Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A bit overwhelmed (by my 'to do' list)

Sometimes it helps to write it down (so I can see how far behind I am)

Today's a finite-time day anyway. After dropping Scott at school I return home and have about 2 hours before I need to go over to Connor's school to help out his classroom teacher and in the library. Then back over to Scott's school I go to help Billy for 2 hours. Since this is the first week that I've not been staying with Scott in the classroom maybe I'll have a chance to assess for myself if he's maintaining a trajectory without my direct support, or if he's starting to drift. I'll get home with him around 3:30, try to get some homework done with him and his vision therapy exercises before I can head off to see Sharon. I look forward to that very much.

In the remaining time I have is a strong desire to give a much closer listen to the Petraeus/Crocker report before the senate committees yesterday; it appears the testimony before the house committees today isn't receiving the same direct coverage. I should read the transcripts and download the analysis to listen to. However, that's behind in line to an interview I'm listening to of Hans Blix supporting his new book about nuclear disarmament. There is also an interview that sounds fascinating with a woman who was diagnosed with very severe bipolar disease at the age of 24 and what she has learned to sustain herself. (These interviews are on a program called the Diane Rehm Show--highly recommended.) Even more pressing is a discussion about American strategy in Iraq in light of yesterday's testimony, an overview of progress in Iraq and the more strident alarms being raised about Iran's influence. I feel anxious when I fall behind in this material, because that's when I feel vulnerable to the opinion-manipulators. There's a page on National Public Radio that seems like it would provide the basic information I'm seeking, but it's looking daunting to wade through. Finally, it's very important to me to listen to an interview with Douglas Feith who has written a book about the Pentagon and its role in leading up to the Iraq war and I'm sure he addresses the issue of the faulty intelligence and his office's hand in that. I'm curious about whether I'm going to find a credible argument, or spin.

Still waiting in the wings is the Vanity Fair article ("The Green Light") on the role of top level government, military, and justice officials in sanctioning US torture of detainees (Feith had an influence on that too), the Esquire article on Admiral O'Fallon, and Frontline's "Bush's War".

Yesterday afternoon I met with the special ed team at Scott's school to establish his new IEP there for speech and occupational therapy. His articulation goals are largely met, but there's a nagging issue of some possibility of a language processing dysfunction hanging out there that causes us to hesitate in closing out special ed altogether. His attention and ability to focus were recurrent themes under concerns. In some ways I wonder if this is a maturity issue, because my observations of him tell me he's not engaging in what's going on in the instructional sense unless someone is right there spoon-feeding it to him. I was heartened to hear that academically he's actually doing pretty well, grade level. But he reminds me of younger children who are like fish-with-bicycles with information that they don't have the conceptual base to process. You can explain long division to a three year old until you're blue in the face and they're going to only get restless and possibly misbehave if you persist. It's not that Scott is dismissing information as irrelevant; it's that it doesn't even have a doorway in to register as being significant. At 6, maybe it's time to be concerned that these doors aren't opening yet. However, I saw the same pattern in Connor, and he definitely matured to the place where these doors were accessible. I actually am reminded of myself too, and it's like scales had to fall from my eyes before information meant anything to me. Or perhaps I had to develop more discriminatory vision to distinguish what was meaningful and what wasn't. I've had a hard time explaining this without sounding like an over-protective mother, or a mother who wants to avoid an ADD diagnosis. We discussed pursuing that line of inquiry, to see if there is a medical process interfering with his ability to attend. I hesitantly consented to proceeding to the next level of evaluation, to see if that is a diagnosis that's warranted. I don't know why I feel cautious--surely this isn't like giving someone a medication without knowing for sure if the condition makes it appropriate? I think I feel a kind of fear that further evaluation will lead to a diagnosis that further maturity will make irrelevant, and then will that have an adverse effect? It makes sense to go ahead and get the evaluation done to see if he does have needs, wait through the summer to see if his development may play a factor, and then put an action plan into effect if maturity isn't the main issue? I need to understand my reluctance better, and I don't think dismissing it as 'denial' is helpful.

Now I've gone and written through my shower time. Time to get ready to leave for Connor's school.


