It’s Me On the Outside

When the Israeli Defense Force sealed off Gaza and began shelling I found myself unable to speak my horror. I haven’t written about it or the United States’ pallid response that, essentially, the bombing would stop when those being bombed stopped being bombed. I have no words for what the IDF did to Gaza. In the waning days of the brutal and stupid Bush Administration, I admit I put my head down and waited for cooler heads to prevail.

I donated to the children of Gaza and so can you.
U.S. | U.K.

Via Minstrel Boy, we find Juan Cole calling for a Cyberspace Aid Convoy. Dr. Cole:

The United Nations Security Council again demanded that Israel let in food, medicine and fuel unimpeded. Since Israel is still technically the occupying authority in Gaza, insofar as it controls its borders and airspace, for it to engage in collective punishment on the Gazan population is a war crime forbidden by the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which was enacted to prevent Nazi tactics from being deployed against occupied populatoins. UN relief workers, have been impeded from getting into Gaza by Israeli authorities. Those who managed to get through found between 14,000 and 21,000 homes destroyed and 240 of 400 schools badly damaged. The value of the destruction is estimated at $2 billion, and the essential infrastructure of the Strip has been deeply degraded, with potentially severe human health consequences. Much rubble has yet to be cleared away, so there could yet be more dead bodies found, and bomb clearing has not been completed, so people may yet be killed by accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance.

It is often forgotten that about half of Gazans are children, because of the ongoing population explosion, caused by insecurity, which has brought the Strip’s population to nearly a million and a half. When Israel made a total war on the Gaza population, it was inevitably targeting large numbers of innocent children.

I actually don’t give a damn who the bombs are falling on. Dropping bombs is barbaric no matter who does it, and dropping them on people who can’t even attempt to get out of the blast zone is wrong on a scale where language fails me. Refusing to permit aid to bombed out people and shooting up U.N. convoys is so far beyond the pale I can only summon one thought: Israel has become the thing it fought. I have lost sympathy for our ally, which is painful for me as a Jew.

My father-in-law used to say we can’t judge Israel because we’re not the ones with the gun to our heads. In better days, I agreed that perhaps I was sheltered from certain realities and might temper my opinion. Not this time, and not anymore.

On a lighter note, direct action is the best remedy for what ails us. February 19th-22nd, we can drop off a new or nearly new women’s suit or business separates at any Dressbarn throughout the U.S. to help deserving women entering the workforce. These Send One Suit events take place on a more or less regular basis because it ain’t easy out there, so if you clean out your closet and need what you’ve got, don’t sweat it. There’ll be a next time pretty soon. But if you’ve just dropped ten pounds, take a truckload of stuff to Dressbarn this weekend. You’ll feel a ton better.

But It Wasn’t A Rock


I’m bummed because All My Children just offed Greenlee in a dumb, squirrelly fashion. Get a load of this: Miss Thing is persuaded to call off the wedding and pretend to have food poisoning but never takes off the frilly human sacrifice suit. Then, when she can’t get her best friend’s husband on the phone, she jumps on her motorcycle, still in the designer parachute but adding a black leather jacket, and speeds off toward the place where she called out sick to avoid. Meanwhile, the cranky best friend speeds off in a car back to the hotel or something. They’d collide if Miss Greenlee didn’t sail over an embankment to her supertragic girlie death in her wedding dress, veil and riding gear that somehow reeks of stale Meatloaf songs. I mean, really. The one and only character on daytime TV that could tear off Bunny Bixler jokes deserved better.

As I said, I’m bummed, but I’m content to console myself with Michael Easton, star of another soap. Not only is he yummy, he and I share a birthday, which was yesterday. Michael Easton’s character on his soap set up a joke about guns and Italian pastries weeks in advance of the actual delivery. I was impressed when the actor didn’t wink at us on camera, because in his place, I might’ve succumbed to the urge. And speaking of urges, I’m kind of fighting the urge to quit blogging or turn pro or take up philately on a temporary basis, which everyone considers now and then. Yesterday, I remembered holding handstands in a split position, looking at my fingertips and placing my foot down behind me, between my hands, which I last did about 23 years ago. This evening, my yoga teacher called and classes start soon. I look forward to being the right kind of upside down.

