The abortion debate is really a debate about when human life begins. The disastrous Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has made that decision one that favors the aggressive patriarchal mythological view that a human life, with all the rights included in that definition occurs at the moment of conception, fertilization of the human egg. Many religious views differ. The Jewish faith holds that “The fetus is not viewed as separate from the parent’s body until birth begins and the first breath of oxygen into the lungs allows the soul to enter the body.” https://www.ncjw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Judaism-and-Abortion-FINAL.pdf. The views of other religions are as varied as the religions themselves. My own view is that it is our sentience, our awareness of ourselves that makes us human. The development of sentience, according to Scientific American is compatible with the brain’s development in the third trimester. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-does-consciousness-arise/ In a democratic republic, it would make much more sense to accept a scientific definition of the beginning of life than that of select religions. The SCOTUS has chosen a religious definition of when sentience, a human life begins. This is the action of a theocracy, not a democratic republic. It is clearly un-constitutional.
I think that the freedom of religion clause reflected the fear the founding fathers had about one religion superseding others in the view of what is right and what is wrong in human behavior. This decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade clearly gives precedence to specific Catholic and certain evangelical Christian tenets. This is a direct assault on the freedom of religion promised to all citizens in the First Amendment. The current SCOTUS majority have violated their oath to uphold the constitution. Time for a federal law that enshrines the right of a woman to decide what to do with her own body. It is up to good citizens to fight this assault on a woman’s right with every tool at hand.
Author Archives: mmliles
A war to feed Putin’s ego
Feb. 21, 2022
Just when you think that the world couldn’t be more screwed up with continual wars in the Middle East, pandemics, and global warming, one testosterone filled megalomaniac, Putin, has to start a war to feed his desire to bring back the USSR.
When I heard the Russians were bombing the biggest nuclear reactor in Europe, I had to turn off the news to try to keep some semblance of sanity. They started a fire, which was, fortunately for the world, put out, and then they took over the reactor.
To think that thousands of civilians will be killed, and millions displaced, because this one man can make it happen boggles what mind I have left.
But, of course, it isn’t just one man. Millions of Russians had to support Putin at one time or another, just as millions of Americans support his American imitator Trump.
Trump called Putin’s move to attack Ukraine genius. He admires Putin. He would like to be just like Putin—a dictator making money hand over fist by misusing the power of the presidency.
Trump has no more patience with protests against his policies that Putin has. He had no patience with the protests of Geoge Floyd’s killing. His phony righteousness symbolized so well by his holding the Bible upside down. Yet he and his Republican yes-men referred to the awful attempted coup of January 6, 2021, as just another touristy day at the Capitol.
Trump would like to be able to control the press just like Putin does. He’s starting his own social media, and basically FOX is his state media.
March 18, 2022
Good grief, weeks have gone by since I started the blog, and there is no good news. Putin continues his war crimes, and the rest of the world is afraid to stop him for fear of his turning to nuclear arms.
Some Russians would rather believe Putin then their own children in Ukraine, preferring to think Putin is just putting down the wicked Ukrainians who abuse the Russians who live in Ukraine.
Well, some Americans would rather believe that Trump is telling the truth, and really won the election, ignoring the mountain of evidence that Biden won fair and square. What is it about these terrible totalitarian dictators and their “wannabes” that attract people? We can only hope that enough Americans will see the mendacity of Trump and keep him from becoming our first dictator.
When did lies become acceptable?
Lately, when my brain seems more out to lunch than usual, I’ve been watching Golden Girls. I started when Betty White died, and I realized I had never really watched the series, even though I thoroughly enjoy the acting of all the actresses on the program. My husband and I also started watching the HBO hit Succession. We stopped because we didn’t like any of the main characters. They all seemed selfish, greedy, prevaricating, self-centered—well pretty much all the characteristics that we find so objectionable about Trump. While the characters on Golden Girls were overdrawn, they were all likeable, all good people. Is it possible that the programing of popular shows is a reflection of society, or is society reflecting what it sees on TV?
Now, that’s a question that is much too high a paygrade for me to try to answer. From Plato’s questioning the value of poets to today’s classes in sociology, much more well-informed, intelligent minds than mine have tried to answer. To me it seems a chicken or the egg sort of a question. For each unique, living chicken, the fertilized egg with its unique DNA combination came first. But, for that egg to exist, many, many birds, with many, many mutations, leading to a chicken-like bird had to occur first. That is, for society to accept and even like a program like Succession, greater and greater acceptance of the behaviors illustrated had occured before such a program could become popular.
