Monday, July 29, 2013

J. Cole Writes Apology Letter to Autism Speaks

J.Cole Writes Apology Letter to Autism Speaks

July 23rd 2013 2:14 PM

J.Cole offended many over the lyrics “I’m artistic, you is autistic, retarded” in his Jodeci Freestyle rap number. He was called on this.  The Anti-Bullying Alliance created a petition and asked for a formal apology from each rapper, as well as the offending words be removed from the song.

Read the original article and letter on Complex Music here

Kuddos to J.Cole for writing an apology letter that sounds sincere. The disheartening thing about his letter is that it is addressed to Autism Speaks. J. Cole offended autistic people, not an organization – in this case an organization that many autistic people have actively boycotted over the years.

If you read his letter, yes, it does sound sincere. Also, it is very obvious that his view of autism has been gotten through the media. Unfortunately, this is where most of John Q. Public gets their information about autism. And by the way, understanding autism and understanding autistics are not equal things. I needed to say that because most people I run into assume they understand me, an autistic person, because they have heard about autism in the news and understand autism is whatever the news story happened to say about what autism is.

A friend pointed out to me that J. Cole was reaching out to autistics and simply chose the most visible venue. I understand this and it makes me mad. As an autistic I have understood for ever-so-many years just how invisible I am. You see, it is parents of autistic children who have been given by society the right to speak for and about all autistics – who they are, what they want, should and shouldn’t have, what their experience is, etc., etc., etc.  Even though there are many autistic adults who can and do speak to the issues we remain, in large, invisible to society while an organization like Autism Speaks continues to be what is visible. And so it winds up that J. Cole apologizes to this organization, assuming that this will cover it nicely, assuming his audience to be parents of children with autism and college students with Asperger’s. That is pretty much the public face of autism in America.

Regardless of how sincere the apology sounds it isn’t directed at the people J. Cole needs to apologize to for his behavior. Autistics are human beings. We should count as real people. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, but instead typical people tend to interact with parents, effectively sending the message that autistics do not count as real people…again and again and again.

People, please think about this – truly think about it –  For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed how would you feel if the driver apologized to the doctor and everybody thought that was perfectly ok because that drunk driver chose the most visible venue and he meant well. Even though those things are true, how would that make you feel? And then how would you feel if the people at the doctor’s office tried to make you feel ok by saying things like the drunk driver was doing the best he knew to do and he sounded sincere. Would you be ok with that – to not even count as a human being? Probably not. So then, why am I supposed to be ok with being counted as less than human only because of being autistic?

Society’s perception of the autism viewpoint needs to go beyond the parent’s of autistic children and college students with Asperger’s. We need to be represented by our own selves.  In fact, all of yesteryear’s autistics have grown up and yet, very few ask us…they only ask parents to speak for us even though many of us – even those of us who do not have speech – have been speaking, writing books, blogging, etc for a very long time. We still are largely invisible to society. And if that weren’t bad enough, we are also discounted by ever so many in the larger autism community that include parents and organizations – people who actually CAN see us and DO KNOW we exist. We are often discounted and told either we are not autistic enough to know an autistic child’s experience or we are too autistic to be able to understand their child’s experience. So, autistic adults remain discounted or invisible for the most part.

When J. Cole apologizes to Autism Speaks for his offensive behavior toward autistics it feels to us like we are once again counted as less than human – not real people – in fact, invisible. And yes, maybe you are right that it is not really his fault because he has the public perception about autism. I would agree, but then, who’s fault is it? Who is the public? Are you the public?

Read more from Judy Endow on Ollibeanhere and visit .

UNWRITTEN: Patient Journal '99

PATIENT JOURNAL: Unwritten '99

I lost my mind in 99 and then everything was fine. 

Then I decided to snort a line and everything was great. 

Then I began to come back down and shit got hard to appreciate. 

Name withheld due to patient client privilege. Besides, I happen to like the kid.  

Best journal entries I ever read. Never boring!  More to follow. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Critics Question Whether NSA Data Collection is Effective

Critics question whether NSA data collection is effective

by Grant Gross,
June 25th 2013

— IDG News Service — The recently revealed mass collection of phone records and other communications by the U.S. National Security Agency may not be effective in preventing terrorism, according to some critics.

The data collection programs, as revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is giving government agencies information overload, critics said during the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, D.C.

"In knowing a lot about a lot of different people [the data collection] is great for that," said Mike German, a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent whose policy counsel for national security at the American Civil Liberties Union. "In actually finding the very few bad actors that are out there, not so good."