And I Don’t Think They’ll Miss

Supposedly in America we don’t talk about class. Seems to me we never stop.

Wish I could attribute this clever image to a wry commenter. If you know who made this, please zap me an email.

I’m no credentialed brainiac but I can’t help noticing the budget-busting gagfest Confessions of a Shopaholic opened the same week Congress votes on a bill to save us from economic disaster. Creamy Jesus on a crouton, who thought now was the golden moment for a lighthearted romp about the rewards of living beyond one’s means? What the fuck is this?

I probably wouldn’t be spitting bullets about a chick flick if last night on The Daily Show Jon Stewart hadn’t let John Sununu get away with twice saying the bullshit euphemism entitlement reform. I don’t even go to the movies anymore because if I spend $10 on a bottle of wine and drink the whole thing I feel less stupid than I do leaving yet another mind-bogglingly bad movie. But it’s just too much to have even a moment’s patience with this tissue-thin premise when Republicans are campaigning to cut Social Security and Medicare and conservative Democrats might give ’em a hand.

President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with “reforming” Social Security. According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which is giving the country its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

This effort is bizarre for several reasons. First, the economy is sinking rapidly. While President Obama’s stimulus package is a good first step towards counteracting the decline, there is probably not a single economists in the country who believes that is adequate to the task. President Obama would be advised to focus his attention on getting the economy back in order instead of attacking the country’s most important social program.

The second reason why this task force is strange is that Social Security doesn’t need reforming. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes whatsoever.

The third reason that this effort is pernicious is that this talk of reform is occurring with the baby boomers just as the cusp of retirement. Due to the reckless policies of the Rubin-Greenspan-Bush clique, this cohort has just seen their housing equity wiped out with the collapse of the housing bubble. Tens of millions of baby boomers who might have felt reasonably secure three years ago are now approaching retirement with little or no equity in their homes.

Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements in the pejorative sense this word has been used politically for the past couple of decades. They’re investments. Our whole working lives we pay into the funds and when we retire, we are paid our due. Period. There’s no reason to even talk about it except to say, “Isn’t it lovely that we’re so civilized? Yes, yes, it is” and SHUT IT – unless you disagree and show no class whatsoever.

The Answer Is Blowin’

Tata: When Drusy goes to the bathroom with you –
Pete: Drusy doesn’t go to the bathroom with me.
Tata: What?
Pete: She bats the pee stream.
Tata: …I can’t breathe!
Pete: I had to clean the bathroom walls of your last apartment once and that was enough.
Tata: So – what happens? The cats run to the bathroom with you and file their nails while they wait respectfully outside?
Pete: I don’t know what they’re doing. I’m inside.
Tata: Okay okay okay then you would not at all know what I was about to ask you if you knew, which is if you’ve seen the other cats feel around under the bathroom door and when Drusy sees that she leaps through the air. I mean, leaps straight up up up and pounces near but not on the upside-down paw. You haven’t seen that?
Pete: Nope.
Tata: It’s your turn to clean the bathroom.

Don’t Change Your Number

Pete doesn’t watch cooking shows because he can cook. I watch cooking shows because I might actually learn something. Stop laughing! It could happen. Anyhoo, when I moved into Pete’s house, I went from cable to the dish, resulting in the loss of my favorite channel: WLIW Create. Ah well. This is Daisy Martinez, whose show Daisy Cooks! was charming and funny and exciting. Daisy was bright and interesting, the colorful set had a nice vigor, the food looked like you could give her recipes a whirl. Daisy’s sofrito, by the way, is to die for. I miss this show.

Thus, I was happy to discover Daisy’s new show on the Food Network. Unfortunately, from the first moment of Viva Daisy, it is apparent that something is wrong. Daisy is subdued. Her eyes seldom meet the camera. Her kitchen is in neutral tones, as if an effort was made to blend Daisy into the furniture. I thought Daisy looked unhappy and distant, which made me sad. Sometimes, she lapsed into silence. I acted this way right after Dad died, so I wondered if maybe she was recovering from a loss, which also made me sad. Because I like her. I want her to be happy. I want her to have a TV show where she buzzes around the kitchen singing if that means I get to watch and learn. Imagine my surprise when I read the credits and found Rachael Ray’s names among the producers.