When did acceptance of obvious lies become okay? It is well documented that Trump told 30,573 lies over his four years in office. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/24/trumps-false-or-misleading-claims-total-30573-over-four-years/
Now all politicians lie on occasion, although often more hyperbole than actual lying. But Trump seems to lie as a matter of preference. I doubt he actually is conscious of how much he lies. He may very well think he is telling the truth. But such judgement again, is way above my paygrade. What is most upsetting about Trump’s lies is the number of people who believe them. About a quarter of all Americans believe that Trump really won the election and is the “true” president. That includes 56% of all Republicans and 3% of Democrats. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/53-republicans-view-trump-true-us-president-reutersipsos-2021-05-24/
The conspiracy theories that support the false view that Trump is the true winner of the 2020 election are multiple. One-third of those responding to an Ipsos poll from January of 2021 believed that voter fraud was responsible for Trump being the looser. Others believed that electronic voting machines switched the votes from Trump to Biden. QAnon believers hold that Trump will conquer the cabal of pedophilic Satan worshippers that are now covertly running the country. The QAnon name for this triumph of Trump’s is “the Storm”. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/02/971289977/through-the-looking-glass-conspiracy-theories-spread-faster-and-wider-than-ever
The claims made based on these false theories have been disproved by the sixty-some court cases challenging the election that were dismissed, often by judges appointed by Trump. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/jan/08/joe-biden/joe-biden-right-more-60-trumps-election-lawsuits-l/
But truth doesn’t seem to matter much anymore whether it’s told by a president or a television character. When did that happen? It’s never happened among my personal friends and relatives. Has it happened to yours? Do we all share some of the blame by not objecting more to some of the entertainment offered us?
The Republican Party used to pride itself on having the higher moral ground. No party supporting such a low-life as Trump can claim that high ground. The majority of Republicans back up Trump’s fallacious claims. Unless we insist that all politicians must honor the truth we will lose our democracy. We already have more of an oligarchy than is healthy for maintaining democracy. We have to call liars what they are. Biden won the 2020 election by seven million votes fair and square. To say otherwise is not an alternative fact it is a lie, the big lie.
But those who believe Trump’s lies, really believe them. They truly believe that Trump should be president, and that the election was stolen from Trump. Where is the innocent child to avow “the Emperor has no clothes.” Liz Cheney and others are trying, but it’s not enough. What will be enough? Is it even possible to change their minds? I don’t know, but am certainly open to suggestions.
It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything on this blog. My indolent cancer has continued on its lazy pathway, so, for the moment, at least, I am fine; the cancer has not grown, and has actually shrunk in some areas. The chemo treatments I take rob me of energy, and can make me a bit nauseous, but, other than that, I can’t really complain. So, I will try to get back to writing, Well, might be more accurate to say ranting.
The plague of ignorance.
The COVID situation in this country makes me very angry. According to the CDC we now have 75,012,446 cases of COVID in the USA. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html Nearly a million Americans have died from the disease (884,853). Only sixty-four percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID. There is empirical evidence that increased vaccination rates do reduce the number of new COVID cases, and dramatically reduce the number of hospitalizations and fatalities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7709178/ Vaccinations alone, do not lower the number of COVID cases, social distancing, mask-wearing, etc. increase resistance to COVID.
Kansas provides direct evidence that wearing masks definitely reduces the spread of this dreadful virus. The governor of Kansas issued an executive order to require mask-wearing in all public spaces, effective July 3, 2020. Counties in Kansas were able to opt out of the Governor’s mandate. In the 24 counties that kept the mask mandate, the COVID infection rate continued to decrease, but in the counties without a mask mandate the rate increased. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/11/23/937173060/mask-mandates-work-to-slow-spread-of-coronavirus-kansas-study-finds
If you are unvaccinated, you are 14 times more likely to die of COVID. https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20211124/unvaccinated-14-times-more-likely-to-die-from-covid Yet, many Americans simply refuse to take the vaccine. They are encouraged in their denial by misinformation from FOX News. Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham both called the vaccine dangerous. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/11/business/media/vaccines-fox-news-hosts.html Yes, there are side effects to the vaccine—as there are to any vaccine. But the CDC reports only 0.0022% of vaccinated people dying due to a possible response to the COVID vaccine, much lower than FOX’s propaganda would have you believe.
The Republican/FOX anti-vaccine campaign has undoubtedly increased the number of deaths from COVID. A study by NPR found that people who lived in USA counties that voted for Trump by 60% or higher were 2.73 times more likely to die of COVID than those who lived in less Trumpian counties. This study included some 3,000 counties. It is not surprising to see that 59% of unvaccinated people are Republican, while Democrats and Independents each make up 17% of the unvaccinated population. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/12/05/1059828993/data-vaccine-misinformation-trump-counties-covid-death-rate
The harm that has been done by fake cures for COVID is unmeasured. Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug became popular based on one study using very high concentrations of the drug in the lab against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Concentrations used in this study would be almost impossible to duplicate within the human blood stream. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-58170809 But, anti-vaccine folks would rather take high concentrations of a cat de-wormer than a vaccine with proven positive results.
