Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gun Un-Control

When I read this article in the Washington Post this morning, my first response was "yes." Then later in the day I read the NY Times profile and of course to say I was right that drifter had a long history of problems, abuse with women and of course into kinky sex which clearly he was not getting.  This is not something I ever wish to be right on but clearly my future as an FBI profiler is awaiting.

There is no doubt that the Planned Parenthood situation was akin to the many terrorist type encounters that have been occurring abroad only with one man. That is no different that Timothy McVeigh who did have assistance but acted alone, that was terrorism.

But when it is a white man it seems that these individuals are taken without incident, yet a black individual on a traffic stop ends up dead in the street or in the jail. There has to be the reality of white lives matter when it comes to crime. The Planned Parenthood shooter killed a cop and in that case that is all hands off when it comes to Police response which is kill first ask no questions later or ever. So was this about the hostages or that it was likely reported that an elderly white man was armed, dangerous, and bat shit crazy where the last 4 did not matter.

I am against killing anyone in these cases if possible for the simple reason they need to be interrogated, to learn where and how they got guns and in turn have their mental health assessed for understanding how we can understand and know what steps we need to take to prevent this from occurring in the future.

The other day the son of the wealthy hedge fund manager who killed his father during an argument was found mentally incompetent. Gee shocking given his drug use history but had this young man been black versus white and more importantly wealthy, the needed legal advocates and "experts" needed to assess and properly defend him would not have occurred. And likely during arrest that would not have mattered as many mentally ill in the same situation have rarely come out of it alive and his case was of course uniquely white in that scenario as well.

But looking at the shootings of late, the problems with the mental health and more importantly disenchantment or disconnect from the larger part of society. The along with the frustration with sex and dating, living with single mothers, being alone, angry, politically charged over issues over race and of course women's right to choose, issues that rail on the front pages of the news daily, add to the confusion and anger that defines the archetype of the "angry white male."  

The parallels to the problems with the European terrorists cannot be ignored. Young men, history of minor criminal problems, segregation, underemployment, a promise of sex upon death and of course the enslavement of women for sex until death cannot be ignored. That faith and belief is a balm that is just an excuse to act violently. Rage cannot be assuaged until others feel your pain the same ways you do.

Domestic terrorism is real and how is that act in Planned Parenthood different than the Lindt Cafe in Sydney or the mall in Kenya or the grocery store in Paris?

The similarity is gender with Ideology as the singular difference.   But the reality is the access to guns by anyone that can wreak that much havoc and kill that many is the true issue of merit. In Europe with their tight gun control laws should have prevented there problems and yet it did not. The lack of gun control laws in America are definitely the major factor here and the reason a drifter or well anyone with a problem (and that is broadly defined as both intrinsic and extrinsic)  can access a gun. So what is the real problem here? Guns.

How do individuals buy or access such high powered weaponry that is not about hunting or self preservation but about mass killing and military grade use.  That is the problem and all the NSA and surveillance is doing nothing to stop this, so why bother.  The reality is that when you have angry angry disconnected young men, with no real work, sexual frustration, confusion about one's role in society and the rantings of others to further frustrate and confuse you have a problem but it is one that is fixable without the need of a gun.

We will never get it no matter how many lives are lost. As our cops become more militarized the response is that the people will as well.  It is why we have what we have globally.  War or civil war? Terrorism is terrorism.   Isn't that the point? To terrorize.  Who lives who dies it doesn't matter as in that case everyone is dead, point made.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Equity vs Equality

I was at a largely white middle school on Wednesday. I met two most amazing children. One South African young girl who has just moved her. She is white and the most interesting articulate 7th grader I have met in a long time. She had most interesting observations about her peers and her new community of which she has only been a part of for several weeks. And her peers ignorance and oblivion of her was also quite telling. Children are easily afraid and insecure and in middle school it is most apparent. It is the baby duck imprinting period and which I can tell almost immediately what a child will be like when they reach adulthood.

The second was this interesting young lad who showed me his interesting paper seed experiment that he was working on. As the end of the period he demonstrated how he had improved it since the start of the period. My comment immediately was that this type of 3 dimensional aspect of design was very much on the forefront and that he should be engaged in industrial design with either 3 D printing or the other option is gaming and where that is going with 3D etc. His whole face lit up and he said "I want to be a game designer and that is what I want to do!" I knew immediately he would and that and his peer are the reasons I teach. And I consider myself thankful for those days and meeting those children who are our future.

I also heard in that same class or should say overheard the word "racist" by one kid to another over and over again. It was clearly not taken seriously and I have no idea the context of where it was so I stayed firmly out of it as I knew that they were using the word as a superlative and not accusative.

That can be a problem. I suspect that we are focused on some bizarre belief of what defines racist that as it goes along it is just tossed out in a manner that will have little to no meaning. At this point I am not sure I have a dog in that race but it is a word I hear too much and no longer respond to.

And that too is the problem. As schools look to names of buildings of leaders long gone as a problem, not having a safe space or any other extraneous issues they assign to race I wonder if they are really seeing the real problems that are about race. Such as the lack of black and brown faces on college campuses in general. That when graduating from college those same faces make less and find less appropriate challenging work aligned with their degree. That the same faces are not pursuing post graduate work in fields such as Teaching, Medicine, or Law where their influence and role modeling is desperately needed. And the issue of debt. And all of these have a component of both race but in can include gender and sexuality. Imagine finding the problems shared vs those that divide to make an impact and make lasting change.

Well it begins in the schools. Way earlier as in the elementary schools. And there are no tests for that.

The article below was written before the current problems at Yale, Mizzou and Princeton. But it could easily be written today.  The same problems the same distractions and the same reality. What is equity and what is equality?  Do you know?

The hidden racism of young white Americans

BY Sean McElwee 
March 24, 2015 
The University of Oklahoma closed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity earlier this month after a video surfaced of students singing racist epithets. Photo by Heide Brandes/Reuters
The University of Oklahoma closed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity earlier this month after a video surfaced of students singing racist epithets. Photo by Heide Brandes/Reuters
Recently, chilling videos surfaced online of young University of Oklahoma students, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, reciting a racially-charged chant. The story appeared surprising for numerous reasons. Among them, education is supposed to reduce racial resentment (or at least temper outward expressions of it), and young people, known as Millennials, are supposed to be uniquely tolerant. The incident offers an opportunity to reevaluate how we think about racism in America, and how we can fight it.

Age Doesn’t Matter

The pervasive narrative about racial change is that it occurs through generations — old racists die out, and new, young, progressive people take their place. This narrative is dubious. Age tells us far less about an individual’s likelihood of expressing racist sentiments than factors like education, geography and race. The data below visualize the percentage of whites in each age group espousing the explicitly racist idea that blacks are not hardworking or intelligent, as well as the percentage who say that blacks face little or no discrimination. 

Finally, I include the percentage of whites in each age group who say they have “never” felt admiration for blacks. The youngest whites (17-34) are only modestly less likely than the oldest (65+) to say that blacks are lazy (3.6 point difference) or unintelligent (1.5 point difference), but they are also less likely to perceive discrimination against blacks (6.3 point difference) and far less likely to say that have felt admiration for blacks. Compared to the generation immediately before them (white aged 35-49) the youngest whites are slightly more likely to say blacks are lazy (2.4 points) and unintelligent (4.3). In sum, it’s clear that age has little effect on the likelihood that whites hold racially-biased feelings about blacks.

Sean McElwee graph 1

It’s possible that these attitudes are simply driven by an individual’s pessimism. Maybe they feel that all people, white and black, are unintelligent. But this does not exculpate young whites. Spencer Piston, a professor at the Campbell Institute at Syracuse University, examined how young whites ranked the intelligence and work ethic of whites to blacks. He finds that 51 percent of whites between the ages of 17 and 34 rate blacks as lazier than whites, and 43 percent say blacks are less intelligent.

