Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thank You Robin Carnahan

Thank you for deciding to not run against Jay Nixon in a Democratic primary for Missouri Governor. Thank you for not risking another split in Missouri's Democratic Party.

Thank you also for saying that you'll run again for Secretary of State. Missourians are lucky to have you in office.

Now the Democrats, and Nixon's campaign organizers, need to get to work. Word has it Ken Hulshof could really give him a run for his money. Nixon isn't going to win by whining about Boy Blunt anymore. He's got to make his own platform clear, and tell Missourians what he's going to do--not what he doesn't like about the other guy. We've gotten that message loud and clear. So, to badly paraphrase the words of Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita, it is time for you to tell us what you think needs to be done and how you are going to do it.

While he's at it, Jay Nixon probably ought to spend a little time thanking Robin Carnahan as well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Here's the scene: It is 8:00 on a cold Wednesday morning, and the Missouri House of Representatives Special Committee for Family Services has convened a hearing to listen to testimony about a House Bill affecting more than 147,000 children. Men and women have traveled from all corners of the state to provide testimony. People are nervously shuffling note cards, reading handwritten and typed pages, smoothing skirts and ties, and watching as the legislators take their seats.

As the hearing begins, the legislator sponsoring the bill explains the details and answers questions from his colleagues. Because it is the beginning of the session, I assume that the whispering and low laughter at the back of the hearing room is simply left over from our wait time and surely will taper off.

An MU professor begins her testimony next--she has much important data and research to explain which supports the Bill. But the talking and laughter not only hasn't tapered off, it seems to get louder.

As the legislators question the professor, the people in the back of the room keep twittering. No one raises a gavel or suggests that they take their conversation outside the hearing room. They are tolerated. They are ignored.

Next, the folks who have worked so hard to swallow their nerves and present their opinions to the Committee go one at a time to get their two minutes to speak, and still the noise in the back does not abate.

I finally turn around to see who could possibly be so disrespectful to not only the people speaking but to the entire proceeding. Turns out it is a row of twenty-somethings, three women with big hair (I didn't know that was back in style) and laptops, and a couple of men with open cell phones leaning over each other to talk.

The inappropriateness of this behavior just blows me away. They weren't there to protest the bill--the hearing was plainly open for people to present dissenting opinions (there were none). They didn't present any testimony at all. In fact it wasn't clear at all why they were in the room. Their chairs were in a row next to a door. They could have easily slipped out and continued their oh-so-funny conversation outside the hearing room.

It is just a matter of respect. Respect for the institution, for the history that resonates with a palpable energy inside the Missouri State capitol. Respect for the people who were speaking and who had invested so much into those few moments. Respect for the those who were actually listening to what was being said.

When did we begin to tolerate this kind of behavior? When did we begin to be surprised to hear "please" and "thank you?" How did we get to a point where adequate customer service is often the best we can hope for, or when hearing someone say "excuse me" after they've squeezed us out of their way is so shocking we actually respond with "no, excuse me!"

Something has happened to our society--it seems we've lost respect for each other and for our history. If we stay on this track, it will only get uglier. Respect and dignity go hand-in-hand, if we lose one, we lose the other, and I fear they will be hard to ever get back.

As the late Dan Fogelberg wrote: Lessons learned are like bridges burned, you only need to cross them but once, is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain, are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Please Robin Carnahan

Please don't do it.

Please don't run for Governor. Don't split the Democrats again. Didn't we learn anything from the mess Claire McCaskill gave us when she drove a wedge in the party by running against Bob Holden?

I'm glad McCaskill is our Senator. But I wasn't glad she let her ego and her frustration with Bob Holden throw the last governor's election to Matt Blunt. Look at what that did--talk about a disaster.

I'm also thrilled Robin Carnahan is Secretary of State, and I hope she'll go far in her political career. Every time I've seen her speak she impresses me; she's bright, she's got great instincts, and if political potential is genetic, she hit the motherlode.

But she could really mess it up for Missouri if she jumps the gun here. Jay Nixon has been running this race for a long time. Where has she been? Was she afraid to run again Matt? Why has she waited until now? I can't imagine that she's decided to tear the party and possibly the election apart on purpose, but as my mother would say, she obviously didn't decide to NOT tear the party and the election apart on purpose either.

Stop the insanity before it starts Robin. Don't do this. Let this election play out and allow the Democrats the opportunity to regain the Governor's office without the extra strain of a party split.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gubernatorial Ritalin

I'm not sad that Missouri's young Governor Matt Blunt has "after a few days of thought and prayer" decided not to seek reelection. His decisions, and those of his party comrades in the state house and senate have wreaked havoc across Missouri, so I think we need to make some significant changes in Jefferson City, starting with the Governor. If he's telling the truth, though, about his reasoning and what was behind him choosing not to run again, Missouri voters need to look long and hard at how we were so easily conned into electing a man who now shows himself to be shiftless, impulsive and egotistical.

