Monthly Archives: April, 2009

Ugly

Congrats to Susan Boyle for her huge singing success. It’s apparently astonishing that an ordinary-looking, mature woman might be blessed with an exceptional talent.

I haven’t heard a woman described as ‘ugly’ so many times since Betty Friedan dared to have an opinion and write a book.

And the press has also declared that Ms. Boyle leads a bleak existence and is a spinster. And her house is run-down. Her cat probably has furballs.

I’m skeptical about the bleak existence, because she had kind of a gleam in her eye just before she wowed the audience with that Les Miserables song. She knows she can sing.

Anyone who’s seen a choir knows that plain looking people can have wonderful voices.

And could we maybe retire the word ‘ugly’ when referring to a person’s looks? Let’s save it for behavior. Like judging and name-calling.

E-News from Church of the Ascension

I started an interview with the pastor of my church, Fr. Greg Lisby, and then, in the midst of the interview, his laptop (with all his labor-intensive answers to my questions, as well as many of his sermons and many other precious things) was stolen. So we are in the process of re-interviewing.

I drove by the Lutheran church in Frankenmuth, Michigan many times over the past several days (we were visiting family there) and the marquee said, “Pray to God daily — he has answers!” Hopefully he can supply some answers for Greg to make it easy for him to redo the interview — and may God bless that poor soul who stole the laptop. And may the laptop turn up soon at a pawn shop, unerased.

In lieu of a full interview with Fr. Lisby, I am currently providing a small excerpt from the E-News with Church of the Ascension, which highlights Evensong, the performance of the diocesan youth choir at St. Luke’s this Sunday at 5 pm:

Youth Choir Festival Evensong

Please join with children of Church of the Ascension who will be singing in the Diocesan Youth Choir on Sunday, April 26th @ 5PM, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Greenwich, RI.

The combined choirs from around the diocese all use the Royal School of Church Music Program that our parish has applied for a grant to start this Fall.

See you there! Also, you may be interested in learning about how to start a music program at your own church. If so:

If you are interested in learning more about this program, you are invited on Saturday, April 25th @ 11AM (St. Luke’s, East Greenwich) to learn more about this exciting program. The national director of the Royal Music program, Dr. Cynthia DeDakis, will present information on how parishes can start this wonderful music program for children in their parishes.

PS. While we await the interview, here is a picture of Fr. Greg with his younger soon-to-be fully adopted daughter, Miriam.

fr-greg-and-miriam1

Business as Usual

This is not an aberration. This is for-profit health care working as it must…

A state official in New Jersey has reviewed the cases of scores of elderly people who were kicked out of assisted living facilities — simply because they could no longer pay at the highest rates. In a new report, Ron Chen, the state’s public advocate, concludes that state regulations in New Jersey and around the country fail to protect elderly residents.

John Myers, 93, and his wife, Mae, 88, went through about $180,000 of their savings in three years at an Assisted Living Concepts facility in Burlington, N.J. But late last year, John Myers lost a lot of his money in the stock market. The family asked about going on Medicaid; that would have meant they would pay about 20 percent less, according to Chen’s report. Instead, they were evicted.

The Myers ended up moving in with their daughter. John Myers died and his wife is now in a nursing home.

I am employed in maintaining the safety net that keeps elderly people in their own homes with caretakers who come to them. I see many people who could benefit from assisted living, but for most it is unaffordable. The problem is that the in-home support is underfunded and sometimes inadequate. There’s not enough mid-level between a few hours of CNA help in a dilapidated house and the palatial assisted living that few can afford.

A business like an assisted living has to maximize profits. A snake has to bite. It’s nature.

There are many levels of need in between total independence and the nursing home. For older people and their families it’s buyer beware. We have a responsibility to search for creative solutions to the problems of aging. We boomers are looking at our parents, and ourselves, not getting any younger.

It’s a shame the Myers didn’t get a legal contract they could enforce. Assisted Living Concepts might have been more ruthless than most, but there are many medical services that won’t accept Medicaid. The reimbursement is less.

Medicaid overall is a huge chunk of money. Medicaid is our tax dollars, it’s the safety net for young and old. It can be spent to build nursing homes or to bring the care to people living in their own homes. Rhode Island is in the process of deciding how our Medicaid dollar is spent.

