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In a World of Hard Choices, an Easy Choice: Be a Bone Marrow Match

The world is full of difficult choices. Some political debates seem irreconcilable : just walk into a room and ask loudly what anyone thinks of gun control and you’ll get an earful from people who voiciferously disagree. Some personal choices can leave you feeling uncertain and can prod your friends into judgmental clucking no matter what you do: omnivore or vegetarian or vegan? Divorce or sticking out a bothersome relationship? Bottle or breast? Dog or cat? Six children or one or none?

Sometimes it feels like there aren’t any easy choices out there, but that isn’t true. We make easy choices every day, so routinely that we scarcely notice. We let people through in traffic. We make room on the elevator. We hold a crying child until it feels better. We pick up bits of litter as we walk by. These are little things we might take for granted. Nevertheless, when we add all these little acts together they make the world a much better place.

I’d like to bring another easy choice to your attention today: it’s easy to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry and possibly be a bone marrow match for a sick person in need.

This easy but consequential act has some personal urgency to me: you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing as much at Irregular Times as I used to. It isn’t that I’ve lost interest in politics or religion or the mystery of urban legend. I’d love to write more for Irregular Times than I have been lately. But this summer, my wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a nasty cancer of the blood and bone. They found bone tumors up and down her spine. Rib tumors quickly made it hard for her to breathe. I had to tell my kids that their mom has a disease that kills most people in less than five years. Since then, I’ve been busy trying to find some way to do something to change her odds.

Although there are a lot of very smart people working on the problem of multiple myeloma, there’s only one treatment right now that has the potential to cure this cancer of the blood and bone. That treatment is a transplant of bone marrow stem cells from someone else to my wife. The National Bone Marrow Registry finds a match or two for most people, but as usual my wife isn’t most people. There’s no match for her. No match means no cure. No cure means we’re riding the train that ends in her death.

This is much too early in her life for that. I know there are people who die in infancy; I know there are kids who die far too early. I know other people have a harder row to hoe. But my wife and I have a daughter who just graduated from elementary school, a son who just started high school. She’s young and has so much she wants to do. And yes, I’m selfish and want to keep her around.

To get off the death train, we need that possibility for a cure. To get that possibility, we need a match. To get a match, we need more people to join the National Bone Marrow Registry.

It turns out I joined the registry on behalf of someone else two years ago, and I can tell you that the joining is easy, painless and costless. Just go to BeTheMatch.Org and you’ll get a kit in the mail. All you have to do is swab your cheeks (essentially, rub a Q-tip or two inside your mouth) and send your sample back in. That’s it. What could be simpler?

Then, if you end up being a match for someone in need, the registry will get in touch and take care of all the arrangements for you to donate bone marrow stem cells… which does not involve a gigantic needle stuck into your hip. They get the cells nowadays directly from your blood — it’s basically like making a big blood donation. I haven’t had the chance to donate bone marrow stem cells to anyone yet, but I hope I’m the match for someone some day (it turns out about 1 in 500 people who join the registry end up actually donating bone marrow stem cells).

All of this — from testing to any needed travel to actually donating — happens at no charge to you if you’re in the target age range for healthy and mature bone marrow: 18 to 44 years old. Typically all expenses are paid — and you could save someone’s life.

You could save my wife’s life. You could save my kids’ mom. You could save a person who deserves more than what she’s got. You could make an easy choice that makes the world a better place.

And here’s the best part: if you’re not a match for my wife, you’re not just wasting your effort, because there are a lot of people who are sick and need a match. Maybe next month, maybe next year, you could be the match for someone else. And then you get to walk around the rest of your life knowing that, gosh darnit, you’re a lifesaver.

If you’re a healthy person aged 18-44, would you make this easy choice? Would you sign up to be tested for a match at the BeTheMatch website?

Regardless of whether you can donate, would you let others know about this easy way to be a hero? Would you spread the word?

Thank you.