The mass collection of data from innocent people "won't tell you how guilty people act," German added. The problem with catching terrorism suspects has never been the inability to collect information, but to analyze the "oceans" of information collected, he said.

Mass data collection is "like trying to look for needles by building bigger haystacks," added Wendy Grossman, a freelance technology writer who helped organize the conference.

But Timothy Edgar, a former civil liberties watchdog in the Obama White House and at the Office of Director of National Intelligence, partly defended the NSA collection programs, noting that U.S. intelligence officials attribute the surveillance programs with preventing more than 50 terrorist actions. Some critics have disputed those assertions.

Edgar criticized President Barack Obama's administration for keeping the NSA programs secret. He also said it was "ridiculous" for Obama to suggest that U.S. residents shouldn't be concerned about privacy because the NSA is collecting phone metadata and not the content of phone calls. Information about who people call and when they call is sensitive, he said.

But Edgar, now a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, also said that Congress, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and internal auditors provide some oversight of the data collection programs, with more checks on data collection in place in the U.S. than in many other countries. Analysts can query the phone records database only if they see a connection to terrorism, he said.

The U.S. has some safeguards that are "meaningful and substantive, although I'm sure many in this room ... and maybe even me, if I think about it long enough, might think they're not good enough," Edgar said.

While German noted that the NSA has reported multiple instances of unauthorized access by employees to the antiterrorism databases, Edgar defended the self-reporting. "It's an indication of a compliance system that's actually meaningful and working," he said. "If you had a compliance system that said there was no violation, there were never any mistakes, there was never any improper targeting that took place ... that would an indication of a compliance regime that was completely meaningless."

The mass data collection combined with better data analysis tools translates into an "arms race" where intelligence officials try to find new connections with the data they collect, said Ashkan Soltani, a technology and privacy consultant. New data analysis tools lead intelligence officials to believe they can find more links to terrorism if they just have "enough data," but that belief is "too much sci fi," he said.

"This is the difficult part, if you're saying that if we have enough data we'll be able to predict the future," the ACLU's German said.

Many U.S. intelligence officials are suspect of tech vendor claims about predictive analysis, Edgar countered. However, link analysis -- the tracking of suspects through communications with other known criminals or terrorists -- is a "very powerful tool," he said. It may be possible to use sophisticated cryptographic techniques to do that kind of analysis without the bulk collection of phone records, he said.

"The [internal] compliance regime is not the best answer for privacy," Edgar said. "The best answer is not to take the data in the first place, then you don't have to worry about compliance."

The ACLU has concerns about link analysis, because it creates a massive list of suspicious people that overwhelms investigators, German said. "What link analysis creates is suspicion upon the people that suspicious people are linked to," he said. "That growing cloud of suspicion can never been cleared."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

White Noise: Finding My Voice in the Silent Hours © 2008-2013

White Noise: Finding My Voice in the Silent Hours

by Elyssa Durant,
June 12th 2008
I have put a lot of myself out there lately from my forgotten secrets to my deepest fears. I'm too old to start over but too young to forget. Like so many women-- no... like so many people... I'm a little bit of everything... so for those of you who are listening (and those of us who are "kicking ass and taking names," enjoy the ride!

The curious can find anything andeverything! I often wonder why it is so much easier for others to to get information than it is for me to get about myself!

I'm a digger. To be clear, that is "digger." I never use the "N" word, and I'm way too proud to marry for money.

Yes, I am a digger. 

I love information. 

I love to find it, I love to collect it, but most of all, I love to use it.

I love to dissect it, analyze it, formulate new questions, and ponder the answers.

 I love the journey of natural inquiry... never knowing where my racing mind will take me; often surprised surprised by the answer; but always, always, intrigued by the things I encounter along the way.

So I set out to find the answer to one question, and instead I find myself asking a million more. It keeps me up at night, and allows me to avoid the day. My life is not unexamined, and my thought patterns may be far from typical, but the things I have learned along the way are by far the most intriguing and most unique. I am not afraid to ask questions, nor am I afraid that I don't have all the answers. 

But as a digger, I do know that it is the path least taken: the creative, atypical mind that is riddled with creativity, tangential thoughts and questions that often deliver the most interesting answers. But sometimes, it is the answers that deliver us to the most interesting questions.

We often think that questions drive the inquiry-- at least that's what they tell us in school. To use the "Scientific Method." And of course, to never, ever color outside the lines! But aren't the best discoveries the ones we weren't searching for? The unexpected gift... the non-occasion.