These numbers aren’t statistically different from older whites. On issues related to structural racism, it is incredibly clear that young whites aren’t very different from their parents. Indeed, the most significant change that has occurred is an increasing conservatism among young blacks. The data show that most young Americans are racial conservatives – they believe, in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts,

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” We might call them the Bill O’Reilly Generation.

Sean McElwee Chart 2
Sean McElwee chart 1

Let’s Talk About Racism

One of the underlying problems is that most Americans, but particularly Millennials, have a very confined view of what racism is. Americans think of racism as Bull Connor or the Ku Klux Klan, but today, racism is far more likely to be embedded in institutions. Modern racism isn’t cross-burning (though that still happens.) It’s the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs only approving tax credits for housing in neighborhoods that are majority people of color and denying the credits in neighborhoods that are majority white (a case the Supreme Court will take up this year). And while the Ferguson Police Department certainly contained racists, the more pervasive problem was a systematically discriminatory method of policing that preyed on people of color.

Age tells us far less about an individual’s likelihood of expressing racist sentiments than factors like education, geography and race.

It is beyond dispute that the United States contains deep structural racial issues. These racial disparities are perpetuated not only through explicit discrimination, but through the power of history. For instance, black and Latino children are far more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods, stinting upward mobility. Black and Latino men are disproportionately caught up in mass incarceration, which affects their families and their earning for a lifetime. A new report by Demos and Brandeis University finds that equalizing college graduation rates between whites and people of color would close the wealth gap by 1 percent for blacks and 3 percent for Latinos.

A recent study helps explain why: Michael Gaddis finds blacks who graduated from elite universities have the same chance in the job market as whites who graduated from less selective schools. In addition, black graduates are offered lower starting salary and less prestigious starting jobs.

A Forward Looking Agenda

The reaction to the SAE scandal, and numerous other events over the past few years (Donald Sterling and Paula Deen, for example) suggest that our society can accurately identify and shame explicit racial animosity. But addressing the structural racism that plagues our society will be far more difficult, mainly because most Americans aren’t attuned to it. Even progress can entrench structural racism. In the wake of President Obama’s election, political scientists Nicholas Valentino and Ted Brader found that Americans, particularly young Americans and white Americans, were less likely to perceive racial discrimination than they were before. Further, University of Michigan professor Vincent Hutchings found that “blacks and whites remain as far apart on racial policy matters in 2008 as in 1988.”

In the long term, Americans need to grapple with our history and how it continues to affect us today. Matthew Blackwell, Avidit Acharya and Maya Sen find that whites in areas with a high concentration of slavery are to this day more likely to espouse racially biased attitudes. Therefore, waiting for a mass opinion change may take decades (if it occurs at all). Similarly, waiting for old whites to die out won’t solve the problem, as these attitudes are equally prevalent among youth.

 Demographic change may lead to a more diverse nation, but this will take half a century, and white hegemony has a way of shifting to accommodate new realities. Racial justice must include more deeply integrating our neighborhoods to give everyone equal opportunity. In addition, such integration will decrease racial animosity. Mass incarceration and racially-biased policing tactics must be ended immediately.

 The need to close the funding gap between majority white schools and schools that are majority students of color, as well as the gap between rich schools and poor schools should be immediately obvious. A baby bond program could ease not just the racial wealth gap, but the deep-class divide in asset ownership. And any racial justice policy must include full employment. These programs need not be framed as part of a racial justice agenda. Rather, they are part of an opportunity agenda, for all Americans, white, Black or Latino.

The Agri Community

CBS Sunday Morning did a profile on one such community and it was of course all white, expensive and utterly fantastic. Why it is the provenance of the upscale I am unsure. Oh that is the new suburbia or white flight. Well little house on the prairie it is not but it can offer sustainable living.

As an advocate of multi generational housing complexes I am shocked that in cities such as Detroit why they are not finding new ways to encourage home ownership, utilize the blighted areas for moderate agricultural use and have the idea of more live/work functional properties that enable those to start small home businesses and use the existing community to build and grow said business.

But that requires work. The article below discusses the rise of the agri homestead. And this article is another debate/discussion on how to save Detroit. We have a problem with the "in" cities being affordable and in turn diverse, so why not figure out ways that take the "low" out of income and simply find ways to incorporate affordable housing and maintain diversity - both in all ways - economically, racially, age, gender, etc. And if a community wants to establish their "safe spaces" ask themselves who they are being safe from? Learning to live with people who are "different" is what living in a democracy is about.

Add this idea to the commune that I have long been looking for.

Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root

The New York Times
MARCH 11, 2014

GILBERT, Ariz. — In many American suburbs, outward signs of life are limited to the blue glow of television screens flickering behind energy-efficient windows. But in a subdivision of this bedroom community outside Phoenix, amid precision-cut lawns and Craftsman-style homes, lambs caper in common green areas, chickens scratch in a citrus grove and residents roam rows of heirloom vegetables to see what might be good for dinner.
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The neighborhood is called Agritopia, and it’s one of a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. The real estate bust in 2008 halted new construction, but with the recovery, developers are again breaking ground on farm-focused tracts. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food.

“I hear from developers all the time about this,” said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow for sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit real estate research group in Washington, D. C. “They’ve figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.” Not to mention a potential tax break for preserving agricultural land.
The hub of the community is a small square overlooking the farm where the market is open Wednesday night. Credit Laura Segall for The New York Times

Sixteen of Agritopia’s 160 acres are certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community’s 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. A 117-unit assisted- and independent-living center is set to open this summer.

The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A., program. Neighbors trade recipes and gossip, and on the way home can pick up dinner from one of a few food trucks stocked by the farm.

“Wednesday is the highlight of my week,” said Ben Wyffels, an engineer for Intel who moved here with his wife and two sons two years ago from another Phoenix suburb, attracted by the farm and the community’s cohesiveness. “To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing,” he said, and has helped steer his family toward kale and carrots and away from chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

Continue reading the main story

This way of life does not come at a premium, either; Mr. Wyffels, like residents of other agrihoods, said his home cost no more than similar houses in the area. And because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, as farms are in many of these developments, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the C.S.A.

Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho — established just as the real estate market collapsed. They have emerged intact, with property values appreciating and for-sale signs rare.

At Serenbe, all 152 homes are occupied and its 3 restaurants draw tourists from surrounding states. Builders are adding 10 custom homes, with plans to break ground on at least another 20 by year-end. The 7-acre organic farm, soon to expand to 25 acres, lured Vikki Baird, a fund-raising consultant, who moved to Serenbe last summer from the affluent Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta. She had divorced, and said she was looking for a “healthy place” to settle. “You walk down the street, open your bag and say, ‘Give me what’s fresh this week,’ ” Ms. Baird said.

Newer developments include Willowsford in Ashburn, Va., which opened in 2011 and was named the National Association of Homebuilders’ 2013 suburban Community of the Year, largely because of its 30-acre farm and a culinary consultant who regularly teaches classes in how to prepare whatever is in season. The Kukui’ula community in Kauai, Hawaii, opened in 2012 and has a 10-acre farm in addition to a clubhouse, spa and golf course.

“As a developer it’s been humbling that such a simple thing and such an inexpensive thing is the most loved amenity,” said Brent Herrington, who oversaw the building of Kukui’ula for the developer DMB Associates. “We spend $100 million on a clubhouse, but residents, first day on the island, they go to the farm to get flowers, fruits and vegetables.”

Mr. Herrington regularly fields calls from other developers who want to incorporate farms into their housing projects. At least a dozen new agrihoods are underway or have secured financing, including Bucking Horse in Fort Collins, Colo.; Skokomish Farms in Union, Wash.; Harvest in Northlake, Tex.; Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, Calif.; and Prairie Commons in South Olathe, Kan.

Their success or failure may depend on hiring the right farmer. Agritopia went through four before finding the right one.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

“This type of farming is hard and requires an incredible ability to multitask,” said Joseph E. Johnston, the developer and a resident of Agritopia, which sits on what was once his family’s farm. “I’m not sure most developers have the patience to really see it through and make it work.”
Continue reading the main story
Recent Comments
March 19, 2014

It's not so odd sounding when you realize that this is how we modern humans developed; in small agricultural groupings, very close to our...
Dylan Terry
March 17, 2014

On a similar note, I have started a company in Miami, FL which creates edible gardens for homeowners, schools and restaurants. More info on...
Mike Allen
March 17, 2014

I have an alternate headline: "Residents of sprawling Phoenix allow 16 acres of farmland to remain unpaved." Hooray! What a success! If we...

