Monday, December 5, 2011

Palate Cleanser #161: Sami Style

"Reindeer think with the nose, not the eyes. They go with the wind." ~ Nils Peder Gaup

Reindeer, Scandinavia

Photograph by Erika Larsen
This Month in Photo of the Day: Nature and Weather Photos
Sami herders follow the migrations of the reindeer as they move across northern Scandinavia and Russia from their winter grazing grounds to cooler areas during the summer months.
See more pictures from the November 2011 feature story, "Sami: The People Who Walk With Reindeer."

The video is lovely!

I find it interesting that in the Sami languages,  where the work of reindeer walking is called boazovázzi, (my new favorite word-  "Don't bother me right now, I'm boazovázzi.")  the word for "herd" is eallu; the word for "life" is eallin. 

Erika Larsen, you make me feel cool and relaxed with these photos and video. May the Quantum Field be kind to you and your work.

You can see and read more of Erika Larsen's extraordinary photodocumentary experience of living among, and keeping house for, the Sami for three years here.

visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nobody's Children, Nobody's Adults

"This volcano blew up and made a rainbow but then it had to rain because whenever you have a rainbow, it rains. But sometimes, it just rains." ~ Serena K.

A long time ago, when I first became a Guardian ad Litem, in a bookstore in Sebastapol, CA,  I picked up a book titled "Nobody's Children" by Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School. Bartholet is a pretty fearless figure in my mind. She has championed the cause of adoption, over kinship care or hasty reunification in very troubled families, and has very frankly examined some of the factors leading to the greater representation of African-American children in the dependency system. Her chosen phrase, "nobody's children," for the many children languishing in foster care or with some vague hope of reunification with their parents (and therefore not really our problem) or in the gulag of kinship care with the same kin that may have spawned their present dependency plight, has stuck with me for almost a decade. It truly captures the lives lived by far too many children in foster care and those who will age out, and become "nobody's adults". Nobody's child has... nobody. Just paid professionals and let me tell you, sometimes, you question what you're paying for. I remember as I read the book thinking it was an irony that "Nobody's Children," written in 1999, followed Hillary Rodham Clinton's aspiring ideals set forth in "It Takes a Village" (1996) by only three years. What if you don't have a village? What if you don't have anyone? 

I'm sure you notice the edge to that tone in the last sentence, right? Yes, it is interesting how quickly one gets to the point of feeling frustrated with one's fellow humans when it comes to the issue of care for children and youth. Well, I say one, and really I mean me. It's interesting how quickly I get frustrated with the lack of interest so many people have, or their flat-out saying that they don't want to bother with stuff like "all that depressing stuff." Children in foster care? Children who age out of foster care and end up homeless? Disabled children (youths) who age out of foster care, and who have no one really looking after their interests? Why talk about stuff like that? It's such a drag. Don't be such a drag. Don't be so dark. (As an aside, at a holiday party I really didn't want to attend yesterday, I was surprised to meet a couple who really did care. It was... a breath of fresh air, actually.)

To be honest, lately, I feel angry a lot of the time. Angry and really judge-y. As Cynical Nymph would say, I feel like I ought to change my name to Judgey McJudgerson sometimes. That's me, right now. I'm a harsh and judgey critic of the way we treat children in our country who are poor (another aside: what kind of an a$$hole says we ought to relax child labor laws and make children work as janitors in their schools to reduce the number of poor children?) and those in foster care and who age out of foster care. I'm a harsh and judgey critic of people just turning a blind eye, saying it's somebody else's problem. I mean, it's one thing if you're really not at a point and place in your life where you could do anything to help, but don't ignore it. Don't pretend it isn't there and doesn't exist as a serious problem facing many children and youth. Don't tune out and say it's just too big and too bad and too sad for you. These are your effing fellow human beings we're talking about here. The children and young adults of your country, your future. They are still your moral responsibility, even if they make you feel bad and sad.

Yeah, I can officially say this week sucked. I'm recovering from the kidney infection/I-better-do-everything-in-my-power-not-to-build-a-stone. I still feel fatigued and to say I have a lot of stuff to do before December 19 would be like the understatement of 2011, which has so not been a cheery year. But anyway, my week? My week has been splendid compared to that of a few friends and that of one of my former GAL kids. She's former because on Friday afternoon I petitioned the Probate Court to become her emergency legal guardian.

"This girl had to break the glass to get away. Get away from what, sweetie? Bad things. She got away from bad things. But she had to break the glass to get away." ~ Serena K.

It's a really bad thing when an overburdened school, with obviously very overburdened staff, who are so fed up with someone who doesn't want to cooperate with their community-based outing schedule, gets so overburdened that they Baker Act the youth for "suicidal ideation." And that instead of successively calling the people on the youth's contact list, they called the first person and don't leave a message and then skip to number 6, the part-time group home staff person, on the contact list, and report they're in the process of Baker Acting the youth because she's been 'suicidal' for four hours. (*cough* yes, even at lunchtime while she ate she was suicidal)

In this particular instance, part of the really bad thing is not thinking about what it's like when you're an 18 year old girl who spent the first 14 years of her life being incestuously sexually abused by her biological father and two brothers, was then adopted and had the same thing occur all over again with her brother and adoptive father. Because after that, the big burly guys from EMS who come and strap you down to a gurney and take you to you-don't-know-where, where their ward turns out to be full after they start intake, have to sedate you because you're upset, and then call a new ambulance to take you to the new you-don't-know-where might be kinda retraumatizing to you. 

