Friday, July 30, 2010

Schools, Not Soldiers or Bombs

Pennies for Peace 
(Image credit: Amy Frost for The Oklahoma Daily)

Yesterday I was just too exhausted to blog. But I can't let the subject of Nick Kristof's marvelous column in the NY Times pass us by. On the heels of WikiLeaks scandal and the revelation that 1) Osama bin Laden likely died almost half a decade ago in Pakistan, 2) that we let him escape a number of times anyway, which 3) suggests (at least to me) that the Bush administration thought that it was far too valuable financially for various entities *cough Halliburton?* to continue the war on terror than it was to nab this major terrorist and be done, and 4) the resultant 'collateral' damage to the civilian population in Afghanistan is horrible, there's been a resurgence in examining just what it is that we're doing there in Afghanistan. Is it working? No.

As any reader of this blog knows, I have an unholy horror of the Taliban and in particular, their treatment of women. That doesn't mean I think that we should have tens of thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan, however. It also doesn't mean that to Nick Kristof, who, as readers of his wonderful book Half the Sky or his blog, know, thinks that so much of the problem in third world countries with high levels of mistreatment of women, severe poverty and extremism, would be remedied by education, specifically by teaching women to read, to write and to earn money with a simple trade.

The figures that Kristof points out in his column- the high cost of the War on Terror, are simply astonishing. How astonishing? Check out this screen capture from the Congressional  Research Service report that Kristof quotes. You can get the report and read it yourself here

Sources: Congressional Research Service. 
All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans’ benefits, 

interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies

For those of you not good on the big numbers, that's a TRILLION dollars in the post 9/11 Iraq, Afghanistan War Cost column. That trillion dollars is going toward the great military behemoth that is both ineffective in this war (it's been nine years people), is decimating the civilian population and thereby creating more hatred of Americans, and is robbing, right before your eyes, your children's and my children's economic future.

The solution that Kristof proposes is to take money it costs to fund a few soldiers and build schools. Ah, you say, the Taliban in Afghanistan would never allow this. Well, it has and it will.

Greg Mortenson at his Gultori school
attribution unknown,

As a longtime follower of Greg Mortenson (a fellow climber!) and his splendid Central Asia Institute, I can tell you that if you read Greg's books, and look at Greg's results, they speak for themselves. At no small personal risk (especially since in a lot of places in Pakistan and Afghanistan Americans are now regarded with not just suspicion but open dislike if not hatred) Greg Mortenson goes into villages and respectfully talks with tribal leaders about the benefits of building schools and educating not just their boys but their girls. Not those fake schools, like madrassas in Pakistan where many boys can only recite the Qu'ran but cannot read it. Real schools. Where you learn to read, write and do basic math so you can keep track of your sales of whatever goods or services you can offer because now you have the ammunition intellectually to have a useful trade when you finish school, as opposed to being a potential terrorist and cannon fodder. 

As Nick Kristof points out in his articles, not a single one of Greg's schools has been destroyed by the Taliban. And Greg's built well over 200 of them and is operating dozens more in buildings that already existed. The projects themselves are successful, and indeed, protected by local interests, because CAI engages people at a local level and gets them to actively participate. (Somehow I think you are slightly less likely to tear or burn down something that you yourself built...) And believe me, if you've read Greg's books, you know just how vested people are in building these schools. And how hard lugging the supplies to build them is. They WANT these schools.

Porters carry roof beams 18 miles to Korphe School. Pakistan.
attribution unknown,

Mortenson estimates to Kristof that the cost of maintaining 239 US soldiers in Afghanistan would provide funds to build schools throughout the entire country.

I am really hoping that Sasha and Malia are reading Nick Kristof's columns because based on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, they appear to be some of the only people asking Barack Obama the tough questions about what he's doing to fix things these days.

What can you do, other than write your Congressman? CAI has some simple programs to raise funds to build schools. Mortenson's original project, which started out in Pakistan has now broadened to comprise Afghanistan, and outreach programs in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. His simplest to implement project is one in the schools of American children. They've been doing it in my child's school. Pennies for Peace educates children about the broader world and tries to engage them in helping children elsewhere attain what they have in abundance here: education, healthcare, and the promise of a future freer of poverty. You can also view other fundraising options here.

