Friday, January 30, 2009

Stimulation Negation

A piece in Slate discussing why opposing the stimulus was good politics for the GOP:

I get it that they have to be seen to be resisting Big Government Spending while resisting the Obama Juggernaut. But is now the time for politics? Our economy is headed off a cliff and Boehner's main priority is dick-swinging? I say we play politics right back by respectfully deleting--where possible--any stimulus programs that may accrue to the districts of those voting no. Because, let's be honest with ourselves, we don't as a nation truly oppose Big Government Spending. We simply oppose it when it's not being spent on projects we like. In any case, something has to be done, and I am all for Trying Something, rather than getting all ideological at a time when we need pragmatism. I mean, hello GOP, you can't really benefit from a tax cut IF YOU DON'T HAVE A FREAKIN' JOB!!!

Update: Looks like the Dems are fighting back. This from Washington Monthly:

Pushing back against the unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama’s stimulus plan, the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures “so we can put a number on what folks voted for an against,” an administration aide said.

“It’s clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs,” the aide said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the lawmakers will have to answer to their constituents.

“I do believe that there will be people in districts all over the country that will wonder why, when there’s a good bill to get the economy moving again, why we still seem to be playing political gotcha," Gibbs said.

And later today, MoveOn, Americans United for Change, AFSCME and SEIU will be announcing a new ad campaign targeting moderate Republican senators who might support the stimulus — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Charles Grassley of Iowa.

Who Will It Be at the RNC?

Today's big election news involves the Republican National Committee's selection of a new chair. It's newsworthy because whoever wins will set the party's agenda for the next two years, an agenda that has to bring the 'Pubs back from the brink of self-destruction.

The only problem is the slate of candidates:

Michael Steele: Lackluster fundraiser and endorser of GOP moderates. He's Black, so has the "change" mantle, but may not win due to previously-mentioned moderate leanings.

Saul Anuzis: Michigan RNC chair, considered very magnetic, but not necessarily leadership material.

Katon Dawson: Claim to fame is belonging to an all-white country club. Enough said. Although very popular as the southern states rally behind him.

Mike Duncan: Current RNC Chair seeking another term. Not much change there.

Ken Blackwell: Overseer of the Ohio "election" in 2004. Not a good choice for a party seeking to downplay its Rovian and socially conservative tendencies.

Chip Saltsman: He of the "what is so offensive about me sending 'Barack The Magic Negro' in my Christmas cards?" Tone deafness extraordinaire. Not going to win.

So there you have it: a cavalcade of mediocre candidates for a currently-mediocre party. Maybr Tracy Flick will jump in the race.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's a Snap!

I broke my wrist today after going arse-over-tit on the horrendous ice on my sidewalk, while applying ice-melt to the horrendous ice on my sidewalk. I went down, landed on my ass, which hurts a fair bit. Unfortunately I also landed on my wrist, which bent backwards in a way it was not designed to bend. It hurt so much that I damn near vomited. Instead, I dragged myself into my house and called the BBDD from my prone position on the couch, to tell him that my wrist was hurting like nothing I had ever experienced--and that I might vomit. So--Gram took me to the hospital where--after 4 hours--I was told that it was waaay broken. I guess 11 months of calcium-leaching prednisone will do that to the bones... Bah.

Anyhoo, I'm typing with 1 finger. Which means I started this post around 11am! ha ha. And my wrist is decidedly not feeling good. It's splinted till Monday, when I'll get a cast at the orthopedic surgeon's office. I was waiting to see him today when a rather gregarious joe sixpack started chatting with me. He was well-intentioned but totally out-there. He asked about the wrist, agreed that it was a tough break, then said, "But it could be worse!" I thought he was going to follow up with something like, "It's not your writing hand." Nope. He said, as he pulled a ratty sock off his hand, "It could look like this!," revealing the most disfigured and bloated fingers I've ever seen in my life. I flinched, it was so gross. Then he proceeded to ask me questions in a manner that implied that he knew all about me just by looking: "So. You arunner? I bet you're a former distance runner." Then, "Does your mom have osteoporosis? I'll bet she does, which is why your wrist broke." I felt kind of bad for him because it was clear that he derives no small amount of self-esteem from his "uncanny" ability to "know" things about strangers, so I didn't outright tell him he was full of, malarkey.

Anyhoo I'll attempt blogging again tomorrow. Hunt and peck!..peck!,,peck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Topics

Hey y'all. First of all: Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hay Fat Choy! Which does not actually mean, "Happy New Year." That's "Xin nian kuaile." Gong Hay Fat Choy means, sort of: "Congratulations! Get Rich!" So you all can have a xin nian kuaile if you'd prefer. I personally am going to attempt some gong hay fat choying in 2009.

In some delightful new Year of the Ox news: Bill Kristol is out at the New York Times for writing mostly bull. Sweet! Some of his greatest hits from HuffPo:

His very first column earned a correction, when he misattributed a Michael Medved quote to Michelle Malkin.

-- Several other corrections followed, and his track record as a pundit was so poor it drove Jon Stewart to often ask, "Oh, Bill Kristol, aren't you ever right?"

