my brain “just gave up”.

I don’t know that I buy all that but my son and daughter-in-law have an excellent eye doctor, so I will get that all rechecked once I move back to Memphis.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Aside #2: I was wearing an eye patch – a common way to manage double vision – but even that doesn’t work now and my regular glasses’ prescription has apparently changed so…there are many times when I can’t see well enough to do much of anything.

Alright, now we turn our attention to the autonomic dysfunction diagnosis and the frightening test they did to decide that’s what was causing the nausea/sweating/labile blood pressure.

When I was last in the hospital – for acute kidney failure – the doctors took me off all medications except Atenolol (which is for my heart and which doesn’t harm kidneys), including the blood pressure medication I have been on for years (Lisinopril).

Lo and behold, my blood pressure was normal.  Without the medication.  So they told me I didn’t have to take it anymore, and also told me that this was most likely contributing to my bouts with very low blood pressure (I had been tracking my bp for a couple of months, at the request of my baffled doctors).

Aside #3: My blood pressure still fluctuates wildly, from 190/90 to 90/50.  That’s an autonomic nervous system problem. Which, of course, I mentioned years ago but was told that was unlikely, that it was probably due to something more common (like pheochromocytoma? really?), so they weren’t going to test for that.

Anyway, when I got out of the hospital and went for my followup appointment with one of Dr. Wonderful’s interns, she actually ordered a tilt table test for me.  She thought I had POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) because of the dip in bp and the palpitations (why I take Atenolol).  Especially when standing for longer than, say, 5 minutes.

My other symptoms are seemingly random dizziness and the weirdass heat intolerance thing I’ve got going on (head sweating, extremely high blood pressure, and facial flushing when the temperature gets over 72F or so).

Information about the tilt table test from mayoclinic.org:

Your doctor might recommend a tilt table test to try to trigger your signs and symptoms — lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting — while your heart rate and blood pressure are being monitored.

If you have symptoms while you’re in the upright position on the tilt table, the part of your nervous system that controls blood pressure and heart rate suddenly lowers them for a short time. Less blood flows to your brain, possibly causing you to faint.

So, they strap you to a table, then raise that table until you’re in an upright position.  If you faint, or start to faint, they stop the test (they’re supposed to).  Simple, right?  Painless, right?

No.

Not for me it wasn’t.

Land of Confusion, Redux

Most of us recall a song called “Land of Confusion” by Genesis, and the video of that song featuring puppets.  My kids loved it.  They are all still Genesis fans to this day (as am I).

I was reminded of it lately because I find what’s happening these days with 45 and his band of idiots more confusing than usual.

Until now, everything 45 and the Republicans did/said made sense in terms of political and/or monetary gain.  Everything.

Side note #1: I won’t get into the clinical aspects, because, quite honestly, I don’t care.  45 and the people he surrounds himself with have personality disorders – for which, in our society, people are rewarded.  When they break the law, they need to go to prison.

At any rate, despite the daily “oh no he didn’t” reaction that most Americans experience on a daily basis, as 45 lurches from one manufactured crisis or outrage to the next, this most recent weirdness is a step beyond what we’ve seen so far…

…he now insists he has invented a new celebration – fireworks and a parade on July 4th, in D.C.

Side note #2: Of course, we all know that July 4th celebrations have been going on since the 18th century.  For a chronology of the celebrations, see the Fourth of July Celebrations Database.

That’s right.  According the Rachel Maddow, on her show last night (February 12), “Trump Announces Plans for 4th of July Festivities That Already Exist”.  Here’s what he said:

“We’re thinking about doing, on the 4th of July or thereabouts, a parade. A ‘Salute to America’ parade. It will be a – really, a gathering, as opposed to a parade, I’d guess you’d have to say. Perhaps at the Lincoln Memorial. We’re looking at sites. But we’re thinking about doing something, which would become, perhaps, a tradition. ‘Salute to America’ on July 4th or July 4th weekend. Somewhere around that area.