Check out these excellent books if you want to see Change You Can (Really) Believe In.


And subscribe to Greg's Newsletter, Alima. Alima means wise and learned woman in Urdu. Alim is the male counterpart. 

It would be great if American dollars could be the way to create many of them.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Repose Nonchaloir by John Singer Sargent

Bone tired.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Uppity Women #22

(image credit-  AAP: Dean Lewins)

Julia Gillard has broken the mold for political leadership in so many ways, it's hard to know where to start in listing them.

✔1. Australia's first female Prime Minister.

✔2. Avowed atheist.

✔3. Lives, unmarried, with life partner Tim Mathieson.

✔4. No children.

✔5. Has made not just healthcare but mental healthcare a priority in her administration, along with education and a solid program with incentives for actions geared toward preventing climate change.

How many ways can you say marvelous?

I'm sure my longtime reader Sally will be happy to see her recognized as such!

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #72

Apple Blossoms from

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Day 100: The Fall Guy That Isn't Enough For Me. How About You?

Day 100

Tony Hayward, Outgoing BP CEO
recipient of a $18M Million Severance

Somehow, Tony Hayward being the BP Fall Guy (to the tune of a reported $18M severance package that includes $1.6M up front as a year's salary, a full pension and reportedly still contesting some 2M shares and various stock options) isn't quite enough for me. On the heels of revelations that BP is the single largest supplier of US Defense Department fuel, that BP has deliberately altered photos dealing with its responses to the Gulf oil leak and on its website, now BP is allowing Hayward to snub the Senate Committee looking into various allegations about the spill. But I guess BP isn't really worried about pissing off Congress. Now pissing off the Defense Department, that might be a concern, but not Congress! Their lobbyists will have those defense contracts under control at the congressional level. And I'm sure you don't have to take my word for that. Just listen to your gut on that one. As long as DOD continues to want BP fuel they are doing just fine with the US Government.

July 27, 2010 Photo Credit: Alastair Grant-AP
A Greenpeace activist puts up a banner as a group blocks off a BP fuel station in protest as the company's board announces its annual results in London.  (Text copyright The Washington Post reproduced for Educational Purposes under Fair Use)

Where is responsibility, you may ask? When CEOs run companies into the ground, irreparably damage the world and livelihoods around them, we kiss them and give them $18M to go away? How many times have we seen the same thing, these huge payoffs to failed executives?

I want to be a corporate CEO. And you do too, no doubt. How much will they pay us to destroy the world, one gushing leak at a time?

Watch out Siberia. Here he comes.

Watch out Gulf of Mexico. Oh... wait a minute. 

It's probably too late for you.

Let's hope it isn't too late for these little guys.

July 26, 2010 Photo Credit: Pat Sullivan-AP
A volunteer holds a Kemp's ridley turtle hatchling before releasing it into the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. Hundreds of endangered baby sea turtles embarked on a new life Monday with federal biologists hoping that by the time the tiny critters get as far east as the BP spill, the toxic oil will largely be gone. (Text copyright The Washington Post reproduced for Educational Purposes under Fair Use)

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christian Tolerance? How About Inciting Murder?

The National Organization for Marriage has an evil enough agenda in my mind already. But signage at their Indianapolis hate-mongering tour stop has really hit an all time low. You can read about it at Bilerico Project and send letters to NOM complaining about this particular demonstrator through this link.

photo from

Why how very Christ-like, isn't it? I am so glad he's planning to let their God do the judging instead of casting the first stones himself.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Story in Pictures

Source: Wikipedia

Uppity Women #21

Melanie and Vanessa Alenier

Sometimes when you see the list of names of my Uppity Women it's really hard to remember that almost all these great women started out as just simple people with a passionate belief in some cause, or interest in science or research. They probably didn't set out to do great deeds but they did, even when the road was long and hard.

