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Archive for January, 2013

The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

If our cultural riff had a color right now, it would be grey.

Do you know one of the most popular baby names in the last couple of years was, “Gray?” And did you know it means, “Kind King or Ruler.”

Did you also know that the Mayor of Washington, DC, a city where half of its city council has either been indicted or investigated by the feds for crimes ranging from tax evasion to drug possession, is named Mayor Vincent Gray? And that, in spite of this spotty record, Mayor Gray doesn’t believe his city council has a problem with corruption.

How about the fact that one of the most popular books last year was a book called, “50 Shades of Grey.” That WOMEN loved. How can women love a story about a mysoginst?  Well,  according to Psychologist Paul Hockmeyer from Dr.,  once you got past a book full of fairly risque stuff, the story was really about trust and growth.

Grey has traditionally been associated with men when it comes to marketing. Think Grey Goose Vodka, Grey Flannel or Grey Vetiver cologne. Or the kind of wisdom that used to keep you in Congress, not put you at risk for getting booted out of it. Or with the weather, as in “grey skies.”

The other day I was out walking in a local park. It was a damp, muted, typical late winter day. And there were church bells ringing at 2 in the afternoon. Must have been a funeral.

I thought, “Something has died in this country, too.” When innocent children are shot at school. When a Dad testifying about the son he lost in the Sandy Hook shootings is heckled. When a talented, non-violent 15 year old from Chicago is killed in a shooting less than two weeks after singing at the President’s inauguration.

What needs to die is the black and white thinking that has blocked progress and stymied Washington. Grey matters. And right now, we need to address why this concept of “grey” is sweeping our country by storm.

I can think of no better example of someone to bust up the deadlock on guns and safety in our country than Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is both the victim of a deranged gunman and a staunch advocate for the second amendment or the right to bear arms and defend one’s home.

ModerateMoms pulled together a group of interesting women the other day to talk about where our site goes in the next year. We all agree the conversations around politics are changing. People can predict where the line in the sand will be drawn and they are turning away as a result. If we want to pull them back, we need to challenge the status quo and to come up with a third way of looking at things. That is where the solutions will lie, in the grey matter, in the zone where perceptions and emotions, create connections. And black and white thinking destroys them.

A Gun Owner on Gun Reform


Gabby Giffords tells Congress ‘Too many children are dying’ from gun violence

Posted by Joann Weiner on January 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

 On Dec. 14, 2012, after having already killed his mother, a gunman shot and killed 20 little kids and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 11, 2012, a gunman shot and killed two shoppers and wounded another at the Clackamas Town Center Mall near Portland, Ore.. On Aug. 5, 2012, a gunman shot and killed six worshipers and wounded three others in a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wis.  On July 20, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 12 people and wounded 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. On Jan. 8, 2011, a gunman shot and killed six people and wounded Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others in a grocery store’s parking lot in Tucson, Ariz.

These places — a school, a shopping mall, a temple, a movie theater, and a parking lot — aren’t dangerous places. Yet, these 53 kids, teens, and adults who were merely going about their daily lives found that on that one day, their safe place wasn’t so safe anymore.

Perhaps that’s why — finally — two years after their colleague was shot, the U.S. Congress began to try to do something about gun violence in America. On Jan. 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to ask the question that so many  Americans desperately want answered: “What should America do about gun violence?”

The need to do something about gun violence is imperative. In 2010, 4,097 children and young adults between the ages of 1 and 24 died after being shot by someone else, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In total, 11,078 people died from what the CDC calls an “interpersonal” firearm fatality that year. (It’s often reported thatmore than 30,000 people die in America each year from firearms. Sadly, more than half of those deaths are suicides.)

The experts offered several solutions: conduct more and better background checks for all gun buyers, including those who buy firearms at gun shows, online, and from friends; limit the number of rounds high-capacity devices can shoot before reloading; ban assault weapons; fix the country’s mental-health system; give guns to schoolteachers and station armed guards at schools.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head by a mentally ill young man, wants to make it harder for the mentally ill to purchase guns. “I can’t think of anything that would make our country safer,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a gun-owner himself, said that he and his wife own guns to “defend ourselves, to defend our families, for hunting, and for target shooting.” We’ll “never give up our guns” he said, yet after what happened to his wife, he insists that now is the time to act to reduce gun violence. He and Giffords co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions to try to do exactly that.

