Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2012

Baseball’s Winter Meetings, or, Why Your GM Should Sign Vinny Rottino

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On December 3, 2012, the baseball Winter Meetings will be held in Nashville, TN.  All thirty major league clubs, plus many minor league teams as well, will be at the Winter Meetings; much will be said, much will be hinted at, and maybe a few deals will be made to the benefit of all and sundry.

My take?  I’d like to see one of these MLB GMs actually pick up a player who will help their team in every aspect of the game — Vinny Rottino.

Rottino, you see, is now a free agent.  (Again.)  Yet he plays many positions, has a winning attitude, and has worked incredibly hard at improving himself and his abilities over the years.  And he’s been so good at keeping his body free from injury that even though he’s now chronologically thirty-two years of age, he probably can keep playing at the same level or higher for six or seven more years yet.

Ah, but you’re probably thinking, “Why do you care so much about a guy who has a lifetime major league batting average of .165, Barb?”

I care because Rottino has hit at every level, providing he’s been given a good chance to play every day.  And when someone has worked this hard for this long and does have the skills, yet never gets the chance to prove himself, that just doesn’t seem right.

So to all you MLB GMs out there,  listen up.  Rottino is smart, hard-working, has never taken a performance-enhancing drug of any sort, plays multiple positions and plays them well, and when given a chance has hit at every level.  His lifetime minor league stats of .294 with 598 RBI, 82 HR and 116 SBs over ten seasons proves that.

Rather than throwing Rottino out because he’s going to be thirty-three in April of ’13, why not sign him and give him a chance to be in your lineup every day or every other day (as Rottino hits lefthanders particularly well)?  Or at least put him on your bench, as Rottino is a capable and versatile defender who can play many, many positions.

As there are some terrible teams out there (such as the Houston Astros, about to go to the American League, or the Miami Marlins after their recent fire sale), it would seem to me that Rottino has more than enough skills to be given a flyer.  And once he’s there, it’s quite possible that Rottino will do more than enough to start the season in the major leagues — that is, unless the GMs wish to be ageist and insist that since Rottino’s never done all that well, he never will do all that well, either, because he’s about to turn thirty-three and only the rarest of the rare improve after that age.

That sort of argument is impossible to disprove unless Rottino gets another chance to play somewhere.  And since he’s done very, very well at the AAA level (seven years and counting of AAA service), it seems likely that he’ll be offered a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training by some team.

So once again,  GMs, I urge you not to be stupid.  Sign Vinny Rottino.  Know that the minor league players in your system will look up to him.  And maybe, just maybe, your other players will learn so much from him that he’ll be like another coach — which to my mind seems like his most likely career option once his playing days are done.

Several years in the future.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 30, 2012 at 3:54 am

Posted in baseball, Persistence, Vinny Rottino

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Ill Here . . . but Getting Better

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Folks, the last week has been quite interesting — at least in the Chinese curse sense of, “May you live in interesting times” — which is why I haven’t blogged in several days.

To be blunt, I’ve been quite ill with the flu and a sinus infection and a number of other things that got kicked up because of that.  No new writing has gotten done, and my edits are behind (now three edits are in progress, the two longer-term ones plus a short-term job).  And I had to take three days away from my editorial internship, too, which of course doesn’t help anything.

Some days, the minuses definitely seem like more than the pluses, but I have to keep getting up and get whatever done that I possibly can.  And if the best I can do is rest?  Well, then, I guess I’ll rest with the best of ’em.

At least, as much as I can.

There are some positives to report in the past week, though not a whole lot.  I edited a few more chapters of AN ELFY ABROAD (the direct sequel to ELFY).  I was able to do my three-hour shift for my internship tonight.  I attended the most recent Racine Concert Band rehearsal (for our December 13, 2012 concert at Park High School), and while I didn’t play really well, I also didn’t perform horribly.  And I’ve sketched out a few possible scenes for another of my works-in-progress (WIPs for short), while reading at least fifteen books in the past week.  (If I had a Kindle or something akin to it, I’d probably have read even more.)