But hang on... it gets better. Because then there was the fact that this young woman aged out of the foster care system. I had applied to become her permanent guardian but we are dependent (ha ha, right?) on the wholly overburdened Legal Aid Society in Miami-Dade County to process the Probate application for me to be her permanent legal guardian and therefore... wait for it... There is no one to sign anything for this young woman because she was examined and found incompetent, yet she is legally an adult so we need someone to sign for her but there is no one, oh dear. 

To her admitting psychiatrist's credit, he was refusing to release her until he had seen her on her medication. That, as many of you know, and I know all too well, is really, really rare. But at the same time, they weren't giving her any medication, not even medication currently prescribed for her, because there was no one to sign anything and they "couldn't do that". I was informed that she was getting aggressive, and, I know this will stun you, really stressed out. It was Friday morning, when I showed up with (praise the Quantum Field for extended jurisdiction for aged-out dependent youth in Florida, which continues through age 19 if the youth accepts or the GAL recommends for youths who will be ruled incompetent upon age-out) my Guardian ad Litem appointment documentation and documentation showing that Serena (not her real name) was under the extended jurisdiction of the dependency court. That bought me the chance to talk to her doctor, and to see that really, I needed to be her guardian Now. Like RIGHT FRAKKING NOW.  Because they wouldn't release her if they didn't think she was stable on meds and since they couldn't (or wouldn't, since she wasn't meeting criteria) give her meds, they didn't know if she was stable. Catch-22 much? 

But if she isn't meeting criteria, why hasn't she been discharged, I asked innocently, in the voice with edge and teeth. 

"Because she was Baker Acted." 

But you just said she isn't meeting criteria. Usually, aren't patients not meeting criteria released? 

"But she is aggressive and talked of self-harm. I can't release her like that. I need to see what she's like on meds. I need to be sure."

And I, therefore, need to be this youth's legal guardian, like, yesterday!

Enter Angels. 

So there I was, totally and I do mean totally screwing up the day of two Dade Legal Aid Angels, who are in charge of all the freebie probate cases for all the aged out foster youth and  the in-general poor adults who have no other legal recourse cases, in all of Miami-Dade County, population 2.5 Million people. They currently have 600+ cases they are working on by the attorney's estimate. Files out the wazoo. Saw 'em. Saw 'em EVERYWHERE in that office. Yet they stopped everything and helped me, because they are just like that. They are just that amazing. 

After signing documents at 12:30 pm, I was Serena's Emergency Legal Guardian by 2:27 pm.

Yes, it was truly amazing, especially considering their case load and their working reality. I am sending them both flowers on Monday.

"This is a girl who is bleeding. What happened to her? She got hit. She got hurt. But she wants to fight. Are those fists? Yeah, that's how she fights back. What are those circles near her eyes? Those are her tears. She cried." ~ Serena K.

But, here's the thing. In the course of talking with this attorney, who was, all things considered, incredibly nice about the fact that I had totally screwed up her entire Friday, along with screwing up the entire Friday of her smashing legal secretary, she told me things. Horrifying things. Things that make me deeply question the entire system, top to bottom, everyone involved, from psychologists, to guardians ad litem, to who the frak says things like... the stuff in these reports they have to pore over!

So here's what the attorney told me. You should really be sitting down, especially if you're like a Comtesse or something. Because there will be outrage. Outrage aplenty.

On one case of an aged out foster youth who is intellectually and/or developmentally disabled, the youth will need a guardian because she is not competent as to her own care and needs. No one was stepping forward to meet this need. And so, an evaluating psychologist, a man  (I can honestly say) against whom I hold an unbelievably deep and irrevocable grudge* said in writing that maybe the Court should consider the father of her child as an option for guardianship. Mind you, this was, the attorney told me, the man who got this young woman pregnant at age 13 when he was 30ish. That's right. This is what we are coming up with as guardianship solutions in this County? Psychologists who recommend that a now 18 year old be placed under the care of the man who got her pregnant at 13? The man who took advantage of a disabled 13 year old foster child? Yeah. Thank the Quantum Field that this attorney and the head of Dade Legal Aid said that was a big NO. So I guess she went to the overburdened and exquisitely indifferent Guardianship Program of Dade County for all her needs.

