Thursday, October 19, 2006

Reasons for Hope

1. Scientists at Duke have created an invisibility cloak, thus exponentially increasing my chances of being able to scarf my daughter's Halloween candy without being seen.

2. Evangelical Christians are joining with Democrats to fight for action on issues like global warming and Dafur. Too bad many of their leaders view this as important because of their "image", as opposed to being important because it's the right thing to do.

3. Approval of Republicans is at an all-time low. God Bless America.

4. More than two thirds of people world wide disapprove of torture, even in the face of terrorism. Interesting that the BBC headlined this as "One Third Support Some Torture". Such a glass half full, optimist kind of gal I am.

5. Studies about eating fish continue to give us contradictory advice about the wisdom of doing so. Good thing, because then I have an excuse to not cook, serve or eat fish, which I really despise even though I have been cooking, serving and eating it because it's supposed to be good for my coronarily compromised husband.

6. If I spend the big bucks and buy only fair trade chocolate, I can eat it worry-free, as opposed to all of you who are eating Big Name chocolate bars and guilt tripping on the fact that little children are used as slaves to produce it. Now, if only I could figure out how to make my chocolate splurge calorie-free . . . .

7. Solar energy could soon be more economically viable than oil, despite all the crap you read and hear from the oil industry. Good day, Sunshine!

8. The leaves on my geraniums are almost as pink as the few blossoms left clinging to life. Maybe dying won't be so bad?

9. There are always new mystery authors to discover. This month's picks: Colin Cotterill and Garry Disher. I need a fascinating protagonist and an interesting locale.

10. The gubernatorial race in Illinois will soon be over and I'll never have to listen to Blago and Barr snipe at each other again. Too bad we won't have a good governor after having to listen to so much crap election talk, no matter who wins. They say (good old they) that you get the representation that you deserve. We in Illinois must have really been bad boys and girls.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Baby, baby

About this Madonna/Child thing. I'm against it. Anti. Not for. In fact, I'm against the whole-celebrity-adopts-poor-baby-from-poor-country-to-shine-light-on-the-horrific-conditions-extant- in-said-poor-country phenomenon. I'm also not in favor of the matching activity of celebrity-giving-birth-to-her-own-baby-in-poor-country-to-either-avoid-press-or-shine-light-on-the-horrific-conditions-extant-in-said-country.

Don't assume I'm a baby hater. Far from it. I love babies. They're my best friends. I even had two of them. I gave foster care to dozens of them.

And don't assume I'm against adoption. Not me. Think it's peachy keen. I know many fine people who were unable to become biological parents (or chose not to) who instead became wonderful adoptive parents to fine children who needed a home and parents.

Nope. It's the celebrity other country thing I'm not supporting.

The Madonna Adoption? That's easy to not support. She spends a week in a country, spends a little bit of money (for her), picks out a baby, and gets to take it home. Even though the law of Malawi clearly states no foreign adoptions. Even though baby David has a father. Living.

As at least one observer observed, "(w)hy not support the father to take care of his son in his own community?"

But my objection is a more global one--or perhaps more parochial. I want celebrities to stop shining the light on exotic, far away spots of horror like Ethiopia or Malawi, and start lighting their little candles closer to home. If black is in, why not adopt a little black boy from the West Side of Chicago? Detroit? LA?

We have thousands upon thousands of black children languishing in the foster care system right here in America. Children who desperately need loving parents and stable homes.
And boys of color are far less adoptable than girls. We have a whole generation of little boys who are growing up unwanted, uncared for. Doesn't any celebrity hear their cries for help?

Are African-American babies intrinsically less worthy of celebrity attention? Are they not suffering enough? Clearly, African babies are suffering more than those tots in Cleveland or Detroit. Live in more squalid conditions. Don't they?

I'm not inclined to think celebrities are adopting simply because they are moved by African suffering. I'm inclined to think celebrities are adopting out country mainly because the locale creates interest which begets publicity which is priceless for those in the pay attention to me business. Fascinating commentary on this here.

I challenge one celebrity would be mommy or daddy to look closer to home for his/her next victim, er, child. I challenge someone famous to adopt a black baby boy from LA. Better yet, how about a 9 yr old boy? Put your money and attention someplace a little less exotic yet infinitely rewarding.


Thursday, October 12, 2006


All these stories, these news features, are bringing me down, man. 600,000 killed in the wars. A past Republican conspiracy of silence--or worse, indifference. A present Republican push to tar and feather gays with the Foley brush.

Sometimes, I wish I was a Republican. I'd have to be a really staunch one, of course. Unthinking, possibly. Certainly unquestioning. Because if I were a Republican, I could listen to George W. Bush and believe that all is well and wonderful and under his incredible control and power. I could see those 600,000 deaths as only being maybe 30,000. And as being a worthwhile sacrifice for freedom and democracy.