Not everyone agreed that guns are the problem. Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, came to “give voice” to the NRA’s 4.5 million active members. After pointing out that the NRA teaches gun safety and responsibility, he said that rather than banning guns, we should “throw a blanket of security” around our school children and enforce “the thousands of gun laws already on the books.” He insisted that background controls won’t work because “criminals will never submit to them.”

LaPierre doesn’t just oppose background checks. He opposes gun restrictions of any type, including the assault weapons ban that Sen. Diane Feinstein, (D-Calif.), introduced earlier this month. “Gun ownership is a fundamental, God-given right,” LaPierre concluded.

David Kopel, adjunct professor of law at the Denver University College of Law and associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute, generally shared LaPierre’s views. Kopel said that “lawful armed self-defense in the schools, not only by armed guards, but also by teachers” is the only way to stop the violence in schools.

Kopel holds up the state of Utah as a model to emulate. In Utah, adults who pass background checks and complete a safety training class can carry guns — including teachers at schools. For those who worry that teachers might shoot each other or threaten students or that kids might wrestle the guns away from their teachers, Kopel reassured us: “We’ve never had an attack on a Utah school.”

While the experts told us what to do about gun violence, it was former Arizona congresswoman Giffords, who told us why.

“Too many children are dying. Too many children,” Giffords almost whispered, speaking slowly and with difficulty the eight most important words that anyone would utter during the entire four-hour hearing.

Joann Weiner teaches economics at The George Washington University. She has written for Bloomberg, Politics Daily, and Tax Analysts. Follow her on Twitter: @DCEcon.

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The Gender Gap on Guns

The Gender Gap on Guns

By Bill Lambrecht of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

WASHINGTON • The passionate discussion over gun ownership often is cast as a debate between the National Rifle Association and people who don’t own guns.

Or between the public, which wants stricter gun laws, and a polarized Congress.

But another clear dividing line is the view toward guns between men and women.

An array of national polls this month show a double-digit gender gap between men and women on gun issues.

In a Pew Research Center poll, two thirds of women surveyed said they favor a ban on semiautomatic weapons, while fewer than half of men supported such a prohibition.

Similarly, a New York Times/CBS poll showed a 14 percent gender gap when asking simply if stricter gun laws are desirable.

And in yet another poll, this one conducted by United Technologies/National Journal, more than a third off women would go as far as to ban handguns — an unlikely development that just  22 percent of men would support.

Congress takes its biggest gun-related step of the year tomorrow when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on gun violence with NRA headWayne LaPierre scheduled to be on hand.

One question now is whether anti-gun women can exert their muscle in Congress — and another is whether members who don’t embrace substantial changes feel the wrath of women at election time.

The capacity of female voters to sway elections is no secret, displayed in Barack Obama’s 13-point and 11-point winning margin among women voters in his last two election victories. But can they sway public policy decisions?

Democratic pollster Margie Omero believes that women feel so strongly that guns are now at the core of so-called women’s issues.

“I think we could see this issue mobilize women voters the way we saw issues mobilize women last time around,” said Omero, who has blogged about the gender gap.

If Congress doesn’t listen? “It would be another sign to women voters that Washington has become a mess and is not paying attention to them,” she contended.

Omero observed that pressure will be coming from One Million Moms for Gun Control, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut but already with dozens of chapters around the country. And Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned her Arizona congressional seat a year after nearly dying from a gunshot will be leading a new lobbying effort aimed gun laws.

Omero acknowledges that it is too early to know whether women can bring sufficient pressure. Besides aiming at Republicans, the women feeling strongly about the issues also must persuade red-state Democrats fearing backlash.

“I think the question is not whether Democrats will be worried about voting for these bills. The question is whether Republicans will worry about being held accountable,” she argued.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, believes the gender gap may be rooted in women’s lack of experience with guns. Wagner lives in a household well stocked with guns but she doesn’t shoot them, she noted.

