Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Me too . . . meeeee toooooooo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This is terrifying, and I worry that is only an indication of things to come.

Oh, and also . . . these guns were controlled. And look what happened. No civilian needs and uzi, and no child should ever fire one.

On Willful Misreadings

From McCain's Ohio speech:

In a radio interview revealed today, he said that one of the quote -- "tragedies" of the civil rights movement is that it didn't bring about a redistribution of wealth in our society. He said, and I quote, "One of the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court-focused I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change."

McCain's willful misreading reveals desperation (PS radio shows are not "revealed" -- people heard it at the time! It wasn't private. It's been dug up and placed in a new context -- Joe the Plumber's imaginary America -- but it hasn't been "revealed.") McCain has misread that passage from a radio call-in show so badly that if he were my student, I'd make him go back and read it again. What he says in that passage is that reformers of the 1960s thought they could pursue their agenda through the courts -- but the constitution sets LIMITS rather than asserting possibilities. The courts were the appropriate place to seek the restoration of fundamental rights (voting for all people) but NOT the appropriate place to seek a shift in the economic disparity between (principally) white and black citizens. It was NOT the role of the courts to reinterpret the Constitution, but the responsibility of community organizations to advance the causes of the (principally) urban black poor, specific to changes in schools.

Further reporting on the radio show shows that "Obama, then an Illinois state senator and part-time law lecturer at the University of Chicago, defined ``redistribution'' as ``how do we get more money into the schools and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity.''

Such an effort . . . failed because the high court ruled it had ``no power to examine issues on redistribution and wealth inequality with respect to schools,'' Obama said. The justices decided ``that is not a race issue, that's a wealth issue and we can't get into this.''"

It's not a bomb-shell. It's nothing new -- except that it shows that Obama understands the Constitution and the judiciary process and the civil rights movement and . . . In short, that he's smart, and he's a pragmatist.

The absolute worst reading I've seen has been that by Glen Beck, who breaks the quote into almost unintelligible parts and then says whatever he wants to say in between. If he's ever had an English teacher s/he should be reprimanded for passing someone who is clearly an incompetent reader.

I'm finished suffering fools lightly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is that all that's on your mind?

On the way to preschool today:

Miss I: I wish the steering wheel was on the other side.
Me: It is in England.
Miss I: I wish we could go there.
Me: Maybe we can sometime.
Miss I: I wish there was enough food for people in Ethiopia. I wish people didn't get sick.

So we talked, for a couple minutes, about how sometimes it's really hard to feel happy to be here and have me as her Mommy and sad about her family in Ethiopia too, and then she skipped happily to be with her friends.

But here's part of where it comes from:

Friend, to dh: Why doesn't she (Abebech) eat much meat?
Dh: Why does she do anything she does.
Friend: Social justice.

And we continued dinner.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I don't have time for a full movie review, but . . .
I went to see Oliver Stone's W. last night. I had high hopes for the film, despite my hatred for JFK -- I really loved Stone's Nixon, a meditation not just on the presidency but also on memory, personal and public. But despite Josh Brolin's brilliant performance (it really is!) W. doesn't work for a few reasons:

The rushed editing job looks rushed. Trying to get it out before November, Stone apparently quickly cut the film. It's especially clear in the scenes of his youth.

It's entirely too oriented to Daddy complex. "You're a disappointment, Junior." "Jeb, Jeb, Jeb." We get it. His Dad was an aristocratic statesman, an Episcopalian who made measured decisions and tried to keep the personal out of the political. Geo, intemperate in all ways -with alcohol, with women and later, with religion - could never please his father, and probably still hasn't. He should have stuck to baseball -- we know it, his Dad knows it.

In the War Room, despite the Kubrickian homage, it isn't sure of its appropriate affect. Dick Cheney demonstrates on the map why we must take Iraq and occupy it endlessly (Ultimately to isolate Iran, the real target for Cheney-Rove, the film suggests), and then Colin Powell takes the stage. Over a score appropriate to an after school special, Colin Powell reminds us of the legacy of W.'s father, the basic decency of Americans, the democratic process, and the necessity to engage our allies (even if it takes six months to get a resolution through the U.N.) . . . all things I believe in, but I laughed so hard I cried.

Which brings me to the final reason it doesn't work: It wants to be a farce -- it never tries to explain this historical moment, despite the Daddy issues above -- and it succeeds in one moment, its homage to Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Bush and his compatriots, including Tommy Franks and Condoleeza Rice, amble down a long road, realize they've missed their path, and amble some more. One long shot looks like it was taken straight from the Bunuel. But we've already lived 2000-2008 as farce.

History repeats, Hegel tells us. Yes, Marx adds, the first time as tragedy the second time as farce. Already farcical, malevolently comic, we don't need the representation. If we want to laugh-cry-laugh, we've got the real thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The News

I've been reading too much news, and it's all started to sound the same.

Coffee causes breast cancer. Coffee doesn't cause breast cancer. Wine helps your heart. Alcohol shrinks your brain. A smaller brain may not be more cognitively impaired in healthy adults. Obama's going to win he's not going to win he's going to win. The DOW is up 300 but down 200. Barrels of oil are half-priced, but gas has only dropped a quarter because the gas at the station was already paid for at the higher price was not was too was not.

