education, healthcare, musings

JFTDC… look it up on Urban Dictionary, if you’re confused…

There was a time, not so long ago, that I actually enjoyed getting involved in discussions on Facebook. I found it stimulating to have conversations with other adults about controversial topics. After awhile, though, the discussions started to become annoying, mainly because they often attracted trolls. I also found myself involved in online spats with men, some of whom seemed to get a charge out of goading emotional responses from people.

I realize it’s not always men who are like this. I’ve run into some very irritating women, too. I’m sure there are people out there in the world who find me annoying as hell, although I truly don’t go out of my way to antagonize people. Somehow, I just seem to come by it naturally. It started with my father, who used to criticize me for being “arrogant”. I don’t think I was arrogant, so much as I was strong-willed and articulate. He found my willingness to talk back to him disrespectful and aggravating. I found his tendency to discount me and my opinions disappointing, to the point of being heartbreaking. I mean, my own dad wanted me to dumb myself down so that I didn’t upset his ego. How sad is that? I probably could and should write a separate post about my dad… although whatever I write will likely be a rerun.

Anyway, early yesterday morning, while I was recovering from Arran’s first pee break of the day, I ran across a discussion a friend was having about whether or not people should be “segregated” according to their COVID vaccination status. This fellow, someone I have met offline, but don’t know all that well, was arguing that segregating people based on their vaccination status is discriminatory. He’s against the idea of “vaccine passports” and doesn’t think anyone should have to disclose their vaccination status or be forced to get inoculated against COVID-19. Surprisingly enough, I know that this man has a background in healthcare. He disapproves of the COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that they’re “experimental”.

Several of his friends took him to task about his stance. One person mentioned that she had to get flu shots as a condition of her job. She also mentioned that children often aren’t allowed to go to schools if they haven’t been immunized. She also expressed doubt that this guy actually cares if the COVID vaccines are FDA approved, and rightfully explained that the research behind the vaccines has been going on for some time now.

My friend came back with a response that he does care if the vaccines are approved, because he is concerned about how they might affect his family members. And then he wrote something I found a bit alarming:

…businesses segregating people between vaccinated and not vaccinated is akin to segregation between black and white. Segregation based on skin color is no different than segregation based on my vaccine status.

Oh my. Personally, I find this a bit of a stretch. COVID-19 KILLS people. It’s extremely contagious. So someone who is unvaccinated and happens to be carrying the virus could potentially cause an outbreak that results in death. It has nothing to do with a person’s race. Racial segregation is not the same thing. A person can’t help their race. They can help whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.

Against my better judgment, I kept reading. And then another friend of my friend’s left an admittedly “preachy” comment about how one person’s choices affects other people. My friend came back hot, demanding to know if he was being selfish for not wanting to risk taking an experimental vaccine. His friend responded that yes, not getting the shot is “selfish”, reiterating that the research has been going on for years.

At this point, I could kind of understand why my friend was responding with so much emotion. No one likes to be accused of selfishness, especially when he or she is trying to make a personal decision. But then he wrote something that really made me pause.

…only people are selfish because theyre not getting the vaccine?. I got news for you bro. The CDC said youre fully protected when you are fully vaccinated so why in the hell are you or anyone else for that matter worried about it. Let me be selfish by not taking an experimental vaccine. And for the record I knew about mRNA before you even knew what that was so dont preach the choir to someone who has a Masters in Public Health. WebMD is very dangerous bud

I happen to have a master’s degree in public health myself, and legitimately didn’t realize that this friend and I have that in common. So I went to see where he got his education. It turns out that both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees come from the same online for profit university.

I don’t have an issue with online education. Bill has two master’s degrees. One of them is a Master of Arts he earned in Information Management from Webster University back in 2003, having done a lot by correspondence and the occasional in person class early in our marriage. I remember how exhausted he was when he had to work a full day at the Pentagon, then go to class after work. He’d come home at about 8:00pm, having risen at 4:30am to catch the train to DC.

The other degree, Bill earned in 2016, just after he retired from the Army. He was taking cybersecurity courses through the National Defense University, and discovered that he could earn a master’s degree from Regis University (a Jesuit brick and mortar school in Colorado) by adding some of their online courses. That, too, was a challenging undertaking, as he would sometimes have to get up in the middle of the night to attend class or work in groups, thanks to the time difference between Germany and Colorado. I also witnessed how much real work went into Bill’s acquisition of that cybersecurity degree. When we first moved to Germany for the second time, he was constantly doing school work, even when we were on trips.

