Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Which the Balabusta is Mean

In a charming column labeled "Israel, Stop! Just. Stop", Lorelei Kelly offers a little advice the State of Israel, who she apparently confuses with her self-destructive BFF.

Basically, the point is that violent military confrontations don't work, and that Israel is so much better than this, and I could have stood it except for this passage:

Like many Americans who grew up in the '70s, I became fascinated by Israel after
seeing "Holocaust" on television. In fact, I lived in Germany and traveled
Europe for years trying to understand how the Holocaust could have happened. I
am no scholar of history. But from Vilnius to East Berlin, I've found the old
synagogues. I've sat outside in the rain on dark cobbled streets listening to
ceremonies through open windows, I've seen where they used your ancestors'
headstones as pavement to walk upon. I've beheld the stolen art. I'm sitting
here now looking at a black and white photo of the Jewish cemetery in Prague
that I snapped before the end of the Cold War. The sadness there seemed to me to
reflect the entire continent. For years, I felt compelled to seek out these
places -- I suppose partly out of curiosity, but also out of horror and shame
that -- for whatever goddamned excuse -- we did not save the victims of the
Nazis. That the rest of us did not protect your families. I apologized for this
at every stop. I still do. I wept.

I bet you played Tsaytl in "Fiddler on the Roof" too, right? And I know you read "The Diary of Anne Frank" seven times. Also, Lorrie, sweetie, if they're holding services inside it makes more sense to go inside and get out of the rain, and maybe say a prayer.

I have just about reached a point where the next Gentile American woman who tells me how she cried and cried over the Shoah as a teenager as some kind of credential for demanding that the IDF take directions from her is going to get a tepid skinny latte poured over her head. Mit schlag, and a little cinnamon.

Lorrie, one or two more points here: the camps were finally liberated by armies, big ones, with massive force and guns. Since you like mini-series, suggest you try Band of Brothers.

And while I know you love the idea of a people who have been victimized and thus morally perfected, the State of Israel is founded on the idea of live fighting Jews, instead of saintly victims. I would say that I'm sorry if this offends you, but I'm not. If you want to argue that Israel's current actions are immoral or unwise, do so. But don't tell me about your Holocaust experience.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Population Density Crab

Mark Matthews, of ABC, just solemnly announced that Israel may send troop into Gaza, "one of the most densely populated spots on earth". Ah, the clip continues onward.

OK, as compared to, say, the Gobi desert, this may well be true. I don't know how you define 'densely populated spot', or what category you need to reach to get on the list. However, per the CIA Factbook, for July of this year, Gaza has 1,500,202 people and 360 square kilometers.

That's 4,167 people per square kilometer. MSN says 4270, using a slightly higher population quote.

This is beaten by, to name just a few cities:

Mumbai, Kolkata, Karachi and Lagos, Shenzhen, Seoul and Taipei, Chennai, Bogota and Shanghai, Lima, Beijing, Delhi, Kinshasa, Manila, Tehran, Jakarta, Tianjin and Bangalore, Ho Chi Minh City, Cairo and Baghdad.

also, Shenyang, Hyderabad, Sao Paolo, St. Petersburg, Mexico City, Santiago, Singapore and Lahore, Recife, Istanbul, Dalian and Khartoum.

and Rio, Monterey, Bankgkok, Osaka, Guadalajara, Athens, Ankara, Madrid and London.

also TEL AVIV.

Oh, and Sapporo, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Barcelona, Port Alegre, Tokyo, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Warsaw.

Now, God knows I would much rather live in London, despite the overcrowding, but JOURNALISTS SHOULD CHECK THEIR DANG FACTS.

Crank out.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My new ancestors

Over the past few years, I've been hearing more and more about these new DNA analyses they can do that break down your ethnic ancestry. Some of it appears to be BS--Oprah, for example, appears to have gotten one that claimed to tell her exactly what tribes her ancestors hailed from, and apparently they just can't do that. The basic idea, though, is fascinating. I've been asked a couple times if I would want to get one, and although the idea is a sort of cool one, I have to admit that it seems a little pointless to me. I think I know what you get back from me--Northwestern European plus Semite, and if there's something else mixed in there--well, how interesting is it to know that I have, say, West African ancestors, if I don't know who they were, or how they got mixed in the mix?

But anyway, something like that has happened to me, and without my having to offer a blood sample. My aunt sent my parents and me each a copy of the family history on my father's paternal grandmother's side of the family.

I know no one from this side of the family, mind you. I met my grandfather only a handful of times, and my great-grandmother once, I didn't grow up with any of these people. But I will confess that I find the whole document fascinating.

I didn't know, for example, that I had any ancestors who had arrived in the United States before 1890 or so, and now I learn I have ancestors who arrived before it was the United States. One line tails all the way back to 1634.

I didn't know I had any ancestors who were Puritans.

Or Dutch.

I also didn't know that I had an ancestor who, according to the family history compiled by my great-great-aunt, was a spy for Washington. Cool.

These are the kind of ancestors I find exotic when other people have them. I am not totally sure what to make of the news that they're relatives.

Huh. What would my readers think about the Balabusta joining the DAR?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vacation Lists

What always happens on breaks from work is this: I plan an overwhelming list of Stuff To Do, get some of it done, don't get the rest done, and think of the time as a failure, because I think of it in terms of What Didn't Get Done.

In an attempt to head that off this year, I plan to post on a daily or every-other basis, what I DID do.

Today I:

1. Went into SF and worked three hours at Sylvan Learning Center.
2. Went to the bank and got quarters for laundry.
3. Bought stamps.
4. Indulged in a hot chocolate.
5. Took a nap.
6. Went to the grocery store.
7. Fixed dinner.
8. Cleared the dining room table of much impacted paper.
9. Corrected the multiple-choice section of my junior's finals papers.

A nice day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Unteachable Moments

Today was the last day of work, and a bunch of us were sitting around in the teachers' lounge, picking at giant piles of cake and chocolate and baklava and...well, pre-Christmas sugar-laced gunk. Mr. Zamir, the science teacher and football coach is grading a pile of finals. "Does anyone want to hear a student's definition of matter?" he asks.

"Sure," we say.

"Matter," he reads, solemnly, "is anything that takes up space and has gas."

Silence. Then "Mass," says one of the other PE teachers. "That has MASS."

Anyway, the conversation progressed to hilarious student misunderstandings of the theory of evolution, which led my own thoughts to my own horrifying classroom moment last year when the theory of evolution bit me on the tuchis on the second day of class.

No, I don't teach science. It was a history class. I wasn't even trying to argue for evolution. I was positing a heliocentric solar system, which has been pretty noncontroversial at least since the late 1980s. But I still think that what happened was largely the fault of Charles Darwin's detractors.

It was modern history, and I began with...Copernicus. Good ol' Nick, and his heir, good ol' Galileo, hero of my favorite Indigo Girls song. On day one I had each kid draw a solar system. This was harder than I expected, because they didn't know what the solar system looked like, but I forged on. Day two, I began by talking about the Scientific Revolution, and the enormous breakthroughs in science taking place in the late Renaissance, including the firm establishement of a heliocentric solar system.

My first class was pretty OK with this. My second class was not. When I asked for questions at one point, a girl raised her hand. "Yes?" I said cheerfully.

"How come you trying to tell us not to believe in God?" she said.

"Hawaahaahha?" I said intelligently. Then, "Uh, I'm not." Casting about for some link, I said, "although the Church was hostile to these thinkers at the time, hundreds of years ago, they've long since recognized the scientific validity of their work." I kept going.

Another hand. "Yeah?"

"How come you believe in SCIENCE and not GOD?"

And all hell broke loose. Metaphorically speaking.

What I was able to work out, eventually, was that for a number of my students, the word "science" had only one meaning, AKA "evolution theory", AKA "your grandpa is a monkey", AKA "the Bible isn't true", AKA "you don't believe in God", AKA "you want to get us to not believe in God".

Most of these kids also had major behavior problems, and hence were gone from George C. Moonbat long before Tante M. showed up to teach the science class. God knows what would have happened when these guys met Tante M., a stately six-foot-one West African lady who dressed traditionally and looked like a queen from a children's picture book. Tante M. took no crap.

I tried, really, I did. I discussed medicine, germ theory, electronics, telecommunication, trying to point all out of the scientifically based things in their lives which were even used to SPREAD the Gospel. No luck.

A truly Unteachable moment. It was me, with only the power of grades (like they mattered to kids from North Richmond), up against a preacher with the power of the Almighty on his side. I was well and truly doomed, and I sang "Give Me That Old-Time Religion" all the way home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Sad Case of Adolph Hitler Campbell

There are people who are evil, and there are people who are stupid, and there are people who just make you go 'huh'? And then there are the parents of young Adolph Hitler Campbell of New Jersey, aged 3, who manage to combine all three categories.

Little Adolph is in the news this week because a Shoprite in New Jersey refused to make him a birthday cake. They refused because the parents wanted the kid's entire name on the cake, and apparently Shoprite does not force its cake decorators to write "Happy Birthday Adolph Hitler Campbell" on cakes if they don't want to, and they don't want to. The parents should have figured this out already, because apparently they went through the same thing last winter when little Adolph turned two.

Forthwith is the article from lehighvalleylive.com, detailing the situation, with commentary by me. This is for no particular reason, except that I find this story remarkably bizarre, and, well, sometimes you just gotta comment.

Holland Township man names son after Adolf Hitler
Sunday, December 14,
The Express-Times
HOLLAND TWP. In a living room decorated with war books, German combat knives and swastikas, a 2-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, played with a plastic dinner set.

The boy, asked his name, put down a tiny plate and ran behind his father's leg. He flashed a shy smile but wouldn't answer. Heath Campbell, 35, the boy's father, encouraged him.

"Say Adolf," said Campbell, a Holocaust denier who has three children named for Nazism.

Again, the boy wouldn't answer. It wasn't the first time the name caused hesitation.

