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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Wednesday, 8 June 2005
You Done With The Sports Section?
I read a newspaper today.

With time to spare between dropping my daughter off at the Westminster Presbyterian Church for bible school (yes, liberals really do attend church just like regular Christians) and Walmart, I stopped off at the closest Port City Java and treated myself to breakfast. To pass the time I bought a copy of the Wilmington Star News.

I don’t remember what was on the front page. The only story I recall was about a couple trying to run a greyhound dog rescue operation out of their house but it got out of hand. You’ve heard the story before–sixty-odd dogs were found in the house, emaciated, covered with fleas, ticks and dried feces, all of them sick. The dogs were turned over to animal control, treated by vets then an official Greyhound rescue group began looking for homes. Five had to be euthanized.

I also read Annie’s Mailbox (the replacement for the late Ann Landers’ advice column) and the comics. My horoscope said it was a particularly lucky day for me, although I didn’t notice any good fortune. I looked through the want ads and I even perused the mediocre editorial page. Then I left it there for someone else and went shopping.

My husband and I don’t subscribe to any newspapers. We get Newsweek and Car & Driver, but no newspapers. Aside from the funnies and Annie’s Mailbox, there’s nothing in there I’d want to read every day. We usually don’t have the time to sit and read one all the way through. Like every other newspaper, the Star News has downsized itself so it seems like it was printed for a child. You can’t hide behind it like the old kind. And I just hate the way newspapers pile up. I always worry I’m going to end up like one of those old ladies found dead with ten foot piles of newsprint.

When I was growing up, my parents received both Cincinnati daily papers (The Enquirer and the Post & Times Star), the two weekly Clermont County papers and the Wall Street Journal. My father read them all and did the crossword puzzles. It was fairly common to subscribe to both papers. Something might happen during the day that you’d want to know about. People like my parents were still getting used to the idea of television and there was no such thing as a 24 hour news network.

In college, my room-mates and I subscribed to the Akron Beacon Journal and when I was a reporter for a Cincinnati suburban weekly, I got to read the daily papers every day at the office.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped reading newspapers. Not enough time, don’t have the money, worried about the disposal problem. (I always felt I should recycle them but I never got around to it). I get my news from Newsweek, National Public Radio, ABC News and lately CNN and the BBC.

According to USA Today, Newspaper circulation has gone way down since the 1980s. Like me, people now rely on television and the Internet to stay informed. Every major paper has its own website and they post every issue on line. But it’s not like sitting and reading the paper.

I suppose one of these days, newspapers will disappear completely. But I hope not. Because I really do enjoy sitting at Port City Java, sipping my coffee and reading the paper.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:37 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 9:46 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 7 June 2005
Free Advice on Writing (and worth every penny)

I decided to write about writing today, which to me is a lot like thinking about thinking. You get so distracted deconstructing the mechanics of what you’re doing, you find you’re not really doing anything at all.

Which is not to say that writers can’t benefit from a class, a workshop or just a good discussion about writing. There is however, the temptation to use classes, workshops and discussions as a means to be a writer without actually writing. (Writing is hard work, dammit! Let’s just talk about it for a while)

I know something about writing. I studied journalism in college where I had to learn grammar and style backwards and forwards. It helps to learn the rules before you break them. I also have written two books Caviar Dreams, and Tree Huggers, due out in 2006. I’m hardly an expert, but as you all know, that’s never stopped me from giving my opinion before.

I don’t like the idea of reducing writing to a set of seven handy steps, like Dr. Phil and his “Seven Steps For A Phenomenal Family.” Nothing is that simple. Also, it’s my feeling that if I concentrate on writing the “Right” way, I won’t be writing my way. If I’m going to spend my time doing writing exercises that no one’s going to read, I might as well work on my third book (five chapters and counting!)