According to his remarks this week, in his one brief term as governor he's "accomplished all his goals." Now he says he's lost his "sense of mission."

Matt Blunt says he spent "a few days" making this decision? He is the leader of an entire state, not the manager of a Churchill's Coffee (oh yeah, that was just one of his other briefly-held jobs). The man has over $4,000,000 in donated campaign funds--and he spent more than that already running for reelection to this job he's now decided to quit--and he's as good as lining a bird cage with it. Too bad, so sad to all the people who gave him cash. And still he admits he throwing in the towel after "a few days" of thought and prayer.

If you didn't know better you'd think Matt Blunt just can't keep a job. Look at the guy's resume. A stint in the Navy that he's basically stuck with since he signed up for the Naval Academy, followed by one term as a State Rep (thanks, Daddy Roy), and then one as Missouri Secretary of State. Somewhere in there was the erstwhile stint at Churchills Coffee. The stereotype of his generation (he was born in 1970) seems to be that they hop from job to job when they don't get their way, or when they just get tired of doing something. They have an excuse for everything, and rarely take responsibility for their own actions. Don't misunderstand me, I know many folks of this generation who defy that stereotype. Matt Blunt, on the other hand, fits it all too well.

Maybe he just needs to take some Ritalin. Or get a script for some Adderall SR if the Ritalin warnings worry him. Clearly the dude needs a little help with impulse control and attention span. By all reports he has trouble staying in one place and he burns up the highways between Jeff City and Springfield--his carbon footprint from making that drive alone must be huge. And now we Missourians learn, yet again, that his loyalties shift with the wind. Or with whomever fans his ambition flames.

Is he hoping for a ride to the November elections with Mitt Romney? Or did he quit because the "secret" about the FBI snooping around the Capitol is no longer so secret? Did he really just decide to quit because he bored with his mission? That seems to be the least likely of the possibilities.

The most likely scenario? We'll find out the real reasons he's decided to quit later. Maybe in a few months, maybe not. But you can bet that the stuff he spoon fed us earlier this week was not much more than pablum.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We've lost a true Thinker

From the Springfield News-Leader:
(The Associated Press)
Noted psychologist Weissman dies at 89

St. Louis — Psychologist Jane Loevinger Weissman, who wrote several books and articles on her research into character development, has died, her family said.

Weissman, 89, of St. Louis, died Jan. 4 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Weissman worked under her maiden name, Loevinger. She elaborated on Sigmund Freud's functionalist version of the ego.

Her theory of personality emphasized the gradual internalization of social rules and maturing conscience for the origin of a person's decisions.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Icy truth

In the grand scheme of things, the ice storm that began a year ago, and the resultant 13 2/3 days with no electricity was nothing. Nothing.

Most human beings on this planet don't have electricity most every day. Most human beings probably don't have access to as much food in a month that I threw away from my useless refrigerator. I was cold huddled next to the fireplace? Hardly tragic--there is a roof over that fireplace, and we (the bank and us)own it. I worried about the Other Half staying in the house when it was so incredibly cold and dark and kinda freaky late at night. But good friends with a chain saw and extra wood, folks who stopped by to bring a hot coffee and warm conversation, people checking in via cell reinforce the blessing of true friendship.

Truth told, those fourteen days were pretty awful. Each of those days I was reminded that its hard to do much of anything else when you are waiting. Waiting, particularly when you're waiting with that "maybe today" hope but no real end in sight, takes some serious mental energy.

In fact, it wears me out just remembering it. Yuck.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Pass the Thorazine

I am truly thankful for the early warning systems that enable meteorologists to warn us well in advance when dangerous weather is approaching. I am. I know that sounding tornado sirens saves lives, that having an advance warning gives people time to get out of mobile homes, into basements, and off highways. The warnings allow parents time to soothe frightened kids while packing up stuffed animals and special blankets before heading for bathrooms and closets. It gives us a moment to turn on KSPR, grab battery powered radios to stash alongside our sturdy shoes, and basically watch and learn.

But holy funnel cloud Batman, the tornado sirens have been sounding virtually non-stop for more than two hours now.

Every now and then we're teased with a few blessed moments of silence, and just when the Orange Kitty drops off to sleep, the whooping starts up again. By the look he gives me when the sound starts up again, it is a good thing he remembers who gives him his tuna treats, or I think he'd have already clawed out my eyes. And I do understand. I'm thinking that a little side trip to the Marion Center may be in order if the sirens Don't. Stop. Soon.

