Monday, November 27, 2006

Could this have been prevented?

Deep in the hills and hollers of the Ozark Mountains, a man lived with his boy. The man was addicted to Oxycontin, probably used meth, and was known to drink--a lot. Time and again he'd come to pick up his son from daycare and be obviously impaired. Time and again the daycare would follow the law and call the child abuse hotline and report that the child was in imminent danger. The police were called. The little community where they lived pretty much knew this guy, and knew he had a serious drug and alcohol problem.

Mandated reporters did their jobs and called the hot line. They talked to the dad. They talked with the mom. They called the hotline again.

Nothing changed.

Dad got custody of the child when it was shown that his mom had a meth problem, too.

Flash forward a couple of years.

Kindergarten teachers and principals follow the law and call the hotline--four times in three months--to report concerns about the father's drug use and his admitted psychosis (he described hiding in tree branches, using a shotgun to kill the aliens that visited the trailer). Store clerks reportedly called police when the man was seen in the local grocery store, too impaired to walk without running into aisles and displays, but still getting into the car with his son.

Again, nothing happened.

Until the day the man, with the now six year old son, drove around a curve straight into an oncoming truck.

They were killed instantly.

This should never, ever have happened. State laws, and local prosecutors like Darrell Moore, insist that people call the Child Abuse and Neglect hotline if they even suspect a child has been abused, or is in danger of abuse. But what happens after the call? In this case, nothing. NOTHING. Numerous calls, presumably numerous investigations. And still a child is dead.

No one was held accountable for this. The meth-addicted mother lived out of state and was frightened of the authorities. The father is dead. The teachers and daycare workers followed the law, and probably expected that someone would protect this child.

No one protected him. Now he is dead.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Healthcare in the real world

Saturday night in the pharmacy area of a local Walgreen's:

A little girl, probably 4 or 5, perches on her daddy's lap. She clutches a big sippy cup with some kind of red liquid sloshing around, and I notice that it almost matches the color of her runny nose. At the counter, her mom is talking to the pharmacist. She's dressed in sweats and a polo shirt; the circles under her eyes are testament to a long day with a sick preschooler. All that HIPPA hoopla means nothing when you're waiting in line somewhere, so I can hear the pharmacist clearly when he says, apologetically, "It's $69.50, I know that's really high but without your insurance it would've been $89. I guess that's something."

Mom turns to the father, "She's just got a cold or something, so I don't know. What should we do?" She steps away to talk to him privately.

Then there's the guy next to me. He's in a khaki shirt and levis, leaning over the cash register a little bit as he quietly asks the employee if there's fee to transfer his prescription. "See," he says, "I lost my insurance and I heard you can get generics at Walmart for $4.00."
She's in the process of telling him that she doesn't think this medicine in on that list and how to find out, when I leave, feeling very blessed to have a prescription plan on my employer-paid insurance.

Here's the thing: 2 of the 3 customers in brief time period, were unable to pay for their medicine. All of us were middle class ordinary working people who rely on a health care system which over-inflates the price of drugs, and therapies, and physician visits until only the wealthy can afford it. "They" blame it on malpractice insurance rates, and the cost of lawsuits and trial attorneys, but it just isn't that simple.

The answer isn't simple, either, I'm sure. But something's got to give. It isn't right that we're such a wealthy nation, with some of the most advanced medical practices anywhere, yet our own people go without medicine, without healthcare, because it's out of their reach.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday thirteen

Thirteen reasons we can't just assume everything will be okay now that Democrats have the majority Congress: (in no particular order)

1. Iraq. It is a mess. We seem to have caused it. We keep making it worse. No matter what we do, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Republican strategists are no doubt already planning how to blame the Democrat majority for the mess, and they have two years to pull it off.

2. W. Over the past six years, starting with him co-opting the presidency away from the actual winner, W has garned some serious power. Some of this power was signed into law. It isn't going to go away just because the Dems wish it would.

3. 2008. The presidential election and more open seats in both houses mean the chance that it can all disappear just as quickly as it appeared. The dems need a candidate who won't polarize the voters.

4. Howard Dean. Look, I liked the guy when he first ran for prez in '04. Like with the candidates, though, the party needs a leader who also won't polarize the party and turn off voters. A sane one would be a good choice, too.

5. The Democratic Party. The passive-aggressive, self-serving behavior of state-level party operatives cost local candidates, and their own party, wins that could have--should have--happened. Jack Truman garnered more than 30% of the vote against Roy Blunt, and he didn't even have a viable campaign. Why didn't the Dems actively seek out a candidate and then work to help them? Maybe Blunt couldn't be beaten in conservative southwest Missouri, but we'll never know, will we?

