Wordless Wednesday

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New Haven Young Dems Meetinging

After a day of being mostly offline for a work project, I came home briefly to decided if I should continue my offline time by attending the New Haven Young Democrats meeting with Connecticut Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo.

I don’t really qualify as a young Democrat, but the topic was about conventions, not only the National Democratic Convention, but also stories about previous contested conventions in Connecticut as well as upcoming conventions. I’ve been particularly interested in the whole gamut of conventions, so I decided to stop by, hear what Nancy had to say, see some old friends, and perhaps make some new friends.

Nancy spoke about the 1994 State Convention and the competition between Bill Curry and John Larson for the Gubernatorial nomination. There was also a discussion of the 2006 State Convention with the contest between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont for the Senate nomination and the contest between John DeStefano and Dan Malloy for the Gubernatorial nomination.

Upcoming conventions, like the State Convention on May 10, and the Congressional Conventions on May 12th were also discussed. These conventions are unlikely to have contested races, but they are a great chance to experience conventions. The State Convention is expected to include a proposed rule change to the party that would expand State Central to include seats for Young Democrats.

Yet the big concern was what will happen at the National Convention. The general hope was that a clear nominee will emerge before the convention, yet various aspects of how the convention works in case it is contested were discussed. This included a brief discussion about members of the various standing committees, Rules, Platform and Credentials, and who will be representing Connecticut on these committees. The role of Superdelegates was also discussed. Nancy DiNardo, as State Chair is a superdelegate. She, along with Congressman Joe Courtney from the Second Congressional District, have not pledged support to either candidate at this point. She spoke of using her position as an uncommitted delegate to push the candidates to do the right things for the Democratic Party. This includes strongly encouraging them to focus their attacks on the Republican candidate, and not on each other, and in making sure that ‘blue states’ do not get overlooked during the general election campaign.

It was noted that residents of Connecticut often have family or friends living in battleground states, and working through these friendships can often be more effective that handing out material to strangers at malls. This lead to a discussion of the neighbor to neighbor program that Ms. DiNardo had brought brochures for. She also spoke credit card that you could get that would assist in fundraising for the State Democratic Party.

The discussion drifted to local candidates, including a great list of things that Rep. Rosa DeLauro has done for the district and the need to get new candidates to run for State Legislative offices that have had a Democrat run in recent years. The new campaign finance laws, together with what people hope will be a strong year for Democrats means that seats that seemed invulnerable in the past could be up for grabs this year.

All in all, it was a great meeting of the New Haven Young Dems, and even though I’m a bit old for the Young Dems, they are a great group and I look forward to hearing, and spreading the word about their future meetings.

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Understanding Erin

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to understand Erin. On the surface, it is a very simple, perhaps exaggerated, morality tale. A teenager gets pregnant, keeps the child. Four years later, the mother gets arrested for felony child neglect. Her son, at age four, weighs only ten pounds. This woman is the worst possible kind of monster, the sensational press tells us. Child neglect is extremely frightening. It pokes a dangerous whole in the ideas of self made men and powerless women.

We are not self-made. In our earliest years, we are absolutely dependent on the women that gave birth to us. We cannot survive without their nurturing, or the nurturing of someone they have handed us off to. These women are not powerless, they have more power than the male managers that we will work for years later. Our bosses can fire us. The first women in our lives can leave us to die.

Digging a little deeper, we find an even more complicated story. Erin’s son has lissencephaly, a rare birth defect. Children with this birth defect rarely make it past their second year. They have frequent convulsions and have difficulty absorbing food and medicine. Now, some extremists will suggest that this is Erin’s punishment for having had sex as a teenager. They are like the Pharisees asking Jesus who sinned, the blind man, or the blind man’s parents. Erin, like all of us, have done things in the past that we shouldn’t have done, that we aren’t proud of.

Yet, what did Erin do when she had a child with a birth defect? She sought help. She participated in leading network of people dealing with lissencephaly. She tried to find doctors that could understand and deal with this birth defect. For this, a couple of weeks after she brought her son to the hospital for medical help, she was arrested for child neglect.

If we believe we are all self-made and can overcome any adversity that is thrown at us, then we must believe that Erin is some sort of monster who didn’t try hard enough, or was at least some sort of failure. However, if we believe that we are all in this together, we need to see if there are other failures. Where was everyone else while Erin’s son was wasting away? Sure, there were people in the lissencephaly network that were helping Erin. There were researchers trying to understand lissencephaly and educate others about it.

