When reaching out to better understand my fellow Americans, facts are non-negotiable

Reality has facts, however poorly we see them sometimes. Reaching out to understand someone else’s experience requires common ground, and for me, that common ground must be based upon a shared understanding of objective facts.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how I was living in a bubble that distorted my perspective on America. The point was that, while I’m living in a bubble, I’m hardly the only one, and I gave an example of a grandfather from Vigo County, Indiana, who felt that his America was populated by “real people,” as opposed to the presumably fake or inauthentic people in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But after reading several excellent comments on that article that provided suggestions how to reach people – listen, talk with instead of at, stop dismissing, denigrating, and demonizing – I realized that there is a limit to my ability, even to my willingness, to reach out and have a meaningful discussion.

Facts. They exist. And they’re a non-negotiable entry point for any bubble-piercing attempts I’m going to be involved in.

Let me give a few examples of what I mean. Continue reading

Health

Hysterectomy – who needs one anyway?

Warning, ladies – you probably don’t!

Wait, gentlemen, please don’t run away! Yes, I am about to start throwing around words like uterus, ovaries, vagina, clitoris, nipples, orgasm, and hysterectomy. Here under the shameful for-profit health care system we have, an astonishing one-third of American women are hysterectomized, leading to physical side-effects, emotional side-effects, loss of sex drive and sexual response, and total loss of overall vitality. Surely you have a wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, or aunt vulnerable to this outrage, so please do read on. I have read of so many men being devastated by the changes in women they love following hysterectomy – it is your issue too.

 

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Komen hires the wrong PR firm, missing the boat once again (and some thoughts on PR Daily's coverage of the story)

So, the Susan Komen Foundation has hired a big-hitter PR firm. And not just any PR firm, either.

Now, Komen is assessing the damage, and it’s using a consulting firm founded by two former Democratic strategists. Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), the firm Komen hired to help determine how badly the crisis hurt its reputation, is founded by former Democratic strategists Mark Penn and Doug Schoen.

The goal here seems obvious. Komen’s recent bout of ballistic podiatry cost it massive amounts of support among people who believe that women’s health shouldn’t be held captive to a reactionary, partisan social conservative agenda. The foundation has accurately understood that this means it needs people from the center and points left in order to thrive. Or, at this point, survive. So they go out and hire … Mark Penn.

Wait, what? Continue reading

Komen VP resigns; an important first step, but a long road to reconciliation remains

The Komen Foundation VP at the center of the Planned Parenthood firestorm, Karen Handel, has resigned.

A few days ago I predicted on Facebook that she’d be gone within a week, but  then retracted the prediction when I learned more about the heavy-Right political leanings of the rest of the board (and the involvement of Ari Fleischer in their strategy development).

On Friday, just before America took its collective brain offline for Super Bowl Weekend, Komen offered up a fake apology that encouraged the public to believe that it had changed its mind and was going to continue funding Planned Parenthood after all, even though its release actually said nothing of the sort. It isn’t clear how many average citizens the ploy fooled, but as I explained on Saturday, it sure as hell clowned the copy desk editors of just about every major news outlet in the country. Continue reading

Komen Foundation pretends to change its mind. One corporate communications executive wonders: is the public stupid enough to buy it?

Read. The language. Closely.

Contrary to what Komen’s highly-paid PR crisis hacks and gullible headline writers at newsdesks around the nation would ask you to believe, The Susan G. Komen Foundation does NOT promise to fund Planned Parenthood in the future. They promise to let PP APPLY for grants in the future. Applying and receiving are different things, as anyone who ever applied and got rejected for a job ought to know. Continue reading

Finding "Refuge"

#11: Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams (1991)

“[W]ithout a mother,” writes Terry Tempest Williams in her book Refuge, “one no longer has the luxury of being a child.”

I am at my own mother’s, thinking about Williams’ words, thinking about Williams’ book. I was first introduced to Refuge last year during a Creative Nonfiction class I was taking, but I didn’t have the time then to read it. Months later, at the start of my “25 Books in 30 Days” challenge, it is one of the first books I turn to. I’ve not been able to write about it yet, though. I’ve had to wait until I’ve come here to my mother’s house in Ashtabula, Ohio, before I could fully process the nature of Williams’ loss.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading

Why I envy people with cancer

That headline probably sounds like the dumbest thing anybody ever said, doesn’t it? In truth, though, I mean it as a profound compliment. Let me explain why.

