Saturday, April 30, 2011

MI Privatizes Democracy: Congress Unprivatizes Women

While Governor Snyder and his posse are busy privatizing Michigan schools and cities, the 112th Congress is busy unprivatizing women's bodies. Is it a coincidence that Michigan representatives play a prominent role in this outrage? The House Ways and Means Committee is chaired by bought and paid for Dave Camp (R-MI4) and is now holding subcommittee hearings to advance H.R.3, the "Stupak on Steroids" bill introduced by yet another Michigan troglodyte, gone but still invading women's lives. H.R. 358 has just been advanced to the floor by the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Fred Upton (R-MI6) who are been turned completely by his contributors on both women and the environment. This co-opted by campaign contributions legislator is from Benton Harbor, a city now being victimized by Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called Michigan "Ground Zero" in education reform. Rachel Maddow called Benton Harbor "Ground Zero" in the hostile takeover of democracy in America. And Michigan is "Ground Zero" in the war to keep our bodies, our lives, our healthcare private. Privatize this!

Recall Snyder Ballot Language Approved

A petition to recall Governor Rick Snyder was approved for language by the Washtenaw County Election Commission on Friday. The petition was filed by Michigan Citizens United (an unfortunate name!) and the firericksnyder site claims that online petitions currently appearing are not valid, and those signing will be removed from the actual petition when signatures are reviewed, so don't sign any electronic petitions. I signed a paper petition to put Snyder on the election ballot, and I will find a paper recall petition to sign. Getting 800,000 signatures by July 1, 2011 will be an effort, Tim Kramer of Michigan Citizens United acknowledged.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Michigan EFM Opportunities

ProgressMichigan has a densely populated google map of emergency financial manager job opportunities in Michigan. Perhaps this is Snyder's plan for creating high paying jobs in Michigan. Must be, as we've heard no other job creation plans from the governor. Read it, and weep.

East Detroit Public Schools

This picture is from my diploma, East Detroit High School Class of 1969. The 1970 census for East Detroit showed 45,920 souls in E.D. The 1970 population peak declined steadily to 34,530 residents in 2000. Fewer residents, less tax revenue; fewer students, less matching funds. The largest Eastpointe employer is, and has been, East Detroit Public Schools. EDPS has had troubles for years. Superintendent John F. Gardiner was indicted on several counts of fraud in 2002, along with other school officials; Gardiner's appeal was denied in 2006. EDPS Superintendent Bruce Kefgen was hired in 2004. For the next years, the bickering about budget issues continued. The school board seems to have failed miserably in their oversight duties. An audit of EDPS by an independent firm, paid for by the board, revealed financial oversight nonsense. The board approved a deficit budget, violating state law. The board fired Kefgen January, 2010, still without accurate budget information in hand. Seems Kefgen's projected $800,000 budget shortfall was actually $3,000,000.00 and now is about $11 million. Kefgen blamed the school board for the district's financial woes. EDPS school board president Jeff Allen resigned in November, 2010. East Detroit Public Schools made Governor Snyder's hit list for an emergency financial manager. Now I'm wondering why either an EFM or a ringmaster wasn't assigned 10 years ago. But what is the core issue in this little troubled school district? Gardiner abused his authority, and he dishonored the students he was hired to serve. Was Kefgen incompetent? The school board met for a couple of years without insisting on having school district budget information; and were so clueless, they paid $20,000 to have an independent auditor expose this embarrassing dereliction of duty to the parents and children of Eastpointe. Does tiny EDPS represent a microcosm of education in the U.S.A. today?

DPS Ordered to Pay Teachers Deducted Wages

Detroit teachers voted to deduct pay in 2009 to help the beleaguered school district remain afloat. The monies were to be paid back when the teacher left the district. DPS EFM Robert Bobb issued 5,466 lay-off notices this month, and four teachers filed a complaint to have the monies paid. EFM Bobb spokesmodel Steve Wasko said based on this judge's flawed analysis "the district would never be able to secure concessions ever." What the hell does that have to do with anything? The district will appeal the ruling. Who's paying for that - the laid-off teachers at about $8,000 per?

Special Ed. Issues Reported to MI State Board in Jan.

Detroit Public Schools EFM Robert Bobb laid off 88 of 177 special education bus attendants. Special education students are not being picked up for school. The Michigan Department of Education may, or may not be looking into this, after a meeting on January 11, when several of the special education issues were pointed out to the State Board of Education. Individual Education Plan (IEP) makes sure special needs students get a public education, and is federal territory. Jan Ellis, identified in the Michigan Citizen story as a spokesperson for Dept. of Education holds the title of Manager of Communications, Office of School Improvement. She told the reporter there is not an official investigation underway, she has seen no paperwork, but the department will work to make sure every child gets whatever services are legally required. Wow. Note David Varner (W.K. Kellogg Foundation) commented that the reports of Bobb's behavior were "hearsay" and he promised to call Bobb himself. Undoubtedly EFM Bobb will take the call. Kellogg Foundation pays part of his salary.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DPS EFM Bobb Paid Privately to Privatize Schools

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Finance Manager Robert Bobb gets paid $280,000 by the State of Michigan. Bobb also gets paid $145,000 by the Kellogg Foundation with the Broad Foundation. Bobb is a 2005 graduate of the Broad Foundation Superintendent Academy. The Broad Foundation's mission is school choice and the privatization of schools. Is there anyone else who thinks this is a serious conflict of interest? Stay tuned. Czar Snyder has targeted 23 school districts to get their very own czar. 18 of these districts are in southeast Michigan, including my home town. Snyder is cutting per pupil spending, enough to throw other school districts into candidacy for an EFM. How have other people thrown out their autocrats and dictators? How can we?

