State of the Union

Whenever a president delivers his first State of the Union address, the country, and indeed the whole world, watches with heightened curiosity.  Each of his subsequent addresses will be judged based on this first go, and this first go will be judged against both immediate and more distant predecessors.

I didn’t watch the SOTU when it was live on television.  It corresponded exactly with when baby Catherine goes through her bedtime rituals and goes down for the evening.  After she went down, I decided to wait until today, when I was more fresh-minded, to watch and give my own response to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address.

In the past, when responding to political speeches, I’ve posted all of the speech, and inserted comments on a line-by-line basis, or have prepared a similar response while quoting shorter snippets.  I’m going to depart from that form in this instance, and instead respond by topics.  I’ll post the topic, post a snippet of Obama’s thoughts, and then post my response.  Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

2010 State of the Union Address – President Barack Obama

Topic: The Country and the Future

Obama’s stance: “America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one people.”

Tiffany’s take: No matter what America has gone through, there have always been factions in support of the government and its actions, and factions opposed.  We, the people of the United States, are one people because of where we choose to make our home and plan for our future, not because of our willingness to support whomever is is power and whatever they choose to do with single-minded acquiescence.


(I’m sorry – did he just get a standing ovation because he says he’s got hope for the future?  Hope doesn’t facilitate change; feasible, reasonable, sustainable plans do.)

Topic: The Economy

Obama’s stance: “To shore up the same banks who helped cause this crisis.”

Tiffany’s take: No.  BANKS did not force people to live beyond their means, to borrow money they hadn’t a chance of repaying, or to purchase homes that clearly were outside of their budgets.  That would be like saying McDonald’s causes people to be fat, because they have all sorts of unhealthy goodies available to eat.  The problem, here, is personal responsibility.  But then, most things are.


Topic: Fees on the Biggest Banks

Obama’s stance: “I’ve proposed a fee on the biggest banks.”

Tiffany’s take: Yep.  Let’s tax them for recovering, paying back the money owed to the Federal government fair and square, and then having the very temerity to become successful again.  Bad, banks.  Bad.  Why would you ever think success would be a good thing?


Topic: Unemployment

Obama’s stance: “That’s why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans.”

Tiffany’s take: My husband is unemployed.  Has been for five months.  Has collected benefits for four months.  Obama’s plan adds $25 per $800 check.  Oooh.  Generous.


Topic: Tax Cuts

Obama’s stance: “We cut taxes for <insert here>.”

Tiffany’s take: Funny.  Because even though my household income is down significantly due to the aforementioned unemployment status of my husband, we’re still in the exact same tax bracket as last year, and will pay at the same overall percentage.


Topic: The Recovery Act (Stimulus Bill)

Obama’s stance: “Economists say this bill has helped avert disaster.”

Tiffany’s take: And plenty more say that the over all cost is not worth the nominal benefits provided.


Topic: Jobs in 2010

Obama’s stance: “And that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”

Tiffany’s take: Obama, who has never in his life been a businessman, fails to understand that the government can create as many jobs as it wants and tell businesses to create as many jobs as it wants, but doing so will not ever have a lasting or long-term positive impact.  Rather, cutting taxes for businesses, so they can feasibly afford a new employee, would be far more sensible.  Not penalizing Wall Street for being the success engine behind the country would have far more impact than putting three construction workers on the roads in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  And as far as $30B from big banks to give small banks the opportunity to help local businesses – how stupid.  We’re just moving the money around.  We’re not creating anything.


Topic: Small Businesses versus Large Businesses

Obama’s stance: “Let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small businesses.”

Tiffany’s take: We wouldn’t want to start penalizing them until they get to be large, evil Wall Street Corporations.


Topic: Building Infrastructure

Obama’s stance: “Our nation has always been built to compete.”

Tiffany’s take: Why, exactly, does Tampa need a high speed railroad?


Topic: Offshore Outsourcing

Obama’s stance: “Slash the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas.”