Today is LiveStong Day and it’s also Susan Komen Race for the Cure Day here in Denver. Earlier this morning, roughly 50,000 people participated in the Race for the Cure over at Pepsi Center, and annually there are about 130 such races worldwide. For context, here’s the Wiki intro.

Since its inception in 1982, Komen has invested nearly $2 billion[2] for breast cancer research, education, advocacy, health services and social support programs in the U.S.,[3] and through partnerships in more than 50 countries.[4][5]  Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

ArtSunday: Let the musicians die

Every once in awhile I come across unrelated stories that somehow associate themselves in my mind. Take these, for instance:

First, I hope you saw Lex’s tribute to Starchild (given name, Gary Shider), he of P-Funk fame. As Lex notes, Shider experienced problems where the cost of fighting the cancer that killed him was concerned.

Second, another American music icon, Alex Chilton, passed away earlier this year. Continue reading

Nota Bene #109: You Can't Tuna Fish

“It’s absolutely stunning to me, the contempt in which the network holds the audience. The idea that these people have standards is laughable.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #103: Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse

“To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility that you give me, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker—that’s like an aberration. I know there’s some young actor sitting in New York or L.A. who’s spent half of his life learning how to act and sacrificing to learn his craft but isn’t going to get his opportunity because of some ‘actor’ who’s been created.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #102: Dancing Limbaughs

“What they really want to see is, they want you to chop your fucking arm off, hold up your arm, wave it around spewing blood, and believe me, if you did that, the crowd would go fucking ballistic. You only get four good shows like that, though. Four good shows, and then you’re just a torso and a head, trying to get one of your band mates to give you one last hurrah and chop your head off. Which they probably wouldn’t do, which would really be hell.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Kingston, TN sings "Auld Lang Sludge" (Update #2)

Update #2: NASA’s Earth Observatory has false-color LandSat images of before and after the spill. Amazing shots. I’ll add them to the image slideshow rotation above when I have a chance.

Update#1: Appalachian Voices’ Frontporch blog is reporting that the independent water samples taken from the Emory River last week show that “[c]oncentrations of eight toxic chemicals range from twice to 300 times higher than drinking water limits.” The results are preliminary, but they’re so high – and in such conflict with official results – that the scientists and activists felt that releasing the data was very important. Here’s the official press release, a video on it, and a NYTimes article on it too. If you’re in the area and your community gets water from the Clinch River downstream of the Emory, I’d strongly recommend bottled water.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas last week. Many of us here at S&R have been taking some time off from blogging as well, which is why it’s been days since the last update on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal (ash) in the stocking story. So it’s past time for another roundup of the latest news and opinion. Continue reading

Coal waste dumps: ticking toxic time bombs

Tom Yulsman of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado ran the following post on the toxic nature of coal combustion byproducts at the CEJ’s blog, CEJournal. Tom has been kind enough to permit S&R to crosspost his work here. This is Tom’s second guest post: his first (on a very different topic) can be found here, and the original of this post can be found here.

A truly frightening video from ground zero of the coal ash catastrophe

The New York Times reports today that the coal sludge that surged out of a breached Tennessee Valley Authority impoundment in Roane County was actually three times larger than previously estimated. The updated total is 5.4 million cubic yards, “or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep,” Times reporter Shaila Dewan reports.

The discrepancy casts doubt on the credibility of assurances from the Tennessee Valley Authority that the coal combustion waste from its Kingston Fossil Plant poses little risk to residents of the area. (Several days ago, one TVA official told the Associated Press that the waste “consists of inert material not harmful to the environment.”)

In fact, evidence has been gathering for years that the waste dumps pose a very serious risk to human health and the environment. Continue reading

War and Postwar: a look at LIFE and technology

Part three in a series.

In an age and a culture dominated by scientism, the word “sample” tends to invoke the adjectival “representative,” and I cannot begin to imagine culling a meaningful representative sample from LIFE’s 400-plus issues. Still, it seems important to devote a few pages to what happened with LIFE and technology between the Fort Peck Dam and Apollo 17. I will center this discussion on innovations and events that, from our perspective here at the end of the century, appear to have left significant marks on history.

The Medical Morality Play

LIFE’s coverage of medical technology began early and covered, through the decades, the research, development, and application of treatments for a variety of diseases and disorders afflicting humanity. Continue reading