Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Yankees Fans

A special column for all the new parents out there who are looking for some advice on how to raise their kids right: You can buy volumes from Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Sears, all of which will tell you things you already know. What none of these so-called experts will do is tell you is that the best thing you can do is make sure your kid picks the right baseball team to be a fan of.

Before you laugh, or worse yet type "milkandcookies.com" into the address window of your browser, let me explain: You may have heard before that you can tell a lot about a person's character by which team they root for. But has it occured to you that it's an inverse relationship? That which team you root for influences your character?

Some examples:

Being A Yankees Fan
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Bill Gates to hit the lottery. 26 World Championships. Enough Hall Of Famers in their history to fill out a roster. A payroll greater than the GNP of some countries. The Yankees are expected to win every year. Their owner demands it! George actually uttered the words "winning is second only to breathing." Win, win, win. Even in the Yankees most disappointing year (2004), they came within three outs of the World Series! Yankees fans expect their team to win every year. And most years, they do.

What kind of character does this constant satisfaction breed? These types of expectations can create an attitude that the world owes you success, rather than that success needs to be earned. How can one savor success unless they know the taste of defeat?

Being a Cubs Fan
Rooting for the Cubs is like hoping the price of gas goes down. It gets to the point where you accept disappointment as a way of life. Sure, success is bound to come your way eventually (see 2004 Red Sox), but when success does happen it is more like a miraculous event where heavens were aligned properly and curses are reversed rather than anything hard work brought you.

It's important that people understand disappointment is a part of life, but it's equally important for us to believe that success is plausible if we work hard enough for it. We need to learn to enjoy those moments of glory, and use them to remind us to appreciate the fruits of our labor. Losing every year for 97 years isn't character building, it's masochism.

Being a Mets Fan
1969, 1973, 1986, 2000. Four World Series appearances; two World Championships to show for it in 43 years of existance as a franchise. Not exactly world beaters, but just enough beautiful memories to make the phrase "Ya Gotta Believe!" more than just a silly rallying cry. Mets fans have their heroes: Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza... And Mets fans know defeat: the 60's, the late 70's, the early 80's, the mid 90's, Kenny Rogers and Roger Cedeno. But Mets fans also know the excitement of a Shea Stadium crowd roaring so load and celebrating so wildly that it feels like a low level earthquake.

As sports fans we don't swing bats or throw balls, but sticking through the lean years and being a spectator of the process where hard work, passion, drive and leadership pay off into championships teaches us how to be hard working, passionate, and grounded individuals. And isn't that how you want your kids to be?

So for your kids' sake, set an example as a parent. Respect one another. Take responsibility for your actions. Show affection. Communicate. Vote in every election, and I don't mean the All Star Game. And finally, don't let them anywhere near an open flame or a Yankees insignia until they're old enough to make these types of decisions on their own.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Hero Of The Month: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas (R)

Surprised that I would nominate a GOP'er as hero? Well, get over your surprise and pay attention: In a heroic act that goes beyond nonpartisanship, House Representative Paul was one of only three Republicans who voted against the Real ID Act earlier this month.

What's the Real ID act, you might ask? For one thing, the Real ID Act is an act that was attached to a military spending bill, so that when the bill makes it's way to the Senate, voting against it is potentially career suicide for any ambitious Sentaors . Just as was seen with John Kerry in the last election, in a campaign it doesn't matter why one votes against a bill, only that one votes 'No'. A vote against a military spending bill, for any reason, is exploited as a sign of someone who doesn't support the troops. This is just one example of what's wrong with politics in America, but that's for another column. Today it's time to explain what the Real ID act is, and how dangerous it is.

Essentially, a Real ID is an identification card that will replace your drivers license as your main source of identification. It will be a card approved by the Federal government, and owning one will be necessary for anyone who wants to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service.

On the surface, all it means to you is that it will be a royal pain in the butt to get your next drivers license, because to get the Real ID card that replaces it you'll need to dig through your stuff to come up with "photo identity documents" that prove you are who you say you are. Then you'll be issued this new card which will have some kind of electronic feature that stores all your information on it.

Supporters of the new card, including James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin say that the new card will:

"hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant,"

Hard to argue with that, no? But what we need to examine are a) will this actually stop bad guys from doing bad things, and b) does this represent an encroachment on the freedoms of us, the non-bad guys? In an era where politicians rarely vote against party lines, it's notable when a Republican votes against a Republican sponsored bill. Such is the case with our hero, Congressman Paul. As part of the debate on this act, Paul said:

This bill purports to make us safer from terrorists who may sneak into the United States, and from other illegal immigrants. While I agree that these issues are of vital importance, this bill will do very little to make us more secure. It will not address our real vulnerabilities. It will, however, make us much less free. In reality, this bill is a Trojan horse. It pretends to offer desperately needed border control in order to stampede Americans into sacrificing what is uniquely American: our constitutionally protected liberty.