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Though Mr. Johnston’s father planted four kinds of commodity crops, like cotton and corn, a community farmer must plant a vast variety of highly perishable, organic (or at least not chemically treated) crops, then market them to residents and sell the excess at farmers’ markets and to local chefs. Agritopia sells to 20 highly regarded chefs, including Charleen Badman (a.k.a. the “Vegetable Whisperer”) of the restaurant FnB and Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco.

“You have to be an excellent grower but also good at customer relations, business projections and labor controls,” Mr. Johnston said. “There’s no manual or anyone at the county extension service to tell you how to do this.”

For guidance, many developers are turning to suburban farm consultants like Agriburbia in Golden, Colo., and Farmer D Organics in Atlanta, which assist in choosing farm sites, building the requisite infrastructure and hiring farmers who work for salary or in exchange for housing and proceeds of whatever they harvest.

“The interest is so great, we’re kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,” said Quint Redmond, Agriburbia’s chief executive. In addition to developers, he hears from homeowners’ associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms.

Driving the demand, he said, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. “Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days,” he said.

Take L. B. Kregenow, a lawyer who with her husband, David, a doctor, has contracted to build a home in the Skokomish Farms community southwest of Seattle.

“I’m a foodie and interested in animal husbandry and cultivating my own wasabi and mushrooms,” Ms. Kregenow said. But she also likes to travel, which she said makes living in an agrihood ideal. “For me, the serious downside of farming is doing it on your own means, doing it 365 days a year,” she said. “But in this scheme we will have a farm without all the responsibility.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Take 2 Aspirin And Call Me in the Morning

Big Pharma is big for a reason and little has to do with their ability to cure disease, find new drugs that will help those live better lives, no they are big as they raise the prices on existing drugs that work.

 Turing after a round of negative publicity  and government inquiry about their prices  have since retracted their offer to reduce the price. Being a douche and bag costs extra.

Since asprin seems to be a universal wonder drug I suspect Bayer to raise prices soon. And of course Valeant, a company under fire for numerous reasons, also saw fit to raise prices.

 2 Valeant Dermatology Drugs Lead Steep Price Increases, Study Finds
The New York Times
NOV. 25, 2015

Two drugs sold by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International to treat cancer-related skin conditions increased in price by about 1,700 percent over the last six years, according to a newly published survey that found big increases in the cost of dermatology drugs across the board. Over all, retail prices of 19 brand-name dermatology drugs from various manufacturers, for acne, infections and other conditions, quintupled from 2009 to this year.

Even some generic drugs almost quadrupled in price, according to the study, which was published on Wednesday by the journal JAMA Dermatology. “We’re not talking about new drugs,” said Dr. Steven P. Rosenberg, a dermatologist in West Palm Beach, Fla., who led the research.

“We’re not talking about exotic drugs. We’re not talking about drugs that are listed as being in shortage.” The price increases, he said, “have been off the charts. None of this makes any sense other than that they can get away with it.”

The two biggest increases were the Valeant drugs. The drugstore price of a tube of Targretin gel, a topical treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, rose to about $30,320 this year, 18 times as much as the $1,687 in 2009. Most of that increase appears to have occurred after Valeant acquired the drug early in 2013.

 A patient might need two tubes a month for several months, Dr. Rosenberg said. The retail price of a tube of Carac cream, used to treat precancerous skin lesions called actinic keratoses, rose to $2,865 this summer, also 18 times the 2009 price of $159.

 Virtually all of the increase occurred after 2011, when Valeant acquired the product. A typical treatment requires one tube, Dr. Rosenberg said. Valeant and some other drug companies have been drawing scrutiny from Congress, hospitals and patients for acquiring old drugs for a variety of diseases and sharply increasing their prices. Federal prosecutors have also begun inquiries into Valeant’s pricing practices.

Valeant’s shares have plummeted in the last two months. Continue reading the main story Rising Prices for Acne Drugs The average prices of many common medications for acne or rosacea have risen sharply since 2009. Two of those that rose most were Valeant’s Benzaclin and Retin-A Micro.

 Valeant said in a statement Wednesday that it would be expected to have several drugs on the list because it has the largest market share in dermatology not counting biotech drugs, which were not included in the study.

It said the retail prices cited in the study “rarely represent the prices that patients and insurers are paying or what the pharmaceutical company receives,” and that it offered financial assistance to many patients. It also said that four of the five Valeant drugs cited in the study, including Targretin and Carac, have generic alternatives available, meaning that doctors and patients are not forced to use the brand-name product.

The published study does not name Valeant or any other manufacturer, nor does it really criticize them. Valeant also said recently that it would sever its ties to a mail-order pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services, which was used to bolster sales of its dermatology drugs. Media reports had suggested that Philidor, which accounted for about 7 percent of Valeant’s overall sales in the third quarter, had used questionable tactics to get insurers to pay for the drugs.

 Other dermatology drug companies also use mail-order pharmacies because they are less likely than a drugstore to substitute a generic for a brand-name product. Pharmacy benefit managers are now challenging this use of mail-order pharmacies. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Albany declined to stop the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts from terminating its relationship with the pharmacy Linden Care, which dispenses expensive pain pills sold by Horizon Pharma. Linda Clark, a lawyer for Linden Care, said it would appeal the decision on an emergency basis to try to prevent disruptions in patient care.

 Dermatologists say price rises, and an increasing tendency of pharmacy benefit managers to refuse to pay for certain drugs they view as unnecessarily expensive, are making it difficult for patients to obtain the drugs they prescribe. The American Academy of Dermatology established a task force on pharmaceutical prices and price transparency this year to try to come up with solutions.

Access to treatments is being “limited because of costs and the burden they are placing on our patients,” said the task force’s chairman, Dr. Bruce A. Brod, a dermatologist in Lancaster, Pa., who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. Dr. Rosenberg, who is also a volunteer professor at the University of Miami, said he did not set out to publish a study. He wanted simply to inform other dermatologists in Florida about the costs of the drugs they were prescribing.

“Some of the physicians were shocked to find out that the cost of the medicine was $500 or $600 and there was an alternative that was more reasonable,” Dr. Rosenberg said. So he and his daughter, Miranda E. Rosenberg, now a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed four drugstores in West Palm Beach that were part of the chains Costco, CVS, Sam’s Club and Walgreens. While prices can vary somewhat geographically, the basic findings should hold true nationwide, the authors say.

The 2009 survey results, posted on the website of a Florida dermatology society, proved popular enough that they repeated it in 2011 and 2014, using the same drugstores. When they saw how much prices had jumped from 2011 to 2014, they decided to publish, using a representative sample of 19 drugs. Prices for seven of the drugs more than quadrupled in that period.

Valeant accounted for four of them: Targretin, Carac, Retin-A Micro for acne and Oxsoralen-Ultra for psoriasis. Two of the drugs — Solaraze for actinic keratoses and Oxistat cream for athlete’s foot and jock itch — are made by PharmaDerm, which is owned by Novartis. The seventh drug, Derma-Smoothe/FS oil, a steroid to treat atopic dermatitis, is from Royal Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey.

Dermatology represented the 11th-biggest therapeutic category for drugs in 2014, with 109 million prescriptions, according to IMS Health. It said sales of such drugs totaled $9.5 billion before discounts that year. Many dermatology drugs do not contain novel ingredients. Carac, for instance, is made of fluorouracil, a decades-old chemotherapy drug. Targretin contains a vitamin A derivative known as a retinoid.

 Manufacturers make new formulations they say provide better results. Dr. Brod said that particular formulations might be best for certain patients, and doctors need a full choice of products. But others are skeptical.