Tiffany’s take: Now, instead of penalizing success, we’re penalizing competition.  Outsourcing often makes good financial and operational success for corporations.  But doing so shows independent thought.  And we know that’s not allowed.


Topic: Long Term Economic Growth

Obama’s stance: “And finally address the problems that America’s families have confronted for years.

Tiffany’s take: You mean being personally, independently financially irresponsible?


Topic: America versus the World

Obama’s stance: “Well I do not accept second place for America.”

Tiffany’s take: President Obama, is that why you ran around the world, apologizing for America and telling other countries how evil we are during your first year in office?


Topic: Serious Financial Reform

Obama’s stance: “I’m interested in protecting our economy.”

Tiffany’s take: Then why are you continuing to increase the deficit in our Federal budget, and increase the debt we owe to other countries around the world, and specifically China?  How does that protect our economy?  With these increasing debts, America as a country is no better than an irresponsible citizen who borrows money they cannot hope to repay and lives beyond any reasonable means.


Topic: Clean Energy

Obama’s stance: Blah, blah

Tiffany’s take: I’m certainly not in favor of polluting our environment or using resources wastefully.  But this continued emphasis on clean energy just hurts my mind.  Because, really, this is just the back door to Cap-n-Trade, which anyone with the ability to reason understands is a bad idea in general, and a bad way to bring about any reasonable or sustainable change.


Topic: Climate Change

Obama’s stance: “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

Tiffany’s take: You mean all of that evidence that the scientists have admitted was doctored?  And don’t you just love how they’ve abandoned the term “global warming,” because trending clearly shows that to be a false scare, and are now trying to back something that sounds friendlier?


Topic: Exports

Obama’s stance: “We will double our exports in the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.”

Tiffany’s take: Dear companies: start shipping more goods overseas.  Thanks, Obama.  Dear other countries: start buying more stuff from the United States.  Thanks, Obama.  Well, I’m glad that clears that up!


Topic: Education

Obama’s stance: “Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. … In this economy, a high school diploma no longer ensures a good job.  … Pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges.”

Tiffany’s take: Wouldn’t want to aim high and get a four year degree, would we?  Statistics about lifetime earning differentials aside and all. 


Topic: Educational Debt

Obama’s stance: “And let’s tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years; forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service.  Because in the United States of America, no one should go broken because they chose to go to college.”

Tiffany’s take: Nice sentiment; unbelievably irresponsible idea.  Think about what this teaches people: don’t worry about paying those silly loans back that you chose to take out.  Just work for a decade or two and the government will ensure that you can stiff your lenders for whatever you haven’t yet paid back.  Let’s see…I worked two, sometimes three jobs, while in college, still graduated in three years, and with only a small relative amount of debt.  And if I couldn’t afford something, I did without.  And my parents didn’t pay for me to go to college, and nor did I expect a handout from the government.  I simply worked and borrowed the smallest amount that I could.  Why is that a hard concept for people to get?


Topic: Middle Class Families

Obama’s stance: “And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle class families that we still need health insurance reform.”

Tiffany’s take: Wait…I thought your focus on killing the health insurance industry was to protect those 12 or so million underprivileged Americans without insurance.  Who promoted them to middle class?  When did this happen?  Was there a ceremony?  (Please don’t send me hate mail over this.  I’m being tongue in cheek because it drives me nuts that he’s trying to look like a knight in shining armor to the middle class by making this their issue.)


Topic: Health Insurance Reform

Obama’s stance: “The approach that we have taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry.”

Tiffany’s take: What amazes me is that he really is shortsighted enough to believe that healthcare reform lies in healthcare insurance changes, rather than changes to the actual healthcare system itself or to the legal torts system that plagues the healthcare system.  I will agree that there are some changes that would make insurance practices more palatable – namely dealing with pre-existing conditions and state-to-state portability – but making caps nonexistent or driving down premium rates just does not make any kind of financial sense.  But that brings me full circle to the thought that Obama is a lifelong politician (community organizing is grassroots politics in my book) and has no business or financial sense.