“We (women) support the Second Amendment and we support those in our families that use them for hunting and sport and for protection. There are plenty of women who conceal and carry, I know a number of them,” she said.

Wagner, an NRA member, said she believes the nation has yet to have a needed dialogue on mental health and other issues related to guns that don’t require federal involvement.

“If you want armed guards in your schools, then that’s something an individual school board can take up,” she said.

A musical moment of true bi-partisanship

Click here to hear the Brooklyn Tabernacle at the Inauguration 

The Mom Vivant/ Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

Every year, a small college in northern Michigan compiles a list of words and phrases to eliminate from everyday vocabulary due to misuse, overuse and/or annoyance. In years past, words as amundane as “amazing” or as trendy as “LOL” made the list. Personally, I am of the opinion that any spoken text abbreviation should be banned. Do people realize that actually saying, ‘by the way’ is shorter syllabically than ‘BTW’?

At the top of the list this year – not surprisingly – is ‘fiscal cliff.’ I’m not too worried about phasing that one out. I mean, once we go over it, we’ll need a new expression, anyway. ‘Fiscal chasm’? ‘Fiscal gorge’? I don’t see this expression going away anytime soon. I can’t imagine a politician frank enough to say, “We’re going to ignore this problem for a few weeks and hope it disappears.” 

Next is ‘double down’, which has lost all meaning. In black jack, doubling down is doubling a bet on a potentially winning hand in hopes of doubling the payout. In politics and media, the expression seems to mean repeat: double down on a bailout. At a bar, it means get another round: double down on the margaritas. The list also includes the phrase ‘job creators.’ Since they don’t seem to exist, that expression could just fade away on its own. 

I thought ‘passion’ was a strange choice for the list, but after thinking about it, it occurs to me that passion has replaced every other requirement for being good at something. He has a passion for race car driving, she has a passion for designing clothes. Good for you. I have a passion for going into outer space, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be captaining the shuttle anytime soon.

If there are no teens in your life, you’ve probably never heard the expression, ‘YOLO.’ It’s a text abbreviation and acronym for, ‘you only live once.’ Teenagers use it in a manipulative attempt to get their way or justify some act of stupidity. It’s about as valuable to the English language as ‘what-not.’ The phrase ‘spoiler alert’ is next. In the context of movie reviews, ‘spoiler alert’ is a necessary evil. It notifies the reader that the writer is going to give something away about the plot. However, walking into a room and shouting, Spoiler Alert! The Yankees just traded A-Rod, tends to render the expression moot. Really, “breaking news” seems more suitable. 

“Bucket list’ – it was a great movie, but enough is enough. People are bucket-listing everything. I have a bucket list of work accomplishments, as well as flavors to try at Baskin-Robbins. It was a good phrase and we killed it. ‘Trending’ is apparently trending. Anyone who questions whether this term has become hideously overused need only watch fifteen minutes of E! 

Next on the list was ‘superfood.’ Yeah, good luck trying to pry that one out of the hands of the kale industry. Another food-related term: boneless wings. Trust me, that phrase is going nowhere. If they called them what they really were, nobody would order them. They final word on the list is guru, which replaced tsar (and soon enough, some other over-inflated and self-important title will replace guru) Maybe at some point, actual job titles will make a comeback. 

Well, that was the list for 2012. A new crop of words will emerge late this year, probably related to the economy or politics or movies, it just depends on what’s trending. 

From Rosie the Riveter to Frontline Fems

From Rosie the Riveter to Frontline Fems

Newly inaugurated second term President Barack Obama is expected to propose changes to the role women currently play in the U.S. Military as early as Thursday of this week. Coming off a few days of being bashed for appointing too many white men to cabinet positions, the President is expected to announce that military women may be moving from support positions to direct combat positions. Apparently, the changes have been in the works for awhile and could open up 230,000 jobs. And according to a poll conducted by ABC News last year, nearly 3/4 of Americans now support women in direct combat. 

This is fairly radical stuff when you consider that just last year our elected officials were debating our access to birth control.  Access to Afghanistan, well, that’s a whole different story. 

The only other countries in the world that allow women to fight are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Israel. If you’re in Israel or the States, the need is clear. As far as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Norway, my guess is those women are doing more peacekeeping than fighting. 

