Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ran Across This

Actually, I ran across it at RealClearPolitics.com.

This is David Aaronovitch at the London Guardian, taking on the tendency of the Western European left to fixate on Democratic candidates--and at the moment, to see Obama as The Man Who Will Fix It All. I'm interested to see this from a British perspective, since I've been watching this one for a couple of elections now. My favorite moment was when the Guardian tried to convince its readers to write to Ohio voters asking them to please, PLEASE vote for Mr. Kerry.

Anyway, check it out. He makes some interesting points. Liked this:

But even if he (George W. Bush)had been a half-Chinese ballet-loving Francophone, he would have been hated by some who should have loved him, for there isn't an American president since Eisenhower who hasn't ended up, at some point or other, being depicted by the world's cartoonists as a cowboy astride a phallic missile. It happened to Bill Clinton when he bombed Iraq; it will happen to Mr Obama when his reinforced forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan mistake a meeting of tribal elders for an unwise gathering of Taleban and al-Qaeda. Then the new president (or, if McCain, the old president) will be the target of that mandarin Anglo-French conceit that our superior colonialism somehow gives us the standing to critique the Yank's naive and inferior imperialism.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Missing, The Dead, and Haven't We Been Here Before?

I'm about to be emotional. Bear with me.

Last night it just hit me in the back of the head. I sat with the San Francisco Chronicle and its lame coverage of the prisoner exchange, and I just sat on the floor for a while reading the article over and over, and grieving.

I am not an Israeli leader, I'm not even an Israeli, and I don't presume to judge the necessity of making deals to bring home the bodies of the fallen. For the Goldwasser and Regev families, I'm relieved that at least they have some knowledge, a funeral, maybe some healing eventually.

The knowledge that Samir Kuntar has gone home to a hero's welcome feels like a stubbed toe in the heart. I'm having trouble here. And the small, petty, malicious details--that Hezbollah wouldn't say whether Goldwasser or Regev were dead or alive until the actual exchange--are just so macabre.

And I wonder what's going through the Shalit family's minds and hearts now. And I wonder if there's even the slightest chance their child is still alive.

And even a world away from Israel, I know Goldwasser and Regev and Shalit and Arad by name. Here in the U.S., we just recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in Iraq more than a year. Alex Jimenez and Byron Fouty are finally coming home. How often did their names appear in the press after they were captured? How often did I see their names by a bumper sticker telling me to support the troops? They vanished. In all senses. And their bodies being recovered was on page A6. Maybe Israel has a point, trading whatever's needed to bring home the missing.

Maybe not.

Damn it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

For my birthday

I got us Netflix.

We're currently working our way through the back episodes of Bones, and I got to watch Charlie Wilson's War last night.

Lots of fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birthday Cake, Central Air, And Outrage


First, the Balabusta turned thirty-five. I am not totally ready to be thirty-five. I had sort of had it in my mind that at the age of thirty-five I would have a couple of children, and a mortgage. The fact that I am, at the age of thirty-five, hysterically applying to jobs for the third summer running does not totally thrill me. But OK, thirty-five it is.

I went to my parents the night before my birthday for dinner, and we went out for Mexican/Guatemalan at our favorite neighborhood place, and then we came back to their apartment to find that the bomb squad had closed off their block. We stared worriedly from the big black van to the trees in front of my parents' building to the shul at the end of the block.

Questioning of the cop on the corner revealed that a mysterious package had been discovered, and the squad had responded. He suggested we come back in fifteen minutes or so, so we retreated down the street to the Thai place a few doors down, had a drink, and waited while the bomb squad blew up the package, and my father called the laundry delivery to suggest that they deliver the next evening. When we got out, the yellow tape had been rolled up, and we were free to go back inside.

Ah, modern times.

Anyway, the next evening I had lavish Chinese food with the Fella, and coconut cake, and the bomb squad did not come. Very nice.


This week, I did two job interviews. Yesterday's involved an astonishing trek across Oakland on a very hot day, but when I arrived, they had air conditioning--which was enough all by itself to make me want the job. Ohhhh. To quote the demon from Dogma--"No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than...Central Air."

