Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

If you know how I feel about Valentine's Day, you won't be surprised to hear that for me Father's Day, even my first one, is nothing special -- so far anyhow, the fact that I'm a father is special every day. But to any fathers out there for whom Father's Day is special, particularly my own Dad, I wish you a wonderful one.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Internet Deaths also come in Threes

The Internet has connected me to hundreds of people I'd never know otherwise. Sometimes I know these people almost like they're kin. Other times I read them from afar, reading their thoughts without reciprocating. Sometimes they're causal acquaintances, occasionally business associates, but regardless, a connection is established. And when that connection is cut, I still feel it.

About a week ago, I heard that one of the people with whom I play online boggle died of cancer. I'd met Mark about three years ago at a gathering in DC of some of the people on the site. He'd come up from Florida, and his sister had come down from New York City. He seemed a genuinely nice guy, somewhere in his mid-to-late 50s, but I didn't know him well. I'd just see him online regularly, and we'd play Boggle. Occasionally bits of news would come up in the chat that takes place while waiting for a game to start, but that was the extent of our communications.

Shortly after that, I learned that Steve Gilliard died after an extended illness. I'd stumbled across Steve's former site by accident, following a link, or perhaps by clicking on "Next Blog" at the top of the page. He was an unrepentant liberal whose tone was acerbic interlaced with humor, and his style was direct. I frequently read the stories that he either wrote or commented on. I didn't always agree with him, but his blog was always worth reading -- it needed to be, since that was how he made his living. The subject matter he wrote or posted about seemed limitless, and strayed from politics to include food, pop culture, sports, and all things New York. I posted a couple of comments, but I never corresponded with him. I didn't even know what he looked like until a picture of him went up on his site In Memoriam. Still, his posts gave us a glimpse into who he was, just as I hope mine do for me.

And on Wednesday I learned that someone that I'd worked with but never met had died the day before. Elizabeth worked for a government agency in Hawaii, and we needed to e-mail frequently concerning a protracted case I'm working on. She had been battling cancer for quite a while, and my co-worker and I learned of her illness only because of the resulting delays to our case. I don't know how old she was, but in my mind's eye I pictured her to be about 40. She was a scientist who'd just finished up returning to school to become a lawyer. She was quite helpful, and very willing to work with us in pursuit of a reasonable result.

None of these people were close to me, and I don't really expect to miss any of them. There are many other people I've met online who have become much closer acquaintances, and some of these have become genuine friends. Still, I feel sadness about the deaths of each of them, all of them too early in life. Maybe it's pathetic, a sign of how fortunate I've been, i.e., the relative good health of my real-life friends and family means I'm seeking out surrogate grief on behalf these people I hardly even knew. Personally, I think it's just a sign of how connected the world has become.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Letters for Scooter Libby

When Scooter Libby's sentence was handed down, the judge also made public the letters he had received in response to his invitation for people to comment on the sentencing. I’ve been skimming them, and have been struck by the consistency of what I’ve read. The letters were from (1) professional colleagues and associates; (2) personal friends and acquaintances; and (3) people with no direct ties to Libby.

As near as I can tell, everyone in category 1 & 2 has nothing but glowing things to tell of Libby, and asked the court for leniency. The people in these categories include several famous names (e.g., Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Deborah Tannen (who’s his next door neighbor)), and the support also came from a number of people who stated that they disagreed with him politically. Even though I’m not sympathetic to Libby, I became impressed with Libby by what I learned in some of these letters -- the personal anecdotes describing both the numerous good things he had done and the caring he exhibited in all facets of his life suggest that Libby has been a wonderful person. "His actions were never about what he could get out of it personally. . . they were about how he could help others." Many of the letters expressed shock that he could have done what he was convicted of doing -- "I cannot state strongly enough that Scooter's conviction is completely inconsistent with his character. First, . . . Scooter is extremely honest. I never knew him to lie, exaggerate or bend the truth, NEVER."

On the other side of the ledger, everyone in category 3 (about 10% of the letters) asked the judge to sentence Libby to the maximum (or to deviate upward) based on the seriousness of the crime.

