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Cleaning up
March 21, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Spring has now officially sprung which means, along with hopefully the advent of consistent sandal weather, the time has come to clean out the closets, wipe off the shelves, do more than just push the dog fur balls under the couch and make some hard decisions about what unneeded items need tossing.

But why stop at the tangible pile-ups in one's domain? We might all be well better served to do some assessment of other things cluttering the environment and sitting around past their useful date.

Let's start with cleaning up our language. Sequester and fiscal cliff are this year's shock and awe, overused to the point of ridiculousness particularly when a significant enough slice of the population couldn't even under threat of pain and suffering define the terms or their ramifications. These words don't necessarily warrant the garbage pile, or even a minty bar of soap in the mouth upon use, but a trip to Goodwill or some other donation center is in order. Perhaps there they can be recycled into uses that don't make the average person's eyes roll back and their brain turn off. Even better -- although about as realistic as holding onto that pair of jeans on the off chance you shed five pounds -- both political parties find common ground to avoid the need to ever warrant the terms again.

A copy of Roe v. Wade and some history lessons apparently need a strong dusting off because the recent glut of severely restrictive laws makes one wonder if current generations have grown lackadaisical in protective reproductive freedom. The masses that once would not have stood idly by while states like Arkansas and North Dakota implement fetal heartbeat laws have moved onto important struggles like gay marriage, which is laudable, but gaining rights is only half the battle. The other half is keeping them.

The garbage pail is earmarked for starlets and actors who can't get their stuff together and instead jumble up the air with their antics and all-around stupidity. Many have tried the recycling or even the personally repurposing route to no avail; now it's off to the landfill because compost just seems a little mean. This includes anybody on a show whose title includes the words "real housewives."

The reputations of way too many public figures could do with a heavy steam cleaning or even scouring to do away with the tarnish. Cases in point, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, former Alameda County supervisor Nadia Lockyer and conservative Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who rumor has it enjoys dalliances with Dominican Republic prostitutes.

One reputation that is beyond cleaning, fixing or revamping is Anna Ayala, otherwise known as the Wendy's chili lady for the infamous scheme cooked up between her and her husband to bilk the fast-food giant. After her 2005 claims of finding a severed digit in her chili were debunked as staged and she went away on a four-year vacation at the big house, Ayala hit the radar again by falsely claiming somebody else shot her son in the ankle. Seems as a felon he's not allowed to have a firearm so the logical answer is of course to finger somebody innocent.

Another item not even fit for a Freecycle website is the coverage and reaction to the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that riveted the court-viewing public and raised all kinds of public outrage and debate over teens, small towns, girls who drink, the football players who assault them and everybody who felt the attack was proper social media fodder.

Afterward, CNN was knocked for portraying the convicted rapists too sympathetically, Fox was slammed for broadcasting the name of a sexual assault victim and one of the boy's lawyers offered up this gem on "Piers Morgan" -- that his teenage client shouldn't be forced into lifetime registration as a sex offender because at 16 he doesn't have a fully developed brain. Lawyer Walter Madison said his client shouldn't one day at age 75 have to "explain" his younger self's actions. Hmm. State Sen. Leland Yee used a similar neurological explanation to successfully get California to eradicate life in prison without parole for juveniles but even that requires a 25-year baseline sentence.

And sometimes during a deep clean, things we all but forgot about look fresh again with the perspective of a new season. Gun legislation. The Pope. Bangs.

So grab the mop and broom and do a little sprucing up. The best part of spring cleaning is making room for a whole new year's worth of disorder.

Michelle Durand's column "Off the Beat" runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: michelle@smdailyjournal.com or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com.


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