SCOTUS Rules Against Class Action

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of AT&T in AT&T v. Concepcion yesterday which forces consumers individually into arbitration. If the contract you signed reads that arbitration is not allowed, rather than seeking redress in class action suits, you'll have to wing it alone. We'll need to read the fine print in every contract we sign forever, but even if you can't read, you can't fight big business in a group. Once more this conservative court ruled for corporations, and against citizens. I learned in grade school that the Supreme Court's job is to uphold the Constitution and protect citizens' rights. Where does it say in the Constitution that corporations are people? Oh, that's right. I forgot. This Court already settled that in Citizens United v. U.S. Election Commission. What does this mean for Dukes v. WalMart? That case is a little more skewed. At issue for The Supremes to decide is whether that class action suit just has too damn many people, which apparently is their thinking on the country overall. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Benton Harbor EFM Joe Harris as Cardinal Woolsey

Eclectablog has an audio recording of Benton Harbor EFM Joe Harris, who fired everyone and made himself Cardinal Woolsey to Governor Snyder's Henry VIII, explaining how he made himself Woolsey. Don't miss The World According to Joe Harris. And please note the laughter about firing police officers and fire fighters, and EPW workers. Somebody please save Michigan from these Great Lakes potentates.

What's Wrong with Medicaid Part D

My brother's Medicaid Part D prescription plan is administered by HealthSpring, an HMO that does not operate in Michigan. Healthspring's quarterly earnings report is due April 28, predicted to be up year-over-year. The two drugs prescribed here are Forest Laboratories. Lexapro's patent is ending in 2012, when we can hope for generics, or I can go find a generic equivalent myself, which I intend to do now. Plan D paid $214.06 for the month. For those of us math challenged, that's $2,568.72 a year for two medications. And who or what is "extra help?" Forest Laboratories paid a $313 million fine for fraud connected to some of its drugs, including Lexapro. Is it a coincidence that the psychiatrist prescribed the same pharma company's drugs? CEO Howard Solomon is in receipt of a letter banning him from participation in federal health programs. He's got 30 days to respond. Forest Laboratories reported 4th quarter fiscal earnings jumped. Earnings are up for all except our family, and millions more like us. What can I do to keep Medicaid Part D costs down? Check for generics, keep tabs on federal healthcare program participants, question the psychiatrist for generic choices. In short, be my family's healthcare ombudsman and advocate.

USFSW to Remove Gray Wolf from Great Lakes ESL

Jon Tester (D-MT) got the Northern Rockies gray wolf removed from the Endangered Species List in a 112th Congress budget bill. On that day, April 15, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to remove the gray wolf from the ESL in the Western Great Lakes region. I found this out from MI Senator Carl Levin in a reply to a comment about the Rockies wolf.

Additionally on April 15, 2011, the FWS announced a proposal to remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area, which includes Michigan, from the Endangered Species List. Wolf populations in this area have exceeded established recovery goals, and the FWS indicates they believe state management plans should be able to maintain a viable gray wolf population in these areas without ESA protections. You may comment on this proposal once it is published in the Federal Register at [www.regulations.gov].

Michigan has no dollars to manage bubkes, let alone wolf populations. 690 gray wolves identified in the upper peninsula of Michigan. That's a recovery? And FWS has just also discovered that what it thought a subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes is actually a distinct species, eastern wolf (Canis lycaon). And this is the government agency deciding what species are recovered and which are not. At least the FSW called on locals, Native American tribes, and anybody who might know more than they do to report sightings of C. lycaon. If we don't turn this around, sightings might be pelts. Thanks be to Senator Levin for the alert!

Detroit Public Schools Training Volunteer School Boards

DPS is training volunteer school board members for one day each. 50 will train this Saturday. Volunteer school board members do not have to reside in Detroit and there are no specific qualifications required. DPS wants 225 volunteers to work 6 to 10 hours a week, with a 3-year contract to a for-profit private charter operator for free. One volunteer board of 5-9 members will meet once a month for every charter school; number to be determined by successful charter operator applicants. Applications now being taken for charter operators through May 2. DPS hired the National Association of School Charter Authorizers to review applications. Charter school operators will be chosen by June. Schools need to be opened by September. Greatschools.org defines the mission of school boards. School boards establish the vision for education in the community. School board members must be committed to, and live in, the city wherein the school functions. Will one day of training create vision? Charter schools are for-profit. Can somebody tell me where the money comes from? NACSA's work will be privately funded, according to a DPS spokesperson. Who is privately funding this activity? Why is that not public knowledge? Does this feel as grim and desperate to you as it does to me? Where are the proven indicators of success and how soon will the school children of Detroit feel the positive difference these plans promise?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Painted Turtle Healing

Loved ones were troubled and in pain this morning. A good friend had a disturbing experience that kept her awake through the night, my beloved sister is doctoring without answers or relief, and my little brother had an accident at bowling and had to come home, embarrassed and dismayed. I walked to the post office, head down, heart aching, trying not to cry. I was worried about my sister, and wanted to send comfort. My mom has passed on, but I said aloud, "go to her, Mom," and as I said the words, on the sidewalk was a forsythia bloom. I stopped, turned around and round. There is no forsythia bush on that route. I picked it up, kissed it, put it on the grass and thanked nature for mom's message. Coming back from the post office, I was weeping. I still felt despondent and helpless. As I walked up the small rise to cross the railroad tracks, I saw a painted turtle crossing the sidewalk. We both stopped, surprised, the turtle swiftly pulled in legs and head. I waited, amazed. The turtle relaxed, lingered just a while, and then continued on its way to the grass and its next adventure. I am drawing painted turtle for a poet, and providence gave me a thoughtful patron, and a beautiful creature to appreciate. Changing despair to joy, painted turtle brought a healing lesson, blessedly accepted.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nuclear Cruise Route Through Great Lakes Watershed