Sony Hacks Ethics Scandal Embroils Deputy General Counsel

Sony Deputy General Counsel John Fukunaga has so far declined to comment about an ethics scandal revealed in emails linked by a shadowy group calling itself Guardians of Peace. The emails suggest that Fukunaga may have knowingly violated Sony corporate policy by checking his Facebook account while officially on the clock.

Furthermore, Fukunaga appears to have been involved in an organized scheme that may involve the theft of Sony corporate property. In searching through the Sony Hacks leaks, a pattern of emails emerges in which certain of Fukunaga’s colleagues ask to “borrow” items from his office. There is never any record of these “borrowed” items being returned, however, and Fukunaga has been unable to account for their whereabouts. The items in question include a pencil, a paperclip, and several sheets of paper.

Fukunaga’s professional reputation has also been damaged by the discovery of emails in which he appears to have responded to videos of kittens playing the piano by writing “LMFAO”.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times points out that this information needs to be shared with the world, even if it was stolen by hackers, because it serves the public interest, as was the case with the Pentagon Papers. “It’s always worthwhile to be reminded what happens behind the carefully cultivated scrim of Hollywood, or any industry,” he wrote.

Yes, it is always worthwhile. I will treasure, for the rest of my life, the moment when I discovered the minor details of Sony film negotiations. Thank you for upholding our way of life, Guardians of Peace!

Jeb Bush Begins His 2016 Presidential Campaign With Corruption

It’s official: Jeb Bush is running for President in 2016.

The opening of the Jeb Bush for President campaign begins, however, with just the kind of doublespeak that we all remember from the days of George W. Bush.

This morning, in a message to his followers, Jeb Bush wrote that he will now “actively explore” running for President. This strange phrasing is just a legal formality that will allow Bush to raise money without yet taking on the complete responsibility of a fully functional presidential campaign. Bush’s statement read:

“I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.”

Jeb Bush will establish a Leadership PAC that will help him facilitate conversations with citizens across America? What does that mean? Bush already has social media accounts on places like Facebook and Twitter, through which he could have conversations with interested citizens. There’s nothing stopping Bush from simply going around and having conversations with people, is there? Bush is already filthy rich, so he could just hop on a plane and go around the country having conversations, right?

billionaires for bush 2016The Jeb Bush Leadership PAC won’t be about having conversations of the sort that typical Americans have. In the ultra-wealthy world that Jeb Bush comes from, conversations are had using the language of money. When Jeb Bush talks about how his Leadership PAC “will expand opportunity and prosperity”, he’s talking about building political connections between himself and other wealthy and politically connected Republicans. The Leadership PAC will make donations to other politicians, purchasing networks of obligation that Jeb Bush will be able to exploit during the GOP presidential primary season.

When Jeb Bush talks preparing to “visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America,” just who do you think he’s going to visit with and talk to? It won’t be rank and file Republican voters. Jeb Bush will only been meeting and conversing with rich Republicans who can give him, and the shadowy super PACs that will flank his presidential campaign, more money than most Americans can hope to make through an entire decade of work.

So, Jeb Bush is beginning with his 2016 campaign with a signal that his campaign is open for business, a pay to play organization. Jeb Bush 2016 will be an elites-only campaign, with bonds of allegiance forged though corrupt exchanges of cash.

Once again, it’s Billionaires for Bush.

Green Party Seeks Prosecution Of American Torture Suspects

Almost as soon as the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee released its report on torture by the CIA, the Department of Justice reiterated the intention of the Obama Administration not to prosecute anyone who was involved in the torture, even though torture is a crime. The Democratic Party is standing behind the President’s policy of amnesty for torturers. The Republicans, as usual, are celebrating torture as a manifestation of national pride, courage and family values.

Where can Americans who want to see the law enforced, and torturers put on trial, turn to? The Green Party of the United States is standing firm in its opposition to torture.