“And, [acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt], you’re taking charge of that and you’ll see how it works out with schedules and everything else. And I think it could be a very exciting day.”  – MSNBC website, 2/13/19.

A new tradition??  What does he think goes on in D.C. on July 4th?

I was initially perplexed by this.  Is he deliberately lying, and trying to convince people that we don’t already have a tradition of celebrations on July 4th?  Is he exhibiting some form of dementia and doesn’t remember that this holiday is celebrated?  Is he just incredibly stupid, and has no idea that July 4th is even a holiday?

Side note #3: I can’t possibly believe this last one, because banks aren’t open on July 4th, so he certainly knows it’s a holiday, if only for that reason.

Considering how often 45 lies – an average of 15 lies per day in 2018 – it doesn’t surprise me all that much that he would claim to invent something that he didn’t.  What surprises me is the reaction staff had to this clearly false statement:

“Salute to America is a great idea.” – Spokesperson for the Interior Dept, as reported by CNN article “Trump Floats ‘New Tradition’: 4th of July Parade That Already Exists”, Maegan Vazquez, 2/13/19.

And therein lies part of the problem – no one who works in this administration is ever willing to correct 45 when he lies.  No one.  I think we can all safely assume that no one has ever corrected 45, throughout his life, about anything.  This is how bullies operate.

Bullies with money and power get to force their version of “reality” on the people over which they have control.  In the case of 45, that’s all of us.  It’s like that ridiculous book “The Secret”, on steroids.

“Inventing” a celebration that already exists really isn’t that big of a deal.  In fact, to many, it’s laughable – another example of the buffoonery that characterizes the installed president.  But it’s the way he attempts to redefine the world, and the way everyone around him (who also have power) enables that, that’s the real danger here.

It’s the basis of the “fake news” charge, for another example.  He doesn’t really believe CNN is “fake news”, as he admitted to in an interview with Leslie Stahl.  No, he uses the charge of “fake news” to discredit the news source:

“I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” – “Lesley Stahl: Trump Told Me He Uses Term ‘Fake News’ To Discredit The Media”, Ian Schwartz, RealClear Politics website, 5/23/18.

Right there, he’s telling the world that he lies in order to subvert the First Amendment, and to reinforce that his is the only “true narrative”.  That’s extremely dangerous.

As time goes on, his lies become more outrageous, more clearly false, and much more dangerous because some people are not challenging what he’s claiming.  And by “some people”, I mean people that large numbers of the citizenry listen to and/or read.

Yeah, usually on cable news shows, this kind of stuff is brought up on a daily basis.  But it seems as if there are predominantly two reactions to it now – either laughter and derision, or “panels” that feature “both sides” (people struggling to present the facts, and people who defend 45 no matter how much he lies).

Neither reaction is helpful.  Both just polarize people more, do nothing to educate anyone, and often exhibit the attitude that “we all know better than the audience anyway, since most Americans don’t pay attention to this stuff”.

Side note #4: Then we have MSNBC on weekday evenings, which consists of reporters/hosts trying to objectively discuss and make sense of things (Hayes, Maddow, O’Donnell, sometimes Matthews and Melber).

As 45’s lies become wilder – with him just spouting off whatever nonsense comes to mind in some kind of fascist stream-of-consciousness bullshit – the people around him steadily work on the agenda of dismantling the good aspects of government, ripping off the American people, enriching the 1% and their cronies, and imposing their restrictions on freedoms we are all guaranteed under our Constitution.

And sowing confusion throughout the world.

Weird news of the week: From the website IFLScience, some really interesting and encouraging news about thought-to-speech technology, which could ultimately be used to assist people who can’t speak (people with ALS, for example).  The AI reads brain patterns and translates them into speech.  Right now, the program just reproduces numbers, but as the neural networks are trained in more complicated speech, people will be able to express requests and ideas. (‘This Ground-Breaking Technology “Translates” Brain Patterns Into Speech’, Rosie McCall, 1/20/19)

Recommendation of the week: rainymood.com is a site that’s just a picture of rain on a window, the sound of rain, and a mellow tune.  Nice to have running in the background, if you don’t have one of those sound generators.

