bad TV, obits, Police, true crime

A veritable smorgasbord of topics today…

Where do I even start? I kind of hate it when I wake up in the morning with a bunch of different things I want to discuss. I could write multiple posts, and I may very well do that, not that people will read more than one. Or I could try to cover everything in less depth in this one post. Well, I guess I’ll just get started and see where my fingers and brain take me.

First off, I was saddened but not terribly surprised to read about the death of Dustin Diamond, who famously played Screech on Saved By The Bell. Diamond was recently in the news because he’d been admitted to a Florida hospital, having been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I read yesterday that the lung cancer was actually secondary to a different, undisclosed cancer that had metastasized.

Cancer sucks. It can strike with incredible speed and cruelty. We lost our dog, Zane, a week after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. My cousin, Karen, died very quickly after a relapse of cancer. So did another cousin’s spouse, who announced that he had stage four liver cancer in September of last year and was gone by October. I suppose the one kindness that comes out of something like this happening is that the suffering that comes from being so sick is somewhat curtailed.

CNN’s take on Dustin Diamond’s demise.

I never cared much for the Screech character on SBTB. Even though that show was a guilty pleasure for me, it wasn’t the most impressive showcase of anyone’s talents. I read Dustin’s book, Behind the Bell, years ago. I remember I read it because I was writing book reviews on Epinions.com and took great pleasure in reading certain bad books so others wouldn’t have to. I didn’t like the book and distinctly remember getting rid of it right after I reviewed it. I also remember seeing Dustin on Celebrity Fit Club back in 2007, while Bill was deployed to Iraq. I thought he was a massive jerk on that show, although the featured pic today came in handy when some random dick on Facebook asked me for a photo.

That all being said, at 44, Dustin Diamond was much too young to die, and I wouldn’t wish cancer on almost anyone. I think I can understand why Dustin seemed to be such a jerk as he aged out of childhood roles. He probably hated being Screech, the butt of everyone’s jokes. I mean, Saved By The Bell was kind of a shitty show, anyway. The character, Zack Morris (played by Mark Paul Gosselaar) was depicted as “cool”, but he was actually a massive jackass who was constantly looking for ways to screw over other people.

And poor Dustin, who was well paid for his work, was always the one getting dumped on. The writers on that show never let him be “normal”. He was always the one being made into a fool, while the other characters were “cool” and kind of “slumming” by being his friend. I wouldn’t say they really treated the Screech character like a friend. It’s not easy to always be the asshole.

I think having to play Screech would give anyone a complex. He was like a teenaged Weird Al Yankovic, but once that show was done, life got real. I think Dustin never really had a chance to be a normal person during his developmental years, and that probably made it much harder for him when he was an adult. Anyway… he’s out of pain now. I hope he’s in a better place. My good thoughts go out to his friends and loved ones.

Moving on…

Like a lot of other people, I happened to see the videos of the Rochester Police Department handcuffing and pepper spraying a nine year old child who was freaking out during a snowstorm. I certainly think what happened to that child is reprehensible. It looks to me like she was failed by many people, particularly her mom. I watched both body cam videos, which were included in the Washington Post article I linked. In the first one, you see the cop just trying to talk to the girl, who is running away from him. He seems to be trying to keep his cool, but she isn’t respecting his authority.

Then the mom comes out and starts yelling at the girl, using very abusive language which makes me think that things must be especially rough when the cops aren’t around. The girl starts to melt down, screaming. Next thing you know, she’s in handcuffs and the cops are trying to force her into the backseat of police cruiser. She finally gets pepper sprayed by a cop who has just had it with her and seems exasperated and impatient. I guess I can understand why the cop was impatient. It was freezing cold outside, and the girl was not cooperating. But if one of her parents or teachers had sprayed her with pepper spray, there would absolutely be hell to pay.

I’m not totally sure what led up to these events. There was something about the girl saying her mom stabbed her father. Her mom says the blood she saw was her blood, not her dad’s. And she refuses to cooperate with the police because she insists on seeing her dad. In the first video, her mom screams that she has custody and she is HER child and she will carry her ass into the house and deal with whatever’s coming. I felt very sad for that girl… especially when the cop tells her she’s acting like a child and she quite correctly points out that she IS a child!