The beauty is in the every day. The challenge is in the unexpected. Call me crazy if you like (and many have) but I can assure you that there will come a day when all of that R.A.M. (Random Access Memory) will come in handy. I am definitely asking the right questions... and maybe one day you will too.

Finding my voice has allowed me to appreciate the silence. The hours between dusk and dawn where the rest of the world sleeps and I dig. I dig and I write. I fill the lonely hours with my innermost thoughts and my very best friend. So as the rest of the world sleeps soundly surrounded by loved ones in a sanctuary they call home, I fill myself with books, journals and information. Lots and lots of information.

Who'd a thunk it? That loneliness can become a family in it's own right? It is always there and it is always familiar. Who would have thought that solitude could become our greatest companion and that strangers would be our very best friends.

I miss New York. I miss Dr. Stu. I miss Jefferey and I miss Todd. I miss my wild, brilliant friends plagued by curiosity, insomnia, and creativity. Hey boys-- guess what? I'm coming home!

Let's go to Hot and Crusty at 3 a.m. when everything really is, yes, "hot and crusty!" Lets go the internet cafe across from the Hello Kitty store and wake up old friends that actually dare to sleep when it is dark out??? 


WAKE-UP TODD! I've been calling you for hours! I have a joke to I want to tell you!

New York, New York. The "City" that never sleeps? Is it the that sleeps or the people in it? I'm not really sure...

Maybe it is not the city at all! In fact, I don't think it was ever really about the city. I think it is more about the anonymity. Someplace you can be yourself, and never worry about being judged by your in-bred hillbilly neighbors who are, in all honesty, much more focused on raising hell then raising children... To them, I am "strange." I am "weird." I am "Italian." or "Jewish" or "something!" because I talk really, really, (really) fast!


So while you sleep, I dig. I learn , I question, and I write. But I do it alone, and I'm starting not to like it so much.

So for all of you out there who are insomniacs: "writers," "consultants," "perpetually un and underemployed yet overqualified" computer geeks -- please enjoy the video blog I posted below.

I chose a few songs that have kept me company at night.

Just loud enough to drown out the drunk couple outside my window having yet another domestic dispute, but low enough so that the neighbors downstairs won't complain. Hopefully, you will remember some of those infamous eighty's songs-- you know, the one that have kept me dancing in the living room into the wee hours of the morning. And if you are paying, you just might be able to learn a little something about my favorite word!

You'll find all of my favorites in one place. So enjoy the trip my friends, it's getting early for some, but late for others, and I've got some shit to do before the world wakes up. To quote John Cougar (or is it Melloncamp?) I Ain't Even Done With The Night!

DESCRIPTION: Everything from my favorite word to my favorite website. There's something in there for pretty much every mood-- songs to make you cry, videos to make you laugh. Political ads that make you sick and some that will give you chills-- but at least they make you feel!!! Finding my voice, and hearing those of strangers has given me the strength I needed to move on. So for so many of you who have contacted me lately, via the web, via your cell phone, or even by way of a nasty website-- stand tall and stand close because much like fear, courage also rubs off on you somehow when you are surrounded by the right people. So a big shout out, and a sincere word of thanks to all of you who have helped to find my voice once again and the courage to say whatever is on my mind... SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT PROUD... JUST SAY IT! (Oh yeah, and F.U.R.B.!)

I will not be ignored and I will not be forgotten. But guess what, Here Comes the Sun. I made it through night and now it's time to go, because that was SO yesterday! Thanks-For-Giving!

Foster Care Fall Out: The State of the State for Adjudicated Youth and Juvenile Justice © 2008-2013

I am deeply disturbed by the recent press coverage regarding what is going on in the foster care system today.

Having worked for a private foster care agency (profit-driven) company contracted by the Department of Children's Services through the State of Tennessee, I would like to share what I've learned through my experience working with older adolescents reaching the age of majority-18-who are being released from state custody with the Department of Children's Services.

One child, now twenty, is pregnant and moves from place to place every few days or so (photos attached). When I first got her case, 5 years or so ago, she had concrete goals, dreams and aspirations. She had hope. She wanted to go to college. Now, today, she is homeless, pregnant, and has been without services since the day (and I do mean day!) she turned 18. (Pictures of her currrent "home" are posted next to this article.)

On her 18th birthday, Ms. DB was dropped off at a Food Lion parking lot in Gallatin, TN without any money, clothing, food, healthcare, benefits, e.g., food stamps, transportation and no where to go. She was on her own with a 10th grade education and no GED.