Adolf Hitler Campbell -- it's indeed the name on his birth certificate -- turns 3 today, and the Campbell family believes the boy has been mistreated. A local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with "Adolf Hitler" on it.

Please note that they believe that it's the supermarket that is mistreating their child.

The ShopRite in Greenwich Township has also refused to make a cake bearing the
name of Campbell's daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns 2 in

Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler, turns 1 in April.

Now, the girls, I think, are going to have an easier time of it. JoyceLynn Campbell? Jeannie Campbell? Perfectly nice names. (Also, since these people, besides being evil and weird cannot SPELL, "Hinler" doesn't actually mean anything.) The only solution I can think of for little Adolph, besides changing his name to "Henry" is to go by "Dolph" and pretend his parents were mad about Lundgren.

"ShopRite can't even make a cake for a 3-year-old," said Deborah Campbell, 25,
who is Heath's wife of three years and the mother of the children. "That's sad."

Yes. ShopRite's refusal to make the cake is the sad part. (Someone did point out on the CakeWrecks blog that this child is being doubly punished--he has awful parents and no birthday cake.)

A director for the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia applauded the
supermarket's decision. An Allentown psychologist said the names would cause
problems for the children later in life.

Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman, said the grocer tries to meet
customer requests but rejects those deemed inappropriate. "We believe the
request to inscribe a birthday wish to Adolf Hitler is inappropriate," she said.

The grocer offered to make a cake with enough room for the Campbells to
write their own inscription. But the Campbells refused, saying they would have a
cake made at the Wal-Mart in Lower Nazareth Township. The Campbells say Wal-Mart made cakes for Adolf's first two birthdays.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said the store won't put anything illegal or profane on a cake but thinks it's important to respect the views of customers and employees.

"Our No. 1 priority in decorating cakes is to serve the customer to the best of our ability," Anna Taylor, the spokeswoman, said from Bentonville, Ark.

Since this is the company whose customers trampled an employee to death a couple of weeks ago, I would say YES, WalMart does seem to have a committment to going that extra mile for the customer.

If the Campbells have a legal case over the refusal, it would be that the family was denied service because of race, ethnicity or religion, said Shannon Powers, of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, a state agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws.

The Campbells, she said, would have to prove ShopRite didn't make a reasonable attempt to provide service it provides others. She said the offer to make a cake with room for an inscription would probably count as a reasonable attempt.

"It sounds like they (the supermarket) don't want to offend other patrons or do something offensive to their own sensibilities. If that's the motivation, that's totally different from discrimination," Powers said.

The Campbells have swastikas in each room of their home, the rented half of a one-story duplex just outside Milford, a borough in Hunterdon County. They say they aren't racists but believe races shouldn't mix.

We're not surprised, are we?

The Campbells said they wanted their children to have unique names and didn't expect the names to cause problems. Despite the cake refusal, the Campbells said they don't expect the names to cause problems later, such as when the children start school.

"I just figured that they're just names," Deborah Campbell said. "They're just kids. They're not going to hurt anybody."

Heath Campbell said some people like the names but others are shocked to hear them. "They say, 'He (Hitler) killed all those people.' I say, 'You're living in the wrong decade. That Hitler's gone,'" he said.

"They're just names, you know," he said. "Yeah, they (Nazis) were bad people back then. But my kids are little. They're not going to grow up like that."

"Other kids get their cake. I get a hard time," he said. "It's not fair to my children.

"How can a name be offensive?" he asked.

This is what I find fascinating about these people--that they seem to want to project the idea that they just sort of accidentally called their kids Adolph Hitler, Aryan Nation, and tried to name their daughter after Himmler but failed--and that other people are maliciously acting as though there is significance to these fairly aggressively anti-social acts.

There's basically two reasons to name your child "Adolph Hitler". One is that you deeply admire Hitler, and the other is that you really want to piss people off, and don't care if your child suffers in the process. These folks do not appear to be willing to cop to either.

I could, in a vague, abstract way, get it if they were simply unrepentant Nazis, but they don't quite seem to be able to get there. Which is a pretty formidable disconnect for the parents of a small boy called Hitler.

Robert M. Gordon, a clinical psychologist in Allentown, said the names would hurt the children.

"Certainly society is going to be hostile towards those kids, especially when they go to school," Gordon said.

Gordon, that's a Jewish name, isn't it? A psychologist, huh?

More than that, he said, the children would be harmed by their parents' views.

"By the time they get to school, they will already have been damaged," Gordon said. "Any parent that would impose such horrific names on their children is mentally ill, and they would be affecting their children from the day they were born. Only a crazy person would do that."

The problems the children might encounter in school, he said, "would be icing on the cake."

So to speak.

Barry Morrison, a director at the Philadelphia office of the Anti-Defamation League, which works to stop anti-Semitism and bigotry, said the organization had never heard of children named for Hitler, Himmler or Aryan nations.

Betcha he was OK with that, too. Although I have to say that neo-Nazis do seem to choose weird names for their children--there was a singing pair of white supremacist girls in the papers a while back called Lynx and Lamb. Odd, that these are the same people who sneer at African-American parents for choosing euphonious names with original spellings for their children. Seriously. De'Andre or "Adolph Hitler"--whose resume gets to stay in the stack?

He found the names offensive and commended ShopRite's decision.

The Campbells, Morrison said, "might as well put a sign around their (the children's) neck that says bigot, racist, hatemonger. What's the difference? Why not call the kid Peace or Tranquility or Hope or Acceptance?

"It's doing them (the children) a tremendous disservice, and it's cruel that parents would place these names on children," he said. "It's a mark upon them. It sets them apart for ridicule, derision, attacks.

"The children at this age might not have an understanding of these names. But when they grow up, hopefully, they would want to distance themselves from them," he said. "If they come to identify with the ideology of Hitler, Himmler and the Aryan nations, their parents are launching them on a life of hatred."

The Campbell home is kept neat aside from scattered toys and other evidence three children live there. It's small, but it's what the Campbells can afford.

Disabilities, the couple says, have left both out of work: Heath Campbell can't landscape or pump gas because he has emphysema, and Deborah can't waitress because she has a bad back. They live on Social Security payments.

In the foyer, Heath Campbell, who said he has German ancestry and a relative who fought for the SS, took off boots he said were worn by a Nazi soldier named Daniel.

OK, so, let me see, the Nazis were bad people 'back then', but you're wearing their BOOTS? Dude. Lots of people have German ancestry in New Jersey. You'd be amazed at the number who do not own any footwear worn by Nazis. Who would, in fact, be grossed out at the thought of wearing footwear worn by Nazis. Like, ick. Nazi cooties on your feet.

He laid them next to a skull with a swastika on its forehead, the first of
dozens of swastikas seen by the Campbells' rare guests.

There are swastikas on walls, on jackets, on the freezer and on a pillow.
The family car had swastikas, Heath Campbell said, until New Jersey's Department
of Children and Families told him they could endanger the children.

The swastikas, Heath Campbell said, are symbols of peace and balance.
He considers them art.

"It doesn't mean hatred to me," he said. Deborah Campbell said a
swastika "doesn't really have a meaning. It's just a symbol."

Peace. Balance. Maybe they could have called the kids Peace and Balance. Symbols of peace and balance are frequently inscribed on skulls.

Heath Campbell said he doesn't want to force his views on his children, in
part because he had views forced on him. He said he also teaches them

Abusive guardians, Heath Campbell said, used Bible verses to teach him
to distrust blacks. If he questioned the guardians, he said, he was hit. He
acknowledged he couldn't challenge the guardians' views.

He said Adolf Hitler, Aryan Nation and Hinler would be able to make
their own decisions about race.

So, basically, this is just your average pair of young Americans raising three children. They wanted to give them unique names, and they happen to have swastikas all over their house, and they believe in nonviolence. Also, they believe Nazis are bad, but collect their stuff, and name their children after them. And now ShopRite is persecuting their child and denying him cake.

It hardly seems fair, does it?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Joanne's Fantasies

There's a Joanne's at the El Cerrito Plaza now. I am in no position to start throwing around money at Joanne's, but since it opened I have gone several times just to browse through the aisles and read the magazines. Browsing at Joanne's is fun.

(Apropos of nothing, I recall being at a shul weekend getaway where the attendees were firmly asked by our beloved rabbi at Shabbos breakfast not to buy anything while we were rambling through the pretty wine country town the retreat took place in. "Window shopping is also fun," commented the visiting rabbi. "No," our rabbi insisted, "they can't even buy a window on Shabbat.")

Anyway, Joanne's.

First, they have fabric, and this fills me with fascination. I learned to sew a little while I was still doing SCA stuff, and now I fantasize about making Halloween costumes and little outfits for my hypothetical children. When I was little, my grandma would make me Halloween costumes and school clothes on an old black Singer, one of the beautiful ones with the scrollwork. I remember being a witch one year. I wanted to be a yellow witch, she insisted on traditional black, and somehow we compromised on a black hat and cloak over a yellow dress with a yellow cloak lining. I was a princess in pale blue another year. And I remember, for some reason, a pair of skirts in corduroy, one tan and one dark blue, that I loved. I think they were originally jumpers, and then I threw a fit about wearing jumpers, and my grandma modified them to be skirts. I can't believe I did that--or that she did that. I was a much-indulged little kid. She knitted me sweaters. SWEATERS, already, with fancy buttons.

I doubt I will ever be that skillful, but I can fantasize about making the kids little outfits and costumes. I also fantasize about quilting. I bet I could learn to quilt--it looks time-consuming, but not that hard.

They have yarn, and beads like you wouldn't believe, and books about how to make just about anything on earth. All kinds of crafty craziness. The one thing I really wish they had more of was a wider variety of needlepoint kits. I like needlepoint. Not cross-stitch, needlepoint. The thing is, I really don't need that many pillows showing flowers and Japanese ladies. Need to find good needlepoint kit sources. Or learn to paint my own canvases.