I was impressed by how articulate and this girl was as she was screaming at the cop. She was also courageous. When I was her age, I know I would not have spoken to a cop the way she did. I would not have thought to demand anything, nor do I think I would have thought to tell the cop that I was a child when he accused me of “acting like a child”. I think I would have been scared out of my wits, not just because of the cop, but because I know my dad would have probably knocked the hell out of me for getting in trouble. Also, she appeared to be quite big for a nine year old. But, I will admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve been around children. Maybe nine year olds aren’t as small or shy as they were in my day.

This really went bad quickly. This is the second of two videos. I recommend watching both. Personally, I think the mother should have been arrested, but I base that only on what I saw in the videos.

Anyway, I hope that girl gets the help she clearly needs. I wish the police hadn’t treated her the way they did, although something did have to be done. I think there should definitely be some reform. However, I also realize that being a police officer isn’t easy. They never know what they’re going to face on any shift. And sadly, people can be very dangerous, even when they’re super young. That doesn’t mean I think she should have been pepper sprayed, though. I think she needs some real, competent, support from someone who knows how to help kids like her. Many people were calling for social workers. Maybe a social worker could have helped, but again, speaking from experience, I will say that just like cops, social workers can be a mixed bag. No matter what, she needs some adults in her life who won’t fail her again.

The final topic I’m kind of inspired to address this morning is one that probably deserves its own post, as well as my undivided attention. Maybe I’ll get to it today. Maybe I won’t. For now, I just hope the weather gets better soon. This gray, cold, depressing rainy shit we have is beyond a drag.

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family, healthcare

Instant karma’s gonna get you… UPDATED

Last night, Bill and I sat at our kitchen table, nervously watching the political headlines. We were sharing a laugh, because the other night, I got a private message from a relative who had commented on a picture I shared of our latest addition, Noyzi, the Balkan pandemic pup. He happened to be standing next to our booze cart when I took the photo and it was visible, so my relative added, “Wow, that’s quite a collection of booze, btw.”

I’m not sure how she expected me to respond to that comment. It’s true that we have a lot of booze on our booze cart, because Bill and I do like our libations. Moreover, my relative knows full well that in our family, there are a lot of drinkers, depressives, Republicans, and conservative Christians. She knows we’re not teetotalers. And how many bottles constitutes “quite a collection”, anyway? Two or three? I’d put them in a closet or a cabinet, but closets and cabinets are pretty rare in Germany unless you purchase them separately. Just having a lot of bottles of alcohol is not necessarily an indication of a problem, especially when a lot of them are still full or unopened, as is the case for us.

So, I decided to respond with a matter-of-fact “Yup. We are lushes.” I suppose if I really had wanted to be funny, I could have added this clip, for good measure. She wisely didn’t respond to my quip. I’m not sure if she was just surprised by my response, or got the message that she needed to mind her own business.

I do love my family, but this is really more me before a family gathering in which politics and religion are discussed.

I certainly don’t mean to make light of alcoholism. It’s not a laughing matter at all, and everyone in our family has been touched by alcoholism, even if most of us drink, anyway. But I think it’s rude to make pointed comments about the contents of a person’s booze cart, unless you’re complimenting it. Besides, a lot of the stuff on that cart is either a mixer or really old… or it’s a really old mixer. We have several bottles of stuff I bought about five years ago that probably need to be tossed, if only so we’ll have more space for stuff we’ll actually consume. In any case, our drinking habits are not really her business, particularly since I know she’s no angel in that department herself. At least neither Bill nor I have never been arrested or had a DUI.

So anyway, we were laughing about my relative’s comment and subsequent radio silence. Then, I decided to look up my cousin, who recently died. This relative who had been chatting with me had missed our cousin’s funeral, which had been posted on YouTube. By the way, I think that’s a great way to do funerals, even when a pandemic isn’t going on. I would not have been able to “attend” the funeral, if it hadn’t been videoed.

I thought the video was taken down, but I eventually found a link to the service and sent it my nosy relative. In the course of looking for the video, I noticed that my cousin had been journaling about her experiences with colon cancer. I decided to read her comments. The longest one was about her initial diagnosis. In her entry, she detailed how she found out that she had cancer. She mentioned that she had been experiencing pain for months, but blew it off. She had thought she was getting an ulcer, but neglected to see a doctor. Why? Because she didn’t have health insurance and was waiting for Medicare to kick in. One night, her body made it very clear to her that she was in serious trouble.