I did a Google search on writing sites and got 198,000,000 hits. They have titles like “Rules of Writing,” “Writing Secrets,” “Writing.Com.” They offer ways to make money as a freelancer and how to get your great American novel published. There are online classes in writing, online writing discussion groups, online peer reviews and a huge number of bloggers blogging on writing. You could spend your whole life learning and discussing your writing, that is if you manage to find time to get it done.

By the way, I belong to a web forum of mystery writers. The web board has helped me a lot through the years, even though most of my postings are in the “Chat” Section as opposed to writing advice. Check them out at Mystery Writer's Forum.

But if you’re looking for advice, I will offer this quote from author E.L. Doctorow.

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. . . . Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep writing and eventually you get a book.

Posted by judy5cents at 4:39 PM EDT
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Monday, 6 June 2005
Hurricanes Happen Here

It's official. Hurricane season started five days ago. So far here in Wilmington, NC we've had normal weather for this time of year. Partly cloudy and warm, with an occasional shower.

But it's a long way to November. Sometime between now and then there will be a hurricane. According to the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado University, there will be 13 named storms this year and seven full fledged hurricanes. And the probability of a major hurricane making landfall somewhere along the US coastline is 73%.

Don't you just hate that? They tell you it's coming but you don't know when or where.

Here's the list of names for this year's storms: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince, and Wilma.

Every year I look at the list and try to figure out which who's going to hit us.

Is it Cindy? Is it Irene? Is it Emily or Franklin? Maybe Nate? Who's going to be the one who sets us off to Home Depot for plywood and then to Wal-Mart to stock up on batteries, Doritos and Spam?

Last year it was Charlie who knocked a tree across our driveway and smashed our fence. A couple years before that it was Isabelle, who started out as a Category 5 and was headed straight towards us. Lucky for us, Isabel lost strength and headed north, causing nothing more than a few fallen tree limbs here

Welcome to coastal living. By choosing to live near the ocean, my family and I have chosen to live with hurricanes. We have learned to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

We have also learned there's no point in feeling sorry for yourself it one hits. And you certainly don't go on television asking why this horrible thing had to happen to you.

It happened to you because you live in a place that's prone to hurricanes. It isn't as if you haven't been told enough times.

Hurricanes can be oddly liberating. When one is headed this way, I realize that all the stuff we've accumulated through the years is just stuff. We'll get by just fine without it. As long I come out on the other side with my husband, the kid and the dog, I've got no complaints.

So pass the Doritos and open up the Spam.

Got more time to waste? Go to

Posted by judy5cents at 4:45 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 June 2005 9:05 PM EDT
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Friday, 3 June 2005
Hoping For Another Dead Body

Jennifer Wilbanks, the so called “Runaway Bride who sparked a very expensive missing person search when she decided to disappear,” pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is making restitution for the cost of the search, along with 120 hours of community service.

Aside from her fiancee, nobody seems to be happy that she’s alive and safe. The sheriff’s and Police Departments in Lawrenceville, GA all want their money back. The locals who put up posters and tramped through the bushes searching for her are mad as hell that they wasted their time while she was on a Greyhound bus to Albuquerque, NM.

But I think it’s the Main Stream Media who’s really pissed off. They wanted a body to be found. They wanted another ongoing sensational story, just like Laci Petersen. (In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, that’s the pregnant woman in California who went missing on Christmas Eve and turned up in the San Francisco Bay months later. At least her torso did. And it was her husband who did it!)

When a swarm of reporters and remote broadcast trucks descend on your town, demanding to know the status of the search for the missing woman, what else are you going to do but put more money and effort into it?

As for all those volunteers, I would expect a good many of them went on the search in hopes of seeing themselves on CNN.

I can understand why Wilbanks lied to the police when she was found. If I were in her position, realizing the huge amount of trouble I’d just caused, I know I’d want to make up a story about being abducted, just to save a little face.

Outside of the Lawrenceville, GA area, no one needed to know about Jennifer Wilbanks’ disappearance. And yet, once again, it was all over the media. Shame on all those newsroom editors who made this as big a story as it was. Watch yourselves next time, OK?

