Criminal Children

My brother sent me thisvia email last night, with the question, “Aren’t you glad you left Florida?”

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I’m only 36 and I’m totally appalled that my first thought is, “Jebus, this country is going to shit!” I sound like my grumpy father. I don’t want to be that, and in the worst way. I pride myself on being something of a Pollyanna. Peace, love and understanding.

So, how is this happening? What in God’s name were these police officers thinking? How did the teachers let this happen? Is it a race thing, like what happened to 15 year old Shaquanda Cotton in Paris, TX? WTF???

And I thought about my drive to work, during which I heard “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan? What about the baby boomer generation makes them, or so damn many of them anyway, think that violence and law enforcement are “the answer?”

There’s loads of ways you can go with this. What are your thoughts – on the criminalization of children’s behavior? The “throw ’em all in jail and sort ’em out later” mentality? The prevalence of violence as a solution to problems? Are the unusual instances or are we really screwing up our kids?

I, of course, think “the answer” is NEVER EVER EVER violence or war, but understanding and compassion. That whole turn the other cheek no matter what your brother does thing that Jesus said. The only way to truly reach anyone is via compassion and listening, IMHO. Are there that few people in the world for whom this is as upsetting – as no one seems to be doing much about it?

Thanks for listening.


Learning mind-sets – fixed or growth

My brother just sent me this article on research that a psychologist named Carol Dweck has done. It’s about mind-set as it relates to talent and intelligence. Basically, that some children/people have what is called a fixed mind-set about intelligence – which means that they believe intelligence is innate, you can’t “do” anything to change it, and so if you are intelligent, you shouldn’t have to work to hard. Or if you aren’t so intelligent, you get discouraged by failures and don’t reach your full potential.

Whereas, if you have a growth mind-set, you enjoy taking on challenges and push yourself to achieve more. These sorts of people can go on to become the accomplished and talented people that we gush over in our lives.

Now this is my analysis of it, and I studied theatre, not psych, in college. But – IMHO – theatre is not entirely unrelated. Doing theatre requires you to have a pretty solid understanding of motivation and/or the human psyche, and all different instances of it.

But here are a few excellent bits from the article to tease you with, and assure you that it’s all in lay terminology (I’m not much for psycho babble either):

She continued to do so as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, collaborating with then-graduate student Carol Diener to have children “think out loud” as they faced problem-solving tasks, some too difficult for them. The big surprise: some of the children who put forth lots of effort didn’t make attributions at all. These children didn’t think they were failing. Diener puts it this way: “Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else.’” During one unforgettable moment, one boy—something of a poster child for the mastery-oriented type—faced his first stumper by pulling up his chair, rubbing his hands together, smacking his lips and announcing, “I love a challenge.”

Much understanding does come from how one defines a word – I’ve noticed this personally in my growing ability to not be stressed out by situations (akin to my son’s recent hospitalization which resulted in him having his gall bladder removed; he’s 3). I joke that I’m Pollyanna sometimes, because I honestly saw the week I spent in the hospital with him as time to actually read a book and watch tv, things I don’t do very often anymore! I had a pretty good time, all in all.

But aren’t there plenty of people who believe in innate ability and in the notion that nothing comes without effort? Logically, the two ideas are compatible. But psychologically, explains Dweck, many people who believe in fixed intelligence also think you shouldn’t need hard work to do well. This belief isn’t entirely irrational, she says. A student who finishes a problem set in 10 minutes is indeed better at math than someone who takes four hours to solve the problems. And a soccer player who scores effortlessly probably is more talented than someone who’s always practicing. “The fallacy comes when people generalize it to the belief that effort on any task, even very hard ones, implies low ability,” Dweck says.

I know, as a theatre person, I have many times espoused the belief that true acting talent cannot be taught. That there is some kind of innate understanding of how to communicate through performance. Even my own ability as an actor – although as I have gotten older, I have become a lot  more confident in my ability to act, although I don’t do it much anymore. I have always believed this is a result of increased age, wisdom and life experience. But maybe, it’s been something of a transition on my part to a growth mind-set (which I also believe I have strengthened in my self). Hmmmm, one to ponder this weekend.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Plugging a friend’s blog (Austin girl)

So, per rule 2 up there, I’m not supposed to do this. But I think I can manage to write enough to make it not so one-liner-like.