 “There hasn’t really been a new drug in dermatology for a long time,” said Dr. Robert Rudolph, a recently retired dermatologist in Wyomissing, Pa., who also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. “They are just slightly tweaking something and jacking up the price.”

The Public in Transport

As I prepare my move to Nashville I am very interested in public transportation. Don't own a car, don't want one and frankly cannot afford it.  I get that Nashville is very car oriented but if I pick where I live and in turn the schools in the area in which to sub I should be able to accommodate this with the odd car rental/share, UBER and dedication.

It is a major issue in many cities as the density has placed traffic and commuting at an all time level 10.  And until the idea of changing work and school times to have alternative and in turn coordinated hours this will only get worse.  Where are those tech people with their disruptions? Oh yes inventing an app to find your keys where you threw them when finally arriving back to your podment.  Which seems sill as the pod is the equivalent to a cell so how hard could it be?

The Boston Globe did a series on income inequity in America and how it affects development and the services in cities across the country.  Nashville and their AMP was one of the profiles.  Of course the Globe interviewed only the former Mayor and none of the residents who had strong opinions other than the genteel racist lady who was cited for opposing the project as it would bring "Riff Raff" to their neighborhood. Gee I love Riff Raff will Frank-n-furter and Magenta come too? (A little Rocky Horror humor there).

But the point was that they had one side and they were sticking with it.  The natural mockery of the South, their idiocy and racism and of course the ability of the Kochs to influence anyone willing to take their checks. And yes they have that influence in all cities north or south.

And then I read the below article from its Business Journal pages and of course the response by the Nashville Scene the alt paper aka "liberal" alt voice that expressed largely the same views - that the project was more complex and divisive than the article explained.  I think the comments below the article are quite informative  and share a larger voice that was not heard in the process, and that is the point.

The Atlantic also did this interesting article about mass transit in cities like Nashville and the problems that truly lead to why many are stalled - money of course but also inertia. People don't want to give up being in their cars as then they have to give up their odd logic regarding convenience.   Few peoples schedules are that independent that having a car at one's disposal is that debilitating and the other is that people are afraid of people on public transit.  But I also want to point out as in all news sources the source of this is a 2009 census report. In a city that has grown since that report I wonder how the new residents (of which I soon will be) feel today?

Be afraid be very afraid and that guarantees me a seat.

People hate public transport.  This is largely due to marketing and of course fear of the great unwashed

How The ​Boston Globe tells the story of the Amp's demise
Nashville Business Journal
 Oct 12, 2015,

Let’s take a walk down memory lane for just a moment.

As part of its "Divided Nation" series, The Boston Globe this weekend highlighted the demise of the contentious Amp bus rapid-transit line along West End Avenue, one of former Mayor Karl Dean’s biggest setbacks during his eight years in office.

The piece reads like a postmortem of the Amp, which launched a rancorous debate that has left Nashville grasping at broader transit strategies to combat its growing congestion woes. The Boston Globe zeroes in on the state legislation in the spring of 2014 aimed at stopping the Amp in its tracks, what the paper considers just one example of the GOP-dominated Tennessee General Assembly injecting itself into the city's policies.

“The tale of the trackless trolley is, on one level, a prosaic account of a fast-growing city struggling to pay for much-needed mass transit. But as the story unfolded, it became clear that there was something much deeper going on: a bare-knuckle city-versus-state fight at a time when the partisan divide between big cities – mostly run by Democrats – and state capitals, where the GOP largely holds sway, has reached a historic extreme,” The Boston Globe writes.
The give-and-take between Metro and the state over future transit funding or projects will be crucial if Nashville can successfully implement a mass transit system – something the region needs if it wants to continue attracting new workers and businesses.

“I’m not used to having the state come in and try to crush us,” Dean, who is originally from Massachusetts, told the Globe of the state legislation designed to block his $175 million transit line.
The title of the article speaks for itself: “A city’s immovable roadblock: Nashville’s ambitious new bus line seemed to have a green light – until the GOP-led Legislature, with help from the Koch brothers, stepped in.”

The piece revisits a narrative that drew national attention in the spring of 2014 – that the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity played a pivotal role in helping the Tennessee General Assembly throw a wrench in Nashville’s transit plan.

There’s a string of truth to this, though the importance of AFP in the Amp’s demise is certainly overstated. Stop Amp did thank AFP for its support in introducing a bill to block the Amp. Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy worked with AFP to craft the legislation in March 2014, weeks after the Amp was initially budgeted to get federal funding. The Boston Globe piece also documents how Rick Williams and Lee Beaman got started with their Stop Amp group. (We named Beaman our Newsmaker of the Year in 2014 for his role in stalling the project.)

Dean told The Boston Globe that local opponents like Beaman were “certainly working with Americans for Prosperity to essentially thwart what a city was trying to accomplish.”

But there are nuances in the Amp debate that the Globe fails to mention. In the process, the piece inflates the importance AFP had on the Amp’s demise. Ultimately, Nashvillians killed the transit project – not outside special interests. ( See my piece on how Beaman and other opponents like Richard Fulton and Dianne Neal flipped Dean’s largely pro-Amp advisory council to begin questioning the merits of the project.)

The Boston Globe piece focuses on AFP’s involvement with Tracy’s legislation in March 2014 and also Beaman’s own connections with the Koch Brothers-backed group. But the story fails to mention that Tracy’s original bill, which would have prevented specific design of the project, didn’t become law.

The legislation that passed did not prevent Nashville from moving forward with the Amp– rather it essentially gave the General Assembly veto power over any transit line along West End Avenue (or any such project on a state road in a metro area). Since Metro was already planning to ask the state for $35 million in funding, the General Assembly already had to give its blessing for the project. The ‘Stop Amp’ bill that finally passed lacked the teeth Tracy’s original legislation had.

But even before Tracy introduced this bill, the Amp was already on iffy-footing with lawmakers. Nashville Republican Beth Harwell, the Tennessee House Speaker, said in the fall of 2014 that the state couldn’t fund the proposed $35 million for the project. Her early opposition, unmentioned in the Boston 
Globe piece, was the most devastating blow to Dean’s transit project. It created looming questions 
about the fate of the project long before Dean’s office found out in February 2014 that federal grant money was slated to come its way and AFP worked with Tracy to craft legislation in March 2014.
Nonetheless, Dean's office had to expend a considerable amount of political capital just to keep the plan alive. In the aftermath of the battle with the Legislature, Dean rolled back the scope of the Amp and offered vocal opponents like Beaman a seat at the table in a newly created advisory committee.
Here’s the full piece from The Boston Globe.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

When another police video was released of another young black man being gunned down in the street that once again asks the question:  Are 16 shots excessive force or just murder?  The answer came with the murder in the first degree charges for the maniac Police officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald in the street.

What is the real question is why it took a year?  If it was a black man who shot and killed a cop in the street with one bullet, we would wait less than 24 hours before charges would be filed, an arraignment held and the plea bargaining would begin.  Or not and the accused would be rotting in a jai without appropriate legal representation or third rate representation.  If in some bizarre world where trials would  occur it would be a quick revolving door of days in the courtroom and the guilty verdict leveled and be over by this time or soon thereafter.

So a year to investigate?  Do the great unwashed have such a privilege? Who can afford hiring an investigator to take that much time to watch videos, interview witnesses, check out the Officer's personnel history (which is loaded with complaints) and of course look into the dead kid and find out why he would be walking down the middle of the street with a knife. Was he some type of expert knife thrower who could with one swift throw incapacitate or kill at least one of the several other officers that were there and in turn excuse or justify said force?  Wow this investigator is either very thorough or bilking the hourly.

I assume the Police Union is paying that charge as the city of Chicago is strapped for cash. I used to love the city and wanted to go to school there. Then income inequity destroyed that city in ways that any race riots and movements of the 60s could ever do. The sheer neglect, segregation and discrimination of those poor and  of course those largely of color, without eduction and in turn opportunity that results from said education enabled those to find less than legitimate means to find work and in turn income.  With that came the rise of the incarceration nation and that enabled cities and police to clear the streets and give the impression that they cared about the very people that they targeted and in turn duped.  It was a con.  While the rising black on black violence has escalated in Chicago, the powers there seem as lackadaisical in their approach in "investigating" the source of those crimes against those they claim to protect and serve equally.  Right sure what.ever.