Now I wonder if someone told Daisy to speak English and act her age.

To Bring the Balance Back Bring It Back

I’m no genius but this seems like it might be important.

Wikileaks publishes a billion dollars of semi-secret reports

Oh boy.

Wikileaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress.

The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to abortion legislation. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress’s analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

A billion dollars? How does one estimate a dollar value for “quasi-secret reports?”

However that hasn’t stopped a grey market forming around the documents. Opportunists smuggle out nearly all reports and sell them to cashed up special interests – lobbyists, law firms, multi-nationals, and presumably, foreign governments. Congress has turned a blind eye to special interest access, while continuing to vote down public access.

Oh. There’s a market for government reports. I should have known. That building my car drives to five days a week is a government document depository library, which means the public must be allowed access. Sometimes, that means people sleep on the sofas – okay, every day people sleep on the sofas – but it also means that no member of the public can be denied access to the documents. Those regulations may change as documents are increasingly online only. We have observed a sharp decline in the number of printed titles. The implications are sobering. I remember the first time I held in my hand the NTSB report on the downing of the Korean jetliner. I was holding history and my hand felt hot. Later, it turned out I was allergic to MSG and shouldn’t have eaten the egg drop soup, but you know what I’m saying. Back to Congress:

Although all CRS reports are legally in the public domain, they are quasi-secret because the CRS, as a matter of policy, makes the reports available only to members of Congress, Congressional committees and select sister agencies such as the GAO.

Members of Congress are free to selectively release CRS reports to the public but are only motivated to do so when they feel the results would assist them politically. Universally embarrassing reports are kept quiet.

Each time the topic of opening up the reports comes up, it runs into walls erected by opposing lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who “like many members of Congress, views CRS as an extension of his staff,”. If the reports were made public, “every time a member requests a particular document, the public may infer that he’s staking out a particular policy position.” (Aaron Saunders, Stevens’ spokesman, Washington Post, 2007)[4].

This article is having a bit of trouble with time travel, but who doesn’t, really? After I visit the Middle Ages, I can’t control my split ends, and let’s not even discuss Ted Stevens’ problem with chapped lips. So there are two lists: alphabetical , which is big and all, and chronological, which suddenly tells a whole different story. This stuff has been a secret? Look at the explosion of documentation during 1998 and 1999, leading to an avalanche of papers by 2000. Some of these reports read like freshman comp papers. What the hell?

Obviously, we’ve got some reading up to do.

Give Yourself Another Flower

The Fabulous Ex-Husband’s(tm) current wife Karen proposed some time ago that we – she and I – take a gardening class. Most current wives of ex-husbands would be planning a prank with a woodchipper, but Karen is an absolute blast. We exchange Christmas presents. She’s the cuddly Grandma my grandson Panky will admire as he’s driving me to the liquor store. See? That works out for everyone.

Last summer, I made a feeble attempt to find classes, and by feeble, I mean I sat at the keyboard and whined, “Where are you, classes?” Actually typing words might’ve helped but I wasn’t ready. I was moving. We were working on the kitchen. A Republican was in the White House. It was just the wrong time for me to try concentrating, but a few weeks ago, I got a little more serious about classes, and by more serious, I mean I whined at Siobhan, “Where can I find gardening classes?” She found them for me by typing words and pressing that enter key. Me, I’ve been so afraid to commit.

The unnamed university where I sometimes work but seldom pay attention for the last 23 years offers classes like container gardening, vegetable gardening made easy and wreath making. That last one sounds too much like work, but there’s another class that sounds interesting called cold frame growing. Apparently that thing we call our greenhouse – it looks like a malnourished jungle gym after a slip cover accident – is a cold frame. Perhaps we could learn a more sophisticated method of keeping our sprouts warm on chilly nights.

In a rush of unexpected maturity, I signed up. I’m sorry to startle you like that. Later, I’ll do something to make up for it like re-route traffic by the municipal building using orange cones and a German shepherd. The time is right for you to find classes where you are and to grow your own food. Type some words. Press enter.

It’s Kiss Or Kill

I’m having a teeny problem with frustration.

