Archive for May, 2009

California makes history as the first state in the nation to beg the Federal government to come to its financial rescue during the 2008-2009 US recession. Its treasurer, Bill Lockyer, wrote a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner yesterday asking for help in the form of cold, hard cash through TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program).

Lockyer’s plea included the increasingly common tear-wrenching and fear-conjuring threat that police and fire protection/services, education, and social-service programs would be slashed unless someone saves California from a certain death.

It’s a narrative we’ve all seen played out dozens of times since Hollywood’s silent film era…Picture the villan tying the ingenue damsel in white to the railroad tracks…pan to train chugging down the track at a high rate of speed…Our hero comes to the rescue just in time!

The difference? Nel was a victim of Snidley Whiplash, and Dudley Do-Right was the only one who could save her. California is a victim of its own mismanagement. Should Uncle Sam play Dudley Do-Right come to its financial rescue?

I’ll turn to Hollywood again for the answer. How many times have you seen a film or TV show with this line:”You saved my life! I am forever indebted to you!”? If California takes a bailout, it will forever be indebted to Washington DC… threatening the strength of the Tenth Amendment, which limits the power of the federal government. California will surrender its Constitutionally assigned state rights in exchange for what stands to be a temporary solvency.

One more Hollywood analogy–This is just the beginning of a horror movie, or the set-up for a Twilight Zone episode about the selfish actions of hapless humans which create a monster.
Everytime we allow the federal government to overstep the boundaries of the Constitution, we feed the beast, its appetite grows and it seeps into every nook and cranny of our lives. The Blob comes to mind. As the 1958 movie trailer warns, “It crawls, it creeps, it eats you alive!”

We need to stop this monster from growing, and fire extinguisher foam is not going to do the trick.

Cops Toledo…

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made the news recently for cutting the city budget, and again yesterday for cutting the grass in the city park behind his home. The park was in need of a trim, since Carty’s administration laid off the grounds-keeping maintainance staff.

This got me thinking….If Carty can fill in for the landscapers, why couldn’t he cover some other city shifts on his downtime?  Picturing Carty with the cops lit another lightbulb, one that could generate revenue and get those city workers back on their mowers.  

Put Carty on the job with the cops and we’ve got the next hit reality show. The mayor has famously enforced traffic laws–I seem to remember that he pulled someone over for speeding and also admonished a roller-blader for illegally using a city street. I might add that he singlehandedly took on the Marines and won.

I just picture him shouting on the top of his lungs and sticking his finger in some gang member’s face, or how about the face of that 14-year-old who is accusing Toledo police of brutality this weekend? A lot of former city employees can attest that a verbal attack from our red-faced mayor is more brutal than any choke-hold.

 Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do…

Gender Bend

Former First Lady Laura Bush has been involved with a couple of causes, the better known of which was her dedication to improving the nation’s literacy rate. Another is her husband’s initiative to tackle what is known as “Boy Advocacy,” or “Breaking the Boy Code,” the drive to eliminate those outdated notions about masculine behavior that keep boys from achieving their potential, and make them more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, to fail in school, and often beget violence and depression.

According to Laura Bush’s now-inaccessible White House website, “Statistics show that boys are at greater risk than girls for learning disabilities, illiteracy, dropping out of school, substance-abuse problems, violence, juvenile arrest, and early death caused by violent behavior.” Her mission was to combat the problem through intervention and culture change, which she discusses in a National Public Radio interview.

Surprised to hear that Laura Bush worked for this cause? If so, it is probably because it got little press coverage.

On the other hand, since February, I have heard broadcast journalists mention at least ten times that First Lady du jour, Michelle Obama, lists among her important causes, advocacy for women and girls. And that is as far as the story goes…I’ve been digging and digging can’t turn up a lick of mention of just what this advocacy entails, or why it is necessary, whereas I can find plenty on the “boy problem,” including this Business Week article , and a San Francisco Chronicle piece that put the issue in perspective.

What’s my problem with this? Well, for starters, I haven’t heard one bit about just what Mrs. O plans to do to advocate for women and girls. Just soundbites. I cannot help but think that she’s wearing the Girl Power badge because it seems to be the liberal thing to do.

