Tag Archives: sickle cell anemia

Thanksgiving 2019: Still Finding Hope

the first detailed photograph of a black hole

Laurie and Debbie say:

Hope can feel hard to come by in these times, is why we think it’s so important to name and celebrate people and things we’re thankful for:

The U.S. impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump are in full swing, and the evidence for the narrow case the Democrats are mounting is very hard to refute (which is why the Republicans are doing everything they can to distract from the case and raise red herrings). Polls vary, but it does seem clear that more Americans support impeachment and removal than oppose it. Many other cases and lawsuits against the current presidency are in various stages, including the three emoluments lawsuits, all of which have been granted standing and are moving forward.

In other U.S. national politics issues:

The 2020 census is proceeding without a citizenship question. The controversy around this frightened many Latinx and other immigrants and will have somewhat of a chilling effect on voting, but Latin voting rights organizations are doing terrific work countering that issue.

The practice of “deplatforming” right-wing voices is having a real effect. Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones have more or less disappeared from the scene since they were removed from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2018. This year, after multiple mass-shooting “manifestos” were posted on the site, hate site 8chan was deplatformed and is still looking for a home.

In the realm of science, we have our first detailed photograph of a black hole (above), from the Event Horizon Telescope’s global network of radio dishes!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved not one but two new drugs to treat sickle cell anemia, an extremely painful and often fatal condition largely found in people of African descent. (The rapper Prodigy died of sickle cell anemia in 2017.) These drugs are outrageously expensive; however, many drugs drop in price a year or two after approval, and some insurance companies will approve them now.

Like U.S. and U.K. politics, the global climate situation inspires a lot of hopelessness. So we’re thankful for Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement, young people who care enough about the world they want to live in to mount an implacable assault on the powers-that-be. And knowing that the European Investment Bank is divesting quickly from fossil fuel investments helps too.

We’re thankful for Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the country’s Parliament, who knew how a state should react to a devastating mass shooting: change the laws quickly.

We appreciate the U.S. District Court ruling acquitting Scott Warren of “illegally harboring refugees” when in fact he was providing humanitarian aid to people in need.

One of the ways we survive in these times is through the work of investigative journalists — an imperiled profession. In that context, we want to name Julie K. Brown, who (mostly in 2018) dropped the hammer on Jeffrey Epstein, leading to his imprisonment.

Our home state of California has led the way in a number of important things to be thankful for:

  • The nation’s strongest law limiting police use of force: Officers may shoot only when lives are in immediate danger, not when they are “afraid for their lives.” The ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project is also doing great work in the area of police violence. And Laurie’s home city just elected Chesa Boudin, a superb progressive district attorney.
  • A law permitting (finally!) student athletes to make money from use of their names and images. This law, with similar ones passed by a few other states, has caused the NCAA to finally back down from it’s “we’re rich; you can’t make a dime” historic position, though details still have to be worked out.
  • Along with New York and several cities, a law protecting people whose hairstyles might otherwise be excuses to keep them from jobs and schooling. Of course, this has mostly been used against Black people, so this is an anti-racist trend.
  • A law making a roadmap for local public banks in the state. (Debbie was an organizer on this one.)

We want to mention our personal thanks for the work of Stacey Abrams, magnificent crusader for voting and human rights, and for the work of Ibram X. Kendi, a writer who is  reframing the conversation about racism. There are thousands more people whose work deserves thanks: this list from Bitch Magazine names 50 of them (only a couple of whom we named above). One person we found in the Bitch 50 list is Rebecca Alexander, whose AllGo app helps fat people find the places where the chairs and other furniture will work for them — a much-needed service.

We are grateful to every single person who is engaging in resistance here or in their own country: people doing the amazing work that needs to be done: all the thousands upon thousands of them.









Thanksgiving 2015

Laurie and Debbie say:

If you’re reading the newspapers, or news blogs, the last couple of weeks have been an  easy time to be discouraged, and thus a hard time to be thankful. And that’s why sitting down to write this post has been restorative for both of us. Without forgetting Beirut, and Nigeria, and Paris, still having heart for millions of refugees seeking shelter, we can still hold up a long list of things that have gone well (sometimes surprisingly well) this year.