Chicago my kind of town. No it is just another town in America that has divisions of society that mark those with and those without.  Rich lives matter.

Chicago police officer charged in deadly shooting has a history of misconduct complaints

The Washington Post
The Morning Mix
By Sarah Kaplan
November 25 2015

In the graphic video seen across the country Tuesday, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke levels his gun toward Laquan McDonald, an African American teen carrying a knife and veering away from the officer. Van Dyke shoots. McDonald spins, then falls to the ground as Van Dyke continues to fire every bullet in his clip — 16 shots in all.

The officer was charged Tuesday with first degree murder in the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting, which prosecutors say was an “improper use of deadly force.” That night protesters in Chicago streamed through downtown toward police department headquarters, chanting “16 shots.”

Van Dyke, a white 14-year veteran of Chicago’s police force, has been accused of misconduct 17 times before, according to data from the University of Chicago and the journalism non-profit Invisible Institute. The database, published less than a week before the announcement that Van Dyke would be prosecuted, details tens of thousands of complaints against Chicago police officers that weren’t previously made public. Fewer than five percent of the allegations resulted in disciplinary actions for the officers; none of the 18 complaints against Van Dyke led to a penalty.

“We don’t have all of Van Dyke’s complaints but … the misconduct complaints from Van Dyke that we do have in our data tool show by and large excessive force and racial slurs. And he has largely operated with impunity and under a code of silence with the same huddle of officers again and again,” the Invisible Institute’s Alison Flowers told Chicago ABC affiliate WLS.

Van Dyke joined the Chicago Police Department in 2001 and spent several years on the force’s Targeted Response Unit, a city-wide team that aggressively worked in neighborhoods where crime was spiking. That force was disbanded by Superintendent Garry McCarthy in 2011.

The allegations against Van Dyke include 10 complaints of excessive force, including two incidents where he allegedly used a firearm, causing injury. He was also accused of improper searches and making racially or ethnically biased remarks. Four of the allegations were proven factual, but Van Dyke’s actions were deemed lawful and appropriate. In most of the other cases, there was either not enough evidence to prove or disprove the complaint or the allegation was proven unfounded.

The data shows that it’s rare for any officers to be penalized, and white officers were half as likely as black ones to be disciplined for a complaint. More than 60 percent of allegations that resulted in discipline came from white citizens, even though they accounted for just 20 percent of complainants. (Black complainants were also much more likely to fail to file an affidavit, a necessary step in the investigation process, which may account for some of the disparity.)

Regardless of race, it was extremely rare for allegations of any kind to be upheld — four percent of the 56,361 allegations were sustained. And it was even rarer for officers to be disciplined with more than a reprimand or a suspension of less than 10 days.

The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police shootings and misconduct allegations, is led mostly by former cops, according to Chicago public radio station WBEZ. That has led some to question how independent the agency really is.

“Complaints may be seen not through the eyes of the citizen but through the eyes of a police officer,” Paula Tillman, a former IPRA investigative supervisor who was a Chicago cop herself in the 1970s and 1980s, told WBEZ. “The investigations can be engineered so that they have a tilt toward law enforcement and not what the citizen is trying to say.”

[54 police officers have faced criminal charges for fatally shooting someone while on duty in the past decade]

The Invisible Institute database also reveals how easy it could be for a few apparently abusive officers to garner a disproportionate number of complaints. Apparent repeat offenders — officers with more than 10 complaints against them — represented 30 percent of all complaints, even though they made up only 10 percent of the police force — a fact that police accountability experts like University of Pittsburgh Law School professor David A. Harris find troubling.

“It’s not unusual for a police officer to get a complaint, but the fact is that a complaint is a significant piece of information if it is a recurring thing,” Harris told the New York Times. “It is the patterns we worry about.”

Though Van Dyke appears in the database many times, he is by no means the most complained-about officer listed. That distinction goes to Jerome Finnigan, the subject of 68 citizen complaints in nearly two decades with the Chicago Police Department; none of the allegations resulted in disciplinary action.

In 2011, Finnigan was convicted of robbing criminal suspects while serving on an elite force and ordering a hit on a cop he thought might turn him in. At his sentencing, Finnigan admitted to having become “a corrupt police officer,” according to the Chicago Tribune. But he said the police department was aware, and for many years did nothing.

“My bosses knew what I was doing out there,” he said, “and it went on and on. And this wasn’t the exception to the rule. This was the rule.”

The same year Finnigan was convicted, Garry McCarthy was appointed the city’s police superintendent. Since then, city officials told the New York Times, the police department that has been plagued for years by instances of brutality and abuse has undergone reforms in how it deals with officer misconduct. The department said it gets half as many citizen complaints as it did several years ago. (The Invisible Institute database lists 5,776 complaints in 2014, compared with 6,439 in 2011, though the non-profit says their information is likely incomplete.)

One of those 2014 complaints is dated Oct. 20 — a misconduct allegation against Officer Jason Van Dyke. The database doesn’t include the details of the complaint, but it’s clear from the date and location what it’s about: the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

When Ed Nance first heard that Van Dyke was the officer involved, he broke into tears.

“It just makes me so sad because it shouldn’t have happened,” he told the Chicago Tribune in April. “He shouldn’t have been on the street in the first place after my incident.”

Nance filed his own complaint against Van Dyke in 2007, after he says the cop aggressively handcuffed him during a traffic stop, injuring both his shoulders. A federal jury found that Van Dyke and a partner had used excessive force and rewarded Nance $350,000 in damages. But IPRA said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Nance’s claims. Both officers were cleared of all the allegations.

“They looked like, OK, so what, go (back) to work,” Nance told the Tribune. “They was back on the street like nothing ever happened.”

Nance, a cable company employee with no criminal record, underwent two shoulder surgeries and began taking anxiety medication after the incident. Though he eventually recovered, the news about the shooting brought back Nance’s memories of the encounter with Van Dyke.

“It makes me feel like it could have been me,” he told the Tribune.

Daniel Herbert, Van Dyke’s attorney, said his client shot McDonald in self-defense. Prosecutors and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) thought otherwise.

“We hold our police officers to a high standards and obviously in this case Jason Van Dyke violated … basic moral standards that bind our community together,” Emanuel said at a news conference announcing the release of dash-cam video of McDonald’s shooting.

After a judge ordered the release of the video last week, Cook County chief prosecutor Anita Alvarez said she moved up the filing of the first degree murder charge to come out the same day, just hours before the video was made public.

“With release of this video it’s really important for public safety that the citizens of Chicago know that this officer is being held responsible for his actions,” she said.

Van Dyke’s case marks the first time in more than three decades that a Chicago police officer has been charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.

Coddle Me Swaddle Me

Today I was in a school that had a local school oriented theatre group performing a play about bullying and particularly using the internet and social media to cyberbully a student.

Prior to the performance I was to go over the bullying rules of the school and was suggested to look at Ted Talk on the subject of internet as a a permanent marker equivalent to a tattoo. It was incredibly boring and utterly uninteresting to middle schoolers where this was to take place. I canned the film and discussed how my job is akin to being bullied on a daily basis.

They were half listening half not. I finally after an hour of attempts to corral them into a discussion on the subject had given up to allow them some down time prior as a way of possibly shutting them up; however, it seemed to only escalate to them acting as if they were in a casino screaming at the top of their lungs. I lost it and yelled angrily about how this concerned me enough that I did not feel comfortable taking them as this would only reflect on me. It always does with kids and subs and is as if they were perfect angels but just our body odor turns them into lunatics when in reality everyone knows kids for some inherent reason feel obligated to behave as such. The training for this begins early and could end early but in reality the Teachers lack of enforcement and training with regards to this are largely the problem as well.