Somehow I doubt that I will ever really learn to knit, though. My grandma worked on me with that, but I'm left-handed, and somehow we never really figured it out. But quilting...yeah. Quilting. And little Halloween costumes.

The Problem With KIPP

Reading Jonathan Alter's Newsweek column this week, "Bill Gates Goes to School", something catches my eye, amid the sniping at teacher's unions.

I'll mention this about teacher's unions first: I have worked at one union school, and three non-union. I have seen first-hand how completely an administration not constrained by a union will disregard the rights, working conditions and sanity of its employees, and how hard an administration so constrained will work to get around it. I am not impressed by the crybabies who want to blame the state of American education on the unions. But I digress.

Alter writes:

"Whenever he gets depressed about education, Gates says he visits one of the more than 60 KIPP schools nationwide, where the energy is palpable and the results irrefutable...So the challenge is not to find what works for at-risk kids--we know that by now--but how to replicate it."

I interviewed once at a KIPP school, and it was an amazing experience. I am impressed by what KIPP does. But here's the problem: KIPP relies on one basic, central thing to supplement their hard-core program: choice.

A poor black or Hispanic kid does not just fall out of the sky into KIPP. They are charter schools, and parents or guardians choose to bring them there. If the kid and the parents won't abide by the rules, the school can get rid of them.

Public schools have to take and keep everyone. Bear that in mind, Mr. Gates, and THEN tell me how to fix public education. KIPP has a great program, but it requires buy-in.

Oh, yeah, and stop bashing the teachers, PLEASE.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thank you, Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Thank you, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, for your incredibly insightful insight.

Asked on Politico: "Recognizing that we don't know who perpetrated the terrorism in Mumbai, what are its possible implications for the U.S. and for counter-terrorism generally? Are we vigilant? Are we prepared?", Ms. Kanter answered:

"Just as 911 deepened a recession already underway in 2001 and brought air travel to a standstill, this will further shut down or slow down international travel and development of business opportunities that create jobs. Plus, the Jewish hostage murders will harden attitudes on the right in Israel. "

Italics, BTW, are entirely mine.

I may scream. But you know, she's right. Right-wing Israelis were probably developing a more relaxed attitude about international terror attacks until this happened. And NOW, their attitudes are going to harden all over the place, and, um, this will have terrible ramifications somehow, I'm sure.

It's like putting down a giant terror attack in front of an ant. The ant will wave its antennae, and dither, and then carefully make its way around the giant terror attack and return once again to its sugarcube. Bashing Israel is the sugarcube. The sugarcube is the POINT. The huge exploding thing is just in the way. Must go around it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Little Cranky

I managed to apply to an MFT program, but if I get in, I still think I will have to wait until next fall to get started.

My current job, even if I managed to offload the after-school session will not allow me to get to classes on time unless I a. learn to drive and b. get a hold of a car...

So maybe fall.

I'm trying to be mature here.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Lo Tov

Fighting is still going on in Mumbai, although Haaretz says that Indian forces say they now have control of the Taj Hotel.

They've found the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg in the Chabad Center, along with three others. Apparently, Rabbi Holtzberg's last words over the phone before he was cut off were "Lo tov." Hard to imagine how better to put it.

This is not simply a terrorist attack. This is esentially a military assault on a major city. Fighting has lasted for at least forty-eight hours now. This has killed at least twice as many people as the London attacks in 2005. Am I imagining things, or is the press response incredibly muted? Maybe there will be more after we know more. I hope so. I'm afraid that this will not attract attention because it's India, not Europe. Worse, I'm afraid we're getting blase about this.

Lo tov. Lo tov.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving and Mumbai

We had a lovely evening at Niamh's--good food, good company, cute six-year-old running around, and all.

Now I'm on the computer trying to figure out what's happening at the Chabad Center in Mumbai. Is it just me, or is the press coverage of all this incredibly muted?

Monday, November 17, 2008

I am so sick of this

Apparently, according to Michelle Malkin, and some other similarly self-righteous buffoons, violent gay mobs have been driving Christians out of the Castro. The gay folks tell it a little differerently.

Folks should be ashamed of themselves for behaving badly, and giving these martyr wannabes a thrill.

But I'm gonna be real blunt. This group of Christians--and God knows I use the term loosely here--were not walking down the street minding their own business when this went down. These were people there to actively harass and hassle--forgive me--MINISTER TO--the gay folks of the Castro district. Technically speaking, they have the right to do this. Morally speaking, it's contemptible. They went to hassle the gays, and this time they got some hassle back. Maybe this will teach them caution, if not kindness.

I am GODDAMN sick of soi-disant Christian groups thinking the Castro is some kind of playground for them to practice casting out demons in. The groups that used to come to stay in the city from out of state during Halloween and pray from their effing hotel rooms. The people who come in from out of town for Pride, or even, God help us, the AIDS Walk to preach and scream from the sidelines. You have no demons in your own towns, people? The Lord couldn't find any work for you closer to home?

You know what REAL Christians and people of all faiths do in the Castro? They tend the sick, and help the poor pay their bills. They volunteer to teach a child to read and do multiplication. They start a community garden. They help women get breast exams. They do not invade a community already raw with disappointment and offer to help straighten them out. Some of the best Christians I have ever met spent the first horrible wave of the AIDS epidemic holding the hands of the dying in the Castro. They blessed the world with their presence. They never went looking for a fight.

Tell me. Would Christ be there, or would he be with the group of self-satisfied bozos preaching conversion to straightness--or as they tell it, just hanging out in a strange neighborhood on the sidewalk singing "Amazing Grace" to sinners?

I have heard too many times from too many chuckling fools what would happen to those folks from the Castro in some other neighborhoods in this great nation. I've known too many people caught out gay in the wrong neighborhood, not preaching, just trying to slide through. Do NOT, Michelle and company, DARE come crying to me about this. If you wanna come be a Christian in the Castro, there are a lot of volunteer jobs, and some lovely churches with active faith communities. If you want to be a hateful fool, stay online and spew your venom at Michelle's website. This is the kind of narrishkeit that's only gone on so long because gay folks are some of the most patient, tolerant people on the face of God's earth. One day they slipped.

Go cast out your own damn demons, and then come back to my hometown to poke sticks through the bars. The surge of homophobia raging through the right-wing web in the wake of Prop 8 passing has left me with no patience at all for this kind of whiny wannabe-victimhood.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Looking For The Next Step

"When God closes a door, she sometimes leaves a window open," they say.

Of course, this leads us to the ever-timely questions, "Why is the Creator of heaven and earth trying to trap me in this building anyway? Is this some kind of fire drill? Why do we always have to do the door/window thing on days when I wear pantyhose, and a straight-fitting skirt? Is my underwear showing?"

This is, I suspect, one of the reasons all those great philosopher-types, Philo and the Rambam and them, were so harsh about the idea of anthropomorphizing the Almighty. When you think too hard about these bits of cross-stitch sampler theology, some real questions arise that you probably shouldn't be asking.

No, the Balabusta is not having a crisis of faith. She is just having another crisis of career. (This is normal, in fact practically routine. As I implied above, Herself and I have been playing this door-window game for years.)

This is my career arc:

All I have ever wanted to be is a writer. And I have been a writer all my life. I write. Quite a lot. I have a couple of mostly-done novels, and I have published some articles and a short story. I have even gotten paid a little for some of this. But it does not pay the bills, at least not yet.

When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a college professor.

In college, I got totally confused, and had no IDEA what I wanted to be.

Then I thought I wanted to be a rabbi. So I went to rabbinic school after college. For a year. It was extremely expensive, and very very stressful. Not the academic part. Look, I'll explain rabbinic school some other time.

So I came back to the Bay Area. And decided to work for the Jewish community. And become a great Jewish feminist writer. And possibly also a non-profit director.

This did not work so well. Like crime, working for the Jewish community does not pay. Also, I could not get hired most of the time.

So I started taking jobs doing things in corporate offices. This did not pay much, but it did sort of pay. It was also boring as hell. And I was not good at it, except for being a receptionist. I am one hell of a good receptionist. But that's another story.

So at some point I decided to become a high school teacher. I went back to school for my teaching credential. I got my teaching credential. I LOVED getting my teaching credential. I was a kick-ass grad student. Then I finished the program and had to get a job.

Apparently I am a better grad student than a teacher. I got hired. I got fired. I got hired. I got fired. I got hired. I got fired. (My parents have detailed explanations about why these firings do not reflect on my teaching skills. I'm just going to leave it be.) And I got hired again. I like my current school. I hope they are not going to fire me, because my nerves won't take much more of this.

I'm also not so sure I want to be a high school teacher. I like kids. I like educators.

I just don't like spending all this time in the classroom, controlling the kids, babbling about literature and grammar. It's not quite...IT.

So I'm in the process of applying to do an MFT.

It occurred to me today that if I continue in the counseling/therapy track, this might actually be a way to pull some of my major interests--adolescents, being a grad student, yiddishkeit, all that.

Maybe I could do a Ph.D. Maybe I could get a degree in Jewish studies. (Tried that once, applied to an MA course. Was rejected on the grounds that after a year of rabbinic school they didn't think I had the equivalent of a year of college Hebrew. That was a truly interesting conversation.) Maybe I could put it all together, have a therapy practice, and teach at USF, and write books about Jewish life. You think?

I'm really looking for that window right now.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We're having a heat wave

In mid-November. Feels like summer. Yech.

In better news, I've been skating around the kitchen floor barefooted on a wet terrycloth hand towel, and the floor looks better, and I feel cooler.

Yesterday, the beloved husband managed to knock a small bottle of Tabasco sauce down the kitchen sink drain while the garbage disposal was on. The bottle was shattered, and the disposal stopped working. The BH attempted to get the pieces out, but because he has big wide hands he had little luck, and also started to get cut up by the glass. Then I came home from work--and the first words he uttered as he came bounding toward me were "I love your little hands!"