I have a single mom friend, Jill, in Austin TX, who has her own blog. And damn, she writes really well! I know she’s smart and all, but I didn’t know she had such a knack for analyzing things so well. She draws cool metaphors and paralells and all that.

I’ve invited her (more than once, I think) here to MT, but while she’s totally liberal – I suppose MT isn’t the forum for everyone. Some folks wanna do it on their own.

So here’s the link. http://www.thinkswansonthink.blogspo…

Calls herself Little Miss Patriot. I dig it! And she needs more visitors. And I think, deserves more.


Recall on Infantino SlingRider baby sling

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207

March 22, 2007
Release #07-137

Firm’s Recall Hotline: (888) 808-3111
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908

Infantino Recalls Infant Sling Carriers Due to Fall Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in
cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary
recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using
recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of product: SlingRider Infant Carriers

Units: About 100,000

Manufacturer: Infantino LLC, of San Diego, Calif.

Scroll down for the link if you need to alert someone…

Hazard: The plastic slider on the fabric strap can break. This can cause
the strap supporting the carrier to release and infants to fall out of
the carrier.

Incidents/Injuries: Infantino has received 10 reports of plastic sliders
breaking, including eight reports of babies falling out of the carriers.
There were four reports of impact injuries where the child was taken to
the emergency room. One of these children fractured her skull.

Description: This recall involves the Infantino SlingRider(tm) carriers
with item numbers: 141-210; 151-210; 151-528; and 151-534. The
SlingRider(tm) consists of a fabric carrier with a strap attached that
is worn by the user to carry an infant up to 20 pounds. The carriers are
sold in black or khaki. “Infantino” is printed on the plastic slider
located on the strap. The item number is printed on a label inside the
SlingRider.(tm) Products labeled “Made in Thailand” or “New 2007 Design”
are not included in the recall.

Sold at: Target Stores, Babies R Us, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Modecraft and
other retailers nationwide, by catalog and online from July 2006 through
February 2007 for about $30.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should stop using these carriers immediately and
contact Infantino to return them and receive a free replacement product.

Consumer Contact: For more information, contact Infantino toll-free at
(888) 808-3111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or go
to the firm’s Web site at at

To see this recall on CPSC’s web site, including pictures of the
recalled product, please go to:…


Roseanne Barr on America and Sharing

I’m NO Roseanne Barr fan. Never have been. I find her pretty funny, but also  pretty grating. She’s just too brash and her voice is too nasal for me, generally.

But I got this article, from the LA Times, off of a list-serve I subscribe to at work – for fundraising researchers. I probably wouldn’t have read it, but the sender copied it into the email, and it looked short enough. Someone had emailed a different article on philanthropy earlier in the day, and this was something of a follow up/continuation.

Strangely enough, I kind of agree with what Roseanne says (save that draft thing). It’s a bit reactionary for me, but I figured I’d throw it out there to you MTers. It’s definitely relevant to our philosophy and mentions stuff that’s been discussed here in the last week. So read and enjoy and discuss away. I’m looking forward to your comments.

Here’s the link, to cover our copyrighted butt.

It’s not just lip service
By Choire Sicha
Special to The Times

March 18, 2007

WE caught up with Roseanne Barr in the restaurant on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which overlooks Manhattan’s Central Park, Columbus Circle and the Upper East Side. It was the afternoon, and she was having beluga and a chilled vodka. She takes over as host for the third season of “The Search for the Funniest Mom in America” on Nick at Nite beginning April 10. She is the grandmother of three, the mother of 11-year-old Buck Thomas and an avid 2 a.m. blogger.

You’ve talked about how the experience of “Roseanne” was insulating, and when it was over, you had to relearn about the world. Has your integration into reality been successful?

Yes, it was a completely different world. No, I decided to turn my back on it. I’m remaking it in my personal image.

Do you still live in Beverly Hills,

in that big house we saw in

“The Real Roseanne Show”?


And now you’re building your dream house?

I’m not doing it yet, but I will. I got my farm, and I want to build a big green bamboo witchy-type house like I thought I would when I was a kid.

Do you worry about Buck missing out on socialization because of home-schooling?