-- Who can forget when he told Stewart he was getting wrong information because he was relying too much on... the New York Times. Stewart replied: "But you work for the New York Times, Bill!"

-- He touted, of all people, Clarence Thomas as a GOP vice-presidential candidate. Or, as the sage wrote of McCain, "He could persuade the most impressive conservative in American public life, Clarence Thomas, to join the ticket."

-- Later, smitten with Sarah Palin in a brief cruise stopover in Alaska, he pushed her for Veep, publicly and privately. Then he lobbied for McCain to let Palin be Palin, or as he urged: "Hockey Mom Knows Best." So we have Kristol partly to thank for McCain's single worst blunder and a real game-changer (though not as he intended) in the fall campaign.

Next up, the Rightosphere is all up and wiggy about Obama's first formal interview as POTUS with--wait for it!--Al Arabiya TV. See?! He's a "half-breed muslin!" I think he did the right thing, diplomatically speaking. It's CNN covering the speech, some of which they show. It's worth watching, especially for David Gergen's comments around 5 minutes in, which are a far better explication of my thoughts than mine. Watch it for yourself:

Next up, another movie for you, a very funny spoof on the "hazing" Robert Gibbs received in his first press secretarial outing. Hat tip to Oliver Willis:

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Pics

Most of these are courtesy of JackandJillPolitics and Huffington Post.

Let's start with my favorite:

Then, the personal aspects of the official event:

And, to prove that these kids are not superhuman:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Revolution Just Might Be Televised

Bambina and I watched some of the President's (I love saying that!) speech at the Congressional Luncheon (you know, the one where both Kennedy and Byrd had health incidents). I was explaining to her why this was such a historic day in American history, and it just led us down all kinds of conversational paths. We talked about those old days when people who weren't white weren't allowed to do certain things and weren't thought of as smart as white people, etc. I realized, as I was explaining that African-Americans, Black people, have African ancestry/Asian-Americans have ancestors from one of several countries in Asia, that she doesn't really get race yet. She completely thinks she is the same as Barack Obama because "his skin is the same color as mine; well, he's a *little* lighter than me, but we're both still brown." My point was that African-Americans in particular were the focus of the civil rights movement (which is not to say that life was a picnic for our Chinese immigrant friends back in the day), but she's not having it. Which is fine with me, because any day my child sees a person with whom she identifies running the country, that is a good day. Now I just have to get a bunch of states to ratify a constitutional amendment allowing naturalized US citizens who have lived continuously in the US since, let's say, the age of 12 months, to be eligible for the Presidency. Doesn't it seem a *wee* bit ludicrous that someone not born in the USA but genuinely, technically a lifelong citizen cannot run? I mean, I moved here at 8 years old, who knows what kind of espionage fantasies I harbor, right? Fair enough on blocking me. But a 9 month old baby? Let's be real. Bambina For President!! :)

Speaking of civil rights, I was telling her about MLK when I realized that it all started with Ms. Rosa Parks. So I told her the story of the bus boycott, and Miz Rosa saying that she was not moving from her seat on the bus because what does skin color have to do with bus seating, and how that started it all; that it took just one woman saying "Enough is Enough" to start a ball rolling that changed the world. She LOVES this story, so I had to tell it over and over again. After the 12th retelling Bambina said, "Mama, there is something I want to tell you." Okay. "You know what I would have done if I was Rosa Parks?" "No my love, tell me!"
"I would have karate-kicked that bus driver and put him in jail till he listened to my words."

So now you know. For all of you sick of hope and change and positive, nonviolent blah-dee-blah, Semiviolent Resistance will be the cornerstone of the Bambina Revolution.

Who "Flubbed" What?

The parties aren't even over yet and the Rightosphere is in a lather. Over economic policy? No. Over military strategy? No. Over Obama's "flubbing" of the oath of office (further proof he doesn't love America, I'm sure). Unfortunately for them (Drudge, I'm looking at you), you should actually read the oath before breathlessly posting nonsense on a blog. As in, the Chief Justice was the one who got it wrong (I wonder if this is now proof the HE does not love America?):

ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama...
OBAMA: I, Barack...
ROBERTS: ... do solemnly swear...
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...
ROBERTS: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...
OBAMA: ... that I will execute...
ROBERTS: ... faithfully the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United States faithfully...
ROBERTS: ... and will to the best of my ability...
OBAMA: ... and will to the best of my ability...
ROBERTS: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

What A Speech

I'll blog it later. It was pitch perfect. Pitch perfect.

A Change Is Gonna Come

We're liveblogging the Inauguration (at least until I have to go pick up Bambina at 12:30!) My girl and Haggis Roving Reporter JulieG is actually on the mall today and hopefully she'll give us a full report tomorrow or later tonight.

11:04am: The POTUSes are in the Capitol and they are now introducing the VIPs, such as the Supreme Court, etc. I feel so happy. My facebook status currently reads: "I'm so happy; I feel like the moving fan has finally arrived to move my broke-ass, cheating boyfriend out of my apartment."