For-profit health care has to follow its nature. That’s what we have now. Rationing is in process, according to where the money goes, which is why it is easier to get a surgeon to put a feeding tube in a man who is going to die tomorrow than to get a dentist to treat a dental infection before it damages a teenager’s heart. Save now, pay later.

Pill for Craving

A great story about progress in treating alcoholism featuring a Rhode Island man.

CENTRAL FALLS, Rhode Island (CNN) — A no-frills bar called Goober’s, just north of Providence, Rhode Island, is probably the last place you’d expect to find a debate over cutting-edge addiction therapy. But this is where Walter Kent, a retired mechanic, spends his Fridays. He helps in the kitchen and hangs out in the bar, catching up with old friends.

Most addiction specialists would call this playing with fire, or worse. That’s because for more than 30 years, Kent was a hard-core alcoholic. His drinks of choice were Heineken beer and Jacob Ginger brandy, but anything with alcohol would do. (more)

The article follows a study of Naltrexone and Topiramate for treatment of alcoholic craving. The pills, plus therapy, had good results.

I don’t think there will ever be a one-size-fits-all cure for addiction, or one approach to behavior change that works for everyone, but new tools for recovery are welcome. We have a nicotine patch, which helps smokers, and Methodone helps many people live normal lives by reducing their craving for opiates. Replacing a drug with a drug is far from perfect, but if it helps some people then we are all better off.

PROVIDENCE PaLACE

I told them they shouldn’t have torn down the URI extension and the produce terminal. There was doubt whether the Providence Place Mall was going to work. My brother had a joke–he said there was a big ‘A’ in the basement, so when the Mall failed it would become Providence Palace Casino.

So now it’s, financially speaking, built on sand. Well, I never liked the way the water drips in the parking garage–the part they had to finish in a hurry. But it’s there, it’s not going away. It’s even kind of pretty on Waterfire nights, thanks to the Providence planners who nixed the original plan to present us a big wall and save the best face for the highway.

Can’t have a dead mall in the heart of the Creative Capital. Should RIPTA bus in teens from the deprived areas of Barrington and Johnston? It may be our only hope.

Advice for Teabaggers–Spotting Infiltrators

Nomi at I Dreamed I Saw Grace P. Last Night quotes Michelle Malkin. Malkin warns of spies, infiltrators and provocateurs, probably from ACORN, blending into the vast teabagging crowds and advancing their nefarious agenda.

She is tempted to go to the State House herself. I think if I had more time to make them, hats shaped like acorn caps would be really fetching. But how can you spot the undercover acorns? If anyone starts trying to register voters, you’ll know you have your double agent. Unless they are trying to register Republicans. But that could be a triple cross. Who can you trust these days?

My advice to the teabaggers is based on a painful, real-life experience of a meeting of the Clamshell Alliance. It was about six hours on, three hours overtime. People who had traveled far and had to get back home to work the next day were leaving and feeling disrespected. A man was blocking consensus over whether the word ‘struggle’ or ‘struggles’ would be used in our statement to the press. Was he a provocateur? I have often wondered.

There was a rumor that the FBI had people in our organization. Apparently that was true. However, there was another bitter truth. We obstructed ourselves more effectively than any infiltrator could have hoped to do. Rampant egos, an insistence on consensus decision-making in large groups where there was not enough commonality to make it work, lack of an organization that could fight the good fight for the decades it will take to change our dependance on centralized energy helped ensure that our movement would be short-lived.

On the other hand, we did some things right. Decentralized structure made it harder for any one person to grab control of the movement. A commitment to nonviolence protected us from the most likely scenario–that the guy who is ramping up the anger is there to provoke an outbreak that will discredit us and result in arrests and convictions. Clamshell was the first group I ever encountered that required the participation of women in decision-making. That helped, I think, to get us to think more creatively.

Teabaggers, you are right to demand that our tax dollars be spent wisely. If the General Assembly starts bringing bag lunches I think it would be a good start. While you’re at it, ask the Governor to do that too.