On the way to the interview, though, I had one rather surreal moment. I'm on the bus, which is making its way down International Boulevard, around Fruitvale. A middle-aged woman gets on the bus, sits down opposite me, and says an entire paragraph to me in Spanish.

I smile sheepishly, and say "I'm sorry, I don't speak Spanish." She smiles back and says, in English, "I was hoping you could tell me where to get off. I'm looking for the Mexican store."

Now, let me remind you, we're on International, just past the Fruitvale BART station. For those of you unfamiliar with Oakland, let me just explain that this is a part of town where even the Aryan Nation office has a sign in the window saying "Se Hablo Espanol". I stare out the window, watching an endless line of businesses roll by and wondering which of them could specifically be "the Mexican store". "I'm sorry, I don't know," I said falteringly.

Three blocks later she pointed, said cheerfully "Oh, there it is!" and leaped off the bus. It was a grocery store.


This morning I get a response back from Heckle, asking why I got two, rather than three months pay at the end of the year. Turns out the payroll people didn't take enough out, so I frittered away that money in groceries and the electric bill.

I also get an e-mail from Jeckle, explaining that the kid I gave the extension to has turned in his late work, to Jeckle, rather than mailing it to me, and DO I WANT TO COME IN AND GRADE IT?

I am filing for unemployment. I doubt I'll get any money, and God willing, I'll have a job in a week or two, but I want them to get the paperwork.

I've started to clench my back teeth. This can't be good.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hope You Had A Glorious Fourth

I am preparing to eat a blueberry pie, as things start to explode in the dusk through my neighborhood, so you know I will.

To help, check out Molly Ivins' last FOJ column, from 2005.

"Yet again, we rejoice not so much in what makes America great, as in what makes it really peculiar. This is in the belief that one of America's finest traits is that it is a blissfully funny place to live."

Fingerprinting Italy's Gypsies

Italy has started a bold new plan to fingerprint all the Roma living in Italy (at least those without proper EU ID cards) and database them. Italy would very much like for you not to mention the words 'fascism', 'racism', or 'creeporama' when discussing this new policy. Unicef and Amnesty are not wild about this idea. Roberto Maroni, the Italian home minister does not care. He's all excited about how this is going to make it easier for him to take children from their homes if they're truant from school. Apparently ethnic Italian kids are NEVER truant from school, so Italy would have 100% attendence if we could only track down the Gypsy kids whose parents have sent them out to steal people's wallets in the train station.

The Roma are something of an issue for me. For one thing, I see strong parallels between their experience in Europe and that of the Jews, and for another, I see an uninformed reflexive prejudice against the Rom that hits close to home for me, and ticks me off when it comes from people who should bloody well know better, or at least THINK.

While I was doing my teaching credential, I ended up sitting through a presentation by a young woman (basic lefty Bay Area type, nice girl), who had done a year abroad in Hungary with some program or other, part of which had included touring a boarding school program for Roma kids. I listened in horror while this girl, who would have protested any kind of racism she could identify as such, parroted back everything she had heard from her Hungarian hosts about the Roma. They're dirty, they steal, you name it--and finally, this kid, who undoubtedly sees homeless beggars in our own city only as victims of society, described being hit up for change by Roma on the street, and said "and you know, you try to remember that this is a human being..."

I got up and delivered a short impassioned speech on the history of the Roma in Europe, the suffering, the vicious bigotry, the Shoah, (Porraimos, they say in Romani, 'the devouring'), and the overt racism still exhibited today throughout Europe, which a sheltered American youngster might so easily not understand for what it was.

The class blinked at me vaguely, and I sat down.

Anyway, from Ariel David (who should know better, I suspect) of the AP: "Italians, and others in Europe, have a long history of distrust of Gypsies. In Naples, camps had to be evacuated in May after attackers set huts on fire and angry residents in neighboring areas protested against the alleged attempt by a Gypsy woman to kidnap a baby."

Yeah, I know all about Europeans having a long distrust. You know, in the old days, they useta be able to sell the babies they stole to the Jews for matzah production, Ariel. What bland, stupid, cowardly way to say "Europeans have displayed often violent racist bigotry against Gypsies for centuries. In Naples, camps had to be evacuated in May, after attackers set huts on fire, and pitchfork-waving local yokels revived old libels about Gypsies taking children."