People in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and Maine will be able to watch Ontario-based Bruce Power transport 1600 tons of nuclear contaminated steam generators through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway right past their homes. The Canadian Nuclear Commission approved a permit for Bruce Power to ship the radioactive containers through our backyards to Sweden for recycling. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainability Water Resources Compact, endorsed in 2005 by the governments of all the Great Lakes States and the Province of Ontario, and signed by George W. Bush in 2008 needs to be invoked now. The Great Lakes Compact is an international water rights policy, intended to prevent diversion of the Great Lakes to other states, as well as define use and conservation. It is overseen by the Great Lakes Commission. That is, unless the Council of Great Lakes Governors isn't looking. Bruce Power has a "right thing to do" website that outlines what approvals are needed. It's up to the U.S. to make sure the approvals are denied. Keep in mind that when Bruce Power refers to transporting low level waste (repeatedly mentioned) that level has a shelf life of about half a million years. If Canada can't keep its nuclear waste to itself, we need to help them do the right thing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Three Story Life: The Sideways Ask

I learned about The Sideways Ask when I moved into the condo with Dad and Scott. My Dad usually gets himself what he wants. When he doesn't buy it for himself (he went out one afternoon to get a trailer hitch installed and came back with a brand new SUV because it came with a trailer hitch) he acquires favors, stuff, deeds, someone else's Lakers' jacket, etc. because he has us all trained. We have learned to surmise, assume, interpret, telepathically grind out what he's after. Especially any new in-laws, when one of us is dumb enough to marry again. A newbie spouse gave up the Lakers' jacket, right off his back. The family has all manner of working communication quirks that, when combined, equal twisty behavior and losing your favorite clothing. (I got my sister's thumbhole shirt, right off her back one Thanksgiving.) I inadvertently stopped participating in The Sideways Ask. It was pointed out on the phone with my sister (the one without the shirt), who was itemizing the obstacles she had to overcome to make it on time for Easter dinner. I listened, filed my nails, straightened my make-up drawer. Then I heard "you're not playing." I said, "what?" She said again "you're not playing." And I blinked on. I would always volunteer to pick up some of the duties, or my niece, whichever came first and second. I hadn't done that. "Huh," I said. Now I know how we learned The Sideways Ask. From Dad. I spot it at home a few times a week. "Yes, without a doubt two people can get that out of the car." "Get what out of which car?" I ask and then I'm in, hauling whatever is in the car out. "Yes, I think a hose clamp would do it." "Huh," I said. I'm glad to help when asked, if asked when I'm not in the middle of something else. That's when The Pounce shows up, check here for that behavior. It is a growth opportunity to ask for what we want and need. If we need something from another person, two people have successes and feel good. Sideways feels like a clever trap, and when recognized, is less effective. Be open, ask, and receive. Much more better, as Cap'n. Jack Sparrow says.

Where the Wild Foods Grow

Barb Barton is a Michigan songmaker. She writes, plays wicked great guitars, and she sings pretty nice, too. Barb is also a wild rice wizard, a wilderness woman, and a fine friend. She is the wildcrafter owner of Where the Wild Foods Grow. Barb just announced she is offering maple sugar nuggets and maple sugar, lovingly and respectfully processed by hand in our beautiful Michigan. Her newsletter (which you will want to sign on to receive) tells of wildcrafted Chaga that can come to your house; succulent leeks by the pound; and Barb is probably right now out in the woods finding Dryad's Saddle mushrooms. The shyer Morels are a little later. Barb has long been a wild rice (Manoomin) harvester and hand-parcher, and rice is available in season from her website. All her offerings are organic, wildcrafted, hand-processed; her methods are traditional ways. While you're shopping at wherethewildfoodsgrow.com, listen to some Barb Barton music, too. Gift yourself. Twice, thrice, eternally.

Inner Spirit House

Leah Lambaria is a spirit warrior. We are fortunate to have her in Michigan, to know her, and we are looking forward to learning from her as we walk our path. Leah's purpose and nonprofit is called Inner Spirit House: you can visit the Inner Spirit House, watch the videos, and learn how to participate. The meditation cards called Seeds from My Sister are a beautiful combination of Leah's photography and artwork, and Patricia Fero's channeled sister's writings, and the cards will help to establish a residence for Inner Spirit House, and continue the good work these powerful women have begun. Widen the circle: discover how magnificent you are in community with other people who are growing, learning, acting to empower each other and the world.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Democracy Being Murdered in Michigan

This is WXYZ's coverage of people being taken from Catherine Ferguson Academy. Steve Wasko, PR spokesmodel for EFM Robert Bobb managed to be on the scene when police sirens drowned out the voices of teen-aged girls being hauled away in handcuffs. Who called whom to show up? Does a major city's police chief show up to handle a dozen pregnant teenagers? Our Michigan legislature handed dictatorial power to Governor Snyder, and enabled Robert Bobb, EFM DPS to overturn elected government, and throw out democracy. Catherine Ferguson Academy has a 90% graduation rate, and 100% acceptance rate for its graduates at the college level. Catherine Ferguson Academy is on Bobb's list of schools to be closed. It is a model for urban agriculture, and has received international attention. But this most successful school in Michigan will close if a charter operator will not or cannot take it over right now. This is Michigan today. These are Michigan cities, Michigan schools. Michigan girls. And a handful of legislators can take it all away in handcuffs. Rachel Maddow Show is covering Catherine Ferguson Academy's struggle to stay. A petition can be signed at change.org. We can do better than this. We must.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canadian Nuclear Waste Is U.S. Problem

Ontario Power, the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization, and Bruce Power are eyeing the shore of Lake Huron for a deep geologic repository of nuclear waste. Bruce Power also is seeking permissions to ship 16 one hundred ton nuclear-contaminated steam generators to Sweden using the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Ross Lamont at Bruce Power claims this transport will "pose no danger to the public." I've got a house along that route, and I feel endangered. First Nations, Candice Miller (R-MI10), and Macomb Co., Harrison Twp., St. Clair Shores all resolved to oppose the repository. But Ontario Power and Bruce Power are moving forward regardless. Kincardine is 55 miles from Michigan. The transport route for the contaminated containers will sweep Michigan, Pennsylvania, NY, and the entire St. Lawrence watershed. These issues are handled by the International Joint Commission. John Nevin, spokesman for the Commission said nobody's asked them to review the proposal to store nuclear waste on the beach of Lake Huron. Does somebody ask him to breathe when he gets up in the morning? What the hell's his job? Bruce Power is still trying to line up permissions to transport nuclear waste through U.S. waters. Let's make sure permission is denied. Support the First Nations working to stop endangering the Great Lakes. As the First Nations write: Water is alive and has spirit. Water is our life source. Water also needs a voice. If the Canadians want to play chicken with our life source, then it is up to the U.S.A. to stop them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Michigan Legislature Trampling Teachers

