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Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 12:00 PM PST

What Cancer Has Taught Me So Far...

by MacDaffy

I was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer a little over a year ago. Here are some things I've learned since then:
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R - VA)
Alarm bells went off when it was revealed that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was "The Guy" when it comes to bringing a debt ceiling deal to the floor. I was reminded of this story and this one from 2011.

Are those stories still true? How 'bout it, Eric? You betting on Red or Blue?

Ted Cruz, the tea party GOP, and their constituents have been watching Blazing Saddles as a documentary; they think this trick actually works.

Which "Blazing Saddles role would you give John Boehner?

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Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 04:50 PM PDT

Prognosis: Great Until Further Notice

by MacDaffy

The diarist on the table at the Stanford University Advanced Medicine Center
A cancerous lesion on my brain stem--and two hours of driving in Bay Area rush hour traffic to visit a sick friend--finally announced its presence with authority at about nine on the evening of August 29th.

I'd had a slight headache all day, and felt a little wonky, but I had looked forward to the drive. That lesion, though, was insistent that my right eye veer left, and the brain power needed to wrangle it back was exhausting me.

All hell broke loose in my head after we got home.

Suddenly, I was on my knees in the bedroom, gibbering like an idiot and trying to stop whoever it was from driving that nail into the bump on the back of my skull. My wife bundled me into the car and headed for Stanford Emergency ten minutes away. The ride was bizarre. The lesion is on my brain stem, and my right eye was struggling to do its job (I could see, just not the same thing as the left). Everything was kaleidoscopic and painful and confusing and... in retrospect... terrifying.

I stumbled into the emergency room under my own power, was triaged, got CT scanned and MRI'd, then diagnosed, and enough drugs to get the pain settled down.  

The Stanford Tumor Board met and decided that hands on neurosurgery was not the best way to go.  I was in the care of Dr. Iris C. Gibbs, head of Stanford's Radiologic Oncology Department, and Guru of CyberKnife the next day.

The technology is scifi -- little linear accelerators guided by x-rays and computer-generated images are tilted and whirled around my head to several precisely-targeted positions from whence a particle beam zaps cancer cells into oblivion.

Metastatic cancer is challenging, but I'm being treated at one of the best places for this kind of thing in the world, so my prognosis is: Great Until Further Notice.

First of all, thanks to my love, my friend, my wife, Mary.  She is the reason any of this is possible, and she saved my life and got me ready for it long before Thursday night. There are no words...

Second, thanks to my family, my friends, and that lovely constellation of bodies on the internet with whom Mary and I connect for your support--in macaroons, prayer wheels, yarn, dog treats, killer cheeses, online rants, comments, and in many other ways. My brother and his wife, Haley's mom-and-dad, PhylanBob, Lorie, Malph, Steves, Point Of Order, Stanford University, its hospitals and clinics, Dr. Anthony P. Lam (who chased the tumors out of most of my torso (before and after), the clinicians, technicians, and staffs of the Infusion and Radiologic Oncology departments, the folks at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital who performed a biopsy on my right lung this Monday. Just going to that side of the hospital--knowing what they do every day for children--made it a joy and a privilege to be there (nailed it, Doc!). And to my friends on Infinite Loop -- I am reminded of you every day I walk through the hospital's doors. You are doing great work here, too.

One more thing and I'll wrap this up.

Do not stop fighting for this country. Do not stop fighting for the love and the compassion and the brains and the talent and the hard work that create this wonderful, wondrous, good and great America we love. Do not stop fighting for what is right.

America is the right idea in the hands of the wrong people. We fixed it before and we will fix it again. For good.


Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 10:32 PM PDT


by MacDaffy

The evidence for why George Bush's presidency is--hands-down--the worst catastrophe to befall this nation in modern times continues to mount.

New York Times columnist, economist Paul Krugman said today that this country has wasted trillions in domestic output.

...Reasonable measures of the “output gap” over the past five years — the difference between the value of goods and services America could and should have produced and what it actually produced — run well over $2 trillion. That’s trillions of dollars of pure waste, which we will never get back. -- Paul Krugman
Richard Nixon brokered the deal that sent America's manufacturing might to China. Ronald Reagan cemented the Republican Revolution by beginning the process of transforming the United States Government from a public good to a private concern, and George H.W. Bush was instrumental in aligning the Right's military, financial, economic, intelligence, and media interests for The Big Push. President Bill Clinton allowed the only laws standing between the banksters and the Treasury gates to be repealed.