As I read her story, I felt a mixture of compassion, sorrow, empathy, and anger. Because as sad as I was to read about her diagnosis and suffering, I also couldn’t help but remember an “argument” we got into a few years ago on Facebook, when some friends and I were having a discussion about the extortionate prices of prescription drugs in the United States. I had initially written about that argument right after it happened in January 2016, when my cousin was still apparently “healthy”. She’d pissed off a bunch of my friends by lecturing us about how Big Pharma was poisoning people. We all just needed to eat right, exercise, and use essential oils. Then she proudly declared that she refused to get health insurance, opting instead to pay a fine. I thought that was crazy, and said so.

In May of last year, I found out that she’d been diagnosed with cancer and remembered that conversation from 2016 in an updated blog post. I knew that she didn’t agree with getting chemotherapy, since her parents had both had it when they got cancer. I can understand and respect that. I fully agree with people making their own healthcare decisions and living their lives. I also agree that many health conditions could be minimized or eliminated if people took better care of themselves, to the extent of their ability to do so. However, I also think it’s very irresponsible not to have health insurance if you can afford it. Nutrition, exercise, and essential oils will do little for you if you have an accident, a congenital disease or birth defect, or are just plain unlucky. And when you do need to access the healthcare system, as she eventually did, and most of us also will, your bad debt will be passed on to everyone else if you can’t pay your medical bills. And that will make healthcare cost even more across the board.

It’s true that our healthcare system is really screwed up and extremely overpriced. Health insurance is also very expensive. But we have to do something in order to make the necessary changes, and the Affordable Care Act, as screwed up as it is, is at least a step in a direction of some sort. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. I live in a country where healthcare doesn’t bankrupt people. It’s pretty damned nice!

I think if we had lawmakers who were actually concerned about serving the people instead of making names for themselves, lining their pockets, and staying in power, we might be well on our way to healthcare that everyone can access and afford when they need it. I get that conservatives don’t like it when the government taxes them or regulates businesses (which is what healthcare has become), but it’s gotten way out of hand in the United States. There’s a lot of greed in healthcare and it’s causing huge problems, particularly as people are dying of COVID-19 and healthcare providers and systems are being stretched to their limits.

Last night, I read about how my cousin had let her disease go unchecked for at least six months because she didn’t have health insurance and was waiting for Medicare to kick in. The dramatic event that led her to her sick role had occurred in May of 2019, but she’d had Medicare coverage since late October 2018. As of May of 2019, she’d experienced severe abdominal pain for over six months. Still, she’d ignored it, dismissing the pain as a potential ulcer until she was passing bright red blood rectally in the wee hours of the morning.

I’m actually surprised that my cousin agreed with using Medicare, since she was a proud Republican and a Trump supporter, and a lot of Republicans seem to think Medicare is a socialist idea. If she had seen a doctor right when the pain started, would she have survived 2020? Would she have had another Christmas and New Year’s with her family? Would she have made it to her 70s and been there to see her grandchildren come of age? We’ll never know, but I suspect that she would have had a much better quality of life and a more favorable outcome if she’d been able to see, and pay for, a doctor much sooner than she did.

Both of my cousin’s parents died of different forms of cancer. I can understand that she probably feared a diagnosis of cancer even more than most people do. She’d seen her parents go through chemotherapy years ago, and she no doubt knew what that experience would mean for her. But I’m still flabbergasted by what happened in her situation, and she felt entitled to criticize my conversation with friends about the need for reasonably priced prescription drugs and healthcare for Americans. In the end, she turned out to be a bit of a hypocrite who probably could have stayed around a bit longer if she’d had better access to affordable care and availed herself of it in a timely manner. I’m truly sorry that she died, and wish it hadn’t happened the way it did… and I hope she is in a “better place”. She wrote this in that first entry of her journal:

A lot of people who upon hearing the diagnosis “You’ve got cancer” recall being horror stricken, bowled over, in a crisis and while these are words no one ever wants to hear, I simply recall wondering, “Lord, how do you plan to use this?” 

I’m sure if any of my family members read this, they might be offended. But I hope they’ll stop for a second and consider our relative’s words. “Lord, how do you plan to use this”… and realize that perhaps her case is an invitation to re-examine their ideas about politics, particularly regarding healthcare. We all need it, and it ought to be available, accessible, and affordable to everyone. And I wish my cousin had been able to do that for herself and her family, whom I know are all missing her very much.