I'd believe that the economy is on the upswing if I were a zombie Republican. I'd ignore those oh so quiet reports that the Dow is, in fact, NOT at its high level ever because no one is adjusting that figure for inflation. I'd pay no mind at all to the notion that job growth is actually far below the average rate since WWII. And I'd probably even believe that crap emanating from the government about the deficit being cut in half.

Or maybe I should be a fundamentalist Christian. I've often found it appealing, on dark winter 2ams when too many questions bombard my mind and I simply want answers. Fundamentalist Christians have all the answers--and they actually believe them. How comforting that would be, to know it all.

I'd be quite certain that gay people are bad because, well, it's obvious, isn't it? Read the frickin' Bible. Well, don't actually
read it. Look at the words. Don't try to put any meaning in the words, let alone attempt to understand the culture and times in which it was written. Unless it fits with your beliefs, of course. Don't have to wash feet, even though Jesus commanded it more than anything else, because, well, it's obvious. That was something that was done then, not now.

But those gays? They're different from me, so clearly I need to take the Bible literally in that situation. Because it bolsters my distancing from discomfort. And isn't that what religion is all about? And then, let's use our collective discomfort with those who are different than us (in one medium sized way alone) to make all gay Republicans suffer for Mark Foley's preying on teen boys.

Maybe if I were a Republican Fundamentalist Christian, I'd suffer fools more gladly. Maybe I'd think it's a great idea to arm an entire town to facilitate growth. Or perhaps I'd vote to outlaw drawing stupid, incendiary conclusions about historical facts. Or maybe then I'd agree with Tony Snow, who said at a White House briefing that we need to give presidents the benefit of the doubt when national security is involved.

Didn't I say something about pigs flying yesterday?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Celebrate good times?

My daughter, 14, attended her first BIG high school dance two weekends ago. She had a wonderful time, looked gorgeous. But it was a big deal, and I'm a little annoyed by the whole rigmarole. First, she had to have a dress. A nice dress. But not too nice. Not long or anything. I'm ok with that.

The event called for a visit to Marshall Fields sic Macys. Fields/Macys had an abundance of nice but not too nice dresses. It also featured a plethora of other teen girls seeking same. Does everyone have Homecoming on the same weekend? Daughter waded through numerous dresses. I pointed out several that seemed quite nice. She chose several others that did not resemble in any way, shape, or form, those that I had pointed out.

Eventually, she emerged from the somewhat raucous dressing rooms with a lovely dress in hand. The price was fairly right, under $50 on sale with some discount. Works for me. She even tried it on for me and the spouse when she got home. And, steal of steals, we found a pair of silver flats that she deemed acceptable for $10.

But as Homecoming conversations moved forward, it appeared that this was not all the outlay that was necessary. Discussions of dinners out, boutonnieres, and Hummer limos hovered on the edge of my consciousness. Oh please, said I. There is no chance in hell of the daughter or her nascent boyfriend (whom she is not yet allowed to date alone) being able to afford the aforementioned items. And pigs will fly by the time I authorize a Hummer limo for a 14 year old.

Fortunately, daughter thought all of that was pretty silly. Well, some of it, anyway. She and her boyfriend popped for matching flowers, went out dinner in downtown Oak Park, and walked to the dance from dinner in her lovely silver slippers.

No wonder people are having $50,000 weddings. There's such pressure to outdo each previous Homecoming and Prom and every other event that has become pricier and fancier. Again, I say. Please. We had a very lovely wedding reception in the basement of the church in which we were wed. Nice food provided by a community college catering service. Music from a string quartet. And many friends and family. Maybe a couple thou, if that?

Can't we leave something new to try, discover or experience for adulthood? Couldn't children's birthday parties be simple affairs with cake and ice cream and $10 presents? Graduation from 8th grade a nice ceremony and a family dinner afterwards? I'm not suggesting we give up celebrations. Let's just spend less money on them. Be a bit less ostentatious. People will still think you're a valuable contributing member of society, even if your 14 yr old doesn't arrive in a Hummer limo.


Friday, October 06, 2006

What is news?

Yes. What is news? What should qualify as news? That's what I want to know today. I've been thinking about it all week, in the wake of Foleygate (Predatorgate? How long will scandals be "gated"? Until the Baby Boomers die off?) Merriam-Websters says "a report of recent events . . . previously unknown information . . . something having a specified influence or effect." The word news comes from the Middle English newes, which meant new things, new tidings.

harrumph. "A report of recent events." That doesn't help me a whole lot in my plan to be choosy about what is, and isn't news. Unfortunately, Paris Hilton's DUI arrest qualifies as news under
that definition, as does whether or not Madonna adopted a baby boy in Malawi. Hey, look. I like reading People in my doctor's office as much as the next girl on the block. But I don't want to read People in my Newsweek or Chicago Tribune.