But George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney transformed this country from a nation of laws into a criminal enterprise. They even sent Henry Paulsen to Congress at the end to collect the service charge.

It is good that we are reminded of our constitution and the proper role of Congress and our government by the debate over intervention in Syria. There has been more than enough of private hands making public policy.

What Bush and Cheney did is illegal, whether it was "against the law" or not. An important step toward stopping the cancer eating out the substance of our nation is making that right.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." -- NRA Director Wayne LaPierre
How wrong can a guy be, huh?

Most of us thought it was ridiculous when he said it, but we understood why he said it. What else could he say? After all, selling guns is the man's job.

But those of us who adhere to Gandhi's admonition that "an eye-for-an-eye leaves everybody blind" have found our most eloquent rebuttal to Mr. LaPierre in this Georgia woman, Antoinette Tuff:

There's no telling whether Michael Brandon Hill, 20, is a "good" or a "bad" man, but he certainly did have a gun on Tuesday when he fired shots outside the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy near Atlanta where Ms. Tuff works as a bookkeeper.

We all know the story of her calm, empathy, and downright heroism in the face of a man with a gun. I am the son of a black woman from Georgia. She may not have had a gun, but she sure as hell was armed. Growing up in the Deep South gives you a resiliency and a readiness for--frankly--absurd situations that nothing else can match. Women like Antoinette Tuff are why "strong, black woman" is not a cliche.

In the course of researching this diary, though, I find that Ms. Tuff may not have her paltry Wikipedia entry for long. According to Wikipedia policy, Tuff may be stricken from its record because her accomplishment is a "one-off"--something she is unlikely to do again and which is unlikely to make her remarkable going forward.

That's wrong. This woman put her life on the line to protect her school, its students, the first responders, and even the gunman. She proved Wayne LaPierre wrong in no uncertain terms.

Antoinette Tuff deserves a permanent Wikipedia entry, at least. She is an exclamation mark in today's gun debate; she proved that a bad man with a gun can be stopped by a good woman with a heart.

A lawsuit settled in Florida last week reveals that banks and financial institutions stole trillions of dollars worth of homes through fraudulent mortgages, wrongful foreclosures, and coverups designed to hide their activity.

From the article in Salon:

The 2011 lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in both North and South Carolina, by a white-collar fraud specialist named Lynn Szymoniak, on behalf of the federal government, 17 states and three cities. Twenty-eight banks, mortgage servicers and document processing companies are named in the lawsuit, including mega-banks like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America...

...By the end of 2009, private mortgage-backed securities trusts held one-third of all residential mortgages in the U.S. That means that tens of millions of home mortgages worth trillions of dollars have no legitimate underlying owner that can establish the right to foreclose. This hasn’t stopped banks from foreclosing anyway with false documents, and they are often successful, a testament to the breakdown of law in the judicial system. But to this day, the resulting chaos in disentangling ownership harms homeowners trying to sell these properties, as well as those trying to purchase them. And it renders some properties impossible to sell.

I wrote a diary back in May of last year pointing out the effects this scam had on voter eligibility, on state and local budgets, and on the economy as a whole. It was election time then, and my emphasis was on encouraging people to vote, but I think any homeowner who has lost a home or who is losing a home to foreclosure should take heart from this latest disclosure and fight these banks every step of the way.
There are two major candidates to replace retiring Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke: former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers and Federal Reserve vice-chair Janet Yellen. For me, the story of Brooksley Born is the best argument against Larry Summers.

Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman does a much better job of laying out the current state-of-play in the nomination than I could, so I hope you'll follow the link and read it (go for the economics; stay for the sexism).

Brooksley Elizabeth Born was appointed head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in 1994 by President Bill Clinton after Janet Reno edged her out for the post of attorney general. The CFTC is supposed to regulate the country's futures and options markets, and Ms. Born set about doing just that. She identified swaps--financial instruments valued for their complexity and freedom from regulatory scrutiny--as having the potential to do severe damage to our economy.

She proposed regulations to address the problem, but was thwarted by three powerful members of the country's economic establishment: Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, and Larry Summers. Thanks to them, Congress passed legislation forbidding the CFTC from writing regulations on the derivatives market and Brooksley Born quit in 1999.

We all know what happened after that.

President Obama's choice for Fed chair is an important indicator of his vision for our economic future. Larry Summers has gotten a lot of things wrong, but this is The Biggie.

Brooksley Born is one of my heroes. The PBS Frontline special below is one of the reasons.