I retrieved the rest of the glass, and suffered no injury except for one little nick. The disposal is now disposing of garbage. Yay us.

The BH and I are now trying hard to put all of our dishes in the dishwasher as soon as we use them, and run it nightly. We have done well this week, so rather than trying to get all the dishes we used in a week done over the weekend, he is sleeping and I am blogging--much more Shabbosdik than we usually get around here. I used some of the frantic dishwashing time today to tidy up the rest of the kitchen, and, as I said, glide around on the floor.

This is happy, but also frustrating, since I invariably remember that the Woman I Want To Be would not even THINK about keeping her kitchen presentable, it would just happen naturally.

The Woman I Want To Be would also not have worked herself into a position where she has to teach The Scarlet Letter in three weeks. And she would not have felt like a dimwit when her supervisor dropped in to watch her teach on Friday.

Thank God the kids were fairly well behaved. We discussed "The Cask of Amontillado". My progress report grades are due Monday. Oh. Aaaargh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Weekly Dozen--Same-sex Marriage Edition

1. OK people, let's get real. There are not enough black voters in California to blame Prop 8's passage on. I only wish, since black voters in California are Californians, voting their convictions, as opposed to, say, OUT OF STATE GROUPS WITH MONEY AND AN AGENDA...so let us PLEASE not buy the ancient race-wedge-driving crud when it comes around one more time. This is not the fault of the black Californians. This is just the fault of the Californians. AND THE OUT OF STATE GROUPS WITH MONEY AND AN AGENDA.

2. OK people, let's get real. California is not on fire, although to read Michelle Malkin's site, you might believe it so. I live right here in the dark blue rainbow-lit heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, and basically, people are grumpy. Not a single car has been set alight, nor have protesters taken over the El Cerrito City Hall. I would know. It's a couple blocks away from us.


4. Must contact Mirele and Keyle and see if the renewal of vows is still on.

5. The uncle of one of my students managed to marry his young man on Monday the 3rd, a day before the vote. Religious ceremony and family gathering to follow--but they got the license.

6. Another student's uncle was going to get married to HIS young man--she was excited because she got to wear heels and have her hair done professionally (and do a scripture reading, but that's less important to a fourteen-year-old girl). No word there--she isn't in my class, and I can't remember which kid it was.

7. What has 52% of California voters got against caterers?

8. Florists?

9. String quartets?

10. This will happen, you know, and sooner, rather than later.

11. Because this is who Americans are, we believe in freedom, you know, to marry whom you love, and say what you like, and believe in one god or twenty as you please.

12. Oh, and Chava is getting married again! To a man, so this doesn't entirely tie in, but a wedding is a wedding. Unfortunately, I've realized that THIS wedding is taking place on Rosh Hashanah. Dang.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the Sake of the Children

To The People Responsible for Proposition 8 and Accompanying Propaganda,

Yes, I get it. It's not about bigotry, it's all about the children. The children should not be told that gay marriage is normal. The children should not be exposed to things like that. God forbid the children should know that their teacher is married to another lady.

All this is reminding me of the time Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear off. Tyson was losing a boxing match, you see, and in desperation he bit his opponent's ear, hard enough to remove a largish section of it. Even in the world of boxing, this attracted some attention, but Iron Mike had an excuse. He was, he explained, overcome at the thought of his children having to see him lose. He had to do something.

"Yeah?" retorted Holyfield. "What about my kids? Their dad has an ear that looks like a damn doberman's!"

What,you may ask, does this weird little story have to do with same-sex marriage? Just this. Your kids are like Tyson's children. Tyson's kids may have to find out that their dad is not invincible, although God knows, they should not be watching any of his fights unless they are old enough to know that already. Your kids may have to find out that not all families are like theirs, and not all people are the same. They may find out that your values are not universal, and you may have to teach them that those values are still good. Your children, and Tyson's children, are going through a hard but universal experience--realizing that not everyone thinks and acts like you and your family, and your experience is not the only important one.

There are other children who are like Holyfield's children. These are the children with same-sex parents, gay siblings, gay grandparents, gay family friends. These are the children who are themselves going to be gay, who may already realize that they are different in some vague way from most of their classmates. These are the kids who have to watch their parents cry, who are told that their family is not all right because it is different. These are the kids who will have to survive the taunting in a society that goes on believing that two men or two women together can't make a family, can't make a marriage. These are the kids going to schools where you will endlessly lobby to make sure that nothing positive is ever said about gay people. These are the kids whose present and future families are literally having chunks taken out of them by your bigotry.

One last story, this one not a sports parable: A family friend sent out an e-mail during the campaign. She and her wife, parents of Rowan and Rivky had the delightful experience of having to explain to their older child, that it was possible that the law was going to be changed so that two mommies or two daddies couldn't be married.

Rowan thought about that, and came back with a question. "If you aren't married anymore," she asked her mothers, "who will me and Rivky live with?"

You see, in a seven-year-old's world, if two parents aren't married anymore, it means they've gotten a divorce, and they don't live together anymore. There's no room in a seven-year-old's brain for loving each other, and wanting to be together forever, but not being able to get married.

Why should there be room in anyone's mind for such a concept? Will it really help your kids if Rowan is told that her family is second class, and her parents' love is a threat to the innocence of your kids?

Yeah. Right.

The Quadrennial Dozen

1. Oh thank God. It's over.

2. Best moment of the evening: Howard University. Middle-aged administrator, too choked with emotion to speak. Young schmuck in horn-rims talking about the importance of Obama's win to his future career as an African-American politician. Remaining thousand or so students in the shot jumping up and down like pogo sticks screaming "O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!" over and over.

3. Oh, God, it should have been Hillary, why did it have to go to a man? A YOUNG man?

4. My freshmen are called on for special intentions for prayer today: "That Mr. Obama and his whole family be safe," says one girl.

5. What am I going to do now that it's over? What will I do with all my free time that I've been spending on the computer checking polls?

6. I am disgusted with some of the LGFers. Most of them are fine, but a couple have expressed an intention to cut their charitable spending because they expect their taxes to go up. Feh.

7. McCain's speech was well-done and graceful.

8. Thank God, we can all take a break from Sarah Palin. She may be back. I'll deal with that when it happens.

9. I was expecting more of a drawn-out evening. What's up with announcing by eight?

10. Wow--the elderly Jews of Florida came through! Thank God 1oo grandchildren made the schlep!

11. I have a vision of next spring, when Michelle Obama's chief of staff comes in with a worried look.

"Ma'am, you remember Malia was saying that she couldn't sleep, and a scary man in her dreams was telling her to invade Iran?

"Of course."

"I think we may have found the problem."

"Really?" (Michelle follows the young woman to an area in the Residence. Workers are removing drywall. Michelle leans forward, stares in confusion as a pair of wingtips attempt to scuttle up into the remaining wall.) "What on earth is that?" Michelle demands.

"Dick Cheney, ma'am. He's in the walls. We think he must have mistaken Malia's bedroom from the president's. Don't worry, I have a team coming to fumigate this afternoon..."

12. Oh, thank God. It's over.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Scientists Shocked!

Apparently, big women have sex, and enjoy it.

Suggestion to scientists: look at work by the Dutch Masters. Have dinner, and some wine. Go home. Make love to your wife. Repeat as necessary. Come back to work when you feel better.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Godwin's Law in Action

I have to confess, I am getting kind of worried about some of my friends over at LGF. The odds seem very good that Obama will, uh, win the election, and the LGFers' heads are starting to explode.

I can tell the LGFers are in the final stages of their pre-election nuttiness because they are Godwining out at an unprecedented rate.

For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Godwin's Law is a bit of internet wisdom that states that the longer an argument continues, the more closely the odds that one debater will reference Adolf Hitler or the Nazi party approach one. In many internet circles I've traveled, there is a practical addendum to Godwin's Law that states that the one who 'Godwins' first loses the argument and the discussion is over at that point. I in fact once saw someone head off an argument on a listserve by announcing "I'm self-Godwining. Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. Argument ended." (The discussion had to do with Linux, by the by.) (I do not know who Godwin was.) The LGF denizens are Godwining big-time, having apparently decided that the brownshirts are coming for them the day after Obama is inaugurated.

Bless them, they're going to protect the Constitution against Barack Obama and his Civilian Defense Force, and they're going to see to it that he doesn't stay in power forever by fiat the way he clearly plans to. I've been talking, of course, for years, to leftier types who believed Bush would do the same. As far as I can tell, Mr. Bush is packing. Why are we developing such a low opinion of our own ability to change administrations? We've done it dozens of times without so much as a punch thrown.

I am sort of worried about the LGFers. They seem very nervous, and this can't be good for them. I've watched Republicans win elections and felt grumpy, or angry, or grim, but I've never thought a Republican government was going to COME AND GET ME.

Oddly, (since this is all getting into my head as well), I had a weird, very detailed dream last night, where it was hundreds of years in the future, and the U.S. now had three dominant parties, but you could only run for national government if you were part of an elite class of people descended from the second set of Founding Fathers (2200 era). I was in the Senate, and was trying to get a bill passed so commoners could get into Congress again, like in the old days. Oh, and the president was my cousin (a fictional cousin, not any of my real cousins, thank God, because he was kind of a dork) and his secret service code name was, I am not kidding, 'Dried Eagle'. Don't ask me why. PLEASE. My subconscious is apparently on overdrive right now. Oh, also, we were out of fossil fuels. This, I suspect, will come to pass before the rest of it.

It was extremely weird, although maybe a good plot for a science fiction series. But the point is, I know it's a fantasy. I hope the LGFers do OK with the election. Transitions seem to be hard for them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Early Daylight Savings Time

Yesterday, I glanced at the clock, realized that it was 12:30, and I had an hour and a half until I was due in class. Since I hadn't packed a lunch, I decided to run up to the main strip, and get a burrito from the tacqueria. Come back, eat, do some paperwork, meet with the freshmen. Easy.

