Monthly Archives: December, 2010

Grief on Christmas

This isn’t crazy. The young man I saw lying on the floor at the IMH, wetting his finger to pick up bits of dirt, which he ate– he was crazy.


“Yelling, screaming, for us it wasn’t that unusual,” said Frank.

But something about the voice on Christmas Day grabbed Diana’s attention. The woman used no words, just vented an unspeakable sorrow.

“I said someone died there,” Diana recalled on Sunday afternoon. “I just knew.”

Tragically, her intuition was correct, and the police are calling it homicide.

The screams had come from Linda Silva, who had just found the body of her daughter, Staria Silva, in the second-floor apartment at 9 Fifth St. Staria’s twin nine-month-old daughters lay crying not far from their mother.

Raymond Grundy was following a well-worn script when he murdered the mother of his children. He wounded a community and devastated a family. But the story of the poor put-upon man who couldn’t take it anymore is probably the story playing in his mind. He’s not crazy, he’s acting true to form.

No remedy now, we will lock him up till he gets back out. In the long run, we have to so disgrace the domestic abuser that no one will want to play that role.

Thank you to the Providence Journal reporters Kate Bramson and Paul Edward Parker, who looked past the lurid crime to the suffering and loss of Staria Silva’s family. We need more reporters who will show us the true cost of crime.

If you know of anyone who needs help and advice on stopping domestic violence, call–

1-800-494-8100 or go online at

Help yourself or someone you know.

Snow Day

Waking up with a sinus headache, grateful that work will start late today.

It’s pretty outside but I’m glad I’m inside. I saw a man with an umbrella, walking his dog at the height of the storm last night. Glad I have a cat.

A Real American Holiday

A First-Class Holiday

Melonyce Mc Afee in has an affectionate memoir about Kwanzaa past.

Two things I like about Kwanzaa– it starts on December 26, perfect for procrastinators, and you don’t have to buy a lot of presents. It’s also made in America.

But what’s more American than tweaking an institution to suit your needs? Some folks who don’t go to church pine for more than the dancing black Santa from Wal-Mart. Plus, Kwanzaa and Christmas are not mutually exclusive—’tis the season of peaceful co-existence. A rule of Kwanzaa states that one “should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture.” But Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas, so until Dec. 26, you can drink eggnog out of a gourd shell.

Melonyce may have Unitarian tendencies.

There’s a rainbow of religious holidays this month, all observed in America. From Hanukkah, at the start of December, to Watch Night on the 31st. Gathering in the dark time to celebrate the light began before history.

Yule has come and gone, and I’m trying to not peek at the Almanac. The root meaning of the word ‘solstice’ is ‘pause’. You don’t want to look at the times for sunrise and sunset if you are craving the light. The sun actually rises a minute later and the daylight is increasing only by seconds.

It is a good time to pause, if you have opted out of the mall madness. I’m gonna buy some gifts next week, just in time for Boxing Day.

Adele M. Stan at says that giving up Christmas saved her sanity. She opted instead for a silent night where all is calm…

Now, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the decorations, the special foods, and some of the seasonal music. I’m not religious in the traditional sense, but Christmas Eve often finds me in church, hearing friends sing in choirs, or play liturgical music. I love the Christmas story: the notion of the redemption of the world through the birth of a child is breathtakingly beautiful. And so I come back to that.

My solitude rarely lasts a whole day: it lasts just as long as I need it to. Friends drop by on their way home from their Christmas feasts. Or I decide to do something non-Christmas-y for a few hours, as I will this year, joining a Jewish friend for Chinese food and a movie with his little boy.

I got out to Central Congregational Church last weekend for a wonderful concert. At the end they turned off the lights and we saw the church by candlelight– which was how past generations saw the world.

Past generations had many ways of celebrating Christmas, from sitting on a hard pew listening to hellfire, to a twelve-day feast.

We can pick and choose, create our own rituals, start new traditions– they were all new once, and take a pause in the dark of the year to light a candle.

