Thursday, September 28, 2006

This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like

An on-point and very disturbing article on what "waterboarding" really is, and why Bush Et. Al want to use it on prisoners. Any time your country uses the same interrogation "techniques" as the Khmer Rouge, it's time to reassess, don't you think?


Take a Gander On Friday.

As in, I'm offline till then, so no Haggis till then.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Let It Go

This is an oldie but a goodie, especially in the context of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is coming up this weekend. Ironically, the following is a sermon by TD Jakes, a Christian pastor. Regardless, I think his larger point is worth noting, internalizing and making happen:

Let It Go for 2004
There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you....let them walk.

I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left...

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person; it just means that their part in the story is over. And you've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when it's dead.

You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something. I've got the gift of goodbye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in goodbye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it.

Stop begging people to stay! Let them go!
If you are holding onto something that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to Let It Go!
If you are holding onto past hurts and pains--Let It Go!
If someone can't treat you right, love you back, see your worth--Let It Go!
If someone has angered you--Let It Go!
If you are holding onto some thoughts of evil and revenge---Let It Go!
If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction--Let It Go!
If you are holding onto a job that no longer meets your needs or talents--Let It Go!
If you have a bad attitude--Let It Go!
If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better--Let It Go!
If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level--Let It Go!
If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship--Let It Go!
If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves--Let It Go!
If you're feeling depressed and stressed--Let It Go!
If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying, "Take your hands off it" then you need to--Let It Go!

Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. God is doing a new thing for 2004. Let it go! Get Right or Get left...think about it--then Let It Go!


A very cute post over at

Get Me a Book Deal

I have decided that I should write a book for the simple reason that everybody else has.

During one of my hospital days I had the dispeptic displeasure of watching the Dr. Phil show. I was riveted on the breathtaking arrogance of that day's show for one reason: it was entirely devoted to his wife's new book "Inside My Heart."

And his wife is WHO exactly? Oh right: Mrs. Dr. Phil.
Her book description is thus:
"You've seen her on television with her husband, Dr. Phil. But now it's time for a heart-to-heart conversation with Robin McGraw. In Inside My Heart, Robin speaks woman to woman, inspiring you to embrace and celebrate the many roles you play and encouraging you to make deliberate choices that lead to a richer, happier, and more meaningful life. She shares with you the life-changing moments of her childhood years, dating and marrying Dr. Phil McGraw, raising two sons, and asserting herself as a woman in a man's world to show you that you have the power to make choices in your life. In fact, she's convinced that you must choose to go after the life you want."

Well, Mrs. Dr. Phil, the life I want--and that I choose to go after--is writing a book about myself based on my stature as nobody in particular. Just like you. I just don't have a show where (I kid you not) my husband has three women in the green room "who have NO IDEA! that they're going to meet their idol, Robin, today on this program!" Dude, they can meet Robin McGraw at every single one of your programs. She sits in the front row of every d*mn show! That's the only reason anyone knows what this woman looks like, much less what "life-changing moments" she experienced in her childhood.


To add insult to injurious insult, I then did my usual online gossip search, only to find out that Lance Bass is writing a book. That's right: Lance freakin Bass. Former boyband member, aborted space flight passenger, and recently out-of-the-closet C-list celebrity. His justification? People were asking him questions about himself. "Experience is everything with 'N Sync, all my experience with space travel and Russia and the whole coming out thing. I have a lot to say, so I decided to go ahead and start writing it down." So let me get this straight: you are a minor, hasbeenish celebrity who comes out of the closet. Access Hollywood asks you questions about yourself. You determine, based on those questions, that people must be interested in your unique perspective on life. Therefore, you write a book.

Friends, we should ALL write books. You in particular, yeah you. The one reading this. Based on your experience in life, reading this blog, clicking to other blogs, offering comments--you must have a really unique view of life that I bet Simon & Schuster would invest some serious ducats in ensuring reaches the teeming masses.

Who's in? I am.

I'll call it: SSHaggis: My Contribution to Cultural Mediocrity.

My follow-up effort will be titled, "Bambina's Bon Mots: Everything My Kid Taught Me About Extending My Mediocre Brand." And don't miss the companion series: "Recipes in 30 Mediocre Minutes," "Tuesdays With Mediocrity," and a very special Principles of Mediocrity Workbook to track your contributions to our country's progress into cultural oblivion.

Quote of the Day

"I don't know what sort of person is running around with a sackful of panties and a large inflatable penis."

From New Zealand:
The girls at Hamilton strip club Firecats have a problem - someone has nicked their knickers. The underwear went missing when the Firecats promotional van was stolen on Saturday. The van was parked on Hood St in Hamilton about 2.30am when the driver got out of the vehicle to talk to two people who had asked him for a ride. Someone jumped in the van and drove off, eventually dumping the vehicle up a driveway on Upper Kent St in Frankton. The van was undamaged, but missing from the vehicle was a sack containing about 50 items, including g-strings and some of the performers' costumes. Also missing was an inflatable penis Firecats had brought to help with promotions during last year's British and Irish Lions rugby tour.

Firecats owner Tony Garraway wondered what use the thief had for the missing items.

"I don't know what sort of person is running around with a sackful of panties and a large inflatable penis," he said.

Mr Garraway said there was a delay in police being told of the van's discovery. The house at the end of the driveway where the van was left was split into two units, one occupied by a couple and one by a man. Mr Garraway said the occupiers of each unit thought their neighbours were "being a bit naughty", so did not call police. The performers were upset at the theft, as many of the missing items had been imported from the US, Mr Garraway said.

We Dontneedy Dotmobi

According to the Financial Times, new “dotmobi” (.mobi) internet domain names will go on sale today. Dotmobi is an effort (by parts of the telecom industry such as Microsoft, Vodafone and Nokia) "to drive the use of mobile devices as platforms to surf the web."

Do we really need another internet domain? Websites can be configured to be available via mobile phone screens, so--why are we doing this? FT states, "A senior lawyer at Verizon Communications, the second-largest US telecommunications group, said there was no 'particular business need' for 'dotmobi' and the company had only registered to prevent others taking it...A lot of the new domain names just compound the problem of trademark infringement and fraud....Most of the new domain names have been failures and the vast majority of valuable real estate still rests in ‘dotcom’."

My guess is that some guys at Microsoft, Vodafone and Nokia decided over a few beers that they needed additional, mobile avenues for accessing, because a man and his p0rn must not be rent asunder by lagging technology.

My New Non-Sexual Crush

...Keith Olbermann. If I could emote like KO emotes, if I could write like KO writes, I wouldn't be pasting the following for you to read; I'd be writing it. D*&n!!!

It's long but worth the read:

A textbook definition of cowardice
Keith Olbermann comments on Bill Clinton's Fox News interview
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'

The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong.
It is not essential that a past president, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.
It is not important that the current President’s portable public chorus has described his predecessor’s tone as “crazed.”
Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as al Qaida; the nation’s marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit.
Nonetheless. The headline is this:
Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years.

