Heartwarming Family Drama

The following is rated S for Satire…

I live by Faith. Faith is a cardinal virtue. So why bother with smoke alarms or fire escapes? When my thrifty plan to recycle paper towels by drying them in the gas stove backfired–so to speak– I knew that Faith would save us. When I had to drop the twins out the window, I had no fear.

Others are amazed that their onesies caught on the awning, saving them from splatting on the pavement. But I know that it was My Faith that made it happen.

And now I’m a celebrity. The press is celebrating the miraculous survival of two innocent babies who dropped gently into the arms of panicked bystanders. As their mother, I enjoy it, and I’ve sold the story to the Inquirer to help replace our worldly possessions, which were all burnt to a crisp.

My own survival is more prosaic. While I am grateful to the firefighters who risked their lives to save me, let’s remember that they were volunteers, and they get a stipend. It’s what they’re supposed to do.

I look beyond them to the power of Faith. That’s because I’m so spiritual. I’m funny that way.

The following is rated A for Appalled…

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The birth of octuplets in California, hailed as a medical triumph by doctors who delivered the tiny infants, has dismayed fertility experts who say high-number multiple births are an outcome they work hard to avoid…

…experts in reproductive health say an occurrence of octuplets represents a likely case of fertility assistance gone awry, posing grave risks to the health of the mother and her premature offspring.

“The cost of taking care of multiples is huge,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director of the Pacific Fertility Centre in Los Angeles. “It’s not going to finish when the babies go home. There’s a high likelihood they’re going to have (long-term) medical and psychological handicaps.”

For that reason, the U.S. medical establishment has long-standing guidelines designed to reduce the probability of multifetal pregnancies.

The following is rated G for Grateful

The octuplets seem to be doing amazingly well. I hope that their pediatric team will be vigilant in standing up for their welfare, because their mother does not seem to me to be reality-based. Anyone who thinks this was a good thing to do–don’t try to get into Guinness by going for nine. If you want to get attention, put your own self at risk, not your helpless baby.

The following is rated R for Real Life

This little house in Pawtucket is ready for a baby, but she is no ordinary baby. Three days after the oxygen arrives, Teagan Grant will come home for the first time. Born the previous June, 16 weeks premature, Teagan has spent the first seven months of her life in the hospital. And she’s going to need industrial-strength assistance just to stay alive.

The Grants are one family, of many, who dedicate themselves to caring for a baby who came into the world in crisis. It was an ordinary pregnancy until it wasn’t, and the Grants had to make each decision with limited information and no time. Teagan has had some tough breaks, but she has wonderful parents and many friends. Check out the series at Projo.com, it’s one of the best they’ve ever done.

The following is rated H for Historical Perspective

Born in 1932, delivered by a doctor and 2 midwives in a farmhouse in Canada, the Dionne quintuplets charmed the world…

Approximately 6,000 people per day visited the observation gallery to view the Dionne sisters. Close to three million people walked through the gallery between 1936 and 1943[1]. In 1934, the quintuplets brought in about $1 million, and they attracted in total about $51 million of tourist revenue to Ontario. Quintland became Ontario’s biggest tourist attraction of the era, at the time surpassing Niagara Falls.

From infancy until the age of nine, Marie, Cecile, Yvonne, Amilie, and Annette lived in the hospital, and were not allowed out of sight, to have friends, to participate in family chores, to attend village schools, or to have contact with their parents and siblings. Cared for by nurses, whom the girls sometimes viewed as maternal figures, the five children lived essentially as one unit, with little understanding or knowledge of the world outside the nursery fence.

Okay. It was cute. Let’s move on.

The following is rated T for The Telegraph got beyond the cuteness angle…

Nadya Suleman, 33, has been obsessed since her teens with being a mother and had eight embryos implanted because she wanted “just one more girl” to add to her existing brood of six children aged two to seven, according to her mother…

There were frozen embryos left over after her previous pregnancies and her daughter did not want them destroyed so she decided to have more children. Her mother and doctors have said the woman was told she had the option to abort some of the embryos and, later, the fetuses, but she refused…

“She told me that all of her kids were through in vitro, and I said ‘Gosh, how can you afford that and go to school [college] at the same time?’” Yolanda Garcia told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “And she said it’s because she got paid for it.”

It was also reported that all 14 children are from the same donor, a neighbour, who unsuccessfully asked her to stop using his sperm after he got married recently.