Merry Christmas, Rhode Island! We’re Not as Bad Off as Everyone Thinks We Are

My husband alerted me to a fabulous data analysis tool at The New York Times, which lets you view census data in color maps. The one that caught his eye, and then mine, was this one which shows the Change in Median Household income from 2000, which shows that all of Rhode Island has experienced an increase in median household income, with a 3% increase in Providence County, a 1% increase in Kent County, a 2% increase in Washington County, and a 6% increase in Bristol County. That’s right — in one of the worst economic times in our country, we are doing better than much of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

So there you go. And to add to the positive data on Rhode Island, Forbes Magazine reports that Cranston, RI is one of the most stable housing markets in the country. (h/t — had a great Christmas brunch there this morning!) Must be everyone jockeying for position to live near me~!

So breathe a deep sigh of relief this Christmas, Rhode Islanders. We are not on the verge of collapse, and if we could reform our energy policies so that biodiesel and alternative fuels could become our mainstays, we might even survive another few generations. All I can say is it’s more proof that you should ignore the nay-sayers, and never trust anyone who tries to tell you the rich need more tax breaks. Happy Holidays to all!

START Ratified

A good day for reality-based foreign policy. A small step back from the abyss. From the Miami Herald…

The New START Treaty would restrict the U.S. and Russia at the end of a seven-year period to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads on 700 strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles.

That would be about a 30 percent drop from the 2,200 limit set in a 2002 treaty that’s due to expire at the end of 2012. The new treaty will also permit the two nations to resume inspections of each other’s nuclear weapons, which have been suspended for just over a year, a gap that worries U.S. intelligence officials.

A new inspection system agreed on in the treaty will be more intrusive than the regime that ended last year. Among other measures, U.S. and Russian experts will be allowed for the first time to look inside the other’s missiles and count the actual number of warheads they carry, rather than accept agreed-upon assumptions as they did before.

The Doomsday Clock stands at six minutes to midnight. Let’s move it back in 2011.

Nurses Honored for Service

From the Seattle Spokesman-Review via Pam’s House Blend…

The Spokesman-Review
December 21, 2010 6:13 p.m. – Updated: 7:58 p.m.
Spokane nurse Margaret Witt had a huge surprise when she got off a flight for a quick day trip to Seattle Tuesday morning. She turned on her cell phone and found an e-mail invitation from the White House.

Was she available to attend President Barack Obama’s signing of the law eliminating “don’t ask, don’t tell” on Wednesday? Please reply by 11 a.m. Eastern.

She looked at her watch. It was 8:02 a.m. Pacific, or two minutes past the deadline. “Oh, no. Am I too late?” she wondered.

Witt is the decorated officer discharged from the Air Force Reserves in 2006 under the law that barred openly gay service members; she was ordered reinstated this fall by a federal judge in what could have been the death knell for the 1993 law if the ruling survived appeal. She was supposed to meet with her attorneys Tuesday, but the attorneys could wait.

Witt quickly typed that she’d be honored to attend if the invitation was still open. Yes, replied the White House. Please come.

Thanks you Margaret Witt and Margarethe Cammermeyer, who serve our country by their nursing skills and even more, by their integrity.

Pam’s House Blend is updating this story minute by minute.

Why We Need Universal Health Care

From The Washington Monthly…

THE GOP’S EMERGENCY-ROOM ARGUMENT LIVES…. I’d hoped we would hear the argument much less after the Affordable Care Act became law, but the notion that the uninsured can just rely on emergency rooms hasn’t gone away quite yet.
Here, for example, was Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Fox News the other day:

“The fact is a lot of people that don’t have insurance are getting [care] right now. They’re not denied in the emergency rooms. They’re generally not denied by doctors. It’s not a pretty system, but the idea that people are not getting health care particularly for critical needs is just — is just not the case.”

This is strikingly wrong. For one thing, doctors in private practice nationwide tend to take on patients with insurance. For another, all McDonnell has to do is spend a few minutes at a free clinic someday to realize all kinds of families in need go without much-needed care every day, in Virginia and elsewhere.
But it’s that darn emergency-room argument that needs the most help.