Topic: Healthcare, Part Deux

Obama’s stance: “But I also know this problem is not going away.”

Tiffany’s take: But hopefully you are, in the 2012 elections.


Topic: Healthcare on Healthcare

Obama’s stance: “There’s a reason why many doctors, nurses and healthcare experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo.

Tiffany’s take: Funny thought.  When I was in the hospital, I questioned why a nurse was doing something in a certain way.  Her response was “ask Obama.”  But seriously…from what I’ve read, “many” does not come close to equaling “most.”  In fact, “many more” are against these changes wholeheartedly.


Topic: Blame it on Bush

Obama’s stance: “At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.”

Tiffany’s take: Interpretation: that money that we used to protect our country from further terrorist attacks was a waste, those tax cuts I mentioned earlier are far superior to the Bush tax cuts for reasons that are still fuzzy even to me, and I only think certain types of healthcare should be affordable – prescriptions are OUT.


Topic: Federal Spending Freeze

Obama’s stance:

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.”

Tiffany’s take: A – Discretionary programs account for chump change compared to the key spending in the budget.  B - $20B in savings compared to a $3T whole is almost too ludicrous to consider.  C – Extending tax credits to those who Obama considers to be above middle class would, as mentioned above, be a smarter way to stimulate the economy.  Save them thousands on taxes, and they can spend those thousands to hire someone for their business.  Tax them more and they can get their businesses essential functions taken care of by more affordable workers overseas. 


Topic: Blame it on Bush, Part Deux

Obama’s stance: “The problem is that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.”

Tiffany’s take: Funny that the recession didn’t get started and take hold until the Democrats took control of the House and Senate during the 2006 mid-term elections.  Wait…wasn’t Bush a Republican?  Gee, now I’m just confused.

Topic: Lobbyists

Obama’s stance: “It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.”

Tiffany’s take: Yes, let’s play Big Brother with lobbyists, because we clearly have nothing better to do with our time and efforts.  And I’m sorry – lobbyists represent individuals and corporations, who can certainly contribute to whoever’s campaign they wish.


Topic: Earmark Reform

Obama’s stance: “I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform.”

Tiffany’s take: Yep.  Because there were no earmarks in the healthcare bill.  *Snort*


Topic: Politics

Obama’s stance: “We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.”

Tiffany’s take: President Obama, may I present to you a MIRROR.


Topic: National Security

Obama’s stance: “All of us are committed to its defense.”

Tiffany’s take: With all due respect, Mr. President, I have never been convinced that you are.


Topic: Iraq

Obama’s stance: “But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.”

Tiffany’s take: Irresponsible.  Hand over everything to the Iraqis and turn tail.  Then we can all sit and scratch our heads in 10 years and wonder why their a mess.


Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Obama’s stance: “And at April's nuclear security summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C., behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.”

Tiffany’s take: We’ll ignore the fact that not-so-nice countries – North Korea, Iran, etc. – already have nuclear weapons and are developing more.  And “isolating” these nations and threatening “growing consequences” when there have been none tough enough to speak of in the past is just a silly way of dealing with this threat.  But in addition to having never been a businessman, Obama has also never been a military or foreign affairs expert.  And it clearly shows.


Topic: Human Rights and Iran

Obama’s stance: “Why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran.”

Tiffany’s take: The fact that he got this out with a straight face is unbelievable.  Actions speak louder than words, Mr. President.  And when millions took to the streets in Iran after clearly corrupt elections, you didn’t so much as say boo, let alone do anything to show your support of democracy in other countries or the preservation of human rights. 


Topic: The Future

Obama’s stance: “The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.”

Tiffany’s take: I fervently believe in the spirit of the American people.  I also fervently hope for your defeat, Mr. President, in 2012, so that a truly learned and experienced leader can open doors for this nation that I don’t believe you are even capable of unlocking.


