current events


In the United States, there is a large stigma regarding mental health issues. The Mayo clinic website explains this well.  However also implies that the age of stigma has passed.  It hasn’t. People seem much more comfortable saying they have diabetes or asthma than saying they have a mental illness.  For many years this has resulted in unequal treatment of mental and physical illness and in employment and insurance, but that may be changing, and it must.

An editorial in yesterday’s LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Tribune notes that:

[I]f we continue to let mental illnesses go untreated because of paltry insurance benefits and under-funding of public efforts at mental health care and intervention, we’ll continue to pay an escalating monetary cost — in law enforcement, in prisons, in emergencycare at the county level of people in extremis.

Last week, the congress and Obama administration passed new laws that are intended to bring equality to the treatment of mental health issues.  In a New York Times article, Robert Pear said this:

Insurers cannot set higher co-payments and deductibles or stricter limits on treatment for mental illness and addiction disorders. Nor can they establish separate deductibles for mental health care and for the treatment of physical illnesses.

Such disparities are common in the insurance industry. By sweeping away such restrictions, doctors said, the rules will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism,schizophreniaeating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

Unfortunately, this may not be the case — at least not for everyone. The same New York Times author points out that:

The rules apply to group health insurance plans of the kind typically offered by employers. Federal health officials said the rules did not apply to the individual insurance market, where policies are sold directly to individuals and families. However, some states have laws that apply to the individual market.

Even if the laws apply to individual insurance buyers, it may not be enough. Robert Preidt’s article in BusinessWeek’s Health Day News from yesterday points out:

Fears about losing status at work and about confidentiality are among the main reasons that many American workers are more hesitant to seek treatment for mental health issues than for physical health problems, according to a national survey released this week by the American Psychiatric Association.

Very few of the editorials call for  what I think is equally necessary: equal and adequate treatment of mental illnesses in the prison system and administered by the courts.  Society’s destigmatized acceptance of mental health will take a lot longer.

In case you missed it …. I’ve been published in a real magazine! Over at Mother Jones.  Yes, of course it is about being a kid with a parent in jail.

We love seeing bad parents getting punished. Why don’t we care how that affects their kids—like me?

No, I didn’t choose the photo and no, that is NOT what I look like.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since the fall of my second grade year, and in Iraq for half of the years I have been in school. In all that time, and in all of the years that we watched Channel One News in the mornings, we never saw a casket, never heard about the war dead or the loss of limbs, and only heard about veterans one day a year.

That changed last Tuesday.

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been President of the United States during my schooling, and all three have addressed the nation’s students in the first weeks of school. Clips of these addresses were shown on Channel One, or the existence of the speeches was mentioned in news stories. There was never any controversy.

That changed this September.

This August, we were warned that the President was scheduled to speak to students across the nation, and the news media was full of dire predictions of this unprecedented address. We were originally asked to have our parents sign a form saying that we could listen to the fifteen minute national pep rally for paying attention and focusing on our studies, with the option of spending that time in another room. Then the speech was canceled except in U.S. government classes. Our infantile minds were apparently not prepared to absorb such concepts as hard work and setting goals.

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

And yet, we were apparently sufficiently mature to watch last week’s memorial service from Fort Hood. Without warning and without parental permission, this solemn service and the words of the President and several reverends were shown school-wide, in class.
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There was a memorial vigil at Fort Hood tonight, but I didn’t get a chance to go. I have been thinking all day about who might be mourning the soldiers who died.

Do you know this Dixie Chicks song? The girl who is mourning the dead soldier (from the Vietnam War) is mourning alone under the stands at a HS football game, and no one even knows that she knew him, that she fell in love with him.

President Obama and everyone else has sent their sympathies to the families of all of the people who were killed yesterday here in Texas, but I wonder if there’s anyone else mourning who is just crying by themselves under the stands.

It’s a real tragedy. I don’t think we understand enough about what happened, but we know enough that it’s time to end all of the wars.

Lyrics:

“Travelin’ Soldier”

Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army green
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair
He’s a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said would you mind sittin’ down for a while
And talking to me,
I’m feeling a little low
She said I’m off in an hour and I know where we can go

So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don’t care
I got no one to send a letter to
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you

Chorus: I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy
Too young for him they told her
Waitin’ for the love of a travelin’ soldier
Our love will never end
Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter said
A soldier’s coming home

So the letters came from an army camp
In California then Vietnam
And he told her of his heart
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of
He said when it’s getting kinda rough over here
I think of that day sittin’ down at the pier
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile
Don’t worry but I won’t be able to write for awhile

[Chorus]

One Friday night at a football game
The Lord’s Prayer said and the Anthem sang
A man said folks would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead
Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read but nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

[Chorus x2]

Dear Levi & Mercede,

I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs.  I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.

I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.

I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.