A Republican standing up for civil liberties? This is big. He continues:

This bill establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of
birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical and possibly other characteristics. What is even more disturbing is that, by mandating that states participate in the “Drivers License Agreement,” this bill creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that will be shared with Canada and Mexico!

This bill could have a chilling effect on the exercise of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. It re-defines "terrorism" in broad new terms that could well include members of firearms rights and anti-abortion groups, or other such groups as determined by whoever is in power at the time. There are no prohibitions against including such information in the database as information about a person’s exercise of First Amendment rights or about a person’s appearance on a registry of firearms

This legislation gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to expand required information on driver’s licenses, potentially including such biometric information as retina scans, finger prints, DNA information, and even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) radio tracking technology. Including such technology as RFID would mean that the federal government, as well as the governments of Canada and Mexico, would know where Americans are at all time of the day and night.

There are no limits on what happens to the database of sensitive information on Americans once it leaves the United States for Canada and Mexico - or perhaps other countries. Who is to stop a corrupt foreign government official from selling or giving this information to human traffickers or even terrorists? Will this uncertainty make us feel safer?

What will all of this mean for us? When this new program is implemented, every time we are required to show our driver’s license we will, in fact, be showing a national identification card. We will be handing over a card that includes our personal and likely biometric information, information which is connected to a national and international database.

H.R. 418 does nothing to solve the growing threat to national security posed by people who are already in the U.S. illegally. Instead, H.R. 418 states what we already know: that certain people here illegally are "deportable." But it does nothing to mandate deportation.

Why are we punishing Americans by taking away their freedoms instead of making life more difficult for those who would enter our country illegally?

H.R. 418 does what legislation restricting firearm ownership does. It punishes law-abiding citizens. Criminals will ignore it. H.R. 418 offers us a false sense of greater security at the cost of taking a gigantic step toward making America a police state.

And if you're not afraid of members of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments having access to your personal information, what about the owner of the bar you party at? When you show your I.D. as proof of age to drink, the bartender may scan your ID card into a reader, thereby storing all your information. Do you trust that guy to not abuse this information?

Think there's nothing you can do to stop this? Well, you may be right, but even if you're Right, if you value the rights we are supposedly guaranteed, you owe it to your fellow Americans to at least speak up and say you don't like the Real ID act. The surest thing the proponents of this act have going for them is that Americans aren't paying attention. Here's a petition you can sign that says you are:


We all know we need to prevent terrorism, but as the world's lone superpower, we have the resources to do better than this. Let's challenge the government to come up with a solution that actually works, and doesn't open the citizens of America to identity theft and a reduction of our Constitutionally protected freedoms.

And once again, thank you Congressman Paul.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Commandment XI: Thou Shalt Not Vote Democrat?

Recently here in my new home state of North Carolina, several members of a Baptist church were expelled when the Reverend discovered they had voted for John Kerry in the last election. Of course the Reverend denied the allegations, until an audio tape surfaced on which he was heard insisting that anyone who voted for Kerry must resign. Thou Shalt Not Lie?

Kerry, a Catholic, made it clear that he personally opposed abortion, but felt that legislating based on faith was outside the government's authority in a free, pluralistic society. This position wasn't enough to stop the Religious Right from campaigning against Kerry on the basis of morality.

Leonard Pitts of the Chicago Tribue wrote a nice opinion pice on the subject: I strongly suggest reading the ntire article, but here's a nice excerpt:

It's telling that when another Catholic ran for president 45 years ago--a fellow named Kennedy--he was required to assure anxious voters that he would not allow personal faith to dictate public policy.

How times change.

Some have said the moral here is that preachers should leave politics out of the pulpit. I disagree. Certainly, preachers should not lend their moral authority to political parties or candidates, or make churches into campaign headquarters. But it's a fallacy to believe social and political issues should never be discussed inside church walls. Had that been the case, there could never have been a civil rights movement.

So what galls me about Rev. Chandler's behavior is not that he talked politics per se, but that he assumes belief in God and belief in George W. to be synonymous. As one who believes in a God who is above party, I find that assumption offensive. But you hear it a lot these days. The right wing has cornered the market on God, evidence of both its marketing savvy and the left wing's illiteracy in the language of faith.

If you grew up, as I did, in an era when Christian meant, among other things, long-haired kids with denim-covered Bibles, you have to marvel that it now becomes the exclusive property of those who believe in big business and tax cuts. You have to marvel, too, at the ruthlessness with which they seek to enforce that lockstep mentality. Beg pardon, but it's none of Chan Chandler's business how anyone votes.

Frankly, what he did makes no sense. I mean, assuming a vote for Kerry were incompatible with Christian faith, what better place for such errant people to be than in a church? As a wise person once said, a church is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners.

But too often these days, it seems to be neither, seems to be little more than a refuge for human meanness, pettiness, partisanship and smug self-satisfaction. One is embarrassed to have to remind such people of what ought to be patently obvious: God is not a Republican.

Read the whole article at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0505170165may17,1,981714.story?ctrack=1&cset=true