Monday, December 26, 2011

Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse Suspects

In the aftermath of the Penn State controversy regarding Sandusky and allegations of child abuse, some politicians are trying to expand the laws for mandated reporting of suspected child abuse. Sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act would require mandatory reporting of incidents of child abuse or neglect for all adults. The definition of child abuse or neglect under the law would also be expanded to include “any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker, that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or that presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child.”

According to the Family Defense Center, the four main changes made in the law introduced by these amendments include:
1. An expansion of the definition of child abuse to include “any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm;”

2. Inclusion of mandatory reporting of abuse by non-parents and non-caretakers when a “deliberate” act results in serious harm to a child;

3. A requirement that states provide a system allowing reports of abuse or neglect be made to both the child protective service agency and law enforcement agency, whereas current law only requires states provide a system for reporting to the child protective service agency;

4. A requirement that mandatory reports of child abuse be made “by any adult.”

This video also does a good job of highlighting some of the concerns people are having about the proposed law. I really liked how everyone feels a little different about the idea. The conversation does get a bit off track with the old slippery slope argument, but they bring it back near the end.


I do think the claim that some people may purposely abuse the system a bit absurd since that's a possibility with our current system. In fact, I have first hand experience with someone calling child protective services on us in order to basically punish us. The situation was annoying and quite intimidating, but after an interview the case was dropped. Opponents of the proposed law make it sound like social workers are going to be snatching away children on the mere whisper of abuse. It's a bit unrealistic in my opinion.

I do think there are valid concerns about the funding a law like this would require though. Even a substantial increase in calls to hot lines would require more resources and that's not even including the need for more social workers to investigate the new influx of tips. There's also concern about the wording the bill uses. What constitutes "serious emotional harm?" The Family Defense Center breaks down numerous concerns far better than I ever could, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the bill. Many states already have mandatory reporting for all adults and there doesn't appear to be any difference from what I can see.

I think we can all agree that more needs to be done to protect children, but I think educating people how to identify signs of abuse would go a lot further than something like this. I'm a firm believer that having an open and honest dialogue is always the first step to solving any sort of problem though and at least this has got us talking about it for the moment.

Until a Kardashian steals away our attention of course.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Politifact's 2011 Lie of the Year: 'Republicans voted to end Medicare'

PolitiFact recently chose its 2011 "Lie of the Year" and it happens to be a statement that a lot of people are arguing is true. In a year stuffed full of gems like "The economic stimulus created 'zero jobs'" and "the vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation," the lie of the year is the Democratic claim that "Republicans voted to end Medicare."

Politifact:
Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.

Democrats pounced. Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a Web ad that said seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.” […]

PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.

Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.
As you can guess plenty of people are questioning Politifact's reasoning in this case. It's especially frustrating since Politifact basically said that Democrats would be factually correct "with a few small tweaks to their attack lines." There are three particular details Politifact takes issue with:
1. Democrats ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare -- or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.

2. They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

3. They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan.
Even though these are all valid concerns, this is still a pretty flimsy argument that basically boils down to semantics. Politifact's stance seems to rely mostly on the definition of the word "Medicare." If any type of assistance that helps senior citizens can be labeled as "Medicare," then the Democrats can never say Medicare is ending. I highly doubt most proponents and recipients of Medicare see it that way though.

Steve Benen:
It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

...Indeed, reading through PolitiFact’s defense of its dubious honor, the explanation is effectively a semantics argument — its Lie of the Year, the editors argue, didn’t include the caveats and context that would make it more accurate. But let’s not forget, there were actual, demonstrable, unambiguous lies among the finalists for Lie of the Year. PolitiFact overlooked all of them.
Paul Krugman:
Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system to buy private insurance — and not just that, a voucher system in which the value of the vouchers would systematically lag the cost of health care, so that there was no guarantee that seniors would even be able to afford private insurance.

The new scheme would still be called “Medicare”, but it would bear little resemblance to the current system, which guarantees essential care to all seniors.

How is this not an end to Medicare? And given all the actual, indisputable lies out there, how on earth could saying that it is be the “Lie of the year”?

The answer is, of course, obvious: the people at Politifact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.