11:08: Oh man! It's the Quayles! God bless. They actually look younger now than they did then. I'm onto you and the Botox, Marilyn!

I feel like we're waking up from a long national nightmare. The problems remain, and in some cases are worse than ever before, but we can't keep doing the same thing and expecting a different and better result. It's time, it's time, it's time.

I'm very interested to hear what Obama will say in his address. No pressure, though, Barry! However, beyond the individuals at play here, what strikes me most as I look at all the rivals and opponents on the stage, is the power of American democracy. Another peaceful transfer of power in these United States. God Bless America for that.

11:14am: Former POTUSes taking their seats: GHWB, Jimmy Carter, etc.

11:24: Sasha and Malia!! And their grandmother, Mrs. Robinson. Who will be moving into the White House to help with the girls. The BBDD says, "As if the guy doesn't have enough on his plate!" I reminded him it's a pretty big house. ;)

Oh! Here comes Areefa! And man is she rocking that hat! Digression: African-American women of a certain age have the BEST hats. That is a fact.

The First Ladies (Laura and Michelle) are out. Now we are awaiting GWB.

Cheney getting wheeled in! Apparently twisted his back moving boxes into his new home.

Here comes GWB. The last time we have to hear Hail to the Chief while looking at his fakakta punim.

CNN is showing Obama coming down the hall; the crowd sees it too on the jumbotrons and erupts. Here comes Joe Biden. Here comes Obama looking pensive. We're waiting for his official introduction now at 11:41am.

A sea of people for 2 full miles all the way back to the Lincoln Memorial. It's amazing to see.

Here he comes!!! Barack H. Obama! The crowd--and my couch--erupts!! Everyone takes their seats. Let's get it on, America!!!

Feinstein is giving the opening remarks. The maligned and detestable Rick Warren is now giving the invocation: "Bless and protect him." I'll say an Amen to that. 11:50am

11:54am: Aretha is singing My Country Tis of Thee. Still rockin' that hat.

11:57am: Joseph Biden is sworn in! On a sick note, I guess it's important that they swear in the VP first. If they did the POTUS first and he immediately dropped dead, we'd have no chain of command. It's official!!! Yay!!!

Now the musical interlude. Perlman, Ma, and others. Okay, here's a question: while the music is playing, is Joe Biden now George Bush's VP?

I just learned from CNN, my constitutional advisor, that Obama is the President at noon, with or without the oath of office. Which means:


OKAY--on your feet, America! Here comes the oath! YEAH!!!!!! PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!

And now for the speech, which I will cover mostly later. But here's a little before I have to leave to get the Bambina at school. Or, maybe I should let her sit there a while; after all, she did vote for McCain... ;)

Speech: Thanks Bush for service and generosity during transition. Classy.
I'll blog it later because I really want to hear it and take it in.

Happy Inauguration Day, America!!

I Want Peace and Money

I'm just going to say it. Well, actually, I'm going to steal Chris Rock's words:

CNN: What's it going to be like for you on Inauguration Day?

Rock: It'll be a cool day. It's weird. I've never watched an inauguration. I've never watched anyone get sworn in. You know, it's like Election Day and then you look up and somebody else is the president two months later. It was never like, "I can't wait till tomorrow. Oh my god! They're going to swear in Jimmy Carter!"

CNN: Are you going to watch this one, though?

Rock: I'll put it this way -- like any business is going to be getting done while this guy is getting sworn in. Like I'm going to be in a meeting. Everything is going to stop for however long it takes. Hope they get to it -- hope it's not like I gotta listen to three different versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" or something. I hope it's not like Rosa Parks' funeral, where everybody f***ing speaks.

CNN: What are you hoping Barack Obama does for this country? What do you think is his most important task?

Rock: You know, if you're the president you only have two jobs: peace and money. That's it. I mean, it's like, what did Clinton do? We were at peace and we had a budget surplus. That's it. That's the gig. The closer you get us to those two goals, you know, that's pretty much the gig. Is that too much to ask for?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let's Count It Down to Zero Together, Shall We?

H/T to JulieG for suggesting this.

We Are One: The Concert

Hmm. Okay. I love Barack Obama and I love Stevie Wonder. I also love John Legend and Garth Brooks. But I found this concert to be a wee bit uneven. Bambina watched most of it with us (getting a special and rare late night dispensation because tomorrow is a holiday), and also pronounced it all "boring" except for Bettye LaVette singing A Change Is Gonna Come with (wait for it...) Jon Bon Jovi. Bambina summed it up when she said, "I like the song and I like her but I just don't like him singing it." Don't get me wrong; it had some really great music in parts, and a lot of meaning from many of the songs. Who doesn't love Mellencamp doing Pink Houses and Stevie doing Higher Ground with Usher? But, hello, I'm just gonna list the speakers and performers to whom I give the hairy eyeball without apology:

--Marisa Tomei
--Rosario Dawson
--Kal Penn
--Jamie Foxx
--Jack Black
--That old faithful who brings The Tiresome to every show he attends: Mr. Tom Hanks
--The world's most self-righteous band: U2

I'm not going to dis Bruce Springsteen because I recognize that such remarks might be branded heresy.

