Thursday, October 21, 2010

The only new posts are sad posts

Senator Jenny Oropeza died last night. She was only 53.

I've known her most of my life. She was a good friend of my dad's and given the number of political functions I attended growing up, she was one of a few electeds who still remembered me and said hello whenever I'd see her. I always thought she was beautiful - a glamorous role-model, if you will, who spoke her mind, stepped up to leadership, but remained friendly to the people back home.

When I came to Sacramento as an Assembly Fellow, she was a familiar and friendly face. She encouraged the Fellows - especially the women - to seek out mentors to help them in their careers.

I'll miss you, Jenny. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Want to blog, old skool Phoblog style, sooooo bad this evening . . . .

You know why.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shrug. This probably won't last long

I dunno. Kinda, blah. Maybe more 2.0 blah, but still blah. We'll keep playing . . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Keeps Me Up at Night

This is the first of what may become a recurring feature of Plinky answers. Plinky is a question service that prompts writing. And since we're looking for that sort of thing around here, may as well hop on that bandwagon for a bit.

These days, being up at night keeps me up at night. Currently being up. The fear of being up again. Having been up too long already. It's a meta-worry. A worry that devours itself.

This is life with a baby.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

New Curtains?

Blogger has a ton of new template design options. Not quite as customizable as I'd like, but light years ahead of the oldskoolcool going on here. Upgrade? Or keep it real, y'all?

Cloudy Days

What up, 'sphere. Are we even still calling it that? No, right? I didn't think so. It's been however long it's been since I last posted. Two reasons, no wait, three reasons: 1) I had a baby and babies are HUGE time sucks. 2) Blogger ditched FTP publishing and I had no idea how to migrate and change whatever needed to be changed. Fortunately, Josh Orum of the fabulous Loud Dog still helps my digitally stupid arse when I need it. Thanks, Josh! 3) My day job doesn't allow me to comment on the upcoming statewide election nor really any of the juicy state goings-on right now. Which sucks but how else will I pay my $4/month hosting bill? Exactly.

So where do we go from here, then? I know, let's check out a visual representation of what life is about, blog-wise. Or what blogging still goes down nowadays anyway.

Crap, really? Pregnancy is the biggest word? Out of 5 years of blogging? Some of it substantive? Much of it engaging. C'mon, it used to be, you thought so too or you wouldn't be reading this now, still. I demand a new algorithm! I didn't think I'd written that much about it, but it must have been frequently and recently part of the blog to get such big word-cloud billing.

But really, where do we - I - where do I go from here? There are some great, compelling . . . mommyblogs out there. Is there any room left in that market? Is there any point in asking that question when I haven't written much at all lately despite desperately, desperately needing to write?

Media criticism? TV reviews? Weight-loss? (har har, like I have time for that yet.) What's relevant without stinking of a thirst for relevance?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tap Tap, Is This Thing On?

I've been a bit busy lately tending to my offspring. But more on that later. In fact, probably a whole 'nother site on that later - once I sort out Blogger's no-more-FTP business. Because I have time to migrate a bunch of websites. Whatevs.

In the meantime, you might have noticed there's this whole statewide election thing going down right now - or soon. The upside of maternity leave is much more time in front of the tube. The downside, however, is the truly awful number of political advertisments I must watch - for one candidate in particular. Getting through an episode of Jeopardy is very difficult.

There won't be any commentary on that race here, however, as much as that pains the holy living hell out of me. It doesn't take a tremendous amount of thought to predict what I'd be saying, of course, but I like to think I say it so much more entertainingly than other similarly-minded folks. Oh well.

So I'll toss out a placeholder complaint about the Prop 16 ads: Thanks so much, PG&E for protecting my right to vote on municipal entries into the electricity market. I just didn't know you cared. I'm touched.

Why do people sign any initiative petitions? Why do people vote for them? Not. Democracy. Y'all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Voting And Not Voting

Please note that this post is about no candidate or person in particular. It just exists on its own in a little blog vacuum. Not a dyson vacuum, just, like, a dirt devil vacuum. One with less suck.

So, why and how should we use individual's voting records to evaluate their qualifications for a particular job, to determine their character, or otherwise judge them? Should we at all?

A few things seem clear to me.

First, I can't think about individual voting records without recalling my first day in Gov 20 at CMC. Professor Pitney pushed us all to defend the argument that every vote counts. You want to piss off and frustrate the hell out of a class of government nerds, by the way, this is the best way to do it. We all but shouted "yes." We used the "if everyone picks a flower from this garden, eventually it will be bare, thus of course each individual action matters" argument.