Be good.  Be kind.  Be clear.

 

 

 

Single-Minded, Double-Visioned…and Getting Worse.

First of all, I’d like to apologise to everyone who has attempted to contact me via email or FB.  I haven’t been on FB for a long time, and when I finally went to my gmail account the other day, I had 16,000+ emails in my inbox.

Which I deleted, en masse.  I just decided it would be better to start over, considering my eye issues.

So…I apologise, really.  I have thought of many of you over these past months, but I didn’t want to email anyone (or write a blog post), ranting, raving, or crying about my medical situation.  Everybody’s got something crappy in their lives, right?  And, under 45, the crappiness has escalated to horrors that I don’t think anyone foresaw.

You’re all suffering, in one way or another.  It seemed petty and self-absorbed for me to go on and on about my troubles.

I’m sorry for not staying in touch.

Why get back online now?  Well, it’s because it seems my symptoms are worsening, and in some cases I have new symptoms, and I figure it isn’t helping to just ignore them.  If for no other reason, my kids can read this as a documentation of whatever illness this is, in case they have similar problems in the future (which was the original intent of this blog).

Here goes.

Last spring, my vision started to get really blurry.  I put up with it until my annual eye exam in August, then discovered that I was seeing double.  Up-and-down double, called “binocular vertical diplopia”.  I had to push the ophthalmologist to take it seriously – why she initially didn’t, I have no idea.  Asked what caused this, she said, simply, “Age.”

Side note #1: Really??  I know plenty of folks my age who do not see double.  In fact, most of them don’t, and the one who does has it from head trauma (car accident).

She referred me to their “double vision expert”, who is an optician who prescribes special lenses for the condition.  I have nothing against opticians, but they don’t get into why someone has issues with their eyes, which is what I need.

But I went to see her anyway. She did some visiony stuff, then told me that they could prescribe prism lenses but initially only “stick-on” ones, which they would try of different strengths etc until they found the ones that were most helpful.  Then they would make permanent glasses with prisms.

So then I went to see their guy who actually writes up the order.  He asked to see my glasses (which I purchased from Zenni, who are excellent btw), then commented, “I can’t work with these cheap glasses!”

Stunned, I replied, “Well, I’m poor so…”

Side note #2: Oh, microaggression, just what I needed.

“Never mind,” he stated, “it will be hard to stick the temporary lenses on these but I’ll try.”  With a big sigh.

“How much will that cost?”  I asked.

“$40.  Each time we stick ones on.  Then $400 for the permanent glasses,” he sorta smirked.

“$40, each time??  So if one set of stick-ons don’t help, I have to pay another $40 to try another set?  Until you get it right??”  I asked, making sure I understood properly.  All the while thinking, “$400? I don’t have $400 for the permanent ones, either!”

I took my glasses back from him and told him I’d have to think about it.

That was the last time I went there.  I complained to Dr Wonderful about them, and he confirmed he went there for his own glasses and was not at all impressed.

Yep, back to Dr Wonderful I went.  He sent me for an MRI.  He thought it might be multiple sclerosis.

MRI was normal.

Strokes and Flu: Who Knew?

Apparently I didn’t, but I found an article that explains the connection.

I am thinking about this because of the recent death of Harry Anderson, star of the TV show “Night Court” and other projects.  He was also an accomplished magician.

Yeah, I was a fan.  Loved “Night Court”, and tried to see the other shows he was in, as well as when he was on the old “Tonight Show” as a guest (here’s a link to one of his appearances).

Harry Anderson, bottom row

Anyway, Harry Anderson passed away on April 16 of this year (“Harry Anderson, 65, ‘Night Court’ Actor Who Bottled Magic Onscreen and Off, Dies”, Maya Salam, New York Times website, 4/16/18).