He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.
"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by any one, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11.
The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.
The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."
The Bush Administration did not try.
Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest “pass” for incompetence and malfeasance in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs—some of them, 17 years old—before Pearl Harbor.
President Hoover was correctly blamed for—if not the Great Depression itself—then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.
Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War—though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this president.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11th, 2001 -- or the nearly eight months that preceded it.
That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the executive.
But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed, until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except for this.

After five years of skirting even the most inarguable of facts—that he was president on 9/11 and he must bear some responsibility for his, and our, unreadiness, Mr. Bush has now moved, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards re-writing history, and attempting to make the responsibility, entirely Mr. Clinton’s.

Of course he is not honest enough to do that directly.

As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.
Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News Friday afternoon.
Consider the timing: the very weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is—not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it.
The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.
It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired—but a propagandist, promoted:
Promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the Authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.
And don’t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for “e-mailing” you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth untold about this administration’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about bin Laden.

He was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist, and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon.
Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11." Of that company’s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: someone there enabled an Authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr. Bush’s new and improved history.
The basic plot-line was this: because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.
The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the Right Wingers who have advocated it—who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews—have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for bin Laden in 1998 because of the Monica Lewinsky nonsense, why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on Aug. 20, of that year? For mentioning bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag The Dog."
Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton’s judgment.
Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri—the future attorney general—echoed Coats.
Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.
And of course, were it true Clinton had been “distracted” by the Lewinsky witch-hunt, who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt?
Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?
Who corrupted the political media?
Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air, the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us, here?
Who preempted them in order to strangle us with the trivia that was, “All Monica All The Time”?

Who distracted whom?

This is, of course, where—as is inevitable—Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton, but by the same people who got you elected President.

Thus, instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it, we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently read the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus, instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since—a statement that might range anywhere from zero, to 100 percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush, you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous president to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.
You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.
You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.
Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be a textbook definition, Mr. Bush, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair—writing as George Orwell—gave us in the book “1984.”

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power...

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."
Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln’s sentence.
He might well have.
"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."
And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date, to save our country.

The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.
You did not act to prevent 9/11.
We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.
You have failed us—then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.
You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.
And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.
And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, Mr. Bush:

Are yours the actions of a true American?
© 2006 MSNBC Interactive


Monday, September 25, 2006

WJC on F.O.X.

Bill Kristol nails my exact thoughts about the Bill Clinton "purple faced rage" at Chris Wallace on FOX, at least in #1. This was no accident. Billy just kicked the debate up a notch. And thank god, since no one on the Dem side (excepting maybe James Carville or Paul Begala) has the stones to do the kicking. {#s 2 and 3 are classic right wing nonsense, but the point remains: Dems need WJC, lest we rely on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for our red meat).

LET'S DO A THOUGHT experiment: Perhaps Bill Clinton, an experienced and sophisticated politician, knew what he was doing when he made big news by "losing his temper" in his interview with Chris Wallace. Perhaps Clinton's aides knew what they were doing when they publicized the interview by providing their own transcript to a left-wing website as soon as possible Friday evening, and then pre-spun reporters late Friday and Saturday. Maybe it was just damage control. Or maybe Clinton did what he wanted to do when he indignantly defended himself, blasted the Bush administration, and attacked Fox News. What could Clinton have been seeking to accomplish? Three things.

1. Helping Democrats in 2006.

In the Fox interview, and in other recent interviews (Meet the Press, the New Yorker), Clinton has shown himself well aware of Republican efforts (engineered by the dastardly Karl Rove) to paint Democrats as unreliable in the war on terror. Clinton would have known that these were doing some damage to Democrats, and that Bush and Rove have had a few good weeks on this issue. And he would know that the Democrats haven't fought back well (e.g., they're now in a difficult position on the Bush-McCain detainees legislation).

In this interview, Clinton rallied Democrats. He reminded them of their talking points on Bush's alleged passivity in his first eight months in office (remember Richard Clarke!), and on the alleged distraction posed by Iraq from the more worthwhile war in Afghanistan. He nicely laid the predicate for the leaked portions of the National Intelligence Estimate that appeared in the press the next day. If the Bush-Rove war-on-terror offensive stalls out this week (and much of the media is committed to making this happen), and Democrats do well in November, Bill Clinton can take credit, at a crucial moment, for discrediting the terror issue as a mere political ploy, and showing Democrats how "to fight back" and how "to stand up to the right-wing propaganda machine" (in the words of Howard Dean).

2. Helping Hillary in 2008.

Hillary Clinton has been having problems with the left wing of the Democratic party. With this interview, Bill Clinton has the entire left wing of the Democratic party rallying to him. Some of this solidarity can presumably be transferred to Hillary. And the dangerous move of the left-wing of the party toward Gore and Edwards, and their rise in national and Iowa polls respectively, can perhaps be stopped.

3. Intimidating Critics.

Clinton wants to make it incorrect, or at least impolite, to criticize his record on terror. Chris Wallace stood up to him. Will others? Will his next interviewer raise the same set of questions? Will they be willing to take the criticism of being "conservative hit men" or part of the vast, Fox-centered right-wing conspiracy? Bullying and intimidation sometimes work. Clinton has used both effectively in the past. Now he wants to put out of bounds certain perfectly legitimate and straight-forward questions. Can we debate which party--based on their practice when in power--can better deal with the jihadist/terror threat? No, according to Clinton. That's illegitimate right-wing propaganda. Whose personal reputation benefits from putting such issues out of bounds? Which political party benefits? Which 2008 presidential candidate?

Bill Clinton is a smart (and calculating) politician.

United 93: Is it Wrong to Pan This Movie?

I watched the movie United 93 this weekend, after having the netflix DVD sitting around for weeks on end. I had no sooner rented it than I started to wonder if I could watch it without feeling icky, that it was too soon, that I didn't want to relive that day through the eyes of the passengers on the plane. Finally, having nothing else to watch, I inserted the disc and pressed play. Luckily, there was nothing for me to have worried about.

With no disrespect to the days events and the people involved in them, the only way I can characterize this movie is in the words of J who called it "a re-enactment." That's it. As the credits rolled I said, "I'm trying to figure out why this movie was made. It didn't answer any questions, it didn't expand my understanding of the events and it didn't necessarily go out of its way to do honor to the victims of the attack. It was, like J said, simply a re-enactment of the days events; nothing more. In which case, you can just read the 9/11 Commission's report.

So if you feel strongly that you must sample all 9/11-related fare, go ahead. But if you are looking for a movie with a viewpoint or with a story to tell (beyond the story that's already been told and told and told), you might want to look elsewhere.

As always, I watch 'em so you don't have to.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bush's Bad Grammar

Unbelievable. Click Here
for carpetbagger's great piece on the following exchange between Wolf Blitzer and President Bush:

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public, a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war, if not already a civil war…. We see these horrible bodies showing up, tortured, mutilation. The Shia and the Sunni, the Iranians apparently having a negative role. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq is still operating.