Then I remember my own graduate school experience, which was three solid years of traditional schooling at the University of South Carolina. I lived on campus, had graduate assistantships and internships, and got to know a lot of people. I had a social work professor in those days who didn’t like online or virtual instruction. For that matter, he also didn’t like telemedicine on distance counseling sessions. He didn’t think distance learning or telemedicine/counseling was a substitute for being in person. I have recently had the chance to see how well online counseling works. Bill recently started receiving online counseling, which is something that I have encouraged him to do for years. He’s a few sessions in already, and has really been enjoying the process. It’s something he can do for himself, while in the comfort of his own home or, in the case of the last three weeks, in a hotel room. He and his counselor talk for an hour, and can see each other, thanks to webcams. I think it’s been working out well for him.

Weirdly enough, it turns out the University of South Carolina is a pioneer in distance learning, which I learned when I was a student there. They’ve been offering distance education at USC for decades. I had a few classes at USC that were offered at satellite locations across the state so that working people didn’t have to come all the way to Columbia for class. Since I graduated in 2002, I know that it’s become even easier for people to get credentialed without traveling to school. But the University of South Carolina is a brick and mortar, non-profit, and publicly supported school that does a lot of really good work for the community, particularly in rural settings. In fact, one of my internships was in a rural town. It was unique and rewarding to work there. If I hadn’t married Bill, maybe I would have tried to get a job in a rural town and put my degrees to use. By contrast, when I was an undergrad at Longwood University (then Longwood College), there were no distance ed classes available.

Still, though… I’m not sure about these online for profit higher education outfits, particularly when it comes to graduate programs. I tend to distrust them. Maybe it’s because Donald Trump once ran one that became quite infamous for cheating students and ripping off investors. I also don’t think that entities for social good, such as schools, hospitals, or prisons should be for profit. I know from my studies that there are a lot of “for profit” hospitals and insurance companies out there, and their emphasis is on making money. I have found that when an organization is hellbent on making money, sometimes ethics fall by the wayside. However, in fairness to for profit universities and other entities, sometimes the product offered really is of good quality. Not all schools are created equally. I probably wouldn’t choose one myself, though, if I decided to go back to school again. Too many other types of schools offer distance ed or online programs.

In the case of this friend… he can count Texas Republican Tony Tinderholt as a fellow graduate of his school. Tony Tinderholt, as you might know, is a legislator who has famously advocated for the death penalty for anyone who has an abortion. I guess one could say that Tinderholt got somewhere with his education. And in fairness, I don’t know how good the education actually is at the school they attended. It’s not something I’ve researched heavily. I would not have considered attending that school when I was looking for a program, but that was mainly because my goal was to take a geographical cure for the situation I was in at the time. Also, online studies weren’t as popular back then, nor did the school that granted my friend his MPH offer the program I was specifically interested in pursuing. Of course, we can see where it led me, as I sit here early in the morning, typing a blog post instead of going to work at the CDC or something.

I guess I was just surprised that he was using his MPH to defend his anti-vaccination views. It’s not that I think it’s necessarily wrong to qualify oneself in an argument, especially when the other person doesn’t realize he or she is speaking with someone who has been educated or has actual expertise. It’s just that I wouldn’t expect someone with a MPH to be equating someone’s COVID vaccination status, or lack thereof, with racial segregation. But what do I know? My multilingual and degreed sister has a PhD in public health from Chapel Hill, an excellent school for public health, and my mom tells me that she’s fallen way down the Trump hole. Must be all those years she’s spent in North Carolina.

I’ll tell you what I do know… I now know what JFTDC means, thanks to Urban Dictionary. Perhaps my time would have been better spent looking up slang words online than going to graduate school or reading Facebook posts on other people’s pages. Especially since I do think the COVID vaccines are a good idea, although I don’t necessarily have a problem with people who think over-vaccination, in general, can be problematic. Actually, I agree that too many vaccines can be a bad thing, particularly when it comes to dogs. I think we do give pets too many shots– especially rabies. I base that on the number of dogs I’ve had who have wound up with cancer– particularly mast cell cancer, which can lead to lymphoma. There has been a link to over-vaccination and mast cell cancer, mainly because main cell tumors are caused by an immune system gone amok. Some people and animals don’t react well to vaccines, either. Our dearly departed beagle, Zane, was allergic to the leptospirosis vaccine and got hives when he had that shot.