The Black Lives Matter movement is a brilliant positive response to an ongoing American criminal practice, the murder of Black people and other people of color by U.S. police without prosecution, or even investigation. While there’s nothing new about these murders, the national spotlight that was turned on them after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 has been new. We’ve seen widespread, sustained protests, a completely new level of attention to documenting and publicizing these crimes, and even the occasional indictment and prosecution of a policeman (including the indictment of Jason McDonald this week after the death of LaQuan McDonald). Without the activists of Black Lives Matter, these murders would still be the dirty little secrets of urban police departments, and the private griefs of the victims’ families.

Thirty-six years after the Iranian hostage crisis, the nuclear weapons treaty with Iran was approved by six major world powers, including the United States (despite the best efforts of the American right). This historic agreement, which went into effect on October 18, has been in negotiation for ten years, and will stand as a major success of the Obama administration. Sanctions on Iran have been lifted, and Iran’s nuclear program has been terminated.

The Keystone XL pipeline tar sands pipeline, darling of oil companies and hated by environmentalists in Canada and the U.S. was finally rejected by President Obama this month. Much credit to the First Nations activists of Idle No More, who not only fought tirelessly against the pipeline, but have also contributed to changing the conversation and making sure indigenous voices are heard in environmental disputes. (In related news, Royal Dutch Shell “voluntarily” pulled out of its plans for Arctic drilling for the foreseeable future, citing lack of profitability — in large part due to the roadblocks environmentalists have successfully put in their way for the last several years.)

A consortium of African and American doctors have found a permanent cure for sickle cell anemia, a disease which seemed intractable until recently.

Progressive election results around the world include:

  • Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine progressive taking over the Labour Party in Britain,
  • Justin Trudeau ousting the Conservatives in Canada (and immediately appointing a cabinet that is 50% female and reflects the geographic breadth of the country);
  • John Bel Edwards becoming governor of the very Republican state of Louisiana, where he intends to accept the Medicaid expansion for Louisiana, which will effectively bring the Affordable Care Act benefits to his constituents; and
  • Antonio Costa, Socialist, emerging as prime minister after a constitutional crisis in Portugal when the conservative austerity pro-Euro party refused to give up power.

In keeping with these victories, Bernie Sanders is making a more than respectable showing in the race for the U.S. Democratic Party nomination, and by doing so, is making sure that (at least when the Democrats talk), the conversation is about income inequality and genuine solutions. Nationwide street protests have led to minimum wage increases around the country (in 14 states and the District of Columbia so far this year, not to mention various city ordinances), and other workers’ rights issues, such as regular schedules, are in the news.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court stunned the country by making three fantastic decisions in quick succession:

  • In King vs. Burwell, the court rejected a crucial challenge to Obamacare;
  • In Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities, they declared that housing discrimination can be upheld without proof of intent, and can be decided on statistical grounds. Since intent is almost impossible to prove, this is an extremely important distinction; and
  • In Obergefell v. Hodges, they legalized same-sex marriage on a national basis.

While American prisons and the rights of prisoners and ex-prisoners remain an enormous national disgrace, just today the Governor of Kentucky restored voting rights to almost 150,000 felons who have served their time. And the Federal Communications Commission finally made a clear, fair ruling preventing predatory charges on phone calls made by or to prisoners.

Speaking of improvements in areas of national shame, transgender immigrants now have the right to be housed based on their own gender identification.

Sports and politics often intersect, and a remarkable example was the football team at Mizzou, where not only the Black players, but many of their team-mates and the coaching staff, joined the protesters calling for the ouster of the University president. The protest was successful, and the new interim president is making profound changes.

And finally, the miracle of 3D printing is changing lives around the world. In one terrific example, the technology is bringing water purification to the third world; as a bonus, the raw materials are the plastic soda bottles we throw away. Other 3-D printing innovations this year include cheap building materials and aids for patients with hemiplegia (one-sided paralysis).

So, things to celebrate in hard times.

Thanks to Richard Dutcher for helping us remember the year’s good news.