Watch The Warning on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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CNN weekend anchor mannequin Don Lemon has been catching lots of flak for saying Saturday that commentator Bill O'Reilly didn't go far enough in criticizing black parents for raising thuggish children.

Black folks should cut Don some slack; he's too flattered by the attention to be embarrassed by his own concern-trolling.

Lemon makes his first mistake in accepting Bill O'Reilly as an expert on anything, much less the state of black America. Hell, Bill'O is still amazed that we don't go all Samuel L. Jackson on the waiters when we go to restaurants.

His second mistake is in accepting O'Reilly's framing of problems in the black community as separate from society's overall challenges. The prevalence of black children born out of wedlock reflects historic difficulties with forming families (the only place you'll ever see the words "reproductive rights" and "Sally Hemings" together is in this sentence), but marriage in the nation as a whole also suffers under the yoke of over thirty years of trickle-down economics. Whether Americans marry or not has become much more a matter of class than of race or religious belief or whether there's a falafel in the bathroom.

Our doe-eyed daytime doyen's third mistake is in not emphasizing something that is almost always obscured whenever black-on-black crime or the "sorry" state of the black community is mentioned: the millions of black parents and children who pursue lives of meaning and accomplishment that have nothing to do with the unrelenting nightmare depicted in the media. Chicago is a tragedy, but it is home to over 890,000 Americans of African descent. Two-hundred Chicagoans were murdered as of the beginning of July. Even if all of the victims were black, that still represents a minuscule percentage of the city's population.

The biggest problem with what Lemon said is its setting. Lemon mentions the number of special segments, reports, and features he's done on the crisis in the black community. They were fine coming from "Don Lemon, CNN Weekend Anchor." Serving as co-signer to O'Reilly's racist takedown of black culture, the image of young black males, black parenting, and "race hustlers" diminishes Lemon, his network, and the debate on race in general. Bill O'Reilly's only concern is getting more eyeballs on his hour of dreck, not the black community. "Me-Too" is not the correct answer to a cynical, empty-headed, empty-hearted diatribe from someone who so obviously does not care about his subject.

Truth be told, tales of marauding young black men are good for politicians, cops, the media... Hey! Maybe Don Lemon could spend some time investigating the role of that thuggish image in driving gun sales nationwide. Or maybe he can start a series on parents who succeed despite the country's trying economic circumstances.  Maybe CNN could report why Republican clubs and service organizations who used to identify and reward promising black kids with scholarships now advocate closing down their schools and firing their teachers. Maybe we can stop treating black kids with early potential like improbable circus freaks and start getting them the advanced placement education that is so crucial to their success and so often lacking in their schools. How's about Lemon enlisting his network in a discussion of how depiction of minority communities in American media distort their images and fuels the madness that killed Trayvon Martin?

What am I saying?! Controversy makes ratings and--let's face it--good black parents like mine were are as boring as they are numerous. There is no ratings juice in kids who've been trained to keep their hands in their pockets when they walk through stores or who make the honor role or who aren't in jail. Viewers don't tune in to see black kids who aren't running from the cops. Black families are doing the best they can whether they're homeless or in the White House, but--to hear O'Reilly, Lemon, and others--those engaged parents and their children just don't exist.

Lemon isn't upset about the ill will he's received for his remarks. Indeed, he says--quite proudly--that he's bucking for The Uncle Tom Award. It's sad that the anchor man has set his sights on such an impossibly high bar because while Clarence Thomas draws breath, Don Lemon has as much chance of winning that award as New York Jets wide receiver Riley Cooper has of finding a n****r at a Kenny Chesney concert.


George Zimmerman--the killer of Trayvon Martin--had a gun in his car when he was pulled over by police for speeding in Texas. If he's scouting locations for a potential movie, what would the title be?

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Embattled Iowa Representative Steven King announced today that he would atone for remarks about "Mexican drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes" by backing an ambitious $30 million program to identify and cultivate future Olympic medalists in the Latino community.

"I think that this is an excellent pathway to citizenship," he told a Washington press conference.

"These people are the pick of the litter, and I mean that with all due respect. Everything from soccer to track and field--no offense--we're going to recruit for naturalization. If your name's Jose and you're built like running back Earl Campbell from the waist down, we want to talk to you."

King assured the public that his Republican colleagues would back his sincere effort to make amends by voting an appropriate bill from committee when Congress re-adjourns in fall.