Pete: Did you talk to your sister?
Tata: My sisters are so stupid!
Pete: Ah, so you did talk to Corinne?
Tata: I’m not speaking to Corinne so I don’t shriek about how stupid she’s being. Which is pretty stupid.
Pete: Well, how about Anya?
Tata: Anya is being stupid and I’m not talking to her because I’ll tell her she’s so stupid!
Pete: All right, then. Is Daria feeling better?
Tata: Daria can hardly talk. She’s got antibiotics but she almost coughed up a lung when I told her cigarettes and whiskey on her night table would make that rasp glamorous. So she’s stupid, too!
Pete: Would you like to make the salad?
Tata: No. I’d like to sulk, then pout, and later, I’ll try to fit in some brooding.
Pete: You don’t want to make the salad?
Tata: I’m stupid, right? Pot to Black Kettle! Come in, Black Kettle!

X’s We’re Desperate has repeated on the mental jukebox since I read Lux Interior died a couple days ago. Why not a song Lux wrote? Ya got me. Maybe watching Congress dither while America burns has got me down. Probably. Siobhan’s cruising around the Gulf of Mexico, but she’s never too busy to email celebrity gossip.

Tata: Ya drunk?
Siobhan: No, but I’m 15 feet from where Sarah McLaughlin and her daughter are swimming in a small pool.

When famously depressed Canadians are fine, what am I so fidgety about?

I Feel And I Feel When

Photo: Bob Hosh. Lilies at Longwood Gardens.

Every morning, I get up in the dark, pad upstairs accompanied by at least two feline companions and turn on the TV at a deafening volume. I row for a while while Mike and Darlene shout the headlines. We painted the attic a whispering yellow-green that reminds one of spring’s earliest shoots, so sometimes I forget to turn on the lights. The cats love the attic, which is wide and long, reasonably clean and mostly used as a guest room. Thing is: it doesn’t have a floor. It has 90 year old subfloor boards that mostly don’t meet and 100 year old wool rug that came to America with Pete’s grandfather. I’m allergic to the rug and to doing yoga where there’s no flat surface, so we’re making a floor. We shopped for weeks. Home Depot had the pressboard at a good price and was running a special on carpet installation.

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call — including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

“This is the demise of a civilization,” said Marcus. “This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I’m watching this happen and I don’t believe it.” […]

“This bill may be one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life,” he said, explaining that he could have been on “a 350-foot boat out in the Mediterranean,” but felt it was more important to engage on this fight. “It is incredible to me that anybody could have the chutzpah to try and pass this bill in this election year, especially when we have an economy that is a disaster, a total absolute disaster.”

East Brunswick Lumber delivered the boards on Monday. Pete sawed the 8’x4′ boards in half. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a 5′ woman carry a 4’x4′ panel up three flights of stairs. Good thing I exercise! In the meantime, I wrote Home Depot’s customer service, to tell the troubled retailer I was cozying up to new hardware and lumber suppliers. They responded:

Thank you for contacting The Home Depot Customer Care in this matter.

Our founder and former CEO was obviously using hyperbole to make a point about a specific piece of legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, and we will be sure to pass your comments along to him.

As it relates to EFCA, like most other retailers – including our main competitors – we think it’s a bad bill that takes away American workers’ right to a secret ballot, which is the most basic element of any democracy.

We look forward to your continued patronage and assisting you with all of your home improvement needs.

I was born at night, but not last night.

The bill does not, in fact, remove workers’ rights to a secret ballot. It removes management’s ability to harass card signers. Thus, you are perpetrating a falsehood. If you know that, you’re lying. If you do not know that, you’ve been misled.

Further, if you’re an American worker, and you side with management, you are working against your own and my interests. I’m union, as are many of the tradesmen and tradeswomen who shop your stores. Or did. I’ve made large purchases at Home Depot every week for almost a year, and as of last week, I’ve begun making them elsewhere. Can you, at a time when Home Depot’s financial pitfalls are common knowledge, freely alienate your customer base?

If you can, you deserve the failure ahead. This is a very serious business. People have died for the right to unionize and your boss’ hyperbole trivializes their sacrifice. Feel free to pass that on.

To paraphrase the ads: We can do it – without their help.