Yet, where were the doctors, the social workers, the insurance companies, or even those in the faith-based community? Perhaps, it is easier to blame a teenage girl who is in over her head, than to look at our own failings. Perhaps that is the real reason she was arrested. Perhaps the way her story challenges the myths that we are self-made and that women are powerless is the reason the sensationalist media wants to spin a different story.

As I’ve explored this, I’ve spoken with people that have helped the parents of children with birth defects for years. They have told me that Erin’s story, sadly, is not that unusual. We don’t know how to deal with birth defects. They frighten us. They challenge our feelings of invulnerability. So, like the Pharisees, they we blame the parents.

On Thursday, the courts will hold a dependency hearing. Then, on April 16th, Erin is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony child neglect charges. My prayers go up for Erin and her son, that there might be forgiveness and healing. I also pray that we may all be convicted (in the religious sense) of our own culpability in not doing enough to prevent the neglect of children, whether they have birth defects or not, that is intrinsic in the system.

(For more information, read my previous post about Erin and lissencephaly).

Building Crowds

Yesterday, I received two emails, which I think provide an interesting contrast. Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of Hillary Clinton for President wrote to me to say,

When I turn on the TV all I hear is negative words. The news stations keep telling you that we're down and out. But that's plainly not true. I'm on the trail every day for Hillary and the crowds are bigger than ever before, and let me tell you - they are excited!

I wanted to show you a video from a recent event with Hillary in North Carolina - you can see for yourself Hillary's packed events and enthusiastic supporters.

Click here to watch the video.

For some reason, the old line from Monty Python came to mind, “I’m not dead, yet!”. I’ve been in many crowds like what the video shows and I wonder how many of my pundiocracy friends will be mutter about Potemkin villages. Beyond that, the ask, to the extent that there is one, didn’t very compelling. Watch a video. Don’t give up hope. It seems just to reinforce the idea that we are in the endgame and Hillary is way behind.

The other email I received was from the Obama campaign.

Right now, you can help build a base of support for Barack in Indiana and bring more voices into the political process.

To participate in Indiana's primary, voters must be registered by this Monday, April 7th.
Tens of thousands of Obama supporters may not be registered yet, and we need to act quickly to reach out to as many of them as possible.

Each call you make could be another vote for Barack in an area where we need your help the most.

Instead of bewailing that everyone else is say things are falling apart. The narrative here is that lots more people want to get involved, and don’t know how. So, all the insiders need to reach out to those people who want to become insiders and help them in. It is about building up the party, not only so that Obama does well in Indiana, but so that there are more registered Democrats, which will hopefully help him in the general election, as well as candidates further down the ticket.

It sure looks like Obama’s team has the better idea on how to build crowds.

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Lissencephaly? Until today, I had never heard of it, and if it wasn’t for something horrible going on in Florida, I probably never would have heard of it. Yet from horrible situations, it is possible to bring about some good, raising awareness about health issues and how the government doesn’t always respond wisely.

Lissencephaly, which means ‘smooth brain’, is a genetic defect caused by mutations of genes on chromosome 17 and X. For the biology geeks, ‘Classical lissencephaly may be caused by mutations of genes in chromosome bands 17p13.3 and Xq22.3-q23’, according to the lissencephaly research project. The Wikipedia article about lissencephaly states that “The prognosis for children with lissencephaly varies depending on the degree of brain malformation. Many individuals show no significant development beyond a 3- to 5-month-old level. … Many will die before the age of 2”

So, what do you do for a 19 year old woman, who has managed to keep her child alive to age four, even though he has only managed to grow to ten pounds? Perhaps you find special ways of helping her with this difficult situation, provide her with extra support, or something like that.

Well, that isn’t how they handle things in Florida. Instead, she was charged with second-degree felony child neglect. She was arrested and spent more than four days locked up, held on $100,000 bail before a judge ordered her release.

Today, I received emails from a few different sources. Each of them were forwards of messages sent by Dr. David Ledbetter of the Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Dr. Ledbetter is noted for his work on Lissencephaly and was sending on a request from Dianna Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald is president of the Lissencephaly Network.

She has started a petition to Exonerate Erin and Give her child back. The petition asks Florida Governor Crist to “Drop the charges against Erin and send her son home.” Personally, I think the petition asks for way too little. There needs to be a serious investigation into how the Santa Rosa County’s Child Protection Team could have handled this so badly.

So, please, sign the petition, and use this to help raise awareness of lissencephaly and other childhood illnesses that parents struggle valiantly to cope with.

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