Saturday, February 20, 2016

More twists from the NRA

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Before you get another word into this blog, I MUST lay out a disclaimer---I AM A LIFETIME MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION.  I have been since 1990 when I paid the first $25 payment on my lifetime installment.

Today I feel I must rant on a topic that has been largely shoved down the throats of all Americans—possession of guns.  Whether it be the “right” to own a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing 30 or more rounds a minute and has the potential to empty TWO 100 round clips in less than 3 minutes; or owning a handgun that might also have the capacity to hold 15, even 20 rounds, Americans have been manipulated to accept guns as part of everyday life.
Again, in the interest of transparency, I do own several guns.  And if truth be told, I would own more if circumstances allowed.

Then last month, I see one of the cover stories on my NRA magazine is about suppressors (December 2015).  Then I read an article in my local Detroit paper (January 31, 2016), also about suppressors.
So I am extremely curious as to why silencers, aka suppressors, are suddenly so beneficial.
Since both are so similar, I will use Jeff Johnston’s article dated December 15, 2015 as my primary reference and identify Lydia Lohrer’s article dated January 31, 2016 when I refer to her article.
Both articles put up a straw-man argument that in parts of Europe, silencers are readily available over the counter for the asking and require no special licensing—paper work—tax—or wait period.  Just set your money down, pick a silencer and in less time than it takes to shoot 30 children in an elementary school—you can have a silencer to call your own.  Those liberal loving Norwegians sure know how to run small government while looking out for their citizens’ rights to be armed.  BUT WAIT…while it seems t be so easy to get a silencer, buying a GUN is an entirely different story in most of Europe--

Both the NRA article (5 Reasons to Consider a Suppressor) and the Detroit Free Press article (On Suppressors, Lend Me Your Ears) note that in Norway, all one has to do in walk into a gun store and buy silencer—no paper work, no wait period, no bureaucratic red-tape.  But what they do not tell us is that it is NEARLY impossible to buy a gun in Norway—

The purchase, possession, and use of firearms are tightly controlled in Norway, whose laws and regulations were made more stringent with amendments to the Firearms Act in 2009 and the adoption of new Firearms Regulations in that year.  Permission to acquire a firearm must be obtained from the local police chief and is limited to persons of “sober habits” who have reasonable grounds for having a weapon.  Fully automatic weapons, some semiautomatic weapons, and firearms disguised as other objects are banned under the law. Certain types of weapons not covered by the Firearms Act’s definition of firearms, such as stun guns, are also generally banned.  In addition, the National Police Directorate may issue regulations prohibiting the acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms deemed through their design or operation to be especially dangerous or inappropriate for use.
There are also legal provisions, among others, on the licensing of firearms dealers and exporter/importers, the maintenance of a central firearms register, and the mandatory safe storage of firearmsThe police have the authority to conduct inspections of privately stored firearms, after notifying the owner.
Nearly 10% of Norway’s populace own firearms, which are used chiefly for hunting purposes.  The gun laws were apparently not extensively amended in the aftermath of the 2011 massacre in Oslo and on a nearby island in which seventy-seven people were killed, chiefly through the use of firearms; however, the country’s Mental Health Act has been revised to include a new chapter on enhanced security in institutions that accommodate the severely mentally ill or persons at risk for serious violent behavior.

SO, one does not simply walk into a gun store, pick out a military assault style weapon—because these weapons are NOT SOLD in Norway.  There is also something called the CENTRAL REGISTRY of GUNS—and local law enforcement can INSPECT gun owner homes to assure the weapons are safe and secure.

So while the NRA grasps at straws to make a PROGRESSIVE and extremely LIBERAL country like NORWAY appear gun crazy and so much more advanced in their weapons of mass destruction mentality—giving the appearance that America is backwards and has a draconian view of guns, the reality is that European Countries RESTRICT access to weapons – have an extensive background check for those who want a gun – have a CENTRAL REGISTRY for ALL GUNS --  and has safe guards in place to prevent those with mental illness and the proclivity to commit violence from getting guns in the first place.