An ethical debate is raging in America about why so many embryos were implanted in a woman aged under 35, particularly if the doctor or clinic involved knew that she already had six children. She only started to attend the Kaiser Permanente clinic, where the children were born, when she was three months pregnant and her mother said she does not know where the IVF procedure was performed.

Attention has also focussed on the cost for a single mother of raising 14 children. Her parents filed for bankruptcy with liabilities of nearly $1 million last year, but Mrs Suleman said she has now paid her debts.
Her Palestinian-born husband, the children’s grandfather, has said he intends to return to a contractor’s job in Iraq as a translator to help pay for their upbringing. Ms Suleman, who worked as a psychiatric assistant until starting her family, is on welfare payments.

A spokeswoman at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Centre said the babies were doing well and seven were breathing unassisted. In a statement issued through the hospital, Miss Suleman said she was “ecstatic”.

The following is rated L for Life is Unfair.

If life were fair, you would wake up tomorrow and see in the Journal that several hundred Rhode Islanders won the lottery and took off with their miraculously recovered children for a luxury cruise. But reality is that if you want to help these families, keep an eye on the Medicaide waiver. The responsibility of caring for a handicapped child falls primarily on the family, but they depend on the support of the community. There’s a wonderful phrase, ‘temporarily-abled’. The safety net you support with your taxes today might be the awning that catches you when you fall out the window tomorrow.

And this multiple-birth thing is not a medical miracle, it’s a failure. While I wouldn’t court slander charges by saying Nadya Suleman has no more sense than a gerbil, and her doctor ought to be arrested; I will say this. I question Ms. Suleman’s judgement, and her fertility doctor’s judgement and ethics. Just saying, that’s how I feel. I hope that eight premature babies in the nursery tonight do as well as the Dionne quints, and that there are enough loving and engaged adults in their lives to help them make it to a sane and happy adulthood.

There is great societal pressure for women to have children, and disdain for women who don’t. But there is such a thing as misuse of fertility. A loving childless aunt may have more regard and care for children than a mother who considers each one to be a notch on her maternal belt, and who flings them out the window for the rest of us to rescue.

Interdependent Web

Pretty sappy, huh? It’s Unitarian. Comes from those tree-hugging, ozone-worrying softies who can’t appreciate a good steak and don’t know how to chug a beer. And steak is our American god-given manna from heaven right? I mean, steak happens. Why wonder where it comes from? That’s for wimps. And those who hate us for our freedom. Yeah. Hooah.

Millennia ago a group of humans developed a technology that enabled them to live in the most inhospitable corner of our planet– up in the Arctic Circle in the dark and the cold. There the wandering tribe who had evolved in the equatorial regions of Africa found themselves at the end of their Northward trek. Without fur or fangs they had to live with the bears and the wolves. These people survived and thrived. They were smart.

They found an equilibrium with their adopted home. Those who could live in that harsh environment did, and their children carried on. Cold and beasts could not defeat them. But there were other natural predators. Their own kind were moving North, from the opposite hemisphere.

The Canadians and Americans had technology evolved from the temperate regions of Europe and the New World. Their religion came from the deserts of the Middle East. They had the hubris of young nations in the sway of Manifest Destiny, or Civilization. The native people were way outgunned. Their ability to survive from the land was up against bigotry, alcohol, and the seduction of the newcomer’s technology.

So today, the Americans who are Native Alaskans are both the inheritors of this ancient technology, and really up against it. Should we feel sorry for them? Or are they pioneers of the future?

Here is a diary from a woman who lives on the edge of the Arctic wilderness in the 21st century, being a 21st century Alaskan girl, Ann Strongheart blogs…

January 24, 2009
Today my husband and I decided to travel the 25 miles to Emmonak to get groceries. Here is what getting groceries entails in Nunam Iqua.
We got up and had to build a fire as the house was getting chilly and we had run out of stove oil a couple of days ago. Then we made coffee, using water that we had packed the night before from the watering point across the village. We took a 30 gallon Rubbermaid trash can (our water bucket) that we use STRICTLY for water storage across to the other side of the village and with two tokens (tokens are one dollar each) we got 20 gallons of water. We went across by snow machine towing our sled with the water bucket in it. Once we filled it we carefully brought it back across to our house and then lifted it out of the sled and up the steps into our porch and then into the house.