Overall take: The man is a decent orator, despite distractingly repetitive hand gestures.  The problem is that he didn’t really say much about the actual, current state of the union, did he?  More hope and change, change and hope.  Wait, I thought we weren’t still running for office…

Tiffany Needs a Bubble

Various people have threatened to make me go live in a bubble, at various points of my life.  They’re (usually) joking, but with every joke, there’s a kernal of truth.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was down with pneumonia for three weeks.  Straight.  Went to the doctor five times, got two different shots of steroids, two different shots of antibiotics, was prescribed my own nebulizer for daily breathing treatments, had five prescription inhalers, and also was prescribed two different oral antibiotics, a cough medicine with codeine, an antihistamine, and a separate medication for congestion.  I felt like I was singlehandedly keeping the medical industry in business during that time – seriously!  Add up the dollars for those visits and those meds plus the nebulizer – we’re talking mega-bucks here, and thank God for having great insurance coverage.
I joked to my boss, about a week after I returned to work, that I felt like I’d paid my dues for the winter season and that surely being so sick for so long would mean that I wouldn’t get sick again all winter.
And how.
I took the family to Boston with me about two weeks ago.  I had a business meeting to attend up there, and took an extra day off from work so we could spend some time sightseeing around a very neat city.
While we were there, strolling around Quincy Market before heading back to the airport, baby Catherine got sick as a dog.  We’re talking simultaneously ruining her outfit, her sweater, her coat AND leaving a huge mess in her stroller for her dad to deal with while I tried to get her cleaned up and changed.  Barely after getting settling onto the plane a couple hours later, she repeated the feat while on her father’s lap.
The day after getting home, I started feeling a little iffy, later at night.  Thought I would get it out of my system quickly, like Cate did, and get on with life.  But the next morning, everything was still abandoning my body like a tornado siren had sounded.  And unlike Cate, I wasn’t able to take in any foods or liquids.
Not good.
So we headed to the E.R., figuring that they’d pump me full of (IV) liquids and send me home.
Nope.  About six hours after arriving, I was instead admitted.  In the not-quite-medical terms of the ER terms, my blood looked bad.  The white blood count was twice the upper end of the normal range, and various other numbers were out of whack.  Added to the fact that the IV wasn’t stopping my body’s internal evacuation and I earned myself a one-way ticket upstairs.
I still thought it was no big deal.  I actually asked the admitting nurse if I would get to go home the next morning.
She laughed at me!  For several minutes!
Turns out that my immune system, already being severely strained from the pneumonia, was putting up no fight at all against a pretty nasty infection.
And so there I stayed for five days.  Five very long days, where I got to see my daughter for half hour snatches once or twice a day and largely spent the rest of the time alone.  Well…as alone as you can get while being visited by various doctors, nurses, aides and techs, who seemed to have made a pact that SOMEONE should come see me at least once an hour.
When I finally got out, a week ago, I was weak as a kitten, still not feeling great, but at least well enough to finish recuperating in my own home instead of in a hospital that was great at providing meds but horrible at providing rest.
And so that’s where I’ve been disappeared to, these last few weeks.  Once home, I spent a lot of time sleeping or vegging, avoiding anything more strenuous than kissing baby Catherine or turning the pages of a book.  I started back to work, from home, on Tuesday, and followed up with a partial day in the office today.
I am very pleased to report that I am doing much better now and I look forward to getting back on track with quite a number of posts that I have planned for this and my other blogs – stay tuned!
In the meantime, I’m busily shopping online for a new bubble!

Toddler Self-Mutilation

Here's a problem I never thought I'd be exploring as the mom of a young toddler: self-mutilation!

And I'm hoping I'm not the only mommy who is/has dealt with this!