BUSH: Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people…. Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.

How do you like that? The Commander in Chief of the United States says that the whole story of your child'd/husband's/wife's/mother's/father's death in Iraq will be nothing but "a comma" in the history of Iraq. Unbelievable insensitivity and stupidity, especially in light of the recent findings in the 30-page National Intelligence Estimate, which (from the WaPo) "cites the 'centrality' of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document."

So all of the death and destruction in Iraq (and here at home for the families of servicepeople killed or injured)--and the now-confirmed region- and world-wide instability it has fueled--will be "just a comma"? What else do we need to hear from this President to finally and at long last KNOW that he is not only criminally clueless but breathtakingly negligent in all the ways that matter?

God help us.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shanah Tovah

L'Shanah Tovah to those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

I was at Johns Hopkins today. The infusion chairs are very close together, so I sat down in one next to a painfully thin African-American woman. As I sat and waited for my infusion, I couldn't help but notice that she was crying. I sat awkwardly for about 5 minutes and then just decided I'd risk intruding and being shut down by a person in obvious personal pain rather than ignore someone in obvious personal pain. I said, "I don't mean to be intrusive, but is there anything I can get for you? Can I do anything?" She said, "No, baby. I'm okay. It's just...they just told me that there is nothing else they can do for me."

All the air went out of my lungs. As convoluted as my medical dramas have been, I still did not know what to say to someone who just found out that she is going to die. All I could muster was, "I'm so sorry." I found my eyes filling with tears for this total stranger.

At this point one of the nurses came up and asked her what was going on, and she told her the same as she told me. Their exchange gave me a window into another faith that I'm glad I received on the eve of my own religious holiday. The nurse said, "Baby, it is not over for you, because your faith is in God, not in these doctors. You are not going to die until God tells you it's time to die. It's easy to put your faith in men when you know where you faith should be. God has his plan for you, and if it means you go on to Glory, then you do. But if it doesn't, then no amount of them telling you it's over is going to make a difference. You live by God's plan, not man's. But whatever the case, you know that there is a life after this one, so you have nothing to fear."

Wow. Because the nurse and the patient shared the same faith, she was able to truly comfort this woman in a way I could never have come close to, and in a way that would not at all have been my approach. She essentially said, "if you are going to die, then that's God's plan and you don't need to sweat that, because God knows more than you do." It was a statement that I wanted in my head to dispute and find fault with, but in my heart found comforting to consider.

People who are not religious eschew the "false" comfort of religion. But I can say, from my own perspective of losing my Dad, that having faith in things not seen offers a very real, very true comfort. Now seven months after my Dad's passing, the only time I really cry is when I say the Mourner's Kaddish. All other times I hold it together or don't really feel like I need to cry. But I barely get to the third word of that prayer without knowing that the release of grief is in the mail--fed ex. It offers me comfort in a way that allows me to cry, knowing that life goes on and that God remains good.

In her Christian way, that nurse was saying the same thing: there is a life after this one, and it's easy to get sucked into thinking that this is all there is.

On this new year, I think of the following amazing (to me) quote by Shmuel Sperber:

"Religion offers answers without obliterating the questions. The become blunted and will not attack you wiht the same ferocity. But without them the answer would dry up and wither away. The question is a great religious act; it helps you live great religious truth."

Call it "false" if you like, but to that poor woman today, it was as real as can be.

May this new year be a good one for all of us, whatever our religion.

The Clash, via Pinkerton

The latest Pinkerton article; well-said, about how we're going about resolving the East-West issue in the wrong way.

Clashing left and right - and wrong
September 21, 2006

Are we headed toward a clash of civilizations? Or toward world peace, through freedom and democracy?

Four significant world figures - President George W. Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Pope Benedict XVI - have spoken out on these questions, each with different answers. So they can't all be right.

Let's start with the pope, who on Sept. 12 delivered a speech in which he quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor saying that Islam was "evil and inhuman" and that its doctrines were "spread by the sword." The pope has apologized, sort of, for those remarks and declared his "profound respect" for Islam. But amid all the erudite word-parsing in the days since, one must conclude that the pontiff meant what he originally said.

And from his point of view, why shouldn't the pope hold fast to his anti-Islamic opinions? At one time, the Middle East, the birthplace of Jesus, was mostly Christian, and then after the Arabs conquered the region, in the seventh century, it became mostly Muslim. How can a Christian leader be expected to be happy about that religious conversion? And yet at the same time, for their part, how can Muslims be happy about what the pope said?

Many in the West will answer those questions this way: The pope is right, and the Muslims are wrong. But many in the East will say just the opposite - and that's how clashes of civilization get started. And different people, with different views, often resort to violence to settle differences.

Now to Ahmadinejad. Fresh from his enthusiastic reception at a Cuban conclave of 118 "nonaligned" nations, most of them hostile to the United States, the Iranian leader came to the United Nations this week and accused the United States of being an "empire." But, he said in a triumphant voice, the era of empire is over. Most Americans will undoubtedly reject Ahmadinejad's formulation, but billions around the world will probably agree with him. Once again, the clash of civilizations.

Next, Chavez, who seems determined to make Ahmadinejad look moderate. In his UN speech, the Venezuelan declared Bush to be "the devil." Such words will strike many of us as mere buffoonery, but once again, others are likely to agree with his vehement anti-Americanism, if not his precise words.

It's probably hard for many Americans to fathom the deep and obscure sources of all this hostility to the United States. And indeed, perversely, there's much love for America mixed in with the hate; lots of America-bashers would move here if they could. But Americans need only think back to 9/11 to be reminded of the ways in which some cultures can work themselves into a homicidal rage against Uncle Sam.

So now to Bush. He's on record as saying "Islam is peace" and, further, that the desire to live in peace and freedom is "universal" among human beings. Therefore, Bush concludes, democratization is the path to world harmony. And on Tuesday, the president made that idealistic pitch one more time - to a notably stony audience at the UN General Assembly.

It's true, of course, that the General Assembly contains many dictatorial and tyrannical governments, but Iran and Venezuela are democracies, more or less. And in their demagogic way, Ahmadinejad and Chavez represent huge constituencies, not only in their countries, but around the world. Those two men don't hate America - and our allies, such as Israel - because they aren't free. They hate America because they hate America and its allies, period.

We live in a world in which not everyone gets along, for a combination of reasons - theological, historical, personal, legitimate, illegitimate. That's politics, because that's human nature.

So of these four leaders - the pope, Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Bush - the odd man out would seem to be ... our own president. He has his faith that he is right, but the others have their faiths, too. Hence, the Clash.

James P. Pinkerton's e-mail address is

JP in the Air

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” (George Santayana)

I miss my Dad. When the weather gets that little crispiness in the air in the morning, when the breeze is cooler than it has been in months, when the leaves start turning brown and falling to the ground and Bambina picks them up to collect them (not realizing that there will be thousands more to follow these three precious gems she's just catalogued).

