Thursday, May 12, 2022

From mental health reform to homelessness

    This morning in the Baltimore Sun there was a story about the sale of the Spring Grove Mental Hospital complex to UMBC.  The State will lease back the hospital for the foreseeable future but eventually, it will probably close.  The State has done similar things to Springfield Hospital and Crownsville all of which were the locations for mental health treatment for the past 100 years.  Closing these institutions and transitioning care to community settings was the basis of the reform movement of the early 1970s. The development of psychotropic drugs to manage mental illness was supposed to make this transition possible.  The reality was that the drugs made people even less able to function independently.   In 1972 I worked in a psychiatric halfway house in DC.  The halfway house movement was supposed to be part of the transition from hospital to the community.  I remember going to St. Elizabeths Hospital  to pick up patients to bring to the halfway house.  The hospital sat in the best location in southeast DC for a view of the city.  I always remember standing and admiring the view and thinking how much a developer would pay to build homes there with that view of the city.  Now, much of the land is used for Homeland Defense offices.
      Like so many reform efforts to move people from institutions to the community, the mental health deinstitutionalization movement has had more failures than successes.  The lack of transferring the money from the institutions closed to create community resources has meant that many people with mental illnesses have ended up in homeless shelters or living on the street.   The money saved in closing the institutions was never tied to the development of new community services but got spent for other more politically popular government services.  The mentally ill population is politically weak and relies on others to advocate for their needs.  That reality and the stigma of mental illness will probably always mean that when dollars get allocated for government services the mentally ill will be shortchanged and the streets will remain where many will be deinstitutionalized to.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A telling sign of the condition that Baltimore is in


    While Baltimore City officials talk about a renaissance in the city you only have to look at the Baltimore Sun this morning to see a different picture.  Today there were 20 pages of tax sale properties listed.  That represents many thousands of properties in default on their tax bills.  Not the sign of a healthy city that has a murder problem and a deteriorating Inner Harbor.  Blue-collar cities that were healthy in the 1950s have been hollowed out in our digital tech age.  How to move those cities in a new direction that restores health to the cities is the challenge they face this century.  Are cities obsolete in a digital age?

Monday, May 9, 2022

A liberal response to the possible Supreme Court ruling on Roe


     While the final ruling from the Supreme Court is still a month or two away the ruling will certainly be one that liberals will find appalling.  Justice Alito based much of his argument for overturning Roe on the fact that abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. It may not have mentioned it because the Constitution was written by wealthy men who were not concerned with "women's issues." In reality, the first law restricting abortion was not written until 1821.  According to the American Progress organization colonial women could have abortions until the time of feeling movement in the fetus or after 14 weeks.  Unfortunately, some states what the situation to go back farther than colonial times.  

   Instead of the fight being directed at reinforcing the right to abortion in liberal states I want to propose a better way to respond.   Liberals should work to finally get the Equal Rights Amendment finally added to the Constitution.  The issue of whether enough states have ratified the amendment is controversial.   It all seems to boil down to the National Archivist to rule that the Amendment has met the threshold to have it go into effect.  The Office of Legal Counsel of the Trump Administration ruled that Congress didn't have the right to extend the 7-year time limit for the states to ratify the amendment.  This ruling has been supported by the current Biden Administration in court and that is blocking the Archivist from ruling the amendment is approved and is now part of the Constitution.  Attorney-General Garland could change this stance and let the courts could give the Archivist the right to rule on this matter and hopefully rule that the requirement had been met.  The Trump Administration didn't have any problem blocking the ruling so the Biden Administration shouldn't have any problem overruling that decision.  Elections have consequences.

    So how would this change the Roe ruling?  An argument could be made that the Equal Rights Amendment gives women the same right as men to control their health care decisions.  This is the route that Justice Ginsburg thought the right should have been based on.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Why conservatives always lose eventually


    The Harlem Globetrotters the entertaining traveling basketball team always had the Washington Generals as the team to beat.  The Generals had to look like they had a chance to win but you always knew their job was just an act and that they would lose once again.   This situation reminds me of how our politics plays out.  Conservatives always want our country to never change and win temporary victories but always end up losing in the end. This reality makes conservatives disgruntled and bitter.  Sometimes their disgruntlement causes them to even attack Congress.

    With the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion this week conservatives are celebrating a seeming victory in their 50-year battle on abortion.  Right now it is uncertain how long it will take for their victory to be undone but if history is a guide the victory will only be temporary.  

     Conservatives politically use conservative religious doctrine to support their political beliefs.  Conservative religious beliefs, like conservative political beliefs, can never change or they lose their value.  It is not surprising that almost all of the opposition to abortion has a strong fundamentalist religious basis.  Opposition to change is the common theme in both.  Conservatives have to get used to losing as there is nothing more certain than change.


     Look for the Maryland General Assembly to move to attempt to put the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution.  This could even happen in a special session if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. The culture war is heating up and will play out in this year's state elections.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

My question on the leaked Supreme Court opinion

    There is a great deal of speculation about who leaked the first draft of the opinion on the abortion case. Speculation has been mixed about whether it came from someone with the liberal justices or the conservative justices.  Each side may have its reasons for leaking the opinion although Fox News seems convinced it was from the liberal side.  My question in looking at this is "why was the first draft the one leaked?"  By now there are probably second or third drafts either written or being written.  Why were they not leaked?  What is being played out between the first draft and the later drafts?  Is the leaker trying to freeze each justice's position at the time of the first draft?  There is obviously a 5-3 majority for overturning Roe.  If Chief Justice Roberts decides to join the 3 justices in the minority then it will take one of the majority justices in the first draft to change their opinion to not overrule Roe completely.  Roberts may have had some success in doing that in later drafts and that is why the first draft was the one leaked.   Would any of the majority justices have the courage to be labeled as a traitor to the Right to Life movement now that we know where they stood in the first draft? It would seem to me that leaking the first draft now and not later is designed to freeze the first opinion in place than to change the vote in a direction of not overruling Roe.

    Time will tell if the leaking side will ever be known but it will probably come out eventually.  It took "Deep Throat" dying to have them revealed.  Probably won't take a death this time.