So my concerns were justified and thankfully unfulfilled as the play and the kids went on without any further ado. The subject was pertinent and of course showed how teasing can turn into abuse and in turn harassment with ease. And the idea that kids seem oblivious to this was the point. I just experienced it and yet people actually cannot believe that children do this effortlessly and thoughtlessly. That is the real problem. The lack of civics, ethics and of course ownership of behavior. That lack of accountability and the ability to blame and excuse has led to what I believe are now being illustrated on the college campuses.

The editorial below has shown what has resulted. I see it repeatedly and refuse to excuse children instead I use the opportunity to educate and inform. Every moment is a teaching moment, that is not to lecture, shout and punish. Just an opportunity to talk and open the door to exchange. Little of that is done and so when I do so I see some kids who respond with earnest interest, others utter frustration and some utter ignorance. It is the last one that concern me the most.

I think this from Martin Luther King, Jr says it best.

For thin-skinned students, we have nobody to blame but ourselves

By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer
The Washington Post
November 24 2015

It would be easy to call protesting college students crybabies and brats for pitching hissy fits over hurt feelings, but this likely would lead to such torrents of tearful tribulation that the nation’s university system would have to shut down for a prolonged period of grief counseling.

Besides, it would be insensitive.

Instead, let me be the first to say: It’s not the students’ fault. These serial tantrums are direct results of our Everybody Gets a Trophy culture and an educational system that, for the most part, no longer teaches a core curriculum, including history, government and the Bill of Rights.

The students simply don’t know any better.

This isn’t necessarily to excuse them. Everyone has a choice whether to ignore a perceived slight — or to form a posse. But as with any problem, it helps to understand its source. The disease, I fear, was auto-induced with the zealous pampering of the American child that began a few decades ago.

The first sign of the epidemic of sensitivity we’re witnessing was when parents and teachers were instructed never to tell Johnny that he’s a “bad boy,” but that he’s “acting” like a bad boy.

Next, Johnny was handed a blue ribbon along with everyone else on the team even though he didn’t deserve one. This had the opposite effect of what was intended. Rather than protecting Johnny’s fragile self-esteem, the prize undermined Johnny’s faith in his own perceptions and judgment. It robbed him of his ability to pick himself up when he fell and to be brave, honest and hardy in the face of adversity.

Self-esteem is earned, not bestowed.

Today’s campuses are overrun with little Johnnys, their female counterparts and their adult enablers. How will we ever find enough fainting couches?

Lest anyone feel slighted so soon, this is also not to diminish the pain of racism (or sexism, ageism, blondism or whatever -ism gets one’s tear ducts moistened). But nothing reported on campuses the past several weeks rises to the level of the coerced resignations of a university chancellor and president.

The affronts that prompted students to demand the resignations include: a possibly off-campus, drive-by racial epithet apparently aimed at the student body president; another racial epithet , hurled by a drunk white student; a swastika drawn with feces in a dorm restroom.

Someone certainly deserves a spanking — or psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud had plenty to say about people who play with the products of their alimentary canal.

But do such events mean that students have been neglected, as protesters have charged? Or that the school tolerates racism?

Concurrent with these episodes of outrage is the recent surge on campuses of “trigger warnings” in syllabuses to alert students to content that might be upsetting, and “safe spaces ” where students can seek refuge when ideas make them uncomfortable. It seems absurd to have to mention that the purpose of higher education is to be challenged, to be exposed to different views and, above all, to be exhilarated by the exercise of free speech — other people’s as well as one’s own.

The marketplace of ideas is not for sissies, in other words. And it would appear that knowledge, the curse of the enlightened, is not for everyone.

The latter is meant to be an observation, but on many college campuses today, it seems to be an operating principle. A recent survey of 1,100 colleges and universities found that only 18 percent require American history or government, where such foundational premises as the First Amendment might be explained and understood.

The survey, by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, assesses schools according to whether they have at least one required course in composition, foreign language at the intermediate level, American government or history, economics, science, mathematics and literature. Coincidentally, the very institutions where students are dominating what passes for debate also scored among the worst: University of Missouri, D; Yale University, C; Dartmouth College, C; and Princeton University, C — all for requiring only one or a few of the subjects. Amherst College scored an F for requiring none of them.

Such is the world we’ve created for young people who soon enough will discover that the world doesn’t much care about their tender feelings. But before such harsh realities knock them off their ponies, we might hope that they redirect their anger. They have every right to despise the coddling culture that ill prepared them for life and an educational system that has failed to teach them what they need to know.

Weep for them — and us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Define Freedom

The histrionics about Sandra Bland's death in a county jail the result of a traffic stop was tragic and like anything her suicide was not painless.  As it opened a Pandora's box of confusion, denial and responsibility.  And that is on both sides of this coin.

Regardless of the color of your skin when you encounter a Police Officer and enter the system you are no longer responsible for the outcome.  You can hire an  Attorney and go broke doing so or have some poor overworked Public Defender appointed who will spend as much time on your case as it takes to jump on and off the treadmill during your first and likely longest encounter the arraignment.  And this does not change even when you pay them. They will leave you and run from courtroom to courtroom to meet and greet their other clients whom they have tried to coordinate their varying appearances to make it convenient for of course the Lawyer.  You are an end to the means.

I read about this poor woman and of course taxpayer paid settlement for abuse by our Police who decided that as they do in all cases - she was guilty not innocent.  This woman is white, mature, well established roots in the community and that had nothing to do with anyone actually investigating and ensuring that justice was served.  Once in you are in for the long con.

Yes the Police are largely prejudiced and biased towards those of color - including black officers as they have been accused and tried of the same crimes of abuse and neglect of defendants, prisoners and victims. It is the profession and the institution that while not a person (well corporations are people why not institutions) cannot in and of itself be racist it can be biased and discriminatory which reflects those within it.  And all of that is learned behavior.   And that is easy to do so when those brought to it in the hands/cuffs of the Police are of color, but if on that odd chance that person is not of color it becomes the same treadmill where the end is largely jail.  In fact always some jail time.  And that is the ending for their reality but for you that is the beginning of a new reality.

So if you survive that and few do.  Many commit suicide during the process and Sandra Bland is sadly one of many.

Here are just stories from Texas where Ms. Bland was incarcerated and you see no protests or demands or ## to demand Justice from a system that provides anything but.

Those are three.  The Waco Tribune did an article about one of their privately operated jails and the death of an inmate that was a result of a suicide.  And of course as those in "law enforcement" do they covered it up.  

At times you wonder why no one asks questions and more importantly demands answers.  Well you do and you find the door shut or in some cases are also arrested.  The reality is that few have the resources and that is not just money it is time.  You have to be relentless to get the information and some of it is just out in the open no FOIA required.   This site is the Bureau of Justice Statistics that records all the deaths of those in Police Custody.  And yet we know that in reality that many are simply loopholes that enable those to cover up, ignore or "mislabel" the cause of death.  

As the year comes to a close it was the UK Guardian that kept the Counted.  It is now over 1000.  But I wonder how many more that died when they finally were released from years of being incarcerated when not guilty - and that is both health/age related as well as suicides.  Try to imagine spending years demanding and begging for help, pleading your innocence and finally some one, anyone gives a shit - does Serial, reads your letter, sees potential for fund raising and of course publicity,  or well actually gives a damn - and you are freed then what? 

For anyone who enters the system of justice know that for many the death penalty is often the reality.  It is sometimes the cure and the solution as opposed to retribution.  And that is by the hands of the inmate as it is the last and final act of control in a life that is no longer your own. 

America as you sit down to your table to thank God for your bountiful feast there is one thing that we always profess about here in America - our freedom. Just that word alone connotes many meanings.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mask Wearers

I read this today next to a desk as I sat in a classroom virtually ignored by the co teacher, whom irony would have have subbed for in the past. "We all wear masks, and the times comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin." I wear a mask every day and it is getting harder with each passing day when one walks into a school and  varying staff members that have shared the classroom with me, ate in the classroom and walked through it to gain access to an adjacent office and not one individual acknowledged me nor spoke to me.    These are professional adults and this is how they treat a "peer" by ignoring me.  And you wonder why people hate Teachers.