I heard a guy on the radio today, he was a financial advisor. He said he always pays his taxes promptly. He said that when he was a child his family was on welfare, and he feels his country helped him get to a place where he could get a good education, and ultimately a career where he makes good money. He hoped that some of his taxes might help other children who needed a start in life.

We still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, some on multiple tours of duty. What do we owe to our country, and what does our country owe to us? Respect for our sacrifice, however we serve. But we are not subjects of a foreign king. Paying taxes is a responsibility of citizenship, and so is making sure our money is used fairly and honestly. I hope you teabaggers are on to that.

“Nothing we do, no matter how virtuous, can be accomplished alone…” Niebuhr

On Saturday April 18, 2009  from 8:30am -12 noon the City of Cranston’s Conservation Commission in conjunction with the Pawtuxet River Authority(PRA) will be holding an Earth Day Clean Up at Furnace Hill Brook off Natick Avenue in Cranston.  Last year’s wildly successful Earth Day Clean Up along the banks of the Pawtuxet in the Howard Complex featured a small army of volunteers, who over the course of the day removed an incredible amount of debris (bottles, cans, tires, box springs, and an odd sofa or two) and in some cases helped to decrease the city’s wood tick population– I picked 24 of them off my person. 

This year’s site, Furnace Hill Brook, is a long neglected and under appreciated brook that lies just west of the Rt.295/Rt.37 intersection.  There is a small city-owned (but apparently no longer city maintained) sitting area with a granite bench and several ornamental shrubs along the banks of the brook that is in need of some sprucing up in addition to the brook itself.  Over the years the brook’s flow has been altered and at times reduced to a trickle by an excessive amount of natural and man-made debris that has clogged the brook, which actually flows beneath Natick Avenue and Rt. 295.

In the summer of 2008 the brook, which is a part of the Pawtuxet River Watershed, was a topic of much discussion in relation to the proposed Phenix Terrace development.  Area residents sited the potential negative impact that the proposed 198 unit apartment complex could have on Furnace Hill Brook.  The Cranston Intelligent Development Committee, a group of citizens opposed to the Phenix Terrace project, enlisted the support of then mayoral candidate Fung along with 4 current City Council members –Lanni, Lupino, Aceto, and Pellitier in their attempt to fight the proposal being brought forward by Boston-based developer E.A. Fish.  It is my sincere hope that our elected city officials can put aside their differences for just one day, roll up their sleeves and join with the assembled volunteers at Furnace Hill Brook to make Earth Day 2009 a huge success.  Remember, as JFK said “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”.   Thanks, Richard Brown

Update on Schools, Community from Steve Stycos

Steve Stycos, member of the Cranston School Committee, provided the following email update on events and issues in our city:

UPDATE FROM STEVE STYCOS

SCHOOL AND LIBRARY BUDGET HEARINGS

Budget hearings for the Cranston schools and the libraries will be held Tuesday April 21 at 7 PM at Cranston East Auditorium (schools) and Thursday April 23 at 7 PM in City Council Chambers (libraries). Public speaking will be allowed.

Budgets set priorities and education and libraries have rated low on the city’s list in recent years. Please let the city council know your priorities. Although Mayor Alan Fung is proposing major cuts in services, he is also proposing a large 6 percent tax increase. In past years, the City Council has tried to reduce proposed tax increases. Not raising taxes, due to cuts in state aid, would be disastrous.

The budget is on the city’s Web site. Spending for libraries and schools will increase a modest 11 percent since 2004. During the same period, spending for police will increase 21 percent and fire spending will jump 30 percent. In an example of fiscal irresponsibility during the two year Napolitano term, city interest and debt and interest payments jumped 56 percent or $1.7 million. It’s fun to spend money (like putting plastic grass on the football field) and then leave other people to pay the bill.

Another example of bad financial management is seen in the $18 million dollars that is budgeted for the unfunded police and fire pensions. If mayors and city councils before Mayor Stephen Laffey had adequately raised taxes to fund the pensions, today the city would have millions of dollars to finance programs and avoid tax increases.

Without adequate funding and major concessions from the teachers union, I expect the school committee will be forced to cut the EPIC program, the elementary music program, elementary guidance couselors, some high school sports, perhaps have some elementary principals cover more than one school and a lot more.

