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Archive for August, 2011

Labor Day Jobs Talk

Labor Day Jobs Talk

How to get Americans back to work or how to get our economy working again will be the focus of plans by both Republicans and Democrats that will be rolled out after this holiday weekend.  The Republicans are touting a “don’t tread on me” approach to regulations across the board, arguing that rolling back environmental, healthcare and labor relations edicts will free businesses up to … well, to do more business.  They’re also hoping to insulate small business owners by calling for a 20% tax deduction for them.  Republican strategists are warning candidates that addressing the debt ceiling didn’t really do it for voters.  Independent voters want action now to reverse a 9% unemployment rate that has been there for 25 of the past 27 months.  Obama is expected to unveil an infrastructure program to build new schools that would draw from moneys pooled from federal, state and local resources.  He wants to extend the payroll tax that dropped the payroll tax from 6-4%.  We’ll know more details when he releases his program next week.


A 15 month old mowing the lawn?

A 15 month old mowing the lawn?

Is it responsible to publish a picture of a 15 month old mowing the lawn?  What if the mower isn’t on?  Does that make a difference?  I thought this was a great way to talk about media responsibility with your kids.  And kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for sharing the decision making process about whether it was responsible to show this picture.

Bad Mothering? Puh-lease!

Bad Mothering? Puh-lease!

From the Salt Lake Tribune: Raised in a $1.5 million Barrington Hills home by their attorney father, two grown children have spent the last two years pursuing a unique lawsuit against their mom for “bad mothering” damages allegedly caused when she failed to buy toys for one and sent another a birthday card he didn’t like.

The alleged offenses include failing to take her daughter to a car show, telling her then-7-year-old son to buckle his seat belt or she would contact police, “haggling” over the amount to spend on party dresses and calling her daughter at midnight to ask that she return home from celebrating homecoming.

Last week, when the court record stood about a foot tall, an Illinois appeals court dismissed the case, finding that none of the mother’s conduct was “extreme or outrageous.” To rule in favor of her children, the court found, “could potentially open the floodgates to subject family child rearing to … excessive judicial scrutiny and interference.”

In 2009, the children, represented by three attorneys including their father, Steven A. Miner, sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity. Steven II, now 23, and his sister Kathryn, now 20, sought more than $50,000 for “emotional distress.”

Miner and Garrity were married for a decade before she filed for divorce in 1995, records show.

Among the exhibits filed in the case is a birthday card Garrity sent her son, who in his lawsuit sought damages because the card was “inappropriate” and failed to include cash or a check. He also alleged she failed to send a card for years or, while he was in college, care packages.

On the front of the American Greetings card is a picture of tomatoes spread across a table that are indistinguishable except for one in the middle with craft-store googly eyes attached.

“Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you … different from all the rest!” the card reads. On the inside Garrity wrote, “Have a great day! Love & Hugs, Mom xoxoxo.”

In court papers, Garrity’s attorney Shelley Smith said the “litany of childish complaints and ingratitude” in the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by Garrity’s ex-husband to “seek the ultimate revenge” of having her children accuse her of “being an inadequate mother.”

“It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious” for Garrity, Smith wrote. “There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free.”

Messages left for Smith were not returned. Steven A. Miner, reached by phone, did not comment. In court papers he said he only filed the lawsuit after much legal research and had tried to dissuade his children from bringing the case.

The Cook County judge who ruled on the case, Kathy Flanagan, declined to assess sanctions against Miner, but said the lawsuit amounted to nothing more than children “suing their mother for bad mothering.”

DePaul University law professor Bruce Ottley, who co-wrote a textbook on Illinois tort law, said courts have long carved out an exception to family members suing each other, barring any extreme conduct.

“If junior slips on the rug in the living room and sues mom or dad, that can’t happen,” Ottley said.

He said such emotional-distress damages are a way for the legal system to address situations — sexual harassment for instance — where there is no physical harm. But those bringing a case to court must prove the conduct was outrageous.

“The fact that it is such a high standard, it doesn’t succeed very often,” Ottley said.

In court filings, Garrity’s attorney writes that “she does still love” her children but found that they wanted “the benefits afforded by a family relationship, but none of the restraints.”

Steven A. Miner wrote that the case is no different from a patient suing a physician “for bad doctoring.”

The children “do not view their (lawsuit) as an attack on mothering, but rather on accountability,” he wrote. “Everyone makes mistakes, but … there must be accountability for actions. Parenting is no different.”

Garrity called the lawsuit nothing but harassment.

“Everything … shows that these children, orchestrated by their father, will stop at nothing to embarrass and financially harm their mother,” Smith wrote in a court filing. “In the process they have embarrassed themselves and left a public record blogged about on the Internet that will shadow their every future relationship.”

It's a bad joke, Stephen.

It’s a bad joke, Stephen.