So let’s all tell the NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, that if they support the over the counter purchase of silencers and they believe countries like NORWAY are doing the right thing---then we MUST sign into law similar GUN LAWS IMMEDIATELY—then we can get on with the business of selling silencers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Governor Rick Snyder's circus

Are you a reader of the Detroit News?  If you are, then you are probably familiar with its editorial slant of being PRO-BIG GOVERNMENT while giving that same government immunity for any and all wrongs it commits in the name of Industrial Corporate Oppression.
If you are not a reader of the Detroit News, you may not be aware of the previous statement, nor would you be aware that the biggest proponent for Industrial Corporate Oppression immunity policy is Nolan Finley.
He typically targets the working class and labels us as responsible, unappreciative or otherwise slandering the elite governing class who are typically INNOCENT victims and recipients of the working class’ venom and persecution.
One recent example can be found in the Detroit News Sunday February 14, 2016 edition.  Apparently, Mr. Finley feels the citizens of Michigan just refuse to understand Governor Rick Snyder’s “style.”
Seems Rick Snyder isn’t a political as he needs to be?  As a politician holding an elected office, one would think that makes him political by default?  Finley wants us to believe that Snyder is the type of leader who does what is right by the numbers, and that data is always right.  Because of this, Snyder lacks the political insight to understand the system?  Also, Finley would tell us that Snyder’s image as a leader suffers because the Governor refuses or refused, to surround himself with Lansing insiders, and instead went with people the Governor felt were reliable—not necessarily politically savoy—but capable of providing the data the Governor requires to Govern by.
Finley wants us to believe that this data driven method has worked 90% of the time for the Governor.  After all it was the perception of not doing politics that Finley claims made Snyder such an attractive candidate for Governor and lead to his re-election in 2014.  And that it was the cold hard facts that were what FAILED the Governor when responding to the Flint Water Crisis, when what Snyder really needed was “political instincts.”
Finely then points out that these cold hard facts have also led to the problems that the public schools in Detroit are experiencing.  Though Finley ignores the epic failure of the EAA, he does point out the faults of the Emergency Manager.  Not that Darnell Earley is remotely faultless; Finley wants us to believe (again) that is the Governor’s lack of political instincts that allowed the schools to become a money pit, not the fact that Snyder just placed a person in charge with a losing track record as an emergency manager.  Earley previously served as EM in Flint, Saginaw Schools and Muskegon Heights Schools.
Finley continues with the kudos and admiration of the Governor by sharing with us the idea that “He’s (Snyder) the rare elected official who is not always looking for the camera.”  Perhaps that is because the Governor is more comfortable legislating from behind CLOSED-DOORS and during the MID-NIGHT hours when the public is excluded from the discussion?

So, Mr. Finley, Governor Rick Snyder is not a VICTIM of the peoples, misunderstanding of who he is. Rather he is a conniving, greedy extremist, hell-bent on PROFITS over PEOPLE and callous towards the most basics of human rights.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Eradication of Public Education in Michigan



We all know about that dreaded 7-Year inch. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines the seven-year itch”as a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage”. 

The phrase was first used to describe an inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage in the playThe Seven Year Itchby George Axelrod, and gained popularity following the 1955 film adaptation starringMarilyn Monroe andTom Ewell.

The phrase has since expanded to indicate cycles of dissatisfaction not only in interpersonal relationships, but also in any situation such as working a full-time job or buying a house, where a decrease in happiness and satisfaction is often seen over long periods of time.

Beginning 2009, former GovernorJennifer Granholm appointed Robert Bobb to oversee the financial `issues of Detroit Public School until she left office the end of 2010. Current Governor Rick Snyder then appointed Roy Roberts in 2011 and Roy remained in that position until 2015.

It was during Roy Roberts tenure as financial manager that Snyder announced the formation of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to restore the former glory of Detroit Public Schools.

By March 2012, Governor Snyder holds a high profile conference, introducing John Covington (most recently of Kansas Public School disaster) as chancellor and Roy Roberts as the EAA chair.

In June 2012, Roy Roberts (also the emergency manager appointed by Snyder) is touting the need for “accountability” as the last of Covington’s “Pancakes and Politics” conferences comes to a close.