We traded stories, this attorney and I. Our horror stories. I told her about Marina's bilobar pneumonia and the doctor that hadn't even bothered to listen to her lungs when group home staff said they thought she was sick and how they pressed on and took her to the ER. She told me that it is a nightmare trying to find anyone to look after these young adults and older disabled adults. And I voiced what I have thought since I became Marina's permanent legal guardian. That I simply do not understand how someone like a guardian ad litem can visit these kids at least once a month, every month, for years, and be indifferent about what happens to them when they turn 18. I just can't do that. I am not built of that same stuff. Personally, now I'm 2/2 of the under-IQ-of-55 clients that I am now legal guardian of. (You'll remember Marina from prior blog posts.) I still think of and occasionally talk to or see Keyonce. I still talk to Snow White and take her to doctor's appointments. I mean... I can't get them out of my head, my heart... I realize that I'm fortunate to be in a good position both age-wise and economically speaking to be able to do the stuff that I do. But I am totally stunned by the indifference of so many people as to the plight of these young women and men that our state took into care, who have aged out, are cut lose, and now... and now?

Nobody's children are now nobody's adults...

"That's a girl with a baby inside. And what happened there? They cut her and took it away. That's blood where the baby was. They cut her."

~ Serena K.

Serena makes incredibly powerful drawings. They take my breath away. Her thinking in them is poignant, often disturbing, but sometimes tangential and even occasionally psychotic. She suffers from PTSD and a Mood Disorder. It is amazing she is still able to express herself so powerfully, after all that has happened to her in 18 short years. Her art is the most vital part of her. They wouldn't let me take stuff to draw with her in the hospital tonight. It made me feel bad. She is so desperate to go home to her group home. She wanted to draw and to listen to music. She was tired and pretty blue when her group homeowners and I left at the end of visiting hours.

She is right that sometimes it rains. It's raining hard the past few days. But yesterday, thanks to Dade Legal Aid, there was also a rainbow.

*This guy wrote an evaluation that resulted in two little girls, who absolutely haunt me, being left in the care of a maternal uncle who had so bullied them and his adult, unmarried sisters with his creepy evangelical ways that I still shudder to think of what their life is like. A former teacher, who later recanted her comments to me when subpoenaed to repeat them in open Court, had told me that the older child had started failing classes she'd liked best in school and was frequently clingy and crying. The girls had been removed from that school and had been placed in a public school setting. The younger child was diffident. The older child was wide-eyed and afraid and just held my hand. I will never forget her and the lingering suspicions I had of incest or its potential there. But this same psychologist said they were fine and happy. Yeah. And 18 year old intellectually disabled girls should be under the guardianship of their statutory rapists.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Economic Solutions in the Child Welfare Sector

So today's blog post is short a multiple choice test. Some background information you will need to take this test:

Road to Independence Funding: RTI, in general, provides funds for young adults who have aged out of foster care and who meet requirements of "progress" academically. The funds are intended to help youths complete their education and/or training, providing them with a cushion to allow them to make a start in life as they earn their education and hopefully have food, shelter and clothing while doing so. Monthly stipend for qualified youths in Florida: $892. 

Bus fare on Miami MetroBus: $2

Transfer on Miami MetroBus if you do not have an Easy card: $2 for every bus you ride when you pay cash.

Number of School Days in an Average Week: 5

Number of Buses to School: 10 if you travel without transfers

Number of Buses to School If You Are Really Unlucky: 20+ with transfers

Weekly Fare with Easy Card: $20 weekly

Weekly Fare if You Pay Cash: $20 without transfers and $40 or more with transfers.

Just for kicks:

Median Rent in Miami-Dade County (with Lease): $890, lower quartile: $676

The Baker Act: A Florida law that provides for a 72 hour hold for a person who you believe to be a risk to themselves or others, due to a mental health crisis.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities: APD, an organization undergoing severe budget cuts under Governor Rick Scott's inimitable (thank the quantum field) governing style.

Agency for Health Care Administration: The people who administer Medicaid in Florida.

Certified Behavioral Analyst: A person who helps develop behavioral strategies for children or adults who have significant behavioral issues due to their mental health status or developmental disabilities.

Total Annual Cost for Level 1 (supervision) and Level 3 (biweekly documentation of plan and implementation reviews) CBA services for a 13 year old child: $4300

Locked Mental Health Unit Crisis Hospitalization, 10 days: estimated cost on state Medicaid dollars, perhaps $2500- $5000 daily? Estimates vary based on the facility surveyed. (please note that it is evidently impossible in most facilities for any patient hospitalized on a 72 hour hold toward the end of a week to be discharged on a Saturday or Sunday. Of course, they get out on Monday!)

And now for our quiz! Excitement!!!

Question #1:

If you wanted to cut costs in your Independent Living Program for your aged out foster care youth, you would:

A. Stop providing bus cards for your aged out youth in good standing in your RTI program.

B. Make youths in good RTI program standing apply for bus cards, and have their applications approved or denied, thereby creating a situation where it is a burden for youths at far ends of your very large county to come in and apply, go home, wait for a decision and then if they are lucky, come back and get their bus card. (Oh, by the way, that would be using the public transportation that they likely don't have a bus card for... Hmmmm.) Hey, maybe they won't bother to apply. That's $$$ saved!

C. A and B.

D. Realize that if students can't afford to get to their classes on public transportation that they may then fail in school and that you can therefore drop them from your RTI program! Yay! You saved money!