CG is a young man who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 19, shortly after leaving custody. He was denied TennCare 4 times before I made the decision to get involved at any cost. Like all of my other former DCS clients (at least those who have contacted me over the years) CG is also chronically homeless, unemployable, and has only a 10th grade education, epilepsy, and a mental illness. He TennCare is ending 3/31/2008-not quite enough time to plan and execute the brain surgery he needs to help him live a relatively normal life...

I'm still involved, but tomorrow I will turn his case file over to two new case managers and hope that they can keep up the pace. I have to let go. I can't pay my internet bill!

I hope and pray that all of the hard work I have put into his case: applying for benefits, social security, Medicaid, Food Stamps, even a library card and a voter registration card (which are a dime a dozen in this town; Nashville, TN; these days) so that he can get the brain surgery and medical treatment he needs and deserves does not get lost when I go back to work next week. I have assured him that I will not abandon him like everyone else in the past-besides, I hold his history-his memory-his voter registration, TennCare and Social Security cards[1].

These children and young adults (DB, CG, CW, and CB) and a few other exceptional children left an imprint on my heart long after I left my position with the Department of Children's Services...

After leaving the private (contract) agency I was working for, it took a very long time for me to decide whether I should continue in the field of social services for children. You see, I was under the impression that foster care was about children. Wrong.

Unfortunately, I came to realize that it was more about money than children. Private agencies pay barely there, barely trained "people" upwards of $40-60/day per child tax-free. One foster parent I worked with kept ten children in a four-bedroom home in Madison. She also kept chains on the refrigerator door so the children wouldn't eat too much food. Another family had multiple complaints of sexual assault filed against them, but those complaints were mysteriously absent from my case file when I left the agency. As was my actual signature on my case reports-they didn't even try to color between the lines when falsified my records with white out. Who can be that lazy? Who can be that reckless? Who can be that person?

I was deeply saddened by this realization because I was unsure what to do with the information I had acquired throughout the years. However, at this point in my life, I do feel that I have some ethical obligation to either speak out or take action to work towards resolving the systemic problems in the privatized foster care environment.

I came to the realization that I may be able to use my own voice to speak for the children who have been repeatedly silenced by our society: our schools, our courts, our social service system, and the adults they relied upon to have their most basic needs met.

Of course, I would have to speak with DB and CG about their willingness to meet with you to discuss their experience while in the custody of the children's services.

However, if you believe (like I do) that sharing these stories (albeit anecdotal) may ultimately lead to profound changes and reform within the foster care system, then I am quite certain my former clients would be more than willing to speak with anyone who has the capacity to make things better for their natural and foster siblings still in the system, I do not see a problem so long as we can create a space where they can speak freely without fear of repercussions.

DB is not alone in her experience, and for whatever reason, these children seem to feel comfortable sharing their stories with me.

There is another young man, Cody G, who is an incredibly gifted writer that deserves to be heard and recognized. Much like DB, he has experienced a great deal of difficulty finding stable living arrangements once discharged from DCS custody. Because he was constantly in motion, moving from place to place to place-- I agreed to hold onto his personal journals documenting his experience in DCS.

His voice deserves to be heard along with a chorus of others! Some of these children develop such fascinating ways to cope with the pain, the isolation and the abandonment issues they grow up with, and I try to do the best I can to steer them in the right direction.

Talent such as C and perseverance like DB's should be revered, celebrated, respected, and validated-- not thrown away or ignored..

Foster care is mess. What happens next is a complete and utter tragedy. I hope you are deeply disturbed by the contents of this letter-if so-my job is done for the day!

Let your voice be heard-- contact your representatives, the press-- shout it from the rooftops!!! This despicable state of affairs and this not so well hidden secret about privatized foster care in the state of Tennessee must come to an end!

This is how C writes:

The Leaveless Plant:by CG © 2006

I am a plant without any rootsI bring no syrup I bear no fruits I am not much to look at without any flowers.

All I do is sit and stare for hours Every so often, I wander off to find a new spot

Feeling no attachment to anything I've got 

Every time I move, I lose a leaf or twoBut no one will notice because here I am new 

After moving a while, I look down to seeHow oblivious I am to my nudity 

All of my moving has shaken me bareEmbarrassed and all I ignore the stares

But the more I think the better I feelBecause the leaves from me provided a meal 

So I am important like all on this earthThink I'll settle down and show this world what I'm worth

And this is how DB lives: pregnant at age 20:

The bathtub. No door. No curtain.

The sink.