Read the rest, if you dare, because the preceding was the easy part. Wait’ll you see their grocery bill. Never mind their heating bill.

We are on the cusp of a minor Celtic holiday, Imbolc, or Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd. This is when we achieve a 10 hour day, which is a relief to all who have been getting depressed in the early dark and relentless chill. But we don’t have to chip ice to melt water for coffee, so we might count our blessings. That’s the Catholic in me speaking.

While I’m at it, let me acknowledge the Central American farmers who grow the coffee that I buy from a fair trade company, Rhode Island’s own New Harvest, right outta Pawtucket. Rhode Island can roast ‘em, but we can’t grow ‘em. For that we need to import.

Still, we are a fertile and temperate land, on a planet that has vast wildernesses hot and cold. Yes, it drizzles, but we can deal with it. February is the worst, I think, but by June it will start to get nice. Hang in there.

And this summer when you see the farmer’s markets, be glad that your local farmer doesn’t have to ship those apples 5,000 miles across a frozen wasteland at a cost of $10.00 an apple. And support your local farmer. You might need her some day.

Cranston Schools: Cranston Citizens Better Start Paying Attention

A discussion was started on Facebook by Don Botts regarding the School Department’s Budget proposal last week.  Don’s “open letter” has created a lot of discussion and debate between residents and elected officials, something that I know everyone at Kmareka loves.  Thank you to Don for getting the ball rolling on this one!  

Cranston Schools: Cranston Citizens Better Start Paying Attention

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but the Superintendent of Cranston Schools recently released his proposed budget for the next school year. There is also a Powerpoint presentation to go along with it (I assume he used this when addressing the School Committee). Among the highlights:

* elimination of middle school sports
* elimination of hockey at Cranston East
* elimination of Girls cross country and possibly tennis at Cranston East
* elimination of EPIC
* elimination of elementary school strings

There is a nice little pie chart included which shows how the total budget is being allocated. Do you realize that 89% of the total school budget goes towards salaries and benefits? Do you realize that step increases for teachers this year totals over $1 million, which just about equals the amount of money the programs being eliminated cost?

Don’t wait until it is too late. Start attending school committee meetings. Pay attention to what is going on in East Providence, and think about how it can apply to our city.

Links:
Proposed budget: http://cpsed.net/super/budget09-10/budget09-10.htm
Powerpoint (use IE): http://cpsed.net/super/budget09-10/budget09-10_files/frame.htm

Geoff Schoos on the State’s Budget Crisis

Policy Making Through the Looking Glass

It’s no secret that I have occasionally been a critic of the Governor’s policies. A recent example of criticism appears in this week’s Cranston Herald.

Although under my column “brand”, it was inadvertently credited to my column-mate, Bruce Saccoccio. Sorry, Bruce. I hope the misattribution didn’t cause you any distress.

However, this time, I have to credit the Governor for having a good idea. Actually, two of them. The first is the proposal to “borrow” $ 25 million for use in supplementing the guarantee SBA makes on qualified small business loans. Currently, SBA covers 75% of the total amount of a qualified small business loan in the event of a default. The Governor’s proposal would dedicate money toward that guarantee, raising the coverage to 90% of the value of the loan. The theory is that if the banks feel more secure they will be more likely to loan money to small businesses, keeping them viable and active.

As was reported on Thursday, January 22, the House Finance Committee was “cool” to this proposal.

Indeed, House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino implied that this was a “bailout”.

We have our own debt issues that we’re concerned about, and quite frankly, there’s a lot of sensitivity about bailouts right now, Finance Committee Chairman Steven M. Costantino said.  Without tremendous safeguards and performance standards of increased jobs, state taxpayers should not be on the hook.”

Such SBA loans already have safeguards inherent in the loan process. The SBA doesn’t qualify loans on whim or flimsy evidence. The SBA has stringent safeguards on its loan program. Moreover, this is not a “bailout” in any sense of the word.

The second proposal is to permit a tax credit for the fee associated with the SBA guaranteed loan. Currently, the SBA charges a fee, amounting to 2 -3.75% of the loan amount, for guaranteeing the loan. Until 2004 when it was repealed by the General Assembly, small businesses were allowed to take the fee as a credit on their state tax returns. In his Supplemental, submitted on January 7, the Governor proposed to bring it back in an effort to help small businesses in this most trying of times.