Everyone thought it was a joke when Stephen Colbert, a comedian playing a presidential candidate, started a Super Pac.  And that he was just going to mock the process without having any actual impact. But people are sending him money.  And when the PAC paid for an ad in Iowa telling voters there to write in the name Richard Parry, (note the “a” in Parry – the real candidate Rick Perry spells his name with an “e.”)   Colbert moved from mocking the political process to messing with it.  You  might think that’s funny but I bet Rick Perry doesn’t.  Below is a New York Times article about this.  It includes a quote from one expert who says this type of parody – that could lead to actual votes and dollars raised – is unprecedented in politics.  We’ve also added several other articles that define Super Pacs and explain the court ruling that led to their creation.

Meatloaf.  Perfect for a school night.

Meatloaf. Perfect for a school night.

I like to make meatloaf in a muffin pan.  The kids seem to think it is more fun to eat that way.  It is definitely a good back to school recipe and a dish that makes great leftovers.  This link has ten different types to choose from!

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin

Side Effects May Vary /

I was listening to a commercial for some breakthrough new drug the other day. You know the drill. After the actor goes on and on about the life altering benefits: I can jog again/ I fall asleep fast and stay asleep/ I’m never hungry/ I’m never tired/ I’m never bloated. Then after that an announcer comes on who must moonlight as an auctioneer and announces at record speed the possible side effects. This particular medication had some strange ones including dark urine and unprovoked rage, but if the benefits warrant… Then at the end of the ad the final side effect: in certain rare occasions “sudden death.”

Sudden death? Are there any of our laundry list of annoying health issues that are so painful or inconvenient that we would risk sudden death. I mean I hate stiff joints and seasonal allergies as much as the next guy, but I’m not gambling with sudden death unless it’s a hockey overtime. And how are they defining sudden? Is it like the plug-pulling scene in The Matrix? Does your heart just stop beating? Or maybe it explodes. Sure I might drop dead in the middle of the food court, but at least I was rested.

Now if the ailment you are trying to remedy could kill you, like smoking, obesity or high cholesterol, is that a different story? Still wouldn’t a long, slow death be preferable? More painful, certainly, but at least you can get through a season of Glee. I try and rationalize—though it’s anything but rational—the “low odds” occurrences, like plane crashes and rare side effects and lightening strikes by telling myself that I never win the lottery, so if none of the good low odds occurrences happen to me then certainly none of the bad ones will. If I win the lottery, then I’ll start worrying.

The fall of Tripoli

The fall of Tripoli

It could be easy to miss the importance of what is happening in Libya and to assume that talking to your kids about the changes could be scary.  Rebels have taken over Tripoli and Muammar el-Qaddafi has fled but is reportedly still in the country.  The message could be about bravery in the face of evil.  The story of Lybia doesn’t have to be about the terrorist downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.  Try talking about where Libya is, what kind of economy it has, the history of its nomadic people.  While Libyans have among the highest per capita incomes in Africa, billions of dollars in oil money was essentially squirreled away by the ruler and his nine children. 

I like this site for basic facts on Libya and find with kids the best approach is to start with the basics.  A great place to start is where is it?

It sounds good, but ...

It sounds good, but …

The payroll tax cut may not be all it is cut out to be.  Use the calculator below from to see what the payroll tax cut would actually be worth to you.

Last call for corn

Last call for corn

No mincing words on Martha's Vineyard

No mincing words on Martha’s Vineyard

Islanders may be getting ready to jam the locks that allow that ferry from the mainland to dock in Oak Bluffs.  No nukes signs (yes, the original ones can still be found there) could soon be replaced by pictures of the White House with a giant X over it.  This has always been a liberal place – think Carly Simon, Arlo Guthrie, Bill Styron and other famous residents – all of whom predated Jackie O.  The problem is this most laid back of places has gotten extremely loud on politics, too loud, lately.  And now, the Salon reports you have a de Rothschild in residence denouncing the first African-American President on an island that has always been famously tolerant of racial diversity and that has drawn the African American elite to its shores for years.  Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild tried to tell the Democrats that Obama didn’t have the experience to be President.  She was a major bundler or fundraiser for Hilary Clinton.  She was so ticked off when Hilary didn’t get the nod, she switched to John McCain.  Now, she’s backing Jon Huntsman and not Mitt Romney.  She says Romney is perfect on paper but doesn’t connect with voters and that Huntsman will.  So, is she another fickle female or a moderate who thinks Hilary would have put the economy first and Obama hasn’t?  And that given that, she will now vote Republican.  You decide.  And post.  We want to hear from you.

We talk to Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild

Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild became a fixture on cable television in 2008 as one of Hillary Clinton’s fiercest supporters in the Democratic primary. A successful businesswoman who married the financier Sir Evelyn Rothschild in 2000, she was also a major bundler for the Clinton campaign.

But when Hillary lost, an embittered Rothschild switched sides and endorsed McCain in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign. In the 2012 cycle, she has both hosted a fundraiser in Manhattan for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and been associated with the hedge fund-backed group Americans Elect, which seeks to circumvent the party conventions and nominate a bipartisan presidential ticket.