It must be unbelievably difficult for the front-line folks, doctors and nurses, who are treating people who didn’t need to be fatally ill from a disease for which there is a known preventative. And, especially hard, to treat COVID patients that refuse to admit they have the disease. Front-line workers put their health on the line daily to serve patients who are sick because of their failure to get vaccinated. Patients that crowd hospitals to the point where not all patients can be treated. Not a good time to have a heart attack.
What would the situation be like if everyone eligible to get a vaccine, got the vaccine, including the booster third shot? What would the situation be like if 90% were vaccinated? At the present time it some 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, with only 28% also having the booster shot. https://www.google.com/search?q=covid+vaccination+rate+in+us&oq=covid+vaccination+rate+in+US&aqs=chrome.0.0i512j0i22i30l8j0i390.6285j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
The current COVID pandemic is a plague of ignorance as much as a plague of a virus. Murdoch’s mavens of misrepresentation are aiding and abetting this deadly virus. Aid that should be criminal.
Surprised and disappointed
I suppose I should not have been surprised when Mayor Paul McNamara voted for the obvious Chamber of Commerce’s candidate, Tina Inscoe, in tonight’s virtual city council meeting to appoint someone to fill Councilman John Masson’s seat. After the way he threw Councilwoman Olga Diaz under the bus in her run for the supervisorial seat, I should not have been surprised since he seems to have gone over to the dark side, or perhaps, he just doesn’t like uppity women. But I was. Surprised, and very, very disappointed.
I watched as Republican dominated councils appointed Councilman Mike Morasco to fill Marie Waldron’s seat when she was elected to the California State Assembly. Morasco was then able to run as an incumbent two years later. Then John Masson to fill Sam Abed’s seat when Abed became Mayor. Again Masson was able to run as an incumbent two years later. And I thought, “well, at last!” The council can appoint a Democrat this time, if only for a half year or so. They could appoint Vanessa Valenzuela, who could then run in this November’s election as an incumbent. But, it is evidently not to be.
McNamara said at the beginning of the meeting that the council would select a short list of candidates to consider, after the council members had asked the candidates questions. Each question would be answered by all candidates. The candidates would each begin with an opening statement. Each council member could nominate one or more candidates for the short list, and a second by one other member would put that candidate on the short list.
The questions did not go as smoothly as could be desired. For some reason Nicole Downey was not able to be on screen, they were able to get her voice heard, so we could hear her answers. Usually the audio was not in sync with the picture. Jeff Griffith looked as though we were seeing him in a fun-house mirror. But, considering the difficulty of putting such a virtual session together, it really went pretty well.
Altogether there were nine candidates who had applied for the vacant council seat, including three perennial candidates, Nicole Downey, Jeff Griffith, and Rick Paul. The candidates all seemed well qualified, well except for the naval officer who is still in active service in the Navy and living for the nonce in Florida.
I thought Councilman Mike Morasco’s question as to what each candidate felt was a more important quality in serving on the council, articulating their ideas or listening to others, was a unique and excellent question. One of the candidates, Scotti Lombardi, said jokingly he loved answering trick questions. But all of the candidates emphasized that both abilities were pretty essential. They all liked the direction the current council was taking the city, but also all recognized that the Covid 19 pandemic would make keeping the city going very difficult.
Five applicants made the short list, Barbara Aguilar, Inscoe, Lombardi, Paul, and Valenzuela. Then McNamara asked if any council member wanted to nominate a candidate to fill the seat. Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez nominated Valenzuela, and Diaz seconded the motion. That’s when my jaw dropped. Martinez and Diaz both vote yea and McNamara and Morasco voted nae. Then Morasco, of course, nominated Inscoe, and again the vote was split in the expected (newly expected by me) way.
Diaz came up with what could have provided a compromise, suggesting that perhaps at the May meeting, the council could vote for the five on the short list by ranked voting—that is, they would show their first, second and maybe third choice for the seat. But McNamara didn’t like that idea, and neither did Morasco. I guess they think they can convince Martinez’ or Diaz’ to vote for Inscoe. Have to admit, Inscoe seemed very nice, far from uppity. But, I hope Martinez and Diaz will hold strong. .And that’s the way it was left. It will be taken up again at the May 6th meeting.
I suppose it is all pretty minor in the scope of today’s overwhelming Covid disaster. Frankly I’m surprised that many people would volunteer for what will, I’m sure, turn out to be a difficult if not impossible job. Since Escondido depends on sales tax, which, except for groceries, gas, and other essential businesses, has pretty much dried up as a source of revenue. Things are going to be very tough. I think having a financial expertise like Valenzuela’s would be very helpful at this time.
Is the Die Cast?