Douglas W said...

Understanding the situation in Iraq and what to do about it is complex. I had a look at the NPR articles... there's also a good analysis on the PBS Newshour site. It shouldn't have happened in the first place.

I seem to remember just after 9/11 there was a call, a plea, not to go to war... not to retaliate... but to ask 'Why?'.

But once the war(s) had been started Bush changed the debate to 'You're either with us or against us.' 'It's a matter of good against evil... and we're the good ones.' So any talk of avoiding war, any talk of dialog and understanding what the underlying problem was, was lost.

Maybe it will be impossible to ever defeat those that these wars were meant to defeat. Maybe, in the end, war is not the way. maybe it was never the way.

ADD... be wary. Of course I do not know enough about Scott's situation... but there is a growing concern that doctors and others are tending to diagnose 'normal' childhood inattentiveness and inability to settle down to ADHD and prescribe drug therapy. The cause can often be found elsewhere yet the child is often unable to articulate the reasons behind their problems.

My son was inattentive and disruptive and 'below average' in some of his assessments during the first couple of years at school. Now he is completing a double Music/Arts degree at university and is consitently achieving High Distinctions. I suspect the early problems were if anything a reaction to difficulties that were occurring at home at the time.

excavator said...


My father was a US air force bombadier in the early 60's, a cold warrior. His plane was the B-47 stratojet, the mission to nuclear bomb the Soviet Union. I need to confirm this, but I believe that these planes were aloft 24 hours/day, waiting for the command to drop their payload.

So I was raised by someone who sat feet away from a WMD and was prepared to use it, and believed in his mission.

I think there is a way I am always trying to answer him and his ilk, and the conviction of the world being a dangerous place...and blindness to the fact that his mission increased the danger.

Initially after 9/11 there seemed to be a softness in this country, a thoughtfulness. I remember clearly a phenomenon where people who'd been estranged from others, or who had just drifted apart--people reached out to each other. People who'd lost touch called each other. I was one of those; I'd had an estrangement from a dear friend and we had our rapprochement in this time.

On the radio I heard about people who were out buying the American flag; but vendors were reporting that this was different from the last time there had been such a wave of patriotism during the 1st Gulf War. Then, they reported, the attitude was "Let's get 'em!" Now it was an expression of love of country, but without the belligerence.

To be sure, there were destructive forces; as I drove the streets of St. Louis, MO, there was one house that had a sign: "INVADE!!!! NOW!!!"

But for a while it seemed there was momentum to 'ask Why'.

My friend Linda was asking people at her daughter's preschool if they'd take a lawn sign opposing the proposed invasion of Iraq. One of the mothers said that because of the circumstances of GW Bush's 'election'she thought is was 'God's will' that attacking Iraq go forward. Linda actually started laughing, thinking the woman was joking. Alas, she was not.

It would be an interesting novel, what may have happened had the Supreme Court not intervened on Bush's behalf and Gore had been president. Would the dots have been connected and the attacks prevented?

Then again, some of the foundation for 'regime change' took place during the Clinton administration when the neo-cons managed to push through a policy that Clinton signed. Maybe he was weakened by having succumbed to the temptations of a barely of-age intern. Maybe, like Democrats before him Gore would have acted out of fear of being considered 'soft'.

Yeah, framing conflicts in terms of 'good vs evil' has an effect of freezing any rational thought.

I did listen to a couple interviews with Feith and I'm looking forward to the longer interview with Diane Rehm tomorrow. It seems that a number of architects of the war in Iraq are now talking about 'where they went wrong'. Not too long ago the administration admitted no error at all.

Every day it makes me beyond sick that we are responsible for the suffering of this poor country. I know that because 51% of the electorate elected (as opposed to RE-elected) him in 2004 (unless there really was a stolen election, but in which case it was a close enough election that stealing was possible) (a sizable amount of our population gave their blessing to Bush and his war policy) the world believes that the American people have condoned this. It makes me sick to be lumped in with this group.

Bush surrounded himself with neo-cons in his 2001 cabinet. Those were the lenses through which to perceive the attack that were waiting to be put on. Cooler heads did not prevail. I think it may have been an overcompensation for the guilt that this happened on his watch, for which he has never apologized to the American people.