  1. Go to Alateen.  Or ACOA.  Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom.  Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!
  2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young.  And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around.  I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.
  3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail.  Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are.  Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail.  Stay away from them.  Same thing with overly curious adults.
  4. People will ask you what they can do to help.  It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts.  You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
  5. Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.
  6. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people.  So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.

We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment.  And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime.  Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.

I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction.  You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.

Your friend,

Cassie

President Obama got in a lot of trouble this week when the press took a still picture from a video and made it seem like he was looking at a 16 or 17 year old girl’s ass in a tight dress. A few comments on this.

  • That’s NOT what he was looking at. Watch the whole video.

US Magazine says this:

Pictures can be deceiving.

Yesterday, a photo surfaced of President Barack Obama seemingly checking out the backside of a 17-year-old junior delegate at the G-8 summit in Italy.

But new video tells a different story.

See Obama’s “Just Like Us” moments.

It appears Obama wasn’t sneaking a peak; instead, he was just helping another young delegate down the stairs.

But French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s intentions aren’t as clear.

The Head of State — who’s married to former model Carla Bruni — keeps his face drawn toward the 17-year-old.

  • I am a 17 year old girl and I know that if I wear sexy clothes and walk a certain way, MOST men will look at me. It’s the reason I wear short skirts some times and don’t wear them other days. So what if he DID look? Who cares? It’s not like she had an ID out that showed her age.
  • Girls and women have the power to dress the way we want to dress in the United States. And be who we want to be. We don’t all need image consultants, and we don’t all mind if men look at us when we walk past.

Time magazine had a story this week that asks a great question, but they’ll never find the right answer if they continue to see our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as “wars” and not “occupations”.

Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?

I’m glad they’re asking the question about military recruiters, and glad people are reading about it, but here’s the part that shows they’ll never find the answer:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now the longest waged by an all-volunteer force in U.S. history. Even as soldiers rotate back into the field for multiple and extended tours, the Army requires a constant supply of new recruits. But the patriotic fervor that led so many to sign up after 9/11 is now eight years past. That leaves recruiters with perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army.

The problem is not that we are less patriotic or that no one wants to serve. The problem is that these are occupations and no one wants to continue fighting wars that we won years and years ago.

Last year alone, the number of recruiters who killed themselves was triple the overall Army rate. Like posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, recruiter suicides are a hidden cost of the nation’s wars.

Yes there is a problem here, and yes the recruiters need help, but mostly we need to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even with this economy, poor kids don’t want to go into the military any more. Would you?

How cool is it to have a first lady who thinks that getting A’s is cool! After the Bushes telling acting like being stupid is the coolest, I really like Michelle Obama’s message. And her clothes! (But not the turquoise sweater.)


The reality is that I think we need more women role models who are famous for something that doesn’t involve their husband, but Michelle Obama is still the coolest ever!

This is from BBC:

The world needs strong young women to pave the way for the future, an emotional US First Lady Michelle Obama has told schoolgirls in London.

Mrs Obama was close to tears as she addressed the excited crowd at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, north London.

She told them: “We are counting on every single one of you to be the best that you can be.”

Mrs Obama is in the UK with husband Barack for the G20 summit.

Her visit to the North London school was greeted with much excitement by pupils and she sat smiling, riveted, as Year 11 pupil Grace Hollowell and the school’s junior choir performed the Whitney Houston hit Believe.

Mrs Obama, a mother of two girls herself, smiled and watched intently throughout the other performances, which also included a modern-day staging of The Tempest, and a presentation on the school’s new Learning To Lead scheme.
‘Strength and dignity’

The First Lady high-fived one pupil after the performance before she took to the podium for her speech.

As she addressed the crowd, Mrs Obama choked up, saying: “Wow. I can’t follow that. Let me tell you, I am just very touched and moved by all of you.”

There isn’t a full transcript, but BBC describes it really well:

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It’s time to end the Iraq War and Occupation!

Protesters march to Pentagon, call to end Iraq war

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and no one will know anything.

TAKS spells prizes for achievers

Austinn-American Statesman

Over the past two years, a growing number of Texas school districts have used a state education program to reward students who perform well on – or, in some cases, simply pass – the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills with excused absences.

In my opinion, everyone should be able to go to the same prom.  Gay couples, straight couples, singles, groups of friends, anyone who knows how to wear nice clothes.  Requiring that girls wear gowns instead of tuxedos is discrimination.

17 Year Old Girl Sues, Changes School Policy, And Will Wear Her Tuxedo To Prom

from Jezebel, By hortense

A 17-year-old lesbian in Lebanon, Indiana was all set to go to prom until her principal informed her that the dress code restricted girls from wearing tuxedos, forcing them to wear gowns instead.

The girl, who is not identified due to her age, decided to fight back, suing the school with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that the school’s restrictive dress code was a case of gender discrimination and a denial of the girl’s right to free speech. At first, the school attempted to placate the girl by discussing pantsuit options, but that was soon dismissed, as school officials reversed their dress code standards just four days after the suit was filed, releasing this statement: “School policy for this year’s prom will be that all attendees shall wear appropriate formal attire with no gender-based attire requirements imposed. Female students will be permitted to wear tuxedos if they choose.”