My Dad and Bambina spent hours upon hours searching for, assessing, and collecting leaves last Fall. This photo is from one of their many breaks in walking, which is why I think they loved each other so much and got along so well. I was always looking to get somewhere on a schedule; Bumpa and Bambina had nowhere to be but with each other for the foreseeable near future. They walked at the same pace, could focus on the same thing (ie, two seemingly ordinary brown leaves) for what seemed like an eternity to me, and both held little regard for my protestations of "It's getting chilly; we should go in," "Why don't we go in and get some nice lunch now?" or "Seriously, we've got to go now; we've been out here for an hour." My Dad would just say, "Hell's fire! Leave the wean alone! She's havin' fun! You go in if you're bothered; we'll come in when we're done."

So I took this photo (and a few others) and went inside, leaving my Dad to his grandparent's prerogative: banishing his kid so he could finally and at long last have REAL fun with his grandkid.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Puppy Love

Bambina just got her Halloween costume. My mom found it at the supermarket (at, I'm sure, the same price as the Pottery Barn Kids catalog...). She tried it on yesterday AM and has removed it exactly once since then, since we don't allow puppies in the bath.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What The World Needs Now...Is Clinton, Sweet Clinton

I'm watching Larry King Live, something I rarely do (for fear of seven straight nights of guests like Pat Boone, Sam Snead, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rip Taylor, or any OJ Simpson trial lawyer), because William Jefferson Clinton is on talking about year two of his global initiative.

Wow. You know how they say, "You don't know what you got till it's gone"? Wow. I forgot what it was like to have a President who could put a compelling and well-articulated sentence together. No snickering, no weird grins, no half-petulant/half-exasperated answers to entirely reasonable questions. And beyond the communication tactic issues, I had forgotten what it was like to have a President who could offer thoughtful and incisive analyses--with an almost encyclopedic knowledge--of each situation.

Go to for a transcript, because I can't even begin to relate here how completely unbelievably amazing (empirically AND comparatively) WJC is on this show, on topics from Iraq to Iran to Israel to developing nations to the Pope's remarks on Islam.

Billy, I miss you. Call me!

Every Family Has One

I awoke this morning to find my otherwise happy day spoiled by the "revelation" that George Allen has Jewish ancestry. {I use the "ancestry" word loosely since, as frequent readers know, I consider Judaism to be a religion, not a race; ie, I can't become Black or Hispanic but I can become Catholic. Ergo, it's a religion.}

In light of the fact that Allen is a horse's a**, I'm bummed that we're gonna now be forced by the media to claim him, in some small way, as an MOT (member of the tribe) because his mother's family was Jewish. Argh. Especially in light of the fact that the whole "macaca" slur was apparently something his mom (of French/Tunisian origin) used to say. Great.

The WaPo puts this "revelation" in perspective by listing others who have discovered a Jew hiding in The Family Tree: John Kerry, Wes Clark and Madeleine Albright, to name a few.

Why is this a revelation? And why is it an issue? Can't we just accept that this is 2006 and every family (even YOURS) has a gay uncle, a Jewish great grandfather, a distantly-related African-American cousin, and whole host of other "heritage/ancestry" issues that really are no big deal? (Even Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney have beloved family members who are gay, remember...) I'm a pale white, platinum blond, Scottish, Jewish woman with a Chinese kid and some gay relatives. It sounds exotic but its quickly becoming the norm. No big deal. Family homogeneity is a myth and always has been. It's time to get over it and move on to the real issues, such as why George Allen thinks he's qualified to serve in the Senate, much less in the White House, whatever religion he practices.

Postscript: {On second thought, perhaps on the positive side, the "Jewish" thing will effectively bar Allen from the presidency. As the old joke goes: A father and son were outside the White House. The father said, "Son, the beautiful day will come when wearing a kippah and praying to Adonai will no longer prevent a man from becoming President...unless, of course, that man is Jewish."

How About Some Peace and Goodwill Under My Tree?

At Johns Hopkins today, waiting for phlebotomy, minding my own business, flipping through the usual bizarre array of magazines on those office-type end tables from what has to be the Medical Office Wood Veneer with Mauve Upholstery Furniture Distribution Center. What can I say? It's disquieting, the magazines one finds. You know they were brought there by patients because they have that lower left-hand corner (address label area) of the cover ripped, so you won't find out the home address of Sean and Mary Catherine McCarthy, recipients of Myasthenia Gravis Today.

So what do these magazines say about the people who frequent JHU oncology, and maybe about America in general (to the extent that a critical mass of us must be reading this stuff in order for the mag to continue publishing)? Well, we like our guns and our Newsweek circa 2003.

My favorite issue today was a back issue of some gun magazine (some kind of hunting/sports mag) from December 2004. The cover featured a dad in army fatigues hugging his two daughters and a rifle. The headline said, "Give Them Some Freedom Under the Tree This Christmas."

Yeah. It was a whole article on finding just the right gun for your kids. For Christmas. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. You know: Jesus. Wonderful Counselor. Bread of Life. King of Kings. Emmanuel.

Prince of Peace.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Pope's Speechwriter is, Apparently, a Jew

According to the Iranians, that is.

You know what this means, don't you? Iran has smeared the good name of Judaism. I look forward to a UN resolution condemning Iran's remarks and calling for an international apology. I will therefore now issue a fatwa for the heads of all Iranians, wherever they may live and breathe, for the insult perpetrated against Judaism. After all, my anger in the face of insult is justified.

Isn't it?
US-Zionist Plot

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Film at 11: A Catholic Priest Reads My Mind

Father Raymond de Souza, in Canada's National Post, fantastically and articulately discusses the completely irrational response of Muslims to the Pope's lengthy--and upon actual review--quite evenhanded discussion of religion, intolerance and faith-by-subjugation.

I am glad he apologized for the reaction of Muslims to his remarks, rather than for his remarks. It's time for us to recognize that there are no circumstances under which Islam (as its current loudest and scariest adherents practice it) and all other religions can coexist. The only solution is for moderate Muslims, those who say that Islam is a "religion of peace," to step up and take back their religion. I know Christians who, every day, in word and deed, work to mitigate the effects of the intolerant coreligionists who claim to know God's will. Where are the moderate Muslims? Are they afraid too?

Here in the USA--and especially on the Left--we need to separate the issues of Iraq/Bush/Israel and Islamist Jihad. The latter use the former as a "reason" for their depredations, but if we're honest we know that Israel could cease to exist, the US could leave every Middle Eastern and North African predominantly-Islamic nation, all the Jews, Christians and Hindus could be shipped to camps, George Bush could live in exile on Elba---and jihadis would still find reasons to carry out terror attacks in the West. And, as far more erudite commentators than I have pointed out, they would then focus their enmity and violence on Muslims who are not in their view holy enough. It's a slippery slope of appeasement toward a double-helix downward spiral of death and darkness.

