When a writer as profoundly able as Plante pens a lament for his lost companion, the result is a fierce encapsulation of grief, the fundamentally private wrought wrenchingly public. This sublime remembrance - more a compilation of memory fragments than a linear life story - evokes a whole man (in truth, two whole men).
Public hospitals have a bad rap. They're viewed by many as hospitals of last resort, and most patients with private insurance do anything to avoid them.
As a long-time physician in a public hospital, I'm sensitive to this reputation. I wouldn't work in my hospital if I didn't feel that it delivered excellent health care. I'm certainly aware that private hospitals have amenities that public hospitals can't afford, but many of these are cosmetic issues.
On the cosmetic side, though, public hospitals have come a long way. Bellevue Hospital, where I work, has built a gorgeous ambulatory care building, complete with a soaring atrium that floods the waiting areas with sun and space. The ICUs and emergency wards have been renovated to enviable standards.
But beyond cosmetics, there is an extremely dedicated staff who is committed to providing high-quality care, despite the many financial and logistic challenges that public hospitals face.
Several Beacon Press books have made it onto Holiday gift-giving lists. Here's a quick look at a handful of them. You can get 20% off any of these titles, or any other Beacon Press book, at the Beacon Press website by entering the code BROADSIDE at checkout. This discount is good until January 4, 2010.
Telling the story of how a depleted Wisconsin corn farm was transformed into a diverse, self-sustaining ecosystem, the ecologist offers a real-life example of how humans might begin to heal a ravaged planet.
[It] was a great read for me-- one of the last unmarried, childless, petless lesbians this side of the Mississippi, who is constantly asked, “Sowhenyagettinmarried?” Polikoff writes a helpful critique of the same-sex marriage movement. After a nifty summary of legal history in marriage and social movements, she argues for greater forms of family diversity and presents concrete proposals to shift legal priorities to individuals, whether in or out of relationships.
In On Private Property, Freyfogle implores the reader to accept and appreciate the complexity of property rights and put away "the simple story about individual landowners pitted against big government."
In this touching, inspiring memoir of her bi-partisan marriage to a conservative Oakland police officer, Raday, a Berkeley peace activist, shows us how difference can strengthen a marriage, and how mutual respect and open communication are keys to making any relationship thrive. A sweet, engaging story!
"We are either going to spend the money now and provide the services that our children require or we are going to pay a big price at a later date when these children are part of the adult criminal justice system."
That's how Judge Edwina Richardson Mendelson, a New York family court judge, put it to NBC New York, commenting on a story about the need to help kids mired in the juvenile justice system.
Certainly other experts would agree. The lack of damage control for harm already done to these children along with the damage the juvenile justice system inflicts on them can only make things worse for our society as time goes on.
But as sound as that reasoning is both from an economic point of view as well as a humane one, treatment and care for troubled young people doesn't happen much in this country. We spend more money locking kids up, punishing them-- in many cases for the failures of their fathers and their mothers, their neighborhoods and their communities, their churches and their schools--than getting them the help they need to pull themselves up out of the sinkhole of the streets.
Recently I was watching ESPN's Sportcenter Live when producers of the show interrupted the program with a breaking news report. Minutes earlier, Tiger Woods, the world's most famous athlete, used his website to post a public apology to his wife and kids and combat the rumors that were rapidly spreading about his private life. With the stroke of a keyboard Tiger used his website to, at least momentarily, reframe the press coverage about his recent troubles.
ESPN was not the only news outlet that immediately reported on the statement. Several other major news media organizations ran front page stories on their websites, too. What really caught my eye was the fact that each of the stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times used one source for their initial reporting-- Tiger Woods.
After observing how Team Tiger was able to spin the news reporting I began to think about how social media is transforming the culture of sports. A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with Eddie Matz, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Eddie was writing a piece on professional athletes' use of social media platforms like Twitter.