What I did love was Obama's niece (the little Asian girl in the pink jacket sitting behind him) totally sleeping through the whole thing. I also loved seeing Sasha with her digital camera taking pics of Mary J. Blige and Usher. I loved Garth Brooks, but will say that his pants may have been just a SMIDGEN too tight. I loved Joe Biden giving his remarks in that half-yelling hectoring voice we've come to know and enjoy. I loved Stevie Wonder. I loved Mary J. I loved that Obama gave a totally average speech. (I was telling the BBDD that Obama must live with the curse of M. Night Shyamalan [hey! why wasn't HE there?!]; as in, you make The Sixth Sense and all of a sudden everything else you do must exceed that insanely high standard. You give a seminal speech on race in Philly, where else can you go? Best go to your election night speech, yo. Where can you go from there? Best not wear out your mojo at a Sheryl Crow/Josh Groban concert; save that voodoo for Tuesday).

Anyway, big ups to HBO for airing the concert for free. Big razzies to them for cutting it off 8 minutes early in the middle of America The Beautiful. I'm all "..and amber waves of grai-" and we get the pointed Black Box of Death message across the screen: "YOU ARE NOT SUBSCRIBED TO HBO," as if I've been pirating the damn thing since 1981 just to watch Private Benjamin and Ordinary People for free. Way to kill my buzz, home box office. I curse you with the acceptance speeches of a thousand Tom Hankses!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Letter to My Daughter: Inaugural Weekend, January 2009

Dear Bambina,

Throughout the past year our family has been very involved in the presidential election. By the time you read this, you may not remember any of our work at Obama lemonade stands, or our lawn sign that you called our "Welcome Barack Obama to our house!" sign, or the numerous T-shirts I bought, or the super fun Obama-Biden magnetic bumper sticker you took great pains to place Just So on our car, or the fun we had back and forth as you declared your support for John McCain regardless of our Obamamania.

You may also not remember this, your first real MLK Day weekend. You just learned in preschool about the work of Dr. King, and you were clearly bothered by seeing photos of people having ketchup poured on them because they were sitting at counters reserved for people with white skin. Kids have an inherent sense of fairness and justice, and I can tell that you are struggling to understand and make sense of a world in which this was ever acceptable behavior for anyone--especially grownups. I reassured you today that I struggle to understand it too.

Which is why I am writing you this letter. I have wanted to write this to you since election night when your father and I sat on our couch the whole night watching the returns, and I choked up as CNN announced that Barack Obama had won the election. I have not written it because I wanted the elation to subside, I wanted to write this from a place of realism rather than celebration, and more honestly, I have not known how to begin to tell you why this election, this inauguration, means more to me than any I have ever experienced; perhaps because my primary reason is: YOU. You, my love, are the reason this is so special to me.

President-Elect Barack Obama kicked off his Inaugural festivities today with a whistle-stop train ride from Philadelphia to Washington DC. He and the soon-to-be First Family rode in a train car built in 1939, a year when a person with brown skin in America could never have been a passenger on such a car, much less have ascended to the Presidency of the country in which it was built. Even during the time of Dr. King--just a short 40 years ago--the very idea that a black man could be President of the United States was considered nothing short of lunacy. I would venture that even as recently as October 2008, a large portion of our country did not believe that a black man could ever win a national election for the Presidency. We proved those people wrong.

You and I have discussed many times about those days in the past when girls were not allowed to do things like become doctors or vote or fly into space. We discussed how Sally Ride and Sandra Day O'Connor and women like them across the country said (in your words), "Too bad! I'm going to do it anyway!" And in so doing, changed the world for all of us. This election is much like that, for people of all races. You are a woman; you cannot be told "you can't," because you will simply say, "Too bad! I'm going to do it anyway!" Likewise, you are a woman of color, and this election is one more sign that you--and all children of all colors and races--will be able to say when told that they can't be or do or become something, "Too bad! I'm going to do it anyway!" Barack Obama said, "Yes We Can." His supporters said, "Yes We Can," and together we changed the world. No, racism is not gone. Hatred has not been eradicated. Petty bigotry has not been erased from our society. I fear that you will encounter these evils regardless. I simply pray that by the time you read this letter, my elation that a man with brown skin--the son of a white mother and African father, the brother of an Asian sister, the uncle of Asian nieces and nephews--will occupy our nation's highest office, will seem quaint and sadly outdated.

That said, we did not vote for Barack Obama because of his skin color. We voted for him because he brings qualities to the office we believe our nation requires at this truly difficult time (our economic and military situations will require another letter entirely). He espouses policies that we believe benefit families and, by extension, benefit our country. Perhaps his words on election night in Chicago will tell you why we support him:

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Sweet Girl, I cast my vote in this election for YOU. For all the promise and potential and amazing power that is YOU. Because I want you to live in a strong, fair, proud and optimistic nation. Because I want you to have every opportunity in the world. Because I want you to live the American Dream just as I have. Because I never want anyone to tell you you can't do something because of your gender. Because I never want anyone to tell you you can't do something because of your skin color. Because I know that if they say you can't, you will answer with that "timeless creed," that voice inside you that says, "Yes I Can." You will say--as you always do--"Too bad! I'm going to do it anyway!"