I hate socialization. I’m anti-socialization, and it’s all horrible. The Paris Hilton-ization of our daughters is really grotesque and disgusting — and so’s the bullying. It’s just pimp culture. All of American culture is pimp culture.

Do you ever think about leaving America then, like Nina Simone did?

Yeah. I do, but then I think I’d want to go someplace safe. But there’s nowhere safe. The whole world is America. You’ve gotta just stay and fight. My son’s 11, and he said last week, “Where can I go where I won’t be drafted?” What’s more upsetting, if they don’t bring the draft back, it’ll be working-class and poor and drug-addicted people just out of prison. It has to be all kids. I’m pro-draft. Rich people have to pay too. That’s democracy.

You’re giving plenty of money away.

Yeah, I am, and I’m proud of it. I hesitate to say, I’ve given more money away than any other person in my position. When you ask people in Hollywood to give you money, they say, “I’ll show up for that benefit.” All these stars are so corrupt and sickening. You think showing up for a picture is doing something? … They have these huge benefit luncheons where they get six billionaires, and they raise $200,000. It’s vile. I was happy to have it and happy to give it, and I still am. I don’t want to go to hell.

And you believe in hell?

I believe it’s here in your mind on Earth and in your choices. Hell is being wrapped up in yourself while everything around you is on fire.

You’ve been writing on your blog about Oprah losing her way a bit. How do you see that?

I just said that once. I didn’t like that she said that African American children in the inner cities aren’t worthy of her support.

But you’re down with her otherwise.

I’m not down with “The Secret.” I’m not down with trying to attract more material wealth to yourself. That’s sickening. Why don’t you give some of your money away? Five-thousand square feet should be the limit to how big a house you can live in when people are starving. There should be a maximum wage too. Like Jello Biafra said, no one should have more than $100 million. It’s making a slave class.

Is it Hollywood? Or is it New York, and D.C.?

I blame it all on that … movie with Michael what’s-his-face. [The quote] “Greed is good” [from] “Wall Street.” That was the beginning of the absolute end. It’s killing our country and the world. Sharing is good. I think the time is coming when people who have wealth won’t be cool. When you retreat into materialism, you’re dead. All these people who live in gated communities, it’s a bus ride away from people who are heavily armed.

So it’s almost all over?

I feel like I’m supposed to be here to offer some kind of help to people. But I don’t like it. It is terrible already. Right now in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, those children scour landfills for stuff to burn in their homes to make heat. That’s America…. More no-bid contracts, more Halliburton, less freedom. I like freedom!

It’s a great privilege.

Gotta pay for it, though! And we gotta be free to petition and gather. But let’s have a toast to consciousness. It’s very cool. Long may it wave.


CPSC reminds us of poison safety

I get the emails on recalls and such from the CPSC (in case you don’t already yourself, here’s the site to sign up at:…

Anyway, I’m posting this list of poison safety info just to remind us all to watch it at home. Especially with the medicine and cleaning products.

CPSC Urges New Parents to Adopt Lifesaving Routine to Prevent Child
Poisonings; Poison Prevention Has Saved More Than 900 Lives Since the

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Every day thousands of new parents assume the
responsibility of caring for and protecting a child. Many of these
first-time caregivers are unaware of the dangers of unintentional
poisonings often related to medicines and household products commonly
found in the home, such as personal care products, over-the-counter pain
relievers and cleaning substances.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Poison
Prevention Week Council are kicking off National Poison Prevention Week
(March 18-24) to educate and inform consumers of the dangers associated
with unintentional poisonings.

From 2002 through 2004, about 36 children younger than 5 died each year
as a result of ingesting poisonous substances found in and around the
home. In 2005 about 91,000 young children visited hospital emergency
rooms and more than one million calls were placed to poison control
centers as a result of unintentional poisoning.

“For most first-time parents and caregivers, poison prevention messaging
is new,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord. “It is an especially
important message to understand and act upon.”

Young children are curious and use their home environment as a classroom

  • a place to learn and explore. Exploring for younger children is often

done by mouthing objects which puts them at greater risk of
unintentional poisonings. For young children who are unable to read, a
bottle of orange-scented household cleaner may be mistaken for orange
juice; the medicine in the pill container can look a lot like small
candies; and baby oil, which can be deadly if ingested, can resemble a
clear drink.