The other things that I’ve noted in the past week or two that I haven’t blogged about:

The Milwaukee Brewers have parted with pitchers Kameron Loe and José Veras, who weren’t the worst relievers on the roster by a mile.   I’m waiting to see if the Brewers re-sign either of these pitchers at lower salaries.

Politics is in a holding pattern; everyone’s wondering if the United States Congress will ever learn the meaning of the word “compromise” (much less the words “fiscal restraint”), while the term “fiscal cliff” has dominated the headlines along with the stalwart refusal of Congress to do any work whatsoever.

Wisconsin politics is also in a holding pattern.  State Senator Jessica King (D-Oshkosh) has conceded to Republican Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac, and is now an outgoing Senator after losing by only 590 votes.  The Republicans regained control of the state Senate; currently, with one seat vacant, the state Senate stands at 17-15.

And there’s no news regarding the “John Doe” probe of Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his aides, except the fact that the probe is continuing.  (This wouldn’t even be news except that Walker himself believed that the probe was in its final days.)

Anyway, as I start to feel better, I should be able to do more writing, on this blog and for Shiny Book Review and of course for my works-in-progress.  The hope now is to get a book review done for tomorrow night for John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris’s poetry extravaganza THE NEW ARCANA, and another review on Saturday (possibly one of the three-book set by K.E. Kimbriel, as all of them are good, enjoyable novels; if I wait, though, it’s only to do a “two-for-one SBR special”).

So my intentions are to get better, keep writing and editing, and keep posting updates as I have ’em.

Business as usual, no matter how long it takes.  (Right?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Just Reviewed Bujold’s “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for a good, farcical military SF adventure with romance, look no further than Lois McMaster Bujold’s newest novel, CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE.  This, the fifteenth book in the long-running saga about Miles Naismith Vorkosigan and his family and friends, is full of biting wit, thrilling adventure, and good romance.

Tej Arqua is a “galactic,” meaning she’s from Jackson’s Whole (a planet that exemplifies the phrase “capitalism run amok”), while Ivan Vorpatril is a Barrayaran Captain who works in Ops as an administrative professional (read: paper pusher, or perhaps the less-flattering term “REMF,” which I did use in my review).  Ivan, you see, is a guy who’s smart, talented, good-looking and interesting — but he can’t hold a candle to his brilliant cousin Miles, nor can he hold a cousin to his brilliant (albeit cloned) cousin Mark, either.  Plus his mother is the formidable Lady Alys, and his quasi-stepfather, Simon Illyan, is the former head of Barrayaran Imperial Security (ImpSec, for short) . . . in other words, Ivan has spent his whole life falling short of the mark, even though he’s quite good when taken for himself.

Tej is a child of similar circumstances, albeit from a completely different background . . . she, too, has had much expected of her.  And while she’s a perfectly good person in her own right — interesting, funny, and sweet by turns — she’s not a genius, doesn’t want to be, and doesn’t particularly want anyone to attempt to make her into something she’s not, either.  So when she meets up with Ivan in a most unusual way, sparks fly . . . and the two of ’em just might be right for each other after all (go read my review to find out why).

As this is a Bujold romance, think “Georgette Heyer in space” rather than the more overt military SF/romance of Linnea Sinclair or even Catherine Asaro.  Both Sinclair and Asaro are great writers, too; I’ve reviewed several of Sinclair’s novels and will certainly be reviewing Asaro’s in the near future as well.  But they are much more graphic than Bujold tends to be; Bujold likes to hint rather than give flat-out exposition, such as when Ivan tells Tej how odd it feels to be married and to have sex with her, the first time, as a married person — he mentions this, then she says something about one of her names meaning “Light,” and he says, “Well, then, illuminate me” — best paraphrase, that, as I don’t have the book in front of me.  Fade to black.