"Previously unknown information?" We're getting warmer. M-W gives information as "the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence . . . knowledge gained from investigation, study or instruction." Isn't that at least partly why we watch/listen to/read about the news? To get a little bit smarter about what's going on in the world, to understand the events in a perspective? Considering news from that perspective means that Tom Cruise's latest 15 minutes of fame for jumping on Oprah's couch for Katie would be limited to an exploration of his weirdo Scient(sic)ology allergy to psychopharmacology.

It does make news sound a bit dry, though. Makes one think of long droning NPR reports. BBC newscasts. Snoring through history lectures in high school. But I had some great high school and college history professors who presented knowledge and information as something living and lively. I think that's where the third part of the definition comes in: having a specified influence or effect.

That's what makes news interesting: linking the bald facts to what they mean. And that's why what we hear as news these days is rarely news. Sounds bites leave no time for explanations. Telling me that 18 soldiers were killed in Iraq last week makes me sad--but it passes. Telling me exactly why 18 soldiers were killed in Iraq last week leaves me angry and bitter and longing to remove Republicans from office.

That's the kind of news I'd like to hear about Mark Foley. Go way beyond the yucky (though apparently not illegal) IMs to the real news: who covered up what and why. That's real news, and that's why this story has legs. Not because of the initially salacious copy. Not because of the Republican attempts to make this an anti-gay story. Because Republicans who've made Family Values a trademarkable badge of the Republican party appear to be showing that they really value nothing above their offices.

Minor Pages being harassed is far less important than maintaining a facade of family values before the voters. Covering up a colleague's misbehavior is far more important than engaging in an investigation that might reveal Republican family values are not quite as sturdy as they might seem.

That's news. That's worth reading about.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sturm und Drang

Another sex scandal in Washington. Ho hum? I don't care what people do in their private life? A mostly liberal/conservative/Democratic/Republican problem? Left-wing conspiracy? So many choices and angles to consider.

Me? I never consider this stuff ho hum. This is real life writ large, should the rest of us be so unfortunate as to have our very personal lives and mistakes broadcast to the world. Yet I do care what people do in their private life. And, while I don't think it deserves impeachment, sexual misconduct
does influence my opinion of a person. It makes me think they are stupid. And human.

This isn't mere misconduct, though. This is major minor stuff. Preying on minors, however close to the age of majority they are, is never minor. Minors are illegal, last time I checked. And using your position of authority, as Mark Foley did, always stinks to high heaven.

Interesting, the spin that some are trying to put on it. First, there's the idea the Wall Street Journal floated that Republican leadership was afraid to punish Foley due to a gay backlash. What? Since when did the Republican party care about the opinion of gay people? Certainly not during all of their hot air about preserving the sanctity of marriage for heterosexuals only.

Second, we got to listen to Pat Buchanan last night (and others) try to make this a referendum on gay morality rather than the actions of a pedophile. I will acknowledge that it is difficult, sometimes, to draw the pedophile line when discussing adults having sex with older minor teens. But, if nothing else, the law yells "statutory rape", and I'm all for listening to it, given the pressures teens feel from adults in these situations.

This isn't about some gay guy trying to "convert" (sic) teen boys to gaydom. This is about a sick man who gets off on using his power to seduce boys. Attempts to paint the picture otherwise are offensive, at the very least.

Speaking of offensive, here's hoping that Republican voters are just as offended as I am that Denny Hastert and company ignored and kept all this under wraps for months rather than being leaders and offing Foley (sick pun intended). And I
do judge Republicans more harshly in this area, unlike Diana Butler Bass. You can't go around shouting "Family Values" all the time and not expect some kind of rebound when your boy violates those same values. It's a slap in the face to their electorate. And to me, too.

As is the case with so many scandalous events, most everyone now acknowledges that everyone knew Foley had a thing for young boys. Sort of like the teacher that everyone knows is fooling around with girls at the high school but no one does anything about. What's that about, when everyone knows and no one does anything? That's about leadership--or a lack thereof.

Hell, even the FBI knew back in July and did nothing. There's federal leadership for you.

At least some Republican leadership seems offended, in a back seat driving, Monday morning quarterbacking kind of way. John Boehner (House Majority Leader) refused to walk the plank for Hastert. Wise, given that he has his own culpability problems. Will Hastert walk the plank himself? He says not. We'll see if he's forced.

At the end of the day, this does seem a bit Sturm und Drang to me. While OF COURSE Foley's actions are sickening and illegal and gross, isn't George Bush's behavior over 9/11 and Iraq far more egregiously offensive, sickening, illegal and gross? How about today's revelation that Condi Rice, despite her denial that it would be "incomprehensible" that she would have ignored warnings about terrorists from the CIA, was briefed by the CIA a few months before 9/11?

If you want to be outraged, chew on that for a while.