Representative Bill Rogers, (R) Brighton has cosponsored a bill to take a teacher's license away for two years, or permanently for striking. It is illegal for a teacher to strike in Michigan. Has been. But Rogers and his buddies think "you have to put teeth into something to allow the system to work." Laws prohibiting teacher strikes have worked pretty well so far, but Rogers and his ilk are preemptively fearmongering in support of this Congress' mission to dismantle municipal governments, unions, to villify teachers, and to create impossible to teach situations in public schools. 62 students per classroom coming up in Detroit Public Schools. What's next? Putting teachers in stocks in the public square? Flogging? Draconian measures being taken to eliminate public education, while mouthing how all of this nonsense helps our children. Rogers claims "the example being set for young, impressionable students by the union leadership is concerning. We live in a civilized society." Really? And what might young, impressionable students think about big mean men who take their teachers' jobs away? Hmm? Mr. Rogers' neighborhood is a nasty place, made uglier by Mr. Rogers himself. He needs a timeout to think about what he's doing. And he needed to pay more attention in school.

Theatricality vs. Fire Safety

I'm waxing nostalgic about hats and their relationship to dramatic personae still. Veils were marvelously theatrical. On a second date with a podiatrist, as he was lecturing me on the damage I was causing to my feet wearing high heels, I drifted into a daydream set in a smoky Chicago bar in the 1920s. My costume was certainly ideal: gloves, a low-brimmed hat with a chin veil. My cigarette holder, tortoise cigarette case, my mysterious and sultry gaze. I was absorbed in creating a much better scene than the one I was in. The cigarette and I burned lower. Suddenly I looked cross-eyed at my veil. It was sizzling. The daydream ended with me smacking the smoldering veil out just below my nose. The podiatrist and I parted company soon thereafter, him off to lecture the next poor woman whose footwear exceeded his height limitations, and me, off to quit smoking.

In My Easter Bonnet

Easter is a time of renewal, rebirth, reaffirming faith. Most of my early life, the Sunday meant dressing for church, coming home to find hidden baskets, and family gathering. And hats and gloves. I love hats. Even after the Kennedys stopped wearing hats, I wore them. My sisters tell me I overdress for every occasion, but I like costumes and the theatrical impact of clothing and attitude. We used to go downtown Detroit for brunch at Fishbone's. That's where you'd find the most sumptuous of Easter finery, along with great food. The Easter brunch I'm fondly remembering, I wore this hat with a navy blue suit, hot pink heels, and an orange blouse. We were enjoying our meal when a woman put her hand on my shoulder and leaned in. I had to duck some - she was wearing a gorgeous cream, pearled suit and an enormous confection of a hat that looked like the Battleship Potemkin with feathers and icing. She whispered in my ear "honey, I cannot tell you how brave you are to wear that hat." Now, that's an Easter bonnet!

Detroit Schools Squeezed: Is EFM Bobb Effective?

5,466 layoff notices were received by Detroit teachers. 45 "academically struggling" schools will be bid out to private contractors for charter schools. The single most successful school in Detroit will be closed. Catherine Ferguson Academy is a school where pregnant teenagers can get an education. Ferguson has a 90% graduation rate, and a 100% acceptance rate for 2- and 4-year colleges. Ferguson also is a successful program in the urban agriculture arena. Academically struggling? Day School for the Deaf, opened in 1898, is also to be closed. DPS EFM Robert C. Bobb was appointed by Gov. Granholm in 2009 to a city with a $200 million school deficit. Michigan's Public Act 4 now expands his powers to dismantle union contracts, dismiss the school board, fire all the teachers. City of Detroit two pension boards filed suit Monday charging MI Public Act 4 is unconstitutional. After two years of Robert Bobb, the school district deficit is $363 million. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called Detroit "Ground Zero" in the administration's education reform plan. So far so good, hey? Michigan School Superintendent Michael Flanagan said the plans must be implemented immediately. In addition to closing approximately half of Detroit's public schools, outsourcing charters, and laying off teachers, Bobb has a new contract with serial workers' rights abuser Sodexo, a multinational food services and maintenance company with a troublesome international record. Bobb will also replace Safeway Transportation, owned by black entrepreneurs providing 35 years of school bus support to Detroit schools with another multinational - First Student has safety issues. First Student was paid $85,000 to analyze the Detroit School District's transportation system, make recommendations and then allowed to bid on the contract, which Bobb awarded to First Student. Bobb added $90,000 to the deficit with consulting fees. Is Robert C. Bobb a problem solver? Does Robert C. Bobb's job performance allow for expanded powers, more authority? Can we see a more successful Detroit Public Schools in our near future? A school district with a prime directive around students and their safety and success? Short term solutions implemented by EFMs in the past have not worked. We need long term thinkers, right thinking doers. Is Public Act 4 the way we find them?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What If Age and Sex Didn't Matter?

Never imagined this question would have an answer in my lifetime, but we may find out soon enough. Marty Kaplan writes that the emperor of TV advertising pricing has no clothes. How erroneous are the Nielsens? "Essentially invalid. No link," said CBS Chief Research guru, David Poltrack. Continuing reliance on the coveted 18-34 age group will be anathema to marketeers. About damn time! Now we'll be in for a bunch of cluster, um, taste and behavior psychographics, but I'll take that shift. It is not possible to ignore the boomer bubble, and now there's money involved. As I wrote before, those who marketed to the purchasing preemies are in for a rude awakening right fast. Not just TV, but movie money will redirect. Boomer bucks. Stay tuned.