Anyway, everything works in this novel, but it’s not a full A-plus because Bujold herself has written better novels in this series — several of them, to be exact (MIRROR DANCE, the two-book set CORDELIA’S HONOR, THE VOR GAME, the short story collection BORDERS OF INFINITY, etc.) — and that has to be factored into the decision.

Besides, Ivan and Tej are both past masters of conflict avoidance, which makes it tough to see their virtues at times.  (Tough, but possible.  And well done — oh, so very well done.)

But don’t let the lack of an A-plus review stop you from appreciating this fine and funny novel.  Go read my review, then go grab the book, either as an e-copy at Baen Books, or as a hardcover via the usual places.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 25, 2012 at 12:29 am

Boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho, 50, to Be Taken Off Life Support

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Folks, this is one of the more disturbing sports stories to hit the wire in the past several months.

Boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho — a man who was one of the best boxers in his time, or any time — was sitting in a car with a friend, Adrian Mojica Moreno, a few days ago in his native Puerto Rico.  Thugs shot at the car, perhaps not even knowing Camacho was inside; they killed Moreno instantly and wounded Camacho severely.  The motivation behind this shooting appears to have been drugs, as nine small bags of cocaine were found on Moreno’s body, with a tenth bag found inside the car.

Doctors now say that Camacho is brain-dead.

Camacho’s mother, Maria Matias, has decided to take Camacho off life support, saying in this article from The Sporting News that:

“I lost my son three days ago. He’s alive only because of a machine,” Matias said. “My son is not alive. My son is only alive for the people who love him,” she added.

(Camacho’s) three other sons were expected to arrive from the U.S. mainland around midnight Friday. “Until they arrive, we will not disconnect the machine,” Matias said.

However, the one son of Camacho’s who is already there, Hector “Machito” Camacho, Jr., does not wish his father to be taken off life support.  And other family and friends continue to wrestle with Camacho’s mother’s decision, even though she’s the one who has the final say — and assuredly, she’s made up her mind.

Here’s a bit more from the TSN article, which explains Camacho’s significance to the world of boxing:

He won super lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s and fought high-profile bouts against Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard. Camacho knocked out Leonard in 1997, ending the former champ’s final comeback attempt. Camacho had a career record of 79-6-3.

I remember watching Camacho fight.  There was an ease and fluidity to his movement, yes, but a deliberate intelligence and cunning, too.  He was often underestimated due to his “Macho” nickname; fighters would learn, to their everlasting chagrin, that Camacho did his homework long before he ever stepped foot in the ring.

Or to put it another way, Camacho did not depend on bravado to win in the ring; instead, he used his mind as well as his fists to forge an impressive legacy.

Camacho’s later life was marred by a 2007 conviction for burglary (he served two weeks in jail plus probation) and his ex-wife (the New York Times, in this article, says Camacho had only one)  swore out two complaints of domestic abuse before finally divorcing him.  He also abused both drugs and alcohol, though there is no evidence that Camacho was on any sort of drugs at the time of the shooting.

Camacho’s sisters have said that they are willing to fly him to New York in order for him to be buried where he spent much of his adolescence — Harlem.  But it’s unclear at this time as to what the final disposition of Camacho’s body will be, as no firm decision has been made regarding organ donation or anything else according to the latest articles from TSN, Yahoo Sports, and other sources.

One thing’s for certain: Camacho was at the wrong place at the wrong time, or he’d not be brain-dead right now.

What a terrible end to an otherwise remarkable life.

******

UPDATE: Camacho was taken off life support this morning, had a heart attack, and died.

A funeral is pending in New York, and a wake may be scheduled in Puerto Rico later according to this article from the Chicago Tribune.  He is survived by his mother, father, four siblings (three sisters and a brother), four children — Hector, Jr., Taylor, Christian, and Justin, and two grandchildren.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 24, 2012 at 5:23 am

Another Sad Anniversary

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The last ten days or so have been rather challenging.

