Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A cheer for the new guys

I just looked at the summary of the the Obama administration's disabilities plan. Autism is the only disability that is singled out for special attention. I suppose that's a good thing.


"We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination.... policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities."

-- Barack Obama, April 11, 2008

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a comprehensive agenda to empower individuals with disabilities in order to equalize opportunities for all Americans.

In addition to reclaiming America's global leadership on this issue by becoming a signatory to -- and having the Senate ratify -- the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the plan has four parts, designed to provide lifelong support and resources to Americans with disabilities. They are as follows:

First, provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed by funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, supporting early intervention for children with disabilities and universal screening, improving college opportunities for high school graduates with disabilities, and making college more affordable. Obama and Biden will also authorize a comprehensive study of students with disabilities and issues relating to transition to work and higher education.

Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity by restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, increasing funding for enforcement, supporting the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, ensuring affordable, accessible health care for all and improving mental health care.

Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities by effectively implementing regulations that require the federal government and its contractors to employ people with disabilities, providing private-sector employers with resources to accommodate employees with disabilities, and encouraging those employers to use existing tax benefits to hire more workers with disabilities and supporting small businesses owned by people with disabilities.

And fourth, support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities by enforcing the Community Choice Act, which would allow Americans with significant disabilities the choice of living in their community rather than having to live in a nursing home or other institution, creating a voluntary, budget-neutral national insurance program to help adults who have or develop functional disabilities to remain independent and in their communities, and streamline the Social Security approval process .


President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to supporting Americans with Autism Spectrum Disorders (“ASD”), their families, and their communities. There are a few key elements to their support, which are as follows:

First, President Obama and Vice President Biden support increased funding for autism research, treatment, screenings, public awareness, and support services. There must be research of the treatments for, and the causes of, ASD.

Second, President Obama and Vice President Biden support improving life-long services for people with ASD for treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD.

Third, President Obama and Vice President Biden support funding the Combating Autism Act and working with Congress, parents and ASD experts to determine how to further improve federal and state programs for ASD.

Fourth, President Obama and Vice President Biden support universal screening of all infants and re-screening for all two-year-olds, the age at which some conditions, including ASD, begin to appear. These screenings will be safe and secure, and available for every American that wants them. Screening is essential so that disabilities can be identified early enough for those children and families to get the supports and services they need.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bizarro in Belgium

I was in an odd mood over the weekend, so I watched the weird, darkly comic In Bruges. The movie is about two Irish, London-based hitmen who are sent to Bruges to hide out and await further instructions. The mood is deceptively light at the outset, as Colin Farrell's character grudgingly follows Brendan Gleeson's character on a tour of a well preserved medieval city. The mood darkens when Farrell's character simultaneously unravels and falls in love. Farrell's undoing has to do with the consequences of his actions in a killing organization that has a moral code. Thus, the film ends as a sort of Catholic morality tale.

Astonishingly, Colin Farrell's acting holds this movie together. He is, by turn, witty, brutal, and vulnerable. He has a knack for comedy that I'd not seen before. Also, the guy can act when he wants to. Keep in mind that the characters in the movie are Irish, and they swear in an Irish fashion. The film may drop as many f-bombs as Scarface.. My impression from years of cussing and observing the cussing of others is that the f-bomb in Ireland is roughly equivalent to "damn" in the U.S. in terms of social acceptability. Whatever. I liked this bizarre, quirky film.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rough Birthday

T's 12th birthday was last week. He surprised us by singing all four lines of "Happy Birthday" to us. He picked up a copy of Kung Fu Panda during his last visit home, so we got him a panda cake. It was a hit.

We played games at Chuck E Cheese, as well as the usual beanie crane in the WalMart foyer. T was as interested in the mechanical dancing mouse as he was in the games, but he was terrified of the faux rodent when I took him up to it.

