Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Walking Time

The San Francisco Giants just re-signed Barry Bonds to a one-year, $15.8 million contract. He only needs 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron's record of 755.

Now, I'm no baseball expert, but I do like to watch an occasional game. I also love the stories of great athletes who love their sport, work hard to bring honor to the game and create magic for their fans. I'll even admit that I cried like a baby the night that Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record by playing his 2131st straight game. I'm just glad that the patrons at the restaurant where I was waiting tables that night were also too misty-eyed to notice. (Don't tell, but I also cry at the National Anthem, the end of the Iron Man and when the Stanley Cup is awarded--and those are just the sporting events. I'm actually quite sappy, but I spent a lot of years learning how to hide it.)

So here's the thing. A grown man who admits to using an "unknown substance," who tested positive last season for amphetamines (which he claims came from a teammate’s locker), who is still facing perjury charges related to the doping allegations, and whose new contract includes a clause letting the Giants off the hook if he is indicted, does not deserve to break one of baseballs greatest records. He should not be allowed to besmirch the efforts of Hank Aaron, who earned that record through hard work and perseverance. Bonds' name, along with the inevitable asterisk, should not be allowed in the books.

So here's my modest proposal: Since the Giants did not have the honor and decency to refuse to re-sign Bonds, every pitcher in the league should have enough respect for the game to walk him this year. Every game. Some will cry foul, saying he deserved a chance to clear his name; deserved a shot at the record. But he's had that—over and over again. With drug allegations hanging over him last season, he still tested positive for amphetamines, and blamed a teammate. He doesn't respect the game. It's time to let him walk.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Death in the Family

Really, it's just my computer, but it felt like family. It was the computer I have been attached to for the past three years. The one that allowed me to keep my sanity when I was on bed rest. The one that indulged my neuroses by obediently looking up all of the illnesses I might have (but don't), as well as seemingly endless bits of random information.

But last night, it had had enough and skirled its last. And with that last wail went three active writing projects, including two short stories, almost complete, and the outline, notes, resources and first thirty two pages of the book I was writing. Am writing. Thanks to my sister, Sarah, and my friend, Jessica, I was able to recover two early versions of the outline, so I will begin again.

I refuse to take it as a cosmic hint. How very unlike me!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Thank You, Mr. Kerry"

Those words escaped before I could even think to slap a hand over my mouth. But I agree with John Kerry's assessment that he will be more effective by staying in the Senate than he would in running for President again. (Not to mention that some of us were wondering how he would manage to get around for the next couple of years with one foot lodged permanently in his mouth.)

If only Hillary had made the same decision. I think she's brilliant and would have made a good president. But she comes with too much baggage and is so polarizing that many on the right would vote for Mark Foley before they allowed the Clintons to move back into the White House. She would, perhaps, also have been more effective by remaining in the Senate.

Since we are not allowed to elect Bill Clinton again (and anyway, he's doing so much good work with the Clinton Foundation) we, not just the Democratic party, but the country as a whole, need to find someone new, with fresh ideas. Hell, at this point, any ideas would be a good start.

I was at first unsure about Barak Obama, junior Senator from Illinois, thinking that he needed more time in a national office to learn the ropes. Especially with the country as divided as it is now and faced with an interminable "war on terrorism." But history shows that a seemingly untested candidate can compete and win on the national stage--even in times of great crisis. (Abraham Lincoln? Anyone? Anyone?) In 1861, Lincoln, was sworn in as the 16th US President, having never previously attained higher office than in the Illinois state legislature.)

Or how about Russ Feingold? At least he had the cajones to stand on the floor of the Senate and introduce a resolution to censure the President. Alone. Not a single other Senator backed it though most of them had been saying the same thing privately for months. He alone had the guts to stand up and do what he thought was right.

On the Republican side, how about drafting former Senator John Danforth back into politics? I'm not sure we could convert him to a democrat, but as noted in Wikipedia: "A political moderate, Danforth was once quoted as saying he joined the Republican Party for "the same reason you sometimes choose which movie to see — [it's] the one with the shortest line."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't You People Have Anything Better to Do?