The Vexing Quest for Diagnosis

Scott has Down's syndrome, and a mental illness that manifested in the mid-80s. He was hospitalized in a catatonic state, helped at Lafayette Clinic (closed by Engler) and since been variously diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and now Alzheimer's disease. The current psychiatrist told me he "treats all his Down's syndrome patients of his age for Alzheimer's." Okay. Being obsessive myself, I have struggled with getting a more thoughtful diagnosis. One mental health professional asked me "Why do you care? Dementia is dementia." We see commercials for medication Scott used to be on transform into medications for disorders that are being diagnosed more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Significantly, the USA is the only country that allows direct advertising to consumers for prescription medications. "Ask your doctor." Abilify was a med Scott was taking for schizophrenia. Bristol-Myers Squibb's commercial now tells us to get Abilify as an add-on for bipolar and depression. I've written about Dr. Robert Spitzer who put the word disorder in the manual of psychiatry, thus inundating us with drug companies pushing diagnoses based on inventory of pharmaceuticals. Some have been prosecuted and fined for promoting off-label prescription sales. Our country has seen a 75% rise in diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder, with the highest increase in children, and women over 50. 0.8% of the population will be affected by bipolar I. Why do I know so many people personally who are being medicated for it? Found a pharmaceutical market analysis for US$million for bipolar disorder. Expect more diagnoses, more pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, I'll still try to help Scott have the best quality of life he deserves. I wish for you and yours a successful journey, too.

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Jane on Her 60th Birthday

Happy birthday, Jane Marie. Jane married brother John in 1973, happily for our joined families. Jane is a beautiful human being, a loving sister, wife, parent, and an inspiration to me. Jane's faith is deep, abiding, rich and she shares her belief in such a way that the glow of it permeates all life around her. She is the embodiment of what is most precious to us: to be slow to judge and quick to love. I have learned from her about humility, devotion and grace in adversity. Her God is the light she carries within, and a light that I have come to see as universal for all who dwell with the glory and peace of the divine, in whatever way we choose to worship. She has taught me that whichever words we use to relay the beauty and awe of divinity, the glow is the same for every living thing, and relaying the beauty in deed is the call we answer. She is an angel on earth. I love her, and I look forward to many more years of learning from her. Happy birthday, with gratitude and admiration, dearest Jane.

Life and Paddling as Psychic Exfoliants

This post wanted to be written so much, I spun around in the shower thinking about it, hit the water control and doused myself with icy water. I was thinking of river analogies, which I do often. Being on, and in, a river is like earth life. Expert paddlers have tremendous skill, even in dangerous water, but the river is always in charge. Control is an ephemeral illusion. Canoeing has lovely words like tumblehome, which is the body curve that keeps a boat upright, but also makes me feel home as a place I love to roll toward. Downstream lean is how to enter a river: lean into it, and the current carries you; lean away and you're tipped. Like life. Woody Allen said that 90% of living is just showing up. A character in my book admits to living an unattended life, and relays the results. If attention is missing on the river, you're swimming, and your boat is for sale on eBay. If life is the river, your canoe is your pack of experience. You are engaged, afloat and have choices. You choose your lines, use your skill to hit them spot on. If you choose badly, you swim. Next time you do better. Your paddle is always in the water. If your paddle is out of the water, you're in trouble straightaway. Disengage from full contact with life, you're careening. A river has rocks, obstacles, fast drops, overhanging trees, wildlife, bouncing submerged branches, other boaters. Each impact scrapes some material off your boat and body, but adds to your skill, confidence and joy. On the river, I am fully engaged, cannot be anywhere but here, in any time other than now. Now, now, now. New growth needs the old stuff exfoliated. Scrub the barnacles, the bad choices off, leave the old cells in the water to feed some other lifeform, and your psyche reemerges, having learned something new. You bloom afresh. Shinier, healthier, calmer, lit from within.

A Three Story Life: The Setup

I tell myself I don't know how I got here, though the story is traceable, if I choose. It's always about choice, isn't it? The path less followed showed up when my mother died in 1998. I changed my use of time to share more of it with Dad. My mother was primary carer for my little brother, who has Down's Syndrome, and has always lived with my parents. Along with not having a clue about family finances, medical records, birthdays, where the car insurance is: all the flotsam of keeping a paper family aligned, Dad now was solo with Scott full time, and had just lost his wife of 50 years. Scott had a catatonic meltdown in the 80s that I wish I knew more about. He did not come all the way back, and while he was treated for schizophrenia (I have to think there was a diagnosis along the way) he is now being treated for depression and Alzheimer's Disease. When I sold my house in 2004, it was as simple as Dad saying "what will you do now?" and me answering "I don't know," to which Dad replied "why don't you move here?" And I did. Telling the story that I don't know how I got here is a lie. It was that simple, as most of life is. So here I am. Living with two men and a neurotic yapping Maltipoo in a senior complex, and no experience that helps in any way. I moved in September, 2004. I started therapy in October. I showed up for my first appointment with 1 blue sock and 1 black, eyeballs spinning in sockets, clutching my driver's license so I could remember my name, and have it handy in case I needed an emergency martini.

Detroit, Michigan EFM Plan: Get the Teachers

Detroit Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb sent layoff notices to all Detroit teachers. Bobb has the dictatorial power granted by the Michigan legislature, and signed by Snyder weeks into his first term, to undo the collective bargaining agreement in the teachers' contracts, and Bobb said he will do it. The math behind targeting teachers has never, and will never, add up. The rationale for these actions is reprehensible, and will not fix Detroit's problems. This is more union busting. As Gloria Steinem said, "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but you think it's a pig - it's a pig." Can we educate these politicians and their minions that teachers represent the future: for our cities, our governments, our growth and, of paramount importance, for the success of our children? Politicians are notoriously learning impaired. They could all have made better use of their time with teachers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Destroyer Makes Itself at Home

