Thursday, April 10, 2008


My View

Auburn Journal's opinion not held by all

By Michael Althouse

Last week, an editorial appeared the Auburn Journal. It was titled,
"Our View."

The column criticizes local public safety agencies, specifically police and fire departments, for placing bumper stickers that display a picture of Hannah Rose Juceam and the message, “Don’t shake your baby,” on official vehicles.

Who is Hannah Rose Juceam? That is a very good question. But before we connect the dots, let us analyze the message and how appropriate it is for police cars and fire trucks to carry it.

As you might have guessed from the message on the bumper stickers, Hannah Rose Juceam was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. She was just 15 months old. Little Hannah was shaken so violently that she died as a result of her injuries. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, there are no good statistics on how many children are injured or killed due to shaken baby syndrome. It is, however, recognized as the most common cause of infant mortality and long-term disability due to child abuse.

A 2003 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported, “approximately 1,300 U.S. children experience severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse every year” and “that approximately 30 per 100,000 children under age 1 suffered inflicted brain injuries.”

The bumper stickers, and a billboard on Interstate 80 in Rocklin with the same message, are an attempt by the family to raise awareness.

In all fairness, the Auburn Journal editorial does give credit to the grieving family.

“The family's mission is clear and should be lauded. The Juceams don't want to see another child needlessly killed by being shaken to death. No one can argue with that.”

But it then takes aim at how that message is delivered. Because little Hannah’s nanny has been indicted for killing the infant, the Journal feels that the billboard and emergency vehicles displaying the baby’s image with the message will somehow prejudice the jury pool in Placer County.

Ready to connect those dots?

Hannah Rose’s nanny was Veronica Salcedo. Yes, we are talking about the Salcedo shaken baby case.

If Salcedo’s name and image were placed on those bumper stickers, the Journal might have a point, although with the number of potential jurors in Placer County, still a weak one. But it would justifiably bring into question the motives of the agencies involved.

This message is a simple one. It does not point any fingers or place any blame. It is simply illustrating one family’s tragedy; a tragedy the family is desperately trying to prevent from happening again.

It is more than appropriate for police officers and fire fighters to carry the word. It’s right up there with “Speed kills” and “Don’t drink and drive.”

Unless, of course, the Journal feels those bumper stickers and billboards would prevent accused speeders and drunk drivers from getting a fair trial as well.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Although I used to post to this blog far more often than recent history would portend, even in my most prolific days two posts in a 24-hour period was a rarity. I hesitate, however, to give the last piece the same status as most - it took all of ten minutes to research, compose and post. Indeed, it was the last gasp of a theme I have decided to leave behind for now - I have no further use for it. Cyberspace is a very big place and in it there is room for all to dwell.

Life at the 25 Year Plan World Headquarters is quiet. It was a disturbing silence, but of late it has become a welcome calm in between storms past and those that are sure to come. I get up, go to work, write, read, keep up a household and always one eye on my now adult kids. And though it is true that even these mild-mannered pursuits can and do throw me curves regularly, compared to not so very long ago, for now, it is gratifyingly mundane. Change is coming, both by design and by happenstance and I am ready to take the opportunities that come my way.

So what does all this have to do with you? Nothing, really. But if you are at all like me, much of the wisdom formed by your experience was shaped at least in part by the experience of others. I am relentless in seeking those perspectives… especially when the experiences are similar to my own. I know that at least some of you get that; you have as much as told me so in my comments and sometimes via email. Others will see this as self-aggrandizing validation and you, too, are correct in your assessment. It is that as well. I have come through not unique, but unusually severe circumstances. It was no small feat to claw my way up to where I am and it was not without a whole bunch of help from a lot of people who believed in me even when I didn’t. But I did the work.

So, there it is. My life today resembles one of a typical middleclass single parent with three young adult children. If not for my personal history, it is the same as countless others and their lives today. But we are internally defined by our experiences. Although my life might resemble many, right here, right now, we are all unique because our experience is. My story, therefore, has meaning. Not only to me, but also, I have discovered, to many others. It is always humbling when I am told that I have in some small way touched someone else with my words.

I write for many reasons, likely more than I’ll ever realize. Ego is part of it, but there is so much more. If it were ego alone, I would never have continued, for at the beginning, those who read my stuff could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Often there was no feedback at all - no good, no bad and no ugly. Yet I continued to write; I was driven. I don’t know why and anymore, I don’t care. Writing has, in a very real way, saved my life from an aimless pursuit of something… anything.

I interviewed a kindergarten/first grade teacher yesterday for a feature I’m writing. During our conversation, she shared a quote from her mentor several years before.

“We all have gifts, we just don’t all unwrap them at the same time.”

And then, for an instant and once again, it all became crystal clear.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Dick Tracy

Someone has been trying to find out who I am. Through some very rudimentary search techniques that reveal far more about the seeker than he or she will ever learn about me, I have become aware of a fan (or fans) that represents the best of the root word, fanatic. Because I, of course, adore my fans, I am only too pleased to voluntarily give up whatever privacy I have. No, no… no thanks are necessary, the pleasure is all mine.