I'm pretty sure that I'm not becoming a Republican in my old age, but there are just some things the government has no business sticking their collective nose in. A few examples (by no means all or even the most egregious):
  • Google searches. The one that was recently used in an article about the intrusion was chilling and just sad. It clearly painted the picture of a woman near the of her rope and in need of help. Fortunately, the search string also showed that she was actively searching for that help.
  • The US Mail. For hundreds of years, the mail of people living in the US was protected by federal law from search and seizure, even from the nosy neighbors who wanted to know what was in the brown paper package. Or just how much your credit card bills were. Now, thanks to a recent signing statement, the president has declared that he has the authority to open that mail to see what you're up to. All in the name of our safety, they tell us. You know, just in case Osama is sending Christmas cards.
  • Attempting to prevent a sports team from leaving town or taking the name with them when they do go.
And now we have one more intrusion to add to the list: Legislation being drafted by California assemblywoman Sally Lieber, a democrat from Mountain View, that would make it a misdemeanor to spank a child up to the age of three. Lieber says that the bill will be written broadly enough to prevent any corporeal punishment: spanking, smacking, hitting, punching, etc. I'm pretty sure that punching a child already classifies as child abuse, but do the rest? Should they?

I don't spank the girls--though some days I might really want to--but I have swatted Hannah on the butt once or twice. I don't consider that to be spanking and I'm guessing that, for many other parents, there is a huge difference between the two. Maybe my view is a little askew because I was spanked as a child, as were all of my siblings. And it wasn't just with a hand either. Sometimes it was a switch that we had to choose ourselves; sometimes it was the belt; sometimes a wooden spoon. Sometimes we deserved it, sometimes not so much.

So where would it end? Are you allowed to smack your child's hand away from a hot stove or an electrical outlet? Who reports it? Can a neighbor call in what they think might have been a spanking? If it was in actuality just playful swat, does it become another case of "he said/she said?" Who decides? Who will prosecute it? The courts already seem to be overflowing.

In the San Jose Mercury News story on this--what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yeah, lunacy--"Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said that he personally agrees children under 3 shouldn't be spanked but has no desire to make it law. 'Where do you stop? At what point are we going to say we should pass a bill that every parent has to read a minimum of 30 minutes every night to their child?'"

Even child psychologists disagree on the value or harm of spanking. And there is an enormous difference between the occasional spanking and actual abuse. So perhaps the state legislature's time would be better spent tightening up the oversight of the agencies who are responsible for protecting at-risk children. Like the three boys who died after being thrown into the San Francisco Bay by a mentally ill mother. Or the father who was just convicted of involuntary manslaughter for beating his son to death. Now that might be worthy of Ms. Lieber's time and effort: Stop allowing involuntary manslaughter as an option in cases where someone beat their child to death.

Blogger Error

And by "blogger" I don't mean me. For the first time ever, Blogger decided to publish a post before it was done. I apologize if you saw it in all of it's hideousness. Please hit "refresh" and read it as it was meant to be.

The Studio 60--SNL Connection

I've noticed, as I'm sure many others have, that Saturday Night Live is having a much better season. I don't think it's a coincidence that this occurred at the same time Studio 60 came on the air. It's my firm belief that Aaron Sorkin was not only able to create a fabulous show, but that he also was able to bring the level of creativity at SNL up a notch. OK, several notches. Many, many . . . but you get the idea.

Studio 60 has been off the air for a couple of weeks. SNL has not been as funny; last week's episode was a return to the painful, with a few exceptions. (Jake Gyllenhaal looking surprisingly good in drag and "Did you see what I just did? I Dog Whispered you" are two I can remember off the top of my head.)

Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Wish List for the 110th Congress

I meant to post this before but it got lost in my drafts. This was originally supposed to go up on January 6, so some of these things have already been addressed. Hurray!

I'm excited about this new Congress and the opportunity they have to make some changes in the direction the country is taking. That being said, I can't say I'm incredibly optimistic. Taken one by one, many of the Congressmen and women seem to be there for the right reason: because they think they can make a difference. But put them all together and it becomes a game of one-upsmanship with petty bickering, popularity contests and non-stop fundraising.

Not a whole hell of a lot got done in the 109th Congress. Both sides are pretty sure it wasn't their fault.