Cause of death was determined to be a “cardioembolic cerebralvascular accident”.  In layman’s terms, a stroke.  In his case, several strokes.  He passed in his sleep.

He had a bout of the flu months earlier, from which he never completely recovered.

My condolences to his family.

Aside #1: These days, when someone dies at 65, we see this as an early death.  People are expected to live to their 80’s, or thereabouts.  And when that someone who died is near your age, and is someone you admired, you take notice.

I wondered about the strokes.  What connection did the flu have, if any?  I mean, I knew you could get pneumonia as a complication of the flu, but stroke?  I had never heard of that.  So I went a-Googling.

I found lots of articles about stroke as a complication of the flu, but most just mentioned “inflammation” and didn’t go into details on the mechanism that causes the stroke.

Then I found The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website:

LDL cholesterol is quickly followed by white blood cells and thus begins the process of plaque formation, consisting mainly of cholesterol, fatty substances and waste products of cells. This leads to inflammation of the walls of the blood vessels resulting in continuous damage and growth of plaques.

This plaque formation starts decades earlier and as they grow in size they start to narrow the artery which then reduces blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle. This leads to angina or chest pain.

Plaques can be either stable or unstable, with unstable plaques are full of macrophages and foam cells and extracellular matrix separating the lesion from the arterial lumen or fibrous cap which becomes weakened and is prone to rupture.

When this cap becomes weakened and ruptures, this is the process we believe leads to the heart attack. When this layer of cells is damaged the inflamed plaque becomes exposed to the blood stream which leads to an overreaction within the body and a triggering of a blood clot within the artery. This then leads to either a partial or full blockage of blood-flow within the artery to the heart muscle causing heart damage.

The clots can also break off and travel to your brain, causing a stroke.

Inflammation due to the flu can aggravate and trigger that process.

Most people over 55 or so have a least a little bit of plaque in their arteries.  The only way you can really know for sure is to have something called a heart catheterization – which, I can tell you, is painful.

Aside #2: I had mine 2 years ago when I was in the ER for what I thought was “just” intractable vomiting, but it turned out I had what my cardiologist later told me was “a chemical heart attack”.

Heart catheterization shows your arteries clearly.  It’s well worth the discomfort if you want to know what shape your arteries are in.  They run a thin tube up through your artery until it reaches your heart, and they (and you, if you want) can see what your arteries look like.  They ran mine through the artery in my wrist.  Some people get theirs in their thigh.

Anyway, if you have blockage (due to the aforementioned plaque), the heart cath/angiogram (x-ray picture) will show that:

So, if you have plaque – and most people in their 60s do – having the flu can cause it to rupture, form a blood clot that then breaks off and heads for your heart (which will cause a heart attack) or your brain (which will cause a stroke).

Getting a flu shot can reduce your chances of getting the flu, and thus also reduce your chance of a stroke or heart attack as a complication of flu.

Now, I don’t know if Harry Anderson got a flu shot.  It’s possible he did, but contracted a strain of flu that the vaccine didn’t cover.  With over 100 strains of the flu, clearly it’s not possible at this time to make a vaccine to protect against all of them.

The CDC, however, acquires samples of the virus from actual flu patients, and on the basis of that analysis makes recommendations to the FDA for which strains to target.

Aside #3: Another reason we need to oppose any funding cuts for either the CDC or the FDA.

Here is a link that explains the entire process for selecting which viruses to include in the season’s vaccine.

However, I can say that, if someone doesn’t get a flu vaccine, they have a greater chance of contracting the flu than if they hadn’t gotten a flu vaccine.

I understand, not everyone can tolerate vaccines.  But if you can, please get one.  It’s not too late.

Aside #4: I got the first of 2 shingles vaccines last week, and my arm was hot, swollen, and very sore for a week.  I also felt like crap.  So yeah, vaccines can and do have side effects.

