Friday, January 18, 2008

Balancing the Equation

Today, I was supervising my "Activity and Exercise" hour. I do not remember exactly how we decided we needed to have "Activity and Exercise" hour at the school, but it doesn't matter. Once a week I supervise "Activity and Exercise" hour for about fifteen kids. This would be called 'recess' if they were not teenagers.

Anyway, I was chatting with Gershon, and somehow the topic of Christmas tree ornaments came up. Gershon told me that a few months ago he put a firecracker into a Christmas ornament, and took some shrapnel when the thing blew up.

"I'm sorry you got hurt," said I, "but Gershon, you must have realized when you put a firecracker in a glass sphere..."

"I didn't totally balance the equation," he admitted.

That may sum up the teenage male experience.

Later in the day, Yochanan, who is approximately six foot one, took a leap in my classroom and cracked his skull, hard, against the ceiling.

Didn't totally balance the equation. That's all I've got to say.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unprintable Opinions

Evidently, this is unprintable in Ms. Magazine. And my thoughts about Ms., at the moment, are equally unprintable.

Appears that the AJC attempted to place the ad linked above in Ms., and were rejected.

January 10, 2008 — Ms. Magazine has long been in the forefront of the fight for equal rights and equal opportunities for women. Apparently that is not the case if the women happen to be Israeli.

Actually, I will disagree. I think that if a suitably leftist Israeli group had highlighted their leadership, they would have been accepted.

The magazine has turned down an AJCongress advertisement that did nothing more controversial than call attention to the fact that women currently occupy three of the most significant positions of power in Israeli public life. The proposed ad included a text that merely said, “This is Israel,” under photographs of President of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.

I am also reasonably sure that if an add featuring three female Palestinian politicians had been submitted, it would have been fine.

“What other conclusion can we reach,” asked Richard Gordon, President of AJCongress, “except that the publishers − and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. Magazine readers − are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?”

When Director of AJCongress’ Commission for Women’s Empowerment Harriet Kurlander tried to place the ad, she was told that publishing the ad “will set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject − the subject presumably being whether or not one can say anything positive about Israel. Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal failed to respond to a signed-for certified letter with a copy of the ad as well as numerous calls by Mr. Gordon over a period of weeks.

I love this. "There are strong opinions" about a great number of political conflicts. This is the one, however, where nominally progressive publications are expected to take sides. It does seem rather funny, though, for Ms. Magazine, of all publications, to shy off from 'setting off a firestorm'.

A Ms. Magazine representative, Susie Gilligan, whom the Ms. Magazine masthead lists under the publisher’s office, told Ms. Kurlander that the magazine “would love to have an ad from you on women’s empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this.” Ms. Gilligan failed to elaborate what “this” is.

Possible interpretations of 'this':
1. An endorsement of the existing Israeli government.
2. An endorsement of the existing Israeli state.
3. An endorsement of Dorit, Tzipi and Dalia, and their respective political positions.

Also, I wonder if Ms. has been willing to run any of Blue Star's pieces about women's empowerment?

“The only conclusion that one can reach from this behavior is that Ms. Magazine feels that an ad highlighting the accomplishments of three incredibly talented and dedicated women would offend their readership. Since there is nothing about the ad itself that is offensive, it is obviously the nationality of the women pictured that the management of Ms. fears their readership would find objectionable. For a publication that holds itself out to be in the forefront of the Women’s Movement, this is nothing short of disgusting and despicable,” stated Mr. Gordon.

Ms. Magazine has a long record of publishing advertisements rallying readers to support reproductive choice; opposing the Religious Right; highlighting the fragility of the pro-Roe v. Wade majority on the Supreme Court; charging that “Pat Robertson and his Religious Right cohorts don’t like individual freedom;” announcing support for the “struggle for freedom and human rights;” opposing the Bush administration’s campaign to fill federal courts with judges who “will reverse decades of progress on reproductive rights and privacy, civil rights, religious liberty, environmental protection and so much more;” as well as accusing the Bush administration of being “bent on rewarding big corporations and the rich, turning back the clock on women’s rights and civil rights, and promoting a U.S. empire abroad.”

“This flagship publication of the American women’s empowerment movement publishes ads that are controversial in the general culture but not so among its readership,” Ms. Kurlander said. “Obviously, Ms. believes our ad would enflame a significant portion of their readers.”

Ms. is probably correct, or at least it would enflame a significant portion that would make an enormous stink in the part of the world Ms. keeps an eye on.