Posted by judy5cents at 10:06 AM EDT
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Thursday, 2 June 2005
Follow The Money

After 30 years, we finally know the identity of Deep Throat, the confidential source in the Watergate scandal which brought down President Richard Nixon. It was FBI second in command, Mark Felt.

I’ve been waiting for years to find this out, even though I’ve never heard of this guy. I was always hoping it would be someone close to the president, like Henry Kissenger. Anyway, I just hated not knowing.

What amazes me is how Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and their editor Ben Bradlee managed to keep it a secret for so long. I mean, there has to have been pressure. People at parties saying, “Oh come on, you can tell me..” Or publishers offering millions if Deep Throat’s identity was identified in the next book. You have to admire their ability to keep that big a secret for more than thirty yearas.

It’s also amazing how no one guessed and there were lots of folks working pretty hard trying to figure it out based on the evidence. The main contenders were Patrick Buchanan, speechwriter and special assistant to Nixon; Stephen Bull, a Nixon aide; speechwriter Raymond Price; Jonathan Rose, attorney for regulatory affairs; speechwriter David Gergen; Gerald Warren, deputy press secretary; and Fred Fielding, assistant to White House chief legal counsel John Dean. Although these folks were mentioned often and Fred Fielding was presented as the best bet in a Smithsonian article, Mark Felt’s name never came up.

This is a guy who knows how to remain in the shadows. And not just in parking garages.

Now what I would like to know is why there’s even a question as to whether Mark Felt was a hero or a villain? I can understand why Pat Buchannan would call him a traitor (interesting in itself, since Buchannan topped the list of Deep Throat possibles) And you know convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy would say pretty much the same thing.

But what’s up with the rest of you?

So let me set you all straight. Deep Throat is and always was a hero, whether his identity was known or not. He saw corruption in the Nixon administration and he helped bring it to light by keeping a couple of young reporters on the right track

Mark Felt changed history. For the better.

Posted by judy5cents at 7:37 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 June 2005 7:52 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
I See London, I See France

All right, I’m ignoring the big story of the day (don’t worry, I’ll get to it tomorrow) and instead, I’m commenting on that cheap shot photo of Saddam in his Y-fronts.

I’m sure you all saw it--the former dictator of Iraq standing in his white cotton underpants, showing the whole world that he’s hung like an Arabian stallion. Now, if I’d thought about it, which I never did, I’d have expected Saddam to wear boxers as opposed to briefs. I still believe that is his preference, as what he was wearing in the photo was probably prison issued.

The photograph was leaked to the press by an official in the military, no doubt inspired by that famous Brady Bunch episode in which Marcia Brady conquers her fear during her driving test by imagining the DMV tester in his underwear.

Hey Iraqui people! You don’t have to be afraid of Saddam anymore. Here he is, right here in his underwear. Your fears are over.

Never mind the suicide bombers, the threat of civil war and the lack of fresh water and electricity.

And never mind that it’s a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. We are not supposed to humiliate prisoners, no matter what their crimes.

A photo of Saddam in his undies is a long way from Abu Ghraib. But as the leader of the free world, the United Sttates should be above this type of juvenile behavior. (I have a sneaking suspicion that in the undisclosed location of Saddam’s imprisonment, his pants are flying on the flagpole). We are better people than this. Aren’t we?

Too bad we don’t have a wise school principal taking us into the office and giving us a good talking to. We’d be a better country for it.

Got some more time to waste? Visit my website

Posted by judy5cents at 8:41 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 31 May 2005
The Thorny Issue

Today on my way to the endodontist, I drove past a demonstration at our local Planned Parenthood. It appeared peaceful. It consisted of about a half dozen people holding signs spouting the usual pro-life slogans. One of the signs accused Planned Parenthood of being responsible for the death of a generation.