In fact, Influenza B is still around, and you can still get a shot to prevent it.  Here is the CDC link that gives you a weekly flu report.  If you can’t do that and are over 60, at least stay away from sick people or wear a mask or something.  Plus you could also bring wipes with you everywhere you go.

Because getting the flu at this age is not only uncomfortable, it can be deadly.

Weird news of the week:  Is there anything weirder right now than the meltdown of our so-called president? Today, he tweeted his intention to obstruct justice:

“A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” Twitter, 5/2/18, 10:45 AM

I don’t know what he thinks he can do – fire the entire DOJ?  Stage a military coup?  He could declassify the redacted parts and instruct the DOJ to hand over the documents, but considering that the documents in question are about an ongoing investigation – of him – that would just make the obstruction case stronger.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s reaction to the articles of impeachment against him being drawn up by some Congressional cover-up minions Republicans (Mark Meadows, North Carolina, and Jim Jordan, Ohio) was succinct:

“There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.” – “Trump Just Ominously Threatened the Justice Department, Alex Ward, Vox website, 5/2/18.

Should make for an interesting showdown.

Recommendation of the week: A website called Boing Boing, which is an eclectic site of news, information, opinion, and merchandise.  Worth a look, if only for the cartoon strip by “Tom the Dancing Bug” called “What Trump Supporters See”.

Be good.  Be kind.  Get your flu shot.

 

 

 

 

 

Counterbalance: Good News Wednesday, Cats & Dogs Edition

Because nothing brings a smile quicker than kitties and doggies.

Aside #1: Yeah, I know it’s a rather lame idea, this post, but I just needed a break from humans today.  I’m sick again, with new symptoms, and it’s got me feeling somewhat depressed.  I promise next month’s good news will be more interesting.  Stick with me.  Next week I will be back to political commentary.

First up is a story from the Sunny Skyz website about the Cat Pawsitive program, an effort by The Jackson Galaxy Project.  This program trains shelter cats in order to make them more adoptable and confident.  The example in this article is workers teaching cats to “high five” the humans!

Also from the Sunny Skyz website, a story about a 17 year old dog – who is blind and deaf – who led his family to their missing 3 year old daughter.  He stayed by her side all night, leaving only to run to rescuers as they came near, so he could lead them to the girl.  Both girl and dog are fine (“17 Year Old Deaf and Blind Dog Help Searchers Find Missing 3 Year Old Girl”, Sunny Skyz website, 4/21/18).

“Dog Ownership Linked To Living Longer, Study Finds”, reports an article on The Independent website (Josh Gabbatiss, 11/17/17).  The benefit of dog ownership is apparently linked to lower levels of cardiovascular disease.  Hey, makes a good argument if you need to convince someone that the puppy your spontaneously brought home is a life saver!

Not to be outdone, the Health Fitness Revolution website lists 10 health benefits of being owned by a cat, which include reducing stress, decreasing risk of strokes, providing therapeutic help, boosting immunity, lowering blood pressure, and even reducing your carbon footprint.

Aside #2: I can’t confirm the lowering blood pressure thing, possibly because my cats are all the time causing mischief.  Running after them while saying, “No, don’t do that!” is not a calm experience.  Except for them.  They seem to think it’s amusing to watch me.

Here’s a cat who prevented mischief – “This Just In: Angry Cat Foils Burglary”, posted by someone named Andrea, LifeWithCats website, 4/10/18.  Cat parent in Maryland was woken up by his kitty, who was meowing while looking out the window and watching someone steal things out of the parent’s car.  Good kitty!

From the LifeWithDogs website, here’s a funny video of a dog who really, really loves pizza!  Now I know what “zoomies” are.

Here are some brief and funny stories about cats from a website called “Dog ‘N Meows” (“7 Funny Overheard Cat Stories to Crack You Up”, 9/9/17).  I like the one called “Sneaky, Evil Queen”.  I had a cat who always used to get my dog in trouble that way.