Picture the scene: a happy little girl is playing on the floor with her favorite toy...when she suddenly lifts it off the floor and starts banging it against her head.  Next clip, a cranky little girl is sitting in a room and starts banging her head against the wall or the floor out of either anger or frustration.

What. The. Heck!?

To be honest, the concept of a baby hurting themselves purposefully is just more than my mind can fathom.

After consulting Dr. Google, I'm seeing information about rhythmic banging, or banging against something relatively harmless like crib rails.

So I'll put it out to you, readers.  Have you experienced this?  Have any explanations, or, better yet, solutions???

I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Turn it OFF!

Welcome to Tuesday Travels with Tiffany!  I'm so glad to be bringing you new editions of this column in 2010!

Today, we'll be talking travel and technology.

Technology is such a bummer sometimes.  Just when you've finally learned how to use a piece of equipment, or mastered a type of software, the next edition comes out and it's time to start over.

But what's amazing is a particular technological function that has never really changed, over the last hundred or more years.  Sure, it's placement may have moved, or the steps to use it could have changed, but all-in-all, no change.

Allow me to introduce you to...the OFF button.

This advice is for you, Mr. All-Important Business Travel, or Mrs. Super-Busy Soccer Mom.  I fully well realize that you believe that your time is more precious than mine, or that you believe that you need not be bound by the same rules as everyone else.

But you're wrong.  Want to know why?  Because for every minute a flight attendant has to search for people who haven't mastered the off button, it's a minute of MY time that you've wasted.  And YOUR time is no more precious than MY time.  And in fact, OUR time is being piddled away while we sit on the ground and wait for you to say "goodbye."

Want to know why else?  Because as dumb as you might believe it to be to have electronics turned off at the beginning and end of flights, it's not.  Airlines have rules and regulations for a reason.  And if you have an issue with that, take it up with regulators or airline officials at some other time.  But giving the airline a figurative middle finger by disobedience while on a flight is unacceptable.

Say goodbye, shut it down, and sit back for the ride.

Trust me, we'll all be happier!

And until next time,

Safe travels!

New Year, New Milestones

Even after 15 miraculous months of watching Spoiled Baby grow and learn, it never ceases to amaze me how many milestones there are in the life of a child, and how often they occur!

As I blog my way into 2010, highlighting those milestones and talking about other parenting joys and challenges will be some of the main topics you'll see here, as I work to get back to posting more regularly.  2009 was a challenging year to post regularly; between an extended time off for maternity leave, and job and family drama later in the year, balance was hard to achieve.  This year, I'm super hopeful in having learned from those lessons and having made smarter goals to become a better blogger.

I look forward to sharing that journey with you as the year progresses!

To 2010!

New Year, New Plans!


Welcome to 2010 - and I'll bet I'm not alone in saying "Thank GOD" it's a new year!

For a variety of reasons (maternity leave early in the year, family/employment drama later in the year), I was an inconsistent blogger here and at my other sites in 2009.  I hate that!  I love blogging, because I love writing AND I love the social aspect of connecting with my readers and with other bloggers.

So I'm excited for this year and for new goals and objectives and a new chance to get back to blogging regularly.

 Because I thrive on structure, I'm going to be focusing on a few main points for posts this year.
  1. Travel - I love sharing these stories, quips and tips with you, and have a list of a TON more to work on - these kick back off tomorrow.
  2. Writing - this is going to be a fairly unbounded area.  It will include talking about my goals as a writer, talking about the mechanics of being a writer, and occasionally sharing some of my writing.
  3. Current Events - this is what I've traditionally called "Tiffany Takes On."  I'm not going to bore you with my thoughts on everything going on in the world, but when something fires me up - and so often, it does - I'll be here to share it!
I've discovered and am LOVING "Blogger in Draft" so you might also see a few design things here that are different.  If I use a "Blogger in Draft" tool that is not yet available in "Blogger Beta," I'll try to highlight it.

Happy 2010, and looking forward to reconnecting with ya'll in the blogosphere!