Happy Inauguration, my daughter. I love you with everything I am and everything you will be.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do The Right Thing

There's a ubiquitous commercial for some insurance company (Allstate?) that shows someone doing something good and decent, which another person witnesses and does likewise for someone else, who does likewise for someone else... I kind of laughed at the notion that someone would act right just because they saw someone else do it one time. Well, shows what I know. The other night 20/20 did a report on the treatment of immigrants in America. They set up a fake situation in which an actor playing a deli counter guy refused to serve people who did not speak English. I was stunned and pleased to see that a decent number of people seeing this occur actually got involved to help the people ordering and to castigate the guy behind the counter (49 did nothing; 9 agreed; 33 spoke up to defend the day laborers). Yeah, it was in New Jersey, where people are genetically programmed to get up in your face. But still--it was remarkable that all of these people--white and black--were absolutely not having this deli guy's racism and ignorance--to the point of demanding their order be cancelled, storming out of the store with vows never to return, and offering to take the laborers somewhere else for a sandwich. In any case, I watched this show and hoped I'd be that person in any situation where someone is being treated unfairly.

Fast forward to yesterday at Stop and Shop, in the kid's book aisle (yes, there is book aisle): A disheveled African-American woman asked two different people about a kid's book. I heard her ask if this book would be "good for learning to read better." The first woman looked through her like she wasn't an actual human person standing there and speaking to her. The second lady grabbed her purse and borderline freaked out, to the extent that the disheveled lady had to say, "Baby, I'm not gonna take your purse; I'm just askin' about a book; my son is reading now and I'm not so good so I want to get better. Is this the right book for that?" At this point I couldn't take it anymore, watching this lady be so disrespected. I mean, think about the courage it takes to tell a total stranger that you can't read. Think about the vulnerability in offering that information to a stranger. Think about the courage it takes to try to learn to read in your 40's when you clearly have no resources save the $5 books at the local supermarket.

So I walked over and asked her to show me the book. It was one of those early reader/level 1 books by Disney about the movie Cars. I told her to look for a book with only one sentence on a page, and preferably a list of words used in the book at the beginning, so you can see them alone and then in the story. Then, realizing she couldn't do that if she couldn't read (DUH!) I found her a couple that would work, and wished her well. But I was out of sorts for the rest of my shopping trip. Like, how can you pointedly not speak to another human being who is standing in front of you asking you a question? It's not like she was menacing them or holding a knife or asking for money. She was just, you know, obviously not from the best of circumstances. And explaining that she wanted to read! What kind of person recoils from that, regardless of the asker's physical appearance? It's just a sad statement, that this lady was putting herself out there--telling total strangers that she can't really read--and they were treating her like she wasn't even worthy of their breath. Like I said, I was out of sorts the rest of the day; but what I really hope is that those two other ladies were out of sorts as well.

Book Report

You may have noticed the posting rate has been lighter than usual. The reason is that I am writing a book: a tell-all expose of my torrid romances with the poor and unknown. Or not. A friend and I are writing it, so let's hope our friendship and sanity survive! In the meantime, if I'm feeling pulled between writing and blogging, I'm going to opt for the writing. Which means SS Haggis may at times be more boring than it's usual level of general ennui. But I promise that if the book ever happens, I'll send you all a free copy when I'm mailing one to Oprah. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Just In Time for Inauguration

Fellow Americans (and esteemed international guests) this is my pledge to you for what you can expect on this blog for the next four years:

That, and:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Here is The Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People of 2008. It's way harsh and totally inappropriate; yet funny and in many cases, right on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Four is the Magic Number

Oh it's been preschooler drama central here for the past few weeks, and I am beat-down exchausted from it. There's nothing clinical going on, mind you, just the normal developmental challenges of being four (and 36...).

To wit, when kids are really little they are afraid of tangible things: dogs, darkness, clowns, whatever. When they hit the 4-5 mark, they are now afraid of imaginary things. If they can imagine it, they can be scared of it, even if it is the most ludicrous-sounding thing to an adult's ears. My child has been having issues at bedtime because she is worried that our house will blow down, or barring that, that a monster ("in an invisible costume so you won't see it") will come in and take her.

Where do you even start to manage that (totally normal but) illogical fear? I've figured out through trial and error and massive sleep deprivation, that it's a combination of straightforward explanation (come and push on this wall with me, it doesn't move and it can't move) and letting her use that same imagination to gain control over the fear (let's sprinkle magic fairy dust around the house just to be double-sure that a monster--in the extremely unlikely event of it a) existing and b) entering our home--cannot touch anything or anyone in this very safe, solid and not-falling-down house.) We're getting there, but I'm sleep-deprived in the meantime.