And… to my other nosy relatives who want to comment on my booze cart, this post should serve as a reminder that I’m not 12 anymore.

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healthcare

Instant karma’s gonna get you…

Remember that old song by John Lennon? I read that he coined the term, “instant karma”. It’s supposed to reference actions taken by a person that cause harm to another that later come back to bite them in the ass. Lennon wrote a great song about it.

Wise words…

Well… what I’m about to describe may not really be “instant karma” per se. I don’t know exactly what I’d call it. You can tell me what you think it is. Here goes…

Last night, for some reason, I randomly decided to check out the Facebook page of one of my first cousins once removed. Her dad is my first cousin, since his mother and my father were siblings. As I was reading my young relative’s social media page, I noticed a post about another cousin… my relative’s aunt, and also my first cousin. I’ll call her Nell, although that’s not her name.

Nell is the eldest of 22 grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family. She’s nineteen years older than I am. For a number of reasons, I don’t feel very close to her. I never have. It’s partly because she’s a lot older than I am and because of that, I never got to know her as well as my older sisters did; but it’s also because we’re very different in terms of how we view the world. Nell is a conservative Republican and very religious. I… am not.

Although I am Facebook friends with Nell’s siblings, none of them follow me, probably because I’m not religious or conservative and I swear a lot. I used to be friends with Nell, but I’m not anymore, for a few reasons. The main one is that I never got the sense that she liked me very much. Nell sings, writes songs, and plays guitar, and I always got the feeling that maybe she resented me for also being a singer. I cuss a lot, drink a lot, and don’t go to church, and it seemed like she disapproved of that. Nell and I don’t agree on a lot of things, particularly regarding politics and religion. It seemed like she’d be “nice” to me in person, but there was always an undercurrent of disapproval. After awhile, that behavior became hurtful to me, so I disassociated with her on Facebook, and I haven’t been “home” to Virginia since 2014, so it’s been awhile since I last spoke to her.

Nell’s niece, who is still one of my Facebook friends, posted that Nell had been undergoing chemotherapy. She recently got her last treatment. I don’t know exactly what kind of cancer she had, but I suspect that it might have been leukemia or something along those lines. There were comments about her platelet counts, and in the pictures, I noticed she had what looked like a port-a-cath in her chest. In some of the pictures, Nell looked a bit wan… pale, tired, and weak.

Suddenly, I remembered a Facebook incident involving her a few years ago. At that time, Nell was in her early 60s, and apparently healthy. On January 30, 2016, I posted this graphic that came from Bernie Sanders’ Facebook page. This was just as the 2016 election year was cranking up.

I commented on Facebook how unfair I think it is that Americans are forced to pay so much for prescription drugs and that our system needs to change…

We were having a good discussion on my Facebook page about drug prices and health insurance, when Nell came along and left the following comment…

So success is defined by having cheap drugs? Those 35 million Americans that take these drugs don’t realize they are dying quicker by taking them than by doing without. We’re enslaved by Big Pharma whether the price is small or great. BTW, I’m a Republican. I am 62 and don’t take any medicine.

I was a bit taken aback by the comment for a couple of reasons. First off, Nell very rarely commented on my Facebook page. I doubt she even followed it much because my views and use of colorful language probably really offended her. She once got upset with me for writing “damn”. And secondly, I honestly didn’t feel like this was a controversial topic. I mean, sure, Americans use a lot of drugs, sometimes for preventable conditions. But plenty of people use drugs for conditions that are beyond their control or because they’ve been in accidents.

I had no idea why my cousin posted her comments about being “enslaved” by Big Pharma.  I don’t really see what that has to do with the fact that necessary drugs are way overpriced.  A lot of people have to take medications, not because they’re looking for a magic pill instead of eating right and exercising, but because they have medical problems beyond their control.  And those drugs are very expensive and, for some people, unaffordable.  This is a huge problem and it needs to be addressed.

Many people can’t afford medications even if they are fortunate enough to be insured. And in 2020, our feckless president is still trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, even in the midst of a global pandemic! Nell was, and probably still is, an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and anyone else who runs on the Republican ticket. I know her brother is, since just the other day, he shared a 2016 era piece that is complimentary of Trump as a person.