In addition to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, which is nowhere near as much fun without my husband Michael (his charm, wit, love of football and willingness to cook made any holiday much more fun, not to mention more memorable), I’ve also observed two other sad anniversaries:

First, I observed the first anniversary of my friend Jeff Wilson’s passing on November 13.  A particularly sad day, but I said nothing because I was too upset to even discuss it.

Next — today — I observed my friend Jeff’s 49th birthday.

Jeff was an extraordinarily kind and compassionate man.  He was funny in his own, quiet way (often surprising himself as much as me), he loved his four cats, he followed politics and current events and some sports — the latter, I think, so he’d have something else to discuss with me as he knew I’m a big sports-lover.

And Jeff had a rare gift of insight, something I’ve only found in one other person (my husband Michael); because of this, he tolerated no weasel-words, and would not be fobbed off by any polite words (such as “I’m fine,” which to him always signaled something else, something along the lines of, “What’s wrong, and how can I help?”).

I never was all that great at observing Jeff’s birthday.  I wish I had been better at it.

I can say that I tried, every day, to observe how important he was to me and let him know this.  Because I felt that was the most important thing; he needed to know that I found him a worthy friend, and an interesting person, and someone with many special gifts to offer the world.

I miss my friend Jeff profoundly, and I wish he were here on his 49th birthday, just so he could tell me to stop worrying so much about him.

Even though he knew I wouldn’t.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Saturday Early Morning Roundup

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Time for a roundup, folks.  (Otherwise known as, “What has Barb been doing all week that’s kept her from giving any sort of update whatsoever?”)

As you can see from my previous blog, I just wrote extensively about US Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican from Tennessee.  DesJarlais’ behavior is so offensive that it cried out for a full blog.

But considering that is the only time I wrote anything during the entire week, regular readers of this blog might be wondering what I’ve been up to that’s kept me from blogging.

Mostly it’s the same stuff that I mentioned the last time: I’m still getting up to speed with the editing internship.  I’m still working on two extensive book edits.  And I’m doing my best to hash out some plot points in AN ELFY ABROAD (the direct sequel to ELFY), plus re-start some other projects as ideas occur.

I also sent out four stories in the past three weeks; one came back to me tonight with good comments, but no sale.

For those of you who are new at the fiction writing game, when an editor gives you comments, it’s a very good thing.  Editors are busy people (I know this for a fact when I’m wearing my editor hat), and they won’t generally bother with even a one-line comment unless they see something in the manuscript — or the writer — that they want to encourage.

So that’s a positive step — the editor read the story and liked it, but just didn’t like it enough to buy.

Anyway, back to blog subjects — AKA, the things I would’ve blogged about if I just hadn’t run out of time.

There was one state story, that being the fact that the Wisconsin Assembly (our lower house) elected Robin Vos (R-Rochester) as their Speaker.  Vos is one of the more hard-line members of the Assembly and isn’t willing to compromise, which may lead to further problems in months ahead here in Wisconsin.

But much of that story will have to play out in coming months; for all I know, Vos could have a change of heart and decide he’s going to behave in a more bipartisan manner from here on out.  (Pigs could fly, too.  But neither is too likely of an occurrence.)

There was one local story that nearly passed muster, that of the City of Racine setting off fireworks after a roundabout, of all things, was completed near City Hall.  This seems like a tremendous waste of money, all for a roundabout that no one really wanted outside of the city fathers (and, perhaps, mothers).

But while that was annoying and stupid, it didn’t seem to warrant a whole blog, either.  Which is why I initially let it go by without comment.

And there were a few sports stories that I felt like blogging about this week, too.  One was about Ryan Braun, because I was certain he would not win the National League MVP award even though he was as deserving as anyone (but Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants was nearly as worthy, so I didn’t have that big of a problem with it when Posey won).  One was about Tim Tebow, who got slammed — anonymously — by several teammates in the media, to the point that his own coach, Rex Ryan, then slammed the anonymous players in return.  And one was about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and how it needs to be seriously revamped . . . but then, the BCS has always been controversial, so my thoughts against the BCS weren’t so important that I just had to get it down now, right now, or forever hold my peace.

