Category Archives: Parenting/Children

For our daughters and sons

Saturday December 15, 2012

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this, my daughter is asleep in the next room. She’s in the second grade. Tomorrow we’re going to a performance of The Nutcracker. She has a new dress, hat and shoes that her grandma bought just for this occasion. She sleeps tonight in safety and security, anticipating the joy and wonder that tomorrow will bring. And I know that tomorrow when I wake her up, she will never have looked more beautiful to me, never more precious. Her eyes will never be more blue, because of what happened.

My heart breaks for those parents in Connecticut who will not wake their daughters and sons this morning. To borrow from Abraham Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby, how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile them from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. I cannot imagine their horror, for it is, most truly, unspeakable.

Many people have said today that, “today we must grieve, and tomorrow or the next day we can talk about what happened, and why.” While I can understand — and even appreciate — the reasoning behind this sentiment, I cannot, and I will not, agree that we must wait to have a national discussion about the growing epidemic of gun violence in the United States. And I urge you and the members of Congress to do the same. Please do not wait to have this debate. And please, Mr. President: be strong. Something has got to change. What we saw today is not what James Madison intended when he wrote the Bill of Rights. It cannot be.

What we need now is to get real. We need to put aside the rhetoric of the past, and we must focus on a new future, one that represents the reality of today, and honors the memories of those sons and daughters who died needlessly. This is the greatest country the world has ever seen. And yet, for some reason I cannot comprehend, and I cannot explain to my daughter, we are killing each other at a rate much higher than every other developed country in the world. How can we be at once so great and so murderous? It does not have to be this way. How can we, as a free people, accept this much murder as the price of living in a free country? I’ve tried to understand it, but I cannot.

You and I have many things in common, and I’m sure we’d enjoy each other’s company. I’d very much like to share a drink with you someday. I’m sure we’d tell each other stories about the daughters we both have, who we’d do anything for. And I hope when that day comes, we can share that drink in a nation that has found a way, has seen the imperative, to prevent these mass killings from happening.

Our daughters and our sons deserve nothing less.


Brian Sibley (Bellingham, Washington)

Five Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Public Health Insurance Option

The choice of a public health insurance plan is crucial to real health care reform. Here’s what you really need to know:

1. Choice, choice, choice. If the public health insurance option passes, Americans will be able to choose between their current insurance and a high-quality, government-run plan similar to Medicare. If you like your current care, you can keep it. If you don’t—or don’t have any—you can get the public insurance plan.

2. It will be high-quality coverage with a choice of doctors. Government-run plans have a track record of innovating to improve quality, because they’re not just focused on short-term profits. And if you choose the public plan, you’ll still get to choose your doctor and hospital.

3. We’ll all save a bunch of money. The public health insurance option won’t have to spend money on things like CEO bonuses, shareholder dividends, or excessive advertising, so it’ll cost a lot less. Plus, the private plans will have to lower their rates and provide better value to compete, so people who keep their current insurance will save, too.

4. It will always be there for you and your family. A for-profit insurer can close, move out of the area, or just kick you off their insurance rolls. The public health insurance option will always be available to provide you with the health security you need.

5. And it’s a key part of universal health care. No longer will sick people or folks in rural communities, or low-income Americans be forced to go without coverage. The public health insurance plan will be available and accessible to everyone. And for those struggling to make ends meet, the premiums will be subsidized by the government.


1. “Words Designed to Kill Health Care Reform,” Huffington Post, May 7, 2009

2, 3, 4, 5, 6. “The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform,” Institute for America’s Future

“Don’t Make Me Come Back There!”

“Don’t Make Me Come Back There!”

I don’t think my own father ever said that to me when I was a kid. Perhaps I don’t remember. In any case, I got pretty good at passing the time on road trips … we took quite a few when I was younger. My brother and I didn’t fight that much … at least not in the car. So we never gave dad much cause to bark at us in that way.

Parents of today have all manner of technological innovations available to help them not have to yell back at their kids when they start whining about the length of the road trip. When you’re a parent, as I am, the temptation is frequently to use television as an anecdote to a child’s fussiness, whining, and other emotional manifestations of boredom. The debate on the talk show was about whether or not it was a good idea — philosophically speaking — to let your kids watch a DVD in the car.

I was invited by Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored to participate in an online radio talk show today on the subject of DVD Players in Cars. You can tune in by clicking here.

Once you’ve had a chance to listen to the show, let me know if you have comments!

The MySpace Experiment

Jerry Pournelle, one of the tech industry’s venerable pundits (who also claims to have started the first blog), was a guest on This Week In Tech a couple of weeks ago. As an almost offhand remark, he mentioned that he has a fictitious character on MySpace. He’s a 13-year-old girl. He mentioned that it’s somewhat disturbing to read some of the comments his character receives on MySpace.
Now this could be interpreted a numbver of ways, but I took it as an interesting opportunity for some first-hand sociological research.
The scenario: set up MySpace account, posing as a teenage girl, to see if it’s possible to make friends, establish an on-line persona successfully.

I plan to do this primarily because I have young daughters who will grow up in the Internet Age. I want to have first hand experience with what sorts of dangers my kids may be facing in the future so I can be a more informed parent. I feel part of my job as a parent is to protect my kids, of course, but also to know as much as I can about the things they will find interesting. By informing myself, I believe that I’ll be better able to make smart decisions about how to educate my children.

When I was  a kid, the biggest dangers I faced were the school bully and falling off my bike. The Internet, for my kids, will open up opportunities for learning, and viewing the world in a global sense, but it will also open them up to dangers that my parents never had to think about. In the spirit of taking the good with the bad, I’m going to conduct some research into what might be out there. I’ll report the results and findings here.

If you have any sugggestions, I’d love to hear them!