Melanie and Vanessa Alenier have a passionate cause. They want to legally adopt their son Ethan, for whom they have cared since he was 9 days old. The road lies before them and it isn't a smooth one. In its cryptic logic, the State of Florida thought that Vanessa was fit enough to be paid to care for Ethan, to whom she is a biological relative. But they do not think that she is fit enough to adopt him. When filling out the copious forms to adopt Ethan, Vanessa came to the simple question "Are you gay?" She answered truthfully, because she "did not what to begin her journey as a parent with a lie." For that, she will forever be my hero.

I attended a fundraiser yesterday evening in support of their appellate battle with the State of Florida, which would like to overturn Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia's ruling that the State's ban on adoption by homosexuals is unconstitutional and issuance of an judgment of adoption for Ethan. I've talked in the past about the simply astonishing waste of money that our state has expended on fighting adoptions that were recommended by Guardians ad Litem, Case Managers, and now from the position of privatized child welfare agencies freed from the strictures of the Florida Department of Children and Families, entire Case Management Agencies. With so many people recommending that a prospective adopter should be allowed to adopt, it is really amazing to think that legislators who have never seen or met these families and children could have any insight into their needs and say that's wrong.

You can read a bit more about yesterday's event and about Melanie, Vanessa and Ethan on my mirror site, It's Not About Politics, It's About Children.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Emergency Evasive Maneuver

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Somaly Mam article and video footage

Marianne Pearl's Glamour magazine video, Global Diary: Cambodia

Marianne Pearl's Glamour magazine article on Somaly Mam and the AFESIP Center

Thanks to Nataliya for these links... As my husband says, after reading Marianne Pearl's article, "Beyond words...."

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #71

Alina Zienowicz Ala z
Słonecznik (Sunflower), July 16, 2010

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Uppity Women #20

Survivor. Activist. Hero. Amazon.

Those are but a few words that can describe Somaly Mam.

Abandoned as a child in Cambodia, Mam was repeatedly raped and beaten prior to age 13 by a man who said that he would reunite her with her family. Instead, it got much, much worse. He sold her into the sex trade.

The sex trade in Southeast Asia is rife with child prostitution, child abuse, child murder and just about every brand of despicable that you can envision. And many, many things that you cannot. 

After witnessing her best friend sadistically murdered, Mam managed to escape. Rather than hide, she has been incredibly vocal. Downright LOUD.

One of the founders of AFESIP - Acting for Women in Distressing Situations , a nice little euphemism for women and girls who had been hideously trafficked into the sex trade, Mam has since formed her own private foundation. She doesn't back away, hang quiet and feel shame. She doesn't hide what people are doing to hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian children and what was done to her, day after day for years. Some people travel to Southeast Asia to have sex with children. They even kill children doing it. And it is all part of a dark side to the Southeast Asian tourist industry that is simply beyond our imagining.

These children and young women are lucky if they survive and escape with their lives. But all too often, they escape with HIV.

Somaly's story has potency for me, not just because of her incredibly courageous work, her book and her vocalness, but because I personally know a child, or now a young woman, who was trafficked. And I know, too, of her friend, who died a harrowing death from HIV at age 16. I first read about Somaly in 2003 in an article in Marie Claire magazine. I've been an admirer ever since.

I really don't think that there are sufficient words to describe what Somaly and so many other young women and children have endured and indeed endure right now, as you read this post. Westerners flock to Bangkok, Phnom Penh and other places in Southeast Asia for the 'delight' of having sex with children and young women who have lost everything except their hope to escape. If you look at the statistics on her website, the number of women and children who are trafficked each year is simply horrifying. And many will not survive the experience.

Somaly is their savior. They help these women and children get away. And they'll teach them a trade, like weaving or jewelry-making or anything other than sex in order to give them a second chance at life.

You can order Somaly's book through her foundation's website and have a portion of the funds donated to They may not be slick and professional at her website shop, but they are 100% dedicated to accruing the funds to help any child they can possibly afford to get out of a situation that about 99.9% of us cannot even begin to really imagine. And to find another life in which they maybe, just maybe, will be whole again.

Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somaly Mam is a voice and a light in the dark reality that many children and women endure every hour of every day.

May those voices never be silenced.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010


Would it be tacky to stick an 'Une Comtesse' badge on this badge?

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Uppity Women #19

Margaret Sanger

"It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them. Herein lies the key of civilization. For upon the foundation of an enlightened and voluntary motherhood shall a future civilization emerge."

Margaret Sanger's Catholic mother lived through 18 pregnancies, had 11 children and died of TB and cervical cancer. A nurse, Sanger thought the idea of women being able to determine when and IF they wanted to have a child was paramount. She also thought that being able to have sex without fear of pregnancy might be a really good idea. Sanger and her husband, architect, William Sanger were arrested and charged under the archaic Comstock Law which banned dissemination of contraceptive information as lewd.

We take contraception for granted these days. It was not until 1972 that the last laws banning dissemination of contraceptive devices was overturned.

Sanger was controversial not just because of her stance on birth control but because of her thoughts on eugenics, masturbation (against!) and immigration.

Her legacy is Planned Parenthood. But I'm sure she'd still be outraged that many women must pay out of pocket for birth control and that their health insurance will not cover it.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Truly heartbreaking...

From CNN

From headlines emblazoned across the wires over the past four or five hours, Saiqa Akhter strangled her two autistic children. She told the 911 operator she did it because they were autistic and she wanted to have normal children. Child Protective Services had investigated the family for neglectful supervision in 2009 when the parents left 5 year old Zain Akhter at home alone while they brought 2 year old Faryaal Akhter to the hospital for a respiratory infection. CPS in Dallas had tried to connect the family with services to assist them. If Texas is anything like Florida those services for autistic children are likely to be few and far between. While there is simply way to excuse Saiqa Akhter's actions, until people have walked a mile in the shoes of a parent caring for not one but two children with illness or disability, I really hope there will be no rush to judgment about what an awful human being she is, etc. She sounds, in fact, like an incredibly depressed and mentally ill human being if you read the CNN report. The Dallas Morning News report suggests that Saiqa Akhter's two year old may in fact have been normal, not autistic, further suggesting that Mrs. Akhter suffers mental health issues. Reportedly, the Akhter family had recently emigrated from Pakistan. I simply cannot imagine the sense of isolation of Ms. Akhter, and the depth of sorrow in their family at having lost the two children, and their mother, all in one fell swoop.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Sakineh Ashtiani Update: Iranian Supreme Court Delays Review of Her Case

Apologies to those who did not get the FULL post of this previous title. Blogger is toying with me cruelly today so I'm making this a brand new post...

Mission Free Iran reports that Sakineh Ashtiani's case review by the Iranian Supreme Court has been delayed another 20 days. They were originally supposed to rule on her death sentence by stoning yesterday, July 21. A cynical person might say that they wanted to wait longer, so the publicity over Sakineh's case would die down. Many feel that Sakineh could still be hanged for the adultery her attorney says she did not commit and which wasn't witnessed by four men or eight women (since a woman's testimony only counts for half that of a man in Islamic law) or any combination thereof. Oh, and don't forget that she already got the 99+ lashes proscribed by the Qu'ran for the adultery she didn't commit. A prosecutor in the Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan has recently called for her execution by hanging.

You can send letters to object to her execution (by any means) using the form letter and email addresses here with Mission Free Iran or here with Amnesty International. Amnesty's letter also addresses the case of Kurdish dissident Zeynab Jalalian, who is also imprisoned in the dreaded Evin Prison in Tehran.

Mission Free Iran has declared July 24 International Free Sakineh Ashtiani Day.

I can find little information about the current legal status of the appeals to the sentence of stoning for Azar Begham, age 19, sentenced at 15; and Maryam Baagherzaade, age 25, who is currently pregnant.