In truth, I’m sure Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions than it’s performed. Its mission statement is “Every child a wanted child,” and to achieve this goal they provide low cost birth control so poor women who can’t afford to have babies don’t have them.

I noticed the demonstrators weren’t there when I drove past on the way home. Seems to me they’d make more of an impact if they were there all day, every day. I guess the occasional Tuesday morning is enough.

Anyway, they got me thinking about this thorny issue, the way they always do when I see them exercising their right of free speech.

I was 16 when the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion was handed down in 1973. At the time, I thought it was a good thing. Abortion was safe and legal now. And, since sexual activity loomed out there for me, I was glad that option was there for me.

These days my position on abortion exactly matches the convoluted statement John Kerry made in last year’s presidential debate. Oh to be like George W. Bush and say firmly and unequivocally, “I’m against abortion.” Or to be like the pro-choice activists who ardently proclaim their support of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body.

It’s not that simple. I firmly believe that abortion should not be used as a form of birth control. We live in a time when contraception is effective and available to any one. And we all know if you have sex, you can get pregnant.

But accidents happen. Every method has a failure rate as many women have found out the hard way.

Abortion is our choice, but face it, it’s a choice most women would rather not have to make. And while I’ve always voted pro-choice, I also believe that when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, the responsible choice is to go through with it. If you have children already, make room for one more. If you’re not in a position to care for a child, put it up for adoption. There is no shortage of childless couples looking for newborns.

That’s my view, but I don’t believe I have the right to impose it on other women. It’s still their legal right, and a choice they make on their own.

There's a group called The Common Ground Network For Life And Choice an unlikely alliance between pro-choice and pro-life groups. Tired of the animosity between the two camps in Buffalo, NY after Operation Rescue’s violent marches in 1992, a few brave pro-choice and pro-life activists decided to stop demonizing each other and see if they could find one thing they agreed on. They started talking in 1993 and discovered they both wanted fewer abortions and they both wanted to help women and their children. Here’s what they decided to support: assitance to crack-addicted pregnant women, preventing unwanted pregnancies, providing women support during pregnancy, teaching abstinence to teenagers, reducing infant mortality, and financing school breakfast programs.

It's a difficult process, finding common ground among such passionate adversaries. But as long as we stand across the chasm and call each other names, we won't change anything.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:55 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 June 2005 7:50 PM EDT
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Monday, 30 May 2005
Bo or Carrie? Do I look like I care?

"American Idol" is over for the season and boy am I glad. I’m not a fan of the show. I have absolutely no interest in watching marginally talented people singing old pop songs only to be ripped apart by a sarcastic British guy. (I get plenty of British sarcasm from my husband Nigel, thank you.)

What infuriates me so about "American Idol" is that I have never watched it, not even for five seconds and yet I know so much about it. I know that Ruben Stoddard went off his diet. I know that Clay Aiken was bullied as a child. I know that Fantasia is a single mother struggling to raise a child on her own and really deserved to win.

How do I know all of this? It’s on the news of other networks. CNN, NBC, and NPR have all had segments on American Idol. And ABC News devoted an entire hour of Prime Time Live to an expose of the alleged affair between "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul and a former contestant.

North Korea has nuclear weapons. Fifty million people don’t have health insurance. Pharmaceutical companies can charge Americans exorbitant prices for medicine because they’ve bought every vote they need in Congress. States all over the country are cutting back on Medicaid just as more people become eligible for it. So what is it we’re all talking about? Whether it’s Bo or Carrie who wins on "American Idol."

I know in the end, it’s just a television show. This too shall pass. The people who can’t get enough now will eventually get enough and "American Idol" will go the way of all those other once wildly popular shows like “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and “Trading Spaces.”

Sooner or later, Simon will walk off into well-deserved obscurity. I can only hope that when he does, he takes Donald Trump and all his little apprentices with him.