Nevertheless, these were all topics I considered blogging about.  And if I’d had more time, I assuredly would’ve written blogs about Vos, the silly roundabout coupled with the even more silly fireworks, Braun failing to win his second MVP despite being a deserving candidate, Tebow’s teammates and their bad behavior, and probably the BCS, too.

But I just didn’t have time.  (As it is, I’m cutting into my sleep cycle to write this blog, not to mention the previous one about the odious Rep. DesJarlais.)

Oh, yes.  I reviewed THE UGLY DUCHESS by Eloisa James over at Shiny Book Review on Thursday.   So that should give y’all a little bit more to read, should you be so inclined.

Anyway, that’s about it . . . though you might be looking for my review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE in the next few days over at SBR.  (My hope is to get it written and up on Saturday evening, but that may not be possible.  We’ll see.)

Now, back to the salt mines.  (Or at least to sleep.  Whichever.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 17, 2012 at 4:56 am

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US Rep. Scott DesJarlais: One of the Most Hypocritical Reps in America

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One of the political stories that’s been flying under the radar in Wisconsin this week is the bad behavior and utter stupidity of Republican United States Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee.  DesJarlais, a medical doctor, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has done the following things:

  1. Carried on at least two sexual trysts with patients
  2. Had at least three sexual encounters with co-workers
  3. Slept with at least one pharmaceutical representative

But what’s making the news more than DesJarlais horrendously bad judgment is this: he’s a pro-life legislator.  But he encouraged his ex-wife to have not one but two abortions — one of which appears to have been medically necessary, while the other probably wasn’t — and didn’t tell his constituents a thing.

All of this came out due to the lengthy transcript of DesJarlais’s 2001 divorce trial; the transcript had been requested by the Times Free Press prior to the election, but as it hadn’t been completely typed up, it didn’t get released until two days after all the votes had been counted.

But DesJarlais didn’t pay a price at the ballot box, possibly due to the fact that much of this wasn’t public knowledge.  As the Washington Post account puts it:

DesJarlais . . . (won) reelection with just slightly less of the vote than he took in his first campaign in 2010. He defeated state Sen. Eric Stewart (D) 56 percent to 44 percent.

However, DesJarlais’ medical license should be in jeopardy due to these recent revelations, as DesJarlais most definitely violated most of his professional ethics — not to mention whatever is left of his good, common sense.

Some of what DesJarlais admitted to during his divorce trial is so repugnant that it’s hard to even fathom it.  As the Times Free Press article points out:

The transcript reveals new details about DesJarlais’ interactions with a 24-year-old-patient, who claimed she became pregnant with DesJarlais’ child during a brief fling in 2000 that ended with the doctor pressing her to have an abortion.

DesJarlais, who is now 48 years old, admitted in court to urging the woman over the phone to get an abortion, but said the whole conversation was a scheme orchestrated by him and his wife — with whom he had reconciled — to get the 24-year-old to admit she was not really pregnant.

So, did you catch all of that?  DesJarlais, who was married at the time, slept with a much-younger woman and apparently got her pregnant.  Then he pressured her to get an abortion.

Mind you, the last part isn’t even the worst part, though it is extremely hypocritical due to DesJarlais’ strong pro-life stance.

Nope.

The absolutely worst part of this extremely repugnant episode is that DesJarlais got his own wife to help him pressure this poor young woman.

(Why DesJarlais’ then-wife did that, I’ll never know.)

All of this adds up to one thing — this man, Scott DesJarlais, should not be a United States Representative.  Not in Tennessee.

Not anywhere.

DesJarlais has a terrible attitude, as he seems to believe that he’s above it all.  And that he’ll get away with it all, too . . . all of this because he was voted back into the US House of Reps.

For the moment, it appears that DesJarlais will get away with it.  (As in, keep his current job; I would hope that the Tennessee Board of Health will finally strip DesJarlais of his medical license.)