I briefly considered eating at the tacqueria--a real dive--and reading my paper--but decided I should get back to work.

As I walk back through the gates of campus, I fall into step with a mom-aged woman approaching the school. As we get nearer to the main building I notice that Yosef and Ahuva are leaning out of the window of my first floor classroom. "Hiiiiii Mrs. Bluejeans!" they scream happily as they spot me.

This is baffling. Why are they in my classroom? Don't they have another class at this time? The woman next to me is quite disapproving. "They shouldn't be hanging out the windows," she points out, "they should be studying!"

I enter the building, and am immediately mobbed by my freshmen, who usher me into my classroom. "You went to the tacqueria!" they yell. "You have horchata! Can I have some?"

"What are you all doing in here?" I demand.

"It's time for class!" they yell.

"Did they switch the schedule on me again?" St. Dymphna High has a tendency to do this kind of thing. A lot.

"Nooooo, it's time for seventh block!"

I look at the clock, which reads 1:09. My seventh block class begins at 2:05. And then I remember.

Remember, that is, walking in to the building that MORNING, and noticing that all the clocks, by some mysterious satellite signal, had fallen back an hour for daylight savings time, a week early. I took note. I even got to my first class on time. I just completely spaced by the time I looked at the clock again to see if I had enough time to get lunch before the freshmen class met.

I politely excused myself to put my burrito and horchata in the teacher's lounge, and get my copy of "The Most Dangerous Game". I was forced to let everyone go to the bathroom and go to their lockers to get the books they forgot, and fill their water bottles, because really, how serious can you be about making your students get their acts together when their own teacher can't figure out what time it is?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hate Crimes and Misdemeanors


I'm turning into a wingbat. HELP!

Actually, I'm thinking about having a separate political blog. I would call myself Stella Luna the Moonbat, and have a cute graphic. In the meantime...

This thing with the girl who said she was attacked by the six-foot-four black man who attacked her when he saw the McCain sticker on her car, beat her and carved a backwards "B" for Barack into her face, but it seems that no such attack took place..

First, I must say that I think she is probably in serious need of psychiatric help, from all the bits and pieces of reports coming out. And as people have pointed out, there have been all kinds of faked hate crimes in the past, many of them far more significant.

What it reminded me of, though, was this case, and some mostly campus-centered things over the past few years, where people wrote racist stuff on their own cars or offices. There's something interesting about it to me, a sort of acting out of the expected behavior of the 'enemy'. The right-wing media/internet is full of dark predictions about violence from Obama supporters, or vague assurances that schools will not help students attacked for their conservative beliefs, and sure enough, some (troubled) people seem to be moved to enact this expected violence, even if no one else will. The lefty campus environment is full of obsessive examination of all forms of violence from the multi-part oppressor, and sure enough some (troubled) people seem to be moved to enact this expected violence even if no one else will. Of course, it's always women. Men may be crazy, but not crazy enough to carve up their own faces in order to become sacrificial lambs--that's a girl role.

Of course, the problem is that then it gets found out, and these troubled enactors are then in trouble with everyone, including their own little groups, for making us all look crazy.

I hope this girl gets some help. But she didn't get this idea out of thin air, and all of us out here bloggin' about politics should show some dang responsibility.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


As everyone now seems to know, the RNC has handed over a chunk of change to the tune of $150,000 to keep VP candidate Sarah Palin dressed on the campaign trail. Hysterics have ensued.

Now, Governor Palin makes me want to cry, and eat huge amounts of ice cream, and punch walls, and vote for Barack Obama, so I am usually the last person in the world to run around defending her, except that according to AOL's Stylelist blog, this is also money for the family's clothes, plus beauty, makeup, etc.

It's not that crazy. With four kids on the campaign trail with her, plus Todd, let's think about this. They're living in hotels, travelling, making umpteen appearances a day. Hair, makeup, and if Trig spits up on his cute onesie, he's got to have another one ASAP. He can't sit on the stage in his diaper while someone runs the wash. And where McCain can wear the same three suits to all his meetings, a woman can't really do that at this level of politics. Unfair, yes, but there it is. And trust me, if you knew what Cindy McCain pays for those odd outfits she favors, your teeth would explode. (I know. It's her own money. She can do what she likes with it. Just saying.)

Stylelist does make a bit of a point when they comment on the 'elitist' stores Palin has been shopping at, like Saks and Neiman Marcus. Sure, they could have done pretty well much cheaper, and looked a little more authentically of the people--I don't think Joe the Plumber's ex-wife buys her shoes at Neiman Marcus--but hell, $150,000 is not that much as campaign money goes, and since I do not derive my self-worth as an American from putting down people who buy a different brand of shoes than I do, I am OK with Sarah going bananas at Saks. Whatever.

Actually, I'm just irked because Stylelist posted this picture of Piper, my favorite Palin (Trig is a close second), holding this purse, and said it was 'obnoxious'. Apparently that's $750 of Vuitton. To which I say, look, either it's a cheap knockoff she likes because it fits her Barbies, or she's carrying her mother's bag. Either way.

Personally, I prefer the Claire McCaskill look, where you can tell that she's wearing something that was on sale at the Kansas City Macy's, but that may just be me. Or Missouri.

I have major problems with Governor Palin, but her Ferragamo pumps do not come into it. Wear them back to Alaska in good health, Sarah.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm concerned again

It's not just the moonbats like Naomi, the wingnuts are also going off the deep end as this election winds into its last days. There's something honestly rather scary about the degree of deranged fantasy people one some of the conservative-right blogs I scan are are devolving into about life under Obama.

Most recently, Zombie went to phone bank for Obama. Zombie does not support Obama, in fact Zombie is working hard to dig up more stuff about the connection between Obama and Ayers the Washed-Up Terrorist. But Zombie went to a cell-phone bank in the park for Obama, just to see what it was like. I have no idea why Zombie didn't phone bank for McCain, but...well, I have some idea. I think Zombie was checking out the Dark Side of the Force to see what it was up to.

Anyway, Zombie goes through the whole operation, which basically, aside from the cell phones, is exactly what's happened at every phone banking I've ever been to. But what worries Zombie, we find, is this:

But most disturbingly of all: The Obama campaign knows the name, phone
number and address (as the assistant told me) of each person called; and we
volunteers do in fact mark down the voting preferences of each individual. So,
through phone banks like these, should Obama in fact become president (and even
if he doesn’t), he and his team will have a pretty extensive list of everyone
who voted against him.


Food for thought.

Lord Almighty. He/she is not kidding, is he/she? And the folks over at LGF giggling about reeducation camps are only sort of kidding unless I miss my guess.

Luckily, some cooler heads who've worked with phonebanking in the past explained that this is just the process, and that McCain's lists look just this, but yeeeeeeeeesh!

People. People. Let me explain this to y'all. I know people who have lived under fascism, communism and the Khmer Rouge. I know people who've BEEN in reeducation camps. The United States has been in better shape in the past, and God willing, will be in better shape again in the future, but believe me, Barack Obama is not, win or lose, (win, says I) going to be the star of the joke where the dictator's aide tells him that only .002 of the population voted against him in the last election, what more could he ask for? and the dictator says "Their names."

And I LOVE Zombie, who does great coverage of anti-Israel demos in the Bay Area, and I don't even LIKE Obama that much, although I think I've almost talked myself into voting for him (as opposed to writing in Hillary's name), but people, people...

I liked it better when Jed Bartlett was president.


Oh, this is funny, but not in a good way.

In this week's TIME, Peter Beinart writes: "Our national vernacular is filled with antiblack euphemisms, but cosmopolitan isn't one of them. Yet when critics attack Obama, that's the word that keeps popping up."

Not an anti-black euphemism no, but I still think I recognize that one...

How disturbingly ironic. Bill Clinton, of course, was our first black president. Is Barack going to be our first Jewish one?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thanksgiving solutions

Myself, the husband and the parents are all going to Niamh's for Thanksgiving. Her family, and lots of friends are coming, and it should be generally excellent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Debate

OK, soon this will be all over. Perhaps then my blood pressure will go down.


Obama looked good.

McCain provoked cursing from me when he began to warble about the unimportance of the health of the mother in abortion decisions.

I no longer believe that the undecided voters are real. At this point, if you haven't made your mind up, you need therapy, not a chance to chat with America about how you'd like Obama better if he had red highlights, and how McCain's eyes aren't quite twinkly enough.

Yeesh, people. Flip a coin.

At least they visit

Heard about "The Great Schlep"? Complete with Sarah Silverman YouTube video?

If not, basically, the concept is that young Jews are supposed to go to Florida, or, I guess, e-mail, and convince Bubbe and Zayde to vote for Barack Obama, and tip Florida.

Because, of course, elderly Jews are just shaking in their shoes at the thought of a Democrat in the White House. Because, you know, Jews have a track record of being more frightened of black politicians than, say, WASPs are. Because elderly Jews have no way to, say, read the newspaper, or get any other political news, and their TVs are permanently tuned to Fox News. Because Jews living in Florida get TWO votes apiece, and anyway, the Cubans are a lost cause.

And because younger Jews are supposed to go along with this anti-Semitic narrishkeit to prove what good progressives we are.


I think this is the way it's supposed to go:

Sadie: Oy, bubeleh, I don't know. I hear he wants to destroy Israel, and he's a Muslim. And, you know...(lowers voice), he's black. Vay's mir, what's going to happen to us if he wins?

Sam: I hear he's a terrorist already! Who doesn't love America!

Becca: (suppressing a little smile), Bubbe, Zayde, let me tell you who Barack Obama really is. He's not Muslim, and he doesn't want to hurt Israel or the Jews. (Proceed with talking points, which include 'Barack Hearts Israel and So Do You', and 'He's Black! Let's talk about it!')

Sadie and Sam: Oy, bubeleh, you've given us so much to think about. Maybe Fox news doesn't tell us always the whole truth! Let's vote Obama 2008!