Funny dog pics. Enjoy. These are from BarkPost.

And finally, from my most favorite site “ICanHazCheeszburger(LolCats)”, this:

No matter what kind of day I am having, ICanHazCheezburger? always cheers me up!

Aside #3: If you have any favorite happy kitty/doggy sites that do not focus on “hurt/near death animal saved by humans” stories – because those make me cry, even though they have happy endings, and I don’t need more crying in my life right now – please let me know so I can enjoy them right along with you.

Weird news of the week:  The Japanese have invented a “shadow man” that is a projection of a man on your curtains, doing things like boxing, doing karate, or vacuuming (to name just 3).  It’s designed for people who live alone, to make others – like burglars – think there is another person there.

I think this is a great idea.  I would buy this.  In another, more urban place I lived, I once had a guy knock on my door, claiming to be a neighbor needing help.  I stupidly let him in, then got suspicious, and told him to get out (which he did).  I called the cops and they told me the guy usually beats people up and takes their money.  Needless to say, I got a lecture about opening my door to strangers.  The cops told me he probably had been watching the duplex to see if I lived alone.

Recommendation of the week: Code Black resumes tonight.  It’s a medical procedural drama.  Pretty good, if you like that genre (I do).  Another good medical drama is The Resident.

Be good.  Be kind.  Back to my serious self next week.

 

 

 

The Struggle to Defeat Transphobia: Our Challenge as Allies

Transphobia: A sense of disgust, hatred, dislike, or fear of people whose identity falls outside conventional societal gender norms.

I was prompted to write about transphobia by a close family member who identifies as transgender.  She – and I – are concerned about the uptick in violence towards anyone perceived as “the other”, especially those folks who do not conform to binary gender roles.

This is another result of the rise of right-wing extremists, unleashed by the GOP and their bigoted leadership (especially in the White House).

Aside #1: To those who insist, even now, that 45 has always been “pro-LGBTQ”, let me remind you that there have been many anti-LGBTQ policies and “recommendations” since 45’s been in office (for a list of just a few, see  “Trump promised to be LGBTQ-friendly.  His first year in office proved it was a giant con”, German Lopez, Vox website, 1/22/18).

There has been an 86% increase in anti-LGBTQ violence since 45 took office (“Report Shows Massive Increase in Anti-LGBTQ Violence Since Trump Took Office”, David Lorh, Huffington Post online, 1/22/18).  That includes 52 hate-based homicides.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that even 1 homicide is too much.

This is scary stuff.  From harassment by bigots online, to homicides committed against people for just being themselves, the increase in hateful words and murderous deeds should worry everyone who has a heart and a conscience.

Considering that conservative estimates are that 4.1% of Americans, or 10 million, identify – at least to Gallup and other pollsters – as LGBTQ, chances are that you probably know someone, or are related to someone, who is LGBTQ.  That includes 7.3% of Millennials, who report the largest numbers overall (“In U.S., More Adults Identifying as LGBTQ”, Gary J. Gates, Gallup website, 1/11/17).

Those are just the people who report that they are LGBTQ, however.  Especially in this current climate, the numbers could be higher.

My point is, even if you don’t care about this issue, this danger, as something likely to happen to you, it’s quite possible it will be important to someone you care about.  Someone you care about could be suffering from bullying, or worse.

All because of who they are.

How is that, in any way, acceptable to a society which (used to) pride itself on its tolerance and diversity?

And what can we, as allies, do about it?

Well, I’m happy you wondered that, because I ran across an article on the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) website called “Tips for Allies of Transgender People”.

It’s a short read, but it lays down the basics of how to support people and how not to be part of the problem.  Tips include: don’t out someone, don’t ask them what their “real name” is, don’t make assumptions about their sexual orientation (that’s different from gender identity), respect how they refer to themselves (this includes pronouns), and don’t try to show your support by giving them backhanded compliments (“You look just like a real woman”).