So, in no particular order, my wish list for the 110th Congress:

1) Get to work. I'm not talking about actually passing legislation--though that would be nice too. I'm talking about actually going to the office. Staying in Washington for the entire five-day work week. No more leaving on Thursdays. No more using Monday as a traveling day that precludes your going to the office. Every day, hundreds of thousands of "regular" people manage to get up early, kiss the kids good-bye, and travel across the country for same-day meetings. Not many of us would keep our jobs for long if we only worked Tuesday though Thursday. And no, fundraising trips, dinners and other events should not count against your "time served."

2) Pass legislation to increase the national minimum wage. If you had to vote yourselves a pay raise almost every year for the past 10 years, surely you can see why some people might appreciate another couple of dollars an hour. Some (ok, many) Republicans have argued that an increase would hurt the economy. That employers would just cut hours and/or production to make up the difference. Maybe in the short run. But if we can get millions of people above the poverty level, they might actually have a few extra dollars to spend--maybe even on the stuff they make. It's been almost 10 years since the federal minimum wage was increased. Anyone think that the price of gas, heating oil, prescription medications and housing have stayed the same?

3) Pass legislation allowing the importation and/or re-importation of prescription medication. There is no reason why seniors and sick people should be subsidizing the drug companies. And there is no reason to believe that same drugs, approved for use in other countries, should be a danger to the US consumer. There is only one group who is in danger from this legislation.

4) Pass the Mental Health Parity Act. Sure I might be a bit biased about this one, but I'm not the only one who benefits. US employers lose more in worker productivity due to untreated depression than to almost any other single health issue.

5) Increase the pay rate for all active duty military personnel. Members of Congress make about $170,000 a year. As noted previously, they generally work three days a week while Congress is in session. On a normal day, they don't have to be at the office at 5:00 in the morning--that's what their chief of staff is for. They also don't generally have people shooting at them.

6) Exempt active duty US military personnel from the federal income tax. Currently, members of the armed forces do not pay federal income tax on income earned while they are serving in a combat zone. Even with housing allowances, hazardous and special duty pay, many military families have a hard time supporting a family. If we want to make this a more attractive career option, maybe we should make the pay and benefits a little more attractive.

I'll keep adding as I think of more. Feel free to send your own suggestions!

On Dianne Feinstein's Priorities

Allen Bourgoyne of San Jose has saved me from having to write another letter to the San Jose Mercury News. Yesterday (Sunday, January 14) they published this letter from him:

"I would like to thank Sen. Dianne Feinstein for introducing legislation aimed at keeping the 49ers in San Francisco and making it more difficult for sports teams to keep their names when they move.

I was going to suggest that she focus on the war in Iraq, spiraling health care costs, the ongoing disaster in New Orleans, problems with the educational system, or even adjusting the alternative minimum tax to account for inflation so average people like myself don't get burned with excessive taxes even though I can't afford a home here. But I was wrong.

Way to go, Senator. Thanks for properly prioritizing the major issues facing your constituents."
Definitely couldn't have said it better myself.

The Most Amazing Post On Good vs Bad Mothers

I just read this incredible post and think that anyone with children needs to read it. No, they owe it to themselves to read it. So please do and send it to any mother you've ever know who felt judged by her peers or society at large. (Just make sure you note where the article came from; it's under a creative commons license.)

An excerpt:
"Why can't we feel confident in our own mothering choices? Why do we feel such a need to prove ourselves through book after book and scorn directed towards other mothers?
Ask yourself, and be honest. When was the last time you criticized another mother in your mind? Was it today? Was it yesterday?

The next time you hear yourself making a nasty comment about another mother…stop. Just stop. And ask yourself – is she really a bad mother? Does she abuse her child? Does she neglect her child? Co-sleeping is not abuse. Bottle-feeding is not neglect. Think about what is coming out of your mouth.

Do not diminish the pain of a child who sleeps chained in a closet, ribs cracked from her latest beating by equating her to a child who has learned to sleep by crying it out for a few nights in her crib. Do not diminish the pain of a child who has been sexually abused by equating her to a child that sleeps peacefully between her loving parents. Do not diminish the pain of a child who has not eaten for days by equating her to a child who is not fed meat or who drinks formula."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Listening to Which Generals?

“It would be a sublime, yet historic, irony if those who believe the views of the military professionals were neglected at the onset of this war were now to dismiss the views of the military as irrelevant or wrong."