Once again, it was reported that the House Finance Committee was cool to the proposal.

Link to Projo article

Chairman Costantino was quoted as telling advocates for this credit to contact the SBA and get them to forego the fee.

State Rep. Steven M. Costantino, D-Providence, chairman of the House Finance Committee, suggested that small businesses might be better off if the SBA simply did not levy the fee. Costantino also advised those who back the proposal to write to President Obama and others who are crafting a federal economic stimulus plan, to have the fee scrapped or reduced. “I just find that it’s interesting that the state is sacrificing revenue for a federal program,” Costantino said.

With respect to the Chairman, suggesting that people write to President Obama and/or the SBA about the fee is glib. People are looking for a little help. According to Sandra Powell, director of the Department of Labor and Training, small businesses account for nearly 90% of all employers who hire over 60% of all employees. Keeping small businesses viable is not a bailout, it’s good economic policy. With unemployment at 10%, we need a good economic policy.

Would that the Chairman and the committee applied the same rigor to the Medicaid Global Waiver instead of taking a pass on it. In his comments on the proposed tax credit, Mr. Costantino claimed to be unable to “see the science.” I wonder what “science” he saw when he decided to stand by and allow the Medicaid waiver to go into effect without a vote?

But not to worry. The state is focused on new and exciting ways to respond to the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes. Hesitant to commit $ 25 million to aid in the attainment of small business loans, or to permit a tax credit that would cost the state an estimated $ 275,000, some Solons are thinking big.

As many may know, our non-casino casino in Lincoln is in a bit of financial trouble. That trouble could cost the state millions if Twin River goes under. Since gambling revenue accounts for the third largest revenue source to the state budget, these Solons seem to be open, if not ready, to double-down on their bet. The Speaker of the House suggested last week that it might be necessary for the state to purchase Twin River. Now comes one senator’s suggestion that we move to full-time gambling!

Link to Projo article on the purchase of Twin River.

So, let’s see if I’ve got this right. Over the last couple of weeks, the Governor has proposed drastic cuts that will fall on our cities and towns, and the most vulnerable of our neighbors; the legislature stood idly by and accepted a $ 12 billion dollar pig-in-a-poke; and the legislature apparently is willing to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase a non-casino casino while suggesting the expansion of activities at both the Lincoln and Newport facilities.

Meanwhile, proposals to help people save their businesses and that could stem the rising unemployment rate are nearly dismissed out-of-hand.

This is really “through the looking glass” stuff. Where’s the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter when you need them?

Thanks, Geoff! This will make for good discussion material on Wednesday as I attend the Progressive Democratic Alliance’s statewide meeting on the Governor’s budget.

Video From D.C.

My sister, Kathy Hodge, posted footage of the inauguration on Youtube. If you couldn’t make it to D.C. and would like a view from inside the crowd, you can see it here. I got a little sentimental when the people went silent for the oath of office and then broke out into cheers. Cool.

Live From D.C.

Our good friend Mary Grady from Natural News Network got on the bus and saw the inauguration first hand. She sends us back a dispatch…

We left Providence on the bus about 10:30 on Monday night, bumped and rattled all the way down route 95 all night long, through New York, New Jersey, through the dusting snow, beneath a misty crescent moon. Our knees were mashed against the narrow backs of the seats in front of us, but we got as comfortable as we could with blankets and pillows and ear plugs, drank a toast with two tiny bottles of cognac, and tried to sleep.

Read the rest, here. And congratulations to everyone who braved the cold to witness history.

Sasha and Malia Dolls Not OK, Says First Lady

I wonder how long it will be before limited collection Malia and Sasha dolls are selling for thousands on Ebay. On the other hand, I can certainly understand why First Lady Michelle is feeling a little protective. From CNN Politics.com blogs (which by the way are powered by WordPress:)

WASHINGTON (CNN)  They’ve been in the White House less than a week, but the first daughters have already been co-opted by marketers  and Michelle Obama isn’t happy about it.

Ty, the toy company responsible for the popular Beanie Babies dolls, is now marketing “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls.

The first lady’s office said Friday Ty was out of line.  “We feel it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” said a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama in a statement.

People over the on CNN blog are already swearing off TY toys forever. Expect a “Boycott TY Toys” Facebook page to be circulating shortly.