Shortly before my chat with Eddie former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson found himself in serious trouble and, eventually (albeit briefly), out of a job after he used a gay slur in a Twitter post. The firestorm that confronted Johnson was yet another reminder of how the sportsworld, like virtually every other institution in America, has been forced to grapple with the spread of social media. As a generation of athletes accustomed to social media and the "always on" norms of digital media culture enter pro sports the executives of billion dollars sports franchises have been forced to upgrade their knowledge about social media. In many NFL training camps this summer several teams instituted a no-social media policy out of fear that team secrets, strategy, and practices could be openly shared. In September the NFL established a formal policy regarding the use social media by players.
Eddie asked me what I thought about the use of social media by pro athletes. We talked about several things but here are six ways in which social media is changing the business and culture of professional sports.
OAKLAND, CA -- Cesar Cota was the first in his family to attend college. "Now it's hard to achieve my dream," he says, "because the state put higher fees on us, and cut services and classes." Cota, a student at LA City College, was encouraged by the internship program of the LA College Faculty Guild to describe the human cost of budget cuts in he community college system.
David Robinson, who's worked since he was 14, hoped he'd get automotive mechanic training, and a good job at the end of it. "But by cutting these programs and raising fees," he says, "you're cutting opportunity for a lot of people who need it."
Another endangered student is Tina Vinaja, a mother of three teenagers whose husband took a weekend job to help pay her tuition hikes. Monica Mejia, a single mom, wants to get out of the low-wage trap. "Without community college," she says, "I'll end up getting paid minimum wage. I can't afford the fee hikes. I can barely make ends meet now."
LA City College even suspended its sports programs for a year. The school had a legendary basketball program that gave low-income students a pathway out of poverty. JaQay Carlyle says City College basketball sent him to UC Davis and on to law school.
Embedded below is a CBS story about the film, based on Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which premieres this Sunday on the History Channel. If it doesn't appear, view the video on YouTube.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We turned for comment on the President's lecture to Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Berry is the co-editor (with former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer) of a forthcoming Beacon Press book about the speeches of Barack Obama.
The Nobel Lecture was an admixture of persuasive rhetoric and soaring phrases, reminiscent of the campaign, and the more staid, measured cadences of his speeches during the presidency. At the beginning, he gave the usual nod to New England antislavery minister Theodore Parker, as quoted by Martin Luther King, to bending history toward justice. As befits a war President, about half the speech was about war. Even more space was devoted to war, if one counts the peace discussion, which was mostly about avoiding the need for war.
The president, further rid himself of any need to apologize for accepting the Peace prize while accelerating War, by noting that Norway is one of the nations engaged in Afghanistan.
There were many obvious shadings and omissions. He directly embraced the protestors in Iran and fighters for human rights around the world. Darfur and Congo received a mention but the humanitarian crises proceed as severely there or more than when he was inaugurated. Also, his praise for political participation ignored the United States support for the coup and ejection of a democratically elected president in Honduras, which makes one wonder whether to expect coups elsewhere in Latin America.
Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech December 10, 2009 (Part 1 of 4)
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed alarm about the dangerous concentration of wealth and power in the U.S., and called on the incoming 60th Congress to establish a federal estate tax on large fortunes. Its primary objective, Roosevelt said, “should be to put a constantly increasing burden on the inheritance of those swollen fortunes which it is certainly of no benefit to this country to perpetuate."
One hundred years later, after a 12-year assault, the federal estate tax is here to stay. The anti-tax organizations and wealthy families that spent millions in lobbying funds to avoid paying billions in taxes have conceded they don't have the congressional votes to abolish the tax. But that doesn't mean they'll stop trying to erode it.
In fact, Congress must act in the next month to discourage a year of mysterious deaths in affluent households and prevent further deterioration of the nation's fiscal situation. Bush-era tax cuts suspended the estate tax in its entirety for the year 2010, creating a bizarre incentive for wealthy people to prematurely die. Then, in 2011, the estate tax reverts back to its 2001 rules. A one-year patch is needed-- if not permanent reform-- to avert this fiscally and morally problematic scenario.
Publishers Weekly highlights The King Legacy series, a new partnership between Beacon Press and the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr. The series launches next month with the publication of Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. You can read more about the series on the Beacon Press website.