But you know what. In most elections (and there's a big * here, post 2000, of course), a single vote doesn't count. That's not say it doesn't matter, in the virtuous sense, but it probably doesn't count. Again, in most elections.

Second, I used to be angry at non-voters. Really, viscerally angry. Until I realized I should thank them. Every person who doesn't vote makes my vote that much stronger. I'm happy to be left to make the decisions, thanks.

Anyway - what's clear to me . . . .

There seem to be one main reason and one main excuse employed by non-voters. The reason: I was busy. The excuse: doesn't matter anyway. Is either the reason or the excuse valid? Ish.

Some people really are busy. I'd argue no one could ever be too busy to register to vote, but perhaps one could be too busy to cast a ballot.

What's the more, er, politic excuse, however? Certainly not "doesn't matter anyway." A candidate can't use that line and go on to ask for electoral support.

A better excuse: I didn't get it before! I was so moved by 9/11/Obama/California's budgetary woes/abortion/marriage equality/whatever that I just couldn't stay home, finally paid some attention, and got my ballot in this time. We love a lesson-learned narrative in this country, no?

What if, however, we tweak that a bit? What if, instead of "I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself," the candidate instead explains that, while facing business challenges stemming from government regulation, the candidate realizes that "politics" is perhaps the only route to success?

What do we do with that explanation?

Do we allow a candidate to use politics and government interchangeably? Are they interchangeable? In all cases?

In the absence of a lesson-learned narrative, what will we accept as a legitimate storyline?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Many Important People In My Life Are Democrats, Too

It's much, much too soon to be writing another post like this after Will's death, but I am again grieving the loss of another mentor and role model - Charmette Bonpua.

I met Charmette during my Assembly Fellowship on the first day I reported to my assigned office - then Assembly Member (soon to be Speaker) Herb Wesson. I had been warned by the previous fellow not to try to talk to Charmette before she had her morning coffee. Soon enough, in stormed a short, fiery Filipina with a single, burning mission to get some coffee. She may have grunted hello, but not much else. Ten or so minutes later, coffee in hand, she came over to my desk full of fire for the days work and enthusiasm over my arrival. The difference that coffee made was impressive.

Charmette was Herb's chief of staff and most trusted aide at many levels of his public service - most recently as he serves on the LA City Council. They were great friends and partners in politics - a perfect match of skill and temperament and vision.

The woman was scary smart. Emphasis on the scary. Well, and the smart, too. She passionately devoted her life to public service and whatever time was left after her day job went to working with young people and encouraging others to think past low expectations, to aspire to great things. I recall her once saying, tearfully (in a rare display of that sort of emotion), that she was told once she'd never amount to much in the US because of her accent, because she was just an Asian immigrant female. I think her core mission was making sure every girl in the state knew she had the potential to lead and affect change. And man did she have fun and love her job.

Charmette was only 44 when she died.

Rest in peace, Charmette, you will be greatly missed. Thank you for your service and your example.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sex Ed's Biggest Failure

I can vividly remember my high school sex-ed instructor showing us slides of genital warts. Really, really bad cases of genital warts. There were slides of genitalia infected with other sorts of sexually transmitted diseases as well, but the warts earned the biggest gasps and yelps of any photo flashed up on the screen. These were heinous cases: gardens of complex fungal structures like something you'd grow in a crystal growing kit Santa brings you in the fifth grade. Except on your junk. Certainly, those images helped convince many of us to wait and all of us to use protection.

I wonder, however, why pregnancy isn't more fully discussed in sex ed classes.

Yeah, it's discussed: you can get pregnant after just one sexual encounter; condoms aren't 100% effective; pregnancy will derail your college plans; babies are expensive. Yes, the notion that childbirth as a teen is something to avoid is well established. But I don't recall PREGNANCY being fully discussed at all. Or even glossed over, really.

Before we get to what details I'd like to see shared, I'll ponder why educators don't dwell on pregnancy more. First, I think there's a predominate "oh it's not THAT bad" opinion amongst many mothers whose shining babes erase from their minds the memory of how much pregnancy actually sucks nuts. Second, culturally, how could we expect young women and girls to continue to strive for the feminine ideal of motherhood if we spent a good chunk of time discussing its medical realities, rather than its romanticized ideals. Third, gotta procreate, so let's not make it seem ALL bad, mmm k? And motherhood is SO rewarding, why dwell on the other stuff?