And then I read this blog entry from a young girl and I thought it summed up Seattle quite well.

The dominant negative vibration in Seattle is: Annoyed, a state of perpetual irritation.  Seattle is not a friendly city.  In fact, its inhabitants have a reputation for unfriendliness and I’ve yet to see this stereotype contradicted.  This would be a very, very hard place to live for anyone who was trying to stop caring what other people thought of them.  The social judgment in Seattle is palpable.  The vibe between people is “I don’t have any time for you so… what do you want from me? 
In general, people here are highly self-involved and not outgoing.  It would be very hard to make friends here.  It is an unwritten social standard to not look into other people’s eyes and to not smile.  If you do either, people are taken aback and the meaning they add to the experience, causes them to be “creeped out”.  It puts one on edge trying to figure out just how to behave so as to not be perceived in a negative light.  In my opinion, Seattle is the hipster capital of the world.  A subculture of people whom felt misunderstood growing up and who now value counter culture, progressive politics and independent thinking.  This is wonderful in theory, but ironically the hipster culture has become a highly judgmental group that demands conformity to its unique ideals and tastes for acceptance.  I had the opportunity to observe a street party on Capitol Hill yesterday, which brought the hipsters out into the streets in droves.  A part of me felt sad.  I saw a collection of people, who are desperate to be loved for who they are, but who must wear the identity of their urban radical façade just as thick as a southern bell in a cotillion to belong.

I have long said that the migrants who came in here in search of a life forgot to bring one with them. They expected it to be handed to them with the joint and $15/hr that we provide upon entering city lines.

I think this is a MEllinneal thing. Although the group in my room today were a little long in the tooth to fit that but Gen X they were and that is the Glenn Beckheads and others of that collective who seem jealous that they never got the respect they deserve. For what I am unclear? Anger? Income Inequity? Reagan?

But one thing is certain that Seattle is very reflective of that cohort. Angry, paranoid, superficial and aspirational.  And this week a Yoga class was cancelled for its appropriation of the word "yoga" and its cultural history; a Professor on leave for using a "slur" which I am guessing begins with "N" and ends in "er" in context of a larger discussion, not as a superlative directed towards a student; and of course the eradication of Woodrow Wilson from anything in Princeton.  Well University of Virginia be next with its glorification of slave owner and baby daddy of slaves, Thomas Jefferson? What about FDR and his womanizing? And the list can go on.

I am not sure what to make of this. The supposed "disrupters" seem to mimics or again almost all of their big schemes and plans are having private cars and drivers at your disposal - Uber; having a private home at your beck and call - AirBnB; private bus service, having food delivered, having it cooked for you, your house cleaned, a Butler service (I love that one); personal taxis for children; special shoppers and pet loaning, like tools only without the vet bills and actual responsiblilty.

And yes all of those are legitimate businesses and well all of them have long existed in one form or another.  It is lather rinse repeat and ride the unicorn to riches.  What.ever.

I think the last sentence in that young woman's blog post says it all:   people, who are desperate to be loved for who they are, but who must wear the identity of their urban radical façade just as thick as a southern bell in a cotillion to belong.

We are wearing many masks and this belief that you can erase, oppress, bully and intimidate people to conform to your world view is one small world.  When you remove your mask will we see how ugly you really are beneath it?   Perhaps that is the problem, no one wants to be ugly and everyone wants to be liked.  This is what is now diversity - not disagreeing with the status quo.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Who is Sancho Panza?

As two major pharmaceutical companies are on the verge of merging to make a singular near monopoly on drugs while also avoiding taxes, things could not be better for those in the health care industry as it is now time to opt in to get health care if your employer does not provide it.

Just last week in a speech,  Obama pledged to have the Congress that does responds to nothing he says,  to stop the consistent rising of drug prices.  It seems almost as if he is now Quixote just swinging at windmills as his term of office comes to a close in 18 months. And meanwhile Congress is the donkey on which he rides, just asses all of them.   Does that make that idiot Joe Biden Sancho Panza? ***(for the record I am not a Democrat or Republican or that fake Libertarian party)

 The next to rise is of course the health insurance policies that many are required to buy and do so via the state or federal exchanges. And this year the choices may not be as many as thought. United Health is already promising to opt out on exchanges due to loss and of course those that fill the void are often corporate agents of a single insurer. Ask yourself who owns Lifewise, the "non profit" arm of what behemoth? And another story of another family whose care is blowing in the wind.

 Texas family struggles to keep health insurance – and survive cancer 
PPO plans give patients flexibility to choose almost any doctor or hospital but they are an endangered species on the Affordable Care Act’s 2016 exchanges

 US health insurance Tom Dart in Houston Guardian UK Sunday 22 November 2015 07.00 EST 

Dealing with two types of cancer, Linda Moore felt happy to live in Houston, home to one of the country’s top hospitals. Then came a letter from her insurance company earlier this year. “I was quite sure I must not be reading it correctly,” she said. But she was: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas was indeed discontinuing her Preferred Provider Organization plan, meaning that continuing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center is about to become alarmingly expensive.

PPO plans give patients flexibility to choose almost any doctor or hospital without risking major financial penalties for going out-of-network. But they are an endangered species on the Affordable Care Act’s 2016 exchanges. Obamacare premiums and deductibles going up – but it's still better than before Read more There are no PPOs being offered via the federal marketplace in 2016 in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, or in New Jersey and New York.

 An analysis of silver-level Obamacare PPO plans by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted that only a third of this year’s offerings will stay the same in 2016, with many carriers exiting the market, dropping their plans or reducing their availability. UnitedHealth, the country’s largest health insurer, said on Thursday that it is considering leaving the exchanges in 2017 because of what its CEO described as unsustainable losses.

 “I think the carriers have lost money on the exchanges in general but lost money in particular with PPOs and I think the thing that’s been the biggest problem for them is allowing people to have access to out-of-network providers,” said Kathy Hempstead, director of coverage issues at the Foundation.

The bigger the city, of course, the more providers there are. And Hempstead theorized that when the Affordable Care Act was introduced, companies were under pressure to grab a big share of the market so offered attractive plans that have proved unprofitable. “Since the Affordable Care Act began, the market has changed. We found that the individual PPO plan was no longer sustainable at the cost it was being offered. Because we want to make sure that our plans are affordable, we decided to not offer individual PPO plans in 2016,”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas said on its website. The company says it has case management programs to help with the transition to Health Maintenance Organization plans. These typically do not cover out-of-network visits and require non-emergency care to be coordinated through a primary care physician. “For a lot of people it’s not going to matter that much,” said Hempstead, adding that most customers care more about price than choice.

However, she said: “For some people it’s going to be a problem.” For many, changing plans will bring little more than inconvenience and perhaps an obligation to find a new doctor. But for families with complex needs, the loss of a PPO presents an agonising choice: risk financial hardship or settle for potentially inferior care. Moore was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent a double mastectomy. Earlier this year she discovered she had thyroid cancer and had half her thyroid removed.

 She requires regular check-ups and wants to continue going to MD Anderson, but the replacement plan she has found with a local healthcare system, her sole PPO option, would cover only 50% of the costs. “It will add up quickly,” she said. Moore’s form of breast cancer, triple negative, is hard to treat if it recurs. She would feel more confident about the quality of her care at MD Anderson, the nation’s top-ranked cancer hospital according to US News & World Report.

“They are going to be the ones who are most likely to know of some innovative thing,” she said. Moore and her husband, Ricky, together pay $1,500 a month for their soon-defunct plan, which will rise to $1,600 for the new, more restrictive, scheme. Photograph: Linda Moore Moore and her husband, Ricky, together pay $1,500 a month for their soon-defunct plan, which will rise to $1,600 for the new, more restrictive, scheme.