From The International Committee Against Execution blog site, there is the following information about their cases:

Azar Bagheri is nineteen years old. She was arrested, convicted of having had sex out of the wedlock, and sentenced to death by stoning when she was only fifteen. She has spent the past four years of her life in the company of the ultimate nightmare: be stoned to death. During this time Azar has been subjected to mock stoning twice, that is, she has been buried up to her chest, ready for the stones to be thrown at her, and then told that she must either cooperate or face this! Azar was 14 when she was forced into an unwanted marriage. Later her husband pressed charges against her, claiming she did not love him and had a relationship with another man.
Maryam Baagherzaade, 25 years of age, also sentenced to death by stoning. Maryam has been in jail for 4 years now. She got pregnant following a short leave from prison. The Islamic regime intends to hang or stone this woman to death. Usually the pregnant women have their babies before being killed.
You can sign an international petition calling on Iran to abolish stoning as an execution by signing here. Currently, there are only 883 signatures.
You can read about the sad cases of 8 Iranian Death Row inmates in this week's Newsweek Magazine.

Zeynab Jalalian and Mohammed Reza Haddadi

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

When Mental Healthcare Really Doesn't Seem To Be


I've struggled about how, or even whether, to post about an event I witnessed and participated in this past week. It's a difficult choice but in the end I decided that the more people know about how mental healthcare works, and especially when it doesn't work, the safer some of the most vulnerable members of our society will be.

Above, you see Marina (not her real name). She turned 21 back in June and those are photos I took of her at her birthday party. I met Marina when she was 17, when I became her Surrogate Parent for Educational Decisions, and then shortly thereafter, because of her advocacy needs, her Guardian ad Litem. She was in foster care, but Marina's case is an extremely unusual one. Marina is mentally retarded and severely autistic. She has a serious uncorrected strabismus that probably further complicates her vision. We can't be sure though. Because Marina is totally nonverbal and can't tell us what she sees. She communicates by grunting, moaning if in discomfort, and by warmly taking the hand of those she trusts and leading them to what she needs. But that's not what makes Marina unusual. What's unusual is that Marina is very much a loved child. Her parents, who have struggled with their own disability and health issues, gave her into the foster care system because they could neither afford, nor could they adequately care for, Marina's intense needs. (Marina is tall, strong, and is prone to self-injurious behavior when she gets upset or frustrated.) They visit Marina every weekend, faithfully, and have for years. When Marina aged out of the foster care system, I became her permanent legal guardian because she really needed someone who would make sure she got what she needs to have a reasonable existence on this earth.  Marina is fortunate that we found a fabulous group home, where she is treated kindly, and thoughtfully. To give you an indication of how good this home is, when she transitioned to it, abruptly, three and a half years ago from a really bad home she didn't decompensate, get aggressive or have all the adjustment issues you expect with a severely autistic individual. She rocked, she stamped, but that was about it. So she has wonderful parents, a fantastic group home (I can't say enough good about the ladies in this APD [Agency for Persons with Disabilities] home) and a very competent and vocal legal guardian. That's what makes Marina really unusual. She has a whole passel of people who really care about her and try to make sure she is safe, happy and healthy.

Marina is still entitled to attend Miami-Dade County Public Schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2007, until age 22. She's been attending a summer program for autistic youth this summer. Unfortunately, it wasn't in her usual school and she didn't get there with her usual bus, and of course, to cap it off, she didn't have her usual teachers, either. None of that bodes particularly well when you're severely autistic, but Marina is a trooper. She loves getting up in the morning, getting dressed and putting her backpack on to get ready for school. Marina likes to sleep a lot, but she does like to go out. Except on days when she feels ill from her menstrual period. (I hope we are all grown up enough to handle real world stuff....) On those days, when she has cramps, she gets fretful. After a month in her summer program, Marina had a bad day and was brought home, dosed with her Tylenol, put to bed to rest and the following morning, last Friday, she got up and got ready for school, seemingly feeling well and upbeat. Unfortunately, once at school, she started feeling ill from her period once again.