Yeah, it's easier to believe that if we "just" do certain things or "just stop" doing certain things, that the world will become peace and sunshine and Islam will coexist happily with other religions, including no religion. But it's pure, unadulterated delusion to continue holding that belief. This is a scab that's gonna have to be ripped off and dealt with, or we are all screwed (and maybe we're all screwed regardless). There is no honor in being pacifist in the face of the destruction of western democracy and freedom. How long are we going to apologize for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought because the very notion makes others angry?

Sure, if the Pope said that Judaism was a religion of nonsense and stupidity, I'd be plenty mad. But would I demand that he be beheaded? Would I say, "the very insinuation that Jews are stupid is justification for violence?" Did I lead a posse to Mel Gibson's house to torture and kill his family, then air the video on al-jazeera? It's crazy on its face.

The notion that our policies are causing this violence is mistaken. We've certainly done nothing to help the situation, but let's be honest: jihadis, by definition, ar at war. We've just given them some "moral" cover for doing it. To that end, we need to deal with our anger and exasperation at George Bush (and our guilt in the quagmire that is now Iraq) in all the ways that matter: get him and his henchmen out of office and refuse to allow the Congress to rubberstamp his attack on American freedoms. But what we CANNOT and MUST NOT do is play the nasty game of moral equivalency, ie, "well, GWB doesn't value freedom, so why should we be mad at jihadis who don't either?; The US has screwed up Iraq, so why should we be outraged at the violence pepetrated by those who claim to be angry too? Aren't we just as bad?"

Hellooooo? No. We're not. It's just that simple. I know I'll lose my lefty credentials with the following statement, but here it is: If you don't believe that we are more moral than people who behead innocents, who shoot nuns, who hide weapons in residential areas as human shields, who call for a clergy person to be beheaded and tortured because they perceive offense at his WORDS, then I'm not sure how to convince you otherwise. I'll just leave you with this quote from Winston Churchill:

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

Canada Post

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope Gives the Straight Dope

This week the Pope quoted criticisms of the prophet Mohammed by a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." "The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable..."Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Perhaps the best response came from Pakistan: "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

Riiight. As Allah via Ace via BaseballCrank
says: "Nothing brings out the killer in jihadis like accusing them of being killers."

Friday, September 15, 2006

He's Picking Up His Ball and Going Home

Click HERE
for a great discussion at Digby's of President Bush's petulant answer to David Gregory's question about the Geneva Conventions. To recap, Bush wants Congress to reinterpret Article III of the Geneva Conventions to allow torture as a valid interrogation technique. His answer the to the very reasonable question, "What if North Korea or some other country also decided to 'reinterpret' Article III for an American POW?" was angrily defensive. He declared that he would cease the program for preventing terror if Congress did not make this change, thereby upping the ante for McCain, who are openly defying him. Which is obviously making him cranky. In fact, almost the entire conference was defined by what I can only call "petulance" from the POTUS. It was interesting to see him be so abrasive and irritated.

And by interesting I mean "scary" and "wish I was watching The Price Is Right."

Calling All Christiennes, Hindesses and Muslimettes

It's a well-known fact that hospital waiting rooms are a repository of old, crappy magazines. The truth of this fact was further strengthened for me today when I picked up a copy of the magazine produced by the Jesse Duplantis ministries. He of large, white televangelist blowdry hair and Mrs. Duplantis of blond, puffy, "That Girl" flip hairstyle. I decided to read it out of sheer boredom, in an effort to not re-read the issues of "Your Health" or something like that from the good people at Merck, Novartis, Aventis and BristolMyersSquibb.

I flipped through the magazine backwards, reaching the Letters section last. It was there that I inadvertently let out a huge guffaw followed by, "No WAY!!!" as I laughed and laughed at the incredibly obvious made-up letter from "Israel." That's right; none of the letters were signed by people; only by their location. So, "Australia" was healed and the Enemy was defeated. "Malawi" thinks this ministry is a gift from God. And....and....and...

"Israel" says it is clear to her that Mr. Duplantis is "a man of God." She backs this up by declaring her selectivity in listening to evangelists due to her status as an "Observant Conservative Jewess."

Yeah, you read that right: Jewess.

The odds of a Jewish woman referring to herself as a "Jewess" are about as likely as someone writing to Mr. Duplantis "as a colored Negro" or as a "Chinaman." After all, are Christian women called "Christiennes?" Nobody Jewish calls herself a Jewess. It's not a word used by Jewish people. It's borderline derogatory, definitely in the collection of anti-semitic taxonomy, so no actual Jewish person would use it. But I bet it's a word used cluelessly by evangelical Christians in the deep south...

So what's my point? Well, that the Reverend DuPlantis certainly knows his audience and knows that no one reading his magazine would probably be--or know someone who is--Jewish, so he can pretend that even the Unsaved think he's swell. So here's my larger question for the Reverend HairTransplantis: Isn't it still lying even if you are never found out?

Gone Fishin' Friday

Fishin' for hemoglobin, that is.

Friday is another all-day red blood cell love-in at the hospital pour moi. At the risk of sounding like I'm in high school, here is the lowdown on my medical dating life:

This time I'm at a new hospital since last month's break-up with my old hematologist (he of the hospital where they always acted like my veins were WMD: "I swear they're here, I just can't pinpoint them! Yessiree; I'm just a bit incompetent with the locating thing, so I'll make several attempts to do so, at great cost and pain..."), which led to my new hottie Johns Hopkins hematologist for a short time. Now, since I have a new, more local doctor for day-to-day stuff like transfusions, I only see my JHU Hottie Hebrew Hematologist every now and again. Sad. Luckily he's still in the picture once a quarter; can I get an amen?

So. Today's transfusion is with that new-new, not-hot, 70-something eminence grise hematologist right here in DC. He's good. And he's got the credentials, including the fact that my HHHH from JHU was a resident under him back in the day. I could regale you with his litany of prodigious medical accomplishments, but the truth is, if he's good enough for H4, he's good enough for me.

So, I'll no doubt spend my day writing a bunch of post-election tripe and random medical-drama rants, with which I will burden you post haste. But just not today.

Oh, ps: Public Service Announcement
If you are at all inclined to donate blood (or, quite frankly, have never felt inclined to donate blood), all I can say is that the whole 1-800-GIVE-LIFE thing is really actually true. Without some nice (HIV-, CMV-, Hepatitis C-negative, please!) people donating their blood in return for nuthin' but some saltines and apple juice, I'd be "tits up" right now. I'm pretty much livin' on donated blood these days since my bone marrow is on vacation, so these transfusions really, truly are mission-critical in every sense of the word. Which means the people who give blood are making a lot of stuff possible for me that would otherwise be out of reach and beyond hope. I have a relatively normal life because of donated blood, and every time I sit down to get transfused I think about how awesome it was for someone to take time out of their life to get a needle in their arm. I'm lucky and grateful.

If you're interested, contact the American Red Cross at GiveLife

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards

A brief write-up on this amazing dynamo of a woman who died today at age 73. I had a massive nonsexual crush on her, her humor, her drive, her honesty. Ann Richards rocked. Simple as that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why the Haggis is Grounded: Michael Jackson, That's Why!