But aren't we missing out on a key tool in the fight against teen pregnancy? How have we managed to take pregnancy out of the fight against teen pregnancy?

I keep looping a scene from a recent Private Practice in my head. In the episode, the 15 year old daughter of a main character admits to her parents she is pregnant. After much fighting and hand-wrining, the mother pulls the 15 year old into a birthing suite at said private practice and points to the panting, suffering, sweating, screaming, pain-riddled woman in labor and asks the 15 year old, roughly, look at that! Is that what you want?

A moment later, out pops a newborn, the woman stops moaning, and the 15 year old says, "yeah, but look at THAT." Read: look at the miracle of life mom, recognize what's really important.

Even if we take that as true for a 15 year old, does that negate the bad that comes before it?

I'm going with no and I think we should stop hiding the ball from young women about what pregnancy means, how taxing it is, and just how committed they'll need to be for 40 long weeks.

This blog has a good run down of stuff THEY won't tell you about pregnancy as well as the really awful, demoralizing way in which people respond to you if you bring up how crappy pregnancy is.

Not for one second has the notion that "it's okay, you'll forget the pain, the hormones have a good amnesiac effect and you'll just be in love with the baby" made what I'm going through NOW any better. That's great, later, but it's not great now.

The duration of recovery, what's involved in recovery, pregnancy sickness (good luck getting me to call it "morning" sickness), tearing, contractions, tearing, swelling, bleeding, crying, irrationality, weight gain, did I mention tearing?, and that final moment of actually birthing the child . . . . we don't think ANY of this might convince a girl to either wait to have sex or to tell her partner she doesn't care how much he needs proof of love or how much of a downer condoms are, it's condoms or no deal?

Are we cheating young woman out of information they should have to help make decisions about their sexual behavior? I think we are.

Yet even I am made to feel defective for "complaining" - as it is labeled by others; explaining as I would label it - by some people who are very close to me. And even I fear that I'm giving pregnancy a bad rap - because it's not supposed to be that bad and it's all supposed to be worth it, right? Our culture has a strong hold on us, ladies. I can barely fight it in my own head.

Parity, Childrearing, Expectations, And Stuff

Where's all the female entrepreneurs at, yo?

With no demonstrable differences between men and women when it comes to motivation and education, what's left to explain why the Valley (and like areas) are dominated by men and nearly devoid of women?

One writer says: It's the babies, stupid. The overwhelming assumption that women have babies and leave the workforce prevents them from being taken as seriously or expected to hang around long enough to put in the hours and years required of a successful venture:
We can bemoan a scarcity of female role models in tech, entice women into the math and science professions or even blame women who leave the work force to take care of kids for the lack of gender diversity, but to fix the problem, we're going to have to discuss the lack of parity between men and women when it comes to raising children.
Sounds about right to me.

Nothing emphasizes all that more for me than last night's birthing class. It was - blessedly - the final of five classes, a wrap-up edition covering whatever questions were left as well as what to expect after you've delivered. It was one of the more enjoyable evenings out of the series, complete with that great last-day-of-school feeling. Yet, the swirl of foregone conclusions and generalizations left me - predictably - thinking less about the mechanics of my impending labor and delivery and recovery and more about These, Our Times, And What Is Expected.

The instructor devoted a notable amount of time to warning Dads that they should be prepared to jump in and help as soon as they get home from work. If they need 10 minutes to unwind after a day at the office, better do it in the driveway before you come in the house.

The teacher explained most of the stressful aspects of adjusting to life with baby from that vantage point: woman home on maternity leave, man home, maybe, briefly, man back to work, woman stressed. Maybe woman goes back to work, maybe not.

I should mention that the discussion made me more appreciative than ever that my partner won't be going back to an office and will be able to stick with me during the first few moths. So very, very appreciative.

But then I started to worry: who will support him when I go back to work? The local hospital has a mom's group. The only "parents'" group is some random evening up in Roseville. Unlikely. My husband will be in completely uncharted territory - or at least, infrequently and inadequately charted territory - once I'm back at the office. The birth class narrative doesn't suit him any better than it suits me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relevance In The Hands Of Men

I'll admit first that it is dangerous to build a cultural analysis on the content of one news article. There could be many nuanced details of the court case I'm about to discuss that aren't mentioned. Reporters frequently ignore the finer, legal points. This is how we end up with the enduring pop-cultural reference of scalding burns from McDonald's coffee as a shorthand for the evils of lawyers generally. Which is lame because there are so many BETTER cases illustrating evil within the practice. Let's turn to a great one now.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, a very bad man, a multi-millionaire, plead guilty to two state charges: procuring a minor for prostitution and solicitation. And we're talking minor as in 14, not minor as in 17 1/2 (as if that makes a difference). He served 13 months of an 18 month sentence and as part of the bargain, he agreed with the feds not to contest the accusations in the civil suits filed by his victims later.