Mr. Gordon added, “What really amazes me is that just recently, in their Winter 2007 issue, Ms. ran a cover story with a picture of Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi with the heading in big letters: “This is What a Speaker Looks Like.” While Ms. has every reason to be proud of Speaker Pelosi and her accomplishments, as are we, the only discernable difference between Speaker Pelosi and Speaker Itzik apparently is that Speaker Pelosi is not Israeli.”

Once again, curious, have they run a piece on Condi Rice with the heading "This Is What A Secretary of State Looks Like"? Most likely not.

Mr. Gordon noted that while Israel was apparently too hot to handle, Ms. Magazine did not extend that taboo to Arab and Moslem women. “What is even more amazing is that, while refusing to publish a simple ad praising three very notable women, women who embody the ideal that Ms. Magazine seemingly espouses, Ms. has run a cover article in the Fall 2003 issue on Queen Noor of Jordan, has featured a number of articles on Muslim women, and even ran an article in the Winter 2004 issue entitled, ‘Images of Palestine,’ which discussed the Ramallah Film Festival and gave sympathetic reviews to films concerning ‘the liberation of South Lebanon’ from Israel as well as numerous films which portrayed terrorism as legitimate ‘revolutionary’ activity against Israel and miscast Israel’s activities to counter terrorism as ‘oppressive.’”

We know the drill, Gordon. We know the drill.

“Clearly Ms. has changed a great deal from the days when AJCongress members and leaders of the AJCongress’ Commission for Women’s Equality − including Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Ms. co-founder Letty Pogrebin − were at the forefront of the Women’s Movement that led to the creation of Ms. Magazine.”

But read Phyllis Chesler and Letty Pogrebin's subsequent writings for some perspective on those early days, and how completely indifferent to anti-Semitism, and supportive of anti-Zionism, the leadership of insitutionalized centrist U.S. feminism has always been.

AJCongress President Gordon concluded, “Ms. has the right to turn down our ad. But in exercising that right, it has spoken loudly about itself and its readership, and their lingering hostility to Israel.”

GAWD. Is there anything lefty left out there that I CAN do? I mean, reading Ms. seems like a kind of pleasant your-mama's-feminism thing to do. Can't wear Code Pink high tops. Can't go to peace marches. Can't read Ms. Magazine. Can't vacation in France. What are these people trying to DO to me? (OK, don't answer that question. I get it. I'm just cranky.)

Preparing to write letters. Feh.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Arun Gandhi Falls Into It

"Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. You don't befriend anyone, you dominate them. We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity."

It's not the reflexive peace-through-wishing rhetoric that interests me, it's the amazing assertion that Israel--ISRAEL--is the 'biggest player' on any world stage except, possibly, Bamba consumption.

Wow. He actually ****ing came out and said it. Wow.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to, ugh, work

So I get an e-mail from my director, cced to the other director, and to some woman I have never the heck heard of. Seems that the woman I never heard of is a student at a local college, and will be available this spring to work in my classroom as a 'field placement'. Is that OK with me?

Well, no. I do not know who this woman is, or what her teaching background is. I do not know what her field placement will be in. I do not know how much time she plans to spend in my classroom on a weekly basis. I do not know if her 'field placement' requires me to act as a mentor, turn a section of my class over to her, or otherwise assist her, or evaluate her, or if the point is that she will be teaching me. Until I have some idea of these things, I am not issuing an open invite to the classroom.

Not that it will help much. Today I got the math substitute teacher in as a floater. I am also going to have the director's wife, who is teaching part-time, coming in four days a week to hang out in my English class. The director himself showed up for an extended period, in history, told me later that the discussion was nice, ummm...well, we'll talk more later. My classroom is like Grand Central Station. The Directortzin was in last week, and at the staff meeting was full of observations about how things were going in the classroom.

The margarine of my humility is getting spread pretty thin.

This morning, Morah Rina invited a friend of hers who counsels and teaches at UC to talk to the kids about their futures. The kids were AWFUL.

I am a litle bit crabby right now.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Best NH Debate Moment

Watched the Democrats debate in NH last night. Kind of wish I'd turned on the TV in time to catch the Republicans, but...maybe not.

Anyway, a stranger to the situation might have been forgiven for thinking that Hillary and Barack were going through a divorce, it was that snide and barely civil. Edwards was overflowing with emotion and blue-collar authenticity. Meanwhile, Richardson, Lord love him, kept talking about energy policy and education and things like that. But the best Richardson moment...well, I'll let the Santa Fe New Mexican fill you in:

Richardson was candid in his response to Gibson's final question: What have you said in a previous debate that you wished you hadn't said?