The conversation continued, with many of my friends posting “WTF” comments. The people who were commenting weren’t all liberals, either. At least one vociferous poster is very conservative politically, but needed expensive medications when she was pregnant. Fortunately, she qualified for Tricare, so they were fully covered. Another friend suffers from multiple sclerosis and needs to take expensive, life preserving drugs for the rest of her life. She worries what will happen when her husband leaves the Army this year, even though her husband is a very high ranking officer and a lawyer.

Awhile later, Nell came back and posted this…

Don’t mind me, I’m just Jenny’s off the grid organic farmer cousin. I don’t mean to be insensitive to those who really need medicine but there are drug companies and doctors who push all sorts of medicine unnecessarily. For the most part if folks would just take responsibility for their diet 3/4ths of the medicine now prescribed would not be necessary. But Medicine is big business. I live on the edge with no health care and use a lot of essential oils. I would rather pay a penalty than pump $6K a year or more into the healthcare insurance business. Call me crazy.

My response to her was this…

“As a matter of fact, I do think it’s crazy not to have health insurance.  Essential oils don’t do dick for people who have been in catastrophic accidents or are born with congenital diseases.  And if you do end up having to go to the hospital and you rack up a huge bill that you can’t pay, then everyone else has to pay for what you can’t.  That’s one of the main reasons why healthcare costs so much.  Yes, it’s true that Big Pharma is big business, but the fact is, many people need to take drugs through no fault or responsibility of their own.”

As I have mentioned many times, this topic is kind of in my wheelhouse, since if I had not become an Overeducated Housewife, I probably would be dealing with people caught up by this issue on a daily basis. After all, I trained to be a public health social worker. I remember how, back in 2016, I rarely posted about politics and didn’t really care about conservatives vs. liberals. My, how things have changed.

Well… as I was looking at pictures of Nell with her port-a-cath, I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever got health insurance. I wondered how she was paying for the medicine she clearly needed. And I wondered if her essential oils were much help to her when she was diagnosed. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish cancer on anyone at all… certainly not my cousin, whom I do love, even if I don’t always like her. But I do hope she wised up before she vitally needed medical treatment. Too bad the oils and the proper diet didn’t ward off cancer.

After I reminisced about my cousin’s political screed on my page, which upset a lot of my friends, I remembered her comments about the late Brittany Maynard. Remember her? Back in the fall of 2014, she was in the news because she was 29 years old, newly married, and had a brain tumor that was killing her. Rather than let the tumor take her faculties and force her to be a burden to her family, Brittany decided to commit suicide. My cousin had something to say about that, too. First, she posted a link from a popular Christian blogger named Ann Voskamp, who had posted a rebuttal to Brittany’s decision to end her life that was written by Kara Tippetts. Tippetts also had cancer and has since passed away from her illness.

Tippetts, who had stage four breast cancer, was a dedicated Christian and she asserted that by committing suicide, Maynard was robbing her friends and family the opportunity to work through Christ. She wrote:

“Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”

I remember that Nell wrote that she felt “blessed” that she had been able to help take care of her mother during her mother’s last days. Like Brittany Maynard, Nell’s mom, who was my aunt, had an inoperable brain tumor. She received the diagnosis just after Thanksgiving 1993. I remember it because that was the last time I spoke to my aunt. She was an alum of Longwood University (although it was called the State Teacher’s College when she graduated and Longwood College when I graduated). I remember we sat and talked about the school and how much it meant to us. A few weeks later, I heard about her diagnosis. About a year after that, she was gone. I mailed my application to the Peace Corps on my way to Georgia to attend her funeral.

I didn’t know much about how that last year went for my aunt. At the time, I was 22 years old and freshly graduated from college, trying to launch into adulthood. In 2014, when Nell wrote about Brittany Maynard’s brain tumor and how wrong it was for Brittany to make the call as to when she’d be exiting her life, she insinuated that the last year was pretty bad. But Nell wrote that she had felt fortunate that she could “serve” her mother, and therefore, serve Christ. It didn’t seem to matter that perhaps her mother’s dignity was diminished or that maybe she was in great pain. Not that my aunt had expressed a desire to have a physician assisted suicide… I really don’t know. My aunt had family and friends who were willing and able to help her. I suspect Brittany did, too. But not everyone is that fortunate, and not everyone believes in God. Moreover, when a person gets to the point at which they can no longer take care of themselves physically or make their own decisions, they can and do become very burdensome to others. Not everyone has people in their lives who are willing to responsibly and compassionately take on those burdens.