Way to go, guys.
John Hudson:
Responding to critics today, PolitiFact editor Bill Adair tells Politico it's not alone in calling out Democrats on this. "It's worth noting that both FactCheck.org and Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post have also rated the claim false," he said. "I appreciate and respect the feedback we're getting and I recognize that our readers won't always agree with our conclusions."

Still that hasn't stopped liberals from seeing this as a move to appear objective and bipartisan at the expense of telling the truth. "It’s pretty clear that drawing complaints from liberals is basically the point here," writes Chait. "PolitiFact is a group that requires roughly equal criticism from right and left in order to maintain its credibility."
If the "lie of the year" requires so much rationalization, then I have a hard time thinking it's probably the worse lie out there. Really this just seems like a way to get people talking about PolitiFact and appease critics on the right. And that kind of defeats the point doesn't it?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Build Your Wings On The Way Down

Some things are easily forgotten when you've been with the same person for a long time. Whether it be learning how to cope with the sudden influx of free time you find yourself wallowing in or more simple changes, like no longer having to think about what type of breakfast cereal your partner prefers, there are dozens of little details that sneak up on you. Things you have to relearn or learn to be without. Long past the time when you think your feelings have changed or you've moved on, you'll find yourself suddenly overcome by the most mundane facets of your life. At least this is the way things have worked out for me so far. I go through my days with a relative sort of peace and then I find myself torn up over small details. Oscar Wilde said the details are always vulgar, but I think they're really just heartbreaking.

There are so many other things I allowed myself to forget. I'd forgotten that sometimes people can unassumingly creep into your life and then leave with all the grace of a tornado. I'd forgotten that sometimes your friends can be the only thing that makes life seem bearable, but they can also be the ones who hurt you the most. I'd forgotten how easy it is to fall a little bit in love with the idea of someone. And I'd forgotten how everything can change in the blink of an eye. Strangers become friends and sometimes friends become lovers, but far too often those same people end up being just another part of your past.

I needed to be reminded that sometimes caring for someone is just another way we hurt ourselves.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” Even though I've always looked inward when I read it, the sentiment works both ways. No matter how much you think someone is just running from the truth, there comes a time when that certainty isn't enough. When you just have to accept the pretense, no matter how much your heart screams for otherwise, because it simply hurts too much not to. I wish it wasn't so, but sometimes letting go is the bravest thing you can do.

I know I'm being terribly vague again, but its hard to admit you could be so wrong about someone. To say you fell for someone who didn't fall back. I don't know why, but when you put your trust in the wrong person you're the one who feels a little ashamed. Like there was something that could have been done differently. Some sign that you just needed to try harder to read. I think the first person you truly care for after a big breakup is the most special. There's something sacred about the affection that's formed out of the shattered pieces of your previous love and hopes. But while it may be the most surprising, and therefore the most touching, it's also the most delicate. All it takes is a little carelessness for it to fall right back apart. So here I am learning how to pick up the pieces once again and just trying to build my wings on the way down.

It's strange how the deterioration of one relationship can teach you so much about the relationships you have with the people all around you. Too bad those lessons aren't always easy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jay Smooth on "Until Abortion Ends"

I wasn't gonna post on the "Until Abortion Ends" protest because...well it's pretty idiotic, but then Jay Smooth had to go and be all Jay Smooth-y. As always, he's perfect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Promise I'm Alive

Hello lovely readers! I know I've been missing for a considerable amount of time, but I'm happy to say I'm all moved into the new house and, most importantly, I have INTERNET again. Going without an internet connection was quite unpleasant and I have no intention of going through that again. Even though it'll take a while for us to be completely settled in, I already feel like this is my home and I'm happy to finally be done with the old house and all the things it represents. So if you emailed me and I haven't gotten back to yo,u expect to hear from me today or tomorrow.