E. All of the above.

Question #2:

If you wanted to save money on APD service provision for Behavioral Focus Clients/Consumers, you would lower them off the expensive Behavioral tier of service and:

A. Eliminate their behavior therapy services because they really didn't need them anyway because, hey, they're not on that service tier.

B. Make the staff in the consumer's group home responsible for their own behavioral strategies in working with this client. (Hope they don't get too frustrated or anything...)

C. Provide fewer dollars for the group home owner to compensate their staff for handling behaviorally challenging consumers in their group home. (Hey, those 15% cuts to group homeowners were necessary!)

D. Decide that spending $4300 a year on behavior services is not worthy preventive care. Preventing $50,000+ in 4.5 months on 10 days of crisis hospitalization for 13 year old with lifelong, deeply entrenched behavioral problems, and who has now been Baker Acted twice in the 4.5 months since you eliminated her behavioral therapeutic service is way stupid and not your problem. Besides, AHCA is picking up her hospital stays and that's not money coming directly out of your APD coffers! Yay! You saved money!

E. All of the above.

I'll leave it to you to figure out the right answers. M'kay?

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vile and Despicable

In the wake of the scandalous child sexual abuse cover-ups by the Vatican, I suppose that we should be surprised by nothing that adults want to sexually perpetrate on children, nor the extent to which people in power are willing to cover up and/or ignore it anymore. Still, it's hard to absorb the fact that accused pedophile rapist Jerry Sandusky was evidently sexually abusing minors, extremely vulnerable at-risk minors, and coaching staff and administration at Penn State did nothing about it.

Accused Pedophile Jerry Sandusky
(photo credit: Associated Press)

Sandusky, who retired as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1999, founded a group called Second Mile in 1977. It was a perfect grooming opportunity for his victims. Second Mile serves disadvantaged and at-risk youth. You know, kids unlikely to complain, or to be taken seriously when they complain, about being molested or raped. Virtually every reference to Sandusky, other than the statement now on the organization's website home page, has been stripped from Second Mile's website. They had removed him from their activities in late 2008. I cannot imagine how utterly horrifying it must be to the staff of the organization to think that Sandusky used them, and the children they sought to help, as a means of grooming new children to molest and rape. Only, wait a minute there, it seems that some did know that there was something not quite right about Sandusky. Namely, CEO Jack Raykovitz who you would think should know that Jerry Sandusky shouldn't be showering in the nude with a child. 

In spite of my immense cynicism and extensive writing on the Catholic sex abuse scandals, the Centre County Grand Jury's findings that led to indictment of Jerry Sandusky (40 counts of child sexual abuse), Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and former Penn State Vice President of Finance Gary Shultz are absolutely astonishing to me. Their 23 page report alleges at least nine victims of clear child molestation and/or rape. (The ninth victim was unable to testify to the Grand Jury as he is stationed overseas with the military.) And it is almost as damning a report, with respect to Penn State, as it is to Sandusky.

Recounting the timeline, thanks to CNN, is simply nauseating.