The Rubicon has been crossed. But, this time the Senate has aided and abetted the man who would end democracy as we know it. I listened to the evidence presented at the impeachment hearings in the House, and to the abbreviated trial in the Senate, and it is as clear to me as it is to Senator Mitt Romney that Trump put his personal political desires above what was in this country’s best interest. If that is not treason to you, your standards of treason are very low. Trump tried to make the release of military and financial aid to the Ukraine, and a meeting with him by Ukrainian President Zelensky, dependent upon Zelensky announcing the investigation of Joe Biden and his son. If that is not bribery to you, your standards of bribery are very low.
Trump’s attorney, Alan M. Dershowitz, (you know, the guy who got O.J. Simpson off,) argued that if Trump did something to help his campaign (like spreading mud about Joe Biden) it wasn’t wrong because Trump felt that his re-election was in the country’s best interest. And 52 Republican Senators just seemed to agree with this bit of autocratic bovine feces. If Dershowitz’s argument isn’t the definition of an autocrat’s power, I don’t know what is.
I’ve learned to live with pain the last six months or so. My cancer is not active now, no new lesions have shown up, so I’m happy about that. But, the three vertebra that had been attacked developed compression fractures. The fractures were repaired with kyphoplasty, where the damaged tissue is removed and replaced by a type of cement. (See https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/back-surgery/description-kyphoplasty-surgery if you want more details.) Unfortunately my eighth thoracic vertebra is still out of alignment and causes me pain. Pain which I treat with a combination of opiates, ibuprofen, and naproxen. But all of that pain is insignificant next to the pain I feel in seeing my country loose its rule of law and thus its democracy.
Since the senate voted as expected, Trump has been crushing the rule of law. One of the witnesses of Trump’s crimes, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, has been summarily fired and marched out of the White House, along with his twin brother (who had nothing to do with the impeachment proceedings.) This, in spite of the clearly written rules against reprisals against whistle blowers and other witnesses. The so-called Attorney General, Bill Barr, Trump’s Consigliere, has tried to lower the prison sentence of Trump’s buddy Roger Stone. When a leader takes the law and bends it to protect his interests and his friends’ interest, and to punish his enemies, he becomes a dictator. How can anyone with a brain not see this?
The evangelicals’ support of the larcenous, adulterous, fornicating con man is especially baffling. I’m more of a Christian than Donald Trump, and I am agnostic. Perhaps it is their Idyll that outlawing abortions will reduce the number of abortions, when the evidence shows clearly that the abortion rate is just as high or higher in countries that outlaw abortion as in countries where it is legal. The countries with the highest abortion rates are in South and Central America, where the penalties are the harshest.
What can I do to stop this drift into an autocracy? I cannot join marches or canvass neighborhoods. I cannot drive because I use opiates. I can write. I can encourage all my readers who agree to share this with their friends and neighbors. Our democratic republic is in danger. It is slipping into a banana republic. We must protest. We must overwhelmingly vote out this wanna-be dictator.
Opioids and Oligarchy
“Oligarchy…1 : government by the few. 2: a government in which a small group exercises control…” So, according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary we are rapidly becoming an oligarchy in the USA. Some would reasonably say we are already there, an arrival greatly aided by the 2018 “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2018/sep/26/america-oligarchy-dominated-billionaires-big-money-series
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the fact the rich have become richer and the poor poorer over the last three or four decades in the USA, is undeniable. It is also undeniable corporations are responsible for many of the obstacles we all encounter.
I encountered one such obstacle last week.
In my last blog I spoke about my cancer. The good news is that the latest scans show no new cancer progression. The bad news is that two of the three vertebrae that were radiated for cancer, developed compression fractures. This was as painful as what I had suffered with the cancer in my ninth thoracic vertebra (T9). To remedy this pain, kyphoplasty for all three vertebra that had cancer lesions was performed. Kyphoplasty is a process in which a surgeon, using tiny tubes removes the cancerous tissue from inside the vertebral body, and then fills it with a sort of cement, and expands the vertebral body to its size before the fractures. This worked very well (I think) on my T8 and T9 vertebrae. It did not work for the T12, and the pain was as bad as before. So, I went to palliative care, (which is not hospice) to cope with the pain. They adjusted my pain medication, adding Methadone to the Oxycodone I was taking. So, now I am relatively pain free, albeit a bit dopey, and unable to drive. The surgeon who performed the Kyphoplasty has ordered an MRI, which may show another way to remedy the situation.
It was the adjustment to my medication that became an obstacle. The opioid epidemic has made getting drugs like Oxycodone much harder. That is understandable considering the addiction costs to society. However, it also means that people who are in severe pain have to also jump through the new hoops to get their medication. The palliative care doctor had called in her prescription to my pharmacy while I was still in the clinic in Torrey Pines. Roger and I stopped for lunch in Rancho Bernardo, and I called the pharmacy to see if the prescription would be ready. The pharmacist I spoke with said no, because they needed a lot more information about my condition, which the palliative care doctor had not provided. I was in a lot of pain at the time, and I’m afraid I might have raised my voice at this delay in getting better pain relief. So Roger drove me home, where I was able to get the weight off my back, and heat on it.