It was a rough winter. Loved ones and friends experienced a similar season. Extraordinarily bad experiences of the sort that happen once - maybe twice - in a whole lifetime, showed up serially and simultaneously in several lives. What felt personal was reflected globally. The tragedy mask booted the comedy mask, which took off on a sabbatical to Far-Off Lands. Or maybe Traverse City. It's nice there in winter. Greyscale is my normal state, but this was beyond that and deeper. Dark and low. I wrote about being The Reluctant Molt, discovering that everything I knew about me and my methodologies was neither true nor helpful. I read a Deepak Chopra book about synchronicity and being open to messages. And I looked up my archetype. I chose carefully, looking for a .edu site which might mean postgraduate work on Jungian stuff. I answered the questions honestly without trying to outsmart the test hoping to achieve a particular result. I clicked submit. And there arose on the screen, in enormous black type THE DESTROYER. I went ziggity boom, adrenaline sluicing around, and then melted into a puddle in my desk chair. This cannot be! I'm a nice person, maybe The Artist, or The Trickster, but never The Destroyer. I recovered my drippy self, decided to read what that means before investing in a buckled sweater with arms that tie in the back. Not everyone meets The Destroyer in a lifetime, but it's not terrible, if you need to face a dragon. Which I did and do. The cycle of all life is birth/death/rebirth. The Destroyer shows up to knock around old ideas that don't suit, to clean house with a blowtorch, and to rattle the bars on whatever cage is keeping you from being your best self. I claimed to dear Beckie one time that I was a rebel. When she stopped laughing, she tapped her fingers on the table as she said, "A rebel. Who obeys [tap] each and [tap] every [tap] rule." I demurred. "Okay, I'm a rebel wannabe." The cool thing about confronting the dragon/destroyer is that once the beast is living with me, there's a chance I am free to be the rebel I see myself as. It's never too late to quo all over the status. And I've got The Destroyer hanging out in my artist's dungeon. Flame on, baby!

Monday, April 11, 2011

112th Congress Budget Bill Endangers Wolves

In stealth, Congress has removed gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection in a policy rider to the budget bill passed at the brink last Friday. This leaves gray wolves at the mercy of states that plan to kill hundreds of them. The Natural Resources Defense Fund has a petition to sign and send to your Senators and Representative. Enough of this sneaky legislative nonsense! Call your Senators out. If the link won't work for you, email your Senators and Representative from their respective sites. If you don't know who your Senators are, you can find your Senators here.

Laughing and Adaptive Competence

Laughter probably isn't in the catalog of medication research Big Pharma is churning out, but it would be a bonanza if a company could bottle it. We know in the back of our frizzled brains that stress causes damage to the body. Depression burns out cells. High blood pressure fries wiring. Overload an electrical outlet and watch what happens. Poof, sizzle, done. An article today by Dr. Mark Lachs, author of Treat Me, Not My Age, refers to research that showed people who believed things were getting worse as they age died sooner than their contemporaries who thought otherwise. Longevity is genetic, but adaptive competence helps. How bouncy is your brain? Another article about memory loss describes cognitive reserve. This extra oomph is also genetically determined, but can be supplemented by education, both formal and stimulating life experience, friends and exercise. Laughter lowers blood pressure, tickles dopamine and serotonin output in a good way, and makes all the life stuff seem lighter. Attend fully the next time you get really mad. Feel the cellular weight, the heightened heart action, lung volume, constricted brain blood flow? Attend the next time you laugh. Feel the difference? We need more laughter to pump up the volume in our cognitive reserve tank, preserve neural pathways and enjoy the journey, even when the path is rock strewn, uphill and slippery. Laughter is your new best friend in the bodymind backpack. Take it out for a stroll more often.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Three Story Life: Curb Feelers

Even cars have proximity sensors now. Maybe just Mercedes, like the big shiny black Florida-plated one next door. Cells have these, although scientists call them contact inhibitors. Mutant cells lose contact inhibition which is why a carcinoma stacks up like Sunday morning pancakes. Most people have sensors, and a "pardon me" usually follows contact. My father, my brother are missing proximity sensors. There is no my space/your space. I've no idea if all men, people of a certain age, Midwesterners are missing this. I'm not sure if they used to know how close they were to another person, and maybe lost that sense. I do know most dogs don't care if your feet are under theirs. The dog likes his nose right on my pajama leg. I learned recently that Alzheimer's Disease can affect a person's ability to know where the body is, so my little brother, when he bangs into me, gets a hug. Dad has always had the willies about affection and hugging stuff. That's why he calls me Creep. It's his affectionate term for me. When I was little, and said, "I love you, Daddy," he'd fidget and then, when I waited for an answer, say, "I love you, too. Creep." I sicced the granddaughters on him as they came along. Michelle was Hot Dog; Rachel, Snickelfritz; and Bianca, Skiddlymooch. Dad gave hugging and close proximity a wide berth. Now I get my heels run over with the electric cart at WalMart, and I'm still working on getting all of them out of the 7x7 kitchen when I'm making dinner. Scott's got the refrigerator open into my back to get the milk. Dad's looking in the pot so closely, I have to change stirring hands. The dog's got his nose pressed to my pant leg. I need to outflank the invasion. Completely surrounded at the stove, listing over the sauteing onions, I pointed and yelled "Out!" at the dog. Everyone left. I have hope. Meanwhile, shopping for the new leather double recliner for Dad, I just shut my eyes when the salesman came jogging past me after Dad in the electric cart "Sir, SIR, you're going to have to back that STRAIGHT out!"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Measuring Meaningful Mathematically