1977 -- Sandusky founds "The Second Mile."
1994-1997 -- According to the grand jury report, Sandusky allegedly engages in inappropriate conduct with three different boys he met separately through the Second Mile program. One boy was 7 or 8, another was 10 and the third was 12 or 13 at the time. According to the grand jury report, the now-grown men said Sandusky engaged in inappropriate conduct ranging from touching to outright sexual encounters, including several incidents during the night before Penn State football home games, when the team, staff and boys Sandusky had allegedly invited were staying at a hotel.
1998 -- Penn State police and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare investigate an incident in which the mother of an 11-year-old boy reported that Sandusky had showered with her son and may have had inappropriate conduct with him. In a June 1, 1998, interview with investigators from both agencies, Sandusky admits showering naked with the boy, admitting that it was wrong and promising not to do it again, according to the grand jury report. The district attorney advises investigators that no charges will be filed and the university police chief instructs that the case be closed, according to the testimony included in the grand jury report of the police detective who investigated the incident. 
1999 -- Sandusky retires from Penn State after coaching their for 32 years, but stays on as a volunteer and retains full access to the campus and football facilities.
2000 -- Sandusky allegedly showers with a young boy and tries to touch his genitals during overnight stays at the coach's house, according to the now 24-year-old man's testimony included in the grand jury report.
2000 -- Tim Calhoun, a janitor at the Lasch Football Building on the Penn State campus, tells his supervisor and another janitor that he saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a young boy, according to the grand jury report. A second janitor reported that he saw Sandusky and a boy leave a shower room and walk out of the building hand in hand. No one reports the incident to university officials or law enforcement, according to the grand jury report.
March 2, 2002 -- According to the grand jury report, a graduate assistant allegedly tells Coach Joe Paterno that he saw Sandusky in the locker room shower the night before, performing anal sex on a young boy he estimated to be 10 years old.
March 3, 2002 -- Paterno reports the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley, saying the graduate assistant had seen Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy," according to the grand jury. Later, the assistant is summoned to a meeting with Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz..
While the assistant insists to the grand jury that he told Curley and Schultz that he saw Sandusky and the boy engaged in anal sex, Curley and Schultz told the grand jury they had not been told of such an allegation. Instead, Curley said he had the impression the conduct amounted to non-sexual "horsing around." Schultz said he couldn't remember details, but seemed to recall that "Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boy's genitals while wrestling," according to the grand jury. Sandusky's locker room keys are confiscated, he is told not to bring his Second Mile participants to campus and the incident is reported to the charity, but no law enforcement investigation is launched, according to the grand jury.
2002 -- The Second Mile learns of the shower incident. Curley tells them that "the information had been internally reviewed and that there was no finding of wrongdoing," the group said in a statement Monday.
2005 or 2006 -- Sandusky allegedly befriends another Second-Mile participant whose allegations would form the foundation of the multi-year grand jury investigation.
2006 or 2007 -- A wrestling coach at the high school where Sandusky was volunteering allegedly surprises Sandusky and the boy "lying on their sides, in physical contact, face to face on a mat" in a cramped weight room. Sandusky jumps to his feet and told the coach the two were just working on wrestling moves, the coach later recalls in grand jury testimony. As time goes on, Sandusky allegedly begins to spend more time with the boy, taking him to sporting events and giving him gifts, including golf clubs, a computer, cash and clothes. During this period, according to the grand jury report, Sandusky allegedly performs oral sex on the boy more than 20 times, and the boy performs oral sex on him once.
2008 -- The boy breaks off contact with Sandusky. Later, his mother calls the high school to report her son had been sexually assaulted and the principal bars Sandusky from campus and reports the incident to police. In grand jury testimony, the principal, Steven Turchetta, recalls Sandusky's behavior as suspicious, and said Sandusky was often "clingy" and "needy" when a student no longer wanted to spend time with him. The ensuing investigation reveals 118 calls from Sandusky's home and cell phone numbers to the boy's home.
November 2008 -- Sandusky informs The Second Mile that he is under investigation, and he is removed from all program activities involving children, according to the group.
September 2010 -- Sandusky retires from The Second Mile, according to the grand jury.
Friday -- The grand jury report is released.
Saturday -- Authorities arrest Sandusky on seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and numerous other charges, including aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. He is freed on $100,000 unsecured bail. Curley, 57, and Schultz, 62, are each charged with one count of felony perjury and one count of failure to report abuse allegations.
Sunday -- Curley asks for and is granted administrative leave to deal with the charges, while Schultz steps down from his post to retire.

How many children has Sandusky violated, one wonders? And how, HOW, could the Penn State individuals who knew of this live with knowing what this monster was doing, and live with their choice not to call the police? Only high school principal Steven Turchetta appears to have acted on Sandusky's suspect behavior, which he termed, even without any further evidence than close physical contact, unacceptable and decided that Sandusky be kept away from his school's children. Only Turchetta called the police! Even the graduate assistant (reportedly Mike McQueary, whose statements, according to the indictment, page 8, were considered to be "extremely credible" by the Grand Jury) who reported his horrifying observation of Sandusky subjecting a child he estimated to be only ten years old to anal sex in a Penn State locker room shower, did not call the police. Instead, he called head coach Joe Paterno, who felt his duty was done when he told athletic director Curley. While I can better understand a graduate assistant's fear of being a whistleblower (more courage evidently, would have been required to ask why Sandusky wasn't then arrested, why he himself was never interviewed by police, even campus police about an incident that was so clearly illegal), I cannot comprehend Paterno's lack of action nor the State's Attorney's lack of charging him with failure to report sexual abuse allegations involving a minor, at a minimum. Joe Paterno had much on his side in coming forward with this illegal behavior. He had a powerful reputation, which is now, justifiably, forever tainted with his cowardice.

As the New Jersey Star-Ledger's Editorial Board puts it:

"He knew this much: Sandusky, little boy, shower, vacant locker room. What more detail did he need to alert authorities that something might be wrong?"

"Paterno insists, “I did what I was supposed to do,” by handing off to Curley, but Paterno did only the minimum the law required. Telling Curley doesn’t absolve Paterno from a moral obligation. He should’ve taken action himself. Failing to do that allowed Sandusky to victimize boys for another seven years."

Calls for Paterno, who has still not been charged, to step down are coming from all quarters, as well they should. As it is, Paterno's own written response is so wholly off-mark that one wonders if he sees anything at all wrong with child abuse.

And Curley and Schultz? Let's be frank about what Penn State's agenda was here and call a spade a spade. This was a business decision for them. They chose their bottom line with donors, who might balk at the idea that the football program had held a sexual predator among its ranks, over the welfare, health and psyches of children of their community.

What was Penn State's basic reaction to the revelation that Jerry Sandusky was raping children in the locker room showers on the Penn State Campus?

Paterno, Schulz and Curley only told Jerry Sandusky that he could no longer rape little boys on Penn State's campus. 

And for that, they should ever be remembered as the men who enabled Sandusky's pedophilia. 

These men, while not as vile as Jerry Sandusky, are despicable cravens.