"Of course, there'll have to be strict drug testing, but I don't see why we can't start seeing some medals by the next summer games. And as soon as we can design some ski boots that fit them, I bet we're going to see some winter iron from them, too, by 2020."

Speedy Gonzales was unavailable for comment.

I posted a diary a year ago about National Security Agency (NSA) Chief General Keith Alexander's claim to the American Enterprise Institute that computer hackers were responsible for "the greatest transfer of wealth in human history" based on figures provided by the internet security firm McAfee. Alexander made the claim in support of a bill to broaden the NSA's powers.

I called BS on it then, and I'm calling it now...

From today's San Jose Mercury News:

A $1 trillion estimate of the global cost of hacking cited by President Barack Obama and other top officials is a gross exaggeration, according to a new study commissioned by the company responsible for the earlier approximation.

A preliminary report being released Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and underwritten by Intel's (INTC) security software arm McAfee implicitly acknowledges that McAfee's previous figure could be triple the real number.

Looks like "hyping the threat" didn't die out with the Bush Administration...

(And dos v'danya, Eddie Boy...)


Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 06:34 PM PDT

On Trayvon

by MacDaffy


The most fundamental right we have as Americans is the right to be let alone.

All our other rights and responsibilities grow out of this simple, basic idea. The second sentence of the Declaration Of Independence--the document on which our nation was founded--is this (emphases and omissions mine):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all ... are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The men who wrote and signed those words did so for themselves alone--after all, they were committing the most audacious heist in history, so they had to make it sound good. As it turned out, anyone other than a propertied, white male was out of luck. American History is the story of the rest of us fighting for inclusion in the "blessings of liberty" these men took for granted.

Fifty years on from Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, that fight for inclusion has become more pointed as those who believe that America is diminished rather than enriched by diversity clash with those of us who just want to raise our kids, and do our jobs, and mind our own goddamned business.

One would think that such a simple idea--you have the right to be let alone--would be more popular in a land predicated on freedom.

That would be wrong.

Black people have never had that right in America. Ever. Not in New York and not in Sanford. Not today. Neither do women, for that matter. Anywhere.

Trayvon Martin's murder and George Zimmerman's acquittal and the technology that delivered the story to us drive that point home more deeply and more sharply than mere printed words could hope to accomplish.

There are terms--labels--for people who don't have the right to be let alone: Nigger. Faggot. Slut. Illegal. Muslim. Trash. Homeless. Crazy. Heathen. The shorthand characterization never fails: Everything you need to know about any one of them, you know about all of them, thanks to that label. George Zimmerman chose the "coons" variant for "nigger" the night he murdered Trayvon Martin, and the Sanford Police, the prosecutor, the defense, the court, the Governor Of Florida, the Feds, and the media are running The Playbook exactly as written and they are doing it in the broadest daylight. There was no surprise amongst those who understand how these things "work" but millions of Americans are aghast at their first exposure via basic cable and social media to the bracing, naked, in-your-face reality of "Nigger" as it is understood and used by people who really, really mean it.

It has never been "just a word."

Trayvon Martin dead?

Of course!

Niggers don't scream for their lives when they're at gunpoint. Why didn't the nigger just go home? Why didn't the nigger do as he was told and obey Mr. Zimmerman? Nigger, don't let the sun set on you in Sanford! Why should we believe the nigger's Ebonic friend when she describes--in clear detail--Zimmerman's assault on Trayvon Martin?
They always get away...

The grief and bewilderment among Black Americans is as profound as I've seen or felt since Dr. King's passing. This hurt deeply. I can't listen to the 911 tape with Trayvon Martin screaming. I can't stop listening to the sound clip of George Zimmerman muttering "fucking coons" as he gets out of his truck--words that made the dispatcher ask "are you following him?" I'm heartened by the genuine hard work people are putting into understanding what Martin's murder and Zimmerman's acquittal mean to and for us as a nation and I'm grateful to and for the people in this country and around the world who are the stem cells helping produce the antidote for the sickness plaguing us.

Parents of all races, colors, conditions, and creeds are saying of Trayvon Martin: That could be my child! That's because sympathy, and empathy, and cooperation, and common decency are the dominant human traits--not hate and hostility. When you come to know people--when you've cried with them and laughed with them and argued with them and failed them and come through for them and been surprised by them and loved them and lost them--you realize that the labels used to render us "The Other" are utter bullshit. The more we learn about the world and about each other, the more we realize the truth: Race is a lie, and culture is everything.

America proves it.


Most dangerous new "label"

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