I don’t remember posting my thoughts on Nell’s Facebook page. I knew it wouldn’t be received well. I had seen Nell engage in arguments with more liberal family members in person, in particular my late aunt who was once a nurse for Planned Parenthood. My aunt, like most everyone else in my family, was very conservative. However, she was pro-choice because she’d worked for Planned Parenthood and seen girls and women who needed access to abortions. She had developed empathy for their situations. She was a very opinionated and outspoken lady, too, so the discussion she had with Nell about abortion was a very lively one. I didn’t want the same to happen between Nell and me on social media.

Anyway… I don’t talk to Nell much nowadays. In fact, there are quite a few family members I quit talking to, mainly over politics and religion. I can’t bear the cognitive dissonance. I am truly sorry about Nell’s bout with cancer, although it does appear that she’s recovered for the time being. She’s lucky that she had the means to get good and effective treatment and has so many friends and family members willing to care for her and pray for her well-being. I don’t know that we’ll ever be close… I still remember the way she treated me the last time I saw our grandmother alive. She basically guarded her, as if I was a threat. In retrospect, maybe I should have reminded Nell that Granny was my relative too, and I had a right to visit with her.

Nell also has a habit of taking pictures and sending them out, even if they aren’t very flattering. She’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel very welcome around my family anymore and why I may not go back to the family homestead. But I do wish her well, and I hope she develops some perspective and empathy for people who don’t think and feel the same way she does.

 

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true crime

Is sending someone to prison ever an act of compassion?

Yesterday, I read a news story about a 36 year old Pennsylvania woman named Ashley Menser who was in the news recently because in 2018, she pleaded guilty to stealing $109.63 worth of “groceries” and the judge decided to sentence her to incarceration for at least ten months in prison. That would have been shocking enough. Ms. Menser is also very sick with cancer and could die within weeks.

According to The New York Times, she has advanced uterine and cervical cancer and needs to have a hysterectomy and tissue around the uterus removed. A post on PennLive.com states that Ms. Menser has advanced ovarian cancer. She is mentally ill as well, and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder over the loss of her child. At one time, she was addicted to opioids, and she currently takes powerful psychiatric medication that affects her ability to be able to tell what is real, and what isn’t. According to her attorney, Scot Feeman speaking to The New York Times,

“With the psychiatric medicine, she has trouble discerning what’s real and what’s not,” Mr. Feeman said. He said Ms. Menser was distraught after the sentencing, and that he intends to ask the judge to reconsider.

“She is in a lot of pain, and very ill,” he said, “and she’s very concerned about her health prospects going forward.”

Then, I read that Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, a Democrat, was prepared to personally write out a check for the value of the items Ms. Menser took from a Weis Markets store. Mr. Fetterman was shocked by the extreme sentence, even though Ms. Menser did plead guilty to a third degree felony and had a record of minor theft and drug charges. Even the powers that be at Weis Markets seem to be wanting to distance themselves from Ms. Menser’s case, which is proving to be somewhat a public relations nightmare. In a statement to the media, and without mentioning Ashley Menser’s name, a spokesperson for the market said,

“After she left our store, we alerted local law enforcement, who subsequently arrested her. Since then, we have not participated in the judicial or sentencing process.”

In other words, it’s not even like anyone at Weis Markets was dying to see Ashley Menser sent off to prison for such a long time. However, district attorney Pier Hess Graf issued a statement defending the sentence handed down by Judge Samuel A. Kline. She noted Ms. Menser’s rap sheet, which includes 13 prior theft convictions. Ms. Graf also noted that the judge recommended that Menser be sent to a state facility as soon as possible, so that her health conditions can be addressed. He also allowed for a special parole consideration, that could see her out of prison within seven and one-quarter months.

Having read about this– and I did look at another source, which seemed to show Ms. Menser in a less sympathetic light than The New York Times does, I still think the sentence is ridiculous overkill. Nevertheless, a couple of friends seem to think that the judge may be doing Menser a favor. The first friend admitted that she didn’t read the article, probably because it’s behind a paywall. But her comment was something along the lines of, “well, at least she’ll get medical treatment.”

Another friend had the same thought. Like my other friend who opined on this story, she wondered if sending Ms. Menser to prison is somehow an act of “compassion”. Both of them seemed to think Ms. Menser doesn’t have access to medical care when, in fact, she had an oncology appointment scheduled for the day of her sentencing. They probably think that because she stole “groceries”, although it turns out that Ms. Menser didn’t simply steal food.