Penn State's Shame:

Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz
(Photo credits: Little for the AP, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Oh, and talk about irony, six weeks ago, Penn State dedicated it's new Child Care Center in the name of retired Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz. Because, you know, Gary's all about caring for kids.

Photo credit: Mark Viera via

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Comtesse Palate Cleanser

this one comes with hugs...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wow, These Protestors....

I really wish these OWS people would get it together and have a clearer message. They're just a bunch of... Oh... Wait a minute...


Mais Non!!!! Anything but that! Now they're not even just talking about corporations... political accountability? No!

As for corporate greed knowing no bounds, hey, they aren't fooling people. At least not in my family.

Two Weeks Ago in a Publix parking lot- A conversation with my 15 year old about his sister's BOA account and why she is upset with their planned (now backpedaled) policy of charging for use of a BOA debit card:

Me: "No, it's not like a credit card because you're not using their money until you pay your bill off. It's funded with the money in your BOA checking account."

15YO: "Whoa... wait a minute... isn't that kind of like they are charging you to use your own money?"

Me: "I have such a bright child. BOA should talk to you, kiddo."

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One of those days....

No, don't read this. Have an otter instead.

It's been one of those days. Actually, one of those weeks (so far). Today alone I canceled my nephrology appointment to take my child to his doctor (leaving in 10 minutes), screwed up plans with eldest son (depressed, stressed, I have not seen him in three weeks) by accident and felt like a jerk, then one of my GAL kids was Baker Acted at school while I was talking to teacher and counselor and listening to screaming, sobbing, smashing child in background, and then I took Snow White some money and a bracelet for her birthday only to find her the most depressed I've ever seen her. EVER. Like postpartum was warm and fuzzies! Now I'm plotting how to get my son's psychiatrist, who used to be her psychiatrist long ago when she was in a group home, to see her private pay (my dime) for antidepressant treatment, but I have no idea where she's gonna get that cognitive therapy component on Medicaid. My youngest is going to tutor her in Algebra 2 (yay!) but will she be able to get to Planned Parenthood on public transportation in Homestead (boo! I better take her, right? Don't know about you but when I've been seriously depressed, it is exhausting even thinking about doing things...) All these many things filled my head as I drove home, or should I say as my student driver drove me home (thrills, chills!) from his school.

But then I got home and this is what a colleague had sent me (no, no, don't feel bad you did, okay?):

It was the perfect capstone to my day, my week, our reality in this country for the ill, the disadvantaged, the disabled, the former foster care, the 99%, Scott Olsen, the people living in all those Florida ALFs.

Here, have another cute picture. In this world, we need some happy. DESPERATELY.


“In my mind I have not done anything wrong other than discipline my child when she was caught stealing. I did lose my temper, I’ve apologized… it looks worse than it is.”

In my mind, I hope there is no statute of limitations on ASSAULT.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Natural Born Idiocy

President Barack Obama and US Senator (FL)  Marco Rubio
(Photo credit: Associate Press)

I live in a municipality in a Miami area for which Marco Rubio used to be my district Representative to the Florida House. He once spoke about his 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future (few of which have come to pass, that's for sure) at one of our Miami Child Advocacy Network meetings, back in the day. I wrote to him on several occasions and before he was Speaker of the House, he sometimes wrote back either handwritten notes or clearly self-written e-mails. In person, he's a really pleasant guy, although clearly pretty conservative. Yeah, I have to say that in recent times, he's not exactly been my cup of tea. *coughgagomqfmarziethatwasbad* Yet, this morning I awoke to such a wad of crap in my Miami Herald that I was shaking my head. Poor Marco. He is just as unnatural as my ineffectual friend Barack is!

It turns out that Marco Rubio, hailed as the poster boy/wunderkind/future presidential candidate of the GOP, is not a natural born American Citizen. Now I know, since he was born in Miami in 1971, that this will shock many of my readers, even the Republican ones, who think the Tea Party is the party of the righteous. But just like Barack, Marco's US birth certificate has grave, grave defects. You see Marco's parents didn't become US Citizens until 1975. They actually came to the US from Cuba in the 1950's but tried and tried to deal with Fidel's Cuba and gave up, moving here permanently in 1961. They applied for and were finally granted US Citizenship in 1975. Four years too late!!!! (Why Marco's situation at birth is even worse than Barack's whose mother was at least a US citizen [praisethequantumfield], but whose father [darklooksabound] was Kenyan.)

Nope, Marco's out of the running say the Birthers. That's because Marco Rubio is not a natural born citizen of the United States of America  and therefore, under Article 2 of the United States Constitution, Marco is not eligible to run for president, anymore than Barack Obama was.