I suspect this is how it really will go:

Sadie: Oy, bubeleh, it's so nice you came to visit, but I'm so busy I can't sit down right now! The ladies are coming over in fifteen minutes and I need to get these cookies out of the oven! Go sit with your Zayde. I'll just put the hors d'oeuvres on the table...

Becca: Is all this for your bridge group?

Sadie: Bridge? I gave it up. No time. This is for the Golden Sands Beach for Obama Committee--we have envelopes to stuff, and Esther is bringing her laptop so we can look at the new numbers on all the polls. Go, sit with Zayde.

Becca: Uh, Zayde?

Sam: Dollface! You look wonderful! Here, put this on. (offers her a pin saying "Barack Obama" in Hebrew letters). Did your Bubbe tell you the committee is coming over? We can use some help with those envelopes! You have that job working with computers, do you know how to do a PowerPoint? We're having a fundraising lunch for the Obama campaign next week, and Esther Birenbaum says we need a PowerPoint.

Becca: Stop! This is not the way it's supposed to be! I came all the way from Boston to tell you not to worry about Barack being a Muslim! I schlepped down here to tell you that he loves Israel! I came here to tell you that he's pro-choice, and that Sarah Palin believes you're going to hell! What IS this?

Sadie and Sam: Oy, bubeleh, don't get upset. Sit down. Eat something. Of course you can tell us anything you want, and we'll listen. It's just--Rivkaleh, we've been campaigning for Democrats since we collected pennies on the subway already for FDR when we were kids. You thought we were gonna vote for McCain? But at least you're visiting, it's wonderful, sit down, here, tell us what you came to tell us--oh, you've got talking points. How nice! Something like this we should have at the lunch! Do you want to do doorhangers with us tomorrow?

Shirts trashing Sarah

"Where are the frickin' feminists?" inquires one plaintive Lizard. (Link leads to unpleasant language and right-wing commentary, handle with care.)

Just as hacked as we were when Hillary was getting it, Mac. Who do you think the PUMAs ARE, anyway?

On the other hand, I remain intrigued by the way they refer to taking offensive **** off the website as 'down the memory hole'. Should it be left up? Forwarded to the "MSM" for further consideration?

I want the shirt that says "Mavericky". Oh Lord, why can't I make up my mind whether this woman is a political tragedy in the making, or a sort of TV icon?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Miss Erin Got Married

Apparently, taking kids to their teacher's wedding is very bad. At least, if it's the marriage of their first-grade teacher to another woman, it is.

Why do I have a feeling that the people moping and griping at ProtectMarriage and Michelle Malkin's site, et al, would think this was extremely cute if they'd been taken to see their teacher marry a man? Small-town family valueseque, even?

A rather nicer piece of coverage of the same wedding comes from the Chronicle. I would like to draw the reader's attention to the commentary on marriage of Nolan Alexander, aged six. Marriage, he says, "is people falling in love. You stay with someone the rest of your life.

His classmate Chava's mommies plan to get married in two weeks.

Mazal tov to Erin and Kerri!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I did a lot of laundry today.

I swear, I think some of it did not belong to me or the fella. I think that other people are sending their clothes through a time-space continuum flaw to land in my laundry baskets. I wish that they would send quarters too, if I am going to be serving as a wash-and-fold for people in Omaha or someplace.

Manager Sarah has two units open and asked if by any chance I knew any other 'nice young couples' like myself and the fella, with no little children, who might want them.

Not really.

The fella is job hunting. If you can tack a wish for his parnosseh onto your tehillim, or white light or whatever, it would be greatly appreciated, or we may find that we ourselves are not able to stay in our unit, nice young couple though we are.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Deep Questions for Our Time

Seems that North Korea is off the terror list. Given the total unimportance of whether North Korea is on the list or not on the list, I suppose it's a reasonable sop to get them to cooperate with inspections.

But I do have some questions for the increasingly invisible Bush administration about this. Specifically:

  • If they're off the terror list, are they also off the Axis of Evil?
  • Will a new nation be appointed to the Axis of Evil? What rubric will be used to assess new applicants?
  • Will North Korea's space on the Axis be reserved, in case they requalify in the future, or will they have to reapply on the basis of the rubric?
  • While we are still on the topic, is Iraq still part of the Axis, given that it's previous Axisicial government was toppled?
  • Iran can't possibly be an axis by themselves, can they?
  • Can only two countries be considered an axis?
  • What is the maximum number of nations in an axis?
Don't mind me, I'm just whistlin' past the graveyard. (Cue up a lively version of "We Will All Go Together When We Go".)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Angels Yontiff

For Yom Kippur, Mrs. Bluejeans and I went to services at Sherith Israel. (Rosh Hashanah we were at my old shul in the Sunset.)

The main sanctuary at Sherith is fabulously gorgeous. Actually, the whole shul is gorgeous. The sanctuary is painted wall to wall with intricate interwoven patterns, banded with bronze egg-and-dart edgings and rows of light bulbs tracing the arcs and the balconies. Rows of patterns lead up to the dome, and quotations done in gold Gothic script on interwoven ribbons circle the ceiling. There are several sizes of stained-glass windows, showing biblical scenes and figures, including a huge one of Moshe, flanked by banners and fascinated Israelites, standing with the tablets of the law in what seems to be Yosemite National Park, to judge from the mountainous landscape in the background.

The pipes on the organ are painted and patterned. It's a bit like davening inside a Persian rug factory, or possibly the inside of a genie's very spacious bottle. It's amazing. You couldn't make something like these these days for love nor money. It's not even slightly modern. It is, however, incredibly beautiful.

Kol Nidre, a very good sermon on the responsibility of Reform Jews to support same-sex marriage. Excellent cantor. The next day we met for morning services at Calvary Presbyterian, up on Fillmore (very pretty church, but not on a par with Sherith, although the stained glass appears to be from the same era).

The Blue Angels were blasting overhead all day, since we're leading up to Fleet Week. No problem, except for one very near pass over the church as people were coming downstairs, which made everyone jump...well, I guess angels don't start by saying 'Fear not' for nothing.

During morning services, the rabbi requested that all the gentile spouses of congregants come up to the bimah to be honored for their services to the Jewish community. The fella has declared that he is very pleased not to have been there to be honored, since he would have freaked out if the rabbi had attempted to kiss him (as the rabbi did the spouses on the bimah). The fella can be such a wuss about being kissed by rabbis. Afternoon services we were back at Sherith.

I sometimes miss High Church Reform. I was raised with solemn Protestant-like services, rabbis in robes (and, when I was a child, no yarmulkes), and services heavily couched in those strange 'variations suggested by the Hebrew' English prayers, written in 1930, or 1955, and never touched since. No one has services quite like the ones of my childhood anymore, and that's good thing, by me. I like the Hebrew, I think rabbis should cover their heads...but despite having found other kinds of shuls as an adult, nothing brings back my childhood, or my childhood awe of the chagim faster than the sound of a cantor doing an operatic solo to the crescendo of a pipe organ, and the words "God of awesome might, oh God of awesome might..."

And always, every year since I was little...

Birth is a beginning
and death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From Childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom
From weakness-to strength
Or strength to weakness
And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion
And grief to understanding-
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat-
Until- looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage-
To life everlasting.

We broke the fast at home, with cold cuts and fruit salad, and I went home, hoping for a sweet year.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Has anyone out there done National Novel Writing Month? I've been considering doing it with students from my school.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Lights Went Out Last Night

So I'm sitting peacefully, watching my Shabbos candles burn down, and catching a late episode of House, and it begins to rain--first rain of the season, very nice--and then around midnight every light in the apartment building goes out.

The fella and I found each other by the light of my laptop, which has a battery, of course, and sat in the electronic glow for a while and talked. I woke up at dawn. The power was still out. I went back to sleep, and was wakened once by the sound of the rotary dial phone I saved from the old house for emergencies (it works if plugged in to the phone line, and does not need electricity), and then I went back to sleep and it was TWO THIRTY in the afternoon before I woke up for good.

The power was back on by then.

I'm trying to decide how much affected the chicken in the stand-up freezer is likely to be, and resetting all the clocks, except for the one in the bathroom, which runs on batteries.

We used to lose power a lot at the old house in SF, but there we were on the top of a rise overlooking the ocean, and every time the weather played up, the wind would smash the overhead lines around. Here, I have no idea.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This is probably not appropriate

Given that it's the middle of the Days of Awe.

But if you want some truly funny Sarah Palin ribbing, try this out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shana Tova

To all of you out there.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I went underwater six times

Three times at the hands of a solemn-faced SECOND GRADER.

Dunk tanks are a truly interesting experience.

I should cut her some slack...

Since she's getting over Palimania, but Kathleen Parker writes:

When Palin first emerged as John McCain's running mate, I confess I was
delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute,
Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood -- a refreshing feminist of a different order who
personified the modern successful working mother.

OK, say what? Who the hell are we talking about here? I mean, I know who she's talking about here, but tell me...had American politics really been overwhelmed with women wearing Birkies and not shaving their legs? This is a bit like my approving of John McCain on the grounds that he's a white guy who doesn't wear a mullet and chew tobacco.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Well, I watched it. I am clearly not the target audience, here, since I am an Obama voter--a resigned Obama voter--a slightly cranky Obama voter--but an Obama voter nonetheless.

(Interesting note--at the school's Homecoming rally yesterday, a group of cheerleaders broke into a spontaneous chant I first identified as "HIL-LA-RY! HIL-LA-RY!". Staring in some surprise, I eventually reorganized it in my head as "KILL (the name of the school we are playing tomorrow)."

Points in Obama's favor:

-He clearly knows what he's talking about. Obama never goes into vague rants, he always provides good examples from the text, and he doesn't grandstand.

-He was polite. God, how we need politeness in American politics.

Points against:

-He really needs time on his side to get through these long, detailed ideas he wants to get across. I think snappy is on your side, even in a long format debate. Barack Obama will never be accused of going zero to sixty.