He CAN, however, still argue that they women don't deserve the amount of money they seek in damages. Okay, um, guess that's fair. Or "fair" if I may break my own rules against scare-quote use.

Ready for the evil-lawyer bit?

The felon's attorneys fought for the right to subpoena abortion records from the women seeking to recover damages from their assailant. The judge agreed that the records could help the felon "refute the women's claims that they suffered psychological ills after being paid to give him sexually-charged massages at his Palm Beach mansion when they were as young as 14."

The judge, in a generous move, however, said the felon's lawyers couldn't go "fishing" and can only seek medical records after asking the women whether they have ever had an abortion, how many, and where. And that the records wouldn't be made public and may not be admissible during trial.

May not be admissible during trial? Then why are we . . . nevermind, besides the point. Here's the point:
But, he said, since the women claim Epstein, now 57, is responsible for their emotional distress, his attorneys can explore the impacts of other events. Medical records, Hafele said, are a better source of information than a person's memory. . . .

The abortion question has been asked to at least one of more than a dozen women who have sued Epstein in federal and state courts. Most filed lawsuits using pseudonyms.

While quizzing a woman identified as Jane Doe 4, Epstein attorneys offered a glimpse of how they intend to use abortion information. "I want you to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury whether or not aborting three fetuses is more traumatic than giving a man a massage in the nude?" attorney Mark Luttier asked.

Reluctantly, the woman admitted that the abortions were worse. The deposition was in a federal case which is not impacted by Hafele's decision.
Wow. Just. Wow.

I'd like to check transcripts to see if the felon's lawyers also asked the Jane Doe whether she wore a red dress during her abortion. You know, just to really wrap it up with a nice bow.

There's a staggering, if deeply troubling, elegance to this strategy. Let's look at it a bit more closely.

The defense's basic argument is this: You can't be offended to the tune of millions (or whatever damages they are seeking) if you've undergone a more severe trauma. A more severe trauma necessarily means THIS trauma must be discounted (in all the ways that word could be used in this sentence).

But they aren't looking for other traumas. Are they asking about parental or sibling deaths? Anyone Jane Doe knows been murdered? In front of her? Has she ever lost a pet? Was she ever in a traumatic car accident? Was she ever raped by anyone (else)? Kidnapped? Undergone a basic medical procedure when the anesthesia didn't work? Chased by a chain-saw-wielding maniac?

No. Jane Doe, have you had an abortion?

Let's parse further, shall we, because, brilliantly, this line of questioning works on So. Many. Levels.

Jane Doe, have you had an abortion? Because abortion, by definition is a traumatic event. How could an abortion NOT be traumatic. Multiple abortions? Most traumatic indeed.

Jane Doe, have you had an abortion? If you answer yes and you were traumatized, then we can discount this lesser trauma, right?

If you answer yes but you were not traumatized, well, then we get to run too, simultaneously fun, subtle attacks:

Jane Doe, have you had an abortion? Yes? And how traumatic was that? Not very?

Jane Doe is a liar and incredible because abortion is traumatic, for all women, at all times, period. Jane Doe's testimony should not be believed and my client owes her nothing.

Jane Doe, have you had an abortion? Yes? And how traumatic was that? Not very?

Jane Does is a cold-hearted, evil bitch of a woman who has no problem killing babies. Quite a turn-off, right, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. And frankly, not only should a cold-hearted person not be deemed credible, but if she can have an abortion and it wasn't the most traumatic thing to happen to her, then, really, was she traumatized THAT MUCH by my client?

It's a thing of beauty, this strategy.

And why any officer of the court would feel comfortable presenting it; why any judge would allow it as a relevant line of questioning; why, as a society, we would allow this to occur . . . I can't answer those whys.

This is absolutely the same as arguments citing victim's wardrobe choices or decision to have a few drinks at a party. This is the same as arguing that because the complaining party or victim presents herself as a promiscuous or sexually-free person, as someone who wears revealing clothing, etc, couldn't possibly have been THAT offended by a comment about that attire, ever, period.