It was a long hold to have Brian Greene's new book "The Hidden Reality" arrive in my hands this week. And I'm going to take it back today, not because it isn't interesting and worthwhile, but because I don't need to read it. Page 31 decided me. "And so, the essential conclusion is at hand. Classical physics makes clear that perfect resolution is unattainable in practice. Quantum physics goes further and establishes that perfect resolution is unattainable in principle. If you imagine both the speed and the position of an object - be it a fly or an electron - changing by sufficiently small amounts, then according to quantum mechanics, you are imagining something meaningless." He's writing about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and I'm quoting out of context, but the paragraph resonated in my solar plexus. He explained what a sufficiently small amount is, in detail, with everyday metaphor. Nonetheless I'm more interested in the word meaningless. Meaningless because the results are inconsequential mathematically? To a mathematician or quantum physicist, of course. Whether the universe is infinite, or finite in so large or so small a degree that we'll never see the end of it, is meaningless because we cannot measure infinite or finite beyond our measurement tools. And Dr. Greene explained what perfect resolution is, and undoubtedly will explain further and well in the following hundreds of pages. I've finally concluded that what I wanted from reading about parallel universes, the cosmos, quantum physics is already in my psyche. Measurement is not where meaningfulness lives. Meaningful is not a hidden reality: meaning is accessible and welcome imagining. Perfect is how we view perfection. If we make up our own reality, if the universe is expanding, contracting, infinite, finite but beyond our ability to measure, it's all the same to me. The measuring tools on a universal and subatomic scale are not in my toolkit, may very well be collected in scientists' toolkits, but the realm of perfection and meaning resides in the toolkit of whomever or whatever I - and you - imagine holds that perfection and meaning. I am changing in small amounts, whether those are sufficiently small, infinite or finite, I find these changes meaningful in principle and I hope the changes are seeking perfection in the meaningful way I imagine.

112th Congress Holds Women's Healthcare Hostage

Brinksmanship. Conservatives in the 112th Congress are playing roulette with women's health, and are willing to shut the government down in order to achieve their ideological goals. Women were held hostage in a cynical political ploy that we'll see more of in this 112th Congress, because it worked. Watching the video of the Republican women caucus in front of a microphone - for the first time - and fumble basic questions about what their party is up to might have been the low point of the gaming yesterday. I'm embarrassed for my gender, furious at the discussion being framed by everyone (including hosts and guests all night on msnbc) as Planned Parenthood when the trump card that will be used again and again by this Congress is Title X in toto. Putting the word abortion into discussion of basic health screenings and cancer treatment for poor women adds more lying mouths to the conservative mission. I am sick and tired of the idiotic speechifying about federal funding for abortion, when there is none. None. How many freaking times do we need to deal with liars who know this, but want us to not know it? Who are the fools in fact?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

DSO Is Rehearsing!

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is rehearsing Dvorak's New World Symphony. The performance, conducted by the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin will be in Orchestra Hall, Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. Tickets were disappeared into the hands of eager patrons fast. It's a new world for symphony lovers in Detroit, after six months of no symphony as the musicians negotiated a new contract. Chris Felcyn went to the rehearsal this morning, and said it was hard to leave. We've missed the symphony. You can hear the concert on WRCJ, 90.9 FM at 3 p.m. live, and rebroadcast on Channel 56 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. The concert will also be live streamed at wrcjfm.org.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sexual Harassment at Yale Investigation

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights will investigate Yale University for allegations of violation of Title IX. At issue is the university's slow and inadequate response to accusations of sexual harassment listed in the complaint filed March 15 by 16 Yale students. Yale risks losing federal funding if found noncompliant with Title IX. VP Joe Biden said it as well as I've heard it said: "No means no if you're drunk or sober. No means no if you're in a bed, in a dorm, or on the street. No means no even if you said yes at first and changed your mind. No means no." Yale University said no to commenting on the npr article. This investigation indicates an administration effort to change the culture, and it is most welcome.

Women's Ski Jump in 2014 Olympics

IOC has approved women's ski jumping for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The sportswomen worked hard to be included, taking the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, who turned them down still for the 2010 Vancouver games. Success will be finally approved formally after the winter competitions this year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wacky Brits Blame Feminism

David Willetts, universities minister, blamed feminism for the lack of upward mobility for men. This senior minister insists working class men need to be given a more level playing field. Willetts is on the team working out a new social order. Sounds the same as the old social order to me. A Guardian writer exonerates Willetts: he wasn't actually blaming feminism, just pointing out a side effect. Not to be outdone by the men, Christine Odone writes that Willetts is wrong about how feminists are responsible for the plight of men. It's not so much that feminists have stolen their jobs, but feminists won't allow the fathers of their children to live in the house, and thus created a benefits program that rewards single mothers. Feminists would rather marry the state than a man. Feminists are a "scary lot." She yearns for the good ol' days of the feminism she supported. So convenient to write blithely about women teaching hatred, while simultaneously hating feminists, and then yearn for the support of those long-ago sisters she claims.

Monday, April 4, 2011

112th Congress and State Legislatures Repurposed

112th Congress has been busy, busy passing laws governing women's rights. The Indiana legislature just passed a law scripting doctors to lie to women. Abortion does not cause breast cancer, but what the hell? Florida has 18 pieces of legislation overseeing women's organs. I can't keep up with what the Michigan legislature is focused on, but I'm going to guess it's below my navel. Let's repurpose all this legislation, cut back on the paperwork, and streamline the legislative process. You've got a zipper, guys. Keep it zipped.

2010 Black List Movies

The Black List, movie-modern era, is screenplays that are ready to film, but for reasons undiscovered, have not been produced, completed or handed to distributors. LA Times claims a midlevel executive named Franklin Leonard polls his colleagues for the list. There are murky rules, multiple "like"(s), but many of the voters probably were the very folks who turned down the deal. Another site claims a guy in Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way came up the idea. Fine. We do not know who the 300 people surveyed for the 2010 list are. That colleagues, Hollywood, executives are keywords tells me these are men. I counted 75 movies on this list at slashfilms. Writers credited for the screenplays: 82 men (including one movie written by three) and ready?... 5 women. F-I-V-E. Katie Lovejoy, Jenni Ross, Carrie Evans, Megan Martin, Katie Wech. The guys wrote movies like "Your Bridesmaid is a Bitch," and "F*cking Jane Austen." Although Carrie Evans cowrote "Boy Scouts vs. Zombies," and Katie Welch wrote "Prom" so I'm making no judgment on the literary quality of these scenarios. But 75 movies and five women is a pitiful ratio. The most votes went to current event, fact-based, CIA-tinged yawns. Are we all in for reality film just like reality TV? Nobody has to make stuff up, revise a second act, or break a brain sweat at all. Coming to a theater near you. We can do better than this. I wish I knew how.