T's obsessive compulsive behaviors have increased sharply, and his ability to self-regulate has decreased proportionately. The newest obsession is La Quinta hotels, based on an ad on the back of Rand McNally. He loves the logo of the Sun, and he demands "Sun, please" whenever we pass a La Quinta. Alas, there is a new LQ close to the house and, worse, next to WalMart. The LQ thing has combined with his ongoing obsessions with elevators, airplanes, and McDonald's French fries. T's tantrums when his obsessions were not indulged were pretty bad, and it was deeply saddening to observe. I'm really not sure exactly how to address these issues--I'm not crazy about upping his meds, and I don't know that a nazi behaviorist crackdown would have much effect--not to mention that I'm constitutionally incapable of such a thing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Scary Fire

Shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday, DW yelled that there was a fire I needed to come out and take a look at. Sure enough, there were flames roaring about 25 feet or so back in the woods from our fence. By the time I got our garden hose stretched out to attempt to drench our fence, I noticed that the north wind had driven the flames much closer and that the tops of the trees next door were engulfed in flames. A commander from the St. Tammany FD was already parked in front of our house by the time we ran from the house. A fire engine appeared shortly thereafter, followed later by three more. The firefighters were able to get the flames under control before any houses were damaged, but, damn, it was a close call.

My back fence.

The next-door neighbors had the worst damage on the street; evidently some of their vinyl siding melted.

We were reassured by the sight of this truck parked in front of our house (in the background) when we ran outside.

I went out in the smoky haze this morning and noticed how far into the yard the flames actually spread. My back yard is dinky, and the house juts back into it, so the black spot in the grass isn't terribly far from our back bedroom.

It's still hazy on my block. We need a strong wind or a heavy rain to get rid of the smoke.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Arrested for Aspergers? WTF?

An 8-year-old girl in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with Asperger's Syndrome was arrested and taken to juvie after acting out when her teachers would not allow her to wear a cow costume to a party. Yes, they jailed a kid over an effing cow costume! If I were her dad, I would go and bite those teachers myself.

New Age President?

Dreams from My Father Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Early in the presidential campaign, I read Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope," which made me like the guy as a potential POTUS. That book contains discussions of policy that are conventionally liberal in tone, but that touches "third rail" issues like faith and race in ways that suggest Obama is more open and thoughtful than the average politician, liberal or conservative.

"Dreams from My Father," first published in 1995, gives us great insight into Barack Obama as a person. The book is about race and inheritance, and it takes Obama from his upbringing in Hawaii (the least race-conscious state in the U.S.) with his white mother and grandparents, through his growing consciousness about race and his discovery of what it means to be black in America, through his community organizer days in Chicago, and to his first trip to Kenya and meetings with his father's African family.

Obama has the perspective of an outsider/insider on the African-American community. He was raised to be proud of his black roots--his grandparents were very open about race for people of their generation--but he had to study black history and associate with other African-Americans before he could really understand black America and become a part of it. It is, perhaps, from this experience of observation and study that Obama developed keen senses of detachment and insight. This guy had more self-awareness at age 33 than most of us can hope to gain in a lifetime--though I have to wonder whether a small child would have the feelings and insights that Obama attributes to his much younger self. Obama also appears to have keen insight into other people and their circumstances. Whether these traits will serve him well as POTUS remains to be seen, but a self-aware President is something we really haven't seen at all in the United States since, perhaps, FDR and Harry Truman.

Obama's absent father--an intellectually brilliant Kenyan civil servant--was built into a legendary figure by his mother's family. Obama as a child felt something of a burden to live up to his father's legend. His Kenyan half-sister Auma shattered the illusion of Barack Senior when she visited Obama in Chicago after their father's death. Obama writes that he would have laughed out loud after discovering that his father wasn't all he was cracked up to be. Now, I know from my own experience that most, if not all, men have a moment when they come to that kind of realization about their fathers--even if it is just the simple realization that our dads are humans and make human mistakes within a reasonable margin of error. But most of us are fortunate enough that our fathers are around to show us their flaws and foibles, and we don't know our fathers only from legends with which we are indoctrinated.