This accountability will become Robert’s mantra as he seeks to restore financial control and accountability.  Something Roberts has been working on during the previous year before joining the EAA.

The keys to Detroit Public Schools, at least 15 schools, are handed over to John Covington who is only answerable to an 11-member board appointed by Snyder to oversee the turnaround of 98 Michigan schools deemed to be failing, a total of 38 that are in Detroit.

Three years after John Covington took the helm and four years since Roy Roberts assumed financial control of DPS, the district was

By June 2014, Johns Covington resigns as EAA chancellor and Governor Snyder is quoted as saying:

"Dr. Covington embraced the tremendous challenge of building such a school district. His student-centered approach, with individualized learning plans, longer school days and longer school years allowed children to make great strides. With passion, he built a solid foundation for the work of the EAA to continue and thrive, helping thousands of our young people now and into the future."

John Covington was paid a $175,000 signing bonus and a $225,000 salary his first year as leader of the new Education Achievement Authority.

His base salary grew to $325,000 in the second year. And if he meets yet-to-be-determined goals, he could make more than $425,000 in each of the last two years of the contract.

The better students within the system perform, the more money he makes. All told, he had the opportunity to earn up to $1.5 million over four years.

All this just to oversee HALF the public school in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the remaining schools of Detroit Public Schools are under the direction of another of Governor Snyder’s appointees.

Darnell Earley, who was appointed March 2014 as the Emergency Manager for the other HALF of Detroit schools is currently earning $210,000.00.  Earnley previously was paid $110,000.00 as EM of Saginaw and $180,000.00 as EM in Flint—the increase in his salary seems to be non-reflective of the progress that has NOT been made in either previous endeavor.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are you ready to SNARK?  The New Year is upon us and it is time to SNARK as no one has SNARKED before.  Or at least not as too many have previously SNARKED.

New Years is traditionally a time of RESOLUTIONS, a time to change what has not worked during the previous 365 days and a time to confess to prior FAILURES and commit to doing better, improving one’s self and otherwise stepping up to make a difference somewhere somehow someway.

It with this definition of RESOLUTION—

the mental state or quality of being resolves or
resolute; firmness or purpose.

She showed her resolution by not attending the meeting.

I resolve that in the year 2016, and forevermore, I will stand against those who abuse power and marginalize the working class for personal petty gain and enhancement of the oligarchy.

I realize this is a mighty commitment, but it is one that must be made.  It would be nice if there were those among us that would also add this resolution to their New Years strategies and join us in this endeavor.

But nonetheless, we here at GET YOUR SNARK ON will persevere to make it so.

While we have a predetermined list of SNARK targets, we reserve the right not to limit our commentary to such a narrow register, and to expand our agenda as we see fit and as the SNARKS do tend to change on a case-by-case basis.

We will SNARK, and our SNARKS will be brief (typically), as factual as the daily news, (generally) and as pertinent as the rising of the sun  (as a rule).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I came across this post on a popular forum today.  I started me thinking about what Jesus really meant when he spoke of being LUKEWARM.

I personally think it would because they love the world and the things of the world like music, movies, clothes, houses, automobiles, wealth, popularity, going on vacations, trips to the beach, concerts, amusement parks, sporting events, eating good food, hanging out with friends, plus having all the lukewarm Christians in Heaven means the more number of friendships I'll get to have there, I personally prefer being around the worldly and lukewarm Christians more than the angry Bible thumping Christians who'll tell you you're gonna be going to Hell for this and that, I wouldn't find joy or happiness if all of the people who I've loved on Earth or people who I've wanted to meet ended up in Hell

I see it differently.  LUKEWARM has ZERO to do with enjoying LIFE here and now.  Many believe that God ( or whatever name you use) not only wants us to enjoy life, he/she DEMANDS that we have the time of our life.

This idea that lukewarm means we are enjoying life and having fun is ludicrous and is surely the work of our evil subconscious. 

We can still love the world and the things of the world like music, movies, clothes, houses, automobiles, wealth, popularity, going on vacations, trips to the beach, concerts, amusement parks, sporting events, eating good food, hanging out with friend and LOVE God (or whatever name you use) and God would be ecstatic that we are taking advantage of LIFE.  After all is LIFE not a GIFT from God?