 It will be about $400 a month to cover their daughter, Sarah, who goes to MD Anderson because she has atypical moles, a risk factor for melanoma. Linda Moore, 56, gave up her job as a teacher to care for Sarah, who has a string of serious health problems and is aged 25 but functions like an 18-month old. In 2012, Ricky had to quit his career as a construction manager when he developed a blood clot. That meant the 54-year-old lost his health insurance and the family had to turn to the federal exchange.

 The family are clients of Jason Bohmann, a broker with Texas Health Design. He said he receives three or four calls a day from people wondering how to handle the loss of their PPO. “There’s a lot of fear out there,” he said, adding that the price of HMOs is rising. “In 2016 you’re going to pay exactly the same for an inferior network that may have 40% or 30% of the doctors you had last year,” he said. “More inconvenience, less choice, all for the same money. Doesn’t sound like a good deal.”

For Linda Moore, one of the jewels of the largest medical complex in the world is suddenly so near yet so far. “[I was] needing the innovation of MD Anderson, always being grateful that I happen to live in the town where MD Anderson is, and now like so many people who live in the town I’m not going to be able to go to the place unless I really want to dip into my savings, cash out my 401(k), that kind of thing,” she said. “I could always go to an in-network oncologist and maybe things will go well; I don’t know.”

Instinctively risk-averse, for the first time in her life she is considering going without coverage to avoid having to dip into her retirement savings to cover regular healthcare costs. In other words, gambling that she will not fall seriously ill again.

“Just don’t go the doctor. Don’t do those preventative care visits that probably helped me find out I had breast cancer and thyroid cancer early on. Just don’t find out and don’t get it fixed,” she said.

“Which is ludicrous but at this point what do you do? It becomes insanely expensive, it’s a whole different ball game from what it used to be.”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Don't Lead, Teach.

Another absurd discipline action regarding a Teacher.   And this over a student's demonstration and informational talk.  So allowing a student free speech and an opportunity to educate and inform her fellow students is wrong.

Teacher suspended over condom demonstration to return to classroom
Alex Holloway
The Dispatch
Columbus, Starkville & Golden Triangle
November 20, 2015 3:52:40 PM

A suspended Starkville High School teacher will be returning to the classroom after a district investigation. 
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District suspended Sheree Ferguson after a student reportedly gave a presentation using cucumbers to demonstrate proper condom usage in Ferguson's English class on Nov. 12. 
State law and school district policy forbid discussion condoms or demonstrating how to use them. 
This afternoon, the district released a statement saying Superintendent Lewis Holloway, assistant superintendents Toriano Holloway and Jody Woodrum, and SHS Principal David Baggett determined "appropriate disciplinary action" for the matter. 
"While the condom demonstration that occurred during the presentation is a violation of Mississippi law and school board policy," the release states, "the resulting personnel issues goes beyond that scope to include how the employee involved responded during an inquiry regarding the presentation." 
District spokesperson Nicole Thomas declined to comment on the nature of the disciplinary action, citing a personnel issue. Thomas also could not comment on the length of Ferguson's suspension, but did confirm that she will return to continue teaching.
"We consider the issue resolved and we look forward to the employee returning to the classroom," the release states  
Ferguson's suspension sparked a community outcry. 
A petition, titled "Bring Ms. Ferguson back to Starkville High," gathered more than 2,800 signatures by Friday afternoon. The Dispatch reached out to the petition creators, but has did not receive a response by press time. 
This morning, a group of 30 to 50 students marched at the school in support of Ferguson, changing "Bring Ferg back."
Camryn Dawkins, a junior, said she came up with the idea to protest Ferguson's suspension and worked with SHS senior Tyrese Kelly to get word out to students through the messaging app GroupMe. 
"I was in the class when it happened and I just felt that what was done was perfectly OK, and that's my judgement," Dawson said. "I love Ms. Ferg to death. Ms. Ferg is the best English teacher I've ever had and we just wanted to take a stand as students for what we believe in. Our voice isn't heard enough and we felt like this was something that was dear and close to our hearts."
he petition alleges that a student gave a presentation on sexology for a career talk demonstration in Ferguson's honors English class. The petition further claims that Ferguson had no prior knowledge of the condom demonstration, which wasn't finalized until 10 p.m. the night before.
Four years ago, the state Legislature passed House Bill 999, mandating that schools adopt a sex education policy -- either "abstinence-plus" or "abstinence-only." This was done in response to the state's high rate of teen pregnancy, in which Mississippi ranked second in 2011, and sexually transmitted diseases, where Mississippi had the highest rate of teen chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2012.
SOCSD operates an abstinence-plus sex education policy, which requires boys and girls be separated into different classes when it is discussed or taught and prohibits instruction and demonstration on the application and use of condoms, among other stipulations.
District policy also states schools providing sex education are required to provide a written notice to parents no less than one week before the instruction occurs. 
It is unknown if these policies were met prior to the Starkville High student's presentation.

The message on this again is a dual one.

One: The reality of sex education in public schools is tied to funding.  Teaching "abstinence only" is part of Title I federal funding in which schools that do or in this case do not teach sex education get allotted funds to well ostensibly do nothing.  A waste of taxpayer money and just another example of how the federal government manipulates, extorts and demands states to comply to some odd group of lawmakers personal obsessions or lobbyist to harm education of children.  Clearly it is working as the states that advocate the lack of sex education have the highest teen pregnancies. Which costs more? The kids education on how to prevent pregnancy or a child having a child and the extraneous costs that it encompasses?

Two: The reality of America's obsession with morality and ironically largely in the South which has tinges of racism that is now seen on college campuses with accusation of racism and of course sexual assaults.  And to think this is limited to the South need to look to Yale and Harvard for its role in racism and prejudice.

To think that a child gets to college regardless where they attend is an achievement in today's America. To get to the Ivy League and even greater one. So one would believe that they are examples of the best and brightest with all the tools and  information as well as exposure to all kinds of lives, people and cultures. Apparently not.  So by the time a child gets to college there should be less ignorance and oblivion on how to treat people and be open to new ideas and opportunities to learn and be exposed to things that may be new, challenging and even "threatening."  But no we cannot have that. Our coddled swaddled helicoptered youth cannot have anything that "threatens" their world view.  So they must oppress, protest and find a safe space to withdraw and hide from those things that scare, embarrass or anger you.   They are in conflict with themselves and the very values they claim to support.

Do I think anything of lasting value will come from the current crop of student protests? No this is the new Occupy Wall Street.  There will be some pandering and some type of minor resolution and then by the time the next crop of rotating student's arrive it will be back to square one or in this case zero. But t

 No we won't have a building named after a racist but they are dead so why do you care so much about a dead man when you have people alive who are getting third rate education that will never even allow them to get to the same grounds you now camp on.   And the same person you share a classroom with is the same person that is your adversary.  How healthy is that when you cannot speak or exchange ideas even those repugnant to further understand and learn and even perhaps change hearts and minds by being a leader and a teacher.  It all goes back to Teaching and the idea that we all can share that role but the constant demeaning and degrading of the Profession in the K-12 field to the post secondary one is the most informative one.  We don't want to learn, we want to be protected, lead and guided by those whom we deign appropriate and anyone else is SOL.   We have produced a generation of adult children.  I look to the model of that prototype, Jimmy Fallon, and that is what America admires  - a bland white man child.  And yes he is funny but he has writers who assist with than endeavor and irony one is his sister yet we never see her front and center.  This is the new America, the bland and the faux belief in color blindness and gender neutrality.  That is fantasy.  We need to realize that our strength comes from our differences.

 It starts earlier, and when the funding of education is tied to extraneous stupid shit like teacher evaluations tied to testing, sex education tied to abstinence only, tied to how many kids are on free lunch, schools with better PTSA and private sources of money to enable the school in the same city but located in a better neighborhood to provide Teachers, equipment and field trips, you have what we thought we resolved with Brown vs the Board of Education.    It appears that no, no we didn't.

So we find the front man.  And unless the radical "extreme" wants to make changes that are lasting and real, get leaders who represent the America you aspire to have.  I don't think there is anyone up for the challenge, frankly they are too afraid.   Look to America's Teachers.. they are leaving in droves, ask yourself why?