"A great irony of life on the computer screen," Watkins writes in his introduction, "is the fact that we usually go online alone but often with the intent of communicating with other people. Among the teens and young adults that we talk to, time spent in front of a computer screen is rarely, if ever, considered time spent alone." Social media, Watkins asserts, is an interim mode of communication and a means to coordinate future face-to-face interactions, not a substitute for human interaction, as was argued in the past.
Mr. 20 Prospect, a resident of the Rust-Belt town of Batavia, New York, found a lot to relate to in Hollowing Out the Middle, as he has seen his own hometown decline over the years. His post about the history of Batavia is accompanied by a series of enlightening photos.
If you are one of the small town Diaspora who left never to return, or someone who left but boomeranged back, it is a very revealing read. Not only do they highlight the demographic, and economic trends effecting rural America, they also catch the subtle undercurrents of class that play a large role in determining the opportunities and futures of the young inhabitants. At times it is also a painful book, pointing out the paradoxes that exist, and how small towns have hastened their own demise, by investing so much of their limited resources in developing their “best and brightest” and encouraging them to leave the community behind. The result is what Patrick Deneen has called the “strip mining” of young adults from rural areas, to feed the coastal, and Midwestern, urban population centers.
It seems but a few evenings ago when the soft calming chirp of crickets gave measure to the warm breeze. That was early September. Now, in late November, only strong, cold winds blow across Stone Prairie Farm. And the crickets are burrowed in for winter and silent.
In the prairie, summer's gently swaying mass of vegetation is now being shaken and snapped back and forth by the wind. That green, growing plant life is replaced by columns of reddish tan prairie grasses that loom skyward ten to fifteen feet. Sounds are like that of a giant threshing machine; the swishing of grass stems beating against others, with each breath of the wind.
Every year around this time, I wonder where summer went. Why is it almost winter again, seemingly so soon? I haven't harvested honey, and the garden beds still need their warming blanket of straw mulch. Remaining crops also need harvest.
"Well, it looks like the reinforcements have arrived!" a beaming Diane DeGette, congresswoman from Colorado, and a key leader of the abortion rights forces in Congress, recently told a spirited crowd overflowing a Senate auditorium. The prochoice movement was admittedly caught off-guard by the last minute passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the House health care bill, a measure which would have the effect of massively restricting abortion coverage by insurance plans, even private ones (links to pdf).
But now a rejuvenated movement got its act together and brought approximately 1000 supporters to Capitol Hill for a day of serious lobbying.
The day was full of fiery speeches by legislators and advocates, and visits to thank supportive politicians and to educate/cajole undecided ones. The preponderance of younger women (and some men) in the crowd was deeply heartening to the old-timers. Like many political gatherings at moments of heightened stakes, the event had an almost festive air, as veterans of past campaigns greeted each other, and as strangers from the same states quickly bonded and formed groups to lobby their state's representatives together.
For this correspondent, however, the most moving and significant part of the day was my conversation with three women who had later abortions. They were introduced to me by staff from the National Abortion Federation. All three women-- Dana, Christie, and Mary-- had experienced much wanted pregnancies that took nightmarish turns. Dana found out at 28 weeks of pregnancy that the brain of her baby (and for women carrying much desired pregnancies, "baby" rather than "fetus" is the term typically used) was missing the crucial band of tissue that connected the right and left hemispheres (agenesis of the corpus callosum in medical terms). This and other brain-related anomalies meant that her child, if carried to term, would suffer repeated seizures, and be unable to suck, swallow, feed, walk, talk, or know his or her environment. Dana and her husband saw no alternative to having an abortion-- for the sake of her two year old son, for the sake of their marriage-- but most of all for the baby they already called "Lil W." "When I felt him kick before the diagnosis, I thought 'great'! When I felt him kick after I got the diagnosis, I knew he was having seizures."