Want more? Go to

Posted by judy5cents at 7:37 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 30 May 2005 7:46 PM EDT
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Friday, 27 May 2005
The Distinguished Senator From Ohio
These days I’m feeling a bit guilty that I voted against George Voinovich every chance I got. When I was an Ohio resident, he ran for governor twice and then for the senate. True to my “yellow dog Democrat” status, I always voted for the democratic candidate, even when his only qualifications were having had the good fortune to marry Senator Howard Metzenbaum’s daughter.

Voinovich was a pretty good governor. Nothing really bad happened in Ohio during his tenure. Or at least nothing bad we could blame on him.

But lately, I've been finding that I'm very impressed with Senator Voinovich. During the senate committee discussions over John Bolton’s nomination for Ambassador to the United Nations. I really liked his analogy of “the kitchen test.” He said in making personnel decisions, he never hired anybody who he wouldn’t want to invite into his kitchen. John Bolton failed the test hands down.

Then Voinovich went on to broker the judicial nominee compromise that kept the senate from shutting down, proving that it is still possible to work out a bi-partisan agreement.

But it was George Voinovich’s impassioned plea against John Bolton that really caught my admiration. He called Bolton “the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be,” and went on to point out that in a letter signed by former secretaries of state, the signature of the one who had been Bolton’s boss, Colin Powell, was conspicuously absent.

In a letter to the New York Times, Voinovich said he was concerned "that John Bolton’s nomination sends a negative message to the world community and contradicts the President’s efforts. In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation’s ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective Ambassador to the United Nations."

We need all the friends we can get and a guy who "kisses up and kicks down" is not going to help us win friends and influence people.

For now, the nomination has stalled again. Democrats held the vote until the White House provides key documents and e-mail regarding Bolton’s dealings with intelligence operatives. So it will be at least another couple of weeks as they’re in recess now.

Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of us could take ten days off for Memorial Day too?

The Republican party is now so beholden to its right wing base, it seems to have forgotten that not everyone espouses those hardline views, like send in this hardass to shake up the United Nations, which should be dismantled anyway. I’m sure there are a fair number of registered Republicans who feel their party has been hijacked by a group of religious conservatives bent on pushing their agenda through. I’m hoping they’ll say “enough’s enough,” and push for moderates.

Voinovich for president? Maybe I might vote for him.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:46 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 30 May 2005 7:36 PM EDT
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Thursday, 26 May 2005
Every Blastocyst is Sacred

In the totally tasteless Monty Python film, "The Meaning of Life," there's a song called "Every Sperm Is Sacred." I'm sure it offended every Catholic whoever sat through the film, and just about anyone else who takes seriously the biblical admonition "Be fruitful and multiply."

Anyway, dozens of children (all apparently brothers and sisters) march down the street singing "Every sperm is sacred/Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted/God gets quite irate..."

When that film came out in the early 80s, in vitro fertilization was still a new radical fertility technology. Now it's how couples with no fertility but access to lots of money get their babies. Their embryos are created in test tubes and because the procedure is so expensive and the chances of sucess are not great (usually 1 in 4), fertility clinics make plenty of spares.

At this point there are well over 100,000 frozen embryos out there, most of which will be discarded. In general couples choose to have the extras frozen. After five years (when the parents are busy with carpools and kindergarten) the embroyos are destroyed.

Yes, they are potential life. But in reality, they never will become people. There are agencies that have "embryo adoption," but that's fairly rare. Understandably, the majority of infertile couples prefer to give birth to their own children, not someone else's.

It's my opinion that if couples wish to donate their unused embryos for stem cell research they should be given that option, the same as relatives are encouraged to donate a dying loved one's organs to help save lives. Stem cell research has shown promise for conditions such as spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and diabetes.

The House of Representatives just passed a law that will allow for federal funding of stem cell research, but President George W. Bush, ever loyal to his conservative base, has vowed to veto it.

Because all those embryos floating around in the freezer are sacred. And if one is wasted, God gets quite irate. Right, George?

Posted by judy5cents at 7:33 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 27 May 2005 8:54 AM EDT
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