6. The religious right. They are vocal. They are organized. They believe they are always right, and they claim to have a direct line to God.

7. Hate radio. They are loud. They are organized. They believe they are always right. Their signals have a long reach. Some people mistake ferociousness for correctness.

8. Innocence, innocence lost. For me, it was Clinton's first inauguration, for some it was JFK, for my mother's time it was the creation of the UN--those watershed moments when the future seems golden, sparkling. Then,again for me, it turned charcoal grey, starting with the impeachment hearings, and culminating with the stolen election. Innocence, and hope, lost.

9. Its the economy, stupid. Just getting new representation in office doesn't mean the middle class will feel any real recovery any time soon. The American attention span is notoriously short, we expect instant gratification, and when we don't get it, we tend to hold a grudge.

10. Xenophobia. In the northeast, the Statue of Liberty proclaims "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." In the southwest, we're building a fence to keep them out. Black fly in the Chardonnay? You betcha.

11. Power. It tends to corrupt. All those fresh-faced new representatives and senators (like the rest of the human race) are prone to corruption and thus prone to basically muck it all up, regardless of party, faith, etc.

12. Time. More than three years in Iraq. More than five to increase the deficit to trillions, and borrow how much from Mexico and China? Supreme Court justices can serve until they die, and so can potentially change election results again and again. How long to create an environmental disaster that frankly may be irreparable? It took a while to break the system, it probably won't be fixed in a couple of years.

13. Nostalgia. I miss Bill. I miss his charisma. I miss the hopefulness of those times.

Go to thursdaythirteen to learn how to participate in this blog meme.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DIY psychotherapy

Props to Shrinkrap for mentioning MoodGym . It is an interesting and even compelling set of exercises utilizing aspects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You can log in, get to work, and deal with your neurotic tendencies without getting on anyone's couch but your own.

CBT is touted as an evidence based therapy--the latest buzzwords the insurance and Medicaid folks are using so that they can deny "usual" mental health services. That said, CBT really is effective, and maybe you can save $85 an hour by "pushing some little buttons on your internet" (as Larry King would say).

Don't even say you don't think you need therapy! You know you do.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just thinking about things

I asked a group of teachers and parents if they went to preschool or some sort of structured child care as kids. Lots of them had, and almost all had vivid memories of that time. Which of course led me down the path to Miss Helen's Nursery School of Dance. To put it in context, my nursery school days were during the '60s. This may explain the name. Surely there was some mention of the ABC's while I was there, but my memories involve lines of children turning somersaults in unison, learning to pirouette, and twirling around the playground equipment. The 1960s may explain that, too.

Miss Helen's Nursery School of Dance. What a hoot.

This from the city which also spawned the junior high school tradition of going to either Skilly's or the Pink Barn for "social dancing" lessons in 7th grade. Which dancing class you attended was pretty much cut right down the same lines as the rival high schools.

Kids at my school went to Skilly's. My mom signed me up for classes at the Pink Barn--the other dance school. Typical of her decisions about my childhood activities, going against the norm was definitely the common theme. When "all" the girls in first grade signed up to be Brownies, I'm put in Bluebirds. Same with clothes and hairstyles--if I wanted (I probably insisted that I needed) something to look like "all" the other girls I could pretty much guarantee I'd be sporting the anti-look by next week.

I guess I come by my counter-culture views honestly. Thank goodness I had parents that wanted me to think and question (except when it came to their rules) and who never once said I couldn't do something because I am female. They didn't teach me prejudice, they didn't teach me to feel superior or to judge, they taught me to think.

Pretty darn cool.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Now that it is over

Now that the election is over, we can lay back a bit and focus on the important things in life--like why the devil they're taking Lost off the air for three months, what the quickest route between home and the young one's school is, how to make the off button on my cell phone work again, where to eat lunch in Lampe. Just life stuff.

That said, it is so important for us to not forget the issues that led to the sweeping changes in the political make-up of our government on Tuesday.

Changing the majority voice in our Congress is a huge thing, there is no doubt about this. But, the fact is that local government has more of a day-to-day effect on our lives. Many of the state races did not go the way I'd hoped. I am heart broken to realize that with the lack of substantial change in the make up of our State legistature, the poor, the disabled, the educational system, the healthcare system (particularly Medicaid) aren't likely to see any real relief any time soon. Norma Champion said it would take years to make the Medicaid changes. Funny how it took only a few pen strokes to break the system in the name of "fraud and abuse" but it will take them years to clean up their own mess. We expect more from a four year old.