To prevent these incidents, CPSC recommends the following safety steps:

  1. Keep all household chemicals and medicines locked up, out of sight

and out of reach.

  1. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container

securely after each use. Some products also come in child-resistant
blister cards, which avoid the need to re-secure.

  1. Call 800-222-1222 immediately in case of poisoning.
  1. When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight,

even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.

  1. Keep items in original containers.
  1. Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before

using to understand correct use and dosage.

  1. Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where

children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by young

  1. Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the

dosage every time.

  1. Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as

“medicine,” not “candy.”

  1. Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of

unneeded and outdated medicines.

To request poison prevention publications, visit

To get more information on CPSC and National Poison Prevention week,
please go to:…


Hypocrisy at it’s very best! ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!

I have been thinking – all weekend – about the news that came out about Newt Gingrich and his affair during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. I’m close to obsessing on it.

Note – I haven’t read a lot on it, haven’t reviewed the transcript of his interview with James Dobson or anything, save the key quotes – I’m simply speaking to the basic story. Which, if you didn’t catch it, is that Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair at the time he was rallying for the impeachment of Bill Clinton because of his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.…

This has me so mad I could spit!
So this is how my brain has been wrapping around it:

Newt Gingrich knowingly rallied the Christian Right against Clinton for his indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky while he himself was cheating on his wife! The article I linked above says that he and Dobson, in their interview, said Clinton was impeached for lying before a federal judge about the matter. But that was not their rallying cry! They impugned Clinton for being a cheating husband, for his loose morals, for being a slimy creep. The fact that he lied was just the technical point of the whole thing.

People today still impugn Clinton for his morals – painting the entire Democratic party with this “family values” brush. Mitt Romney is running on it himself now, criticizing Rudy Giuliani for his messy divorce and lauding his only and faithful marriage.

Next fact I’ve been mulling – Newt has had three marriages himself. I’m not clear exactly on what happened with the first marriage transition, but the second – he was having an affair with a (much younger) congressional aide, and divorced wife 2 for said aide, to whom I assume he is still married.

Now, here’s the big thing that’s been with me all weekend. Sure Bill noodled with Monica (although apparently they never actually had technical intercourse, whatever). And maybe he was noodling with Paula Jones (although I’m inclined from what I’ve heard to think that that was more flirtation and kissing than actual affair, and a lot of media whoring by Jones). But – and think about this – Bill and Hillary stuck together. They have sorted out their problems (presumably). They took the hard road and stayed married – trust me, I know, this is in many ways the harder road (sexual preference issues aside). Working out your problems and issues and finding forgiveness for one another. Maintaining the ability to look one another in the eye.

So, wouldn’t you consider this the more “moral” thing to do?  Or the thing that would be considered better “family values?” To stick with the person you married “for better or for worse?”

Now, I’m not criticizing any one who is divorced. Every single situation is personal and private and complicated. I know divorced people myself, and none of them went about the process flippantly or callously. Life happens. Mistakes happen. Immaturity happens. Disaster happens. Whatever.

But staying together as a family is something that ssssoooooo many Christian Right wing folks trumpet above all. Keeping the family together is a major thing for Christians and right wingers. Strong solid marriages.

But what is getting me is that Dobson and Gingrich think it’s totally okay to impugn one man for an affair while the one doing the impugning is doing the same damn thing. And that’s exactly what this is. You can bullshit me all you want that Clinton was impeached for lying to a federal judge, but the reason he was in front of a federal judge in the first place was because of the affair! They were trying to drive him out of office because he cheated on his wife! In the White House! He’d never have had to lie to a federal judge if they weren’t all rabid over the fact that they had something on one of the most popular presidents of our generation!

But now Newt has found forgiveness and God. The man who has had three wives (and multiple rumored affairs)! Dude, I’m all for finding God/Jesus/religion, but don’t excuse your past actions with it. Inmates that find God/Jesus/Allah while in prison aren’t trying to excuse past hypocrisy for being a murder or rapist or whatever – they are trying to make the rest of their lives right. Certainly not run for president, for pete’s sake!