On Friday, Rothschild spoke to Salon by phone from Martha’s Vineyard. The conversation ranged widely, from her support for single-payer healthcare as well as Republican economic policies to her unlikely admiration for both Hillary Clinton and Eric Cantor. And, of course, her abiding enmity toward Barack Obama.

You’re not supporting Obama for reelection. Where do you think he has erred in the last three years?

In 2008 as a Democrat, I tried as hard as I could to say that it mattered that Barack Obama did not have the experience to run this country. In the last three years we have seen absolutely that that is the case. The man is lost. The man is a loser. The man is not listening to people who might help him. And four more years of Barack Obama will be devastating for the country.

Are there policy areas where you think he has gone wrong?

Where he has gone wrong is the disgraceful fact that there are 14 million people unemployed and 25 million people underemployed or who have given up work. That is a disgrace. That’s number one. This man cannot say it was given to him. I believe it was cravenness and vanity that caused him to do Obamacare, giving us an entitlement program that costs at least $1 trillion, before he fixed the economy and brought people back to work. To have done healthcare without dealing with the cost curve, and without giving us ultimately what we should have — like the British have, which is a single-payer system — is an outrage. He’s created a monster; he has taken healthcare, which is 17 percent of GDP right now, and has expanded it to another 30 million people. He is going to bankrupt America. He’s so vain and he’s so convinced of his own transcendence as a solution to everything that he’s incapable of doing the right thing for the country.

On healthcare, a lot of people will say that the law that ended up passing looks a lot like Hillary’s plan from the election, with its inclusion of the individual mandate. How do you reconcile your support for Hillary with your opposition to Obamacare?

I think — and I have not spoken to her at all about this — that Hillary Clinton would have fixed the economy before she tackled healthcare. And then she would have tackled healthcare with all the knowledge she has. She would have found a way — in spite of enormous political opposition — to deal with the healthcare cost curve. Barack Obama did not do that, he made a deal with the insurance companies. It was a check-the-box effort.

On the economy, what do you think he should have done — or Hillary would have done? Would you support, say, a bigger stimulus? What do you think is needed?

First of all, in times of economic crisis, a person who understands the way the world works would have embraced business and would not have demonized business as Obama did. That’s what a leader does. Barack Obama is not able to get off of the partisan bandwagon. He is the exact opposite of what he promised he would be. He was supposed to be the great unifier and to bring enlightened solutions; he’s really hurting this country. So I am more worked up for 2012 than I was for 2008.

With the current Congress and Republicans controlling the House, they’re not on board with doing more stimulus or anything like that. So what do you think Obama should do right now on the economy? Are there concrete steps that can be taken that would get through Congress right now?

The Republicans are saying, “We need growth because without growth there can be no job creation.” So the Republicans are looking at proposals Barack Obama has to spend more money as proposals to limit growth; that’s the reason for the opposition. So Barack Obama makes a speech where he attacks Congress but he offers no positive solutions. If you read the document that Eric Cantor sent out to his members. He said, we have two goals: one is that we have to reduce the deficit and the debt; and the other is we have to create growth in the economy. And we can’t reach one of those objectives if it hurts the other objective.

Do you think that deficit reduction will lead to growth in the economy?

No. I wish it were that simple. I think that you have to have a bold reform agenda including tax reform on a mega scale. That includes removing deductions and special interest subsidies as well as making the tax regime fairer and flatter. You’ve got to have complete certainty around taxes. You’ve got to have free trade agreements. And you’ve got to have a very clear buy-in of what government can do and what government can’t do. It’s not an overnight solution.

The Times reported recently you hosted a fundraiser for Jon Huntsman. What do you see in him?

I really like Jon Huntsman, I think he is exactly the president we need right now. Number one because he is a knowledgeable and experienced fiscal conservative. He knows how to create jobs though reducing regulation and reducing taxes. At the same time he understands the important and constructive role government has in making our society fairer and better. When he as governor of Utah came out in favor of civil unions, it showed how deeply this man is committed to social justice and fair treatment for all people. That’s the combination that I really admire in him. Whether he can win the Republican nomination I don’t know. If he won it, he would beat Barack Obama in a heartbeat.

A lot of people know you as a prominent Hillary supporter in 2008. Going from Hillary to Huntsman — have you changed ideologically?

You know, if I were able to pick the president, it would be Hillary Clinton. I still consider myself a Clinton Democrat. But the Democratic Party has been so cowardly in standing for the things that Bill Clinton did that made the country so strong in the 1990s, that I have no time for the Democratic Party anymore. Their failure to stand up to the Chicago-dominated Democratic Party is appalling. The only person who is really doing it is Andrew Cuomo. I think Cuomo is a really unique thinker, and he is outside of the Chicago boys Democratic Party of Barack Obama that everyone else just falls in line with. Obviously the Republicans don’t offer me everything, but I also refuse to demonize the Republicans. I think John McCain is a great and very courageous man. I think that Eric Cantor, who is so demonized, if you look at what he actually says and believes in terms of the economy, he is actually a very constructive person.

  • Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More: Justin Elliott