Imagine feeling pain, and queasy, and uncomfortable, in a strange place, with strange people. Now imagine doing it when you can't speak and you're severely autistic and prone to total overload on sensory stimuli. Marina, as she occasionally does, started biting her wrist and getting agitated. (She wears a wristband, just like a tennis player, to protect her wrist most of the time.) When the group home staff (who care for 5 other ladies) could not drop everything and promptly pick Marina up in less than thirty minutes, and she continued to bite herself and push school personnel away, they called the school police. Who handcuffed her (this happened once before in the spring at her regular school and the teachers and group home owner made the police take the cuffs off) and proceeded to Baker Act her (that hasn't happened in years to Marina). The Baker Act in our state is a 72 hour hold for psychiatric evaluation. Because you're deemed a danger to yourself and/or to others. So in addition to feeling sick, upset by being unable to communicate it (her regular teacher knows when she needs Tylenol), in a different environment, and handcuffed, Marina was then transported to an area hospital's mental health ward and committed. Not surprisingly, Marina got even more upset. But here's where the interesting part begins.

This all went down on a Friday, one of the worst possible days for someone to have psychiatric misadventure. After being notified promptly by the group home personnel and by a friend who is a teacher (but not Marina's teacher) at that summer program that Marina had been Baker Acted, I spoke to a resident who said that they would release her that day. Only they didn't. In fact, the group home assistant manager and I spent the next THREE days playing find the attending psychiatrist (I've still never laid eyes on the man or heard his voice) in order to get her released. During that time, Marina got so agitated that they dosed her up on a ton of Ativan. From reviewing her medication record when we finally got Marina out of there on Monday, I saw she finally got some Tylenol on Saturday. Marina normally doesn't take all that heavy duty benzo stuff. She takes a mood stabilizer and a very low dose of an antipsychotic that takes the edge off, so that when she gets upset she doesn't get aggressive. And, other than Tylenol or an antihistamine, that's pretty much it. 

So what did the assistant manager and I find when we finally got our Marina back on Monday? An intake form in which it was stated that she was extremely aggressive, unresponsive verbally, was having auditory hallucinations and there was a tentative diagnosis of Atypical Psychosis. Missing on the form? AUTISM. NONVERBAL.

That's right, the school sent no information other than the group home contact number. No history, no insight into what was going on. NADA, people. When she was transported to this hospital, they left out a few things. Just a few. Like the patient was autistic and nonverbal, which would therefore make it unlikely that she would be verbally responsive and settle down nicely in the strange environment with the bright fluorescent lights and all the strange faces and strange sounds.

When I asked how they determined she was having auditory hallucinations since she's totally nonverbal and cannot therefore report them, I was told that when they were questioning her that she sat cross-legged, hands over her ears, rocking back and forth (a comfort behavior) and crying. For several hours. Um, yeah. Definitely Voice of God stuff.

Eventually they contacted the group home and legal guardian and found out that Marina was autistic. To their credit, this mental health unit kept Marina on the Senior side of the unit, away from younger and therefore potentially more dangerous adult patients. But she was still unreachable by us until Monday morning. We received contact numbers for the attending psychiatrist that were office numbers rather than beeper or cellular phone numbers. An office number that only took messages that would be answered Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. So they loaded Marina up with Ativan and she eventually sort of tuned out everything. They wouldn't release her, after initially saying they would. Why? The observations from her admitting documentation were "too serious to allow premature release." I spoke to Marina's mother no less than four times over the next two days because she was so worried about Marina and how she'd be doing in a strange place with people who were strangers.

On Monday of this week Marina took my hand and that of the assistant director of her group home and firmly walked out of the psych ward in her hospital gown and strode toward the group home van. She went home, napped, ate her dinner and the next day went to see her regular doctor who put her right back on her regular medication.

She's done with that school program for the rest of the summer. She's just going to do recreational outings and something called the Companion Program until she can go back to her regular school for her last year of school. She was happy and smiling and her mother is going to visit her on the weekend, same as always.

But just think about it. This young woman has everything going for her. She has parents who love her and wanted to know what was going on. A group home that pursued things and was very responsive. A legal guardian who kept trying to get her released. A regular doctor who wasn't going to change her medication because of one bad day. And she herself has been resilient enough to seem to bounce back once she is back at her home and back into her routine with familiar faces and all her familiar things. Marina is truly lucky.

