Archive for January, 2010

Hope and Health Care

The Internet is glutted today with posts reacting to the State of the Union address. (And to the underwhelming Apple iPad.)

This is not one of them. Why? Because, sadly, I don’t care. I should care. I should be part of the government of the people, by the people and for the people. I should be asking not what my country can do for me, but what I can do for my country.

Instead, I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of congressional corruption, of votes for sale to the biggest-ticket political action group. I’m tired of pork barrel spending, turning badly needed legislation into a travesty. I’m tired of my hopes and ideals being dashed to bits, while our elected officials lose sight of all meaning and embrace partisan pissing contests.

I have a son who is medically uninsurable on an individual basis. He’s also in an employment category not likely to provide him with corporate-sponsored benefits. Hello, health care crisis.

I have a dear friend whose spouse has been unemployed for a year, although he’s well qualified and searching daily. She’s disabled and they’re trying to raise a daughter. They have no insurance, he has no further unemployment benefits, and disability applications can take two years to process and be approved. How do they live? Hello, economic crisis.

There are millions of stories just like that across America, but rather than focusing on finding solutions, our government flops and flails around like a snagged silver salmon. “That’s socialist.” “That’s an invasion of privacy.” “That’s not fiscally responsible.”

Really? And leaving a large fraction of our population to live on the streets and die of untreated medical conditions is fiscally and morally responsible? My mistake, I thought we were a first world nation.

Actually, politically, I’m a huge fan of Robert Heinlein, the golden age SF author. He postulated a concept called “rational anarchy” in his book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – one of my favorites.

The novel defines the political philosophy as “a rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals.”

He continues, “In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts,” he says. “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do.”

This seems to be closely related to libertarianism, where the best government is the least government, at least in theory. As I’ve said before, the libertarian philosophy tends to support strong personal rights to life and liberty, free market capitalism, private property rights, minimal government regulation, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state, all within the context of the rule of law. Bottom line – they’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

How do I reconcile my fairly staunchly libertarian beliefs with my sense of disgust with the government’s handling of the multiple crises facing America today?

First, personally, I’m generous. I think a lot of people just naturally are, the golden rule and all. Given a choice to help their neighbor or not help their neighbor, most choose the former.

Second, there’s a difference between welfare and empowerment. Would my son buy medical insurance if it were even possible, and reasonably priced? Of course! Would my friend take any job he could get to provide a roof over his family’s head and medical care for them? In a heartbeat. One of the saddest aspects of this recession is how hard it’s hit the working, educated professional.

I don’t think anyone is advocating the return of a welfare state. Instead, we need to fix the broken system so that those who work hard, who want to make a contribution, have an opportunity to do so.

Maybe I do care after all; I’ve just lost faith. I want our elected officials to remember this is not about partisan politics, not one bit; it’s about real people, like my friend. And my son. And the millions other like them who wake up needing a reason to keep hoping.

Posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: Politics | 2 Comments »

On Being Responsible

Recently, I’ve been wrestling with the concept of responsibility – my own hyperdeveloped sense thereof, and what I perceive to be a pathological lack of it in others.

Responsible
1 a: liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent b: being the cause or explanation
2 a : able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations : trustworthy b : able to choose for oneself between right and wrong

In my profession, I am the responsible party, the bottom line. If a project succeeds, I give the credit to my team, but if there are issues, I’m the “single throat to choke”. And personally, as single parent to two, and foster parent to a third, I’m also the responsible one, even if the boys pretty much adults.

I’m going to try to talk about the concept of responsibility without sharing the details behind the issue; the detailed story is someone else’s and I don’t have permission to share, and when I’m frustrated with a person or people I prefer not to name names.

I’m struggling mightily with someone else’s strange, complete disconnect with responsibility. This deficit is not new to me, I’ve known about it for years. Still, it’s bizarre and puzzling to that someone can simply decide that responsibility that is legally, morally and ethically theirs can simply be ducked, with a shrug and maybe even a little bit of blame game, just because they don’t want it.