What parent would ever chastise their child for having fun and ENJOYING life? 

Does loving the world preclude people from making discoveries?  If we truly "loved god" why would we be curious and look for patterns and why would we seek knowledge?   It is NOT because we do not LOVE GOD, but because we do LOVE GOD that we want to make LIFE BETTER.

Are doctors "lukewarm" because the want to extend life (what did Paulie the heretic write about being absent from the body?  Wasn't that a narcissistic piece if there ever was one?) or when they treat a disease?  I think not.  They are doing God's work here on earth.

All this "love the world" crap is jut that--CRAP.  Do we really think that in the here-after all we will do is sit around singing HOLY-HOLY-HOLY 24/7?  God I hope not!  There are legions of angles who are doing that right now so I really doubt God needs a few million more sitting around boasting his / her ego...

LUKEWARM I BELIEVE refers willingness to justify ignoring those in need. 

When we refuse to love our neighbors. 
When we do not demand justice and administer MERCY when called for. 

We are lukewarm when we walk on past a person on the streets who needs help and we do nothing. 
Whether we withhold that extra dollar in our pocket and justify not giving the money.
Or we withhold that coat or food.
Even when we avoid a simple HELLO and a smile out of “fear” it makes us LOOK weak?. 

We are lukewarm when we think like the Pharisees and say:


And we hold ourselves ABOVE those who are marginalized. 

LUKEWARM expects others to pull themselves up and we stop asking WHY is this allowed and how can we provide the hand up.

LUKEWARM promotes INDIVIDUALISM and rejects the individual.

LUKEWARM fears "socialism" because we are told everyone has to WORK for what they get.

LUKEWARM fears government (despite what Paulie said about all government is appointed by God) and seeks to take control from the people and place it in corporate hands.

When we fear our neighbor (ignoring what Jesus said NUMEROUS times) and we support an armed society and justify it by saying MIGHT MAKES RIGHT that is lukewarm.  Can we imagine this happening on the playground--Your son goes to the teacher and says Bobby is throwing rocks at everyone--and instead of stopping Bobby the teacher gives EVERYONE rocks??

LUKEWARM no longer believes God is LOVE. 



LUKEWARM wanting God to be JUDGE & JURY provide we are the executioner

LUKEWARM exists on the outer edges of society because we are "better" than EVERYONE else.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