We can't let up on our state and local politicians. The decisions they make impact us closely. We have to pay attention.

While I offer my thanks and congratulations to Claire McCaskill, and while I am cautiously optimistic that some positive changes will happen at the federal level, I think it would be naive, and possibly dangerous, to assume we can just sit back and wait for change.

Democrat, Republican, Independent--regardless of party, they must be held accountable.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Regardless of who wins tomorrow (I wonder if we'll really know the truth in the end) the fact that the Republicans are so blatently cheating needs to be known. My little blog doesn't reach far, but people need to know. Whether you identify yourself with a political party or not, surely you agree that cheating is wrong. Especially when it impacts us as a nation, as well as individuals.

You probably have read that there are serious concerns about the voting machines. If not, go here:, or just google "voting machine problems." The "problems" seem to somehow potentially benefit the Republican Party.

Here's new and equally disturbing cheating:

Robot phone calls are being made at dinner time, supposedly by the Democrat candidate in your area. If you hang up, the robot calls back up to six times. You're annoyed right? Maybe even furious, and now you blame the Democrat. Maybe you're even so angry you'll change your vote. Who is behind the calls? The Republicans. No, it isn't gossip. They've admitted it. Wink wink nudge nudge, as if it is funny.

It is not funny. It is cheating.

Here's another one:

Black voters in Tennessee who voted for Democrat candidate Harold Ford in the primary, have received calls telling them that, since they voted for him in the primary, they don't need to vote again tomorrow.

That's wrong. Fundamentally, ethically, morally wrong.

And it is cheating.

I know that some members of all political parties use dirty tricks. I've learned much more than I even wanted to know about how both parties at the state and federal levels usurp their own candidates' plans, but this sort of low down dirty cheating is unacceptable.

How did they sink so low?

If you think it is low, too, please post it on your blogs, tell people.

And still go vote. No matter what else happens, we must do that.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Late or early?

I'm either too late or early to post a "Thursday Thirteen" list (
With the election only a couple of days away (hallelujah! no more hate ads) I decided instead to post my "Saturday Seven" list of candidates and issues that support the values of people who care about "the least of these."

1. Dave Coonrod-- Greene County Commissioner. Dave's a cool guy, and more importantly he is smart. He is smart about protecting the beauty of our county, the watershed, the karst topography and such, and he's also smart about Greene countians. Why change a great thing? The County Commission is the only governmental body I know of that runs smoothly and actually accomplishes something.

2. Doug Harpool--State Senator, District 30. If you've read previous blog posts, you know why Harpool is the only choice. Norma Champion does not have the best interests of "regular" people, she's too far removed from what is really happening. Harpool understands that we need someone in Jeff City who will represent all of us, not just the lobbyists or the folks with money.

3. Sara Lampe--State Representative. She's worked hard, waged an uphill battle in Jeff City and still wants the job. She's savvy, understands the issues, and isn't afraid to fight for what is right.

4. Nancy Hagin--State Representative. She's new. She's got a fresh perspective and she's obviously well-qualified to look after public education for Springfield.

5. Claire McCaskill--This is a tight race. She's a former prosecutor and state auditor. She's not one to "pull punches" and we certainly need someone in DC that is more than a "yes" person. Somebody please fight for more than defense department funds. Please.

6. Jim Kreider--US Representative. Oh yeah, he chickened out and left District 7 with no real contender to run against Roy Blunt. Blunt clearly has connections to Abramoff and the tobacco lobby, maybe even the Foley mess. It seems to be an example of how political power can, in fact, really corrupt. This year, more than any in recent past, Kreider could have been a contender.

7. The Statewide Issues: Yes on raising the minimum wage. Workers who take care of our children, our elderly, making the things we use every day, deserve to make a living wage. Yes on 2. One of my closest friends has Multiple Sclerosis. For her, for people who suffer from debilitating illnesses and injuries, it is important to use research methods that show promise. This isn't about cloning or science fiction. It is science and it is about hope.

For me the whole election is about hope. I hope that our elected officials will care about the poor, the unisured, the environment, children, education, the cost of living and act accordingly, fearlessly.

Of course we need to protect our nation, and keep our people safe. That goes without saying. But right now our government has approved no budget appropriations beyond the war and homeland security. Nothing. All the other governmental services are simply hanging in, waiting to know what will happen. It says a lot, in my opinion, that Congress is waiting until after the election to make these decisions.

Above all, though, vote.