Oher isn't that difficult to spot. Not at 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds. But, apparently, the place I am least likely to see him around town is at the neighborhood Cineplex going to see "The Blind Side," the movie about his remarkable rise from the mean streets of Memphis to stardom in the National Football League. Oher doesn't seem that interested. He passed on the gala premier in New York a few weeks back, thus missing a chance to hob nob with the movie's stars Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. A few days ago, when the Baltimore Sun asked, he still hadn't seen the film.
I can appreciate Oher's ambivalence. At least, I think I can. On the one hand, his life is a testament to the power of resolve, love and, above all, serendipity. I'm amazed by it. And after three decades as a sports journalist, I thought I was just about amaze-proof.
organization, based in Chicago,
encourages young people of different religions to perform community service,
explore common values and build bridges among diverse faiths. The organization
is now active on about 75 college campuses.
extremists all over the world are harnessing adolescent angst for their own
ends," said Susan Garrett, a religion professor who directs the award.
"Patel urges us to take advantage of the short window of time in a young
person's life to teach the universal values of cooperation, compassion and
Patel was born in India
to a Muslim family and immigrated to Chicago
as a child. As a teenager, he struggled with what he saw as a lack of religious
pluralism in America.
His experiences prompted him to launch a movement to build interfaith cooperation
by inspiring college students to champion the cause.
Interfaith Youth Core in 1998.
Scholar, he is now a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on
Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Religious Advisory Committee of
the Council on Foreign Relations. In October, U.S. News & World Report
named him one of America's
Best Leaders in 2009.
Grawemeyer Awards are five annual $200,000 prizes given in the fields of music,
political science, psychology, education, and religion. They were founded by H.
Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place. The University of Louisville
and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary jointly award the religion prize.
about the award and see winners in other categories at its website: www.grawemeyer.org.
Murderer at Fort Hood
I'm writing from Toronto, where last night I
gave a plenary address on Muslim-Jewish cooperation to the Biennial conference
of the Union for Reform Judaism. Backstage
after the address, my friend Rabbi David Saperstein gave me a grim look and
said, "The shooter had a Muslim name." Read
Interfaith Solidarity During Ramadan
Brian McLaren, the great Christian writer and activist, called me up a few
weeks ago with a remarkable request: Would I be his fasting partner during
Ramadan? He explained to me that there was a long-held Christian tradition of
fasting, although it is not practiced much in contemporary Christian
communities. Brian's goal was to live more fully into that Christian tradition
during Ramadan, while also feeling solidarity with Muslim communities. Read
In March 2007, the nonprofit Disability Law Center sued the state of Massachusetts over its treatment of hundreds of mentally ill inmates. Prisoners with emotional problems who are unruly in some way are kept in 23 hour solitary confinement, which, according to a November 10 Boston Globe article, has "led to self-mutilations, swallowing of razor blades, and numerous suicides."
In response to these grave concerns the Patrick administration, in an out-of-court negotiation, proposed building special treatment units for mentally disturbed inmates. Now, that proposal is off the table; citing the budget crisis, those units will not be built. So it's back to court in an effort to force the state to give its incarcerated citizens their constitutional protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."
Massachusetts isn't alone in facing the problem of caring for mentally ill inmates. Every state has had to confront this growing trend which started in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1980s, when the system of large state psychiatric hospitals was shut down even though, as Oliver Sacks states in his bittersweet eulogy to these former mental hospitals ("The Lost Virtues of the Asylum" New York Review of Books, 9-24-2009), it was obvious that these closings created "as many problems as they solved." Communities weren't prepared, and still aren't prepared, to absorb and meet the needs of what he calls "sidewalk psychotics."
With these closings, along with the current "tough on crime" policies, it shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that these same people-- alone, unsupported, often self-medicated with drugs and alcohol-- increasingly end up behind bars, despite the fact that jails aren't set up to help people deal with emotional problems, problems that confuse their judgments and impel them to destructive actions
No doubt these are hard choices in hard economic times for any state. Yet, once again, as municipalities struggle to come up with innovative ways to deal with the money crunch, the one formula that never gets recalibrated is that the people with the greatest need and the least resources take the biggest hit.