REPOST--An open letter to Mrs. Bush

An Open Letter to Mrs. Bush

Dear Mrs. Bush,
When I was six years old, I hid behind a couch with my ears covered by my tiny hands. I sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to drown out the sound of my mother screaming as my stepfather beat her.  Black eyes, a busted lip–all were common to see on my mother’s face. Another night, I awoke realizing I needed to use the restroom.  I was so scared to run into my stepfather in the hallway that I chose to urinate in the bed. I slept in it all night.  The predominant feeling throughout my childhood was fear. Fear that my mother would die, fear that I would die… just fear.
We survived. I received counseling. The scars from my youth never faded.
This is why I chose to get involved in the Domestic Violence movement. I did not find a job on Career Builder; I sought out a shelter for this work. When I began my work at the shelter, it was due to a genuine care for victims and their experiences.
I left the field five years later. I left because I realized the domestic violence movement had been hijacked by the very organization I imagined was its greatest ally: the Florida Coalition against Domestic Violence (FCADV).
You, Mrs. Bush, have partnered with FCADV since the early 2000s. According to their last 990 filing, you sit on the Board of their Foundation. In 2003, your husband, then Governor, Jeb Bush signed House Bill 1099. This bill allowed the FCADV to attain control over all funding for the 42 certified Domestic Violence centers in Florida. Over the past two weeks, your husband has publicly referenced his and your work on domestic violence as he makes his bid for Presidency.
For this reason, I can no longer be silent.
Immediately after your husband signed House Bill 1099, a multitude of things began to change at our shelter and others. In 2005, our Children’s Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) left and was never replaced. Our shelter decided the service was no longer necessary. In 2010, our Adult Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) was laid off and never replaced. Also in 2010, two members of our Board of Directors raised concerns about various issues, including the possible misappropriation of funds, blatant mistruths on the shelter’s 990s, and the fact that the Executive Director was never on-site. Since the shelter’s only oversight was and still is the FCADV, those affected reached out to them, calling and expressing concerns.
The result? They were dismissed from the Board.
Our longstanding Board of Directors included fifteen members; today it has five. In 2010, a strategic planner came in to help the shelter create a more concrete and effective plan to meet shelter objectives. However, he was dismissed when the Executive Director was unhappy or, rather, “unsatisfied” with his findings.
Among the findings? The lack of full time presence of the CEO (Executive Director).
In 2012, the three top administrators at the shelter received two raises in two months. With those raises, 40% of the entire funds of the shelter paid (and still pays) the three top administrators, one of which is the Executive Director who is almost never on-site. No action has been taken regarding any of these facts because, as previously mentioned, their only oversight is the FCADV and they do not appear to be concerned, based upon their lack of response to clearly expressed, valid concerns.
Certified Florida domestic violence shelters are required to report their counseling hours to FCADV monthly and FCADV compiles the numbers. The FCADV boasts that its centers provided approximately 455,000 hours of counseling to victims of domestic violence in 2014.
I called every one of Florida’s 42 certified centers and all but three confirmed that they have no LMHC counselor on staff. Most of them clarified that while they did not have licensed counselors, they follow a “peer counseling” model, which allows for a much looser conception of what counts as counseling. At the shelter where I worked,each and every moment a staff member even speaks to a victim counts toward counseling hours.
Internal memos signed by our director encouraged advocates to “get counseling hours up.” One specific memo (which I have in my possession) reads: “Do their nails, hair, gather them for a movie—just get the hours up.” I find it troubling that they consider this counseling. Had that been the counseling service I received as a child, or my mother received as an adult, I fear what would have become of us.
In 2009, the Department of Justice released their national fatality review on domestic violence victims. Among their findings were the following:
Up to 88% of battered women in shelters suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The Mexico fatality review study documented that a third of the female victims had alcohol in their system at the time of autopsy, with a blood alcohol content of twice the legal limit.
Other studies have found that as many as 72% of abuse victims experience depression.
Among women treated in emergency rooms for injuries caused by their abusers, those who suffered from substance abuse had increased risk of violence from partners.
75% (of battered women in shelters) experience severe anxiety.
Another hospital study found that victims injured by partners were more likely than other injured women in an emergency room to test positive for substance abuse.