I suppose the smartest choice would be to move to the (unfinished, dusty, chilly) basement and hole-up for the night. But here's the truth: I'm an Okie. I've become inured to tornado watches.

When I was growing up in Tulsa, a tornado siren was a signal for my dad, and all the other dads in the neighborhood to go outside and stare at the sky. The moms, on the other hand, would run around opening windows on opposite sides of the house. This, apparently, was to keep the house from exploding from the tornado's pressure. Then the moms would begin hollering at the dads to "Come in this house!" I would gather up my favorite Barbies, my older sister would glance up from her book and shake her head. And then we'd simply go on with the evening. End of story.

I'm not saying it was smart. It just was.

So honestly, getting worked up when the sirens sound isn't a natural response. That said, when Kevin Lighty started pointing out my part of town on his groovy weather maps, I did get the radio, flashlight, shoes and the Young One (and his shoes, too) and headed for the basement.

Clearly these are dangerous storms and the warnings are essential. I wonder, though, if folks in the city simply "tune out" the sirens when they go on for so long, and then delay acting. I haven't got a better idea, that's for sure. But I am relieved on several levels that, for now at least, the sirens are quiet.

Orange Kitty purrs in his sleep.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pharmaceutical confusion

The health care industry, this time in the form of pharmaceuticals, mirrors the oil and gas industry in some rather frightening ways.

For example: Americans often complain about the unstable price of gas; just last week I saved 18 cents a gallon by making a U turn on West Sunshine street to go back a few blocks. Waiting to fill up until the next morning may save you a few pennies, but it may also sock you in the wallet for another nickel or two--it is almost impossible to predict.

Since giving up full time private practice for the luxury of employment with benefits, including health insurance with a prescription card, I'd forgotten the capricious nature of medication costs. When my employer recently changed insurance plans and left us needing to meet a deductible before prescription benefits kicked in, I had an abrupt reminder of the situation.

Before purchasing a prescription refill, I called around trying to find the best price. I remembered from my self-employed, no-insurance days that usually the cost varied around $45-50, or so I thought.

Boy was I wrong.

Here's what I found for 60 tablets of the generic stuff:

Dillons: $49.49

Target: $53.00

Walmart: $58.00

Walgreens: $74.98

That's when I stopped making calls. I do not understand how the exact same pill can vary in price up to $25.00 by driving literally less than one city block across a street. (Walgreen's is basically catty-corner from the Dillons, Target is less than a half mile from the Wal Mart, too, incidentally). Don't talk to me about overhead, because that's irrelevant in all these situations. Could it be that the folks at Dillon's gave me a lower price because I was calling to refill a script for the Young One at the same time and they knew I am a regular customer? That's nice, but it shouldn't matter.

None of this makes any sense at all. It does, though, infuriate me. It is sad and embarrassing that people living across the border to the north of us can get quality health care and the same medications and never have to wonder if they'll pay $25 dollars more or less by simply driving across the street.

Seeing how other industrialized nations handle health care makes me ashamed of how we, such a wealthy and privileged country, treat our own citizens.

It is shameful, and it is wrong.

On a practical note, it is also very confusing.

And, yeah, I'll be buying my meds at Dillons.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Passing the...roar!

Sky Girl has included Thinking Things in her list of five blogs worthy of a "roar for powerful words." This is incredibly cool, especially considering the paucity of posts I've had recently (say that five times really fast). Apparently this originated at Shameless Words, and means that I get to pass the torch, or "roar" on to other blogs, as well as basically define three criterion I think are necessary for powerful writing.

Powerful writing has to move me. It has to make me think. And in the final analysis it has to teach me something.

That was easy.

Blogs that meet those criterion:

Lovely Leah Leah is a young Irish woman living in Israel. She writes about her life, the history and traditions of Judaism, current events in Israel and Palestine. Her recent health scares and her incredible strength and upbeat outlook make checking her blog daily a must.

Mish Understood Also a young woman living in Israel, Mish is a member of the IDF. She writes some about life as a soldier, and the military situation as it affects real people there, as well as just every day stuff girls yak about. Between the photo of her with her weapon, and the sidebar scroll with Hollywood gossip, you meet Mish.

Kate's Camp New to my blog roll, but not new to me, Kate's Camp comes from someone who can make you think, and make you laugh--often at the same time. This is a blogger who can quote Paul Tsongas and talk about secret places Silver Dollar City in the same breath. Kate's Camp makes some serious and important points about the WalMart corporation and its practices in some posts.

Give these three a click. And then check out the other ones on the Blog Roll over there. A bunch of those are really great, and someone of them have great links, too.