I blame Michael Jackson.

Scientists have found what they call the first real evidence that restricting air travel can delay the spread of flu -- a finding that could influence government plans for battling the next influenza pandemic. Air travel has long been suspected of playing a role in flu's gradual spread around the globe each year, but yesterday, Boston researchers said they finally have documented it: The drop in air travel after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks seemed to delay that winter's flu season by about two weeks. "This is the first time that a study has been able to show a direct link between the numbers of people traveling and the rate of spread of a virus," said John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Children's Hospital of Boston, who led the research.

I know the big question after this is "Therefore what? Will it stop the spread or just delay it?" But surely there are other ways to prevent disease without completely disrupting worldwide air travel. How about asking passengers to really wash their hands, stay home if sick, and perhaps wear masks to keep the healthy, healthy. Although I understand the reticence to don a mask, since I've tried wearing my mask to public places; but I can't stand the way people look at me, like *I'm* the one whose infected with something. It never occurs to the general public that the mask is protecting ME from THEM, rather than the other way around. Or worse, they think I'm some kind of germophobe (which I am, but not like how they think) who goes shopping then heads home to her hyperbaric oxygen chamber and pet llama with my surgical mask -- the latest accessory of weirdos. So, I can see how the whole "no hair gel, no toothpaste, mandatory mask" regulation would never fly...

Like I said: worldwide flu pandemic? Blame Michael Jackson.

Number 801

Think of all the money I could have made for my family by actually working.

Think of all the brain cells I could have used for the good of humankind.

Think of all the $%^&# words I wouldn't have unleashed into the atmosphere.

Think of the embarrassment I could have spared my unsuspecting family.

Well, that was 800 blog posts ago.

Time flies when you're ranting for fun.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fresh Fruit is Dangerous to Your Health

To the person who dropped the entire container of blueberries on the sidewalk in front of my steps and just walked away, here is the ripple effect of your total lack of civility:

1. Mother walks out of her house with her toddler in her arms.
2. Mother slips on the blueberries.
3. While trying to ensure she keeps her toddler out of harm's way (ie, to prevent her head from smashing onto the stone steps behind her),
4. Mother torques her back.
5. Mother cannot lift toddler into car without doing additional damage.
6. Mother can barely drive car.
7. Mother wakes up with unbearable back spasms that make her unable to lift her arms above her elbows
8. Which, in case you don't have a child, means that mother cannot make her child anything to eat, cannot open the freezer, cannot bend down to get her a cup, and cannot lift her child at all for a full day.
9. Mother has to call HER mother, who has to drive 45 minutes, to come and help her handle basic tasks.
10. Mother loses a day+ of work and is so pissed off she has to wait to blog about it for fear of FCC language violations.

First of all, who the hell drops an entire container of blueberries on a street?! Where were you going with them? Did you have tons of grocery bags, and if so from where? There are no grocery stores within walking distance.

Second, why not just stop for one second and just kick them into the tree box, about 12 inches from where they fell? Because you DID notice that they were directly in front of a home's steps, right? I'm not even asking you to pick them all up. I'm just asking you to not be a complete d**khead and at least move them out of the main path on the sidewalk. With your feet, even. Even just to disperse the 10 I stepped in, that formed a critical mass of squishy and slippery material that damn near took out me and my 2 year-old. One blueberry would not have been an issue; I assume even five would have been okay too. But two handfuls-worth? Yep, that's a disaster in the making.

So here's my beef. It's not that the world should somehow know that fresh blueberries pose a health hazard. It's not that people have no business walking with blueberries in their bags. It's my incredulousness that someone could essentially dump the contents of something on a sidewalk and then just walk away. Whether blueberries, buttons, envelopes or umbrellas; why would it ever be okay to walk away from a mess you have made just because you don't know the people on whose property you have made the mess? It confirms my misanthropy, which is ever-growing the more I live urban style.

D*mn Blueberries.

The O.N.E. Post

As in, the "Obligatory Nine-Eleven" post.

I considered not writing this, because unfortunately it has become cliched and banal to discuss this terrible tragedy. Which is why we need to stop having week-long, multimedia memorials for it. We have to allow the grieving to become personal, for those affected, for those who lost loved ones, for those who responded to the attacks. The first year, it makes perfect sense to take a moment to reflect on the tragedy, the terror, and their aftermath. But five years on, we are now in that stage where any competent therapist would tell us we need counseling for our unresolved grief.

For those of us who were not directly affected by the attacks (which I get irritated that I sometimes have to remind people happened here in DC and in PA, as well as in New York), is it possible that the need to constantly revisit 9/11 is coming from the fact that we are less safe now that we were then? That the attack was used as the pretext for involving us in Iraq? That the Iraq-al Qaeda connection has since been proven false? Or is it because 9-11 was the first time in recent memory that the U.S. had been attacked on its own soil by non-Americans and we are still working through that paradigm shift?

Whatever it is, it needs to stop being manifested in 9-11 memorials. It does the victims of those attacks no honor to be trotted out annually for political or psychosocial gain. Every time video of those towers is aired, someone's child sees the death of their parent, someone's wife sees the death of her husband, someone's mother sees the death of her daughter. I know public tragedies are different from personal ones, in the sense that the former create a feeling that they are "owned" by everyone, while the latter generally affect only those closest to the victim. But shouldn't we begin, five years later, to let 9-11 become a personal tragedy for those affected? It does not mean it should not be a political lesson, a homeland security lesson, an example of what we hope to prevent in the future, but to cloak these concerns in public "grief" for the lost does dishonor to the lost.

It's time to begin seeing 9-11 as history, one that is still being written perhaps. But history nonetheless. Let us take a moment to think about those lost, those affected, and how we can each do our part to prevent anything like that in the future. But let's stop the presidential visits, the work closures, and endless media coverage that seem, five years later, to turn such a terrible day's events into gratuitous "tragedy porn."

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens says it way better than I do:

Sunday, September 10, 2006


This weekend my entire family is at a family wedding. I can’t go due to blood count issues. I spent Friday night feeling sorry for myself, eating pizza and watching What Not to Wear for hours. Ain’t no cure for the tortured soul like seeing some poor shmo have all of her old clothes mocked by two self-important twits and thrown in a trash can in front of her eyes. Sad, sad, sad. It was one of those days I usually characterize as very “Psalm 13:” How long, O LORD, wilt Thou forget me for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? It’s my little joke with myself for precisely those days when I am taking myself so seriously that I am certain that only THE BIBLE has the gravitas to describe my state of mind. {Take that, Emily Dickinson!}

Saturday morning, however, was a new day, courtesy of Mr. Barry Manilow. It was one of those days when I woke up exhausted from taking myself so seriously that only the musical powerhouse and showman of his generation, Baz Manilow, had the chops to capture my state of being. Those chops being, of course, Daybreak. It’s considered one of the cheesiest, most “up with people-”type songs on the planet, but d*mn if it doesn’t make me feel better every time I hear it. Bambina and I heard it in the car on the way to Tot Shabbat (monthly kiddie Shabbat services where they have these totally cute stuffed Torahs, a mouthful of cavities-worth of grape juice, and a suitcase full of musical instruments for the kids to bang on throughout the entire singfest), and by the time we got there I was all Barried-up and feeling better. We, of course, heard it in the car because I have Ultimate Manilow in the CD changer at all times, for just such a crisis.