In a calmer frame of mind, I was able to analyze the situation, and realize, that because it was a different doctor than my oncologist who wrote the prescription, the pharmacy probably had to make sure I wasn’t shopping doctors. I called the pharmacy again, and explained my condition, noting that all the previous Rx’s had come from my Scripps oncologist, and the new one from the Scripps palliative care at the Scripps M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and assured him I was not doctor shopping. He agreed to go ahead and release the medications, and poor Roger went back into town to pick them up for me.
So, if you’re still reading this, you’re probably asking “what the hell does this have to do with oligarchies?” Well, who is responsible for the opioid crisis? As the Los Angeles Times has so well pointed out, big pharma is the culprit. https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2019-09-17/opioid-lawsuit-who-is-to-blame This has been widely demonstrated on news programs such as “60 Minutes” and in the press. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/one-small-town-two-drug-companies-and-123-million-doses-of-opioids/2018/02/15/6436fe16-11a0-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html When a large pharmaceutical sends 5.8 million pills to one pharmacy in a town of 1,779 people, without any hesitation or fear of being fined due to lack of governmental regulatory oversight, the power and influence of “the few” to have government act in their interest over the interests of regular citizens is as evident as the nose on my face. (Yes, I have a beautiful Roman nose, not exactly something to be ignored.)
Belatedly, long after the unlimited opioid availability, there has been some effort to regulate the distribution of opioids, and to punish the unconscionable actions of Big Pharma. A county district judge in Oklahoma ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million in reparation for the damages done to the state. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/johnson-and-johnson-is-responsible-for-fueling-oklahomas-opioid-crisis-judge-rules-in-landmark-case/2019/08/26/ed7bc6dc-c7fe-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html Interestingly, Johnson and Johnson’s stock rose after the judgement. Oklahoma had asked for $17.5 billion in damages, to be paid over 30 years; that $17.5 billion being what the state calculated its costs would be to pay for the damages caused by opioids. Some might say this was just a slap on the wrist.
I’m not ready to say we have an absolute oligarchy, but we’re well on the way. Consider this. If a doctor prescribes an opioid, she must also prescribe the drug for an overdose of an opioid, Narcan. Is this something the drug companies must do to pay for their crimes? No. This is something that opioid users must pay for unless, as did I, they understand that this is a drug only to use after overdose, because there is no law that the receiver of opioids must buy this drug. However, when my new palliative care doctor prescribed opioids, she also had to prescribe the overdose drug, Narcan. So, Roger, not aware of this, when told I had three prescriptions (not only the Oxycodone, but also the Methadone and the Narcan) he assumed that they were all drugs that would relieve my pain. Narcon without insurance can cost $140. It cost me, with Medicare, less than $5. I’m not sure how much it cost my insurer, and you the taxpayer.
It is clear to me that the interests and comfort of the majority of citizens take a back seat to the interests of corporations and the top .01 percent in wealth. I truly believe we can change this trend, but only if people vote against the servants of the ultra-wealthy.
Napili Bay, Maui July 18, 2019
This is the view from the tiny balcony of our tiny studio apartment. That’s Lanai in the background. It’s a great view, but what I really love is the sound of the surf, which breaks about 25 feet from the balcony. The great variety of surf music is so calming, from the waterfall roar of large breakers, to the soft whoosh of the smallest waves. A watery lullaby better than any sleeping pill.
It has been a bit of a rough year for me, healthwise, and my request to come here, mainly to veg-out was agreed to by Roger, who has had to put up with a lot this year. I had intended to swim in the ocean every day, but they had something called a southern swell, and the surf was just too rough for me. We were able to go Tuesday and Wednesday, and will today, but on Sunday and Monday, when I tried, it was just too rough, mainly because of the medication, Afinitor, to fight my cancer, has side effects of extreme fatigue and muscle weakness.
Yes, once again I am contributing to the delinquency of pharmaceutical companies. The Afinitor costs about $12K a month. It will cost me about $11K this year. Yes, you read that correctly—you the taxpayers through my Medicare are paying at least $10K an (almost) month for my 28 pills of Afinitor. It is an obscene price, and the drug companies have no price regulation, thanks to their prostitutes in Congress. It has caused me to wonder what possible motivation these companies would have for finding a cure for cancer when they can make so much money selling these palliative drugs. After all, if you cure someone, they won’t be buying the palliatives.