However, it may not be all gravy for DesJarlais in the next election cycle as the  Times Free Press article states:

But according to Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, the congressman’s political life could be endangered in 2014. Asked before Thursday’s disclosures how many Republican senators he expects might challenge DesJarlais in the 4th District primary, Ramsey quipped, “How many live in it?”

While this may hold some promise for 2014 and beyond, that does nothing for the poor people of DesJarlais’ district right now.  Instead, they’re stuck with one of the most hypocritical members in the House.

Aand considering how many hypocritical people sit in that chamber right now, that’s really saying something.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 17, 2012 at 4:19 am

Just Reviewed Michael Casey’s “The Unfair Trade” at SBR

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My long-delayed review of Michael Casey’s excellent THE UNFAIR TRADE: How Our Broken Financial System Destroys the Middle Class is up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR).  This may be the most important book you will ever read, and it’s one everyone should read, whether you’re a writer, an editor, or just a run-of-the-mill middle-classer on the street.

Casey’s view is that the global economy is so interdependent, yet is so poorly regulated, that it’s likely that more global meltdowns of the type we saw in 2007-8 will happen.  And as he points out so well in his book, the middle class was actively harmed by this latest meltdown — harmed badly — while in many cases the people who caused the meltdown in the first place got off unscathed.

Casey is a long-time financial writer who currently works for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.  He understands what he’s talking about.  And he discusses things in such a lively way that you almost forget you’re reading a book about global finance — that is, until you realize how many stupid things have been done by “the big banksters” in the name of profit that have actively hurt the middle class in every country.

Seriously, you need to run, not walk, to the bookstore and grab a copy of THE UNFAIR TRADE.  (If you’re broke, as I tend to be, go to the library and get a copy instead.)  Read this book, think about what Casey says, and then insist on the regulations that Casey points out are needed.

So what are you still doing here?  Go read my review, then go get the book.  Then ponder the need for appropriate regulation, as it’s obvious that computerization and mechanization have made most of the laws on the books either irrelevant or inaccurate, take your pick.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 10, 2012 at 12:52 am

Just Reviewed Patricia C. Wrede’s “The Far West” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for an interesting alternate history complete with different forms of magic, odd creatures, and a quiet coming of age story, look no further than Patricia C. Wrede’s THE FAR WEST, which I just reviewed at Shiny Book Review (SBR).  The book stars twenty-year-old Francine “Eff” Rothmer, who is a career woman (she assists scientists who study magical creatures) and is a formidable magician in her own right.

Even though Eff doesn’t think of herself this way, of course (but don’t get me started on how self-effacing Eff is, or I’ll be here all night).

At any rate, THE FAR WEST is an interesting book with an appealing view of magic in the wild, wild West.  The world-building, as is always the case with Ms. Wrede, was stellar; the characters were appealing and smart.

So take a look at my review — then go read the book!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Tammy Baldwin Wins US Senate Race in Wisconsin Over Tommy Thompson

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Tonight, history was made in Wisconsin.  Democrat Tammy Baldwin won election to the United States Senate over Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson.  Baldwin becomes Wisconsin’s first female Senator and the United States’ first openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered Senator.

See this link from the Huffington Post for further details.

Here are a few words from Senator-elect Baldwin (via the above-mentioned link):

“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsin’s first woman U.S. senator. And I am well aware I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate,” she added, with the crowd drowning her out and chanting “Tammy! Tammy!”

“But I didn’t run to make history,” she continued. “I ran to make a difference –- a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives of veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.”

Baldwin’s former seat in the US House of Representatives was won by state Assemblyman Mark Pocan (D), who’s also openly gay.  (Pocan is a liberal firebrand who should do an excellent job for the residents of Wisconsin’s 2nd District.)  As GayPolitics.com put it, Pocan will be the “next out member of Congress.”  Pocan’s win is also the first time one openly gay member of Congress has been succeeded by another in the same district (also per GayPolitics.com).

Congratulations, Senator-elect Baldwin and Representative-elect Pocan!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 7, 2012 at 3:07 am