I talked about this with a good friend last night, one who is always direct and honest with me. (All my good friends are that way – I’m very blessed!) This friend said, “You are all adults now. Being an adult has responsibilities. That is the hardest thing to learn. And you are trying to solve all of their problems, and you cannot.”

Ouch. This bears reflection, because it is so very true. If I can’t be helpful and supportive in a family relationship or a friendship, I often wonder what value I bring to the table. I do tend to be a fix-it kind of gal, although I’m ok with just listening too. Still, what if the best and most constructive thing I can do for someone I love is to require them to stand on their own two feet and learn to solve their own problems?

This brings to mind another definition:

Enabler
1 a: one that enables another to achieve an end; b: one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior

Am I acting as an enabler, because I do too much, want too much to be helpful? It’s quite possible.

The questions here, the murky areas, are related to mental illness, an adult de-facto dependent with a significant degree of mental health impairment and mood disorder.

  • What additional support is required?

  • What logical consequences are appropriate or even comprehensible?
  • What level of expectations are appropriate?
  • How can I, as caregiver, live my own life?

I don’t know of any hard and fast guidelines – suggestions range from a completely supported lifelong live-in model to a tough love, sink-or-swim model.

Actually somewhat applicable here, the classic and actually very infrequently used insanity defense is based upon an evaluation that the accused was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong and that he/she was unable to control his or her behavior at the time of the offense.

None of this answers the question of how I deal with people in my life who are unable to comprehend or accept responsibility at all. Unfortunately it can’t be externally applied, via flog, spur or carrot-on-a-stick. I guess where I’m arriving at with this rambling essay is that compensating for them by taking the responsibility on myself helps no one, least of all myself.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: family, health | Comments Off

CBA Paper: Government Revenue

Zach and Justin are in their senior year of high school, and so have a few interesting mandatory assignments to complete – a senior project, a senior portfolio, etc.

One of them is a required “CBA paper” for their contemporary world issues class. Apparently CBA stands for curriculum based assessment. Or capabilities based assessment. Or combat body armor.

As I heard them discuss this assignment – the only topic given to all senior students, across the state, this year – I was pretty astounded.

The general subject area is government revenue and responsibility. The specific assignment is:

“Responsible citizenship requires an understanding of how government raises and spends money to implement policies and programs. For this research paper, select a level of givernment (federal, state or local) receiving funding from the 2009 Recovery Act (the economic stimulus). Examine the revenue sources and expenditures related to a particular policy or program.”

The troublesome part of the assignment was this:

“Provide an explanation of who pays for and who benefits from the collection of revenue and expenditures related to the policy or program.”

The assumption is made that it’s all upside, that it’s working wonderfully; the teachers do not want to hear about any issues or failures of the stimulus program. I have a problem with that. If you’re assigning a research paper, shouldn’t you let your student select the position he/she wants to support?

(And, for the record, I have no particular issue with the stimulus package, although I do have problems with much of the pork barrel legislation attached to it. I just have an issue with requiring a pre-determined outcome; it seems like propaganda creation.)

Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: education | 3 Comments »

Good Morning Mt. Rainier

Mt Rainier Sunrise

Riding the ferry is always wonderful. :)

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: Puget Sound | 1 Comment »

The Powers Family

My good friend Shawn Powers, UCFer extraordinaire, husband, father, school technology administrator and Linux Journal associate editor, lost his family home this morning to a fire.

shawnshouse

He, his amazing wife, Donna and their three awesome girls are ok, but they lost their dogs in the fire. They have their needs taken care of for the next couple of days, however, they have a long, hard road ahead of them rebuilding and putting their lives back together.

There are two ways you can help:

  • Send donations via Linux Journal’s ChipIn page.

  • Send donations directly to the Indian River Baptist Church, P.O. Box 217, Indian River, MI 49749, with a note that it is specifically for the Powers family.

You can follow Shawn’s story here:

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

This is incredibly sobering; it puts the petty things of life into perspective. I sit here looking at my four walls, my roof, my (messy) kitchen, with an intense sense of gratitude. Give thanks for what you have! And give your pets an ear scratch today and send a prayer or positive thought to the Powers family in Michigan.

Posted on Sunday, January 17th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: grief | Comments Off