Laugh if you will, but it works for me. Which means that I am now in the right frame of mind (ie, it's not about ME) for saying the following:

Congrats, E and J! Mazel Tov and Much Love. Don't look at it as me missing your wedding. Look at it as having one less guest with a lampshade on her head by 7pm...

You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, bridegroom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. May there soon be heard, Lord our G-d, in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts of song. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride rejoice together.

Or, as the old Gaelic blessing goes:
May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward

or, my more personal favorite:
May those who love us, love us.
And those who don't love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.

may now stomp on the glass. :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Paris Hilton's Hangover

This is why I love the smutty fun that is

Paris Hilton was arrested shortly before 12:30 a.m. this morning in Hollywood for investigation of driving under the influence. She was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI and released to Nicky Hilton, her boyfriend, "Entourage" star Kevin Connolly, and her publicist, Elliot Mintz, who arrived at the Hollywood police station just before 2 AM. In a police statement, Officer Isabella said: "The officers observed that Hilton exhibited the symptoms of intoxication. A field sobriety test was conducted at scene, and the officers determined she was driving under the influence."

Although her publicist confirmed the arrest, he claims that Paris had the minimum blood-alcohol level (.08) to warrant an arrest but counters with Paris had previously "worked" all day on a video shoot then attended a charity event where she had only one drink. "She's absolutely fine...[The DUI was] probably the result of an empty stomach and working all day and being fatigued."

Man, I just don't know who to believe. Should I believe trained law enforcement or do I believe that Paris Hilton was just trying to unwind after a hard day at work?...

You'll have to click on the link at right to get the smutty part, because I don't want you to get dinged for "language" on your work computer.

Gingrich Point by Point

Okay, so let's take Newt's American 11 point-by-point.

First, you have to give him credit for personalizing the issues right out of the gate. He starts with calling his plan "11 Ways to Say: "We're Not Nancy Pelosi." So a potential voter doesn't really have to fully understand or research all of his rantings; the voter just has to know that he or she does not like Nancy Pelosi. Well-played, Newt.

Point 1:
Make English the Official Language of Government. Fair enough. But did you notice his subtle use of the term "elite media" to label opponents of what he says is basic American commonsense. Oh--and a note from an immigrant, why don't we mandate that US-born citizens pass an American history test in English, Newt? There are plenty of people who come to this country and study that little citizenship booklet back and forth and then pass with flying colors--in broken English. You're telling me if they're not fluent they can't be Americans? I met plenty of people from your own home state, Mr. Gingrich, born and raised on Georgian soil, who had what can only be termed an embryonic ability to communicate in modern standard American English. So let's be careful where we throw the blame for a dual-language society: is it immigrants per se or is it something else?

Point 2:
Control the Borders. Again, fair enough. It is incumbent on any nation to defend its borders. No argument here. But, again, does the narrative around this idea have to be so strident? Terrorism is not the real fear of those on the Right who want to control the border. It's (see point 1) immigrants. If that's the case, let's just be honest about it. But the notion that hundreds of Mohammed Attas are sailing across our border in inner tubes is asinine. It seems, from recent airline issues--and the ongoing practice of not screening airline or shipping cargo containers--that a terrorist driving into the US from Mexico is the least of our terrorism worries.

Point 3:
Keep God in the Pledge. This is classic Republican bullsh*t. Because keeping the word "God" in the pledge of allegiance somehow fixes all that ails us, right? Jimmy Swaggart said "God" all day but was as demented and immoral as someone could get. Rappers thank God all the time while they denigrate His female creations. Keeping the word "God" is not a solution; it's just good prose for rallying people who think "we wouldn't have all these problems if we had prayer in the schools" rather than saying, for those who are religious, "we wouldn't have all these problems if we had prayer IN THE HOME." Oh--and PS--did you forget that the pledge's author Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister who was also a chairman of a committee for the National Education Association, prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute. His original pledge read, 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * 'to' added in October, 1892. ] NEA AND sans "Under God"?!! How's that for some rich irony, Newt baby?! (Thanks to PledgeQ&

Point 4:
Require a Voter ID Card. Riiight. Um, any little hamlets in Georgia where someone of a darker hue might not be able to get one, Newt? I went out to those rural areas with an African American friend when I lived there. We were NOT welcomed, and in fact, felt palpably scared by the vibe. And what will the card do? Prevent people from forging them? Let's stop focusing on all the supposed non-voters who manage to vote (one wonders how George Bush won in spite of all these illegals voting, doesn't one?), and rather on the 4-6 MILLION people whose votes were not counted in the last election.

Point 5:
Repeal the Death Tax, for Good. Whatever. This is such inside baseball, but so well-pegged by Righties as a "death tax" that the average American doesn't realize that it will never affect them unless they suddenly left, like, a million dollars to their heirs. Repeal it or don't; the only people who'll care are Paris Hilton, Bill Gates and Lindsey Lohan.

Point 6:
Restore Property Rights. Okay, one out of eleven. You've got me here, Newt.

Point 7:
Achieve Sustainable Energy Independence. From YOUR mouth, Newt, to Dick Cheney's ears!! Yeah, can you and your GOP cronies get on that for us? The whole "limiting our involvement in oil" movement? I anxiously await a progress report on that. This should be Point 1!

Point 8:
Control Spending and Balance the Budget. Great idea. Newt, you name "liberals" in this rant, but sweetie, YOUR President has increased government spending beyond the wildest dreams of any mere tax-and-spend liberal! Let's be honest: you're not about reducing government spending; you're about reducing government spending on programs you don't like. If it's to fund a war, then hell, yeah, let's spend it. If it's to fund kids getting free lunches, hell, no, that's a big government pork pie, isn't it?

Point 9:
Tie Education Funding to Teacher Accountability. Okay. Sure. Can we also tie parent complaints about teachers to some quantifiable metric of parental involvement in their child's life and education? For example (straight from a friend's actual teaching experience in one of the top three school districts in this country), if you buy your kid an SUV which that kid uses to drive himself and all his friends to Starbucks for lattes every morning, thereby making them all late to school, and you don't happen to think it's your job to make sure your kid arrives at school, on time and ready to learn, then you don't get to assess your kid's teacher's abilities. You get to reap the apathy for education that you sow.

Point 10:
Defend America From the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam. Can't argue with this. But we should also focus on defending America from the irreconcilable wings of all religious orthodoxies, from whichever religion their push to control local school boards and library book content may originate.