Obama and Clinton completely dodged the question, and Edwards said his regrettable moment was making fun of Clinton's salmon-colored jacket, which had fallen flat in an earlier debate.

But Richardson recalled a blunder that earned him criticism — naming Byron "Whizzer" White as his model Supreme Court justice.

He said he named White because the justice was nominated by John F. Kennedy, whom the governor said was his idol.

"Then I found out that Whizzer White was against Roe vs. Wade," he said referring to the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. "And he was against civil rights.

"That wasn't a good one," Richardson deadpanned. This won him laughter and applause.

It was a really interesting moment. Honest, funny, and the kind of mistake I can easily imagine myself making at some point. And really interesting, coming after Hillary's response, which was essentially, "Oh, I thought I made a mistake in a previous debate, but I was wrong. Now the Republicans, on the other hand, they've made a lot of mistakes." And Obama's response which was essentially. "I too once thought I had made a mistake. I must agree with Senator Clinton about the Republicans, though..."

I know the big Dubya factor was supposed to be that America wanted to have a beer with him...and look how that turned out...but I do think I would enjoy having lunch with Bill Richardson. Even if he does seem to think the Soviet Union is still around.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Will Pick Avocados for Childcare

Over on Ra'anana Ramblings, a post and thread about kibbutzim and childcare that's got me slightly upset.

Basically, it seems there's some documentary about raising children on kibbutzim in the old days, when the kids were raised communally. THe resulting thread produced a lot of 'how could they have' commentary. The Balabusta, feeling contrary, commented:

I am starting to think about having a family, and one of the biggest problems we're going to face is how to pay for childcare with two working parents.

I might trade having my kids under my roof all night for knowing that they were being taken care of consistently by someone from my own community, and that they had a permanent community of their own to rely on.

OK. I get back (from three respondents):

BBJ- hmmm, see this movie and you might think twice about your last paragraph. One sentiment that was clearly expressed in this movie was about how cruel and lonely it can be growing up in a group of children, without having your nuclear family to return to at night. Children can be very cruel, no matter how good the supervision is.

BBJ, if and when you have children, if you and your baby bond well, you will be extremely sad to turn over your baby to a nanny and will be anxious to see him/her as soon as you can. And as Abby pointed out, young children are not capable of "being relied on" as a community.

BBJ: You've already gotten some good replies to your comment, so I'll just reiterate that once you have kids, no way would you be so willing to have them sleep elsewhere. Take my word for it :-)


1. Is there an equally great documentary discussing the horrors of growing up in a nuclear family? I've got enough friends who were abused by siblings and parents that I'm a little wary of the trashing of the kibbutzim for stuff that happens in a wide variety of settings.

2. Thanks for suggesting the baby and I might not bond well, in which case I'd be happy to hand her over to a nanny, I guess.

3. "NANNY"? We're talking about a daycare center in someone's house.

You know, it's not so much that I don't get that when I have a baby I will love him more than anything else in the Whole Wide World. It's just that I have watched my friends start their families, and go through experiences that included paying a quarter of the family's salary for indifferent childcare, and straining family bonds by needing more childcare than the family could easily provide.

So, yes, I stand by my statement.

In real life, I will try to eke out some time when I am on vacation, take a little maternity leave, do what I can. By the time the baby is a toddler, we'll be doing daycare, hopefully at the JCC, and pinching pennies for it. Luckily the husband will be out or almost out of school at that point, and we'll have some more options, options that will still involve daycare.

Would I prefer to be an at-home mommy for the first ten years or something? Sure.

But would I trade having the baby at home overnight for not having to rush to pick her up, worry incessantly about the caring and background and qualifications of the carer, and pay a quarter or more of my salary just to have a place for the baby to be safe during the day? For having the kid at home in the evenings to do homework, chat, watch movies, bond, hang out, and then return to the children's house? WATCH ME.

This is not because I do not understand that I will cry when the baby house lady comes to pick up the baby. It's because I've watched friends cry when they drop the baby off at the daycare, and then cry again when the bill for the daycare comes.

Nanny. Bloody hell, who has a nanny?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Countdown to Iowa

I admit it. I love campaigns. They're like soap operas, except entirely real, so you don't feel foolish for becoming emotionally involved.