I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about Ms. Menser or the Pennsylvania prison system. For all I know, their state run prison facilities may offer top notch medical care for inmates. I just think that too many people are in prison in the United States, especially for non-violent crimes. Moreover, what I have read about American prisons and the quality of healthcare allotted to prisoners, particularly in for profit facilities, makes me think that sending Ashley Menser to prison would be signing her death warrant.

I decided to check out the comments on this story on The New York Times‘ Facebook page. Again– I was baffled by how many people posted comments along the lines of, “At least she’ll be treated…” and “It’s crappy healthcare, but it’s something.” I’m guessing the people commenting also didn’t read the article, which makes it clear that Ashley Menser has access to physicians and even had plans to visit her oncologist on the day she was sentenced. Menser was hoping for house arrest, so she could continue to be treated for her illness, which I’m sad to say, probably will lead to an early death for her regardless.

It boggles my mind that so many people think jailing Ashley Menser over petty theft is a good thing, and I would think that even if she weren’t so ill. Prison is expensive on many levels. Yes, the actual incarceration does cost money from taxpayers and the incarcerated person’s family, but it also costs in terms of “baggage”, which makes moving on from mistakes more difficult. The United States incarcerates a whole lot of people, and for some private companies, putting people behind bars and keeping them there has become a lucrative source of income. But what effect does all of this jailing have on society? And do people who go to prison really “benefit” from the experience? I would guess sometimes they do, but most of the time, they really don’t. Personally, I think prison should mainly be a place to send dangerous people, not non-violent offenders– with some exceptions for very serious non-violent crimes.

Ashley Menser stole “groceries” valued at about $110. According to the PennLive article, she didn’t actually steal food. The items she shoplifted reportedly included makeup, hair dye, a candle, and a “Super Skinny Serum” product. However, as Menser’s attorney pointed out, Ashley Menser is mentally ill and takes psychiatric medication that makes it difficult for her to know what is real, and what isn’t. I’m not at all saying that she shouldn’t be punished for stealing. She has no right to be a thief, and this is obviously a long standing problem for her, given her prior convictions. But even if she wasn’t so ill, I’d still think this prison sentence is overkill.

It will probably cost the state a lot of money to take care of Ms. Menser’s medical needs; the grocery store where she stole the items doesn’t seem interested in seeing her go to prison; and her crime was non-violent. Incarcerating Ashley Menser no doubt costs taxpayers a whole lot more than the value of what she stole, even without the cost of her medical care (of which she may have to pay for herself– some states do make inmates pay for their care– I admittedly don’t know if Pennsylvania is one of those states). Why can’t she complete her sentence on house arrest, under those conditions? What good will come out of warehousing Ashley Menser in prison, where despite the state prison’s greater ability to treat her medical problems over the local jail’s, she’s still going to get poorer care than she otherwise would?

Lieutenant Governor Fetterman ultimately did not deliver a check to Weis Markets to pay restitution on Ashley Menser’s behalf. Instead, he says he’s going to work with the company’s executives to see if they will issue a statement requesting that the court reevaluate the sentence handed down to Ashley Menser. He says,

“I know they don’t want this. Nobody wants this. My hope is to get them on board and say, ‘This has gone far enough.’”

Adding that he is still prepared to pay restitution for Ashley Menser, Fetterman continues,

“If there is no victim, why carry this out? Why are we arguing over whether a woman with cancer should be denied the ability to see her doctor?”

What’s even sadder to me, though, is that so many Americans think that the judge might be doing Ashley Menser a solid by sending her to prison, where she’s constitutionally guaranteed healthcare. The reality is, even though she’s guaranteed healthcare as a prisoner, it’s almost certainly not going to be as appropriate as what she’s already arranged for herself. This isn’t a case of someone who doesn’t have support or access to medical care. So many Americans lack health insurance and access to affordable healthcare, though, that they think this might be a “favor” or an act of mercy. It’s sad on many levels. I think a lot of Americans just have a law and order mindset and like to see people sent to prison… until, of course, it is they or a loved one facing time in the joint.