Point 11.
Focus on Iran and North Korea. "Any actions in Iraq need to be recast in terms of their impact on Iran. A weak America in Iraq will be unable to stop Iran. Stopping Iran is potentially literally a matter of life and death." Newt, you've got it backwards. America is weaker on Iran BECAUSE of our involvement in Iraq. We're behind the eight-ball in Iran BECAUSE of what we've wrought by our involvement in Iraq. We don't need to capture Bin Laden; we've created a hundred Bin Ladens by our flat-footed, clueless, and wholly-wrong-headed policy in that country. Our soldiers are fighting bravely and dying needlessly because of our policy in Iraq (and let us not forget Afghanistan). We're screwed on Iran BECAUSE we're in Iraq; we'll be lucky to have the resources to fight Iran, if necessary, BECAUSE they've been used and abused in Iraq.

Okay, so that's my Haggis Eleven, Newt. I'll see your response and raise you one Democratic Congress.

Newt's Back--and...Hmm...Well...Kinda the Same As Before

I don't have time to fully explicate my annoyance at Newt Gingrich right now, so why don't you go ahead and read his "American 11" points for Republicans to stay in power, and then we can discuss. At the very least, I have to give Newt credit for marketing and packaging the same old conservative nonsense that brought us the Contract With America. If he weren't in politics, he could work on Madison Avenue.

ps--anyone want to weigh in on Newt's interest in the property on Pennsylvania Avenue?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

For Our Unemployed Readers...

From the fun blog that is Average Jane
an activity if you are looking for some good work-evasion:
Google Image Labeler

For the Boys

Since I received no small amount of email regarding the train wreck that was my photo of Tom Jones and his banana hammock, I am--in the interest of gender equity--providing this photo for my male readers. As I said before, you're welcome.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pop-Up Politician

Courtesy of the good people at the Sunlight Foundation, SS Haggis will now feature "pop-up politician," a fantastic service that connects the reader to a profile of the Member of Congress, which links to their page on Congresspedia, their votes on the WashPost database, and to for their finance information.

Here's the link if you want to do it on your blog:

Here's a demo. Let's do , as the Sunlight example features. Enjoy!

Forum Santorum

A good piece on the Casey-Santorum head-to-head on Meet The Press, from our friends at

How Santorum is still taken seriously is beyond me...

Don't Be Blue, Pussycat.

This is for all the girls who are bummed to be back at work after a too-short long weekend. You're Welcome.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Geezers R Us

In further signs that I am now a genuine geezer, I watched the MTV Video Music Awards the other night and found myself perplexed by the whole thing. I NEVER thought I'd look at any kind of current music production and think, "I just don't get it. What are they saying? I can't understand a word of it! And why do they have to look so trashy?!"

But sadly, yeah. I actually thought that, verbatim. All the rappers who came onstage, all thanking God for giving them the talent and ability to rap about their bling and their ho's. All the "celebrities" whose sole contribution to the culture is appearing in a reality show featuring their at-times breathtaking mediocrity as humans beings. All the songs, most of which made no sense to me, sung by people who looked high, insane, or both. It was all I could do to not finish my rant with something like, "And I'll clean your clock, Sonny Jim!"

Send me my AARP card ASAP.

I tried to think back to when I was in high school, when MTV was all about big hair, all about Bon Jovi and Ratt and Def Leppard and a little bit of "Yo! MTV Raps" with generous helpings of LL Cool J and Run DMC. At the time I took evil delight in knowing that my dad took a dim view of "those poofs," not in the gay sense but in the sense of grown men sporting long hair and spandex trousers. I think he felt alternately embarrassed for, and angrily annoyed at them for being so ridiculous, and perhaps that is what I was feeling the other night. Bewilderment that young people could look up to acts like Chamillionaire or The Pussycat Dolls and not see them for the egregiously untalented parodies-of-themselves that they are; annoyed that this is how "far" our popular culture has come; despairing that this is the best we have to show for having the largest and most thriving entertainment industry in the world (excepting Bollywood).

In the end, I realized that the MTV VMAs simply represent the inexorable march of time and culture, from one generation to the next, each seemingly more shocking and antisocial than the last. Which means that I ought to revel in today's glorious, mediocre and annoying inanity because it will all be much worse in 10 years. So with that in mind, I did what any self-respecting geezer must do in order to regain sanity and achieve {serenity now!}. I switched over to Matlock then went to bed. ;)

Poor Michael Barrett!

Baseball Crank, perhaps the only guy who can make you laugh out loud about a very personal type of injury:

Strike Team Hits a Home Run

I've been spending my evenings with a new man. His name is Vic Mackey. He's a cop in LA. I can't stop watching him, even when I have work to do. His coworkers are incredible too. As much as I hate to share this crazy bunch of law enforcement officers with others, it's only right that I let you know how well your time will be spent watching them too. One of the top ten best shows on TV, hands down:

Steve Irwin 1962--2006

A more perfect eulogy I could not write. Read it at
Dubious Quality

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Win One for the Hipper {Broken, that is}

The Baby Daddy and I watched the Agassi-Baghdatis US Open tennis match the other night, wherein I could not hide my fervent hope that Andre would represent for us geezers by winning the match and moving on to compete with a 20-something player in the next round. I felt like I was back in high school, back when I loooooved Andre Agassi for far different reasons. I loved his ratty hair, his flourescent outfits, his partiality for small "Rebel" cameras, and his general young and brash style, backed up by fantastic talent. I spent no small amount of time on the court as captain of my high school tennis team trying in vain to replicate his awesome backhand, never realizing that I lacked his a)talent, b)talent, and c)talent.

Never mind. He was, as a preceding generation might say, a tall glass of water in what was the arid desert land of men's tennis at the time, as far as my generation was concerned. I remember laughing at the racket (racquet?) my mom had from her childhood, specifically insulting it by calling it some kind of "Bjorn Borg/Ken Rosewall wooden relic." Nothing so "dated" as that for this girl. No no. It was all graphite with fluorescent handle tape for me, as I quested to become the female Agassi of my small town.

Obviously, that didn't happen. But what did happen was that Andre grew up, got a life, got married, had kids, went bald, got a bad back, and still competes with the youngsters. This US Open will be his final tournament, and much like people cheered on Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova as their retirements approached, I want Andre to go out on a high note. A high note that recognizes all the young people he brought to the game, all the inspiration he gave to many of us as high schoolers that we could be good tennis players as well as (albeit, cocky and annoying) individuals, and the fact that he has created a full life for himself outside the game that focuses on philanthropy and giving back.

Mostly, though, I hope he wins because we geezers need something to feel happy about, now that high schoolers are laughing at my non-titanium Donnay circa 1989 excuse-for-a-racket and seeming incredulous that the one thing Andre Agassi was ever known for was his hair.

In the end, Agassi did win the match, during which John McEnroe delivered the absolute best summation of life (and perhaps this post), when Baghdatis unbelievably ran down and successfully returned a ball in a way that Agassi would have done 15 years ago: "And that, folks, is why it's great to be 21."