One theme throughout the book is the relationship of people to power. Obama's Indonesian stepfather had his independent spirit beaten out of him by the government of Indonesia; Obama observed political power on a micro level on the South Side of Chicago; and Obama's father simply failed to understand that power in Kenya was derived from connections to that country's then president-for-life, Jomo Kenyatta. According to Obama, it was in Indonesia that his mother had an insight about her then-husband and his relationship to power, and she packed Barack back to Hawaii when she feared that he, too, would be ground under by the powers that be in Indonesia. Obama's insights into the relationship of people to political power should serve him well as President, if only to help him understand and shape his behavior as the most powerful political figure on the planet-and to keep the reigns on the powerful personalities he has placed in powerful positions.

This is one of the best memoirs from a political figure I've ever read, perhaps because it was written before Barack Obama became a political figure. Whether the detachment and insight that are apparent in the book are useful traits in the Obama presidency remain to be seen.

View all my reviews.

A Disappointed Man

Jon Stewart's definitions of "disappointment" appear to differ from the President's.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Danger, danger! It's the President of the United States!

I made some comments about autism policy on change.gov, the incoming administration's super-cool interactive website (even people who don't like Obama should look at the site; it's like they took meetup, twitter, and blogger and applied them to national policy issues). Anyhow, now I'm on John Podesta's e-mail list. I noticed this today in my hotmail header:

Video: The President-elect's plan‏
From: John D. Podesta, Obama-Biden Transition Project (info@change.gov)
This message may be dangerous. Learn more
Sent: Mon 1/12/09 4:51 PM

Does somebody at Microsoft not like Obama?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My New Addiction

I still pretty much suck at it, but this game has dominated the past few evenings. I operate the controller and DW watches intently, looking for things I may be missing. I figure since we have a PS3, I might as well use it for its intended purpose instead of only playing DVDs on it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year and Hoodie of the Apocalypse

Anno domini 2009 found your humble correspondent with a very nasty sinus infection that very neary slipped into pneumonia. I am somewhat better now, but it's unusual that all the antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, and antibiotics I've taken the past couple of weeks haven't killed the infection. I've bombed this sucker with every medication I can get ahold of, yet it persists.

I don't know how it slipped my mind, but every year my neighbors on both sides employ enough fireworks on New Years Eve to blow up a hypothetical bunker near, say, the Khyber Pass (note to Presidents Bush and Obama--contact my neighbors to follow up; they're solid patriotic Americans). I was bitchy about the pyrotechnics the other night--I felt like crap and, I'll admit, I've never seen the appeal in blasting off explosives to celebrate the opportunity to pretend that I'm going to make major changes to behaviors rooted deeply in my subconscious mind in order to avoid the consequences of those behaviors or to simply hope that I don't get dragged down by the crushing defeats we all suffer in everyday living and by my own character flaws (and there are some, though I don't care to get into that in a New Years blog)--as my plan was to bring A home on New Years Day, requiring an 8-hour round trip in the car. DW did manage to convince me that putting up with occasional fireworks show is a) a small price to pay for having good neighbors and b) a provision of the implicitly agreed upon Social Compact under which the citizens of the United States coexist one with another. Social Compact notwithstanding, I managed to accidentally set off my car alarm four times between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. on January 1; however, those accidental alarms were kept brief enough to provide plausible deniability in case of an accusation that I was violating the fireworks provision of the Social Compact.

We usually take A a new ballcap when we visit him or bring him home. This time I took him one that I purchased at Walgreens. He chose to wear a New York Yankees hat on our outings in Slidell, so what do I know?

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

--Revelations 6:7-8.

So A and I go to Walmart on the evening of New Years Day. It's colder than I expected, and my t-shirt isn't providing sufficient warmth given my head cold. A has his jacket, but I have nothing in the car. I take A into the menswear department and grab the cheapest hoodie I can find in the brief amount of time A will tolerate being inside the retail area of the store. It's got the word word "destruction" emblazoned above a tattoo-like image of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hilarious, and a perfect match for how physically crummy I was feeling at the moment.