Mrs. Bluejeans Sr. has gotten to the point where the word "momentum" gives her nausea, and The Husband has only reluctantly agreed to register to vote just in case Huckabee wins the Republican nomination. But the Balabusta is having a grand old time. Herewith is her take on the whole amazing situation:

This is the "just no way" election. We have a woman frontrunner, a black man gaining on her, a Mormon, and Rudy Giuliani. And we haven't gotten to the WEIRD candidates yet. Oh my. A few notes:

CLINTON: Gennifer Flowers said she may vote for her, which I see as a considerable endorsement. Honestly, I like Hillary very much. If she becomes president, I will do considerable screaming as she does various things I do not like, but that's expected. She's sensible, hard-headed, and I think she knows exactly what she is getting into. I also cannot imagine that after the first Clinton's administration there is a single scandal in her closet that has not been strip-mined, which is a GOOD thing. If she does establish a Clinton dynasty, do you think Chelsea will run next?

GIULIANI: There's no way the Republican party is going to nominate an Italian, Catholic, New York, three-times-married social liberal to run for President of the United States on their ticket. I honestly cannot figure out the Giuliani thing at all, unless the famous twitchy evangelical base can somehow be persuaded to vote for the man with no idea at all of his record and personal life. This seems unlikely. They have a reputation for checking on these things.

Basically, as far as I can tell, Giuliani has two assets. One: he ended crime in New York City, so that by the end of his reign a young maiden carrying gold and jewels on her person could walk from one end of Central Park to the other, at two in the morning, without fear of being molested...wait, I think that was King Arthur. Well, same idea. Also, he behaved well during the events following September 11. (No sarcasm here. He did good mayor work. He did the right stuff, and said the right stuff.)

But I don't think that will help.

HUCKABEE: The name is a disadvantage. President Huckabee? On the other hand, he seems to have a number of clear-cut advantages. Ex-governor--very good. Has popular appeal. Baptist. Clear-cut social conservative. Doesn't look unlike a President on TV, but accessible.

Huckabee scares the hell out of me. I do not think he's a bad man. I just think he's a man whose values will not line up with mine no matter how we try. I am making my husband register to vote just so he can vote against Huckabee if necessary.

Additional note: What the heck is in the water in Hope, Arkansas?

OBAMA: Young, idealistic, good looking, married to a very smart and lovely woman, pretty small daughters. They would look so good on the White House Christmas card I can't even begin to imagine. Limited experience, but that's true for a lot of this batch. Then there's the Oprah thing.

I had a suggestion earlier in the campaign that Oprah herself should run for president. There are advantages to this: First, instead of grinding through the "do we get a black president or a woman president first" deal, we get both in one attractive package, and we're done. Second, Oprah would be a uniter. Women from both parties love her, and men from both parties wish the women would turn the show off, but might be tempted to vote for her so she'd be so busy she couldn't air the show. I don't think Stedman is First Gentleman material, but Oprah's BFF Gayle could act as First Lady, and would do it with great style. Just imagine the great outfits they would wear for the inauguration.

Back to dismal reality: my main worry about Obama is that, out of the Democratic hopefuls, I am not sure that he has any idea what's going to hit him if he wins. Partisan politics is hitting new depths this decade. Hillary knows. I think Edwards knows. I dunno if Barak knows. Also, if he wins, the lurking lava of racism in American society is gonna come squirting out from under the rocks under high pressure, and I do not envy the Secret Service this one. Nor Michelle. It's a lot.

Additional note: I think it would be so cool to have a president named Barak.

PAUL: I cannot figure the Ron Paul thing out. I leave this one to LGF. They seem fascinated with him.

ROMNEY: Well, he LOOKS like a President. His family is photogenic (he scores a second place on most adorable family photo for Christmas cards, only because Obama's kids are still little) He seems fairly Presidential. And although his business history can be made to yield scandal aplenty, I don't think that will be enough to impede a nomination. His nominally pro-choice history, and his brush with same-sex marriages might--but most importantly, he's a Mormon. My gal Niamh, who has Mormon relatives, is pretty sure that this is enough to kick him out of the circle for most of Middle America. Me, I dunno. I think of Mormons as a sort of Extreme Christian spin-off, with extra prophets and really clean living. Romney doesn't drink, smoke, or run around with loose women, and he's still on his first photogenic wife. This seems like a GOOD thing to me. (I mean, if there was even a small chance I might vote for him, but I'm speaking hypothetically.) He seems like the Republicans' best bet. But who knows?