I'm hoping to start posting regularly again starting this week too. For now I'll leave you with this though. One of my friends posted it on my facebook and I thought it was surprisingly hilarious.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving

Once again I've gone far too long without blogging so I thought I'd let you guys know a little bit about what's been going on with me. I wish I could say everything's been wonderful, but life is frustratingly fickle in that regard. I can't get into all the details yet (the story isn't finished and I'm not ready), but I can say I went a little crazy for a moment and almost ruined something important to me. Luckily I've been swamped with moving and haven't had too much time to dwell on things.
This is not what I look like when moving.
Ah moving. Everyone knows how much moving sucks so I won't bore you with the details. I will say I have a ton of work ahead of me so don't be surprised if I disappear again. I'm loving the new house though and it doesn't hurt that I'm living with my friend. Already I feel more like myself living with someone. And in case anyone is wondering, Holden is settling in quite nicely. If I could just figure out how to get my box spring up the stairs and the heat more evenly dispersed throughout the house it would be perfect.

So that's that. Not much I know, but I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I am. I am. I am.

I woke up this morning feeling like something precious was being taken away from me. I felt overwhelmed and bitter about the simple truth that sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it to. No matter how much you cling to hope or build brittle plans, things can just fall apart. You'd think this would be something I've accepted by now, but the truth is it never gets easier. You can know something utterly and completely and still feel surprised by the pain new losses always bring. And no matter how much you tell yourself it can never happen, a want unfulfilled always stings with that special combination only desire and longing can bring.

So no my day did not start out well, but then something wonderful happened.

I had one of those moments where, from somewhere deep inside, you find the strength to do what needs to be done. The courage to say the words that need to be said. And the reminder that you will survive this moment just as surely as you've done before and will probably have to do again. In that moment I finally understood Sylvia Path's simple words, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am."

And it was beautiful.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

A few months ago the question of whether or not to have mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients was in the news after several states put forward new legislation suggesting just that. Florida lead the charge and while I had originally planned to post about the subject I eventually lost interest.

I found this video in my drafts:



When a friend of mine recently answered the poll question on facebook it got me thinking about the issue again. As you can see, the vast majority of people see nothing wrong with drug testing people without any suspicion simply because they're applying for public assistance. I, obviously, don't agree. I think the facts don't back up the assumptions and this is really just another way to punish the poor.


Here are a few reasons why I don't support mandatory drug testing of people who receive public assistance:

1. It's probably unconstitutional. 

There's that pesky Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, that keeps getting in the way of legislators deciding they can drug test anyone they want. Michigan tried a similar program that randomly drug tested welfare recipients in 1999 and it was deemed unconstitutional (Marchwinski v. Howard). Florida has recently tried implementing a similar program and it's also facing legal questions. A federal judge even temporarily blocked the law until the constitutionality of it can be ruled on.

2. It costs more than it saves. 

If the very reason some people want to drug test welfare recipients is to save money, then using more tax payer dollars to pay for that testing is ridiculous. Drug testing is not cheap. When you consider the cost per test (anywhere from $35‐76), the administrative needs, and the proportion of people who will actually test positive, it just doesn't make sense. The cost of each positive test will end up costing thousands.

3. It's not needed. 

The most obvious reason why we shouldn't drug test welfare recipients is the simple fact people receiving public assistance use drugs no more than the general population. The idea that people receiving welfare are druggies who just won't get off their asses is an offensive stereotype. If the real concern was saving taxpayer money, then anyone receiving public funds (grants, tax credits, etc) should be susceptible to random drug testing. Since politicians are targeting only welfare recipients though, who are primarily women and children, it makes this talking point painfully hollow. The vast majority of drug users are employed and the prevalence of alcohol and drug among welfare recipients is comparable to the general population. The most widely used substance in this country is alcohol and these tests do nothing to catch that.

On top of that, mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients is opposed by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, the American Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers, Inc., National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, National Health Law Project, National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability, Inc., National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Black Women’s Health Project, Legal Action Center, National Welfare Rights Union, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

4. It hurts children. 

Even if drug testing welfare recipients does expose some drug addicts, the question of how this helps our society is something politicians never answer. All these programs aim to do is leave the children of drug addicts with even less support than they had to start with. I'm not saying we should pay people to get high, but these policies are too shortsighted to be truly effective. Instead more women and children will be left without a safety net.