“The torture revelations – some of which were already known – show the extent to which the U.S. has turned into a ‘security state’ in which human rights and the rule of law have been abandoned. The Senate report exposes the appalling complicity of the Bush and Obama administrations and Democratic and Republican leaders in allowing torture and shielding officials who ordered or approved it from punishment,” writes Darryl! L.C. Moch, national co-chair of the Green Party. “The mentality that favors impunity for officials who authorized torture and other serious war crimes is the same mentality that defends impunity for police who commit murder and brutality.”

Kevin Zeese, Attorney General of the Green Shadow Cabinet, writes that “The government and the people of the United States have still not faced the reality of the behavior of the US government and the failure to prosecute ensures that we will not do so.”

While it’s reassuring to see some organizations remaining consistent in their opposition to torture, it’s disturbing that support for basic human rights has become a fringe political position in the United States.

green party stop torture

Pagans Pause

Doing a bit of research into the wyrd path this morning, I came across a blog called the Well of Mimir. It’s a great name, but, “The Well of Mímir will be going on an indefinite hiatus. Please check back in the next year for more content.”

Undaunted, I found another blog called The Pantheist Pagan, who wrote of blogging as a ritual pagan practice, saying, “I started this blog as a way of motivating myself to get back in touch with my spirituality. I’ve always been very spiritual and I think, as a species, human beings are intrinsically spiritual…” Getting back in touch with spirituality didn’t last for long. The blog started in October 2012, and lasted until November 2012.

Still, The Pantheist Pagan linked to the Pagan Monk blog, which lasted for a bit longer – three months – before changing into The Wyld Goat, which has been marked private, and so is unavailable for widespread reading, if it still exists at all.

Searching for something Wyld takes me finally to a roughly up to date pagan blog, Nature Is Sacred. Why so many defunct pagan sites online? Does it have to do with a cyclical, rather than linear, model of time?

Niche Magazines For The Elites

millionaire Asia india edition

I was walking through the airport this weekend, wrapping up a long business trip, when I spotted a pile of magazines available for people to read. On the top of the pile was one called Millionaire Asia: India Edition.

The featured headline on the cover was Great Power, Great Responsibility, followed by Party Hotspots For VIPs Only, Guide To Yachting Holidays. Great responsibility, huh?

I found myself wondering what the chances were that a millionaire from India would be hanging out in the airport lounge. I didn’t see any while I was there – unless they were slumming it in disguise.

What other niche magazines for financial elites might be published? How about:

Luxury Handbag Walk-In Closet Enthusiast

Gated Community Today

Super PAC DIY

House Collector: Cottage Getaway Edition

Any other ideas?

Ben Carson Wants Americans To Surrender Civilian Control Of The Military

Ben Carson is running for President, and seeking the help of voters, acting in our democratic system of government, as he does so. Yet, part of Ben Carson’s political platform is to place a huge section of the government outside of our democracy.

Ben Carson’s plan is to make the operations of the U.S. military so secret that the American people won’t be able to make informed decisions as voters about military policy. Carson believes that American voters shouldn’t have a say in how their country’s military is run. What’s more, he doesnt even want American voters to be able to talk about what the military is doing.

“The tools that we use to fight war should not be up for public discussion,” says Carson.

Ben Carson likes to adopt the posture of someone who stands against “political correctness”, but he himself wants to impose a gag order on the American people and their representatives in government. He wants the American people to simply surrender control of their national military, and never speak of it again. The military would be something we just wouldn’t be allowed to talk about.

The details of Ben Carson’s plan are astonishingly vague. Who would control the U.S. military under his new regime? Congress couldn’t exercise oversight, if it couldn’t even hold public discussions on military matters. Would the President of the United States, under Ben Carson’s plan, have individual power to use the military according to his whim?

That’s not the system we currently have established under the Constitution. The Constitution says that the Congress has the power to control military funding, and has the authority to decide when the military will go off to fight wars – and when it won’t.