The basis for this determination? In part a phrase from The Law of Nations by the Swiss diplomat and philosopher Emmerich de Vattel (yep, he's a haole, a gaijin, a ferengi... what are they thinking letting him determine US policy about such an important thing, I wonder?) which reads: "The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country of parents who are citizens." And hey, there is a load of historical cred for this view, since de Vattel lived from 1714 to 1767 (in Neuchatel, Switzerland) and so the Founding Fathers clearly had factored in his assessment when they wrote that whole Article 2 thingy back in 1787. Clause 5, the part that is in question, reads:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
I think it's really great that the Birthers are so keen on this idea of natural born citizenry. And that they think they have divined that our Founding Fathers meant that a president wouldn't be American enough unless his or her parents had been American citizens, too. Second generation is the bomb! I'm sure they're onto something there. But, I'm now totally bummed about one of our Founding Fathers. Because just like Barack Obama, he was fraudulently elected! Thomas Jefferson's (in office 1801-1809) mother Jane Randolph wasn't a Native American and she wasn't really American American because she was born in London and like, she was dead by the time America was America. I'm kind of surprised that the other Founding Fathers let this black mark on TJ's heritage slide and still let him be president for a few years. But you know, I guess it was a one-time pass deal and, I mean, he looked American and was so well-spoken and intelligent and educated and all.

Anyway, it's clear, thank goodness, that the standards have improved since then because we can't have any more of that. Except... Hmmm. That Barack guy... Man, he's a bad one. Even has that horrid middle name.

Yeah, there's still a lot of arguing about what the Founding Fathers meant with this whole business of natural born citizen. Frankly, I'm thinking the Birthers haven't taken it far enough. There are entire worlds of natural born standards to explore!

First off, I think we need to look at what we should do if someone was adopted by natural born US citizen parents. This could be tricky, especially if the person was adopted as an infant, you know like from Russia or China or something. They might look like they are American when they're really not, you know? And now they have a birth certificate that says the person is American, but we all really know that geography is thicker than upbringing, culture and documents from the US State Department or any circuit court. Definitely, you're out if you're a foreigner who is adopted. And because of this deep dark concern, I advocate for unsealing all records of any adopted candidates, just to be, you know, on the safe side.

But secondly, I've been giving this whole natural thing a lot of thought. Frankly, I think we should go a few steps further. Now, since I'm a woman and since, you know, women are always obsessed with home and family and children and babies and such, when I think natural, I think natural childbirth. So just to be sure, really sure, that we are dealing with natural born citizens, I propose that a person can only be elected President of the United States of American if they were born by natural childbirth. No caesarian sections, no in vitro fertilizations, no artificial inseminations, no inductions of labor, no pain meds. All of those are un-natural. I am sure that the Founding Fathers would disapprove of their unnatural birth. Gosh knows all that stuff wasn't even really available in 1787 when they came up with the whole Article 2 business. I'm sure they would be appalled to find out that it was possible to be an un-naturally natural born citizen. Yep, taking the strict constructionist view, I think we can say that we had better start perusing those hospital birth records of our candidates. There are going to be a lot of very disappointed people. Sigh. But you know, this stuff is really important. We need to avoid, at all costs, what Alan Keyes describes as: “Now you’ve got Republicans talking about Marco Rubio for president when it’s obviously clear that he does not qualify.  Regardless of party label, they don’t care about Constitution. It’s all just empty, lying lip service.”

Step right up... get your share of natural born idiocy...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

99% Palate Cleanser

Les Comtesses Marzie, GlamKitty and Cynical Nymph were in Bryant Park during the early part of the OWS march to Times Square late in the afternoon on Saturday, October 15. Police, with their ample supply of plastic handcuffs, were everywhere. The theater district was eerily devoid of vehicles that evening. The protestors, at least when we saw them, were a well mannered bunch, not obstructing traffic and moving smoothly toward Times Square. They seemed mostly, *gasp*, to want to exercise their First Amendment rights. There's been so much talk about how everyone has a different reason to be marching, protesting, and that there is no unified message with "these people". Funny thing, it really looked and sounded like they were on point, chanting and bearing signs talking about social injustice, corruption and economic struggles. But I dunno... just my 2.

Some of what was seen and heard...

"Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out!"

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake? Mais Non.

It's Tumblr Wars! (Formal Bad Language Warning, music possibly NSFW)

Here's your theme music:

Everlast, What It's Like, from Whitey Ford Sings the Blues


I'm trying to envision the scenario in which I, a rather high tax-paying American, living in my very nice home, with my excellent health insurance coverage, my pets living better than many people do around the world, even in the USA, my daughter in an out of state graduate school on my dime and my child in his swanky prep school, turn my back on the 99%ers and say "Shut Up and Stop Complaining" and, by the way, here's some pepper spray and an arrest for [whatever charge], that will make it even harder for you to get your next job, yes, I promise you. You'll probably never work again you pedestrian, lazy-ass squeaky wheel, you.

I'm not there.

Viewpoint 1: 53% View

Hell yeah, 53%ers, you have been so wronged, and you are so very right. America is mired in lazy slackers. All those 99%ers are wimpy babies who don't want to work, who are too picky and don't want to look at their own flaws that got them into their present situation, which really, in the scheme of things, isn't all that bad. Hey, it's better than Bangladesh or Somalia, so we're good! Right? Who the hell cares if you're a child, a veteran, a retiree, a disabled person? That liberal asshole Hubert Humphrey was all wrong about a society being judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. That is so fucking melodramatic and so typical of socialists (disguised as liberals) who don't give a damn about what's really important.