(In fact, our New Year's Eve was the eve that wasn't, since that was the night Bambina decided to throw down and scream and cry for about an hour because we would not go and sleep in her bed with her. It was a nightmare. She's at the top of the stairs crying/screaming. I'm in the kitchen crying after she yelled, "Mama! You ignoring me! I am so angry at you! [and then the killer:] I don't feel loved anymore!" The BBDD, bless him, was trying to maintain his own sanity in the face of the insanity of the two females in the house. It was a nightmare of an evening even though I pulled myself together after the shock of being told by my child that she did not feel loved, when I reminded myself that this child has every indication in the world that she is loved, not the least of which is that we both spent a collective 90 minutes trying to work her through her emotions until we realized that this was something she was just going to have to do and we were just going to have to let her do it--without giving her the desired payoff. Total effing nightmare--made much worse by the realization that we are so screwed if this presages her teenage years. But made better by her humor the next morning (after I very seriously told her that Mama and Dada love her more than they love anyone or anything else in the whole universe--but that's not the same as acceding to her every demand--and also congratulated her on using such great words to tell us she was angry), when she smiled at me slyly and said, "Yes, but when you don't do what I say next time, I'm pretty sure I won't feel loved again," and started laughing.

At the same time as her fears and emotions, her imagination is so wonderful. Last night she asked me why we draw hearts like that when that's not what a real heart looks like. Then as we were doing extra kisses and hugs post-fairy dust sprinklage, she asked, "What do kisses look like?" She also awakens every morning in the personage of an animal in a pet shop that I must buy before she will get out of bed. The deal is that I buy her and take her home to meet my Dad who will make her breakfast. It sounds straightforward enough in writing, but it's a whole script of what qualities I'm looking for in the pet, e.g, must be funny and sweet and love to run in the backyard, and it just goes on and on. Every day she is a dog, a horse, a sheep, whatever. Every day. It's wonderful, but not so wonderful that I don't find myself thinking, "Oh god, every damn day I have to visit this pet shop!"

She's also really into writing her own words, which is another wonderful window into her mind. Again with the fears, she wrote and illustrated a book called "Trapped" in which "Girl with her father hunting in the woods. They saw a lion. They camp in the woods with a tent. It was midnight, it was dark, it was spooky. It was so spooky that they could not find their way home. They found their way home. They were SO HAPPY!!!!!" We obviously helped her with that writing, but last week she wrote the following all by herself, again on another "book" she was creating, entitled:
"Some personis gona readth is bookto me." In some ways she seems like a teenager and in others she's still very much a baby, which is the essential challenge of being 4.

It's also a challenging time because kids this age are struggling to understand time. I read something about it that really put it in perspective for me, in terms of ensuring you don't spring stuff on your kid: "Imagine living in a world, every day, where you had no idea what time it was, what was coming next, when you'd eat, when you'd go to bed, until someone told you it was time to do it right now." Eeek. That's a pretty stressful existence--which was the author's point. So I'm trying to do a better job of really answering her question when she says, "When is bedtime?" at 3pm, and trying to give her some sense of what 4 hours feels like rather than just saying, "not for a long time yet!" And trying to structure our early evenings to give her a daily dinner-bath-bed routine that is absolutely sacrosanct so she can start powering down for bed and preparing for the separation of bedtime. Which, come to think of it, might make nighttimes easier and less scary.

So now that you've read this blog, you can have a snack, then play in the snow, then I'll cook dinner while you draw, then have a bath and then you can go to bed. :)

Judenfrei By Choice

I'm reading with increasing alarm of the upsurge in anti-semitic attacks in Europe in the wake of the Israeli offensive against Hamas. It is disturbing to say the least, especially since "peace" activists constantly complain that criticism of Israel is conflated with anti-semitism. Hello, morons. Criticizing Israel isn't antisemitic, but yelling "Gas the Jews!" is. So if you hold a rally where a good number of people are yelling things about "Jews" when you claim to be protesting Israel (a nation, I remind you, comprised of citizens of several religions or no religion at all), I'm calling bullshit on your mock dismay.

But not to worry, fellow Jews of Europe. I'm sure the authorities there will protect you from harm, or at the very least simply do their jobs. Or...maybe not. This video shows German police forcibly removing the Israeli flag from a person's window because it was "inciting" the pro-Hamas mob in the street below. German police acceding to the demands of a mob, rather than dealing with the mob itself. Hmmm... I'd be buying my family's ticket out of there TODAY. You can call me a fantasist if you want, but when the uniformed police of a country can enter your home and forcibly remove your property because it offends someone else--especially a rabble that hates your religion--the writing is on the wall. I wouldn't let the door hit my ass on the way out.

The story from the apartment owner: Today, 10.000 people demonstrated against Israel here in my hometown Duisburg (Germany) and to express their solidarity with Hamas. So, my girlfriend and me put two Israel flags out of the windows of our flat in the 3rd floor. During the demonstration which went through our street the police broke into our flat and removed the flag of Israel. The statement of the police was to de-escalate the situation, because many youth demonstrators were on the brink of breaking into our apartment house. Before this they threw snowballs, knifes and stones against our windows and the complete building. We both were standing on the other side of the street and were shocked by seeing a police officer standing in our bedroom and opening the window to get the flag. The picture illustrate this situation. The police acquiesced in the demands of the mob.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Side of Haggis

A few items that don't merit their own post:

Douglas Frantz To Be Chief Investigator for Senate Panel. It's about John Kerry's new chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. But when I first saw it I thought, "What? First Sanjay Gupta and now that guy from NYPD Blue?!"