It’s been two months and counting since I last attempted to write anything. Why? Not because there’s nothing to write about. No. I’ve not written because I’ve had little energy, drive or ambition.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have metastatic breast cancer. I was diagnosed shortly after the 2016 election, and was much more upset by the election of the orange menace than the news my cancer was back.
Since, for the past two months, my cancer has been the major focus of my life, I have decided to write about it—so if this is not your cup of tea, this would be a good place to stop reading.
My doctors were very optimistic, saying that there were many treatments available, and at this point I think I’ve been through at least half of the repertoire.
My first bout with breast cancer was in 2005. I had a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. It came back in 2014, under my arm. I was one of the 5% who had a false negative sentinel lymph node biopsy in 2005. This time I had a complete lymph node dissection, radiation treatment, and chemo. I knew that once cancer gets in the lymphatic system there’s a good possibility it will come back, and it did.
My 2016 diagnoses indicated I had two very small lesions, one in my liver and one in my T8 (eighth thoracic vertebral disk.) As I said, I was much more upset about having an ex- reality TV star, who was obviously racist, sexist, ignorant and incompetent as president.
Always before when I was diagnosed, I did as much research as possible about the stage, type, treatments available for my cancer. This time I did not. I pretty much just followed whatever instructions I was given. My old oncologist retired in December, but both she and my new oncologist recommended treatment with Tamoxifen and a new drug called Ibrance.
That was the first time I contributed to the delinquency of the drug companies. Ibrance costs about $12K for 21 tablets. (After taking the 21 pills, you take a week off.) My share after going through the $4K (approximately) donut hole was about $670 per month. Ibrance brags that it will, on average, prolong the period of disease progression free periods by two years and actually shrink tumors. And my PET scan in March of 2017 showed no evidence of the liver lesion. And all was well until my December scans. That showed a new, very small lesion, in my liver, as well as more activity in my T8, as well as some activity in my T12. The radiologist who had analyzed the scan referred to my cancer as indolent. Probably a good thing for a cancer to be. My oncologist recommended that I stop taking Ibrance and begin a new hormone blocker called Faslodex, which is given by injection. I was just fine with that, since the Ibrance side effects included extreme fatigue I was glad to give up.
This change in my diagnosis caused me to do what I usually do at the beginning of any new health problem, research. I read a lot of journal articles, and discovered that people like me, with less than five lesions in fewer than three areas of the body were considered to be oligometastatic, and the best treatment was to aggressively go after the lesions as they show up in conjunction with the hormone blocking therapy. I shared my information with my oncologist, and asked her how the lesions could be so treated. Radiation was her answer. So soon, I had stereotactic radiation therapy for my lesions, as well as taking the Faslodex. 2018 was a pretty good year.
Then in December, a new lesion was found under my arm. My radiologist felt the best way to treat it was by surgery, which I had in January. Leaving time to heal for our wonderful trip through the Panama Canal and Costa Rica’s National Parks in February. When I returned, my oncologist recommended a new treatment, Afinitor, which I began, along with another hormone blocker.
Then, about the second week of April, I began to have severe back and ribcage pain. It got worse and worse, finally leading to a visit to the Scripps Torrey Pines Emergency Center. The scan they did only showed the possibility that the scar tissue on my T12 might be pinching the nerves. I was sent home with pain killers.
Calls to doctors, suggestion of a pain specialist, pain specialist insisting on a MRI before looking at me, doing it all through a haze of taking 10 mg of Vicodin every six hours. Doing crosswords, trying to exercise at least half an hour every day, being driven to everything by Roger, it was a very hazy, time. I believe the one thing that kept me from becoming a basket case was the discovery of two, very difficult jigsaw puzzles in our wall unit. It was a completely different challenge than my usual crossword, and the challenge kept me focused on something outside of myself.
Finally, had another PET scan and an MRI. On the PET scan my T9 showed up as having a little activity—barely discernable. On the MRI my T9 showed up being completely enveloped by cancer. My “indolent” slow-growing cancer may have been advancing in the T9 for years. Or?
Once again stereotactic radiation therapy saved the day. My pain diminished almost immediately—it had already been eased by a steroid course. Now my only symptoms are from the Afinitor. I will have a series of scans in August, including MRIs. Until then, I will be optimistic as possible, listen to the surf while I can, and go swimming.
In my last blog I noted that Jaqueline Arsivaud-Benjamin was Chair of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council, and that J.P. Theberge was Vice-Chair. That was incorrect. Arsivaud stepped down in June, although, obviously still very active, and Theberge is now Chair.
Lawsuits, Sewage, and Valiano
The council chambers were full at last Wednesday’s city council meeting. This was due to the attendance of the winners and their families of the city’s Earth Day Poster contest. The contest is really a great way to get kids involved with saving the environment—all the posters are made with recycled materials. Great idea, great contest. You can watch the presentation of the awards to the winners on the city’s meeting video https://escondido.12milesout.com/video/meeting/577beb1a-b33e-4ded-bd45-cdb9e09b5cb1 .