-Everyone is saying he shouldn't have said McCain was right so much, but honestly, when McCain's right, why not say so?

Points in McCain's favor:

-He's got snappy soundbite down, and seemed very 'on' throughout.

Points against:

-He was on slightly shrill attack ALL NIGHT LONG. They'd ask the question, Obama would answer with 'what I will do when I'm president', and McCain would then tear Obama apart. I'm sure I would have felt differently as a McCain supporter, but it felt as though he couldn't clarify his own vision, he just knew that Obama 'didn't get it'. This makes Obama the whole point.

-The ghost of George Bush sat sulking at his side all evening, making it hard to debate. George, last I heard, is alive and well, making this form of astral projection even more interesting.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Saving the World (Part Two)

WBS asks:

I got to hear about how the Holocaust Museum didn't
have anything on gay folks and Roma.

Uhh, wait so is there something too left wing about me
if I wonder about this question too?I attended a shul full of Holocaust
survivors (you probably knowof it) for a while and dare not ask that question to
them, I couldn't -- I'm not cruel like that. But I did ask a Rebbetzin (my age)
why Orthodox Jews weren't involved in civil rights and charity that benefited
everyone. She said she didn't know and that was the end of that conversation and
I never brought it up again.Please tell me how can these questions can possibly
be asked to anyone without offending or hurting them. There is no book anywhere
that could possibly tell me the answer to these kind of questions -- it has to
come from a person (unless there are books?).

Let me clarify this one a little, and see if I can help you make some sense of what you're trying to learn. If I sound critical, please excuse, I'm trying to get at truth here, and it can be rough going.

About the museum:

First, it's a lie, and a stereotypical one. The Holocaust Museum has an enormous range of exhibits and materials on all facets of the Holocaust, including gays and the Roma/Sinti, Jehovah's Witnesses, people targeted for political activities, etc. Although it may not have been at quite at the level it is now in 2001, it has never focused or meant to exclusively on the Jewish experience, although of course that experience looms very large in any study of the Shoah, for sheer numbers' sake. I doubt she'd ever been to the museum, or knew much about it, she'd just read some misinformed rant online, and accepted it as truth. She also, of course, defined the Museum as a solely Jewish project. It's not.

Secondly, it had nothing to do with what we were talking about. She says "Bin Laden didn't do it, the Israelis did, but no one will say that because the US supports everything Israel does." I say "That's anti-Semitic, paranoid and moronic." She says: "The Holocaust Museum is racist." It's a non-sequitur, and one that shows that everything in the anti-Jewish basket is being thrown all at once.

Third, getting back to the idea of the museum being "Jewish", it's an example of an anti-Semitic brain glitch that plagues a lot of well-meaning people, the idea that the Jews are responsible for representing other people's genocide experience. Not Europeans, not Germans, not the other groups themselves, not the United States or Russia, who between them ended the killing in Europe, but the Jews. How selfish, to bear testament to your own suffering, without giving equal representation to the suffering of everyone else, and without making it clear that this is all just a general symbol for inhumanity anyway. It's predicated on the idea that a. Jews have so much money and influence that we could just snap our fingers and reeducate the world, and b. the Shoah is most important as a way for non-Jews to access an understanding of genocide, not as an experience of a particular people and culture.

It's crazy to say that if the world has allowed itself to forget the suffering of the Roma (and ignore their present oppression in Europe), this is first a Jewish responsibility. Any American who's read Bury Me Standing knows as much about the Roma as I do. But I've heard fifty times, "Why don't the Jews talk about other people's Holocaust experience?" First, we do. I've read infinitely more about the Roma, and the Armenian genocide, etc., in Jewish publications than in 'mainstream', let alone lefty mainstream ones. And secondly, it's a crazy mental pretzel in which Jews are responsible for the care and maintenance of the world's memory of genocide, and any shirking of this imaginary responsibility makes us monsters, unworthy to insist on our own history's value.

Imaginary exchange:
"Why don't Jews talk about the Armenian genocide?"
"Buddy, why don't YOU talk about the Armenian genocide, except when you're hatin' on the Jews? Maybe because you don't care about Armenians nearly as much as you dislike Jews?"

Sorry, this is dense free rant. Feel free to ask for clarifications.

About the Orthodox and civil rights/social action, I suspect that the answers you're looking for are complex and layered. For example, are we talking about the present, or the great civil rights hey-day of the '60s? When you say Orthodox, who are we talking about? So I'm stringing together not a cogent answer or argument here, but with some things that come to mind. (Other people, feel free to jump in here...my knowledge is hardly universal.)

First, we are. We do. Jews have always been intensely involved in issues of civil rights and social justice. Most of the Jews involved in the classic civil rights movement activities were the children or granchildren of traditional/observant Jews, even if they themselves, like many young Americans of their generation, were pulling away from tradition. Many observant young Jews were also involved. Definately read about Heschel, who is not only a great and important figure, but also gives a lot of context for the era. There's a new biography of Heschel out, which is on my way-too-long list of books I'm going to read just as soon as I can...I don't know if it's good, but it's definately a place to begin.

Before that, Jewish workers, both frum and defiantly secular were fighting for worker's rights in the sweatshops of New York, shoulder to shoulder with Italian and Polish workers.

Jews of the 1960s were involved in an absorbing range of specifically Jewish issues, including the survival of the state of Israel, and the freedom of Soviet Jews. These issues absorbed many of the greatest activists of two or three generations, and were completely ignored, or actively opposed by most left-wing Gentiles, who saw Jewish freedom and Jewish survival as unimportant, and most likely reactionary, as left- and right-wing Gentiles too often have. Support and solidarity often came from Christian groups, not the mainstream of American activisti.

In terms of the present day, I would say that all organized Jewish groups participate in tzedakeh and social action work of various kinds. The Orthodox shul nearest to my home participates in regular food drives, book drives, literacy work, and organizes its people to feed the homeless. Some Orthodox communities, the Chassidish in particular, prefer to keep a distance from the secular community, and focus their efforts in the Jewish world, in the Modern Ortho. and Conservative communities we go all over, and Reform, the Reform do tzedakeh in outer space if they can figure out how to get there. (Some people aver that they already are there. I was raised High Church Reform, so I simply cheer as the Hadassah ladies strap on their rocket packs.)

Orthodox communities are historically, and in the present, more often immigrants, more often non-English speakers, more often poor, all of which means that they are offered substantial opportunities to do tzedakeh work close to home. This is called community activism in other neighborhoods.

As to why Jews often give our first priority to Jewish, not universal, causes, there's a simple reason. Mostly, no one else will fight for us, no one else will speak for us, no one else will notice if we fall. (To all the crazy people who have, and do, kol ha-kavod). And honestly, I can't think of another American community that faces the level of criticism and self-examination that Jews do for having the nerve to give our time and energy to our own struggle. One wouldn't feel the need to ask why Latinos, say, don't get involved in "charity that benefits everyone" if they work for Spanish-speaking immigrants, or why blacks don't, if they focus their energies on getting black students into colleges. Who's 'everyone'? (Tip, it's never the Jews. We are always 'someone else'.)

About information: Your rebbetzin may be from a community that's too insular for her to know some of this, and if she's your age (I think you're a youngster, no?), she may not know much about American Jewish history. But there is a big Jewish world out there. I don't exactly know what you're looking for, but it's probably somewhere. ;)

Whoooof! Lecture over. Shana tova, and anyone who has recommendations about reading on Jews in civil rights, let me know.

I Love Joe Biden

Minutes ago--"You can't go on giving tax cuts to the super-wealthy--though they're good folks--you have to give the money to people who'll spend it."

I'm sure that wealthy people all over America are comforted tonight that Joe Biden isn't withholding their tax cuts because he doesn't think much of them.

Meanwhile, my bank was seized, and McCain decided to show up for the debate after all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How I Unsubscribed

I guess Naomi pushed some buttons.

I used to be an unsuccessful baby leftist. I was never all that good at it, you see. I was raised with a Jewish consciousness, which puts a lot of the crap of the far left into perspective. I always knew on some level, not too far down, that the identity politics were iffy, and the causes we threw ourselves into were pretty lame, and I was always supporting these middle-of-the-road Democrats and getting annoyed when people referred to Christians as 'fundies', and suggesting that folks who said America in the 90s was a police state didn't quite understand the idea of 'police state'. I was a pretty bad lefty. But I stumbled along, because...crud. I don't know exactly why. I wanted to save the world. I didn't do anything I'm ashamed of, I just spent too much time listening to people who weren't worth it, trying to get into the all-purpose revolution.

Anyway, it's the week after 9/11/01. It was kind of a rough week. (Oh, can I understate.) My in-laws were moving to Hawaii, and they had a flight on the eighteenth, but all the flights were grounded. The nation was in mourning. No one knew what the hell happened next. And I was getting the hell off all my e-mail lists because I couldn't take it any more.

The worst thing was my e-mail list of my old college buddies. This woman I used to be fairly close to forwarded this goddamn thing about the word on the Arab street (what happened to the Arab street, anyway?) was that bin Laden was falsely accused, and Mossad did it, forwarded it with this commentary about the importance of considering 'alternative opinions', and when I gave out a piece of my mind, I got to hear about how the Holocaust Museum didn't have anything on gay folks and Roma, and I unsubscribed from the list, and spent Yom Kippur ranting in my head.

Most of the rest of it was pretty funny, in retrospect. There was the chick from New Zealand, for example, who could empathize with the terrorists because NZ was oppressed by U.S. import tariffs. There was the chick from Britain, who couldn't STAND it that the U.S. was going all Robocop, but if we were going after terrorists, we should start with the Real IRA, who 'actually do a lot of harm'. Oh, there was the guy who knew all about the secret courts under the WTC, and was full of secret information that was being kept from the American public, except of course, for that portion of the American public that had access to the New York Times, but he read it on Indymedia, and thought it was special secret stuff.