Not to be left out of forward movement in female progress, even Syrian women are joining the fight. (Bad pun, i know) I just saw an interesting article on how Syrian women are bolstering the ranks of a depleted civilian volunteer force by taking up kalishnikovs in defense of President Bashar al Assad. Not even the Russians who’ve been selling the Syrians those guns are really behind Al-Assad anymore, according to CNN. But, in this article in the Washington Post,, Liz Sly reports, the fight over Assad has descended to the point where these women are pulling Sunni women out of their cars and tearing off their veils. Regardless of your position on US women serving on the front lines, I think we can all agree American gals would never stoop to this kind of behavior! 

We blogged awhile ago about how it might be time to bring some of our military moms home to help figure out how to avoid another school shooting but this announcement certainly provides an interesting twist in that discussion. 

By the numbers … taxes 2013

by Binyamin Appelbaum and Catherine Rampell of The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Only the most affluent American households will pay higher income taxes this year under the terms of a deal that passed Congress on Tuesday, but most households will face higher payroll taxes because the deal does not extend a two-year-old tax break.

The legislation, which was forged in the Senate and overcame resistance in the House late Tuesday will grant most Americans an instant reversal of the income tax increases that took effect with the arrival of the new year. Only about 0.7 percent of households will be subject to an income tax increase this year, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. The increases will apply almost exclusively to households making at least half a million dollars, the center estimated in an analysis published Tuesday.

But lawmakers’ decision not to reverse a scheduled increase in the payroll tax that finances Social Security, while widely expected, still means that about 77 percent of households will pay a larger share of income to the federal government this year, according to the center’s analysis.

The tax this year will increase by two percentage points, to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent, on all earned income up to $113,700.

Indeed, for most lower- and middle-income households, the payroll tax increase will most likely equal or exceed the value of the income tax savings. A household earning $50,000 in 2013, roughly the national median, will avoid paying about $1,000 more in income taxes — but pay about $1,000 more in payroll taxes.

Sabrina Garcia, a 35-year-old accounting assistant from Quincy, Mass., who together with her husband made about $102,000 last year, said the payroll tax increase equated to “about $200 a month for my family.”

“That’s a lot of money for us,” Ms. Garcia said. “It means we will have to cut back.” She said in an e-mail exchange that she will most likely will postpone buying a new computer. “And forget about being able to save money,” she added.

The deal will impose larger tax increases on those who make the most. It will raise taxes in two ways: by restoring limits on the amount of income affluent Americans can shelter from federal taxation, and by returning to a top marginal tax rate of 39.6 percent. The current rate is 35 percent.

For married couples filing jointly, the deduction limits apply to income above $300,000, while the top tax rate kicks in above $450,000. But both numbers are somewhat misleading, because “income” in this context is a technical term, referring only to the portion of income subject to taxation after exemptions and deductions.

Few households with actual incomes of less than half a million dollars will face a tax increase. The Tax Policy Center calculated that less than 5 percent of families earning $200,000 to $500,000 will actually pay more.

The size of those increases will be much smaller than President Obama originally proposed. The net effect, according to the center’s estimates, is that the top 1 percent of households will see an average income tax increase this year of $62,000 rather than $94,000. “The high-income people really are doing very well in this compared to what the president wanted to do,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

The deal passed by the Senate and the House will impose fewer limits on deductions than the White House plan. It will also tax income from dividends at a flat rate of 20 percent, rather than the same marginal rate as earned income. And there is another important point, often misunderstood: Affluent households will pay the new 39.6 percent rate only on income above $450,000. They and everyone else will still will pay lower rates on income below that threshold.

Households making $500,000 to $1 million will pay an additional $6,700 in taxes on average. Those making more than $1 million will pay an additional $123,000 on average.

Changes in the estate tax will also benefit affluent families. The tax will not apply to the first $5 million of an inheritance, extending the current exclusion rather than reverting to the $3.5 million threshold that President Obama initially favored. However, wealth above that amount will be taxed at a rate of 40 percent rather than the previous rate of 35 percent.