This is not about blaming victims; it is about establishing which services victims truly need. How did it come to be that FCADV would ignore the desperate need for mental health counseling and substance abuse help in your shelters and centers? How did it come to be that FCADV stopped providing those services?  The official word from FCADV is that, “It’s not one of our core services” and/or “We can’t assume that every victim needs those services.” If credible data demonstrates that 80% of women in shelters have PTSD, shame on FCADV for not helping them.  This is especially true when Executive Directors continue to receive raises while those in need struggle for resources. The FCADV claims they “refer out” for mental health services. But to what resources? Mental health and substance abuse are incredibly underfunded while the FCADV is not. When I worked at the shelter as an advocate, most referrals I was required to recommend involved month-long waiting lists.
The Empowerment Model looks good on paper but one cannot empower an individual to do “what’s best for herself or her children” when the individual needs sobriety, substance abuse counseling, or mental health care. Blatantly ignoring what statistics make clear is irresponsible, unethical, and, at best, ineffective.
I worked with at least 600 women in our shelter. How many had what the average person or shelter employee would consider a “happy ending” or beneficial outcome? I would wager that fifty is a more than generous guess. Approximately fifty of 600 women left our shelter better off than when they arrived. The vast majority left almost no better from their time in our center. The reason is that, of the 600 women I worked with, only fifty dealt solely with domestic violence. The other 550 dealt with (and are likely still dealing with) with co-traumas of substance abuse and/or mental health.
Our shelter sent them back out into the world with none of what they needed to stay safe. Where did they go? Sometimes we dropped them off behind a Publix to walk into the woods, sometimes at homeless shelters, sometimes back to their abusers, sometimes to different shelters.  Not one of the highest paid administrators who take home 40% of the shelter’s funding demonstrated concern about the outcome of these survivors—or in this case, victims. I blame the FCADV.
I applaud the efforts of FCADV to raise awareness. I applaud their efforts to change the conversation and place the blame on abusers. I do NOT applaud their efforts to save lives because they are failing. And as long as they continue doing what they are doing—putting salaries above services and greed above goodwill—they will keep failing. Hiding behind the Empowerment Based Model does a disservice to victims, and that is not okay.
To empower women and victims, you must start by having honest conversations about the co-traumas that shelter workers see. The FCADV spends a great deal of money on lobbyists, to maintain their status quo. Domestic violence victims and survivors are not interested in the politics that have allowed this to spiral out of control, but it is certainly political in nature.
The FCADV has dwindled away services at its 42 centers, all while top executives and administrators continue to receive unjustified and unnecessary raises. It is unconscionable that the Executive Director of the FCADV makes nearly half a million dollars a year while victims go without essential services. Florida does not even come close to comparing to other Executive Director salaries.
I took the time to look at the 990’s for all State Coalition Executive Directors… here is how Florida’s Director compares:
Florida is often cited as leading the nation in domestic violence initiatives. I am terrified that other states would model themselves after ours. I cringe to think about what will become of the victims as executives’ pockets get bigger. I believe the FCADV began with good intentions. However, as often happens, when left unchecked, greed found its footing.
Please stop listening to the highest paid executives and go back to the basics. Speak openly with advocates, case managers, and all those who provide direct service.  Ask what they see, what services and resources they need to protect women, and to provide comfort and safety through their transition. You will find that the FCADV has gotten in the way of saving lives.
For too long, I stayed quiet. For too long, I tried to justify what I knew was wrong. For too long, I covered my ears like I did when I was a child hiding from the abuse in my own home. Now I will speak out. I will speak to State Representatives and individuals in Congress. I will reach out to others to join the fight. I will reach out with documentation of everything I have collected through my extensive research. I will never again let Mr. Jeb Bush go on TV and claim he has made positive changes to Florida’s domestic violence system. Perhaps you have both raised some important initiatives, but you have also helped the rich to get richer by ignoring the needs of victims.
Enough is enough.
Domestic violence survivors and victims in Florida deserve better. Every victim deserves better. It is time to take back the movement whose vast potential for change has been stolen by the FCADV. I sincerely hope you will consider my plea and use your position of power to benefit those in need rather than contributing to their further victimization.
Feel free to repost this blog, link to it, and/or share. If sharing on Twitter, use #FloridaDVReform. You may also tweet it to Columba Bush and Jeb Bush.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Disappointments are memorable