If you click on the article, you can see all the sources that Hortense linked to.

I have always loved school and am glad that I have always been around other kids. I am not sure how I feel about this court ruling, but I wonder if the judge asked the kids.

I like the questions that Nate asks.  My only other addition is to ask if the judge would make a parent stop sending kids to an evolution-hating  school run by fundamentalists.

Home-Schooling

Home-Schooling

Recently, a judge in Raleigh, N.C. ordered three kids who were being home-schooled to attend public school instead.  The issue arose in a divorce proceeding where the father wanted the kids to go to public school, and the mother wanted to continue home-schooling her children.  I have not had the opportunity to read the case itself, but if you’re interested in reading more, click here.

Apparently the problem was that the kids were receiving a creationist focused education when it came to science.  However, the kids were also testing two years above their grade level.  So that begs the question, why were they forced to go to public school?  I don’t believe in creationism, but it does seem to me that no matter what they are learning, if they are testing two years above their grade level, then home-schooling seems to be working out.

My greater concern, though, is: when is it okay to home-school?  The lesson here is that if a judge disagrees with the curriculum, then he can order the kids to public school.  Not enough math?  Too much math?  Not enough structure?  Not reading the right books?  Cases like these can be slippery slopes.

What do you think?  Did the judge make the right decision?  Is it okay for parents to home-school their children?

from Nate at  The Young Writers Blog: The Only Writing Blog For Young Writers And Everyone Else

While it is certainly true that historians and economists are still debating the actual causes of the 1929-1939 Great Depression, some lawmakers and political pundits today are nevertheless making bold and ludicrous claims about what happened back then to support their agendas. Even so, it is still possible to come to a general agreement about some of the positive results of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs despite the partisan bickering.

This timeline shows the date of each relevant event of the 1920’s and 30’s. Many of the country’s financial problems began even before the 1929 Stock Market Crash.

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These judges should be put in jail in solitary. How much hope have they cost the kids who were innocent? Or who were only guilty of small things? What would they do if it was their own kids?

This is from the New York Times:

Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

Niko J. Kallianiotis for The New York Times

Hillary Transue was sentenced to three months in juvenile detention for a spoof Web page mocking an assistant principal.

Published: February 12, 2009

At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

Prosecutors say Judges Michael T. Conahan, and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., above, took kickbacks to send teenagers to detention centers.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.

The case has shocked Luzerne County, an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that has been battered by a loss of industrial jobs and the closing of most of its anthracite coal mines.

And it raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates.

If the court agrees to the plea agreement, both judges will serve 87 months in federal prison and resign from the bench and bar. They are expected to be sentenced in the next several months. Lawyers for both men declined to comment.

You’d think that they would DEFINITELY be going to jail, right?  Forever?  But the article talks about their pensions!  Like they ought to be around to enjoy them or not!

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A friend sent this to me, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it can be legal.  Or constitutional.

Internet Free Speech Ruling Favors Burlington School Administrators

In a key ruling on Internet free speech, a federal judge has found that school officials were within their rights when they disciplined a Burlington high school student over an insulting blog post she wrote off school grounds.

Avery Doninger’s case has drawn national attention and raised questions about how far schools’ power to regulate student speech extends in the Internet age.

But in a ruling on several motions for summary judgment Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz rejected Doninger’s claims that administrators at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her rights to free speech and equal protection and intentionally inflicted emotional distress when they barred her from serving as class secretary because of an Internet post she wrote at home.

Does he think they didn’t harm her? Or that the school didn’t violate her rights? Read on.

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As a kid who has been removed from my mother’s care at age 11 and had my father’s rights terminated when I was 14, and lived in several different kinds of family structures, I was very upset when I read this story in my local newspaper.  I do not think it is necessarily a good thing that CPS is  caring for  fewer children than they used to.

CPS: removals of children are down

The number of Texas children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect has declined following a series of reforms to Child Protective Services, the agency said today.

In the 2008 budget year, CPS removed 14,295 children, which is down from 15,920 in 2007 and 17,536 in 2006. That’s a decrease of 18.5 percent.

“Generally, children do better if they can remain safely with their families,” CPS spokesman Darrell Azar said. “Foster care is really intended as a last resort.”

Lawmakers passed CPS reforms in 2005 and 2007. As part of that, the state invested in programs that help keep families together, including one that provides cash assistance to certain low-income families.

“More often than not, neglect is at the heart of the problem,” rather than abuse, Azar said. “Some families are so impoverished, they can’t meet basic needs. The whole theory behind this is working with the family … to help them find the supports they need.”

Does this mean that they are removing kids just because their families are poor?  If kids really are better off with their families, then give the family the help they need to not be so poor.  Duh!

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