But in the case of COVID-19, I do think the vaccines are essential, even if I also agree with a person’s right to self-determination. And I do think the vaccine passports are going to be created, whether or not my friend thinks it’s right. I suspect he ought to get used to the idea, because I think it’s coming. It’s not even a new thing, since I distinctly remember being issued a yellow WHO immunization card when I was in the Peace Corps. I especially think the vaccine passports will be used in Europe, which already issues pet passports for vaccines. Of course, my thoughts on the potential vaccine passport are just my opinion.

Anyway… it’s time for me to eat hard boiled eggs, so I’m going to close this post. And I’m going to be grateful to myself for not engaging in that particular argument. Self-control is a good thing, and fortunately, sometimes, I do have it.

politicians, Texas

Texas mulls over the death penalty for women who have abortions…

On January 25, 2017, back on my old blog, I wrote a post about Tony Tinderholt, a creepy Texas politician who likens abortion of all kinds to murder.  That post was about Tinderholt’s introduction of the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, a bill that would make abortion a criminal offense.  Mr. Tinderholt, who is two years older than I am and has been married five times, albeit once to the same woman, explained the bill thusly:

“Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

I can see by that post that I was quite disgusted by and outraged over Mr. Tinderholt’s comments.  Tinderholt claims that he believes that all abortions are criminal and would not make exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s health or life.  Personally, I think he’s just a creep who wants to control women and force them to give birth.  But I did eventually forget about him as other issues arose.

Two years later, Tinderholt is back in the news.  Today, I read that he wants Texas lawmakers to consider the death penalty for any woman who has an abortion.  He continues to insist that a developing fetus should have the same rights to personhood as any born person has.  He’s introduced House Bill 896, which would criminalize abortion and classify it as homicide.  Given that Texas is the biggest death penalty state in the United States, it would mean that women who had abortions could eventually be executed.

Surprisingly enough, there was enough passionate discussion about this bill to keep legislators up until 3:00am, arguing. State Representative Victoria Neave, a Democrat from Dallas, asked “How essentially one is okay with subjecting a woman to the death penalty for the exact… to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging that she is doing to a child?”

Mr. Tinderholt replied, “I think it’s important to remember that if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, they get charged twice. If you murder a pregnant woman, you get charged twice. So I’m not specifically criminalizing women. What I’m doing is equalizing the law.”

Um… no.  Biological males cannot get pregnant; therefore, they cannot have abortions.  They cannot have miscarriages or health problems caused by pregnancy that might threaten their lives.  And while they can be raped and victimized by incest, that abuse directed toward males does not end in pregnancy.  A woman, however, can kill a pregnant woman.  Of course, statistics show that men are much more likely to commit violent acts than women are.

Pregnant women aren’t just at risk of health issues.  Studies show that pregnant women are also more likely to be victims of violence than other people are.  So no, I don’t agree with Tinderholt that this law he proposes is “equalizing” anything.  If anything, it just makes it harder to be a woman.

I don’t disagree that many unintended pregnancies are due to irresponsible behavior.  People do get careless.  However, women don’t get pregnant without a man’s help.  Moreover, while pregnant women are being referred to as “hosts” by some legislators, these male legislators reducing women to “host” status fail to see that if women are hosts, then their fetuses can be viewed as parasites.  I don’t agree with either designation.  I’m simply pointing out that there’s a disconnect in logic.  When a human being or animal is infested with parasites– which usually threaten the “host’s” life or health– there’s often an attempt to rid the host of the parasite.  If a woman becomes extremely ill due to her pregnancy or is pregnant, but unconscious, such as in the tragic case of Marlise Munoz, who was futilely artificially kept alive for weeks because she was pregnant, there should be a safe and legal remedy for her.

I do agree with Mr. Tinderholt that a fetus can’t help the circumstances that caused its conception.  A fetus conceived in rape is just as “innocent” as a wanted fetus is.  However, unless the fetus can survive outside the womb, it’s a part of the mother.  She should have every right to control what happens to her body until the point at which the fetus is able to survive on its own and can safely be born.  When Tinderholt can get pregnant and would be subjected to this law, I might take his views more seriously.

I shared the news about this on my Facebook page and wondered rhetorically how it is that so many stupid and/or crazy people end up in politics.  Several friends replied that stupid people vote them in.  I disagree.  I think the best and the brightest don’t run for office, and that’s how we end up with fucking morons like Tony Tinderholt in office.

Here’s another article about Tinderholt’s latest idea that will make life for women in Texas just a little bit harder… and not in the fun way.  By the way… the death penalty is extremely unfair and barbaric… and it’s about as anti-life as a punishment can get.  Although I am officially a Texas resident, I sure am glad I don’t live there.

Edited to add:  The bill failed, thank God!