Next, I hate to see good work get started by one administration, only to be abandoned by the next. Third, research shows that overall, girls have an edge in school, are less likely to be medicated for behavioral problems, and are less likely to be depressed. Girls have made great advances in school since the AAUW report How Schools Shortchange Girls raised much needed awareness. This is not to say that I do not believe girls are influenced and harmed by the same sort of erroneous gender prescriptions as harm boys. Many of us recognize the media influence on female behavior, dress, and self image. And that is just my point…many of us realize what is happening to girls.

BUT, boys are overlooked and their behavior and troubles are rarely blamed on institutionalized gender roles. Instead, boys are characterized as “being” rough, rambunctious and wild by nature, rather than nurture. But this must change. George and Laura Bush recognize this. The Obamas need to do the same.

Additional Reading:

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men

Holiday Fun

I’m afraid I’ve not much time for blogging today…celebrating Mother’s Day and grading portfolios and figuring final grades keeps me from this calling. (Funny how the two cancel each other out, no? How can I celebrate AND grade!?!?)

Know that once all this grading is done and the semester winds to its fateful end, my readers can expect me to write more regularly.

For now, in a return to the roots of blogging–when bloggers almost exclusively wrote about other bloggers–I point you to a post at Journal: Worst Mothers in Literature. A fun read and a nice respite from my work…. 

I’d make two additions to the list:

  • Medea, for brutally slaying her sons in an act of revenge against her husband
  • Edna Pontellier, of The Awakening. OK, she doesn’t murder, torture, mistreat her kids, but she completely abandons them and thinks only of herself and her identity. She always struck me as a bad mother, maybe because I do know people who act a bit like her at times.  Maybe not worthy of this list, but she’s definitely on mine!

On Honesty and Policy

Vice President Joe Biden might just be the most honest guy in Washington D.C.

When the Today Show’s Matt Lauer asked him what he would tell his family to protect  them from the H1N1/”Swine Flu” virus, Biden did not mince words. “I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” he said. “I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico, it’s you’re in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation suggesting they ride the subway.”

I have no doubt that Biden spoke the truth, sans spin, free of public-relations filtering…and such pure truth isn’t welcome in politics, is it? 

Within a couple of hours, Biden’s office was ridiculously reporting that he had “meant to say” something different.  in a day and age when everything  is recorded and transmitted within seconds, the last thing that will work to soften such a situation is an outright lie.

 Biden never chimed back into the flu conversation to apologize or take back what he said….which leads me to wonder whether he felt he should make amends, or if he is restricted from public venues.

After his office made a press release,   White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, repeated the “what he meant to say”  line…telling a room of clearly humored reporters by telling them, “I think … what the vice president meant to say was the same thing that again, many members have said in the last few days, that is, if you feel sick, if you are exhibiting flulike symptoms — coughing, sneezing, runny nose — that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel.”

We all know that that is NOT what he meant to say. He clearly said otherwise.

I’m sure that The White House is worried that  Biden’s comments could not only alarm the public, but affect the transportation industry and stifle commerce. He’s taken a lot of heat since Thursday’s interview–the press made it a major story for two days, and the pundits were laughing, blogging, and almost universally using the word “gaffe” to describe Biden’s comments.

Me?  I admire the honesty. He was asked a question and he answered it without thinking too much about the reprecussions. People do that all the time. Yes, he answered it in a way that may alarm some people, but at the same time, would be written off as alarmist or kooky by others. Biden never said that he thought that everyone on the globe should stay out of confined spaces–he said that he advised his family to. He’s the VP for crying out loud; what is his expertise in the area of disease transmission? If the Surgeon General or Head of the CDC told me that they warned their family to stay off planes, trains, and buses, then I might consider the same.

Compare Biden’s honest, off-the-cuff  answer with President Obama’s orchestrated and rehearsed answers to pre-approved questions  in his 100th Day press conference. Which truly benefits the public more? Which treats us as individuals able to make decisions and process information?

Honest is good policy. It’s too bad that the political machine doesn’t think we deserve an honest answer.