The mold.

The baby...

[1] I must give kudos to Judge Dan Eisenstein from the Mental Health Court of Davidson County who has paved the way to make getting CG Transitional Services as he ventures out into the world alone-if only I could get reimbursed for my time! Judge Eisenstein is untraditional, compassionate, and by far the most client-centered Judge I have ever had the honor of working with, no matter how briefly. Judge Eisenstein is paving the road for CG to have a chance-a chance at a future-a chance at a life-- a real one-free from Grand Mal seizures, self-injury, hypomania, rapid cycling, and suicidal ideations.

I also would like to express my gratitude to The Tennessee Justice Center, Tony Garr of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, Lane Simpson, and Dave Aguzzi with the Department of Children's Services who are helping CG get transitional living services so he can get the care and treatment he did not receive while in custody. Kim Crane (from the Vanderbilt Center for Child & Family Policy Center) has also been instrumental in serving as a liaison with Transitional Youth Programs and helped me get connected to the right people and programs efficiently and effectively. Thanks to you all!.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RETRACTION: "Storm on the Horizon"

The last several days, I found myself thinking about a statement I made several years ago. In this modern era of communications, it is difficult for a freelance writer like myself to make retractions- and correct myself given that I only have a small stream of frequent readers. However, I often make mistakes whether it is an ampersand instead of a comma or an opinion statement that could be easily misunderstood. I would like to correct one such statement and set the record straight. Not just for my readers, but also for myself.

This weekend marks the beginning of what I consider one of the greatest travesties in American history: Hurricane Katrina. This is further compounded by the potential devastation that awaits New Orleans residents when they return to the unknown losses that await them as Hurricane Gustav looms of the Gulf Coast and inches its way closer and closer to the Louisiana border.

Several years ago, I made an online statement that Nashvillians in need of benefits should apply "before the Louisiana people utilize whatever resources we have left." In retrospect, that statement seems crass and insensitive. Now that several years have passed, I would certainly blame this disgusting war as the main culprit of domestic waste. Unfortunately, I cannot turn back the hands of time, and that statement exists- floating around for all eternity in the magical world of cyberspace. 

All I can do now is try my best to explain what prompted that statement and hope that those who read my previous piece will also see this retraction.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain what prompted such an apparently callous, insensitive comment and set the record straight.

We live in a country that rallies together when faced with domestic and international crises. We open our hearts, our homes, and our wallets for disaster relief here and overseas. We also live in a world where smaller crises exist everyday albeit poverty, hunger or homelessness. Such domestic problems tend to be chronic in nature and often slip under the radar. The battle lines have been drawn and we lost. We arelosing. With every day that passes the casualties grow to astronomical proportions. We failed.

After Katrina, Tennessee residents took in many refugees. The local papers printed countless ads offering shelter, financial assistance, and job opportunities to "Survivors of Katrina." I called some of these people in response to their apparent act of altruism and learned that these offers were onlyapplicable to survivors of Katrina and not to local residents. I was angry.

I was angry because in the months before that devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast, there was an urgent call for people to open their homes to the 30,000 children and adolescents in desperate need of foster care. Children without a home. Children without a safety net. Our city did not respond. Our residents did not rise to the occasion and countless children continue to live in uncertain conditions without the necessities they need to thrive in this complicated, fragmented society.

After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that the media and current policies that allow such unfortunate states of existence are partly to blame, but so too are the American people and the residents of this fine city that I like to think of as home. So why is it that we are so generous in times of urgent need by allowing pervasive states of poverty for our local residents and out children? Are they damaged goods? Are persons in poverty to blame for their circumstances? Are they too week? Are they somehow supposed to magically lift themselves out of the dark and somehow find the path into enlightenment of financial security? Is this the ultimate act of Social Darwinism where survival of the fittest means people who are fit to survive against allodds? Is it just a coincidence that the words indigent and indignant sound so similar?

As Hurricane Gustav approaches, I call upon our local residents to do more than just welcome the fleeing victims to open their hearts and their homes. I challenge each and every one of you to continue this charity after the storm has cleared. Even after the storm in the Gulf has moved past the coast and becomes another chapter in history, there is much to be done right here, right now. Do we accept the indignation of indigence and poverty with indifference? Or do we act?

We can do so much on the home front before our indifference creates a storm of domestic disaster. It is unfortunate for us that people have been too blind, too indifferent, and too complacent they do not even see such a storm brewing. But If you look, and if you listen, it is not hard to see how such a storm is brewing just beyond the horizon.