Name: Michael Keith Althouse
Age: 45
Home: Fair Oaks, CA
Occupation: Journalist, The Placer Herald - Rocklin, CA

That should be more than enough to quench any reasonable thirst for information, but if it isn’t, it is sufficient to garner whatever else one may desire. I have a home and cellular phone number, an address… I even have some history. Want more? It’s out there - but I’d suggest paying for a background search by someone who already knows how to do it. There is an awful lot to learn about just to find out what little there is to know about me.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Since the beginning of the human experience, man has professed a desire for peace. In every culture, the evidence of a desire for peace is there. However, the behavior of many, if not all societies past and present have not born out this desire for any sustained period of time. There are always those who will stop at nothing to prevail – often in the name of peace, or worse, God. It is patently obvious throughout history. You would think we’d have learned by now.

It might sound as though this will be just another tirade against the war in Iraq or this president and the neo-cons that put us there. True, there is a wealth of evidence that this is yet another example of war in the name of peace, but there is another side to the coin. There are those who are so fervently against this war that they have dug their feet into an ideology that opposes that of the other side so completely that they are defined by who they are against rather than what. Peace cannot exist without tolerance; it does not live in the same house as obstinacy and dies in the face of arrogance – however well intended.

Ultra right-wingers have much in common with those who take up the ultra left. Neither wants anything to do with bi-partisanship unless it furthers his or her side’s agenda. Of course, this kind of winner-take-all compromise is rare – usually for a true compromise to occur, each side must give up something. Those on the extreme edges of the continuum will hear nothing of it. A moderate is a traitor; neither liberal nor conservative, they are Democrat or Republican in name only – a necessary evil that must be tolerated to have the necessary numbers for there to be any chance of forwarding the extremist's agenda. It is an agenda that is not negotiable.

A freethinker, a moderate or -gasp- an independent has the ability to pick and choose. He or she is not bound by ideology… not blinded by arrogant obstinacy. There is always room for negotiation and a free exchange of ideas is encouraged, never feared. There is no shame in compromise and no weakness in acknowledging the positive in a rival. The ego is never on the table. In an arena that is expected to produce the best possible outcome for all, diplomacy by steamroller is never an option. Even when the debate involves an issue as volatile as war, there is room for good faith – principles should still triumph over personalities.

Unfortunately, the extremist will never hear this. It is all or nothing and nothing is for idiots and losers. The current administration has used this ideology of aggression under the shroud of peace to create a war that is nothing short of disastrous. However, the ultra-liberal contingency isn’t helping. It will take a rational, measured and bi-partisan effort to extract us from this mess. It will take intelligence to deal with the aftermath and no one person or party has all the answers. We don’t even know all the questions, yet there are those who are so adamant, who just know what is right that they will shout down anyone who isn’t in lock step with them.

I prefer to think for myself.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

And then there are a few who just can’t be pleased under any circumstances. Apparently my humble blog has rooted out at least one such individual. To be perfectly fair, it is unlikely that this entity is incapable of pleasure; rather it appears my prose have been the source of personal displeasure. It is almost as if my sole purpose is to be an irritation to a select few who travel here as though they had no will of their own. Of course, that is exactly why I take the time to compose and post my musings. Yes, my secret is out.

Like those who complain about what is on TV or the radio, those who do not like my work are free to go elsewhere. Those who do read my stuff are welcome to criticize it, ridicule it and even take selected bits out of context and spin it any way they see fit. It is a free country. I reserve the right to do the same - the First Amendment is still alive and well, despite the best efforts of the Bush/Cheney machine. The 25 Year Plan has a number of loyal readers - most do not comment, but they return time and time again. Others do comment and for the most part, the feedback is positive.

Sometimes, however, there will be a reader that takes issue with my position on a policy or an argument I have made. These opinions are often valid and have given me pause to consider another point of view. Even if rejected, when made respectfully these comments are never offensive. Then there is the malcontent; the visitor who must lambaste my writing style, the subject matter… even my motorcycle for reasons only he or she can understand. These are absolutely meant to offend and although they do just that, I am more than capable of standing my ground.

It is not about seeking out conflict, but conflict is an unavoidable reality in life. Substantive, intelligent and passionate exchanges are one thing, but when an attack is malicious, petty, juvenile… or personal, expect both barrels. It is and always will be zero to nuclear in nothing flat. I don’t have time for stupid playground skirmishes - there are far more important things going on in my life and the world that deserve my attention. Family, work, the credit and housing crisis and juggling my personal budget to pay for gas at $3.65 per gallon - these are important pursuits.

And then there is Bush’s pet war in Iraq. Somehow this, the most important issue in the world today is now only newsworthy when the number of dead service men and women hits a new "milestone." Only when it is a large round number like 4,000 do we pay attention anymore - as if the 3,999th killed is somehow less significant. Tell that to his family. The upcoming election is of vital importance. We are voting for or against a war that was sold on lies and should never have been started in the first place. The number of lives lost and forever altered is mind-boggling and the money borrowed to pay for it only slightly less so.

If all you have is why my writing sucks - save it. I don’t have time for it.