The idea is that Congress does its job by representing the will of the people. That’s what elections are for. We the people are supposed to know what our government is doing, and act upon an informed opinion when we submit our ballots on Election Day.

Ben Carson’s plan is to replace that system of democracy with a regime of secret military power, unaccountable to the people. He imagines a President of the United States who can simply declare that huge areas of policy are “not up for public discussion”.

Before people cast any vote for Ben Carson, they should ask him: If you are elected President, what other secrets will you keep from us? What else will we not be allowed to talk about in public?

Movement To Draft Elizabeth Warren For President

Senator Elizabeth Ann Warren has said that she will not run for President in 2016. However, for many Democrats, Hillary Clinton is a disheartening candidate. They’re dismayed by Hillary Clinton’s support for the Rush to war in Iraq, and by the way that it took her a decade to admit that vote was a mistake. They’re worried about the way that Hillary Clinton has supported, rather than protested against, massive electronic spying against law-abiding Americans by the National Security Agency. On many other issues, Hillary Clinton has also been anti-progressive in her positions.

Senator Elizabeth Ann Warren, on the other hand, has a solid progressive record. So, despite Warren’s denials of interest in the presidential race, many Democrats have clamored for Warren to start a campaign.

Now, there is an organization that’s formed with the sole mission of convincing Senator Warren to run for President in 2016. With a clear jab at Hillary Clinton’s super PAC, it’s called Ready For Warren. If you’re hoping for Elizabeth Ann Warren to challenge Hillary Clinton, this group offers ways for your hopes to be moved into concrete action.

Ben Carson, Torture, and Immaturity

Last week, when Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson learned of the release of the results of a Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the illegal brutality with which CIA agents had tortured people who turned out to have been mistakenly imprisoned, what did he do to demonstrate the kind of moral leadership he would demonstrate if elected?

Did Carson condemn torture? No.

Did Carson pledge to work to prevent torture from taking hold in U.S. spy agencies again? No.

Did Carson propose ideas for how to combat the systematic dishonesty and evasion of oversight at the Central Intelligence Agency? No.

Instead, Ben Carson called the years-long investigation of torture, and the epic-book-length report on its findings, “immature”.

Immature?!?

If Ben Carson thinks that a team of legal professionals working overtime to document human rights abuses is immature, then just what is Carson’s idea of maturity?

Ben Carson says that the investigation into torture should never have taken place, and that the American people should have been kept in the dark about its findings.

This is what Ben Carson’s idea of moral maturity is: When you learn that something wrong is taking place, keep it secret. Cover it up. Walk away and pretend that you never saw it taking place, and if people ask questions about it, don’t tell the truth.

Ben Carson likes to stand up and preach angry sermons about the immorality of Americans who want to do things like get married and give people access to medical care. In the meantime, he ignores his own crooked moral apathy toward the most barbaric crimes.

Before the 2016 presidential contest kicks into higher gear next month, Ben Carson would benefit from some deeper self-reflection than he has exhibited so far. It’s time for Carson to look in the mirror, and give honest and mature consideration to the question: Do I really have what it takes?

Does Science Prove the Catholic Church is Right? Part III: Contraception and Fear

Jim Schroeder, an organizer for the pro-Catholic Foundation for Evangelization through the Media, recently published an article declaring without equivocation that “Science Is Proving the Church Is Right and the Culture’s Wrong:

“Modern science – which so many assume is the antithesis or even enemy of Catholic teaching – actually bears out the truth and value and relevance of what the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here are ten examples to illustrate my point.”

In a series of five posts, I’m examining each of Schroeder’s ten scientific proofs of Catholicism. Do they actually make scientific sense? Last week I started with Schroeder’s points on Narcissism (Example 1) and Gluttony (Example 2). Earlier this week we considered Schroeder’s claims about Lust (Example 3) and Family (Example 4). Today, we’ll look at contraception and fear.