Robert M. Gates, US Secretary of Defense
January 12, 2007
Lets take a look at this, you know, historically.

Prior to the beginning of the war in Iraq,
General Eric Skinseki, in testimony to the US Armed Services Senate Committee, stated that:
"I would say that what's been mobilized to this point -- something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."
In a show of disregard for the opinion of his general, the president and then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld sent then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Congress to testify that the numbers given by General Shinseki were "wildly off the mark."

As recently as November of 2006, General John Abizaid, commander USCENTCOM and in charge of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in testimony to a Senate committee
"I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem. I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are."

In July of 2006, President Bush said that when it came to troop levels, he would defer to General Casey, commander of the US and allied troops in Iraq. General Casey has been blunt in his view that increased troop levels would further delay hand off of operations to the Iraq military. But according to a Washington Post report, on December 20, 2006, "Bush indicated that he will not necessarily let military leaders decide, ducking a question about whether he would overrule them."

Yesterday it was announced that General Casey is being brought back to Washington as chief of staff of the Army. General Abizaid is retiring in March. Conveniently, the generals who will be replacing them are advocates of increasing troop levels. The lesson? You don't stay in a war with the generals you have; you shop around until you find a couple who will agree with you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

We Are Not at War

We the people are not at war. We have been asked to stand by and let the military and their families do the sacrificing and suffering for us. We have not been asked to even make economic sacrifices or reduce our oil consumption. And a gasoline tax, no matter how small? Don't even think about it; for the first time in our history we are conducting a war while cutting taxes.

So rather than tightening our belts, we are left standing slack-jawed in amazement as the President, with a paternalistic pat, tells us to go about our business. To carry on our lives as usual. To travel. To shop. To trust that his administration has "a new way forward" to get us out of this morass of his making.

Sixty one percent of the American people now believe that we should not be sending more troops to Iraq. By all accounts, that sixty one percent is about to be ignored by the president. And by all accounts, another 20,000 families will spend the next months, possibly years, wondering when and if their loved one will come home again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Holy Crow! Charlotte's Two!

Charlotte turned two on Friday. We had a little party for her on Saturday and, being thoroughly modern people (ok, I'm not really), we asked Thomas's parents to attend via IChat:

It's amazing to see how much she's changed in two short years:

Day One:
3 pounds, 11 ounces
Charlotte comparison

Year One:
Charlotte smiling

And today:
A whopping 22 pounds of pure energy:

Sometimes I'm amazed that she needs physical therapy at all.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Under the Category of "What the F?!"

"Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products."
~Jim Rutz, founder-chairman of Open Church Ministries on WorldNetDaily

I thought it might be from The Onion, but no. He actually believes this. Too bad he didn't include his sources.

Putting Away the Past

Whenever we go to the park, Hannah does the normal kid thing and looks for someone to play with. I, on the other hand, recently noticed that I do the abnormal, helicoptering of an overly anxious parent. What if they don't want to play? What if they don't like her? What if they just leave her standing there alone?

I hadn't realized that I had stored so many of my childhood memories in such brightly colored boxes, strewn about the dark corners of my brain. But now I find myself unpacking and reexamining those boxes. (Why, by the way, do the awful moments have to be the ones I remember best?) Some contain memories of being left out, dropped by friends who wanted to hang out with the cool kids. Some contain remnants of the crushing shyness that made me cringe, shrinking lower in my seat whenever a teacher directed a question in my general direction. Some are filled with the frustration I felt at my inability to just go up to people, strike up a conversation, something. Anything.

It's like an old scar on the back of your knee: you forget about it until you have another reason to look there. And I didn't think to look until I became aware of my anxiety about Hannah and decided to search around for the cause. And strange as it may seem, I'm glad that I looked. I'd much rather know about it now so I have time to stomp it out. Hannah is not me. I cannot live her life for her. I cannot be so anxious about her that I don't let her do anything that could cause her to be hurt. After all, I know first-hand the long-term effect of a mother who won't let you stray too far from her skirts.

So in the spirit of the New Year, I'm going to stop lugging around those shiny little boxes. After 30 odd years, they're getting heavy. And I need the space for all of the good stuff that comes from being Hannah and Charlotte's mother.