In terms of addressing broader issues such as bathroom access, civil rights, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment voiced by people in the general public, you can and should at the very least educate people.

For example, the idea that allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms will put children and women in danger of being victimized by sexual predators is a straight-up myth. Yet, time and time again I hear this “argument” bandied about by people who really ought to know better.

It’s important that we explain to people why this is not true.

A great article on this is called “Church More Dangerous for Kids Than Transgender Bathrooms”, on the Patheos website.  I like it because it provides a familiar reference point for many of the people who think this myth is true – church.  Many of the folks who spread this false information are religious.

Aside #2: Yeah, even the “hate the sin, love the sinner” types who think it’s ok to be transgender as long as it’s “not in their face” or in any way connected to being actively gay/lesbian.  Sigh.

The article contains statistical nuggets that you can use to explain the facts to people, such as:

1.  90% of child molesters target children of family members and friends, and the majority are men married to women (The Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute).  Not strangers.

2.  From 1950-2013, over 17,000 victims made sexual abuse accusations against Catholic clerics (US Conference of Bishops Report, 2014).

3.  Lest the person you are trying to educate thinks this is all confined to the Catholic Church, a group of Protestants has launched a program called “Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment” (GRACE) that addresses this problem.  They state that there are, on average, 70 accusations of sexual abuse per week within Protestant churches.

Then you can finish your educational session by citing the statement from over 300 experts in sexual assault prevention that says giving transgender people the right to use the correct bathroom (as defined by them, not by you or anyone else) does not put women or children at risk for sexual assault (National Alliance to End Sexual Violence as quoted by the National Center for Transgender Equality website).

You can also do the many things progressives do to support any cause they care about, as well.  Things like writing your Congressperson, signing petitions, joining/supporting organizations, voting out bigots, and attending rallies and town halls.

And, also important – listening.  Not inserting your issues into the discussion.  Being supportive.

A good resource is the largest family and ally organization that helps LGBTQ people and those who love them: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), founded in 1973.  They support LGBTQ causes and oppose bigotry and “conversion therapy”.  They have local chapters, and there is probably one near you.

Aside #3: Of course, there isn’t a chapter within 50 miles of where I live, but there is one in Memphis.  Another reason I really need to move.

Even if you don’t know any LGBTQ people, it’s worth checking out some of these websites I cited, just for your own political/personal development.  Chances are, you’ll run smack into a bigot one of these days, and it’s nice to have a well-rounded point of view to convey.

Because saying nothing is not an option.  Not when the bigots are so loud, so prevalent, and so sure that no one will challenge them.  We can’t let that slide.  We need to stand up for others.

Weird news of the week: Dumb place of the week award goes to Saginaw, Michigan, where a customer at a fitness center caused a panic when he showed the name of a WiFi network called “Remote Detonator” to a manager.  The manager evacuated the place and called the cops (“WiFi Network Called ‘Remote Detonator’ Prompts Gym Evacuation”, Associated Press via the ABC News website, 4/16/18).  Bonus weirdness: Former FBI Director James Comey meets Ghostface Killah and Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan backstage at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (Spin website, scroll down to the bottom of the page).  It just seemed surreal to me.

Recommendation of the week: The websites I mentioned in this post are my recommendations for this week.  I haven’t done much this week except hobble around with my sore toe and curse the snow that won’t seem to go away!

Be good.  Be kind.  Be a good and kind ally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DHS All Up in Your Internet: Don’t Panic…Yet

5 days ago, Forbes published an article titled “Department of Homeland Security Compiling Database of Journalists and Media Influencers” (Michelle Fabio, Forbes online website, 4/6/18), in which they made a reference to a posting by Homeland Security asking companies to submit “capabilities statements” for doing “media monitoring”.

Aside #1: I find it odd that I haven’t seen this news blasted all over TV and the internet.  Too much going on with the White House, I guess, what with the FBI raiding the president’s lawyer’s office and all.