Gingrich and Dobson deserve to be crowned Hypocrites of the Freakin’ Decade for this bullshit! Hillary and Bill should be out there ringing the bell on how long they’ve been married, how they’ve weathered their problems and stuck together! Isn’t that the kind of family values Christians and Right Wingers throw in liberal faces all the time? Vs. men who’ve been married three times and have had affairs? So it’s okay for God to forgive Newt but Bill and Hillary are still Godless liberals?

WTF???!!! I know you all probably agree. I know you all know how hypocritical it is. But I just had to get this out of my head. It stuns me that the American public is letting Gingrich and Dobson get away with this. That Dobson still has any kind of moral authority in this country. That he is allowed to pontificate on this subject. That he is still accepted by the Christian community. That the media allows this kind of hypocrisy!!! That the democrats are sending Dobson down to d-list celebrity status, instead of the revered Reverend that he is still.

Don’t moms around the country get it? Am I too liberal to forgive? Is it okay because he’s Christian – do they all just automatically forgive each other, as long as the sinner is pro-life?

I’m not sure this will get this out of my head, because I’m even madder about it now that I’ve typed it! WTF is wrong with our society that people don’t see the hypocrisy here? No one in this situation is Donald Trump or Marla Maples or The Black Widow or Cassanova. No ostensible careless marriages here.

Part of me wishes that some Democratic lackey would make Newt and Dobson’s hypocrisy the issues of the year – instead of doing what most liberals/Democrats I’ve observed usually do, and that’s take the high road.

Anyone feel like explaining this to me, about the Christian Right and Republicans? I’m at a total loss.

Thanks for tolerating my rant.


Our battle against hazardous waste

I am a member of a group here in my town (which I’m going to keep anonymous just to cover my butt legally). Since last year, we’ve been fighting the expansion of a hazardous waste landfill that sits on the edge of the city proper.

Approximately 52,000 people live within 3 miles of the site. There are 28 schools and daycares in that 3 mile radius, as well as innumerable other businesses.

Unfortunately, this landfill has been in this location for a very long time. It started as a regular landfill, but for a few decades now has taken in and treated hazardous wastes from a variety of industries. They take hundreds of kinds of chemicals, but predominantly heavy metals (i.e. lead, mercury, hexovalent chromium). They treat them by mixing them with portland cement and then bury them.

There’s all sorts of details about the various parts of the landfill that I won’t bore you with. Some have high density plastic liners. Some don’t, and are only lined by compacted clay. There’s a trench of barrels, full of liquid chemical compounds, that we are particularly concerned about.

Aside from the obvious, that this landfill is far too close to our fair city, it also sits above the aquifer from which much of our region draws its water, drinking and otherwise.
So my group, among others, won a huge battle last spring. The company was required to get the approval of our county board for their application to expand. Basically, the company wants to bury another 2+ million tons of hazardous waste, which will raise the site up about another 45 feet from the hill it already is. Well, in a 12-6 vote, they rejected the application. This was huge for us, and for the health and safety of our community.

So here we are in the new year. AS the company that runs this landfill is large, we are still fighting the battle. There are currently four front upon which our officially unorganized citizens group is fighting. 1. the company appealed the county board’s decision to a state body. A number of us were deposed for this process and there was a recent hearing. 2. the company is now trying to modify their  operating permit, saying they don’t need the county board’s approval. 3. The company recently applied to the US EPA to take in more PCBs (banned from production in 1977 but still hanging around) 4. The landfill/company needs a permit to operate, even in post closure, and we are fighting to get several new restrictions/conditions imposed upon any permit they do receive (as they are currently operating under a temporary permit extension, or something to that effect).

All I’m comfortable saying, for various reasons like confidentiality and worrying about who may read this and report back to the company, is that we are hopeful. We have a fantastic lawyer who is my super-fucking-hero. We are just as determined to fight this landfill as we were when we started, and I’d like to think, a hell of a lot savvier about the process now.

If you have any questions about how to organize a grassroots, totally citizen based, campaign against something in your community, I am more than happy to talk about what has worked for us.

And sharing our story is something I sincerely hope will strengthen other such efforts around the country – making the US, hopefully, a safer, more healthy place to live.

I’ll write more diaries about this in the coming weeks. Other thoughts and factors that I think are interesting. I can only hope you enjoy, or learn, or take inspiration from it. I’m very proud of us.