The Obama administration did win a five-year extension of tax breaks for lower-income families, including the child tax credit and earned-income tax credit. Those credits eliminate income tax liability for many lower-income families. In many cases, the government actually makes a direct payment to the family to help offset the burden of payroll taxation — up to $1,000 a child under the child credit and up to $5,900 total under the earned income credit.

The deal will also restore unemployment benefits for about two million Americans. People who can’t find work, and have already received government checks for the standard period of 26 weeks, have been able to stay on the rolls for up to an additional 47 weeks. But financing for that program, which is aimed at the states with the highest unemployment rates, expired Saturday. Under the terms of the deal, people who are eligible will receive any missed benefits retroactively.

The deal also includes new rules for the alternative minimum tax, which threatened this year to impose higher taxes on roughly 30 million households. The tax was created in the 1960s to set a lower limit on the taxes paid by the most affluent households, but the eligibility threshold was not indexed to inflation, so it theoretically encompasses a larger share of households with each passing year. Congress has repeatedly passed short-term increases in the threshold; the deal will make those increases automatic, obviating the annual ritual.

That is small consolation for middle-income Americans like Joe Interlandi, 61, a long-haul trucker who on Tuesday was driving a load of tomatoes from Florida to Los Angeles.

Mr. Interlandi, writing from a rest stop, said he understood the need for higher taxes. He will rather pay more now than impose higher taxes on his children and grandchildren, he said.

But Mr. Interlandi, who estimated that he worked 100 hours many weeks, added that the payroll tax increase still meant he will need to spend even more time on the road. Describing things he will have to cut back on, he wrote, “Family outings like vacations, and time together.”

The Compromise

Associated Press

Jan 3, 12:34 AM EST

Cliff averted, next fiscal crisis in 2 months will be over taxes, spending _ plus debt limit

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Onward to the next fiscal crisis. Actually, several of them, potentially. The New Year’s Day deal averting the “fiscal cliff” lays the groundwork for more combustible struggles in Washington over taxes, spending and debt in the next few months.

President Barack Obama’s victory on taxes this week was the second, grudging round of piecemeal successes in as many years in chipping away at the nation’s mountainous deficits. Despite the length and intensity of the debate, the deal to raise the top income tax rate on families earning over $450,000 a year – about 1 percent of households – and including only $12 billion in spending cuts turned out to be a relatively easy vote for many. This was particularly so because the alternative was to raise taxes on everyone.

But in banking $620 billion in higher taxes over the coming decade from wealthier earners, Obama and his Republican rivals have barely touched deficits still expected to be in the $650 billion range by the end of his second term. And those back-of-the-envelope calculations assume policymakers can find more than $1 trillion over 10 years to replace automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as a sequester.

“They didn’t do any of the tough stuff,” said Erskine Bowles, chairman of Obama’s 2010 deficit commission. “We’ve taken two steps now, but those two steps combined aren’t enough to put our fiscal house in order.”

In 2011, the government adopted tighter caps on day-to-day operating budgets of the Pentagon and other cabinet agencies to save $1.1 trillion over 10 years.

The measure passed Tuesday and signed Wednesday by Obama prevents middle-class taxes from going up while raising rates on higher incomes. It also blocks severe across-the-board spending cuts for two months, extends unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless for a year, stops a 27 percent cut in Medicare fees paid to doctors and prevents a possible doubling of milk prices.

The alternative was going over the cliff, an economy-punching half-trillion-dollar combination of sweeping tax increases and spending cuts. Despite the deal, the government partially went over the brink anyway with the expiration of a two-year cut in Social Security payroll taxes of two percentage points.

Action inside a dysfunctional Washington now only comes with binding deadlines. So, naturally, this week’s hard-fought bargain sets up another crisis in two months, when painful across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs are set to kick in and the government runs out of the ability to juggle its $16.4 trillion debt without having to borrow more money.

Unless Congress increases or allows Obama to increase that borrowing cap, the government risks a first-ever default on U.S. obligations. Republicans will use this as an opportunity to leverage more spending cuts from Obama, just like they did in the summer of 2011.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, vows that any increase in the debt limit – which needs to be enacted by Congress by the end of February or sometime in March – must be accompanied by an equal amount in cuts to federal spending. That puts him on yet another collision course with Obama, who has vowed anew that he won’t let haggling over spending cuts complicate the debate over the debt limit.