When I read that women who receive a lesser dopamine-response reward from drinking chocolate milkshakes may drink more chocolate milkshake to compensate, I laughed when I got to the end:

"This is very interesting but it doesn't really help us now with tackling obesity," he said.

Indeed, this is all very interesting but it doesn't put food on the table -- or help us lose the weight. It reminds me of Adorno's assertion -- yet again -- that the mass media are endlessly signaling themselves.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apparently my kids weren't alone in the Chihuahua movie audience this weekend.* It topped the box office! Dr.Bloom responded that he "takes it back -- it is the end of the world."
Miss I, aware already of how these things work, tells me she's looking forward to "the second chihuahua." I'm hoping by then we'll be out of this economic tailspin, the election will be behind us, and people will want to see good movies instead.

*(in fact they weren't; they were with their long suffering grandparents).

Friday, October 10, 2008

"CNN contributor David Gergen, who has advised Democratic and Republican presidential administrations, said Thursday that the negative tone of these rallies is "incendiary" and could lead to violence."

I hadn't read this yet when I remarked today that I had real concerns about some of the anti-Obama rhetoric intensifying in the last couple of days. I'm pleased to have read that McCain finally(!) asked supporters of his to be respectful -- only it's come far too late after the mantra "dangerous, dangerous, dangerous," and it lacks the endorsement of McCain's running mate.


We spent last evening at our home with our (secular) Israeli friend, serving as his surrogate family and serving lentil crepes, cheeze blintzes with fig preserves, and baked apples (but why the raisins? Miss I asked as if including raisins was an act of betrayal).
Afterwards, Miss I smacked him with her Bible (the Scholastic Read and Learn) and asked him to read "his book" -- which for her, seemed to be Genesis. And so he did.
And so I marveled at our family and our "family." I am amazed at how we are blessed.

(and I felt a little better about the world and all of us in it than I had since seeing the movie reviewed below).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I went to see Bill Maher's Religulous last night. With characteristic mean-spiritedness, Maher takes on organized religion and spirituality, but it's a foray into a conversation worth having -- or a first volley in a rationalist/spiritualist war.

Maher begins by suggesting that he wants to know what makes Religion -- principally, the largest three monotheistic religions (though he ventures into the c*nnabis religion , Scientology and Mormonism briefly) -- tick. But he doesn't, really -- in Maher style, he wants to tick Them off. And he does.

Along the way, he meets the man some believe to be the antichrist who concedes that if Satan had told him he was his representative, he would have done that job just as well. He meets a former soul-singer preacher with lizard shoes and lots of bling, who argues that Jesus was "rich" and dressed well.

But first, he meets a trucker, in the trucker's chapel, who prays for Bill, asks for God's blessing on Bill. Bill thanks him for being not just a Christian but Christ-like.

Bill goes places I've written about here -- places I want to see/don't want to see: Creation and Holy Land theme parks. The Holy Land's "Jesus" is remarkably articulate. Bill never acknowledges that Pascal's Wager is not just for idiots, but for Blaise Pascal as well -- he never considers Pascal's thinking on uncertainty, that even uncertainty in all things is not certain. He's that sure of his skepticism.

He short changes the director of the Human Genome project, one of the small percentage of non-atheists in the basic sciences. He has a fantastic conversation with the director of the Vatican Observatory. He insists that the most horrific things ever done have been done in the name of God -- but he forgets that the most beautiful and wondrous have been, too.

And then, standing on the place in the Holy Land where many people believe Jesus will return, Maher pleads for skepticism -- to save the world. With a montage of nuclear bombs and scripture from Revelations and the Qu'ran, Maher reminds of one of his earlier complaints -- there's nothing he likes less than prophecy, except self-fulfilling prophecy. We can't have someone who actually wants this world to pass to hold the power to make it so. But in the end his target is not "extremists," but those moderates he decries as collaborators.

I can't recommend it -- I left the theater with blues I can't shake -- but I'd sure love it if you'd join in the conversation.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Company You Keep

"In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy.""

(The Washington Post)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rightly, many people are wondering what to do. I'm still wondering how it could have happened, and marveling at the range of explanations -- which, inexplicably, includes "Jimmy Carter did it." The NYT dates the crisis to 2004 here. This of course is more conservative than my explanation.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I want to quit talking about this election, I really do -- I think it's already cost me a couple friends and I know it's cost me readers.

But Sarah makes me:

""Our opponent though is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he is palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin said of Obama, also calling him an embarrassment.""

See, there's this whole "false witness" thing. She's said it's time for the gloves to come off -- maybe she thinks commandments are for losers.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

My daughter threw a spoon at my head this morning because I wouldn't put on Word World right away. "What were you thinking?!" I asked, and was sorry I asked as soon as I got the answer. "That I would be extra, extra mean mean mean and you couldn't comment."

Hoping for nicer mornings at your house.

(Bob Hebert on the debate:
"After Ms. Palin had woven one of her particularly impenetrable linguistic webs, Joe Biden turned to the debate’s moderator, Gwen Ifill, and said: “Gwen, I don’t know where to start.”
Of course he didn’t know where to start because Ms. Palin’s words don’t mean anything. She’s all punctuation.")

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weird World

"Agency spokeswoman Christine Anthony says state law requires that all implements in pedicures be sanitized, and there's just no way to sanitize live fish."