Saturday, July 29, 2006

I was surprised one day recently when I stopped by my local Jewish Community Center to ask about their summer camps and it was locked and had a code pad up front. When I was let in, office workers were behind locked doors and ushered me in when they saw I was no threat. In my youth, the same center was open to the public--how times have changed. This attack Friday afternoon at the Jewish Federation in Seattle leaves me stunned and saddened with the realization that even in the US, Jews are not safe. Somehow, I think it will take more than a locked door and a security code (which the man who claimed to be a Muslim forced his way through yesterday prior to his attack) to keep the Jewish people safe. Perhaps this is an isolated incident--I sure hope so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Andrea Yates found Not Guilty

Andrea Yates was found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity today:

A Harris County jury has found Andrea Yates not guilty by reason of insanity during her second capital murder trial for the drowning deaths of her children in the family's bathtub in 2001.

The verdict upholding Yates' insanity defense comes after the jury deliberated more than 12 hours over three days. Yates appeared shocked and sat staring wide-eyed with her lips slightly parted as State District Judge Belinda Hill asked each juror individually shortly after noon today whether they agreed with the verdict.

....It is unknown how long Yates will be hospitalized, but she will be subject to periodic reviews by state District Judge Belinda Hill's court.

My bet is she will be out within seven to nine years--wish her five children could have been so lucky.

Update: Dave Kopel has more on the double standards for parent murderers:

Murder a bunch of people in your family. Take long enough to perform the multiple killings so that it's plain that the killings were not a momentary passion. Are you the victim?

Consider Nikolay Soltys, currently on the FBI's most-wanted list for murdering seven people: his three-year-old son, his pregnant wife, two cousins (aged 9 and 10), and his aunt and uncle. Nobody defends those heinous acts. Nobody offers excuses about how tough it is to be an immigrant, to support an extended family, to cope with job-related stresses, or the like. Even though there is speculation that money problems helped push Soltys over the edge, nobody is claiming that the murders are "society's fault" because society isn't supportive enough of fathers of small children. Instead, Soltys is accurately described as a "monster."


The Carnival of Homeschooling

The 30th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The Lilting House Blog.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vacation and Politics: Some Survival Tips

While on vacation this week I caught part of a talk show segment about how to survive a vacation with friends and family members. I watched couples as they described the inherent conflicts they faced when making decisions about where to eat, how much to spend, and where to stay with family members. However, the show didn't touch on another important source of conflict: how to deal with differing political views when staying in close quarters with family or friends. Certainly, the polite stance to take would be to not bring politics up at all--but with 24 hour news being blared from every restaurant, the polarization of the political parties and for God sakes, that horrible Fox News, who can help but get incensed?

As a libertarian/independent, I am often in the company of family members and friends who do not share my political persuasions--to them, I am a rabid right-winger because I am not against the war, like Fox News, support Israel and think Bush is doing the best he can under the circumstances (although I certainly disagree with some of his policies; to other of our friends I'm a liberal!). On my recent vacation, one of our family members is a staunch liberal who sees the world in black and white terms while preaching tolerance. In her view, those who do not accept blacks and minorites are rabid racists but she talks non-stop about the horror of the religious right and the need to defeat them.

A husband of a couple I talked with on vacation told me that he very rarely puts himself in a position to vacation or stay with his wife's sister's husband who non-chalantly chats about how Americans need to learn to tolerate Muslims and other minorities but talks about others in derogatory terms such as "Oh, you have to discount that man, he is German, you know how they are." In another case of a single woman I know, her beach vacation ended early when the friends she went with (several of whom she did not know well) sat around the vacation house watching Fox News. When she voiced her displeasure and stated that she disliked Bush and perhaps used some very strong language, an argument ensued where the other vacationers told her to leave--ouch--what an unpleasant way to end a vacation.

So what can you do to get along when you vacation with loved ones or friends whose world views are different than yours? First, accept that everyone has differing opinions and that this might be a good thing. The same family member I described above who had little tolerance for the religious right had been very active in the civil right's movement years ago and is a very good and loyal person. Second, if there are topics that hit a nerve such as discussing the religious right in derogatory terms, change the subject if possible to something more pleasant that you can both agree on or change the topic all together to the weather, sports or something neutral. Thirdly, if you choose to engage in a discussion, realize that it can get heated--perhaps you enjoy this type of verbal engagement--go for it, but do not let it get out of hand and realize that you will probably not change the person's mind. I calm myself in these situations by focusing on what I can do to change things in some way by discussing information with a larger audience such as by blogging, podcasting or helping in a political campaign. Next, I breathe calmly and count to ten and tell myself I am practicing relaxation techniques in all situations. Finally, if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, in other words, if there are some friends and family members whose political and worldviews are so difficult for you to deal with that you border on hypertension or go into a blinding rage, perhaps being in close quarters is something you should avoid--limit your visits to short ones that involve an activity and less talk.

Have other readers had experiences on vacations where heated political discussions or worldviews clashed? Is so, share some tips with how you coped (or not).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back from Vacation

I spent the week in Orlando at Epcot (the French restaurant was the highlight) and then went on to the Breakers in Palm Beach. I thought I would get some time to blog but the weather and beach were so beautiful that I spent the time gazing at palm trees--but I guess I have to return to the real world where life is not as perfect--darn!