So I bailed on being a half-hearted leftist, it just seemed like time. And sometimes I'm horrified when people resurface from my college years, and I see the genuine crazy up close.

I was losing all my senses, I was losing all control,
It was getting so offensive, now you want me back for more, and I just won't go.
If you think you know the answers, then you've got a lot of gall,
Cause it gives you satisfaction, knowing nothing at all.

I don't care anymore, I don't wanna find out what I left there for.
I'm not scared and I'm not lonely, I'm not saving all my money or my breath.
I'm not looking for an answer, I'm not asking anyone to second guess.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm concerned

Frankly, this election seems to be tipping people over the edge. For example, Naomi Wolf seems to have lost her mind.

Has Naomi Wolf always been like this? I ask this sincerely, and plaintively. When I was in college, The Beauty Myth was a big deal, and all of us baby feminists read it very soberly, and she was like, oh so next generation, and even after she seemed kind of passe, I at least assumed she was a scholarly type person who wrote serious books. But this is fairly, well, stupid.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Peanut Butter Chili

The fella has an ongoing desire for thicker chili. This is being thwarted partly because I like it soupy so you can eat it over rice, and partly because it just turns out that way. I'm going to try to change the recipe we're using.

Anyway, the fella heard about putting peanut butter in the chili, so we tried it.

It's slightly Indian, or maybe Thai--basically, it tastes like you put some peanut butter in the chili.

I don't exactly recommend it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


This is, for some reason, fascinating me.

I can't decide if it's exploitative, and if so, of what, or who, or if it's just another weird campus activity.

In Nicer News

George Takei got married to his longtime partner Brad Altman this past weekend--mazal tov!

(Look, I'm a longtime Trekkie and a same-sex marriage rights enthusiast. How much better does it get? Nichelle Nichols and the guy who played Chekhov were in the wedding party.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I have volunteered for a dunk tank

Somehow, I seem to have signed up to be in a dunk tank at the Homecoming game at my new school.

I do hope that my freshmen have poor aim.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Arms Raised...In Blessing...Apparently

This afternoon, we had a little going away assembly for the Italians. "The Italians" is how everyone refers to the kids from our sister school in Italy, who have been spending two weeks with us here in California. (We send a group to Italy in the spring.) The Italians visit classes, go on field trips, and break the hearts of our boys. A good time is had by all.

Anyway, we assembled all the kids in the gym/auditorium, and said farewell. One of the school's many little rock bands performed, and there was a slide show showing the Italians in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, and eating ice cream with their host families.

Then our school director, Father Q, asked everyone to rise to their feet, so we did. And Father Q asked everyone to hold our Italian exchange students in our hearts in prayer, and to extend our right arms in blessing to them...so the kids did.

Gym full of kids in bleachers. Standing. Right arms extended out and up from the body at approximately a forty-five degree angle. You got the picture? All it really needed to COMPLETE the picture was a hearty shout of 'heil Hitler!', or possibly in this case 'noi tireremo dritto!'.

Of course, no one could have mistaken us for a Hitler youth rally, not least because the kids are not so good at this maneuver, and only about eighty-five percent of them successfully extend, some have their arms out at shoulder level, and others fail to salute...er...bless. Also, the kids are wearing Catholic high school polos, and are mostly Latino or black, but...uh...er...the visual was very vivid anyway.

And all I could think, as we prayed--me with both hands extended in a sort of candlighting gesture--was that what I really prayed was that the Italian kids would not think we were making fun of them.

Apparently they didn't take offense, because they filed out smiling and waving, while our kids yelled 'arrivederci!' and a few of the boys looked tearful that the really hot one was going back to Italy.

Oh. My. God.

Should I say something? I did comment to one of the staff people, in passing, and she knew exactly what I meant, and said she always used her left hand because of that--perhaps we could teach the kids a different gesture of blessing?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Doctrine According to Bush

Once in a blue moon I have to whale on Shmuley Boteach or Dennis Prager,
and this month, Dennis gets it.

He gets it because of this. Allow me, please to be cranky now.
Sarah Palin's reputation survived her interview
with ABC News' Charlie Gibson. The same cannot be said for Charlie

On my radio show last week, I twice defended Barack Obama. Once, against those conservatives who took a comment made by Obama in an interview with George Stephanopoulos out of context and suggested
that Obama had inadvertently admitted he was a Muslim. And again, when I contended that Obama did not imply that Palin was a pig in his now famous "lipstick on a pig" reference.

I mention this only because I want to assume that people of good will on both sides can still be honest about what transpires politically. And in this instance what transpired was that Gibson intended to humiliate Palin.

Oddly enough, I kind of agree with this last, although I am horrified that American politics has gotten so nasty that Prager can pat himself on the back for those two bits of clarity. I do think that Charlie Gibson may have been indulging himself in a bit of a 'gotcha' moment.

But it shouldn't have worked. And it did.

It wasn't even subtle. Virtually everything Gibson did and virtually every
question he posed was designed to trap, or trick, or demean Gov. Palin.
There are views of his face that so reek of contempt that anyone shown
photos of his look would immediately identify it as contemptuous. But one series of questions, in particular, blew any cover of impartiality and
revealed Gibson's aim to humiliate Palin.

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to

PALIN: His worldview?

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before
the Iraq war.

I realize that every wingnut in the free world has been trying to redefine those simple words for a few days now. I'm going to be blunt. I am not a politician. I am not even one of the better-informed wonks of my acquaintance. But if I had been asked that question, I would have been able to identify the Bush Doctrine as asserting that the United States will use preemptive force against nations it believes may be acting or will act in the future against the United States or the interests of the United States.

That is what it means. I'm sorry, but that it what it actually means, that's what people mean when they say "the Bush Doctrine". That, and not George Bush's 'worldview' is what kids will learn in school when the Bush Doctrine has joined the Monroe Doctrine on the shelves of history. This is neither arcane nor special knowledge.

As for what happened in September, 2002, let's check in with Frontline,
shall we?

Twenty months into his presidency, George W. Bush releases his administration's National Security Strategy (NSS). It is the first time the various elements of the Bush Doctrine have been formally articulated in
one place. The 33-page document presents a bold and comprehensive reformulation of U.S. foreign policy. It outlines a new and muscular American posture in the world -- a posture that will rely on preemption to deal with rogue states and terrorists harboring weapons of mass destruction. It states that America will exploit its military and economic power to encourage "free and open societies." It states for the first time that the U.S. will never allow its military supremacy to be challenged as it was during the Cold War. And the NSS insists that when America's vital interests are at stake, it will act alone, if necessary.

OK? Clear? Now, back to Dennis:

When he asked Palin whether she agreed with the Bush Doctrine
without defining it, he gave the game away. He lost any pretense of fairness. Asking the same nanswerable question three times had one purpose -- to humiliate the woman. That was not merely partisan. It was mean. I couldn't answer it -- and I have been steeped in international affairs since I was a Fellow at the Columbia University School of International Affairs in the 1970s. I have since been to 82 countries, and have lectured in Russian in Russia and in Hebrew in Israel. Most Americans would consider a candidate for national office who had
such a resume qualified as regards international relations. Yet I had no clue how to answer Gibson's question.

Oh COME ON Dennis. I knew exactly what he meant, despite having none of those qualification, and so did you, and Sarah Palin would have too, if she were in any way qualified for the office she is running for.

I had no clue because there is no right answer. There are at least four
doctrines that are called "Bush Doctrine," which means that there is no "Bush Doctrine." It is a term bereft of meaning, as became abundantly clear when Gibson finally explained what he was referring to:

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that -- the right to preemptive attack of a country that was planning an attack on America?

That's the Bush Doctrine? "The right to preemptive attack of a country that was planning an attack on America?"Isn't that just common sense? What country in history has thought it did not have the right to attack those planning to attack it? I learned the "Bush Doctrine" when I was a student at yeshiva in the fourth grade, when I was taught a famous Talmudic dictum from about 1,800 years ago: "If someone is coming to kill you, rise early and kill him."

Actually, Gibson's definition is lousy, because it does not emphasize that the BD applies in cases, such as Iraq say, where no present danger exists, but national safety interests can conceivably be at stake. This is a theory that emphasizes a preemptive response to rogue states, and states harboring terrorists. It is NOT a commonsense reaction to another
sovereign nation planning an attack.

And preemptive attack is exactly what happened in June 1967, when Israel attacked Egypt and Syria because those countries were planning to attack Israel. Would any American president before George W. Bush have acted differently than Israel did? Of course not. Did they all believe in the Bush Doctrine?

And, having dishonestly set up Gibson's definition as the right one, we now pretend that the 2002 NSS has nothing new in it, and certainly nothing controversial. Plus, we deftly manage to suggest that if you critique the Bush doctrine, you oppose Israel's right to self-defense. Slick.

That is how Gibson added foolishness to his meanness. All the interview did was reconfirm that Republicans running for office run against both their Democratic opponent and the mainstream news media. This year it is more obvious than ever. The press's beatification of Obama is so obvious, so constant (how many covers of Newsweek and Time has Obama been on?) that media credibility even among many non-conservatives has been hurt.

Let me put this another way. Charlie Gibson showed far greater hostility
toward the Republican vice-presidential candidate than Dan Rather did in his interview with Saddam Hussein or Mike Wallace did in his interview with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Which reminds me of another Talmudic dictum: "Those who are merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful."

We might call it the media's Gibson Doctrine: Confront Republicans, act
obsequious toward tyrants.

Wail, whine, carry on. He asked her a question, Dennis, and she couldn't answer. Worse, she couldn't state "As you know, Charlie, there are various interpretations of exactly what the phrase "Bush Doctrine" covers. Can you ask me a more specific question?" which would have about handled it. Instead, she winged it, which allowed Gibson to be lazy and let her get away with only saying that she believed in national self-defense, quite different from the real question he meant to ask.

Sarah Palin, I guess, is the merciful in your little quote above? Don't tell a