Anyway, I've had an opportunity to listen to some of the analysis on the Petraeus/Crocker report. I think the gist is that the surge will be allowed to expire as planned, but after that any drawdown will cease for a period of time to evaluate the effects of the drawdown.

I listened to a very interesting interview of a reporter who is embedded among American soldiers on the cutting edge of the surge:

If this reporter's perceptions are accurate, that reconciliation is happening on such a microcosmic level (on a village by village basis where Sunni's and Shiites are meeting to discuss the very basics of issues such as what to do if a Sunni family returns to their home only to find a Shiite family living in their house, or if someone who committed atrocities in their neighborhood is now living next door to them), this is going to require extensive support for an indefinite amount of time--and is frighteningly dependent on the individual skills of the commanders who are facilitating and brokering these talks. I hate to say it, but if this is where healing is occuring, then it seems reasonable that Petraeus say that he cannot give a timeline to this ahead of time. I'm furious that we're put in a position that thousands (tens of thousands?) of more lives may be required to buy a half-way decent outcome from this reckless adventure.

That could have been a post in itself.

Thanks for sharing your son's experience. I'm heartened by that British study that came out a couple months ago that said that children who had been considered disruptive in the early grades on the whole did very well later. Your son seems to be evidence of that.

I'm still trying to come to terms with my feeling of caution about further evaluation of Scott. I think I feel afraid that even pursuing evaluation is going to result in a label that may stigmatize him and I need to talk with the school personnel about this.

And I too have wondered if the issues that are manifesting at school may be demonstration of his angst about the atmosphere created between his father and me.

Douglas W said...

It sounds like your dad and his mission were part of the doctrine that became known as M.A.D - Mutually Assured Destruction. and it's hard to know whether such a policy actually stopped one side or the other from pushing that button. We tend to forget that there are still enough US and Russian nuclear armed missiles pointing at each other do destroy both countries several times over. I listened to a very interesting discussion the other night about how the threat of the 'Nuclear Winter' has not gone away at all - we're all concentrating upon Global Warming - but if sombody gets touchy enough to set off a nuclear war we'll be plunged into a nuclear winter within days - the danger is still there.

I wrote about my 1960s reaction to it all in my 'Portrait of a Young Man...' story. In the chapters about 'Pawns in the Game' and 'Obstructing the War'.

The middle-east problem - Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Syria... all of those - goes back to European colonial times when the English, French and Germans decided they were so much more superior to the Arabs and each wanted to control the Baghdad to the Gulf railway, or the Suez Canal, or the newly discovered oil fields, as a means of keeping one step ahead of each other. So they did dirty deals with various Arab leaders, redrew or simply imposed border lines on a map without consideration to where tribal and ethnic boundaries lay - and then after WWI decided to do a deal with the Jews of Europe to create a homeland for them - at the expense of the Palestinians.

The West created this mess in the first place and as a result caused the resentment that many middle-eastern people have towards the west.

To complicate it all you just need to add the extra ingredient of fundamentalist religion - whether it be fundamentalist Christians, Jews, ir Muslims - the extremists of each faith simply make matters worse.

excavator said...

It would be interesting to read more into the history of MAD. At what point did the irony of the acronym become apparent?

My guess is that once the Soviet Union became nuclear-capable is when the whole arms race and cold war really took off. But somewhere, there had to be people discussing policy about this, and with straight faces telling each other that "Mutually Assured Destruction" was going to be our salvation. There must be an interesting back-story.

MAD is a metaphor for the endpoint of the human impulse to take what it wants and to rather have control over all of it then share, even if the struggle destroys the very desired thing. This impulse seems so deeply rooted and deep-seated in the human psyche I despair that enough of a critical mass of humans can escape it's relexive clutches to turn around this Mutually Assured Destruction.

As an American I share the myopia about greater history, and of course it makes sense in the context that you wrote this that France and Britain had ancient enmity, so of course their action in the Middle East had the short-sighted objective of damaging each other. I had forgotten about that larger context.

Unintended consequences...they sure do bite.