Homeland Security is already monitoring social media accounts of immigrants, as reported in September of last year (“DHS Wants to Monitor Immigrants’ Social Media. No One Knows What They Will Do With This Information”, Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact website, 9/29/17).  Oh, and that includes green card holders and naturalized US citizens – and the people with whom they interact, which of course includes US citizens who were born here.

When you add these 2 things to the revelation about Cambridge Analytica mining the data of not only 87+ million Facebook users but an untold number of people via online survey sites like E-Rewards (that subcontract out their surveys to different companies), it seems that no one’s information is safe anymore – not their likes and dislikes, their buying habits, their age/gender/location, and now their political views (“Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining: What You Need to Know”, Ian Sherr, CNET website, 4/9/18).

Aside #2: I got one of those notices from Facebook telling me my data had been compromised because of something called “My Digital Life” – a quiz that 200,000 or so people took that also hijacked their lists of friends so their data could be mined, too.  I didn’t take that quiz so they got me via some friend of mine who did.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist – clearly I don’t care who knows my political views or buying habits, as I blog about politics and take online consumer surveys – but the bigger issue is whether or not somebody should be able to get information about you without your permission. 

For example, I have never allowed an app or a survey to connect to my Facebook page, mostly because I don’t want them to get to my friends’ data that way.  They got you anyway, sorry.

It seems to me that unless you go completely offline, and do not have a social media account, do not comment on websites, or don’t even Google anything, someone somewhere has some data on you.

Even if all you do is order products online, someone still has some data on you.  And who knows – I don’t, certainly – what home assistants like Alexa know about you?

This latest news about DHS monitoring “media influencers” is troubling.  What does that even mean?  YouTube “stars”, bloggers who have a certain number of followers, people who follow and comment on the Idiot’s Twitter account, people who do podcasts, commenters on political sites such as Raw Story and Daily Kos?

How many millions of people would that be?

This would not be a daunting task, I suspect, because there are computer programs that can find people on a DHS “watch list” such as this.  Just think of how quickly and how much a search term in Google returns – when I Googled “how many returns per search term”, I got 125 million hits in 6 seconds.  How hard would that be to search the web for parameters set by DHS?

Basically, we’re all going to be on some watch list, somewhere. And under this administration, that can be particularly scary.

We do, of course, have this thing called the First Amendment.  It guarantees freedom of expression, speech, the press, and assembly.  It states that the government can neither establish a state religion, nor restrict religious practices.  It also guarantees the right to petition the government.

But we also have sedition laws, which hinge on whether or not the “seditious” speech or action is an “imminent threat”.  There have been very few prosecutions in this country for sedition, mostly because we do have the right to “agitate” – for lack of a better word – under the First Amendment.

It’s that pesky “imminent threat” definition that makes things a bit murky.

Considering we have a president who stated last night that the raid on his lawyer’s office and hotel room was “an attack on our country” (“Trump Denounces FBI Raid on His Lawyer’s Office as an Attack on Our Country”, Michael D. Shear, NY Times website, 4/9/2018), who knows what “imminent threat” will mean to a Republican-appointed DHS?

Add this to the fact that dangerous man John Bolton (the new national security advisor) just fired the head of DHS – no doubt for being not far enough to the right – and things start to look a bit alarming.

It’s all concerning right now, but we don’t need to panic.  At least not until we see new prisons and detention centers being built.

Hopefully, this administration will either be gone or severely restrained (think “midterm elections”) before that happens.

Weird news of the week: “Why is Orange Snow Falling Across Eastern Europe?”  Insert your own 45 joke here.

Recommendation for the week: I may have recommended her before, but it’s worth doing again.  If you want to know – really know – what’s going on in the White House and politics, you won’t do better than watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  And if you don’t watch MSNBC, you can still hear her on her podcast.  She lays things out so clearly, and explains them so thoroughly, that you will learn quite a bit every time you tune in.

Be good.  Be kind.  Knowledge is capital, knowledge is power.