The cliff compromise represented the first time since 1990 that Republicans condoned a tax increase. That has whipped up a fury among tea party conservatives and increased the pressure on Boehner to adopt a hard line in coming confrontations over the borrowing cap and the spending cuts that won only a two-month reprieve in this weeks’ deal.

Put simply, House Republicans are demanding new spending cuts – possibly through changes in Social Security and Medicare benefit formulas – as a scalp, and they’re dead set against raising more revenues through anything less than an overhaul of the tax code now that Obama has won higher taxes on the wealthy.

“Now the focus turns to spending,” Boehner said after Tuesday’s vote, promising that future budget battles will center on “significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt.”

Obama is just as adamant on the other side, saying higher revenues have to be part of any formula for further diverting the automatic spending cuts.

While conservative activist Grover Norquist gave Republicans a pass on violating his anti-tax pledge with this week’s vote, he and other forces on the right won’t be so forgiving on any future effort to increase revenues.

The refusal of Republicans to consider additional new taxes is sure to stir up resistance among Democrats when they’re asked to consider politically painful cuts to so-called entitlement programs like Medicare. Democratic protests led Obama and Boehner to take a proposal to increase the Medicare eligibility age off the table in the recent round of talks.

The upshot? More scorched-earth politics on the budget will probably dominate the initial few months of Obama’s second term, when the president would prefer to focus on legacy accomplishments like fixing the immigration problem and implementing his overhaul of health care.

The relationship between Boehner and Obama has never been especially close and seemed to have suffered a setback last month after the speaker withdrew from negotiations on a broader deficit deal. The two get along personally, but politically, a series of collapsed negotiations has bred mistrust. The White House has the view that Boehner cannot deliver while the speaker is frustrated that matters brought up in his talks with the president are not followed through by White House staff.

And on the debt limit, Boehner and Obama at this point are simply talking past each other.

“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” Obama said after the deal was approved.

Said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel: “The speaker’s position is clear. Any increase in the debt limit must be matched by spending cuts or reforms that exceed the increase.”

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A Mom’s IPhone contract with her son

By AKIKO FUJITA and CHRISTINA NG | Good Morning America – Sun, Dec 30, 2012
  • eg Hoffman had been begging his parents for an iPhone all year. So on Christmas morning he was thrilled to find the object of his desire under the tree, but there was a catch.

The phone came with an 18-point set of terms and conditions that he had to agree to before the phone could be his. And the agreement did not come from Apple or the phone provider, it was from his mother.

“Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift,” the agreement begins. “But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations.”

The first rule on his mother’s list: “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?”

“I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it,” Janell Hoffman wrote. “Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.”

“I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come,” she added.

“Oh my God. My first reaction was, why? Why did she really have to do this?” Hoffman told “Good Morning America” today.

“What I wanted to do and show him [is] how you could be a responsible user of technology without abusing it, without becoming addicted,” Janell Hoffman said.

Hoffman herself is a blogger and mother of five in Cape Cod, Mass. She wanted her son to avoid many of the pitfalls that both smart phone using teens and adults fall prey to.

“Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being,” read rule number seven. “Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.”

Other rules forbid porn and the sending or receiving of “pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.” The rules also outline the hours and places the phone may be used.

“It it rings, answer it,” said rule number three. “It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad.’ Not ever.”

Hoffman said that the lessons she outlined were for her son’s iPhone usage, for his life and for anyone too attached to their mobile device.

“Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you,” she encouraged. “Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without Googling.”

Teen behavior expert Josh Shipp says a set of rules are a must for teen iPhone use.

“You wouldn’t’ give your kid a car without making sure they had insurance,” said Shipp, who is the host of Lifetime’s “Teen Trouble.” “And so giving them a cell phone or a computer without teaching them how to use it responsibly is irresponsible on the part of the parent.”

Here’s Janell Hoffman’s full list of rules for her son, originally posted on her blog:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person ? preferably me or your father.

11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.

13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.

15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!