This is where you end up. Ever had an abortion? Then for so many, many layered reasons, whatever sexual assault you suffer, before or after, for the remainder of your life, is a gimme because, well, because you had an abortion. Which is the worst thing to do. And only done by the worst people.

Forget MickeyD's coffee, fellow officers of the court. THIS is why people hate us. And it's a damn good reason.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is It Worth It To Grasp The Third Rail With Both Hands?

There's been a crushing dearth of political or policy content 'round these parts lately. Oh, not for lack of my thinking about issues. Not for lack of all sorts of important state news and national events. All the juicy races about which I'd like to comment, well, not going to happen right now - except to say that it must be fabulously easy to call for massive cuts in welfare and to promise to lay-off 40,000 people when you can spend $100M trying to get yourself a new job (ahem).

But there's been something on my mind for these past thirty-something weeks. Abortion.

No, duh, not having one - just the topic of abortion. It's such a sticky thicket at the best of times but seems especially so right now. After all, what would people think about a pregnant lady's views? And if I said those views were more ardently pro-choice than ever before, would those already against abortion see my views as all the more monstrous given my current state?

Then again, if pregnancy automatically changed women's views on abortion, then it probably wouldn't be such a hot topic, right?

So here's the short version of what I've been thinking lately:

Nothing made me more ardently pro-choice than becoming pregnant and carrying my child to term (well, I hope to term, not quite there yet). Now that I know exactly what it means to be pregnant, I understand more clearly than I could've thought possible that I have NO RIGHT to require anyone else to carry a pregnancy. This shit is hard and this commitment is monumental. The moral implications of abortion are for each woman to decide and I'm happy to fight in favor of whatever laws protect her right to do so.

Also - and, importantly - it is absolutely wrong to argue, as Sarah Palin does, "the culture of life empowers women by offering them real choices." What choices are those? Best I can tell, a choice between natural child birth and an epidural and not much else.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Can't Help But Think That Will Would've Liked This News

"Much to the delight of young Capitol denizens working their way up the ranks, Sacto's own Capital Fellows Programs has been named the nation's No. 1 internship in career site's annual internship rankings." Click for more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Because So Many Important People In My Life End Up Being Republican

I just received some bad news - along with anyone else who subscribes to Capitol Weekly email alerts. But this isn't about the budget or stupid political posturing or policy initiatives or anything so inconsequential.

Long time Capitol staffer Will Smith died suddenly while playing basketball at a local church.

He was 41.

He was also one of the absolute best people who did, or probably ever has, worked in the Capitol.

Our politics couldn't be farther apart. Will was the chief of staff to George Runner - pretty much as conservative as they come. I doubt Runner (either Runner, for that matter) and any of my legislator bosses ever cast the same vote on measure.

Will was on the Assembly Fellow selection committee when I interviewed for the program. And, as often happens in my life, I'm pretty sure he's the one who argued hardest for my selection as a Fellow. I wasn't really Democratic enough on my own (the taint of CMC and the Rose!). I didn't necessarily fit the categories the right way. But even before I really knew him, or before he knew me, he championed me and I don't think I can ever be grateful enough.

Even past my fellowship year, however, I saw Will often. He was a mentor to one of my best friends - the fellow in George Runner's office. I saw Will whenever I was in the Capitol. We could joke about our political differences in a way that I didn't seem to get to do much after college. He was one of a rare few who could duke it out of policy and still genuinely appreciate the other side, the people, the motivations to be there, working on problems. He got it and not enough people do.

Will was a man of great faith. That should comfort his friends and family right now - but I always find that comfort slow to arrive for me. He was so dedicate to his church, his faith, and most of all his family - his wife Anissa and their gorgeous children. I last saw them all at Cober's wedding. Will was always happy to see you. I mean, the guy was never in a bad mood. I don't know how he did it.

It's probably foolish of me to be so emotional over this. But I can't chalk it up to hormones or pregnancy exactly either. But I can attribute it in part to being keenly aware of life and family right now. Of the awesome implications of bearing a child and the sudden rush of mortality. Of realizing how lonely and difficult it would be to try to do this without a partner.

Will Smith was a great man. He will be missed by those who knew him. He should be missed by every Californian - if everyone in the Capitol had his purpose, smarts, and kindness, we'd get a lot more done.

My heart goes out to his family and those who were far closer to him than I.

You will be missed, Will. You made a difference.