But I can tell you that my youngest child's schizophrenic biological aunt has been Baker Acted by my estimate at least six times in the past year. She has no legal guardian, no interested party seeking to make sure she receives follow up care to remain stable. And no guarantees that every time she is going to go in that someone will pull her file AND READ IT to find out what she suffers from, how she's been treated and whether she's improved.
My brother in law is a psychiatrist in Spain and he thinks the American mental healthcare system is barbaric. I can't really argue on that. And I think our mental healthcare in this country has been this way for decades. In fact, there is award-winning evidence that it has been.
One of the most moving books I've ever read on mental healthcare is Susan Sheehan's Is There No Place On Earth For Me? It chronicles the story of a young woman, Sylvia Frumpkin, who is schizophrenic, treated at the notorious Creedmoor facility in New York, her repeated psychiatric hospitalizations, and frequent misdiagnoses in emergency settings. On several occasions, Frumpkin pleads with doctors, telling them that she's been misdiagnosed and that medication they want to prescribe has made her worse rather than better in the past. (She is especially upset when put on Lithium, after being misdiagnosed as bipolar by a Chinese doctor who barely speaks English, doesn't consult her file and doesn't understand that her cultural references in one of her delusions are all clear indicators that she is schizophrenic. She decompensates further and loses months of her life before the diagnosis and her medications are corrected.) Sheehan won a Pulitzer Prize for the book, which had been serialized in The New Yorker, in 1982.
I am sad to report that from my perspective nothing much has changed in the past 28 years.

Oh Blogger Editor, how I hate thee. Let me count the ways.....

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Palate Cleanser #70

View from the Bridge at Giverny by Bill Kover

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Uppity Women #18

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is such a tough act to follow. But Rachel Maddow holds her own every night on MSNBC. A relative newbie to broadcast journalism, Maddow began her career in liberal journalism as part of the vast left wing media conspiracy that was Air America. She joined MSNBC in 2008 and by August of 2008, after substitute host experience on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, had her own show. Describing herself as a 'national security liberal' and non-partisan, she has continued to assail the foolishness of both the Republicans and Democrats and call legislators and big business lobbies to task. 

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Uppity Women #17

I really don't think that there are words enough to describe my admiration for Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her dispassionate (especially given her personal experience) rhetoric can totally dismantle any argument for supporting Islamic culture's treatment of women. The epitome of understated, directed and firmly expressed intelligence, she reduces even the ever self-aggrandizing and bitterly mocking Bill Maher to listening silently when she speaks. She is the face of undaunted courage, of reason and of women's rights to me. Read her books, surf the resources of her foundation

She is a true Amazon among women.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Demanding Action.

3 Months.

Consumer's Union has made it easy as pie. BP is banking on your silence, your indifference and your attention fatigue on the entire issue. Three months ago, the Gulf of Mexico and the creatures living in it were forever changed.

Don't be indifferent. Don't live up to Tony Hayward and Carl-Henric Svanberg's best hopes.

Write your congressperson. SPEAK OUT.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Ah Language....

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

Palate Cleanser #69, La Tulipe Noire

(attribution unknown)

While on the subject of my current obsession with les fleurs noires, I am of a mind to recall the wonderful novella, La Tulipe Noire by Alexander Dumas père. I loved the story when I was a child and once was fluent enough in French to read the novella in its original language. Sigh. Long, long ago. Now, I struggle to read Le Monde on the pros and cons of the niqāb ban.

In addition to the Sorbet Black Delight violas, Les Comtesses Portland(s) Communes will have black tulips. I'm sure of it. Really I am. Because Les
Comtesses love all thinks purple and black and green.

I'm really thinking we'll have lots of beautiful gardens and there will be no children breaking our fleurs with their basketballs, frisbees or boomerangs. I'm just not sure what we'll do about all the cats that will be flocking to join Les Chats des Les Comtesses, however. Perhaps Les Deux Chiens will keep interlopers out of the gardens.

I so wish I was in Portland or Portland today.

Le sigh encore.

(attribution also unknown...)       

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010