I have noticed before that the majority of the posters come from private and charter schools. This year there were no winners from the regular public schools in Escondido. I know that public school teachers have incredibly difficult jobs, and art education has been given a low priority. But, I think that the mother of one of the winners, sitting next to me, was wrong when she told her son that there were no contestants from the public schools, because all the teachers did there, was babysit. I have a feeling that the look on my face when I heard her say this revealed my distress at such a notion, because she quickly looked away and changed the subject.
The most interesting topic of discussion was on the consent calendar, Item 6: Valiano Project Sewer Flow Agreement. I’ve written extensively about the history of development in the Eden Valley/Harmony Grove/Elfin Forrest area. But, to summarize, Valiano is a proposed 326 plus home development north of the new Harmony Grove Village development. I say new development, but the “Village” has been in the works, causing disharmony in Harmony Grove since the beginning of this century. See: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/31/eden-no-more/ and https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/31/eden-no-more/ for that history.
Item 6 was on the Consent Calendar, I guess, because it was continuing a process that had begun at a meeting on December 9, 2015 with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the developer of the Valiano Project. I had attended and written about this meeting: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/01/11/sewage-service-other-unsavory-deals/ It had been approved by the Council at the time: Mayor Sam Abed, Councilmembers Mike Morasco, John Masson, and Ed Gallo. Councilwoman Olga Diaz was absent at the meeting.
As I had pointed out, the Valiano MOU:
if approved, will break the promises made by the County to residents in the area. The City will provide sewer service to the project for approximately $1.7 million. The developers of Valiano, Integral Communities, will also reconstruct the Sewer Pump Station No. 12, and the new pipes it will require. The reason for this is that the “Developer wishes to avoid constructing an onsite wastewater treatment plant and disposal facilities in conjunction with the Project.” The developer has also agreed to provide a 5.5 million gallon wet weather storage facility. This, theoretically, would avoid the occasional overflow of the secondarily treated sewage into the Escondido Creek. Such overflows have occurred before, incurring major fines to the City. This facility will be on the site of the development. It is treated sewage, but not sure that fact will make it more appealing to the current residents. They’re not particularly enthusiastic about the project. See: http://www.friendsofedenvalley.com/about.html .
The developer also agreed to make improvements to Country Club Drive and contribute $250,000 to the “eventual completion of Citracado Parkway.”
There is an escape clause: “If the County does not approve the Project Entitlements, or the City is not able to enter into a sewer service agreement with the County on terms acceptable to the City, then the Parties agree that neither Party is bound by this MOU.” We can only hope that will be the case.
Well, the Escondido City Staff seems to feel everything is hunky dory for continuing. The General Manager of Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, Greg Thomas disagrees. It turns out that the County of San Diego has negotiated an agreement with Rincon wherein Rincon is now in charge of the Harmony Grove Village water treatment plant. Now the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council had through various legal battles with San Diego County made it a requirement that the Harmony Grove Village treatment plant service Harmony Grove Village and only Harmony Grove Village, not the proposed Harmony Grove Village South or the Valiano project. Rincon has now begun a study to determine the feasibility of adding sewage service to Harmony Grove Village South and Valiano to the Harmony Grove Village plant, a study paid for by the developers of Harmony Grove Village South.
Thomas argued that the Escondido Council should delay any decision about the agreement until the study was completed. He noted that the two proposed projects, Valiano and Harmony Grove Village South had basically three possible options for sewage treatment. First, they could build their own, on-site facilities, second, hook up to Escondido’s plant, and third, connect to the Harmony Grove Village Plant (Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council be damned.) Thomas noted that the Escondido’s agreement would make it imperative for Valiano to only hook up to Escondido’s plant. Thomas said that the council’s approval of this agreement at this time would be “putting the cart before the horse.” He recommended that the council take no action.
Jacqueline Arsivaud-Benjamin, of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council also recommended no action. She noted that this agreement would be the beginning of annexation of the proposed development into the City of Escondido. (Escondido can only provide sewage service to properties within its boundaries.) The Valiano project is not contiguous with Escondido’s city boundary, and the annexation of Valiano would require the annexation of many of the single family homes now within the county.) Arsivaud noted that approval by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) would be required, and that the recent approval of Valiano by the San Diego Board of Supervisors was being challenged by strong lawsuits.
Douglas Dill of the San Dieguito Planning Group pointed out that at the planning group’s February 8, 2018, meeting, where the two projects, Valiano and Harmony Grove Village South were considered by the group, of the 75 residents that attended, all were against the developments.