A Three Story Life

Script Frenzy started April 1. I am giving up pretending to write a screenplay, because I am busy pretending to write other stuff. This post title, for example, is a memoir of life here in the three story condo that I am currently not writing. On the top floor lives my brother Scott, surrounded by his movies and music. In the middle lives my Dad with his new leather powered double recliner and his hi def TV. I live in the basement with the art I love and the art I create. The dog lives on two floors, preferring the floor that momentarily houses the person with food. The dog is not allowed in the basement, because he yaps at will and scares the hell out of me. I am too finely tuned for yapping dogs. Some may call it high strung, but that's their story. For meals, communal gatherings, and MORC or healthcare meetings, we share a floor. On any given day, we share a brain. These three floors are squashed between other condos, stage left lives Marilyn; stage right, the Florida snowbirds who all smoke. We can smell when they've arrived for the summer. Marilyn and I share metaphysical beliefs, and a passion for reading and homemade cookies. Marilyn is teaching me meditation, which will be handy when the snowbird smokers arrive next door, because they are also loud. They bang. We don't know on what, but it involves them having to shout over the banging. So when they bang and shout, I will meditate. Hopefully I can learn it by Memorial Weekend, when the big shiny black Mercedes pulls into the lot.

Paul Simon Is So Beautiful

NPR shares a First Listen of Paul Simon's new offering So Beautiful Or So What. The entirety of this album is a dancing meditation. I will be happy to spend years changing my mind about which track is my favorite, and the ten songs will always be in company, as I want to experience all, one after the other; like a fine meal, a symphony, the seasons each year in Michigan, the unfolding story of any life. Simon is tuned serendipitously to life stages. It was a joy to have his music when I was in the new moon of my life, and more deeply joyous to share his music in the waning moon. Our class song in high school was "Old Friends" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was played at friends' funerals who left us too soon. My old friends will love this music from the universes they inhabit. Simon is transcendent, and on this anniversary of Martin Luther King's ascension, I say bless you and thank you to the songwriter and the peacemakers both.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How Effective Are MI Emergency Financial Managers?

Their mitts have been in Michigan cities for years. Highland Park had an emergency financial manager in 2001. Ramona Henderson-Parks reported December 14, 2001 that, as of 3 p.m. the Highland Park police department was dissolved. Wayne County Sheriff Dept. took over public safety. The city would issue municipal bonds to pay Wayne County. Pay attention here: the city would issue municipal bonds to pay for outsourcing public safety. Highland Park is in bad shape again in 2011. Mackinac Center (architects of the new Michigan EFM law) has Louis H. Schimmel on board. He is credited with being a municipal bond expert. He negotiated the sale of Pontiac State Bank to NBD in 1988 while employed by Pontiac State Bank. Pontiac is another Michigan city with an EFM in place, and the police department has just been dissolved. Schimmel was appointed under Public Act 72 as EFM, City of Ecorse in 1986. He privatized nearly all city services and negotiated "unique" union contracts. Did this help? In 2009 Ecorse got another EFM. Back to Schimmel: he was appointed EFM in the City of Hamtramck in November, 2000. Again, privatization and the list of think tank objectives were put in place. Did this help? City Manager Bill Cooper's plea to MI Treasury in November, 2010 to file bankruptcy was turned down later in Nov. This linked article keys the phrase "fiscal stabilization bond." City of Flint requested a $20 million FSB, approved in February, 2011. Note: bond issue. Note also that Flint is closing fire stations, and is looking at demoting 20 fire department employees, for a savings of $500,000. Flint's deficit is $17 million. City of Detroit requested a $250 million FSB in 2009. Legislation to raise the limit of FSBs to $250 million was passed in 2010. City of Detroit can maintain its municipal bond rating, and is back in the investment market. But in Hamtramck city manager Bill Cooper's letter requesting bankruptcy, he cites the City of Detroit stopping payment on its agreement for the GM plant as the reason for lack of revenue. But he insists the unions are the problem. And why is Louis Schimmel on the Legislative Council of Michigan web page? There's something here that seems off kilter. What is it? Cities that had services privatized to prevent deficits are back in deficit mode. Do emergency financial managers get performance reviews? Does the law prevent a serial unsuccessful EFM from getting another city to dissolve police, fire, school and any other union contracts? Or do failed EFMs just get kicked upstairs to a consulting job with state government?

Meditation for Beginners

My neighbor Marilyn is helping me to meditate. She is determined to show me it's not spooky. It's hard for me to sit still - I don't watch foreign movies because you have to sit down to keep up. So, I'm a rookie meditator, but I'm learning. Last night I used a Deepak Chopra guided meditation. Walk through a woods on a path to a lovely cottage [insert favorite architecture HERE], enter the cottage, open a door and walk down a stone stairway to a river. Someone will come in a boat to pick me up. I forget the rest, but I either turn into light, or the boat poler does, or the boater is the archetype I am living. So, I started on the path, entered the cottage, went down the stone steps to the cavern river. A little naked boy on a paddle board showed up {!}, took me by the hand, and back up the stairs, out the cottage, and toward a temple (pillars were involved) but inside the temple was a pine woods. I sat (unknown on what) and a huge creature flew in from stage right. I wanted it to be an eagle, but it wouldn't be. It was gigantic, shiny, not really feathered and definitely not pretty, with long claws and gnarly, long muscled legs. It began to preen. Under a wing it found a tiny egg. I held out my hand and the dragon/vulture/not eagle dropped the egg into it. I broke the egg precisely in half, and there was a starfish. Too big to have been in the egg, and it was moving - alive. That's it. We were out of meditation. What the heck was that? Marilyn said calmly "maybe you'll understand one day." Today I looked up starfish - I've never seen one in person alive, and when I searched, there was the story of the child throwing starfish back into the sea. The man who had come upon the child asked what was going on? "The tide is out and if the starfish stay here, they will die." The man said "but there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish. What impact can you have?" The child threw another starfish into the sea and said, smiling "I made a difference in that one's life."