Saturday, January 29, 2005

Radiant Sunshine

Toward The Sunlight (1910)
Paul Dougherty

A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition.
---Juan Ramon Jimenez

Any fool can be fussy and rid himself of energy all over the place, but a man has to have something in him before he can settle down and do nothing.

---J.B. Priestley

Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul.
---Nicolas De Malebranche

Thank you for reading this far, but let me warn you: despite the lovely title this piece is going to be about cancer. Like an increasing number of men my age, I was diagnosed with the prostate kind after a biopsy almost a year ago. Initially I started writing online about this in case I dropped off the Internet for a while to let people know what had happened. The response surprised me. People thanked me for being honest and asked to know more. Cancer is very scary and, like most people, I never wanted to think about it until I was forced to come to terms with it. Once one identifies himself, people start doing likewise with you...and soon you're sharing in a lot of personal stories. It's as if there's a Cancer Anonymous, only without any program or meetings. There probably are support groups somewhere---and certainly there are some interesting computer sites---but I suppose most of us settle for charting out a lonely course of treatment and life readjustment. Thank God for loved ones, and people who get closer now and really mean it.

Anyway, last May I had my prostate gland taken out, which was the first surgery of any kind I'd ever had. It was a big deal, but the war wasn't over. A couple months later a blood test showed my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) still had some microscopic cell activity going on, and 2 more readings months after that revealed it was neither diminishing or going away. At this point in our technology there's no way to see what is going on or where; but past experience has led urologists to believe that when this happens, it's because little specks of the disease got left behind or perhaps had begun to travel. That usually means the bladder. If nothing is revealed in the urine, the cancer's probably just starting up on the outside...and radiation is the therapy. I've begun my treatment, and regular daily exposure will begin Monday and continue for something like 7 weeks.

Through this entire ordeal no physician has offered a cause for my problem. We know one acquires illness, and even some cancers, by doing certain things that get you diseased. We know there are precautions. What about this? Doctors don't say. Did I do something? Is it genetic? How about environmental factors? Additives? My sex life? There remains great mystery about cancer. As a result, I for one cannot help but demonize the thing. It's my dark side come to claim me at last. It seems to know me...and what I do, what I hide, and how I play chess with Death. Does it feed on stress and guilt and sin? Before a fundamentalist comes in here to save me, let me emphasize I feel relatively guilt-free about this. When I was considering whether or not to go with mainstream treatment, I heard a lot from folks who believe in alternative methods...and many seemed to go the route that cancer is caused by ethical and/or physical neglect. I don't reject that notion. Life remains too interesting to rule out penance as medication.

You may recall a poem by John Tagbliabue that speaks of people in medical waiting rooms, sitting there amongst the old magazines and crappy TV shows or music on a radio. John said they look as if they are on a lonely cruise to an unknown destination. I'm becoming something of an expert on waiting rooms. There's a sort of descent involved. I thought my urologist's waiting room was a challenge. I even told him last time, "The wonderful thing about your waiting room is by the time I get to see you, I no longer care whether I live or die." But nothing prepared me for the oncologist's. Here we have people with tumors, and presumably getting radiation. Many of us don't know where the disorders came from, nor are we thrilled with the treatment procedure. I just went through 2 days that involved torture similar to Guantanamo in getting the therapy set up. Ultimately I began to feel as glum as the other folks I saw waiting around. What was happening to my sense of humor? I began to get annoyed and looking for someone to blame. The clerical seemed a good place to start.

Not good. So how should I look at this part of my life? At this point, I am delighted to have as a friend of 30 years a woman who, over that time, has progressed from agency social worker to acknowledged counselor---and even healer---of great understanding and skill. This friend gave me wonderful advice during preparation for and recovery from surgery, and she continues to help as I face the ray gun. She says, "Think of it like radiant sunshine...which after all is what it really is." The idea has clicked with me. How better to treat a scary thing hiding in the dark than to shine a light on it? And hopefully some of that light will spill into the corners of that sad waiting room.

Monday, January 24, 2005

We Must Escape!

The February issue of Prospect has a cover story that should give us all a goal toward which to work. And time is of the essence (even if it is a few billion years)!

Escape from the universeMichio Kaku

The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced civilisation escape via a "wormhole" into a parallel universe? The idea seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of physics and biology. Here's how to do it.

"The universe is out of control, in a runaway acceleration. Eventually all intelligent life will face the final doom—the big freeze. An advanced civilisation must embark on the ultimate journey: fleeing to a parallel universe."

For more~~~

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's Over
Article published January 11, 2005

Lawsuit over Ohio election dropped

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three dozen voters challenging the presidential election results in the Ohio Supreme Court asked to drop their lawsuit today, saying it is moot with last week’s certification of the electoral vote and the upcoming inauguration.

Citing fraud, lawyers representing 37 voters on Nov. 2 had asked the court to examine several problems with voting procedures in the hopes of overturning President Bush’s victory in the state.

The election turned on Ohio’s 20 electoral college votes, and not until preliminary results were available early on the morning of Nov. 3 did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry concede.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the state Supreme Court must still rule on the motion to dismiss the case, and is expected to go along with the request In a ruling last month declining a request that he remove himself from the case, Moyer, a Republican, called voters’ evidence “woefully inadequate.”

Without giving specifics, attorney Cliff Arnebeck said challenges of the results would continue in state or federal courts. But he conceded that there was nothing available now to try to prevent Bush’s inauguration.

© 2004 The Blade.