Mid Hoppenrath, former Chair of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council also referred to the current litigation against the developments, adding that they posed a fire risk to all the current residents. She pointed out that part of the Valiano project was out of Escondido’s Sphere of Influence (SOI). Hoppenrath had been one of the prime activists behind the Harmony Grove movement to remove itself from Escondido’s SOI years ago.
An Eden Valley resident, and owner of horses, noted that the meeting was occurring during what was horse feeding time for many of the area residents, and made attendance difficult. She also hoped the council would take no action.
Representatives of the developer of Valiano downplayed the threat of lawsuits, emphasizing the approval of the Board of Supervisors (BOS) in July. It was logical to use the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF), there was synergy, Escondido will gain wet water storage, a new pump, as well of lots of new customers. The environmental impact report produced for the project had been exhaustive. It would be a win for the city and the developer. The number of homes to be built by their Specific Plan Area, the BOS had approved wasn’t many more than would have been allowed under Escondido’s General Plan (GP). (Actually it is a lot more homes. Escondido’s GP designates the area as Estate I—one home per 1 to 4 acres. Steep slopes in the area would make it very difficult to build more than 50 homes under that Estate designation. Far less than the 380 total dwelling units proposed.)
The last public speaker was J.P. Theberge, Chair of the Town Council. He, like all the other public speakers (other than the developer reps) complained about the lack of notice of this meeting. They had only found out the item was on the agenda on the Monday before the meeting. The Town Council was suing the county over approval of Harmony Grove Village South and Valiano, as was the Sierra Club. The fire evacuation proposed was severely inadequate—it was already insufficient and thousands more cars would make the situation intolerable as there had been no traffic capacity added since the 1960’s. If the council approved this agreement it would be the first step for annexation of Valiano to Escondido, and part of Valiano was in the Harmony Grove area that had fought to remove itself from Escondido. He too asked the council to make no decision that night.
Escondido Director of Utilities, Chris McKinney, was then on the spot to try and save the agreement. He agreed that Valiano was within the Rincon District, but not within Rincon’s wastewater service area. There would be a large benefit to the city, and connecting to the HARRF was the most cost effective way to provide sewer service. The impending litigation was not a reason to forestall, because if the litigation was successful the agreement would be nullified. He reiterated the benefits to the city, and avowed the city would save millions if the agreement went forward.
Morasco said that the agreement would be a placeholder for the city. If the litigation was successful, or if LAFCO refused the annexation, the agreement would be negated, otherwise the developer would be bound to only work with Escondido.
Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez was concerned about the lack of notice that the speakers had mentioned. McKinney said that the agreement would not make annexations necessary, but just preserve Escondido’s right to annex. (Huh?) Martinez asked if the city had contacted Rincon, McKinney said yes, a few weeks ago.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz objected to the lack of a map in the staff’s report. She had been given parcel numbers only. She questions what the county’s general plan would have allowed before the Specific Plan Area for Valiano had been approved. She wondered why this wasn’t a violation of Prop. S. Escondido had not been involved in approving the EIR for the project, and the council had not been made familiar with the EIR. She remembered being warned, years ago, that the HARRF would reach capacity.
McKinney assured her that the drought had changed the city’s residents use of water, the focus on water conservation had eased the urgency of the issue from what it had been ten years ago. The addition of the development would not significantly add to the HARRF’s burden.
Diaz asked who was responsible for notifying residents about the item. City Manager Jeff Epp tried to assure her that no noticing was required other than the Brown Act, and that the posting of the meeting’s agenda on the city’s website was all that was necessary. Epp loudly repeated that no noticing was required! Diaz responded that if only as a matter of etiquette, people living near the project should have been notified, especially if their homes might be annexed into the city. She would not vote for this agreement, she felt the council should hold off on any action.
Below is a map of the project—that might have been useful to Diaz. The area labeled “Southern portion of the Specific Plan Area” is not within Escondido’s SOI. Note all the “Single-family Homes” within the county between the Specific Plan Area (Valiano) and the City of Escondido’s border. In order to be annexed, many of those homes would also have to be annexed in order to meet LAFCO’s rules about annexation.
Mayor Paul McNamara seemed to be going through a check list with his questions to McKinney. The county had approved the project? Check. Litigation could stop the project, and would automatically stop the agreement? Check. The project would not overburden the HARRF? Check. The City would gain a pumping station, emergency storage? Check. This would only happen if LAFCO says yes? Check. If we say no, the developer will have to find another option? Check.
Martinez said she felt there were too many unanswered questions to proceed.
Then Epp seemed to forget that he worked for the council, not the other way around. He schooled the council members that it was their obligation to only do what was best for the residents of Escondido, not residents of surrounding communities. He informed them that they needed to take the very knowledgeable advice of the staff, implying that they (the council members) obviously did not have the wisdom that the staff had.
The measure failed with Morasco and McNamara voting yes, Diaz and Martinez no.