So while I can understand why people may think this is a good idea, when you look at the issue seriously there's just no reason to implement such a program. Of course it may make a few people feel better and unfortunately that's what politics is too often about.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warning: Confusion and Vagueness Ahead

I'm having one of those days where I feel tired and world weary. Like life is the never ending push and pull of ocean and I'm slowly being broken down into tiny grains of sand. No matter how hard I try to keep everything together I find myself losing the pieces that matter most. Like the hope for a better tomorrow.

This is something I've learned about myself in the last few weeks: I put far too much hope in the future. While I think most people need a little more confidence that things will work out the way they need to, I need a little less. I tend to think I can force the universe to give me what I want out of the sheer power of my will. It's like I dare things not to work out even when circumstance proves time and time again that gods do not answer letters.
quixotic [kwɪkˈsɒtɪk]
adj.
1. preoccupied with an unrealistically optimistic or chivalrous approach to life; impractically idealistic
As I try to put myself out there, I'm left with the realization that most people are not like me. For one, they care a lot less. Even though I know it'd be easier if I didn't, I care deeply about almost everything. (In fact, this is why I'm so opinionated.) I'm too quick to give meaning to small gestures and excuse thoughtless words. But even knowing I give people too much credit, I can't seem to stop myself. So once again I find myself in a situation where I care more than I should and can't quite understand how I could be so wrong about everything. How in the face of indifference I can still believe the future holds meaning.
indifference [ɪnˈdɪfrəns -fərəns]
n.
1. the fact or state of being indifferent; lack of care or concern
2. lack of quality; mediocrity
3. lack of importance; insignificance
So what do you do when you take a chance and you fall flat on your face? Do you get up and try again? Do you give up and wait for the world to see you on your knees? Part of me is terribly rational. It has justifications and reasons why things are better left alone. Why it makes sense to put up a wall of carefully constructed apathy. That maybe it really was all in my head and I somehow convinced myself of something that seems so obviously untrue in the light of day. Maybe I can pretend not to care until I truly don't anymore.
apathy [ˈæpəθɪ]
n.
1. lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal
2. absence of emotion
But the other part of me dreams of something different. For the chance to make something else. Something potentially wonderful. (Don't you hate those moments when your thoughts scream out for two different things?) But then I'm right back where I started, wondering if things are real or whether I'm just living in a bubble of my own imagination. Its like life is forcing me to relive the same cycle of self-doubt and uncertainty I experienced with Ryan until I get it right. Even if I'm not crazy and I was right to take a chance, I refuse to reward ambivalence with affection. I'm tired of reaching out to people who won't reach back.
ambivalence [æmˈbɪvələns]
n.
1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea
2. Uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow
And yet, I still hold on to the hope that everything can turn itself around before it's too late. I feel like I'm just waiting for a sign. For even the tiniest gesture and I hate myself for it. God I'm a mess.

I shouldn't even post this, but I'll at least wait till Tiffany gets the chance to read it (hey girl!). I'm closing the comments. Sorry for the vagueness and any confusion.

Wordless Wednesday
















Friday, November 4, 2011

The U.S. Postal Service's Financial Problems

A few months ago the U.S. Postal Service was in the news because of it's inability to pay a $5.5 billion health care payment, bringing to light the ugly financial situation of the USPS. As a bipartisan group of Senators propose new legislation aimed at cutting 100,000 employees, the question of the U.S. Postal Service's financial stability is once again being considered.

If you're anything like me and could use a good primer on the situation, then this video is the perfect place to start.

Watch How Should U.S. Postal Service's Financial Problems Be Fixed? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.


In the video Rolando mentions, "You don't have to do 75 years worth of pre-funding in a 10-year period," and he's referring to a law Congress passed in 2006 and the reason why the USPS has a $5.5 billion health care payment due in the first place. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) forces the USPS to fund future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in a ten year span. This means the USPS has to pay for the health benefits of employees that don't even work for the post office yet (and the payments come directly from the operating funds). So while the USPS does need to find a business model that's more profitable for the future, the main financial burden the USPS is facing is actually because of Congress (the post office has lost $20 billion over the last four years because of PAEA).