Now, except for Conyers' pledge to push on for general reform, there is nothing left but to knuckle under or head for the hills.

Friday, January 07, 2005

My Impressions Of Yesterday

"There was a point where this served a purpose," said Susan Gwinn, chairwoman of the Athens County Democratic Party in Ohio. "But I think we passed that. We need to move on."

The woman speaking to this morning's New York Times is not only chair of the Democratic Party in my county, but also Regional Counsel for that political organization AND Commissioner of the Board of Elections here. She is referring to yesterday's objections in the US Congress to Electoral College representations of the Presidential Election as held in Ohio. If there was a point at which Ms. Gwinn saw a purpose to any question whatsoever regarding her powerful involvement in politics in this town, I don't know when or where it was. And she ain't talkin' about Where to, fearless leader?

Pushing 65 as I am, I no longer have a classroom of my own, but spend my days assisting other teachers. I never missed my own class so much as I did yesterday, trying to follow the developments in Congress on both television and computer and yearning for students to whom to show all this stuff. I was not in a classroom that featured or even was interested in the historic proceedings. My sense was that most Americans didn't know what was going on or that Congress was doing anything besides rolling over for Attorney General nominee Gonzales. I also feel that most citizens here are so hostile or totally asleep about politics they would have done anything to avoid knowing about it. And I believe that is precisely how the hierarchy of power in this country wants it.

Even though the Congress finally was taking up the issue of election irregularities in our nation, particularly in Ohio, finding out about and following it was just as difficult yesterday for this average citizen as it has been through our media since Election Day. We had C-Span on TV and on computer. Depending on where you are and what your cable services are, you may have one or 2 or maybe even 3 C-Span stations spread out through your channels somewhere. On computer there are 3 options for streaming. Of course the Gonzales hearing got top billing, with nominees for Secretary of Education and Agriculture sharing the marquee. On both facilities, C-Span always has been maddening for me in trying to find out what they're showing and where it is. At the time of convening the joint session to consider the Electoral College results, one of C-Span's channels dutifully showed senators marching across a hall to the House chambers. This went on for about half an hour, but at the moment Dick Cheney called that group to order C-Span switched channels entirely to one of the others and instead brought up a Democratic Party Minority Briefing with Nancy Pelosi about this and that. If you weren't alert, you missed Barbara Boxer's objection entirely. And being alert on the computer means you have to keep refreshing to see what they're showing where when. I was trying to watch both at once.

Then when Congress moved back into separate facilities for the required two-hour debate you had to switch back and forth between 2 channels to watch the speeches of your choice. The House was on one channel and the Senate on another. Maybe CNN edited things for viewers; I don't know because I have yet to run into anybody who attempted to watch the thing at all. What's important is that the challenges happened (not since 1877, when Hayes probably stole the election from Tilden) and that our Constitutional system has provisions for screening rotten executives and throwing them out. All I'm hearing is that people want to get rid of the Electoral College, but the beauty of the facility, though admittedly harkening back to aristocracy, is its recognition that the Will of the People can fall asleep and into corruption, crime, torture and downright evil. The Electoral College and Congressional review is a chance to question whether that's happened. Unfortunately nobody questioned it yesterday. To the contrary, over and over Democrats insisted they were not challenging election results, but only a few details that need tweaking. Like Gore, Kerry distanced himself totally, not only leaving town but the country. Senator Edwards has vanished totally---maybe understandably.

The Democrats who spoke in debate, in both houses (as I switched back and forth), spoke in platitudes about the glory of free election and the cornerstone of democracy and all that. And who are we to tell the world how to vote when we can't do it ourselves...which is a good point of course. Ted Kennedy was stirring. So was Hillary. At least they stood up. Dennis Kucinich was thundering, as was Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, of Cleveland, who was the first to rise in Joint Session before Cheney's glare. John Conyers was magnificent throughout, especially in the briefing that followed overwhelming defeat of the objections, when he referred to the Republican arguments, particularly in the House (did any Republican senators speak at all, preferring the cold shoulder strategy?), as "insulting." He is precisely right. Republicans did not defend the election machinations nor did they argue against evidence of fraud and obstruction of voters (both illegal) but rather brought out the attack dogs against those leaders who would dare to question Republican rule. "Publicity stunt," they snarled. They ridiculed Michael Moore, whom Conyers celebrated at the briefing by reminding us most Americans were unaware totally of the Black Caucus challenge to the 2000 Election until we saw it in Fahrenheit 9/11. There is pretty good coverage of the whole day in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle.

Do we understand that if, for some almost inconceivable reason, the politicians yesterday had voted in both Houses to uphold the objections to the Ohio election, Ohio's electoral votes would have been thrown out? Do we know what that would have meant for this nation and the world for at least the next 4 years? Do we yet understand what the even worse failure in Congress meant in 2000, when Florida was in question? "Get over it," say Republicans. What is it we are "getting over"? Defeat? I don't think so. Democrats, independents, and we minorities know all about how to do that. Maybe it's the final vestige of political freedom we are to "get over." And where is it we are "moving on" to? Later during the debate, my schedule demanded I resort to the car radio for coverage. Ha! American radio. Sports, rock, country, the holy gospel...and finally Rush Linbaugh. There he was, and at least Congressional proceedings were being discussed. He was playing Barbara Boxer's speech of objection, and interrupting it with ridicule. She was talking about the spread of democracy through the world. Rush guffawed, "The spread of Liberalism, you mean! The spread of Socialism!" Ah Captain, my captain...