When does one finally realize they are getting old?  Is it when we no longer look forward to Friday nights—going out to the bar or the movies?  Is it when we buy tour first car that has four-doors or that gas saving motor?  Perhaps it is when our high school reunion rolls over from one-digit to two-digits?
What ever your demarcation is, or will be, there comes a time when each of us must acknowledge that time has continued, as we were busy living.  We actually never realize the progression of age.  At least not as we notice it on others.  How many times have we meat an old “friend” from the distant past and the first thing we think is “Do I look that good / bad?”  Or we find ourselves out in the community at some event or strolling the local big box store and we notice some one looking at us.  We wonder are they flirting?  DO they know me?  OMG, they are so OLD, why would they even think…then we realize the ultimate truth—we are about the same age—which means—I AM OLD.
Yeah, tell me something new.  Actually this is not the point I am coming to.  Age is but a slice of the blooming onion.  There ARE many other slices such as education, economic status, employment, community, and the ability to access these and other slices slice with dignity and respect.
The focus of this SNARK sprung to life as a result of a personal disappointment.  Not that this was any more disappointing that having worked in the same career for over 20 years and I am barely making what I did when I started in 1995.  We are all told that work hard, it will pay off.   Do what you love; it has its own rewards.  Stay focused and on point and your efforts will be recognized.
But what if you go above and beyond, but you just don’t hold the party line?  Or worse yet, you are unable to without compromising your clients?
But as usual, I digress.  Returning to the topic at hand, which was what exactly?
OH, it was being able, or actually ALLOWED to access the onion with dignity and respect and how I survived yet another personal disappointment today.   It is this event that once again brought me to think about a friend I never got around to seeing as often as I should have since I left Madison, Wisconsin in 1997.
When I met Mark, he was the epitome of dignity and respect.  The poster-person for determination if there ever was going to be such a person.  Mark grew up in Madison, went to school in Madison, and lived every day (except the days I took him out of the state) in Madison as if he was on a new adventure.  Mark had two, TWO degrees from the Madison Area Technical College—one in CISCO and the other in Microsoft Office.  Either one would have been a ticket to prosperity back in the early 1990s.
Mark had a very active social life.  He was often seen on State Street during the day, in and out of the shops and when he reached the University Union, he stopped for a bit, and slurped on a cold cola, maybe a burger and fries.  Then he would head back towards the Capitol on State Street, stopping to chat with all the people he knew, and all those he had not met, until that day.  Mark would get on the 25 bus, and head home for some dinner, a shower and a few hours of programming before dinner.
After dinner, mark was back on State Street from 8:00 P.M until 1:00 A.M Monday through Thursday.  He always finished the night at the local college bar, Bullwinkle’s.  There he would dance the night away.   The women he knew from his previous excursions always had a few new friends who had all heard about Mark.  By 1:00 A.M. Mark was ready to head back home and get an early start in the morning.  By all appearances, Mark was having the time of his young life
Yet, every day Mark experienced disappointment in his personal life, particularly in the area of employment. Having completed two IT programs still was not enough to get Mark an offer for employment.  Once he had an offer to do some work for a nonprofit doing data entry in a spreadsheet, but once that job was completed, there was no other offers waiting.  Mark tried several other avenues, designing websites on some of those free hosting sites as a way of advertising his talent.  Everyday, Mark anticipated a knock at his door, a letter in the mailbox, an email from a stranger or a phone call from an enthusiastic employer who had discovered his skills.  There was nothing but SILENCE.
Eventually, after too many disappointments, possibilities no longer shine as they once had.  The morning is no longer an exciting event and your friends are not as interesting as they were yesterday.
That is what I felt when I was faced with my latest disappointment.  I understood what it feels like to always do your best.  To put that best foot forward and always, always provide a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  Only Marko never had that opportunity to work with dignity and respect.  Having dignity and respect in one’s social life is great and all, but it is having respect and dignity via work is what validates us as human beings, not just a life form, but a contributing member of our community.  Be it good or be it bad, our work defines who we are and gives all of us standing within our society.  So when I encounter disappointment, and I wonder just how I can deal with yet another set back, I think of Mark.
He NEVER was given the opportunity to be employed with dignity and never had the respect associated with holding your own.  Even though there was no pressure on Mark, there was no realistic reason why Mark should have been concerned with securing employment, because Mark had fought his entire life for dignity and respect from the day he was born.  Beginning September 08, 1970, everyday was a struggle for dignity and respect.  Living with cerebral palsy, Mark never asked for favors.  He never took charity.  Rather, he dove into every experience for all it was worth.
But eventually we all grow weary of the battle.  Even when we look back at all our victories, there is always ONE tat has eluded us.  The one we will never overcome and claim as ours.  For Mark, that was employment with dignity and respect.  It wasn’t the money (though money does make some jobs easier), the benefits, or even the actual work.  As it is for many of us, work allows us to bond with others who hopefully share our passion.  Who take us in and embrace us when we are successful, and they take us in and embrace us when we stumble—reminding us there is always another day.

But for Mark, on November 01, 2010, that next day would never come again.   Mark felt his community had let him stumble one to many times when it came to employment.  So Mark decided he had one last job he could do.  So he boarded the 25 bus one last time, and went for a one-way stroll down State Street, to the University Memorial Union.  From there, Mark directed his power chair across the isthmus to Monona Bay.  There, adjacent to Lake Monona, where Otis Redding’s lane went down December 10, 1967, Mark slipped from his power chair into the cold depths of history.