No, you shouldn't feel even an ounce of remorse about treading on uninsured infants, on old people whose social security and medicare doesn't cover their needs and stepping over unwillingly homeless people (who are out of work and foreclosed out of their houses by their own misdeeds), if necessary, in order for your chance to make it to the top of the almighty 1% heap. Those 99%ers are a pack of whining babies and deserve to be billed for the cost of the pepper spray and plastic handcuffs used on them at demonstrations, and for their stays in what ought to be privately run jails (because the State shouldn't be responsible for those either!) HOW DARE THEY? Neither a war initiated on the basis of lies, excuse me, misinformation, nor Wall Street and its corrupt policies have anything to do with our present financial circumstances. Senator Bernie Sanders is a mad man. There's no price fixing, only good business, which we need to make better business, by having fewer rules and fewer people get in the way of business. Less government will assure this. Fewer handouts to the little people. Stratification of society is a good thing. It gives people something to strive for!!! (Dickens was so wrong there. He was another long-winded whiner from, like, centuries ago.) It's like economic natural selection and all those godless liberals should just shut up and enjoy the fact that we've got a living example of some kind of natural selection! May the best capitalist win!!! And listen, our Founding Fathers clearly thought we shouldn't be taxed at all, remember? Oh. Wait a minute there.... there was that one thing about representation, wasn't there? Oh, and personal income tax wasn't even visited upon Americans until 1861 when that damned liberal president, slavery-loathing Abraham... What? Republican? Oh, wait a minute. Hmmm. That was old style Republicanism. Like Reagan or something, right? He's like our St. Christopher- the Patron Saint of Economic Reform, except... Hmmm.

Well, back to my point:

Those 99%ers are a pack of whining babies. Just stay focused on that. Here, look at some pictures that you don't really grasp from the first viewing. Let me set you straight:

This guy is a mess. What is his fucking problem? Why does he think he is punished? He just isn't as deserving as others. He needs to suck it up and work harder and maybe take out more loans and get a PhD or something. Moar debt! Just borrow more money! The interest he'll owe helps our country stay afloat!!!

Get this guy out of here! He is so messed up. Dude, you're a success story! Stop the altruistic crap already!

Without Fear of Violence? WTF? Here's another one of those bloody liberals that thinks they understood the right to dissent and that stoopid freedom of speech thingy in the Bill of Rights. A better life for all? LOSER!!!!!

So Grandma thought they were working for something? Like the American Dream? That's for special people, hon. Not you! Gosh! Get with it already! And I hope you are paying your taxes, including the property tax on that house you shouldn't have thought you could buy.

Cry me a river... What, you wanted to live in Scandinavia or something? You should get married and stop trying to make it on your own, sweetheart! Geeezus! Find a man with a good job and use his insurance!!!! You wanted to be an unhealthy, independent and educated woman in America? Really? How dare you! And WTF? Listen, without the 99%, the 1% wouldn't be so dragged down! There would be no one standing in the way of their massive corporate prowess! They would sell their goods and services to the Third World and dominate the entire frakking Milky Way galaxy!

OMG! What is WRONG with you people? Safety net schmafety net!!!!

Viewpoint 2: De Facto 47%ers, or maybe 99%ers with identity crises.

In all honesty, I am really puzzled by some of the 53%ers tumblr pages. (They have 10 pages, versus the 84 pages of the 99%ers, btw) But I am sure they are the majority of Americans (53%, after all), and especially they are Americans who pay taxes and are living perfectly wonderful lives. They are treated justly, and they instinctively realize the social equity of their situation.

This young lady is a poster girl for the American Dream. Her father moved here from Croatia. He is a thyroid cancer patient, and is working 72 hours a week in a manual labor job. She's not complaining. Croatia and the war in the former Yugoslavia clearly taught that worse could be had and what to be grateful for here, in her cushy American life provided for her by her cancer-ridden, hard-working father. (She's not being shot at, raped, mutilated or killed, or having to watch that happen to anyone she knows or cares about.) Life is good! To quote her: "That is the American Dream", circa 2011. (That liberal use of WE on her part is so irksome I don't know how to deal with it.... How many hours have you been working to help your dad?)

This gentleman is awesome. He is evidently in the 1%! (But also the 53%?) He is happy continuing to pay (NOT LESS THAN) 50% of his income to taxes while corporations like Exxon pay NO taxes and people like Warren Buffet, who would pay more taxes if asked, pay less or what this gentleman pays. Yep. Makes sense to me. Glad it does to him. What a trooper!!! :)

The firm opinion of one not yet in the job market is truly wonderful! While no one owes her anything, her government loaned her money. What if the value of her degree turns out to be more than her worth (salary) on a only bachelor's degree? Not that there's much of that going around...

Wake up people. Wake up.

We now return to our evenings of exciting cable TV, reality TV, football, the NBA strike, Call of Duty, Halo 3, or whatever it is that we use, ostrich-like, to avoid looking at what's going on around here.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011