Libby argued that his sentence shouldn't have included jail time. I recognize the argument that even without jail time, Libby will suffer a great deal -- with this conviction, his legal career is at an end. Nevertheless, obstructing justice and perjury are serious crimes. Someone who obstructs justice prevents justice from being carried out, and protects people who should be prosecuted. If the penalty is a fine, then you create an incentive for those who have committed crimes to in essence buy their way out of having to face the consequences of their illegal activities. Without real consequences, there’s little reason to testify truthfully. The investigation here was into the outing of a covert CIA agent, and there's a significant possibility that in addition to the loss of the intelligence network she worked with, people who were part of that network may have been killed as a result. It's probable that we won't ever know the full effects of the outing. Nevertheless, despite the potentially serious consequences, Libby has shown no remorse for his obstruction into this investigation.

Ultimately, I agree with John E. Rogers, a former Assistant United States Attorney, who said in his letter --
I urge you to impose a sentence in this case appropriate to the crimes committed by this defendant, taking into consideration his betrayal of his high position and his country, his superior knowledge as a lawyer and a former partner in a major law firm as to exactly what he was doing, and his continuing unrepentant conduct. Whether he is kind to his dog, a good neighbor, or anything else is, of course, irrelevant to what he did and continues to do.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Cruising with Emelia

Just one month ago, I enjoyed seeing Emelia standing with support for the first time. In the brief time since, Emelia has become proficient at pulling herself up, and has started moving from support piece to support piece. In other words, she's cruising. Her mobility is a wonder to behold, and it triggers serious maternal (and a little paternal) concern that we need to babyproof our house. We've in many ways operated in a style of parenting that could be called, to borrow a phrase, "benign neglect." On this matter, such an approach probably isn't a good idea, even though I tease Kathy that not babyproofing is consistent with Darwinism.
Yesterday I sat feeding Emelia, who lay on the Boppy, which was on my lap. Emelia only took a little from the bottle, and decided she didn't want any more. I put the bottle down. She started to squirm in my lap, quickly shifting her weight to the edge of the Boppy, and looked down. I knew what was coming next, and let it happen, all the while continuing my conversation with Kathy, who was seated partway across the room. Kathy covered up her eyes in terror as Emelia went headfirst downward toward the floor. Of course she never got there, my grip firmly keeping her in place about a foot off the ground. I really didn't think anything of it -- I knew what E was doing, I knew what I'd need to do, and when it was time, I did it. I had no intention of tormenting Kathy, but of course that's what I ended up doing. Lesson learned.
In my last update of Emelia, I forgot to mention another VERY important milestone -- she's sleeping through the night. It started the first week with Avery (the nanny). In hindsight I think it may be because Avery feeds her more than we do (cue major tangent). From the beginning, all the milk we provided for Emelia when she's with Avery has been consumed, as is some supplemental formula, along with most of the solids. Emelia's beginning to get a bit of a belly with all the food she's been getting. Kathy asked what should have been obvious a while ago on Wednesday, i.e., is Emelia feeding herself (as she does at home, and as we asked Avery to do) or is Avery feeding her. The answer is the latter. Needless to say, Avery is much more efficient at getting food into Emelia than Emelia is, so that she's not just eating some more with Avery, but a lot more. Avery explained that it's difficult to let Emelia feed herself without a high chair.

I'm bothered by the feeding thing. While we prefer that Emelia feed herself, that isn't what bothers me. Rather, it's that we asked Avery to do something, and she didn't. The way I see it, she had two choices -- either do what we asked, or tell us that she had a problem with doing what we asked. We're perfectly willing to listen when there's a problem with carrying out a request, such as the absence of the high chair. If we know that the absence of a high chair is an issue, we can either provide one or endorse Avery's desire to feed Emelia. We don't have a long list of things we want Avery to do -- generally, we leave it up to her how best to take care of Emelia. But where we have expressed a preference, I think that we should be the ones who make the final decision, not Avery.