Let’s set the record straight. It’s true that under the previous system — before the Affordable Care Act passed — if you’re uninsured and get sick, there are public hospitals that will treat you. But it’s extremely expensive to treat patients this way, and it would be far cheaper, and more medically effective, to pay for preventative care so that people don’t have to wait for a medical emergency to seek treatment.
For that matter, when sick people with no insurance go to the E.R. for care, they often can’t pay their bills. Since hospitals can’t treat sick patients for free, the costs are passed on to everyone else.

Good points. Comparing the emergency medical system to primary care is like comparing the fire department to a smoke alarm. You don’t neglect fire safety just because you know the firefighters will try to save your life and property. A water-soaked ruin is not a good outcome.

I’m always hearing that the health care crisis is caused by hypochondriac Americans running to the doctor every five minutes. I don’t see that in the community. I more often see stories like this–

From Dr. Jennifer S. Chang in the New York Times…

It Was Benign, but Almost Killed Him
William Siewert almost died from an enlarged prostate.
Not prostate cancer, just a “benign” enlarged prostate. He is yet another example of the people who fall victim to our currently broken health care system. He agreed to share his story in the hope that someday cases like his would be rare exceptions.

William Siewert lost his job and insurance. He could have been treated with a daily pill, failing that he could have had routine surgery. Instead, with no regular doctor he could afford and just the emergency room, he ended up with kidney failure. The pain and suffering he endured in the year it took to ruin his kidneys I can’t imagine. The cost of his care has now run up to several hundred thousand dollars.

To read the rest, William Siewert’s ordeal and why he lost his insurance, .Follow the link here.

Ironically, there is a special government program for kidney failure. The discovery of dialysis, in a more confident America, struck politicians as the gift of life, and they voted for Medicare to cover kidney disease.

But more people on dialysis is the last thing our country needs. The point where intervention is needed is before the person’s body is trashed. I’ve seen people end up on dialysis because of untreated diabetes– it’s heartbreaking when it could have been prevented.

I don’t think most Americans really want to follow the model of the firefighters who stood around watching a house burn because the owner hadn’t paid a fee. But that is what we’ve been doing to human beings.

We have to do better. We need universal health care now.

Donate to RICLAPP’s End-of-Year Fundraising Drive

I just donated to the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy. I am the treasurer of this organization and I challenge all of my friends to make a donation, because I know for a fact that RICLAPP is doing great work and contributing to a better community. Donate at

If you enjoy this site on a daily basis and want to do something that is good for the community, please make a donation. Thanks for your support!

Marvel Comics Too Subtle for Racists

On South Main Street there is a plaque that says, ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibilty, Stan Lee’. There’s a lot of comic book readers out there, but not in the White Citizen’s Council. Maybe they should get some milk and cookies and a flashlight and hide under the covers with Marvel’s Thor. I tried to read the Wikipedia on it but the plot is more complicated than Dark Shadows.

Anyway, calling on the experts at The Wild Hunt, who actually do worship the gods, I find a neat summary. The Pagans and Witches are fine with it, how ironic that the Christians are all exercised.

Some Christians turned a Middle-Eastern Rabbi into a blonde, so this kind of thing has been going on for a long time. Happy Yule.

SECOND THOUGHTS: Mr. Green reminded me of some old movies where Anglo actors donned weird face paint to play roles. Mickey Rooney playing a Japanese photographer in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’ is one that haunts my nightmares. He did not look hot. Idris Elba looks super-hot.
Linda Hunt scandalized the film critics when she played the role of a Chinese-Australian man. I heard that she did a fine job.

For her role as the male Chinese-Australian photographer, Hunt won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1983, becoming the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex (also the first to win playing an Australian character).

What’s the big deal? They’re actors. That’s what they do.


A pretty snowfall but doesn’t look good at all for viewing the lunar eclipse. I’ll set my alarm just in case, but no use arguing with the weather. Fortunately, a lunar eclipse is not that rare, maybe I’ll catch the next one.


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