Okay, I guess I could write a whole post on this one: Porn Industry Seeks Federal Bailout/. Yeah, I could do a whole post on the porn industry's hard times, limp sales and need for stimulation. But I'm way too high-brow for that.

The ghosts of Presidents Past, Present and Future met at the White House today for a historic lunch. (I know I'm supposed to write "an historic" but that bugs me).
I love this pic because, to me, it perfectly highlights the awkwardness of the moment. George HW is all tight in with Obama for the shot, whereas Jimmy Carter seems to be keeping himself on the periphery. And there's Billy Clinton who is just barely tolerating Obama, next to Bush who is next to Obama who won the office by tying his opponent to his presidency. It's an exercise in awkwardness, at least the way I see it. (Although, on a positive note, it's also testament to our democracy).

H/T to Oliver Willis for this link to Ben and Jerry's new flavor, Yes Pecan!, available in stores during January. Except, this flavor only works outside the South. One of the numerous things I learned while living in Georgia (such as "mash the button" and "gem clips" and "I don't mean to be ugly, but...") is that the nut of which we speak is a "pi-cahn." Why? Because as the sassy lady I worked with informed my carpetbagging ass: "A pi-cahn is a delicious nut. A pee-can is what your granpappy kept under his bed at night!"

And finally, a couple new books you might want to check out:
How to See Yourself As Others See You by the Dalai Lama--Not a new book, but new to me. It's about differentiating what we perceive with our senses and how those things really are. It talks a lot about getting over our obsession with "I," as in recognizing that we and the things around us are not separate things.

Snow by Cynthia Rylant--What a beautiful and lyrical tribute to snow and the feelings it engenders in us, adult and child alike: "The best snow is the snow that comes softly in the night like a shy friend afraid to knock. So she thinks she'll just wait in the yard until you see her. This is the snow that brings you peace...And then there is the snow that falls in fat, cheerful flakes while you are somewhere you'd rather not be. Maybe school. Maybe work..." It's a beautiful book, especially for bedtime. Which is where I'm headed now.

Hasta manana.

Chop Suey

This is an absolutely cool and amazing 16-minute presentation on Chinese-American food, which is apparently more American than Chinese. H/T to AngryAsianMan.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Devil Gets No Details

Does anyone else find it difficult to explain religion to a child? I find myself, in explaining religion to Bambina, realizing how ridiculous the whole thing sounds: God, omnipotence, spirit, source of all life and good things, no you can't see him, I suppose he's a him I guess... Oh my god! (pardon the pun)

Well, as I write this, perhaps the truth is that it is very difficult to explain religion to your child when you remove all the dogma and certainties. I want her to love and live Judaism, but I can't bring myself to tell her that it's the only way to believe in God. Or, more precisely, I don't want to teach her that someone else's religion has to be wrong for ours to be right. (Yeah, I get it for the true believers on both sides: Jesus either is or is not the Savior). But I guess I'm just going to challenge the premise that it has to be about correct or not correct theology, rather than explaining that different families have different ways of worshiping the same God, and different ideas of what God is. Which makes it hard to explain.

We just got the new Dan Zanes CD called The Welcome Table. It's a collection of funked-up traditional religious tunes like Jesus on the Mainline, Home in that Rock, Oseh Shalom. A really great collection. But (or maybe because?) it inspires questions that make me go Hmmmm. The Jesus on the Mainline of course begged the question of who is Jesus and can you really call him on the phone? I was bumbling over my description of Jesus beyond "he was a really nice man that Christians believe is very holy and very special (she has no concept of saving someone from sins so I didn't go there)." I added that Jews don't believe in him, then quickly reworded it to say that we believe he existed but that we don't see him as special as our Christian friends do. The last thing I need is her going around telling her Christian friends that there is no Jesus... Anyway, I was struggling to put it into words in a way that didn't devalue the religion of our family and friends when she helped me out. She said, "He's a nice man but we just don't think about him." Bingo, preschooler! Exactly.

Okay. But then another song, Roll The Chariot, has a line about "if the devil is in our way, we'll roll it over him." Which of course raises the issue of "what is the devil?" Well, folks. I don't believe in a devil. There is no hell in Judaism, and even if I weren't Jewish I can't see myself believing in a place presided over by a truly evil somethingorother; a place to which people are sent after death. It's just not Sound Haggis Theology, IMHO, if you also believe in a loving God--or even a non-loving God. Maybe an indifferent God would be all about having a Hell, but any god worth my time ain't havin' that. So while I recognize the power of the Fear of the Devil in keeping kids well-behaved, I'm just not going to fill my child's head with that kind of evil idea, that she might burn somewhere for eternity if she masturbates or lies or steals something. That is some sick shit to tell a kid, if you ask me. So on that one, I said to hell with ecumenism and here's to my child's mental health: "Honey, there is no devil. Some people believe in him, as a bad man who is just totally bad, but it's not real. There is no devil, period. But this is a great song, huh?!" Maybe when she's older we can have a real discussion about how hell is a place you create for yourself, whether in this life or the next. About how guilt and shame and fear and hate are their own special hells to be avoided or escaped as necessary. About how the Hebrew word "satan" simply means "adversary, " how Judaism believes that all humans are imbued with a yetzer hara (evil inclination) and a yetzer hatov (a inclination toward good), and how it is our challenge and calling to listen to the latter throughout our lives. How God is all-powerful, which means that there is no fallen angel with any power to rival God's power; all angels are obedient servants of God, end of story. Which means that the power to do right and wrong are all ours, not some personification of evil's.