And how does Congress want to solve this problem? By laying off over 100,000 workers of course.

Senators: Cut 100,000 postal workers:
A bipartisan group of Senators unveiled legislation Wednesday to save the U.S. Postal Service from what Sen. Joe Lieberman called a “financial death spiral” but keeps six-day-a-week delivery while slashing 100,000 employees.

Under the proposal by Sens. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the postal service also would reduce the number of post offices and implement a number of other cost-saving options. The legislation would also prohibit the postal service from ending Saturday delivery for at least the next two years.
As the PBS video highlighted though, the USPS has overpaid $6.8 billion into the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and anywhere from $55 billion and $75 billion into the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Instead of laying off workers or moving towards a five day delivery week, some legislators are instead asking that this money be returned to the USPS. Of course this would make Congress' books look even worse so who knows if that will ever happen.

Some people believe this is a manufactured crisis in an attempt to eventually privatize the USPS, but there's really no way to know either way. What we do know is that there are other ways to solve this crisis (the post "How to Save the Postal Service Before It’s Too Late" has ten great examples) and maybe the people who helped get the USPS into this mess shouldn't be the people we look to now to solve it.

The fact most people don't even know the USPS doesn't use tax payer dollars though doesn't have me convinced things will end well.

Send Me Your Links!

I've decided that I have some major catching up to do today. I haven't been reading or watching any news at all. At. All. This is not okay. Politics and current events are like my lifeblood and I need a good reboot. There could be a fiery comment on its way to kill us and I wouldn't have the slightest clue. That's how out of the loop I am.

So, I'm going to be doing lots of reading over the next few days and would love any links you'd like to share. They could be for anything really. Some political issue you've been thinking about, a video, a funny picture of a cat. I don't care. I just need some place to start.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blue Blanket

Blue Blanket by Andrea Gibson:


I am generations of daughters sisters mothers, our bodies battlefields, war grounds,
beneath the weapons of your brother’s hands.

Foolish Games

I feel like this blog has become my diary and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I always feel like I have to apologize for talking about my personal life which makes absolutely no sense I know. Ironically these are the posts that get read the most so maybe I should worry less and write more.

As I settle into my new life with Ryan out of the house I've learned two very important things about myself. One, I somehow manage to turn every creak into a murdering psycho who's on his way to kill me. Two, it's really hard having only a five year old to talk to.

Any stay at home parents will relate to this, but Holden is driving me a little crazy. You'd think I'd be used to it since I don't work, but it's ten times worse now that I don't have a grown up to talk to every evening or someone to take over listening-to-random-kid-thoughts duty. And then when Holden is gone on Saturdays with Ryan, I feel an embarrassing amount of loneliness. Like I don't even know what to do with myself. This has basically lead to the harassment of some of my friends. I'm counting down to the days I move just so I can rest easy knowing other people are in the house. How people live alone I'll never understand. I need to have people around me. Maybe it's because I've always lived with a lot of people, but an empty home doesn't feel like a home to me at all. It just feels like a box where I keep my stuff.

I guess that's the hardest part about this whole mess: the loneliness. It's already lead me to make some questionable decisions. I don't deal well with being by myself. This is something I've always known and I'm trying my hardest to be a little more level headed this time around. Yet, as always, I throw myself into situations I know are bad for me. But even knowing so, I jump headfirst and without any hesitation. Sometimes I wonder if the reason I hold nothing back is so I can feel vindicated when everything burns down around me. Like I can't be touched by the ugliness of blame because I know I gave it my all. It's just impossible to know how I feel about anything anymore. Everything is all tangled up in a mess of rejection and the hope for something better. I tell myself all the things I know I should (like "it's too soon" and "don't over think it") and yet my stubbornness refuses to let go of my inevitable disappointment.

So I retreat back into my world of lists and plans. I'm moving in with my friend and Ryan's brother and we're still trying to find a place. You'd think I'd be keeping busy with school, but I'm having a hard time focusing on anything actually productive. Every time I get caught up in one class I feel like I'm drowning in another. I'm just trying to get through this semester so I can start over in January. It's like I'm stuck in this in-between place where little matters and yet everything means so much more.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011