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silliness

When things mysteriously disappear…

I must be losing my mind. This morning, I stripped the bed so I could wash the sheets. I removed the pillows, the top and bottom sheets, the duvets, and their covers. I will admit that I was a little preoccupied this morning, thanks to the pain and numbness in my right hip and thigh. I remember pulling five of the six pillows on the bed to my side, leaving one on Bill’s side. I went to the other side to remove the sheets and the pillow… and sometime between taking the sheets off and removing the five other pillow cases, I misplaced the sixth pillow.

I’ve looked under the duvets, under the bed (where it couldn’t have fallen because the gap is too small), in the hallways, and along the route to the laundry room. The pillow is nowhere to be found. I’m sure it will turn up eventually, but it’s pretty creepy that I misplaced something that large and that random. I have no idea where it is or where it could have gone, even as I know it could not have walked off by itself.

This happens as a Facebook friend I met offline back in the early 00s shared a picture of me from 2004. I had red hair then, and I was short and stout, as I am now. However, I was a bit thinner at that time than I am now. Unfortunately, the person who took the picture elected to get a shot of my barrel sized butt, and the Facebook friend elected to tag me when she shared it. It’s not a good picture of me at all, although clearly I’m not the intended target of the photo. Why someone thought I’d want to see it and be tagged in it, I don’t know… although I realize we are our own worst critics. I mentioned my barrel butt and noticed later, this person shared a meme. It’s one I shared myself recently.

True, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a picture of it.

I suppose I could try to do something to make my barrel butt more like a keg, but if it looked like that fifteen years ago, the odds are it will look like that until I finally croak. I’ve been relatively good this week. Bill’s been out of town, so I’ve been on the wagon, despite the yucky weather. I think watching Intervention helps keep me drinking water instead of beer. Also, because it’s just me and I don’t feel like cooking a lot for just me, I’ve been eating somewhat less. But Bill comes home tomorrow, and the homecoming should be epic… if we don’t end up attending a mandatory fun Christmas party.

Maybe I should take heart. At least jerks like Tommy Callaway won’t be tempted to slap my ass on live TV. On the other hand, he’d have no excuse, since it would be impossible to miss it.

And finally, last night, I was trying to fall asleep because I made the mistake of napping yesterday morning (cold, dark, snowy weather does that to me). As I was lying there, wide awake, I posted a Facebook status update. “I need a girlfriend”. Now, when I posted that, I meant I need someone to hang out with locally… someone to go places with, drink wine with, gossip with, or whatever. But a guy I knew during my Peace Corps days posted an article from The Guardian entitled “Why it’s never too late to be a lesbian.” I was kind of amused by that, so I posted a gif from the 1989 film, Coming to America

A man’s got to put in overtime to get me off… Shit, it may be time to watch this again.

Ah well, these are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. I found out yesterday that yet another Epinions friend passed away. His name was Jeff, and I really didn’t know him apart from our writing pursuits. He was very well liked, as I’m now discovering by the many tributes left on his timeline. Jeff liked karaoke and doing stand up comedy. He was always nice, and very friendly, although I never got to know him very well. He’s the third Epinions friend who has died this year. All three succumbed to cancer, and at much younger ages than they should have. In Jeff’s case, it was brain tumors. He successfully had surgery to remove one tumor and an MRI picked up another tumor deeper in his brain that could not be removed. Because he was very weak, it was not possible to try radiation or chemotherapy. So, just a couple of days after his surgery, he journeyed to the great beyond.

I’m heartened to see what a positive impact Jeff has had on his vast array of friends. So many people are posting their condolences. I only hope he knew how much he meant to them before he passed. I think too many people withhold that positive regard until it’s too late. The well wishes are nice to read now, but they probably would have been even nicer a month ago. As far as I can tell, Jeff was still somewhat okay at that point. I see that he was posting on Facebook and doing stand up, anyway. It sounds like his death was a complete shock and totally unexpected.

On his journey to the Pearly Gates, Jeff joins Philip McKeon, who was Tommy Hyatt on the sitcom, Alice, Carroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Marie Frederikksson of Roxette, and a hapless raccoon who got drunk on Gluhwein at one of Germany’s many Christmas markets and wound up being shot. Actually, I could rant about the raccoon, but I need to see to my runaway bed linens. Maybe later, I’ll get to it.

Sure wish my fat ass would mysteriously disappear like that pillow did.

Edited to add: I just remembered where that pillow went. Bill took one with him on his business trip because German hotels usually have terrible pillows.

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