Schroeder’s fifth example of a scientific proof of Catholicism:

“5. The Church teaches that artificial birth control violates the natural law. The World Health Organization classifies oral contraceptives as Class One carcinogens (that is, known to cause cancer in humans), like asbestos, radon, and plutonium, except that contraceptives are far more prevalent.”

Take a look for yourself at that WHO document, which is scientifically skimpy, only a one-page statement without research findings. First, it declares that oral contraceptives only “modifies slightly the risk of cancer, increasing it in some sites (cervix, breast, liver), decreasing it in others (endometrium, ovary).” This is not at all “like asbestos, radon, and plutonium,” which strongly increase the risk of cancer. Second, such statements refer to higher-dose formulations of oral contraceptives and not necessarily to lower-dose formulations. Third, the statement says WHO staff “have determined that for most healthy
women, the health benefits clearly exceed the health risks.” Schroeder’s hyperbolic statement is not in alignment with what the WHO document actually declares.

Schroeder’s sixth example:

“6. The Church teaches that fear prevents love and that, above all, we should trust in God’s providential care and not be afraid. Studies show that anxiety is the number one psychological complaint in youth and adults (see, e.g., Cartwright-Hatton, McNicol, & Doubleday, 2006; Muris & Steerneman, 2001). At unhealthy levels, anxiety is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes.”

The link Schroeder provides, to a web page of the National Institute of Mental Health, only discusses the prevalence of anxiety disorder, not a ranking. A citation on the NIMH web page leads us to an Archives of General Psychiatry article that ranks anxiety disorder as the most prevalent — but only among four categories of DSM-IV psychological disorders, not among all psychological disorders. Turning to the two studies cited by Schroeder directly, Cartwright-Hatton, McNicol and Doubleday (2006) conduct a literature review, not a direct study; they find that there is a wide range of estimates about the prevalence of anxiety, and do not place anxiety in a ranking of all psychological complaints. The Muris and Steerneman (2001) article is almost entirely irrelevant, considering that it is an assessment of the reliability of a self-assessment for anxiety among children, tested on a pre-selected group of those with disorders. It may be that anxiety is the most common psychological complaint, but Schroeder does not demonstrate it.

Schroeder further declares, in a trivial tautology of sorts, that unhealthy anxiety is associated with negative health outcomes. The statement provides a clue, magnified in the NIMH article to which Schroeder links. That NIMH statement indicates that anxiety is not necessarily pathological: “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations.”

Apart from empirical considerations, the finding that anxiety exists and is common does not prove the Catholic claims that “fear prevents love” or that believing in the Catholic God leads to a lack of anxiety. These separate claims, the only ones that have directly to do with Catholicism, go unassessed by Schroeder.

Next week, we’ll move on to Schroeder’s seventh and eighth examples of scientific proofs of Catholicism. Coming up: homosexuality and the preciousness of life.

Jeb Bush Is Morally Absent On Torture

Jeb Bush is planning to begin his campaign for the 2016 Republican party presidential nomination, but as he does so, his political organizing is remarkably unbalanced.

Jeb Bush is laying the groundwork for gathering huge amounts of money. He’s hitting up family friends, and calling in the debts of corporate executives who profited from the corrupt policies of his father, President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, President George W. Bush. He’s traveling to Wall Street and promising to loosen controls on risky financial deals even further, in return for promises of cash.

When it comes to leadership on the major public policy issues of the day, however, Jeb Bush is absent.

This week, we discovered the profound brutality of the torture regime that took over the CIA for the first decade of this century.

What has Jeb Bush done about it? Nothing.

What has Jeb Bush said about it? Nothing.

Why? It was George W. Bush who established the torture regime, in the name of “Homeland Security”. George H.W. Bush helped promote the culture of brutality at the CIA back during the Cold War.

For Jeb Bush, family loyalty comes before the good of the nation. So, he is willing to see his country descend into shameful, criminal torture, and do nothing to even try to stop it.

Bush uber alles.