Someday we'll have that discussion. Until then, I've got your backs on Jesus, my friends, but on the Devil you cats are on your own!

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 In Review

In case you missed it, Dave Barry's 2008 Year in Review column. You will pee your pants, this is so funny. DaveBarry

Okay, Okay

Since this blog lamely attempts to discuss politics (even beyond the awesomeness that is my boyfriend Barack Obama), I suppose I need to write something about the situation in Gaza. I don't really want to, to be honest, because it feels like there is already way too much heat and not enough light about this in the liberal blogosphere. If you've read me before you probably know where I'm going to land on this: if I lived in Sderot and rockets were landing near my house in which slept my child and family, you best believe I'd expect my government to make it stop. And what government worth the name wouldn't? Now, do I think this is the best thing for Israel? Not necessarily. But not because of "proportionality"--whatever that means in the context of fighting an entity whose stated purpose is your country's total eradication from the earth. But more in the sense of "and then what?" I don't see Israel wanting to be back in the business of running Gaza, but what will they do if/when they "win"? And how do you "win" against an opponent who has no interest in living side-by-side? Treaties? Meaningless. Cease-fires? Opportunities to re-arm. What are the long-term goals of this operation, short of routing the Hamas leadership (which will be reanimated, believe me)? It's easy as a Jewish person to want to defend Israel no matter what. Especially when, on the heels of these events, the usual leftie marches begin with equating Jews to Hitler, or the more recent chant in the Netherlands: "Hamas Hamas, Jews to the gas." It's a march against Israeli policies, but right off the bat it's now all about Jews, wherever we live. And I'm supposed to join with you in defense of "peace?" Fuck that. I distrust the European Left (and if blog comments are to be believed, much of the American Left) as much as I distrust Hamas.

On the other hand, J Street made this statement, which essentially nails what I'm thinking, even if it does use the ridiculous "disproportionate" word:
J Street understands that Hamas is a terrorist organization and a harsh enemy. We are neither dovish nor pacifist, nor are we blindly opposed to the use of force. We support Israel in defending and protecting its citizens from attack, including through military action if necessary and appropriate to the threat. We believe, however, that force cannot be Israel’s only or preponderant response – even to Hamas.
We are pragmatists grounded in the real world and the lessons it teaches. As such – and as avid supporters of Israel – we are asking whether the specific actions taken by Israel in Gaza actually do advance Israel’s and America’s interests. In this case, J Street believes they do not. We believe that the actions taken this week – disproportionate to the threat and escalatory in nature – will be seen, with time, as counterproductive. They will further isolate Israel and the US internationally, deepen hatred among the Palestinian and Israel peoples, foment extremism throughout the Arab world and undercut the position of more moderate Arab regimes.

What they said.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back to the Grind

Well, if that's my vacation, I guess I've had it. Such is the life of a full-time mom: your vacation never comes. Even when you have help, the job remains yours. Even if everyone else is holidaying from their jobs, your job responsibilities remain the same...and often become greater due to holiday social obligations. The mental break you get from leaving your office behind for a few days? I live in my office. My "work" follows me around and still may need me at 3am if only for a 2-minute reassurance that she is not alone in the big quiet dark house. To be sure, it's the best job I've ever had and I'd do it again in a minute. But it does make me snort out loud when someone asks me how my "vacation" was. The answer? It was the same as every other day of my life! Again, days I love, a life I love. But it ain't a vacation. Maybe when I'm able to go back to work I'll see my few hours at an office with grown ups as a daily mental vacation; who knows?

In any event, as snarky as that paragraph sounds, we did have fun. As evidenced by my total lack of time for this blog. We skateboarded, played in the snow, ate dim sum with friends and sledded.

Clearing the slide:

Actually, you know what? As I look at these pics again I realize that vacations are overrated. Because anytime you are present to see your kid have that much fun, you're automatically a lucky bastard. Which is way better than being well-rested.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

"The most prevalent opinion among our so confused contemporaries seems to be that tomorrow will be wonderful--that is, unless it is indescribably terrible, or unless indeed there isn't any."
---Joseph Wood Krutch, 1959

I have no resolutions for 2009; just some thoughts to guide me:

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"
--Kurt Vonnegut, 2003

"Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moment."

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."
--Neil Postman

Peace, good health, and contentment to all of you for 2009. Thanks for helping me get through 2008 (and 2007) with my sanity intact. :)