In response to the proposed budget, the library trustees have already closed all branches on Wednesdays and Thursdays, closed the central library on Sundays and stopped purchasing books and CDs.

Some steps I would like to see the mayor and council explore to produce funds for the education and libraries are: 1) a student parking fee at both high schools, 2) a reduction in the $1.2 million street lighting budget, 3) more effort to divert trash to recycling, 4) an energy conservation program like the school program which has saved more than a million dollars in less than two years, and, 5) A reduction in the municipal court salaries which have increased 68 percent in 6 years.

EARTH DAY CLEAN UP

Friends of the Pawtuxet will hold an Earth Day Clean Up Saturday April 18 at 9 AM. We will meet at the DEM Supply Depot, across the river from Shaw’s, 230 Warwick Avenue, Cranston. We will be picking up litter, planting some small trees and doing other trail work. Bring gloves and shovels. We also need yard waste bags. Kids welcome. Stay as long as you like.

MAILING PARTY

Tuesday April 14 we will have a mailing party to prepare the Friends of the Pawtuxet/Farmers Market newsletter. We need help. We will meet at 6PM at the home of Sam and Penelope Hough, 25 Berwick Lane, off Broad Street in Edgewood. Feel free to come late, or leave early.

Knock it off Right Now!

Filipino devotees and an Australian man have re-enacted the Crucifixion by having themselves nailed to a cross in the Philippines. more

Filipino devotees, all you are doing is creating a mess that your family, and overburdened health care workers, will have to clean up.

Listen, you fools. Christ died for your sins. Don’t try to outdo him.

Try this advice from the prophet Micah, which Jesus would have read from the original scrolls when the Rabbis taught him in the Synagogue…

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Passover, Easter, the first warm day of Spring– enjoy and stay safe. Don’t nail yourself to anything.

Teabags for Freedom

How does anyone justify blogging, net surfing, enjoying oneself when there are dishes to be washed and the front yard has been designated a wilderness zone because it’s easier that way?

That’s not even including being late to work because you got up early and couldn’t resist just checking your mail and an hour later you’re in a fascinating discussion of the cultural bias of a British razor ad campaign (trust me, it’s obnoxious).

I’m not sure if anyone beyond the blogosphere knows or cares about some mania that the right wing is running around waving tea bags on April 15th.

All I can say is–thank the gods it’s tea bags and not bullets. Too many people lately have tried to make a statement by murdering unsuspecting, unarmed fellow-citizens.

I don’t understand why it is considered brave to buy a lot of guns and shoot at random people who were only minding their business. I think these ‘heroes’ would be less likely to attack random people unarmed. Even an ancient woman with Alzheimer’s might punch back.

Anyway, if the mode of expression is tea bags we are making progress.

Yes, patriots, let’s see you launch a protest like the Boston Tea Party. Except that the Boston Tea Party was aimed at an occupying colonial power. And you are protesting paying taxes to your democratically elected government.

“I don’t need no stinking government” you might say, “I’ve got guns.”
That’s cool. Until your toddler swallows a gumball. As she turns blue you call 911. But they’ve been cut for lack of taxes. You Heimlich her and, thank the gods, get the gumball out. But her throat is swelling and she needs to get to the emergency room. The roads outside of your gated community are rutted for lack of taxes. It’s a rough ride for a sick baby. When you finally get there you have to push to the head of the line. Desperate people with sick babies are blocking your access. You wave your insurance card. To the head of the line you go, but there’s a stall in the reimbursement guarantee.
No problem, you wave your teabag and they take your baby in right away.

Is this the better angels of our nature, the dream of democracy?

No readers, the dream is the government of the people, and a well-informed and literate citizenship that demands our tax dollars be spent wisely and transparently. Wisely and transparently to build a society that meets minimum standards of decency.

It occurs to me that the Boston Tea Party occurred in Massachusetts. The blue state that legalizes gay marriage. The state where traditional marriages succeed very well. Okay, they only stay together to spite you.

Boston is a great city. A destination for immigrants since before we were a nation. A diverse city since before we invented Diversity. So drink your tea. Myself, I’m a coffee drinker. It fuels blogging.

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